3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident HOPE of salvation. 5 And this HOPE will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 NLT
I know Romans 5:3-5 to be true as my faith began in the midst of a problem laced trail no one would have ever saw coming.
I had just spent a year fighting for my marriage, my opposition was not my husband but a terrifying monster called mental illness that robbed my husband and I of the life we were just starting with each other. We had been married less than a year when he was promoted at work and I had accepted a new position closer to home which meant we had more time together and were less burdened with the dreaded paycheck to paycheck way of life. But, lurking just deep enough below the surface to not be spotted until it was too late was bipolar and schizoid personality disorder. The monster first appeared the morning of August 11, 2007 when my husband woke up and declared he hated me, had never loved me and was not capable of loving anyone and he was moving out, had already arranged with his mother he would move in with her. I quite literally thought I was in a lifetime movie or the twilight zone. Had he been a little cranky? Sure, but the person who he replaced as general manger had left the hotel in shambles and Mark was having to work 16 hour days in that first week of his promotion. The words he was said were so ugly and hurtful and were nothing like him but I also knew that he was serious.
The official diagnosis came two months later after a failed suicide attempt. He a mandatory two week stay in the hospital and then was released into my care and his doctors convinced me to take him home and told me, “my love would save him.” They told me he would take his medications and attend counseling for me. I had spent my life as the family fixer, always the dependable and reliable one who wanted to make everyone happy and comfortable so even though I had emotional whiplash from this two month roller coaster I was getting my husband back and a project all in one!
As you can imagine my love did not save him. He chose to not take meds or attend therapy and his symptoms got worse. When the physical abuse started I was so ashamed that I had failed him I resigned to a life of punishment. I become a pro at hiding bruises, making excuses for why Mark never left the house and why when someone dropped by things like closet doors would be ripped off the hinges. I worked in a body shop, surrounded by men who made the game of hide and hide easy on me, never stopping long enough to notice I was covering up serious injuries. Eventually, and now I know it as God’s protection, those dear men I worked with stopped long enough and noticed. The day they did Mark was gone from our apartment and I was left feeling exposed and like a complete failure. My guys were sweet and rallied around me as I got a divorce and protected me, especially the first few months when Mark would send me blood soaked roses, call and berate me or send brutal emails but I felt like I was dying.
My hope had been beaten nearly clear out of me when I woke up that Tuesday night in November in a heap of sobs and so desperate I actually prayed, I shared with you Saturday.
Mark has since killed himself. When I meet new people and gradually as you get to know them and begin to discuss my relationship status or fill out a form I have these flashbacks of what my life was like as a newlywed. What am I exactly? Yes we were divorced by neither of us chose Mark’s breakdown and now he is gone from this earth. So, I feel like a divorced widower who just about grieves her husband every day.
I also REJOICE every day because if it wasn’t for that horror show of a situation I may have never found Jesus. That unusual marriage I endured did develop a strength of character in me I never knew I was capable of and I have the ultimate HOPE of salvation. I have never been disappointed by God, I am loved by a faithful, forgiving, dependable and passionate God who has filled me with the Holy Spirit and given me purpose in all the pain I have faced.
As I was studying Romans 5:3-5 I saw this lesson emerge: God is more interested in our character than our comfort and this improved character can be seen as educated HOPE. I have people in my life I love that don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I know the arguments they would make because I made similar argument most of my life. God is calling me to share my story to express the one aspect of a life of faith that no one can argue: my testimony. In my 28 years as an atheist I didn’t hear one testimony and now as a believer that breaks my heart.
I know that God is also calling me to share this part of my story so no one walks around with those negative labels that allow the enemy a foothold in our lives. I considered myself a failure because my marriage had failed. I considered myself completely broken, rejected, unlovable and worthy of punishment for failing! My HOPE is found in God’s truth: I am chosen by God (1 Peter 2:9), forgiven (Colossians 1:13-14), complete (Colossians 2:9-10) and so many other magnificent truths! Recently I applied for a teaching\leading writing position with Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies, #P31OBS, and I made an activity called, “Lord fill my heart with your truth!” I am sharing that activity here with you. I also shared a quote from Lysa TerKeurst and her book, When Women Walk In Faith: “But we must also give Him time to work on us from the inside out, molding and shaping our hearts according to His design.”
Since that Tuesday night in November 2008 I have found that while our hearts can be feel broken in the midst of trails our feelings are fickle and often misleading and fueled by lies we believe about ourselves or others. BUT when we fill our hearts with God’s truth we don’t stay broken – He works a great healing in us, through us and for us. Hold fast to the HOPE of God’s word and promises and store those promises in your heart so when the next trail hits you will find that thanksgiving and rejoicing come a lot easier and faster than ever before your HOPE and heart are deeply rooted in Christ.
Do you have a favorite verse about HOPE? I have a list I am planning on working thru but I also want to hear from you! Please share! Thank you for going through this journey of HOPE with me!