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.)