God Used My Trials


Trigger Warning: This post involves rape. If you are sensitive, please tread lightly. It is not my intention to cause more pain, but to show how God can use even our worst trauma for good.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV)

We moved from my childhood home in sunny Southern California to a one-traffic-light town on the outskirts of a Washington rainforest right before I started eighth grade. I made new friends, quite different from my old friends. And I met my first boyfriend.

When you’re fourteen, they call it puppy love. I thought it was real because he claimed he loved me, too. He was older and cute in a rugged sort of way, with shaggy long brown hair and a scruff of facial hair, not quite a beard and mustache.

One day he asked me to go for a walk, just to talk. The biting cold drove us indoors to his house. In my naiveté, I never saw it coming. At the tender age of 14, my 105-pound frame was overpowered and violated. Without a second thought, he crushed my spirit and devoured an innocence I can never redeem.

It can sound like a platitude, or worse, this oft repeated verse. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV).

Surely, Paul didn’t mean all things? He couldn’t have meant the rape I suffered? God certainly can’t bring any good from the suffering, shame, and depression that followed me for decades after?

Or can He?

Even now—as a powerless, frightened little girl lives in me and I sometimes struggle with deep despair, doubting God’s blessings—God reminds me I am His beloved. He has empowered me to survive any trial. I may feel powerless and frightened, but the truth is He will not allow me to be utterly destroyed.

Trauma and loss are inevitable for all of us. I’m not alone even in this dreadful experience of sexual assault.

When I consider my experiences in the light of God’s purposes for my life, I see the blessing. His bigger plan becomes less fuzzy, if not clear. I see how my troubles drew me closer to Jesus as my only refuge.

The path my life may have taken—had there been no pain, no loss of innocence—is one in which I may have never understood my need for a Savior. When all is well, what does one need saving from? But I did need to be saved from a darkness that grew deeper with each successive trauma I experienced. I desperately needed rescuing so I could live this wonderful, light-filled life He gave me.

I like the woman God has shaped me into, even if suffering was required for the Potter to mold this piece of clay. God did not plan or desire my suffering, but He certainly used it to develop in me the compassion, mercy, and humility that have become my hallmark. In all my experiences, He worked for my good because He loves me. He has called me to use my experience to give hope to others.

Do you need this hope today? It’s just a story away. I’d love if you would share your story so that God can begin to use it for good, too. If you don’t know how to even start writing your story, check out my guided poetry journal, which you can request here: https://anotherfearlessyear.net/i-believe-you.

Admitting I Need Jesus

When I was in the sixth grade, a friend invited me to her church. My parents didn’t go to church, but said I could go with Clarissa if I wanted to. Before long, I was spending at least three days a week with my church friends. I learned who Jesus was and that if I believed in Him I would be saved. I believed, though I didn’t truly understand my need for a Savior.

It would be many years and much wayward living later before I would realize the importance of the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16–17 NASB).

It’s easy to think “of course I’m not ashamed of the gospel.” Why would anyone be ashamed of the good news that Jesus died for our sins so that we might be reconciled to Him?

But at its core, faith in the gospel requires the believer to say “I can’t do this myself.” That realization, I think, is what trips up believers and nonbelievers alike. We humans like to be independent and self-sufficient. We like to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. We encourage our children to be independent as well.

I remember a time when my son was in high school and because of a snow day his class schedule was changed. As a result, he took the wrong books. He called to ask me to bring the right books to the school office on my way to work, which I happily agreed to do. When I got to the office to drop them off, the school secretary chided me for bailing him out. “These kids need to learn to be responsible or suffer the consequences,” she said.

I’ve thought of that encounter often, being thankful that Jesus didn’t say the same to the Father when the plan of salvation was put into place. What if Jesus had said, “You know Dad, these humans need to be more responsible or suffer the consequences.” We’d all be doomed.

In a world where DIY is all the rage and dependence on anyone else is frowned upon, Paul’s message is all the more important. We cannot be ashamed to admit that we are unable to perfectly do the right thing always. As the prophet Habukkuk wrote, Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habukkuk 2:4 NASB).

And so, although it requires me to admit I can’t do it alone, I choose to live by faith in the One who gives me His righteousness.

For the broken believer (which is all of us, if we’re honest), it is all the more important to be okay with something less than full independence. We were created to be dependent on God and on one another. We were created to live in community and relationship with others.

Note: A version of this article was originally published in the January 2020 issue of The Christian Journal, a publication I highly recommend, and not just because they publish some of my writing.

The Valley of Tears

He Sees Every Tear

“As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.”

Psalm 84:6 (NIV).

In Hebrew, the word “baka” means tears.

In Psalm 84, the sons of Korah write their praises of God and note that those whose strength is in the Lord will travel through the Valley of Baka and find His peace there. For some of us that Valley of Tears seems never-ending, but we must remember we are not alone in it. I wrote this poem to remind myself of that truth. I hope it blesses you as you pass through the valley of tears, too.

The Valley of Tears

My Savior will dry all my tears
The Lord God knows all my fears
As I trudge onward many years
I pass through the Valley of Baka

Great pain and agony oppress
I feel heavy weights of duress
Praying for dear Jesus to bless
I pass through the Valley of Baka

I see that this valley is long
I need You to make my faith strong
That Lord I might sing a praise song
As I pass through the Valley of Baka

 

 

D

Grasping Grace, an Excerpt

I was seventeen when I faced the most difficult decision of my life. At the time, I justified it as my only option.

Curled up on my bed, in what had once been my safe haven, I squeezed my eyes tight, holding back a flood of tears. I gasped for air and shuddered at the thought of telling my parents.

The scene played out in my mind over and over. Shaking and trembling, unable to look either of them in the eye, I would force the words “Mom, Dad, I was raped and I’m pregnant.” Dad’s cheerful grin would disappear. Mom would give me the silent stare that said it was all my fault.

Escape plan

With each passing day, I wasn’t getting any less pregnant. I had to do something. But what? I had my whole life ahead of me. I had college plans and a career, which didn’t mesh with becoming a teenage mom. College was going to be my escape from my crummy hometown.

Getting pregnant was a bit like the run on the Bailey Savings and Loan that kept poor George Bailey from getting out of Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life. Only I didn’t stay and save the town from Potter. I took the money and ran.


The Rest of the Story

This is my story. Well, one of my stories. I, just like you, am made up of many stories. To read the rest of this story, see the full article “Grasping Grace” on Now What?, the online magazine of Bible Advocate Magazine.

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