• sarahhoward

Triumph in Tragedy

I was asked to write a staff bio for our networks women's ministry news letter, so I just thought I'd share it with you all too.



After graduating from high school in 2012, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life so I chose not to go to college, at least for the time being. I did not have a passion for anything specific and school had never been easy for me so I had no desire to go into debt for something I’d probably end up hating. Instead, I became a full-time nanny while I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

While working as a nanny I got involved with H2O Church at UC, and I loved it. They were not the Christians I knew growing up. With the help of people from H2O, I began to understand what it really looks like to follow God, to actually be doers of the word and not just hearers. I finally found what my heart had been longing for since the day I was born: a purpose in life. My deepest desire was to do everything for the glory of God, and I wanted to do that through H2O. I started the process of becoming a staff member and went to training in October of 2015. I finished support raising in August 2016 and have been a campus staff member since then.

In spite of being on staff and having my sole purpose be to glorify God, the pain and heartache in my life has been intense. I quickly fell into the lie of grace by works and believed that because I was on staff, there was this high standard for me which that I was nowhere close to fulfilling. Every little mistake I made echoed through my mind endlessly, convincing me that I was not good enough to be on staff, not good enough to serve God. I began to expect that others would hate me because of my mistakes, and it drove me to near isolation. Nothing I did was ever good enough, and this compounded into a terrible amount of stress and pain. My  body started responding to this high level of stress.

I have a disorder called fibromyalgia. This affects a lot of my life, but the main effects are chronic widespread pain throughout my body, fatigue, memory loss, digestive issues, depression, and anxiety. My disorder was diagnosed at age fourteen, but the stress and anxiety magnified my symptoms. I could barely get out of bed in the morning because of the pain. In addition to my physical struggles, I have a learning disability; so, I felt like a walking mistake who was incapable of growing or improving. I felt God did something wrong or that he just created me to be less than everyone else. I believed God made me just so he could inflict pain on me. I began to hate myself more and more, and mental illness began to take more of a hold over my life and became my identity.

In an effort to feel like I was more than depression and fibro, I began to seek my worth and identity in people. I idolized one of the older H2O staff women at UC and went to her every time I struggled, assuming that she should be able to help and fix me. Finally, to help me break out of this cycle, it was recommended that I go to Colorado LT. I initially didn’t want to go since I was convinced I’d be surrounded by staff members who would be better than me.

Of course LT 2017 ended up being an amazing experience. I went through Making Peace with Your Past, which was life-changing as it brought up things from my past that I’d buried - it was super helpful and devastating at the same time. I thought I’d return to UC with my past behind me, but instead was stuck dwelling on it and seemed unable to move on. I slipped back into depression, and this time a very destructive habit came with it; I began cutting myself.

It was time to seek professional help and I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, in addition to bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.  My world shattered. All hope seemed lost and I lost my desire to live. I was more convinced than ever that I was not qualified to live the God-filled life I was striving for.

During this time I also started my first ever dating relationship and very quickly I knew Ben was someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but also I didn’t. I didn’t want to burden him with the weight of my life. I tried to push him away to “prove” that he shouldn’t be with me. Ben did not give up; he was by my side the whole time. He encouraged me throughout my therapy and loved me during my good and bad days. He constantly pointed me back to Jesus and showed me God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness. Ben loved me and still loves me like no one ever has before, and I this helped me begin to accept God’s love as well. After six months of therapy I was released. Through the love and encouragement of Ben, family, and friends, and the grace of God, I started to manage my mental illnesses better.

Ben and I got married in September 2018 and everything has been incredible except for one thing - due to my fibromyalgia, sex causes agonizing pain for me, a pain like nothing ever before. I felt utter shame, hopelessness and loneliness once again. I could see how devastating this was for Ben, and it crushed me even more. I spent days weeping and felt utterly betrayed by God. I had waited until I was married, I did everything right. How could God withhold this from me? As I wrestled with God, he revealed to me what I had been missing.

What I had been searching for was hope - hope in something greater. For so many years I was searching for hope within myself, on being fixed and trying to be good enough. Finally, I let all that go and have found hope solely in God and His promises, and I am experiencing true peace for the first time in my life. I’m reading my Bible to know God more instead of to prove how much I know about God. I am praying and musically worshipping with an awe of God instead of to be a good enough Christian. I know that this pain may never end here on earth, but I have hope that one day it will cease. I believe that I am who God intended me to be.