July 25 , 2016
When God Turns Tragedy Into Triumph
Friend to Friend
I will never forget the day I learned how God really can turn tragedy into triumph. I was sitting at my desk, working on an assignment from the counselor I had been seeing. For months I had been wrestling with my past - slowly, methodically working through painful issues and buried memories that seemed to be feeding the clinical depression I was battling. As page after page filled with harsh realities, a memory slammed into my heart and mind.
I grew up in a small Texas town where we lived in what some would call a “shack” on the edge of town. My mother worked three jobs to support three children, but her main job was as a nurse.
I was frequently sick with colds and ear infections. We had little money, but we did have a family doctor who was a friend and colleague of my mother. In fact, they worked side-by-side each day at the one and only hospital in town. Knowing our financial circumstances, this doctor and his wife often asked my mom to baby-sit to earn extra money. They had five children, so I was often recruited to go along as a backup.
Over the years, this doctor often took care of our medical needs, charging us nothing. He was our friend, a man I respected and trusted – until the day he molested me. The pain and betrayal were so great that I locked it all away in a dark corner of my soul, refusing to admit it had ever happened. I told no one.
Fast-forward twenty years. I was happily married to Dan Southerland and had two wonderful children. I travelled, speaking for women’s events and loved being a pastor’s wife. Everything on the outside looked great, but inside, the past slowly ate away at my soul until my world collapsed, and I sank into a pit of clinical depression.
I was paralyzed. The simple tasks seemed like impossible mountains to climb. Panic attacks became a daily event. I stepped out of ministry and began to uncover the wounds I had desperately tried to ignore most of my life.
I kept insanely busy in a vain attempt to earn God’s favor and the approval of others. My worth seemed to rest on the foundation of doing, instead of being. I soon discovered that one of the main reasons I had fallen into that pit was because I refused to face and deal with the pain of my past.
With the help of a loving husband, a Christian psychiatrist and a brilliant family doctor, I began to make slow but steady progress in climbing out of that dark, slimy pit.
Then, I remembered.
I remembered that day in the doctor’s office. I fell apart. I hated that man. I wanted him to pay for what he had done to me. I wanted him to hurt like he had hurt me. I also knew that somehow, I had to let my pain go and forgive him or I would be trapped for the rest of my life. God and I began to work through every painful, horrifying moment of that memory.
Anger unlike any I had ever known fueled violent thoughts of revenge and retaliation. I was furious with this man – and irate at God.
How could He have let this happen?
Where was the light in this dark place?
It was a long time before I saw the first glimmer of light. It was wrapped in chosen forgiveness.
I began to see that had I never been wounded so badly, I would never have been able to forgive so freely – and in doing so, discover a depth of healing and freedom only the greatest pain can produce. Today, I can honestly thank God for all He has accomplished in me through the sin of that man.
There are no accidents with God, nor is He surprised by anything or anyone in the life of His child. God uses even the most horrendous circumstances for our good.
Every circumstance comes to us for a purpose, bound by God’s love and plan and faithfully delivered with His permission. While we cannot go back and change our past, we can change the way we respond to our past and determine how much power it has in our lives today.
Only God can take the broken pieces of your life and make something beautiful out of each one. He is waiting for you to let go of your pain and trust Him.
And you really can trust Him.
No one loves you like He does.
You may not always understand or even like His process, but you can always trust His heart of love for you.
Father, I choose to believe You are faithful and will do what You promise to do in Your Word. I believe when I lay the pain and hurt of my past at Your feet, You not only can but also will transform it all into something beautiful. I choose to believe You will turn the broken places of my life into living illustrations of Your sufficiency and healing power. I trust You, Lord.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Isaiah 45:3 is one of my favorite life verses. Read it carefully:
Isaiah 45:3 (NLT) “And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”
What treasures have you discovered in the dark times of your life? What tragedy has God transformed into a triumph that has changed your life? Praise Him right now for doing so.
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