“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”
Growing up, whenever I heard a powerful testimony, I would think to myself, “I hope someday my story can be that impactful for someone.” The testimonies were always from people who had gone through a paralyzing time and, by the grace of God, were able to get through it with amazing lessons that they learned about Jesus and themselves. The Church talks often about suffering for the sake of Christ, and I wanted that to be my story.
During a huge growing period of my life, when I was hyped up on my relationship with Jesus, that kind of suffering, that painful situation that you would never want for anyone, came into my life. It quite literally took the breath out of me. It wasn’t something that was my fault, though that thought definitely ran its course in my mind. Still, there was a lot of shame, hiding, and ignoring of pain, thoughts, and emotions. And honestly, the last thing I wanted to hear was “Jesus loves you.” I also remember praying, “God, this is not what I asked for when I wanted to suffer for your sake.” What followed was more shame that I would even think to be upset or angry with God.
Naturally, I avoided all of this pain for as long as I could. I felt so guilty that I was mad at God. I felt shame that I would even doubt His sovereignty. I felt abandoned. I felt very alone. I felt pressure to forgive and move past the hurt. I felt that I needed to have it all figured out so that I would be able to share the amazing truth that was revealed to me in this time.
But I didn’t have those “a-ha” moments. I didn’t have the answers to my biggest questions.
Why would God, who is supposed to be my protector, let this happen to me?
Why did this have to happen?
What am I supposed to do with this now?
My walls were up big time. I was wrestling with these questions and all the lies that evil had planted in my mind to make me doubt. I was so lonely and putting on the biggest show of my life to convince, not only others, but also myself that I was okay. I wasn’t really talking to God at all (more shame there). I didn’t really want to hear truth.
I finally got to the point where I couldn’t handle it any more. I couldn’t handle carrying the heaviness of the shame and hurt on my own. I got to a place where I was just crying on my bedroom floor, begging to Jesus, who I had been hiding from for months, for any help because there was no way that I could do it anymore. I could not handle or control it anymore.
So Jesus stepped in.
He didn’t show himself to me in a grand way. He didn’t bust down my door and force scripture down my throat. He didn’t give me a realization of all the answers I was searching for.
He started with providing a way for me to begin counseling. It was a safe space for me to start processing through my pain and what I had been through with someone who was a Christian but didn’t know me and wasn’t going to try to fix me with “Christian-ese.”
Slowly in these 45-minute sessions, God started working on the lies that I was believing. He started by searching my heart for what truth I still believed and went from there. Despite the lies that God had abandoned me or that God didn’t protect me, the one truth I couldn’t shake was that God is good.
Good: of favorable character or tendency // bountiful // can be relied on // full // kind // loyal // of the highest worth or reliability // true.
From there, God started to remind me that He has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11).
He reminded me that He weeps with me (John 11:33-35).
He reminded me that He works all things together for good for me (Romans 8:28).
He reminded me that He is love (1 John 4:8).
He reminded me that love protects (1 Corinthians 13:7).
He has been patient with me when I need to take it slow or take days off from the healing process. He has been kind and forgiving to me when I accuse him out of anger. He has had grace with me when I take steps back in the healing.
Today, I’m still suffering and hurt. I haven’t had a magical healing moment that I secretly wished for. I still think about the “what happened” on a daily basis, and I still feel paralyzed if I let it have control over me. I still cry and mourn parts of myself that won’t be the same again. I still wrestle with God over my big questions because I still don’t have answers.
But, I am doing better. I can now talk about it (with trusted people) and feel less shame. I can talk about counseling with just about anyone because I’m proud of myself for getting help. I can relate to people who have similar pain in ways that I couldn’t before. Good things are still happening for me even though I’m not fully healed. I know that it is okay to not be okay and to take steps back. I know that the lies I believed are nothing in comparison to the truth that God has been breathing into my life.
I believe that God can do all of this for you. Whether you are suffering from family hurt (past or present), failed or hurtful relationships, things that happened to you, or even things that resulted from mistakes you have made, I want you to know that God has grace for you. God has love for you. God has forgiveness for you. God has good plans for you. He has never stopped working for your good and His plans have never been altered. God is bigger than the suffering.
I want say a few things directly to you now that I really want you to know especially if no one has told you this lately or ever.
Your pain is valid.
Crying is okay.
Doing what you need to do to take care of yourself is important.
Counseling is not something to be ashamed of.
It is okay to have questions and to wrestle with God about them.
It is okay to continue on without answers.
It is okay to be angry with God. He can take it.
Jesus has already overcome the darkness, so please let Him take care of you in suffering. It is really hard and honestly impossible to do it on your own.
And please remember the truth that God is good.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
1 Peter 5:10
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”