“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
There seem to be too many things in this life that we simply don’t understand. We exhaust ourselves wrestling with God, desperate for an answer to our questions, and sometimes we’re left wondering. Sometimes we feel that He simply has gone silent, and that our cries to Him are in vain…..or perhaps, they’re not. Perhaps it is that we aren’t receiving the answer that we want to hear, but not that God’s voice has gone silent in our lives. I know this to be true from His Word. Because God is God and we are not, there are things that we might never understand fully on this side of heaven, but we can be certain of at least two things whenever we face trials of many kinds. First and foremost, the God of all comfort will indeed comfort us in all our troubles. Secondly, He intends for us to comfort others in their pain with the same comfort we have received from Him. Our pain is never in vain. He always has a divine purpose. And this is where we begin Her Story today. Her story is one of seemingly unmerited and unexplained pain and darkness, but it is a story of God’s comforting love. I am on my knees believing in faith that God is using her story right now to bring you comfort, the same comfort that she has received from Him.
She grew up in a loving, Christian home. Although she knew right from wrong and the path she should take, she would say that her life was one who “talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk”. Her faith and her life were simply two separate things. High school was characterized mainly by one significant three-year relationship. Although she knew he was not a Christian, she justified her relationship with him by convincing herself that she could convert him. He would go to church with her when she asked, so certainly he was on his way, right? Despite her efforts to convince herself that this relationship was headed in a good direction, she found herself lying to her parents and sneaking around to be with him behind their backs. What started as innocent affection quickly grew to inappropriate behavior when they were alone. She felt constant guilt and shame, but she continued to justify it by promising herself and God that she would not have sex until she was married. Since she believed that this was in fact the man she would spend her life with, it also helped to ease her guilty conscience. Although he agreed that they should wait until they were married, his unhappiness was becoming more and more apparent to her. He began to distance himself from her, and before she even knew what was happening, he began seeing another girl. She would catch him in lies, but he would quickly defend himself and convince her that she was the only one. Not wanting to believe what seemed to be true, she clung to the hope that she was supposed to be with him. He was the only guy she had ever loved. She had to believe that her love could change him. It must! He was so close to understanding faith. His dad already referred to her as a part of their family. This was meant to be. But the guilt remained as she continued to cross boundaries with him, desperately seeking to keep his affection. Then, what seemed unimaginable happened. Making her heartache a public event, he broke up with her in front of all of their friends just days before their Senior Prom. Devastated, humiliated, and completely broken, she left alone. Those who she thought were her friends stood beside him and watched her walk away. As thoughts of shame, regret, and pain raced through her head, she climbed into her car shaking, sobbing, and wondering how God could let this happen. At that moment, as if God were speaking out loud to her, she faintly heard the words to Matt Redman’s song “Never Let Go” on the radio. For the first time in years, she felt God’s peace wash over her. In her brokenness, God met her there and reminded her of His love. That night was the beginning of the hardest yet most amazing journey building her relationship with God. She had to learn to be content with just Jesus. She wanted to be in a relationship and feel loved again, but she knew it would take time for her heart to heal. She had no idea that her life was about to be changed forever.
High school seemed to be a distant memory now as she was pushing through her first semester of college. Early one morning in December of 2006, her first week of college finals, she woke up with the worst headache she’d ever had. It was as if she had been hit in the back of her head with a baseball bat. The next two days were nothing but a blur. She only remembers being told that her mother was trying to wake her up, but she wouldn’t wake. Panicked, her mom screamed and told her sister to call 911. She was rushed to the ER and diagnosed with viral meningitis. Doctors said it was the worst case they had seen all year. She doesn’t remember that week in the hospital at all, but her parents told her that she reverted back to the state of a 4-year-old. She didn’t recognize her closest friends when they came to visit. Once they sent her home, she was under constant supervision. She couldn’t do anything for herself because she was too weak. Her memory had been so damaged by the virus that she would look at something very familiar like an orange and have no idea what it was. Her mom would talk about something that had just happened a few years before, but it was like she was hearing about it for the first time.
Although her memory began to repair itself, the virus had depleted her brain of serotonin. And like she had never known before, the darkness and weight of depression and anxiety set in. Most days seemed better to just stay in bed and cry. She didn’t care about anything anymore. Exhaustion and brokenness were her only companions. She felt like she would fall apart at any given moment. Thoughts of death began to torment her. Being around people only seemed to make it worse. Her doctor advised her to start taking antidepressants, but her parents didn’t think this was the best idea. She wasn’t sure how she felt about it either. There was a battle going on inside of her. She didn’t really need happy pills, did she? Her parents told her to just exercise and eat healthier. Why did she feel like giving up?
One of the most vital pieces of her journey through all of this was her relationship with Jake. When he heard of her illness, he came to visit her in the hospital and contacted her family daily to see how she was recovering. The timing of her illness caused her to miss all of her finals, so Jake stayed by her side helping her study for each test. She wasn’t allowed to drive because of her illness, so Jake drove her to complete all of her finals. She still remembers when her mom looked at her and said, “That boy was so worried about you. He must really care about you.” It didn’t take long for Jake to pursue a dating relationship with her. She had such a confidence in this relationship, so different from the one before. As she grew closer to Jake’s family, she came to find out that Jake’s mom suffered from bipolar disorder and was medicated for it. His mom encouraged her to see a doctor and seek treatment for her depression. She was still so unsure, but his mom said that people with mood disorders need help just as much as people with diabetes need insulin. All she wanted was some kind of relief from the pain that consumed her. They prayed together and made an appointment.
After the trauma her brain had suffered, it took many different medications and extreme faith in God to keep pressing on. The highs and lows and constant pain caused her to contemplate ending it all one night. She just wanted the pain to go away, and she had never felt so alone. No one understood her, how could they? Her friends treated her differently, and her family felt like they had to walk on eggshells around her. She found herself asking, “Why should I even be here?” As she reached for the pills that night seeking an end to her pain, she literally felt God pull her hand back and whisper, “I am here.” Feeling His presence and imagining Him beside her in her darkness, she wept as she began to believe again. She knew He wouldn’t want her to give up. He had plans for her. She had to trust Him.
She was slowly learning to trust God more and more, but that didn’t mean that life got any easier. After dating Jake for almost two years, he ended the relationship because she was pushing marriage as an escape from her pain. She thought it would be the answer to all of her problems, but what she really needed was to make God the priority in her life again. She came to find out later that Jake knew that all along. He never wanted to hurt her or be apart from her, but if letting her go would push her back towards Jesus so that she could heal and feel whole as an individual again, he was willing to sacrifice his happiness for her healing. He knew she just needed time to focus on God and be content with who He created her to be. He cared more about her and her relationship with God than about himself. What an incredible picture of God’s love! That is when she knew without a doubt that he was the man God had designed for her. They were married one year later.
Of course, her story doesn’t end there. She has had the privilege of sharing her story with many women, and she has seen God use the worst moments in her life for good. God’s faithfulness in her past serves as a daily reminder to her now as she is currently dealing with postpartum depression. The hardest of times in her life brought out some of the most beautiful blessings: true friends, a supportive husband, and a beautiful little girl. Although it’s not easy, she chooses to fall back on this foundation: true faith is knowing that even in her darkest night, God remains by her side, and He has a divine purpose for everything. Her story is one of courage. Her story demonstrates unwavering faith in a faithful God despite the most difficult circumstances. I am blessed and honored to call her my friend. Her persistence and endurance humbles me and continually points me towards Christ as she daily seeks to be a woman who is found on her knees at the feet of her Savior in passionate pursuit of Him. God is making something beautiful out the brokenness. Melissa, you are beautiful, and the Lord takes great delight in you. He rejoices over you with singing. Thank you, dear friend for sharing your story and sharing the comfort that God has given you with women who need to hear it. I love you.