to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
   the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
   the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
– Isaiah 61:3

It was a season of death and darkness. First a friend of mine died from a prolonged bout with pancreatic cancer, and then the senior pastor of our church died, and then my father passed away while I was away on a missions trip. You’d think it would stop there, right? But no, it kept on coming –  my maternal grandmother died, then my stepfather passed away from a massive coronary. Then there were other kinds of dying – a major hamstring injury, having to leave my condominium because four music bars played music 24/7 and, the coup de gras, was acid reflux that caused me to begin losing my voice. A large dark cloud seemed to hover over me and those I loved – family, friends, home, and health. I could not see past the pain right in front of me.

But a flicker of comfort and hope would appear in the corner of my heart every now and then, a suspicion that this was not a twisted game Someone was playing on me. This dark night of the soul brought me to my knees in reluctant recognition that I was not in control, that I (despite my alleged service to God) was not entitled to a life of ease and comfort, that pain and sorrow are part of this earthly journey called life and I could not escape being touched by the pain.

I was forced to confront difficult questions like: Did I really believe in a potent but benevolent God? Did I really believe that God hears my prayers and that He collects my many, many tears in a bottle? Did I really believe that God was worthy of my trust?

No easy answers came but in my asking these questions of myself and crying out to God, I found that He would come and sit with me as I looked upon the broken and wounded vestiges of my life and heart.

Sometimes He would remind me of sweet songs I had sung in faith years ago or passages of Scripture that anchored me in turbulent waters of the past. “Give them all, give them all to Jesus, and He will turn your sorrow into joy…” and “…beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

That flicker of hope and faith began to grow as I was surrounded by faithful friends who journeyed with me, wept with me, and fed me from their own fullness with the Lord. They let me be angry during days when anger felt like the easier emotion for me to live with than hurt. Most of all, they brought me to Jesus in prayer and community when I felt like I could not take another step to save myself. Little by little I began to sup again with my Savior and made friends with the hard truth that He is in control, not me, and that is a good, good thing.

Years later, a ring on my finger, a new home in a foreign land, a life immersed in a world so very different from mine, I now see how that time of turbulence helped pry my hands off the steering wheel of my life and surrender to all of creation’s Sovereign King. He graciously and mercifully used that period of pain to make me open to a radically new life than what I had pictured for myself.

He showed me that the darkness does not obliterate The Light but rather causes me to hold on tighter to Him who holds me in the sweet palm of His hand.

 

Writer’s Bio:
Germaine Santos-Cochran was a 26-year full-time staff with Philippine Campus Crusade for Christ. She is currently figuring out what it means to be a full-time wife in a foreign country.