Thursday, February 09, 2017
This morning as I read through Exodus, which I do through my YouVersion app on my phone, I accidentally highlighted this verse. I saw it as a sign that this was the verse God had for me today.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still. ~ Exodus 14:14
In Exodus 14, the Israelites have fled Egypt and are now camped near the sea. When they see that Pharaoh and his army are pursuing them, they became terrified and cried out to God. Moses reassures them by saying "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still (13-14)."
Then Moses raised his staff and the Lord parted the sea so that the Israelites could cross to the other side. When the Egyptians tried to follow, Moses stretched his hand over the sea, and it went back into place, covering the entire army of Pharaoh so that the Israelites were safe.
Reading the verse that God pointed me toward this morning, I can't help recalling all the times when I have been afraid or overwhelmed while facing my own sea of anguish and turmoil. Back when I started this blog in 2005, I was going through a nasty divorce and custody battle, and recovering from a marriage that had included physical and mental abuse, poverty, and depression. Back then, I had a hard time seeing what God had in store for me. At times, my anguish was unbearable as I allowed fear to rule my faith. God was still in the midst of leading me out of "slavery," but I had a hard time seeing the whole picture. Just like the Israelites, I kept forgetting all of the miracles God had performed to get me to where I was, and I could only see how uncomfortable I was in the moment I was in.
I didn't realize that God had a plan.
I'm writing a book right now that includes themes of abuse and a custody battle. It's a thinly veiled method of coming to terms with my past, and remembering things I have worked at forgetting over the years. As I came upon a scene when the main character was facing her abuser after leaving him, I returned to my earlier entries in this blog so that I could recall how it felt to face my own abuser in court. As I read, I could feel my whole body tense up and my stomach twist in knots as I recalled the fear I felt just by being in my abuser's vicinity. It didn't matter that we were surrounded by people or that I had support. It didn't matter that he couldn't touch me. I was terrified. I was afraid of what he was thinking about me, what he would say in court, and who he would turn against me. In that moment, I saw him as bigger than God, and I placed all my trust in him. I couldn't see anything else.
But God was with me. I didn't know it then, but He was still working the miracle. He led me through stormy seas that included a lot of hurt, discomfort, betrayal, confusion, and hopelessness. Just as the Israelites did, I continued to cry out to Him, in anguish over the pain I was going through while my ex appeared to be prospering. I couldn't see why I had to suffer, and at times I felt like God had left me.
Thing is, God never left.
While reading Exodus, it's easy to look at the Israelites and believe they're spoiled brats and are blind to all that God's doing for them. I mean, God saves them from the Egyptians, gives them manna from Heaven, and performs numerous miracles in front of them. And yet, they continue to grumble and complain. They even go so far as to create a golden calf and call that their god, spitting in the face of the Lord as they forget everything God has done.
How many times have we done the same thing? I know I have.
It's interesting to look back at the words I wrote 12 years ago, knowing all that's happened since then. While in the midst of my divorce and custody battle, I could see little else than the struggle I was in. I was in my own journey through the desert (which, thankfully did not take 40 years!). I didn't realize the miracle God was working though that journey. He delivered me through fear, blasphemy, mental imprisonment, and depression. He held my hand when I eventually needed a restraining order, and he offered encouragement through whispers, and through the support of a community of family and friends.
He's there every time I kneel in prayer. He's there every time I forget his generosity and I turn my back on Him. He's there every time I realize I can't do this without Him. He's there, because He loves me with an unfailing love, and He promises to never leave me.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.
2005 seems so long ago. I survived the custody battle and divorce. I healed from my wounds. I got a job and learned how to support myself and the kids. I married a man who honors me with his love and respect, and who I love in the same way. I have a voice now. I am stronger in my faith. I see the bigger picture now. On the other side, I can see why God had me go through so much turmoil and pain. He was only preparing me for the life I have now.
I'm only human, though. I still have moments of discomfort when I cry out to God. In the back of my mind, I now know that He is working a plan. However, I still experience faithlessness and impatience as I yearn for peace and comfort.
But how would I grow stronger if I never had to struggle?
As long as we rely on ourselves and place our faith in anything but God, we will continue on an aimless journey through the desert of our discomfort. But when we submit to God's will, resting our lives in His hands so that He can fulfill his plan for us, He will deliver us to the promised land -- the place He's been leading us all along.
Lord, thank you for all the times you have saved me from myself in this journey. I have been nowhere near a perfect daughter, and yet you embrace me every time I come back to you. When will I learn that you are always with me? When will I let go of my fears and trust that you know what you're doing? You know what you're doing. I am blessed beyond measure because of your grace, and I know that you are not finished with me yet. All I am, all I have, all I'll ever be is because of you. Thank you, Lord. Amen.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
- Hebrews 11:1
"And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect."
- Hebrews 11:39-40
I was taught once to thank God for everything I'm praying to Him about as if I've already received it. Faith meant to believe God would provide this thing I so desperately wanted. And I agree that it's good to have faith in God's generosity and grace. However, there's a second part to that. Sometimes the things we want are not actually God's plan for us. There are times when we'll want something so bad, and we'll pray to God for it, and God's answer is NO. Here's the thing. God doesn't just say no, He says, "I have something better planned." He can see the outcome of everything. He knows the best path we should take. He knows what will bring us closer to Him, and what is in our best interest.
Years ago, I started working at the newspaper. It had always been my dream to work there, and I finally got my foot in the door when I landed a job doing grunt work in the advertising department. Save for the usual work stresses, all was well with this job...until it wasn't. The newspaper was going through some tough times, and my job was next on the chopping block. I needed to find something else, or I was going to lose my job. As a single mother with no other source of income, this was not an option.
I discovered that one of our family's friends was hiring for a real estate secretary. I immediately applied. Then I told my parents about this job. My dad urged my mom to apply for this job, as well. As soon as I learned of this, I knew my chances of getting this job were none. My mom had a lot more experience than I did, and this family friend would hire her over me any day. I was furious with my parents, and I went into that interview with my sails deflated.
Needless to say, I did not get that job and my mom did. However, weeks later I learned of a new position at the company I worked for in page layout, the department that structured the newspaper every day. I applied, and the job was mine. I not only got a pay increase, I also was bumped from PT to FT. I got benefits, holiday pay, and vacation time. It was a huge step up! Later, this job would give me the legs I needed to move into the newsroom with a writing gig, and to see an even bigger boost in my pay and benefits.
Here's the kicker. A few months into the page layout position, I began seeing one of my coworkers. Things progressed between us, and we've now been married for 4 years. He is the love of my life. I never knew I could be loved so well by anyone.
Had I gained that job I wanted way back when, I never would have realized my dream of working in the newsroom, and I would not be married to my husband. This is unfathomable to me! I was asking God for something, and he said NO because he had something better planned.
Currently, I still work in the newsroom (and my mom is still very happy at the job she applied for...and we still love each other, lol). And times are still tough at the newspaper. My job requirements have increased and I often feel like collapsing at the end of my week because of the insane amount of stress I'm under. On the side, I'm also a novelist, and I pray daily that God will bless my novels and help them reach more readers, allowing me to sell enough books so that I can quit my day job. So far, God's answer has been NO. Or maybe God is saying NOT YET. Perhaps he is saying I HAVE A BETTER PLAN. This is my test to have patience and faith in God. He's always taken care of me, and he'll take care of me now. He knows what's best, and he has a plan. My job is to have faith and know that God has only the best plan in place.
God has a plan for you. He knows your heart's desire. He knows what you so desperately seek. Have faith that God will provide, but be open to receiving what God knows is best for you. Often, this will look like nothing you asked for. And often, it opens the door for something way better. So when you pray, don't be afraid to ask God for that thing you want with all your heart, but when you thank God, thank Him for taking care of you by giving you what you really need.
Grace and peace to you all.