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The year was 2008, and my life was a full-blown imitation of a dumpster fire. The painful separation and divorce were only the beginning of the hard road I would be forced to walk. I crumbled under the weight of the rocks I could see, but I was blissfully unaware of the additional pain that was headed my way. In hindsight, I am grateful for that. Every morning gave me a new opportunity to pull the covers over my head and stay in bed. As a mother of 3 young children, it wasn’t a viable option, but there were plenty of days when I felt like doing just that. The only thing I knew was that my life had changed unexpectedly, and it felt like nothing would ever be ok again. The hits kept coming: financial disaster, change in living situation, a return to school, a death in the family, a loved one with a cancer diagnosis. I had no interest in being a drama queen in this soap opera, but I didn’t seem to get a vote on the matter.

“WHY? Why, Lord? What have I done in my life that was so horrible that I should be treated this way?” I lamented.  My stress level was off the charts. I was constantly sick to my stomach and dropping weight like crazy… even to the point of malnutrition. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. All I could see from my vantage point was the unwarranted, undeserved, and unwelcome destruction of my life. I saw the brokenness of it all and I desperately wanted to go back to the way things were before: before my broken heart, before I had to take my young children out of their home, before I went back to school instead of being a stay-at-home-mom, before I lacked the ability to fall asleep without a racing heart and troubled mind.

I can see now that the LORD was at work in my life through those darkest of days although I didn’t recognize it at the time. I wish I could tell you that I leaned into Him, that I trusted without question, and that I knew in my heart that He was working all things for the good. The truth, though, is not pretty. I felt lost, unloved, abandoned, unworthy and hopeless, but the LORD worked. I imagine that He felt like I do when I’m in the middle of cleaning out my closet. Pieces of my life were scattered all around. Things were broken, lost, and out of place. Some things, like my spirit, were covered in dust, and the LORD worked. I can almost picture Him shaking His head and muttering, “Why on earth did I start this project?” I was worn out from the chaos and the mess. Thankfully, His ways are higher than my ways. I wanted to quit, but the LORD worked on.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a popular verse of scripture. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” This is an example where context is important. This was a message that the prophet Jeremiah was instructed to communicate to the Israelites. It was not a message of immediate redemption. The verse just before this (Jeremiah 29:10) says, “This is what the LORD says: ‘When seventy years are completed from Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place’” The Israelites had been conquered and carried off into exile in Babylon. They would be there for 70 years. Even then, the LORD worked. They were a broken people who had hardened their hearts. Life as they knew it was destroyed. They couldn’t see past their immediate circumstances, and neither could I. The LORD allowed destruction to make room for building. He made way for new hearts in His people.

As for me, I was completely broken down, a mere shadow of my former self. I hadn’t been carted off to Babylon, but I did feel a sense of exile from my life. Change is hard, especially the change that we don’t see coming. The layoff. The unwanted move. The sudden disability. The broken relationship. It is easy to see the negative changes from our baseline existence, but it is difficult to look into an unknown future with confidence and hope.

My local high school recently purchased land to build a new sports complex. I drive past the area frequently and have often enjoyed the small patch of green in my otherwise very developed community. One day as I drove past, I noted with dismay that the trees had been clear cut and the land was now stark and ugly. Tree stumps remained and logs were stacked in piles on the now mud-covered ground. I felt sad, having lost a small piece of beauty from my existence. I generally drove past the construction zone several times a week and was able to observe the slow changes. The tree stumps were eventually removed, and big pipes came in for burial. Wet winter weather turned the ground into a swamp of brown puddles. I grumbled about the ugliness of it all. As the weeks passed, I started to see some visible progress. Curbs were poured. Roads were added. Eventually, I saw the beginnings of a tennis court.

The project is not yet complete, but the tennis courts are up and running while other sections of ballfields are being constructed. I no longer see destruction and barrenness. I drove by the other day and witnessed girls playing tennis while their families were cheering them on from the bleachers, and I smiled. I struggled with watching the changes in my physical environment even when I knew the building plans. How much harder is it when we don’t know what comes next? When my life fell to pieces, the LORD was at work, but I hadn’t been invited to the zoning meeting.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

I can say now that I am a stronger person than I used to be. God allowed me to walk that broken road so that He could build something different for me and for my family. My difficult situation forced me to my knees, and God met me there. My faith has been strengthened in the way that happens when it is forged by fire. I am now happily married, and my children are thriving. This was a future that I couldn’t begin to envision all those years ago. Pain and difficulty have not disappeared from my life, but I no longer feel like I must shoulder burdens with my own strength.

Some of our challenges are transient. Caring for a spouse with a broken bone is a temporary assignment. Walking with a parent through an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and progress is long-term and life changing.  Whatever our circumstance may be, the LORD is there. Friends, He is at work even when it doesn’t feel like it. My hope for you is that you can rest in the knowledge that you are never alone. I wish I had possessed the spiritual maturity to realize these things back in 2008. The road would still have been hard and the heartbreak no less devastating, but I would have experienced the peace that only He can give. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Heavenly Father, hold us tightly when destruction comes. Stay by our sides as You make way for new seasons in our lives. Help us to remember to turn to You and ask for help. We know we cannot navigate this world on our own. Grant us Your peace even when we feel like we cannot see your face. Please, never stop pursuing us. Amen.

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  1. Cheryl Stoumbaugh says:

    AMY, do you remember we were visiting and Ray and Phil with us? I remember getting to hold and cuddle baby Jack. I remember you, and how you were struggling.
    There nothing like hitting rock bottom and feeling so defeated and so alone in our suffering. If I could express myself in such an elegant way as you have I would. But its not my gift it is yours. Your gift of words speaks to so many of us. Although my situation was not the same, the expierence is. Our heavenly father brought me through the hardest time in my life. I never thought I would recover. But through prayers from others, time, I feel I am finally healed from the pain and able to move forward. Just as you have written. Your blog today helps me to remember and give thanks. I to am stronger.

  2. Stanli Zarebczan says:

    Please pray for me and my mom I take care of her she has cancer. My daughter Abbygail passed away in 2017 and my dad passed away in 2018. I have health issues of my own. I just pray every day for the Lord to keep on giving me strength to keep going and keep doing for my mom. I am also a single father of twins. They were triplets but like I mentioned Abby passed away.

  3. rochelle says:

    Thank you Amy, Love it! Beautiful words of encouragement.

Friends, you don’t have to feel alone anymore!

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