The following story is an excerpt from “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering” by Tim Keller. It is posted here in the hopes that it might be an encouragement when we face our own struggles. For more context to this topic check our recent sermon on suffering as a spiritual discipline.
“Both my parents were destroyed by alcoholism. I was three when they divorced.
“My mother loved me and tried her best, but drinking became her refuge, binges and craziness the norm. I was repeatedly locked out of my house for such things as losing a piano competition or dumping vodka down the drain and had to break the basement window to get back inside.
“I was seventeen when Jesus found me. A friend invited me to church and I clung to the minister’s reassuring words of God’s unfailing love. I was hopeful my life would change.
“I married a man six years my senior. At first, our relationship comforted me, but he became violent. I was hit repeatedly, once with a dog chain; strangled; kicked in the stomach; and pushed off a dock and down the steps. Unbelievably, I convinced myself I still loved him.
“At twenty-three, I found my father again. I thought he would protect and defend me, so I left my husband. Instead my father sexually abused me. I plummeted into utter despair and attempted suicide. Failing, I screamed at God for allowing me to live. Where was He?
“I sought counselling with an extremely intelligent, kind young deacon. After a year, we fell in love, but he was already married. We struggled and pleaded with God for help, but ultimately gave in to sin. He divorced and we were married. We did not deserve the blessing of the three beautiful children God gave us. For the first time, I had a family.
“My children were under six when I began experiencing severe headaches, hearing loss, and partial facial paralysis. A specialist discovered a massive brain tumor. Parts of the tumor still remain inoperable and are now causing new complications. I remember feeling strangely calm. Though our lives were turned upside down, my family was still intact.
“My children grew and though they were brought up in the church, they were also becoming strongly influenced by the world. All were arrested at some point. The youngest was diagnosed with schizophrenic disorder. The oldest was incarcerated for two years. We were devastated.
“Shortly after, my husband suffered two strokes, leaving his personality drastically altered. I discovered our finances were in ruin. We eventually lost our house. I was so crushed, I could barely speak to a therapist.
“Life has not changed. But God is changing me.
“What I discovered about heartaches and problems, especially the ones that are way beyond what we can handle, is that maybe those are the problems He does permit precisely because we cannot handle them or the pain and anxiety they cause. But He can. I think He wants us to realize that trusting Him to handle these situations is actually a gift. His gift of peace to us in the midst of the craziness. Problems don’t disappear and life continues, but He replaces the sting of those heartaches with hope, which has been an amazing realization.
“I have come to believe that life will not always be as it is now. I find even more comfort in being able to stop focusing on all the heartache, and focus on the One who will someday take heartache away completely and forever.
“I spent my entire life looking for, and never finding, a recipe to go from despair to hope. It did not come from anything I did or didn’t do. Hope comes not in the solution to the problem but in focusing on Christ, who facilitates the change.”