“Despite my best attempts to find fascination in our new world and have a positive mindset, I found myself spiraling downward mentally and emotionally.”
Have you ever heard someone say, “It literally grew overnight”? This is an expression of speech common among gardeners, particularly those of us who grow pumpkins!
But did you know that pumpkins actually do grow more at night? I once watched a time-lapse video of one growing over several days. During the daylight, its growth appeared to pause. But in the darkness, it grew rapidly, almost like a balloon being inflated. It’s a scientifically proven fact that growth happens best in the night shift! Tuck this thought away for a moment while I share a little of my story.
I’m a passionate gardener. I love being outside with the sun on my back, the wind in my hair, and dirt under my fingernails. It’s my happy place!
So you can understand how overjoyed I was when my husband and I purchased 100-plus acres of sun-kissed land in rural Australia. It was a dream come true. We immediately planted an orchard, bought a tractor, put up fencing, set up beehives, and bought a dog, who became a loyal friend to our four boys. It was a peaceful, beautiful country home filled to overflowing with purpose and satisfaction. It was our own little slice of paradise, teeming with natural wonders and daily miracles, and we thanked God abundantly for bringing us there.
Five very short months later, my husband was asked by the church to move to Suva, the capital of Fiji. And just like that, our perfect world was shattered!
Generally, my heart was willing to follow God’s leading, but this time I was in so much turmoil about where we were being sent. “Lord, send us anywhere except to a city!” I cried.
Paul and I prayed earnestly and became convinced that God was indeed leading us to Fiji. And with that conviction grew an ever-deepening sense of His abiding presence and faithfulness. I experienced numerous moments when He was so real and so close to me that I knew without a doubt He would be by my side every step of the journey. I could ask for nothing more.
Several weeks later, my family and I arrived in Suva during rush hour. This wasn’t the Fiji you see splashed on billboards promoting endless, white sandy beaches and well-manicured resorts. Suva was congested, noisy, dirty, and smelly. For the next several months, my senses would be overloaded: the rubbish on the streets offended me, the noises of the sirens scared me, and the stench of the grocery store nauseated me.
Despite my best attempts to find fascination in our new world and have a positive mindset, I found myself spiraling downward mentally and emotionally. There were too many changes, and I wasn’t processing them well. I was deeply grieving the countless losses and goodbyes. Our family dynamics had been upended by putting our previously homeschooled children in school. My husband was required to travel to other countries, leaving me to parent the boys alone. I was socially isolated and found it difficult to connect with the locals on more than a superficial level. The lack of opportunities to get out in nature severely impacted me, and I felt trapped. In this new place, I had no role, no purpose, nothing to do but turn in meaningless circles. Then, as if to add insult to injury, it rained for two solid months. Depression hit me like a tsunami.
In the darkness, I wondered what had happened to my commitment to trusting God. What had happened to my assurance that He was faithful? Did I still believe He was by my side?
I opened my journal and began to write. As I did, God’s presence, blurred by months of sadness, became clear again.
I feel lost, disorientated, inefficient, frustrated. I don’t really know who I am, and I am lonely. So this is my life now, and I have only one place to go: God. He is my strength. In fact, He is the one and only constant that I can cling to as literally everything else in my world has either disappeared or changed. Knowing God doesn’t change my reality. . . . But I know I am not alone. I can cry on His shoulder and beg Him for strength and a smile to press on.
I knew that no matter what, God was enough!
When everything familiar has disappeared, God is enough!
When you begin each day with no sense of purpose and end each day with no sense of accomplishment, God is enough!
When you have no friends to turn to, God is enough!
When all that brought you joy and fulfillment is gone, God is enough!
When all of life is upended, and you are disorientated because of it, God is enough!
When you don’t even know who you are anymore, God is enough!
God has promised that He will never leave us. It is a fact that He is faithful to His Word. This isn’t about feelings—it’s about faith. I had zero warm fuzzies while I was flailing about in that pit of depression. Rather, I clung to God through sheer grit and determination. And in the process, far from my comfort zone, I learned to trust Him as I never had before. I learned to enjoy living in Fiji and praise Him for the lessons I learned during the difficult transition. I grew, just like a pumpkin in the dark!
Do you grow spiritually when you’re walking through the trials of life? When you’re walking by faith and not by sight? When you’re hard-pressed on every side, forced to trust in God’s realness even though you can’t see or feel Him? In the dark, He is still there.
The Word of God speaks to this concept in James 1:2–4: “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (NKJV).
Did you catch that last line? “Perfect, complete, lacking nothing!” Herein is God’s goal for our growing in the dark. We can be confident that “He who began a good work will complete it” (Philippians 1:6).
Praise God for trials! Praise God for the dark! Praise God that He is able to “work all things together for good” (Romans 8:28). Praise God that He is able to help us grow like pumpkins in the dark!