Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2014 Was The Worst

The year 2014 had some of the best times of my life, but it had even more of the worst. Honestly, it was one of the hardest, if not THE hardest, experience I've gone through. I've heard from and talked to quite a few different people who had similar situations in 2014. I hope this blog post can be an encouragement to those of you who have gone through, or are going through a hard time. There is hope.

I will lead off with April 20th. 4/20 was one of the highest highs of my life. No, not because it's national pot day! My son, littleATJ, was born on Easter Sunday last year, which just so happened to be 4/20. My wife and I had been wanting a child for quite some time, and we finally received what we felt was our miracle baby. He is an incredible blessing from God. We love him so much and couldn't imagine life without him. I love being a dad.

The Birth of ATJ

Fast forward to a month later. My wife Jenny was feeling very sick. Her diet consisted solely of green beans, strawberries, and drinking healthy juices. We thought her symptoms were normal recovery after childbirth. Her symptoms became unbearable nearing the end of May. So the day after our wedding anniversary, we skipped a family baby shower for our little boy and took her into urgent care. The doctor ran some tests and, after about 30 minutes, they transferred us to the emergency room.

After a few hours of tests in the emergency room, the doctor ended up admitting her into the hospital. They found she had abscesses (an infected pocket of fluid) on both of her ovaries, and believed the end result would be a hysterectomy. This came as a complete shock and totally blindsided us.

We had been praying for her healing. We had dozens of family, friends, church family, and friends in ministry praying for her. But nothing seemed to be happening.


I thought I was much better prepared for something like this to happen to me or my family... but I wasn't. This shook my faith like nothing else ever had.

I've witnessed people being healed on the spot before. I've prayed for people and they've been healed before. I knew God was capable, but I didn't feel He was coming through for us. I grew increasingly frustrated and angry with the Lord. I felt helpless, hopeless, and alone.

At one point, I finally broke down. I talked to my wife and my father-in-law and told them I didn't know how I could continue to be a pastor, a leader, and the spiritual leader of my family when I was struggling with these big of doubts and fears. I felt like I was the blind leading the blind.

They helped me bring those fears and doubts to the Lord, and I am so thankful for them helping me when I was in such a dark place. The Lord kept reminding me of the verse in Romans 8:28 which says, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." I didn't know how, but I believed God was going to work all of this out for our good in the end.

Jenny ended up staying in the hospital for 7 days before they finally sent us home. She didn't need the surgery, and the doctors were hopeful antibiotics would take care of the infections. All of this was going on while we were trying to figure out how to be parents for the first time. It was crazy. It was so hard. Thank God we have awesome family and friends; we could not have done it without them!


Fast forward another month. Jenny started having similar symptoms, so we called the doctor and he told us to come in so they could check her out. She had another 7 day stay in the hospital and this time it was over her birthday and Independence Day. This hospital stay wasn't nearly as hard as the time before. We were diligent in bringing our fears and doubts to the Lord, and God kept reminding me of that verse in Romans 8:28. I knew He was going to take care of my family.

So with Jenny's two weeklong stays in the hospital, we didn't get to celebrate much for our wedding anniversary, Jenny's birthday, or the 4th of July... except for the fact that we racked up a $70,000 medical bill. I joke with Jenny about giving her a super awesome anniversary and birthday gift. I gave her two weeks to an all inclusive resort. She had room service, three meals a day and had 24 hour care and assistance whenever needed. She even enjoyed air conditioning, cable, and a sweet bed. She doesn't seem to think it counts...

Jump ahead to the end of the fall. Photo sessions and weddings had slowed down for our business, and by the time we reached December we were in a really tough spot financially. To top it all off, we had an issue with our business and a former client was threatening to sue us. We were worse off financially than we had ever been before.

December is a crappy time to have money problems. It stunk not knowing if we would be able to afford Christmas presents for our family, besides the fact that we really needed to pay some bills AND get food in the fridge AND put gas in the car. It was a really hard time. Every day I contemplated reaching out to family members to ask for help. I knew different family members were willing and able to help, but the Lord kept telling me no. I knew to obey even though it made no sense to me whatsoever.

I attend a prayer meeting once a month in DL with other pastors and leaders in the area. For the second time in 2014, I broke down. This time it was at our December meeting. I opened up and let the other pastors know we were hurting financially. I felt like a complete failure as a husband, as a father, and as a provider for my family. And we still had that $70,000 medical bill hanging over our heads.

Thankfully, these awesome men of God gathered around me and prayed for me and my family. They were a God send. Within the next week, we received 3 or 4 random checks in the mail or gifts of money from different people. It was awesome. It was God.

With that money, we were able to pay the bills we needed to and we had enough left over to purchase the rest of our Christmas gifts for people. We even received one check large enough to cover the settlement we had reached with the former clients. God is cool. He cares about the big stuff and the little stuff in our lives.


I give you this summarized version of my year of 2014 all to say this:
Yes, I did go through a few of the hardest times of my life. Yes, I doubted. Yes, I struggled. But I did not give up. We kept fighting. I brought those doubts and fears to the Lord and He replaced them with His truth and His peace. I have experienced Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." And when we had done all to stand, we kept standing (Ephesians 6:13-14.)

These are SOME of the things that God has worked together for our good:
My wife is healthy and has been off all medication since November.
She didn't need a hysterectomy and still has all of her lady parts.
We have a healthy baby boy who celebrated his birthday yesterday.
We are doing well financially.
We didn't get sued.
Because of an awesome Christian healthcare ministry, our $70,000 medical bill was paid for in full and we didn't spend a dime.

I don't believe God brought any of these circumstances into our lives. He gives life (John 10:10.) But I do believe He was able to use these situations and these struggles we went through to make us stronger. We are better now than we have ever been before. And if God did that for me, then He can do that for you!


If you are struggling, if you are going through a hard time or a tough spot, DO NOT GIVE UP. Keep fighting! Keep standing! There is hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Bring those doubts, fears and situations to the Lord. Tell God where you are at and how you feel, and let Him give you His truth and His peace. He will work those situations out for your good and you will be stronger in the end.

With love,
- Joel

*The healthcare we have as a family, which is Obamacare approved, is an amazing share program. It was a huge blessing to us at such a great time of need. If you want more info, feel free to contact me using the contact form at the bottom of the blog.


  1. I am loving this blog Joel! This was encouraging!

  2. Joel, very touching. I know what going through an awful 2014 was like, but in a whole different way. Funny, today, I posted a blog with a similar theme to yours, in "Being Real" and going through those hard times. Glad you found the rock at the bottom. He's the one you can cling to.

  3. Thanks Nate!

    I just read your blog Kelley, VERY similar haha. God is cool like that! Yeah I am so very thankful we have the Lord as the foundation of our lives. Even when the storms come, we have someone solid to hang onto.