Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New Life

I look outside and see a bundle of crocus flowers bursting through my muddy and winter-worn garden bed.  They are stark white against the dreary darkness of soggy leaves, weathered soil, and lifeless dirt.  I marvel at the sight of something so unexpected: a burst of life from death.  A burst of new hope from beat down dust.  A burst of joy from hardened earth.

For 7 years I have been through the wringer with a struggle and trial that I never expected to face.  Insomnia, fear of the night, endless sleepless nights and sleeping pill addiction that I could never seem to shake.  I have shed more tears than you can imagine.  I have prayed and begged God to remove my sufferings, to help me endure, to get me through another long night of darkness and loneliness and frustration.

Let me tell you about this God that I have been crying out to.

In the midst of my hardest nights, in the lowest parts of my valleys, He has given me courage.  He has given me strength when I literally had nothing left.  He has given me hope that He will be enough for me.  Through the promises He gives in the Bible He has given me faith to endure.  His word has been what I have clung to until the tips of my fingers have been rubbed raw.  His promises have reminded me that He is with me, that He is for me, that He is good even when everything else feels hard and difficult.  His promises have assured me that He has allowed this trial to develop my character, to change the way I care for people who suffer too, to show me that He is enough for me. Not once did He leave me.  Not for a moment was He not faithful.

I never expected to see the end of this trial, really.  I never expected to be free from it.  I believed that God was going to be able to sustain me and came to know beyond a shadow of doubt that He would never leave me to face the nights alone.  

But then, like the flowers bursting through the dirt, God has not only provided all I have needed in the darkest of nights, but has now been beautifully, unexpectedly, miraculously, freeing me from the chains of this crippling anxiety and addiction.

I have slept now for 5 nights, sleeping pill free.  I have slept in peace.  God is so able to deliver us from all of our bondage.  He is so able to give us the strength to face whatever trials we are facing.  God is with us, He is for us, and for those of you who have not met God, let me tell you this:

Nothing in this world will equip you to deal with suffering like a relationship with God.  

The culture will tell you that this life is all about personal fulfillment and happiness.  This culture will tell you to avoid and run from difficulty.  This culture will tell you that it's up to you to dig yourself out of your sufferings with positive thinking and hard work. But it's not true.
The Christian faith doesn't deny suffering or embrace it.  The Bible teaches us to expect hardship and suffering.  But it also gives us a hope beyond any trial we will face.  It gives us a hope that anchors us in the greatest storms of our lives.  You are not alone and beauty can be made from the ashes of your broken life.  This is by far my favourite thing about God: that He can take any difficulty in this life and not only rescue us from it, but make it into something beautiful.  He can take what is ugly and hard, devastating and broken, the completely dead things, and bring new life.

No one else can bring life from death.  Only Him

Maybe you are sitting there discouraged, and can't imagine ever having victory over your trial.  Maybe you cannot find the strength to endure another day.  He alone is able to give you the wisdom and hope you need to get through.  In Him alone is the victory whether your trial ever ends immediately or not.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's Time to Take the Land

Joshua 18:3 So Joshua said to the people of Israel, 
"How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, 
which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?"

Have you ever been rock wall climbing before?  If the climbing itself wasn't treacherous and terrifying enough, it's by far the easiest part.  You don't have to look down while you climb up.  You don't have to see how far you might fall.  You just have to reach up towards the next hand hold.  Look up, ignore the thoughts of plummeting to the ground below.  Simply grab the next hold.  And the next.

But then, you've reached as far as you can go.  Your arms are burning, you're tired, it's time to go down.  How do you go down?  No problem, just let go of the wall. 
I remember the first time I did this and my unwillingness to remove my tight grasp on the holds.  The person below who was belaying for me kept saying, just let go!  "Let go of the wall and lean back!"  I'm sorry, what? 

"No, I've got you!  I've got you."  the belayer said.
"No you don't.  I've got me.  Don't you see I'm holding myself up against the wall?" I snarled back.

After a series of arguments on my side, the belayer somehow convinced me that it was in my best interest to let go of the wall.  It wasn't a graceful let go, mind you, it looked a lot like a cat climbing a wall. Scratching fingers, slamming limbs, frantic expletives. But then, you know what happened?  I got down safetly.

I let go and leaned back and with a gasp of fear mixed with exhilaration I felt that as I let go, he indeed had me.  

That is what faith feels like.

It goes against everything we feel in our flesh.  It feels unnatural.  It feels foreign.  It is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating.   I don't believe faith is the absence of fear.  

I am enthralled by the story of Joshua lately.  I have struggled with an addiction to sleeping medication for over 7 years.  It's a long story, a long journey, and a whole book could (and possibly might) be written about that. I have spied the enemy running around my promised land, I have seen the enemy and have shrunk back in trepidation.  I've cried with the Israelites "the enemy is too great."  I've thought I had faith to conquer this  but I haven't fully let go and let God provide victory for me.

But I believe, there is freedom waiting for me, and it's time I took hold of it.

My natural feeling is to run away because of the fear rising inside of me.  Egypt, I want you!  Wasn't it so good being a slave?  This time feels different though.  I want that promised land.  I can almost taste the honey on my lips, I've seen a vision of what's ahead, and I want it so bad.  Of course, it's always easy to say this when I'm fresh from a full nights sleep and it's daytime and all is good.  But when my flesh fails, when the enemy is fighting back and all beside me are being slayed,  will I continue marching forward?

Knowing that you can't do it alone, believing in something you cannot really see, that is belaying kind of faith.  That is 'take the land' kind of faith. Believing that your enemy will not overcome you, and that God will hold you up as you let go of your control.

What awaits you in your promised land?   Maybe you've wandered the desert for 40 years, dusty feet heavy with the weight of addiction, or bitterness, or unforgiveness, or overeating or something that enslaves you.

But it's time to take the land God is giving to you.  It's time to be free.  It's time to face that fear square in the face and believe God will fight your battles for you.

Let's go, you and I.  
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