Happy Thursday, Living Loved community. Today’s post is a guest post by Bethany Boynton, a blogger who knows more than anyone ever wants to know about tragedy. She is here to encourage us and love us in the midst of dealing with our most painful realities or to prepare us for them. 

This is a little about Bethany from her own blog, Choosing Jesus:

“I am a new wife to my wonderful Husband, Tyler, who also doubles as my pizap-2best friend {Cliché, I know. But it’s really true}. Marriage is a wonderful, unpredictable learning experience and we are having so much fun along the way. I am a born and raised Central Kentucky girl who loves any kind of travel and adventure. I am unashamedly addicted to books and coffee. And I absolutely love community, authenticity, and any reason to laugh.”

Take some time to check out Bethany’s website after you read her story.God has certainly given her the gift of encouragement. If you are joining us from Bethany’s community, we would love for you to stick around and learn how to live loved by Jesus every day alongside us. 

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I don’t know you. You don’t know me. And yet we are connected by two important facts:

  1. We are both loved and adored by the same Savior. As children of God, we share a loving Father who sees us both right now and knew you would one day be reading these words.
  2. We have both experienced some form of pain and suffering. No matter your age, gender, or ethnicity you have felt some form of pain in your life that felt in the moment like it would kill you.

Suffering is a unifying factor for the entire human race.

I often hear and agree with the phrase, “If you aren’t suffering now, get ready, because you will one day.” Unfortunately, suffering in some form or another is an inevitable, unavoidable part of the human experience.

You may be suffering right now from the loss of a job, a broken relationship, a difficult health diagnosis, or the loss of a loved one. Or maybe you have experienced one or each of these pains in the past. Regardless of the situation, I can relate to pain and suffering. I can relate to feeling completely hopeless. And I hope that my words can convey even half of the love that I have for you and the hope that I am believing on your behalf.

So, I’ll go first. And there is no easy way to begin my grief-story, so I’m just going to jump right in.

Eight years ago my parents were killed in a head-on collision with a drunk Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 11.31.51 AM.pngdriver. I was only sixteen when this tragedy struck. I was home alone when the sheriff’s deputy came with the news. In just a few moments I went from being a moody, yet happy teenager excited about what life would be, to a grief-stricken young adult with no idea what to do next.

I know pain. I know sadness. I know grief. I know hopelessness. I know the fear that can overtake your heart in an instant, telling you that you will never escape this pit of darkness.

I know the emptiness that seems to fill every image you have of the future.

I know it all too well. And yet, despite all the sadness and pain, or perhaps because of it, I know Jesus better than I ever thought possible. It is through all of this darkness and pain that I found Him. He was willing to walk into the darkness with me to show me the way out.

A few weeks after my parent’s funeral, once the initial shock began to wear off and everyone else started going back to their normal lives, I continued to sink deeper and deeper into hopelessness. I had been raised in a Christian home my entire life, my parents had deep relationships with God and set wonderful examples for my older brother and me, but I had never fully grasped exactly Who God was or that He truly loved me unconditionally. I had prayed the IMG_6974.PNGprayer of salvation when I was twelve years old, but I wasn’t at all committed to my faith or really certain of what I believed.

Up to that point, I had depended on my parent’s prayers and advice to get me through life; now that was no longer an option, I had to decide what I was going to do now that they were gone.

One day I was praying and saying these exact things to God, expressing my fears that He might not be as faithful to me as He had always been to my parents. I remember saying, “God, what am I supposed to do now? Where do I go from here? How do I keep living after this?”

In my naïve opinion of Him I honestly didn’t expect Him to respond and, if He did happen to, I expected that response to be, “You have to trust me. That’s your only option.” I believed God to be a big scary tyrant demanding my love and devotion to Him. But in that moment He shattered those ideas and showed me the truth of His character, the truth of His grace and love for me.

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The joy that He finds when His children choose Him.

He said to me, “It’s time for you to make a choice. You can get angry at me and blame me for this and walk away from me forever. Or you can choose to trust me like you never have before and fall into my arms.” Imagine my surprise that He didn’t respond with demand or anger, He responded with love.

Without His saying it, I knew that even if I did walk away He would still love me and pursue me. I knew that He was nothing like I had ever believed and everything that I had ever wanted. And so, I chose Him.

I fell into the arms of my Loving Father, completely shattered, and He held me together.

He didn’t heal me immediately or miraculously remove the pain like a genie in a bottle because that’s not Who He is. He sat with me, He held me while I cried and wept with me. He wasn’t afraid of my pain or my anger or my confusion, He was and is to this day a faithful friend Who is with me in every season, good or bad.

IMG_6972.PNGChoosing Jesus hasn’t spared me from pain or grief. He hasn’t kept me from missing my parents and wishing that they were here. But He has faithfully stood by my side through every season of sadness and every moment that they have had to miss. He has never run from my tears or misunderstood my frustrations, He has simply held my hand when I would let Him and walked closely by when I wouldn’t. Grief can be hard to understand for those who haven’t experienced it and often just as hard for those who have. Sometimes friends and family don’t know what to say and don’t want to say the wrong things, so they choose to say nothing at all. But Jesus is never at a loss for words and He knows when to remain silent and simply be.

I say all of that to say, Jesus is faithful. He is trustworthy. He can handle your pain, your sin, and your brokenness. I never really knew those things about Him until I needed Him to prove Himself to me. I never knew what a loyal friend He is, until I was in desperate need of One. I never knew what a Loving Father God is until I needed a Father to protect and comfort me. I never knew how much I needed God until I truly needed Him, and He has never once failed to meet that need.

Moving Forward; Trusting Him

Over the last eight years, I have been through so many ups and downs with grief, and I know that I will face those emotional battles for the rest of my life. But I also know that through all the pain of loss and my ever-changing emotions, Jesus stays exactly the same. I know that He will be with me through all of it, and with you too, my friend, because He has been here up to this point and He never changes. I know God’s faithfulness because I have experienced it personally time and time again and you have too. If you haven’t realized that yet, I pray that you will. I pray that your eyes will be opened to the faithfulness and love of God and His presence that is always with you.

Whether you have suffered or are suffering, or you’re in the best time of your life, I pray that your eyes are opened to the Truth of Who God is, because Who He is is whatever you need.

If you need a friend, you have one.

If you need a Father, you have one.

If you need a Therapist, you have one.

If you need advice, He is Wisdom.

If you need direction, He not only knows the way, He is the Way (John 14:6).

If you feel weak, He is Strength. If you feel alone, He is always with you. And if you’re angry and frustrated and confused, He isn’t afraid to hear your truest feelings. He won’t walk away.

God is so faithful, friend. Only He can meet us in tragedy and walk through the darkness with us. Only He can share in the feelings deepest within our hearts. Only He can truly know the joy that we experience in the best moments of our lives.

And only He can wash away the sins that pull us deeper into the pit. You can trust Him, you only have to choose Him.

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Thank you so much, Bethany, for sharing your story. Your words have meant the world to all of us.

What tragedies have you faced? How did or would choosing to trust Jesus change how to move forward. Please leave your stories in the comments.

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