This is Part 1 of a four-part series.
I’m the firstborn in my family, and I’ve been told my personality shows it. While I was once 6 pounds and quiet and dependent on my parents for everything, fairly quickly I started walking and talking and exercising independence. The shuffling of a box on the carpet and my small huffs gave the first indication to my mom that I intended to move to a different bedroom — at 15 months old. I famously said, “Self,” at an early age to indicate that I wanted to revel in my independence. For many years, I took great pride in the fact that I didn’t need anybody, thank you very much.
As I became an adult, leaving the protective bubble of home and experiencing hard things, I didn’t know where to turn, where to get help. I didn’t have the emotional or spiritual tools I needed to cope well with abuse and disappointment, and so I let anger rule me.
Until I met Jesus.
When Jesus drew me to Himself, I immediately began consuming the Word and learning about this newfound life I’d been given. For the sake of time, fast forward 13 years—I’d grown in Jesus through hard times and spiritual mountaintop experiences. My husband and I had uprooted from Texas—the place we thought we’d never leave—for him to attend seminary, with the ultimate goal of pursuing a career in ministry. My body grew increasingly exhausted from a decade-long battle with Lyme disease and Epstein-Barr virus. Without health or a robust, local support system in place yet, I began to realize that, quite possibly, independence is an illusion.
One hot, humid afternoon in May 2017, I curled up on our sofa with a glass of iced tea and cracked open my Bible to capture some time with the Lord. I didn’t expect that my usual routine would produce the intense conviction that landed on my heart that day, when I read this passage from Proverbs (vv. 5-8):
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
This verse is so common, so normal to my ear that it would have been easy to gloss over it and go on with my day. I’m sure I’d done that many times before. But the Spirit probed my heart and asked me hard questions: What worldly wisdom do I think I have? Why do I rely on it, when I am a fallen and frail human? How do I truly evaluate myself, in the depths of my heart? Do I fear the Lord as I should, reverently serving Him with my life? Does walking in my own strength ever grant me a feeling of refreshment?
My pen scribbled furiously in my journal as I answered these questions and came to the crashing realization that I consistently walked not in the Spirit, rather in a spirit of self-sufficiency. I had done this my entire life; it was sin—I went against the command of God to do otherwise. Also, it was exhausting.
I confessed this to the Lord and jotted a quick prayer to end my journaling: “Lord, root self-sufficiency out of my heart!”
Now, honesty requires me to admit that I don’t think I believed God would actually do it. And if He did, how hard could that be, really? (Read that with the intended sarcasm!) All praise be to God who is faithful when we are faithless! God did, indeed, grab an axe and go to work on my heart, chopping straight to the root. It felt painful and nearly debilitating at times, yet also exhilarating and comforting. That’s the story I want to share with you: how God, in His infinite kindness, used grief and loss to bring deep and abiding joy.
My story, much like a play, has three acts:
-The Loss, and
Each of these seasons taught me valuable things about God’s character, things I could only see clearly against the dark backdrop of suffering. In two weeks, I’ll share about The Wait, so stay tuned!
For now, I’d love to know–how has the Lord grown you through suffering?