You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.
I’d be lying if I said that this had been a year without challenges. As I’ve expressed here a few times this year, 2012 was one of the most difficult years I’ve had and I’m not exactly sorry to see it go. I’ve been wallowing in my misery for the better part of the past few months; wondering what is wrong with me that I can’t seem to make things happen for myself. Today at church, I had a revelation. Everything came into focus all at once and I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of all that suddenly dawned on me. All this time, I thought I was being beaten down and that I was just getting deeper and deeper into a pit of misery that I’d never be able to climb out of. I thought I was being overly optimistic about the possibility that things were going to get better. I was wrong. During worship, as they sang the song, “Break Every Chain,” God spoke to me and He said, “See, Satan has tried to destroy you all year by dragging you into places you really didn’t want to go, yet you are still here, still fighting, and finally feeling contentment with the way it has all turned out. He didn’t win, we did!”
It’s so hard to impress upon you just how much this meant to me without sharing with you all of the challenges I’ve faced. Many of them were very private and not things that I would have talked about with just anyone. Some of which I’m not sure I’m ready to share at all. But the important thing is that I know what happened and I know that I came through them with God’s help. I know that being able to drive to church this morning with a sincere smile on my face and joy in my heart was definitely not what the enemy had in mind for me. No, the enemy has been waiting for me to jump back into the wrong relationship. The enemy has been hoping that I would fold under the pressure of not having a job. The enemy has been watching to see if I will let grief consume me as I think about all of the loved ones I’ve lost this year. He’s been sitting back, trying to come up with new and exciting ways to trip me up and make me doubt whether or not my God will deliver me from physical, emotional and mental stress. Well, surprise! It didn’t work.
At the end of last year, I found myself in a relationship with someone who brought out the worst in me. Though I wanted to live for God, I was hanging onto my relationship with Him by a thread as I spent the majority of my time doing things that God would not have wanted me to do. When I did have a moment to myself, I tried to make up for my behavior by listening to Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore, but their messages only served to make me feel worse about what I was doing. I was determined to justify the time I was spending with this man by holding onto the idea that I was somehow being a good influence on him. The only problem was, I wasn’t strong enough to be a good influence on anyone and I was doing things that were in direct conflict with what a good Christian woman is supposed to do. Since I’d had a previous relationship with this man years ago, I told myself that I couldn’t scale back and act as though we had never had “that kind of involvement” and that God would certainly understand this. The problem was that He did understand it. He understood that although I professed my love for Him daily, I didn’t really believe in His love for me. I didn’t value myself enough to set the appropriate boundaries and I hadn’t given myself or God any credit for the changes we had made in me in the years since I’d last been involved with this man. I still viewed myself as the confused, alcoholic, rape victim who couldn’t stop seeing herself as someone who had no control over what she let men do to her. And I truly thought that I had dealt with all of that brokenness long ago. I certainly hadn’t wanted to accept that I was still dealing with the aftermath of all of that mess this far into my walk with God. So, I tried to ignore it. I continued attending church and basically fell into a cycle of activity that had me in a state of constant repentance. The joy I’d had was fading and I wasn’t getting anywhere with my “boyfriend” or with God.
We ended up breaking up in March, but then, after I made a few more stupid mistakes, I ended up going back to him for several more months of emotional abuse. When the heart is in a state of denial, it’s amazing what you’ll overlook. I turned all of the messages I was getting about God’s forgiveness into lessons I was supposed to be learning about forgiving this man for not loving me or treating me the way he should have been treating me. When God was trying to tell me that it wasn’t too late for me to seek His love, I mistook it for a clear-cut sign that it wasn’t too late for me to continue chasing after his love. And sadly, this wasn’t the first time God had tried to show me that my love for a man was keeping me from having genuine love for my God which was, in turn keeping me from knowing when a good man actually cared about me. Even worse, my women’s empowerment ministry began to evaporate as I wasted more and more energy in my own life on perpetuating the very weaknesses that keep women from being empowered. Somehow, this is what I had come to believe I deserved.
Fast forward to today. After finally, with God’s absolute power and strength behind me, breaking things off for good with the “boyfriend,” I took the time to look at who I was becoming and compare it to who I truly wanted to be. They didn’t look at all alike and that is just unacceptable. As the song says, I don’t believe He’s brought me this far to leave me. I know that He is able and I know that when I am walking with Him and not chasing after the things I think I deserve, I can have that peace, joy and strength that my former self simply could not achieve without Him. But I have to stop holding onto the old images of helplessness, worthlessness, and self-loathing. I have to finally accept that I am not the girl I used to be and praise God, I never will be again. He has put the pieces back together and He has a definite plan for me that involves lifting others up and helping them overcome their own distorted perceptions of who they are. And because He has done this for me, I know that I can do that for Him.
See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.