(My apologies, this is an EXTREMELY long post. 🙂 )
Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. – Psalm 27:14
Comfort is nice. Comfort is safe. Comfort is secure. But comfort, sometimes, is not where you are meant to stay.
Courage is scary. Courage is unsafe. Courage is insecure. But courage, sometimes, is needed to move forward into a better place.
I have been wrestling with a major life decision for a while now – one that I have always had trouble making. One area of my life has grown increasingly frustrating over the past few months. I have been struggling with whether I need to suck it up and press on, or if it is time to make a change.
On one hand, though I am frustrated, I am comfortable where I am at. This area of my life is familiar and stable. Those are things I highly value. I am a planner. I like to know what is going on, where, and when. I do not like instability. I am also intensely loyal. I commit fully to what I am doing. I want to be excellent in whatever it is I am doing. I do not like to “quit” anything.
On the other hand, I realize that if I am being called to do something differently, then I need to heed that call and place my trust in God that He will take care of all the things I am worried about. So I have been praying daily during the past several weeks for God to give me a sense of direction and, following that, a sense of peace and tranquility once that course has been set.
My friend Stacy (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!! *cough* 31 *cough*) is experiencing a similar waiting period and blogged about it earlier this week. It is good to have someone to wait with. lol Though our waiting periods are different, we pray for and uplift each other as we try to seek out God’s will in our lives. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
This verse isn’t just talking about physical defense. I believe we are less likely to give way to despair and hopelessness when we have someone we can share our fears and concerns with – someone who can encourage us and lift us up (and give us a swift kick in the rear when necessary). When you add God to the mix – I mean REALLY add God by intensely and intently seeking His will, not just thinking about Him once a while and whispering a “bargain” prayer – nothing can defeat you. Of course God hears our own prayers, but I believe that when we offer up prayers for others, He not only hears those prayers on their behalf, but blesses us in return for not focusing solely on ourselves.
(Quick note: I am trying to do the rest of this post from memory. I originally typed the following section on a different computer while doing a lunch break. I hit “save” and then went back to my desk to post it. When I got back to my computer and pulled it up, it didn’t save ANY of my changes. So I have tried to remember, as best I can, what I had originally written. I guess someone really didn’t want these words out there because THIS IS EXACTLY the type of thing I have been dealing with CONSTANTLY for the past few weeks. From now on I will be writing in Word (and praying Windows doesn’t crash – again), then posting to WordPress.)
James 5:16 (HCSB) says:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.
Again, I don’t believe this verse is just talking about physical healing. It can be healing for mental, emotional, or spiritual conditions as well. Some people are affected by physical ailments, but we ALL are affected by mental, emotional, and spiritual issues in one degree or another.
I hate to use the cliché of the potter and the clay, but in order for us to become who we are meant to be, God has to press on us. We can’t grow in faith and mature spiritually without this type of pressure. Sometimes God presses on us to teach us patience in our circumstances. Sometimes it is to teach us to trust in Him despite our circumstances. In other cases, it is to show us a new direction that we should take to CHANGE our circumstances. James 1:2-4 says:
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
Zechariah 13:9 says:
I will put this third through the fire;
I will refine them as silver is refined
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
and I will answer them.
I will say: They are My people,
and they will say: The LORD is our God.
We have to learn to listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit. I have to learn that. That is something I have always struggled with. How do you know God is directing you to a certain thing? God doesn’t speak audibly to us, so we have to make decisions based on what His Word says. Doesn’t work so well if you don’t know what His Word says. So I have made a commitment to delve deeper into the Word of God in order to gain more insights on the paths I should follow in all areas of my life.
I have also learned that if you are really looking for answers from God, and not just throwing up random prayers because it is something you are supposed to do, then you will find those answers, sometimes when you least expect them. But prayer has always been a struggle for me. Not that I didn’t want to pray. I just didn’t know how. I had grown up in churches with eloquent speakers that prayed beautifully. You would think some of that would have rubbed off on me. I would find myself running through the list of things I had been taught to pray about in Sunday School. It was like moving down a checklist. Family? Check. Finances? Check. Job? Check. Friends? Check. All very impersonal and unfulfilling. And definitely not something that made me feel closer to God at the end.
I don’t even remember where I heard it, but someone said that when you pray, you just need to talk to God. We always have all these thoughts running around in our heads, and God hears them all anyway. We don’t have to say the right words or certain “churchy” phrases. We can just talk. And He will just listen.
It has also been a big help to pray scripture, especially Psalms. I have discovered that there is a psalm for every circumstance. Through reading the psalms of David, I have realized that sometimes it is okay to feel abandoned and discouraged and alone. After all, David – a “man after God’s own heart” – wrote these! He felt this way! He struggled with these same issues! If David can feel this way and cry out to God in frustration, I can, too! Psalm 42:11 says:
Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.
So, in one of my recent therapy sessions with God I poured out my frustrations regarding my current circumstances. I try my best not to be a “bargain-prayer” – you know, where you say “God if you will do this, I’ll (fill-in-the-blank).” But I do believe that if you are fervently seeking God’s direction and sincerely ask that He show you the path you should take, then He will reveal that to you.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
So, in making a decision regarding my frustrating circumstance, I want to make sure I am listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and not just making an emotional decision based on my currently poor attitude in this situation. I know “all things work together for the good of those that love the Lord,” but I don’t want to make my life more difficult by following my emotions instead of the Lord’s plan for me. So I have been spending the last few weeks praying that He will give me a clear vision of what I should do. If it is just one of those crazy times that come and go and I need to stick it out and continue on the path I am currently on, then fine. I will do that. But if it is a sign that I need to change my path, then I prayed He would make that clear, too, and give me a sense of peace regarding this course correction.
This past week it has been abundantly clear that I will soon be taking a different course, and, instead of being scared and worried, I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.
Now this is what the LORD says—
the One who created you, Jacob,
and the One who formed you, Israel —
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name; you are Mine.
I will be with you
when you pass through the waters,
and [when you pass] through the rivers,
they will not overwhelm you.
You will not be scorched
when you walk through the fire,
and the flame will not burn you.
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
to the person who seeks Him.