Today’s Truth

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

Friend to Friend

I will never forget the day I learned how God really can turn tragedy into triumph. I was sitting at my desk, working on an assignment from the counselor I had been seeing. For months I had been wrestling with my past – slowly, methodically working through painful issues and buried memories that seemed to be feeding the clinical depression I was battling. As page after page filled with harsh realities, a memory slammed into my heart and mind.

I grew up in a small Texas town where we lived in what some would call a “shack” on the edge of town. My mother worked three jobs to support three children, but her main job was as a nurse.

I was frequently sick with colds and ear infections. We had little money, but we did have a family doctor who was a friend and colleague of my mother. In fact, they worked side-by-side each day at the one and only hospital in town. Knowing our financial circumstances, this doctor and his wife often asked my mom to baby-sit to earn extra money. They had five children, so I was often recruited to go along as a backup.

Over the years, this doctor often took care of our medical needs, charging us nothing. He was our friend, a man I respected and trusted – until the day he molested me. The pain and betrayal were so great that I locked it all away in a dark corner of my soul, refusing to admit it had ever happened. I told no one.

Fast-forward twenty years. I was happily married to Dan Southerland and had two wonderful children. I travelled, speaking for women’s events and loved being a pastor’s wife. Everything on the outside looked great, but inside, the past slowly ate away at my soul until my world collapsed, and I sank into a pit of clinical depression.

I was paralyzed. The simple tasks seemed like impossible mountains to climb. Panic attacks became a daily event. I stepped out of ministry and began to uncover the wounds I had desperately tried to ignore most of my life.

I kept insanely busy in a vain attempt to earn God’s favor and the approval of others. My worth seemed to rest on the foundation of doing, instead of being. I soon discovered that one of the main reasons I had fallen into that pit was because I refused to face and deal with the pain of my past.

With the help of a loving husband, a Christian psychiatrist and a brilliant family doctor, I began to make slow but steady progress in climbing out of that dark, slimy pit.

Then, I remembered.

I remembered that day in the doctor’s office. I fell apart. I hated that man. I wanted him to pay for what he had done to me. I wanted him to hurt like he had hurt me. I also knew that somehow, I had to let my pain go and forgive him or I would be trapped for the rest of my life. God and I began to work through every painful, horrifying moment of that memory.

Anger unlike any I had ever known fueled violent thoughts of revenge and retaliation. I was furious with this man – and irate at God.

How could He have let this happen?

Where was the light in this dark place?

It was a long time before I saw the first glimmer of light. It was wrapped in chosen forgiveness.

I began to see that had I never been wounded so badly, I would never have been able to forgive so freely – and in doing so, discover a depth of healing and freedom only the greatest pain can produce. Today, I can honestly thank God for all He has accomplished in me through the sin of that man.

There are no accidents with God, nor is He surprised by anything or anyone in the life of His child. God uses even the most horrendous circumstances for our good.

Every circumstance comes to us for a purpose, bound by God’s love and plan and faithfully delivered with His permission. While we cannot go back and change our past, we can change the way we respond to our past and determine how much power it has in our lives today.

Only God can take the broken pieces of your life and make something beautiful out of each one. He is waiting for you to let go of your pain and trust Him.

And you really can trust Him.

No one loves you like He does.

You may not always understand or even like His process, but you can always trust His heart of love for you.

Let’s Pray

Father, I choose to believe You are faithful and will do what You promise to do in Your Word. I believe when I lay the pain and hurt of my past at Your feet, You not only can but also will transform it all into something beautiful. I choose to believe You will turn the broken places of my life into living illustrations of Your sufficiency and healing power. I trust You, Lord.

In Jesus’ Name,


Now It’s Your Turn

Isaiah 45:3 is one of my favorite life verses. Read it carefully:

Isaiah 45:3 (NLT) “And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”

What treasures have you discovered in the dark times of your life? What tragedy has God transformed into a triumph that has changed your life? Praise Him right now for doing so.

More from the Girlfriends

Storms are a reality of life. If you need help facing and dealing with the storms in your life, check out Mary’s E-Bible Study and Video Download, Strength for the Storm.

Be sure to check out the FREE MP3s on Mary’s website and connect with Mary through email or on Facebook.

10 Responses to “When God Turns Tragedy Into Triumph”

  1. mahogany says:

    Good morning,
    To god be all the glory. I get your emails everyday and I enjoy reading them. This one really hit home. I have been going thru the same thing since the age of five.I have seen many therapist but no progress. But I am on medication now. I just pray everyday and say this to shall pass. Right now I am in a bad situation but I just look to god and know it’s going to get better. I love all 3 of you sisters so much and thank you for the Beautiful emails. God bless you.

  2. Nguper says:

    This post….It has me crying. It has me feeling nostalgic, I can relate to it on many counts. It has made me reach deep down and touched feelings I’ve been running away from. It has reminded me of how faithful God has been. It is motivating me to do a blog post relating to this. Please kindly give me permission to make reference to this post on my blog. Gosh…I’m welling up. God bless you for that post.

  3. Emily says:

    Thank you for sharing that with us! I’ve heard you mention numerous times about your depression…but never the molestation part. I’m sure it still is hard to share with others at times.
    I absolutely love the verse you shared…because I would have never thought of it in this context.
    I am 33 years old and when I was 15-16, I was in an abusive relationship with a boyfriend. LONG story short, it turned my life around, even though I had accepted Christ at age 7, I was a new person after this relationship. It was a hard and long journey of recovery but I always knew God would use it for His goodness.
    One of those “treasures from the darkness” (see, so glad you shared this!) is that I am able to go into high school wellness classes and discuss domestic violence with 15 year olds with our local police department! (I work for the Sheriff’s office). I am able to share my testimony (in so many words but most people figure out what I’m saying when I talk about my life changing) to hundreds of kids. I love that God can use me in this area of my life 18 years later!
    I will always look at this verse differently now.Thank you 🙂

  4. MaJunta says:

    Mary, I like many others share your experience. My childhood abuser was a police officer and part-time youth minister. He molested me from the time I was 6 until I moved away from home and went to college. He wrote me a “love letter” when I moved away from home; which I eventually published on Kindle last year. When living he could not be charged due to state statutes of time limitations. I believe in change. Nevermind how long it might take the victim to not be so afraid to speak of their experience, these types of crimes deserve to be punishable. Thank you for listening. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Crystal says:

    This is a great article. Kudos to you for opening up and sharing. I love your devotionals and God uses them to speak into my life regularly! I do have issue with ,”Every circumstance….is faithfully delivered with His permission”? Some circumstances, like the one you described, sickens the Father, is thoroughly satanic and delivered by evil and the demons that PEOPLE ALLOW into their lives but, Where sin abounds, Grace much more abounds! God gave mankind free will. To choose good or evil. Innocent people suffer according to mankind’s wrong choice. God will ALWAYS turn it around and heal. He is not an accomplice , however.

    • Thank you for the kind words. I understand your thoughts and feelings about the statement that every circumstance is faithfully delivered with His permission. Some are not delivered by Him. They do break His heart. The enemy is alive and well. But like Job, Satan had to get God’s permission to attack Job. I totally agree that we make it easier for the enemy, we open the door for his attacks when we sin, when we choose to disregard God’s perfect plan for our lives. And God does use it for good … when we let Him. Blessings, friend.

  6. Sandy says:

    Thank you for your devotion. It touched my heart. As a child I was abused. As an adult, my child took his own life. It has been extremely hard.I so love your prayer.It is penned on the inside cover of my journal.

    • Kristi says:

      My heart breaks for you…I am so sorry for the loss of your son! Many times I would allow myself to picture this in my own life, as my son was in drug addiction for 6 or so years. Everyday was extremely painful, knowing the only outcome would be prison or death. Prayer became so prevalent in our lives…even when hopelessness would sometime take over. Relying on His promises…and sadly sometimes still relying on our own strengths. WE think we can love their pain and afflictions away…but only God can do that ! And the day my husband and I both came together and gave our son back to God…knowing His will be done…which could’ve been death, we knew…but we prayed in thankfulness for giving us our beautiful son for 18 yrs…but we give him back.
      Within a year, he entered a little Christ-centered rehab , Mercy House Ministries and found the Lord again and is now in ministry for last 3 yrs. is the name and he has an extended discipleship home in little Hurley, Ms, for those that need help.
      While we have been blessed beyond words, as God answered our prayers, truly bigger than we prayed…my son continues to try and reach out to help those who struggle with life addictions…and attends too many funerals of those who just couldn’t find their way. It’s so sad…and I just want you to know again how sorry I am for your loss.
      I pray that your faith will see you through this dark time…knowing He can heal, change and redeem beyond our comprehension.

  7. Ana says:

    Thank you for sharing this!

  8. Kristi says:

    Oh how this devotion has spoken to me……Thank you for your words of wisdom…and reminder of God’s love ! Our darkness truly can be turned into triumph..through Him ! For that I am so very grateful !

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"We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well…" 1 Thessalonians 2:8