Finding Faith in the Dark: When the Story of Your Life Takes a Turn You Didn't Plan

Finding Faith in the Dark: When the Story of Your Life Takes a Turn You Didn't Plan

by Laurie Short

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310337119
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 08/05/2014
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 478,202
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Finding Faith in the Dark

when the story of your life takes a turn you didn't plan


By Laurie Short

ZONDERVAN

Copyright © 2014 Laurie Short
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-33711-9



CHAPTER 1

WHERE YOU DO NOT WANT TO GO


In the first book of the Bible, we find a curious story. The patriarch Jacob enters into an all-night wrestling match with an angel of God, locks him in a hold, and then whispers, "I will not let you go unless you bless me" (Genesis 32:26).

The audaciousness of Jacob's request is only surpassed by the surprise of what happens next. The angel does what Jacob asks. He reaches out and touches Jacob, the searing power of his finger leaving a limp in Jacob's body and penetrating his soul.

Jacob wanted what only God could give—the really good things, the blessings. But Jacob's blessing came with something he hadn't asked for, and that limp was what changed him.

Our own experiences of wrestling with God rarely happen in one night, as it did for Jacob. Sometimes they happen over years—even decades—as we try to figure out what God is doing, why that blessing we were counting on isn't coming the way we hoped. Maybe you've been there.

The husband or wife you prayed for never came.

The husband or wife you stayed faithful to had an affair.

The death of a spouse or child tore your heart.

A parent's abuse or addiction damaged your life.

A diagnosis took away your health and your future.

When these things happen, we are left wondering, "Where is that God who promises to answer our prayers if we delight in him? Why isn't my life turning out the way I hoped, let alone how I had planned?"

If you've ever been somewhere in life you don't want to be, this book is for you. And more than helping you find your way out of that place, my hope is that this book will help you find your way in that place, because I believe there is something that place has to give you. Hope springs from the fact that our story is never finished until we leave this earth. Something can always happen.

That's why you have to hold on. God can show up where you least expect him to be.

* * *

In May 2012, Kim posted on her Facebook page that her Westmont sabbatical had officially begun. Her husband, Ken, took her on a seven-day cruise. They happily ate their way through Puerto Vallarta, and Kim thought her stomach pain was probably a reaction to the rich food and wobbly deck. When they got back, they found out it wasn't the food or the deck. Kim had Stage IV ovarian cancer.

Ken had made a list of things they wanted to do while Kim was on sabbatical. Surgery and chemotherapy took their unwelcome place at the top of the list. Eventually, they became the list. Kim faced surgery like a champ, but the prospect of losing her thick blonde hair became the tipping point for her tears. Ken promised to spare no expense on a beautiful wig, and he held her as she cried. It was a symbol of a greater loss, as they said good-bye to the life they formerly knew. Cancer would be their new normal.

It seemed like an unfair turn of events for a couple who had only recently gotten back on their feet. Three and a half years earlier, their home burned to the ground in a devastating fire. They had lived in their new home for just two years. At the time of the fire, they were accompanying a group of students on a semester abroad in Europe, and when they received word that their home was gone, they had just finished a tour of Auschwitz. With images of the Nazi prison camp fresh in their minds, Ken remembers whispering to Kim, "We may not have our pictures, but we have the people in our pictures." As Ken gazed at his bride before her first chemotherapy, he realized in a new way what a blessing that was.

Ken wished he could take his wife's place as she bravely faced the violent nausea that accompanied each treatment. Holding her as she vomited, Ken thought back to the perspective he gained in Auschwitz. He decided that wherever this journey would take them, he would be grateful for every day they had.

Ken stood by Kim's side as she went through twenty-four rounds of chemotherapy. He loved her when she was in pain. He loved her when she became bald. He loved her when she couldn't leave her bed. Kim's Facebook postings went up and down with her chart, but her faith never waned. Her unyielding optimism cheered Ken on in their battle. In the middle of her postings, Kim wrote, "I am thankful to have a husband who shows me every day how much God loves me."

Though Ken prays every morning for his wife's health to be restored, they are both aware the cancer could take her. There are days when the pain is so immense that she almost wishes it would. Nevertheless they treasure each day and shoulder this trial with a mysterious sense that God has never been so close.

Ken says he has discovered things about his love for Kim that he never would have known had it not been for the cancer. And for that, he is grateful. Ken and Kim have gone where they didn't want to go. But it is evident that God is with them.

* * *

When Marla married a youth pastor, she had many visions for how her life would unfold. Becoming a single mother was not one of them. Her husband had proposed by taking her up in a plane, and as they looked down, he pointed to a marching band that had spelled out the words "Will you marry me?" After he instructed her to read the words out loud, he was the one who said yes.

His charisma had followed him throughout his life, and he seemed poised for a long and successful ministry career. Because Marla had a deep desire to serve God, she was thrilled to be his teammate.

In the months that followed her storybook wedding, a young woman came forward who had been in her husband's youth group. Apparently there had been an "incident." Unsure what to believe, the church came to its youth pastor's defense. It wasn't until three other women came forward that the truth of what had happened started to become clear.

As the story broke, Marla saw her life crashing down in front of her. She thought she had married a pastor. Instead she had married a sex abuser.

When her husband was let go from his position and told to enter rehabilitation, he was remorseful and heartbroken. Bravely, Marla stayed with him. For one year, she lived with him in an apartment complex, complying with the treatment of daily therapy sessions and processing the reality that ministry was no longer an option for their future. Grace surprised her when, after the year had passed, they received a call from a church three states away. This church had known both of them for many years and was aware of the delicate journey they'd been on. The church's leaders were willing to give Marla's husband another chance if he was open to serve in a different capacity under intense accountability. As Marla moved away from family and friends, she thanked God that they had been given a fresh start.

Months passed, and they started settling in, meeting new friends and enjoying life in their new community. As things stabilized, Marla was thrilled to discover she was pregnant. Three weeks after Marla gave birth to their baby boy, her husband came home with an empty look on his face.

"Well, you might as well know it's happened again," he said in a voice just above a whisper. He took the blanket off their bed and slept on the couch.

As those dreaded words replayed over and over in her mind, Marla lay paralyzed in the silence. A strange mixture of guilt, remorse, and heartbreak washed over her. The following week, she took their baby, got on a plane, and went home to her family.

Two years later, Marla's marriage ended with a signature.

After the birth of her child and the breakup of her marriage, Marla was offered a youth ministry position at a church just a few hours away from where her ex-husband had served. Amazingly, she became a healing agent for the women who had been victims of his illness. In a stroke of painful grace, Marla became the youth pastor she originally thought she had married.

Ten years later, Marla was courted by a thirty-nine-year-old Christian man who had never married and whose sights were set only on her. It took her three years to open her wounded heart. When she and her teenage son finally stood next to her patient suitor at the altar, those of us who witnessed their marriage saw the longevity of faithfulness displayed.

Marla had gone where she didn't want to go. But God was with her.

* * *

"I've been called to serve in Iraq." It was 2003, and Lisa's fiancé's words fell on her like a dark cloud.

"But you're a reservist," she replied. "I don't understand. Can't you tell them you can't go?"

Lisa thought of spouses who were hearing the very same words. All over the country, men and women were trying to get their heads and hearts around the news that would alter their families' lives. She was only engaged to a Marine; there were spouses and children who were much more deeply affected by this news. Yet she still couldn't help but feel her own pain.

Lisa was forty-three years old, already past the age of marriage by anyone's standards. She had faithfully prayed for a husband for over twenty years. And then, Lisa met Ryan.

Ryan and Lisa became engaged four months after they met. Ultimately they came to the conclusion that planning a wedding should be secondary to planning a life, and that they needed more time. Their first wedding date was postponed.

After a couple of months and a few therapist bills, they finally set their second date. Ryan and Lisa had to mesh two different personalities, two kids, and an ex-wife, but they were both still on board for a wedding. Lisa had two bridal showers, ordered her bridesmaid dresses, and decided on the most beautiful wedding dress she had ever seen. She hung it in her mom's closet. Now, with the news of Ryan's deployment, it would hang there a lot longer.

In the weeks preceding the deployment, something else disturbed Lisa's thoughts. She thought Ryan's ex-wife might be having second thoughts about their divorce. Lisa consoled herself that Ryan would tell her if anything had changed.

Finally the day arrived for Ryan to be deployed. They all arrived at Camp Pendleton—Ryan, his ex-wife and two kids, and Lisa. Together they waved good-bye, looking like a progressive Hallmark card.

During the first few months of his deployment, her communication with Ryan was pretty steady, but eventually the letters and phone calls tapered off. A military chaplain comforted Lisa by saying Ryan was probably in a place where he couldn't deal too much with life at home. If she loved him, she would wait.

She did. And in the meantime, she turned forty-four.

Nine months later, two days after he returned, they held hands and sat through many pregnant pauses. Then he spoke. "I still love you."

Lisa's heart jumped a little, with a slight twinge of hope that it had all been just a bad dream. "I think I might love you too. Do you still want to get married?"

He paused for a minute, then said, "No." Months later, Lisa found out that Ryan actually did want to get married—just not to her. Ryan remarried his ex-wife the year after he returned.

The reason I know this story is because the woman was not named Lisa. It was Laurie. It was me.

In the months (and years) that followed my broken engagement, the loss of my dream led to a crossroad of whether or not I would hold on to my faith. In the darkness of disappointment, I struggled. But ultimately I decided to trust—and that choice became the impetus for this book.

That choice also paved the way for the events of my life unfolding in the miraculous way they did. You'll hear later about a new man who eventually changed my name and my life, but at this juncture, let me say this much about story and hope: When we give up on our story before God has finished writing it, we miss out on what our story has to give us. Sadder still, we miss out on what our story can become.

* * *

In John 21, Jesus is talking to Peter, one of his disciples, when suddenly the conversation takes a turn. He says to Peter, "When you were younger you ... went where you wanted; but when you are old ... someone else will ... lead you where you do not want to go."

It's a verse you never really notice until the day you are led there too.

Stories of pain vary in their degree, but at some point they find their way to the same place: Darkness. These are some of the words that propel us to that place:

"We found something on your tests."

"We are letting you go."

"I want a divorce."

I cant marry you anymore.

These phrases descend on us like unwelcome visitors, and we long to send them away. Instead they beckon us to follow, and we don't get to choose whether or not we go. There is evidence, however, that we don't go there alone—and our response to where we are led can make a difference in how our story unfolds.

CHAPTER 2

LIVING IN THE DARK


When my engagement ended, I found I would look at my friends and want to live their stories instead of my own. I knew they had mortgages they couldn't pay, children who demanded their attention, spouses they couldn't communicate with. But the absence of those things in my life caused envy rather than sympathy. I wanted anyone's story but mine.

When Jesus tells Peter in John 21 that someday he'll be led where he doesn't want to go, the first thing Peter does is point to another disciple and says, "Lord, what about him?"

It was comforting to know I wasn't alone.

C. S. Lewis alludes to this scene from John 21 in his book The Horse and His Boy from The Chronicles of Narnia. When the boy, Shasta, encounters Aslan the lion (who is the Christ figure in the series), they have a conversation in which Aslan retraces his presence in Shasta's life. While Aslan is recounting his involvement in Shasta's story, Shasta wants to know why Aslan wounded his friend Aravis, so he asks a question about her. Aslan responds, "Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own."

When we find ourselves in a place we'd rather not be, we become interested in other people's stories. Sometimes we wish we could live them. But the only story we get to live is our own.

I was forty-five, single, back in my apartment, and contemplating why I had spent the last three years of my life engaged to a man whose ex-wife would suddenly find him attractive enough to marry again. It certainly wasn't the script I had chosen. At the very least, I wished I could have auditioned for a different part. But that's the difference between life and acting. You don't audition for your role in life. You just get to live it. However, your relationship with the Director can make a difference in how your script plays out.

* * *

Jon and Stacy were pregnant with their first child when they got their news. The son of a minister, Jon had been a Christian most of his life, and he worked for Habitat for Humanity. Stacy worked at Angels Foster Care, an agency that placed babies born to drug-addicted mothers into the arms of loving parents to receive the care and bonding they needed. Jon and Stacy were the poster couple for producing healthy, well-adjusted children who would grow up understanding what faith really means.

However, that wasn't the script for Jon and Stacy's life. Six months into their pregnancy, they were told that their baby's heart wasn't developing. The doctor was pretty sure the baby would die in utero. But miraculously, that baby hung on, and with each month, Jon and Stacy's faith hung on too.

The doctors gave little hope, but the baby (now named Drake) continued to defy all odds, staying alive in the womb until he could be delivered. Hundreds of people knew of Drake's story because his parents blogged his progress—the obstacles, the miracles, and eventually the birth. It looked as if God was overcoming the odds in bringing this baby into the world. It seemed clear he had a plan for this little life.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Finding Faith in the Dark by Laurie Short. Copyright © 2014 Laurie Short. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

I Faith in the Dark

Chapter 1 Where You Do Not Want to Go 11

Chapter 2 Living in the Dark 20

Chapter 3 Praying for One Thing … and Getting Something Else 29

Chapter 4 A Weaned Faith 37

II God in the Dark

Chapter 5 Higher Thoughts 49

Chapter 6 God of the Present Tense 57

Chapter 7 Never the Same Way Twice 65

Chapter 8 Middle of the Story 74

III Waiting for the Light

Chapter 9 Living in the Now 85

Chapter 10 Wrong Turns 95

Chapter 11 God's Timing 104

Chapter 12 Letting Go 113

IV When Grace Filters Through

Chapter 13 The Surprise of Grace 125

Chapter 14 Fearing Grace 134

Chapter 15 The Expanse of Grace 143

Chapter 16 The Caveat of Grace 151

Chapter 17 Grace Unrecognized 160

Epilogue 169

Acknowledgments 173

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Finding Faith in the Dark: When the Story of Your Life Takes a Turn You Didn't Plan 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This a wonderful read!  The gifts the author, Laurie Short, has to share powerful stories is amazing.  I strongly recommend "Finding Faith in the Dark." JC
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am going to need more copies of this book to share with friends! I have already given one as a gift that was very much appreciated and said to be "very encouraging and helpful". My personal copy is highlighted so I can easily find the pearls of wisdom that I will refer to frequently and share in my various areas of service. I will always share the source of those pearls of wisdom and encourage others to get a copy of Finding Faith in the Dark. I am looking forward to the next book from Laurie, knowing it will be a valuable addition to my library. I'll probably purchase more than two copies as soon as it is available to carry in my car for just the perfect time of sharing with others when the opportunity arises.
DavidBradley More than 1 year ago
Finding Faith in the Dark by Laurie Short is a remarkable book and one of the finest I have had the privilege to read in recent years. My family and I have been through many dark and anxious times but our faith has pulled us through, knowing that Jesus was carrying us. It is not always easy, however, to feel this in the midst of trouble and this book is an invaluable resource for anyone who is finding faith a struggle during times of suffering and disappointment. Many instances of suffering are brought about when we make our own decisions, keeping God out of our decision making and failing to ask Him what His will for us is. For those who have never thought much about this, Ms. Short’s book is full of different stories – including her very heartwarming account of her own disappointments and pain – of intense suffering which was superseded my peace and fulfilment once the Will of the Lord had been revealed. Stories of childhood rejection, childlessness, infanticide, unfaithfulness and bereavement are just a few of the examples included in the book but each tragedy and disappointment went on to become victory. Two sentences highlighted in the early pages of the book sum things up very clearly and if I may I will use capital letters to stress their significance: WHEN WE GIVE UP ON OUR STORY BEFORE GOD HAS FINISHED WRITING IT, WE MISS OUT ON WHAT OUR STORY HAS TO GIVE US. SADDER STILL, WE MISS OUT ON WHAT OUR STORY CAN BECOME. Each individual has their own reading habits but I would like to share what worked very well for me and my family: since we obtained this book within the past two weeks, we – my wife, son, daughter and myself – have read together one chapter each evening, and at weekends two chapters each evening, after dinner. We preceded our reading with a short prayer and then read the chapter slowly and thoughtfully, after which we would chat about what we had each gained from the chapter and what our thoughts were. This worked so well for us as a family that it occurred to me that the book would be ideal for similar use within church groups in which there are invariably a wide range of stories of tragic events needing healing. Even for those who might describe their lives as desperate, this book is undoubtedly better than a visit to any counsellor; the stories of victory contained in this precious book can be read over and over and I really cannot recommend it highly enough. Ms. Short’s style is simple and easy to follow when one is tired, yet it is also extremely effective. I look forward very much to this author’s future work and I believe she has much to offer in the spectrum of Christian writing. .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Finding Faith in the The Dark is hard to put down.  The author does a great job of keeping the reader engaged as she weaves the true life stories of  people walking through difficult seasons of their lives and finding God in the midst of all of it.  I recommend this book to everyone especially those who are  going through a tough time.  It would make a great Christmas gift!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Laurie Short's very transparent and personal story sheds light and encouragement for those who find their life plan has not developed as expected. I supposed that could be the majority of us. Laurie weaves familiar Bible stories into hers and others' stories and brings fresh insight into the whole. This book gently directed me into new understandings of God's Amazing Grace and reminded me of His ever present love. Not only that, it made me laugh.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Finding Faith In The Dark is a book you'll read yourself then give it away to your best friend who needs it.  Then you'll have to buy more because it is the real deal.   It grabs your heart from the beginning and then takes you on a journey through laughter and tears and stories and Scripture.  And you'll experience the light of faith and the hope of heaven.   Good read.  Good buy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For anyone journeying through the Dark, this is a must read! It opened my eyes to things I have never thought before and helped me to see my Faith in the Dark.