April 16, 2012

Whys of life

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:1-5

I do not fully understand the whys of my life right now.  I am still trying to comprehend all that is taking place.  Total transparency leads me to share that there are days that I just cannot deal with the unknown and I completely fall apart at His feet.  Understand though that I trust my God fully.  I know that He has a purpose and plan for every moment of my existence and nothing is happening that He is not fully aware of or that His hand is not touching. 

Eighteen months ago, I began attending a church that changed my life and my faith forever.  God brought me to this church and though I was certain of it then, I am even more confident of it now.  Journey was a church that I had wanted to visit when it began almost seven years ago.  Had I gone when the Lord placed it upon my heart then, my story could quite possibly be different today but I did not heed God’s calling and instead stayed where it was comfortable and familiar.  My life then became stagnant.  I became complacent.  My world fell apart. 

Sometimes we need to be broken in order to find God and truly understand His grace.  I know that I have spent a lifetime of hearing God but oftentimes asking others if the direction He was leading me was correct.  Instead of trusting Him, I trusted others. When the storm passed over my life, my foundation was weak and I crumbled.  I did not know how to stand on Christ as my solid rock.  I had spent too many years questioning Him and being fearful of where He would ask me to go or fearful of not understanding His plan and failing.  My heart longed to follow Him but fear of screwing up kept me from following Him whole-heartedly.  I surrounded myself with people who paid a lot of “lip-service” to expressing the love and grace that comes from God but did not live it out.  I was walking around with rose-colored glasses on and believing the lies that Satan placed in my head that the life I was living was that of truly following Christ.  Instead, I was following a religion. In the end, this religion broke me and though at the time I did not realize it, I was broken in a good way. 
In September of 2009, my faith had been shattered and my view of God, I thought, had changed forever.  I had decided that I was done with God.  I was walking away.  Those who had been in my life had not shown the love and grace of Christ they spent years professing in front of me.  Whomever they were professing, I wanted nothing more to do with it.  I was done.  God was no longer real in my life and my faith was gone. I did not just give up on God but I gave up on myself as well.  I failed miserably and in many ways.  I found myself dealing with deep depression and fighting daily to keep my head above water.  I made many bad choices but found that I also just did not care anymore.  The people who had once been important in my life had completely let me down and to me; all I had once believed became a joke.

Back to Journey.  The Sunday I finally made it to this church is a story in and of itself, which you can read here. After almost a year of wandering, questioning and searching, God brought me back to Him. I heard a pastor teach on a God that I did not recognize.  This God was different from the one I had experienced over the past few years.  The pastor shared of a God who loved me more than I could imagine.  A God that no matter what my struggle or hurt, He wanted me in His arms. I sat bewildered because I could not grasp the words He was speaking because they just did not align with anything I had seen or experienced over the past previous years.  I wanted to doubt his words but the Holy Spirit was drawing me into His arms and no matter how hard I fought, He would not let go.  I kept hearing Him say to my heart, “you are MINE.” There was so much pain in my heart and the hurt felt so much stronger than His embrace.  I just did not want to hurt anymore and what if this pastor was just another person in my life giving a bunch of “lip-service”? I sat in my seat and wrestled with God.  I felt His presence in a way that I had never felt Him before and knew something was different.  I left church that day changed.

I spent the next eighteen months visiting this church and growing in my faith.  God was mending my broken heart and teaching me to trust Him in every aspect of my life.  Up to this point in my life, whenever I felt the Lord leading, I asked everyone else around me for direction.  I did not trust God enough to pass Him the reigns.  I allowed others to steer me in the direction I should go.  BIG mistake.  During my time at Journey, God used the teaching to show me that I could trust Him.  He placed obstacles in my path in which my only choice was to listen to His voice and obey.  There was no one else around anymore to ask and so I had to follow Him wholeheartedly.  Throughout this time, many forks appeared in the road in which I had to choose the direction to go. One way would appear to be safe while the other road seemed unfamiliar and scary. God would direct me toward that unfamiliar path.  He wanted me to trust Him and to allow Him to guide me down the path in which He had already prepared for me.  What I discovered was that from a distance, the path appeared scary but once on it, I was not scared.  I recognized His fingerprints and footsteps along the way and knew that He had been there before me.  My trust, my faith in Him, began to grow even deeper.  I wanted more.  I wanted more of Jesus! I JUST wanted Jesus.  My life changed.  It did not magically become perfect.  My troubles did not pass away but in fact intensified.  Spiritual warfare became strong in my life.  Satan was determined to bring me back down. I refused to succumb to his attacks and instead, clung to the hand of my Jesus for protection and strength.  I no longer spoke out but instead allowed the Holy Spirit to speak for me.  My faith grew stronger. 

Several months ago, God asked me to take a step of obedience that I did not understand.  One Sunday morning a young man and his wife took the stage at the end of a service.  As he began speaking into the microphone, God zoned every ounce of my attention on his words.  The man began speaking about a church he was planting and his vision.  God spoke to my heart as clear as day, “follow him.”  I sat in my seat as questions flooded my mind.  I loved my church, my pastor and my kids were finally happy at a church.  Why now God?  I do not know anyone.  I surely do not know this man. Think of the accountability and the amount of time a church plant will consume from my life. I do NOT want to have to share with a whole new group the story of the past few years of my life.  WHY?   My heart stirred and I felt conviction flood my soul.  I knew His direction was clear.  I knew what He wanted me to do and immediately my response became a yes.  I knew I had to obey.  I did not fully know why but I knew I had to obey. 

Over the past several months, God has blessed my life beyond measure and so much more than I deserve.  I have a church family.  A real church family.  From the moment I entered their group, they embraced my family. They are a family who loves me, encourages me and has a great desire to love others as Christ loves.  This family has ministered to my family.   God has confirmed repeatedly that this church family is where I am supposed to be through many different ways but on Easter Sunday, His greatest confirmation was displayed when my eight year old prayed to ask Jesus into his heart.  As a mom, there is no greater joy than being the one to walk with your child into a relationship with Jesus.  For me, after all I have experienced, it was the greatest joy I could have experienced on Easter Sunday. To see my faith having an influence in the decision of my eight year old was incredible.  God is good and so incredibly faithful when we are obedient. Brokenness leads to great things when we seek the only One who truly heals.

Brokenness can take on many forms.  For each individual the circumstance is different.  God uses many ways in which to grab a hold of our hearts in order to draw us to Him.  The pain can be unbearable but it brings us to a place where we can only rely on Him for complete healing.  Obedience means dying to our own desires.  It means total surrender to Christ and following Him in every aspect of our life.  It means that there is no area of our life unavailable to Him.  It is hard when we cannot see the road ahead or the outcome of our situation but sometimes the whys just do not matter.  It is about trust.  It is about knowing that He is in control and faithful to His promises.  It is about knowing that we are in fact children of God and that is reason enough to trust Him all the way. 

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