Have You Suffered?
It started when I was eight years old.
I remember making fun of a boy in my class. He and his friends followed me from school that day. I only made it half-way home before they grabbed me. The pack of three of them took turns pushing and spinning me between them. Dizzy, I stumbled. Fell. There was shouting.
That was them.
That was me.
I ended up in a garbage can. Humiliated.
And so it began.
I tried unsuccessfully to stand up for myself at school the next day.
Recess, under the watchful eye of a teacher brought threats which were carried out when the last bell rang. I barely made it off the school grounds when they caught me.
Sometimes there were just two of them. Once, I almost made it all the way to the school, running, but one of them cut me off. They pinned me against a neighbor’s house. Hands everywhere.
Each school day began and ended with fear. Inside the building, it wasn’t as bad. The ring leader simply said things to me… sexual things… things I shouldn’t know about at that age…sometimes, when the teacher wasn’t there, he and his friends touched me. Verbally stealing my innocence by filling my head with things I couldn’t even imagine but left me feeling dirty.
The bullying continued until I was around twelve.
And all I could do was run. The one time I spoke up, the boy received detention. I had slapped him in the face. He made up a story and the male teacher gave me detention too… for enticing the boy.
I was too young to be incensed at his behavior and lack of protection.
And early on, when I involved my mother, the retaliation was worse than the original bullying.
So much worse…
I quickly learned it was just best not to tell.
So I “tried God.” I figured he wouldn’t want a little kid like me to suffer like this, if He was real. So I prayed. I asked for it to stop. When that didn’t work, I asked for us to move, or for the other kids to move. When that didn’t work, I prayed to die. “And if I die before I wake” became, “Please let me die instead of wake,” for my bedtime prayers.
And yet I lived.
So at the age of twelve, I decided that God was not real and became an atheist.
I couldn’t believe that a loving God would allow that kind of suffering from one who turned to Him for help.
And four years later, when I was sixteen, I went to majorette camp.
I’ll never forget the closing ceremonies, and the motivational speaker I’d come to deeply admire and respect over the week. I agreed with everything he said. And he spoke of having hope, and purpose, and that we really were important as individuals – that our lives mattered. His words breathed life into the long-dying embers of the fire of life within me. I felt encouraged.
And then he closed his talk with, “but none of this even begins to compare to living life for the Audience of One, Jesus Christ. The greatest joy known to man is serving God.”
My cage rattled. How could he believe this? I didn’t know what to think and struggled with those closing words for many years.
At age 22, I finally decided to marry – and this was another man I deeply admired and respected. And he was a believer, also. And so much so that he wouldn’t marry me unless I believed as well.
So again, I gave God “a try.”
…and here we are.
And now, I thank God for the troubles of those early days.
Admittedly, at first I thought it cost me much to be thankful for those things, but now I see it cost me nothing. It was all gain, though I did not see at the time. The hardest truth to learn for all of us that follow Him is to be thankful in the midst of suffering. To claim joy in the middle of sorrow is so hard – we want to cling tightly to ourselves, to protect. But God means it all for good, in order to bring out His results, through the fabric of our lives.
Joy and thankfulness are not emotions that we feel, but rather actions of obedience that we take.
A spoiled, selfish child made tougher and humbler for service by the rough treatment of mean others gently offers these things humbly to you. There is no looking up without bowed knee. There is no honor without being brought low first. There is no question of will we suffer? But rather when will we? And will we dig in our heels and demand rescue with the sword, or will we graciously endure, with thankful hearts for the learning He has orchestrated for us? Will we teach those in our care the blessing of gratitude in the midst of suffering? The lessons are not mine to choose, merely my response is the option.
I don’t pretend to be perfect at this life, but I am honestly thankful for the stronger-tender heart the suffering created. What those boys meant for evil, God used as good to make me stronger – a different, hopefully better mom, one with deep relationship with my children, and healthy ways of dealing with wrongs – at least some if not most of the time. And if I don’t believe that He allowed it, knowing the outcome, then my God is weak and not worthy of my worship.
1 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
John 16:33 (NASB)
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Psalm 23:4 (NASB)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
1 Peter 5:6 (NASB)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Today, I humbly and gently suggest this dare, knowing fully that some of us haven’t fully healed enough to do it…but here goes… dare you to offer thanks for the sufferings of the past. Ask Him to reveal the blessings brought to you in the midst of the hardship. Double dog dare you to recognize that the current hardship you endure is intended for good, as well. Perhaps it will give you a new perspective. He’s working out our testimonies, one hardship at a time, birthing ministry from tears and pain. Join me, won’t you? Willingly go to knees in obedience and worship, asking for His guidance and teaching and joy in thankfulness of what we can’t even see now… can we trust Him that much?
If I had online tissues, I’d be handing them out here today. It’s one of those days where I somewhat reluctantly do what I feel led to do, but tentatively, wincing with the knowledge of the high cost of what He asks of us…and honestly, part of me is just waiting. Waiting to hear from my sisters who have suffered. Wondering how those poor women in upper Ohio survived the torture and torment of the last ten years. Praying to see Mercy revealed even in the midst of that horror… praying to SEE…
Love to you,
Nina, one more thing – I wanted to comment on being thankful. I read the Scripture as we are to always be thankful for something regardless of what we’re going through – not to be thankful for the abuse or for the evil being done to us. God’s discipline is a different story, of course – not every bad thing that happens to us is due to God’s discipline. Thankfulness, in whole, helps keep us from becoming bitter hearted and hopeless.
Nina, I am sorry that those boys did that to you and I know God is too. You learned the hard way that your actions brought reactions. God allows free-will and with free-will comes suffering and joy. Without free will there is no true love nor true choice and therefore, God being Love had to allow for people to choose evil as well as choose love. I do not believe He authored your abuse in any way shape or form but, like you said, He has brought good out of it. Blessings!
I wish I could say I am thankful…but I have yet to see any good come out of the multitude of bad that we have experienced in our marriage, including my oldest son’s suicide attempt ( he was not and still is not a believer ) and my husband’s infidelities ( a porn addiction that began before we met and lasted until May 2011 when I caught him, and an inappropriate flirting-turned-sexual affair that occurred early in 2011 ). My husband seems to have changed but I see no way to trust a man who basically lied to me for almost our entire marriage ( he denied the extent of the affair until August 2012 when I finally got the whole truth from his former affair partner, and he could no longer live in denial ). What is the good in this??? Should I be thankful that I’m ‘lucky’ enough that he stayed with me? This man who has claimed to love me for years, who has claimed to be a Christian since his teens, was able to live a double life of lust and mental infidelity without me having any clue for such a long time…he was able to have sex multiple times unprotected without worrying about the possibility of pregnancy or disease…and he didn’t care to come clean about it before exposing me to potential disease for the year and a half he continued to deny a physical affair. Is this something to be thankful for? How do you respect a man who basically threw his marriage vows away and lived a life of deceit for years and years? Does God expect me to be an idiot and believe him now? I don’t CARE about sins all being equal in God’s eyes, and forgiveness being so important…when a man can treat his wife like something disposable he is NOT worthy of respect, and I am NOT thankful for having gone through this. If I could have known what I was in for I would have turned and run in the opposite direction. And as for my son, you would think that miraculously surviving a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head would be the catalyst for finally considering the possibility that God exists…but no, even after all he has been through he has no interest, doesn’t care, and isn’t the least bit concerned. So what was the point of what he went through, what we all went through? Where is God in all this??? I feel like he has completely abandoned me, almost like he is sitting up in heaven laughing at me. I am tired of being made to feel bad for not appreciating pain and suffering…why would I be thankful for this???
I am so sorry you are going through these things. There have been many problems and painful situations for you and I understand how you feel. What is the point, indeed? I know you feel like God has abandoned you, but please hear me when I say He has not. He is carrying you in the palm of His hand, and one day you will see these things. It’s times like this I read Job, and 1 Peter. Praying for you, dear sister.
Love to you,
The past hardships, reflecting, yes I am thankful. Like Shanyn, I wouldn’t stand in line to do it again but now I understand. I can see the difference between consequence of my actions and teaching moments. So often I read something or meet someone and I truly empathize and I know those are the moments that God wants to use the hurts.
It’s the now moments that I struggle to be thankful. I choose to say thank you because He is my Father and Matthew 7:11 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
I trust Him to make something beautiful out of anything He allows. I trust Him to guide my interactions, to harness my thoughts, to grow my heart and to abide in me as I abide in Him. With that trust comes the understanding that no matter how hard it is today, He has a reason.
Thank you for sharing your story. I didn’t know this was a first, I figured you had shared before and I just missed it. I’m sorry for your pain, for the loss of childhood innocence. Love you!! <3
I learned at an early age that my hardships could help people and so I determined to rise above anything that I went through. I still have enough baggage to fund a major airline for a year but it is lightening with every step in freedom I’m taking.
Beautiful and heart wrenching testimony. So many of us today are growing from the fruit of your purpose. Love you!
I am 52 and it has taken me until this past year with the love and encouragement of my husband and God to let go of the hurtful things said and done when I was in elementary and high school by kids who, in retrospect, were not the kind of people whose opinions of me mattered. It has only been in the past year that I can say I grew to a place where I love myself for the way God made me and I know He made me into the person I am. I can honestly say the ugly words and deeds have been banished from my mind and no longer haunt me the way that have in the past! Praise God I”M FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Praising God with you, Phyllis!
Thank you all for the words of encouragement. I had a plan today for the blog… He had a different plan. I’m so thankful you wrote and encouraged me, as I was shaking when I hit the “publish” button. … The hard eucharist is dry bread at the moment, but the cup of betrothed beauty at the same time. I am thankful that even Christ asked for the cup to be removed – He did not want to suffer, to endure, even for oursakes, but He did so in obedience to God – and now we have to but receive, believe and confess with our mouths that He is Lord and we are saved. He understands, He’s cried each tear with us… Love to you,
People sometimes ask if I would change my past. I have to say no. in all honesty there are things that happened that I would never get in line to do again, nor would I wish them upon anyone, but those things were used by God for good. Good that was planted in tears and pain and bloomed much later in who I am today. And who I am today is someone who is blessed beyond measure and blessed beyond reason and I do not believe I would be able to do what God asks of me now if I had not had those years of wounding, healing, scarring and tempering.
Thank you Nina for this post, for your bravery. I appreciate you, and am blessed by your friendship.
Joy and thankfulness are not emotions that we feel, but rather actions of obedience that we take.
Wow wow wow Nina!!! Awesomely truth!!!
Straight from God:)
This was the perfect message for me today. Had a bad day yesterday, which got worse last night. This morning I decided that I would thank God for the opportunity for growth that He is providing me with the “worse” situation from last night. This message reinforces to me that I have understood what He was asking of me. Thank you for caring enough to write things that may not be what we want to hear. Cyber hugs to you, Nina
You have NO idea! This was almost exactly my prayer this morning for my current struggles… and it was likely the first time. God is so faithful and I absolutely LOVE when He confirms His Words in my heart through means such as these!
Thank you for sharing!
Thank you for this great message today. After my day yesterday nothing could have been more helpful for me to read. I have the choice to praise God for what I am going through and stand up in the glory and honor of his word or let it all bring me down to lower than I could have ever imagined.
So today I get to take the stand knowing that the next 4 years will test me more than I’ve ever been tested and hope that at the end I was able to show my kids what faith in the lord truely means.
Thank you for your message today Nina.
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