Monday, June 17, 2019

In The Middle

"I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living."
Psalm 27:13

Hello, friends!
I can't believe it has been nearly two full months since I posted anything here.  SO much has happened and is happening in our lives, I truly have not had the energy to sit down and write a post.  I am exhausted and beyond overwhelmed, to say the very least.

If you have lived very long at all, you have more than likely reached the accurate conclusion that life is far from an easy journey.  You have probably learned that if life is going perfectly smooth and you are trial-free, that sort of utopia is short-lived, and you can know with certainty that some sort of trial is on the horizon, and it is just a matter of time before it has descended full-force.  We live in a fallen, very broken world, where smooth sailing doesn't last long.  

Jesus always spoke truth.  Jesus IS the truth, and  He said, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

King David went through many hard things, and I believe it was during those times of deep depression, anguish of spirit, and being chased by his enemies that he wrote the comforting words we now call the book of Psalms.  In Isaiah 30:6, we read, "And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God."  As we walk this Christian journey there will be times when we feel no hope and it feels like God has forsaken us.  In those places, we have two choices—we can throw in the towel and give up hope, or we can do as David did and encourage ourselves in the Lord.  Sometimes there is no one around who will encourage us, and the enemy of our souls will come in like a flood and overwhelm our souls.  If we find no external source of encouragement, we must encourage ourselves.  Thank God, we have the Psalms and all of the rest of God's Word to turn to and find that desperately needed encouragement.

As I've worked through the writing of this post, I have shared songs and Scriptures God is using to encourage us, and I hope they will be a blessing and comfort to you, too.

I have often said there is a beginning and an end to every trial.  There's the beginning —this moment of shock and bewildered surprise when a trial is first announced and introduced to our lives.  A time of being caught off guard by being flung into unfamiliar and unpleasant circumstances.  This is where the bad news descends and the nightmare begins. Then there is the end—that moment it occurs to you that the storm has passed, you have lived through it, and you are now on the other side.  Those two points of reference are easy to pick out and identify.  

But, what about the middle?

"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places."
Habakkuk 3:17-19

The middle of a trial is a tricky thing because you never know just how long "the middle" will last.  If you had a beginning and an ending date for your trials, at least you would know how long you were going to be in that awkward place called the middle.  But, God doesn't give us an end date for our trials, nor does He always tells us what the outcome will be.  In these places, the only thing we can do is trust.
When we don't understand His logic, it is then that we must trust His wisdom.  

The trials that my family and I are walking through are fiery.  It feels like the furnace has been heated "seven times hotter," (Daniel 3:19) and I have often felt that my strength, and my nerves for that matter, were going to completely buckle and fail.  I have often commented to my husband and son that if we were going through just ONE of these things at a time, it would be completely overwhelming, but to go through ALL of them at once is nearly more than I can bear.  I cry out to God from the depths of my soul to help us.  I plead with Him to speak to me.  There are times He draws very near, and I can hear His still, small voice.  There are other moments when it seems the heavens are brass, and we are left to fight these battles alone.

In reality, I know that God is here.  He is with us.  He has not left us in this uncomfortable, desperate place.  One day, "the middle" will end, and we will see that we have walked through the fire and moved past it.  We will emerge without the smell of smoke upon us, and we will be able to look back over this valley from the Shepherd's point of view.

"Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him:  on the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him:  but He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
Job 23:8-10

As we walk through the fire, the dear Lord often reminds me that this is all a part of our story, and it needs to be added to the book that I thought I had finished writing.  (I even wrote a blog post with a caption that read, The Book is Finished!)  Ha!  God has a way of putting us in our place and proving us wrong, doesn't He?  As He continues to lead us through such uncharted territory, I am beginning to see the reasons for His delay in the publishing of the book.  How can I finish writing it, when He hasn't finished writing it through the circumstances of our lives?  He isn't finished with it yet, and we are living out the chapters He will one day (Lord willing) lead me to add.  The book, "Biblical Minimalism" will be finished when God says it is finished.  

The other day as I shared with someone on the phone about some of the things we are walking through, it really hit a nerve when she replied, "What this story needs is a happy ending."
I say a hearty AMEN to that!  Here "in the middle," it's really hard to see that there will be a happy ending to that book.  But, I keep reminding myself that just because God hasn't does not mean He won't.  Just because we haven't seen it yet doesn't mean we never will.

Haven't Seen It Yet - Danny Gokey

"Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.…"
Psalm 116:7-9

I don't know what you may be going through, but one thing I do know is that every, single person who will ever read this post is or will be going through something.  None of us escape the human condition, and as Christian fellow-travelers, we each have our own appointed trials.  "That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto."  I Thessalonians 3:3

Everybody's Going Through Something - Karen Peck & New River

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

One of the oldest deceptions in satan's playbook is to convince God's children into believing that life would be easier if they would turn their backs on Him.  What a pack of lies!  What he does not tell us is the fact that life will go on, whether we choose to continue to follow Jesus or not, and life is chock full of trouble.  "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble." Job 14:1
That is just the plain facts.  So, to think it would be easier to shut God out of our lives and try to live independently from His lordship and somehow struggle through it all alone is the height of absurdity.
Jesus Christ is our only hope, and pressing in to the comfort of His Spirit is the solace we all need to survive the tribulations of this life.

All My Hope is in Jesus - Crowder

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand."
Psalm 37:23-24

As we walk through such dark places, God is continually reminding me of some universal truths.  I hope they will help you in your own unique battles.

1.  No one can pick up my shield of faith but me.  I have to push through the fear, doubt, and unbelief to take it in my hands, go to war, and FIGHT satan.  It only works and quenches his fiery darts if I am holding it in my hand and using it.
"Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."  Ephesians 6:16

2.  The words that come out of my mouth are a matter of life and death.
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue."  Proverbs 18:21
A word, once it has left my lips, will not return void.  Whatever I speak becomes my reality.
Speaking doom and gloom becomes breeding grounds for satan's lies to become what I believe.  Speaking God's Word out loud activates Its power.  "even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were."  Romans 4:17

Speak Life - Toby Mac

"I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD."
Psalm 118:17

3.  The battle is the LORD's.  This is not my battle to win.  It is His.  When I try to take it on in my own strength, I will fail.  It is WAY too much for me.  I can't handle this.  It is only through His strength, empowerment, and Spirit's infilling that I will ever be able to face the giants in front of me.  Herein lies my confidence.  I fight under HIS battle flag.  I am HIS soldier.  My enemies cower when they see Who I am fighting for.  "They will surrender their stronghold because of fear; their officers will be afraid of the LORD's battle flag." This is what the LORD says--the one whose fire is in Zion, whose firepot is in Jerusalem." Isaiah 31:19 (NET Bible)

Confidence - Sanctus Real

"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
Joshua 1:9

4.  I am weak powerless, but He is strong.  "And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."  2 Corinthians 12:9  When I am at my weakest point, when my faith is GONE, when I am down for the count, HIS strength is just getting started in me.  Because of Him, I can rise up one more time and fight another day.

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might."
Ephesians 6:10

5.  No matter where I am in my battle—whether it be the beginning, the middle, or near the end—He is always there.  He will never leave.  He is walking through the fire with me.  "He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."  Daniel 3:25  

God help us all to lean heavily upon Him and His strength in these trying times.
May we ever be strong and keep the faith!

"Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."  Matthew 28:20