This weekend I was blessed as I got to attend my church’s Ladies Retreat. It was a time for me to think, to laugh, and to grow. As I sit here on this quiet Sunday afternoon, I have been taking some time to look back over some of the notes I took over the last two days. Looking through my plethora of messy scribbles, I found one statement that stuck out: “When Jesus heals us, He sends us home to tell our story.” Jamy Fisher, our bible teacher, made this statement in reference to the many stories in the bible where after Jesus healed someone, that person went back to their families and towns and shared what had happened to them.
I began my forties hurt, wounded, and pretty angry with God. You see my thirties were dark, difficult years. That 10 year period began with a failed marriage that rocked me to my core. I was hurt, betrayed, devastated, ashamed...the list could go on. The decade ended with my youngest daughter running away from home. Once again the air was knocked out of my lungs as my heart crumbled into a million different pieces. During that time period, my heart cried out over and over “Why?!?!” “Why is this happening?!?!” My faith was shaken and I was angry with God. I knew Jesus was my hope. I knew, in Him, I would find healing. But I didn’t feel like being friends with Him, and I definitely wasn’t in the mood to talk to Him. Even though I knew I should trust Him, I wasn’t sure if I was willing to trust Him with my life, my heart, my future.
During this period I learned that God isn’t afraid of my anger. No matter where I am in life, He loves me just the same. I’ve always believed in the promise that “joy comes in the morning,” but morning doesn’t always come on a fixed schedule. Sometimes we have to thoroughly exhaust our anger and pain before we can move forward. I know God is there waiting to share the hope of a better tomorrow. However, He is also patient enough to let me process and grieve when need be, and I am so thankful for that.
Sometimes, we’re angry for so long though, we clutch tightly to it, we become friends with it.
It becomes something we are so familiar with that we don’t want or know how to let it go. This is what happened to me. I finally came to a place in my life where I wanted something different. I wanted to find that elusive joy. I wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus. But I had a problem. My anger had become my constant companion. I didn’t know how to kick it to the curb.
By my 40th birthday my church attendance had become sporadic, who knows the last time I had opened the pages of my bible, and I definitely wasn’t praying. I had set aside my foundational beliefs in favor of holding on to bitterness. Because that’s what happens to anger when you hold on to it too long—it becomes bitterness. I longed for healing. I longed for restoration. But I was so very lost.
As a side note, I want to say that even then, God loved me. Even then, God’s hand was on me, and He was protecting me. You see in the middle of that 40th year, in the middle of that anger and bitterness, God still loved me enough to send me Robert. God wanted (and still wants) the best for me. And in the middle of all that ugliness, God sent me the best husband (future husband at the time) I could have dared to hope for.
As I saw Robert’s genuine relationship with God, it encouraged me to begin seeking again. Even though I wasn’t “feeling it” I decided to find my way back to church. I made a resolute decision I was going to go. I was going to be there every Sunday no matter what. Can I tell you how hard those first weeks and months were?
Church was the last place I wanted to be.
I’ll be honest; some Sundays I sat and played on my phone during the sermon, but I kept coming Sunday after Sunday. Slowly I began to listen to the sermons more and more. And then I began to ask, how does this sermon apply to me? Please hear me—this was a very slow process—I’m talking months and months.
When Robert and I married, we not only made a commitment to go to church, but to also get involved in Sunday School. I think connecting with small groups is so important. This small group of people have no idea how they have ministered to me. They have loved me sincerely—my rough edges and all. Through this small group I started studying the word again. I found myself reading scripture again and reminding myself of truths I learned as a child. And I began to pray again—to talk to God, and believe and know that He was hearing my heart.
Each step I took back towards the feet of Jesus, I took because I knew that was where I’d find my peace, not because I was “feeling it.” I really want to point this out because I know that many times in my life I have thought that if I didn’t have this big emotional moment with Jesus, then it wasn’t real or legit. Part of what I have learned over the last few years is that I can count on Jesus’s promises whether I’m “feeling it.” or not.