When God Lifts You Up

I wrote most, if not all, of the posts on this site from a season of intense trial and emotional pain.  The details of personal loss, deep betrayals, and painful unraveling remain vague as  my intent is never to expose people, especially those who are forgiven.  I hope, rather, to share this reality:  God allows, even orchestrates, painful crushing in our lives for the purpose of molding, maturing, and changing us for His service and glory, conforming us to the image of His Son.     The Lord may lead us into a confusing wilderness, strip away all personal foundations, and take away our health, ministry and possessions.  We may cry a million tears, be wrapped in anxiety and turmoil, and sojourn alone but our confidence must lie in the sovereignty of God and His utter control over every circumstance.  For quite sometime I gripped onto this truth:

“Grain for bread is crushed but no one threshes it forever.”

I did not die during those recent years although some emotional pain was so intense I feared brain damage or heart attack.  No counselor, friend or elder brought relief, only clinging to the Lord, shutting away with Him in prayer, searching and studying His word. 

Then, one day I took off my wig – (did I mention that my hair fell out?) and saw and felt…could it be…that, after two years of wearing wigs my hair was suddenly coming back?  With much trepidation, “Yes, I think so!”  While gradual inner healing and restoration came from the Lord, this was a personal touch from His hand – and the hair that grew back was better than what I lost!

But there was more.  This month, as a significant birthday approached, there was talk of a ‘party’.  I had not felt an inner place of ‘celebration’ for a long time and certainly did not care to celebrate just getting older.  Somehow, though, a ball started rolling and would not stop with my protests.  One night anxiety rebounded and woke me, and I cried to the Lord in prayer.  This scripture pressed upon my heart,

“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.”  (I Peter 5:6)

Was this party from the Lord?  I believed and accepted it,  peace came over me and I sought to honor Him.  I did not know the details of this ‘party’ but prepared a handout for my guests, most if not all of whom do not know the Lord, many are seniors…”Over the Hill” like me!Scan0062No one except the Lord knows how the evening touched me – real joy took root in my heart.   I had the rare opportunity of addressing all my relatives in one place…

my party speaking

“There’s no need to celebrate me, all I did was get a bit older!  It’s the Lord who deserves all the praise and celebration….” 

 

With the Armenian band and joy in my heart I felt truly festive!

And a fabulous cake as well!

my party close to cake

What Isaiah spoke of Jesus, “…it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer” can also pertain to Christ’s followers who are called to pick up their cross and follow Him.  Trials and tribulations on this journey are purposeful,  with eternal value.  We are His own.  We have every supernatural promise to believe that He will protect us, sustain us, speak to our hearts –  heal and restore.  And what’s more, at the right time, He will lift us up!

 

Nectar and Beauty From Suffering

bleeding hearts 2

Bleeding Hearts are native to Siberia, a place of banishment and abandon

How the Lord brings beauty and life from places of desolation is a true mystery because His work is unseen.  Faith is believing in that work, before we see the fruit.  Our confidence during the battle pleases God because, in the spiritual realm, we are declaring victory solely based on God’s trustworthiness.

Whether our Lord allows debilitating illness, wrenching injury, or emotional anguish and despair the scriptures and the legacy of the saints before us declare that He never afflicts without purpose and sovereignty.  In every fiery furnace, His hand is on the thermostat.

The Bible promises fruits from hardship and suffering, “grief in all kinds of trials”  1 Peter 1:6-7.   ‘Undeserved suffering’, painful chastisement, and mournful grief can thrash the life of a believer but bring utter confusion to the one not girded in God’s word.

We have no power to erase the pain of betrayal, the anxiety and panic attacks from pummeling traumas, nor can we lift the weighty blanket of depression.  But, for the sheep of the Good Shepherd, there is always a life-giving vein that flows to raise and renew us.  Our lives will not be restored to what they were.  We may walk with a limp from the storm,  our head may be singed from the fire…but not without purpose and design.

Whether slow burning or flash fire, what the enemy seems to obliterate from our lives can truly well up an unseen view and yearning for God and heaven.

“I know my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed… I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes…How my heart yearns within me!”  Job 19:25-27

Misery is the fruit of worldly suffering…not so with our Maker!  Like a grueling chisel, heartbreak and loss can break and crush what we greatly value in this world.  If only our priceless will to choose remains, choose to trust God, He is still in control.      

Bleeding Hearts 1

Flourishing in shade, Bleeding Hearts are planted to brighten up dark areas

 

Unlike the world’s endless quest to pump up the flesh, our Lord uses brokenness for His work and glory.  Trusting our Father opens the door to victory, not the elimination of pain, but the promise of His life flowing through ours as a hopeful light to others.

This is the fragrance of Christ that the world needs.

humming bird on bleeding heart

Living Waters Flow From Afflicted Servants!

The final discouragement to pound the afflicted or fallen believer is the lie that they are inadequate to serve God.   “God is finished with me” is the echoing cry that reaches our ears from the pit of hell.  Believe with me, the opposite is true!  

Whether battling torrents of trials and heartache or clawing out of a miry pit of sin, the decisive heart toward God, willing to believe and obey, opens every opportunity for spiritual victory.  In our weakest, even defeated condition, Sovereign God confounds the powers of hell and prevails over them.

Walking in victory, forging ahead for the Kingdom of God, is not at all contingent upon our physical abilities, mental capacities, finances, or social status.  In fact, those personal ‘strengths’ often prove to be subtle snares, leading us to depend upon our resources.  In whatever the Lord brings upon us, whatever He takes away, whatever He allows inflicted upon us…we must hold on to the truth that He is in charge of this temporary suffering. 

If we continue in faith, no matter how weak it seems, the Lord will use our tears to mold the clay for divine purposes.  In His hands, our suffering has great value!

In his sermon, “Don’t Waste Your Afflictions”, Pastor David Wilkerson preaches,

“We want quick-and-easy deliverance.  But our afflictions serve no purpose whatsoever if we do not understand why God permits them.  The truth is that every affliction, trial, trouble, difficulty and disappointment in our life is allowed by the Lord.  And He has a specific purpose behind all of them.  Why?  it is because He is taking u somewhere–trying to accomplish something in us and through us!”  (printed sermon available online)

Whether we are chastised from sin or amidst a storm or wandering in a spiritual wilderness the devil will harass with the same lies, “God has abandoned you”, “You’ve sinned once too many times”, “You are useless and weak, your best days are over and done!”  Not so with God.

The word of God demonstrates the victory of God through fallen and weakened man over and over, too many times to list in post here!  Many of the testimonies of suffering, struggling, defeat and affliction are well known.  But not only must we open the Bible and find these refreshing truths but we must believe that God is ready to intervene in our lives as well. 

When our lives are trampled upon and damaged, the greatest challenge in healing and recovery is finding security once again in God’s love.  All the human effort and intellect may be unable to configure our suffering with ‘love’.  It may seem impossible to believe but there are times when we need only be willing to believe.

The willingness to believe opens the window of heaven.  When our world is rocked, the willingness to believe positions us before the word of God and awaits living waters to pour out upon us and revive us, even if it seems drop by drop.  Our healing comes through our willingness to drink. 

We need not be healed, happy, healthy or prosperous to be victorious servants of God.  In fact, the Lord seems to excel through broken vessels. 

“Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up.”  Psalm 71:20

In these last days, we must decide to ‘face forward’.  Our Savior Jesus Christ won the victory over sin and we are forgiven all.  While in this world however, He does not promise to remove all suffering nor repair all damage.  Given to Him, He is uses all affliction with divine purpose for His Kingdom and glory.

 Let us not wait until we feel whole, totally healed, or even ‘happy’ to avail ourselves to God’s service.  Let us not ‘Waste Our Afflictions’ but present ourselves, in whatever state we’re in, as a living sacrifice unto God.  (Romans 12)  The ‘gifts’ He bestows upon us to serve and honor Him are not at all contingent on merit or ability!

I believe that our greatest healing and restoration comes when, even in our weak and broken conditions,  we position ourselves before God in prayer with a decided willingness to believe in His undying love.  The certainty of God’s love in our hearts opens our faith again, even stronger, and avails His living waters to flow into us and through us into the lives of others.  That is great and profound joy that overcomes the darkness.

 

“This Will NEVER End!”

said the devil.

For those most vulnerable to anxiety and depression, open-ended and ongoing calamities are most difficult.  Chronic illness, marital betrayal and mistrust, serious family discord, rebellion and dysfunctional behavior plow the heart and water roots of anxiety and depression.  If you are a follower of Christ, you have a powerful enemy  whose vested interest goes beyond emotional suffering.  The devil’s trophy comes when we no longer see God as trustworthy, all powerful, and all loving.

The circumstances under which we suffer are secondary to what we believe while  suffering.  As a child of Sovereign God, the devil’s assaults are measured and restricted (although it seems at times he goes full speed!)  Satan cannot increase the magnitude of the circumstance but he makes all effort to magnify it in our heart and mind.  Herein is the essence of the war for our faith.

War Propaganda

Oh Lord, hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked…who aim their words like deadly arrows.  (Psalm 64)

 

Like the airborne propaganda campaigns of WWI and WWII, the enemy strikes a massive assault to: convince us that destruction is imminent, encourage us to abandon our post, and even offer rewards to those who surrender. 

The campaign need only convince us: This will NEVER end!  This will NEVER change!

Yesterday new events erupted in my own longstanding, anxiety provoking circumstance. I sought encouragement from a mature sister and actually blurted out, “This will NEVER end!”.  Moments later I realized that I had repeated the lie of the enemy.

I am grateful that issues in my heart were exposed and saw lies fueling my anxiety.

While not called to be ‘happy-clappy’, we are called to ‘stand our ground’ and ‘stand firm’.  I opened my Bible and began to pray.  Alongside this, I searched for posts in WordPress with words like ‘faith’, ‘anxiety’, ‘God’ and, after some scrutiny, found real encouragement from brethren with similar battles of faith.

Alone with the Lord, He spoke to my heart.  Firstly,  “NEVER” is not a word for any circumstance in this temporary world.  Our lives are but a vapor and our eyes should be fixed toward ETERNITY, which shrinks and deflates any ‘never’ in this world.   Secondly, refreshing my heart with Biblical truths and the testimonies of brethren reminded me that God is the supernatural game changer, even when it looks like things will never change!  But more than any change in circumstance, my heart must rest in the assurance of His love, His faithfulness, and sovereignty.   God is in control.

Oh Lord, root us in this truth, that You don’t waste our afflictions as we trudge through this temporal world…but You use them like refining fire to change us….preparing us to live with You for eternity. 

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” Your love, O Lord, supported me.  when anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul.”  (Psalm 94:18-19)

 

The Timely Death of Believers

 

the Lord directs our steps

 

While writing A Ragamuffin In God’s Hall of Fame,  overviewing  the life of Rich Mullins, I  often came across “his untimely death”.  Yes, he died at the young age of 41.  Even younger at death was Keith Green, 28, whose godly music and message continue to glorify God.

Almost everyone in this fallen world can testify of an “untimely death”, as do I, recalling my brother’s death at age 38.  (Noted in this post) 

But ultimately for the believer, however, there is no “untimely death”, it is an “appointed death” (Hebrews 9:12).  The last steps of our life are, as all other steps,  are “ordered by God”.

Why is this so important?

  1.   As followers of the Lord, we must wrap ourselves with the truths of His word before the battle begins.  A perpetual focus of life in this world robs us of  the spiritual truths and fortitude we will need when death comes upon us or our loved ones. 
  2.  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” and as such, we must have a living word in our hearts ready to shine into the grief and confusion of those who face death.

There is no hint whatsoever that God “allows” one of His followers to die, as though He were a mere witness to death;  “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.”  God is sovereign, not a bystander in our lives.  One can meditate upon the lives of godly servants in Scripture and find that, in spite of very real and ongoing death threats and attempts, they ‘were immortal until God’s work through them was complete’.  King David, the Apostle Paul and our Savior Jesus Himself are striking examples of men whose lives were sought by powerful foes yet they remained alive and victorious under God’s protection.  

After coming to saving faith in Christ, God’s purposes that we increasingly “conform to the image of God’s Son”.

“The believer’s life on earth is his only arena for change and fruitfulness…the nature of eternity is changeless.  Therefore, the time to become like Jesus, being conformed to His likeness, is during this earthly Christian experience of trial and faith.”

“You and I will never be any closer to Christ, throughout eternity, than we are when He comes.  That’s the point of judgement.”    (Dr. Lovett)

Often the life of a fruitful and godly believer is so needed and cherished here and now that his death seems only senseless and tragic.  But the Alpha and Omega may see that believer at the pinnacle of his faith and walk with God.  The Lord alone can see the future backsliding, pitfalls and snares…His view of us is always eternal.

Only a Biblical view of death and heaven can prepare us for grief and heartbreak.   And only detaching ourselves from this world can release the truths of death and eternity into our hearts.  Can we affirm with Paul, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” ?  Can we trust God that His timing and view of our eternity is always accurate, even perfect?

In II Kings 20, God directed an ailing King Hezekiah, “Get your house in order, you’re going to die…”  Yet, while claiming great faithfulness and devotion, Hezekiah actually revealed his attachment to his kingdom here, pleading with God for more time.  The additional 15 years that God granted brought forth the fruits of a spiritual downfall.  His pride burst forth, he lost his discernment, and during this time sired the most wicked heir, King Manasseh.

“When God tells us that it’s time for us to die, we must be willing to leave the earth immediately.  For God alone knows what is best for us.  So, when God tells us it is time to go, we should not want to stay on in this rotten world any longer.”  Zac Poonen

And yet, what of the deaths of unsaved loved ones?  Contemplating their end must serve to embolden us to proclaim the Gospel as though they stand on the precipice of eternity because that is where they are.  Like the thief on the cross alongside Jesus,  their last steps may land upon that ‘narrow road’ of salvation.  But as representatives of God in heaven, we must pray for boldness to speak the truth.

Like water through a funnel, we are swirling faster into the end days.  Many believers however, are lulled into complacency and comfort, having sought and gained satisfaction in this world.  I pray that we, together, will seek the full counsel of God on matters of life and matters of death and eternity.  Whether our last steps are ordered days or years from now, let us fill ourselves with enough truth to pour out to those who are dying without it.

“At every turn in your life, keep the end in view”  Thomas À Kempis

Anchoring Up Against Anxiety

I am perhaps one of the few conservative believers that does not broad stroke anxiety as a “sin”.  Anxiety is not synonymous with unbelief.  I have actually begun a book on this subject (which may or may not get finished!).  The crux of the issue – is anxiety a ‘punishable’ offense such as adultery or stealing?  Would a parent ever punish or chastise a child for worrying or having an anxiety attack?

The truth is, God almighty urges us not to worry or be anxious because, all knowing and completely sovereign, He has everything under control.  He urges us for our good, our inner peace and well being, not because He will punish us.  

Anxiety and worry may cause us to miss out on God’s best but the journey to His perfect peace can open up His word and deliver healing and victory on the way.  While therapeutic interventions can bring relief and understanding, only God’s word as He reveals and unveils it to our hearts can bring deliverance and spiritual healing.

“Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors”   Psalm 119:24

Anxiety, often trauma based, can become an emotional default and grow into free-floating distress.  But, unlike sin, God can use this condition to reveal spiritual truths and step by step lead us to higher ground.  The Lord calls us to grasp a hold of Him, ‘partner up’, and let Him walk us through this miry clay.  No matter how far the distance, step by step He will lead us to that solid ground, to those ‘green pastures and still waters’.  

Unhurried prayer and meditation upon scripture leads us…

“Your word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.”  (Psalm 119:105)

For the believer, an ’emotional default to anxiety’ in our thinking can occur when trauma or a series of crisis wounds our mind and soul and damages our faith.  The frailties of  our heart and the wiles of the enemy can rout everything into a fearful framework of anticipated harm, failure, deception, and betrayal.

I pray that, day by day – even hour by hour – incrementally -we can begin a process of re-anchoring.  As one injured and disabled may rehab slowly to walk, let our hearts and minds rehab daily toward living hope, confidence and courage.  I would not discourage anyone from helpful medical or therapeutic interventions.  But through prayer and God’s revealed living word, I pray that our thinking increasingly climbs up the chain onto the sure anchor….

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.  (Hebrews 6:19)

and into the secure and glorious place of our Lord’s presence.

Only the Holy Spirit can dislodge our dark anxious thinking, anchored in the depths…and begin to ANCHOR UP our minds and hearts toward heaven where the Lord can heal us with His presence and truths.  There, “the truth will set us free”. 

Our Heavenly Father is not judging but inviting.  May the Lord speak to our hearts and uplift us closer to Him today.

 

In God’s Fiery Classroom

If God is going to use you, you will find yourself in the classroom of isolation, confusion, and despair – there’s no way to escape that place.  Pastor David Wilkerson

While those are the words of Pastor Dave, (1931-2011)  they could easily been said by any godly person, from Genesis to today.  When the Lord loosens the protective hedge about us and allows – perhaps even orchestrates – crushing circumstances He does so with great purpose and eternal value.

As with any classroom, two factors matter greatly:

How prepared are we for this class?  When times are calm, prosperous, healthy, and harmonious – are we pressing in, preparing for eventual storms and tests of faith?

Secondly, in which direction are we facing in this classroom – towards the Great Teacher, fixing our eyes upon Jesus – or are we gazing out the window towards the world and its remedies and ways?

Pastor Dave always said, “Don’t waste your afflictions!”

I cringe with amazement as I remember all the sorrows, trials, deep waters, flaming fires and powerful afflictions. And usually when afflictions came, they came not just one at a time, but in bundles. Many times I thought, “There’s no way I can make it through this.”

Even the memories of afflictions are painful — memories of slander, chastenings of the Lord, ministry trials, personal buffetings, family problems, bodily pains and aches. Yet, as I recall those years of suffering, I can say with assurance, “God’s word is true! He brought me out of every affliction that came upon me. I praise him!”  (devotional article found  here  )

While the devil and carnal religion would lull us with false securities, God’s word warns us of “terrible times” in these last days.  Those clinging to His word will endure fiery trials and even anguish, knowing that ‘nobody threshing the wheat forever’ (Isaiah 28:28)

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Even while separated from the world and “praying towards Jerusalem”, Daniel’s enemies lined up at the door….

 

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but he was prepared for the fiery classrooms that followed.  (Daniel 6)

 

“Encourage us Father, as we study the profound examples of Your faithfulness through the lives ‘ordinary people’. Reveal more of Yourself and living truths in our classroom of affliction so that “when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold”.   And  Lord, if we falter or stumble  at times in this painful classroom, shield us against the devil’s snare of guilt and condemnation.  Amen.”