I had particularly rough day today, and have spent the better part of it wondering how to reconcile how I've felt most of the day with what my devotional reading for the day said. Before I talk about my part, let me share the reading. I have been working my way through the book Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young. When my husband was going through his trial, this book just seemed to be hitting the nail on the head every time he opened the book. Since it was so helpful for him, I have determined to work through it myself.
I started it in an attempt to find out if God really does draw near to those who draw near to Him because, at the time, I was not feeling his Presence very much. But, to be honest, I was not trying to draw close to Him either. After all, since God can do anything, and He chose not to keep my husband out of prison, I was not feeling very ready to draw near to Him. The only thing is: if you shun the hand of The Comforter you are bound to feel miserable. You must also be willing to accept the comfort He offers on His terms. I was not. But, choosing not to accept His comfort on His terms had left me comfortless and I was tired of being mad and anxious and worried and betrayed by the only Being that I had grown up believing would never let me down.
Drawing near to God, by reading His Word and waiting for Him to reveal to me what I needed to see or hear for the day, without searching frantically for an answer to so many of my "whys" was the only way I was able to get to a point where I thought that I was going to make it through this ordeal. Not until I began to read my Bible and pray as part of a lifestyle and not just a pill I would take when I was feeling poorly, did things seem to start turning around for me.
Well, I did as so many people do, or as I typically have done in the past: once I was feeling better, I stopped being as diligent. That has had its drawbacks. We are coming close to another trial date and it seemed/seems things were/are looking up. But, there were a few questions I had to ask our attorney. After talking to him and getting my answers, I was left feeling less encouraged than I had been, and lower than I had in months. Then, I woke up this morning to read this:
I am creating something new in you: a bubbling spring of Joy that spills over into others' lives. Do not mistake this Joy for your own or try to take credit for it in any way. Instead, watch in delight as My Spirit flows through you to bless others. Let yourself become a reservoir of the Spirit's fruit.
Your part is to live close to Me, open to all that I am doing in you. Don't try to control the stream of My Spirit through you. Just keep focusing on Me as we walk through this day together. Enjoy My Presence, which permeates you with Love, Joy, and Peace.
The scripture references for this particular passage were John 3:8 and Galatians 5:22
John 3:8 - The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
Galatians 5:22 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Well, these verses are remarkably perky, too perky, in fact, for the way I was feeling today, and I did not want to read them. Even less than that, I did not want to do anything they said. You see, I know, for me, the best thing to do when I feel the way I felt today, is to do something for someone else, something that takes my mind off myself completely. The only problem is: that is usually the last thing I want to do, and is, therefore, the one thing that I almost REFUSE to do.
"I am creating something new in you" - Really?! What? A hot mess? This is certainly not a bubbling spring of Joy. And I am spilling over into the lives of others, but it isn't Joy most of the time. Today, I was having a hard time finding any joy at all. I was impatient and irritable and mad at myself for having so many questions for the attorney. The questions needed answers. I needed to be educated. And, inside, deep down, I know that God is still working. But sometimes I just want to be unable to live in a bubble. Sometimes I just want to "unhear" things I've asked to hear because it's too easy to let those things steal my Joy and take my focus off of Christ. Or worse, it makes me doubt that He has my best interest at heart because things look so bleak that I wonder if He is going to let me down again.
My part may be to live close to Him, open to all that He is doing in me, but that is certainly a lot easier when I feel good about what He is doing. It is way easier when what He is doing lines up with how I want my life to go. And when my life is not going the way I want it to, or obstacles have popped up that are obscuring my view, it is difficult to feel that He is walking me through the day.
Don't get me wrong. I do not believe that I have been left to my own devices. There are far too many things in my life that offer me evidence to the contrary. Why is it so hard to remember those things when times get tough? Because I didn't keep reminding myself of them when times were good. I am blessed. I have been provided for, time and time and time again. I ought to be thankful. But it is so very hard to be thankful when I am allowing myself to be controlled by my feelings rather than by my reality. It is hard to remember those blessings when I have not remained close to God while things were going good. When I allow myself to slip back into old patterns of thinking that I can handle my life. I forget until something bad or uncomfortable happens that I am not really in control of my life.
Years ago, when my husband and I were trying to get pregnant with our third child, things were not going as I had hoped. With the first two children, I had gotten pregnant without really having to think about it or try. We just decided and it happened. With the third child, things did not go as quickly. I prayed and prayed and felt like I had heard from God that we would have a third child, but always, every month for about 5 years, the answer was "wait." Another cycle would come and I would be deflated and I would have to "recover" all over again. One day, I was sitting at my quiet time, in the coffee shop I mentioned yesterday, and got very clear instructions on what I was supposed to do. Furthermore, I was not to talk about those instructions or my quiet time with anyone that day. There have not been very many times in my life when I feel like I can say "I heard from God" but that day was one of them. It was not easy. Many times that day, I would bring up my time at the coffee shop that morning, trying to bait people into asking me about my quiet time. Nobody bit. After about a week, I gave up trying to get someone to ask me about what had happened, and just got on with life. Within about 2 months, I was pregnant. Those were the most peaceful, least stressful two months of the entire 5 year waiting period.
Then, as I hit my 4th month of pregnancy, I got to a point where, nearly every night, I would wake up around midnight and be awake until 2 am. This continued until I gave birth. There is nothing on television fit to watch during those hours, so I would read my Bible and pray over our unborn child. That's when I came across the verse that has become my life verse:
Luke 1:45 - Blessed is she who has believed the Lord would do what He said.
I've tried to latch onto that verse since my husband's been away but, this time, the Lord has not confided anything to me. There are many verses in the Bible about God working out His plan and about His securing justice for those falsely accused. Those are lovely. Yet, my husband sits in jail. I was believing for that justice before he went to jail and God did not deliver. So, it is hard to keep up any kind of hope when he sits in jail now. I do not mean to sound like I am the first to go through this. I am not. And I am thankful that he is not in jail in a country where Christians are persecuted. But there is a big difference between understanding that this is God's will for our lives right now and being willing to walk with my head up in faith, accepting of it as good for our lives. Especially when I know that the good that is guaranteed us is not a guarantee this side of Heaven.
So, how does one get from understanding to accepting? How does one get from a point of feeling like God let them down to knowing and walking in the faith that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord? One thing I've learned for sure is that it does not happen sitting around feeling sorry for myself. No amount of hiding myself away in my room, under the covers, hiding from the world has gotten me to that point. The only time I've ever been able to walk in that faith is when I've accepted God's comfort on His terms and spent time with Him, in the Bible, every day, without trying to get something out of Him.