These past couple months have not been easy ones for me. I've had to carry some heavy questions and feelings and haven't felt there was a "right" person to share the load with. I poured it out to God and then had a good, tearful chat with my mom about it. It helped to have it out, but I'm still struggling along trying to come to terms with what God's bringing me through. To sum it up best, you know how God asks us to give Him everything? I realized this past week that sometimes God will take things from us if we refuse to give it to Him. That's what He's doing to me. He's taking what I rely and depend on for security and safety and love because I wouldn't give it to Him. It didn't seem like something that was bad to have, so I didn't understand how it could be something that separated me from Him. But apparently it is, so He's taking it.
Trials like these are difficult; no two ways about it. With the end of the year, I successfully finished my (first!) new year's resolution to read the Bible through in a year. May I just say, that once you keep a resolution for an entire year one time, it empowers you so much more to keep the next one you make, because then when you're about to break it you can say to yourself, "Hey, you can do it! Remember? You've done it once before!" So, with the finish of my plan for Bible reading, I had to get ready to start something else. When I was flying through the Bible last year with 4-5 chapters a day, I came across several passages and books that spoke deeply to my heart and made me question and wonder and feel the healing that came from the words. But, I had to press on, I was on a mission and I intended to keep it. So although I didn't stop and do more in-depth study on those things last year, I am intentional about wanting to do that this year.
I'm starting with the book of Job. Job really threw me off. I've heard the story and read the story before, but as I pushed through it so quickly, I was able to read it more like a story and see the entire thing unfolding altogether, and I was mad. I was mad that God would make bets on Job. I was mad at his friends for mourning with Job and then doing a 180 and telling him everything he did wrong. I was confused when Job questioned God and God said, "How dare you question me? Look at all this stuff I did." So, Job seemed like a good place to start my studying for this year.
It took a few days into the new year to start the new study and the new commentary I borrowed for it. I always have a hard time beginning something new because I anticipate how much time it will take and how much I'll have to think about it. Horrible, right? Haha. I just get overwhelmed because I know when I start something, I will be all-in, and that's a big commitment.
Finally, I had some down-time in my car while waiting to meet up with my soon to be sis-in-law. So I popped open the commentary. The preface alone was enough to floor me and feel that rush of "oh my gosh, this is exactly what I'm going through!" God spoke to me through that pastor's words as he prepared my heart for what I was about to read about Job's suffering and his response to it. I don't know if you're in the midst of a trial right now or not, I must include some especially meaningful passages for you that spoke to the deepest part of my soul that was waiting to be melted by the Spirit of God and recognized as pain but encouraged to have the right mindset about it. Hope these words are as healing to you as they were to me.
"If you want to be able to patiently endure seasons of suffering, you must be able to recognize like Job, that God is sovereign in your life and that He is working everything out according to His plan for your life."
After reading this, I realized that the suffering and the taking away and the pain that I'm facing is in His plan. For some reason I have always categorized the outcome of the pain to be in God's plan, not the pain itself. He's sovereign in all areas of my life, not just the outcome. It's in His plan.
"When we are deaf to everything but the shriek of our own pain; when the world around us suddenly seems a hostile, menacing place--at those times we may cry out in anguish, "How could a loving God permit this to happen?" At such moments, seeds of distrust are sown. It requires heroic courage to trust in the love of God no matter what happens to us."
Wow! First of all, this made me feel incredibly selfish. I have been deaf to everything but myself and my own hurts. How disgusting. Second of all, where it says "seeds of distrust" I realized that is totally and entirely the work of the enemy. I became FURIOUS! I was personally offended that Satan would sneak into my pain like that and sprinkle those seeds into my head. At a time when I am completely and utterly susceptible to believing them for all their worth. But then again, why wouldn't he? It's the perfect opportunity for him to take me down. I realized that by nursing my pain and not praising God in the midst of it, I was telling God I didn't trust Him to take care of me and therefore, He was against me in what I was facing. It makes me shudder to think such a horrible thing. Could I actually have believed that? Yes, sadly I could have and I was.
"Times of intense pain and suffering remove all the shallow, superficial cliches of "Sure, I trust God." To still love God and remain fully devoted to Him in the midst of suffering, to love Him even when you think He is unfair and callous is true love, true devotion, pure trust."
That says it all. It's easy to say I trust God when things are going well. But the moment my life is on the downturn, I throw that cliche out the window. Trust? Yeah right! Look what He's doing right now! I obviously can't trust Him! The idea of loving someone I think is unfair to me and doesn't care enough to remove my hurt makes me uncomfortable. Maybe that's why God hasn't let me get married yet. Lol. Especially because God is perfect. He is everything and knows everything. There is nothing beyond His control. But He is wise; He knows when to act and what is going to come of it all. I should never have to question His motives.
"God allows seasons of suffering to occur in the life of every believer to test not only the reality of their faith but also the extent of their love for Him. You can't fake your love while in pain. The ultimate proof of my love for God is demonstrated by absolute trust and surrender. These can only be proved true in the crucible of suffering. When you can say, "Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him," you know that your love for God is real." You can't fake your love while in pain. How true is that! How many of us can vouch that the times when our true and worst colors come out are when we've been hurt and choose to react in a way far from pleasant? I know I can. I wish deep inside of me that the phrase, "These can only be proved true in the crucible of suffering," weren't true. Surely not! I can prove my ability to surrender and trust God when things are fine in my life. Those are the times when I don't have to have a second thought about "giving" those things to God. I think I just proved myself wrong right there. I don't have to give it a second thought when things are good, but when they're bad I'm in this awful funk and fall prey to the "pity me" syndrome.
One last one to leave you with:
"'But He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)' Gold fears no fire. Whatever we have that is burned up and left behind in the furnace, wasn't worth having anyway."
I'll let you chew on that one on your own. ;)