When You've Been Gutted

Dan Hitz is the director of Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc. and a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Michigan. This teaching was first presented by Dan at a Celebrate Recovery meeting at Woodside of Troy. You can read more testimonies and articles in the newsletter archives section of our website at https://recmin.org/newsletter-archives.


We all have them. Times when we’ve been emotionally gutted. And they hurt. They hurt a lot. It may be through the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, a betrayal. The pain goes much deeper than the event. There’s the loss of hopes, dreams, and goals for the future. Someone… or something... very precious to us… is gone. Our very foundation has crumbled. Or at least… what we thought was our foundation.

In the middle of our pain, the sin and hiding places of the past start glistening a little bit more. Sometimes a lot more. Don’t run back to the false comforts of your past life. In the middle of the pain it’s easy to feel like the disciples who got offended at Jesus because He was sleeping in the boat in the middle of the storm. Doesn’t He care? Why doesn’t He do something? He’s the one who told me to get into this boat in the first place. Wasn’t I doing His will? Am I in this thing all by myself? In the middle of the pain it can be pretty difficult to hear the truth. No. You’re not alone. Jesus is still right there with you. Jesus is still very much involved in what you’re going through. He isn’t sleeping in the boat in the middle of the storm because He doesn’t care. Jesus is sleeping because He has 100% confidence in the Father to get you through the storm and lead you to the shore. It may not feel like it. Things aren’t happening the way you figured they were going to happen. But you aren’t going to drown. If you hold onto Jesus in the middle of the storm… the one you don’t really understand right now… the one you may actually be ticked off at right now… He is there. He is good. He will lead you through the storm.

Maybe a small part of my own journey can help you. There was a time when I went through a huge ministerial disappointment. Initially, it looked like years of hopes and dreams were being fulfilled. The Lord opened the door for a big endeavor that would take a lot of time, effort and sacrifice. It required a season of changing focus and putting a lot of energy into a joint project at the expense of some responsibilities with family and my regular ministry. My wife and I were prayerfully on the same page. In our minds it would be worth these sacrifices because we thought that through this calling, so many more ministerial doors would be opened in the future. After all, it really was Jesus who told us to “get into the boat”. To be real, we knew there would be a lot of challenges with this project, but we figured Jesus would calm the storms and get us through to the other side of the lake without the boat taking on a lot of water.


Well. The waves came. Big ones. The boat took on a lot of water. As the project rolled on, we began to come up against some heavy opposition. The enemy truly got out some heavy artillery for this one. Bombs were going off. Some of them right in the middle of my heart. I had some challenges with the project leader. While I initially thought we were on the same page, it quickly became clear that we were not. The opposition was coming from a source that I least expected. And it continued to grow worse.

Unlike the disciples, I have to admit that Jesus was very much awake in the middle of the boat. Also unlike the disciples, Jesus did not calm the storm. He “allowed” the storm to continue. Although there were times when I didn’t think I could continue with what He was asking me to do, He didn’t allow me to drown. He kept me afloat. He spoke words of truth. He empowered me to endure the storm.

Enduring the storm didn’t mean that I came out unscathed. There were wounds. Deep ones. Although we did accomplish many of the ministerial goals of the project, there were other goals that did not get accomplished because of the brokenness of the team. Mine included. What could have been a fantastic experience, turned out to be just okay. And the ministerial hopes, dreams, and goals for the future that I thought would be secured through this project? They seemed to be heaped up in a charred pile of rubble right smack dab in the center of my heart.


I was disillusioned. I had a lot of charred debris to work through with Jesus. And I let Him know that. One day the Lord spoke to me and said, “Dan, you have to grieve the tearing of your hopes and dreams.” He got my attention. Although I had been grieving… sort of… I hadn’t recognized it as such. I didn’t realize my legitimate need to do some holy grieving. Holy grieving is much more efficient than resentful complaining. I responded, “Lord, I feel like there’s been an amputation. I’m feeling a lot of phantom pain here.” He intimately spoke back, “Dan, are you willing to grieve the tearing with no guarantee that I will fill up that void in your heart? Are you willing to surrender to me with absolutely no guarantee that I will grow back the limb? Are you willing to surrender to me with absolutely no guarantee that I will even heal the phantom pain? But with a full guarantee that I will be fully with you during this process?” God was asking me to be honest. It felt like I had one leg. I considered my options. I could try to make a fake prosthesis. I could try to make some sort of wooden crutch to hobble around on. What would that get me in the end? God’s presence is far more important than some fake limb. Or even a real one. I surrendered. I told Him that since I only had one leg, I’d need Him to pick me up and set me where He wants me to be. I need the grace to stay wherever that is until He comes and picks me up and sets me someplace else.

I could breathe again. But grieving – and healing – is a process. I don’t know how many times I cried in my heart, “Lord, this surely didn’t turn out the way I figured it would”. During one of the seasons when I was being particularly whiny, the Lord spoke to me and said, “I’m sure things didn’t turn out like Moses planned when he tried to help his fellow Israelites by killing the Egyptian and then spent the next 40 years tending his father-in-law’s sheep in the middle of a desert. And I’m sure things didn’t turn out the way David figured they would when he was anointed king by Samuel and then spent years in the wilderness running from Saul.” God had my attention.

Then the Lord began to unpack the life of Joseph. Surely things didn’t turn out like Joseph planned after he got done telling his brothers that they would all end up bowing down to him someday. We can see their response when he came back another day and let them know that mom and dad were going to be bowing down to him too. They threw him down a dry well. Forget mom and dad bowing down to their own son, where were they to protect Joseph when he was thrown into that well?


You can read about the brothers throwing Joseph into a well in Genesis 37, verse 24. Verse 25 says a lot. The brothers cared so little about the harm they were causing Joseph, that they sat down and ate lunch in the very next verse. What little hope Joseph may have had as his brothers were lifting him out of that well was surely smashed as they promptly sold him to slave traders. Surely, this was not part of Joseph’s hopes, dreams, and goals for the future. The brothers didn’t seem to care.

I’ve often wondered about the inner dialogue and struggles that Joseph was having during his early years in Egypt. The Bible really doesn’t say, but since Chapter 39 tells how the Lord was with Joseph and caused everything he did to prosper, we can assume that Joseph didn’t let his heart grow bitter towards the Lord. He faithfully served Potiphar, the captain of the guard, until Potiphar’s wife lied about Joseph trying to assault her and he was thrown into prison. Evidently, he didn’t get bitter in prison either as the warden ended up putting Joseph in charge and made him “responsible for all that was done there” (Genesis 39:22 NIV).

Even though things didn’t play out the way Joseph figured they would, he was able to keep his heart open to the Lord and the Lord continued to show him favor. He ended up being second in command to Pharaoh and saving the lives of many people during the famine as the head of Egypt’s food distribution program. He was 17 years old the day his brothers threw him into a well, and about 40 when he was reunited with his father in Egypt. Things surely didn’t turn out the way he thought they would when he was the snarky 17 year old who thought it was a good idea to tell his brothers that they would be bowing down to him someday. However, Joseph persevered by keeping his heart open to the Lord and trusting in His grace when he was wronged, abused, and overwhelmed. Most likely, he would have never imagined that the Lord would ever use him in the way that He did. All of us will have our own set of dry wells, Potiphar’s houses, and prisons to walk through. It is inevitable. But if we can keep our hearts open to the Lord when our own hopes, dreams and goals for the future are crushed; our lives will have so much more eternal benefit than we could ever imagine. God is good. And He loves us dearly.

Photos used with permission from www.unsplash.com.

© 2019 Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc.  This article may be reproduced and distributed as long as no fee is charged and credit is given to Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc.

Finding God in the Mess

Dan Hitz has been the Executive Director of Reconciliation Ministries since 2003, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Michigan. More articles are available in the archives section of the Reconciliation Ministries website at http://www.recmin.org/newsletter-archives/.

Facebook Meme.png

I don’t know who created the meme on the left that made its way around Facebook a while ago, but I wish I knew. I would like to thank them for speaking truth. Truth that sets us free from false condemnation because we simply “can’t do it anymore”, and we were told somewhere along the line that “God will not give us more than we can handle.” There was even a Christian hit song some months back about that concept. Yes, I was one of those people who cringed every time I heard the singer tell me to remember what God said about not giving us more than we can handle. And yes… I am also one of those people who has at various times in my life, experienced more than I could handle. And also…, yes… I have to admit that there were times when I despaired of life itself. I’m going to guess that you’ve also experienced those times when you were overwhelmed and you just couldn’t do “it” anymore. Maybe you’ve even despaired of life itself. Turns out, we’re in good company. Even the Apostle Paul, who wrote those verses in 2 Corinthians about being in “great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure” was a member of this not so exclusive club. Like us, Paul also experienced more than he could endure.

But there’s actually good news in realizing that we weren’t meant to just suck it up and deal with it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reads, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” If we misapply that verse to mean that we don’t ever experience anything in life that we can’t emotionally deal with, then we’re setting ourselves up for discouragement. To be fair, the Greek word for tempted and temptation can also mean trials and testing, but the entire context of 1 Corinthians 10 is sinful temptations – not trials and hardships that have nothing to do with temptations. So while it is true that God won’t let us be tempted to sin beyond our ability to withstand, God does sometimes allow us to pass through trials that we absolutely cannot make it through on our own. The good news is that 2 Corinthians 1:9 gives us the answer for the times of great darkness in our lives. It is during those times that we must learn that we cannot “rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” It is during those times that we must recognize our utter helplessness and fall on the mercy of Jesus Christ to bring us through the valley. Jesus is the only way we can endure some of the worse pain and suffering that life brings our way.

I’m no stranger to seasons of life that I don’t have the natural capacity to endure. I’m guessing you aren’t either. Years ago my wife and I experienced the loss of many dear friends and the hope of our ministry calling after we left a spiritually abusive church we had been a part of for more than 15 years. We’ve experienced the overwhelming despair of a parent with a prodigal son and daughter. Those seasons were definitely more than we could endure, but nothing prepared us for the overwhelming pain and sorrow we experienced from the death of our 17-year old son. I have to admit… During those seasons. Like the Apostle Paul. I despaired of life itself. Don’t worry. Neither my wife nor I are suicidal. However, I can speak for myself and say that I wouldn’t have minded if Jesus would have come back right then and there. As I heard one preacher say, “Sometimes it is easier to die for Christ than to live for Him.” He was right. [Incidentally, if you are feeling suicidal, or harmful to yourself or others, please get some help. Life is very worth living. It does get better. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 800.273.TALK. Help is available]


The good news is that I’m still here, and I’m in a pretty decent season of my life right now. I can truly attest that coming to the end of our human ability to endure and falling upon the mercy of God does provide all that we need to pass through the times of overwhelming darkness in our lives. It also equips us with more faith and power on the other side of the trial. If we can keep our hearts open to the Lord during the times of darkness, we’ll learn some pretty phenomenal things about God’s character and His love for us. We can’t learn these things any other way. We learn more about the Father’s incredible heart of love for us, in that He was willing to sacrifice His own Son to save us from our sin and despair. We learn of Jesus’ unconditional love for us and that He willingly suffered far more than we can ever realize to redeem us and carry us through our pain. We’ll also learn of the incredible power and strength of the Holy Spirit as we allow Him to flow through us and carry us in the darkness. These are some of the “treasures of darkness” that the prophet Isaiah talks about in Isaiah 45:3. The New International Version reads, “I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Many other versions, including Young’s Literal Translation show us that this verse is even more precious to those of us who are passing – or have passed – through the darkness. Young’s reads, “And have given to thee treasures of darkness, Even treasures of secret places, So that thou knowest that I, Jehovah, Who am calling on thy name -- [am] the God of Israel.” God promises us that if we stick with Him during the dark times… If we keep our hearts open to Him… If we admit that we just can’t do “this” anymore and ask Him to carry us… He will be faithful to carry us through the horrible times. He will be faithful to equip us to endure and keep going for another day… for a better season… We will learn more about God and about ourselves than we could ever imagine. And we will gain spiritual treasures that will shine brightly in our souls long after we’ve passed through the valley.

If you’re in a dark place right now, you’re probably thinking, “Dan, I don’t even know where to start.” I get it. Neither did I when I was in the darkness. I was in a very bad place when I walked into my first Sunday sermon at my home church about 18 years ago. For some reason the pastor had a long rope tied to a chandelier on the top end, and a knot tied on the bottom. He preached out of the book of Nehemiah, the man who was in charge of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Walls that were in heaps after Jerusalem was destroyed. About all I remember from that sermon is the pastor walking over to the knot at the end of the rope and saying something like, “When your life is in a big pile of rubble. Like the walls of Jerusalem. Dig through the rubble. Find the one thing that you still believe about Jesus. Hold onto that with all your might. Then cry out to Jesus for mercy.” Those words broke through the hopelessness in my heart and I sobbed. Loudly. Right in the middle of the sanctuary. Everyone heard me. It didn’t matter that everyone heard me. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have the strength to endure. It didn’t matter that I felt hopeless. What did matter was that Jesus was at the end of that rope. I knew that Jesus would carry me through this darkness when I was in way over my head. He did. Jesus met me when I was at the end of my rope and He carried me through the darkness. He will carry you too.


I have to be real and acknowledge that the darkness didn’t immediately disappear. That season lasted for a few years. But I also have to be honest and acknowledge that Jesus was faithful to carry me through the darkness when I had no clue how to go on. During that time I received many great “treasures of darkness”, riches of God’s presence and character, that still influence my walk to this day. God is faithful. He may allow you to go through more than you can endure. But God will carry you through the worst trials of your life if you cry out to Him for help. And if you don’t have the strength to cry out to Him aloud, He responds to the silent cries of our hearts too. God loves you. God will never leave you or forsake you. He really will carry you.

If you are in the middle of a dark valley right now, reach out to the pastoral care department of your church for help. Reconciliation Ministries is also here for you. Call us at 586.739.5114. We care.

Meme retrieved from www.facebook.com.
Photos of male and female courtesy of www.unsplash.com.
© 2018 Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc.  This article may be reproduced and distributed as long as no fee is charged and credit is given.