Stories of Grace | Hope for the Trampled Heart
“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.”
“I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone.” Although I don’t fully endorse Alanis Morrisette’s theology, the first line of her song “You Learn” typifies the lesson God has been teaching me. The last several years have been a journey of a trampled heart finding more hope and joy than I thought possible through a newfound confidence in my identity in Christ and understanding of God’s sovereignty.
Two and a half years ago, I lost my husband, Spenser, to suicide. Spenser’s death left me in a confusing wake of grief and relief, a horrific end to six years of a difficult marriage, and unveiled previously hidden wounds and weaknesses in my life and faith. A month later, a close friend died unexpectedly and suddenly from cancer. A year later, I lost another dear friend to suicide. In the midst of all this loss, I was hit by more waves, as I struggled to make sense of a life that was much different than I thought it would be, battled health issues and injuries, and felt the weight of a demanding and stressful profession. Internally, I questioned God’s justice and goodness and doubted His love for me, and relationally, despite my sincere efforts, I failed to connect in community with other believers, sinking deeper into isolation and loneliness.
I feel as though I am often viewed by others in two extremes: one being that I am impossibly broken and too damaged for “normal” Christians to care for and know and the other being that I am impossibly strong, unaffected by my trials, and thus without any need for help or encouragement. Both views are lies. What is true is that I have been deeply wounded, but thankfully, God has never been and never will be surprised or overwhelmed by my brokenness or doubts. Rather, He searched for me and found me in my loneliness in the dark (Psalm 139:1). He is a true friend and cares for me. I belong to Christ and He knows every ache and pain of my heart. He understands the isolation of grief and unkindness because He chose to experience it Himself through His life and death on the Cross. And I do have a strength, but that strength is a gift from God that I fight to remember and renew each day by His grace and power alone. I am full of insecurities and prone to bouts of pessimism and cycles of incessant introspection. My flesh and my heart fail and I grow weary of doing good (Psalm 73:26; 2 Thessalonians 3:13; Galatians 6:9). But the foundation of my faith is not my feelings or efforts, it is Christ and the work He has already done for me. God strengthens my weak knees when I feel I cannot go on and comforts me when I feel isolated and misunderstood (Hebrews 12:12). His Word reminds me of what is true when I get lost and confused by lies. There are still some days when I am unsure how I will get through the next day, but God’s love is steadfast and never ceases and His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:21-23). He has been faithful to grow my ability to see beyond my circumstances, to doubt my doubts, and to trust Him to continue to be my good Father for the rest of my days and through eternity.
A dear friend shared with me some encouraging words on a particularly dark day that sparked an epiphany in my heart. She reminded me that God doesn’t only see me healed from my wounds; He sees me simultaneously as I was before my wounds, now with my wounds, and in the future completely healed and resurrected. He doesn’t promise that I won’t have scars or any memory of my pain and struggles. After all, Jesus still has scars and the wounded Lamb is worthy, in part, because He was slain (Revelation 5:12). God promises something better. He will always be with me through every wave of loss and sorrow and wipe away every tear (Isaiah 41:10; Revelation 21:4). He promises to eventually show me that every tear was worth the pain because my story is part of a bigger story that God has written and my scars have meaning and beauty that I trust will result in a deeper joy than I can imagine.
My foolish heart might still trade all that I have now for those I have lost and for the possibility of the fulfillment of the withered dreams that were, but I continue to pray for a steadfast faith that remembers that the path the Lord has me on now is what is best for me. My life is not what I expected it to be, but I will fight to believe in the truth of Romans 8:28; that I have a Savior and perfect friend who loves me, has chosen me, and has sovereignly chosen these trials for my good and His glory.
I now have a deeper love for the Lord and understanding of His Word than I would have if God had not allowed my heart to be trampled. I know what it is like to feel Job 3 and Psalm 88 and through His grace and mercy have been able to imperfectly and humbly point other broken hearts back to Christ in a way I never could have if I had not felt that pain and walked the path I have walked. God has given me glimpses of sweet joy in my suffering and shimmers of peace that surpass all understanding (Romans 5:3-5; Philippians 4:7). I am reminded that God will not break the bruised reed or quench the faintly burning wick (Isaiah 42:3); He does not despise the broken or contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). So I am grateful to be bruised and slain by the hands of a sovereign, loving God (Job 13:15).
Though I may never experience the blessing of a loving family of my own, feel known and as though I belong in a church community, or see the friends I have lost again, by God’s grace I have been able to comfort others with the comfort He has given me (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). And it is perhaps a better blessing for me to be able to love and care for others in the ministries and places that God has called me to.
As Alanis might say, “what it all comes down to, is that I haven’t got it all figured out just yet.” But I’m thankful for the strange but full, broken but beautiful, life He’s given me. I pray for a heart that consistently laughs at the time to come and does not fear anything that is frightening (Proverbs 31:25; 1 Peter 3:6); and I set my hope towards the day when all things are made new (Revelation 21:5) and I will fully understand why every tragedy, every triumph, every tear, will be worth it in the end.
– DCC Member, Janiece