“Faith is confidence in what we hope for and the assurance that God is working, even though we cannot see it. Faith knows that no matter what the situation, in our lives or someone else’s, that God is working in it.”
That’s the definition you get if you ask Google. It’s a great definition but doesn’t exactly reveal the true dirty pit of doubt where faith is often put to the test. The last three years of my life have been faith testing years. I’m a preacher’s wife/missionary wife by trade. The Bible is my manual; I know all the typical responses to earthly trials. I can quote them and have shared them frequently, after all, the preacher’s wife is super spiritual and the expectations are spiritual answers, right?
words + photographs TERESA FLORA
But life happens.
2019 Our baby girl was so sick as a result of salmonella. In Africa. We were sent back to the U.S. for medical care. 2020 I broke my knee leaving a mountain village. PSA: Always make sure your boot strings are tied. COVID-19 happened. The International Mission Board evacuated us back to the U.S. for surgery. The man of my dreams, my Jimmy, was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma. 2021 Jimmy left a grieving wife, grieving children, hurting grandchildren, a sorrowful church family. 2022 Here I am. Living the life of the widow.
Widowhood forces you into membership in a forgotten people group club. The familiar of yesterday is foggy. Your identity is scattered and uncertain. Your past is the past, and your future is hard to grasp. No one wants a lifetime membership, and there are no handbooks written to help define your new role. You walk with an exaggerated limp.
Life goes on for the rest of the world, and there I sit — in the pit.
The pit. A lonely place; shadows of grief are my companion. My faith? Shaken. Bleeding. Scarce. How does this happen? How can someone who based her life on the truths of God’s Word forget God is faithful, even in the shadows?
Grief is a crazy thing. It’s as though you are walking in a cloud of doubt. The road map, chaotic. The fear, suffocating. How could a caring, loving God take the most God-loving serving man I know? Pockets full of question marks threatened my sanity. I loved my life. I hated this change. Focusing on my loss changes nothing. Living in my loss says everything. Living in my loss says: Family is worth it; keep going. Memories are valuable. Joy is there. You just have to look harder sometimes to find it. Living in my loss says Jesus is enough and is a testimony of my faith.
I’m not a rookie Christian. I know faith. When doctors told me my baby would not live, I had faith in the Healer. When we left all we knew — everything and everyone — to move to Africa, I had faith in the Keeper of the Stars. When times were hard and farm life was harder, I had faith in the Provider. When hope was gone and doctors no longer smiled, when nights were never ending and home seemed so far away — faith. Faithful. His faithfulness.
I remembered all the times when He rescued, healed, saved, loved, saw. He was faithful. I clung to His faithfulness of the past to survive the present. I now look to the future with hope. Hope in Him.
“Suffering is an irreplaceable medium through which I learned an indispensable truth … God is God.”Elizabeth Elliot
I just returned from Africa. The trip was exactly what this tired heart needed. I cleaned out our Africa home and my Africa missionary’s closet. I cried buckets full of tears, searching for answers. I climbed mountains, held babies, shared the Gospel. I asked God to show me my purpose, apart from my Jimmy. I knew He could. I had faith. And He did. God faithfully showed me His purpose for my tomorrow. It will take some hard work, courage, and faith, but I know the Faithful One, and He gives faith freely.
Teresa Flora is a servant of the King. She lives in Stockton, Missouri. She and her family have started The Timothy Project Healing Brokenness Widow Care, a nonprofit serving widows. For more information about being involved with the Project, email Teresa at email@example.com. Like the page on Facebook.
COVER Newlyweds: Jim and Teresa Flora.
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