When I heard my friend Melissa say that she was thankful for the pain and betrayal that turned her life upside down and ended her missionary career, I thought to myself, "Not me. I am not thankful for the junk. I am not thankful for the pain. It's hard to even imagine getting to that place."
Two years later, I found myself saying, "Yes, I am thankful for the pain. I am thankful for the hurt and the wounds."
So what changed?
Not much and everything. It was in the way I saw the pain, a new perspective that only makes sense when viewed through the lens of believing that God is good and God is for me. I had to ask God to help me re-frame what I was seeing. I couldn't get there on my own. It took others speaking truth to me. It took God speaking to my soul. It took the gift of time to release the hurts. It took a willingness to let go of the "victim" badge that brought me empathy and made me a kind of hero as well. "Wow, she has really suffered. What an amazing person!"
And there was suffering; I don't want to minimize the pain. However, my pain was not how God wanted my life to be defined. "Introducing, Karen Cone, long-suffering victim extraordinaire" didn't capture His grace, mercy, and redemptive purposes for me. I could feel the Father pulling at my heart, wanting me to believe Him, longing me to move out slavery and into the promised land of freedom.
I was hearing that God was good and that He was for me and that no one and nothing including evil, sin, or bad circumstances could thwart His good purposes for my life. I had heard that before, memorized the verses and I thought I had believed it fully. But my heart kept arguing otherwise.
I was saying to God, "If You really loved me, You would do this." I had decided how His love for me should be defined. I had a definite expectation of what He was to deliver into my hands. Mostly, I expected Him to rescue me from emotional pain. But it didn't happen that way.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I have stood with closed fists demanding God fix things in my way. I could not open my hand to receive the good He had for me. I could hardly choke out Kari Jobe's, "I Know That You Are For Me" if we were singing it in church. It felt so ... untrue. At that time I could not see that He wanted to free me from my idolatry of Kevin and my kids. I could not see that He wanted to break the bonds of slavery to fearfulness. I could not see how God could use someone else's sinful choices to do me good. I could not understand that God would use a mess to move me out of my loneliness and into rich relationships with others and so much more.
Who knows what other gifts of life and joy He wants to give me that I haven't yet seen?
"Every good and perfect gift comes from above..."
God is a giver. His gifts are good. Even the ones that we respond to with, "Now what on earth would I want that for, Lord?" He redeems brokenness--our own brokenness and the brokenness of others--to bring life, joy, hope, and healing. He is good and He is for me.