Surviving the Depths of Despair

Destin, Florida June 2008 451This week, our family is enjoying a long-awaited respite by the sea. I’m sad to admit we have been tested in many ways this year. But the good news is – after much suffering – we have come full circle.

As I sit on shore, toes tucked beneath warm sand, the roar of white caps rushing through me, I am reminded how small and simple our problems really are in the broader scope of universal infinity.

In fact, without the frames of time or space to help us process our daily lessons, our worries seem petty, ridiculous even. And that is an important thing to remember.

The Difference One Year Makes

One year ago, life as I knew it exploded. Everything I believed to be true was proven false.The one person I loved and trusted completely destroyed us all. And I never saw it coming.

It was if we had stepped on a land mine.

Our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being were all under attack, and the enemy’s fire was relentless. My children and I endured round after round without pause, without relief.

But all the while, no matter how pointless it sometimes felt, I clung to my faith, insisting to my children that God had not abandoned us. That we were not alone. That love would see us through.

Now, here we are, back on the same shores where one year ago I threw my hands into the air and cried to the heavens.

Only once again, we are laughing. We race waves below blue skies; chase crabs from moonlight; scoop water as we kayak; cast nets below waves; and revive our spirits in a way that only a week at the beach can do.

Do You Believe in Evil?

Our family has survived an attack from what some would refer to as Evil. When I was a child, I was taught that the enemy seeks to divide and destroy, and that is indeed how I felt.

Forces beyond my understanding seemed determined to conquer our family. To divide us and destroy us. But somehow, with a lot of prayer and a tight grasp on our faith, we have withstood the storms.

Love One Another

When my children ask someday, what does it mean to love another, I hope they remember this lesson.

Love is not always easy. Sometimes it seems impossible. But when you love someone, you don’t give up on them. Even when, especially when, they reveal their weakest hour.

God’s Grace

My faith has taught me that we are all flawed. We all sin. We all fall prey to temptations and make bad choices along the way, even the best of us. At some point, we hurt others, and sometimes, we hurt the ones we love most in this world.

If we’re lucky, and if we are brave and honest enough to admit our mistakes, seek repentance, and work hard toward healing, our loved ones will stand by us and carry us through the darkest depths.

Today, our family is enjoying days in the sun again. But it wasn’t long ago we felt as if we were deep underwater, with strong currents pulling us down beyond hope.

There were moments I was certain we would all drown. But here we are, healthy of mind, body, and spirit once again.

So, now I ask, “Have you entered into the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?” (Job 38:16)

Are you suffering? Have addiction, abuse, abandonment, betrayal, poverty, or violence shaken your spirit? Threatened all that matters to you in this world?

If so, hold tight to your faith and remember you are never alone. Protect yourself and your children from harm, and never doubt your own strength. Your own worth.

I promise, you can…you will…get through to the other side. And there, you will feel the wonder of God’s grace, as you master the ability to both love and to be loved – the one true purpose of this life.


Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Into the Free and When Mountains Move. Learn more:


A Lesson from Nature: First, Do No Harm

Just ask the animals, and they will teach you.
Ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you.
Speak to the earth, and it will instruct you.
Let the fish in the sea speak to you.
(Job 12:7-8 NLT)

Observing the wild animals near my home in central Arkansas this past summer reminded me how powerful maternal instincts can be in animals and in humans. And as I watched a doe with her fawn in my backyard, I shot  several awesome pictures.

I also spent several days with my daughter when she faced emergency surgery. As she recovered, I helped her care for her four small children.

First, do no harm. As a writing instructor, I’m often reminded of the Latin phrase Primum non nocere, which means “First, do no harm.” I’m well aware of the risk that my intervention might do more harm than good to the writer and to her work, as I wield my red pen. I also see the value of this truth in other areas of life.

… Have you watched as deer are born in the wild? Do you know how many months they carry their young? Are you aware of the time of their delivery? They crouch down to give birth to their young and deliver their offspring. Their young grow up in the open fields, then leave home and never return. (Job 39:1-4)

I captured a video of a doe hovering over her fawn in my backyard. But I watched from a distance to avoid disturbing their peace. During the hottest part of a summer day, the doe nudged her fawn along the property boundary of my backyard.

I peeked out the window several times that day, and I noticed the ears of the fawn twitching under the brush. I didn’t realize until later that evening that the doe was just a few feet away out of my view behind a tree, watching over her spotted little one.

What did I do to help this doe protect her fawn? Nothing. Any movement toward her would have been perceived as a threat by the fawn and her mother.

As I tiptoed out on my deck later that day to capture this scene on my camera again, the doe did not run away. She turned her head toward me with her ears perked up and tail twitching. She stomped one hoof and snorted to see if I would move. But while she was watching me, she kept a watchful eye on her fawn. And the fawn stayed close to her mother, watching her body language for direction.

Watch my words.
 I understand that my presence disturbs the peace of a doe with her fawn. But often, I’m not aware of my unwelcome intervention, even with my own family. I may believe my helpful advice is needed and even expected. But sometimes my unsolicited verbal support may do more harm than good.

As I related my observations of nature to my own life experiences, I recalled the many times that my own mother gave me unsolicited help or advice. Most of our conflicts came as we faced our unreasonable expectations of each other, our undefined boundaries, or our personal limitations.

Will I ever learn this lesson and stop reacting with my emotions when I see a need with my own adult children? I hope so. But often it takes a crisis to get my attention.

How many of us does it take to put together a toy basketball goal?

Reap a harvest of blessing. As I celebrate this season, I’m grateful for the beautiful examples of God’s creation all around me—the landscape, sunrises and sunsets, and even the wild animals. But I’m most thankful that God continues to reveal the truths I need, so my words and actions can be a blessing, instead of a curse, to my family.

Observing my children and the lessons in nature around me, I’m reminded once again that sometimes it may be best to choose not to do something, or do nothing at all, than to risk causing more harm with my actions or words.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Gal. 6:9).

Have you ever chosen to do (or say) nothing at all, rather than cause harm by doing (or saying) something?


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