Joy and expectation on the other side of grief

Trigger warning: This story refers to anxiety and eating disorders.

Bianca Murray, 23, has just come out of what she calls her headline year – memorable for all the challenges she faced. Yet, she says, it was clear that God was pursuing her through all the crazy moments. She lives in Deloraine, Tasmania, and has just returned to studies as a mature-age student.

My parents divorced when I was four, and it was a very bitter divorce. My mum was struggling to deal with the court battle for three years, so my grandparents stepped in as additional parents. My granddad was the cheerleader, the moral compass. He was a beautiful, humble man who taught us all the home economics things around the house. And my grandma was the disciplinarian who also taught us drama.

When I was in Year 8, a friend from school took her life, and that was a very confusing experience. I didn’t understand why I cared so deeply when she wasn’t my best friend. My friend Tiana noticed I was struggling and invited me to Student Alpha. I went along, and I had a little ultimatum in my head that if this started to make sense, I would pursue it with my whole heart; but if I had a good enough reason to not believe it, I never wanted to believe in it ever again.

My approach was science versus God, but Alpha has a great way of explaining the evidence in ways that new Christians or people who don’t even believe in God can understand. It brought up all of the evidence, first of all, that Jesus existed, and then that Jesus was the Messiah versus any other person who could have said that. I still had to take a leap of faith because this was evidence from 2000 years ago, but that was what did it for me. I became a believer at the end of the course when I was about 15.

My faith was quite weak until last year, which I call my “Annus Horribilis” – a horrible year.

However, my faith was quite weak until last year, which I call my “Annus Horribilis” – a horrible year. Both my grandparents passed away – my granddad from lung cancer and my grandma from COVID. And just weeks earlier, my brother passed away from a cardiac arrest at the age of 21. The coroner ruled it as cardiomyopathy, which could be genetic or acquired.

It was a very lonely experience. I didn’t feel like I could go to my family to talk to them about it because they were also struggling. And I didn’t want to burn out my friendships by being the needy friend. I was angry, but I had no one to be angry at, so I caved in on myself and developed an eating disorder. I didn’t eat because that meant I didn’t have to think about meals. I didn’t have to plan or decide things.

My faith was a big part of my recovery because I was lying compulsively to everyone and this weighed on my conscience. I was in hospital for five weeks, and I lied to everyone because to tell them the truth meant I would have to stop, and I didn’t have another coping mechanism.

Although I believed in God, I didn’t know if I could emotionally trust him. But the situation was weighing on me heavily, so when I was sitting with a friend who shared something quite personal with me, I just felt like I had to confess it. That got the ball rolling and I was able to tell everyone what was going on.

I’ve come out of the darkness with so much joy and expectation …

But there was an intense amount of shame because all I had to do was put my hand up and say I was struggling. Still, I felt like I was taking advantage of all these friends who visited me at the hospital and prayed for me, thinking it was functional dyspepsia (chronic indigestion) that I’d been diagnosed with.

I wanted to right all my wrongs. So I connected to the Tasmanian Eating Disorder Service and they referred me to a dietitian and psychologist.

When you eat, you’re able to think more clearly, and as a result, my faith has gotten stronger and has been a driving factor in my recovery, mentally and physically.

I was saying last year that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It was just so dire. Even my cat disappeared and hasn’t come back. And then this year, it’s almost like everything that could go right has gone right

My friend Lucie brought up a psalm that she thought would be encouraging: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Fearing evil, fearing death coming for me, was very prominent. And the special part was that this was Psalm 23, and all this happened in 2023. So I wondered what Psalm 24 says. It talks about the King of Glory. And the key point for me is to give the glory back to God. It’s not about me anymore. It’s not about what’s going on in our family. It’s about seeing what he’s doing and being obedient to that.

The catchphrase I’m leaning into now is faith over fear.

This year, I’ve dipped my toe back into study by starting a Diploma of University Studies (Health Science). I’ll be doing a Bachelor of Biomedicine after that as preparation for my medical degree. My dream career is to be an obstetrician.

So many things have gone right this year. I applied for scholarships I never thought I’d get, and got them both. And then I auditioned for The Wizard of Oz, which I did with my brother 10 years ago – we have a very theatrical family – and I got the part of Dorothy. There’s something so special about being in that show. The signature song, Over the Rainbow, starts, “When all the world is a hopeless jumble and the raindrops tumble all around, heaven opens a magic lane …”

The catchphrase I’m leaning into now is faith over fear. So, every time I worry, instead of worrying, I pray. And I’m learning to trust that God has given us the time that he’s given us. And I’ve just got to focus on making the most of it and have the courage and obedience to step into his calling.

If you or anyone you know needs help with an eating disorder:
Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
Headspace on 1800 650 890