To openly share one of the darkest times in my life has allowed me to realize that I am very much still a work in progress. Fear of rejection has been something I have had to fight. I know that I am to share my story on here because God has told me that. But I guess I expected people to relate or for someone to privately email me and say "hey, thanks for sharing. I am walking through my own dark time". However, that hasn't happened (and its ok!). It has given me the opportunity to trust that when God told me to share my story..He has a purpose. I don't need to put my worth in knowing if this is helping or encouraging anyone. I can rest in Him, knowing that He will bring along people who do need to hear my story of triumph and hope over darkness. I can rest in the fact that, while I was walking this out, I desperately wanted to read (or hear) about someone else walking through a dark time as I felt like I was the only one who was drowning in despair.
Sooo..I am going to push past my fears and insecurity and continue to share my story...because someone does need to know that HOPE and LOVE triumph over despair and darkness.
This is for that "someone"....
I could share multiple ways that I knew God was still in charge. My life felt like it was spiraling out of control, but He was weaving things into my life that would help me see truth, hope, and light.
One of those ways is a random book I ordered. A blog I read suggested buying it if you ever struggled with worry. I, on a "whim", ordered it 2 days before I woke up with intense anxiety/darkness. I ordered the book because I love to read, and I thought learning to combat worry(mostly about my kids) would be good. I had NO IDEA of what was ahead, and I had NO IDEA how He would use this book to peel back layers of FEAR-which lead to anxiety, stress, and worry.
This book really deserves its own post as it was so good. I originally was going to go through some of the highlights of the book, but I feel like I am to share something else today. So another day, I will share more about this book.
This book, though, was an obvious way that I could see He was in control. Even though my life FELT like it was spiraling downward and out of control, if I could pause all the "noise" for a minute, I could see that this was not a whim that I ordered this book, but a "God thing".
This book brought me face to face with my fears. I didn't realize I was CONSUMED with fear. Fear of death, fear of cancer/sickness, fear of the unknown, fear of others and their opinion of me, fear of God(in a not so good way), fear of something happening to my kids or Bobby, fear of being poor, fear of my marriage failing, etc. If you could be fearful of it, I probably was. Now, I didn't go around thinking I was consumed with fear. I wasn't even consciously aware of some fears and others, I just excused and said "well, every good mom worries about their kids" and so on. But, when God started showing me how fear was consuming me and drowning me in a sea of anxiety and despair, I decided to ask for help. I had no idea where to start. When you see that something is consuming you, the enemy wants to whisper that there is no way you can conquer that fear. He whispers lies telling you that "everyone does" and you can't possibly be free from worry and anxiety. (On a side note, the "whispers" I heard sounded just like myself. At that point, I couldn't recognize his lies over my thoughts or even over truth. I was genuinely confused.)
I could quote several verses on God coming to us in time of need, and of Him helping us. The verse that would best describe my situation would be this: I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my CRY. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a NEW song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3) Those verses..they get me every time. Tears come as I think of how He truly DID lift me out of that PIT. He DID give me a new song. Those who knew me before my journey of freedom, can testify, that I am a changed person. I hope that others can see how He delivered me and that, they to, can trust that He will deliver them too!
So what exactly did that look like for me? Well, I have battled sharing this part...if any part of this story I have wanted to skim over and give little details, it is this. However, He has gently reminded me to share this and to trust that His grace is enough for me. So here it goes..
I love to take baths. It has always been a way for me to relax and enjoy the quiet. My bathtub definitely got lots of use during this dark time! ;) Well, I was just sobbing in my bath. Broken hearted over where I was at and feeling hopeless that things would ever be better or normal. The thought of me having to live life like this TERRIFIED me. I just couldn't imagine it. In my darkest moment, I just closed my eyes and said, "Jesus, I don't even know if you are listening or if you care, but I need you. I need your help." I had no answers to any questions I had. I didn't have a specific plan in trying to pull myself out. I just knew that at the very depth of me I was broken, and the only thing I knew to do was cry out to Him. Truthfully, I just expected silence and a "ok, you can do this" kind of answer.
That was NOT what happened...
My eyes were closed and I watched as Jesus reached out His hand for me. He was gentle, love was in His eyes. I reached out to grab His hand, and I just collapsed in His arms. SAFE AT LAST. I wish I could adequately describe the vision I had. I wish I could convince each one of you that it was real. I wish I could give you faith to believe that you too, can see Jesus as He reaches out for you. But just like I needed to see Him for myself..you do to. I did nothing special. I didn't quote a fancy prayer. I realized that at the depths of my heart..I needed Him. I needed to have His love be a REALITY for me. As I sat, in my tub(you can laugh, I do!), I just felt love and peace wash over me. I literally felt warm as His presence and the Holy Spirit washed over me. So how do I know what I saw was true and not some crazy trick on my mind? BECAUSE, IN THAT MOMENT, MY LIFE WAS FOREVER CHANGED. Only the REAL, TRUE love of Jesus can pick me up out of that pit and set me on THE rock! A mind trick won't bring lasting change or peace, only His love will. I didn't know much else at that moment, but I knew that the God of the Universe loved ME?!?! Yes, me. The mess, the ugly, the lies, the sin..He loved me anyway. I could sit in His presence and not feel like I didn't measure up to all the other "perfect Christians". I could sit there and hear His voice. What?!?! He would whisper, I love you, Jennifer. And I would smile. I was in awe. Where had He been my whole life? Why did I go 25 years without truly knowing who He was? I didn't have the answers to all those questions, and some I still don't have the answers to. One answer I DO have: His love conquered darkness, fear, and torment. The truth that He loved me, genuinely loved ME, set my life in a different direction.
Slowly, just as the verse says, He steadied me. He walked with me as I walked through finding healing, freedom, and truth. He was with me each day. Some days His presence felt closer, but on those days, I would trust that He was still with me. Almost two years have gone by since that dark time, it has not been an easy journey. However, it has been worth it. He has been faithful to me. He has been trustworthy. In the times where I doubt or forget those things, He whispers to my heart: I love you, Jennifer.
Those words..they change my world.
** I have wanted to erase that paragraph multiple times. I have been sitting where you are...thinking that whoever thinks they can see Jesus(in a vision) is CRAZY. I have been the one to even mock that people can "hear God". Sure, people did back in the Bible days, but that doesn't happen in our current times. Only crazy people think they can hear or have a vision from God. I get where you are and what you are thinking. Just like no one else could have convinced me that what they saw or heard was God, I can't convince you. YOU have to seek Him for yourself. Just like He was waiting with arms outstretched for me, He is waiting for you too.**
For the people who read this and think that their "pit" is too deep, too dark, to evil, remember that His love covers ALL. Truly, nothing is impossible with Him.