In the last many months, I’ve written a lot about faith… an awful lot about faith. God has stretched me in this area in the last year more than you could EVER imagine. And I’m happy to say, that I am more assured of his love, and therefore more able to trust him, than ever before. I’m confident in who He is, who I am, and that His will, His ways, and His methods are best. He is loving me, providing for me, and protecting me… every moment of every single day. The problem is – he never guaranteed I would hurt any less. He only promised he’d be with me through it.
Many of the situations that troubled me six months ago, even a year ago, are still unresolved. They have simply become a duller pain. I have, as Paul writes, learned to be content in all circumstances. I’ve learned to live in joy and have lots of fun, regardless of any current pain, longing, or frustration in my heart. I hesitated to write this blog, because it is certain to be my most vulnerable ever. But it occurred to me, that it is important for me to be real and authentic in my blogs. I know that many of you are struggling with disappointments, let downs, and broken hearts. If I only write about faith, about when I’m strong, then I fear when you are feeling weak, you may feel like you’ve failed. And that’s most certainly the farthest thing from the truth.
In spite of my new found great faith, my apparent strength, there are times that I deal with deep disappointment. I don’t understand what God is doing. I don’t understand why he won’t seem to act on things that I know are well within his will. I don’t always understand the “wait” message b/c I can see no progress in the details. My greatest prayers in the last year have been around him moving profoundly in the lives of others or moving in my heart, to be more perfectly fixed on him (and not distracted). I sit in my room and I yell “God! Why won’t you do something?! Why don’t you change this?!” And yet, it seems nothing changes. Don’t get my wrong, when I think of Alyssa, when I think of Alan, I know he moved last year and he answered some great prayers. But where I once had confidence in those as Ebenezer stones, I return to doubt again that he’s simply choosing not to move on these others, choosing not to heal, and I don’t get it. At times, I’m so sad, frustrated and worried sick, that there have been nights I have not slept at all. There have been countless others, where I’ve cried myself to sleep. I go to sleep praying and I wake up praying.
Even as I write this, I’m trying to figure it all out, trying to figure out what God is doing… trying to figure out why he’s doing it this way. But all I hear in my head is “My child, rest in me. Stop trying to figure it all out. You simply can’t. Just continue to trust. And come to my feet and find comfort.”
On Christmas Eve morning, the church I visited was not in the plans… but was evidently exactly where I was to be. The pastor’s primary point was that God moves us through our struggles. He is always by our side, in the pain, in the frustration, in the disappointment. We don’t have to be strong. We have to be real. We have to talk this stuff through with God and let him comfort us. God promised to be with us, no matter the circumstances. He WILL NOT leave our side.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
“The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."” Exodus 33:14
On Christmas morning, I walked into the den to see a bird trapped on the porch. He was flying anxiously around. He was beating his wings against the screen, which certainly was wearing him out, if not causing him harm. I walked out to try to catch him so I could set him free. I caught him once and he persistently broke out of my hand. He didn’t understand I was trying to help. The second time, I was even more gentle. He let me get him and I took a moment to soothe him, before letting him out the door. I heard God say to me: “This is you and me kid. You can flap your wings all you want. But it won’t be until you stop and let me pick you up, that I can really comfort you and then set you free.” God needed me to admit my sadness and disappointment, come clean with my situation, if you will, before he could really give me the comfort I so needed. While I was trying to be strong, doing it my own way, flapping so hard, he could not take hold of me.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God” John 14:1a
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
On the 28th I woke up back in Virginia and began to write this. I felt the world crushing me. It was then that I was able to admit to God that in spite of my strength, I was really hurting. And it was then, that he graciously took hold of me and set me free. I cannot even explain this last week to you all. All I can tell you is that I’m amazed at how when we “fold”, God gives us everything we need. It hasn’t been any one thing… its been a pile of amazing things, amazing conversations, amazing people, and a lot of just plain, simple, fun. God knew what I needed to get my through. I couldn’t try any harder. Frankly, I couldn’t just be more spiritual, pray more, praise more, or any of those “typical” things or godly formulas. I needed to rest. I needed to have fun. He let me. In fact, he brought it right to me in cool and unexpected ways. God just needed me to cry out and let him come to me in comfort. The one thing he asked, the only thing he asked, was to acknowledge it as his and get back on board as quickly as possible. Now I’ve moved into 2007 full of optimism. I can’t stop grinning. I’m more in love with the Lord than I was a week ago. And I’m entirely on fire, grasping at every bit of scripture, poignant song, and blessed conversation I can get my hands on.
“Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue.” Psalm 66:8-10.
“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21
“Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.” Isaiah 49:13
“Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13
Did God fix everything last week? No, not at all (at least not to my knowledge). Will he fix it soon? Or will dealing with it at least get easier? I sure hope so… but there’s no guarantee. All I do know for sure is that God will be with me in it. He’ll let me cry all I need to. He’ll let me scream all I have to. And there will be no penalty when I express these emotions to him, because he loves and wants all of me. He wants me to be real with him, because that’s how our relationship will continue to be real and develop. That’s how he’ll refresh me and allow my love for him to deepen.
Where are you hurting today? Can you admit to God your frustration, your disappointment? It’s ok to do that. It’s only then that God can get close enough to you to really comfort you.
Father God, I praise you that you actually LONG to comfort us. You take our pain and you replace it, filling our hearts with song. We only need come to you. Give us the strength to be real with you in times of heartache. May we draw closer to you, not run and hide in our disappointment. Thank you for all you’ve done for me this week. I’m so grateful. Lord, I pray for those who read this that are hurting today. Comfort them too. If you can’t answer their prayers quite yet, give them what they need to hold on. Fill them with your love. Help them persevere. We know you promise this and you always keep your promises. We love you, Lord. AMEN.
My birthday is tomorrow and I’m so blessed to have so many of you sharing it with me…..