Imagine working your normal shift, and having a regularly scheduled meeting in the breakroom. Except there was nothing ordinary about it. One of your managers announces the start of the meeting. Then, your other manager comes up, seemingly out of nowhere, with a menacing blank stare on his face…and starts shooting at people—intending to murder them.
This is the trauma the overnight workers in Chesapeake endured Tuesday evening.
The saddest thing is that this tragedy could have been prevented, and the six lives that were cut short by the shooter could have been spared.
One thing that needs to happen in all workplaces, no matter what the company or how small or large the workforce, is zero tolerance for a toxic work environment. No, a toxic work environment is NO excuse for murder, but it can create lifelong trauma for those around it and is also bad for productivity and eventually the bottom line of a company. I have seen it firsthand. Symptoms of a toxic work environment that I have personally witnessed are pervasive gossiping, tension between colleagues, and an attitude of apathy about work performance and work related issues.
Upper management, including corporate officials, of a company need to create a culture where people are not terrified of or hesitant to bringing up concerns to them. For instance, my store director always tries to listen empathetically to our concerns and helps bring about a viable and helpful solution to them. I also think that there should be mandatory training for all workers on how to listen empathetically to others without interrupting, invalidating, or verbally assaulting them. Not only that, but time should be set aside regularly (i.e…at least every month) where people can voice their concerns about serious workplace issues to management without being interrupted or invalidated.
If these measures were put in place in Chesapeake, I believe the tensions there and the resulting tragedy could have been prevented. Again, I am not trying to place blame on anyone. I am just pointing out what could be done to promote a more positive work environment in all companies.
Another thing that I learned from this tragedy is that we should value everyone and not take loved ones for granted, because we never know when they may be taken away from us. We can do this by taking note of those co-workers and others around us who are hurting or broken, and give them extra grace instead of condemnation and judgment. Look for ways to minister to them and make them feel worthy. For instance, a coworker asked me if I was going to be OK when she found out I was spending this past Thanksgiving alone. If a coworker is fallen on hard financial times and cannot pay for their groceries, we should offer to help them out if we can. We should also find ways to compliment people on genuinely good work. If someone works hard to get things done efficiently and correctly, we should tell them we appreciate all they have done to do so.
Also, we should strive to forgive those who hurt us, so that a root of bitterness does not spring up and cause undue harm to us and others. If the shooter forgave those that he alleged hurt him emotionally, this tragedy would have never happened. Yes, maybe certain people do not “deserve” forgiveness, but how much do we deserve the forgiveness of God? That is why it cost God His Son, because we don’t deserve forgiveness at all.
Let us normalize quitting jobs that foster a toxic work environment, where stress levels are too high and tensions get the best of us to protect our mental and emotional health. And let us pray for the families of the victims of this shooting, and pray that tragedies like this will never happen again.
Do you feel discouraged, deflated, and worthless? Are there critical voices in your head or from others that reject your true self? Are you on the verge of seeing the last straw in your life that would break the camel’s back?
I have been there—many times in my life. But you know what? I have learned over and over again that God can still restore, renew, revive and use me for His good purposes. I am a living testimony of this.
I have struggled on and off with depression for over two decades. I’ve had many suicidal thoughts, and came close to attempting many times. I was told by several people that I would not likely get a full time job ever in my life. I was told by an instructor that I would never learn to drive, and that I should start learning how to use public transportation.
However, these naysayers—the ones that told me in different ways that I wouldn’t amount to much or that I could not achieve what neurotypical, or non-autistic, people could achieve—did not have the final say on the rest of my life. The instructor that said I would never drive did not know that God, through my dear mentor J, paved the way for me to be more confident and practice driving more until I now drive regularly by myself to work, stores, church, and other places! The people that said that I could never have a full time job or would not be likely to get one did not anticipate that, soon after they said this, God would provide me with a full time job that lasted almost 6 years! Not only that, I am also currently full time. Whenever I would concoct a plan to end my life or I was reaching the end of the rope, God prevented me from actually attempting suicide and also provided people in my life who encouraged me and empathized with my situation and stressors.
No matter what has happened in your life or how hopeless your situation may seem, God can also use you! Don’t listen to those voices—whether they may come from within or from others— that tell you that you won’t be able to accomplish “x” and who don’t know your full capabilities. God will provide what you need in order to carry out His good purposes for your life! You may not become the person that you pictured you would be when you were younger. I certainly am not! However, you will be the person that God wants you to be and make a positive difference in your world….if you persevere and trust that He is able.
Know that God uses unlikely people to accomplish great things. He used David, who was the youngest of his brothers and was a lowly shepherd, to lead His people (Israel) as a king after His own heart. The Lord is using Nick Sergent* (more info on him here), a former drug addict and a three time suicide survivor, through TikTok videos, to tell others about His immense love and redemptive powers. He is using me to relay this message to you today.
And God can use you too. Will you trust Him enough to change your life and redeem it for good?
God has been opening my eyes to things of eternal value, and has been working on me to not dwell on things that have only temporal value. I have observed that most people go through life without thinking much of where they will spend eternity and cultivating in their lives that which will last forever. The devil has deceived many into thinking that now is the only time that matters. Often it takes a tragedy or a crisis in one’s life to bring to one’s mind the things of eternity and the impending subject of one’s death and how we should live our lives now for a better tomorrow.
One way God has been shedding light on the eternal for me is with how He has been helping me heal from my past experiences and wounds. God brought people into my life who believe in who God has created me to be and who are cheering on my successes, not being envious of them or telling me the devil’s lies that I am not good enough. God has been teaching me the value of a person’s soul—not just mine, but everyone else also. Even the people that hurt me in the past need to know that there is hope for their soul, not because they deserve it, but because God doesn’t want anyone to perish in hell for their sins. However, God doesn’t want me to dwell on the past, but, as is said in Philippians 3:13-14 (KJV)- “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Another way God has been opening my eyes to things of eternal value is by getting me to let go of control of the temporal things that I have been holding on to too tightly. Before I became a Christian, I used to be very stingy and materialistic, but as time goes on, I realize that God wants me to use the material goods that He has blessed me with to further His kingdom and not hoard them for myself. I not only want people to feel provided for, but also to see people’s eyes opened to the value of sharing and letting go of materialistic and monetary obsessions that stifle our view of eternity. We can’t take anything of materialistic value with us when we pass from this earthly life to eternity anyway. God has also taught me that when people are willing to share with those who are in need of something, whether it be butter for cooking or a listening ear when someone needs affirmation or encouragement during a difficult time in their lives, people forget about themselves and their issues and find joy in sharing.
God has been also showing me the value of the eternal through the events that He has allowed to happen in our world that point to the Last Days and the Rapture, where Jesus will take up all believers into the air. In the past two years alone, I have experienced several days of water shortage in our area, record heat, the whole thing with the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, people looking for answers and hope in the midst of their personal tragedies, increasing tensions between politicians and between people who hold opposing views on a number of political and moral issues. In all this, I see God, who is in control of it all and who provides eternal hope to those who are seeking answers to the why in their trials and tribulations, or just the meaning and purpose of their lives.
Jesus said in Matthew 9:37 (KJV): The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few.
Jesus wants me to be a laborer for His kingdom to bring hope and love to an anguished and dying world.
Almost two years ago, near the end of October 2020, I felt like my life was over. This was during the height of the pandemic, where I felt so isolated and alone that I didn’t even see God working. I gave into fear and disillusionment. I was on leave from work because the increasing stress had caused me to have an anxiety attack and nervous breakdown.
What I did not know was that after my leave was over, the stress at work would dissipate for awhile, before becoming bad again. Fear paralyzed me and threatened to permanently steal the joy I should have had as a believer in Christ.
A little over a month ago today, God blessed me with my current job. One Wednesday night, I went to church service, but didn’t expect anything great since there were very few people in our congregation that attended (the rest were with the children to celebrate the kids’ accomplishments in AWANA). What I didn’t know is that service has the potential to change my perspective and my life forever.
A missionary in our congregation spoke on living the victorious Christian life. This was not some sort of feel-good easy-believism kind of sermon. No, this was personal. This missionary’s message was both challenging and hopeful at the same time. He spoke of surrendering one’s entire self to God instead of trying to live the Christian life under one’s own power and strength. He spoke of the spiritual battles that will happen when one makes this commitment to God, but that we also need to use God’s strength and power through the shed blood of Jesus to bind these evil forces that try to dissuade us from fully following and surrendering to Him.
I suddenly realized why I was feeling so stressed out in my previous job, and still struggling with Impostor syndrome when people complimented me at my new job. I was trying to navigate the stressors at work under my own power! I realized that my life could be radically changed if I just trusted God in this area and let go of the illusion of control over what happened at work. I needed to let go of the pain I experienced in the past, whether from previous jobs or other past experiences.
I did not need to “prove” to anyone anything. I did not need to be the best at work just to be “acceptable” in God’s or my manager’s eyes. I just needed to give up the illusion that I could control things or that I could do anything worthwhile in my own power. Most of all, I needed to put my “self” to death, that is my selfish desires and ambitions, and give it all to God to allow Him to use me however He sees fit, and I can trust Him because He will always work all things to my good and His ultimate glory! I also realized that I needed to not fear trials and tribulations of life, but trust that God would lead me through them in His power and for His glory!
Sometimes, I still struggle with my fears, especially of trials, because I doubt I can handle them. However, by God’s strength and love, I know God will bring me through them for His glory.
Despite it being a sunny and pleasant day, weather-wise, I had no motivation left to do anything. I felt ashamed, useless, angry, and powerless. Much of who I identified with was tied to my job. I was one of the top performers there, and since my job and seemingly everything that went with it was taken away from me, I was devastated. Most of my friends were tied up either at work or being swept through with the daily stressors of their lives. Besides, I no longer wanted to add burdens to them by relating *my* stresses.
I planned to take the books, magazines and DVDs my parents and I had borrowed and return them to the library, and then go to my church as a last ditch effort to get the emotional care I so desperately needed at the time. It was around three-thirty in the afternoon. I did not think anyone was in there, since most of the staff I thought already went home during this time.
I thought to myself that if that didn’t work, then I was going to have to find some way to end it all. I did not really have any specific exit plan, but I knew if I didn’t get help, this Monster inside me was going to take over and destroy me forever.
I tried to open the front door, that led to the church sanctuary, where services were held. Of course, that was locked, since there was no service at that time of day. However, I saw several cars parked in front of the church office.
“Good,” I thought to myself. ” Maybe someone is there.”
I tried to open the door to the church office. It was unlocked. I walked quickly to the church foyer where people usually ate and congregated before services. I saw a man. Immediately, I felt a heavy spirit pressing upon me, as I wept from utter relief and overwhelm.
“I need to talk to a pastor.” I told him, in desperation. Then, the man quickly notified a couple of my pastors that I was there and needed support.
After that, the assistant pastor Ted* and the youth director, A.J came out. They immediately sensed something was wrong with me. All the overwhelming feelings and past experiences that were attached to my depression, spilled in words of desperation out of my mouth. I had expected to be condemned or ridiculed, or just brushed aside. Ted and A. J did neither of those. Instead, they listened patiently and encouraged me, as I dealt with my feelings of shame, anger and hurt that I tried to bury for many months before. A.J invited me to volunteer at church the next day to clean and organize some things in it, and he prayed for my healing and strength to get through this tough time. The teens in the church were also planning to volunteer. I felt a sense of relief and hope that I was finally heard and that I was not rejected by them. I knew God had brought them there at that time to save my life!
The next day, I went to volunteer at church. I almost felt like I was working again. I was energized and felt better about myself and the world around me. What I did not know, is that God would be working again through the speaker in the evening service, later that day.
It was around 5:45 in the evening, and the wind was fairly strong, but not overly so. I was sitting outside on the church steps leading to the sanctuary waiting for the church to be opened, so I could go inside and eat my dinner, which I had stored in the church’s refrigerator.
Then, suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a car pull up by the church office. “Good!” I thought. ” Maybe that’s A. J and he will be able to open the door for me.”
It turned out to be the missionary, Tim Bundy, who was going to be a guest speaker at the church that evening! I told him that my name was Patricia and that I was a member of the church.
Then, later the children’s ministry director, Sara, * opened the door for me and I was able to eat my dinner.
I was still feeling a little depressed and lonely as I waited for service to start. However, I was still a lot better than I was the previous afternoon before I went to the church.
Bundy talked about how God had led him into the ministry and how he had found his wife. However, it was when he turned to the message that I really felt God speaking to me through him that would change my mindset for the better.
He talked about how God can use anyone, even those who have disabilities or problems to accomplish His will in their lives.
He says, “There is nothing we can offer God, but the willingness to be used of Him. [God says], ‘I have called each and every one of you to be used of Me equally. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have riches, or strength, or popularity, or fame or influence; you have Me, and as I lead you, that is all you will ever need.”
Bundy also talked about the extent of God’s love, and how God does not love us less based on what we do or experience in our life. Furthermore, he talked about how God loves all kinds of people, even the drug addict or the difficult boss or family member who does not want to hear about Him, that we should look at them with the boundless grace and mercy God looked at us even before we were conceived.
I felt God speaking to me, right then, saying, “You can forgive the people that hurt you at your former job and in your past. You don’t have to be angry and bitter at them anymore. You can let them go now. You can let Me take care of them for you. You don’t have to get even. You just show them the love and grace that I showed you.”
God also said, “I still can use you even though you don’t have a job now. You still can be used of Me if you are willing to trust me that I have the best possible plan for you. You are not useless, powerless or shameful. You are Mine, and you can draw upon My strength to persevere throughout your life.”
God saved me from making a mistake that could have taken my life prematurely, through the support and care of my pastors, the message that He spoke through Tim Bundy, and the determination and joy that Tim and Jennifer have for ministering and soul winning for the people of Ethiopia. I still struggle at times, but knowing that God is on my side and will help me persevere gives me peace and strength to not give up on what God has for my life.
If you would like to support Timothy and Jennifer Bundy’s ministry, please see this link . Like me, they are trusting God to use them mightily.
*= These names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned.
Fear, in my life, has been like the tangled web of lies and entrapment that suffocated me, and constantly sucked joy out of my life. Fear led to my depression, and subsequently an eating disorder which I struggled from my tween years into my early teens. Fear led me to continue in toxic friendships and other relationships in fear of what would happen if I ended them. Fear prevented me from really experiencing some of the blessings that God had for me. However, in the past couple years, God has untied the knots of fear in my life and has led me out into a place of joy and freedom that I haven’t felt since I was a little girl!
Since I was a little girl, I have striven to perform well, whether it be in school or in work. However, I believe the devil used this trait to develop in me the attitude of perfectionism, which led to one of my biggest fears—fear of failure. Whether it be from my parents, society, teachers, bosses, or my peers, when I failed, I could see, in their eyes, their disappointment and sometimes anger at my failure. I felt so invalidated and discouraged during those times, that I subconsciously told myself that I would try never to fail in front of them. That, however, proved impossible.
A couple years ago, the fear of failure and not performing up to my “normal” performance rate (which was already above what management wanted) led to a mental breakdown, which led me to take a leave of absence from work. After I came back to work, I knew I had to face my fear of failing to perform at my “normal” standards head on if I were to prevent future problems at my job.
A couple weeks ago, a new procedure was put into place which confronted my fear of not performing to my normal rate/speed head on. Since the new procedure was put into place, I was no longer in complete control of how fast I could pick the items for the customer. I also learned a couple days ago, that even with the new procedures at work, there were other aspects of my performance (We call them “metrics.”) where I may not be able to be in complete control over the results, because of issues related to the worldwide supply chain disruption or with vendors, drivers, or other people in which I cannot control. With the realization that I did not have to (and could not) control every aspect of my performance, I am now just resolved to do the best I can and now have some semblance of peace in how I perform.
Another way that God has taught me to live life unafraid is by working on me to help me combat my fear of what others think of me. My fear of man had led me to think of how God created me as deficient and inferior, which led to a very unhealthy obsession with restrictive eating. This fear of what others thought of me also led me to continue in some toxic and abusive friendships that reinforced my low self-worth. When God opened my eyes to the lies and the abuse that I had acquiesced to, I was finally able to break much of the ties that I had with the toxicity that enslaved me and almost destroyed me. I realized that I did not need to be friends with people that constantly put me down and bullied me. I did not need to change my personality or appearance for fear that people would not accept the Real me. I could be my unique, neurodivergent, joyful self and who God created me to be, and if people don’t like who I am, at least I know that I am developing into who God wants me to be, and He will always love and cherish me, even if no one else ever does. Thankfully though, God has led me to people that do like the Real me, just the way I am.
In all these situations, God has shown me that if I trust Him to provide for my every need and not worry so much about what would happen if I lacked something I think I “need,” I am able to free myself from the grip of fear and live life unafraid.
This year has been an adventure for me, in both good and bad ways, but God has still been working in the midst of it all. While God has worked, He has also taught me so much about how to live life in the midst of the chaos that is this world. Here are some of the things God taught me this year:
1) Be grateful for what you have.–In mid-February of this year, much of the city where I lived in, including my family, experienced either a water or electricity (or both) outage for days on end. Before this past winter, I took water and electricity for granted. I did not think about the precious commodity that water and electricity are. I was extremely grateful that during that time, our electricity still worked. However, we did not have running water for about 5 days. Thankfully, God provided snow for us to be able to boil so that we had water to at least flush the toilets.
2) Be compassionate and patient with others.– God showed me the pain and suffering some of the people around me are facing this year, either by the person relating their pain to me or through another person relating that someone they know was going through a tragedy, illness, or emotional distress. Through this, God taught me to be more compassionate to what others may be going through and not get easily angered or upset when people inconvenience me or are rude to me. God also taught me through this that when people snap at me for no good reason, sometimes their anger is not really about me, but about what they are going through at the moment. I don’t need to take it personally, or that they are spiteful.
3) Don’t be so anxious.–God has really been working to help me become less anxious. He allowed me to experience a drop in my performance to test my reaction to it. In the past, when my performance dropped below my expectations (note: NOT my managers’ expectations) or a certain number, I got really worked up and had an upset anxiety to my demeanor. Now when that happens, I may get slightly annoyed, but I do not really think too much about it anymore other than to try better next time. I also learned to anticipate these and other anxiety-provoking situations better, and plan what to do in case an anxiety trigger happens next time, so I don’t completely freak out.
Overall, I think this has been a good year for me, despite still being in a pandemic. I not only learned to be more grateful, to be more compassionate and more patient (but still learning continuously), and to be less anxious, but I also found some places where I could belong and to impact the world for the better.
This is for those who have bore the scars of harsh words and been a target of one who believed the lie that sticks and stones would break their bones, but words would not hurt them…but they still do.
This is for those who have believed the lies of their abusers and bullies that they are not worth anything to this world, and so struggle to find their purpose and their self-worth in life.
This is for those who have tried time and again to accomplish their goals and dreams, but have gotten discouraged and are tempted to give up because of their naysayers and seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their way.
This is for those who want to help a loved one, a friend, an acquaintance or others who have endured verbal assault and abuse and don’t know how.
I can relate to all of you, as I bear the psychological and emotional scars of years of verbal assaults and bullying by some peers and authority figures. I don’t tell my story so that you will feel sorry for me. I tell this story because I am a survivor and hope that by sharing it that other survivors will also triumph over their abusers and be empowered to believe the beautiful truth that God has told them about themselves, and not the verbal assaults and lies of their abusers. I was told by an authority figure that I would never drive and basically not amount to anything. I was told in so many words that I would probably never hold a full time job, that part-time was already an accomplishment for me. I was mocked by several managers when I first learned to operate a register about 15 years ago, because I did so poorly. I was told by a “friend” that I shouldn’t learn to operate a register about a couple years ago because she didn’t think I could handle rude customers or the functions of a register. I was constantly bullied in elementary and middle school about my appearance, race and other things that I had little or no control over.
Today, I still bear some of the psychological and emotional scars of the verbal abuse that I had endured. However, God put several people in my life who helped me to heal and to finally achieve what my abusers and bullies thought I could not. Because of these and other encouragers, I am happy to say that I am on the road to recovery.
Two of the people that came in my life were my mentor Jane* and my former manager Elizabeth*. They both believed in me when others did not. They saw what I could be, and not what I used to be or was. When I asked Elizabeth if I could train to be on the registers, she allowed me to train at least once a week for about 20-30 minutes. Not only that, but she allowed me ample time to acquaint myself with the functions of the register until I could do it efficiently and accurately. She was patient with me and my anxieties, unlike my ex-friend and others who basically told me to just give up on my dreams. My mentor Jane helped me to silence the naysayers and verbal abusers that were in my life by instilling in me a dogged determination and motivation to chase after my dreams. She never gave up on me, or let me give up on myself. For instance, she called various employment agencies to help me get a job in the first place and pushed me to learn how to drive myself without being afraid of failure or getting into an accident. When I got my first job (albeit part-time), I was already immensely grateful to Jane of what she had helped me accomplish. Then, I got another part time job that about seven months later became full time, and that is where I have been ever since. I am extremely indebted to her that I have been able to stay with the company I am at for over five years, which is almost an eternity in retail.
I have learned so much from these two amazing and gracious women. One of the most important things I learned from them is to never give up on yourself even if everyone else gives up on you. To anyone who still has self-worth issues because of the verbal abuse you have endured: Do not give up on yourself! You are not worth what these abusers say you are. They have critical spirits. My pastor said (and I agree with him) that a critical spirit is one who say things to others in order to destroy them or tear them down. Often what is coming out of the mouths of those with a critical spirit towards you are lies from the pit of hell itself. In fact, in John 10:10 (KJV), Jesus referring to the devil as a thief, says Satan comes “but for to steal, and to kill and to destroy.” You could say that the people putting you down with a critical spirit are working with the devil! Don’t believe them. The devil is a defeated foe! And so will everyone who works with him to tear others down.
More importantly, these women have taught me that God can still use people who have failed or don’t meet the expectations of others. During the time when I was too afraid to drive and was struggling to find consistent work, I never thought God could use me the way He has. I thought I was going to have to rely on others for almost everything and that I was never going to make any real contribution to society. However, God has proven over and over again that He works miracles and that there is hope to overcome past trauma and failures and learn from them. It may be a long road to healing, but even starting on that path is very much worth it as I can attest today. Even telling your story of how you survived past trauma and lived to tell about it is a big accomplishment.
I hope by telling my story that those who have endured abuse and survived will share their stories of how they have endured and triumphed and give hope to others who are still struggling and are still being oppressed by their abusers. Because by telling our stories, we have the power to create awareness of what our abusers wanted to silence for so long.
*=names have been changed to protect the privacy of the people mentioned.