Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Testimony of grace within conflict

There is a question that relentlessly pounds against the interior of my soul: How could I ever, EVER doubt or distrust the One whom my soul loves?
There are points in my life where this just leaves me in tears. I know the Lord doesn't expect me to follow or trust Him perfectly. After all, that's why He is so amazing. Our God is dear and merciful to us. I know that He is instructing me in this, which is a life-long process. However, while there are all sorts of basic answers throughout Scripture for this that give a measure of comfort, the truth is that I do doubt my Lord all the time. And this brings me much grief and anguish.
I love Him so much that I want greater measures of all that He is welling up inside my soul! Yet, within the next second, I can be so downcast and discouraged, due to some circumstantial disturbance, that I begin to dwell on all the needs that aren't yet provided for or all the struggles that have not yet found a resolve (and not just the concerns of myself and immediate family, but I will begin to think upon all the needs of friends or those within the Body, all of whom I know are struggling spiritually/emotionally/financially/physically), though prayers have been lifted up for months. I think on all the ways that He has been silent, and all the days that He didn't answer (or, at least, not in the way that I thought He should) when a great and terrifying need arose. And, it's in the moments, when I'm confronted with harsh surroundings, that I turn away, in fear that the lie that He is silent and uncaring will entrap me. I immediately start filling myself with the reality of who He truly is. Psalm 145 and 146 makes His character so wonderfully clear to me in the struggle. Yet, at times, it is as if my soul refuses to feed on Truth. And those are moments that are hardest to bear. How can I be so frustrated with Him and, yet, so frustrated with myself for being frustrated at Him? It feels like an airway to my soul is so stuffed with the garbage of emotions and thoughts that I have to take the time to cry it out. Where I initially sought to do some "real" praying, I soon found myself doing a lot of crying. And, it's then that I realize that tears are prayers, too. God doesn't want a bunch of good words and scheduled prayer time to intercede for others in the place of a humbled and contrite heart. Intercession will usually flow from that time and not always precede it.
Even as I write all of this (and still wrestling through bits of this), I am remembering a special way in which my Lord did bless me recently. Since leaving college, I have felt confused as to what I should pursue in regards to a job. Everyone knows that I'm almost-incapable of holding a real job, due to the fact that money is not a great enough motivator for me, as well as the fact that I don't handle certain types of stress very well. I'm also much too old-fashioned and particular for my own good. I'm a person that needs a meaningful job. A job that involves serving. A job that doesn't feel like a job at all (thus why missionary stories attract me so much). Not that 9-5 dull-drum. So, I found myself in a rather complicated situation. I was wondering if I should just learn to do the things I don't like to do and learn how to be "normal" like everyone else. Naturally, as soon as the thought entered my mind, I shut it down.
Self, I will never be normal!!! NEVER. Oy.
Thus, my next goal was to find myself a job that did involve serving and caring for others. Nanny was my first choice, since I have more recently felt a draw to find more experience with children. Care giving for the elderly was my second choice, since I have done a bit of that before and found it quite rewarding. Recently, some dear friends of mine have been pursuing CNA classes and sharing with me about their endeavors. After doing some extensive research on how to become a certified nurse assistant (it wonderfully involves ZERO college experience) and what the actual position entails, I found myself torn for awhile, not sure if this was something I should eventually prepare to do. However, months slipped by with no direction or answers. I made some small preparation and pursuits toward becoming a nanny, but I was not met with any available positions that matched my schedule. Since a friend of mine was visiting this month during the weekdays, I knew that it would be best to wait to secure a job position after our time together. Well, over the months, after being a bit flustered with having to pursue a part-time care position, I knew God was pressing me to wait.
Yep. Just like every other department in my life right now. Wait.
Naturally, I wasn't happy. But His pressing was firm and I knew I was only going to continue running into a wall of frustration if I attempted pursuing a job on my own. Also, apart of me was still torn about pursuing a nanny position versus CNA training. All I could do was learn the virtue of patience.
The Sunday morning of the week that my friend came to visit, I received an e-mail request from a mother of three (through a care-giving network website) if I would be interested in taking care of her sons. She provided some details and the location, all of which fit very well into what I had been hoping and praying for. In addition, she mentioned that she was Christian, which was a pleasant blessing. I immediately responded and within a few short hours we connected over phone and planned to meet near the middle of the week. From her first e-mail, I had a good sense that this was the position for me. However, it wasn't until our first meeting that the Lord confirmed this. As she spoke to me about what type of caregiver she hoped for her sons, it seemed like everything fell neatly together. She wanted someone who would become part of their family and not look upon this position as a job, someone who is willing to pour into her kids' lives and seek to be dependable and faithful. All I could think was, "That's exactly my heart!" Then, after I answered her questions, she shared that she had been lifting up prayer for this need. It took me a second to react, but I immediately shared with her that I, too, had been praying for the Lord to reveal the family He purposed me to work with. We both became quite elated.
God is good, and there is never a need to small or seemingly petty to Him (e.g. the axe-head story in 2 King 6:1-7)
What a wonder it is to think two people, who didn't even know each other existed until a week and a half ago, were lifting up the same prayers, prompted by the Spirit! And, how wonderful it is that He chose us for each other and pressed me to wait until He should lead her to find my profile-page and contact me at the appropriate week, when I would be finally available for a part-time job!
This is the desire that the Lord placed in my heart while I was at Ellerslie in Summer '10. Tired of living a life after my flesh and disappointed with friends and people, I wanted to find a new approach to life and relationships. During my time at Ellerslie, I not only witnessed answered prayers, but I heard testimony after testimony of God faithfully providing and leading His children when they were fully surrendered to the will of His Spirit. Whether it was for a small, "insignificant" matter (like finding someone's lost ring in the sand at the volleyball court! True story, haha!), money for this or that, knowledge and answers to pursue the correct path for jobs/education/ministry, wisdom for matters concerning relationships, etc etc.
Yes, I thought, this is right. Christ must be intimately orchestrating every detail and we must be fully bent to the Spirit.
I finally found the true life of faith that I had been looking for all along. But this life of faith continually dwells in the state of surrender. Post-Ellerslie, this has been rough. I don't have a large church body to wake up to every single today and pray or worship with. I don't have sisters who will come alongside me and wrap me with prayer every day. I don't have leaders who will help keep me accountable. To be honest, Ellerslie is such an easy place to learn surrender because of the spiritually-soaked environment there. Now, that's good, because that is exactly what Ellerslie is about. However, Ellerslie-living isn't real life. It's just a set-apart season to prepare souls for real life. Nevertheless, there has been so much I have had to learn over and over again since returning from Ellerslie. I have found that surrender isn't a one-time thing for each particular issue or struggle. Surrender is the state in which a Christian abides and deepens in over time, swallowed up into the will of the Father.

In seeing the way He led me through this job struggle, which I'm sure I will encounter again throughout life, I was humbled. I left the meeting with the mother very much in awe of my Father's faithfulness. All I desired was an answer to the matter. I wasn't expecting Him to write out these lovely details. Yet, He did, because He so loves. His desires for us are only the best.
Oddly enough, I still found myself with plenty of questions after His orchestrating of all this. I know how wrong that sounds, but the questions remained: Why does our Father provide for the "small" things over the larger, more pressing, immediate needs (the ones that involve the health and healing of hurting hearts and souls to find peace)? Why does our Father seem to tarry for those who need SO much of Him, and yet He seems quicker to provide for temporal issues?
He has good purpose to work this way. My heart is sad because I want to see Him work the "big" things, but, as I wait, I'm filled with joy by the "little" blessings and provisions. He reminds me that my desire for Him to work the impossible is right and good, and that He is willing to do it. But I must wait, because the story is coming together in all the appropriate details that His hand has written.
Today, He gives me faith enough to trust Him for the big things. O Yeshua, that alone makes me love You so!
I find a great deal of comfort in the story where Jesus heals a boy with an unclean spirit. I often feel like I'm the father of the boy. There are many times when I believe in who He says He is and what He can do, but with all the uncertain circumstances and conflicting emotions/thoughts within myself, I find myself crying out to Him, "I believe, help my unbelief!"

And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”
(Mark 9:17-29 ESV)

The ironic part of my whole "job" story is that I am caring for the three most difficult boys I have ever encountered. They have given me nothing but a rough time since I started last week. But it is so fitting! I am learning a lot about myself in my Father's eyes by caring for them every day.

I desire the heavenly stamp of His design and approval upon all my earthly affairs, so that I may always tell of His wonders to His others. I want every detail of my life so divinely composed that it will be completely apparent as to Who rules my life and has won my heart.

Abba is righteousness in all His ways. He keeps faith forever.


Nolan said...


What an amazing testimony of God's goodness to us that He weaves together amazing things with our lives. I'm happy to hear that you found something that you enjoy doing and that feels rewarding to be able to serve, and that the LORD fit all of it into place the way He did.

That conflict and distrust that we all experience through our walk is a painful experience. I'm slowly starting to see more and more just how true the opposite polarity nature of the Spirit and flesh are. I have a hard time keeping my mind set on the things above, and it becomes very easy for me to focus my attention on circumstances, goals, myself, or other worldly things and allow my thoughts to linger too much on them. I'm seeing that what we set our mind on isn't at all trivial and Colossians 3:2 makes so much sense in that it says to set our minds on the things above, because the mind can mislead us when we allow it to be consumed by the world around us. I feel that way when I think about what you describe in your experience of waiting on Him. That if I focus more on Him than on the circumstances, I will be waiting in truth rather than fall victim to the lies that arise when we focus on the circumstances. I greatly need His counsel in this area! Especially when it comes to reading Scripture daily, and allowing it to be the truth foundation for what weighs heavily on my thoughts and mind throughout the day.

But it's refreshing to hear your story about how He revealed His plans for you in the area that you were looking for direction in for some time. It's also reassuring, in sharing some of your own experiences, that I'm not alone in the way I feel sometimes through conflicts when struggling to trust Him. His love, patience, and mercy on us is astounding!