With my backpack slung over my left shoulder and a big red suitcase in my right hand, I jostled through the crowds toward the Air Canada kiosk at the Phoenix International Airport. After checking in, then walking through security and past Starbucks, suddenly everything felt ridiculously familiar. When I saw the sign for Gate B28, flashbacks and unsettling images flew through my brain. Vividly I recalled walking this exact route three years ago. That nightmare trip of undefined proportions.
Once I found my chair in the departure lounge, all I wanted to do was settle in with my good book and cup of tea. But I couldn’t relax. My mind had been heightened with the pain and anxiety I’d felt the last time I sat here. I’d been in Phoenix visiting with my dearest friends Bob and Fran when the intense grief from my second husband’s death escalated to the point where I hit a wall. I knew I was in trouble that morning when I tried to get out of bed and ended up on my hands and knees crawling to the bathroom. My body was in extreme distress. I had no strength, I couldn’t stop crying and my heart beat like a drummer within my chest. Something was frighteningly wrong and I needed to get back home to Canada. To the Emergency ward. Once back home I was diagnosed with PTSD and the next few months were a journey through hell.
Now three years later I was overcome with gratitude for my healing and filled with unexplainable joy. Thank you Lord that you are a restorer. It is true that “everything in life is temporary” and that you heal, renew and re-energize. God I’ve been through the darkest valley of death but you were there beside me. In my agony I cried out and you comforted. In my despair you brought hope. In my tears of sadness, you reaped new joy.
Then I settled in on the story of Elijah after he’d sat under a broom tree and told God:
I’m going to die anyway, it might as well be now” (1 Kings 19:5).
After Elijah slept, ate and recovered his energy, he ran to meet with God on Mount Horeb. God listened as Elijah poured out his disappointment and despair, but then God told Elijah:
Go back the way you came.” (1 Kings 19:15).
The first time I studied this story I thought God’s words were a little harsh. But now I get it, because along with Elijah I’m living out the rest of the story.
God didn’t say:
Elijah, I know that was hard, and you’ve done your part and now you can go home and rest, and enjoy life.”
We all go through really tough stuff. Yes, we have to cry out to him with our pain and disappointments. We must take the time to let God heal and restore us. And then use what we’ve learned use it to better, grow stronger and go back and do it again. With more resilience, Holy Spirit power and an enlarged capacity for mercy and kindness.
That’s what God did for me. Three years later I went back to Phoenix and this time to be the keynote speaker at an outstanding conference. I was filled with new energy and joy proclaiming the excellence of Him who called us out of darkness into His glorious light. God uses the soil of darkness and pain to grow us into His most excellent leaders.
What painful path is God calling you to go and “do it again?”