When Molly Huffman was a young girl, she made a deal with God: If she obeyed Him, He would give her what she wanted.

What did Molly want most of all? To one day be a wife and mother. So she clung to this hope of happiness as she lived the life of a good church girl.

After college, Molly wanted more in her relationship with God; she wanted to go deeper. So she asked God to move in her and do what He needed to do to deepen her relationship with Him.

Two weeks later, her mom was diagnosed with cancer. She didn’t make it.

“I would say at the time my biggest fear would have been losing my mom or my dad, and so with her diagnosis … we really had to decide what we believed to be true about God,” Molly explains. “I remember being angry because this didn’t seem like God was following through on His end of the bargain. Because all of us loved Him and were trying to serve Him, so why would He treat His people this way?”

Molly says her grief during this time pushed her to read the Bible, where she found comfort and a sense of God understanding her pain. She knew it wasn’t the end of her story.

But she didn’t know it was only the first round of grief.

Her Deepest Pain

“I was content, and I loved being a mom. … It felt very natural and completing, and I was really just excited for what the future held.”

Molly was finally living her dream as a wife and mother, and she thought God was finally holding up His end of the bargain. She did have a miscarriage before Tage was born, but when she held Tage for the first time, she was happy.

“I remember thinking I have everything I wanted. This was the deal we had made, God and I.”

But when Tage was just 6 months old, doctors diagnosed him with a rare metabolic disorder called Leigh syndrome. She still remembers exactly where they were sitting when the doctors said the disease was terminal.

“The phrase is true of the room spinning, you know. Just this out of mind and body experience where it just can’t possibly be happening to you. I think after the initial shock, fairly quickly, I knew that God had used the death of my mom in positive ways both in my life and the lives of the people around me, so I knew He didn’t waste pain. But I just began to plead with Him that He wouldn’t need to do that again in this way.”

Molly and her family began praying — fervently — for a miracle.

Molly’s physical strength gave way to the stress of the diagnosis. She remembers headaches, knots in her back and an overall lethargic feeling. But she also remembers the strength she can only explain as God’s presence. Despite the prayers of desperation, Molly says she knows it was God’s presence that allowed her to make it through that time.

Tage died when he was 8 months old. Fighting against disparity, Molly decided to read through the entire Bible. And she says the Bible came to life.

“I saw this constant thread throughout the entire thing of God’s love and His faithfulness to His people, even in the midst of their deepest pain. I saw a continual thread of restoration and joy and beauty. I saw those things and the history of those things throughout all of God’s relationships with His people. And I also learned how to lament as I read the Psalms.”

Molly says lamenting brought healing more than anything else. She decided it was OK to tell God her disappointments and fears, while at the same time choosing to trust Him.

But that trust would soon be tested. Again.

Her True Hope

“A year after Tage died, my ex-husband said he was done,” Molly remembers. “And it came as a complete surprise to me.”

Divorced was a label she thought she’d never use. Who is she if she is no longer a wife? But it takes two people for a marriage to work, and one can walk away if they desire. This was not the deal she had made with God all those years ago. But she knew she could still trust Him.

“One (day) when I was just sitting reading — I can remember it was a winter day — (I saw) outside in the barren backyard these fat, chubby, red cardinals sitting on a branch in the sunshine,” Molly remembers. “They had these squinty eyes, and they were just looking toward the sun, and they looked so happy. … It’s freezing cold outside, and here they are on this branch facing the sun, happy as can be. And in that moment I was just like, ‘OK, God is taking care of these birds out in this awful winter, and He’s going to take care of me.’”

It was then Molly knew she would make it through her grief — grief over her mom, her babies and her marriage. She knew the sorrow would last only a season, followed by joy and restoration.

“I think through all this, God is the one thing that has stayed the same,” Molly says. “His character has stayed the same, His ways have stayed the same. … Throughout all the ups and downs, God was the only thing I knew wasn’t going to change.”

Molly says God continues to teach her how He uses pain. She now writes and speaks at churches and conferences, encouraging others in the midst of their own suffering. But not all conversations are about sorrow: She once again enjoys the roles of wife and mother after remarrying and becoming a stepmom to two daughters.

She no longer places her hopes and dreams on titles, though. Molly says she’ll continue to pursue God, knowing He’s the only place she’ll find true hope.

You can read Molly’s full story on her website, mollyhuffman.com.