Seven years, two countries, multiple new friendships, hundreds of blog posts, countless conversations – all have passed since “that” night. And yet each August I still lean into the Father and revisit portions of the pain and hurt. I contemplate shattered dreams and a changed life. Tears fall more frequently, and melancholy is more prevalent. What I knew in my head seven years ago – the healing and recovery process will take a lifetime – I know in my heart now. As time passes, the memories fade; the details blur; the pain subsides. But the impact of a single, life altering event remains.
In spite of the residual effects, I choose to continue to move forward, to not become stagnant in recovering and healing. Most days this is no longer a conscious choice. However, for the sporadic difficult days, this becomes a conscious choice. Those days I return to the Healer again, to His Word, and as I sit in the pain, I choose to praise Him at the same time.
Over and over I return to the Psalms when the tears fall and the hurt reappears. I read as David cries out to God, shares his distress and hurt and anger, and then praises God for Who He is. His enemies are pursuing Him, his life is a disaster, and yet he continues to praise his Maker. My journal has looked a lot like Psalms at various points in the healing process. Words written with tears in my eyes; words written in the darkest of moments. Prayer after prayer crying out to the Father to heal me, to sustain me, to show me the way forward. My prayers don’t end with desperation and hurt; however, they end with praise. Because when my mind is filled with Truth, I am able to focus on Who God is – good and faithful.
Praising God through the tears is one of the most beautiful lessons I’ve learned on this journey. This hasn’t simply meant journaling prayers ending in thanksgiving; it’s meant celebrating the small victories. In the early days of healing, it meant praising Him for a good night’s sleep. For a tearless day. For energy to accomplish one task. For driving to the store alone. Later the praises changed to ones about moving back overseas. Staying alone overnight. Living alone again. Publicly sharing my story. Each step along the way God has met me and carried me and walked with me, and I continue to praise Him for all of the blessings He has brought into my life, even when the path was dark and unclear. When I look back on my journey, I see God’s hand in each moment. Yes, even in those darkest of moments because He was there then, protecting me and guiding me.
Praising God through my recovery helps me see how far God has brought me. Seven years ago I couldn’t fathom living alone again. Ever. Let alone living by myself overseas. Having the emotional and mental strength to share in churches again, to adjust to a new culture again, to live a normal life again – all seemed impossible. As each of these impossibilities became a possibility and then an “I’m actually doing this again,” I celebrated. I thanked God; I thanked those who prayed for me; I cried happy tears because of God’s goodness towards me. Celebrating each milestone in this journey has allowed me to see the progress I’m making. To know I’m not stuck in the same healing place I was one year ago or one month ago.
The lesson of praising God during the difficult moments hasn’t been reserved for the healing process. When life in Ireland became stressful and discouraging, I thanked God for the amazing view out my apartment window. When students talked and misbehaved in class in Portugal, I thanked God for Friday evening Starbucks and shopping adventures with my roommate. When flights were delayed or luggage was lost, I thanked God for a well-packed carry-on and places to plug in my phone. When speaking in yet another church felt draining, I thanked God for good friends to stay with before I spoke. And now when the emotions of reentry crash over me, I thank God for family and friends who listen and care about my well-being.
Maybe you’re recovering from the unexpected departure of teammates or from the betrayal of someone you were discipling or from a sudden change in your extended family while you’re an ocean away. Maybe you’re in the throes of culture shock or reentry. No matter the circumstances you find yourself in, no matter how difficult the journey has been so far, no matter how confused or hurt you might be – praise Him – because it’s through praising Him we are reminded of what He has done and will do in our lives.
“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up…My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I, whom you have redeemed.” Psalm 71:20, 23
Where have you struggled or succeeded in praising through the pain?
How have you found hope and peace engaging God in this way?