Since I first became a follower of Christ, my experience with God has contained several mental and emotional mini-explosions–sudden bursts of light in dark places, taken down a peg when I was too big for my britches, or filled with inexplicable joy.   These moments were always corrective, re-directing my focus from the problems at hand to the One Who Holds My Hand.

Like the old hymn lyrics, there was a lot I didn’t, and still don’t, know:

Many things about tomorrow

I don’t seem to understand

But I had come to know one thing for sure—Jesus is real and He will make Himself known in the present moment if it seems necessary to get our attention.  And as for me, no matter what He says, the fact that He made Himself known snaps everything into its proper perspective.

Once during a particularly hard time, and early in my walk with Jesus, I was talking with Him about how tired I was, weighed down by grief and fear over what had happened to one of my children, powerless to do anything about it.  I remember I was talking through my tears.  “Lord, I just can’t take any more.”

As I turned to my devotional reading for the day, I was looking for comfort, something to make me feel better.  Maybe I would find a promise of a miracle, or at least a glimpse of what good thing the Lord was going to bring out of our family’s awful situation.

My bible reading was from Hebrews 12 from the Living Bible.  The passage pointed to Jesus as our “leader and instructor.  I thought, “OK, that’s good, remember Jesus is in charge.  He knows what to do.”

The next verse recounted what Jesus went through on the cross.  I was grateful, but what did that have to do with the hurt now?  I read on, intensely looking for the key, the antidote to our pain.  I read:

“If you want to keep from becoming fainthearted and weary, think about his patience as sinful men did such terrible things to him.  After all, you have never yet struggled against sin and temptation until you sweat great drops of blood.”  (Hebrews 12:3-4)

I won’t lie—for an instant it felt like God had just slapped me—like the trauma we were experiencing in my family didn’t matter to HIm.  But immediately following the jolt of my emotion, laughter came rumbling up—out loud laughing with tears streaming.

What was so funny?  Well, it wasn’t funny in a comical, comedian’s joke sort of way.  My head and heart were responding to the mental image of sweating blood—my mother used to say that she was “sweating blood” over the lottery drawings.  But Jesus actually did!   Under stress so intense, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, his capillaries burst.

The juxtaposition of Jesus’ suffering on the one hand, up against the way my mother and I talked about it on the other,…. It was just so ludicrous.  I laughed, and I cried.

And suddenly I wasn’t alone, but aware of the presence of the Lord.  There was relief, my perspective had shifted big time, and I no longer felt powerless, but empowered by His spirit.  The circumstances causing pain hadn’t changed; but a profound shift had occurred in my heart and mind—and vision came for how to tackle the very real problem before us.

Another time, in another moment of personal crisis, Hebrews 12 came to mind again, this time it was the verse that said Jesus was able to “endure the cross for the joy set before Him.”

I have learned to pray often, especially in the hardest of circumstances, “Lord, set before me the joy that will strengthen me and enable me to endure, persevere, finish the race in front of me.”

In WGA support group meetings, mothers and fathers in pain support one another as they parent young children in the throes of sexuality and gender issues.  Or sometimes conflicting feelings overwhelm a person struggling to live out their sexuality in accord with Biblical principles.  In those moments, I find myself praying that the Lord will make Himself real to each of them in ways they will recognize Him.

I know no other way to love them well.  Please pray for WGA staff and leaders as we follow the Lord into the lives of people in pain.  May His presence be real, His comfort and hope ever present.

“I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.”
(Psalm 16:7-9, NLT)

Mary Heathman

Mary Heathman

Founding Director

Mary is one of the founders of Where Grace Abounds and served as Executive Director from its inception on July, 1986 through March 31st, 2007.  She speaks and teaches at churches and conferences across the country. She has also served on several boards of non-profit organizations, is a conference speaker on a variety of topics that include: Intimacy with God, Healthy Sexuality, and leadership development.  Currently serving in leadership in her denomination, Mary’s favorite ministry roles are discipleship counseling, group facilitation, and leadership development.

Mary often characterizes herself as “a seeker of Truth” and has a long-standing fascination with human behavior and motivation.  Her education consists of lay and discipleship counseling, independent study about the integration of psychology and theology, counseling and human sexuality. She also holds a BS in Human Services and an MA in Psychology from Regis University.

Mary attends a Friends (Quaker) Church.

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