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Moving Past the Pain That Plagues Us

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

“My life will never be the same now that she has left me.”

“When he died, part of me died.”

“I don’t think I will ever get over this.”

“I would rather die than go through these treatments.”

The death of someone you loved dearly.  You lost your job.  Your husband has left you for another woman.  The medical test results show you have an incurable disease.  In our fallen world everybody experiences suffering.  It is during these seemingly endless periods of darkness that we often believe we can never experience joy again.

Author Anita Agers-Brooks believes that losing our joy is not in accord with God’s Word.  She speaks from her heart as she has certainly lived through the pits of despair.  Agers-Brooks has dealt with infidelity in her marriage, learned in her adult years that her father was not who he said he was, battled depression and had a near death experience after donating a kidney.  Yet through it all, God provided a way for her to find hope despite her circumstances.

In her latest book, Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, Agers-Brooks encourages readers by sharing stories of those who have stared down their greatest fears and won the battle.  Conversely, there is hope for those trudging through a valley of despair.

I recently sat down with Agers-Brooks to discuss why people have so much difficulty finding joy again, suggestions for those who have loved ones that have given up, and why believing God is just as important as believing in God.

What was the catalyst for you to write Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over?

The reason I wrote the book was because several years ago I went through a series of events where numerous friends and family were referring to me as kind of a female version of Job.  It was that tsunami of adversity where one thing after another went wrong.  I now refer to that as my “Job-ette” season.  I learned many, many things from that season of my life.  First, I learned that you really can count on Jesus when the chips are down.  When you hit rock bottom he is the rock and foundation that you can land on.  So, He really carried me through that.  He taught me how to keep walking when I felt like I wanted to give up.  As a result, I learned that you can’t have a miracle without having a problem first.  When you change your perspective and start looking at life through that lens it really helps you.  But I also learned that well-meaning people will come to you and tell you all the things you need to do, or tell you that you need to get over it.  And frankly, there are some things in life that you will never get over but you can get through them.

I hear so many stories of people who have lost loved ones – a spouse, a child, a parent – where they say they will never get over it. Why do so many people believe that they can never experience joy again after being in such an intense place in their lives?

First, I would like to say there is a distinction between not getting over it but not receiving joy again or not feeling that in your life again.  I say that painful people can laugh yet again when you grip Jesus.  It takes time.  It takes process and no one else can determine for you how long your grieving process should take.  We can have joy even in the midst of the sorrow because we know that there is hope.  The definition of faith is believing in what you can’t yet see. So, you make those statements of faith.  You say, “Lord, I’m going to trust you even though everything appears as if I shouldn’t.  Everything looks hopeless but I am going to stand on hope.”  You just make those decisions and hold on to that.  It really does help you to get through until the emotions follow.

You speak to groups all over the country about this subject.  What’s the most common question you get?  There must be something that keeps coming up over and over again.

There is and it is interesting to me.  It doesn’t matter if it is a Christian event, a secular event, a business function, or a women’s conference.  It doesn’t matter what it is, there is one prevailing subject that will come up.  And that is when people will walk up to me and they will say, “Well, I believe in God but ….”  They always have a reason why they don’t trust God.  So, God has taught me to respond this way.  I will look at them and say, you know it is really wonderful that you believe in God.  I’m so glad to hear that.  But do you mind if I ask you a question?  That is, do you believe God?  I ask this because it is a very different mindset.  If you believe God then you will dare to risk reading what He says about things.  If you want to know why doesn’t He speak to me, it’s because you are not going to the platform He speaks from.  He speaks from the Bible.  Go to the Bible.  Learn what He thinks about things and what His viewpoint is.  Really try that because unless you have tried it you don’t know what you might be missing.  The risk is definitely worth the reward.

What encouragement do you have for people who find themselves in despair, people who think they are never going to find their way out? 

The first thing that I would say to them is dare to believe that God sees you and loves what He sees.  Dare to believe that He has not abandoned you.  Our emotions can sometimes lie to us and lead us to believe something that is not true.  God makes the promise that He will never leave or forsake us.  He won’t abandon us. We need to make a decision to believe before we feel it, or before we see the results.  If we don’t do that then we are not exercising faith.

What is the best way to come alongside a friend or family member to provide that encouragement without being annoying or condemning? 

That’s a great question.  Let me just say that I have been on the receiving end during my “Job-ette” season many times.  Well meaning people come along and they want to almost say read these three Scriptures and call me in the morning.  That doesn’t work.  You already feel bad.  You already have all these questions swirling.  I love Proverbs 25:20.  It says, “Like taking a cloak from a man on a cold day, or pouring vinegar in an open wound, is singing songs to a heavy heart.” We need to remember that it’s not our job to fix them or to cheer them up, or tell them all the ways they should be getting over this.  That’s God’s job.  Literally love on them.  I love in the book of Job where his friends, when they first came to him for seven days, simply sat with him.  That’s when they got it right.  They sat with him.  They showed their love, compassion, and concern.  But they weren’t trying to fix Job in those seven days.  When it fell apart was when they opened their mouths. 

What I really like about your book is that it is a handbook of sorts.  You have insider insights.  You have practical help.  You list spiritual comfort areas in each chapter.  Was that intentional on your part to have this type of structure within each chapter?

It was.  I did that for a couple of reasons.  One, I have found that if I just come at someone with spiritual things that can feel overwhelming. If I just come at them with practical ideas then they are not getting the full scope of what can truly offer healing which is the spiritual aspect.  I really believe it is the connection of the two.  God gave us a heart and a brain.  I believe that those things are very effective in giving us wholeness in our healing. I wanted to make sure I incorporated both of those.  But equally, I know from the perspective of being the person who has been traumatized that sometimes when people tell you to take it just one day at a time, a whole day is overwhelming.  You need something to help you get through a moment at a time.  So, I wanted to do bullet points at the end of each chapter so a hurting person can pick it up go, “What’s one thing I can do to just get through this moment?”

As an author, what is your greatest hope for Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over?

I want my readers who might be in the darkness to understand that this is just not something that was meant for them.  I am no special person.  That is equally available for them.  Hold on.  You have to walk through those things before you’re ready to help someone else.  And I know when you are at that place you don’t care about helping anybody else.  Right now, you just want to feel better.  That’s ok.  God understands this.  Psalm 103 says, “He remembers that we are made of dust.” So, allow Him to come alongside you and provide that healing.  Do what’s necessary.  Face your grief.  Go through all the steps of the grieving process but know that there really can be a purpose out of this and that painful people truly can laugh again.  That is true for anyone.  Just hang on.  Hold on and keep on keeping on.

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