We come to God in worship at our worst and at our best, in our deepest struggles and our greatest victories. As Brian Johnson says, “worshipping when we don’t feel like it is not fake, it’s faith.” In this article, WorshipU Student, Nichola Shilton, shares her rich testimony of healing, restoration, and how she found her voice through worship in the face of incredible opposition.
Worship is incredibly raw and beautiful because it is a true reflection of our humanity and His greatness and how we interact together. The psalms are filled with complex emotions of awe, seeking justice, love, overcoming fear, and adoration. My story contains a similar complexity and it is from this place that I choose to worship who God is apart from circumstances.
When I moved to Italy at 18 years old, I had no idea the trauma I would endure at the hands of someone I entrusted myself to. I fell in love with a young Italian soldier and after six months, his true colors surfaced. He was an alcoholic ex-drug addict, jealous and insecure. It quickly escalated into an abusive relationship and I told no one, determined to prove that I could take care of myself and that I didn’t need God.
Looking back, I see how the Lord pursued me with relentless love. In desperation one day, I picked up my Bible. Glimmers of hope came through people who challenged me to return to my faith. After a year of reading scripture and going to a little church in Milan, I returned to Canada for a visit. During this time, God gave visions and words of knowledge about me to complete strangers. That got my attention. For so long, I had believed the lies that I was worth nothing. But when I chose Christ, I began to experience a new strength and peace.
I finally found the courage to escape my abuse and my only certainty at this point was the awareness that I was deeply loved by God. I wanted to prove that I was a true prodigal returned home, so I threw myself into a ministry that helped needy families. Rather than take time to heal, I hid behind doing things for others. Within a few months, my future husband and I began dating. He was kind and gentle and we married a year after I returned home.
Life was beginning to turn around and I became pregnant with our first son. Then, 11 weeks into the pregnancy, we were involved in a horrific car accident. They had to cut me out of the crumpled car and I only remember flashes and voices. My husband and I were both diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries and doctors said that we would never live independently again. Miraculously, our baby boy survived and we went on to have a second son three years after the accident.
After years of ignoring the pain, I finally allowed myself to feel my grief; for the loss of our identities, for the pain our sons had to endure, for the loss of friendships along the way, for the loss of who I had once been. Through such deep-seated wounding, I could only turn to God, trusting that He was carrying us even when we couldn’t see Him. I have come to learn that allowing yourself to grieve opens the door for healing. It is a beautiful process.
So there we were. A beautiful family with two brain-injured parents and as it turns out, two autistic children. After all that we had endured, we held onto the promise from Joel 2:25 that what the locusts had eaten, He would restore. I constantly reminded myself, “But God…” Doctors and statistics may say one thing “but God has the last say!” “But God is the mighty Healer and Restorer!” We chose to live according to who He said we were, not who the world decided we were.
Now, my husband is working full-time and our sons are surpassing all expectations. We are in a church where we are being mentored, encouraged and loved. I have so much peace living in the truth of being His daughter. I have come to a place of healing where I have forgiven those who wounded me. But my healing only began once I stopped looking for others to fill the void. My husband could not heal me, counsellors could not heal me, only Jesus Himself could bring healing.
Whenever I worship like the psalmists, my heart is focused and calmed. I picture being in His throne-room, perhaps curled up in His lap or weeping at His feet. As I spend precious moments with Him, I feel as if He is picking me up, dusting me off and cheering me on. I know that He does this with each of us and that His greatest desire is to draw every son and daughter into a similar intimacy.
I thought that I would never sing again after Italy, so to be able to stand joyously worshiping with my husband today is a true demonstration of the Lord’s healing and redemptive power. My journey is proof that God faithfully restores His children just as He promised He would: “I will restore to you the years that the locusts have eaten…” (Joel 2:25)