We all struggle with discouragement, suffer loss and feel grief. We are sometimes overtaken by fear and doubt. There have been, and will be again, times when we are fearful and feel our faith falter in the wake of some major crisis in our lives. Maybe, like me, you have fought a long hard battle with depression and you sometimes wonder if the fight will ever be over and if you really can endure until the end. Perhaps there have been times in your life when you were so exhausted from the fight that you even considered giving up. You have asked for guidance, for strength, for help from God, only to hear nothing and feel nothing but relentlessly deepening despair.
In those times, there is often a stream of well-meaning friends or family members who try to make it better, to lift you up and out of the spiritual/emotional pit that you seem to be completely trapped in. While trying to convince you that things can’t really be as bad as they seem, to encourage you to keep the faith and trust the LORD,to comfort you in your darkest times, they usually say things like:
“You know, everything happens for a reason.”
“God IS in control. He knows what He’s doing.”
“He has a plan for your life.”
“God has promised that He will work everything out for your good.”
“Just believe! God will answer your prayer IF you have faith enough!”
“Just WAIT! His time is not our time but His timing is perfect!”
And my personal favorite, “He will never put more on you than you can handle!”
This is mostly good solid advice and is even Biblically based. In fact, I have given much of the same advice to hurting people on several occasions. Since I am now on the receiving end of this “encouragement”, I have to wonder, how many of those hurting people that I counseled had the same thought that I find myself thinking now, as well-meaning people are “encouraging” me? How many of them silently thought, “I know all those verses! I know how loving and merciful and kind our LORD is! I know that He is in complete control! But I am STILL hurting and you are NOT helping and I wish you would just SHUT UP!!!” I wonder how many of those desperate and hurting people just tuned me out as they smiled and nodded in agreement with everything I said?
As most of you know, I have been going through the hardest and most painful trial that I have ever faced. It has REALLY tested my faith. I have cried on a daily basis, sometimes many MANY times every day. I had all but completely stopped reading my Bible and having my daily devotions. I even found myself unable to pray. There have been many people who have quoted scripture and given spiritually sound advice. Several of them have even prayed with me and all of them assured me that they were, and would continue to faithfully pray for me. But even their very best efforts and the most inspiring scriptures failed to offer even the slightest relief of the constant, crushing and completely overwhelming pain that consumed my heart. It seemed to only get worse and I feared that there would be no relief.
But then, my aunt, Ann came to dinner. She tried to involve me in conversation. She asked me how I was doing and a few other questions that were similarly designed to inspire me to open up and share my feelings. I gave very short vague answers. I did NOT want to discuss it… again. But then came the question that I could not ignore. “How are you feeling about God right now?”, she asked. Well that really got me talking. I informed her that I was angry and bitter and disappointed and just didn’t have any idea at all how in the world that HE could allow something like this to happen to my family!! Then it was her turn to speak. She talked about His unfailing love and His infinite wisdom and His grace and even the fact that He was willing to forgive me for my anger toward Him and my self righteous accusation that He had somehow failed me. For the first time since the beginning of this painful experience, My heart was open and her words were sinking in. Then she asked me if it would be ok if she prayed with me right then. I agreed to let her. She took my hand in hers and began to pray. Her words were simple and to the point. She asked God to forgive me for my anger toward Him. She asked Him to strengthen my faith and give me comfort. She asked Him that if it was His will, would He please restore to me all that had been lost and fix all that had been broken in my life. She asked Him to assure me that He DOES have a plan and that He really is going to work all of this out for our good in His time. And, as a sign to confirm that He really would work it all out for my good, would He give me peace in my spirit? His peace. And you know what? He did. Involuntarily, I felt myself exhale a long breath as every muscle in my body began to relax. As she said, “Amen”, I felt completely at peace, though nothing about my situation had changed. I had changed.
That night I was able to pray a real prayer for the first time in weeks. And for the first time in two years I sincerely asked Him to have His will in this situation and in my life. For the first time in my life… EVER… I was able to truly surrender to myself, my will, my life to Him and say with sincerity, “This problem is completely Yours. I am completely Yours. My family is completely Yours. My entire life is completely Yours, LORD. Take it all and have YOUR way. Take this situation and work it out as You will and in Your time. Because, LORD, I trust You. I trust You with all that I have, all that I love and hold dear and with all that I am. I trust You, LORD. I trust You completely.”
You know what? I DO trust Him. And His peace is still with me. I’m sure there will be tough days. I’m sure that there will be times when I will need to be reminded that He’s got this under control, He is working it all out for our good and I don’t need to worry. In those times I will simply surrender again.
I am so very thankful that, when I had reached the end of my strength, He was right there offering His. I am so thankful that when I found myself helpless and had absolutely no control over my situation; when I had nothing left to offer except faith, He was right there to pick up my heaviest burdens, my most troublesome problems, my broken spirit, my shattered heart. In His time and in His way He will fix it all. I am so thankful for His grace when I am broken, His mercy when I have sinned against Him, His strength when I am weak, His wisdom when I am confused, His joy when I am down, His peace when I am afraid, His faithfulness even when I have questioned Him and His love when I need it the most. I am thankful that He is always with me even when I have ignored His presence. He will NEVER leave me. He will NEVER forsake me. Even though my faith is sometimes shaken; even though I sometimes allow this world and its problems to begin to harden my heart; even though I have self righteously questioned Him; He is ever faithful and He will never disappoint me. He will never fail. EVER.