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.

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

 

Choosing Thanksgiving

Photo/KarenJordanAs the autumn leaves began to fall this year, I had to admit to myself that I didn’t feel very thankful. So, I asked God to change my viewpoint as I focused on this Thanksgiving season.

In the past, I struggled with similar emotions, like love, forgiveness, and hope.

Love. After 40-plus years of marriage, I know that love must be a choice in every relationship. Our emotions and feelings ebb and flow with time. But as we invite God to intervene, He helps us navigate through the seasons of life.

Forgiveness. How can we release our anger and bitterness when we can’t forget the offenses? Impossible! That kind of forgiveness requires a divine source. But the Bible encourages us to offer ourselves and others the same forgiveness that Christ provides for us. And as we choose to remember what He’s done for us, He enables us to forgive ourselves and others.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13 NIV).

Hope. In the past, I’ve been guilt-ridden when shame covered me like a dark, heavy cloak. I lost hope and succumbed to despair and depression. But when I choose to seek God and embrace His Truth, I experience His hope and peace. Hebrews 10:23 says to embrace hope, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Thanksgiving. Today, I choose to give thanks. Often holiday seasons bring painful memories and cloud my vision of God’s blessings. But as I confess my ingratitude and ask God to change my focus, He always offers His promises.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, notice four powerful strategies that can help us when our circumstances and emotions distract our focus on God’s blessings: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

  1. “Rejoice always …” (16). First, this passage reminds us to rejoice, even if that choice seems impossible. In Mark 10:27, we observe the disciples struggling with a seemingly impossible teaching. But “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God’” (NIV).This message is repeated in Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
  2. “… pray continually …” (17). The Bible also teaches us to pray all the time, in every situation. Philippians 4:5-6 reminds us, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
  3. “ … give thanks in all circumstances …” (18). Notice my emphasis of the words “with thanksgiving” in the previous passage. Again, the scripture tells us to give thanks in every situation.
  4. “ … for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (18). Why rejoice? Why pray? Why give thanks? This verse answers these questions for me. Philippians 4: 7 offers this promise, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Today, I choose to give thanks, even if my circumstances never change. And I plan to begin by focusing on my blessings.

YouTube/LoveOneAnother2011 (Laura Story “Blessings”)
Photo/KarenJordan

What strategies help you as you enter into this season of thanksgiving and celebration of God’s blessings?