THIS MIGHT HURT A LITTLE

I found it! I found the quote that says what I’ve been meditating on but couldn’t quite put into words. But C S Lewis managed to articulate my meditations well.

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Not that I don’t have moments when I do doubt if God will bless me. I do. However, what I’m realizing is that I hope to be blessed the way I want to be blessed because I think what I want is what is best for me. And that’s a two-part issue: As a human, I believe I already know what’s best for me and, as LaRonda, I am not always confident that God wants to give me good things.

I’m slowly accepting that God does love me – always and anyway. That’s grace. I wasn’t raised with grace or mercy, so it’s been hard for me to accept that God loves me always and anyway. Often, I feel inherently unlovable enough to not warrant grace.

As I mature into my faith, I’m accepting that what God wants for me is good, better than what I can hope for myself. But I’ll be honest. I often cringe when I trust God. Why? Because I know it might hurt! Don’t pray for patience; just pray for everything to go your way instead. Right? ūüôā

I was absolutely terrified last month as I watched our checking balance deplete with no hope of improvement in sight. What if God meant to bring His will to fruition by means of us losing everything we had and turning our lives upside down? (I know it sounds dramatic and tragic. Welcome to my head!)  I was certain that I couldn’t bear to go through something like that. And I couldn’t understand why I was being put through such a trial when God knows I don’t have the emotional foundation for something like that.

Everything turned out fine, and my faith in God as my provider was exercised and strengthened. But it wasn’t fun. So what I believe I need to do is rely on what I know of God rather than my feelings. And that’s what I’m in the process of doing right now – getting to know God by reading His word and visiting with Him in prayer and quiet more than listening to what others have to say about Him. (And you’re welcome to come along for the ride!) I’ve been to church and Bible studies, so I know many of the stories; but I’m finding that there is no substitute for letting the Holy Spirit tell me what I need to know about my God, letting God reveal Himself to me intimately, personally. I just need to become confident that He is gentle enough to meet me where I am – even if it’s on edge of an imagined cliff or on the shore of my own Red Sea – but still willing to stretch my faith when He knows I’m ready for it – like that teacher in school who constantly told me that I wasn’t living up to my potential. (I was quite satisfied with mediocrity, thank you very much! It took less effort than potential.)

Ultimately, I know that I need to believe that it won’t hurt any more than it absolutely has to and that His grace is sufficient to carry me through the pain if it’s necessary. I suppose growing pains should be expected. There are plenty of examples in nature to show it’s even necessary in order for a creature to become what it was born to become. It’s going to take a lot of trust for me to do that. And honestly, like living up to my potential, it’s a little scary to consider. But the option of depending on myself really isn’t a preferable option, is it?

PAIN IN HIS PLAN

I’ve struggled with this post. I even deleted it after I posted it once. I worried that it was too whiny. But it’s honest, and I know I can’t be the only Christian out there who has felt this way. And I know that God can use times like this¬†to draw us closer to him. So here goes….

The last month has been a lesson for me in trusting God and God only. My husband had been unemployed for over two months and had failed to qualify for unemployment benefits yet. I was out of of options and found myself in a situation that I absolutely could not manipulate, adjust or change at all. And I felt I had no one to turn to because I wanted to honor my husband and not shame him, but he was quite frankly contributing to my sense of helplessness. That left me alone with God to be my comfort and help. Which is fine, except that I really needed to hear someone tell me everything would be fine.

So I prayed for¬†my husband¬†to overcome whatever was holding him back from doing what he needed to do for his family. I prayed for myself to have peace and patience while I waited. I prayed for God to make a way. I was holding out hope that not only would my husband finally get qualified for unemployment benefits, but that we would receive the lost weeks of benefits as well. I knew God could make a way, and I¬†hoped that He would be abundant since our resources were thinning out quickly. (It’s comforting to have money as a back-up plan, isn’t it? But God was weaning me from depending on anything but Him, it seemed.)

Well,¬†God didn’t show off with abundance; it was more like daily bread. My husband got approved for unemployment, but only for that week going forward.

I struggled with this for over a week. Knowing that I had no control over the situation, I had¬†trusted my husband to do what he could. Now I love him dearly, but in this moment, he wasn’t really hadn’t been a source of comfort. For two months, he allowed the situation to deteriorate. I had continued to put my trust in a God who promised He could redeem situations. When He gave sufficiency instead of abundance, I felt let down. I felt like God didn’t want to do what I knew He could do for me. I questioned His love for me. I had needed to see His power, His blessing, His unquestionable presence. I desperately needed to know that He would take care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself and I didn’t have anyone else I could rely on, and I felt He had done only what He¬†absolutely had to in order to be faithful.

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But, His provision had been sufficient. The next need was for full-time employment for my husband. Again, God answered with sufficiency. He will start a part-time job with no benefits in a week.

Through all of this, I’ve asked God to help me see things the way He sees them – me, our resources, my family, our situations, Himself. I believe He’s doing that, but it’s painful. God’s showing me that his grace is sufficient, and that “sufficient” isn’t a bad thing. But more significantly, He’s knocking down the support beams I built myself in order¬†to make room for the support beams I believe He wants to provide – stronger and more dependable, more eternal. But demolition is painful and scary.

afb1629838ea1fc4119011f85ba367eaAll the support I’ve depended on¬†throughout my life has been shaky with a poor foundation, but I’ve clung to it desperately because it is all I’ve had. My trust in others has been tenuous at best. My trust in an intangible God who shows grace always and anyway? There’s the challenge. But what an amazing foundation to build my faith on if I can only hold on during the necessary demolition!

 

IS IT JUST ME?

Isn’t it hard to be upbeat all the time? I don’t always feel a praise on the tip of my tongue when it’s been a really, really long, trying week! I mean, sometimes things are just plain hard and it seems like there’s no end in sight. If anything, that light at the end of the tunnel keeps getting further and further away. Or you suspect, as you’re standing on the tracks, that the light which seems to be growing larger is the light at the front of the train itself!

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I hope God’s not disappointed when I get weary of trying times. I don’t think he is.¬†To the contrary, God gives us encouragement in such times:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

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I don’t know about you, but I get really¬†weary sometimes. I only decided to begin blogging (again) a few weeks ago, and already I feel tired. Not from writing; the writing has energized me and actually given me something good in my life to look forward to. I’ve always¬†tried to be¬†an encourager, but have most recently needed encouraging myself. Still, no matter how negative I may feel when I start a post, I find that I simply cannot empty my trashcan on someone else’s desk and walk away feeling satisfied.

In fact, I have a confession to make. The last few posts have started out as an invitation to a pity party. I’ve had a lot of discouragement lately. I read declarations here and there about how God is about to bring my trial to an end and how He’s about to bring me out of the wilderness into my promised land, and honestly they’re beginning to sound like fortune cookies that someone else was meant to get instead of me. I know my God is a God of “suddenlies” and abundant victories, but I just don’t feel it right now.

So I end up feeling like a bad Christian for being discouraged and disappointed and frustrated, you know?

What’s the solution, then? I suppose I have to rely on what I know and not on what I feel. It’s as simple as the first song I learned in Sunday School: “Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.” And it does. The Bible is the longest love letter ever written. I don’t get it. I can’t fathom how God could keep loving someone who can be so unlovable sometimes. I don’t get how God can keep forgiving someone who is so often unforgiving, especially when He knows I’ll probably be right back asking forgiveness for the same thing in a couple of days.

But His Word doesn’t tell me to understand. It tells me to trust.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

But even if I turn out to be the only person encouraged by what I write, then I guess I’ll continue to write. And that may well be the case! (You’re going to love this one!) Yesterday followed one of the worst days I’ve had in years. (Not the worst, but right up there in the Top 10.) It happens that a friend of mine put me in contact with a friend of his, who was in the process of reading my blog to offer me some feedback. He found a post from my first attempt at blogging over seven years ago – which also happened to chronicle one of the lowest points in my life (Also in the Top 10). He proceeded to tell me I was on the right track with it.

I didn’t want to be told I was on the right track. I wanted to be at home, in my bed, eating worms – alone! – while I slowly melted into a worthless puddle of slime. How ironic that someone could go into my past and shine the light on an encouraging post that I wrote.

Things aren’t any better today, by the way. God hasn’t pulled a “suddenly”. To make things worse, the situation that troubles me is quite out of my hands. In fact, the only control over it is to accept it or reject it, and the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been, as far as I can tell. (By the way…I don’t like it!)

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So, what’s left? Hope. As hard as it is to grasp right now, I have hope. Right now, it’s just me and God – and the hope He promises me.

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5 ESV)

I spent enough of my life in shame. It would be easy to feel shame now. After all, my life doesn’t look so promising, and I’m honestly a bit anxious. I don’t feel like a model¬†Christian. If anything, I’m a struggling Christian. I struggle to keep trusting God when he’s silent. I struggle to keep faith in Him when he doesn’t answer my prayers quickly.¬†I struggle to put my life my life in his hands when I’m afraid he might end up taking me through homelessness to glorify his name. I’ve read those stories, and I don’t think I have the faith or fortitude to go through that! But at least I’m not hopeless.