I am thankful for the last almost 2.5 years. I don’t say that wishing that the struggles, turmoil, and the trauma would happen to anyone. But I am thankful. I have a lot to be thankful for and that is what this is post is about. I know I can often get caught up in the struggles, and I don’t want that to be the focus. I want all of the miracles I have experienced, the blessings in disguise to take center stage. I held onto a promise that there would be good. I get to see first hand some of the ways God has already fulfilled this promise:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
This was the promise that those around me reminded me of time and time again. There were times I pleaded with God saying if you are making this work for good then can’t you just do it now? Times I begged God make the good come, I pleaded for him to show me how anything good could come out of being raped, out of the anxiety, doubt, fear, depression, and he is answering that prayer. See it wasn’t time, because if God had answered that prayer right then and there, I wouldn’t have had time to let God be in control. I wouldn’t have learned the same things, I wouldn’t have grown if God just fixed it all. I am thankful He had plans that were to help me to prosper, and He knew that by allowing me to be human, by allowing those struggles that the good would actually be great, because it is far more than I can imagine.
The first thing is my relationship with God it has been tried and tested. There were times I was angry with God, frustrated, I felt abandoned and alone. But now I can say I know God was there through it all, He never left me, and He did protect me. See, I was lucky, I got the gift of the next day, the guy let me go, he didn’t beat me, he didn’t continue to stalk me or any of those horrible other things that could have happened. For that I am grateful.
In those darkest moments when I wanted to give up, when I had no hope that things would get better, when I couldn’t keep fighting, God gave me the strength. Sometimes I just had to turn and ask Him for it. Other times, God put people in the storm with me who could see, I was tired, I couldn’t hold my own umbrella up anymore, so they came in and held it for me. They kept hope. They spoke the truth that was filled with peace, love and hope and said let me help keep you sheltered from this storm. This has only deepened my appreciation of God’s ability to overcome in ways I wouldn’t have imagined.
I am thankful to have learned that the real battle isn’t the things here on earth, but it is the spiritual warfare. Through all of this there are now times that I can see that the struggles or the things that cause me to question aren’t based in the world, but rather in the battle for my soul. That often the hardest times were actually times where God was getting ready to do something big that proclaimed His glory and Satan did not want that and he was trying to stop me. Learning to identify those moments has only strengthen me in being a warrior for God, because I have gotten to learn what weapons to use. That prayer is powerful. That accountability and confession takes away fighting the battle alone and it changes it from a single warrior’s fight to the fight of God’s armies. That I had the tools all along but I needed to be trained in how to use the weapons God provided and use them well. For that difficult training that led to strength I know it was worth it. I am thankful God wants me to be trained and equipped to fight for the truth. For that I am honored.
I have a new appreciation of hope, the ability to dream and long for the future. In those moments of complete despair there were times I couldn’t even look past the hour that I was in. That looking ahead just seemed like a dark tunnel, with no end. Now that I am in a new place where the last few weeks I have dreams in my sleep, good ones, where I am excited about the future about what God is going to do in my life. That I have hope again. I never realized how much of a blessing that all was, and I didn’t realize how dark everything has been until the light has hit. In this though I have a new found compassion, a new understanding when for those who can’t see that hope. A compassion and understanding that only someone who has been there can have. And I realize that is God preparing me to reach people that I wouldn’t have been able to before, I wouldn’t have had a deep understanding of what it meant to be raped, to feel used, to feel worthless, to want to completely give up, to be so lost, to feel so alone. But I get that those things, but I also have a hope that it will and does get better. I am thankful that God has entrusted me to begin to reach people I never could have before this season. I am humbled that God would trust me with some of the stories and opportunities to talk to some different people in my life that have chosen to share with me, and I look forward to see how God continues to use these experiences to bring glory to His Kingdom. That I would get to share that hope is mind-blowing.
I have seen what it means to be in real relationship with people. That I see what it means to love others as Christ did because people have done that for me. That there were people willing to be there at 2 AM when I wanted to give up who listened, loved, prayed and encouraged me. Friends who never judged how I was coping with the moments or the season but loved me through and reminded me that God promised more. I realized that God meant the Church to be a place of healing, but also a place where wars would be fought. That there were moments where women, who I didn’t even know well, would become angry for me, became protective, and loved me just because I was learning to open up, be transparent and vulnerable with what was really going on in my life. This has restored my trust in people, it has grown my faith in humanity, not because people are inherently good, but because in Christ the love and grace pour out so abundantly. Since I have been a recipient of this love from others this is what i want to pour out those in my life. This has given me a more tender heart, for that I am thankful.
The power of forgiveness. I learned it isn’t about setting the other person free, but giving myself the ability to live freely. It doesn’t mean forgetting, but it means relinquishing bitterness, hatred, anger, and breaking those chains. That God would look at my prayer when I was in Rwanda and saw the forgiveness and said that I hoped i could some day forgive and understand how it is possible to forgive someone for an atrocious act. God waited, and at just the right time He presented me with that opportunity. And it doesn’t mean that I forgave one time and that was it. It is sometimes a daily, intentional act to ask God to forgive the guy, to lay that bitterness and hatred down at God’s feet. But I have realized the more I do that the easier it becomes. In that I learned persistency, trust, giving up control, giving up feelings that I was justified in by the World’s standard, and the freedom that forgiveness provides. My heart overflows with a new found mercy. For this I am deeply appreciative.
The capability to share and the finding of my voice through all of this has been perhaps on of the most rewarding treasures God has given me. Being able to communicate, to persuade, to present and to debate have been things I have practiced, competed and felt polished in, but I was polished form a World’s standards. The things were impersonal, political, or informative. But I was given an opportunity to learn to share in a personal and transparent way that wasn’t about this world. I have learned that I can share my story with confidence because I can communicate and share and don’t have to worry. Because through it all I have experienced my true identity as a daughter of God, as someone chosen, being called out, as more than a conqueror, a co-heir to the throne. I get to share with peace in my heart and assured that no matter what someone says I am who God says I am. And that with practice this will be a story that I can share and He will use as a I continue to learn to trust him. I am learning I am powerful and can do all things through God, that the things I thought were too hard, or that I was afraid to do was because something great was going to happen. That I am humbled and honored that God would give me a story that I know can be shared to reach others and He has chosen to train me in this way is amazing. That I can have confidence in my ability to speak and have a voice that it does matter. For this confidence and ability to speak I am grateful.
The limitations of written word do not even begin to show how thankful and appreciative I am of all that God has done. This is just the tip of the iceberg. And it is amazing how when looking for what to be thankful for, I realize there are more and more things that cause me to be in a position of a grateful heart. God has kept his promise he has been working the hardest 2.5 years of my life good. That is why my heart is filled with gratitude.