My last post was a month ago. I wrote on endurance because that was the word that God gave me and it was the process I was in.. learning to endure. I am still in this situation that requires endurance… and since I wrote about it, I experienced the need for it at a deeper level. That is often the way it is.. we can be aware of something that God is teaching us and before we know it.. we are forced to go deeper into the process. So what comes after endurance? I am not sure but my best guess is more endurance..perseverance..trust…faith…longing…doubting..hoping..returning to Him over and over again as things continue to be difficult.
The biggest challenge to me is my own negative thinking.. will God really come through? or will things continue to move in a bad direction.?. in reality sometimes things do get worse before they get better. In the past I have experienced that.. a period when it seems like all is lost and then suddenly God does something unexpected and changes things.. often this happens at what appears to be the last minute.. Who really understands God’s timing anyway? If you were to ask me about my circumstances.. I would say that the last minute has already happened. Apparently that is only my perception and not God’s. He sees the bigger picture that we cannot see and when we feel like we cannot continue.. He enables us to move ahead and to persevere.. in His strength, not our own. He is working deeply in our character.. making us more like Him and removing those things that prevent us from staying on the path.
All of this leads me to believe that we really don’t understand the ways of God. His plan is a mystery and so is His timing. We are to wait and pray and trust even when it seems like all is lost.. I have to admit that I used to think that my most difficult days were behind me.. that this season of my life would be easier than the things that happened when I was younger.. I know better now.. the word easy is not in the Bible and He does not promise us an easy life.. But we are promised an abundant life.. Now there is food for thought.. We are to live fully in the kingdom of God here knowing that someday we will see more clearly.
Eugene Peterson puts it this way in the Message:
“Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”…….. John 10:10
I love this picture of us… pilgrims on the path following the Lord as He leads us forward. One of my biggest struggles is discerning the path.. probably because I always have ideas and I tend to be impatient. So.. I go back to Him.. praying for direction and when I sense the” peace that passes all understanding”, I know I am on track again.
I don’t tend to share details about my personal life on this blog.. but I thought I would today. Ten years ago my husband and I were living on the campus of Golden Gate Seminary. This week was the beginning of their last year ..the seminary is moving to a huge office building in Ontario, Ca and it will basically become a commuter type campus. This is very different from what it has been here in Marin County. I feel a sense of loss as they move on.. remembering so many things that happened there. Steve and I had a chance to meet and eat lunch with Henry and Marilyn Blackaby. What a wonderful treat God gave us as we got to know this amazing couple.. so humble and fully dedicated to His purposes. We were impacted by that experience in ways I am only now realizing.
For the last nine years..since we moved off campus, we have struggled to stay in our area and to continue to stay on the path that the Lord has for us. I have a small counseling practice and Steve has worked temp jobs. It has been incredibly challenging. During that period, his sister died of pancreatic cancer and my Dad passed away as well. My mother’s money ran out and she lost her sight. These are a few of the losses we have experienced.. there were many more.
We have seen God’s faithfulness over and over.. His deliverance and His provision. We continue to seek Him daily.. asking for guidance and courage to continue. Ten years ago God was preparing us for a journey that we could never have anticipated.. He was asking us to follow Him through jungles, mazes, and dangerous waters.. We went forward with Henry Blackaby to the altar ten years ago and said Yes to Him.. He has tested us and we have come out of the fiery furnace smelling like roses. He is our rock and our sanctuary.. our refuge and our hiding place and we will continue to trust Him with our unknown future.
Do you remember the story in Daniel chapter 3? It is one of my favorites.. The three men in the fire.. showing their trust in God. The king was astounded at their faith…let it be so for us Lord!
“Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”
What happened to January? Well.. for me January was not the start I hoped for in this new year. My husband was sick for many weeks and a neighbor died rather suddenly of cancer. The weather was extremely dry after having so much wonderful rain in December. There is our continuing challenge as well..we are moving toward 2 years of unemployment for my husband. I don’t know about you, but every year I hope for a good beginning and get disappointed when that does not happen. This year was no exception.
In the midst of the difficulties.. I have seen God working in me and through me. I was able to minister to my neighbor’s wife because of the loss I suffered 15 years ago when I was widowed… I hope to continue to support her as she adjusts to a totally new life. God does not waste our suffering. I think the biggest learning curve for me is realizing the importance of leaning on the Lord. There is not a day that I don’t feel the need for more of Him and not an evening when I don’t realize that without Him I cannot carry on. A great lesson in humility and absolute dependency.
Two things have helped me during this season.. one is being part of an amazing church. It is amazing because the pastor teaches the Bible so well.. our current study is on the book of Isaiah and it is rich with lessons that we need in our times. God is speaking truth to his people through his servant Isaiah. So many wonderful metaphors and prophecies. The second thing has been the discovery of a website called ” My Kingdom Come.” There is a great weekly study ” Take Me Deeper.” The site is filled with ideas for art journaling, photography, mixed media etc. A group called Logos365 is a wonderful opportunity to seek the Lord for a word and keep it in front of you.. for 2015.
I mention these things but I suspect you are struggling too. I pray that you will find those resources that God has for you as you trust Him and explore ways to dig deeper and move closer to His heart.
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
I am reading a very good book “Trusting God Even When Life Hurts” by Jerry Bridges and Eugene Peterson. I’m about three-quarters of the way through and it is giving me insights into my own life and the challenges that I am currently facing.
I’ve been a follower of Jesus for the last 35 years and throughout that time my life has been filled with trials that I never expected. In the beginning of this journey I could have used a book like this. The author explores the topic thoroughly giving specifics and does not sugar coat the Christian life. He has lived through his own trials and it is clear that he has persevered and now has wisdom to share with others.
Adversity is a given when you follow God. We are not walking an easy road. There will be many twists and turns that cause us to wonder if God is even aware of what is happening. We will find ourselves questioning and wondering if we are forgotten. Our character is being changed through these seasons. God uses whatever means necessary to reach down deep and mold us into His likeness. It is painful and we long for it to end long.. before it is time.
If you are struggling right now.. you may want to read this book. Books have often been the way God has spoken to me through the years. He wants to bring encouragement and understanding so we can continue to follow Him wholeheartedly and to finish well.
“I waited patiently for God to help me; then He listened and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God. Now many will hear of the glorious things He did for me, and stand in awe before the Lord, and put their trust in Him.” (psalm 40: 1-3)
Let this be true for us Lord as we continue to trust you in all circumstances at all times!
There are times when I wish I could find the switch that ends a season. I grow weary in well-doing and wonder why God does not know that. I long for the day when a new beginning is in sight. My strength is fading and I am clinging to His promise that He works all things to the good. I am intentionally not revealing any details..because the trial would not be meaningful to anyone but me. That is the most challenging part for me.. realizing that this is my season, my trial and my time to continue to trust God without any answers.
God has me in this place for a reason. He is teaching me that He is enough.. that I can walk alone with Him.. that as I grow weaker, He is stronger and able to carry me when I need it. He is helping me depend upon Him daily.. to take each day as it comes, leaving the future in His hands. This trial is forcing me past any sense that I can make it without Him..I am reminded of past times when I thought I would perish and He rescued me..
We all have these times in our lives..we are facing things that no one can fix. We are caught in a situation that we would never choose for ourselves. Our faith is tested and our hearts grow tired.
We can either run away.. and don’t think I haven’t been tempted.. or stay the course. He is with us.. He is faithful..He will not abandon us..He is sure to change us as we trust in Him. So I continue to believe that He is working all things to the good for those of us who love Him..trusting in His goodness and believing that at the right time the new season will begin.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”