Preparation: Sheila’s Story

preparationHow is God using your today to prepare and purpose your tomorrow?

Today’s guest post is written by Sheila…

I discovered a statement that I now have as my Facebook picture. It says “Sometimes we must be willing to let go of the life we have planned to have the life that is waiting for us.” I guess it goes hand in hand with the much quoted Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

In the past I have just skimmed over that Scripture thinking it sounded nice and made me feel happy that God was giving me hope and a future. But now, after my life took a pretty hard blow, I can’t just skim over such life-giving words.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian family. As a child I was molested, physically and emotionally abused, immersed in a sex-addicted, drug-using family. I knew early on I didn’t want to be like anyone in my family, but I didn’t know how to get out of it. In the sixth grade, I went to live with my grandmother who provided a stable home, even though it was full of tremendous verbal abuse. During junior high, I met a girl who introduced me to Jesus and all the pieces came together for me. Here was what…WHO…I had been searching for.

Jesus was what was missing from my heart.

I desperately clung to him for the next 7 years while living with my grandmother. Through those years, despite immersing myself in Church and learning about Jesus, I struggled with depression to the point of attempting suicide. I couldn’t understand why God would allow me to be molested when I was just a child.

Why did He allow my mom and dad to abandon me?

Why didn’t He intervene in the abuse I faced with my grandmother?

I was a follower of Christ but still very broken and hurting, not seeing that God was walking with me and had a plan and a purpose for me….

In my life, God seems to use pain a lot to prepare me for the future. It’s one of those things that I can’t ignore and forces me to take action and change. I’m a firm believer in the Scriptures like “In this world you will have sorrow, but take heart, I have overcome the world!” Pain is part of life. Without it we would never change…I would never change. God allows the pain, and even at times has brought the pain into my life for that very purpose…to change me, to make me more like Him. I used to get greatly disturbed by this. It “pained” me to think a loving God would bring/allow pain into my life. I held a grudge against my own Creator as if He was out to get me. I couldn’t see that He allowed the pain for a purpose.

Fast forward to the present….I am a Christian mom, my husband a pastor, and I had all but abandoned that life I once lived. I worked hard to forget everything. I was being “good” now and “doing” so many things for God that I knew nothing really bad would happen. God had a plan to prosper me, right? I cannot say how many times I have heard/learned in church that if I just live good enough or work at the church hard enough, everything in my life will just” fall in place,” God will ” open the door if it’s His will,” or (fill in whatever other lie that has been told). I bought it, even though I wouldn’t have admitted it.

Then came the shocker: my husband admits to a moral failure. He quits his job, I have to start working, and we lose friends and feel completely alienated by the nature of his sin. He can’t find a job for months and during this time we are forced to talk to each other about his sin, our commitment to one another, and our faith. At first I wanted to give up, just be done with life in general. I was drowning in the messes others had made, much like when I was a child. Several friends e-mailed and said “If you and the kids need a place to stay, you are more than welcome here.” I know they were trying to be loving, but it hit me hard that they were giving up on my marriage and assumed I was too.

Was I? No, I most certainly was not.

It hadn’t even crossed my mind! If I had learned anything from my childhood, it was how to be strong and push through the pain–that the most important “things” in life are usually the hardest and worth fighting for. I looked over at my husband, and despite the pain in my heart, I loved him more than I did the day I married him.

Through his time off, we dug into Scripture like we were spiritually starving, being sustained spiritually and emotionally by God’s promises. I had never before felt like the Bible was so relevant. Everything was jumping out at me. All the things we had “preached” to others, we had to accept into our own lives. Messages of God’s abundant grace, His mercy, faithfulness, and mostly, His forgiveness, we embraced fully…feeling as if our lives depended on it. My husband and I were sharing and praying constantly. The emotional and spiritual intimacy that had lacked in our lives, God was, and is, slowly building.

A few days after my husband’s confession, we walked into a church, broken, weeping, and feeling alone. For weeks no one approached us or even noticed us. God spoke volumes through the message and the music, though, enough that we kept going back. Because of this experience, we are seeing that in the church, and everywhere, people are hurting, dying inside and have no one to walk with them through it. God has grabbed our hearts and shown us what it is, how scary it is, for someone who is so broken to walk into a church. We don’t know what He has in store yet, but our hearts are aching for those people that need to hear the message of Jesus without judgment or condemnation.

I can’t explain how I started having a fear of having no faith at all, before our life -changing event, a fear that I would do nothing of importance for God in this life. Now, because we had to rely solely on God, His grace and forgiveness, I have a peace and security I never had before, knowing God is before us and behind us with His plan. God asked us the question, “If everything is stripped away from you (or there is a possibility of if), is MY love enough, am I enough?” We had to truly examine our hearts and dig into God’s Word to see that YES, He truly is enough, no matter what.

My faith and that of my husband is being renewed day by day. Even though our world crumbled, our faith was rebuilt. My husband is now a “regular” person working a normal job, and when I see Jeremiah 29:11, I truly see hope and that we will have a future because of Jesus and his amazing grace…maybe not a future of financial stability and a comfortable home, but a future with faith that cannot be shaken, a strong marriage based on true gut-wrenching love, honesty, and forgiveness, and a peace knowing our loving God is restoring our lives, not taking them away.

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. But if we have hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:24-25)

So, How God is using my today to prepare and purpose my tomorrow? I truly don’t know. I am completely open to His will and done with my own. If He wants me to  remain a stay-at-home mama to my kiddos, I will. If the biggest thing He ever calls me to do is forgive and love my husband, I feel blessed to have that opportunity. God’s plans and purposes exceed anything I could dream or imagine. Through the pain we have endured, He has shown me deep-seated joy, a peace in which I truly feel the presence of God walking with me through the struggles, and a love for His people that I never thought would come. I don’t want to go back to the way we were “before.”

 

How is God using your today to prepare and purpose your tomorrow?

(The current Preparation series is intended to help you look for, notice, and acknowledge God working in your life. At the end of the month, I’ll give away a free ticket to the Living Proof Live with Beth Moore event in Springfield, IL, October 25-26, 2013. All you have to do to qualify for the free ticket drawing is to comment on one or more blog posts throughout the month of March. The ticket will be given away on April 1st (and it’s not an April Fools joke!). (If you live too far away to attend the event, I have an alternate giveaway and will then pass along the ticket to someone else.)

2 thoughts on “Preparation: Sheila’s Story

  1. Susan,
    I read the stories of these women who have gone through tremendous heartaches and trials and how God is using them now and I wonder if there is any hope for me. I have not been through any of these kinds of trials, so can God still use me? I feel like after reading all these stories that since I haven’t been where they have, can and will God use me? I pray that he can, but right now, at this time in my life, I feel so spiritually dry. I know that God uses people who have faced tremendous trials, but I cannot say that I have faced these. I guess I am truly blessed because I have not faced these trials. Right now I feel spiritually dead and don’t know what to do. I pray. I read and study God’s Word. I try to live by His Word. I go to church (which right now I don’t feel like is meeting my spiritual needs). So why isn’t God using me?

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    1. Of course, God can and DOES use you! It’s not even that he will use you…he IS using you! We don’t often see it, but I’m glad his work doesn’t rely on my understanding. I have to yield continually, determined to trust and obey. Here’s something I wrote awhile back for women who feel they haven’t gone through enough. Perhaps it will encourage and challenge you!

      Are You Not Bad Enough?
      “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” (Proverbs 31:29)
      The Bible is full with redeemed people. We’re touched by people who went from the depths of sin and despair to encountering God in a life-changing way. The worse the person’s reputation, the more amazing the story of transformation seems to be. The woman at the well in John 4 had multiple husbands, yet her encounter with Jesus spurred her to share her changed life with many. Rahab was a prostitute but “was shown to be right with God by her actions.” (James 2:25) Perhaps you can recall stories of people you know or have heard or read about whose lives were drastically changed from bad reputations to beautiful reflections of God.
      What happens when you didn’t have such a bad reputation? You’ve lived a good life – not perfect by any means, but you certainly wouldn’t be identified as the black sheep of your family or voted Most Likely to Serve Prison Time by your high school classmates. Having a good reputation can be a blessing, but it can have downsides as well.
      1. A good reputation can make us question the impact our story has on others. Our stories can seem too boring. Remember, God doesn’t need drama to shine a spotlight on himself. Your consistency, quiet struggles, and gradual growth are important themes in the story he’s telling through your life.
      2. A good reputation can cause us to be insensitive to what needs to be pruned. Because we’re seen as “good” by so many around us, we can rationalize some of the small steps we’re taking away from God, because “at least we’re not…” doing what the person next to us is doing. Remember, God doesn’t measure your spiritual growth against anyone else. He is the standard of measurement and the one who does the measuring.
      3. A good reputation can pressure us to wear masks. We can feel pressured to keep up the image of our good reputation and end up leading lives of charades. Remember, God wants you to be authentic. He wants you to be transparent with him and those around you, because when you are, he shows through more completely.
      Action Step: Thank God for where you’ve been, where you are, and where he’s taking you. Celebrate with a mini-party today. Treat yourself to an ice cream cone or a long walk in the park. Buy a balloon to place in your work station or home to remind yourself of the blessing of God’s reputation, the keeper of all promises for your life!

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