Becki Howard is one of the bravest women we know. We are in community together at our local church and have grown to be close friends. We have seen Becki make gut-wrenchingly painful, hard decisions for the sake of her family in regards to her health. We have seen her fight. We have seen her prevail. We have witnessed the most bold and beautiful vulnerability in the face of fear, and we are better for it, for knowing her and walking with her. We have asked Becki to share her journey with God through a whole host of health trials, and we know you’ll be encouraged by what she has to say. Becki writes:

Life has thrown more than a few curveballs over the past few years. One after another after another. After another. Most of which have had to do with my physical health – premature delivery of my son, severe auto-immune disease, multiple surgeries and to top it off most recently, breast cancer. And this girl is tired. I’ve learned and am continuing to learn about God’s goodness in the midst of trial. After trial, after trial…you get the idea. We are guaranteed suffering in this world, and I’ve been in the thick of it. There are days when the sun shines everywhere I look and God’s goodness is abundantly evident, and then there are other days when I really have to dig deep and search for it and all I want (and if I’m totally honest I feel like I’ve earned) is a break. Someone shared Psalm 73 with my husband and me during a particularly low time and I’ve continued to find a lot of solace in it.

“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

–Psalm 73:21-26

This passage met me exactly where I was. Angry. Disappointed. Feeling completely forgotten and abandoned. Tired of getting back up just to be knocked down again. So wrapped up in those feelings that I’d forgotten the biggest promise of all – that he is WITH us. God’s promise is his presence. He is not only with me, he grieves when I grieve, he rejoices when I rejoice, he comforts me when I’m discouraged. We will not all experience immediate physical healing just because we pray for it. And that’s okay! What we have been given is an assurance that we do not have to walk through our trials solo. (I’ll spare you a Footprints in the Sand reference – you’re welcome). God does not owe me healing. He gave me everything I never deserved when he died on the cross for all of humankind, including little old me, so I’ve been working hard on cultivating a daily practice of gratitude. For all that I have and for all that he is.

Each morning (okay many mornings – I have a 3 year old after all!) before I start my day, I try to think about a few things I am grateful for. Some are obvious – my partner, my child, my house, my dogs, my job, my friends, etc. And then sometimes, when I really have some time to think, I start taking note of things I truly take for granted on a daily basis. Being able to get up out of bed and walk across the house without pain. Being able to see perfectly without glasses. Being able to make music with instruments and my voice. Having met my insurance deductible for the year and (silver lining) not having to pay a copay to see a counselor on a regular basis. Being able to buy organic food. The list goes on and on into the seemingly trivial.

And then I think, who am I that I thought I should get to avoid suffering? What kind of special unicorn do I think I am that I shouldn’t have to walk through something difficult in this life? I have plenty – truly an abundance, and these trials I’ve been given have molded and refined me. I don’t even know who I would be right now without them. In fact when I look back, I can say that I’m actually grateful for the hardship. It’s brought me to a place of authenticity with myself, my loved ones and most importantly my God that I might never have let myself go to otherwise. I’m so grateful for that depth, and I’m forever grateful for God’s patience with my humanness.

I never would have thought I’d be able to look back on some of the darkest years of my life with thankfulness, and it’s an astounding reminder to me that I can’t see the full picture, but that God can. Remembering this is vital – when I feel like prayers are going unanswered or that he can’t hear me or has forgotten me. I trust a God who knows the whole story front to back all at once and who knows what’s coming when I don’t. And that God knows me and loves me to a degree I can only barely fathom (enter Jesus), even at my lowest, very most human. It is, at times a truly unbelievable love, and of all the things I’m grateful for, that’s at the top of the list.

Can you relate to Becki’s journey with suffering and trials? How have you personally experienced God’s presence in the midst of your most desperate days? How could you practice gratitude today to remind yourself of God’s faithful presence in your life? Take a moment even now to make a small list of things you’re grateful for and spend a few minutes in prayer thanking him. May the practice of gratitude shift your mindset and perspective, and open your eyes to see all God has done and is doing. May God bless you as you seek him.