I had been walking with Jesus in real relationship just a few short years when my husband, whom I loved so very much, committed suicide and left me caring for our chronically ill one-year-old and three-year-old sons.
My life had turned out far from what I had planned or expected.
As much as I had seen God work in my life, as much as His Word encouraged me, I still found myself asking Him, “Why is my life so far different from what I had planned?” So many times I prayerfully offered up my best solutions and wondered why God had not acted in His power to make things easier for me emotionally and physically.
Honestly, I didn’t like being tired and alone, and I didn’t like hoping for life to feel normal again.
Some days I would walk ahead in peace and patience, feeling God so close. Yet many days I found my blessings harder to see, especially days when I found myself physically drained.
“I Wanted to Yell”
One such day I had woken up early after a fitful night full of alarms going off with my youngest son’s health monitors. I neglected to spend any time with the Lord in Bible study and prayer and moved on to the day’s long list of chores. Everything seemed to go wrong that morning, and my mind began to focus on my pain, my problems, and what I didn’t have.
With little thought, I picked up the phone and called my precious daddy. I asked him if he could come up and sit with me and the boys for a bit. He quickly agreed. I didn’t really plan my next move, but I felt compelled to run far away. I wanted to yell, to scream.
The doorbell rang, and Daddy quickly began talking and playing with the boys. As I watched them laugh, I felt numb and unable to smile, as if I was watching from a thousand miles away. I felt nothing but anger and intense desperation. Without saying a word, I grabbed my car keys and snuck out the door. I drove down the road with no idea where I was going. I cried and yelled and screamed. I told God I couldn’t take any more and that I was done. I told Him my boys would be fine without me—after all, they were back at home laughing. I doubted if I would ever laugh again.
Then a thought hit me: I will laugh. I will get so drunk I will laugh. I had never been a drinker, but this day I didn’t care. I drove to a convenience store and bought alcohol. I had trouble opening it in the car, but finally got off the top and began to drink it in the parking lot. Though I knew what I was doing made absolutely no sense, for that moment it didn’t matter.
I drove to the cemetery where my husband, Rick, was buried. I marched up the concrete steps and sat in the grass by his grave. I tried to drink the rest of the alcohol but kept crying so hard I could barely breathe, much less drink.
The angry thoughts kept coming as I looked at the grave marker and reflected on my sorry, hopeless life. I screamed as loud as I could at Rick’s grave, “You jerk!”
The words echoed from the hill nearby and my very words bounced back at me: “You jerk!” And then it hit me what a jerk I had been. I had allowed my hard circumstances—and the fact that life had not turned out as I had expected—to cause me to forget all the things God had done for me.
God had done much to care for me and my two little boys, but above it all, God had sent His Son to die for me. Even if He never did one more good thing for me, He had done more than enough.
The enemy had tried to convince me God had forsaken me, that He had somehow sold me short or let me down. He tried to take my eyes off God’s blessings to drown me in my pain.
“I Couldn’t Let Him See Me Like This”
If only I had called out my blessings and fought with a weapon of gratefulness. Instead, I left my poor daddy in a panic and had been drinking and driving. I couldn’t go home. I couldn’t let my dad see me like this. He would be so disappointed.
I drove out of the cemetery, called one of our pastors, and rattled off all that had upset me. I told him I had been drinking. He told me I should pull over somewhere, so I pulled into a local McDonald’s.
As my pastor kept talking to me, I noticed several police cars pulling up at the McDonald’s. I interrupted the pastor to tell him I thought there might be something going on at the restaurant and perhaps I should leave. Little did I know at the time the police officers had been called there for me!
An officer walked up to my car, and I glanced at the open bottle of alcohol. There was no time to hide it. I set down my phone and rolled down the window. The officer asked me a few questions, and I began to cry uncontrollably. I could feel the stare of strangers peering out the McDonald’s window at the excitement I had caused in the parking lot. I must have looked as if I had robbed a bank!
I tried to excuse my actions to the officer by recounting all the tragic, sad things that had happened in my life lately. However, as I glanced over the officer’s shoulder, I stopped mid-sentence and found myself suddenly speechless. I was shocked to see my faithful daddy getting out of his little old truck. His face was ashen with worry as he quickly walked toward my car.
Several officers greeted him as he made his way to me and shook his hand. As I found out later, many of them had been student athletes who had played for him throughout the years. With much grace and mercy, and because of the man my dad was known to be, the officers allowed “Coach” to drive me home without charging me with anything.
“I Believed The Lie”
I sat with my head down, ready for the lecture my reckless, insane actions warranted. My dad had always been quick to correct us in our wrongdoing, and this time I knew I deserved every word. Yet he simply hugged me, and we drove home in silence. I did not deserve his mercy and forgiveness, yet he freely gave it—a picture of the love of my heavenly Father.
I knew God as my Savior and faithful Father. I recognized He loved me, but earlier that day, I forgot that, and part of me had wanted nothing more than to die. I knew I had blessings, but I had been angry toward God for the ones I no longer had.
What’s more, my life had fallen apart during a time when I had been doing my Bible study, when I had been trying to follow Jesus and be obedient, when I had truly been worshiping Him. The enemy used even this.
I had believed the lie that if I followed God, He would make things go well for me, which I thought meant living a happy life. Like many immature churchgoers, without even saying it aloud, I had made a deal of sorts with God, and when my good behavior didn’t lead to my expected results, I found myself mad at God and susceptible to believing Satan’s lies.
I pondered what God was making clear that day: Though I had surrendered my life to Christ, I had not surrendered all my expectations.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD” (Isa. 55:8). He is God, and I am not.
Even though I had surrendered my life to Christ, I still idolized a life that was stable, predictable, and easy.
“Could I Surrender Everything?”
I had a choice to make. Could I surrender everything—even my expectations for how my life would go? I knew I could not simply surrender to God on my terms, but on His, and His terms might include plans for my life that could look far from how I wanted it to look.
I had to choose to accept this and decide if I would go on with God.
God would not force me to continue to follow Him. I could continue in my anger and my bitterness, or I could dare to trust His goodness—even though I didn’t understand why He had allowed everything to happen. I could hold on and dare to believe that His plans for me still included hope and a better future.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart (Jer. 29:11–13).
I had a choice: I could believe God and keep praying to Him and seeking Him, or I could give up. The question was, could I follow a God who does things I don’t like and might do more things I don’t like? Could I surrender and trust Him with my heart? Could I trust Him more than I trusted myself?
“God Wrapped His Arms Around Me”
The answer had to be yes. All other choices would only lead to more misery and pain. As a follower of Christ, I could not be a woman who loves God but loves my own way and my own expectations a bit more. I had to surrender all. All meant all.
God has always been in the business of bringing beauty from ashes (Isa. 61:3). His Word is full of incredibly hopeless people finding real, stand-on, keep-going hope. His greatest miracles and supernatural peace often come in the most desperate of situations.
His Word is full of incredibly hopeless people finding real, stand-on, keep-going hope.
And it was there, in the midst of the trial, before anything was fixed, in my weakest-of-weak moment that my faithful Father asked me, once again, to surrender my will to His and believe He could still do great things.
I asked my family to forgive me, and I asked God to forgive me. That afternoon, those many years ago, instead of giving me what I deserved, true to His character, God wrapped His arms around me once more in unending grace and mercy, calming me with peace that made no earthly sense. Once again, He revived my soul.