“Doc, I feel off. I feel like I’m struggling with purpose and joy and am not sure what to do about it. Do you think I need to talk with a counselor, would medication be helpful? There is history of depression in my immediate family, could this be that?”
Our family had been back in the U.S. for a few months, Haley was born and we felt like we were going through the motions of daily living, but something was not right. We felt broken. Our time in Sudan had done something to us and we weren’t sure what to do about it.
We felt like we’d fallen on a stone and been broken to pieces (Luke 20:18).
For the first few months of being back in the U.S., there were days when I (Zach) would lay on the couch and do nothing. I wasn’t sure I ever cared or had capacity to return to life overseas. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be involved with church work. I considered joining the FBI and told Shellie as much. Why the FBI? No reason. When a person is in that kind of mental state, they don’t process well or make good decisions.
During a visit with a medical doctor, I wanted to see what guidance she could give to help me get back to “normal.” She did not provide any specific direction in that moment, but simply asked a few questions and said we could follow-up later, if things didn’t level out.
Within a couple of weeks, during a Wednesday evening prayer meeting, the pastor of the church we were attending in Ozark, Missouri, shared his testimony of hitting rock bottom early in the formation of the church he was leading. He had not planned on sharing his story, but felt moved by God to share it that night for the sake of someone in the room. I’m sure it could have been for others, but for sure, God used his testimony to help us process what had been a very difficult couple of years. He shared his struggles and challenges and how God faithfully brought Him through.
Then, several months later, I attended a men’s conference in Illinois with content centered around the stages of manhood. One of those stages is the wounded warrior stage. I saw more clearly what I had been going through and more importantly a way forward.
I better understood the making of a leader requires incredible times of pressing for God to form Christ in them (Galatians 4:19).
I also understood it is on the other side of the wounded warrior stage that God can begin to work through people.
Basically, we were broken, but finally ready to be used for God’s greater purposes.
Brokenness is required to be effective in the Kingdom of God.
“Well, alright God. We’re here and available. You may use us how you see fit. We are your currency. You may spend us how you choose.”
Daily, extravagant time with Jesus became the norm. The Holy Spirit truly became our counselor and slowly, we found our way back to what God desired next.
We were invited to lead a school in Jerusalem, Israel. I had no interest in running a school again, but it seemed God was leading us that direction. So I took a trip to visit the school, and it quickly became apparent God was behind this invitation.
But before we could get there, much to our surprise, Shellie again became pregnant. Within a few months, something wasn’t right and before we knew it, Shellie was going through another miscarriage. This one proved even more challenging as the loss of blood caused Shellie to faint and fall on the bathroom floor. I quickly loaded Shellie in our Toyota Sienna and we raced to the hospital where I carried her up the steps to the ER. Thanks to time spent on the couch, I felt like I needed a wheelchair as badly as Shellie by the time I reached the top of the stairs :-).
Shellie was eventually seen by the doctors who helped her recover from the terrible experience. We returned home to two happy and healthy kids and thanked God for the way He looked out for Shellie, even through the miscarriage. We continued to trust God with our family and the kids He had for us.
Reflecting on this time, Shellie recounted some of the verses from 2 Corinthians that really spoke to her heart,
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies…But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, ‘I believed in God, so I spoke.’…And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18, NLT)
We had become fragile clay jars containing a great treasure. It would only be God working through us that anything of real value could be accomplished through our lives. We were broken but renewed.
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