This morning I was blessed with the company of several women in our church for our Growth Group. We are doing a study that helps bring into focus what is temporal and what is eternal. It sounds so elementary when you put it into a simple statement- something we might shrug off and think we already know. But when you really look into your mindset, dissect your thoughts, prayers, plans, etc., it becomes so clear that what we often fix our minds on, are things with no real eternal value in and of themselves. That’s not to say that things that happen in our earthly lives don’t matter- on the contrary-God can use these situations to draw us and others to Himself; if we let Him. If we open our eyes and look for the opportunities around us. They aren’t however, the true purpose of our lives.
When my brother died of cancer 2 1/2 years ago, it was after 5 months of intense belief and prayer for an earthly healing. My heart was in a billion pieces, and if mine was in a billion pieces, my parent’s were in a trillion pieces. I had a really hard time making this fit into my belief system- my faulty belief system. The one that said if we prayed and believed enough, healing was the only viable outcome. So when April 23, 2009 came, and my brother went to heaven, I didn’t know what to do with this belief. Did God reject my faith? Was it not enough? Did He hear me? Did He abandon me? Abandon my brother? And then the unthinkable for a pastor’s wife…. Did He even really exist- and if He did…..was He really good? It didn’t feel like He was good at that time.
These questions didn’t come to my mind immediately- God held me afloat and I could only deal with tthe grief of losing my brother. But in the coming months, I began to feel another loss happening- the loss of my faith. Not because I wanted to be angry, or blame someone, but because it just didn’t fit what I believed about God. I was so confused, and I didn’t feel like I knew how to pray anymore. I didn’t really know if it made a difference, and why do it if it doesn’t make a difference?
Thankfully, The Lord is so big, that He heard all of my questions. He handled them with such tenderness, grace, love, & mercy. I didn’t always feel Him in those dark days, but He carefully gave me things to hold onto, just when I needed them. One of the first things He gave me, when I didn’t know what to do with all of this was this verse:
“Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me–everything you heared from me, and saw me doing. Then the god of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9
As I began to do what I knew to do, and keep the conversations with God going, even when it was to say “I don’t understand Lord”, He began to heal my heart. Did all the pain and grief disappear? No. Were there still tough days? Absolutely- and there still are when it comes to missing my brother terribly.
I still don’t understand why my brother wasn’t healed, but truthfully- no answer would satisfy and make it hurt less. But something was made new in me through this heartwrenching experience. Jesus came alive for me in a way that I don’t know if He would have had my prayers been answered in the way I wanted. You see, I didn’t even realize that the faith I had before, was too absorbed in the temporal. It was so much about what I believed God would do, or not do. Now, It’s a faith more grounded in WHO HE IS. This has revolutionized the way I pray. I still pray for things I know are temporal- and I know God cares about my life on earth. But I also know, it isn’t the main goal. It is a pathway, a journey to the eternal. And boy, have I learned how much I need Him on this journey. I don’t think I realized before just how much I need Him. Every moment of the day.
If we give God a chance to work in us, He can use any experience-good or bad- to draw ourselves and others to Himself. So if you find yourself asking unthinkable questions or thinking unthinkable thoughts, KNOW, that you can take those very things to Him. He wants to hear from you, It’s why He created you- to be in a real, living, relationship with Him. Don’t let bitterness or anger take hold- that’s what can shipwreck your life- not a circumstance. The circumstance- is temporal, and there is an eternity to think about.
As I began to be able to put into words what God was doing in me (which took a while), one of the phrases that consistenly came to mind was that He was “shaving away my self-reliance”. Then I found this verse that said it for me, and I knew others have felt what I felt:
“We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely on God, Who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
So thankful to serve Jesus Christ, and know that though life may bring things that make you feel like you will not make it, He will get you through.
Talk to Him. Be honest. Don’t close off your heart to Him. Let Him enter those scary dark places- the places you don’t even want to admit exist. Or maybe you’re like me- and don’t even know they’re there until something causes them to surface!
Either way- He’s done all of this and so much more for me. He’ll do it for you too.