It was four days after our wedding when life threw us lemons. Everything from the soft-serve ice cream truck to the precious first look moments in the Berkeley Rose Garden to the heartfelt speeches of our family and friends, had been more than I could have imagined.
We were about to board a flight to our dream safari honeymoon in Africa. The only thing standing in our way was a report from my husband’s father’s doctor visit. He had gone in to check out swollen lymph nodes, claimed by four doctors to be an adverse COVID vaccine reaction.
“It’s likely acute leukemia.”
“We would advise your son and his wife to cancel all travel plans.”
When Life Throws You Lemons
The news hit us as a shock, and the weeks that followed bore an even more somber tone.
We canceled our travel plans. During his five-week hospital stint of chemo, his dad suffered brain bleeding and a gastronomical infection that left him temporarily wheelchair-bound and sleeping for most of the day.
As we tried to blend one of life’s most celebratory events with the prospect of imminently losing my husband’s father, mentor, and best friend, we felt at a loss, torn between bright smiles and tears, having moved from planning a wedding to potentially planning a funeral.
Related Post: When Life Gives You Lemons Make Lemonade With Jesus
3 Things to Remember When Life Throws You Lemons
In many occasions in life, God asks us to juxtapose different fluctuating emotions and discover a deeper and more transcendent peace. As God has grown our faith and love for Him in all circumstances, we have reflected on a few learnings:
1.) Merge joy and sorrow
At first, I felt it wasn’t right to post wedding photos with a family tragedy on the horizon or even to celebrate a birthday with a large group of friends.
Yet as Christians, we are called to be like Paul – “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). In Philippians 1:21, Paul reminds us that to “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” When our joy is founded in Christ, our circumstances do not need to define highs and lows because God’s goodness and faithfulness provide a solid foundation for life’s storms.
More practically, we found ways to rejoice over signs of providence in my father-in-law’s life – laugh over memories recorded in his video memoirs and create a photo montage of wedding photos for his hospital room. We could praise God for the blessing of family, for saving my father-in-law through faith, and for the gift of a personal relationship with Him, even amid the struggles.
2.) Learn to love sacrificially
Before marriage, I used to love when friends confided me in their deepest challenges, such as romantic break-ups, family health issues, and job losses.
But in marriage, I had to take the problems home with me, and we had to put our vows, of loving in sickness and in health, into practice, bearing each other’s burdens.
In this case, it meant giving up a carefully planned four-week honeymoon through four countries in Africa and intimate time together as newlyweds, while my husband spent many long hours in the hospital. I definitely did not have a good attitude for the first month and felt angry both at God and at my husband, for making a unilateral decision to stay.
The Bible teaches us, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). We are to heed Christ’s example in humbly sacrificing for one another and using God’s abundant love to fuel our compassion.
3.) Surround yourself with community
The same community that watched us say our vows was the same community that showed up on our doorstep with meals while undergoing cancer treatments.
During this time, I learned the power of vulnerability in bringing people closer together. Matthew 18:20 reminds us that Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” We felt God’s presence through the prayers all around the world and by forcing ourselves to get out with friends even when it felt easier to close off in silence.
We definitely weren’t perfect and learned a lot through trial and error. There were nights when we said words we regretted and fought about how to balance time with parents and time together. I cried a lot about canceling the honeymoon and harbored resentment for a long time.
But through it all, we saw God come through. He had a timing for all of it, even if we don’t fully understand all the why’s, and blessed us by providing a wedding day with all our parents, free of all the pain and grief that would come our way. And we came out knowing that our marriage could, with the right godly foundation, endure and grow through the trials.
Join the Conversation
What do you do when life throws you lemons? Are you tempted to wallow in self-pity, or do you cling to the Word of God?
About the Author of 3 Things to Remember When Life Throws You Lemons
Leah is a social entrepreneur, writer, and wife in the San Francisco Bay Area, who loves traveling and exploring God’s creation (60 countries and counting!). She is an advocate for Foster the City at Redeemer Bible Fellowship and passionate about serving vulnerable children.
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