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Anger, Endurance for the Journey, Featured

TORN TO PIECES

You who tear yourself to pieces in your anger,
is the earth to be abandoned for your sake?
JOB 18:4 (NIV) (Bildad – One of Job’s “friends”)



Dr. Gary Oliver gave me a way of dealing with my anger. He introduced me to what he calls “The Anger Curve.” He draws a curved arch and along the ascending line writes, “hurt, frustration, fear.” At the height of the arch goes the word “anger.”


He then explains how many people (including me) don’t register much – if any – emotional connection with their hurt, frustration and fear. They don’t feel anything until they get to the point of anger. Once many guys become angry, they may be unable to stop their heated outbursts.


This tool showed me how to track the origins of my rising anger back to hurt, frustration or fear, and to identify how close I am to the top of the curve. I don’t write out this curve every time I feel anger coming on, but I’ve learned to ask myself, Why am I angry? Is this anger growing out of hurt or frustration or fear?



Go ahead and be angry.
You do well to be angry –
But don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge.
And don’t stay angry.
Don’t go to bed angry.
Don’t give the Devil that kind
of foothold in your life.
EPHESIANS 4:26-27 (THE MESSAGE)



On the journey with you,
Dave Dravecky

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Anger, Healing, On the Journey Together, Pain, Words of Endurance

“There will be a time of Reckoning.
Words are powerful;
Take them seriously.
Words can be your salvation.
Words can also be your damnation.”
MATTHEW 12:36-37
(WORDS OF JESUS-THE MESSAGE)



Jan and I are on this journey together in this new season. However my challenges – at least at this point – are quite different from hers.



I never realized the impact of my words. But over the last five years I have begun to recognize more than ever just how powerful my words have been and how I have used them to control others to meet my high expectations. When I look back on my life as a husband and a father, I regretfully now know that my words have had an affect on the people that matter most to me.



Upon further reflection I have seen how I have used my words and my anger to manipulate to get my way. I have seen how my words have been critical and judgmental which has caused much discouragement and pain to the recipients. I’ve seen how my words have destroyed and torn down the ones I love the most when all my heart meant to do was challenge them to do better. But what God desires for me to do is the exact opposite with my words.



So why did I struggle so much with my words towards my loved ones? To be honest I don’t really know how to answer that. I am sure some of you as you read these confessions are probably trying to help me out right now. And I don’t blame you because before I had these revelations I would have been doing the same thing – I would have tried to fix me too!



I do know that my perfectionism and the need to control has been a significant part of my story. As an athlete I had high expectations of myself and I needed to be in control. When I lost control I feared failure. That is how I felt about my family. In the end I guess you could say I’ve been extremely selfish in my life wanting life to go my way. It has been hard to realize that our family life isn’t all about Dave.



These are really hard things for me to share with you because I’m not sure what you will think of me after you read this. But I have discovered there is great freedom in being known for who you truly are – there is freedom in not hiding.



Watch the way you talk.
Let nothing foul or dirty
come out of your mouth.
Say only what helps,
each word a gift.
EPHESIANS 4:29 (THE MESSAGE)



On The Journey With You,
Dave Dravecky

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Anger, Healing, On the Journey Together, Words of Endurance

Go ahead and be angry.
You do well to be angry –
But don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge.
Don’t stay angry.
Don’t go to bed angry.
Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.
EPHESIANS 4:26-27 (THE MESSAGE)



Oh how I wish I had paid heed to this Scripture. It would have saved me from so much heartache, despair and deep-rooted depression. Instead of dealing with my anger on a daily basis I have stuffed and denied my anger – burying it deep inside my heart. Instead of expressing my anger I silenced my voice for fear of being rejected. And then I built a wall around my heart to protect it.



Anger is a secondary emotion to fear, hurt or frustration. The roots of my anger have been fear and hurt – fear of man and having my heart hurt – hurt by the words and actions of others. Anger is an emotion that is very hard for me to experience. I never am able to communicate the words to respond or express my anger – the only way that I express my anger is through tears.



When I was given the freedom to be me I first had to look deep into my heart to see the wounds that I had experienced and I realized how hurt and angry I have been through the years. But if I wanted to heal I knew I needed to do it … I trusted the Holy Spirit was leading me.



Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong –
then guide me on the road to eternal life.
PSALM 139:23-24 (THE MESSAGE)



On The Journey With You,
Jan Dravecky

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Anger, Depression, Hope, Pain, Treasures in the Darkness, Words of Endurance

Treasure is not something
I expected to find
in the darkness.
All I wanted was to find a way out!
JAN DRAVECKY



When Dave and I first began to experience the injuries and illness that eventually led to the amputation of his left arm, I thought God would miraculously deliver us. I expected us to emerge in a few months as victorious examples of what God could do for those who followed Him. I never imagined our journey through that dark valley of suffering would last for years.



As the weeks stretched into months and then year, I became consumed by our suffering. I tried harder and harder to get back to our “normal” life but I was powerless to change our situation or to understand what God was doing. As I became weaker and more exhausted from trying to fix everything by my own efforts I became increasingly desperate for relief.



I certainly wasn’t looking for any treasures from God. Deep inside I was fighting God and felt completely shut off from Him. When people suggested that God might be doing something wonderful in our lives I got angry. I knew only that I was drowning and I wanted out!



But in spite of my bad attitude – in spite of me doing things my way – in spite of my overwhelming depression – God was still at work within me. There were indeed treasures in the darkness and He would be faithful to give them to me.



About one year after Dave’s comeback I was in the deepest throes of my depression from my perspective everything was very, very black. I couldn’t make myself do anything, go anywhere or see anyone. The three people I had depended upon most for support were Dave and my parents but Dave was undergoing radiation treatments and nothing left to give and both of my parents had died. Dave’s parents were doing all they could to help us but inside I was losing the battle. I felt totally helpless, hopeless and alone.



That is when I discovered the first unexpected treasure God had for me. And I wasn’t even looking for it! In fact, I was ready to give up everything walk away from God. But when I tried to walk away, I couldn’t. Almost to my surprise I realized there was nowhere else I wanted to go. I was just like Peter who when Jesus asked His twelve disciples if they would desert Him and …



Peter replied, “Master, to whom would we go?
You have the words of real life, eternal life.
We’ve already committed ourselves,
Confident that you are the Holy One of God.”
JOHN 6:68-69 (THE MESSAGE)



When I realized that I truly believed those words I was thrilled! My faith was real! What a treasure!. Even when I was at the end of my rope and ready to run away I couldn’t do it Because I truly believe that God is the Only Way to eternal life and there is no hope apart from Him. Learning that my faith was real brought me great joy and gave me hope when nothing else could. That treasure was the turning point in my experience of suffering.



Although I had not realized it suffering had tested, refined and strengthened my faith. I discovered as 1 Peter 1:3-7 says that faith is far more valuable gold. That discovery renewed my hope and inspired me to search the Scriptures to learn His promises. The hope those Truths of Scripture brought to me became my greatest treasure in the darkness – my lifeline – in the midst of pain. I was still in the valley of suffering but I had learned there were rich treasures there also.



What a God we have!
And how fortunate we are to have him,
This Father of our Master Jesus!
Because Jesus was raised from the dead,
We’ve been given a brand-new life
and have everything to live for,
including a future in heaven –
and the future starts now!
God is keeping careful watch over us and the future.
The Day is coming when you’ll have it all –
life healed and whole.
I know how great this makes you feel,
even though you have to put up with
every kind of aggravation in the meantime.
Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure;
genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine.
When Jesus wraps this all up,
it’s your faith, not your gold,
that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
1 PETER 1:3-7 (THE MESSAGE)



ON THE JOURNEY WITH YOU,
JAN DRAVECKY

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Anger, Cancer, Depression, Fear, Words of Endurance

“… And you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”
JOHN 8:32 (NLT)



Janette and Bill needed a fresh start so the chance to move out of state for a new job opportunity looked like a divine gift. But life after the move was complicated. Bill’s new job didn’t turn out to be what he was promised. Janette was still feeling the pain of wounding words from her previous employer, which made it difficult to handle the stress of her new job. Their children were feeling lonely and insecure as they adjusted to new schools and tried to find new friends. Then just when Janette didn’t think she could handle one more challenge – Bill was diagnosed with an aggressive form of colon cancer.



So far from the only home and support system they had ever known, they faced cancer surgery, a colostomy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, more surgery and a host of complications and unexpected bills. Janette shifted into ‘survival mode’ and pushed herself to get through each day but the prolonged stress took its toll. She began to experience anxiety attacks – her heart would beat so fast she thought she would die. She was so exhausted she could barely get out of bed in the morning. Fatigue, crying spells, hopelessness, anger, fear and isolation became part of her daily life.



What made things worse was that Janette was dreadfully afraid that she and Bill had done something to cause the difficulties they faced. She had been taught that suffering was almost always caused by personal wrongdoing or a lack of faith. So she believed that she and her husband were somehow responsible for what was happening to their family. Yet she had no idea where they had gone wrong and she couldn’t figure out what horrible sin deserved so much suffering.

No wonder Janette’s perspective on life was shattering. Her emotional health, her views of God and her perspective on suffering were all crumbling under the stress of circumstances and the burden of a perspective that wasn’t true. Although she sensed that she wasn’t seeing things clearly, she was afraid to ask for help. What if her newly made friends at church thought the whole ordeal was due to her personal sin or spiritual weakness too? Where would she find help then?



Fortunately, Janette’s new friends refused to stand by and do nothing. They knew she was hurting and encouraged her to participate in a faith based support group at church. There she began to more closely examine what the Bible taught about suffering.



Then a widowed friend shared about how she struggled with depression following her husband’s death. Her honesty about a personal struggle surprised Janette. Having come from a setting where exposing weakness would result in harsh judgment, her friend’s vulnerability opened Janette’s eyes to the possibility of looking at what was really happening in her own life.



Prompted by another friend, Janette began to list the hardships and losses she had recently endured instead of trying to ignore them. As she did, she realized why she felt overwhelmed, sad and full of anxiety. Who wouldn’t be? The pain she felt wasn’t because of weakness. It was understandable in light of the traumatic losses she had experienced.



Once she faced the truth of those losses, Janette began to grieve. It wasn’t an easy or pleasant process. It was especially heartbreaking for her to realize she no longer thought of God as being wise, loving and caring. But as painful as it was to confront those losses and to uncover the perspective that made them nearly unbearable, Janette is glad she did.



Today as a result of her Bible study and the support of caring friends she has a new perspective. She knows that while some suffering may come as a consequence of our actions of our actions, suffering also comes as part of life. Even more important, she knows that from God’s perspective suffering is an opportunity to draw close to him and she has rediscovered a closer, more personal relationship with her wise and loving God.



As Janette learned we rarely give our perspectives a second thought when life is going well. But when our perspectives shatter and fail us, it is essential to take a close look at what the truth really is so that we can make adjustments in our thinking. Sometimes when our perspective shatters we can finally see the truth clearly and that truth will set us free!



I always try to remind people that as painful as it may be,
truth is always your friend.
No matter how difficult it is to swallow, truth is reality
And that is where ultimate safety, growth and God are.
We need to know the truth.
Sometimes the truth leads us to what is hurting us …
Sometimes it leads us to what we need to change.
At other times it leads us to
what we need to do next in a relationship.
At still other times it leads us to
what our weaknesses or limitations are,
such as what we are not ready to deal with.
But whatever the truth is, it is our friend.
HENRY CLOUD & JOHN TOWNSEND
HOW PEOPLE GROW



On the Journey with You,
Dave and Jan Dravecky

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Anger, Discovering Who I Am, Grace, Guilt, Healing, Hope, Words of Endurance

Humble yourselves before the Lord,
and he will lift you up in honor.
JAMES 4:10



Men do not like to receive. We like to be the giver. We like to earn everything that we receive. Unfortunately – with that stance of pride – that attitude can get in the way of receiving the Father’s love.



Jesus tried to give a true picture of our heavenly Father’s love by telling a story of a father and his two sons (see Luke 14:11-32). Both of the sons – even though so different – had to learn the same lesson – how to humble themselves and receive their father’s freely offered love.



The younger son in Jesus’ story was rebellious. He lived in the lap of luxury growing up. When he came of age he took his inheritance and hit the road. He spent everything his father had given him on the very things that broke his father’s heart.



When he was out of money and his “friends” had abandoned him – he found himself living in a pigsty. When he finally admitted his pitiful situation he decided to humbly go home. He hoped he could come crawling back to his dad and at least get decent meals working as his servant. He rehearsed his speech all the way home – ashamed about his behavior and no doubt nervous about how his father would receive him.



When he was still a long way off his father ran to him and embraced him – an action I am sure surprised Jesus’ listeners. The father hugged his son and kissed him and wouldn’t even let him finish his prepared speech. Instead, he told his servants to prepare for a celebration! He put a robe on his son’s shoulders – placed the family signet ring on his hand and fully reinstated him to his place in the home. All the young man had to do was receive the love that his father so freely offered.



The older brother had a different problem – he was performance-oriented. He had spent his whole life trying to earn his father’s love. That is why he grew baffled, jealous and angry at his father’s surprising response to his younger brother.



“But Dad,” he objected, “I stayed here – worked the land and brought in the crops. I have served you and performed for you my whole life – but you never gave me a party like this!”



His father tried to explain that all either of his sons had to do was receive what had always been there for them. The older son missed the father’s love because he was too busy ticking off on his checklist the things he thought he had to do to earn it. When he saw his father freely giving his love to his rebellious brother he became confused.



We can be like either of these sons. We may stay away from the heavenly Father because we are ashamed of how we have disappointed him. We may feel that we have broken every commandment God ever etched in stone. Or we may keep our distance – missing it completely – because we are too busy “doing” – trying to earn His love. Both of the brothers in Jesus’ story had to humble themselves if there were to receive the father’s love … and so must we.



God wants all men – those who perform well – those who may not – to know that His love is a gift – it is free.



God saved you by his grace when you believed.
And you can’t take credit for this;
it is a gift from God.
Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done,
so none of us can boast about it.
EPHESIANS 2:8-9 (NLT)



There is nothing we can do to earn it and there is nothing we can do that will disappoint our Father in heaven so much that He will withhold it. God’s love is there for the taking to all who will receive it. But it must be as freely received as it so freely offered. That is the only way. And I am so glad it is! Remember …



… indeed, nothing in all creation
will ever be able to separate us from the love of God
that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
ROMANS 8:39 (NLT)



On the journey with you,
Dave Dravecky

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Anger, Endurance for the Journey, Grief, Lighten Your Load, Perspectives, Trust, Words of Endurance

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering,
as though something strange were happening to you.
1 PETER 4:12



No one wants to suffer – no one enjoys suffering – it is even worse when we are taken by surprise – blindsided by the painful trial – there is no perfect time to fit suffering into your schedule.



I found that whenever I encountered a trial or affliction, I not only would experience the pain of the affliction but I would then experience shock (I absolutely hate surprises), anger (I was angry that I even had to go through this) and then resistance to the affliction.



Then one day, in the midst of our darkest valley, a friend gave me the book, Let Go by Fenelon and I read his following words:



“A cross which comes from God ought to be welcomed without any concern for self. And when you accept your cross this way, even though it is painful, you will find that you can bear it in peace. But when you receive your cross unwillingly, you will find it to be doubly severe. The resistance within is harder to bear than the cross itself! But if you recognize the hand of God, and make no opposition to His Will, you will have peace in the midst of affliction. Happy indeed are they who can bear their sufferings with this simple peace and perfect submission to the will of God! Nothing so shortens and soothes suffering as this spirit of non-resistance.”
FRANCOIS FENELON



WOW! It was another AHA moment for me. Suddenly, I realized that not only did I carry the pain of our affliction – something that I did not choose nor could I change – but I also compounded and intensified my pain with my anger and resistance – something I chose to feel and I could change. I was choosing to carry double and triple pain when I only needed to carry the single pain of the affliction, which provided enough pain by itself.



When I finally accepted the affliction, trusted and submitted to the will of God – knowing that nothing happens to me that first does not pass through His Hands – my anger and resistance dissipated. This shift in perspective and position lightened the extra load I was carrying – I actually experienced peace in the midst of the affliction.



“Choices. Choices make the difference. Two people are in the same accident and severely wounded. They did not choose to be in the accident. It happened to them. But one of them chose to live the experience in bitterness, the other in gratitude. These choices radically influenced their lives and the lives of their families and friends. We have very little control over what happens in our lives, but we have a lot of control over how we integrate and remember what happens. It is precisely these spiritual choices that determine whether we live our lives with dignity.”
HENRI NOUWEN



We always have a Spiritual choice. Whenever we face affliction and pain, while we may initially respond with our flesh in anger and resistance, we can shed the weight of our negative emotions by turning our eyes upon Jesus – trusting Him – a Spiritual Choice. As we consider Him who endured unbelievable suffering, we, too, can endure the journey through suffering.



Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
HEBREWS 12:2-3

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Anger, Doubt, Endurance for the Journey, Fear, Grace, Love, Next Steps, Perseverance, Words of Endurance

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses,
for he faced all of the same testings we do,
yet he did not sin.
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.
There we will receive his mercy,
and we will find grace to help us
when we need it most.
HEBREWS 4:15-56



I have always had high expectations of myself – never wanting to fail – always wanting to be strong – never weak – earning my success in the game of baseball and in my everyday life.



All that changed when cancer entered my life. Oh, I was strong and performed well at the beginning of my journey of suffering. But as the journey took me into the wilderness and the days became long and endless, I experienced a weakness of my being that I had never felt before.



I had a fear of death – I doubted – then felt shame for my lack of faith. I experienced frustration over my weakness and my failure to overcome. This resulted in anger – rage-filled fits – then extreme guilt over my sin. Like Adam in the Garden of Eden, my inclination was to run from God and hide.



BUT … running and hiding from God was not the answer– in order to endure, I needed to run to Him and receive His grace even though I felt I had not earned or deserved it.



But God loves who we really are – whether we like it or not.
God calls us, as He did Adam, to come out of hiding.
“Come to me now,” Jesus says.
“Acknowledge and accept who I want to be for you:
a Savior of boundless compassion, infinite patience,
unbearable forgiveness, and love that keeps no score of wrongs.
Quit projecting onto me your own feelings about yourself.
At this moment your life is a bruised reed and I will not crush it,
a smoldering wick and I will not quench it.
You are in a safe place.
BRENNAN MANNING (ABBA’S CHILD)



God’s grace is an incredible source of fuel for endurance. It encourages us to keep going even when we stumble because we know He understands and knows our weaknesses – yet He still loves us. HE LOVES US EVEN ON OUR WORST DAY!!! This was a huge source of fuel for me to continue walking on my journey with Him knowing …



“If we have only the will to walk, then God is pleased with my stumbles.”
CS LEWIS



Sometimes we are so sick and tired of stumbling that we don’t want to walk anymore. What a blessing it is to realize that all we need to have is the will to walk with Him, and God is pleased with us – even when we stumble. That’s an incredible expression of grace. That is a tremendous motivation to endure.



The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
PSALM 37:23-24



On the journey with you,
Dave Dravecky

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Anger, Endurance for the Journey, Fear, Healing, Loss, Relationships, Words of Endurance

Two people are better off than one,
for they can help each other succeed.
If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.
But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
ECCLESIASTES 4:9-10 (NLT)



One of the hardest things for me on my journey through suffering was to receive help from others. I always wanted to endure on my own – not rely on anyone but myself. Unfortunately, the journey becomes extremely lonely and difficult when we try doing it alone.



The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.
GENESIS 2:18



Being an amputee, I need a lot of physical support. Initially, I tried to do everything on my own – dress myself – put my luggage in the overhead bin – hang our Christmas lights. Pride got in the way. I did not want to humble myself and ask for help so I would struggle through the task becoming frustrated and then angry. It was not a pretty picture.



I have learned through the years though that I do need physical help – though humbling, it sure makes life a lot easier. Jan now tucks my pockets, puts my belt through the loops where I cannot reach and ties my shoes. When someone offers to put my luggage in the overhead bin – I gladly accept his or her help. As for the Christmas lights – I no longer hang them!!!!



“Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life.
Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.”
CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON



Going through the valley, I also needed emotional support. I needed the listening ear and understanding heart of a trusted family member or friend. I needed a ‘safe person’ to whom I could open my heart – share my fears and doubts – cry with – and not be judged.



Fortunately for me, I found that ‘safe person’ in Jan. She has listened to me, cried for me because I could not, just held me when there were no words and loved me when I did not deserve it. But at the same time, I can’t tell you how many times she has given me a swift kick that has challenged me to move forward again.



It is personal interaction such as this – the gentle hug and the swift kick – that helped me take those first steps forward. It can come only from someone tangible – someone you can touch, feel, and see. When someone reaches out to me, I experience the awesome gift of God’s expression of love towards me.



“Modern research echoes what the Bible has said for centuries: people who have intimate connections in which they are vulnerable and honest generally live better, function at higher levels, and heal faster than those who are isolated or distant from others. We all need the fuel of love and relationship to continue growing and healing.”
DR. JOHN TOWNSEND



When I experienced the dark night of the soul, I desperately needed spiritual support. During this time, I had no desire to even pick up the Bible to read. That was when Jan would step in and offer to read to me – to encourage me. She became my Bible. I was humbled.



The majority of this time I didn’t feel like praying but that was when my closest friends would come alongside and pray for me. In my darkest moments, I often would receive a call or a card from a friend or group from church saying that they were praying for me. I was so grateful that they stood in the gap for me – this encouraged me to move on.



Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another—
and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
HEBREWS 10:25 (NIV)



Remember my friends, while there are seasons in our lives for giving – there are also seasons for receiving. As humbling as it may be, learning to receive will lighten your burden and help you to endure the journey.



On the journey with you,
Dave Dravecky

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Anger, Cancer, Depression, Relationships, Relationships in Trouble, Words of Endurance

He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has to be forgiven.



Five years ago, Jennifer Smith descended into the valley of adversity. Like many others who travel the lowlands of pain and sorrow, she began her journey by walking upright – strong and full of faith. But during the years that followed, a series of devastating events ad a crushing relationship problem undermined her strength and her once rock-solid faith, reducing her walk to a crawl.



Her journey through the valley began when William, the youngest of her three sons, was diagnosed with cancer. William endured three months of daily radiation and hypothermia treatments, but the cancer in his arm continued to grow. When he was 19, William’s left arm had to be amputated in order to save his life.



At first, as is true for many amputees, William handled the changes in his life well. But the prolonged stares, the unanswered questions, and the shattered dreams proved to be more than this athletic, sensitive young adult could manage. Like many other amputees, William slid into a deep depression. The next few years brought four failed suicide attempts, drug addiction, and admission into a treatment facility that required his entire family to move halfway across the country so that they could be near him.



In their new surroundings, they were very much alone. But Jennifer’s strong faith and deep bonds with her husband and other two sons seemed to meet her relationship needs. After all, she was battling for her son’s life. Who but family could possibly understand?



Three years after her youngest son lost his arm to cancer, her oldest son, Cody, was in an automobile accident. When they got to the hospital, Cody lay in a coma, hooked up to life support. The doctors held out little hope for his recovery, but the family refused to give up.



For the next year, despite William’s suicide attempts and near fatal overdoses, Jennifer, her husband, and their middle son, Andrew, fought tenaciously for Cody. Although he regained consciousness, severe head trauma left him with the functional and intellectual capabilities of a toddler. Still, the family prayed, accompanied him to grueling physical therapy, and – despite professional recommendations that Cody be institutionalized – brought him home.



Even though her oldest son didn’t know her or recognize her as his mother and her youngest son was racing head-long down a self-destructive path, Jennifer still had the support and love of her husband and middle son. Or so it seemed. That’s why the call caught her by surprise. It was one of Andrew’s best friends from back home. He had called to confirm what day Andrew would arrive.



Arrive? Jennifer didn’t even know he was leaving! She knew that he was having trouble watching Cody struggle. She and her husband had even gone apartment hunting with him, hoping to help him find a place of his own so he could have some much-needed space yet remain close to the family. But why would he move halfway across the country? Why didn’t he tell her?



Shocked, hurt, and feeling deeply betrayed, Jennifer confronted her son, asking how he could possibly walk out on his family when they needed him so much. His only response didn’t ease her pain: “I just can’t take it anymore.” Jennifer “couldn’t take” her son’s response. Days later, locked in her bedroom in self-imposed exile, she listened as her son loaded his belonging into his car and left. She didn’t say goodbye. She didn’t even speak to him for a year.



Despite talking with her priest and continually asking God to help her forgive her son, Jennifer couldn’t bring herself to forgive him. “I understood why he had to leave” Jennifer explains, “but the way he did it hurt so much.” She tried to forgive him because she knew she had to, but she didn’t think she could ever truly forgive him – and many times she wasn’t sure she wanted to.



Jennifer didn’t know how to break the cycle, how to break free from the hurt, so she held onto her anger. Her bitterness grew. In time, she discovered that her relationship with Andrew wasn’t the only troubled relationship in her life. Although she never lost her faith in God, Jennifer concedes that she lost the ability to sense His love and presence. “I still believed in God and went to church, but I knew something was missing. I didn’t feel the presence of God during that time. I had no joy or happiness.”



One year after he left, Andrew called home during the day – something he never did because he knew his mom wouldn’t talk to him. But this call was different. He was crying. He was scared. He had developed several painful lumps on his back, lumps that reminded him of William’s cancer. He needed his family.



And Jennifer needed to look at their relationship from a fresh perspective. She had nearly lost two sons to tragedy. As she found herself facing the possibility of losing a third son, her anger and bitterness seemed out of place and inappropriate. She dropped to her knees as soon as she hung up the phone and prayed for her son like she hadn’t in years.



She found herself praying for forgiveness, too. “I had to ask God to forgive me for walking in bitterness for a year. I had lost a year with my son, a year that I can never get back.” As one who had felt the sting of betrayal and disappointment firsthand, she learned an important truth about forgiveness. “Life is so short, you have to forgive. How could you ever live with the guilt if the person you haven’t forgiven were to die?”



Andrew’s lumps turned out to be bone fragments from a previous injury. But like Jennifer’s unforgiveness, bitterness, and anger, they had to completely surface before they could be dealt with and removed. Today, Jennifer would say their relationship is fully restored, although she still wrestles with occasional angry thoughts. But she realizes that hurt was at the root of her anger toward her son. The trust between them was damaged, and Jennifer knows that restoring trust takes time. She also knows that a lack of forgiveness can rob us of the fellowship, joy, and peace that comes from the most important relationship of all – our relationship with God.



The Painful Truth


Like many other who have traveled the rocky road of pain and suffering, Jennifer discovered some painful truths about human relationships:


  • Count on it – relationship problems that were manageable before affliction become markedly worse during affliction.
  • The more we love someone, the more it hurts when the relationship encounters difficulty.
  • Relationship problems can’t always just be prayed away. They may also require time, appropriate action, or even outside intervention.
  • Emotional pain can blind us from seeing the conflict clearly and taking the steps needed to bring reconciliation.
  • Unresolved relationship problems often lead to depression.
  • When we have relationship problems with family and friends, our relationship with God is always affected, and usually, the effect is negative.
  • A lack of forgiveness can cause us to lose our way spiritually.
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