Walking Forward by Looking Back

By Wendy Van Wingerden
“I surrender all … I surrender all.” Do I? Do I really surrender ALL? I wondered this as I stood singing a favorite hymn in church one Sunday. It was easy for me to consider the things in life that I could do without. My home, my possessions, my status, my talents, BUT…Oh! not my children or my husband. Those things, I could not, would not surrender. I could not imagine surviving without them. Fear of losing them strangled my inmost being, it consumed my deepest thoughts. If I surrendered them, He might take. My relationship with the Lord was growing deeper, yet something held me back. Something kept me from knowing Him fully. With each word of each song I sang, he beckoned me to him.

“Blessed be your name in the land that is plentiful, where the streams of abundance flow, blessed be your name.” God, you have bountifully provided for me, I know how to praise you in abundance. “Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering, though there is pain in the offering, blessed be your name.” Oh Lord, I do not know suffering, will I bless you in the desert places? God was calling me to praise him regardless. He was pulling me closer, He wanted my full surrender, my praise in the storm. What storm? How would I have to suffer for Him? Fear…once again! It ripped through my core. I was willing, but oh God, please don’t take my children or my husband.

“Give me your husband and your children, they are already mine.” The gentle words pierced my soul and drew me to my knees as I prayed one morning…” they are already yours, Lord. I give them to you whatever may come.” Tears rolled down my face as I surrendered what God was asking. I feared that God would take what he asked of me yet I knew that He desired for me to trust him with my most valued possessions.  My fear was not gone, but I rested in the truth that God is in control.

July 24, 2009 an ordinary day became the nightmare of every parent. I answered my phone. Her daddy’s voice was a cry from the pit of hell. “Ashley is dead.” The three words that changed the rest of my life. I hung up on him as I didn’t believe my ears. He called me again. The words were true. It was real. My firstborn was gone. She was only 11 years old.

Fleeing to the accident site, I screamed out to the Lord, yet the words of a hymn gently rocked within my soul….”No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to this rock I’m clinging, since love is lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing.” This small portion of a song I had not heard in so long played like a broken record in my heart. Over and Over, I heard ‘while to this rock I’m clinging.’ God was there. I kept thinking “so, This, this is what you wanted of me…” It was the “ah ha” moment of my wrestling with God. He had been preparing me for this. He wanted me to trust him fully, to surrender it all to him, no matter what.

I lack enough blank pages to fill the lament of my heart, to tell the stories of the past 10 years. Words cannot begin to describe the life moving forward from that moment in time. Even as I take a moment to reflect, I can not deny God’s consistent and loving hand guiding, proving, nurturing, holding, carrying, urging me forward. During the moments the valley was so deep, so dark, so treacherous, there remained one place that I could stand. One solid ground that would not move. Just as God placed the words “while to this rock, I’m clinging” from the start, I knew he would continue to provide as he always had. He was and still is the only solid rock on which to stand.

Hind sight is always 20/20, right? I gained strength to move forward by glancing back. I surveyed the path of footsteps leading me to where I was. God had provided then, he will again. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His Promises are true. God can not go back on his word. I would stand on His promises. This was the solid ground that held me then, and holds me even now.

That sticky hot July day was a wrecking ball destroying every last piece of my life. The rebuilding has been slow and frustrating, yet it is filled with moments of provisions to quench the deepest thirst. Really, it comes down to the mundane of daily living. The phone call that came at the precise moment. A friend’s caring presence during that painful song in church. The door that we almost walked through that God closed at just the right moment. (Only in hind sight, did we see the good in those moments!) The rose that bloomed in December. The stranger on the beach who cared enough to chat. Just the right teacher or friend for my child. Reaching for God to help me, to supply what I need because I knew I needed something, but had no idea what, trusting that God knew. He would provide for my needs time and time again.

There came a day when the salve for my wounded heart expanded beyond my own needs. God began to provide for me through my own helping hand. He began to use my talents, my pain, the essence of who he created me to be for others. I needed to not be the one always in need! I would become “the friend” “the helper” “the caregiver” “the meal provider” “the encourager” “the writer” “the speaker.” He was using me to serve others as a balm for my soul. He was rebuilding me by giving me purpose outside of myself. These too, are gifts. Looking back, I witness, as the poet of “footprints” came to realize, that God was not only walking alongside of me, he carried me too! When I thought I was on my own, it was the strength of God holding me up. I began to see the “gift” in the pain. It brought me closer, even surrendered, to Him.

As I lay on Ashley’s bed one day, a stack of cards stole my attention. Each one bore a scripture in which she thought useful for her daily walk. As I grazed over them, one in particular, caught my attention. I had given this verse to her one day as she had been struggling in school. It was a verse that I read in devotions one day. It seemed so important in that moment, that I memorized it, not really knowing why. Here, it sat before me once again, only this time, I knew why I committed it to memory! 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 says “Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort that we ourselves receive form God.” First of all, Jesus knew suffering. He is also the Father of ALL comfort! He designed it! I take comfort in knowing that He understands, He knows what I am going through, and even more, that He has designed a provision plan! Just as we share in earthly suffering, we also share in His comfort!

What is more? The phrase “so that!” He comforts us SO THAT we can comfort anyone else!!! I can look back and see not only that I was comforted in many ways during my suffering (as I continue to be) But that he equipped me to comfort others through it all! I have purpose in my suffering…to glorify Christ in it! I have unanswered questions and fears. Things I cannot understand, but one thing I do know, the only solid foundation on which I can stand Is Christ, and his promises to me. I bear witness to all that has been, all that He is doing now, and I have faith in all that He will do! “On Christ the solid Rock I stand!”

Wendy and her husband Jake and their three children, Jacob, Emma, and Grace live on a farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. They operate a commercial greenhouse that services local garden centers with annual flowers. She has been a stay at home mother and wife most of her life and enjoy homeschooling her girls, baking, gardening, canning, and taking care of her hobby farm of goats. She finds great purpose in life being able to use the talents that God has graciously given her to encourage and help others.


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