Again last night I read some amazing healing words in "Lazarus Awakening" by Joanna Weaver. In the quiet, God is really beginning to get some truths back down deep in this weary soul.
Picture this. Standing on the beach. With spring just beginning to show hints of arriving after such a harsh winter, many days have been spent dreaming about the beach in recent months! Thinking about your toes in the wet sand, digging deep. In comes the tide and washes away the sand from your feet. Hold on to that image for a few minutes.
What do we do when God doesn't do what we need? What if the losses keep coming and our hearts keep breaking more and more? What do we do with our faith during difficult times?
I have openly admitted to the struggles my faith has gone through after so many recent difficulties, especially in the wake of Dad's sudden illness and death. It was hard enough to handle the news of nine to twenty four months, but FIVE weeks is still unfathomable at times. Kevin and I were just talking over the weekend of how it still doesn't seem real. Don't get me wrong, we are NOT in denial----it's still just hard to make our brains remember! For him, it's seeing an old car somewhere and wanting to call him and see if he is interested. For me, it's MANY things on a daily basis but that particular moment came about when I was cleaning. I had picked up a picture frame that had one of the RARE family photos that he had allowed to be taken. I happen to have two sitting side by side on the piano and when I picked up the first one I mindlessly dusted it, but when I picked up the second one it hit me....that man isn't here anymore. That picture is only a memory now, a physical person is no longer connected to it in the sense that I can walk up and hug him, talk with him, or see my kids interacting with him. Every time something like that happens (which still happens often), I IMMEDIATELY have a pause in my spirit where I have to make the decision to stay strong in my faith. Doubts can easily wreck a person's faith. Look around at the world we live in----it's obvious that people have a broken faith.
What do we do with that? What do I do with the questions, the pain, and the uncertainty? Difficult times "rattle our convictions and shake the foundations of our faith". Oh how very true that is!
It comes down to trust. I CHOOSE to trust God. It hurts. It makes no sense. The math doesn't line up. However, I trust. I have to go against my OWN will, my OWN wants, and what I think are my OWN needs.
Joanna Weaver seems to have a touch of the same problem I have (and many of us do!).
I have such good ideas about how my story, not to mention the stories of the people I love, should be written. I'm quick to provide God with lists with alternative ideas in case my Plan A doesn't match up with His. "You don't care for that one, Lord? Well, how about Plans B, C, D, and E? Why I even have a Plan Z if you'd like more details."
Oh my, that REALLY sounds like me. I always have a back up plan, to the back up plan of the back up!
She goes on to say:
Unfortunately, none of my planning and plotting has ever drawn me closer to God. In fact, it usually does the opposite.
He gently whispers when I finally call out to Him. If you want to walk with Me, you have to surrender your itinerary and trust Mine.
It's about surrendering the "quill of my will". Letting God write the end of the story. He does all things well. He sees the end when I only see the current page.
God is LOVE---therefore I am loved.
God is GOOD---therefore I am safe.
God is FAITHFUL---therefore it's going to be okay. For God is incapable of doing anything less than marvelous things.
Believing those three facts is what carries us through tough times. Because of that, when tough times come (EVEN those that rip you apart in ways you didn't know possible), it leaves you open to trust in God's sovereignty as well. His right "to do as He deems best, when and how He wants to do it". In other words, "if you want to walk with Me, you have to surrender your itinerary and trust Mine". That at times is incredibly hard to do. Sometimes the hurt is so powerful that you just want to go ANY direction but the one He has taken you on.
We have to come to the realization AND acceptance that God's way isn't always ours, but it doesn't mean that He doesn't love us. He doesn't have to act according to our every desire to STILL love us. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 that "I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." Hard times, those that shake our very core, are the times that we have to grow up. Spiritual speaking, it's time to grow up. It's time to realize that sometimes God often chooses to say no to our requests. He has a reason and His reason may not make sense today, but it is impossible for God to do something to us, not allow us something, or take something away WITHOUT it being done in love.
With that being said, there is another important aspect that I had not focused on so much until I read Joanna's book.
But please know that while God is committed to His plans, He is not insensitive to our pain. WE are not pawns in some celestial chess match. We are His children, "chosen and dearly loved" (Colossians 3:12). Loved, in fact, to the point of tears.
He feels our pain. It breaks his heart. Just like it breaks my heart into slivers to see my children hurting.
We rarely think about how hard it must be for a Father who loves us so much to hold back from running constantly to our rescue. Yet in His merciful wisdom He does, because He knows there is a greater good and a higher plan at work.
In our darkest moments, in the very circumstances that we believe will break us beyond repair, are the ones that God's real power is revealed in us. Praising God in THOSE circumstances shows our true love and commitment to Him. That is the sign of true faith, for it withstands the "refining fire". Doubts and questions of faith end up just showing God's true manifestation in our lives.
For when you can't trace God's hand, you can trust His heart!
Now finally back to that image of toes in the sand. Joanna told the story of a young man, a seminary graduate, that practically lost his faith in God. He finally turned to a mentor that completely changed his outlook.
He said "In the last six months doubt has begun to paralyze me. It's like when the water goes back out to the ocean. [Doubt] is washing away the sand underneath me, and my feet keep sinking lower and lower and lower. If this keeps up, there won't be anything left to stand on."
His mentor's healing words: "Listen to me when I say this. When the last grain of sand is finally gone, you're going to discover that you're standing on a rock".
Those words are the truth of everything. When everything gets washed away, God is still there. He is there under my feet and he's under yours. He IS a rock that can't be moved. No matter how much we run from it, bury it, or deny it......that rock is still there. Solid.