Every life has its turning points. Points where there is a shift, a change, a ‘crossing over’. Sadly, sometimes, these might be negative as well as positive. Some people’s turning points come in the descent from when an interest becomes an obsession, which then becomes an addiction, and leads to a life of decline, where at the ‘turning point’ a choice to cry out for help, for intervention, could have been made. Yet, perhaps that turning point is yet to come, so if you are somewhere in that mire, don’t give up hope. Mercy & Grace is waiting for you.
But what of those more positive and hopeful turning points in life, and in particular for this blog post, in recovery?
People who care about me used to say that they hoped that I would soon ‘turn the corner’ in my recovery from complex PTSD, panic attacks, anxiety and depression. It was a rough time in my life and there didn’t seem to be much apparent hope for change that things would get better or easier anytime soon. At one point I felt I might have to just live in that way for the rest of my life.
Have you had to recover from something? Perhaps like me, it is or has been PTSD, depression, panic attacks and so forth, and also related to this I have had chronic pain. Maybe you have had to recover from a physical injury, a divorce, a loss of some kind, an eating disorder, a traumatic event or a long period of ill health. Perhaps recovery has been to do with an addiction, a mental health condition, a job loss, a ‘failure’ of some sort. For the journeys of recovery that span years and potentially decades, like mine, and perhaps like yours, the idea of there being something for us around that ‘corner’ wherever it is, can feel somewhat elusive.
Yet turning points in recovery can and do happen, sometimes in a profound moment, but perhaps more often they occur gradually, subtly, over time until we get to the point of perspective where we realise that although we still have our struggles in relation to what we went through, we are not where we used to be, not by a long shot.
This blessed realisation is beginning to dawn on me, at the dawn of 2020 🙂 I’m by no means ‘out of the woods’ as I still have to work at things every day, but I have ‘turned a corner’ which I never knew if I would ever find – Hallelu-Jah! God Is Good.
What marks a change, a turning point? For me, when I was in a very difficult place (although after the point of feeling like ‘giving up’), where I could barely make it through a day without my body giving up on me and sometimes collapsing in searing panic, when I would move through the day in a state of flux between the fog of dissociation and the waking night mare of fear and flashbacks, and where my night times would be restless and fearful too, I had a hope that someday would come when I would be strong enough to help other people, like in the biographies I read of people I looked up to who had reached their own ‘turning point’ and were going on to do greater things, helping so many people along the way.
Well, it seems my turning point has arrived, gently, subtly, and perhaps just at its beginning of finding the hope to bud and bloom. The green shoots of life, of hope and of change are beginning to emerge from the ashes of seeming defeat and brokenness. My blog is one way in which this turning point is coming about, however, what I am seeing in my life is that I am able to encourage, help and provide comfort to people face to face, precisely because of what I have been through.
In my toughest times in life I have felt alienated from the people around me who (and by their own admissions) had never suffered much and I couldn’t relate to them in finding hope or strength through the pain. Yet I did find that solace in Jesus Christ (Who knows and has experienced suffering in its greatest depths of pain, loneliness and shame, and Who has the greatest love, understanding and compassion for us), I found that ‘kinship’ in the books written of the lives of others who had made it through their own challenges in life, and I found the authentic comfort from friends, some older, who had gone through some of their own really tough times.
When someone is able to say ‘I went through this…’ there is a more solid hope and a more authentic comfort than someone who tries to help (or not as the case may be) or advise (ouch!) when they haven’t been challenged and softened by suffering themselves. It doesn’t even have to be the same kind of experience for one to be able to provide a greater depth and reality of hope and of comfort, for there is something that changes within the person who has suffered and who has persevered through it to find grace, healing, hope and kindness and a deeper understanding and compassion through the process, and continuing on ‘on the other side’.
The corner has been turned, even as I was simply continuing on with my own journey of getting stronger and realising that the things I wanted to do to help other people (such as mentoring) were things I wasn’t quite ready for. Yet other opportunities present themselves now, quite naturally, and because of what I went through I can relate to the people who need compassion in a way I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. We all want peace, and yet sometimes to be ministers of peace in the world, we have to go through turbulence that leads us to finding our eternal hope and dependence in True Peace.
There’s a verse in Scripture that says that God works ‘all things together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purposes’. For many years this seemed out of my grasp, the pain was too much to see how things would work together for good, but the hope of that ‘someday’ was still there, even though it often seemed and felt ‘impossible’. This verse – Romans 8:28 doesn’t say that all things are good, no the Bible is very honest with the darkness and difficulties and pain encountered in this life, but because God Is Good, He can and will work everything for good ultimately, even though we see the mess of things just now. On the grandest scale this is true, and on the smaller scale of an individual life trusting in Him, it is also true.
And so after many years of pain, inner turmoil, brokenness, fear, anxiety, depression, suffering and feeling like things would not relent for so long, finally the turning point has arrived, praise God. Recovery is perhaps a lifetime journey in many respects for all of us, however, ahead of me is a new road that I haven’t encountered before. One in which weakness and strength go hand in hand. One in which because of pain, of fragility that has been overcome, I can be a source of comfort, strength and lived out hope for others. The healing is still happening, the hope is still blossoming, and the journey ahead at last looks promising, one in which the purpose from the pain comes when I am able to help another hurting soul as they head towards their own ‘turning point’ in their life. xx