“How can we get through hard times?” she asked the class.
My friend was leading Sunday’s discussion in our class of 7 & 8-year-olds.
“Have you ever experienced something that was hard?” she continued.
Hands shot up all around us as each child shared their experience of hard times, as well as who had helped them through that difficult time.
“I didn’t have anyone to play with at school. I felt left out. Then a nice girl asked me to jump rope with her. It made me feel a lot better.”
“The doctor removed my stitches this week.”
And so came the responses, each child answering in turn.
Yes, they had experienced hard things. and someone was always there to help make things better.
AN UNDENIABLE IMPRESSION
I sat quietly at the beginning of class when everyone shared who they spent Thanksgiving with that weekend, and what exactly they had eaten for Thanksgiving dinner.
And I sat quietly during the ‘hardship discussion’, too.
How nice it was that they each had had someone to spend Thanksgiving with, as well as someone to help them through their hard times!
That’s when it hit me—an undeniable impression from the Spirit suggesting that I share with the class an experience I had had the day before. The experience had been so special that I had chosen not to share it with anyone—not even my mom. But now I felt prompted to share it with my class:
“May I share an experience of a hard time I went through?” I asked my friend.
She nodded, and she and the children waited for me to begin.
Recommended Book: Help For The Hard Times
AN ANSWER TO A PRAYER
I explained that I had spent Thanksgiving alone this year, but that I was okay with that. I was happy that most people were spending time with family and friends.
I made myself a simple meal to celebrate Thanksgiving and followed it up with a delicious batch of cookies. The day came and went and I felt fine.
By the time Saturday arrived, however, I was feeling pangs of loneliness. It had been days since I had interacted with another person and I was beginning to feel sad.
So off to church I went, I told the children, to seek the comfort I so desperately desired. While there I prayed in earnest, “Heavenly Father, please comfort me. Help me to not feel so lonely.”
Upon opening my eyes, I felt impressed to reach for the scriptures. I opened them, hoping to be led to a comforting verse. The page I discovered, however, was completely blank; the page next to it had only the title of the next book. What kind of comfort could this page possibly offer me? I wondered.
Then, another impression—this time to turn back a few pages.
I did so and found myself smack in the middle of the pronunciation guide.
My puzzlement increased.
The pronunciation guide?
Finally, another prompting: to look down at a word on the page.
My eyes immediately fell on the word ‘Emmanuel’, which instantaneously invoked thoughts of Jesus Christ and Christmastime.
Knowing the word had a meaning, but not remembering what it was, I opened the Bible dictionary and scanned the pages until I found the word I was seeking: Emmanuel.
My heart skipped a beat as my eyes read the meaning:
‘God with us’.
So much comfort in three short words.
In that moment, I felt at peace, for I knew I was not alone.
My prayer had been answered.
The children in my class had been listening intently to my story.
One boy, sitting on the edge of his seat, leaning forward with his arms on his knees, could not help but cry out when he learned the meaning of Emmanuel:
“No way! That is so weird!” he exclaimed, wide-eyed and incredulous.
I chuckled at his word choice. He had called the experience ‘weird’ but I knew he meant ‘amazing’, and he was right—it was pretty amazing.
Sometimes adults feel lonely and left out too, I told the children. My friend nodded in agreement.
When we face hard times in our lives, it’s nice when someone comes to our rescue, I continued. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes we are left to go through things on our own, but we, I assured them, never really are alone, for God is always with us.
ADULTS FEEL LONLEY TOO
After class, my friend pulled me aside and thanked me for sharing such a meaningful experience.
I wasn’t sure at the time why I had felt impressed to share it, I only knew with certainty that it was the right thing to do. I just hoped that the children in our class would always remember that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are always there to comfort them just as they were there to comfort their teacher one lonely Thanksgiving weekend.
That was supposed to be the end of the story.
But it wasn’t.
THE PEACE THAT ONLY GOD CAN PROVIDE
The next day, my friend’s teenage daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
The following day a 9-hour surgery was performed.
Today, the family waits for answers.
Life can change in a heartbeat.
As our community races to find ways to serve my friend and her family during this difficult time, we find ourselves fasting and praying that they will be filled with the peace that only God can provide.
Upon hearing the devastating news of her daughter, I sent my friend a text.
I let her know that we love her and are praying for her family.
I paused and, with tears in my eyes, added four additional words:
Emmanuel = God with us.
A TESTIMONY TO THE WORLD
I share this experience as a testimony to the world that we have a living and loving Heavenly Father who hears and answers our prayers.
At times, our prayers may not be answered in the way we desire but, rather, in the way He sees fit.
Even so, we can trust “that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28), for He will never, ever leave us alone.
DISCUSSION: How do you get through hard times?