Let my Joy be Greater than my Grief

**DISCLAIMER This post has been a LONG time coming! And I’m excited to finally be sharing it with each of you, not because I want people to read it and be impressed but because I am finally at the point where I CAN write about it with joy and from a place of victory with a clear mind and a healing heart. Be gracious with me as I share a part of me that is so deep and tender. My hope is that Jesus will be glorified and lifted high as the faithful God He is.




October 8, 2017: the day I was supposed to get married.

October 8, 2018: the day I share my heart with you and all that God has done.

As some of you may know, this past year and a half was one of the hardest I have ever faced. The amount of heartache I faced was at times absolutely unbearable, and the depth of the pain I felt often indescribable.  After dating my best friend and getting engaged in 2017, I found myself in a very dark and lonely place when the relationship ended months before the wedding. To say I was depressed was an understatement. But even in those dark moments, I saw glimpses of God, often painfully and begrudgingly, but I saw Him nonetheless. I saw God through my sister-in-love who was there for me every step of the way, in ways I cannot even express. I honestly would not have made it through the first couple weeks without her. I saw Him in friends, coworkers, and even wedding vendors who shared their experience of going through the exact same kind of breakup. But it didn’t make the pain go away, and it didn’t take away the sting of rejection, confusion, and grief. I felt stuck. I couldn’t seem to deal with the pain and the unanswered questions haunted me. I found myself quickly descending into the lowest of valleys I had ever been in.

Unfortunately, many of you know what these kinds of valleys feel like. When you get to this “lowest of lows” you are faced with a choice: to sit in the mess and stay there (because let’s be real, sometimes it feels good to just sit there in your brokenness) or to turn to someone for help. You reach out in hopes that you’ll grasp the tip of someone’s finger or the edge of the cliff and hang on for dear life. And that is exactly where I found myself a little over a year ago. I had the choice to stay where I was, or to try to find a way towards happiness again. And if we are being honest, I really wanted to choose the first. I wanted to be sad and I wanted to stay right where I was in my pessimistic, cynical, sad, and safe little world of grief. But by the grace of God, something shifted without me even knowing. And THAT is what I really want to share with you. I pray that you never feel that sting of rejection and heartache like I did. However, because of the world we live in, I can almost guarantee you will to some capacity. So, here is a little insight into my journey over the past year and half and what I learned along the way.

When you are sad, depressed, grief stricken, or heartbroken, the first place you want to turn is to the things that make you comfortable and are familiar to you. For me it was busyness, fitness, and food and almost reflexively, those were the first places I turned. I wanted to stay as busy as possible. So from the moment my eyes opened, to the second my head hit the pillow at night, I was doing something. I would stay at the gym extra late at night so I wouldn’t have to go home and be sad. I avoided alone time at all costs because that would cause me to think and process through what I was going through. The busyness, coupled with the fact that I wasn’t sleeping through the night, caused me to become the most physically and mentally exhausted I have ever been in my life. After about a month of this, I was reminded of a book my dear friend had recommended to me, The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson. A couple years prior, I had done a 40-day devotional by the same author, called Draw the Circle. Both of these books focus on circling specific things in prayer and declaring scripture over that situation until you see victory. Looking back, I can now see that this was one of the MOST pivotal moments in my healing process, if not THE most pivotal moment. I picked up a copy of Draw the Circle and began my 40-day prayer and fasting journey for the second time. I laid out two very specific prayer requests because honestly, that is all my freshly broken heart could handle. The first question I asked and wanted God to answer was, “What do you want me to do with my life – what is my passion?” The second prayer request was, “God, help me be content in this new season that I was not expecting to be in.” Oh man! I cannot even explain to you how much God did through the next 40 days. Not only did He ever so clearly reveal the thing that lights my soul on fire, but he also gave me specific steps to take to pursue my dreams. It was a slow process over the course of about six months, but in those six months I learned the importance of baby steps, because honestly, that’s all I had the strength for. As I moved forward, baby step by baby step, He continued to reveal more and more of all that He had for me. He led me to a program at University of Tampa, one of the only programs in the US that offers what I’m looking for, at a Master’s level that does not require the GRE or a related undergraduate degree! Remember I told you I was learning to pray specifically…well I prayed for a program that combined nutrition and exercise at a Master’s level that did not require me to take a GRE because that would set me back at least six months to a year. COME ON! Talk about a faith builder!

** Side note: I believe with my whole heart and soul that I had such clarity because distractions were limited – I wasn’t on social media (this was the fasting portion for me), and I made prayer a priority every day and eliminated things that caused me to get off track.

During the forty days, there were MANY times I questioned whether God would answer me. There were many days when I heard NOTHING, but then there were days I didn’t have enough paper to write all that was revealed to me. There were days I just asked the same question over and over and over: “WHY God?” The journey was exactly that: a journey. And God was SO gracious with me in this process, He continued to walk with me step by step. He continued to reassure me when my weaknesses and doubts seemed overwhelming and He reminded me day after day, “Walk in the mercies I have for you TODAY. I will give you what you need for today and I will give you what you need tomorrow, tomorrow” (Reference to Lamentations 2:22-23). John Piper speaks about this verse in his article, Today’s Mercies for Today’s Troubles, and says, “Faith stands on the promise of God and waits and hopes in weakness and in peace. And of course, that waiting and hoping is part of today’s mercies. Part of today’s mercy is the ability to trust that there will be sufficient mercy for tomorrow.” SO beautiful, but so incredibly challenging. God reassured me day after day how much He loved me, and that regardless of the pain and hurt I felt from people here on earth, He would NEVER leave me or forsake me because He is not of this earth. He is not the person who left me. He is not the person who spoke those condemning words. He is not the person who changed their mind. He is not the person who took my heart for granted. He is not the person who was closed off and cold. He is not the person who hurt me or who hurt you.

I received more healing in those first forty days than I did in the rest of the year and I truly believe that is because I chose Him in the midst of my heartache and pain. I chose Him in the middle of my mess. I chose Him as my first and only option. I chose Him even though I didn’t feel like it, and I chose Him when it didn’t really make sense. God honors obedience and loves to bless us when we turn to Him, even when all you can bring is tears and a grief stricken, absolutely broken heart. It is such a special and intimate place to be. He stands there with open arms saying, “Just come. I’m right here. One step, that’s it.” And the most beautiful part is that He will continue to give you the grace you need for the healing process, because sometimes it’s not about answering your questions, but it’s about giving you the grace to endure. Intimacy grown through endurance is so incredibly beautiful and His love proves true and genuine every time.

Let me go back to something I just said. There were days where doubt consumed me, doubt if God was working, doubt if God was listening, doubt if God would answer me, and sometimes even doubt if this situation would be used for good. Some days, I simply could not see past the pain. And if we are being honest, I felt pretty guilty for being doubtful. I knew I shouldn’t be doubtful, but I was, and I didn’t really understand how to deal with that. So, I turned to scripture. Job and Hosea were two of my go to stories in the Bible during the first couple months of my journey. I LOVE what Proverbs 31 Ministries said in their First 5 devotional about Job:

We have a choice. We can believe God is good. All the time. In doing so, we admit there are things we might never understand, things we can’t reconcile in our humanness. Releasing our need to know will lead us to God’s peace. Or we can see the pain and suffering in this world, and decide God must be unkind and against us. But then that would be contradictory to what Scripture tells us about God. Job works his way to believing in God’s goodness. He doesn’t allow his negative thoughts to take hold. Job offers us a model of how to wrestle well with what we can’t know. God welcomes our questions and our doubts. We see that throughout Scripture. But if we assign characteristics to God that are against what the Bible says to be true, we will eventually pull away from God. We won’t feel safe or secure.”

I was determined to wrestle well like Job and to remember God’s past faithfulness, not only in those 40 days, but for the duration of this time I have left on Earth. Those 40 days were intense, but forever changed my view on suffering and pain. But just as quickly as the 40-day journey started, it ended and I thought to myself, “I am off to a great start, right? It has been two months since my life was turned upside down and I just spent the last 40 days seeking God intentionally. But what now…?” Yeah good question. I knew WHAT I was supposed to do next, but what about WHO I was supposed to be? I had somewhere along the way lost who I was… and if were being most honest, I actually asked Jesus the following questions:

What do I like doing?

Who am I?

Who am I to you?

What am I passionate about?

What do I enjoy about life?

The scary part was that I couldn’t really answer any of those questions honestly and genuinely.

There is something you should know about me before we go any further. I have ALWAYS prided myself in being independent, strong willed, confident, and driven. Yet I found myself in the exact opposite position because of the path I had chosen and those I chose to be in relationship with. I was confused, filled with doubt, exhausted, skeptical, lazy, emotionally unstable, and codependent. I’m sure some of you witnessed this shift across the last couple years or so, but for some reason I had not. It took something so heartbreaking and drastic for me to see how much I had lost myself, to see how much I actually hated who I had become – someone I always swore I would not become.

**Another side note: From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU to those who stuck by my side and loved me through it all. Thank you for your grace, comfort, and love. I cannot thank you enough.

I know some of you have had moments like this and have asked yourself the same kind of questions. It’s not really a fun place to be, but I will tell you without a doubt I would NOT be who I am today had I not gone through that season and asked those questions. In this last year, I have found out who I am. I have become who I always wanted to be, and  more of who God has designed me to be. I am confident, secure, intentional, strong, courageous, and bold.

Would I change it if I could? Honestly I don’t think I would. I wouldn’t trade the pain. I wouldn’t trade the hard lessons I had to learn. I wouldn’t trade the months spent on my knees begging God for supernatural healing. Why? Because I got to experience a new height and depth in my walk with the Lord. I experienced moments with Him I never thought possible. I received healing I thought would never come. I saw breakthrough unfold in front of me like I was unwrapping a present, and the joy that followed was so real. I met incredible people and have been able to speak to situations I would have never been able to speak to before. I have experienced the Bible in such a tangible way; the scriptures literally came alive in my life. I’ve been given a strong desire to learn and a love for studying. All of this and SO much more came from the mess, the heartache, and the valley. But I never would have received those gifts had I not been faithful in my suffering. God is the God of valleys just like He is the God of the mountaintops. Trust Him. Trust the process. Trust the mess.

I love these lyrics to an Upper Room song:

“Hey Jesus. You move me. You wreck me every time. It’s not a new kind of love. It’s a new kind of beautiful. Suddenly this heart of stone became a crying mess. Suddenly it felt like all the dams broke in my chest… in a moment. It was the moment I saw you.”

I am choosing to embrace this new kind of beautiful. I am choosing to find Him in the midst of my pain. I am choosing to believe that Scripture is absolute truth, even when my circumstances and feelings tell me otherwise.

Feelings and emotions will LIE to you every time. You cannot rely on them. One of my most repeated prayers over the past year has been, “Let me not rely on my emotions, but on Your voice and Your Word.” Pretty holy right? Yeah but, for every time I got this right, there were 100 times I got it TOTALLY wrong. There were so many days I chose to let the pain and emotions overwhelm me to the point of no return. There were days I deliberately said “NO” to what God was asking me to do because I was too sad or tired to do it. I’m not saying this to glorify disobedience. See my heart in this. Some days I totally got it wrong and I repented and asked forgiveness for those because just as God is a God of love and restoration, He is also a righteous God of judgment. But on the days that I got it right, the victory tasted so much sweeter than I thought possible. I saw God’s faithfulness come to fruition and felt His grace consume me. Like Isaiah 61:3 says, “… and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

I feel so grateful, sometimes undeserving, of all that God has done in the last year. It has been one filled with heartbreak and healing, confusion and peace, correction and affirmation, but most importantly joy and triumph. I have never been more convinced of His love for me. I have never been more convinced that He is for me and will fight for me every single time. His love is immeasurable and often times incomprehensible. Truths I have heard over and over for years have come to life and sunk down into the depth of my heart, a depth I honestly did not know existed. I am forever grateful for this season of growth and vulnerability. I am forever grateful for not only the victory but for the pain.

So I sit here a year after my wedding was supposed to take place and can say with a healing heart, that it wasn’t prevention, it was protection.

I want to leave you with some scripture that got me through the darkness of nights and the deepest of valleys. Stand firm my friends and fight the good fight; God is worth it.

Hosea 6:1-3
Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us;
he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.
After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.
Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises, he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.

Lamentations 2:22-23 (ESV)
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Psalms 68:19 (NLT)
Praise the Lord; praise God our Savior! For each day, he carries us in his arms.

Psalm 28:7
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Psalm 33:4
For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

Deuteronomy 8:1-9
Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

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