Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Into Darkness (and Back out by Grace)

This is a letter of sorts that I wrote just over a month ago.  I have waited to post is until I had the opportunity to give it to each of my immediate family members and interact with them about it.  I also wanted to wait and see where God was leading me and know that this was really the life changer that I thought it was. The first part is a kind of "cover letter" explaining why I wrote this and was especially important when I was giving this to people who I love and from whom I had hidden so much from.  So, without further explanation, here it is:

This is my testimony of sorts, relating to the past few years as I reeled and staggered through trials and hardships and turned my back on God, which landed me in a world of darkness, despair and depression. How I attempted to cope erroneously, causing me to flounder again, sinking into the blackness.

I share this with you because I have lived the secret life of darkness in front of you and I am sure you sensed that something was terribly wrong with me. I allowed my sin to cause pain to those I love, and to make our home unpleasant and unproductive. I am grieved that I have caused you pain and sinned against you so many times, lashing out in anger and pain and even pointing out your faults and sins when mine were so great they were causing me to drown, as I pulled you with me. I am so sorry for being such a poor example to you. I will be praying that God will use what you have witnessed in me to draw you closer to Him. That He will enable you to avoid going down this same road in your lifetime.

Please forgive me. Please pray for me. Please do not let the hurts I have inflicted on you to fester, but bring them to God to find healing and peace.

My Journey Into Darkness and Out Again by Grace

I am writing this as a testimony to what I have come to understand as a huge shortcoming in my life and how God, in His amazing grace and patience waited patiently for me while I foolishly stumbled into the darkest valley of my life, until I finally was able to hear His voice and follow His call to find my way back into His light.

I believe this began long ago, but this sin/foolishness took a long time to bear the ugly fruit that overcame me this past year. I did not understand that I even held the erroneous belief because it was so subtle.

I have face trials and hardships in my life by reaffirming my beliefs about God, who He is, what He desires of me and what His promises are. While that is correct, it is missing the most critical aspect of being a child of God. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For years I was able to “get by” and not even realize that I held this erroneous beliefs, until the past year or so, with multiple trials and afflictions, when I came face to face with my foolishness. I reached a place of darkness, pain and despair that I have never reached before. My pain was so great that I recoiled, reeled...staggered under it. The beginning of the slide into darkness began in the winter of 2013. I began to allow painful situations to fest. I did not come to God to seek understanding of His purpose for the trials in my life. As time went by more trials and disappointments and pain were added, piling up, but I would stuff my pain and confusion and “try not to think about it.”

This began a process of drifting away from God. I allowed my quiet time and prayer to become more infrequent and more something to do and a meeting of myself with God. I was becoming more and more inwardly focused. The more inwardly focused I became, the more responsibilities I gave up on, the more I saw myself failing as a wife, mother and friend. The feelings of failure led to feelings of guilt until I began to further withdraw into my self to avoid the guilt, pain, and shame. Even going to church was more that I could face more often than not.

All of this withdrawing was well in place when, in May, I got word that a very dear friend, whom I had lost touch with in recent years, had committed suicide, and in ube, we received the diagnosis that my grandson, Matthew, has Trisomy 18 and was not expected to live after birth, if he lived that long. That began a time of completely shutting down...emotionally and spiritually. This also marked the beginning of physical and medical difficulties for m (chronic back pain, repeated sinus infections, tooth abstractions and stomach problems). Adding to all of that Christy was diagnosed with sleep apnea that required her to have oxygen via a nasal cannula while she slept. This let to late nights and subsequently to sleep deprivation for me.

Instead of running to God and pleading for His grace and strength, I shut down, turned inward, began escaping reality in whatever way I could find. I believe that much of my physical hardships were brought on or increased by my stuffing my problems instead of clinging to God and admitting my inadequacy.

IN August I suffered yet another sinus infection and also had to have a tooth removed in September, and ended up with a jaw infection. I spent entire days in my bedroom, shutting out everyone and everything, escaping into the world of an online “sim” game. I sought comfort from strangers instead of God...sought companionship from those who would expect nothing from me..sought to escape from the pain and misery that surrounded me in the real world.

Mathew's death and birth was a turning point for me, but not in a good way. I survived those three days by focusing on what I needed to do next for Jessica and Jon. I went three days without any sleep. Witnessing the silent moments after his birth broke me. I had to leave, I nearly passed out. Alone I cried as I have never cried before. And then I went on. I did not cry out to God, I did not share my grief with anyone. I just did the next thing, even when I couldn't stop crying anytime I was alone. I sought help in the refuge of sleeping pills. Be busy or sleep was my goal each day. I recoiled, I withdrew, I was free-falling into a dark pit of despair. I reeled and staggered under the weight of this loss. The disappointment was beyond my ability to comprehend. I had to do whatever it took to escape the pain. I quit reading the Bible, I avoided prayer. Going to my place where I have my quiet time would mean facing this raw pain. I just couldn't do it. I could not even speak to another living soul of what I was going through. How the memory of that day was hitting me at odd moments, and the raw pain would come back like a knife. I began to feel fragile, as though it would take just a small thing and my tenuous hold onto reality would break. I even began to have panic attacks when anything presented itself as a crisis (big or small). My back pain grew to epic proportions and I had to seek both chiropractic help and physical therapy, but they only eased the back pain enough for me to function for a few days at a time. I began to be on muscle relaxants full time. The anti-inflammatories I had been taking shredded my stomach and I was no longer able to take those after a time.

Just before Thanksgiving I knew I needed to do something. I knew I needed help when I began to have thoughts of wanting to really escape. Run away. It was all just too much. I know I had to do something, I knew I was fragile, about to break. I felt would up so tight I was going to explode. The emotions I was holding inside were creating a pressure that was reaching a breaking point. I reached out and asked close friends to pray for me. I sought counsel from a pastor as well as friends who had or were dealing with grief. I began to read the right book. I thought I was finding the answers. I found some relief. I was no longer alone in my pain and despair. I found comfort in God's promises and reassurance in what I believed about God.

I thought I was doing the right thing and that eventually everything would work itself out and that I could find a new, healthy normal again.

But I was wrong, seriously wrong, only I didn't know it yet, not for quite a while. These coping attempts had worked for me in the past, but they were leaving me without any true relief. I felt as though God had turned His back on me. My infrequent prayers seemed to die as I uttered them. My relief was temporal and short lived. My grief and disappointments, despair and discouragement were just below the surface. Still very much there and could crash in on me at the slightest provocation and overwhelm me.

I continued to have ever increasing medical problems....High blood pressure became a constant problem, my back problems hit an all time worst, my stomach was diagnose as having erosive gastropathy (the lining of my stomach was being eroded away), and my hormones were completely wreaking havoc on me. The reality of my friend's suicide began to torment my dreams, I'd even think I saw her here and there when I was out of the house running errands. I was finding less comfort in the books that I was reading and felt a wall between me and any friends. I couldn't speak of my heartache without feeling that I would be engulfed and overcome if I even dared to voice my pain.. My physical problems created crises that put me in the hospital twice. I asked people to pray for me, yet I could not pray.

The walls I had erected to protect myself were firmly back in place. My quiet times once again decreased and my escaping and stuffing instincts returned, only stronger now.

Things began to improve physically as I began to get to the root of a few of my problems and get the treatments and medications I need to address them. But spiritually and emotionally things were not improving. I was able to get an injection in my back that relieved me of all back pain for eight weeks and I began to feel like I could actually do things again and began to tackle home projects that had been pushed to back burners for months. But nothing was taking away the pressure that was building inside of me. It would show up in bursts of anger, in an underlying state of being easily irritated. I was unable to find joy in anything. At the end of April, I attended a new Bible Study and while there, amidst friends, I felt like a foreigner. Like the Bible was not mine, that prayer was something foreign to me. I felt out of place and like a hypocrite. I no longer belonged in a Bible Study. My back pain began to come back during that week, so I made an appointment with the Pain Clinic for the day after we came home from Colorado.

The next day came my big trip to Colorado with two of our children who were competing at the national level of Bible Quizzing. Somehow everything came together to enable me to go with them. I was feeling quite healthy and I seemed to be able to get things together enough at home to cover the care of the children who remained home. The first night of the conference I attended the worship service and the music went right into me. I couldn't sing it. I could not honestly sing those lyrics. But they revealed to me something that I had not seen before. God opened my eyes to the fact that I was in bondage, in slavery. I could not honestly sing praise to God. The theme of the conference was Galatians 4:7 and it was there right across the stage...”No longer a slave, but a Child Of God.” And the song, “No Longer Slaves” was sung and tore into my soul. I couldn't sing, all I could do was hang my head while tears coursed down my face. The words rushed through me...

You unravel me with a melody,
You surround me with a song of deliverance from my enemies
'Til all my fears are gone...
I'm no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.
From my mother's womb You have chosen me,
Love has called my name, I've been born again into Your family,
Your blood flow through my veins...
I'm no longer a slave to fear, I am a Child of God!
I am surrounded by the arms of the Father,
I am surrounded by songs of deliverance,
{I've} been liberated from {my} bondage...
I am a Child of God.

I knew that God was moving in me, but I couldn't quite grasp what He was showing me. Before I had time to really think it through, the service was over and I got very busy with the quizzing. Each day, this would repeat. I'd cry through the worship service, and I just knew God was trying to get me to see, but I just couldn't. I'd leave each day without answers. Saturday night I stayed up really late and got to share some of my struggles with another mother there. But I knew that I was only sharing that I was in a dark place, that I had railed miserably and had turned my back on God....that I had reeled, staggered under the grief. She said she would pray for me. The next day it was the day we went home. Busy long day of traveling.

The next day I went to my Bible Study (the first one I've attended in over 4 years). At the end I shared with them that I knew God was trying to show me something, and that I had been through the hardest year of my life and had failed. I asked that they would pray that I would be able to find time to be quiet before the Lord and see what He was trying to show me. I asked them to pray but once again I did not pray myself.

I went to the Pain Clinic that afternoon and they said that I could have another injection since it had worked for two months, that I might find longer relief with a second one. I was able to make an appointment for another SI injection for the very next day!

I didn't have to wait long for that answer. That very evening when I came home I went straight to my bedroom. I didn't even want to eat dinner. I grabbed my notebook and a pen and began to pray, and cry and write. And then it dawned on me...I finally heard what God was trying to tell me, to teach me.

I needed Him. I needed to come to Him broken, empty and worthless. I had to admit defeat. I had to embrace the fact that I had turned to works to save me from my trials and heartache. I had been attempting to fix myself. My faith was in my faith, my strength was depending on the strength of my convictions. I had missed the most critical aspect of being a child of God...God Himself. I had to understand and embrace the fact that I am completely and utterly unable to do anything without His enabling, and that His enablings only come when I have come to Him, empty and broken and humble and seek His face, His grace. I had only prayed at the end of my efforts, like He was the last resort, only to go to when all other efforts had failed. I only sough His help to fill the gaps left from my works.
But these coping mechanisms were just that, mechanisms. And they were useless to carry me through the severe trials. I had failed God.

I opened my heart and soul and cried out to God. I wrote even as I cried and prayed, not even looking at the page. I confessed my sins of being self centered and self righteous. I asked Him to forgive me for turning my back on Him. I beseeched Jesus to teach me to truly become like Him. I confessed my sin of daring to blame others for the mess I had become. I confessed to sinning like Peter and taking my eyes off my Savior and giving into the waves of fear and doubt and sinking into the blackest of oceans. I confessed that I had listened to my deceitful and arrogant heart and had walked astray. I begged God to teach me to cling to Him and Him alone. To free me from the bondage to fear, and my slavery to sin. I begged Him to open my eyes to be able to see myself as He sees me. To see my sins so that I could confess them.

Then I looked up scripture that spoke of comfort and peace (the idea just came to me then). I knew I needed both and that I could only find them in Christ, and only as a gift from God, not of my own doing. I used the scripture to pray...I begged Him to create in me a clean heart, a deep abiding love for Him, a passion to serve Him in all I do, to take away my arrogance and pride and self-centeredness, to teach me to be others minded and selfless, to rescue me, to create in me the instinct to run to Him when facing trials, to enable me to sing His praise and to worship Him in truth, to create in me an appreciation for all He has and is doing for me, to grant me an abiding, soul deep ability to know Him as my only comfort ans strength, me ever present help in trouble, to lead me beside still waters and comfort my soul, to trust that He is always with me and that His plans for me are good, and to cause me to become more like Jesus, to teach me to not allow my heart to become troubled, to not give in to hear, to enable me to put my hope in Him alone, to enable me to praise Him even in the midst of the darkest storm, to enable me to not worry about anything but to come to Him in prayer.

He began to answer my prayers even as I was writing them. I began to feel a sense of peace and to feel the heavy darkness lift. my time at the conference, I have heard the song, “No Longer Slaves”, over and over again (I had never listened to the words before), as well as others, and they continued to minister to me and steer my thoughts back to God. After pouring my heart out to the Lord that night, I was beginning to find peace and feel the hope of finding the end of my journey through the darkness. But I had to return to “reality.” I told no one, I needed time for this to settle. The very next morning, I opened my Bible to where I had last been reading in the Psalms (months ago). It was Psalm 107. What I read astounded me. Right there I read what could have been written about me. Words and phrases that depicted my self inflicted free fall into darkness....

”they wandered....hungry and thirsty...soul fainted within...
then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He delivered them out of their distresses...
Give thanks...For He has satisfied the thirsty soul....
There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in misery and chains.
Because they had rebelled against the words of God
and spurned the counsel of the Most High...
They stumbled and there was none to help.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He saved them out of their darkness and the shadow of death
And broke their bands apart.
He sent His word and healed them....
Their soul melted away in their misery,
they reeled and staggered and were at their wit's end.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble
and He brought them out of their distresses.
He caused the storm to be still so that the waves of the sea were hushed,
then they were glad because they were quiet.

What also struck me was that in this passage the author stated over and over, “let them give thanks to the Lord” and then in vs 22 “...and tell of His works with joyful singing” and in vs 32 “Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people.”
So I must not remain silent. I must share my story and what God has done for me. I was a fool and I embraced my pain as I turned my back on God. But I thank God that He was patiently waiting for the day that I would hear His voice and see His plan for me. I praise Him that He opened my eyes and ears and enabled me to hear His voice.

I have a long road ahead of me. To break the patterns and habits that led me into darkness. To confess my many sins against my family and friends. To cling to my Lord when the waves threaten to cover me again. I praise Him, for He does all things well. I will be learning to trust Him as I have never trusted Him before, and to praise Him even when I am in the midst of the storm.

Since that time I have begun to enjoy the Bible Study and have returned to my prayer journals and have been working to and asking God to remind me to come to Him when difficulties come. I still find myself trying to go it alone, but I am also running to Him as well, so I'm making strides in the right direction. My back pain was relieved for only two weeks, so I am once again dealing with back pain on a daily basis. I had my follow up appointment and the options given to me were not ones I want to pursue at this time, but through several circumstances, God has led me to try acupuncture and my first session resulted in 5 hours of no pain and lessened pain in the next few days. I will be going back regularly for a time and I'm hopeful that with my dietary changes and acupuncture I will be able to heal my back.

Here are a few more songs that have been ministering to me.

(Laren Daigle)

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

I will trust in You!

I will praise You Lord my God
Even in my brokenness
I will praise You Lord
I will praise You Lord my God
Even in my desperation
I will praise You Lord

And I can't understand
All that You allow
I just can't see the reason
But my life is in Your hands
And though I cannot see You
I choose to trust You

Even when my heart is torn I will praise (trust) You Lord
Even when I feel deserted I will praise (trust) You Lord
Even in my darkest valley I will praise (trust) You Lord
And when my world is shattered and it seems all hope is gone
Yet I will praise You Lord

I will trust You Lord my God
Even in my loneliness
I will trust You Lord
I will trust You Lord my God
Even when I cannot hear You
I will trust You Lord

And I will not forget
That You hung on a cross
Lord You bled and died for me
And if I have to suffer
I know that You've been there
And I know that You're here now

Ten Avenue North

So you thought you had to keep this up
All the work that you do
So we think that you're good
And you can't believe it's not enough
All the walls you built up
Are just glass on the outside

So let 'em fall down
There's freedom waiting in the sound
When you let you walls fall to the ground
We're here now

This is where the healing begins,
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark

Afraid to let your secrets out
Everything that you hid
Can com crashing through the door now
But too scared to face all your fear
So you hide but you find
That the shame won't disappear

Sparks will fly as grace collides
With the dark inside of us
So please don't fight
This coming light
Let this blood come cover us
Hi blood can cover us

This is where the healing begins,
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark


  1. Thanks for sharing your journey Ruth. What an encouragement this is...God is so very faithful even when we are faithless.I especially love the songs you referenced. God touches my heart deeply through glorifying music!! Blessings, friend. Diane Moore

  2. This must have been difficult to share. Thank you. So much of what you described is where I am at. I will treasure this post and probably come and read it again. Thank you.
    A sister in Christ.