I’ll be totally honest.
Sometimes life just vacuums.
And when I say “vacuums”, I mean SUCKS.
There just isn’t another word describe it. At least not one that I would type in a Christian devotional blog (or anywhere, for that matter).
I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to God that He has given us story after story after story in His Word of people who went through crap and came out of it stronger and closer to Him.
HE GETS IT.
He made no secret of the fact that life would SUCK.
He told us over and over and over that we would face trials and tribulations and crappy circumstances and betrayal and abandonment. And still we are shocked when it happens.
Sometimes we bring these things on ourselves because of bad choices we make. Other times we find ourselves flung into the midst of trials brought about by other people’s bad choices.
Either way, it sucks.
But . . . .
BUT . . .
“He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” – Job 23:10
I’ll admit that I’ve been hit or miss with my devotional time throughout my life. I do much better when I have a class-type setting and homework. lol Nerds dig that sort of thing.
Anyway, I’d get motivated periodically, and “do good” for a while, but then life would happen and I’d get busy and it would just kind of fall off the “to-do” list. I think a large part of the problem was that I was trying to “do good” and make sure Bible study was on my “to-do” list. Because crossing that off my daily list meant I was a “good” Christian.
Sure, I’ve always wanted to learn more about God, but my motivation was all wrong. I was doing it because it’s what I should do. What I was told to do. Which is true, and isn’t necessarily a bad reason.
But it’s not the best reason.
I’ve seen firsthand that “doing church” doesn’t mean you have a relationship with God. It just means you are religious until you decide your tired of being religious and “doing” what you should. If you don’t truly know Him and love Him, you can’t possibly want what He wants for you or be happy with what He has given you.
If I’ve learned anything over the past few months, it’s that I don’t care about being a “good” Christian or “religious” anymore. My motivation has shifted.
I want to be Christlike.
And often, but not always, there is a huge difference between the two.
And not often, but always, it requires us to follow in His footsteps of suffering.
And, oh, it is so INCREDIBLY hard when you are in pain and have been wronged.
These past few months I have been going through the worst trial of my life, by far. And it’s not over yet. And I don’t know when it will be over.
But I do know this:
God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering. – Genesis 41:52
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6
For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. – 2 Timothy 1:12
I know that I know that I KNOW in whom I believe.
For the first time in my life, I have been desperately seeking God.
And when I say desperately, I mean DESPERATELY.
He promised that if you seek Him, He will be found by you. (I Chronicles 28:9)
AND HE MEANT IT.
He has revealed Himself to me day after day after day. In my devotional readings. In email devotionals and online blogs. In conversations with trusted advisors, pastors, and friends. And, most amazingly, in an encounter with a complete stranger in a Lifeway store. I think he might actually have been an angel in disguise.
I took a day off last week to gather my thoughts and seek guidance as to decisions I was having to make that I never expected or wanted to be making. I was worried that I was doing the wrong thing, even though I really had no choice left. I had an appointment with my counselor, and then talked with my pastor for a while. After that, I stopped by Lifeway to look for some books. I was sitting in a chair trying to decide which ones to buy, and out of nowhere this guy walks up and says,
“I was taking my regular walk, and God told me to come in here and tell you that He loves you.”
It was weird. Especially when the next thing he did was stop, close his eyes, and ask
“Anything else, Father?”
I’ll admit I was a little freaked out and worried about his mental state and whether or not I could take him down if need be. (Answer: probably)
Then he looked straight at me and said,
“And that you please Him.”
That’s about the time the chill bumps and shaking started. I had been so worried about doing the wrong thing. The ungodly thing. About returning sin for sin. About displeasing Him.
He then sat down said a few other things about trials and life stinking and rotten circumstances, most of which I can’t remember now, probably because I went into complete shock at what he said next. He again asked God if there was anything else He wanted him to tell me. Then he, again, looked straight at me and said something like,
“He knows that the decisions you are having to make aren’t what you expected, and it makes Him angry, too, but He is with you and is guiding you, and it will be okay.”
I can’t remember word for word, but I knew – I KNEW – that God was sending me a clear message. Nothing like that has ever – EVER – happened to me before. I’ve always taken people who say they “got a message from God” with a grain of salt, because I’d never experienced it. Never again.
Then he talked for awhile about various people in the Bible who went through trials and who were always delivered by God. I can’t remember everything he said – again, probably because of shock – but he talked about Daniel in the lions’ den; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (whom he called Abendego, so he probably wasn’t really an angel, but I still KNOW God sent him), Joseph, Jesus, and a few others.
Then he prayed over me and left.
God is awesome and amazing.
I honestly can’t spend enough time in His Word right now. Between being a full-time employee and, now, a single mom, it is hard to find enough time to sit down and spend uninterrupted, focused time with God. So I have several short daily devotional books, and I really love starting out the day with them. Streams in the Desert is one of them.
This is part of the Streams in the Desert entry for June 12, the day after my Lifeway encounter. The verse is Job 23:10 (above). The first line of the devo is “Faith grows during storms.”
Storms are caused by conflicts between the physical elements, and the storms of the spiritual world are conflicts with supernatural, hostile elements. And it is in this atmosphere of conflict that faith finds its most fertile soil and grows most rapidly to maturity.
The strongest trees are found not in the thick shelter of the forest but out in the open, where winds from every direction bear down upon them. The fierce winds bend and twist them until they become giant in stature.
. . . Remember, when you see a person of great spiritual stature, the road you must travel to walk with him is not one where the sun always shines and wildflowers always bloom. Instead, the way is a steep, rocky, and narrow path, where the winds of hell will try to knock you off your feet, and where sharp rocks will cut you, prickly thorns will scratch your face, and poisonous snakes will slither and hiss all around you.
The path of faith is one of sorrow and joy, suffering and healing comfort, tears and smiles, trials and victories, conflicts and triumphs, and also hardships, dangers, beatings, persecutions, misunderstanding, trouble, and distress. Yet “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Yes, “in all these” – even during storms, when the winds are the most intense – “we are more than conquerors.” You may be tempted to run from the ordeal of a fierce storm of testing, but head straight for it! God is there to meet you in the center of each trial. And He will whisper to you His secrets, which will bring you out with a radiant face and such an invincible faith that all the demons of hell will never be able to shake it. – E. A. Kilbourne
He is here.
He has and will continue to meet me in the center of my trial.
He has and will continue to whisper to me His secrets.
He will bring me out with a radiant face and invincible faith.
A faith that is completely unrestrained.
And no power of hell will ever be able to shake it.