“I didn’t question God about the cancer,” Carol repeated at another point during our interview. “But there was a time, years later, that I got very angry with Him. I remember being on my knees crying out to Him, ‘Is this what I get for being good? I’ve lived my life for you!’” She stopped for a moment and took a deep breath.
“I was so broken,” she continued. “I asked God, ‘Why would you do this to me? You just don’t know how broken and rejected I feel!’”
She stopped again, and I could see her shoulders relax. “After I said that to Him,” she went on, “there was a calm that came over me, and I got quiet. I felt Him put His hand on my shoulder, and He reminded me of what He went through. He said to me, ‘I understand. I was rejected, too.’”
There was another pause.
“After that, I still suffered from the rejection, but I did not complain,” she finished, matter-of-factly.
Thirty years prior to this encounter with God, in the mid 70’s, Carol had survived Stage IV colon cancer that metastasized to her lymph nodes. Now, her world was falling apart again. Her husband of 33 years no longer wanted to be married to her.
“This certainly wasn’t the life I planned,” Carol said earnestly. “My future looked hopeless. But then I had the encounter with God when He reminded me that He’d been kicked and spat on. That only one of His disciples stayed with Him until the end. From that day on, my healing began.”
Carol commented that the divorce was worse than cancer. When I asked her why, she explained that she had control of how she handled cancer, but she couldn’t control the rejection by her husband. That was something she never thought would happen.
“Like the cancer, the divorce brought me even closer to God.” She explained. “He used the circumstances to grow my faith in Him.”
If you’ve never experienced God’s provision during a storm in your life, this probably sounds insane – that you can grow closer to God during adversity. Of course, it can go the other way easily. You can get angry at God because He’s allowed the storm, and you pull away from Him.
Or, you could turn towards Him, even run to Him, and fall into His arms like Carol did.
“When I was going through my divorce and long afterwards as I continued to suffer, I received encouragement from reading the Bible. Many, many times God spoke to me through His Word and provided wisdom or the answer I needed in a particular situation,” Carol told me.
“Could you give me an example of something specific God said to you through His word that helped you in some way?” I asked.
She thought a moment, then said, “when someone hurts you, human nature is to hurt that person back. We think revenge will make us feel better. But, God reminded me many times that it wasn’t up to me to exact revenge. Romans 12:19 assures us that revenge is God’s task.”
“What else did you learn?”
“Well, God taught me that a living prayer relationship with Him comes when we dare to level with Him. When we dare to be honest with Him about how we feel…like when I complained to Him that He didn’t understand my brokenness and rejection. When I got honest, He spoke clearly to me. I wasn’t making small talk anymore. I wasn’t pretending that my life was perfect anymore. I was on my knees with tears streaming down my face. He came in and comforted me. This moved my relationship with God to a much deeper level.”
God also used Carol and her story to reach other people. After the divorce, the Associate Pastor at Carol’s church in Wilmington, North Carolina approached her about sharing the adversity in her life with the church.
“She said, ‘People look at you and think you have no cares in the world,’ and she asked me to share my testimony as part of a worship service.” Carol paused, and a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.
“I was never one to speak in front of others. I liked to organize and work behind the scenes,” she explained. “I really didn’t want to do what she asked me to do.”
“What made you change your mind?” I asked.
“I had so much faith and trust in the pastor who asked me. I knew the Holy Spirit worked in her, and I knew that whatever she asked was from God. I just couldn’t say no.”
Services at Carol’s church were televised, so after she spoke, the church began receiving requests for her to speak at other events. This led to years of travel around the southeastern United States sharing her story at women’s events.
“When you are sharing your story, and God allows you to see that other people receive help from it, you’re healed as well. This is another way God supported me during this time.”
Carol stopped for a moment then continued, “plus I was driving a lot, so there was lots of time to pray, and talk to God, and listen.”
Then, she shrugged and added, “What good would the bad things be if you didn’t share them with others so you could help them, too?”
Please join me next week for the conclusion of Carol’s story.
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