God

Trust In The Midst Of Trials

Photo by  Maria Stiehler  on  Unsplash

This post is different.

Usually, when I share something, it’s from a rearview perspective—I’ve experienced something, learned a lesson or had an “a-ha” moment and I want to share it with you.  

This post is different.

I am very much in the midst of the circumstances I’m sharing today.  I don’t know how this story will end, but I feel God prompting me to share the journey, not just the final destination.

For the past six months, I’ve battled minor health issues and major anxiety brought on by those health issues. This battle has robbed me of more joy, contentment, memories and emotional wellbeing than I care to think about.  It’s made me a mediocre wife and a mom with a short fuse (at best). It’s caused me to throw myself into my job—because work is (usually) something I can control, unlike my emotions these days.

Last week, everything started to fall apart. I went to the doctor for a (minor) issue and came home with more questions than answers and a body so wracked with fear, stress and anxiety that I was barely able to function. What followed for the next seven days were more inconclusive tests, pain radiating throughout my entire body, one epic meltdown in front of my husband and a child who missed show and tell day.

And that job I thought I could control? I cancelled meetings, moved a final exam and made careless errors.

At multiple points during the week, I cried out to God, begging him to “show Himself” and “help me.” These are prayers I’ve prayed hundreds of times over the past six months. Mostly, I’ve heard nothing in reply.  

Sometimes God is unexplainably silent; and while His silence is never due to lack of caring or love, it may not be for us to comprehend this side of Heaven.  

In my desperation last week, I remembered the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. The widow petitioned a judge—who was neither a Christian nor a good man—for justice. He refused her request for a while, but after a period of time, she wore him down and he granted her request.  

Jesus used this parable to encourage the disciples to pray and not give up, saying in Luke 18:7 “will not God bring justice for His chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.”

So, I kept praying. I’M STILL PRAYING. I’m claiming the promises of Hebrews 4:14-16. I’m trusting that Jesus is interceding for me before God and I’m approaching the throne of grace with confidence. I’m also choosing to believe Psalm 41:3 and 42:11—that the Lord will restore me to full health and my downcast soul will yet praise Him.

 And when those promises seem empty, I’m focusing on the ways that God has shown up in my life over the past year: the lump in my breast that they literally COULD NOT FIND on an ultrasound or mammogram, the pre-cancerous mole that was removed without need for further treatment (save annual mole checks) and my father-in-law, who was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in August 2018, ended chemo last month and as I write this is playing at the beach with my boys.  

When circumstances cause us to doubt God and His goodness, we must call to mind His promises, remember His history of faithfulness in our lives and above all else, we must NEVER STOP PRAYING.  

I’m currently reading Jennie Allen’s “Made For This.” In it, she talks about praying an “anything” prayer…of “laying your life in the hands of a reckless, invisible God,” because our time on this earth is short and pointing others to HIM is all that truly matters.  

This post is my anything prayer.

This is my testimony in the midst of trial that God is who He says He is. That He is good regardless of what my circumstances tell me. That HE WILL COME THROUGH…if not in this life, then the one to come.

Today, I go back to the doctor to ask for more tests…

 I DON’T KNOW HOW THIS STORY IS GOING TO END, BUT I TRUST GOD WITH THE OUTCOME.

 If you find yourself in similar circumstances today, know that you are not alone. I see you. I feel your pain, both physical and emotional; and I’m sorry.

 In her book, “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way,” Lysa Terkeurst says:

“Perfection intimidates. Compassion inspires. And in that you will finally find the why. Why did this happen? Because there’s someone else in the world who would drown in their own tears if not for seeing yours. And when you make one other human simply see they are not along, you make the world a better place.”

We may never know the reason for some of the suffering we experience, but our questions and our tears can unite us if we let them.

 

The One Relationship Worth Fighting For

lighthouse .jpg

I'm forcing myself to write this post. Nothing in me feels inspired, and I haven't felt inspired for days...maybe a week. Something's wrong. I can feel it. Yes, there are a few major things happening in my life right now. My husband's grandma--the matriarch of his family--just passed away and next weekend's funeral is looming. There are also some health issues in my extended family that have my anxiety working overtime; but I know how to manage anxiety. What I'm feeling is more than that.

My current emotional state harkens back to how I felt last year: A sense of aimlessness. A deep seated discontent with where I'm at in life. On my best day this week, I went through the motions and checked everything off my to-do list. On my worst, I wasted too much time on social media or other things that don't matter, argued with my husband, yelled at my kids and felt like a failure...the worst wife, mother, friend, teacher. EVER.

Before you start sending me notes about how I should give myself grace or how I AM a good wife, mother, friend, teacher, etc., know this: I'M NOT LOOKING FOR YOUR PITY. I know what's wrong. I know that I have NO ONE to blame but myself, and I know how to stop feeling this way.  

Sending out a warning signal

I spent part of last Friday touring Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. At one point, the tour manager mentioned that most modern lighthouses weren't used to guide ships into port. They were used to warn mariners of hazards like rocks and reefs. 

The feelings I've experienced this past week are my lighthouse. They are my warning that if I continue going in the same direction, something bad will happen. What are they warning me against, exactly? These feelings are telling me that I've neglected the most important relationship in my life--the only relationship that really matters and the one relationship I need to fight for the most: My relationship with God. 

Slow fade

I'm never quite sure how it happens, but I think it has to do with being busy and putting too much emphasis on things that don't matter and working hard to achieve something (that probably doesn't matter either) or trying to impress the wrong people. All of a sudden, I look up and a few days have gone by without spending time in prayer or reading my Bible or listening to a sermon. Or, if I have done those things, they've been done out of habit, not a desire to truly connect with the ONE who gives me life. 

The deterioration of my relationship with God is often a slow fade. And I'm always the one who does the fading. 

There is a reason that Jesus called himself the vine and referred to us as the branches. In that same breath, He said: "apart from me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5). In a very literal sense, if a branch is disconnected from the vine, it withers. It doesn't bear fruit. It's useless.  

At times when I'm feeling disconnected, unproductive and useless, it's almost always because I'm not being intentional in my relationship with God. My internal lighthouse is flashing. It's up to me to decide whether to heed its warning and change course. 

Fighting back

So, how do I change course? Sadly, I've cut myself off from the vine enough times in my relationship with God to know how to "fix" the problem. At a very basic level, to mend a broken relationship with God, I do what I'd do to fix an earthly relationship: I PRIORITIZE our time together. 

But this time I don't just want to "fix" things. This time, I want to fight. I firmly believe that I am engaged in a battle for my heart and my mind. Satan would love nothing more than for me to get distracted and discouraged and give up on my relationship with God--or, perhaps even worse, to be ok with a mediocre spiritual life.

I am not a quitter and I hate feeling average, so why should my relationship with God be any different. 

Earlier today, in an effort to begin that reconnection with God, I listened to a sermon by Priscilla Shirer titled "How to Win the Battle." In it, she lays out three ways to fight a spiritual battle. I won't give away all three of her points because the sermon is worth listening to; but I will share one of them. 

The first way to win a spiritual battle is to hit your knees and thank God for the victory. 

I don't know how long it will take to start "feeling better" about myself and where I'm at in life; but I do know that God is bigger than my feelings. Today, I'm hitting my knees and thanking the one who triumphed over death, for the LIFE He is going to breathe into my soul. 

No matter where you're at in your relationship with God, don't get discouraged. If I've learned anything over the past thirty four years, it's that a solid relationship with God makes all other relationships fall into place. It truly is the one relationship worth fighting for. 

XX, 

Jenn

My Go-To Resources For Mending My Walk With God 

1.) Sermons from J.D Greaer at The Summit Church and Brian Frost at Providence Baptist Church- I put them on while I'm folding laundry or driving to work or cooking dinner and am always encouraged. 

2.) New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp- This short but impactful daily devotional is perfect for busy mornings when I've got to get out the door but want to center my heart and mind before the day starts. 

3.) Any video by Priscilla Shirer. Her talks on God's patience, the armor of God, and not fearing are particularly good. 

4.) The Audio Bible App- Sometimes there's a scripture I want to memorize or meditate on. So, I'll find it in the app and put it on repeat in the car as I drive. 

5.) The Read Scripture App- If you're looking to read through the entire Bible, this is a great way to do it. The app gives you three chapters and a Psalm to read per day and provides videos that set the stage for the historical context of the chapters you're about to read and how those chapters fit into the larger story that God is telling through the Bible.