From Ashes to Beauty
by Karen Yoder
This month on the blog we will be featuring articles submitted by our readership. These personal testimonies are an extension of the print magazine's Spring issue theme of Story. Click here to pre-order your copy.
“It’s cancer.” Those awful words that no one ever wants to hear. My mom’s voice came through my phone as she spoke of the diagnosis the doctor had just given my dad. My dad. He was my strong rock, my hero, my protector. I could not begin to imagine life without him. My world rocked and tilted and was forever changed from that moment on.
We all have some type of relationship with God. I thought I knew where God and I stood. I knew that I needed Him. I had been through other difficult things in my life, and I had come out of the dark times saying, “God is good all the time; all the time God is good.” But things changed after my world fell apart so completely. I screamed at God. I sobbed out how unfair it was and why didn’t He do something? I ranted and reeled. After the initial shock, we had a period of 2 ½ precious years with my dad. God was there. I came to a sort of peace and acceptance. But even with all of that extra time, it did not make the good-bye easier. Throughout my dad’s last days, God gave us so much strength and grace. God carried us through those blurry days and weeks, when we were crying more than we were smiling.
However, as the weeks slipped by after the funeral, I found myself asking questions. There were dark, dark nights, when I sobbed despairingly into my pillow. Where was God? Why did He fail me? Was He really good? How could I trust Him again? Why did we have all these amazing stories of healing in the Bible, yet God didn’t heal my dad? People shared about how God had done some awesome thing for them. They would praised praise Him and stated how good He was. I looked on and thought darkly, “What if the story ended differently? Would you still be saying how good God is?” I knew all the pat answers. I gave those pat answers and pasted a smile on when people asked how I was. Inside, I felt very dark and cold and full of doubts. If my dad’s death was God’s good thing, I certainly did not want to know what His next good thing for me would be.
Somehow, even in those dark days of crisis, I knew that I could not give up on God. I could not face life without Him; that was unthinkable. So I continued reading His Word and praying. I told God exactly how I felt in the pages of my prayer journal. I figured He could handle the ugliness. Somehow, through all of that wrestling, I came to the other side. I am not quite sure how I came through that dark valley, other than the fact that God’s grace and mercy carried me through. I still do not understand God’s ways. I never will. But I know that He is faithful and good and trustworthy.
The cross! Verses and songs about the cross spoke to me so deeply. I realized that if I look at the storm, I will wonder if God really loves me. However, if I look at the cross, I cannot doubt God’s love. He gave His only Son. He rescued me from my sinfulness and gave me life and hope! The message of the cross is a big part of what brought me through that dark coldness to warmth and light. God’s love is so apparent in the symbol of the cross. He is good. He is love. I cannot look at the cross and doubt those things. No matter what hard thing I face, if I focus on the cross I will find clarity there.
Sometimes faith is a choice, not a feeling. Faith in God is not always going to be easy. If you have not yet faced difficult times, you will. There will likely come a time when you feel that God cannot be trusted. You may question the things you thought you believed about God. I learned that in those times, you have to choose to believe the things you know to be true in your head, even if you do not feel them in your heart. Cling to what you know to be absolute truth and do not let it go.
Choose thankfulness. No matter what situation you may be in, you can find something to be grateful for. I made lists of all the ways I had been blessed, even though I did lose my dad. That helped me to keep my perspective.
Look for the ways God shows His love to you through others. I thought I could not survive my first birthday without my dad. Dad always made sure I knew how much he loved me on that day. I went to school with dread in my heart and tears in my eyes. God showed me His love through my sweet 5 th and 6 th grade students who planned a surprise birthday party for me, all on their own! I had friends who understood my grief, because they had faced their own losses. They listened to my questions and shared tears with me and assured me that I was not crazy. A lady at church prayed and cried with me. People who remembered and showed their care during those awful first holidays.
We all have a story. A story that is often hidden to other people looking on. There is pain behind so many smiles; tears that no one will ever see. God meets us there in our story. He will take the ashes and turn them into beauty, if we allow Him to. He is faithful. He is good. He is God.
Karen Joy Yoder is learning to trust her heavenly Father and live with open hands. She is a teacher, who dearly loves her students and is grateful for the joy they bring. Karen also loves to travel internationally, and summers are occasionally used to add stamps to her passport. Georgia is the place she calls home. The beach, pumpkin spice anything, coffee shops, and children's literature are some of her favorite things. Writing in her prayer journals is one of the ways she connects with God.