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When life falls apart

Have you experienced disappointment and loss? Sarah Stockinger has journeyed through miscarriage and, more recently, experienced a ministry job falling through…after her and her husband sold everything to move to America to take up the post. She shared what she has learned through these experiences with Premier’s Maria Rodrigues.

What role has forgiveness played for you in your difficult life experiences?

Forgiveness is huge. If you don’t forgive, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We learned that we need to keep short accounts with God and man. Forgiveness is really tough, but I have learned not to wait for an apology before I forgive. I’ve learned, too, that I need to bring whatever part I played before God, however small, as there has still been a reaction or a response from me that I can guarantee will not have been a godly one in there somewhere.

Forgiveness is really hard when there has been sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse. But to bring that situation before God and ask him to help you forgive is so powerful, because that’s when you walk into grace and freedom. I don’t want my unforgiveness to keep me bound to somebody else. I want to be free to move on in my life, without the bitterness that unforgiveness opens the door to.

What would you say healthy grieving looks like when we have experienced big disappointments?

We go through a range of emotions. Acknowledging and weeping for a situation is important – even Jesus wept. But also there’s anger over injustice. I recognise that I want to see justice, but I need to bring God into the picture because it’s not my judgement, my retaliation, my vindication – it’s about God doing what he needs to do.

Let God draw your grief out and deal with it. My husband and I have got a term that we use, to describe how we were “ambushed by grief”. For example, you can be merrily going through your life but then suddenly be hit by emotion. Even now, I can still be ambushed by grief over the loss of Luca [the son they lost through miscarriage many years ago]. But it no longer holds me – it’s just something that then passes by and I carry on. Because, ultimately, I’ve dealt with that grief.

Is it something that we can keep teach children and young people to deal with as well?

I think children have got a lot to show us about disappointment. If you disappoint a child, you know it. It’s all over their face. You’ll get tears, you’ll get the anger then, as they grow, it will be displayed in different ways as they gain and understand self-control. There won’t be the lashing out and the temper tantrums because they haven’t got their own way. However, I still think it’s key that we allow our emotions to work up, through and out of us so we don’t get stuck in the disappointment. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to take us to the other side through his healing process. Because Jesus always did that: he didn’t leave those he found where they were; he took them on a journey, which was always to healing and restoration.

If we were in a situation like yourself and your husband have been where we were on one trajectory, going to the States, and suddenly it stops, I think there would be not just of disappointment, hurt, pain and grief, but also a kind of panic about what to do next. How have you managed to handle that?

We came off the zoom call when we were told and said to each other: “What now?” We’ve been through quite a bit in the 20 plus years we’ve been married, and we’ve learned to just sit before God and let it all out. So we did. We wept, we went through everything we could think of, and then we just asked him for direction. He knows. That is the sovereignty of God. It is ultimately where I find my peace, because I know that he knows, and if there’s one thing in life I’ve learned to do well it is to trust and obey. We knew we had been obedient right the way through the process so it simply came down to trusting him. So we said: “We will avail ourselves. Lord, You can use us however you want. Where do you want us because we’re homeless?”

We had nothing, but God is now restoring stuff back to us. The first thing we asked him for was direction, and he gave us direction. Very quickly he gave my husband a job back in the old business that he was in. So we’re moving to a new area, because that’s where the work takes us. We’re going to resurrect The Harbour, which is the ministry that we had been running for people that have been spiritually, emotionally and sexually abused. And then we’re just going to see what God’s going to do with us.

You can listen to the full interview here.

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