Pressure Points, Session 1: Weathering Storms

Weathering Storms Spread

by Casey Ewen Avenriep

Weathering the Storms of Life

 

A highway sign on Wyoming’s South Pass flashed a warning: INCLEMENT WEATHER. NO UNNECESSARY TRAVEL. My husband, Shane, drove while our 6-month-old, Ellie, and I slept peacefully in the backseat. I woke to the sound of helicopter blades whipping rhythmically in the wind. I remember a cold, numbing feeling — but nothing more — and I couldn’t move my legs.The accident happened just nine days after Ellie and I left Colorado to join Shane in Wyoming. Six months prior, he had been called by the Southern Baptist Convention to work with churches and pastors across the Pioneer State. That Sunday — March 26, 2006 — Shane shared a message in Lander, Wyo., about the prodigal son. It was the best sermon I had ever heard him preach; it was never more evident that we were in the center of God’s will. That afternoon, we headed to Big Piney to lead Sunday evening services. We never made it. En route to the hospital, I learned what happened. Whiteout conditions led to limited visibility on South Pass. A half-ton pickup truck crossed into our lane and hit our car head on. It seemed implausible to me that on a peaceful spring day, a sudden snow storm could besiege a stretch of that sunny mountain pass. Then I recalled the highway sign and Shane’s words as he assured me, “It will be all right.” Those five words became his last. Ellie died instantly in the crash. Shane died the following day from his injuries. He was 33. And I lived.

In the eye of my private storm,  I sought answers. I needed hope. I wanted assurance that God is in control, that He was not shaken, nor was He taken by surprise the day Shane and Ellie entered His courts.

My torso and limbs were crushed. My back and neck were fractured in four places. My pelvic bone and femur were crushed, and the bones in my left arm were shattered. I suffered severe trauma to the head, broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a torn rotator cuff. I sustained a deep gash to my right leg where the mangled metal pinned me to the backseat of the car. My tongue was mutilated by the vice grip I created with my own teeth. And although the damage to my body was extensive, I believed the damage to my heart was beyond repair.

In an instant, I was stripped of all that I treasured: my beloved spouse, my delightful baby girl, my health, my financial security, and my ministry. I turned to the only thing I had left: my faith in Jesus Christ. In my brokenness, I challenged all that I believed to be true about God’s Word and His character.

In the eye of my private storm, I sought answers.I needed hope. I wanted assurance that God is in control, that He was not shaken, nor was He taken by surprise the day Shane and Ellie entered His courts. Whether waking or sleeping, I could think of nothing else. The weight of grief and the hope of glory consumed my thoughts every moment of every day. I tried to busy my mind with other things but always gravitated back toward understanding God’s hand of sovereignty in my tragedy.

I was challenged physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I tolerated rehabilitative, occupational, and recreational therapy, and I worked earnestly toward the goal of walking unassisted. When I was at my weakest — and my outlook was the bleakest — I would quietly recite, “[God’s] grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

As I pored over the pages of God’s Word, it became a regular practice to insert my own name in the text. The Bible became intensely personal, as if written solely for me and specifically for my time of crisis. Over time, God’s promises became my soul’s anchor. First Peter 4:12-13 affirmed, “Don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you [Casey] as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah [Casey], so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory.”

This passage reminded me of how much the Lord endured on the cross. In my darkest moments, although my pain was great — and at times seemed almost unbearable — the pain Christ suffered to redeem my life from the pit was infinitely greater. My steady spiritual ascent from the valley of darkness began here, as I clung tightly to this glorious thought.While enduring the physical conditioning of therapy to heal my body, I also began the mental and highly emotional conditioning of writing to heal my heart. My physical therapy sessions helped me flex muscles of endurance and strength, and my writing sessions refined my character and tested my loyalty. Then in January 2007, I began to blog weekly and wrote about my private pain in a public forum.

Over the course of 17 months, I watched my words of lingering anger, debilitating fear, muffled unforgiveness, suffocating guilt, and overwhelming grief transform into words of hope, joy, forgiveness, grace, peace, healing, restoration, and abundant life. Looking back, my “Journey of Faith” blog was pivotal in the recovery process; it was my road to complete healing. By God’s design, it became more than a blog for me; it became a destination for people to dialogue about their own memories, losses, and experiences. Suddenly, my eyes were opened to others who were searching — and finding — comfort in Christ alone during life’s deepest valleys. From this realization, a beautiful new ministry blossomed, one born out of wrecked seed.

When I’m next door, listening to the downpour with my neighbor, I’ve noticed that the roar of the rain on my own front porch is virtually silent.

My experience has taught me that our life storms are not meant to be self-consuming, self-perpetuating cycles of despair. Though we may have storms raging internally, the real work is done externally, where we encounter others who are desperately hurting and frantically searching. Christians are called to focus on others’ needs — to be others-centered — and to share the truth about God’s presence in the midst of our own difficult circumstances. When I’m next door, listening to the downpour with my neighbor, I’ve noticed that the roar of the rain on my own front porch is virtually silent. Even today, listening to life storms of others continues to be a powerful remedy for my pain. People everywhere are hurting. God alone can deliver us from wickedness and harm, as it so beautifully states in Psalm 91.

So, why does God permit the existence of pain and suffering in the lives of those He loves? Surely, a good, loving, and compassionate God would not allow His children to suffer needlessly!

According to Randy Alcorn in his book The Goodness of God (Multnomah), evil and suffering fulfill a divine purpose. Alcorn writes, “From before the very beginning, God knew the very worst — as well as the very best it would one day bring.” He asserts that God uses pain as a catalyst to draw people to Himself. That is certainly true for me. I could have allowed my muscles to atrophy with apathy, or decidedly run away from God, but my legs and my heart were strengthened by taking strides toward Him.

I could have allowed my muscles to atrophy with apathy, or decidedly run away from God, but my legs and my heart were strengthened by taking strides toward Him.

No matter what your storm may be, it will pass. The Bible says there is a time for everything and a season for every activity. I believed that God would — in His perfect timing — deliver me from a lifetime of pain and heartache. One day, I remember thanking God for my storms because I knew that the sun would shine again. The stormy season would not last forever.

Nearly two years after I lost the family I cherished, God put an end to my storm. I met Brett, and my heart was restored and awakened to love once more. In August 2008, we exchanged wedding vows and one month later, we learned that a little boy would arrive in the spring. We still marvel at the miraculous birth of Grayson James, our little sunbeam. My union with Brett is merely a wisp of God’s masterful plan at work. Although we live in uncertain times, we can say with absolute certainty that we trust Him with our family and our future.

Since that fateful day in 2006, I’ve witnessed all of the good that has come out of tragedy, and I’m beginning to recognize why it was necessary. The flashing sign INCLEMENT WEATHER. NO UNNECESSARY TRAVEL was not a word of admonition; it was a word of instruction. God was teaching me His wisdom for living the Christian life. I cracked the code: Trials are necessary to accomplish God’s higher purposes. This is for my good and His glory.

Although these days the world appears to be out of control and seems utterly chaotic, know that there is a God with a perfect order to things, a God who does everything out of love to produce something better in us. The pain we experience is the principle consequence of living in a fallen and flawed world. But God’s redemptive promise is that, one day, He will remove evil and suffering from this world, after accomplishing a greater, eternal good. The Bible tells us in Matthew 5:45 that God causes His sunlight to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Regardless of the climate today or the forecast tomorrow, keep the faith. Muster the strength to pray:

Dear God, whether or not You choose to change my circumstances, I will trust in You still. And Lord, whether or not You call on me to suffer a little longer, I will worship You even still, for You embodied ‘suffering well’ for my sake. Either way, Lord, I know that You are in control. Not my will, but Yours be done. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Perhaps you’re currently facing the buffeting tempests of a job loss, a financial crisis, a startling medical diagnosis, or personal tragedy. As believers, we don’t have to linger in the dark storms of life, waiting for the ominous shadows to pass. We can walk in the assurance of God’s redemptive plan because we’re covered by the ultimate umbrella of protection: Jesus Christ. Second Corinthians 4:17 reminds us, “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.”

Whether you’re grieving a natural disaster, mourning our disordered universe, or weeping over misfortunes of your own making, don’t allow your current trial to blot out the light. Look toward the Son, and you will find refuge in Christ alone during life’s fiercest storms.

In her lifetime, Casey Ewen Avenriep has experienced the fullness
of God’s presence through times of great joy and unspeakable heartache. She
has marveled at the births of three children and has grieved the deaths of
two of those children — Caleb at 15 days old, who died from complications of
prematurity, and Ellie at 6 months, who died in the car accident that also
claimed the life of Shane Ewen, Casey’s husband of four years. She is committed to sharing about those experiences through her writing and her speaking
and loves ministering to others who are searching — and finding — comfort
in Christ alone during life’s deepest valleys. Her story is an inspiring one, centering on the redemptive power of God to heal and restore the brokenhearted.
Casey and her husband, Brett, live in the windy plains of Texas with their
2-year-old son, Grayson.

This article originally appeared in the April, 2011 issue of HomeLife. To subscribe to this magazine, click here, or on the cover image.

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. Please pray for me and my family as we face some very difficult times. We are Christians and our faith is strong but so are the struggles. Your story is very inspiring and I feel God lead me to this article today. To God be the Glory, great things He has done. Amen

  2. Casey Avenriep says:

    Ms. Cummins, God knows. He hears. He cares so much for you! Praying even now, as you continue to ride out this storm. And when you are on the other side of it–and you will be–may you look back and say, “Worth it!”

  3. Thanks for this article. It brought back so many memories of my own “journey of faith”. I’ve experienced numerous trials but none as devastating as losing my son 33 days after his birth due to an infection related to his prematurity. The months following his passing were the darkest times of my life. Four years later, I can see God’s glory and goodness that have resulted from the tragedy. My relationship with God is much stronger, people’s lives are changed for the better…there was purpose for the pain.

    My husband and I are now enjoying the blessing of parenting our 2 year old daughter. Such a joyful time in our lives. I know I wouldn’t be the mama I am today if I hadn’t experienced God’s miraculous work of creating beauty from the ashes.

    Do you still have your blog?

  4. Jim Beach says:

    Thanks for this article. God is always aware of our needs and speaks when it is most needed. I really needed encouragement today and received it!

  5. BOSE OSIJO says:

    Thank you for sharing this message, i am at the point where i feel what needs to be done,went through had time taking care of my children with terminal illness and now it seems, disaggremet in every thing i do with them. i know God will interven with my situation. I TRUST IN GOD.

  6. God is awesome! I read your story this morning in my quiet time. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time because I just lost my job. But in that loss, I too have experienced the peace that surpasses all understanding. You & your family will be in my prayers.

  7. Shawna Bentley says:

    While doing my bible study this morning, I found a link to this article and decided to come and read it in its entirety. I am in awe of God’s goodness and your resolve to stand. As I continue to stand in Him, wobbled knees and all, stories like this gives me a boost of strength and confidence in God’s amazing grace. It reminds me that His promise to restore that which is taken from us and turn everything negative around for the good of those who love Him is true. God bless you for sharing your experiences with us. Amen.

    • James Jackson says:

      We are so glad the article was a blessing to you. And I’ve noticed that the authors of the magazine articles we post here often keep up with our blog, so I know your comments are a blessing to them as well.

  8. Pat Havens says:

    While studying my Bible study session for next Sunday I found this link and read your incredible story. Thank you for sharing so openly, so honestly; it is a great encouragement to me.I thankfully have not been thru such a tremendous trial, just daily ongoing trials but they do wear you down, then I see this article and realize I have so much to be thankful for and so much growing in Christ to do. Many blessings and much love to you and to your ministry!

    • So true, I totally agree. Thanks for your insight Pat regarding this article as a reminder of necessary testing, resolve and the goal,of a “complete” or mature relationship with our Lord and Savior.
      Prayers for Casey and her family!

  9. Francene Norris says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. I have been through many trials in my life, especially as a kid. The sad thing was, I didn’t know God then. My family wasn’t religious at all. My parents were alcoholics. I was mentally, physically, and sexually abused by my father for years. My ability to smile and laugh got me through that. I always thought that I was alone, but God gave me those abilities, and I was never alone. It took me almost 30 years for me to finally see that. I didn’t turn to drugs, alcohol or sex. I often wondered why? I know why, God gave me the ability to stand strong and use a sense of humor for my armor in that battle. I’m married to a wonderful man of 16 years. I believe God gave him to me, because he knew how to help heal my heart, and taught me to trust again. My thoughts and prayers goes out to you and your family. God Bless you, once again, thank you for sharing. I have a hard time sharing my experiences, and this has helped me.

  10. Ashley Staples says:

    Casey Ewen Avenriep:

    Your testimony was very heartfelt. It was also very encouraging. Thank you sharing this story with us and I pray that you continue to allow God to use you. God bless you and your family.

    Your sister(in Christ)
    Ashley

  11. Sharon Barker says:

    thank you so much for sharing how God has helped you through a horrible,horrible loss. But, even more how he has sustained you helped you to heal I hope your little boy grows to love our God and depends on him to get thru living in this world. your story has touched me and I feel so much better, being reminded how Great our God is.

  12. The link to your story was in our Sunday School lesson for this week. Thank you so much for sharing. It opened my eyes to how God can use our storms to strengthen us so He can mold us into the person He has created us to be. You reminded me of God’s sovereignty and that nothing happens by accident. He has a plan for my good and His glory. Thank you again, for the reminder and the encouragement. May God continue to bless you and use you for His glory.

  13. Charzell Stallworth says:

    I was reading my Sunday School lesson and read a piece of the story. I knew I had to come on this website and read the entire article. Casey, I thank you for sharing your story with us. I had a storm of my own and it ended last year. I went through this storm (adultery) for more than 8 years. My husband decided to get a divorce and while his storm grew, my storm ended. My husband was admitted to the hospital with blood clots in his lungs and leg in 2012. He had no choice but to pray to God and read His Word. My husband gave his life back to Christ and we remarried the end of 2012. I thank God for the storms because it has made me stronger in the Lord. I am able to witness to others who may be going through similar situations and give them encouragement. I am able to let others know that our God is Awesome no matter what we are faced with on a daily basis.

  14. Gerald Koenning says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am studying to teach the S.S. lesson when I found your story.
    Please pray for My wife & I. We are going through some financial problems and need help. We have raised 2 grandchildren after their parents divorced. Our son remarried and the wife did not want his 2 children because she was divorced and had 3 children of her own. The mother of my grandchildren moved in with a guy that drinks quite a bit and was not a good influence. We took our grandchildren and tried to raise them in the way of the Lord. In 2008, the step-mom claimed them on her income tax and we ended up paying the IRS because we had claimed them because we were raising them and they lived with us. To make a long story short, our grand-daughter moved in with her mother when she turned 17. She is now 19, pregnant, and not married. Our grandson, 16, left Aug. 30th to live with his dad in Yelm, Washington. We are still paying back loans from the IRS incident and now starting to have medical problems. I have stronger faith that God will pull us through than my wife does. Please pray for us!

  15. Shaun Streit says:

    To all who face trials,
    Our God is an awesome God. The storms in my life pale in comparison to this awesome testimony. But I take heart in knowing that God cares for me. He cares for all of us. In 2008 on Easter Sunday I flipped a SUV with my wife, Her sister an my daughter. We were spared the heart ache of losing a lived one but the medical bills started coming in an insurance paid for about 5000 dollars of a 25000 dollar medical balance. The anger soon followed. It consumed me. I asked God why, and to remove my problems. My problems only got worse. In 2010 I lost my job and was out of work for 9 months. More anger followed. Fear soon took hold and I had shut God out of my life. Since then up until recently, the fear grew into spite, and bitterness. It was ruining my marriage and my relationship with my kids. Even after being provided (by Gods grace) a well paying job and financial stability and even befor that in 09 God blessed us with a son, my eyes were closed and I ignored the knocking on my hearts door. When I finally answered God was there. I opened all of the doors in my life that I had closed in the past thinking God was not there and found that he was there in every heart ache and trial and even when I was bitter and angry at him, even though the trials where my own making, He was there. I began to see the blessings I had over looked and the miricals that I had forgotten in my life. I don’t know what is behind tomorrow’s door but I can bet above all doubt that my Savior will be there waiting for me to open the door. Everything else that is behind that door is irrelevant when Jesus is standing there. I know that God provides what we need when we need it, and it is to His glory and credit that I am here today. What trials can he not over come. Take heart God is with you and even if I forsake him he will not let me out of his hand. I Christ Love.
    Shaun

  16. Your story encouraged me. Our 16-year old granddaughter went home to be with Jesus so suddenly last July (2012). She was a precious Christian girl who loved her Lord and she was an inspiration to others. Her dad (our son) and her mom are leaning on Jesus and reaching out to others, even heading up a grief seminar, but there is a big gaping hole in their lives and ours. I know God doesn’t make mistakes, and He has a plan. It is so hard to realize that His plan included taking Savannah home at such a young age. Thanks for sharing!

    • Shirley, my heart goes out to you. We lost our son in 2010, 2 days before his 31st birthday. He left behind a wife, a 5-year-old son, a 2-year-old daughter, and another son who was born 18 days after Matthew’s passing. Life has gone on, but 3+ years later there is still a gaping hole in our lives. In spite of the pain of loss, I boldly declare God’s goodness. His grace truly is sufficient. Our family has seen lots of change in those 3+ years, but we have met God at every turn. I cannot praise Him enough. When we cannot understand, we trust. He is faithful. I am thankful that in spite of your pain, you are all glorifying Him. May His Spirit enfold you and your family in His love.

  17. Thanks for sharing your story with HomeLife magazine. I once heard someone say that pain is God’s megaphone. “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand, but I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.” It is in our valley experiences where God teaches us to be dependent and trust Him. It takes a genuine faith like Jesus Christ had to do this. The apostle Paul states it well: “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.”

  18. Carolyn Foley says:

    I found an excerpt of this article in my new ss book. I knew I wanted to read the rest. It was a powerful lesson of Gods love for us. So glad you are healed and have been so Blessed.

  19. James Siegrist says:

    Thank you for sharing sister.

  20. Mike Straw says:

    A true peace in ones heart that defies logic can only be the Grace of God. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt test of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

  21. Cheryl Stith says:

    I wish I had your strength and faith. My husband died suddenly and unexpectedly three months ago of acute meningoencephalitis. I had taken him to the emergency room twice over Memorial Day weekend, and they kept insisting that all he had was a sinus infection. I am left with our young son who will be two later this month. I am so angry and in such despair. I question my faith and don’t have any peace. I don’t want to live, but know that I have to try for my son.

  22. Dear Casey, thank you so much for sharing your testimony. My family and I recently lost my brother in a car accident driving into Mexico. It was a big blow to our hearts and we have been greiving his departure. We have a lot of unanswered questions but we are trusting in God. Please keep us in your prayers for restoration and healing. Specialy for his young children and wife and of course my parents. Blessings!

  23. Casey,
    Thank you for sharing your testimony. And everyone else… I will keep everyone in prayer for God’s continued healing and will to be done in our lives…
    Cheryl,
    My heart goes out to you as well and you’re right, you have no other choice but to live! Praying for you, sis.

  24. Casey Thank You for shaing I really like the prayer that i have copied into this response My wife and I are going through a trying time right now and I believe the more we pray and praise God we will make it Thank you again You have helped tremendously by sharing your faith in God

    Dear God, whether or not You choose to change my circumstances, I will trust in You still. And Lord, whether or not You call on me to suffer a little longer, I will worship You even still, for You embodied ‘suffering well’ for my sake. Either way, Lord, I know that You are in control. Not my will, but Yours be done. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

  25. Casey Thank you for sharing. I know my struggle does not compare to yours. Thank you for sharing. I felt hopeless at times and looked for God to help me. I have gotten a renewed faith in him. I went through an up and down struggle of not wanting to let go. I thought a few years back I had a lot of faith but my faith was tested and now I understand the meaning of trusting God. I will pray for everyone who you have touched and hope that they can touch someone else. May God bless you and continue to give you the power to touch others with your words.

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