Have you ever felt like you have been swept away by a tsunami in your life? It seemed like everything was going fine, and out of nowhere, a huge tidal wave you couldn’t outrun took your legs out from under you, and life was out of control.
I have had the blessing of that happening several times over the last 35 years or so. No, it was not a blessing at the time; far from it. Each time one of those huge waves hit, it caused fear, panic, an overwhelming sense of uncontrollable chaos, and lots and lots of deep pain.
The first time I remember that kind of a wave hitting me I was 16 years old, and it tried to take me under when my parents divorced. Yes, I know that is fairly common, but not for me and my family. I spent many years growing up as a preacher’s kid. A few of those years, my dad even traveled as an evangelist for children, doing things like kids’ camps and VBS’s. I went with him as often as possible. I loved being the daughter of “Uncle Bob,” watching him use magic tricks as object lessons (way before it was the “norm” in children’s ministry and before that term even existed) and be a ventriloquist with his dummy, Timothy.
Next huge wave? Shortly after getting married, our three year old daughter was diagnosed (on my due date with our second child) with bone cancer in her left leg, rendering it useless. She had her left leg amputated (how do you explain that to a three year old?) and went through nine months of chemotherapy.
Over the next several years, there were many smaller waves, compounded on each other. Some were what I would call the normal ups and downs of having a family with five children. Unfortunately, some of the bigger ones were within the Body of Christ. They included finding myself caught in the middle of a nasty church split (like a deer in the headlights) and then a few years later, when I was not responding to the replacement pastor’s flattery, found myself being accused of trying to divide the church. Yes, ouch! Deep wounds; I think many of us have them from “the church.”
Another one of them was finding out that a long-term effect of one of the chemo drugs used for our daughter’s treatment caused heart damage, which had to be constantly monitored. Eventually, she had to be put on medication to counter the weakness. After getting married and becoming pregnant, she ended up in the hospital for a few months, with a 50/50 chance of surviving through the labor and delivery. (She lived, and gave birth to a beautiful little preemie girl who is now 13 years old.) Shortly after that though, she had to have open heart surgery to repair one of her valves.
During that time, because of bad judgment, one of our sons ended up in the county juvenile detention center. There was a trial, and our son had teachers and other adults (including the workers of the detention center) plead on his behalf. They all recommended for the judge to send him to a boys’ home and not be locked up, because it was so obvious that he was a good kid with a good family support system, who had made some very bad choices and needed help. But because there were some things that tied the judge’s hands, at age 15, he was incarcerated for two years in a juvenile corrections facility. (There is a lot more to this story, but you get the idea…)
Then there was the 18 months where our oldest daughter was in the hospital more than she was out. She had her second and third open heart surgeries during that time (one to put in a pump to run the right side of her heart, and the other to take it out when the driveline to the pump got sliced and the pump was shorting out, shocking her heart every time it did). She had a stroke (leaving her left arm fairly useless), Sudden Cardiac Death (from which the EMTs were able to start her heart again after about 15 minutes) and septicemia (blood poisoning with a 20% survival rate). She had a dozen ambulance rides and three emergency helicopter rides within that time period.
Then suddenly, her heart gave out for the last time, and she was gone. Just like that. I can’t even begin to tell you the darkness that came with watching our three sons carry their sister’s casket and burying our child. That just isn’t supposed to happen! It caused a horrible chain of events that I never even thought was possible, which I have since found out is actually fairly common when a child dies.
Okay, so by now are you asking, where is the place of rest in all of this????
It is in learning how to trust, and to surrender. I have found it is one thing to tell God you are giving Him your life, and another thing to actually do it.
Giving our lives to God does not mean our lives will become a bed of roses. Too many people use God like some magic genie who is supposed to grant us our wishes to not have anything bad ever happen to us in this fallen, sinful, crappy world. So when those big waves hit us, we blame Him as if He caused it, and then turn our backs on the only One who can give us true peace, comfort, and direction on how to get our footing again and not be overcome.
It is during these times that we find out if we have truly given our hearts and our lives completely to God, or if we have done it with conditions.
Over the years, each time the next tsunami hits, I have learned to run to Him harder and faster, and I hang on to Him with everything I have! And every single time He has been more than faithful to get me to the other side. And not in just a half-drowned wet mess, but in total amazement at how He has been at work in my life, using the storm to strengthen me and to deepen our relationship.
Plain and simple, I trust Him. I have learned to surrender to the process. Because of my allowing Him to do whatever He wants to do with my life, God has been able to not only sustain me, but bring me to a place of victory, each and every time.
Has it been easy? Of course not! And it doesn’t happen quickly, either. (Wouldn’t that be nice?) This trusting God thing is a life-long process.
But once we stop fighting, and choose to surrender and rest in the arms of our Daddy God, He can transform us through the painful trials into a beautiful and rare gem.
(Just a note: I have written about several of these life events in my book Triple Crown Transformation, which is available from our ministry or several book outlets. Click here if you would like to know more about this book.)