By Simon Presland
Shock. Disappointment. Anger. Frustration. Depression. Grief. A sense of normalcy, then right back in the pit again. God, why did you let this happen? What did I do wrong to be punished this way? Will this heartache ever end? God, where are you?
My friend, Denise, experienced these emotions and feelings and struggled with these thoughts during the darkest year of her life. In her early 40s, she’s always had a smile and an encouraging word for everyone. However, that particular year sapped her zest for life through events that almost crushed her. During this time she had a choice to make—God or self-pity.
A Dream Come True
“My divorce years ago made me leery of pursing another relationship. But after years of being single, well-meaning friends thought it was time for me to meet ‘someone special.’ When they signed me up on an Internet dating site, curiosity got the better of me, so I peeked to see who was there. A smile quickly came my way. Pete’s handsome looks and sparkling blue eyes caught my attention. A quick read of his profile indicated he was looking for ‘God’s choice’ in his life. Soon we started e-mailing, then talking on the phone, and the next thing I knew we had our first date.
“Pete was a true gentleman, and we talked for hours over steamy bowls of rice and scrumptious Chinese food. Later he dropped me off with a prayer and a smile, and I went to bed thinking, This can’t be real! Over the next several weeks, he was the consummate Christian—pleasant to be around, compassionate, and a great listener. I felt like a princess waking up from a deep slumber, and after the first kiss from my knight in shining armor, I fell head over heals for him.
“We met each other’s kids and family, and he insisted on attending my church so that I would feel comfortable. Whenever I worried about something, Pete was quick to offer an encouraging word, a Scripture verse, or prayer. While I was still a little cautious,
those who saw us together were thrilled that love had finally arrived.
A Nightmare Come True
“After six months Pete suggested marriage, and I saw no reason not to. We had established careers. We loved being together and had many things in common. We had our own savings and neither carried much debt. We had the blessings of our ministers and close friends. Surely God had put us together! Three months later, we said “I do” before friends and family at church. But after the honeymoon, life started to go awry; in fact, it became a nightmare.
“Pete grew moody and distant. A month into marriage, I continually caught him looking at other women and he blamed me for not ‘looking as good as them.’ I tried hard to be a good wife, but one minor mistake and he became silent and surly for days. Discouragement soon set in, and I sensed that Pete had psychological problems. He became a control freak. He had to win every disagreement and never admitted any fault or offered forgiveness. There were so many rules that I couldn’t think straight. Daily he told me I must be bipolar and needed medication. He said he could never trust me, and he went out of his way to ridicule and belittle me. I thought I was going crazy.
“A few months later, Pete decided the marriage was over and promptly left. I prayed hard for him, hoping he would come to his senses. He did, and we got back together. Shortly after, he abandoned me again. He then informed me in a phone call that he didn’t believe in God anymore, and was no longer reading his Bible or going to church. I now faced divorce proceedings while dealing with someone who seemed to have lost all sense and logic. He also drained our bank account and our mortgage was due in a week. I was terrified.”
The Power of Choice
Emotional trauma can make us bitter toward life and God, or we can use our painful trials to draw near to him. The choice is ours. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” As Denise spent time with God, she realized the power of choice in her life.
“I had to make a decision: spend time with God, or allow self-pity and depression to swallow me up. During the next few weeks, I tearfully poured out my heart to God. I also ranted and vented my anger at him. How could he allow me to go through this after I had faithfully served him all these years? In my heart, I sensed I should read the Psalms. I started scouring through the book and echoing the psalmist’s words: I demanded vengeance from God (43 and 94); I cried out for help (109); I pleaded for relief (74); and I chided God to triumph over my enemies (59). Slowly my fury waned, and I began to read a different set of psalms: a prayer for the believing heart (139); a cry for deliverance (86); and blessings to the righteous (37).
“These psalms became my source of help and strength. They brought me to a place of truly forgiving Pete and I began praying for him. As I presented my needs to God, his overwhelming peace began to fill my heart (Philippians 4:6, 7). I could now identify with the psalmist’s words of praise: praise to a righteous Lord (Psalm 98); praise to a holy God (99); a call to worship (96), and others became the anthems of my heart. God was healing my heart in response to the choice I originally made. In the months that followed my marital breakup, my relationship with my heavenly father deepened in ways I never dreamed. He became my El Roi, (the strong one who sees); I marveled at Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will provide); and daily I sensed Jehovah Shammah (the Lord who is present).
The Sufficiency of God
“I wish I could say that Pete came back and we are now happily married. But I am single again. Yet I am not alone. While life is a struggle at times, I look back at my decision to come to God with my heartache, and I realize that moment was life-changing. I still ask God why he allowed such horrendous turmoil in my life. I have not yet discerned an answer, but I now know him as Jehovah Rohi (the Lord is my shepherd), and I worship him as El-Shaddai (God Almighty). I have learned to call him Abba Father. He is my advocate, the author of my peace, and the author of my faith.
“Many years from now I will stand before God and I’m sure he will tell me why all of this happened. But I wonder: will it matter to me? After all, I’ll be in the presence of the one who truly loves me, and his love will be sufficient. In the meantime, he provides daily food for me through his Word. I sense his presence through prayer. I bask daily in his care through our deepening relationship. He is truly all I need, and I’m glad I chose him in my hour of need.”
Simon Presland is a freelance writer in Clinton Township, Michigan.
“When God Makes You Wait in the Wilderness. . .” by Mark McIntyre