By Darlene Franklin
My problems today are nothing compared to what I’ve already been through: my daughter’s suicide. I should remember that more often.
When my first book came out twelve years ago, I was the happy middle of a three-generation sandwich: myself, my mother and my grown daughter. I also worked for a decade at a satellite dish company with pleasant company and had flexible schedule that allowed me to write. I didn’t consider how quickly all that could change.
My world shattered with my daughter’s suicide. Grief overwhelmed me in the wake of the unbelievable loss. I stumbled around for months. The testimony of her faith, in her own words, reassured me that was living, pain-free, heaven. My tears were for myself, for the reasons that drove the beatitude “blessed are those who mourn.”
People around me commented on how well I was coping. How could I work, articulate, have hope, while in such pain?
My daughter Jolene had had a difficult life, stemming from abuse and consequential severe mental illness. God had given me an inner steel core that refused to break under pressure. Years of dealing with past abuse, and raising two emotionally disturbed children as a single mother had deepened and developed my faith over and over. Without that core strength, I wouldn’t have made it through most days.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27 NIV
Looking back, in light of John 14:27, Jesus whispers something else to me. “That steel core was My peace that I gave to you. I didn’t give you an absence of conflict. Instead, I gave you Myself and My strength when you faced the worst.”
Here I thought the steel core had been crafted and given to me by God. But God had not given me that puzzle piece. He Himself had been that peace.
Jolene’s suicide was only the first of a series of life-changing events. After Jolene died, my mother moved to a nursing home. Things at my work place shifted, and I left my beloved Colorado to be near my grandchildren. A short time later, Mom died. My health disintegrated and I myself ended up in a nursing home.
Sometimes life sucks.
In some ways it was a huge relief. At last my problems could be addressed and steps taken to restore my health. I am much stronger now than I was when I first moved in, although independent living is still not a possibility.
Again, God has been my peace. So many who end up in long-term care hate and resent it. They weekly ask for prayer to go home.
Not me. This has been a place of healing. It has also been a place of amazing growth and opportunity.
Because, you see, a year or so after my health fallen apart, my publisher closed the book club I’d written for and my agent let me go. I was an author without a place to tell my stories. Briefly I wondered if God was going to end my writing career at the same time I lost my independence.
I kept writing-self-published a couple of books. Joined a small press. Since then, my publishing track entered a meteoric rise. Peace pressed down into the oil of joy.
So why oh why, when God has given me His peace to survive the big losses, do I reject the same peace in my daily struggles?
Because I think I can handle them on my own. I’m looking for peace like the world gives, worldly answers to worldly problems like when I go to bed and if I have enough supplies.
When problems were so big I knew I couldn’t handle them alone, I accepted God’s peace. Maybe He wants to remind me that everything is under His control. I’ll always need His peace.
It’s there, within my reach. Living in my heart. The next time life happens-I want to surrender, to open my heart so that God’s peace can fill in the hole.