Ten years ago today I held my son’s lifeless body in the palm of my hand sobbing with the raw intensity of fresh grief. He had been born into the arms of Jesus bypassing my own arms altogether. My emptiness and sorrow resulting from that loss plunged me into a dark abyss of despair and fear cloaked by a busy life and a practiced smile.
A Decade After Death:
Lessons Learned in My Soul’s Dark Night
Today I rejoice that God has lifted me up out of that slimy suffocating pit and set my feet on the solid Rock of His undying love and unrelenting faithfulness. It has not been quick or easy.
Even when I was sure He had forsaken me, still He was leading me through the shadowy places of Death’s Valley of Tears. For where there are shadows, there is always a Light somewhere.
I know now that I was not abandoned as I thought or as alone as I felt for I never walk alone.
He always goes before me to smooth the way, behind me to protect me from what I cannot perceive, and beside me to sustain my weary feet along the way. In every trial and storm and anguish, He has already been there and now guides me through and picks me up when I fall.[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#undefeated”]God goes before you, guards behind you, and walks with you in every trial.[/tweetthis]
Ten years is a long time. The old adage is not true. Time does not heal all wounds. Untreated wounds fester and spread their poison to other areas. Jesus heals all wounds but always in His own perfect timing.
Learning to Live Victoriously
God can take burdens from us instantaneously if He chooses. Oh, how I prayed that He would! I so wanted to be changed but I didn’t want to do the work myself. I just wanted God to fix it all for me. He had a different plan.
Instead of evaporating my depression and anxiety, He slowly taught me how to overcome it by depending on His strength, leaning on His grace, and trusting in His wisdom. The Scriptures are true. Perfect love really does cast out fear.
Before I knew it as a verse. Now I own it as my true reality.
When I grasp how much God truly loves me (even as He performs open-heart surgery on me), the fear clawing at my guts subsides. The pain welling up within me threatening to drown me drains away. The choking despair relaxes its grip and lets hope fill my spiritual lungs with life again.
Yes, it would be easier if God would just take the hard stuff away for me but I must admit, to feel His power surge through me and around me to lift me above the waves and propel me forward is much more invigorating. It’s truly empowering to actually experience first hand what God can do through hearts that finally surrender to Him.
I have learned that when I resist God I fight against my own best interest.
He always comes with good and prosperous plans for me. How often I reject His gifts because I don’t like the way He wrapped them. How foolish I am to refuse His ways because they seem too hard or uncomfortable or eccentric for me.
The paradox is that our greatest victory lies in our unconditional surrender.[tweetthis]The paradox is that our greatest victory lies in our unconditional surrender. #undefeated[/tweetthis]
I never want to surrender to doubt or fear, depression or anxiety, selfishness or pride. That kind of giving-up surrender never leads to green pastures or good places. But to surrender wholly and completely to the One who loved me so much that He didn’t want Heaven to be without me is a joy, not a burden.
The paths He asks us to take, though they may be painful, difficult, and long; always lead us somewhere better than where we came from. It is truly rewarding and satisfying in the deepest places of my soul to walk hand in hand with my Savior . . . wherever He leads.
As I look back across the expanse of the last 10 years of my wandering I have the advantage of a new perspective. I can see now that all the circuitous routes that challenged and frustrated me were, in fact, carving a beautiful and masterful design through the landscape of my life that only God could see at the time.
There is still pain but now I allow God to comfort me. There is still grief but now I have a firm grip on hope. There are still fears that lurk ominously in the shadows but now I have learned to rest in the loving embrace of the One who will never let me go.
Perhaps today you are in a shadowy valley. Maybe you can’t see where this awful road you’re walking will take you. Do you feel like you’re wandering aimlessly, lost without a Guide to bring you back home? Is your faith fragile, your peace tattered and your hope frayed? Does true joy seem to be a distant and fading memory or perhaps a misty dream that never really existed?
I’ve been in that place. It’s miserable. As one who is maybe a little further along the path through the valley then you are, I am drawn to you. I pray for you.
My heart aches to turn back and tell you to hold on. I want you to know you are never alone and that God is always good. I am compelled to encourage you to keep believing and trusting God anyway, even when He doesn’t make sense. (Because how could an infinite God ever make sense to a finite mind?)
I don’t have all the answers, but I walk with the One who does. In His wisdom, He only shares what we to know when we need to know it. He does not cave in to satisfy our hungry curiosity though we often wish He would.
These are the messages I wish I had heard when I was trembling in dark places. Maybe they were spoken but I just didn’t listen.
This week, I am finishing the second draft of my manuscript of my first book, UNDEFEATED: From Trial to Triumph, Stop Fighting the Wrong Battles and Start Living Victoriously. In it and the books to follow, I write out all I wish I had known then in greater detail. It is dedicated to my son, Timothy for without his death, my message would never have been born.
It is hard to believe that Timmy would already be 10 this year. We would be taking him to get his first military dependent ID. He would be starting 4th grade in the fall. I still ache to hold him, to kiss his forehead and tell him how much Mommy loves him.
I saw The Shack this past week and bawled through the whole thing. I can imagine my own Timmy playing in Heaven with Jesus, dancing through the Fields of Forever carefree and full of life. I say I “lost” my son because that’s how we describe the death of an unborn baby but he has never been lost. Jesus has always been holding him for me.
For a while after his death, I tried to return to who I used to be but that’s impossible. I am forever changed because of his brief life. At first, I changed in awful ways–a hideous twisting of who God intended me to be.
But God has been patient and powerful with me. It has taken me years, but I can finally say with complete honesty that I am better for having a hole ripped in my heart because God has filled it with Himself.
That is my prayer for you–that you will allow God to fill you with Himself because only then can you truly be whole.
Do not grieve like people who have no hope (1 Th 4:13). Hope lives because Jesus was raised.[tweetthis]Allow God to fill your broken places with Himself because only then can you truly be whole.[/tweetthis]
Elizabeth is a military spouse, veteran, and mother of eight. Above and beyond caring for her family, her mission is to offer words that sustain weary moms and to empower and equip them to live and parent with purpose.