I was terrified when I first started writing online.
I wasn’t sure how much of my pain I wanted to share publicly. My life felt like a roller coaster and none of my story was neat and tidy. Nothing was tied up with a bow.
My husband had left and I was struggling as a single parent. My body was breaking down as the effects of post-polio syndrome were intensifying. My dreams had been long abandoned and there was little left to hold on to. Yet God was teaching me to hold onto him. I wasn’t sure if my journey would be encouraging or petrifying to other people.
I had been diagnosed with post-polio syndrome several years earlier and was told to give up all of my hobbies immediately. The staff at the polio clinic said I needed to preserve my arms. To ration my strength and energy. To pare my life back. If I didn’t, they said, someone else would be brushing my teeth in ten years.
So I cried. I fought it. I mourned the loss. I argued with myself and with God.
And then I listened. I boxed up my painting and scrapbooking supplies and gave away all my cooking magazines. I wouldn’t need them anymore. Life was reduced to doing the bare minimum while the things that brought me happiness gathered dust in the cupboards of my house.
In those dark days, I asked the Lord why he gave me the desire to create beauty in the first place if he knew I wouldn’t be able to continue with it. I didn’t hear an answer.
Years later, in the same week, three friends separately encouraged me to write about my life. Each of them had prayed about it and felt the Lord prompting them to tell me. Each time I was taken aback by their suggestions. Each time I laughed, and said “I’ll think about it.” Each time I left puzzled. But by the end of the week, with three people saying the same thing, I knew I needed to pay attention.
So I told the Lord about my fears about writing. My writing was not poetic or beautiful and I never aspired to be a writer. I journaled regularly and wrote a funny Christmas letter each year, but that was the extent of my literary efforts.
It seemed too scary to even consider, so I asked God for a sign.
Not long afterwards, a flyer came in the mail. A glossy postcard emblazoned with the words “Do you need to write your life?”
I promptly enrolled in the class.
Each week, I wrote pages about my childhood, not ever sure where it was going. But as I wrote, God unlocked something in me. Memories, long buried, came to the surface. Emotions from forty years back came spilling out. The sense of rejection by my peers. The feeling of abandonment as I lived in the hospital. The sense of shame and embarrassment over my limp and my physical limitations.
As I wrote and offered to God my jumbled emotions and memories, with feelings and doctrine and questions intertwined, God began bringing remarkable clarity.
I saw how the Lord had matured me. He had shifted my faith from one primarily rooted in academic discipline to one infused with joy and grace. He had given me a love for him that was abiding and deep.
Psalm 66 describes how I felt, “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You have brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.” (Psalm 66:10-12)
God indeed had brought me to a place of abundance. Not that my circumstances were any different. But I knew that he was in them with me. And he was using them all for my joy and his glory.
So I started writing online to tell others about that abundance. To proclaim God’s goodness in the midst of adversity. I didn’t know where it was going, or where it would take me, but I knew it was of God. I trusted him as I put words to what he’d taught me. And surprisingly, pouring out those words to strangers became life-giving to me.
I discovered that writing wasn’t second best, a consolation prize, something to occupy my time. In Emily Freeman’s terms, this was “the art I was born to make.” I found a joy in writing that I never knew in scrapbooking. When I first gave up my artistic pursuits, I thought I would never have the thrill of creating again. But God had more in store for me than my wildest imaginings. Because God’s dreams are always bigger than mine.
Maybe you have had your dreams shattered only to discover that God has replaced them with something else. Perhaps you would never have chosen the path you are on, but now that you are on it, you wouldn’t have it any other way. Because you see how God is using it.
I had been writing for Desiring God’s website for a few years when they approached me about writing a book. This, in itself, was beyond what I would ever have imagined. So we decided to put together a book that was a compilation of articles and blog posts I had previously written about suffering. It is entitled, The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering. It chronicles how I felt when God laid a crushing burden on my back and took me through fire and water. But it’s much more than that - it’s really about how in the process God brought me to a place of abundance.
Psalm 66 goes on to say, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.” (Psalm 66:16)
Yes. That is it exactly. It was a joy for me to compile this book to tell the world what God has done for my soul.
Thank you, my faithful blog readers, for you have encouraged me as a writer in ways you cannot imagine. You have been a gift to me. Thank you.
It is my earnest prayer that you will read this book and be encouraged to find that God is ever faithful even in the midst of great suffering. And that you too will rejoice as you tell others what the Lord has done for your soul.
The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering is available on Amazon. Here’s a link to the Desiring God site if you want to learn more about the book and to purchase it. And all profits go directly to Joni and Friends.
If you do buy the book, would you consider reviewing it on Amazon? Reviews can be really helpful when people are searching for books that they don’t know much about. Thank you so much!