There is no need to describe how God can strip our lives of the very things that fulfill us, define us, and give our hearts joy. He can do it in harsh succession – uprooting and shaking the very foundations of our lives – our job, marriage, health and subsequent emotional stability. Those who have walked with the Lord for any length may, at first, rally great inward faith, “I lost my job but I know God has something better!” But the ‘better’ job or calling doesn’t come. Instead, other pillars of life begin to shake and crumble, stripping your sense of security, strength, and pleasure. Emotional damage begins to take root.
What should we believe and do when God strips and shrinks our lives?
1. Believe that, if your life is in His hand, if you’ve truly given your life to Jesus Christ, nothing that has occurred is random, nothing is outside of His personal view, nor is it outside of His personal will for your life. While God doesn’t owe us explanations, we must build and renew our thinking on the foundation that He is sovereign.
2. Meditate on the testimonies and truths in God’s word. Numerous godly men were stripped of their life’s strengths, familial standing, and provisions while at the ‘top of their game’. We often make quick and convenient connections in the lives of Biblical heroes – neglecting to meditate upon, for example, Joseph’s captivity as a slave, his years languishing in a dungeon. We believe spiritual exploits and victories but rarely consider the years of obscurity, loneliness, and ‘insignificance’. We are slow to imagine how Job prepared 10 funerals, clearing the rubble of his children’s home and cattle.
We read Revelation with awe, but what was John’s life like every day on the tiny barren island of Patmos? He had walked with the Son of God, witnessed miracles and partook in world evangelism. Overseeing the churches of Asia, John was a prominent elder, pouring into the foundations of Christian growth. Yet, aged and frail, he was exiled and stripped of familiar fellowship, position, and provisions – with untold sufferings – did his life shrink?
3. When life is shaken, don’t condemn yourself for bouts of depression, anxiety or panic attacks. We wouldn’t lecture a brother or sister suffering from cancer, neither should we lecture ourselves or others when struggling with emotional damage. Healing and deliverance can come instantaneously or can be upon a steady road, walking slowly alongside our Savior. Resolve to DERAIL patterns of wrong thinking as the Lord brings revelation and renewal. Here is where emotional damage can lead to true spiritual growth.
4. Believe that the world sees suffering as misfortune, bad luck, victimization or bad karma but we, as believers can see suffering as separation unto God, allowed and/or brought about by God Himself.
5. Believe that we as Christians, may have consciously separated our thinking and values from those esteemed in the world but, in these last days, the Lord want to call out His remnant from world-like Christianity. The ‘happy clappy biblical coaching’ that masquerades as truth sets grooves of wrong thinking in our soul, building a perishable faith. God expressly calls us to ‘stand’ in these increasingly wicked last days. When God separates us for personal suffering it is refining fire but not futile fire.
6. Believe and trust God for today and resist predicting what He will do tomorrow. God is absolutely not a formula God. What He specifically did for Moses, Paul, Ruth or the brother at church may not at all be His plans for us.
American Christianity rejects the truth that God can strip us and shrink us to prepare us for something so small, seemingly inconsequential, of no worldly value or importance. Rare is the sermon or even reference to verses such as Colossians 3:22, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything….with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” God is not at all condoning slavery – regardless of race or national origin. However, Jesus did not come to abolish social order or establish prosperity. He came to ‘save His people from their sins’, a freedom won at great cost. He calls us to obey and flourish in Him regardless of our temporal worldly position or social standing, setting our eyes on eternity where God’s order and rewards are forever.
God’s appointed place for us while in this world may seem to diminish and suffer ruin but great loss lays bare the great need to find contentment and sufficiency in our Savior. Perhaps we will not proclaim great spiritual exploits, evangelize in exotic lands, win over death row inmates, or plant churches. Perhaps we are caring for a mentally or physically infirm spouse, a disabled elderly parent, or showing kindness to neighbors in crisis. Perhaps we are in a solitary place, called to intimate fellowship with the Lord at length and in depth.
As these last days rapidly downward spiral, those in Christ surely want to make a mark on this generation and touch lives for eternity, knowing the power of the Holy Spirit living in us and through us. Yet still, the Potter decidedly smashes our life at times, ruining it to remake it. I pray that during seasons of smallness and disappointment we resist the temptation to compare our lives against others or measure ourselves with worldly values. Regardless of our circumstance, may the Lord be enlarged and lifted up.
“Lord, open our eyes to Your ways. In whatever You deem right to take from our temporal lives, I pray that we find our contentment,healing and encouragement in You. May we surrender our lives to Your sovereignty and fulfill Your unchanging exhortation to “stand firm in the faith” and “stand firm to the end.” Help us to “set our hearts on things above” and “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things”, being obedient to Your call upon us today.”