I Won’t Rehearse the Struggle

Before John departed for the office this morning, he bent over, kissed the top of my head and assured me, “Everything is going to be okay.”

I nodded in response. I am grateful for my husband’s calm, steadying words as we begin another day.

I need a bit of assurance at the moment.

In that regard, I read The Serenity Prayer at least a dozen times last night. I like this full rendering of the familiar prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

I’ve particularly resonated with the refrain, “accepting hardships as the pathway to peace” as I continue to wait for the processing of my South Africa residency permits. No answer has come from the South Africa Home Affairs office yet. Due to this inactivity, John and I have reached the point where decisions must be made to secure a temporary resident permit from the South Africa Consulate in Los Angeles later this month.

This is not the course we would have chosen for our family. Yet, Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer reminds me that unchosen, difficult paths offer a Divine, but mysterious way to the peace of God. Because, honestly, I have no idea why this whole permit deal has played out this way. From my point of view, it makes no sense.

However, my point of view is not the one that counts.

God sees.

God knows.

God saves.

God redeems.

God knows what He is doing.

I’m counting on that.

In the meantime, I confess I am seeking the peace of Christ to uphold and strengthen me as I head to Los Angeles soon.

Jesus promised:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

New International Version, John 14:27

Peace, according the definition in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is based on the Greek transliterated word, eirene. Eirene is the “tranquil state of the soul which is assured of its salvation in Christ and so fearing nothing from God is content with its earthly lot.”

The peace of Christ is a steadying, restorative, strengthening, and comforting power. It is a true, solid, and substantial offering which leads to contentment.

I could use some of that.

Honestly, securing a new resident permit is not the most taxing, most troublesome, most stretching thing I’ve ever done in my life. It isn’t. But it has been costly in terms of time, money, and resources – and it continues to be so. It has been distracting in that it is preventing me from doing some critical things for my family and my ministry that I promised to do. It has been perplexing because it’s been difficult for me to see God’s purpose in it all.

Jesus exhorts me to not let my heart be troubled and to not be afraid. Troubled, according to Strong’s Definition for the Greek transliterated word, tarasso, means to be agitated, disquieted, restless, perplexed and disturbed.

Yep, that’s been me.

Even last night I found it difficult to fall asleep as I plotted my course to Los Angeles to secure a resident permit. I confess my mind was fraught with anxiety and a variety of cares at the prospect of this journey.

But remember, remember Heather, “Hardships are a pathway to peace.”

And this hardship is a temporary one – it shall not last!

As I seek Christ, as I persevere in His strength, as I find comfort in His presence, as I receive His grace, I can discover His peace in the midst of this broken, lost, and perplexing world – even in a world of difficult-to-acquire resident permits.

How do I know?

Jesus holds peace, preserves peace, and establishes peace in my heart.

I trust Him for whatever happens in my life.

You see, I could keep rehearsing my frustrations with this crazy, nonsensical process. I could keep agitating my troubles. I could keep stirring and shaking up my heart. I could remain vulnerable to the inward commotion that has besieged my mind of late. I could project my current pain onto other circumstances in life. And be miserable.

But I won’t.

I won’t.

I won’t.

I won’t.

The peace of Christ has the power to silence every worry, every fear, and every alarm bell which sounds against me – and lead me to contentment in and through it all.

As I shared, this isn’t the most difficult road I’ve ever traveled in life.

Six years ago, I was on a cancer journey.

Fourteen years ago, we learned our son Jake was autistic.

Fifteen years ago, our infant son, Caleb underwent surgery upon surgery to address his hemangioma birth defects.

Twenty-eight years ago, I was betrayed and abandoned.

And there has been a myriad of other life and death challenges before and after these events. None of them lasted. They all had an end-game. Eventually. But in the midst of them all, I remember that I experienced the peace of Christ. Jesus carried me through the pain, the hardship, and the loss to healing, joy, and redemption – to hope.

And I believe He shall do it all again.

Friends, you may be running, walking, or crawling upon your own hard and difficult path. It could be cancer. It could be a wayward child. It could be sorrow and loss. It could be separation and divorce. It could be unemployment. It could be betrayal. It could be a broken relationship. It could be ill health. It could be despair and loneliness. It could be so many, many, many things.

I cannot tell you that I understand why all of these things happen in life – to us. But I do know that Jesus Christ is doing a magnificent, redeeming work in and through us. The Serenity Prayer beautifully remind us that:

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

May it be so.

I am determined not to rehearse the struggle of this journey.


I choose to receive the peace of Christ.

I am grateful for it – even as I journey forward on a pathway that is difficult and wearisome. For on it, I will discover even more of Christ, even more of His peace, and even more of His blessed serenity.

Be encouraged, Friends.

Jesus offers His peace to us all.

Amen and Amen.


Image retrieved from kcisradio.com

4 thoughts on “I Won’t Rehearse the Struggle

  1. It is so disappointing and confusing as to why your residency permit for South Africa has still not been granted. For some strange reason, I was drawn to read in the book of Job last night and this morning. In my study Bible, it asks this question, “Have you experienced any Job-like trials in your life? What was the result?”
    I feel you are experiencing “Job-like trials” at this time and are suffering. Contrary to Job’s so called “friends,” your brothers and sisters in Christ will continue to pray and support you. The Lord’s plan surrounding your residency permit has not been revealed, yet! So, we wait on God, we pray, we trust, we believe, and we wait again. We know God is present and He listens and cares. God is in control!
    Job finally realized this BEFORE his losses were restored. In Job 42:3 (NIV), Job replies to God’s question, “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?” with a profound statement: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” I am trusting God to reveal a small piece of the ‘wonderful things’ He has in store for you and the entire Witherow family!

    1. Thank you, Kristine. I appreciate your words very much! John said yesterday something similar – that we were experiencing a Job-like time. Surely nothing to what he endured, but the reasons and purposes were not easily seen when Job lost so much. But Job did not lose his resolute hope and I admire him for that. Thank you for your prayers. The way forward remains a bit murky, but we are putting plans in place and I know that where ever we go – even to LA in a couple of weeks – our Lord is already there and He is preparing the way. With love, heather

  2. I cry with you trying to understand what God is doing. I believe I shared with you – if I did ignore this – when God transferred my husband Dave from his job in Germany (where I felt His hand teaching military kids in Junior High School) to Florida. In fact I was angry at Him for years over that! But while in FL where it seemed I had no ministry I now see God moved us so our youngest child who has having struggles her freshman year at university in the U.S. (some from being a third culture kid; others because of things that happened) but she needed us in the U.S. and to be home another year. And my mother needed us to be where I could care for her when she was dying of cancer. God has His reasons. One day I was in prayer with Him as I sat in the hospital chapel while my mother was hospitalized there. My mother was always abusive to me…and now more than ever – angry she had lung cancer from her smoking. I sat and looked up at the cross and said “God, I don’t want to be here!” And I heard the still small voice say as I looked at the cross -“I didn’t want to be here either.” I don’t know why you haven’t gotten the resident visa and why you have to come back…but God does. And as a friend told me at that time of my life…”If you don’t feel you can trust His Hand, trust His Heart.” Praying for his comfort for you. For that visa you need. And for John and your boys.

    1. Dear Sondra,
      Thanks so much! Yes, you have shared this story with me before, but I do appreciate reading it again. And I am trusting in the goodness and in the faithfulness of my God. He’s led me too far and through too many difficult and also joyous experiences, to doubt there is some purpose in all of this situation. However, I do know that sharing my journey with others is encouraging some in their faith walk today – that means a lot. My purpose on this earth is to encourage others in their faith and believe that our Lord is good and has a Divine plan for their lives. So, I press into Him in resolute hope. Thank you for encouraging me, and standing with me in this. With love, heather

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