September 13, 2019

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

Broken and blessed through surrender to God’s will

Kimberly Pohovey“God would never give you more than you can handle.” How many times I heard those words from well-intentioned people in my life—so many times, in fact, that I began to believe them myself.

Through multiple moves, the loss of our infant son, my husband’s battle with cancer, being held up at gunpoint, both of my parents’ deaths, and just the struggles of everyday life, I prided myself on the strength of my faith and courage to face hardships. With each mounting challenge, I felt a rising sense of self-importance. God must certainly hold me in high regard if he thinks I can handle this much. I wore my ability to overcome adversity as a sort of badge of honor.

Thankfully, I am a work in progress. As I have grown in my faith, I can now see how God has used each difficult and sometimes tragic experience in my life to break me of my self-reliance. The truth is, in every tough experience of my life, I have been able to endure only when I have surrendered to his will. It was never my courage or the strength of my faith. It was always him. When I could finally completely surrender every fear, doubt, frustration and pain and place it at his feet, it was then that I found peace and healing.

I specifically remember one instance when I gave everything over to God. It occurred as I was driving home exhausted from the hospital in the middle of the night. My prayer was that I could no longer bear my load, and I desperately needed God to lift my burden. I was broken. Through my tears, I heard the words of the song on the radio, “I will walk through the valley if he wants me to.”

An overwhelming peace pervaded my entire being, and I was flushed with the realization that I was supposed to keep proceeding through this difficult time because it was what God had in store for me. Only this time, I knew everything would be fine because God walked that valley by my side.

I’ve learned time and time again that there’s no honor in going it alone.

Like the eucharistic celebration I have come to love, how beautiful I find the imagery in Henri Nouwen’s book, Life of the Beloved, in which he describes how we are taken, blessed, broken and shared. I am called to be a child of God. I am blessed beyond measure with his abundant love. I am broken and learn to bend to his will. Then I am called to share my life in service to God and others.

Years ago, I found a pearl of wisdom tucked inside the book, When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, written by John Ortberg. The “God never gives you more than you can handle” phrase we all like to console each other with in difficult times is actually a misquoted passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians. So, what I am left with is this: God does give us more than we can handle—on purpose. He gives us cancer and death, and natural disasters, unemployment, marital challenges and a whole host of unpleasant earthly experiences.

When we cannot handle the burden, we are left broken and in need of him. And when we finally surrender to God, we find we are truly blessed.

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of mission advancement for Archdiocesan Education Initiatives.)

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