Women’s online Bible study based on the book Read the Bible For Life by George Guthrie, we are discussing week seven in small groups this week. Join us as we discuss the teachings of Jesus and the story of the Prodigal son. Below is an update from Missionary Mom and Ministry Leader Stasis Nielsen as she shares her own experiences bringing the Bible to others. These are her words:
Their marriage had been strained through as series of difficult circumstances. Danae and Jude had been living overseas because of work related research. Long hours and demanding deadlines encouraged an unhealthy distance between them. They had been wading through the rough waters of this strained relationship when the unimaginable hit. Their beloved daughter was taken ill with a rare strain of dengue (an infectious fever caused by a species of mosquito, sometimes resulting in fever, bleeding and death).
She lasted only few days. With no friends or family nearby to help her process her daughter’s death, Danae quickly sank into an unthinkable depression.
Danae had always seemed a tower of faith and grace to everyone who knew her. Her smile could brighten the darkest room, and her love for the Lord and exuberance for life was nothing less than contagious. She joyfully took on any task before her with a deep rooted faith in who God was and a knowledge of who she was in Him. But now, Danae’s light and love was nothing more than a slight flicker, fading all too fast in her growing darkness.
Some of Danae’s dearest friends worsened these dark hours by verbalizing things that ought not to have been said even when someone is not questioning their faith, let alone when they are struggling through the death of a loved one. To hear that it was her fault for “dragging” her child to a foreign land or that she was a negligent mother compounded the pain to unfathomable depths.
Jude and Danae rapidly slipped apart from each other as they dealt with the grief and questions in their own ways. In her deep loneliness and pain, Danae quit praying and reading her Bible. Jude became distant and threw himself into his work. They stopped going to church. Their marriage was on the brink of disaster.
As her grief consumed her, she slipped further and further away from the arms of Grace. She could not seem to form into prayer the depths of her broken heart and the blame she placed on a seemingly cruel God. To avoid Him would be the easier path to choose. When she closed her eyes at night, she felt as if she never wanted to open them again. She had nothing and no one to live for any longer.
To temporarily help her cope, the local Dr prescribed antidepressants and sleeping pills. On the nights when Danae could hear the distant laughter of her sweet child in the hallways, she would help the medication along with a few glasses of wine. A few glasses turned to a bottle or more.
She knew somewhere in the depths of her being that she was running away from the very One who could help her through the despondency and yet she was so angry at a God who could allow this all to happen to a family, her family, who had set themselves apart to love Him with all their might.
She sought help from a therapist and they became good friends. Soon she felt more comfortable sharing from her heart with him rather than with her own husband. As she continued to see her therapist, she became more and more estranged from her husband. It tore her to the very depths of her being to see their marriage fall apart and yet she did not have the strength nor inclination to save it.
Then one night after she had washed down a triple dose of her medications with a rather large bottle of alcohol, she awoke in a strange bed next to the counselor she had called her friend. This single act would be the bulldozer that shoved her broken and stained soul off the cliff of doubt and into the abyss of the darkest depression she would ever know.
Not only was Danae grieving for the loss of her precious child, she was now grieving for the loss of her virtue and the great guilt that she carried for going against her own strong personal convictions.If her life seemed unbearable before this moment, it was definitely not worth living anymore. She declared her own personal war against herself. She hated who she had become so violently, that she tried to end her life on more than one occasion. There was indeed no redemption for a grief-plagued adulteress such as herself. God continued to seem light years away and had no comprehension of what she had been going through. She wanted to give up, close her eyes and never wake up again. Years later she would tell me that one of her greatest mistakes was giving up and not caring anymore.
It culminated on a cold night when Danae with great purpose and intent washed a few hundred pills down with several bottles of alcohol. As the room began to swirl about, she lay down on her bed and whispered, “Forgive me, Lord.” She closed her eyes…and God heard her prayer, as He always hears our prayers.
Danae did not die that night, as a matter of fact, she awoke days later with an incredible sense of God’s love for her. Although it would take years to recover from what she went through, she began the journey that day when she awoke knowing that God had a greater purpose and plan for her life.
“The Lord saved me from myself that day,” she told me. Honestly, I would have never known the depths of her brokenness if she had not shared it with me. You see, when I met them, Danae and Jude were happily married and had several children. They were and are an amazing family, inspiring and fun to be around. God graciously and lovingly carried them through the desert of their deepest despairs and had brought them into the fields of faithfulness and joy in Him. He can do that because restoration and redemption are a part of who He is.
The testimony of the grace of God in Danae’s life shouted out ever so loudly to me this week as I read through our Read The Bible For Life Study. Every time I read the parable of the Prodigal Son I think of her. Broken and full of doubt, that prodigal daughter ran from her loving Father only to nearly die in the depths of despair. And yet, He saved her. She has a thriving walk with Him, a wonderful marriage and a gorgeous family.
There is no moment in our lives more precious to Him than that singular moment when we come to the realization that we no longer wish to be stuck in the mire of our own willful sin and turn with our stained hearts and conscience towards His ever merciful grace. Whether we struggle with willful disobedience or unfathomable brokenness and pain, God knows our tendencies to bolt when life becomes to difficult to bear. Although He is grieved by our own sinful choices, He waits with eternal anticipation for the prodigal within each of us to come home to His extravagant love and merciful embrace.
Why are we so intrigued with the parable of the Prodigal Son? Is it possibly that we, too, struggle with prodigality in our lives? Do we run away from God in fear instead of running towards Him in faith?
Just another thought on the parable of the Prodigal Son. How did the father respond when the prodigal came home, humbled and stinky from his debauchery? The father could hardly contain his joy and ran to him. He embraced his son, showered him with kisses and putting his signet ring on his finger, he clothed him in one of his best robes. Picture that if you will, as we return from our willful stubbornness, Our Heavenly Father runs to us, embracing us with His most extravagant love, clothing us in His righteousness and sealing us eternally with the power of His great mercy.
To read more articles about the work we are doing in the missionary field please visit www.StasiaNielsen.com
Assignment For The Week
- When you consider the implications of Christian discipleship, how would you live differently if you knew Jesus was going to come back one month from now? ( page 141)
- What one thing could you do to use your time more wisely?
- The kingdom of God was the central theme of Jesus’ teachings. What changes need to be made in your life to draw more attention to the radical nature of God’s kingdom? (page 144)
- Which of the brothers in the story of the Prodigal Son do you most identify with and why?
- How does the story of the Prodigal Son challenge views about God that are common in your culture?