Friday, October 31, 2014

Being Sifted Like Wheat, Lord Make it Stop, Please!

Lately I have been crying out to God. Telling Him, I can't take it anymore. I told God I was so done living like this. Haven't we stood enough, Lord?? I've been saying this for 17 months, but in the past few months things have been unbearable.

As I was laying in bed the other day with a migraine and feeling lost, this is the scripture that God spoke to me.

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

This is not exactly the kind of scripture I was looking for, but in our situation it makes sense. Lately everything has been falling apart. Everything hurts. 

Inside I feel completely dead from the culmination of all that has been going on for the past 6+ years. I've only been saved for 2 years, but we were suffering long before we started down this journey in Christ. It seemed like it has all caught up to me. Years of living very poor with very high levels of stress that never go away. Years of feeling insecure and uncertain about our situation. Years of not knowing how we are supposed to walk at times. Years of feeling like I'm making things up as we go. Some days it feels like it's never going to end because well it's been 6+ years. It hasn't ended yet.

And yet we do hold on desperately to what God has promised us even though it seems so remote and distant at times. God is the only hope we have because without a miracle from Him, we have no life before us.

Neither of us can heal ourselves. 
Neither of us have any capacity to work.

The days leading up to this latest breakdown, we had been praying and trusting God for a need and no money had come in, so I was scared and anxious. I cried so much the day before, it triggered a migraine that started in the evening and continued on when I woke up the next day. On top of everything else going on, it just seemed so cruel. 

I guess this is what it feels like to be sifted by Satan. It hurts. It unrelenting. He's evil and wicked and trying to get me to turn away from God. Sometimes I have been mad at God.

While laying in bed I was also reminded of the story of Dan Baumann who was tortured in prison for 9 weeks. God sent him to this country knowing that he was going to be arrested and tortured for weeks.

Dan tells in his story,
"It was out of my hands, there was nothing I could do. Either God would do a miracle or I would stay there.
There was no sense of feeling God. I felt like God was far away. All I could really trust in was His character, and that His character would be true no matter what I was feeling and no matter what circumstance I was going through."
“I struggled with faith, ‘Was God with me? Did He love me? If God is good why would He allow me to go through this situation?’ And I remember one day I woke up, and I was done inside." 
Although the circumstances are much different, on a spiritual level we are at a similar place because if God doesn't show up, there is no way out. It seems I've asked the same questions and have also felt done inside too

And of the thousands of verses God could have given me to encoruage me, He gave me the one saying that Satan was sifting me like wheat. That's hard to hear to be honest because I have no idea if there is an end in sight. I have no idea how much longer this needs to go on for. Satan asked permission and God gave it to him. That's hard to swallow.
This part of the scripture is encouraging though.
"But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren"  
I hope Jesus is praying for me that my faith should not fail because I feel dead inside. God somehow uses our brokenness to make us into who He wants us to be. It is after we feel crushed that God restores us and enables us to strengthen our brothers. I just hope that I make it to the restoration part! heh I'm tired. I'm done living like this.

Some people will not understand where I am walking right now and that's ok. I have found either people understand because they've been through it or they flat out just don't get it at all. Again that's fine. I'm not going to try to prove something to these people who don't get it. What we are going through is biblical and the things that Satan tries to use to destroy us, God can use to purify us. 

God has invested in us and I'm believing that He's making this all work out for our good...some how, some way. I hope soon.
I am weak. I am helpless. I have nothing without the Lord's provision and grace on my life. I've even come to realize that our faith isn't even ours and it is a gift from God. How could I take credit for anything when it's Jesus who is praying that my faith should not fail?

I can't even begin to explain how trying this season has been for me. It feels like at any moment everything could fall apart. Given all of my health problems, I don't even know how I keep going at all. We depend on God for literally everything and it's been extremely, extremely difficult. I don't think most people could relate to be honest. And yet God has brought us all this way, for more than 2 years. However in the last few months, things have become even more difficult than before, which is horrifying to me. And yet God was saying to me, "Satan has asked to sift you". And God said ok. Again that's hard to understand for me right now. It certainly feels like we are being sifted and he's trying to destroy us. He is trying to steal everything from us to ultimately get us to walk away from God totally. The devil thinks we only love God because of the stuff he blesses us with, so he starts putting pressure on these things to see what we do. Ultimately he wants us to curse God and turn our backs on Him forever (read in Job 1:9-10).

Getting back to Luke 22, after Jesus said that Satan was going to sift him, Peter said,  “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 

And yet Peter was not ready to do this. God knew that, but Peter didn't. Not long after he spoke those words, Peter denied Jesus three times. Temporarily his faith failed.

During this ridiculous season, just like Peter, I have failed in various ways and have had mental breakdowns several times throughout. Lately I've started to lose grips on reality. I've never been one who can handle stress well and looking back I also now understand why God chose to heal my adrenals. He knew I wouldn't have lived through this otherwise. For those that don't know, your adrenals glands make a hormone called cortisol that we depend on to live everyday and it increases in stressful situations. Trying to take meds to mimic that rhythm is extremely difficult and usually doesn't work.

The sad reality is many times we have to fail in some way before we can see our weaknesses. We may talk a big game when life is easy, but when the trials come, just like Peter, we could find ourselves doing the opposite of what thought we would do.

When Peter saw Jesus look at him after the rooster crowed (read in Luke 22:60-62), Peter was deeply troubled and wept bitterly. He finally recognized his weakness, his humanness and came to a place of repentance before God. What Satan used to try to destroy Peter, it actually ended up sifting Peter and bringing him into deeper intimacy with God. 

Once we see God's grace and willingness to forgive us in our weak times, something inside of us changes that wasn't there before we "failed". We then feel compelled to help those who are in similar situations and let them know that there is hope in Christ.

And I do really like the last part in this verse. "...when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren".  

After we have failed in some way in our walk and then see God accept us back by His grace, only then we really know how to support and strengthen others in their struggles. This is how God can use our failings for His glory. Our failings become a testimony to His faithfulness and our testimony encourages and strengthens others who have walked the same road as we once did. In addition, we gain grace for people who have "failed" in similar ways as we did and we can pour love out to them, guide them, teach them and strengthen them just as God did in our lives. 

We essentially impart to people what God did in us, but we have to get out and come to a place of healing to do this.

This is what God shared with me while laying down with a migraine. God was telling me exactly what was going on here because things have been so dark. What Satan used to try to destroy me, ultimately, it is pushing me into answering the call God has on my life. I just hope I can continue on because I don't feel like I can. Please pray for me and my husband. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Times When it Hurts

Some times the only way to 'feel' God's love is by simply remembering what Jesus did for us on the cross. It isn't about a feeling. It isn't about a hope in your heart. Sometimes there really is no other feeling that verifies it, but remembering what the Word says. No comfort. No warmth. I hope that this changes when I'm out of the wilderness, but in this season God has never been "Daddy" to me as some like to call Him. He has in fact been very distant in times when I wanted Him close. And yet I do know He is here. He knows I'm writing this post, but He has chosen not to make Himself known. He has been very quiet in the toughest times when we had no way to pay for our mortgage. He has been very quiet when we were going to lose our car insurance. He has been very quiet when we were going to have our natural gas turned off and electricity turned off.

Then to be told that God has you here and is withholding on purpose, it's hard to understand. It's hard not to get mad at times. It's hard to continue to remember that God is good. Sometimes the lines blur and you don't know who or what you are fighting. It's hard to accept. It's certainly not the prosperity God that the Western church preaches. It's not the "healing is always on" God that the Western church preaches.

The other day I was reading Job and was seeing that God had been distant throughout Job's struggle as well. However we know at the end when God restored everything to Job, that He in fact wasn't distant. He was listening to every single word him and his friends were saying. He was involved but was silent. Imagine though that Job didn't have Jesus Christ as His Lord and savior. The Messiah was yet a promise far off in the future. He didn't have the privilege to know God's love through the sacrifice that Jesus would make for us. His friends words did not help either.

This has been the hardest year of my life. Prior to that, 2013 was the hardest. Prior to that 2012. Prior to that 2011. etc It feels like God is trying to destroy me. It feels like he wants to watch me suffer to the point of absolute destitute. In this season I've been pondering more about what are our needs? Is clothing really a need when you have clothes, even if they are 6 years old and have holes? Is a house a need, maybe a shelter works well enough? Heating? Light bulbs? Trash service? Hot water? Food? Internet? Cable? Phone?

Sometimes God won't always be there cheering you on and embracing you. Sometimes he will choose to step aside and see what you do...

I can look to Jesus' wilderness and even though we don't know what happened during the full 40 days, Jesus, the perfect, sinless, Son of God was likely broken physically, mentally and emotionally to prepare Him. We also know that Apostle Paul had some sort of wilderness for 3 years (read in Galatians 1:11-24), but again we know of no specifics on it. There seemed to be some sort of preparation for him too.

Every day is a battle. Every day is tears. Every day is pain. Every day the sky feels like it's falling.

And yet God gave us promises of life, strength and rest. He said we were examples. He said that we were like the green leaf in drought that did not wither. He said that we were going to be those who build mature Christians. He said that we would be healed. He said that our needs would be met in this season.

I just didn't realize what was going to happen in between, to get to these promises. No one prepared me properly. I was sold a false gospel and told everything would be better after I gave my life to Jesus.

God knew what was to come because He called us here to stand. It doesn't make it any easier though as I write this crying my eyes out.

People say God won't do this. I don't know. One thing I do know now, is there is a very high price to pay to be used of God. Yes there is a cost. Yes there is sacrifice. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When God Calls You to Stand in the Wilderness

When God calls you to stand in a wilderness, it's not fun. It is not pretty. It is not a game. You can fall away from the faith during this time if you mistakenly remove the full armor of God by trying to do things your own way. Regardless of how alone you may feel, God is there every step along the way protecting you, providing for you and also teaching you things that can't be established elsewhere. You are in good company, but you must stay alert and obey God every step of the way. If you fall down as I have along the way, just get back up and run back to Jesus.

For a long time, I didn't realize we were in a wilderness. I thought I was looking for the anointed man to pray for me to get healed. I thought that I just needed to get my healing theology settled and then I would be healed. I thought that I had missed it somewhere along the way. We had these amazing prophetic words spoken to us over 2 years ago talking about a time where we were obviously healed and I just could not understand where we went wrong or what we possibly did to miss it. We walked to the best of our ability and generally felt like we were obeying God... So what was going on?

That's when I looked around and realized, Duh you've been in the wilderness all along. The dry earth, spiny shrubs and fierce animals all around....Yep all this time I've been in the wilderness, but couldn't recognize it. haha The questioning, the reasoning, the crying, the doubting, the anger, the frustration, the unknown, the helplessness and much more. This is where your faith is tested and God builds you, matures you and fashions you into what He has for your life.

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

James 1:2-4
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Many say God can't or won't use sickness as a wilderness in a person's life. Many say that healing is right now, always flowing, so just receive. I believed that for a long time and this is actually where it lead me. After struggling for more than 20 months in trying to understand what was going on, I am glad to know that we were in the wilderness all along. Why? Because it gives me hope and a satisfaction that there is an end and that God has been in this the whole time! When God has you in a wilderness, He really is with you every step of the way. Through your goof ups, triumphs, failures, sadness, tears and pain. When Elijah was in his wilderness (read in 1 Kings 17), God provided water for him at the brook Cherith and commanded ravens to bring him food each day. Then once the brook dried up due to the drought, God sent him packing to the next place where he would live off of a handful of flour in a jar and some oil in a jug for years. Even though things looked dreary, God was there.

So for me, realizing that God has been guiding our footsteps in this journey and it wasn't just me off doing my own thing, losing my way and following my flesh, I have to tell you it was extremely uplifting, hopeful and reassuring. God used our journey in pursuing Jesus as our healer as a time for Him to build me, teach me, establish me, change me, tear things down in me, build things back up in me and for me to get to know Him.

God refrained telling us we were in a wilderness because I don't think I would have accepted it. For me it is much easier to believe a wilderness season could stem from a loss of job, death of a friend, being burned out in ministry or God bringing you into a new place, but no way would He use sickness! Even though the signs were written on the wall, I didn't want to look at them because it challenged some of my beliefs of what God would do in a person's life with sickness. Generally speaking I do not believe that God made me sick, but God used this journey in us to conform us to the image of His son.

Romans 8: 28-30
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

So I am here now, but if I continuously look back to see what I could have done is fruitless and leads to guilt and condemnation. It keeps a person from moving forward and just keeps them walking around in circles. If Elijah had left the widow's house to go back to the brook which may have been familiar to him, it would not have been flowing with water again and the ravens would not have brought him food. God did that only for a time and then told Elijah to move on. He didn't tell Elijah to hit a rock or speak to a rock to make water like he did with Moses, he told him to move on and go forward to the widow's house.

We have to follow God's leads wherever that takes us even if it challenges us and makes us feel uncomfortable or if it is different than what others around us are doing.

When we find ourselves in a wilderness, we can't keep looking back at what God did for us in a past season or earlier in the season and try to make it work again. Sometimes we have to let go of our comforts and continue on to the next area God has for us. He wants us to walk forward with Him and move from there. Many times it really will be out of our comfort zones and it won't feel so good at first and this part of the testing of our faith. Many may actually rebuke it as if it's the enemy (haha!!), but it may be God leading us away from everything we once knew and telling us to walk this way over here instead of the path many others went down before us. This is what God did with Abraham, telling him to leave his family and his country to move into new land where he promises to bless him and make him a nation (read in Genesis 12:1-3).

Just in the last 4 months, I have finally come to a place where I am OK with the idea that God has essentially been saying, "not yet" when we went to all of those healing meetings. He used those healing meetings and ministers to get me to start asking questions, to get fed up with it all and to seek Him in a much deeper way.  He kept us here for a short while to build something in us that otherwise would not have been in us because I never would have started questioning things.

Trust me though I don't look at this in a prideful way, but really in just shock and awe of God has done. He took me who was a borderline atheist who wanted nothing to do with God and ministry and has turned me into a Born again Jesus preaching madwoman. haha!

It has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination because our wilderness is not just spiritual, financial and emotional, but also physical. We both have physical conditions that can only be healed by God. It is even tougher when you suffer from symptoms daily and are robbed of any way to work to provide for yourself. I had to surrender everything to God and just let Him do what He wanted to do in our lives. We are completely dependent on God for all of our needs in this season any way...I really mean that too and he has provided. If I look at it selfishly for a moment, how can I run from the only one who can help? How can I say no to the only one who has the power and authority to heal me and give me the life He has promised me?

1 Peter 1:6-7
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ...

I have been quite distressed at times. I have felt extremely tested and tried to the point of brokenness not once, not twice, but more like ten times. I don't know why we have been tested in this way, but I give praise and glory and honor to God for what He has done. Maybe some day in the future I will be able to look back and say, "Oh yes now I see why God did this". As for now, I have to continue to trust Him because we are still in the wilderness and He is our only way out of the wilderness. A friend came over and prayed for us and she said, "you won't fall off the cliff". That has always been something I would say, "God don't let us fall off the cliff, we have been hanging on to you". We won't fall off the cliff because God is here with us. It's not because of something that I am doing or because I have such amazing faith. I generally don't look at myself as someone who has great faith. haha! It's completely and entirely because God is in this. He is leading us every step of the way and I just put my simple faith and trust in God.

And even though I've come to a place where I'm spiritually OK that God had us here and was doing something in our lives, I am also very ready to move on and for healing to take place in our bodies. It is time Oh Lord for the promises in our life to be fulfilled. I want to be able to answer the call God has in my life and to start walking out what He has been showing me.

Psalm 143:7-11
Answer me speedily, O Lord;
My spirit fails!
Do not hide Your face from me,
Lest I be like those who go down into the pit.
Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You.
Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies;
In You I take shelter.
10 Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Your Spirit is good.
Lead me in the land of uprightness.
11 Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake!
For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.

  This song came on Spotify as I was writing this and it seemed quite appropriate. Sometimes God says, "stay"! Sometimes God says, "go"! We have to listen to Him and follow appropriately.