'Perhaps I was slow to pick up on things'

Joy’s story | Best-laid plans

“My father became a Christian five days before he died. He was in hospital and was visited by the Padre. I was six years old at the time and that’s when it began for our family. We became part of a church and we were well cared for by the people. They all became lifelong friends, especially with my mother, and I also came to faith in Jesus through that church.”

“I then trained as a teacher, and I travelled through Europe, staying at L’Abri. I was really impacted by their teaching in apologetics and their prayerfulness. After some years, I came home and I met and married my husband. I prayed about it. I loved him.

“A year later, he studied at Bible College, and then afterwards we moved to his first church posting. Not long after, he got into huge conflict with one of the elders. Before that, things had seemed OK in our marriage. I wanted it to work. He was the minister, and outwardly collegial. I remember, though, that there were a lot of lies. If I said, ‘But you said this,’ he would say, ‘I would never say that!’

“Perhaps I was slow to pick up on things. After a while, I told a few close friends what was happening in our marriage. They said it wasn’t right and I needed to see someone. I booked in to see a well-respected Christian psychiatrist. He said he thought my husband had a narcissistic disorder with paranoia. He said that if that was the case, he wouldn’t change.

“We were only in that church for three years. It didn’t work. My husband returned to his former occupation and we moved cities. We had four children by then. I knew, all along, that as a Christian, I was meant to forgive. I tried for a long time. I know that we’re all sinners. But the Bible is also about boundaries. Before you can put in place good boundaries, you have to see the issues.

“After a while, he started to tell me that I was ‘bad, mad and crazy’. There was a lot of fear and control. I found it confusing. I questioned myself all the time. Then, in his new job, he began to have conflict with anyone who disagreed with him.

“I remember I used to go and sit by the river near our house. I would imagine that Jesus was sitting in the seat beside me. I’d tell him what was happening. I was in great pain. I didn’t know what to do, but sitting there talking with Jesus was really helpful. I always felt great peace. I knew that Jesus understood. I knew that he loved me.

“I ended up leaving when the children were teenagers. It was daunting, but amazingly, God provided. I only had $500 in the bank, but I had a job, and I was able to get a little house with a garden. The government brought in some special deal.

“There’s a verse in Jeremiah that got me through. ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’ (29:11)

“It gave me so much comfort. God knew what I was going through. He knew exactly what was happening. He knew the truth. And he really looked after me. He loved me. He provided good friends and everything I needed. He had a plan for me!

“A few years back, I was in Utah and I took this photo of a very tenacious tree. It really stood out to me. It was surviving in very difficult circumstances, but there was beauty surrounding it. I also need to notice God’s goodness and beauty.

“I began to make the choice every day to have an attitude of thankfulness, and to remember that God has the bigger picture. I now see that it’s because of the difficult times of pain and grief that I’ve known my heavenly Father’s amazing love, provision and blessing. He continues to work out his plan for me – plans for good, to give me a future and hope.”

Joy’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

Bible verse Jeremiah 29 11


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