Adversity and Triumph: Can't have one without the other
My abusive ex-husband did everything in his power to hold me back and hold me down for 27 years. He reinforced every insecurity I ever struggled with. A friend once told me (and I have never forgotten this) "He uses YOU against YOU." He knew me so well. He knew all my buttons. He knew all my wounds. And he used those to his advantage because what he cared about most was power and control. He told me my own family didn't love me in order to weaken me. And I remember him laughing while telling me that even if he had more money than he knew what to do with, he would never waste it on buying me a large diamond. I don't remember ever asking him for a larger diamond. But that wasn't the point.
The message he was sending was, You wouldn't be worth that to me no matter how wealthy I was.
I spent so many years feeling worthless and unlovable. I wondered where God was in my situation. Why did He not care enough about my suffering to come to my rescue?
But my rescue and deliverance were always in play. God knew the day and the time. He also knew what He had planned for me after the rescue. Had He simply intervened and "rescued" me sooner, there are many lessons I might not have learned. Lessons that involved time and a process. I would be far less equipped to help others; to be a compassionate friend and advocate for victims of abuse and domestic violence.
His goal for me is not comfort. The goal is growth. In order to reach my potential, He knows I must suffer. In order to overcome and triumph, I must be faced with adversity and sorrow. In order to feel compassion more deeply for others, I must know pain in my own life.
By no means do I advocate staying in an abusive marriage. I would never urge any woman to submit herself to abuse. Abusive men don't turn into healthy men by way of a woman's compliance and submission. Abusive men become more abusive and they will further exploit your efforts to please them the more you try to win their love. But even though I would have been justified in leaving sooner, I can't regret the journey because of what I gained.
I have lived long enough now to see how God operates in my life. He presents opportunities for me to grow that involve pain. Sometimes these opportunities catch me by surprise. And when caught off guard, I initially feel devastated, knocked off balance. I might spend a few days in the weeds emotionally. But then I remind myself of the opportunity to grow through my circumstances.
God doesn't allow adversity because He enjoys seeing me hurt. He allows it because He is teaching me how to trust Him and not limit Him. What looks impossible to me is not even a challenge for God. When it's time, He'll intervene. There has never been a situation in my life where God did not eventually turn the tables in a dramatic way. I've had many a long wait for deliverance and healing. But every time I've given up my need to understand and fix things through my own efforts, He's shown up in a way that surpassed my imagination.
It's easier to trust Him today than it has ever been at any other time in my life. And He keeps making it obvious to me that He loves to respond to my most passionate prayers.
I cry almost every time I thank God for His goodness to me. But I have to be in anguish to plead with God for His help. I don't know why that is. When I'm just dealing with the normal stresses of life, I would have to say my prayers are kind of flat and unemotional. I don't expect God to fix everything or answer all my prayers. I don't like giving Him a list of my needs. Again, I'm not sure why I'm that way -- but I am. I can vividly remember the pleading, passionate prayers of my life when my heart was in a million pieces and I was desperate for Him to help me cope in a supernatural way. That happened to me recently. And the very next day, I experienced His response. He must be pleased when we turn to Him in complete dependence -- and perhaps in desperation. That's when He alone can be our strength; in our weakness. When we stop trying to find that strength within ourselves.
I could recite a long list of ways God has turned the tables in my life. One of my favorite examples rests on my left ring finger. But it's not about the rock. It's all about the man. God gave me a husband who loves, values, respects and protects me as if I am a precious jewel to him. That's what I longed for. That's really ALL I longed for.
And while one man was demeaning me, laughing about how I would never be worth a large diamond to him, God could see the man in my future who would feel just the opposite. For months after my engagement to John, every time I looked down at my ring, I would think, "I can't believe anyone loves me enough to WANT to give me a ring like this (even if he can)." That's what my ring still represents to me.
I honestly never longed for a large diamond ring. It wasn't important to me. I'm not a person who values status. I often feel self-conscious about my material blessings. But for the rest of my life, I will remember seeing my ring for the first time, my astonishment that he would want to buy it for me, and hearing John say, "It's the ring you deserve."
Second only to the cross, the most dramatic demonstration of God's love for me has been the blessing of my marriage to John. And no matter what I had ever been through, I could never have viewed him as a reward I deserved. But God is so merciful. I do believe that He delighted in demonstrating to me just how much He did care about my suffering and how He had seen my future waiting for me through all those years. He orchestrated that contrast to emphasize to me that He was never absent or uncaring when it came to my suffering. There was always a plan.
So I will trust Him as I face the challenges of today knowing He is accomplishing something in me through every experience. He will sustain me as I wait for His plan to unfold.
And while I wait, I will grow and change and get closer to my potential in Him.