Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Story of God Showing Up

This is the story of God turning tears of despair into tears of joy. Where should I begin?

My faith has been a struggle. The documentation of it on this blog is only the tip of the iceberg. I have been in an ongoing darkness from God for the past 3 years. And no, I'm not exaggerating. Yes, there were times of hope and small signs that it wasn't all for naught, but in general, it was just dark. I just want to preface this entire post with this sentiment. God did not quickly come to my aid, he didn't let me struggle for a few weeks and then reveal himself. This has been the most painful experience of my life. And if any of you are struggling with something similar, waiting on God to show up, I want this to encourage you, not discourage you. I get really discouraged when I hear someone who struggled for a month or two, or even 6 months, but then God rescued them (not that there is anything wrong with that! A one month struggle is a struggle none the less). I just would think, "What the hell? Why am I STILL struggling and hearing nothing God?" It wasn't fair to me. So, if that's you, know that that's not this story. This isn't a story of a quick fix.

Now. Let me begin...For a long time, I've doubted God and his plans and ways. I mean, is it really best to let someone not hear from you for 3 years? Those are 3 years I could have been witnessing to other people! Years I could have been praying for others! That lack of trust is what consumed the first 2.5 years. I couldn't even attend church because I was PISSED at God. Worship songs just made me want to scream "THAT'S NOT TRUE!!! You really don't show up or love us that much!".

Then, these last 6 months came along. And I doubted the very existence of God. That's not a fun place to be. I mean, at this point I hadn't felt the presence of God in almost 3 years, what else was I supposed to think? Lucky for me, I was smack dab in the middle of a 9 month theological development class that taught me what the bible said about EVERYTHING. But what does that teaching mean if you don't fully believe any of it?

Somehow, wouldn't you know it, God knew what he was doing.

God knew that if I continued to hear over and over that reading His Word was the only way to guarantee hearing from him, that I would eventually try it. And so, for the past 2 months, that's what I've been trying.

Let's jump to last Saturday afternoon.

That morning I read in Jeremiah 31:9 this, "Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They will walk beside quiet streams and on smooth paths where they will not stumble. For I am Israel's father and Ephraim is my oldest child." The people of Israel were in the dark for FORTY years. So yeah, I suppose 3 years is nothing in comparison to that! But God had this hope for Israel, he had future plans of good for them. And so that morning as I journaled, I prayed that God would give me tears of joy instead of tears of despair. That he would bring me to those quiet streams and smooth paths, I am so tired of stumbling. I ended my prayer with, "Guide me through my day, confirm my faith."

......later that day.......

I was folding laundry in my bedroom while listening to this sermon called How We Are Saved that Matt Carter preached a couple of weeks ago at church. I was listening along the whole time and really enjoying what he had to say, but still not really expecting to hear or feel anything from God afterwards. Well, as Matt's finishing up the sermon (which I highly recommend listening to) he quotes this scripture that I have heard a thousand times.

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" Philippians 1:6

I dropped to my knees immediately, and let out a sob. I can't say that it was new knowledge, I've been told this verse a million times during my struggles. But that Saturday, God used it to speak to me. GOD SPOKE TO ME!!!! HE SHOWED UP!!!!!! I received the tears of joy that I had asked for only just a few hours before! How's that for a turn around time?! Right after this moment, I went to journal my experience because I know I can easily forget moments where God moved. Here is an excerpt:

"These words saved me from despair. Lord imprint them on my heart. I had faith because YOU started it in me, and even though my faith is wavering, you will follow through with me til the end. I'm not out of your grasp, I'm right in the center of you hand." April 19, 2014

And then if all of that wasn't enough, Monday evening I was studying for my upcoming oral exam through my class and I came across this topic of salvation and sanctification. Basically, I was studying if believer's can fall away and then why we struggle.

In 1 Peter 1:5 it says that those, "who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." The word guarded here can mean both "kept from escaping" and "protected from attack". God is preserving believers from escaping out of his kingdom, and he is protecting them from external attacks.

This is why I haven't stopped believing!!! It's not by my own faith or will power. It's because GOD was GUARDING ME. CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS????!!!!

Then the scripture goes on to say, "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:6-8. My faith has been tested and it has resulted in PRAISE and GLORY and HONOR at the revelation that God is REAL! And not only is he real, but HE SHOWS UP.

I am not naive enough to believe that this will be the end of my struggles, but I see a relief. God spoke to me once, and I know where to find him his word.

- Bethany

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