All is Grace
by Beth Troyer
"In this world, ye will have trouble. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 33:16
In March of 2008 I stood in a little bathroom in Honduras, the white light stark and harsh on my features as I stared at my face in the mirror, baffled by how normal I looked. I expected something to be different. Something to show that my world was falling apart and the happy future I had taken for granted had warped and then vanished into a void of unknown fear and pain. My eyes looked darker than usual and were slightly puffy from crying. By now I had moved to a place beyond tears. My main emotion was horror and yet the sadness in my eyes was almost unnoticeable, even to me. I braced myself and left the bathroom, trying to settle my mask even more firmly so the sadness didn't show because my siblings didn't know yet what was going on.
We had a family meeting that night. Papa slowly broke it to everyone that support had been withdrawn and we were forced to leave the country we called home for the past 12 years. Missionaries are completely under the control of whatever church supports them unless they can support themselves somehow. This is something I am highly in favor of. Despite my dad's pleas for understanding, for them to hear truth, and give mercy, if not for his own sake, then for the sake of the children we would have to leave behind-- children already abandoned at least once in their short lives. But they did not give mercy. They did not hear truth. His accusers cancelled meetings at the last minute and refused to reschedule. And a month later, as crying children ran behind our truck, we drove away. Within 2 years, the children's home had fallen apart. The children were split up, mostly to family members who hadn't wanted them before.
Looking back, I think Satan orchestrated a master plan and it was outstandingly successful. That doesn't change the fact that God allowed every single piece of that puzzle to fall into place to create the tragedy of children without parents. Children who are now grown up, still hurting. Still making decisions based on their need for love they're looking for in the wrong places.
I have so many questions for God. He hasn't answered very many of them. He really isn't in the business of answering questions, but He is in the business of redemption. Of salvation. He is in the business of surrounding us with so much grace, it's an actual sea we swim in. Because of the miracles He's performed in my life, I choose to trust Him with the shattered lives of my siblings. I have to make that choice again and again as they continue not to choose Him and end up in even more pain as a result.
I reread journals from that time during January and February this year because it's been 10 years now and I just wanted to remember. I felt like I was strong enough to dive back into the pain and relive it a bit. I was. I did cry a lot, but I still saw God's fingerprints all over our lives, even more than I was able to see at the time. Part of me marvels at how I made it through. Some of my ramblings in the midst of the fog of pain are on the verge of insanity, I must admit, but even though I went through stages of deadening myself as much as I could, I also eventually faced the pain head on and experienced God's grace and strength in untold measure. Through the years, bitterness has been my biggest struggle. Or maybe I should say forgiveness. But bitterness is a path devoid of light and anyone who knows me, knows I need sunshine.
Even though I do think Satan's plan was successful in a way, he hasn't won the war for our souls by a long shot. When I look at my parents, many of my siblings, and my life, there's so much beauty and hope rising from the ashes. The story isn't over yet.
When you're in the thick of the pain and the future looks black and the heaviness is almost too much to bear and all you can do is curl up into a ball and weep, or spend your days focusing on surviving and you start wondering if you'll ever truly live-- things can seem impossible. It can feel like you'll never be happy again or that life is just one long line of tragedies and pain and that maybe it's not your lot in life to experience joy anymore. I'm here to tell you there is hope as well as oceans of grace. Even if pain is a constant part of our lives here on earth, heaven is waiting.
Pain is not constant. It's mixed into the joy and bliss and beauty of life. You can live well, even in the midst of pain. When we live with a God who delights in taking the ashes of our lives and redeeming it all into dazzling beauty, hope and grace become a force that makes life worth living. Sometimes it's not the beauty we would have chosen, but you know what makes us the most happy as humans? Being what God wants us to be. He wants to make us useful. Pain can produce the most usefulness and beauty in a person. So we should be willing to go through it. None of us have the urge to volunteer for it, but when God lets it come into our lives, the Bible's command to rejoice in our fiery trials isn't impossible. It's what produces the patience and beauty at the end. So even if you have to fight against it at first and maybe cry and shout at God some (He can totally handle that), be sure to give in to it in the end. Ask Him to mold you to whatever shape He wants and then wait for the opportunity to share comfort with others. This life is our one chance to allow all that to produce gold. We don't want the trials to be wasted.
The path I've chosen is paved in gratefulness. I haven't found anything in life or my Christian walk with more power than giving thanks. In my life it has been the key that opened the door to healing. My turning point from surviving and struggling to healing and life was the day I spoke words of thanks for the pain God entrusted to me, the wounds inflicted through our having to leave our home. It has been the tangible way that my heart can surrender to God because I really can't hold on to my own way when I'm choosing to count my blessings. It has been the grace that pulled the blindness from my eyes and opened them to God's love for me. It has been the strength that held me up as I walked towards freedom because when I get to the point where I stop and look around me and everything is shouting, speaking or whispering proof of God's love-- for me-- how can I help but live for Him, with joy and abandon and the overwhelming knowledge that He delights in me?
Reading the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp started me on that path and it's become a way of life I never want to quit traveling. It's the secret to joy and freedom and the walking out of the most natural role between God and child. What better way to live than to receive His gifts and give thanks? The longer I live this way, the more I realize to the very marrow that all is Grace.
Beth lives in central Virginia with her husband, toddler son, and Olaf, the family cat. She loves sunshine and bright colors and you will often find her outside with a book. For more of her writings and glimpses of family life visit her blog blogbybeth.wordpress.com.