Dealing with Devastation
February 7th is a “red-letter” day for me. Each year, my mind is drawn back to the devastating events that took place on that day in 1994. Webster defines devastation as being “ruined, wasted or destroyed.” It refers to something or someone who is being overwhelmed by an outside force or violent action. Devastation means total destruction.
This is what I experienced on February 7, 1994, when my husband confessed to me that he was involved in an affair and wanted out of our marriage. This event happened more than ten years ago, and looking back at it now, I can see that it truly was the end of my life, as I knew it. But it also was the beginning of my life, as I now know it.
My husband and I, along with our five young children, were resident missionaries in Romania, where we had served since 1990. When our marriage ended, I not only lost my husband, but I also lost my home and ministry, along with my reputation and influence as a pastor’s wife. Although we stayed together until early 1995, it is the seventh of February in 1994 that always comes to my mind when I think of our failed marriage. Devastation often comes without warning. Although I am sure there were warning signs that our marriage was in trouble, they went unnoticed by me.
Realistically, most people will experience devastation during their lifetime. It can come in many forms: death of a loved one, financial ruin, marital failure, chronic illness, physical disability, or infertility, just to name a few. All of these events have the power to leave people in ruin with the rubble of their lives surrounding them. On one night in October of 1977, a friend of mine, Nancy Robinson Vaughn, lost her husband, Reverend Pearl Robinson, and two sons, Terry and Ricky, in a plane crash. She and her one child, Dianne, were left to pick up the pieces of their lives. As her husband had been a pastor, she no longer had a ministry as a pastor’s wife. When she looked at her life she struggled to see her purpose, now that her husband was gone. She explains her personal story in her book, Where is the Rainbow?
Recently, I heard from a friend from Bible School days. Several years ago, she and her husband, also a Bible school friend, were pastors of a prominent, growing church. Our family ministered at their church, and we were so pleased and excited to see the growth and success of this church. In eight years they witnessed a growth in the congregation from 250 to over 1000 in attendance during their last year. Despite the success of the church, she told me of how her marriage came to an end after her husband’s homosexual affair. Now, more than ten years later, he is still involved in this lifestyle, and she has gone on to rebuild her life and successfully raise her son. I have many friends who have endured devastating circumstances. They have dealt with many emotional or physical trials such as loneliness, betrayal, despair, sickness, disfigurement or death, to name a few.
The purpose of this article is not to expound on the reality of situations that make us victims, but to discover how to become victors in those same circumstances. I recommend using the following key steps on the road to spiritual victory. First, DEPEND ON GOD. The popular poem, Footprints, makes this point in a powerful way. The story is told of a man who views his life as a journey across a sandy beach. He observes two sets of footprints as his life unfolds but is disturbed to note that when he goes through the most difficult time, only one set of prints is visible. He asks God, "Why did You leave me when I needed you most?" God answers, "I didn't leave you. That was when I was carrying you." How do we allow Him to carry us? When people finally come to the place where they realize their dependence on God and total inability to help themselves, then God steps in. Go ahead. Admit your own weakness and dependency. God loves to show his strength in the midst of our weakness. A portion of 2 Corinthians 12:9 explains this truth: “My strength and power are made perfect [fulfilled and completed] and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness” (Amplified Version).
Second, WAIT FOR GOD’S TIMING. Coinciding with the day that I found out about my husband’s affair, I also accidentally cut myself badly. As I often do, I looked at the injury as a message from God and tried to see an analogy for my situation. I already wondered if I could survive the first day, week, or month following this devastating experience. I told myself that by the time the cut healed, my problem would be resolved and only a bad memory. The wound has been a continuing lesson in my life. After a few days, the cut looked bad but no longer hurt. Several weeks later, it was an unsightly scar but not an open wound. Now it is not only painless, but also nearly invisible; unnoticeable to others, but I know it is there. Devastating experiences affect us the same way. Although they leave scars, the pain lessens as God heals in His own time.
Third, REMEMBER THE TRUTHS OF GOD’S WORD. Statements such as these can hurt: "Well, the truth is I have cancer," "My husband is having an affair and wants a divorce"; "I'm crippled for life and will never get out of this chair"; "My child is dead." Upon hearing these painful statements, we must find a greater truth. The Word of God is full of truth that offers peace beyond the problems of this world; for example, "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, KJV). We can personalize that truth by replacing the words "all things" with our own problem. "This cancer will work for my good...because I love God and am called to fulfill His purpose for my life." We replace the natural truth of our problem with the greater, spiritual truth of God's promise.
We should practice finding these scriptural truths and principles until this practice becomes an automatic response to hardship. When faced with death, we can respond with the greater truth that this is not all there is. This life is only a small part of eternity and will someday only be a tiny memory. Someday I will meet my loved one again, and we will be together forever.
Last, GOD’S GRACE IS A MIRACULOUS THING. Amazingly, His grace works on the principle of supply and demand. If you need more, He gives more. That is why we often observe fellow believers walking through fiery trials and wonder how they survive. As spectators we do not have the same measure of grace given to us as to those suffering. However, God's grace is ready and available to all those in need. The full text of 2 Corinthians 12:9 states, “But He said to me, ‘My grace [my favor and loving-kindness and mercy] is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect [fulfilled and completed] and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ [the Messiah] may rest [yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell] upon me!’” (2 Corinthians 12:9, Amplified Version).
By faithfully implementing these keys to spiritual victory, we can survive devastating trials successfully. We must begin to look at trials as opportunities to become victors, rather than merely victims. God can use circumstances that would seem to destroy us for Him to make us what He wants us to be.
About the Author
Arlene Zawko is a gifted Bible teacher and radio broadcaster that speaks from over 25 years experience in full-time ministry, as teacher, pastor's wife, and missionary. She understands the devastating pain of marital breakdown and the supernatural victory that can be experienced in Christ. Arlene lives with her five children in London, Kentucky, and ministers through an hour-long daily radio broadcast, Truth Talk. She is the program director at WYGE Christian Radio, 92.3 FM, and a popular speaker for ladies conferences and events. Her Web site is www.truthtalkradio.org.