Unshakable Hope

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“I love a good story – in fact, I love them so much I’ve spent the last 14 years on staff at Watermark helping people share their own stories of God’s work in their lives,” said Ann Piper. “If I were in charge of my own life story, it would be very different than what you’re about to read. But over the years, I’ve learned that the true author of my life is faithful, trustworthy, and good, even when circumstances say otherwise.

“My story began in Dallas, Texas where I trusted in Christ at an early age and was discipled by amazing church leaders who taught me God’s Word and showed me how to follow Christ daily. Although I was no stranger to sin and heartbreak, my faith remained unshaken.

“After graduation, I married the love of my life, Matt Piper, and later we welcomed our sons, Max and Patrick, into the world. As they grew, we wondered if the communication challenges Patrick faced were rooted in something more serious. At three, Patrick was diagnosed with autism and later with epilepsy.

“I was overwhelmed by the unpredictability of raising a child with autism. I’m a planner, and autism isn’t something you can perform or plan your way out of. But, as my misguided attempts at control failed, God used Patrick to bring me into deeper dependence on Him.

“The Lord brought our family to Watermark through Kaleidoscope, a ministry for kids with special needs. Matt and I also got involved in re:generation, Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry. There I learned to openly confess my struggles and live authentically with other believers. I learned that Christ’s power is greatest when I am at my weakest (2 Corinthians 12:8-10), and that He is trustworthy and good. Remembering God’s kindness during that season sustained me in the years to come.

“In 2011, what I thought was a routine medical test ended with the three words nobody wants to hear: ‘You have cancer.’ As I grappled with the real possibility that I might not be around to raise my boys, I wondered, ‘Lord, what are you doing? This is not what I’d planned.’

“Unbeknownst to me, under the hideous disguise of cancer, God was orchestrating something I would be extremely thankful for later. That summer, we made more memories as a family than we had in a while, and we deeply appreciated what we’d often taken for granted: the gift of time. I never expected God would use cancer to usher in the sweetest season of our marriage, but He did.

“One month after the surgery that successfully removed cancer from my body, life slowly returned to normal. I was eager to return to work, parenting, and church. In fact, I woke up earlier than usual on Sunday, September 18 so I could have coffee before getting the family ready for worship at Watermark. But to my horror, I discovered that, at 45 years old, my sweet husband had died overnight from complications from a massive seizure.

“All my hopes and dreams died with Matt that day. The idea of raising our boys on my own seemed impossible. But when I was in the pit of brokenness, God used His people to sustain us. From our community of friends to complete strangers, the Lord’s generosity and love were lavished on us through prayer, practical support, and care. Our Watermark friends were the hands and feet of Christ for my family – helping us with home repair, inviting us to dinner, and listening when I needed to talk. When trauma and loss left me adrift and disoriented, God provided faithful believers to remind me that He is good, His Word can be trusted, and He will never leave or forsake us (Matthew 28:20).

“Though it was the foundation of my life for decades, the saving power of God’s grace has never been more precious than it is to me now. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for my sin not only offers me the assurance of the same glorious eternity with God that Matt is enjoying today, it also gives me unshakable hope in my darkest hours. I could never earn or deserve (Ephesians 2:8-9) Christ’s unconditional love and mercy, because grace is only grace when it is undeserved.

“That same peace and hope are available to you, no matter how far away hope may feel right now (Romans 10:9). So, if you know Jesus, I pray that we would both ‘hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, because God can be trusted to keep his promises’ (Hebrews 10:23). If you don’t know Him, I hope that you will trust in Christ today. In the face of cancer, autism, loss, and pain, I can tell you firsthand that God’s love is the only place to find restoration, healing, hope, and freedom. He is good.”