It’s all over in the Psalms, the desperate cries for deliverance, the saving hand of God and the awe filled declaration of that salvation.
I’m no psalmist, but I have cried out to God from places that felt like raging waters and cold chasms. And the same God who answered David and “put his feet on a rock” answered me and put my feet on a rock.
Now I shall tell of all His works. I was talking to a dear friend a few months ago, telling her how God has worked in my heart over the past few years. She asked me if I thought this was the story of how God saved me. I told her that I don’t think this is my “salvation story”. I can see evidence of the Holy Spirit in my life years before this and I know I decided to follow Jesus years before the particular story I want to share. And my friend said something very beautiful. “Sometimes God gives people moments of conversion, and sometimes God gives us moments of restoration.”
This, is a moment of restoration. I invite you to listen, if you will, especially if you’re heart is cold or weary.
It was the end of a long day. After seven hours in the car, each turn of the wheel brought me and farther away from the mountains that I loved like they were a part of me and closer to the place that I used to call home. The problem was, I was supposed to call it home again and I didn’t think I could. I was exhausted. But worse than anything, I couldn’t shake the feeling that as I left my sky and stars and trees behind, I was also leaving behind the God I had felt so close to.
I knew that wasn’t true but sometimes knowing things doesn’t change our feelings. And I felt lost. My eyes searched the foggy, clouded sky desperately and a tiny thrill shot through my heart at the sign of a single star. It was a promise I clung to, a gift from God.
From there came many nights of paralyzing fear and doubt and coldness as I wrestled with wondering if my God was even real. So many days of questions that all started raging through me and the nagging voices that told me God was a million miles away if He was even there at all. The idea of life without the Lord who I used to love so much… it opened up like a freezing chasm of darkness before me. I was terrified of going over the edge of it, yet my own mind kept pulling me to the brink.
Great blessings were scattered through those years, I see them now. Like flowers coming up in cracks on the sidewalk. Beautiful days with my grandparents, friends my age for the first time in years, ballet and stories and the ocean and ice cream sandwiches in the redwood forest. Those things were amazing.. And yet there was a shadow that lingered over me and tainted all of it.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me.”
Well it sure didn’t feel like He was with me. And I was scared to even hope that He was. Scared that if I did ask Him to show Himself He wouldn’t come through and I would have to stop believing in Him.
During that time the Psalms became my literal lifeline. I can’t tell you how many times I cried through the Psalms. The lamenting of David and Asaph and the sons of Korah provided words for the desperate prayer in my soul. My mouth formed the truth, seeking God even when my heart felt numb. Not because I was righteous or dedicated but because I was terrified. Because the darkness was too close and too real and I needed help.
What memories and gracious gifts are spread on the faded and torn pages of my small black Bible. There’s barely a single page in Psalms that doesn’t have something underlined. I have been very afraid of a lot of things in my life, but I have never experienced fear so horrible as the fear I had that God’s hope was false and there was nothing for me but darkness. The fear that my own heart was leading me right towards that darkness and I wasn’t strong enough to escape.
In those hard days of trial and doubt God’s grace came to me in a hundred small moments. The words of a song, a story, a display of beauty, the warmth of friendship. Hours of talking to my dad…
I kept hoping for a lightbulb moment. It didn’t come. Instead, over two years tiny glimmers of light shone into my tightly clenched heart:
The story of a mended wood that lit my hope back on fire.
The continuous appearance of stars that seemed to be promises.
The National Bible Bee and a reminder that the people of God are so beautifully, wonderfully different from the world.
Writing a story about a girl fighting to hang onto hope and fighting right there along with her.
Devotions that seemed to be written just for me.
Music I clung to.
Bare feet in the garden and gorgeous trees and swimming in a dazzling summer lake.
And a God who would not let go. No matter how bad I got, He didn’t let go. He didn’t let go.
And one day, over two years after that cold day in the car in California, I sat on my bed. The beauty and power of Jesus had been slowly working my heart until I knew that He was the best thing in the world and that I needed Him. I just… there was still this nagging doubt that He wasn’t true. That the darkness was all there really was, that my hope would be shattered and I would be as Paul said among the most to be pitied.
One of my long time favorite books is Hinds Feet on High Places. In this allegory, the greatest test the main character faces is that of Full Surrender. The calling to surrender even the treasured promises of the Good Shepherd.
That scene had been nagging at me for two years. It had made me afraid since I first read it years before that.. I had forced myself to say the words “I surrender it all.” Even if it isn’t true and I end up devastated and disappointed. But the glorious peace described in the book didn’t come, instead the fear got even worse. .
This day on my bed, after two years of struggling, I found myself saying another version of the same prayer. But this time I stopped.
“No.” I think I said it out loud. “It is true.”. My heart stilled and something changed as I kept talking. “It is true. Not “maybe”. Not “if”. It is true. Not just ‘I believe the gospel’. The gospel is truth. I don’t just hope that God is good. God is good. IT IS TRUE. IT’S THE TRUEST THING THERE IS.”
I’d had it all wrong. Surrender isn’t accepting that God might not actually be true and “believing” Him anyways like a child might believe in Santa Claus. God worked in my heart to show that surrender means knowing that Jesus is better than anything anyone else has to offer, and knowing that He is true, no matter what it costs.
And something did drastically change in me. This was my surrender. Not just saying “I surrender” but surrendering my heart to full faith in the truth of the gospel.
It didn’t magically get better. The doubts still came, flashes of depression still came. But something changed that day. I started to live like it was true. I started to know it was true. Jesus changed my heart.
And after that, I started to see the beauty and wonder I had been missing. It was just the beginning of this journey that I’m still on, but I wasn’t shackled in fear’s cold chains anymore. The doubts still came, but I had already faced the worst of them. And for the first time God opened my heart to knowing how much He loves me. And because He loves me, I truly do not have to be afraid.
It may not seem like it but to me those words are miracles. I’ve been the girl sobbing uncontrollably in the car on the way from the doctor’s office because of a new medication or procedure. I’ve been the girl who lay paralyzed in bed, the tangible fear of a bad dream clinging to me. I was the girl who checked her blood sugar so many times because it might be low and I might pass out and that would mean the hospital and what if I never woke up? It didn’t matter that that had never happened because it was possible, and if it was possible I was terrified.
But God. Those words that save us again and again. But God showed me that He loves me. And for the first time I knew that I would be okay even if those things did happen. Because He loves me. And in the realness of that love, Love that gave itself, Love that enters into our pain, love that bore the very darkness I was terrified of, my fear was cast out. And for the first time in my life it seems, I was truly, not perfectly, but truly unafraid.
Jesus changes everything. Absolutely everything.
Do you have moments of restoration? I encourage you to share them. Oh how good God is, and how very faithful and kind He is.
Or perhaps, you are in the middle of the night that comes before restoration. If you are, oh dear one, seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and never stop. I cannot say that it will happen for you the same way it happened for me (“things never happen the same way twice, dear one” as C.S. Lewis says in Prince Caspian) but I do know that if you seek Him, if you wait for the Lord you will never be put to shame (Isaiah 49:23). This is the God who died for you, who offers fullness of life and joy in His presence. Sometimes we must go through the shadows to come to the dawn. Only never stop seeking. For He will never stop holding you.
Courage, dear hearts. For the mending, for the Savior,
your friend, Forever Changed
Wow. Just wow. Josie, this is SO powerful! Thank you so much for sharing.
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Thank you so much Grace! All glory to Jesus. 🤍
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So encouraging and inspiring…your best writing yet! Yes, Jesus is everything in our trials. Thank you for sharing……teresa
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Amen, He is! Thank you so much, Teresa. ❤