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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.

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!

God, my arms are getting tired!

There is a story from the Book of Exodus that I have thought about many times. It is a story that shows the importance of holding each other up and praying for each other.

In Exodus 17, the Israelites are to go to war with the Amalekites. The Amalekites had long been a thorn in the side of the Israelites, and they worshiped pagan gods and often led the Israelites into sin. If you know the Bible, you probably know that Moses was the man God chose to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Leading the Israelites was no easy task, either. They so quickly forgot all the miracles God did for them and how God delivered them from Egypt. They walked through the Red Sea when God parted it as they were being pursued by Pharaoh and his army. They saw the Red Sea collapse on the Egyptians, destroying them. They were guided by God in the wilderness. He gave them manna and water, and he met every need they had. Despite all these things, however, they grumbled and complained, even going as far as saying they had it better in Egypt—a place where they were enslaved for about 400 years. Although the Israelites were stubborn, Moses was a strong leader. He was humble, he sought God, and he interceded for the people time after time, many times pleading with God to not judge the people too harshly. If it hadn’t been for the intercessory prayers of Moses, the Lord quite possibly would have been much more harsh with the Israelites.

Now, remember that God had entered into a covenant relationship with Israel, and He told them He was giving them a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey. The Promised Land. But, the Israelites had to fight for this land. They had to go into battle to drive other peoples out of the land before they could possess it.

Exodus 17:8-13 describes the actions of Moses while Israel, led by Joshua, fought the Amalekites:

“Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”

Here, we see how Moses interceded for the people. As long as Moses held up his arms, the Israelites were winning the battle. When he let his arms down, the Israelites began losing the battle. His arms would get tired to the point that he had to let them down to rest. His arms became so tired that Aaron and Hur had to hold them up for him. Because of Aaron and Hur, who came alongside Moses and held him up when he grew weary, the Israelites defeated the Amalekites.

I have shared many times just how weary I became in my journey. There were times I did not feel like getting out of bed, and there were numerous times I could not even pray. I was just utterly exhausted and had nothing left to give. The battle wore me out. I know you can relate. I have also shared that had it not been for the prayers of some of my sisters in Christ, I would not have had the strength to keep fighting. They, like Aaron and Hur, came alongside me and held up my arms. They interceded for me. They saw how weary I was, how much I wanted and needed to rest, but they also saw the battle waging against me. They knew it was a battle worth fighting, and they knew the prize would be great if I could just keep going. So, when I could no longer walk, they picked me up and carried me. When I could no longer pray, they prayed for me. When I could no longer fight, they fought for me. They had my back and they covered me in prayers. I cannot say for certain that the only reason my husband repented and my marriage was restored was because of my prayers and the prayers of others, but I am certain that had I not prayed, and had others not prayed on my behalf, my marriage would have dissolved. I shudder to think about where I would be now, or where my husband would be now, if others had not stood beside me and held up my arms.

For a while, I did not want others to know about my husband’s adultery. I did not want to share my pain. I wanted it to remain private. However, I quickly realized that the battle was much too big for me to fight alone. I needed my sisters in Christ to fight with me and for me. I needed them to hold me up, encourage me, support me, strengthen me, and weep with me. I needed them, there was no way around it. Without them, I certainly would have lost the battle. As part of the family of Christ, my victories and defeats are not just my victories and defeats; when one person in the body hurts, everyone hurts. When one rejoices, everyone should rejoice. We should have the backs of each other; we should be prepared to go to war with and for our fellow Christians.

Our pride quite often keeps us from sharing our hurts and struggles with others. We tell ourselves no one will understand. Or we tell ourselves that no one really cares. Or perhaps we tell ourselves that others have their own problems to deal with so they don’t have time to hear about our problems. I thought I had to be strong, but no one could be strong for me if they didn’t know my battle. I thought I could handle it, but I was getting beaten up. I didn’t want to ask for help. But that pride had to go. My feeling of self-sufficiency had to go. My thoughts that I could handle it on my own had to go. I quickly came to realize that I could not fight for my marriage alone, and neither can you.

Throughout Scripture, especially in the New Testament, God’s people are called to bear one another’s burdens, to strengthen each other, to pray for each other, and to help each other. If people do not know what you are going through, what battles you are facing, what your hurts and fears are, they cannot help you. They don’t know how to help you. You have to be willing to ask for help, to ask for someone to lean on, and ask for someone to hold you up. And, once that person or those people come along, you have to choose to let them help you. It’s okay if those people do not understand exactly where you are, if they do not comprehend the magnitude of your pain. They can still pray for you. They can still go to war with and for you. Notice in the story above that Moses did not know exactly what the Israelites were experiencing in battle. He wasn’t on the battlefield, but he could see what was going on. He knew God’s people needed him; he knew the battle had to be won. So, he prayed, and when he grew tired of holding up his arms, two others did it for him, because they, too, knew how important the battle was. Maybe more importantly, they knew how much Moses and the Israelites needed them.

Just as God used Aaron and Hur to hold up Moses and to carry him, in a way, he can and will use others to hold you up and carry you when you cannot go on by yourself. So, like Moses, find two or three people you can trust, people who are rock solid, and lean on them. Allow them to help you. Allow them to carry you and to intercede for you. Let them know when you are feeling like giving up, when you are too weary to fight anymore, when you need to rest. Let them know when you need a shoulder to cry on, or when you need a listening ear. And, most importantly, at some point, let them know that you appreciate and covet their prayers and their help. Let them know that you could not have made it or done it without them, and, when the time comes when they need someone to carry them, be that person for them, as much as it is possible for you. Let God use you to hold up their arms so they can fight the battle they are facing.

Here are some verses you can meditate on:

“Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, NLT).

“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way” (Isaiah 35:3, NIV).

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NIV).

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4, ESV).

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, ESV).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26, ESV).

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV).