Tuesday, April 2, 2013

when life falls apart

Wish it could be easy--why is life so messy?
Why is pain a part of us?
There are days I feel like nothing ever goes right,
Sometimes it just hurts so much.

August 20, 2011 is a day I will never forget. It was the day I married my sweetheart. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be the happiest time of my life, quickly became the worst year of my life. Not only was marriage hard, but every other aspect of my life was spiraling out of control as well.

A month before we married, I was taking a final course to finish my degree. Two weeks after we married, I started a new job which included a substantial pay cut.  In addition, we had decided to renovate our 1880’s farmhouse, and this involved gutting the entire upstairs. Not only were the two of us crammed into 3 rooms downstairs, but my neat, orderly, and safe little world now consisted of dust, debris, and chaos, with no end in sight.

During this time, it became apparent that many of those who I had considered to be my friends, really were not. A year earlier, my best friend had suddenly decided to part ways with me, after four years of spending every Sunday afternoon together. Her absence left a deep hole in my heart. I not only lost her friendship, but also that of her family. She was the first of many who slowly withdrew from my life over the next year. After I married, other friends drifted away, including the guy who had offered to give me away on my wedding day.

Shortly after our marriage, it also became clear that the church we attended was not a good fit for Jared. I was saddened by the gossip, and horrified at the way Jared was treated by those in leadership. I was also deeply hurt when so many from the church volunteered to help with the pastor’s daughter’s house renovations, but only one person came to help with ours.  Jared was convinced that the leadership, as well as many of the people in the church were more concerned about their image and how things looked on the outside, as opposed to actually caring for people’s hearts. Little by little, I was inclined to agree. Unfortunately for us, no one else at that time was bold enough to agree and take a stand, and so we found ourselves increasingly ostracized.

My breaking point occurred not long afterward. We had just received a new kitten to replace the cat that I’d lost right before our marriage. Three weeks after he came home, he crawled into one of our exposed walls, fell into the cistern below, and drowned. Jared was away that day, and I ended up watching the whole event alone. I was horribly traumatized, and inconsolable. I had now lost two pets in two months. I was furious with God for allowing this to happen. It seemed as though He kept taking away everything that I loved—the serenity of my home, the security of my job, my pets, and my friends. When I searched for answers, all I got was silence.

I found no comfort in the songs that used to lift my spirits, and scripture verses could not penetrate the depths of sadness I felt. Now that I had seen what lived in the hearts of those in leadership at our church, I wanted nothing to do with anything that came out of their mouths. I could not bear to set foot in a church where everyone around me appeared to be shiny and happy. And in the midst of this, Jared dropped the bombshell that he wanted to return to his home church. I didn’t want to go to any church, let alone a new church, but for his sake, I went along. All I could do was cry. Everything was a reminder of what I’d just lost. I didn’t belong, and I didn’t know how to cope, so eventually after six months, I stopped trying.

Although not going to church provided some immediate relief, I felt like a fake. I’d been leading a small group for women, and I was supposed to be a Christian school teacher, yet often, I doubted whether or not we had a loving God that cared about our day-to-day struggles.  However, at that time, God reconnected me with a dear friend who had been part of my life in varying degrees since the fourth grade. After a three hour talk over dinner, I realized that I was not alone. She too had just experienced a year from hell, and I encouraged her to join our women's group.

However, leading the small group eventually became too much for me. I longed to quit, but felt guilty, since I was the one who had started the group. One night, though, I broke down and could not continue leading. My dear friend immediately stepped in, and was able to effectively lead the rest of the evening. Afterwards, I asked her to consider taking over the leading of the group, and she agreed.  With the burden of leadership off my shoulders, I felt comfortable enough to remain in the group, and eventually to participate openly and honestly again. 

But You're here, You're real. I know I can trust You
Even when it hurts, even when it's hard,
Even when it all just falls apart, I will run to You
Cause I know that You are Lover of my soul,
Healer of my scars. You steady my heart.

2013 rolled around, and with it, what I hoped would be a new start. My job had ended before Christmas, and in my free time, I had toyed with the idea of trying out church again. Unfortunately, I spent most of January in bed with the flu. One Sunday morning while Jared was at church, I decided to listen online. The message was called “Holding on to Faith” and in it, our pastor shared very openly and honestly about his personal struggles from the past year. (I highly recommend listening to the entire sermon here.)

As I lay on the couch, still sick with the flu, tears poured from my eyes as he shared that if it had not for the grace of God and the prayers of his people, he may have lost his faith because of broken relationships, relentless legalism, the silence of God, and overwhelming temptation to give up. In those moments, I again realized that I was not alone. As I watched our pastor standing back up on the pulpit after a 6-month absence, something began to change in my heart and I knew that I too, would one day stand back up.

I'm not gonna worry
I know that You got me right inside the palm of your hand
Each and every moment-what's good and what gets broken--
Happens just the way that You plan.
And I will run to You and find refuge in Your arms….
You steady my heart.

Over the past few months, I have felt my some of my joy slowly returning. Some days are still really hard. I still miss my former friends. I still feel angry over certain events. I am still unemployed. Our renovations aren't finished.  Some days I still feel overwhelming sadness, but every morning I wake up to a handsome husband and precious kitty that both still loves me--in spite of all my flaws and failures. I feel more at-peace than I have in a long time, and I believe God is beginning the process of bringing me back to life.

One of the pieces of my healing journey is God's provision of a new mentor to help me walk through my grief and shame. Because of his fatherly love, I have a deeper understanding of my Heavenly Father's love for me. Because I know that he's been where I am, I believe it when he tells me, "You're going to be all right, girl!"  Because of the truths that he has already spoken into my life, I have found the courage to confront a few of those who have hurt me; I have been able to attend church without any more panic attacks; I have been able to make some new friends. 

Some time ago I saw a picture of an old burned-out mountain shack. All that remained was the chimney...the charred debris of what had been that family’s sole possession. In front of this destroyed home stood an old grandfather-looking man dressed only in his underclothes with a small boy clutching a pair of patched overalls. It was evident that the child was crying. Beneath the picture were the words which the artist felt the old man was speaking to the boy. They were simple words, yet they presented a profound theology and philosophy of life. Those words were, “Hush child, God ain’t dead!”

That vivid picture of that burned-out mountain shack, that old man, the weeping child, and those words “God ain’t dead” keep returning to my mind. Instead of it being a reminder of the despair of life, it has come to be a reminder of hope. We all need reminders that there is hope in this world, especially when all around us, life is falling apart. In the midst of all of life’s troubles, disappointments, betrayals and failures, we need to hold on to the hope that all is not lost. 

"Steady My Heart" song lyrics sung by Kari Jobe


  1. Thanks for writing this Donna! I admire your honesty and authenticity and I can certainly learn things from your journey! Miss and love you,

  2. I miss you too, Karm! I love reading YOUR blog...it makes me feel like I'm still "in the loop." You are such a great Mom! xo

  3. The "telling" of your experience speaks of a foundation of endurance and inner strength, that, though fiercely attacked, remained and remains viable. You speak of great suffering - more than enough for any time but particularly for the first years of marriage. Blessings on you as you and Jared continue to build your lives together and as your home becomes more and more the place of peace and joy that you desire. Gail