On Mondays, we fast and pray for lunch (or longer) asking for the Lord to soften our hearts as women, embolden men to walk to into relationships, and give the gift of marriages to those who desire it.
Today, we have the privilege of a guest post and testimony of God’s grace from Christy, an amazing woman and musician. Her story of God’s severe but necessary mercy is convicting and encouraging. I hope that you are blessed by it as much as we have been.
The FastPray Team
Joy through Pain
Hello, my old heart, how have you been?
How is it being locked away?
Don’t you worry. In there you’re safe.
And it’s true, you’ll never beat, but you’ll never break.
–The Oh Hello’s, “Hello My Old Heart”
Four years ago, if you had asked me to describe myself, I would have used words like, “independent, secure, content, self-sufficient.” I was successful in my career and hobbies, my immediate family lived nearby, I had a beautiful church community and a number of wonderful friends, and I was thoroughly enjoying my independence. I was satisfied with the state of my relationship with God, and I figured I didn’t need much more to be content in life.
Sadly, what was hiding behind that wall of independence and self-sufficiency was the heart of a girl who had never healed from years of darkness and hardship without a safe place to stand. That wall was the only way she knew to survive rejection, pain, and heartache. How do you avoid being let down by anyone? You need no one.
God in his severe mercy allowed that wall of self-protection fall to pieces. In four years, my parents separated and divorced, I became very sick with chronic Lyme Disease and went into significant debt with medical bills, my two sisters and their families moved out of state, and my boss told me that my job was being eliminated in a matter of months due to budget constraints.
I wish I could tell you that my immediate response to each of these trials was to run to the Lord, lay my burdens at his feet, and allow his beautiful promises to speak comfort to my aching soul. Unfortunately, I had so trained myself to be fine on my own, that my immediate reaction was to simply endure the hardships and manage to get by on my own two feet.
The problem became quickly evident: I had nothing to stand on. My relationship with God was mostly an intellectual assent to his existence, his holiness, and power. It certainly wasn’t an intimate, personal relationship with a recklessly loving King who was willing to leave perfection and glory to stand on filthy ground and die the death I deserved–all to prove his saving, steadfast, perfect love.
As life was falling apart, I met a man. (I’ll call him Andy.) I was so desperate for an escape from the pain of my circumstances that I dove blindly into a relationship with him. I ignored the warning signs that Andy was a very broken, angry, hungry man willing to take advantage of my loneliness to satisfy his own longings and pain. Over four months, he methodically pushed my boundaries, and I began to justify things that were questionable but covered up with “Christian” language. I closed my heart off to the truth in pursuit of this immediate relief from pain. However, as St. Augustine said,
The closed heart does not bar Thy sight into it,
Nor does the hardness of our heart hold back Thy hands,
For Thou canst soften it at will.
–The Confessions, Book V
Thankfully, God did not hold back his hands from my heart. My relationship with Andy did not end with me having been seen, known, or loved at all. Instead it ended with me having been used and tossed aside and left to carry the shame of the choices I made. I went through a period of serious depression and anger. How could God allow a man like Andy to come along and mess with my heart right at the time when I was at my lowest physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
As many angry prayers were sent up to heaven, something happened in my heart. I discovered that my anger was a mask for a profound thirst. That God-given longing for intimacy – to be seen and known and fully accepted – was chipping away at my desire to stay protected and safe from rejection. I found my prayers changing from, “Why did you let this happen to me? You don’t care about me at all, do you? Are you even there?” to what the Psalmist writes in Psalm 63:1:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,
As in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
In the end, this season brought me God’s merciful destruction of a deadly idol. When I stood in the rubble of my desire to be secure in my independence and self-sufficiency, I was able to see a kingdom that was infinitely more beautiful than the world behind the wall a little girl had created long ago to keep her heart safe. Later in Psalm 63, David says, “For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” This beautiful imagery developed into a song I wrote, which summarizes part of the heart-healing truth I learned through the journey of the past four years:
I try to fade in an ocean of the pain,
But your hold remains, you won’t let me run away.
As the darkness falls and the silence calls,
You tear my tower down, and give to me a crown.
Climbing the sky into endless burning light,
With your face in sight I run into the fight.
When the lies were choking me,
You taught me to sing in the shadow of your wings.
Life hasn’t exactly become easier since the years described above. My health, family, and finances continue to present challenges, and I’ve been through another painful heartbreak. However, the priceless gift that those four years gave me was freedom the belief that independence and self-sufficiency were where I would find safety and contentment. God replaced that belief with a yearning for his presence, a longing for the intimate love he alone can give, and the freedom that comes only from depending on him. Now when pain comes along, I don’t have to shut my heart off to survive. I lay it in his hands and sing these words:
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I dare not close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.