I texted my friend that I needed to cancel our dinner plans. My teenage daughter had been crying for hours, and I didn’t want to leave her. Nothing I had tried had helped console her. I sat down on the floor outside her bedroom door because she didn’t want me to come in.
I started to feel like maybe this would never end. So many nights had ended this way for her, and I didn’t want this overwhelming heartache to continue to be the pattern for her future. She had been so brave and tried so hard, but then every time another painful thing happened, her heart hurt so badly that there was nothing I could do to protect her from it.
Maybe she’ll always feel pain so deeply. Maybe I’ll never be able to help her through it. I knew enough to know that this isn’t just some teenage issue that she’ll grow out of. This is a wound in her heart that needs healing from God.
I’ve told her before during past incidents that I believe a breakthrough is coming for her.
“What’s a breakthrough?” She asked.
I explained that when we go through difficult things, we can pray for God to help us to break through the obstacles and burdens that are causing us heartache. Like if there is a wall in front of us that is holding us back, God can help us to break through that wall. God may not take the pain away immediately, but He is still working on our behalf. We just have to wait and keep praying. He will give us a breakthrough. We won’t always have to carry this much pain.
“Well, then, yes, that’s what I need,” she said so simply.
But outside her bedroom door on this night several months ago, I could still hear her crying. And I started begging God on her behalf. “God, she has prayed to You. She has asked for Your help. Won’t You answer her prayer? Won’t You comfort her heart?”
I try never to promise my daughter anything unless I know for sure that I can deliver on that promise. I had promised her that God will give her a breakthrough. But on this night, after this struggle, I began to wonder if I was wrong to make that promise to her. I had tried teaching her truth about God, but maybe my words didn’t help.
Then as I was sitting on the floor by her bedroom, my phone beeped with a new text message. It was from my friend Kayla. She and her husband were good friends with my brother Dave, but I hadn’t talked to Kayla much at all in the past few years. Yet she texted me to say that God had put my girls and me on her heart that evening. She wanted to know if there was anything she could pray for us.
I recognized that this was God’s way of encouraging me. I texted Kayla back and explained the situation—how my daughter was hurting so badly tonight and how I was starting to doubt if her breakthrough was ever coming.
Kayla told me that she had been shopping in Kohl’s when she suddenly had an overwhelming impression to pray for me and my girls. That’s why she texted me. She took a few minutes to pray for us again, and then she texted me what God had spoken to her. She said that she could feel God’s heart for my daughter, how precious she is to Him. She said that God wants to heal her completely—that it is His will to heal all her wounds. She said she felt God tell her that He has a mighty plan for my daughter’s life, and He has assigned an angel to protect her. She feels a breakthrough coming…a deep healing. Satan will not get the victory in her life!
This next part might sound weird to you, but Kayla said that God gave her a vision of me, and it looked like a river was coming out of my mouth. She believed that God was showing her that my words were a source of life and healing for my girls.
I started crying as I read all of Kayla’s texts. I was amazed that God cared so much about our situation, that He saw our tears and pain in our little house and prompted Kayla as she was shopping in Kohl’s to reach out to us.
Every doubt and worry I had been feeling that night was addressed in Kayla’s encouragement to me, and I was blown away by God’s personal involvement in what we were going through.
This happened awhile back, but God brought this memory to my mind as I was driving home from work yesterday. I decided to write it out in hopes that it would encourage someone else to know that God sees your situation. If you are praying, He is certainly listening and working on your behalf.
“Cast all your anxiety on God because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
Last week I posted about having an “unoffendable” heart, and it seemed to resonate with a lot of people. So today I want to give you an example of how the Lord walked me through avoiding the trap of one particular offense.
Having an unoffendable heart takes a lot of intentionality. I’ve found that it requires me to lay down what I think I deserve from others and just focus on who I am before God and what God wants me to do.
One day last year I got a phone call from someone that gave me some bad news, and I was really discouraged and angry about it. I was actually at home by myself when I got that phone call, and I was so depressed that I just laid down in my bed for 3 hours. I didn’t cry; I just felt defeated, like I had gotten the wind knocked out of me. After my little 3-hour respite, I was forced to get out of bed and handle the situation.
As I got up, I began to feel God strengthening me to handle this situation. Almost more than any other moment in my life, I felt God anoint me with His love and wisdom. Over the next few hours, as I interacted with those involved, I felt God’s heart for them, and I felt God speaking through me with peace and confidence. I was seriously so steady that I was shocked. I knew this peace was God’s anointing on me because normally I would be yelling and crying. I tried to point out this difference in me to the others, so they would see this as evidence that God was with us through this.
God’s anointing on me affirmed to me in a big way that if God calls us to do something difficult, He will not leave us alone. He will be with us through the trial, never leaving our side, and giving us the strength we need—not just to survive, but to overcome.
I had completed the first challenge—initially handling the situation with the others. God had helped me to be steady and loving in those moments. But now I had to handle it in my heart. Now I had to walk through the process of grieving the loss, letting go of my anger, and forgiving fully.
The next day I cried when I finally had a few moments alone. Then I called one of my friends, told her everything that had happened, and cried again. I had already planned to go to a concert with my friend Erin later that night. I can always just be me with Erin, and so she and I chatted about everything as we drove there. As we were standing in the line for the concert, I kept sighing and putting my face in hands—my involuntary response to the dismay that I was feeling. I apologized to Erin that I couldn’t just snap out of it to enjoy our night out. But then that concert was so much fun, so much joy. I was singing along so loudly to songs that I used to sing with my sisters when we were younger, and it made me smile so hard that it hurt my face. I felt like that concert was a gift from God in the midst of the discouragement from the day before.
Thank Me for This
The next morning, I was driving to church for our Sunday services, and I was still feeling hurt and angry. I was praying a little in the car, and I felt God say to me, “Thank me for this, Mary.” Immediately, tears came to my eyes, and I told God that I would thank Him for this if He really wanted me to, but I had prayed specifically that this would not happen, and I had done everything in my power to try to prevent these types of things from happening. But again, the Lord said, “Thank me for this.”
At the time, our church had bulletin boards where we could put up cards to symbolize the prayers God had answered for us. I felt like God said to me, “Put up a card of answered prayer on the bulletin board.”
At first, I thought, “Lord, are you mocking my pain? Do you seriously want me to put this up on the board as an answered prayer?” I knew that I could put the card up anonymously, that I didn’t have to write anything on the card except for the date. It was just meant to be a symbol to my church family of God’s goodness. But this situation was messy; it was too soon to know if it was going to get worse or get better. I honestly could barely bring myself to hope that it would get better.
I was then reminded of the Bible passage that says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
I focused on the phrase “with thanksgiving.” The verse says, “WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God, and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” I realized that I needed to reflect on the situation, this time looking for all the ways that I could thank God for how He was working through this situation. With some deep breaths, I grabbed a handful of cards, wrote the date on them, and one by one, I thanked God for something He did in this situation: that He brought it to light quickly, that He anointed me to be steady and loving, that I had good support from the others who were involved, everyone was finally telling the truth, etc. I was still sick to my stomach about what happened, but I chose to thank God for how He was working in the midst of it, and I pinned the cards up on the board. It felt like a sacrifice of praise.
This was exactly what I needed to do to move forward in not letting this offense trap me.
A few weeks later, I was still wrestling with this. Doesn’t it always seem like after the initial pain subsides, then the anger burns inside for a long time, occasionally boiling over? I’d have a few hours throughout each week when my mind was still just stuck on it. I was so tempted to be angry at the others and blame them for my pain. But I had to stop myself from thinking those thoughts. The Holy Spirit spoke to me about Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
This particular incident was not noble or admirable, and it was time for me to stop thinking about it. I can’t say that I automatically let it all go, but whenever Satan tempted me to dwell on it, I quoted Philippians 4:8. I had to choose to stop thinking about it. I had done everything there was to do to work through it; now I had to stop thinking about it and be diligent to keep the offense far from my heart.
*If you have a story about how God helped you to have an unoffendable heart, I would love to hear it!
P.S. Now, several months later, I can say that God brought so much more good from this situation than I ever expected. In January, I heard a sermon by Pastor Stephen Furtick called “I’m Glad it Happened." Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUu4_VIeTzs. If you’re struggling with something that happened in your life that is hard to make sense of, I encourage you to listen to this. It confirmed to me God’s purposes in my struggle.
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.