When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward you. – Psa 73:21-22 CSB
I’m sitting here contemplating all the major, incredible changes over the last few years. It seems to unfathomable. Kind of surreal in a way.
Three years ago, I could hardly get up off the floor because of grief, confusion, and incredible hurt. I couldn’t see straight and was having a hard time holding onto hope. Everything that I had taught and believed and held on to seemed so far away. Not gone, but simply like the pain blocked my ability to reach out and take hold of it as I had encouraged so many others to do.
And yet, hope reached out to me. In so many ways. For those of you who don’t know my story, there is a reason I’ve not written for a while. It’s difficult to encourage others to abide in Christ when you yourself can’t do it. So, I’m going to tell you a story about abiding.
We are called to abide in Christ. He is the source of our strength. Of our hope. Of our joy. Of our salvation. Of our life. Without Jesus, we have nothing. Abiding is an invitation and a command. But what happens when we can’t abide? When we can’t even get up off the floor? What then?
Well, that’s when abiding continues. Jesus says in John 15:4: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither [can] you unless you abide in Me.” Did you see it? “Abide in me and I in you.” When we can’t abide in Christ, He abides in us! He has said He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Trauma has a way of overwhelming you to the point of failing to see any hope in life. It can cause you to lose sight of the One who sustains you; the Source of your joy and peace. It can leave you feeling helpless – like walking across the room seems like an insurmountable task. But, I can say, from the other side, that Jesus still sustains. His hope and joy never fail. He is faithful when you can’t be, because you’re broken.
I hate that word, broken. It seems like a trite cliche; like a spiritualized term for a pity-party. It brings to mind images of the lady sprawled out on the settee with her arm draped across her forehead crying “Woe is me.” But the term has become more relevant to me. I was thinking about things the other day, when I thought that I truly felt broken; like something in me was not right anymore. There are things that I know that I have been capable of doing, yet they seemed to be so much more difficult. Things just didn’t work the way they used to. Parts of me still feel broken – like things just don’t work like they should. And I realized that Jesus has fixed so many broken places in me. I am being restored and redeemed.
I guess you’re wondering by now what in the world I’m talking about. You see, a little over three years ago, my husband left the house. He said he was going for a drive, and that he’d be back in an hour. He never came back, except to exchange some things that he had of mine for things that he needed that belonged to him. I and our four children (teenagers and young adults at the time) had been abandoned.
Trauma is not a term I use lightly, but in this case, it fits. I had most of the physical signs of shock in reaction to this event. Beyond having to deal with the idea that my husband of nearly 25 years (it was three weeks from our 25th anniversary) up and left, I was also facing the need to be able to support myself. At the time, I was homeschooling two of the kids, and worked a very part time job; twelve hours a week.
Understand, I know who I am in Christ. I know that I am His daughter. I have loved Him and known His sustaining love for me for a long time. This event, however, shook me to the core. I entered 2 1/2 years of what many would call deep depression. The seriousness and solemnity with which I took my wedding vows kept all ideas of separation and divorce far from my mind and heart. And yet, here I was. Abandoned.
I spent much of these years asking the basic questions of the Christian life. What does forgiveness look like in this situation? How does one show unconditional love in this? Where is the line between showing grace and condoning sin? What do I do with vows I take so seriously when they seem to be cast off so easily? How do I model for my children what godliness looks like in this situation, when I can’t even get up off the floor?
When I wasn’t asking the basic questions of the Christian life, I was asking the basic questions of living in this world. How am I going to support myself? What about the kids? Where does a middle-aged woman who has spent most of her life as a stay-at-home mother even begin to think about starting a career?
During much of this time, I was able to get up and move out of sheer necessity. My children stepped up and stepped in where their father stepped out. My oldest two (in their 20’s) came home, got jobs to help make ends meet and stood guard around me. My younger two stood watch over my heart. This is a testimony to their character. I have been blessed with amazing children. However, this too caused a sense of guilt and shame on my part, because it’s backward. So, I tried harder. And fell on my face again and again.
I want to tell you of the faithfulness of Jesus. In the midst of all of this, I have been incredibly blessed. People came out of the woodwork to pray, encourage, listen (oftentimes too long), to bring me back from the brink, to offer advice, and to support me and the kids in any way they could. I have not lacked a thing.
There were many days that I wanted to crawl under my bed and stay there until Jesus came to take me home. Many days that I couldn’t see straight, and opening the Word of God was painful, because it showed me what should be. Praying seemed suddenly to be as much work as climbing Mount Everest. How could I pray when I couldn’t think straight, and felt crushed with guilt?
I became just like the paralytic on the mat. You know the one – he got dropped through a roof in the middle of a house church service. He was in a place where he couldn’t move. It seems like he had given up. I say this, because it was the faith of his friends that brought him to Jesus to find healing. It was the same with me. The people around me mobilized in prayer, provision, and service toward me and my children. There is no possible way I can ever repay (or even recount) all of the things that people did. I saw the Body of Christ and others around me minister in huge ways. For this, I am truly grateful.
There were also times when the LORD ministered to my heart directly, as well. He reminded me that He identifies with us in our weakness. He has been where we are. Broken. Abandoned. Lost. The great thing about abiding when you’re broken is that you can’t. But when you can’t, Jesus has promised to abide with you. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you.
Today, I am in awe. There is not one thing in my life that has remained the same. Except for the abiding, faithful love of Jesus. In the last three years, one of my children has gotten married, two have graduated from high school, two have graduated from college, one has moved away, all have moved out on their own (I am so very proud of them), one is currently in college, I started school and graduated with honors, I have an incredible job with a boss who is a believer who has shown so much grace and demonstrated the love of Christ to me, and the list goes on. God has shown me His faithful love yet again.
Please know that God loves you. He is in the business of healing wounds. He truly binds up the brokenhearted. His love for you will never, ever fail. It’s OK to ask all of the questions. I know I have. It’s OK to sob. Jesus understands. It’s OK to rely on others. That’s what the body of Christ is for. If I can pray for you, please leave a message. I will pray.
Keep abiding on. And if you can’t, Jesus will.