There was a lingering darkness in my life that established its presence years before I even recognized it. My inner turmoil and grief would rear its ugly face, especially at night when I was frequently inconsolable. At the time, the reason for my pain was entirely unknown to me, but my head would wrestle thoughts of worthlessness, especially surrounding my work. Criticism remained in my head like a blaring foghorn, overwhelmingly persistent. I could only piece together a sense of self-worth when I had some visible, outward or tangible sign of success. My inner self felt that everything was crumbling around me, but I had no evidence of it actually happening, except for the consuming feeling of brokenness.
My desire for that feeling to go away was fierce, but I was utterly paralyzed by my darkness. Heartfelt consolations from my husband could not sufficiently pull me out of myself. Then one night, my husband invited me to make a counseling appointment. I had previously desired to go to counseling, but I feared I did not have a “good enough” reason. Part of me had always believed that only people who had been through severely traumatic experiences needed counseling, meaning my circumstances were not enough. However, clinging to hope, I followed through. During the first few counseling sessions I apologetically emptied entire boxes of tissues, explaining everything that I was going through.
It did not happen immediately, but over time, my counselor helped me to see the habits I had formed that were causing me unnecessary grief, teaching me how to stop them and replace them with new, good habits. For example, he challenged me to look at my work and to shed the habitual lies of inadequacy, exchanging them with the truth of accomplishment. The practice of allowing criticism to be the loudest voice in my head was replaced with reminding myself at all times that I am God’s beloved daughter. After a few months of counseling, my past wounds began to heal.
A dear friend of mine recently told me that “when we live out of our wounds, we are not living out the freedom that God wants for us.” Encountering our own brokenness and inviting the Father and his healing presence into our wounds, we can begin to embrace the call to live our lives fully. This process of opening our wounds can come with excruciating pain and sorrow, but through it we are given an immense outpouring of healing grace to live in trust and freedom. Like a refiner’s fire, the Father draws out our impurities and imperfections to turn us into pure gold.
It was impossible to see in the thick of it, but I know that through my experience of pain and darkness God was preparing and strengthening me for what was yet to come. I often see the youth and young adults that I serve in my ministry struggle with similar issues. I am thankful that I can share my experiences and help them to see that they are not alone in their darkness. I’ve been given a capacity to relate to others and share the hope with them that God can bring new life and restore their hearts. I can share assurance that the darkness will not win when we turn for help.
God was also preparing my heart for what was yet to come in my marriage. Learning new habits of rooting myself in my identity as a daughter of God set me up with a firm foundation for the challenges ahead. My husband and I have struggled with infertility for a number of years. Without my sense of daughterhood, I do not know that I would have the strength to stand with the weight of infertility. In the past year in particular, God has used me as his tool to reach out to other women struggling with infertility and to invite them to find healing in Jesus.
The Lord has transformed my experience of sorrow to bring me newness and healing. My favorite mysteries of the Rosary always have been the Sorrowful Mysteries. In my life, Jesus has asked me to share in his sorrow in a special way, but it does not end there. It is through Christ’s death and his resurrection that we may come to new life in eternity. Through our personal sorrows, the Lord brings new life so that we might share in his resurrection.
Stacey Huneck and her husband, Phil, live in Indiana where they grew up, but they also love to leave their goldendoodle behind and explore the world. She is pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology from the University of Notre Dame while serving as a high school youth and young adult ministry coordinator at her parish. She also writes for Springs in the Desert, an infertility ministry.