The power of hope

Several days ago my husband and I were watching something on television, and it reminded us of what we have been through. Now, at this point, nearly 10 years after the fact, we hardly talk about his affair. But there are occasions when something takes us back to those days.

We discussed how hopeless things seem when you are in such immense, all-consuming pain.  I told him how dark and bleak things seemed, how all I could see was darkness and pain, and how there seemed to be no way I would ever feel anything other than the agony I was experiencing. I could not see my way past it. There seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. I could not imagine a day when I felt anything other than pain and despair. I could not imagine tears ceasing to flow from my eyes. But, you know what…despite the pain, I did have one thing, even though it seemed like a long shot…I had hope. Albeit just a sliver of it, but I still had it. And in the end, hope won. I hung on, clinging to hope that I would not always hurt, and, eventually I stopped hurting. Eventually the sun shined again. Eventually the tears stopped falling from my eyes.

So, for those of you who are asking yourself these same kinds of questions, who are wondering if you will ever stop hurting, you have hope. I don’t know how long you will hurt, how many tears you will have to cry, before you start feeling the sun shining again, but it will happen. Just hang on…cling to hope. It won’t let you down.

Deep Waters

 

I have been having a very difficult time the last few months. Life is just so hard at times, and I find myself battling depression quite frequently. You would think that having survived my husband’s adultery would make other problems, like financial worries, seem so trivial and easy to handle, but that is not the case for me. Perhaps the reason why is that the affair was temporary, but the situations I live with every day are chronic, and there seems to be no end in sight. I have been feeling very discouraged and am battling depression from the endless onslaught of life. I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and there are times when I have honestly wondered how much more I can handle.

My husband has chronic, severe migraines that are debilitating. Lately, he has been having hemiplegic migraines more frequently. Hemiplegic migraines have many of the same symptoms as a stroke, so they are hard to deal with. Dealing with a chronic illness that so drastically affects one’s quality of life is quite challenging. It takes its toll on all involved.

In addition to my husband’s health, I help take care of my MIL, who also has multiple physical problems. My daughter has issues with anxiety, and she is simply not able to handle attending public school right now, so we teach her at home. With my husband’s illness, I am the one who primarily has the responsibility of teaching. Add to that the daily demands of housekeeping–dishes, laundry, and routing cleaning, and I feel like I am drowning. Handling these problems has been a huge adjustment for me, and, to be honest, I have not handled the adjustment well. I feel exhausted and worn out, which only compounds my feelings of depression and discouragement.

A couple of days ago, I was taking my daughter to an appointment about an hour north of where we live, and she was playing music from my iPhone. Her favorite song is Hillsong’s “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).” I have never paid much attention to the lyrics because it is hard to understand the words at times. But this day was different. Before my daughter and I were even out of town, I was already feeling like the dam of emotions washing over me was able to break. I did not want to be a basket case for the appointment, so I started asking God to help me.

I am very honest with God about how I feel and how I see things, so my prayer began with something like, “God, I really need help right now. I don’t know how much more I can take. Please help me.” I asked Him to help me focus on Him, to remember His goodness, provision and faithfulness instead of me focusing on all the complications of life and how I feel. Then, my daughter played her favorite song, and I really listened to the lyrics, and God began to reveal things to me as I continued to pray.

For one, I walk by faith. I must choose to walk by faith daily, sometimes several times a day. I must choose to walk by faith, not to walk based on what I can see or on how I am feeling. I cannot let my emotions guide me. Secondly, faith requires me to give up control, and that is a hard one for me. It’s hard for me to accept that the dishes may not get done or the laundry may not get folded and put away because I simply have too many other issues to contend with.

I began speaking God’s word over my life and circumstances and I reminded God of things in His word as I prayed. I asked for wisdom and direction and guidance. I spoke words of life over myself, and I began to encourage myself in the Lord. It was a battle, I’m not going to lie. I did NOT feel like focusing on God, like focusing on His Word, or like reminding myself of who He is and what He has done. It was a deliberate act of my will to recall the times God has taken care of me and helped me, to remember His goodness and faithfulness. By the time the song by Hillsong had ended, I was feeling much better in my spirit. My soul was not in despair and chaos. Instead, I had a sense of peace, not because my situations may change, but because I knew that Jesus is in the storm with me.

I felt as if God was telling me it is time to go into deeper water, water that may be so deep I cannot possibly make it on my own; water that is so deep that my feet may fail. Yet, it is in the deeper water that I can learn to trust my Savior more; it is in the deeper water that I realize I don’t have to worry about drowning, because Jesus is holding out His hands to me, pulling me up. In deeper waters, the boundaries of my faith will be tested, but I need only to remember that the One who, with one word, can calm the storm is in the boat with me. His sovereign hand will guide me and keep me. But the wonder of faith is that it is only strengthened when it is tested and challenged. It can only grow as much as I allow it to grow. It won’t grow if I stay in shallow waters where it is safe, waters where I can see where I am and the things that are around me, waters I can easily get out of in my own strength. No, God has me in deeper waters, so my prayer has now become not for God to help me out of the water, but to help me WALK on the water. That’s a huge stretch for my faith, but I’d rather walk on the water and experience Jesus reaching out His hands to rescue me if I start to drown than to stay in the boat, afraid of the wind and waves that grow louder and louder, throwing my soul into chaos. That’s not how I choose to live my life. I choose to venture into the deeper waters where I know my faith can grow.

When Jesus laughed at me!

Speaking of giants…

A few weeks ago, during worship, the worship leader was leading us in a song about seeing Jesus, something like “Oh, I can see you now…” As I sang, I closed my eyes and then I saw the face of Jesus…Yes! I did! He was smiling at me, with a sparkle and twinkle in His eyes, and then He started laughing at me. I asked, “Why are you laughing at me, Jesus?” He said, “Because I rejoice over you! I find joy in you! You are my daughter. You are accepted! You are loved! And you are still that mighty woman of God.” As He spoke softly to my spirit, I began to shake with quiet sobs. I almost thought I was going to fall to my knees. He continued, “I rejoice over you. You feel insecure, unworthy, and unaccepted, but you are accepted! I love you! Let my joy over you be your strength.” The song continued, but all I could hear was Jesus, His loving, piercing, soft voice reassuring me, validating me, loving me. I tell you, I haven’t cried like that over something God told me in a long time. It was like a healing balm was applied to my soul. All the wounds from rejection. All the times when I feel like I haven’t measured up. All the times I look at myself and just see all my flaws and faults. But that is not how God sees me! He doesn’t look at me and think, “Oh, she just isn’t good enough. She messed up again!” or “Whoa, she’s got herself in a mess now. I told her this would happen!” You know, the kinds of things I (and probably you) would say to our children or a close friend if they messed up. “It serves you right;” “You should have known better,” or “I told you so!” That is not who my God is. He isn’t a God who beats me upside the head every time I mess up or make a mistake. He isn’t a God who tosses me aside if I don’t live up to His expectations all the time. He isn’t a God who shames me or belittles me. He is a God who accepts me, loves me, approves of me, and rejoices over me. Even on the days when I’m struggling to hold things together. Even on the days I royally mess up. Even on the days I wonder if I matter. Even on those days…and we all have them, if we are honest. So, the next time I start hearing those little voices that tell me I’m not good enough; not accepted; not worthy, I hope Jesus will laugh at me again! He rejoices over me with singing and dancing! So, go ahead, Jesus, laugh at me all you want!!!!

Facing my giants

A couple of weeks ago, my pastor preached on a passage from the book of Joshua, Chapter 14. The story revolves around Caleb, who, if you know your Bible, is one of the ten spies Moses sent to check out the Promised Land. Of the ten spies, only Joshua and Caleb came back with a good report, firmly believing that though there were giants in the land, God would fulfill His promise to give them the land. In Joshua 14: 6-12, Caleb approaches Joshua, who is now leading the Israelites, and reminds him of the promise Moses made to give Caleb the land of Hebron: “The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly” (vs. 9, NIV). At the time Caleb spied out the land of Canaan, he was 40 years old. Caleb had to wait another forty-five years to obtain the land Moses had promised to him.  I wonder if he ever wondered if he would see the promises fulfilled in his lifetime. Here is what Caleb says to Joshua in verses 11 and 12: “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then…You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there (the Promised Land), and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” And, in Chapter 15, Caleb drives out the giants in the land he was promised. He was 85 years old! I can’t imagine! Yet, he never doubted that God would help him face and conquer the giants. For the tribes that didn’t believe, they didn’t drive out the peoples in the land, and those people were a constant thorn in the side, as well as a continuing enticement to forsake the Lord.

I’ve experienced God’s faithfulness throughout my walk with Him. I have seen Him keep His promises, even when I have doubted. But, that did not mean God was not requiring something of me. You see, the people of Israel had been promised the land of Canaan, but they had to go in and drive out those who were living there. God didn’t just make those people disappear or go away quietly. The people of Israel had to fight and then take possession. If they failed to drive them out, they had to live with the people and the consequences.

I wonder how many blessings I have missed because I have not followed through on something God was asking me to do; or promises I squandered because I wasn’t willing to fight for them, even if I didn’t see the results immediately. I am challenged by the example of Caleb–unwavering faith that waited 45 years to see a promise granted.

I am also inspired by David, who battled the giant Goliath, a Philistine. Goliath met David, cursing God and mocking the Israelite people. When King Saul’s best soldiers saw Goliath, they trembled in fear. Not David, who, by the way, was only a young shepherd, NOT a soldier, at the time. When he saw Goliath, when he heard how Goliath was mocking and cursing God, David rose to the challenge and faced Goliath with only a sling and some stones. I love what David said in response to Goliath’s ridicule: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 15: 26, NIV). Then, in verse 45, 47: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied…All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s…” And with only one shot of one stone, David killed Goliath. God was totally involved in that battle. I mean, who can kill a giant with only one stone? God…only God.

Wow! What kind of dynamic faith! David wasn’t looking at the size or strength of Goliath; he wasn’t looking at the weapons of Goliath. No! He was focusing on God, the source of strength, and he knew that even the best, biggest, strongest warrior cannot stand in the face of God. David understood what I have come to understand, yet all too often forget–the battle belongs to God. I don’t have to fear the circumstances; the pain; the darkness. I don’t have to try to get by on my own power and strength; I don’t have to worry what that person does to me or says about me BECAUSE I AM A DAUGHTER OF THE MOST HIGH GOD, AND HE IS MY SHIELD, MY FORTRESS, MY STRENGTH. HE GOES BEFORE AND BEHIND ME. HE SURROUNDS ME. THE BATTLE BELONGS TO HIM. So what if that woman (or man) can’t stand you? So what if she mocks you? What does it matter how she sees you or what she thinks about you? You don’t battle against her in your strength or ability; you battle in God’s strength. She (or he) may win a few skirmishes here or there, but the battle is won! God guarantees the victory when we allow Him to fight for us. The same principle applies to the situations in which we often find ourselves because of the actions of others. The battle still belongs to God!

I know…It’s a lot easier said than done, and I fail miserably at times, as will you. But, keep your eyes focused on God, who gives you the victory against whatever giant you face. Maybe your giant is addiction, or sickness, or insecurity, or fear…The list is endless. That giant hasn’t defeated you IF you are willing to confront it in the name of the Lord and go to battle against it in God’s strength. My pastor ended the sermon I mentioned with this powerful admonition: If you don’t conquer your giants, your children will have to live with them.

I know some of my giants, and I am glad I do. That way, I can begin to conquer them. What are your giants? What are you battling? Who is fighting for you? Whatever your giants may be, the God of heaven’s armies fights for you!