I was confused by how a good God would allow bad things to happen to good people…I was angry.”
Just before Bianca Juárez Olthoff turned 21, her life was engulfed in flames. Her mom had just been diagnosed with brain cancer. Her on-again-off-again boyfriend left her for good. She had a love-hate relationship with diet pills, and after moving home to help take care of her mom, she medicated herself with retail therapy. Bianca was being sucked dry by the gods she had created, and she was hurting, angry and lonely.
Taking Control Just to Lose It
“Our family had sacrificed everything for the Gospel.”
And they had. Bianca grew up in a family with deep roots of faith, with pockets that were…less than deep. She knew she didn’t choose her circumstances for her upbringing—like living next door to a schizophrenic drug dealer or her family’s waning bank account—but that God’s promises were for everyone, including the poor, unattractive and imperfect.
Throughout childhood, Bianca fought with obesity, poverty, race and ridicule. Though God had reinvented her heart as a young girl of 11, when she got to college, she wanted to reinvent herself—without God.
“I fixated on controlling every aspect of my life and believed it was up to me to sure I would never be made fun of again.”
So she did. She lost 45 pounds, wore the latest fashions, and was at the top of her academic game. Bianca created the illusion of flawlessness.
But soon, the illusion was over; she couldn’t keep the charade of control any longer. She cracked.
“I didn’t care if I looked insane or desperate. I was insane and desperate,” said Bianca. “I couldn’t control the situation. I lost my ability to fix, fight and finagle my way to perfection.”
Maybe she was just doing it wrong. Maybe it was just that she needed to be a better Christian. Yeah, that was it. Just be good and things will fall into place, right?
Bianca prayed, went to church and did all the right things. But her mom’s brain cancer was still there and so were her loneliness and anger. Because now that she was being a good Christian, God was still silent. In a twisted maze of frustration, even her goodness became an idol.
But God was reaching out to Bianca’s heart through the flames to test and purify her, much like the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Playing With Fire
“In a moment of clarity, I realized the fire I thought was destroying my life was actually refining it.”
Though Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego proclaimed their faith that God could deliver them before the fire, they couldn’t be sure He would. Yet they stood their ground, yielding themselves to God, even if He chose not to free them from the flames in the end.
That’s where Bianca has finally arrived—a point of surrender. She surrendered her mom’s cancer to God. Instead of praying for her acts of goodness to move God’s heart, she prays for God to move her heart:
“God, I know you can heal my mom. But even if you don’t, I choose you. I will not bow down to these idols anymore. I am yours. Have your way.”
Bianca says she’s not “14-karat yet.” But she’s learning how to tap into His strength, trusting Him in her surrender. Now she works as the chief storyteller for the A21 Campaign and is the creative director for Propel Women.
And she says, “It’s time to play with fire.”
Bianca’s book, “Play with Fire: Discovering Fierce Faith, Unquenchable Passion, and a Life-Giving God,” tells her story and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks.