If Sharon Jaynes were my next-door neighbor, we would sit long on my front porch and whisper stories of how God has taken the broken pieces of our lives and fashioned and fitted them into a masterpiece of His grace. She would tell of how she refused to stop in the middle of her story and determined to keep moving forward with the flow of God’s pen, and then I would tell of mine. Our hearts beat with the same passion to see God through the see through placed of pain and embrace the story we have been given. It is my joy to invite Sharon to the farm’s front porch today…
My son, Steven, and I sat on the floor in his room playing a card game. The summer was proving to be the best ever.
Our golden retriever, Ginger, had just delivered seven adorable puppies, Steven was enjoying his sixth summer of life, and after four years of negative pregnancy tests, God had surprised us with a new life growing inside my womb.
But as Steven and I sat cross-legged on the carpet, I felt a warm, sticky sensation run down my leg. A trip to the bathroom confirmed my greatest fear—my dream slipped away. Later that afternoon, the doctor voiced the weighty words, “There is no heartbeat.”
What do you do when heartbreak slams into joy? When your soul cracks open and there just aren’t enough tears? When hurt steals your hope and you want to give up on life? When deep soul lesions make a mockery of your faith?
I wish I could tell you I left the doctor’s office quoting Romans 8:28 about how “all things work together for good” (ESV).
I wish I could tell you that I calmly accepted the loss of my baby with faith, trusting that even this was somehow part of God’s plan.
I wish I could tell you I spent the rest of the day singing “It Is Well with My Soul.” But I didn’t do any of those things.
I went home, crawled in bed, and pulled the covers up over my empty womb and broken heart. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, especially God. And what I did say to Him wasn’t very nice.
How could you do this to me? If this is how you treat those you love, then just forget it! You answered my prayer only to take it back! Why me? Why this? Why now?
God and I had a lover’s quarrel that summer. Actually, I was the only one arguing. I felt betrayed by the One who was supposed to love me most. Pierced by the One who was supposed to protect my heart.
And while I gave God the cold shoulder, His warm embrace refused to let me go. He stayed right by my side, waiting, wooing, and drawing my hurting heart back to Him.
God always wants to heal our broken places and fill our empty spaces. I can see that now, but I couldn’t see it then.
So, as God persisted, I resisted.
Our sweet friend Ann once wrote, “I wonder . . . if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see. To see through to God.”
I had been thrust into one of those rents, a see-through place, but until I opened my eyes, I would not see God through the loss of my child.
Everybody loves a good story, but not everybody loves their own story.
Mistakes pile high like weeks-old laundry. Shame whispers, “If they only knew.” Tear-stained pages warp and cause the volume to fall open to unwanted pages. Dog-eared corners mark traumatic happenings we keep going back to in order to make sense of it all.
Some pages have spots worn thin from rubbing a mental eraser over words that won’t go away. Lines we’ve tried to cross out instead stand out and taunt us.
We’ve all got them—unwanted pages. Yes, I’d like a different story, please.
For most of us, it is not the whole of our stories that we don’t like, but just certain parts. Our tragedies, traumas, and too-dark-to-tell memories may be different, but the pain is the same.
A husband left.
A boyfriend cheated.
A friend betrayed.
A parent abused.
A boss misused.
A disease ravished.
A steering wheel jerked.
A gunshot fired.
A child died.
I don’t know the difficulties you’ve been through, but I do know your story didn’t end there. There is more to be written, and God is even now dipping His pen into the inkwell of wholeness, writing your story and mine into His larger story. God turns broken stories into beautiful prose and unwanted pages into stunning narratives of victory. That’s not just a promise; it’s a bedrock truth—one I know from personal experience.
The parts of my story I used to wish God had edited out have become the ones God has highlighted as His most amazing work.
Months after losing our baby, God gave me a sweet gift. I was lying in bed trying to picture her in heaven. I wondered what she looked like. I wondered what she was doing. I wondered if I’d recognize her when I get there. Then I pictured her with Jesus, playing. She wasn’t sad at all.
In my mind’s eye, God pulled back the curtain separating the physical from the eternal and gave me a glimpse of her. It was a see-through place in the torn canvas of my life.
My season of deep mourning ended that night. I stopped asking, “Why me?” and started asking, “What now?” Like a miner with a pickax, I was ready to look for the veins of gold buried in the dark and rocky soil of my suffering. I was ready to learn whatever God wanted me to learn about myself and about trusting in His unfailing love, even when my life felt like it was falling apart.
During those days, I sensed God asking, Will you trust me? I didn’t understand why my narrative was unfolding as it was, and I didn’t like this painful twist in the plot, but I did believe that, in the end, my story would be a good one.
I believed it because God is good, and His ways are good. And I believed it because I knew even then that when God allows hurt to happen, He uses the healing of that hurt to give us a purpose we might never have known without it. As Jesus told His disciples, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but someday you will,” (John 13:7 NLT).
Several years after our family’s loss, I discovered that Sharon was the name of a fertile valley in Israel. And suddenly I realize that even though my medical chart read infertile, God had made me a fertile valley in ways I had never imaged. That tearstained chapter of disappointment had become one of my greatest victories.
Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.
And with all our worst chapters, we can wrest redemption from the jaws of brokenness and allow God to use it for good.
Our pain can become a portal of God’s grace.
Our ravaged pages can become God’s redemptive masterpiece for the world to see.
Sharon Jaynes is a blogger, speaker, co-founder of Girlfriends in God, writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries, and best-selling author of 25 books.
Today’s devotion was taken from her latest release, When You Don’t Like Your Story: What if Your Worst Chapters Could Become Your Greatest Victories. In the pages she asks, what if God doesn’t want us to rip out our difficult stories but repurpose them for good? We can learn to embrace the story we were given, and to trust God to keep writing our story into His. When we do, God turns broken stories into beautiful prose and unwanted pages into stunning narratives of victory. We can see that our struggles have made us stronger, braver, and wiser than we would have ever been without them. Click here to watch a video or read a sample chapter.
[ Our humble thanks to Thomas Nelson for their partnership in today’s devotion ]