Do you ever question how God can make anything good come from devastation?
No one wants to walk through seasons of deep pain and grief but it is inescapable… the way of a life lived.
As much as I long for Heaven where there will be no more death and anguish, it has been these painful times of my life that have been a catalyst for change. This change has led to a maturing of my faith in the Lord. Navigating my way through this inescapable pain is where scripture became more than just words on a page but the fire that set my feet walking and my heart beating. It seems to be that the Lord has used these times to birth out of me something new…
When I think of newness I think of the morning sun, the smell of fresh flowers, the birds chirping, and freshly brewed pot of coffee. I crave the newness each day offers.
It’s a beautiful miracle when this newness becomes more than an experience but the face of a person.
We can change our hairstyle, our makeup, our clothes, our attitude but the real change comes when we surrender and follow our Savior and He makes us new!
Without Him, we’ve just been experiencing a cheap version of what newness really tastes, smells, and feels like. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wildernessand streams in the wasteland.(Isaiah 43:19 NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)
“We have seen miracles in our profession, but this I don’t know how to explain.” I will never forget these words from one of the physicians at the rehab institute. He had been working tirelessly to get Austin better. He went on to explain that he wasn’t someone who tended to believe in miracles like this, but he didn’t know any other way to explain the type of progress Austin was making, this kind of healing. Once a week, the family would sit around a meeting table at the rehab center and debrief about Austin’s progress. This is where I learned how intricate and fragile the brain is and how the healing from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is unpredictable and how any healing at all is amazing because often healing can be nonexistent. When you read about Austin “overcoming the odds” it is an accurate depiction of his healing.
After the crash we weren’t sure if Austin would live. He spent three months in a medically induced coma to allow his brain time to recover. The first time I saw him awake after the coma, I was terrified. Austin was unable to speak and unable to walk. It was such a shock to see this athletic young guy not even able to feed himself. I was told this might be his new normal, but there was nothing normal about this for his family. I started to wonder if the hope that I had from his life being spared was going to turn into grief, grieving that I would not be able to talk to my brother again, grieving that I would not laugh or reminisce over memories with him again.
My heart broke just thinking about it. I’ll never forget going back to the hotel room that night and, in the quiet, I took my fists and beat the bed until my eyes ran out of tears and my body ran out of strength. “You healed him for this, Lord?” I had already lost my parents, and I felt like it was one loss after another. This one was hard to take.
Honestly, I don’t remember when it started to happen, but the conversations during the meetings with doctors started to change from despair to hope. We went from hearing “This may be his life” to “We just don’t know what to tell you. People with TBIs usually hit a plateau in their healing, and we just don’t know what that plateau will be.” Austin never plateaued. No doctor could explain it, but I can.
After the plane crash, I spent much time on my knees, face to the floor with my Bible open. I was in complete agony, searching for any word, any sign from God. There is one particular time I spent on that floor in tears that I will never forget. I was in such agony that I could feel my entire body hurt; my heart was physically aching. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. But then I experienced a moment of strength. I sat up and turned my face toward Heaven and cried out, “Lord, I don’t want to be apart of some miracle story where people are in awe of a person. I want you to blow the minds of the world, so that no one (doctor, mentor, friend, sister, brother, etc) can take the credit for what you are going to do through the death of my parents, a second plane crash, and the healing of my brother.” Did he ever answer that prayer!
Austin’s story is miraculous. How could it not be when a boy survives two plane crashes? He has worked so hard. I admire the man he is and the man he is becoming. I have had a front row seat in his life for the last twelve years! Once I was sitting on the sidelines of (nearly) every basketball game he played yelling, “AJ baby!” every time he hit a three with Dad smirking at me as if to know he couldn’t shut me up if he tried. Now, I sit at home and yell, “AJ baby!” every time I see him on the T.V. being a voice of strength for others. I am crazy about my brother, and I’m so proud of him.
But, I have to tell you the truth, Austin’s story is miraculous because of God and to ignore, make light of, or try to get around His name is simply not giving or telling the full story or the truth. What you are reading in the media is just evidence of who God is!
When you allow Scripture to collide with this story, it puts fire to the miracle and a name behind and before it. You won’t find the name in the media or plastered in a magazine. There is a name above every name and it is King Jesus (Philippians 2:9). The Lord didn’t just heal my brother, he brought the house down with His healing so no man could say, “I did that”. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the grand narrative of the Bible … you are witnessing a miracle because of Jesus.
Have you ever been in such a bondage of sin that you didn’t even remember how to find enjoyment out of things that are good?
I’m sharing with you some scribblings I wrote back in 2010. This was the year I truly surrendered my life to the Lord. In my surrendering, I was scared and doubtful because I fed too long on things that nearly destroyed my soul. It was in this surrendering that this list (pictured below) was birthed. I made a list of “holy hobbies” (go ahead, laugh … my mom did) to remind myself of things I once enjoyed and trained myself to enjoy them again. These are things that I could do that wouldn’t lure me back to the things, people, and places that had nearly destroyed my soul. I knew what “hooked” me so I stayed as far away as I could because, even as a surrendered Christian, I didn’t trust myself near those things, people, and places. You see, I now knew what the human heart was capable of and had the smarts to NEVER even peek around the corner (praise GOD!). I was a new creation and even though I didn’t feel it, God’s word said so and I was ready to do different. So, I relearned what it meant to enjoy life without destroying my soul (read the full story here).
I’m not sharing this list with you to be cute or funny because, quite frankly, nothing about this time of my life was cute or funny. I’m sharing this list with you to show you just how deep my depravity was (so much so that I had to write out things I could enjoy without unraveling again). In addition, giving a real life picture of what “dying to self” looks like (Galatians 2:20), and that you can never be too far gone for Christ to not redeem and restore (Isaiah 61).
Girlfriend, it may be the silliest, childish thing you’ve ever done (like writing out a list of “holy hobbies”) but if it keeps you from a pit of sin, separated from God, and living in a life of shame, you go for it because the old has gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17) and if you are His, you are free indeed (John 8:36)!
A Quick Note From the Author: This is a glimpse of how Jesus saved my life. Ultimately our saving is marked the day Jesus died on the cross; however, we have free will and my free will took me down a path I never want to travel again. In addition, this piece is written from my experience and perspective. This piece is meant to share testimony to Jesus’ saving ability. To know Jesus more and to know Him personally, the only source is the Bible, his true word.
I’ve spent much of my life having an idea of who Jesus was and found great satisfaction in being known as the “good girl”. I went on living this way for years until one day I didn’t. I made a public decision that dethroned me of my “good girl” title. The effects of that decision caused a wave of bitterness, anger, and resentment toward Christianity. Judgement sounds hammered loud from other Christians. One public mistake changed the way many viewed me, talked about me, and befriended me and I was tired, sad, and unable to live up to the Christian expectation.
No longer wanting to be associated with Christians and being judged based on the (public) good and bad I do, I surrounded myself with people that didn’t judge me. It was during this time I fed my flesh most everything I thought it desired. The deeper I got into this bitter way of life, the more addicted to my bitterness I became. You see, I started out angry at Christians only to find out that the true anger and hate I had was toward myself. I fed on things, did things that only proved I was worth hating. I thought I was satisfied until I became bored and then it happened … it didn’t happen overnight but when it did it felt abrupt. I was hit hard with guilt and shame of the bitterness that became me, of the things I had done. As the reality of the things I had done came crashing in, I realized I didn’t know who I was anymore. Suddenly, I became tormented with these thoughts:
“I’ve gone too far.”
“I didn’t mean for my anger to take me this deep.”
“What have I done?”
“How was this worth it?”
I’m not talking about embarrassment or a little guilt here and there. No, I had done too much, hurt too many people, damaged my body one too many times to have a little guilt. Rather, I was so full of shame that I wanted to end it all, my life. I wanted to run and hide from the consequences and was willing to cower. At this point, I hated myself just enough to do it. At this point, my whole being became so consumed by shame that it was more than my body could bear and thought I had to do it.
If you’d ask me years prior to this, I would have told you I have been a Christian since I was six years old. The truth is, it wasn’t until this particular season of life that I truly surrendered my entire heart to Jesus because, for the first time in my life, I saw the condition of the human heart apart from Jesus and was amazed (to tears) by his ability to love me still, desire me still, and choose me still. At the point of thinking I had to end it all, he saved my life. For the first time, I stopped trying to be “good” and just accepted that he loved me at my worst. In the summer of 2010, I finally learned what the human heart is capable of apart from Jesus, and I’ve never been the same since. It was that day I realized, I may not know what the future holds but I know one thing … I NEVER want to go back to that place of bitterness and shame again. I haven’t left Him since that day and since that day His word continues to prove he is more (more than I was told by others, more than my preconceived ideas, more than religion, more than being good, more!).
It took me years to know how to handle the hardships of grief during the holidays. I was reminded recently of the verse from Psalms 147 that says that God mends the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. This resonated deep within me. Every holiday season, it almost seems like I have this wound that has started to heal but once I start going towards these seasons, the wound starts to re-open. When someone is in pain from a deep wound, it’s hard to get their mind off the pain. Your focus is only on that hurt. Your brain makes it a number one priority. And that is how it felt for me for so long.
I can really only say that once I started seeing Jesus in my healing instead of seeing only myself, was I really able to get through a holiday without that wound re-opening. He really started to bind up my wounds, therefore He was mending my broken heart. My blood started pumping towards His heart. His blood started circulating through my body, healing my wounds. I started to become one with Him.
I try to make it a priority to see my family as much as I can during the holiday seasons, even though we are placed throughout the world. That’s where I find my joy, in the love of Jesus and in the love of those who have loved me unconditionally. I’m not afraid to go toward these seasons anymore. I’m not afraid of the grief I still face. It’s so much better to go towards the grief than to run away from it. I ran away from the wounds for quite some time. Because I started to face my pain, the Lord was able to bring healing.
However hard this upcoming holiday season may be for you, don’t run away from your hurt. Use your boxing gloves and fight. Fight for the joy that this holiday season can bring for you. But also fight for the grief you are in. It’s okay to be in it. It’s okay to have wounds. But don’t stop putting ointment on it. That ointment is Jesus. Memorize his Word in your heart so that His blood can also run through your veins. I promise it will heal you. Maybe not in your time or my time but it will happen.
As I was praying on how to end this, I was reminded of this verse. I really feel that God wants to speak Isaiah 61:3 as a promise over all of you who are reading this with a heart full of pain and hurt. Jesus cares so deeply for you that He spoke to me to give this to you. How caring is that? So please read it. Get by yourself, take all of your worries and busyness out of your mind from the day and soak it in.
Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)
“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
About Audra: Hey y’all! My name is Audra Arnold. I’m a wife to my husband, a lover of all things birds and a nanny to three adorable boys (I love my job). Most of all, I’m a daughter of Jesus. If you would like to continue to follow my story or would like to get in contact with me, feel free to add any of my media links that are listed below. Thanks for taking the time to read my post!