For a while I felt hopeless. I put on a brave face and continued working on my to-do list and living life. But there were depressing days, or moments in the middle of good days, when it felt like a ton of bricks pushed me down, when I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going, when I wondered, “What’s the point?” Beyond the gathering of things and accumulation of accomplishments, what was my purpose?

It’s like I’ve been in the desert for years, the desert being a time of major transitions and spiritual pruning. In 2014 I moved back to the States, spent a year teaching with almost daily spiritual attacks, and had a whirlwind romance culminating in marriage. By early 2015 I’d moved twice more and we were in the throes of remodeling our first house. Such an exciting time; such a time of stress! We also had a miscarriage that year. We spent three happy months being pregnant and told everyone early on. Then it was all gone.

Between the job changes, learning to live with a husband after being single and utterly independent for years, the remodeling, losing the baby and then dealing with people asking about losing the baby, I was done.

I ended up at Chapelwood’s Women’s Retreat in 2016, basically sent there by God. I’d been asked if I wanted to go and offered a scholarship from someone in the Upper Room; literally all I had to do was say yes. By that time I was utterly depleted. And the whole weekend turned into one big hug from the Lord.

My roommate was a gift from Him; she was compassionate, upbeat, and loving, and we just clicked. You know how it is when you meet someone and it’s an easy camaraderie from the very beginning? The speaker was another gift. She was a potter, spinning her tales as she worked the clay. I was dry ground, soaking in love and words of truth. Everything that weekend was about renewal and hope. It was like pushing the restart button on my life.

Later in 2016 I heard about 12 Steps for Everyone during Upper Room announcements. Intrigued, I checked out the Chapelwood website and found a kazillion 12 step groups, including Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families. My dad was an alcoholic, and I knew the junk of childhood affected me still.

I went that night before I got cold feet. They read the laundry list (traits of people who’ve been raised in alcoholic and dysfunctional families) and it described me. It was all me!

I’ve been going to ACA for over a year now and it’s wonderful. It’s a place where I can speak my truth without fear of criticism. I say what I need to say and no one says a peep about it. There’s no praise, no advice, no disagreement. It’s liberating.

Something significant also happened to my quiet times. For a long time I struggled with spending time with God. It usually went like this: plop down in my comfy chair by the window, look up at the sky, and pray about (or list) everything that was wrong. Then we (mostly I) would hash out the details again and again in an effort to solve everything. The problem is that I spent most of the time trying to figure things out and not so much time listening or letting truth in.

I needed change, so I asked God and he led me to LaHaye’s How to Study the Bible for Yourself. The most important things I took from that time were to have pen and paper ready when I read so that I expect to get something out of it and to read before trying to pray so my head and heart were settled.

It’s amazing how the Word gets into my soul, soothes and calms me. I read, I write, and then I pray. God’s word is living and active, and I think it’s been the most important part of bringing hope back to my life because hope is, after all, a fruit of the Spirit, and how better to allow it in and keep the depressing thoughts away than by filling my mind with God’s truth?

Things are different now. I still have moments when hopelessness creeps in, but they’re just moments, not days or months. And I have tools to combat the despair. The relief has come slowly, and it’s true and good.

by Kris Bierma