Finding Freedom in a Demolished House of Faith {guest post}

Genevieve Thul  has had one health battle after another, both with herself and her children. I mentioned one of these battles in a former five-minute-Friday post. I love her commitment to seeking God in the midst of pain. This is her God and Suffering story:

Pain is a lost emotion in the sea of verses quoted about how Christ conquered death and there is no sting any longer.

Fear is drowned out and ignored because doesn’t He give us a “spirit of peace” instead?


I broke into a million pieces when I was 8 years old, but I had already absorbed these twin “truths” and I knew good Christians don’t break when they suffer. So I sat alone in the golden haze of the forest clearing, staring up through the stars of my tears at the yellow birch leaves. I was pulling myself together. Trying, at 8 years old, to do my duty to bring glory to God through impossible circumstances.

I’ve been doing so ever since. Put on a happy face. Focus on the King. If you just focus hard enough…pray often enough…spend enough “time in the Word” then it will all disappear. We build our faith with our own sweat and our own works, predicated on our faithfulness. No one acquainted me with a Man of Sorrows or a Holy Spirit that speaks of my pain when my soul can only groan without words. Instead of huddling under His wings in the darkness, I dug a deeper pit of suffering with my trusty shovels named Failure and Guilt.

Bad Christian. Bad mother. Bad daughter. Bad wife. Bad housekeeper. Bad, bad, bad.


Cancer was ravaging me, and I’d looked into my daughter’s eyes as she hovered at the brink of death, and then someone said this was all because of my sin. If I would just break, let myself be remade into a suburban, casserole-baking Stepford wife like Jesus wanted, then…and only then…would the blessing I’d been promised be fulfilled. Take our word for it, they said. We are wise, and you are depraved.


The reason that poison arrow pierced so deep is because I am depraved. Who can honestly say they don’t know the depth of the blackness of their own heart? I was down for the count and it wasn’t until I was in the white-washed surroundings of a hospital that it was finally quiet enough to hear the whisper of the Spirit. To my shock, I realized all the cacophony of the orchestra playing the “Bad, Bad, Bad” chorus in my head was just the world’s white noise. What the Spirit was saying was something entirely different.


You are worth My attention.


So worth it, I bought you with my blood.


It’s all erased, forgotten, paid for.


I love you.


I want you so much, no matter what shape you’re in.


I’ll walk with you through your pain.

How amazing that grace was the hour it first appeared! It didn’t heal me on the spot. It didn’t even pull me out of my depression or my sadness. Instead, being given permission to grieve in the presence of God opened the door to the jail of Christianity and walked me right into the arms of Jesus.


Why do we preach a “walk this way” Gospel to the suffering? How precious and fragile is the gift of free will. How tenuous the journey of free will to faith. When humans get in the way of the heartbreaking beauty of the Cross and muddy the waters with judgment and prescriptive orthodoxy, how many flickering flames of hope are extinguished? Where is the voice of the Preacher who loved the filthy, the broken, the hopeless, the prostitutes and the destitute? Drowned amongst the false prophets shouting Prosperity Gospel, those preachers banging pulpits, saying our righteousness is filthy, disgusting while forgetting to include the story of the redemption that washes our filthy rags cleaner than a new blanket of snow?


One night, deep in sleep, God picked up the pieces and gave me a glimpse of the art He was crafting from the broken shards of my heart. I saw the smallness of the faith that had been destroyed, and the enormity of the faith He would grow in me. I saw each piece of my heart exploding in slow motion, red remnants glistening in the sunlight, and then winced as His heart imploded around mine. In between each red sliver of my broken heart was a beautiful fleck of gold from His. His last words on the Cross came to me – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) Yes, His heart was broken, too.

What I had missed in those years denying my pain and fear was that all the brokenness can become a mosaic of such jaw-dropping brilliance that it becomes stronger than false religion, louder than false prophets, more healing than any rigid practice of Christianity.

You can’t rebuild what you haven’t already burned down. Suffering was my deconstruction, but it was also my reconstruction: I may not have any fancy house of Good Works to show off to the world, but in my heart there is finally solid ground on which to stand. A foundation that stays solid even when the tsunamis of life wash over it.


Genevieve ThulAfter surviving a lifelong heart condition, cancer, and excommunication from her church home, Genevieve Thul is blessed to work as a professor, mama of four and wife to the best lover a women could dream of. And the only way she can even get out of bed in the morning is by simply clinging to the Cross. She dreams of one day “having an answer for the faith that she has” (I Peter 3:15). For now, she is daily discovering true Grace and learning to live her true identity as a beautiful daughter of the king. She blogs at and tweets @gmthul.

Over to you:

  • Have you ever had other people blame your suffering on your sin?
  • Can you relate to being rebuilt stronger through suffering?

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11 Responses to Finding Freedom in a Demolished House of Faith {guest post}

  1. Diana Trautwein 23rd January, 2013 at 4:13 am #

    Exquisitely done, as always, Genevieve. Thank you for pouring out this hard, but beautiful truth – – and most of all, for staring down the naysayers and the wrong-headed theology. Oh, Lord, save me from bad theology. . . even the crap I sometimes dream up. :>)

  2. Mandy 22nd January, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    I heard that bad, bad, bad chorus for far too long. Yes, i’ve had other people blame my suffering on my sin. One supposedly mature christian, said my daughter had cardio probs because of my sinful heart. I wrestled with a tyrant God for a long time until I realised the truth is just beautiful, He is love.

    • Genevieve @ Turquoise Gates 22nd January, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

      Does the story of Jacob wrestling with God resonate with you? That passage was very critical to me when I was in the midst of the worst of the my suffering. Especially the ironic statement Jacob makes, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.” The idea of wrestling with God – and even making demands of Him! – showed me a bold faith I didn’t know was “Christian”. Good luck to you and peace and health to your dear daughter with the cardio problems! I know that road very well having had a cardiac condition my whole life, diagnosed at age 13.

  3. Joanna 22nd January, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Just absolutely beautiful. Thank you

  4. Joy Lenton 22nd January, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Dear Genevieve, this is a powerful outpouring that resonated deep within me. Reading and crying. Reading and nodding. Reading and gasping at the jewelled truth shining out through your life and testimony. His grace revealed strongly through the accepting of it, the opening of desperate hands and heart to Him and Him alone. God is more than enough but can only become that for us when all other hopes and avenues have dried up.
    Sharing in the faith challenges. How needlessly cruel and casually flippant some believers can be with their remarks. Any blame for the lack in receiving what we pray for is laid resolutely at our feet by such as these who live in charmed nonchalance, apparently untouched by the darkness of pain, struggle and sheer defeat we feel if our lives don’t mirror their neat theologies.
    Sharing too in the knowledge that God is weaving a masterpiece out of our mess, a marvellous mosaic from the broken shards of our hopes and dreams, in His own mysterious way. One day it will become clear. Meanwhile, we rest in those arms of love that hold and keep us safe through it all. May God be really close to you, soothe you with His Presence and give you hope and strength in your battles.

    • Genevieve @ Turquoise Gates 22nd January, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

      Your words like water to a thirsty soul, Joy. I’ve been loving Casting Crowns “Already There” lately – I am not normally a Christian music fan, but this one struck a chord with me. He knows my beginning, my middle and my end already, and has since before the earth was formed. How comforting to know that He is not only with me, but has already created something beautiful that I will only see when I join Him in heaven!

      • Joy Lenton 22nd January, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

        Thanks, Genevieve. ‘Casting Crowns’ music has often spoken to me powerfully. I love that song too. Have you heard ‘Even if’ by Kutless? It is an encouraging message for all who need healing of any kind. The link is below if you want to listen to it. Be blessed in the waiting process. 🙂

        • Genevieve Thul @ Turquoise Gates 23rd January, 2013 at 3:36 am #

          Oh, Joy – that cuts deep…”even if the healing doesn’t come, You are God, you are good, forever faithful one…” One of the amazing things on this journey of suffering He has us on is that, despite all “evidence” to the contrary – the reflex is to turn to prayer, a request for healing, even a miracle. I believe that is His gift of childlike faith – we do not doubt in that moment of crisis; we run to the arms of the Father who is our comforter even if His mercy is sometimes a “hard mercy” (Amy Carmichael).

  5. Alice 22nd January, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    Oh Genevieve – you are one of my favourite writers because your words are so burstingly full of truth. I am so struck by your image of stepping out of the jail of Christianity and into the arms of Jesus – so often we just get him wrong, don’t we?

    Most days I feel I’m still looking for that freedom, I’m inspired by this. x

    • Genevieve @ Turquoise Gates 22nd January, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

      Alice, it is a process, that’s for sure. Some days I feel the freedom, others I keep myself in my own personal jail. As much as others pidgeon-holed Jesus into their little box, and I am capable of doing that all by myself as well. Here’s to the freedom quest, sister!

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