“After you have suffered for a while, God Himself will make you perfect. He will keep you in the right way. He will give you strength. He is the God of all loving-favor and has called you through Christ Jesus to share His shining-greatness forever.” 1 Peter 5:10 (NLV)
I was in a serious rut – full of sadness, disappointments, suffering, and turmoil. Continually questioning my existence and my place in this world and constantly wondering if or when things would get better. I was struggling and I didn’t know how to battle difficult times. The stress of single parenting was wreaking havoc on my soul. My life was on repeat. The thought of having to wake up to another day, week, month, or year of this was seriously taking its toll.
Don’t get me wrong, my children were great. They were the only light in my sea of darkness and not at all the source of my pain. It was me. I was the one who struggled to keep the lights on and food on the table. It was me that was working long hours and had very little left for them each night. The guilt and stress that consumed my desperate soul was overwhelming. Little did I know then, but these thoughts were from the enemy to only further push me down this hole of despair. Yet once I understood how I was being used, I became a powerful force against the enemy in a battle God promised me we would win.
Become a Powerful Force
I knew joining the staff of a single mom’s ministry would open old wounds. It had been many years since I was a single mom. I had become quite skilled at stuffing my feelings and prior pain. But God would stretch my introverted self. There was no doubt that I would love them, listen to their hurts, feel their pain, while doing my best to keep them encouraged. But I didn’t know I would lose sleep, spend nights crying, and remain in daily prayer for these sweet moms. At that moment, it became important to share a glimpse of my past to provide an example of someone who went up against the enemy and is still standing – stronger and closer than ever to Christ.
There’s Power in Your Testimony
Sharing my life became my focus. The pain that resurfaced was excruciating and soon made me realize that maybe stuffing my past wasn’t such a great idea. It became clear that the enemy still had control over me. Feeling unqualified for this role I felt called to, lead me to doubt my every thought, word, and action. Who was I to lead others to Christ when I couldn’t quote scripture, I didn’t have this perfect picture of a Christian life, and my past was beyond ugly?
One night deep in prayer, God spoke to me. He told me that sharing my story was part of His plan. The uglier and regrettable, the better. He knew the enemy would come for me again. God used him to resurface my pain and humiliation only to make me stronger. Strong enough to eventually lead hundreds and hundreds of women closer to Him. Christ reminded me that if I had the desire to create warriors and disciples out of my children and others, I would always be a threat. So, I could either stuff everything back down and allow the pain to eventually swallow me whole or I could release it all and help me and others find freedom in Christ. Sharing every horrific and embarrassing part of my past removed the leverage the enemy used against me. Imagining an army of single moms and their children defeating the enemy was provocative and empowering all at the same time.
I had an abusive childhood. I’m a super introvert who battles with anxiety. I’m a survivor of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and mental abuse. I was once a homeless single mom with two babies still in diapers. I’ve had my car repossessed with my last box of diapers still inside. I worked hard and saved to purchase my first home only to lose it to foreclosure a few years later after being laid off. Our electric and water was disconnected more times than I can count. I’ve let bills go unopened for months because of the pain it caused. If you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist, right? I cooked the same things repeatedly because I couldn’t afford to mess up a new recipe and have us go hungry that night. Payday loans and pawn shops were what I relied on to try to make ends meet only to make things much, much worse. Trying to survive was my main focus and I made so many mistakes trying to do things my own way.
You Are Never Alone
My story, my struggles, my battle against difficult times should be viewed as a source of encouragement and a promise that we are never alone during our most difficult times, even when we try to be self-reliant and feel as though God has abandoned us. He knew one day my stubbornness and my mistakes would help others.
What I’ve learned during difficult times and when I’m uncertain of what my future holds, is to turn to the One who holds my future. In the thick of battle, it’s easy to only see the enemy and the huge obstacles ahead. I had to surround my life with scripture and hand Him my worries and fears. In return, He gave me strength, favor, and the boldness to share His shining-greatness forever.
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Shaylah Coogan is a writer, speaker, abuse survivor, and once a homeless single mom of two in diapers. She launched There Once Was This Girl in 2012 to encourage and empower women who are parenting alone. It is through this platform where she openly shares the messy and most ugly parts of her life as a single mom and how she survived through a deepened relationship with Christ. Shaylah spent years in ministry walking side by side hundreds of single moms, helping them uncover their profound worth, purpose, and full potential through the freedom that can only be found in Christ. Shaylah lives in North Texas with her husband and two adult children who are now in college. You can find Shaylah at www.thereoncewasthisgirl.com.
The Life of a Single Mom is a national, faith-based, nonprofit that exists to see that no single mom walks alone. Our primary focus is in helping churches and communities launch single mom’s ministries and have done so more than 1,500 times! Our support groups connect 71,000 single mothers each year to a local church. We are a one-stop shop for all things single mom ministry related. For more information, visit https://thelifeofasinglemom.com.