SIMPLE TRUTHS ◽ ENCOURAGEMENT
As a Christian I have always found tremendous peace in the fact that no matter what happens, all I have to do is choose to let go of all my problems to my Savior who died on the cross for me to have that peace that passes all understanding. I don’t always make that choice immediately but I do usually make it relatively quickly. During those times, I often think of the sentiment of religion being the opiate of the masses, using my faith, trusting in it takes away the pain that so often comes with living life on this side of heaven. I am not ashamed of it and everyone (and I mean everyone) has the same choice, but not all choose faith as their option. Recently, I was faced with a deep loss of expectation that I did handle the way I have handled the curve balls life often brings. As a result, I struggled with every facet of my life and I am now just beginning to find the peace that has been my comfort, but the experience taught me some things about myself and my faith.
First, let me confess that for the last four months or so I lived the life of a hypocrite and I don’t say that lightly.
For years I worked the youth at our church and one of the things that I strived to help them understand is what hypocrite truly means. I stressed that being a hypocrite is judging or giving someone advice about something that you are actively and participating in yourself. What it is not is giving some guidance in a situation that you yourself might be struggling with. We all have our stumbling blocks, we know what to do and most times we choose the right thing. But every once in a while we might not; and when we do, we are repentant and truly work to avoid making that choice again.
For me, I purposely chose not to follow the advice that I have for years given to someone who has come to me for advice when struggling with a difficult season in their life. When I finally shared this with my life group members, one of them asked me if I was angry with God and my answer was, “No.” I was not angry with God during this time. I often talked to Him and acknowledged the moments where I felt He was talking to me. I have since realized that I was in a season of mourning and grief over something that was deeply fundamental to me and having things not turn out the way I wanted was very painful for me. Even though I know my Heavenly Father wanted me to trust Him with my pain, I did not for a long time. However, He continued to meet me where I was.
Second confession…I systematically cut off people in my life that I knew would bring me comfort through God’s word. I did not want to let go of my grief and in doing so I engaged in the single greatest moment of escapism in my life. I knew it and I did not care. I did not care that it was impacting how I went about doing my job. I just did the minimum to get by and came home and lost myself in the one thing that made me happy, reading. In so doing, I was not Erica, hurting and struggling to deal with the loss of expectations. I was whatever character I was reading at the time, strong, smart and overcoming all the obstacles to achieve the final goal. As the next character I knew I would not fail, because the heroine never fails in their story. Luckily, I have a few heroines in my life, who although were being pushed away by me, knew how to pray and continue to surround me in prayers.
During this season, I was putting myself in a truly vulnerable position. There is a verse that talks about the enemy roaming around looking for those he can devour (1 Peter 5:8) and I did that to myself. I was the sheep that voluntarily separated myself from the herd. I chose to lick my wounds alone instead of trusting the God who has always proven to be faithful. Because of this choice, I made it so much easier for the enemy to target and attack me, but I also learned an irrefutable truth: greater is He that is in me that he that in the world.
Even after weeks and months of closing myself off from my God, I learned that my faith is not something I establish daily; it is a knowledge that is so IN me that it cannot be diminished in seasons of famine, even if it was a self-induced famine. I know this because in the times of my greatest vulnerability I never once was tempted by my greatest stumbling block. The chains that my Father broke in my life over a year ago were truly broken. The astounding thing is that this deliverance was the basis of the lost expectations that sent me down the tunnels of despair in the first place.
One of the hardest things about hearing from God is not applying our expectations to His message. The good news is that through it all, God knew my heart to know and understand Him in this situation even when it looked even to me that I just wanted to wallow in my pain. I guess my final message would be this...
If we love Him, because we know He loves us, we have to trust that who is IN us is GREATER than who is in this world, and that includes this flesh we wear. God is greater than our own doubts, fears, struggles and pain, He is greater than our own understanding of even ourselves.