Saturday, May 24, 2014

Trusting Through the Darkness

It's been awhile since I last wrote a post.  It's not that there hasn't been anything God has laid on my heart to write about.  It's just that the last couple of months have been some of the toughest I have had to face in a long while.  And these verses have spoken to me in those dark moments:

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps."  Proverbs 16:9

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremy 29:11

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done..."  Genesis 50:20

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."  Psalm 37:4

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."  Hebrews 10:23

"The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still."  Exodus 14:14

"Be still and know that I am God..."  Psalm 46:10

In my previous post, I talked about dancing between trust and fear.  And when I wrote that post, things were a little shaky, but I had no idea the testing my faith was about to undergo.

Back in November of 2013 I took a huge leap of faith, trusting that I was following God's leading, and moved to the coast to continue to pursue private practice.  I have had some amazing experiences during that journey and some that have scared me to death.  I won't go into detail about all of the goings on of the past six months, but now, on this side of things, I can see God's hand so intricately weaving the path for me.  Things have turned out a lot differently than I had planned or thought they would.  There have been some very dark times that pushed me to the limits of my faith - spiritually, financially, emotionally, mentally.  Times that my faith has wavered.  Times that took me into fierce spiritual warfare.  Times that took their toll.  Times that the enemy tried to use to knock me off the path God has for me.  But greater is He that in me than he that is in the world!  And I'm beginning to see that it has all been part of His plan for me and that things are coming together in my life in a way I never could have imagined and that are way better than anything I could have planned on my own.

This week I've had a lot of time to sit and reflect and think about my life and the course God has laid out.  And I have been amazed to finally have the eyes to see how the pieces are all fitting.  I still don't see the full picture and never will this side of heaven.  But I can see how God has been using each and every circumstance of the past 15 years to get me where I am today...where I believe He has meant for me to be all along this journey.  But I've had to trust through the darkness....

Corrie Ten Boom has an amazing quote that says, "When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off.  You sit still and trust the engineer."  There have been times that I wanted to jump off the train.  Times that, if I'm being honest, I didn't trust God to take care of me.  I said it out loud and I wanted to believe it.  But there have been times when I wondered if I mattered that much to Him.  Of course, the answer to that is a resounding yes!  He sent His only Son to die for me...YES, I matter that much to Him.  But, as I've spoken of before, the enemy knows my weak spot is my mind, and he launches an attack when things get dark.  But God never wavers.  He is ALWAYS faithful...even when to my human eyes it doesn't seem like He is.

Trusting through the darkness.  Trusting that I'll make my rent payment when I barely have anything left in my bank account.  Trusting that I will be able to find a full-time job that will allow me to have a steady paycheck rather than the uncertainty of private practice.  Trusting that someone will be for me on those dark, dark days.  Trusting that what the enemy has tried to use for evil God can restore and use for good.  And you know what?  He has!  He has been faithful...because He can't be any other way.  So I have to trust Him through the darkness...

I knew when I started this journey almost a year ago that I would be pushed to the limits of my faith.  I knew it was going to be hard.  I knew that I was going to have to trust God in a way I'd never had to trust Him before.  But I had no idea how far I would be pushed.  I've had days where I just wanted to pack up and move back home.  I've had days where I questioned if I had misunderstood what God was leading me to do and had made a huge mistake.  I've had days where I questioned why God wold lead me to a place of failure and desolation.  But as I've been reflecting on all of this lately, I can see that it HAS all been part of His plan for my life.  And He has provided and will continue to provide for my needs.  Thanks to the giving spirit of my dad who allows God to use him in a special way, I did make my rent payment.  (And God will provide a way to pay him back.)  As for the job?  Yep.  God worked in a way I couldn't even imagine.  I remember driving to teach a class on a Wednesday morning, broken to the point of giving up.  And I was listening to some Christian music...trying to praise God even though I didn't understand.  And I finally just turned the radio off and asked God to show me that He was listening, to move that very day.  Not that He always answers that request...there have been plenty of times He hasn't.  But this time, I believe it was already His plan to do something that day...He just wanted me to ask from an honest heart.  The Bible tells us that Jesus told His disciples that they have not because they asked not.  And just maybe, He wanted me to ask from a place of brokenness and trust.  Anyway...later that day, after a few phone calls and a referral, I had an interview for a job that I hopefully will be starting in the next week or two...which will have me right back in the middle of working with people with intellectual disabilities.  And I have been blessed with a wonderful person who is there for me on those dark, dark days and has helped to strengthen my faith, encouraging me to keep trusting when I wanted to give up.  We have become a kind of sanctuary and place of calm and peace for each other...something I've never had with anyone else before.  And God is moving in both of our lives, unfolding a beautiful plan.

God DOES work everything for our good...even the dark moments.  There is way too much to write about in detail would take a book!  But I can see how my work experiences at two previous jobs have been preparing me for this possible new job.  I can see how it wasn't a mistake to move down here and work in private practice.  God used that to allow me to finish up my internship hours and complete my Master's degree...something that would have been nearly impossible with a full-time job.  He has led me to be part of an amazing church family who encourages me and prays for me and is an example of what God intended church to be...which is refreshing after some of the churches I have been to.  He has also brought a couple of amazing people into my life that have made my life so much more joyful and full and have helped me survive the tough moments.  I can even see, although it's taken me six years, how God has used the loss of my mother to move me where He wants me to be.  I would give anything to have her here.  But I also know that if she were still here, I probably never would have moved away from home.  I'm not saying that that would be a bad thing necessarily.  But I don't believe I would be fulfilling God's plan for my life by staying there.  And He has used that to show me how even our darkest times are being worked for our good.  And I have the assurance of seeing her again one day.  I can see how God has used every single experience to work out His will for my life.

Trusting through the darkness isn't easy.  It's some of the hardest times I think we can go through as believers.  But it is also necessary.  Part of the Christian walk is being tested and tried so that we can come forth as gold.  What good is faith if it is never tested?  I can have faith all day long that a chair will hold me up if I sit in it.  But if I never sit in it to test it, I never fully exercise my faith in it.  The same can be said for us.  I've witnessed people who have professed that they trust God, and they do, as long as things are going well....there's money in the bank, they have a job, everyone is healthy, they get everything they want.  But as soon as the money's gone or the job goes away or the diagnosis comes, they turn their back on God.  I'll admit, I've been there myself.  I've doubted and questioned when I didn't get the answer to prayer that I wanted.  But these past few months have taught me that it's not about what I want.  It's not about me.  It's about what He wants for me and about what will bring Him glory.  And one thing I believe He wants for His children is for us to develop our faith.  And that means the tests will come.  In fact, the Bible is full of stories of His children who faced famine, death, calamities, persecution, and much, much more.  Hebrews 11 is a great synopsis of those stories.  And I'm thankful that God made provision for those stories to be written down and shared so we know that we are not alone in our struggles.

While I hope that things will be easier for awhile, I know that no matter what comes, He is faithful and there is a purpose behind everything He asks us to face or that He allows to come into our lives.  While I have no desire to relive the darkness the past months have brought, I can honestly say that I am thankful for every moment.  Because without each and every trial and testing of my faith, I wouldn't be where I am this moment.  My faith has been strengthened.  I have come to have a deeper understanding of my Christian walk and what it means to die to self and live for Christ.  I have been able to experience a deeper walk with my heavenly Father.  I've learned how to worship and praise Him even when I don't understand what is going on around me.  And I have proven that He is faithful each and every time.  He may not provide or answer exactly when I think He should.  In fact, I'm still waiting on a few answers.  But I know that He will fight every battle for me.  I know that He will provide each and every need.  I know that He will bless my faithfulness to Him.  I know that He loves me more than I could ever fathom.  I don't have all the answers, and I sure know I have a long way to go. I'm just a "wayfaring stranger" trying to figure it out.  But I know without a doubt that if I keep trusting Him through the darkness He will lead me safely through this journey and on to my eternal home.

And of course, it wouldn't be my post if I didn't include music!

He Is With Us...this song is upbeat but has some amazing lyrics...lyrics that have helped me see through the darkness.

How He Loves...I have just sat and listened to this over and over and let my Father sing over me in those dark moments.  Oh how He loves us!

Bless the Lord...this has become my song of praise.  It pops in my head all the time.  And it has been happening...where on days this song is on my heart, those are the days God blows my mind with His provision.   "Let me be singing when the evening comes..."

Oceans...this song has been special to me during this time, too.  "You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail....lead me where my trust is without borders."  And oh, how He has!