I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
~Lamentations 3:19 New International Version (NIV)~
I was looking back through some journals with my daughter this past week and I came across some entries that, while bringing tears to my eyes, only further reinforced my belief that God has been with me through every little thing that I’ve endured. My family went through some very painful times, but when I read these things over the past few days, it was hard to believe that I was one of the central characters in this heartbreaking story. I can’t share many details at this point, out of respect for those who have been trying to change, but I can tell you that when a self-destructive pattern sets in, it isn’t merely self-destructive as I once liked to think. It destroys the hearts and minds of those around you and if you are still fortunate enough to have them in your life once you’ve decided to get yourself together, then you’d better thank God that their heart was stronger than the damage your behavior inflicted.
I have been thinking so much about where I’ve been and what it all means in terms of where I’m supposed to be headed. I don’t believe, as the song says, that He brought me this far to leave me. I don’t feel that I’ve done anything even remotely significant enough to begin to repay the love and sacrifice that Christ gave to a sinner like me. Much of what He has now restored to me was damaged early on and I lived an entire life thinking that the pain I felt was normal. But now, I see that the kind of peace I was seeking really did exist no matter how diligently the world tried to show me otherwise. It’s funny how we can grow up thinking that the version of right and wrong we see in front of us is correct, simply because it’s the only version of which we are made aware. And we unwittingly continue a cycle that is not only self-destructive, but salt in the wounds of those who look to us for guidance or support. In other words, we aren’t helping someone by giving them the same wrong information we received. If our advice isn’t for them to seek God’s truth, then we’re likely leading them the wrong direction. If we don’t first seek God’s truth before attempting to give others advice, we can be sure that we’re leading them the wrong way. In most cases, we should all be wearing signs that say, “Don’t follow me, I’m lost.”
When we share our experiences with one another, the function of that sharing should be to help others first understand that they are not alone in their struggles and challenges. At the same time, our stories of testimony should include not only what pain we suffered, but where and how God turned it around for us. If we can’t pinpoint that, then we haven’t yet figured out our testimony to the point where we are ready to share. And we must keep seeking. He is there, in the details. They say that the devil is in the details, but I believe that God is there. He’s watching us and waiting for that moment when we reach out to Him and say, “Please help me!”
Last year was painful for my daughter and I. For a time, I basically stepped away from my ministry because I had nothing left to give. I tried to hang on and create some things, but my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was broken. I’m not sure anyone would have known this, had I not told them but I’ve never felt such complete and utter betrayal as I felt over the last year and a half. I was accused of things that weren’t true and efforts were in motion to take away what I value most on this earth. There is so much to this story that is yet to be told and I’m waiting for God to show me how to use the experience for His glory and not to garner my own pity or even as a means of getting revenge for the wrong that has been done. But one day, the truth will come out and those who laid their snares will be caught up in them. As it says in Psalm 57:6, “They spread a net for my feet— I was bowed down in distress. They dug a pit in my path— but they have fallen into it themselves.” I know for certain that God doesn’t like to see His children dragged through the mud and I trust Him to bring justice to an unjust situation.
But even through all of the pain, I see that He has strengthened both my daughter and myself and that we are still very much dedicated to helping others see what He can do in their lives if they’ll just let Him in. We just need to remember that when He is trying to heal us, it’s best to let Him take the time He needs to do the healing and then we’ll be ready to lead others to Him. For a time, we may be on the path and gaining momentum but when we get knocked off course we don’t have to keep dragging our broken selves along and trying to do good when we, ourselves, have become the ones who need help. And while it is hard to just sit on the sidelines and watch others run with their batons, sometimes we have to accept that we are just in no shape to run this leg of the race. After He has healed us, however; we can emerge from whatever sidelined us as someone stronger and even more capable of crossing the finish line.
So, I’ve been sitting here, day after day, trying to assess what shape my heart is in. Am I ready for another battle? Am I anywhere near ready to even create a battle plan? Or am I still in need of a little “spiritual therapy”? Since I’m not feeling strong, does that mean that I’m really not strong enough? Not necessarily. The only way I’m going to know for sure when I’m ready is to continue spending my time with God each day, each hour, each minute…whatever it takes. I need to seek Him out and ask Him. God, am I ready to move forward? Can I really do this? And when He has prepared you, He will respond. And you’ll know when the time comes for you to put on your running shoes and head back out to the track…or in my case, my walking shoes…I generally don’t run unless there’s a big dog chasing me. The point is that even when we’ve been healed, the battles we participate in can do damage and we have to allow ourselves to heal again.
Our outer man is not coated with some super-protective shield that keeps us from being hurt, but our inner man is protected by the One who can heal whatever hurts us. And before anyone gets huffy about this statement, yes, I believe that the Lord is our shield. It is His love and His power that protects our soul from eternal damnation when we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior. But the evil we encounter here will still be able to do damage on a superficial level. So, if we are feeling pain, here in this world and we let it overtake us completely…down to the level of our soul, then we must not be as close to God as we thought we were. So don’t let superficial damage destroy you. The devil is a liar and all that he has created in this world is a counterfeit of what God offers us in Glory. We get confused because this world is all we see. And it starts to look like this is all there is. But I refuse to be defeated by what isn’t even the real thing. And so, all of the fake that I’ve dealt with here will not bring me down. I will not allow those who dealt with me treacherously to have the satisfaction of having a lasting impact on my soul. He is stronger than anything they could ever do to me. So, when they stick out their leg to trip me, I’ll either walk around it, jump over it or worst case scenario, I’ll fall but I will let Him pick me back up and dust me off. And I’ll move past those fools. I’m already waving back at them. On my way to bigger and better things with my God. Just waiting for clearance.
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
~Isaiah 58:8 New International Version (NIV)~