And Yet…

I’m sure we’ve all seen memes such as these quite a few times. To be honest, I don’t appreciate them. In fact, I usually get flat out angry when I see them. Most of the time, I am not thankful for waking up. I am not grateful for this life. I do not have gratitude for the never-ending suffering in my own body and watching my worst fear come true as I see my husband deteriorate as well. And in my darkest times, I don’t understand how anyone could be thankful for life on earth. I. Do. Not. Get. It. We’re being gut-level honest today. I hope that’s okay with you. I am angry at life, angry at myself and, yes, I am angry at the God who thought it was a good idea to place me on this earth. Did I shock you or can you relate? If you can, we are in some great company.

David: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? … “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” – Psalm 22:1, 15 (By the way, Jesus Himself quoted this passage while hanging on the cross.)

Job: “I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning.” – Job 7:16

Paul: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” – 2 Corinthians 1:8

Jeremiah (likely author of Lamentations): “He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.” – Lamentations 3:5-6

AND YET…

Jeremiah (likely): “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:21-23

David: “You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” – Psalm 22:23-24

Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” – Job 13:15

Paul: “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” – 2 Corinthians 1:9-10

All of these faithful people dealt with very serious doubts. Why do I think I’m not allowed to do the same? Sometimes we’re so afraid of anger. We think it’s unacceptable to God. I have believed my anger and doubt are completely unacceptable. But God Himself gets angry so how can I hold myself up to a higher standard than God? Anger can be a tool for us if we’re brave enough to allow ourselves to experience it and discover what it’s trying to tell us. What are we believing about God or ourselves that has led us to anger? We need to examine these beliefs with curiosity, not condemnation, and then tell ourselves the truth of God in opposition to those beliefs. If we don’t allow the anger to come, we never open that part of ourselves to the Lord for truth and healing. Hidden anger can be extremely damaging.

But we must not forget the “and yet”. Each of the people mentioned above spoke God’s truth after speaking the depths of their despairing hearts, often even within the same chapter. Though anger is an important and useful tool, we can’t stop with its expression and let ourselves sink into bitterness. I have been there and living with bitterness is worse than I can describe. After bringing our feelings to the Lord, it’s so important to recall His truth, even if that truth is hard to believe at the time. The more we speak truth to ourselves, the more we will believe it, the more healing will reach our hearts, and the less angry we will become. Each of the people quoted above expressed their anger even to the point of wishing they were dead. AND YET, each of them spoke God’s truth over their anger and their misconceptions about God.

“Yet this I call to mind.” I call to mind. No one can or will do this for me. What a tremendously difficult discipline this is. As hard as it may seem to refute our thoughts and feelings at any given time, it’s crucial that we recall God’s truth after allowing the feelings to come and examining our beliefs behind those feelings. I may not believe in this moment that God is good. However, I know that He is good and this truth I speak over and above my feelings and beliefs. I submit my feelings and beliefs to the Lord and then, as the passage says, “I have hope.” Hope only comes to spark light in the midst of our dark thoughts when we call God’s truth to our minds.

Oh my goodness, I am not saying I have mastered this. Far from it. But I have come to see the value in the extremely difficult practice of speaking God’s truth over myself. I have a spark of hope on my darkest days, I know God never leaves me even when I doubt, and I’m starting to enjoy some of the fruit as He plants and grows His truth in me. Today I might be angry. AND YET, I am not consumed (or condemned) because of the Lord’s great love. He gives me mercy each day in response to my doubts. What a truly gracious and loving God He is. Great is His faithfulness.

God wants every part of us, including the negative emotions and doubts we’re pretending aren’t there. He wants to bring healing to the bitter places but He won’t do that unless we open those places to Him. Let’s invite God into our darkness and watch Him ignite a spark of hope and, yes, maybe even fan the flame of gratitude for this life He has given us.

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 43:5

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This Is Holy Ground

I’ve been struggling spiritually for a short time and not just a little struggle. I’ve been REALLY struggling. At least that’s what Satan wanted me to think. I can mostly pinpoint the beginning of the increased accusations, the swirling thoughts, and the spiral to the last time I wrote a blog post. It’s pretty much understood that if you speak about Jesus it makes Satan mad enough to attack. I know that means writing this current post makes me vulnerable again on several levels (to other people, to the enemy, to myself) but I don’t care. God deserves praise and the way He has scooped me up and held me through this, opening my eyes again and showing Himself to me so clearly, needs to be shared.

I think the first doubt that reared it’s ugly face again was the one about God’s provision, the subject of my last post. I’ve struggled many times with this one and each time the doubt comes back I get discouraged and it’s hard for me to tell myself the truth. I’ll probably struggle with it again but the WAY I struggle with it is going to be the key. God knows we doubt. Letting ourselves be overcome with doubt is the real issue. So the provision thing has been kind of annoyingly stabbing me in the back of the mind and then I started having some scary heart problems again.

I’ve been having the kind of heart problems that would probably send most people to a cardiologist and, yes, I do have one, but I know that my illnesses have an emotional root. I know this because when I release the emotions, when my naturopathic doctor helps me, the issues stop. I know it’s mostly emotional and spiritual because the moment I was about to publish my last blog post is the moment my heart rate shot up and stayed up. And right now as I’m writing this post my heart rate is soaring again for the first time since I saw my doctor about it a week ago. So… what does this tell me? It tells me that I am causing my heart issues… or at least that I’m agreeing with the enemy who wants to take me down. And what doubt creeps back in each time my health gets so far out of control? That illness is my fault. Okay so, that might be true. I often believe that it’s true. So therein lies the door to my next ever-pervasive doubt: I believe that since I caused the illness, I have to be the one to fix it. I struggle with finding the balance between taking responsibility and doing penance… of doing my part toward healing and trying to control the whole thing myself. I thought I was doing better releasing my emotions to God. If you knew how much I work on this, how many hours I sit with God allowing Him to help me with my emotional/bodily enmeshment, you’d understand how hard it is for me to know that my emotions are STILL causing me to be sick. It’s enough to steal my hope, kill my joy, and ruin my ministry because I want to give up. I am so afraid that I will give up.

Late one night during this struggle, I was in the window room with God again, looking at the shadow of the dark mountains next to the darkened sky, trying to worship and give this brokenness to Him. I was in a bad place. Stuck in a depth that I hadn’t been in quite some time and it scared me. This whole time I knew it was a spiritual attack. I knew it but Satan is so crafty, pulling the veil over our eyes so we don’t see clearly. But that night I chose to fight and fight hard. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with such authority as I did that night, speaking life over myself and death and hell thrown back to the pit. But instead of those moments empowering me, another doubt inserted itself. Goodness, Satan is crafty. I started believing that if I stopped fighting for even second, my thoughts would be overcome by lies and that would be the end of my faith. The enemy wanted me to think I was that close to the edge of my faith. I was exhausted from the constant fighting all day but I was scared to stop and just let God fight so I could rest.

Don’t get me wrong. Fighting is not always a bad thing. Speaking things out loud so Satan will flee in the name of Jesus is important. In fact, I wrote this in my journal the next day, “I am free from any charge against me. So this constant blaming myself for illness and emotional issues has to stop! I am free. The guilt and shame are gone. The blame is gone. I do not owe penance. I do not owe anything. Free. Free. Free! Jesus set me free. I CHOOSE TO STOP CONDEMNING MYSELF! I forgive myself. I am doing the best that I can. I surrender the blame. I let Jesus have it. He’s wanted me to hand it to Him for so long. I embrace the freedom and confidence He offers. I LET MYSELF OFF THE HOOK. I refuse to let this control me anymore. I let go of the need for a reason in order to blame and I embrace the healing. Thank You, Jesus.” Fighting is good unless we’re trying to do it all by ourselves. Letting God fight is even better.

I fought like this for at least 24 hours until I was totally exhausted and my insides felt tied in knots and then I read a chapter about letting others in on our struggles in the book I’m reading. It spoke about letting people in, no matter how crazy the struggles seem to us. Satan wants us to think they’re too crazy to share. So I put the book down, picked up my phone and reached out to my accountability group… as my heart went into palpitations again. These three women mean the world to me and I knew they would love me. Deep down I knew they would speak truth but, again, I was giving into the lie that they have their own struggles and don’t need to hear about mine. So many enemy tactics!! WE HAVE GOT TO STOP LISTENING!!!!! I almost started with, “you’re gonna thing I’m crazy but”… but I just poured my heart out to them. I did add lots of qualifications like, “I know this isn’t true but…” and “I know my hope and faith are in there somewhere but I can’t seem to find them.” Guess what? They did not think I was crazy. When I spoke my truth, they spoke God’s truth back to me. Satan lost his power.

I woke this morning still somewhat tied in knots. It’s not always instant healing and freedom. But everything I read today seemed to point to my struggle: a text from one of my accountability partners, devotions from my favorite authors showing up on my news feed, etc. It all spoke my heart. I continued on in my quiet time and wrote in my journal that I’ve still been buying into the lie that if I do everything right, I’ll receive healing. I cannot believe I’m still practicing a theology of works when I have become such a fan of grace! And that’s when God Himself spoke to me through His word.

I usually read a Psalm during my time with God and today’s happened to be Psalm 40. It’s not one that I’ve ever paid much attention to except for the first part, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire…” I thought, yep, that sounds about right. So I started reading it out loud, “… he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” I came to attention after that because I’d been feeling like the ground beneath me wasn’t exactly sturdy. “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” Okay, so maybe I’m suffering for the sake of others. I think I can get on board with that. “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.” Hmmm… gods like comfort, health, and stability perhaps? Later in the psalm, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.” My skin started to prickle a bit because, remember I just wrote about my works-based mindset in my journal and God is telling me right here that He doesn’t require any such offerings. I belong to Him. “I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O Lord. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.” Rarely a day goes by that I do not speak about God through my blog, to others, etc. It is no secret what I believe. That’s why I need God to protect me. I just asked my friends to pray for my protection last night because I needed to stop fighting and rest. The psalm continues, “Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord; may your love and your truth always protect me.” Oh my goodness. “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.” You guys. I wish you could go back and see the conversation with my accountability group last night. I literally said to them that Satan has pulled the wool over my eyes and I CANNOT SEE. I almost stopped reading those words because my mouth fell open in awe. Then, “They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” MY HEART FAILS WITHIN ME. My heart issues are what spiked most of these doubts in the first place and here is God Himself speaking to me about them. Then David says, “Be pleased, O Lord, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me.” This brings such comfort. David outright sinned on purpose and that’s why he says his heart fails within him. And yet, he doesn’t take it upon himself to fix it. He does not seek to do penance. He asks God to help him. I DO NOT HAVE TO FIX THIS MYSELF. And that’s when I took off my slippers and sang, “I am standing on holy ground.”

Who am I that the Holy Lord would speak so directly to me? Who am I that His presence would be so near me? I am His child, that’s who. He loves me that much. I still don’t have all the answers to my doubts but that’s okay. Part of the reason I’m writing this post- maybe even most of the reason- is so that I can look back and remember. I know that I know that I KNOW that God spoke to me today. And that is enough for me.

Call the enemy out. Speak the truth of God out loud. Invite people into the places you think are too crazy to share. Experience Satan’s loss of power over those places. Open your heart to the word of God. Watch Him fight for you. The picture that seems such a mess to you right now will one day be fully revealed into a Masterful piece of art. I hope you are encouraged and that your eyes will be opened to holy ground today.

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