“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
“God, how long will you torture me?!? Have I not endured enough? Have You not taken enough? What more must I do before You will soothe my children’s pains, and bring a woman back into our house?”
That was actually one of my prayers. To document all of them would be exhausting, time-consuming, and…well, humiliating. At the time, I thought it was completely fair! My heart was torn and wrecked. It is no small thing to hold your children as they cry and to comfort them, especially on a daily basis. It seemed like everywhere I looked, my life was in shambles, destroyed and beaten such that only the dusty outlines gave hints of what once was. Regrets threatened to choke the very life out of me. I became bittered, angry, uncomforted, even while my spirit wept within at the very sight of such hardness.
I am blessed to attend a church that does regular times of church-wide fasting. I am unsure the exact schedule, but it seems that approximately every quarter, our church has a church-wide prayer and fasting. Prayer and fasting (of which, usually fasting is skipped) should be hallmarks of every believers life, even if altered by medical constraints or the like. Jesus speaks in the Gospels of fasting as a given: “when you fast…” In my own life, I can testify that prayer and fasting have greatly benefitted my relationship with Jesus via increased devotion, decreased power of my flesh, revelations (from the Bible) and even some miracles. It is through a recent time that the above bitterness became apparent to me and the way it was eating away at my witness.
Another blessing that God granted was the opportunity to attend a conference my church puts on for a multitude of other churches; it’s called the Refresh Conference and provides the opportunity for ministers and church servants to step away and be served, fed, and refreshed, so that they do not grow weary in their service. While I had opportunities to attend in the past, this was the first time that I got to attend and concern myself only with what God had to speak to me. Everything else was managed, and I could just spend my time listening, worshiping, and communing with God. What an intense blessing!
“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
Through these two blessings, God revealed this to me that I was living by my flesh; I was not living by His Spirit! I had stopped looking to Him, trusting in Him to bring about what was necessary, and was relying only on what made sense to me! You see, sometimes, God makes no human sense! It is not that He is a God of confusion, but sometimes, He asks us to do radical (or painful) things. Take, for example, Abraham; he was asked to go to a land God would show him (where’s the logic there?) and later to sacrifice his only son, the son of promise (that’s not cool!). Yet in both of those situations, we can now see that God had a plan; devotion was the product and good was the outcome.
Yet, in our own lives, we often don’t see the end. We’re not reading the book, able to skip ahead; we are living life in a very linear manner. We cannot look ahead and be assured this will all turn out. Rather, we must trust in the very character of God, that He will work all things out for good (remember, there is a caveat here: for those who love Him!). If we are dedicated to following Jesus, we must dedicate ourselves to the most obvious principle He taught us; we must be dedicated to following God, even to a cross!
… just stop there for a moment …
Are you willing to be broken? “But Messer! I’ve been broken! How can I be broken any more?”
Oh, my dear reader, dear beloved of God. A tree may be chopped down, but it’s roots will continue to grow for some time, unless the stump is removed! In the same way, God has broken you, in part. But as a dear pastor friend repeatedly told me some years ago, “Jesus wants ALL of you!” And He does. He deserves no less than all of you, for He gave all of Himself for you!
“I don’t know if I can make it; I don’t know if I can do it.”
The task before you is not one to make or do. It is one to decide and follow! And it is one your Lord has walked before you!
For myself, I often saw it as the impossible task, the pain and endurance I could not manage. But in that moment, I am exalting myself above God! I am placing my desires and logic and thoughts above His. I am telling the Eternal Creator that I, the created, will take the reins of time for my life.
If you’re not already shivering in fear, please understand that such a statement is a dangerous proposition. Consider that a man once made such a statement by eating a simple piece of fruit; as Adam’s sin introduced sin into a once-perfect creation, so my sin can introduce a world of pain and suffering into those around me! I am the head of my household; if I ingest poison, my whole body (household) will suffer!
So then, what are your options, you may wonder? Surrender. Let go of your dreams. Let go, and let Him replace them…let Him be the replacement of them! For me, I had to let go of remarriage. I wanted it for all manner of fleshly reasons, but it was getting in the way of me letting God guide my life! I couldn’t be following Him if I was constantly looking for the next woman in my life! Instead, if I keep my focus on Him, He will sift what is necessary for my life to accomplish His will, and He will bring those good things into my life.
And if I need to suffer longer? If my children suffer longer? Then I will continue to trust Him to do what is best for us. I know my God will not withhold whatever I need in life. Instead, He has the perfect plan, aware of the explicit details necessary to bless my life and raise my children to follow after Him. He knows what conditions will produce what qualities in my children and how He will use those qualities. For me to try and argue that I know better is like a child arguing that he should be allowed to mix whatever chemicals he has in his hands, not even realizing he’s holding nitro and glycerin or bleach and ammonia. Oh the child might find the right combination on accident, sure enough! But the chance of that child harming himself or others is much greater than the chance of hitting the right combination!
“ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
He is so good! He is so kind! And He desires to bless us. All we need do is keep our eyes on Him (“Seek first the kingdom of God…and all these things will be added to you.” Matt. 6:33) and He will bring all good things into our lives, as necessary for our development and His glory! And yes, sometimes those things will mean pain, but our Lord endured worse pain, pain He never even earned. He endured it for love, to have a relationship with us. Who are we to claim we should endure any less? Or will we deny a deep fellowship with Him by identifying with His sufferings? (Philippians 3:7-10, emphasis on v. 10)
I leave you with this final thought, that a good friend shared from C.H. Spurgeon:
“If an ill wind blows upon us, let us believe that, somehow or other, it will blow us some good; and if a rough tide comes up, let us believe that it will in some way or other, wash us nearer to our desired haven.”
Spurgeon, Sermon on 1 Timothy 1:16, published 1913
Vires et Honorem
1 Corinthians 15:10