We are living through some unusual times right now. It is perhaps a time in our lives when the need for hope has never been greater. Gaby Beaumont-Van der Merwe has experienced numerous tragedies in her life and has lost a number of family members in brutal, and painful ways. She is familiar with pain from a very young age, but has managed to take refuge in God. He is her fortress and deliverer. Here is her story in her own words: 

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2 (NIV) 

It is wonderful that God can be our stronghold, deliverer and fortress. But, he is also so much more than that! In my walk with God, this is what hope in Him has become to me – He was my desperate hope. Let me tell you why. My formative years aligned with the Zimbabwean war of independence. Wartime meant a fragile childhood wrought with great uncertainty. We travelled in convoys. Each night, my brother and I were put to bed underneath my parents’ steel-framed bed, so that we might live if we came under attack.

My father was gunned down when I was seven years old. Beyond the devastation of losing him, I remember hoping, believing at that tender age that perhaps someone had made up the story of his death. I hoped that when I got older, I would find him or that he’d find me. 

By the time I reached third grade, sexual abuse became a reality for me. I hoped it would stop. I hoped the person abusing me would die. The shame of such a violation was greater than I knew how to handle. Growing up, so much fear and anxiety surrounded my thoughts. Everything was like shifting sand, and I became terribly afraid that something would happen to my mom. What would happen if she died? I had hope for many things. Then the pendulum would swing and I would be afraid to hope – the disappointment of that unfulfilled hope became too painful to bear. 

When I was in high school, my brother had an accident that left him quadriplegic. Have you experienced a life-altering event like this? Maybe it happened to you, a family member or someone you know well. If you’ve been there, you’ll know it involves a huge adjustment. Initially, there are lots of prayers, love, and messages of hope from all sides. Lots of cheering you on to not lose heart, believe, have faith, not give up… And then, as the dust settles and the bleak reality of the permanence of the situation hits home, along come truckloads of disappointment that deposit hopelessness in your heart. At this point in my life, I figured I must have had my quota of bad things. Surely it was time for the scales of fairness to swing the other way and life would now be on the up? 

For a while, things went really well. I met and married my first husband. We were invited to church; passed through the waters of baptism and became part of this wonderful kingdom of God. We gave birth to a beautiful, perfect baby boy. It seemed that all the things I’d hoped and prayed for were coming to pass. 

Then, in 2000, my mom was brutally murdered. I can’t begin to describe to you the devastation of that loss. It crushed me. The desperate hopelessness that grew within me was like tendrils of poison curling around my heart. All the hope and security that I had in my mom, her strength, courage, and convictions –reduced to ashes. The safe space called home – that she represented – was gone. All the things we’d hoped for together smoldered out as the ashes of her cremation cooled. After her death, I transferred that hope to my relationship with my brother. We always had a close relationship. We spoke weekly, were each other’s confidantes and safe spaces. Three years later, he died after a simple operation. 

That was the ‘nail in the coffin’ for me (no pun intended) and I hit an emotional breakdown shortly after his death. I spent 10 weeks in the hospital recovering. During that time, a wonderful team of medical staff and therapists gently and lovingly cheered me on the road to recovery. I don’t think I would be here today without their support. God gives each of us talents and strengths and their combined effort pulled me through one of the blackest times of my life. A time when hope was so deferred I didn’t have the will to keep breathing. 

A month and a half after I was discharged, my husband was killed in an accident. By that stage, I just became resigned. Resigned to death. Resigned that there was too much beyond my control. Resigned that life is not fair. 

Looking back through the years, I’ve not only hoped for, but also put my hope in many things – financial security; my salary; my husband’s salary; creating a home and safe spaces around me; friendships; my husband and marriage. I believed my solutions lay in doctors, therapists and medication. Common sense should tell us these things have a limited shelf life. As they ‘bottomed out’ on me one by one, I resolved to put my hope in nothing but myself. The irony was that I was unable to sustain my own hope. So what, through these tragedies, can I share about hope? Where was the turnaround? I wish I could give it to you in a quick five-point plan. But, it’s all been a journey; a process that God has very gently, patiently and purposefully worked out in my life. He is the originator of dot-to-dot pictures and is still outlining His plan in my life. 

Read the rest of Gaby’s testimony as God shows her how to hope again in Him… 

Gaby with her two sons, Jordan and Ryan