In spite of hardships and pain, our God remains constant, steady, and reliable (Hebrews 13:8). Time and again, we see the Lord at work most powerfully through our seasons of suffering, struggle, and trouble. Meet four people whose obedience and relationship with Christ has allowed them to grow and find joy through even the most difficult situations.
Sherry Jia “My life changed after members of my family visited from China and shared that my father had passed away eight months earlier. They had kept it a secret for almost a year, making up stories about why I hadn’t heard from my dad in so long. My family was concerned that if I found out about my father’s passing, I would return to China and lose my new job and life in the U.S. Regardless of their good intentions, hiding my father’s death from me was very hurtful, and I really struggled with forgiving their actions.
“I had been very close with my father, and the news of his death broke me down. My community group was so kind. They encouraged me to go to GriefShare and later, to re:generation, so I could learn how to lean on the Lord during the dark moments. Over time, the Lord became the only thing I could grasp onto. When every breath hurt, God was the only one I could depend on. This is when my faith in Christ became part of my daily life. When I had nothing else to hold onto, God’s Word was there.
“Jesus chose to forgive me, even when I was unforgivable, and I needed to learn how to extend that same grace to others. Blaming others is always easier than looking at myself, but, over the years, the Lord has gently and lovingly broken me down so that He could rise up in my life. The Lord loved me too much to allow me to be consumed by anger and unforgiveness. Learning to extend the same grace to others that has been given to me has been life changing.”
Leslie Chisholm “Jesus cares about what we are feeling, and He wants us to turn to Him as we feel it. The Lord, through His Word and biblical community, has continued to show me who He made me to be, the story He’d given me, and the opportunities I now have to share His name.
“Right now, I personally am very much at a tension point of being angry, irritated, heartbroken, and grieved by reoccurring racial injustice and what I am seeing on the news. Experiencing this once again in my lifetime, I know I am just one choice away from choosing worldly sorrow, which ultimately leads to sin and death. I am hurting and in pain, but at the same time, I am experiencing joy, peace, and comfort because I have hope in Christ. God is allowing me to use my story to help encourage a world that needs Jesus. If you asked me five years ago where I would be today, I would not have thought I’d be sharing my lament and pain with groups of people.
“Lamenting together in the Lord is biblical and speaks volumes in a society that seems to say, ‘you’re not loved or seen.’ It is in lament that God shapes our hearts and helps us see the action steps we need to take. In the midst of despair, hopelessness, deep sorrow, and deep grief the Lord is faithful to provide us with what we need. We have the freedom to either choose a worldly sorrow that produces death or a godly sorrow that produces life, salvation, healing, and reconciliation.”
Mike Smith “Our first year of marriage was terrible. We lived in the same house, but we didn’t like each other at all. My reaction to this unhappiness resulted in an extramarital affair with a woman from my past.
“In 2016, a speaker at Watermark, preached Psalm 32 and encouraged confessing the sin you thought you’d take to the grave. God used that message to wreck the walls of pride I built up over decades, and I knew He wouldn’t let me go until I confessed.
“It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I had the opportunity to sit my wife down and tell her about my extramarital affair. I had fears of losing my wife and my kids, but I drew the circle around myself and didn’t assign blame. I completely owned my sin and asked for her forgiveness.
“As I went through re:generation, I was pointed to Jesus, who ripped up the old foundation and put a new foundation in my life. My sin struggles are still the core struggles of pride, selfishness, and insecurity, but I now have the tools to repent and run away from my sin. If I did not confess, I would’ve missed out on oneness with my wife and the freedom that comes from not having hidden sin.”
Oakley Winters “My relationship with Christ before my mother passed away set me up with a foundation of faith that carried me when everything else came crashing down. I was in a seemingly hopeless situation – it felt like a part of me died when my mom did – but I knew God was there with me.
“I could empathize with Mary when Lazarus died and was in the grave in John 11: ‘The Lord was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed by Mary’s weeping, and He wept with her.’ I realized this is the same Father I serve. Jesus meets me in my grief and confusion, just as He meets me in my joys and mountaintop experiences. He is the same God yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”