My mom went through many trials during her life on this earth. She lived years in an abusive marriage. Her young son, 23 years old, was killed in a logging accident. One dark night she stood outside and watched her house and almost everything she owned burn to the ground. She was a single mom who worked hard to make ends meet, and to feed her children. In spite of all these trials my mom was a fighter. That doesn’t mean she was never knocked down, after all, each of the above horrors would humble even the strongest among us. No, she hurt, she cried, and she fell many times, but she always got back up.
As a child I witnessed many of her struggles, and I witnessed the pain she endured through each one. I remember seeing my mom cry more than she smiled, but the one thing she made sure of was that I knew how much she loved me. I never doubted my mom’s love. It was her love that carried me through the trials of my childhood, and even though she has passed, her love still lives within me and carries me every day.
I am at awe of how she made it through each trial. Sometimes I try to put myself in her shoes and I wonder how I would’ve handled domestic violence, seeing all that I owned burn to the ground, and the death of a child. I feel confident I would have lost my mind.
Since I’ve been on this fast, I have been thinking a lot about my mom, and about the testimony she had among those around her. She was always kind, and always willing to help anyone in need. Everyone on Wood Street knew if they came to Bessie Hardy with a need that she would do everything within her power to supply that need. That was just who my momma was.
There’s one verse in the Bible that I heard her recite over and over again, and I will always attribute it to her. Ephesians 6:13-14 “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore…” I remember my mom saying that one day when she was ready to give in to all the pain God lead her to this scripture. Verse 14 continues, but on that particular day, God gave her a different perspective and she read it as “Having done all to stand, stand.” God was telling her to just keep standing, and He would be her strength. And that is what my mom did her whole life.
While on the Daniel Fast, I’m reading a book that coincides called…of all things…The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory. Each day, of the 21 days, has its own devotional that is filled with the promises of God. One being Isaiah 40:31, “…They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
On this fast, over and over I am led to the idea that God is working in my life, even if I don’t see it, or feel it. God has given assurance that He is with me, and that He has plan for me, but I must be patient to wait for his perfect timing. In the midst of financial insecurity, I feel him whisper, “…having done all to stand…stand.” Another portion of scripture that has cropped up over and over is James 1:3-4, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
I have a week left of eating a restrictive vegan diet. That part of my journey has gone well…and I confess my body feels better. I have lost about 7 pounds which is a nice added benefit. I’m planning on continuing some of the good habits I’ve learned such as eating more “real” food and less processed food…no artificial sweeteners, to go easy on the sugar…and to nurture the spirit as much as I nurture the body.
However, I can visualize that first cup of coffee and of it I can’t wait to indulge.
Is it possible that mean people are a blessing in disguise?
I’m not talking about evil people…certainly those that abuse and hurt others are never a blessing! I’m making reference to those people who “rub us the wrong way” or “get under our skin.” You know the ones…forthright, and tactless. Their words are sharp and hurtful, and they never use their tongue to uplift and edify, instead they use it to tear down and debase.
No one likes to be around someone like this. In fact, we go out of our way to avoid them.
But… Perhaps we shouldn’t.
You see, our patience is put on trial every time they grace us with their presence. Our patience literally gets a “work out” just as our muscles do when we exercise.
The apostle James writes in his book, chapter 1, verses 3 and 4, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
Trials are never fun, but sometimes they can be beneficial in the growth to become a better person. I love the way Joyce Meyer puts it:
“Learning to walk in love with unlovely people and learning to be patient in trials are probably the two most important tools God uses to develop our spiritual maturity. Believe it or not, difficult people in our lives help us.”
Yes, mean people suck, but let’s “cook their goose” by allowing them to make us better!.
[Me:] God, why can’t puppies be born with bigger bladders?
[God:] Puppies have been born for some 65 million years, give or take a million or two, why the need for bigger bladders now?
[Me:] Well, Lord this morning I stepped in her piddle-puddle…barefoot and before coffee; and I have to say it wasn’t a very pleasant experience.
[God:] I can understand how that may seem like a crisis…especially before coffee.
[Me:] Yes…I guess it was sort of a crisis because I had already prepared a delicious cup of coffee with my favorite Cold Stone Sweet Cream, and was on may way to a comfortable chair when I happened to step in something wet. Sure enough, the “wet” was golden in color, so I had to put down my coffee, go into the kitchen, grab some paper towels and the bleach cleaner, walk all the back and clean up Gracie Lou’s mess. By the time I was able to sit down my coffee was cold and the only way I like cold coffee is if it were made to be cold from the start.
[God:] Hmmmm…Yes, I can see how that could be quite frustrating. I’ve gotten a lot of frustrating stories this morning. Take for instance…
[Me:] Oops, excuse me Lord. Gracie just awoke…gotta take her outside before she squats. I’ll be right back.
[15 minutes later]
[Me:] I’m sorry it took so long, Lord. After Gracie peed she ran to my garden with plans to chew up my squash plants. I’ve told her no some “fifty-million” times!
Well, as fate would have it, I was still barefoot, and I didn’t want to take a chance in stepping in poo, so I had to go all the way back inside and put on my shoes. Shoes on, I go back outside and Gracie is licking the dew from the grass. Well, of course, it becomes obvious to me that she’s thirsty; so I have this debate in my mind as the whether I should give her some water or not…as giving her water would only serve to intensify the problem. Well… I just could stand the thought of her being thirsty so I gave her some water. Whew!
(deep breath and a pause)
[Me:] So, God, you were saying?
[God:] Yes, I was letting you know that I’ve had numerous conversations lately and many of them were crisis stories such as yours. Take for instance, all the way from Alaska, I heard someone cry for help. A 220-foot fishing boat was filling with water and would soon sink. Thanks to me, all 46 crew members made it into the rafts. I sent the Coast Guard to make sure each one made it home safely.
(God pauses for a moment)
And just yesterday two soldiers, were shot and killed while in the process of protecting a woman from a lone gunman. Both of these good Samaritans had children. I am saddened they will have to grow up without their fathers in their life.
(God pauses again)
Here’s one you may find interesting, as I know how much you love our four-legged furry friends. Just last week two dogs were left alone, without water, on a tar roof in Newark New Jersey. As the temperatures rose to 96 degrees the tar on the roof started bubbling and burning the dogs’ paws. Both of them tried in vain to escape the roof. The tiniest one, a Yorkie, kept running to edge trying to find a cool spot and the other guy, a pit bull, was covered in hot tar and had given up hope. Animal officers rescued the two dogs and took them right away to get medical attention. I’m happy to say both survived and both are being loved by their new caretakers…caretakers much like yourself.
(God pauses again)
You know…Gracie Lou is one blessed little puppy to have a mommy like you. Thank you for taking care of one of my beloved creatures. I truly love them all and I’m saddened even when one of my sparrows fall to the ground.
(God pauses and looks to me with tender eyes)
[Me:] (bowing my head) Lord, I’m sorry for complaining, especially when there’s so many in the world truly suffering.
[God:] That’s okay my child. I understand. Hang in there because the blessings Gracie Lou will bring to your life, will far exceed the frustrations.
[Me:] Yes, Lord…?
[God:] Just remember…Gracie’s bladder grows bigger as each day passes.
Rejoice in hope; be patient in tribulation; and continue in prayer.
I sat down to my computer, wanting to write a more upbeat blog than the last; as the last was kind of depressing. So, I opened my Bible to Psalms chapter 10, since it’s the next chapter in our series entitled, “Walk Through Psalms.” As I read, I began to realize chapter 10 was a continuation of chapter 9; which had dealt with the subject of oppression. I tried to bask in every ray of sunshine within the chapter, but just as I started to warm, the clouds of gloom rolled over to obscure the light.
The chapter opens with David questioning God. He prays, “Lord why do you stay so far away? Why do you hide from people in times of trouble?” The human part of me wants to cheer David on by saying, “Good question, David, I’d like to know the answer too!” I looked to verse 2 to obtain the Lord’s answer; however none was given. In fact, God is silent throughout the whole chapter, making David’s conversation seemingly one-sided.
I hate those kinds of conversations! Don’t you? As an introvert, silent spaces make me extremely uncomfortable. I feel the need to fill the gap; but the problem being, most of the time I fill the gap with something stupid, idiotic and sounding like it came from the Twilight Zone.
Oh, and voice messages are the worst! I freaking never know how to end my message. As I ramble on, scenes of the “hearer” laughing at my idiotic message, pop in my head, and I blush. I actually blush!
Such is the life of an introvert. Phones are not our friend… (except for taking pictures and checking Facebook) However, in such situations, I’ve learned to laugh at myself and pat myself on the back with the thought of…”…well…at least you made someone laugh.” It helps, a little, but not a perfect antidote to cover the shame. Aren’t we suppose to embrace our weirdness! Weirdos Unite! ….I digress….
Sometimes, as Christians, when it comes to our prayer life, the conversations feel a bit one-sided. We pray and God is silent. Often those silent moments become extremely long, and it’s so uncomfortable. We want answers and we want them now, but when it comes time for God’s reply all we hear are crickets. Silence. What do we do when God is silent?
Of course the answer is: “Just have faith!” Easier said than done. Having faith can become difficult in any christian’s life. It doesn’t matter how strong of a christian you are, the bottom line is; “When life sucks, faith doesn’t come easy.” We can’t conjure it up on our own; God has to give us faith, but when he is silent…then what?
I remember years ago, when I had a miscarriage; some well-meaning christian quoted Romans 8:28–“…all things work together for good…” or Philippians 4:28–“…I can do all things through Christ…” Let me tell you, that was the last thing I wanted or needed to hear. The flippant answer of “well…just have faith” is not what someone, who’s life has just been turned upside-down, needs to hear. Instead, they need someone to cry with them, someone to hold their hand, someone to say it isn’t fair, and someone to say it sucks! They need someone to “be Jesus” rather than attempting to “talk” like Jesus. The old sayings, “talk is cheap” and “actions speak louder than words” are very relevant in these situations. Easy solutions to a broken heart, only serve to “devalue” rather than “diminish” pain.
So what must we do with the silence? Let’s make it practical…I’ve said before I love “practical Christianity.” After all, if you can’t use Christianity in your everyday life then what good is it? Our salvation is so much more than a “get out of hell free” ticket. Jesus said, ” I came that [you] may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till itoverflows).” He cares about our life…here…right now…on this earth! He desires a personal relationship with each of us; therefore, he cares about our daily lives. If He didn’t, he wouldn’t know the number of hairs on our head. He wouldn’t assure us that He’s ever present, by saying… He even sees when a sparrow falls to the ground. He tells us all of these things, because He wants us to know, He cares about our life…our everyday life.
Back to practicality…what can we do? Remember, I claim to be no scholar, but these have helped me in the past…so maybe, they’ll help you too…
Realize it’s okay to question, wonder, doubt or even be mad as hell. Sometimes we just need to “be”… Wherever you find yourself, just be. Validate your feelings whatever they are. Jesus did this when he spoke these words in the garden of Gethsemane, “…let this cup pass from me,” and again on the cross when he questioned God, “…why have you forsaken me…?” Feelings need to be validated because it’s the only way in which we work through them. Anything and everything you and I can feel Jesus has already felt it. Hebrews says this of Jesus, “…[He] is able to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses…infirmities…temptations, …[He] has been tempted in every respect as we are…”
Realize Jesus has overcome. We have a champion in Christ. Not only has he experienced everything we can ever experience, but He has made it through to the other side. Jesus tells us…” In this world you will have trouble.But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Don’t expect quick solutions. Sometimes they occur, but more often than not, it takes time and a lot of it. I struggled with my faith for years. Early on, doubt and fear seeded itself in my mind; it took root, spread, and ran rampant. It started as a child, and continued throughout much of my young adult years. I constantly doubted my salvation and it was horrible feeling. I never, truly, had peace until I finally saw just, “who” I was in Christ. I realized my salvation had nothing to do with me but everything to do with Christ. I know, it’s a simple concept, but it took me years of God’s silence for me to understand… “it’s not about me.” So, what am I saying? I’m saying, God is silent for a reason, and often the reason is, He’s trying to teach you something, that will make you stronger and happier. Most of the time “getting to the other-side of a problem” takes time and whole lot of work; and that’s why flippant solutions and quick quotes of scripture, mean near to nothing. We need more understanding and less quick fixes.
Seek out help from those who truly understand…those who have gone through similar trials. Solomon, one of the wisest men ever to live, wrote, “… a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.” (Proverbs 27:9) The key-word there, being “friend.” A true friend will share the burden rather than trying to quick-fix it. We have a tremendous resource of encouragement from others who have walked the same path. God encourages us to use that resource and then to give it out as well.
Pray. Just keep praying. There will be times when your prayers feel as mumbled words falling uselessly to the ground. Pray any way. I learned this from my mom. Know in your heart that God does hear. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”__ James 5:16 Pray and don’t stop, no matter what. God honors prayer. God is listening whether you feel it or not. As humans, the only constant of “our feelings” is change, but God never changes. He is the North of our compass. Pray, Pray and pray even more.
Stay in the word. My dad use to say that all the time. Just as it helps to be diligent in our prayers we should be diligent in studying God’s word. Often, especially when we’re angry, it’s the last thing we want to do, but faith comes by “hearing” the word of God. If you’re sick of trying to read and understand scripture on your own, find a good teacher and listen to them. Joyce Meyer has been that voice for me. She’s the queen of “practical Christianity,” and as Martha Stewart says, “…that’s a good thing.” If her particular teaching style doesn’t mesh with you, that’s okay…find someone who does. There’s so many good teachers out there. The main point is to get the word of God inside of you whether it’s by reading or hearing. Singing is another good option!
I’m sure there are many many other ways to help us navigate God’s silence. I’m still learning, as I’m sure, I will be for the rest of my life. We are all a work in progress, and God knows what He’s doing…even if we don’t. So be kind to yourself!
My Prayer: Lord, I depend too much on feelings, and when I do I’m tossed to and fro like a feather in the wind. God, remind me that you never change, that your love, grace and mercy are constants in my life, even when I don’t feel them. Lord, give me faith when you are silent, and open my heart that I may learn what you teaching. Lead me to those you’ve called to help me and may I also be a help to them. Thank you Lord, for never leaving me…never forsaking me. Thank you that nothing can separate me from your love. All of this I ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.