I have so much to be grateful for. I have SO MUCH to be grateful for. I HAVE so much to be grateful for.
Last Sunday, our preacher ended the series on Comfort-for God’s People. The basic message was one of hope. I have hope as a Christian through God’s Word. I have hope of salvation as freely given to me by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and His sacrifice on the cross. I have hope for the future.
What I did not realize, is that I have hope in my checkered past. The past that I have worked so hard, to bury so deep? The one I vowed not to revisit, to the point of praying to have my memory wiped clear off all the mistakes I made? What a terrible thing to do. Why? Because, I have been given a gift through my self-inflicted adversity, and the resulting trials gave me tools. Tools to help those who are drowning, as I once was.
So often we collapse under the weight of shame. We never realize that the shame is gone once we repent and move forward. The shame is to be turned to our pillar of strength. A tool of teaching. A monument to the memory of who we were, and who we are yet to become. Sounds so easy, right? No, it’s not. We have an enemy. The saying, “I am my own worst enemy” is a trap. Don’t fall into it!
We are not our own worst enemy. The devil is. Learn to recognize him; he never takes a day off. For those, like me, who have lived for years with guilt and shame,that I was my own worst enemy was simply not true. I woke up daily, as I live and breathe, never wanting to slide back into old habits. But I did. Not because I wanted to intentionally hurt myself or those I love. Far from it! It’s the same with you, gentle reader. You don’t want to run for comfort and dive into those old pools of shame. Whether its brownies, booze, men, shopping, latching onto the next big thing, or harming yourself physically, we know we need to stop. Pronto. Like NOW.
When life doesn’t go the way we want it to, we blame God, we blame ourselves. We battle ourselves. We hate ourselves. And that’s just where the enemy wants us to be. He whispers in our ears, constantly. “You did it again. You suck!” “Now what, are you gonna turn to God? Hah! He hasn’t done a THING for you.” “Where is God’s healing? Nowhere. He is not here. He doesn’t care about you.” “You have to do this on your own. Pull yourself up. Don’t wait for God.” “God doesn’t love failures.”
Before you know it, you have the brownie, the cigarette, or a stranger in your bed. You may wake up one day with a life you made, gone. Little by little, everyone has walked away. Still, you think “I can handle this” “I can fix it” Sooner or later, you come through the trial. After that, you have one of two choices: Turn your back on God (Cuz you done fixed everathang ya own self!) or cling to Him.
In my case, I am a Klingon. It started for me at age 19. I was pregnant, dumped, and scared. That’s when the foundation that had been laid for me as a child started to rear its wonderful head. I began to read the Bible and find comfort in its words. I especially read a lot of Psalms about being protected from my enemies. I struggled, however, with condemnation. It wasn’t chastity that got me pregnant. Nope, it was the never-ending search for comfort in the arms of a man. It left me lonely and empty. Ironic, because, I did all that dumb stuff in the hope of finding a husband and a “solid relationship”. After all of those years of being so dumb, how could God ever love and accept me? I thought if I was good enough from then on, maybe He would let me into Heaven.
Jacob came into my life March 1st, 1994. I would love to be able to say that I was changed from that moment on. Yes, I was a mother. I began to know responsibility. But I was not who I needed to be. I attended church sporadically. I still read the Bible, and went through spurts of digging deeper into my faith. I got married to Jacobs dad, and then got divorced. I also partied, clubbed, and continued my fruitless search for a Godly husband in bars. That condemnation just grew deeper and took hold of so many aspects of my life. I began to over eat, obsess about my body, abuse laxatives, and fret over dying of random diseases. The more I learned about God or tried to follow Him, the more my flesh and mind swirled in turmoil.
In June of 1999 I lost my grandmother to colon cancer. I was there for her last breath. She was such a huge part of my life. To this day, there is a hole in my heart. It cut so deep that I wasn’t sure I would be able to breathe again. I can’t write about her too much, or I will break down. Just know that it was BIG. Her death was life changing for me. And at that moment of her passing, I knew I wanted to see her again. That’s when I got serious about my faith. I began to go to Calvary Chapel in Hanford, CA. It was a different kind of church. They went chapter by chapter, verse by verse through the Bible. I was understanding God’s word, I was growing. Still, I felt so worthless inside. I figured that I could just live with that feeling. It was going to be my cross to bear.
I got married 11/25/00 and had a ceremony with family and friends on 12/20/00. We moved to Florida and began our life together. It hasn’t been easy. In fact, most times it has been downright hard. Financially we are no better off than a couple of newlyweds, or a broke college student. My husband struggled with alcoholism a great portion of our marriage. I thought it was going to break me. Instead, I have learned so much about myself, watching his struggle. As I watched him deal with the same thoughts of condemnation, I was able to see the damage it does to a person. Being on the outside looking in, I could assure him that God loved him and was going to see him through. I also realized that He saw me through so much in my life, that I had to look back on it all to see that there was.no.condemnation. That was all my doing.
Now, let us go back to what the pastor was teaching. Comfort. The main point of his final teaching was this: Just because God’s Word gives us comfort, does not mean we are going to be comfortable. We are going to go through trials. It’s going to hurt. And it is certainly not what He wanted for us, but since we were gonna behave like jerks anyway, He uses our trials for His glory.
An example he gave was that of Dr. Helen Roseveare.
Dr. Helen Roseveare was an English Christian missionary to the Congo from 1953 to 1973. She went to the Congo through WEC International and practised medicine and also trained others in medical work. She stayed through the hostile and dangerous political instability in the early 1960s. In 1964 she was taken prisoner of rebel forces and she remained a prisoner for five months, enduring beatings and rape. She left the Congo and headed back to England after her release but returned to the Congo in 1966 to assist in the rebuilding of the nation. She helped establish a new medical school and hospital (the other hospitals that she built were destroyed) and served there until she left in 1973. She helped many people from different countries, and helped them when needing food, and drink.
Helen Roseveare was born in England in 1925.  She became a Christian as a medical student in Cambridge University in 1945. She continued to have strong links with the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union and was designated as the “CICCU missionary” during the 1950s and 1960s. Since her return from Africa, she has had a worldwide ministry in speaking and writing. She was a plenary speaker at the Urbana Missions Convention three times. She is now retired and lives in Northern Ireland. Her life of service was portrayed in the 1989 film Mama Luka Comes Home.
Dr. Roseveare was captured and raped. Several times. In her darkest hour, she cried out to God for mercy, and He responded.
“Helen, they are not fighting you: these blows, all this wickedness is against Me”, she sensed Christ saying as she walked back to the house. “All I ask of you is the loan of your body. Will you share with Me one hour in my sufferings for those who need my love through you?”
My first thought was, good grief, what good could come from the rape of this woman?? I learned that later on in her life, she was called to counsel a nun. She stressed that she was a doctor not a psychiatrist. The Mother Superior said she felt that Dr. Roseveare was the best person to help a young nun who was losing her mind. Reluctantly, she went to visit the nun and was met with hostility. The nun said that Dr. Roseveare could not help or understand because she (the nun) had been raped.
That is where the comfort came from for this nun. Through the trial and suffering of another. As the preacher said, on that awful night, Helen Roseveare earned her PhD in rape.
Just as you and I have earned ours in several areas. How many young girls could I have helped if I had not spent so much time condemning myself? When, instead I could have given them comfort, and let them know they were loved. And how selfish was I to make my struggle so HUGE? I was not in the Congo serving God. I was not brutally raped by the people I was trying to help. Why did I let the enemy make my sufferings seem so terrible that they kept me frozen?
Consider the trials of the apostle Paul:
“I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and day adrift at sea. I have traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food. Often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
Then, beside all this, I have the daily burden of how the churches are getting along. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” 2 Corinthians 23-29
Yeah, my problems seem minor compared to that. But what amazes me is this: Paul did not curse God or blame Him for these trials. Not by a long shot! It goes on to say:
“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 8-10.
In my weakness, I was made strong. God has crafted a message of hope through me. Who am I to sit on my hands and stifle that good work? I earned those PhDs. Its time to put them to work.
Now you should too.