This post is part of our series on walking with God in suffering. If you are just joining us, learn why we are sharing stories of suffering in this introduction.
After serving nearly two years with InnerCHANGE in Little Haiti—a community in Miami, FL—the intensity of spiritual warfare, transitions, and ministry/personal challenges brought us to a place of distress.
We found ourselves, a family of six, preparing for an unplanned ministry sabbatical. It felt like my heart was torn out and shredded. Those weeks leading up to leaving a community we deeply loved were filled with confusion and uncertainty. We had a newly adopted daughter, kids who were mid-way through the school-year, and a house we’d just bought. We had poured our hearts into the tropical tree-lined streets; the pulse of the community with its beautiful wide-smiled neighbors, Creole conversations, and clamor of activity was embedded in our souls. But the suitcases were filled and the plans arranged. It broke me. Grief and loss filled my soul.
Yet, God picked up my marred heart and made a way for healing…
February, 2017. I sat on a broken, warped picnic table facing a beautiful pond within a tropical garden. Looking back, the scene clearly resembled my own inner brokenness. The glorious wonder of God was all around me yet I would not allow myself to experience the grace and unhindered love of God. I suffered in the warped life of shame, anxiety, guilt, and fear. It was a lonely place. I put walls up, believing God’s grace was too wonderful for me. I was gripped by the struggle surrounding me and Satan’s lies: “You don’t belong here”…“You are not worthy.” The spiritual oppression was heavy. My heart lamented the days ruined.
Yet, I so fiercely longed for my God. I craved wholeness. The Holy Spirit worked in my heart and with fractured faith, I pleaded, “LORD…”
“COME TO ME ALL WHO ARE WEARY AND
BURDENED AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST.”
I had seen peacocks earlier that day and longed to see their feathers in full gorgeous display as a sign from God. The Lord knew my heart….
“TURN AROUND AND WALK FORWARD…”
Wiping my tears, I walked toward the path behind me and there stood a single male peacock with his feathers out in full glory.
My soul then was overwhelmed with God’s presence and his deep unfailing love for me.
“MY BELOVED. I AM WITH YOU.”
That day will forever mark my surrender and acceptance of my position before God as his beloved daughter and the understanding that he is well pleased based solely on that identity! And with that identity came authority over darkness and deep freedom! Christ placed my feet firmly and set me free!
God showed me that day that even if everything is stripped away—relationships, ministry, security, earthly purposes, possessions—nothing changes my identity in Christ! My entire perspective on life was transformed. I am now able to experience suffering alongside my Healer, knowing his heart breaks with mine but that that does not break who I am—his beloved!
In the months that followed, I experienced the power of God to redeem and restore beyond my imagination. Things I once thought ruined were made whole again. My hope was restored through a process of prayer, counseling, scripture, and loving support of InnerCHANGE and friends. God truly brought beauty out of ashes!
So, a year later, I praise God for his sweet goodness. I praise God for his deep immeasurable love. I praise God for forgiveness. I praise God for healing. I praise God for freedom.
Today freedom and healing run so deep I cannot grasp any longer the depth of sorrow once experienced. Even though scars formed swirling patterns over my heart, I know the Healer has smoothed and transformed them into markers of redeemed stories proclaiming the powerful message and depth of Christ’s grace and love.
So may God’s name be glorified in this message, and may you be encouraged by the work of God within this groaning world. We walk this journey together with Christ, proclaiming victory over darkness and stepping into the light—and knowing that Christ, also pierced and marred, broke through hell for me and for you. He’s beside you now both in your joy and in your sorrow.
It is my deepest prayer and longing that all those desperate, lonely, and broken will come to know Christ, who—because of his suffering—is our Eternal Healer. He binds up our wounds and makes us new!
I will sing a NEW song for he has done marvelous things! Amen! (Psalm 98:1)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Gemmen and her husband Al serve with InnerCHANGE, CRM’s Christian Order Among the Poor. They have four children, including three adopted from Haiti and Ethiopia. Lisa is an advocate for marginalized children, especially kids with special needs and those affected by HIV/AIDS.