How to Find Beauty When Life Stinks

Finding beauty in the hard sometimes takes work.

“This stinks!” I didn’t try to say it pretty or fancy or nice, be discerning or careful or wise. It was just my mom and me, which sometimes makes me feel like I can vent like a teenager again. So I just came right out and said it. 

For over a month now, my dad had been in the hospital, much of that time in the ICU. This particular night was tough, really tough. We had been praying and asking God for healing and just when things looked like they were getting better, they weren’t. His heartbeat and breathing were irregular. The doctors were stumped and we had a front-row seat to watch my dad’s decline. Life felt fragile, and had for some time now.

Empty Shell

I walked into my parent’s home after leaving the hospital that night and recognized only an empty shell of the life and warmth I had always known there. A cold staleness was left in its place. This house had become only a brief landing pad for my mom. A place she crashed at the end of long days spent beside my dad’s hospital bed; surface to set another stack of medical paperwork before she forced herself to sleep a few hours, only to get up and do it all over again the next day. 

The cost of this season was painfully obvious to me in that moment. I know God is good. I know He is faithful. But I also knew, this stinks!

My mom’s tone, flanked with wisdom and perseverance that I’m still learning, was much gentler than my own. “I try not to think too much about all of that”, she said simply. 

What? Seriously? Because from my perspective it was pretty obvious. 

God’s Beauty in the Midst of Pain

Her entire life had been put on hold for weeks now. She was stuck in Groundhog Day – rest, rise and repeat. Riding the roller coaster of my dad’s unstable healing process that some days looked hopeful, and nearly as many days brought tears. This wasn’t a bump in the road, a small but manageable hole in the heel of her sock; this was her whole life, upside down, overnight. And she tries not to think too much about all of that?

I struggled to keep my mouth shut while I pondered her words. How do you not think about that? Some people call that naive. Some people call that aloof. And maybe they could make a decent argument for that. But let me tell you what my mom does think about, what she does talk about.

She tells me about prayers she prays for my dad and Scripture she read that morning. She tells me about the friend or family member who texted the perfect verse she needed to hear and how God placed the sweet grieving woman in her path at the hospital. My mom tells me how she stopped and listened to that woman’s story, how she prayed for that woman she only just met. She talks about the nurses she just loves and the physical therapist who is a gift, the exact mix of grace and grit that my dad needs right now.

Choosing Brave Through the Tears

I’ve spent a few nights with my mom in this season and have watched as she pulls her car into that same parking spot on the second floor of the hospital parking garage, every single day. She makes her way into the hospital, up the elevator and she whispers the exact same prayer aloud each time.

“This is the day you have made, Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

My mom isn’t Pollyanna. She is fully aware of the hard and the unknown of my dad’s situation. She is choosing brave through tears some days, smiles some days and His strength every day. Taking thoughts captive, she is bringing them to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

In her real and honest suffering, which brings real and honest grief, she is not being conformed, but transformed by the renewing of her mind here (Romans 12:2). And in doing so she is teaching me, and all the world around her, the breadth, beauty, and opportunity of circumstances that many of us, on the surface might say, just stink.

Ministry of Suffering Turned to Strength

Perhaps this is the unique ministry of suffering. Perhaps our posture here, our weary weakness, perfectly positions us to seek His strength, and find it, like never before. Maybe the hard, the most difficult parts of our story, bring the most refining, the most clarity and become the biggest megaphone through which we can speak His love, His goodness, and His grace to the world around us. 

That is opportunity, friend. May we look through the moments that may very well stink and linger long enough to see His beauty in all new ways, fully confident that He who began a good work is ever faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)


Katie, I Choose Brave

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