1997 was a difficult year for us. Life plowed into us and hit us broadside, gradually taking its toll over a matter of months. In 1996 Gary's dad died. Processing grief for anyone is extremely complex and Gary is no exception. Simply put: As a son, he struggled over this tremendous loss. Pressures from ministry demands delayed him from taking time to deal with some steps in the grief process. Over time it became painstakingly clear that Gary was suffering from depression.
Some days I went to work with him and on the other days, he would stay home. Those days I canceled everything on my calendar and we would sit holding each other and just cry. Neither of us could comprehend what was happening.
When something so debilitating throws your family out of whack, you feel absolutely helpless and unable to grasp control. But I still tried. Publicly I increased my responsibilities in our business and ministry. Privately I wept over the anguish and turmoil that Gary was going through.
There were times when I felt like I was dying and spiraling down alongside him. How could I not? Our marriage is the union of two souls knit forever into one.
At times it was more than I could bear. I was facing fears like no other time in my life! I was hurting. Who would I turn to? I was looking for shelter in the midst of this war.
Early one morning I was crying out uncontrollably in prayer. Memories of our love-filled home washed over me. All I could think of was, "I just want to go back to the way things had always been for us!" I longed for our home where Gary's loving arms always waited to comfort and console.
In my private agony I pleaded, "Please God, help strengthen my husband." Then in that moment, my heart embraced God's unfathomable love. He was my close companion in the midst of my life battle. I understood God as though He was saying, "Let me be your Father. Lay your head down on My shoulder. Let Me be as a mother and I will comfort you. Come sit on My lap and I will be as a husband to you." In the privacy of my dining room, kneeling on that blue carpet with my body pressed against the wall, He met me and carried me as a gentle shepherd would carry a broken, wounded lamb.
In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus says, "Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest . . . for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." In that hour I transferred my needs onto the One who was meant to carry all my burdens.
Eventually, God purged the pain from Gary and produced an unmistakable passion and deepened love for God. It took courage for Gary to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but if there could be an even greater dimension of joy in going through this battle it was that we went through it together.
People continually ask us where we get our joy. If you see peace, life, and joy in our lives it is because just like everyone of you, we have a heavenly Father who provides shelter through the storms. His invincible Spirit truly gives us joy that will last.
So where is God when you hurt? He is waiting there with open arms!