Stories of Renewal: Karen — St. Peter's Fireside Church Vancouver

by Stories of Renewal
January 29, 2020
4 min read

My story is very raw. It doesn’t end with a happy Jesus sugar coating. I am telling it from the middle. It is a cliffhanger. 

My life over the past decade has felt like a constant bombardment of challenges that strip me of my humanity and my faith. I’ve battled a barrage of health conditions. I parent a special needs child. I’ve faced an immigration battle to remain in Canada. And sometimes it feels like rock pellets are constantly thrown at my family—one thing after another without relief.

I spent years trying to unlock “joy in suffering” and “peace that surpasses all understanding.” And for some time, my faith remained as the immovable force of my adolescence. My first few near death experiences brought about an immense gratitude for life and a deepening of faith. But then the hardships kept getting harder, suffering encompassed my sight, and my resilience fell through the floor. 

My faith started to crack.

I tried to “fix” my faith. 

At the time, I was in a church where my failings and illnesses appeared to some like a lack of faith. I thought something was wrong with me. So, I studied harder. I prayed more. I begged God not to relieve any suffering but to change my attitude—bring me joy and faith in these circumstances.

And things got darker. 

And I got worse. 

The harder I tried, the further away God felt. I started to see God as cruel and ruthless—even though I longed to find his goodness. I knocked and knocked, but it seemed like God refused to open the door.

It got to the point where I prayed and begged for God to remove my faith. I didn’t want to believe any more. It was too hard. But very clearly—God said No. 

I couldn’t shake belief. 

And I didn’t want it. 

But God persisted.  

This was my life when my family came to St Pete’s. Battered from other churches and on the eve of our daughters long-awaited autism diagnosis. I came with broken faith but still moving toward God one reluctant step at a time. And slowly, patiently, like a glacier—God has used the community and preaching at this church to heal one tiny crevice at a time.  

People have entered our lives with kindness although I remain at arms length. Sometimes sermons begin with passages that make me cringe. But I slowly breathe. I soften. And I find a loving God beneath verses previously used for shame and judgement. 

Our first week at St. Pete’s was like a giant accepting hug. It scared us. My husband Nate and I said to each other, “If we are going to stay here, we have to be all in. There is no place to hide.” 

We stayed. We’ve kept walking. One broken step at a time. 

I’m trying less. I’m learning more about accepting grace. Much of my faith and belief are in shambles. But I’m trusting God to rebuild that in his time. I show up. And that’s about as much as I can give right now—and that’s okay. 
Gods power is shown through weakness. I’m learning that sometimes that weakness can be faith itself, accompanied by a laundry list of exposed frailties and failings that I no longer try to hide. God is comfortable with me in the mess. 

At one point a close friend said to me, “It’s okay, Karen. I have enough faith right now to carry you.” And she did. She helped release me from having to figure anything out—which was a step toward healing.

My heart is still rooted in suffering—exhausted, burnt out and moving forward. I’m chronically ill, a full time working mom of three—one with special needs. I constantly question my ability to survive each day. But somehow, I put one foot in front of the other and show up at work and for my kids and to church. I’m still waiting for signs of zeal, joy, and peace to return. But God provides the daily bread—he gives me the ability to function—even when I don’t often give thanks. 

God is slowly reviving me. He is reaching into my heart and teaching me to trust even when I’m defensive and resistant. God persists—even when I give up.

about the author
Our Stories of Renewal feature people connected to St. Peter's Fireside who are experiencing spiritual, social, or cultural renewal. If you'd like to share a story, we would love to hear how God is working in your life! Please email us.

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