This story is by Claudia Rizzi
I recently heard a quote that said, “Despair is often the prelude to grace.” This is, perhaps, a concept that we’ve heard about through our years on this planet, but unless it’s experienced first-hand, it’s hard to fathom how ‘despair’ (the loss of hope) and ‘grace’ (the free and unmerited favor of God) can have any relationship to each other.
Someone’s feeling of despair can come from various sources. Physical trauma, the loss of a loved one, or even a detachment from an alive family member. These are a few examples of things that cause despair. Despair can leave us feeling like we’re experiencing a living death, defined as a completely miserable, joyless existence, experience, or situation; or a period of tie characterized by pain and suffering. I was in that situation – I felt like a living dead woman. I say ‘was’ because I, personally, experienced that transformation from despair to grace.
This is my story; a very condensed version, anyway. I pray that it encourages you and gives you a picture of God’s grace in seemingly hopeless situations.
I am the content wife and mother of three adult children. All of us in our immediate, little family have been blessed to have grown in our faith and love for the Lord together over the years. We have always been a close, fun-loving, and caring family unit. Other than the death of my husband’s parents and my parents (which never really took me to despair) my faith had never been truly tested… until three years ago.
While in bible college, my youngest daughter met her husband-to-be, got married, and had a beautiful baby girl after quickly becoming pregnant, post-wedding. She and her family stayed with us in our home in order to save money for their own home. I enjoyed cuddling my new granddaughter and watching my youngest daughter become a beautiful mother. My youngest had always been a joy to my heart and there was rarely any strife between us.
After a few months of our delightful living arrangement, some classmates from the bible college began to make contact with my daughter and her husband. Ultimately, the students got them to believe that they were not saved, and convinced them that they quickly depart for a small church in East Texas in order for their salvation to be truly secured.
Shortly thereafter, on an early December morning, my husband got out of bed and was shocked to discover that my daughter and her family had left in the middle of the night without warning. They left almost all of their material possessions behind. We discovered that they had flown out to East Texas to join what we later realized was a very misguided religious sect. Some would call it a ‘cult,’ and that may be accurate, but I will leave that for God to decide.
A couple of days later, we ere contacted by our daughter, who told us that we were going to hell if we didn’t come out to their new church, and that the church elders told them that overall communication must be cut off from family and friends in order for them to not be “tainted by the world.”
The mother’s heart inside me pounded, as I seriously wanted to die! My sweet, ‘little peach’ was now a finger-pointing condemner of my relationship with the Lord. I was angry, hurt, shocked, and sad – in serious despair for sure. “This will be short lived,” I thought to myself. But hours turned into days, days turned into months, and months turned to, now, almost 3 years.
I spoke to the Lord and asked Him, “What now? How long will You have me in this season of despair? This hurts more than I can stand!”
I recall standing in the doorway of our home office and speaking to my husband about how we would move forward in life, having had the most grueling of heartbreaks. Will we EVER be able to move on? He said to me these words and I won’t forget them:
“Claudia, God has been very patient with us. He has taken His time to grow us and mature us and see to it that we know Him very well. He has been gracious and merciful to us in our lives. Our leaves and limbs may shake, but our roots to Him go deep, and we will NOT fall apart because of this.”
I thought long and hard about this and I knew that he was right. If the God of the bible that I believe in says something is right and true, that it is right and true. His promises are always “Yes,” and I decided that I was going to press ahead, and in my Christian walk, do my best to give Him the glory in this matter. Also, I was going to hand it over to Him because I knew it was a war that was more than I could fight.
I can’t say that there was a specific turning point, or an event we generally see so over-used in the movies. There was more of a slow, deliberate unveiling of God’s will and purpose to me as I began to seek His word more diligently, more deeply, and surround myself with Godly people to encourage me. I can honestly say that the prayers of the saints bolstered me in a way only explainable to be from God.
In my fragile state of despair, God spoke to me more clearly… not that He was speaking louder to get me to listen, but that He had placed my in a more receptive position to listen to Him better. This, I realized, was an act of love. I realized that a life not built on real, tested, and experienced faith was of little use for His glory.
I heard Him saying, “I love you. Will you trust me? Just trust me.” This is where I began to understand that God is less focused on specific circumstances we go through, but more focused on our relationship with Him – matter what the circumstance. It’s easy to love the Lord and experience His grace when all is well… it’s a much richer and real experience with our Creator when we can love Him even more in the times of despair.
I still diligently pray that God will return my daughter and her family. We have communicated occasionally, which has been good, albeit not generally productive. I also realize that in the absence of my daughter, I am God’s child, and His love and grace is sufficient for me. My walk with the Lord is immeasurably deeper now. She too, is God’s child, and she does not go unnoticed by Him.
So, is despair often the prelude to grace? I can say from personal experience – emphatically, yes!
If you are going through a time of despair, listen to your Creator, the God who loves you more than you can ever imagine. Pursue Him and know that He is with you in the most difficult times, and He will not let you out of His grip! There can be joy in the midst of despair. You have a choice as to whether you will seek the Lord fully, or remain in a state of hopelessness. If you seek Him, you will have no regrets!
I have drawn in many Scriptures throughout this trial of mine, but one that is especially dear is this: Isaiah 26:3~ “You will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.”