The Only Answer

No other so-called solution would do.

by Karen O'Connor

I felt my heart pound as I opened the door to Dr. Brady’s suite. This better work, I told myself sternly. It’s my last hope. It had taken all my courage to make this counseling appointment.

While waiting, I sat down and leafed through a magazine. Get in, get a few tips, and get out, I told myself. I honestly believed the solution to my problems could be written on a Post-it note.

Within minutes Dr. Brady ushered me into his office. “Make yourself comfortable,” he said. “And try to relax. Tell me, what brought you here?”

I took a deep breath, then rushed through the chronology of events that led to our meeting. “Eighteen years ago I married a man I adored, but from the very beginning we were never close — you know, like a husband and wife should be. He’s a very private person. I feel alone and so do our children.

“Then there’s the problem with money. He earns a lot, but we’re always in debt. And now there’s another woman in his life, and he wants to leave . . . and . . . what should I do?”

Looking inside

I caught my breath, sat back in the chair, and waited — for the solution.

“How do you feel about all this?” Dr. Brady asked.

I was annoyed by his question. “What do you mean how do I feel?”

He persisted. “I’m wondering what it feels like to be treated so badly, to be in debt, to be . . . set aside for another woman.”

“I don’t know how I feel,” I said, surprised by his observations. “Is it important to know? No one’s ever asked me that before. I’ve just tried to do what’s right, but now I don’t know what the right thing is. That’s why I’m here. I hoped you’d tell me.”

Dr. Brady pulled his chair forward. “I don’t have the answer,” he said slowly, “but there is one. And you’ll find it as we work together. It may take some time . . . I want you to know that. There’s more here than we can look at in one visit.”

“How much time? How much more?” I asked. “I don’t have time. My husband is going to leave. How can I make him stay?”

“You may not be able to,” he said. “But you can discover what’s right for your — and for your children. We’ll focus on that.”

Hole in the soul

I didn’t know where else to turn, so I made another appointment and another and another. As I continued my work with Dr. Brady, he asked about my spiritual life, what I knew about God. But I didn’t see what any of this had to do with my troubled marriage.

Over time Dr. Brady showed me that the hole in my soul had been there all along — even before I married my husband. I had been raised in a legalistic home and church, where rules felt more important than relationships. I was told what to do, and I did it. Once again I expected the same formula to work. Find out the rules for putting my marriage and family back together, and follow them. But this situation required more than a pat formula. My husband was already absent emotionally and nearly physically. My children were confused and frightened. I was angry and hurt. Our debt was unmanageable.

Learning about God

The harder I tried to appeal to my husband and calm my children’s fears, the more I knew I could not do this on my own power. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t reason. I couldn’t even pray. I was spiritually bankrupt. Then I realized that discovering the truth about myself was only the first step. It would mean nothing unless I also discovered the truth about God.

I stopped counseling after nearly two years and embarked on a path that took me from Catholicism to Religious Science, from Unity to the New Age. Over the next two years I tried every kind of church service and spiritual seminar that came my way. I read books, listened to tapes, prayed the best way I knew how, and attended a Bible study. I remember being especially struck by the Gospel of John — the message that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

End and beginning

Then one chilly Tuesday morning in December as I was returning home from a walk along the beach, I came to the end of myself. Nothing made sense anymore. I sat down right where I was and sobbed.

“God,” I cried out, “who are You? Where are You? Do you care anything about me? I’ve tried to find You. I want to know You.”

Seconds passed. Then gently a stream of familiar words came to mind: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

I began shaking. I had read these words of Jesus Christ in John’s Gospel (14:6) dozens of times. Why do they sound so different now? I wondered. Then I knew: I had never let them in before; I had never heard them for myself.

But that day I did hear them — for myself. I jumped up and whirled around. “Jesus Christ is the way to God,” I shouted. And to think I almost missed Him. No higher power, life force, or spiritual guide had offered me such assurance.

New insights

Everything was new in that moment. I was no longer a victim of my husband’s hurts against me. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That included me. I knew that from Romans 3:23, but until that day I had never taken it to heart.

God had made possible through His Son Jesus complete reconciliation with Himself. Jesus became the sacrificial lamb. Just as animals were sacrificed to pay for sin in ancient times, Jesus became the sacrifice for my sin by His death on the cross. I could hardly take it in. He took my sin and the sins of all humanity upon Himself so that everyone who calls on His name might be redeemed and justified before God and, by His resurrection from the dead, be assured of eternal life.

No wonder I had not fully received this gift before. I had not seen myself as a sinner, because I was too preoccupied with the sins others had committed against me. But that day I knew that I needed forgiveness as much as anyone else. Christ did not come for the righteous but for sinners to repent (Matthew 9:13). I was a sinner, and I prayed that day for forgiveness as I put my faith and trust in Christ as my Savior.

“He who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). I began my new life that day.

Peace and growth

Nearly five years had passed since that afternoon when I first walked into Dr. Brady’s office. So much had changed. The answers I had looked for then did not come in the way I had hoped or expected. But as Dr. Brady had promised, they did come. My husband left and did not come back, but Christ came and has not left. He saved me; He set me free.

I felt a sense of peace I had not known before. I knew my life was secure in Jesus Christ. This assurance gave me the confidence to roll up my sleeves and take a hard look at my life and the changes that needed to occur — with family, friends, finances. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. So I joined a church known for its Bible-based teaching and prayer. I committed myself to the fellowship and joined a Bible study. With this foundation under me, I learned and grew and changed.

My challenges did not clear up overnight; I didn’t expect them too. What I did know with absolute certainty, however, was that there was nothing in my life that I could not survive and triumph over as long as Jesus Christ remained at the center. He has proven this true in the years since!