How Hearing God Chips Away at Hard, Hurting Hearts
By Nikki S. White
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Nikki's Story
I woke up early to dig through the trash.
I needed to retrieve and re-examine what had kept me from sleeping, the precious pieces of my life I had chosen to throw away.
The night before, my husband and I gathered at the kitchen table for an annual tradition, recounting our family's blessings we had received that year.
Every January begins with an empty Mason jar labeled "BLESSINGS," placed on the counter. By Christmas, the jar overflows with scribbled-on squares of gratitude that we dump out and read on New Year's Eve.
This tradition gives us a full-proof way to bring glory to God and to encourage us to continue to look for His goodness in the coming months.
I grabbed the first one, my grin unfolding from ear to ear, as I read aloud:
January 2, 2022
The newlyweds arrived home safe after a long-awaited honeymoon.
God is good!
We shouted "Amen!" and laughed with the same emotion felt that day, then eagerly reached for one precious scrap of life after another.
But as the pile of unopened moments dwindled, a sad tale emerged. Little snippets of desperate prayers told the story of a marriage that ended. And a person once included in every memory was no longer a part of our lives.
"God is faithful" had been written under a series of events that read more like laments than blessings. I swallowed hard, setting them aside, determined to to find the goodness of God in the few remaining paper squares.
Maybe God had saved the best for last. Maybe God would wrap up a tough year with a pretty bow. Hopeful, I selected a paper with great flourish, preparing to say, "Amen!"
But the words that unfolded in my hand stopped me. Anger flared when I saw the name of the person who was no longer welcome in our blessing jar.
Circumstances had changed since I recorded that moment. I threw it in the trash rather than count it as a blessing. I went to the next square, then the next, but that name continued appearing as I opened each memory.
Finally, in one furious move, I swept all the unwanted memories off the table and into a dustpan, then dumped them in the garbage. For dramatic effect, I slammed the cabinet door. Good riddance!
Afterward, when I took a quick snapshot of the remaining blessings on the table, I could only see the ones I had removed from the picture.
It was as if the Holy Spirit tapped a finger on my heaving chest. "Here," He pointed to my heart. "Here is where I want to work."
"Not now, Lord," I answered and shuffled to bed in a huff, where I knelt to say my prayers.
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us," I mumbled.
"Hmmm..," was all He needed to say, and I understood what He expected me to do.
So I rose from my knees, groped through the darkness, rolled my sleeves, and thrust my hand into the trash.
"Let's get this over with," I thought.
My fingers reluctantly felt around greasy popcorn kernels, wadded tissues, and a filter soaked with coffee grounds. It all became too messy, too much to ask. Didn't God know how tired I was?
Deciding to abandon the mission, I fell into bed and wrestled with flesh and Spirit. What had I read in my Bible earlier that day? "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice," (Ephesians 4:31, NIV).
At sunrise, I finally surrendered my will to His. It was no longer the name or the memories that bothered me; it was what I had chosen to do with them.
The circumstances had not changed, but my heart had.
Returning to the kitchen with a prayer of repentance, I turned the trash can upside down and shook out the contents like the blessing jar. Then plopped down in the middle of the mess to go through one crumpled piece at a time until I found what had been tossed aside.
One, two, three papers that once were pure white were now stained by the garbage heaped upon them. Bitterness made the writing barely legible.
I tenderly brushed the coffee grounds off and re-read every word with a prayer of thanks, then wrapped them in tissue for safekeeping. Even if the memory or name no longer fits into the family blessing jar, it still must be considered a sacred gift.
People, like blessings, were never meant to be thrown away. Instead, God writes their names in permanent ink alongside ours, engraved on the palms of His hands.
Spite can seep into a broken heart and darken it beyond recognition. That is why God calls on us to purge every mean-spirited thought instead. Then He can begin a work of healing and forgiveness that softens and opens our hearts like brand-new blessing jars ready to be filled again.
Tearfully, I reached into the drawer and pulled out a brand-new paper square, and wrote:
January 1, 2023
God helped me sort through the trash this morning.
He is so good and faithful to me.
Dropped into the empty jar, it became the first recorded blessing of a new year, a sure foundation for many more.
Photo credit: Unsplash, Priscilla Du Preez.
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest essay series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
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New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Nikki S. White encourages hesitant believers to see God in their everyday lives, grow in confidence through His Word, and leave a faith legacy for 1,000 generations. Nikki has gratefully contributed devotions, guest blogs, and essays to various Christian ministries such as Living by Design and The Joyful Life Magazine.
Her passion for scripture has also led her to serve on the “Step by Step Method” Bible study team. When she's not furiously scribbling notes for Just a Broken Believer, you might find her reorganizing closets, browsing antique stores, or waiting for the world's most beautiful and highly-advanced grandchildren to show up at her front door. You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook.