Friday, May 10, 2013

Valleys of Sorrow to Rivers of Joy

Dear friends, let me first just say that this post is taking a great deal of faith to write. I talk often about being “real,” about living free, about passion for Christ. This time, I’m going to open up about a very personal struggle that is requiring more courage than I can say. I believe that God wants to inspire hope in us all.

For a week I have been grasping at the wind for what to write. I’ve spent a few days tweaking an article about dreaming big, and believing God for big things, but today all I can think about are the valleys of my life. There have been dark, treacherous places in my life that only the Lord could have seen me through. Today, I was overcome with gratitude for those times. That seems absurd to some of you, I’m sure, especially if you knew the specifics of the times I am referring to. Thankful for such pain? Abuse? Heartache? Fear? Sickness?

Yes. Thankful.

I’m not thankful for the experiences in and of themselves. But I am thankful that we have God that doesn’t leave us in the middle of sorrow, tragedy, and fear. He is there with us, willing to lead, comfort, and heal us in the middle of them. It has been the darkest seasons of my life that God has shown Himself strong, gracious, compassionate, and faithful. It is the darkness that drove me to utter dependency upon God’s mighty strength and love to carry me through. It is those times that my spirit was stilled with the song of my Father’s love over me. Most recently, 2012 was a dark season that ultimately showed God’s faithfulness to my weary heart.

Today, I originally set out to write about dreaming big, audacious, God-sized dreams. That post, God-willing, will still come together. But before we get there, I want to come clean about what this last year was really like. Maybe I’m foolish for putting this out there, but that’s what this blog is all about: being real. Getting to the heart of issues, and looking them square in the face knowing that our God is greater than the struggles we face.

My most recent encounter with pain was just last year. In March of 2012 I fell into a dangerous emotional pit. Seemingly out of nowhere I was overcome with fear that gripped me at my core. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t function. I was crippled for months with such great panic, sadness, pain, and fear that I was no longer myself. I was desperate, and anyone close to me could see it. The Lord had taken me through trials and turmoil before, and in those seasons drew me closer to Himself. Last year showed me that He wasn’t finished yet. I knew that if I had any chance of being healed and getting to the other side of the darkness, I had to stick close to my Shepherd.

I cannot tell you the number of times I found myself weeping over the Word of God begging for healing. Begging for freedom. Begging to be released from the grip of such oppression. In the middle of the fight, my husband and I moved our family to another part of the country, and I was starting over building local community. It was a lonely year.

It didn’t take me too long to realize that while God isn’t the author of fear and pain, He was allowing me to experience this season. He didn’t want to torture me, He wanted to heal me of an emotional cancer that was eating at me for years without being dealt with. It had to boil to the surface for Him to carve away at it. I had to face it, and allow Him to work. I had to sit still long enough on the operating table for Him to do what only He could.

For a while I hid. I went off of social media. I quit blogging. I didn’t want to be in the spotlight or public eye. I didn’t want to be known. All of my life, I had been an extrovert that enjoyed being in front of people. And suddenly, there I was just wanting to hide away. But God was softening me. Changing me. Bringing me into a place of gentle dependence upon Him.

I read Psalm 27 nearly every day, asking God to build in me faith to believe it. Just as nighttime fades away into morning little by little, I found myself little by little being set free.

This last year, the Lord lifted my head to stare at the face of my personal “monsters in the dark,” and He showed me that even in the darkness, even in the danger, even in the thick of the shadows of our worst nightmares, He is still good, and His grace will sustain us.
So, reader, here I am. Letting go of fear, and trusting God to do what only He can. I won’t say much more about this last year, except to say that I will walk with an emotional limp for the rest of my life.  As with any major surgery, there will be scarring. But what joy I have knowing that my limp causes me to lean on Jesus even more now than ever. What joy it is to be changed to have to trust God to be in a public blogging forum rather than it being “natural.”
May the God of all comfort be with you in your trials, and your pain. And may His gracious hand cause you to lean harder on Him, to listen to His song over you, and to be greatly encouraged that these dark hours are not the end of the story, but rather darkness leading to a beautiful dawn.
“I will sing of your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.”
–Jars of Clay

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