Friday, June 16, 2017

When your life is crumbling and you don't know where God is...

My phone rang. I knew I was in no shape to be encouraging and as I watched her name flash on my phone, I almost didn't answer. I had nothing to give. But I knew she wouldn't care. I knew she would love me even if I was wreck.

She heard it in my voice when I answered and asked with a voice of true concern, "How are you doing?"

And then I broke down in tears, sharing how everything felt like it was falling apart. That morning I had woken up and looked in my fridge and realized we were about out of food altogether. And then Andy called and said we had about $20 in our account to last us the week and between that moment and then, we had two birthdays to celebrate and no presents bought and very little food in the cupboards.

We had a made a commitment when we moved out here that we would live debt free, no matter the cost. And then Isabel had a cavity that continued to get worse until it could no longer be put off. We scheduled her a dental appointment and prayed that God would provide the funds or heal her tooth before that time. The day of her appointment came around, her tooth was not healed and our finances were the same. I sobbed. We were trying so hard to honor God and take care of our family and follow where He was leading us. It felt like He had abandoned us and just didn't care.

We had gone to the appointment and she had the work done and we put it on our credit card and that's when I started to fall apart. A voice kept accusing me that we had failed. Should we have waited longer for God to heal her tooth even though it was infected and it truly couldn't wait? Why didn't he heal her? Why didn't He provide food for our family? We came to Indiana for Him, at His leading, and everywhere I looked, it felt like He brought us out here to abandon us.

Not coincidentally, I had just finished reading through Exodus and the words the Israelites cried out to Moses rang in my ears, "Why did you bring us out here to die?"

I felt my heart feeling those same doubts, "Why did you bring us out here to just abandon us?"

Does God even care about us? Images flashed through my mind of children starving in Africa, Christians being persecuted around the world, and I wondered whether He would show up for us or whether we were just on our own out here. I so badly wanted to take control right back out of His hands. Something rose up in me, angry, Fine, if You won't provide for us, we'll find our own way to take care of ourselves.

"We, our children, and our livestock will all die!" (Exodus 17:3b)

That's what the Israelites had said to Moses. God let them get there, to a place where they were facing a real possibility of losing everything, even theirs and their children's lives, to follow God into a desert with no idea of where they were going or what He would do. They weren't asking these things because they weren't comfortable, they were angry because it seemed like God had abandoned them and left them for dead. Is that what He wanted to do with us?

I knew the thoughts were ugly, and as I wrestled with them. Even with the knowledge that God did provide for the Israelites and the promises He has given us in His word through Jesus, which was far more assurance than the Israelites had at that time, I felt those feelings of doubt spring up out of me: did God care? Was He going to show up for us?

I cried hard ugly tears as I brought all these dark thoughts into the light of day with my dear friend on the phone that day. She listened and we talked and as the lies were exposed to the light, they lost their power over me. As I shared every doubt and fear, and I confessed out loud the truth I knew in my heart, it felt like chains began to fall off my heart and peace slowly trickled into the place where fear and doubt had held me hostage.

There is an amazing thing that happens when you pull out a lie from the enemy and you expose it to the light. As we know, when a light shines into the darkness, the darkness vanishes and it cannot overcome it. So it is, as we shine light onto the lies we believe, confessing what is true and right and good, those lies lose power over us and can no longer keep our hearts in darkness. As each lie I believed was said out loud, and the truth of who I knew God to be and what He has promised He will do was said over those doubts, they couldn't stand up to the Truth and they couldn't keep me bound.

I walked away from that phone conversation, faith renewed and hope restored. Peace trickled back into its home in my heart and while I had no assurances of what God would do, I had complete assurance in who He was and that He loved me, and that was enough for my heart.

We spent our last $20 on groceries and the next day when Isabel came home from VBS, she shared how they were raising money for missionaries in Russia. She wanted to give money to them. She had saved $5 and I asked her whether she wanted to use that money. She looked at me for a moment, thoughtful and contemplative, and said, "Okay, it's more important that the missionaries share about Jesus with the kids than for me to buy stuff." She grabbed her money and we ran through the house together looking for spare coins under couch cushions and in jars, laughing and talking about how exciting it was to be able to give to the work the missionaries were doing. We collected about $7 dollars and then Melody ran in with her piggy bank, "I want to give all my money to the missionaries too!" We gathered it all together and the next morning at VBS, we gave away all the money we had in the world, every last penny.

It was odd, the strange joy we all felt. From the youngest of us to the oldest. As the girls dropped the change in, happy giggles escaped their lips and the words, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," flew through my mind. Truly, they were more joyful giving their money away than they had ever been spending it.

We walked away that morning feeling oddly free. And that's when God started showing off.

That same day, my phone rang - our house had an offer for $5,000 above asking price! The mail opened - a check for a $1,000 from someone who had heard through the grapevine that things had been tight. Andy called - his boss had just informed him he would be receiving a raise! All in the same day that we had given away our last penny.

I went to bed that night, a smile etched on my face, reeling a bit at how God had just parted our "red sea." We had stood, looking at the impossible situation in front of us, overwhelmed and intimidated, and He had just been waiting to show off.  Somewhere, in between leaving Oregon and Him showing up, He built in us a stronger faith and trust in Him. He came through, but after He had won the victory in our hearts first.

Because, I don't think His provision was the victory at all. I think the victory was the moment when we choose to trust Him even when our eyes couldn't see what He had planned. I think the victory was when our hearts chose to say, "Your will be done on earth, in our lives."

Perhaps, God waits to show up, so that a work can be done in our hearts first. Perhaps, He is waiting so He can show us the parts of our hearts that aren't fully trusting Him. Perhaps, He waits because it is truly what is best for us.

And while we often know those things in our heads, I think sometimes we have to take out what we believe in our hearts and let the light of His truth shine so brightly over the dark places so that even when we are facing the possibility of God not showing up, our hearts are strengthened in faith believing that He is faithful even though we are faithless, because He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim 2:11-13). His nature is faithfulness.

If we believe that who He is is Faithful, that faithful is as much His identity as Love, we can combat the lies of the enemy that says He will abandon us. He will not show up.

"God is not a man that He should lie," (Numbers 23:19). Do we believe that? Or do we treat God and His promises as if He is like us? As if what He has said is a lie? Are we living in a way that says we believe God will not do what He says He will do? Are we remaking God into our own image -  imagining Him as faithless to us and trying to arrest control of our lives back from His hands?

He cannot deny himself - He is faithful. He will show up. Sometimes I think He waits to test the quality of our faith  - like a tempering of steel. He waits to make us stronger. He waits to make us faithful. He waits for our sake, simply because He is faithful, and our faith is more precious to Him than solid gold. It only makes sense that He would temper it and purify it so that we might trust Him more and more.

Perhaps today we ought to take out the places in our hearts that are doubting His faithfulness, and expose them to the light of His truth and let Him shine so brightly that His faithfulness replaces our faithlessness, and we become more like Him rather than trying to bring Him down to look more like us.

His Word is true, yesterday, today, and forever. Let's believe Him to be faithful. Always.

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