I’ve not talked about this a lot on my blog, but I have on recent episodes of The God Journey. Six weeks ago, when I arrived home from my trip to the Carolinas, I stumbled into a tragic situation that completely took me by surprise. It was catastrophic and I told listeners of the podcast that I would be taking some time away from my regular responsibilities to give God the maximum space to sort this out. That needed to happen in me as well as others involved in the circumstance. I’m not relating the specifics of what I faced because the story affects other people, and it is their story to tell, not mine.
During this time, I took great encouragement from Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
I have never been in such pain or despair. I wept countless tears in agony and sorry. It would not be an understatement to say I despaired of life itself. I took great comfort in remembering that Jesus “during his time on earth offers himself to God with loud cries and tears offered himself to God.” (Hebrews 5:7) I understood completely.
I was powerless in the face of lies the enemy had sowed among some people I care about, and had those circumstances stood, they would have threatened everything about my future. I could only pour out my heart to God for weeks, hoping that he had a resolution I couldn’t see. Early on, I called some close friends to have them stand and watch with me to see what Father might be saying or doing. Though I got great counsel, insight, and encouragement, the circumstances continued to worsen. At times God would breathe hope in my heart, “This is not what it appears to be,” but I could only seem to grasp that hope for brief moments. I was afraid to believe those thoughts were his when I could have so easily interpreted my hopes as God’s voice.
A couple of weeks ago, the tide began to turn, and in recent days all has changed dramatically for the good. Light has appeared in the darkness. Lies have given way to truth, and love has been renewed in a most gracious way. What was painful before is playful now. In the last six days, I have moved from circumstances that had been excruciatingly painful through the first five weeks to excruciatingly beautiful over the weekend. Now, the excruciating is gone entirely, and I am at rest in the beauty and his salvation.
I know this whole ordeal lasted only six weeks, but these days have been hard, painful, and seemed far longer. It came on so suddenly and the shock and pain were so great that every day seemed like a week. I am so glad to say now that I have survived the most challenging stretch of my journey to date. Everything I have experienced in him over the last thirty years was critical to have in my heart during these days. I am so grateful for what he has taught me about entrusting myself to his love instead of trying to fix it with my own wisdom and power.
He has done exceedingly abundantly above what I could have imagined even a couple of weeks ago. I have appreciated the space many of you have given me by not making demands on my time so that I could give my full attention to what lay before me. During this time Jesus proved to be all the refuge I needed when I was living beyond my limits and overwhelmed with pain. As I look back now, I see more clearly how he was there, even when my agony obscured my vision. In the first days, God spoke to my heart and said this circumstance will decisively change the trajectory of my life, but it will lead to more beautiful spaces. I had no idea what he meant by that, but when I believed it my heart was at rest even in the horror of that situation. However, when my heart strayed from it, the loss would overwhelm me again.
I’m not sure what all of that means yet but I know I’ve been changed by this, and I’m sure in more ways than I yet see. These events and his grace in them will reshape the trajectory of my heart and my mission until the end of my days, and how I love hurting people even when I’m bearing the brunt of it. Today, my heart is full of joy and gratefulness with a song in my heart and a settledness in my spirit that God’s pleasure is unfolding. There is still much to be done for his healing to be complete, but the outcome now seems inevitable, and I can fully give myself to the process.
I am as delighted today as I was in despair a couple of weeks ago. I hope someday I’ll be able to share some of the details of all of this if it becomes appropriate. In the end, I can say, I have experienced the most striking demonstration of his love I’ve ever seen for all of us involved. I’ve learned so much about the way he works and how love can have its way even against the wicked schemes of darkness.
I will always be immeasurably grateful for those who prayed for me and sent Scriptures and words of encouragement, even though you had no idea what I was dealing with. So many people stood with me, hoped with me, wept with me, and now share my joy at the fruit of his work. I will be turning back to those things Father has asked me to put into the world in the days ahead. We are back doing podcasts already. Soon I’ll continue writing on the sequel to So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I’ll also be rescheduling the trips I had to cancel and see where else Father might want me to go to encourage the hearts of others in the next season. Those conversations will be incredibly different now.
Thank you for your kindness and patience to me during this time.