But those moments of faith were not able to stand against each fresh wave of pain and disappointment. The disappointment was often with myself. Why can I not learn the lesson and move on? Why am I so weak? Why can't I have a steadfast heart?
In the past week or so, I did have some breakthroughs. I could feel God changing my heart, and it excited me. But the enemy redoubled his efforts, and I felt so beaten down that I longed for heaven. "I'm so tired," I sobbed to God. "I'm tired of hurting, hurting, hurting. This is too hard for me.... No, I know your plan is good. Not my will, but yours. But please help me see past this storm to believe I will have joy again."
On one of those down days, I called one of my dear aunts. She prayed with me and really encouraged me, and she admonished me to reach out to friends and family for prayer when I am down. So I did that. I sent texts to all my friends when my heart was hurting. I held hands with my sister and prayed for deliverance. And I called two other aunts when I felt like giving up. Through all of that, I received just enough encouragement to go on a little longer.
And then came yesterday. Oh, hallelujah! It started in the morning when my dear friend Gentle phoned to let me know she'd been praying for me the day before. That alone encouraged me because I hadn't told her how despondent I'd felt on Wednesday. She said she asked God for a verse to pray over me, and he gave her Deuteronomy 30:11-13, which at first didn't make a lot of sense to her:
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
It took her quite awhile to figure out why the verse sounded so familiar; she had seen it in Joyce Meyer's Battlefield of the Mind. That book happened to be sitting on her nightstand, and she flipped through it eagerly, only to find the verse inside an entire chapter devoted to why God allows us to walk through difficult times.
So yesterday morning, Gentle read me the verses and some of the chapter from the Battlefield book, which she is going to lend me. I was greatly encouraged, but still felt that dull ache in my heart.
In the afternoon, I found a confirmation of the word God gave Gentle from a most unlikely source, an email from Ethan's percussion teacher. At the end of all the band business for the coming weeks, he wrote a couple of paragraphs about how the kids have been responding to the challenges of their rigorous practice and performance schedule. This sentence in particular leapt off the screen and stirred something in my spirit:
I aim to create an opportunity for the students to feel like they are being pushed too hard towards something they cannot achieve only for them to find out that they have achieved what they thought not possible and that in the end anything is possible.
I was floored. I thanked God profusely for this confirmation and for what He is going to achieve in me through this thing that I thought was too difficult for me. God, you are so good! I thought.
I guess God knows me well enough to know that delivering a message two times in one day wasn't quite enough. In order for it to really get planted in my spirit and burst into bloom, I needed to hear it a third time.
I had missed my morning quiet time yesterday because I'd had insomnia the night before, so I planned to do my Bible study last night. But the evening didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped because Bill is out of town, and it just takes me a lot longer to get through all the chores and routines without him. So by the time I had a chance to work on my Bible study it was nearly 10:00, the bedtime I'd set for myself.
I hemmed and hawed. I needed my sleep. I'd lost sleep the night before, and I know that I don't deal as well with stresses and challenges when I'm tired. But I needed to hear from God. I don't deal well at all with challenges and stresses when I haven't spent time with God.
"I love you more than sleep," I said at last, settling crosslegged on the floor of my closet with my Bible and Beth Moore's Breaking Free study, which has been a lifeline to me during these struggles. The topic for the day was The Display of His Glory.
I came wide awake when I read these sentences in paragraph two:
...God's glory [is] the way He makes Himself known or shows Himself mighty. Therefore, when God seeks to glorify Himself through an individual, He proves who He is by causing the believer to be what is otherwise impossible and to do what is otherwise impossible.Three times, the same message! I read on feverishly.
I found that, according to 2 Corinthians 4:7, God's glory that shines through us is held in our earthly bodies, "jars of clay," to show "that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
Of course! I thought. This is why I've been so weak. So that I would know it is only God's power that delivers me, not my own strength. Of course this trial is too difficult to me. That's why God has not left me to go through it alone.
I wanted to stop right there and glory in this knowledge, but I just had to keep reading.
Beth led me through the account of the Israelites crying out to God for deliverance from their slavery (Exodus 2). I read about God striking down the firstborn of all the Egyptians while passing over the Israelites and about Pharaoh letting them go (Exodus 12). And then I read about how they left loaded down with the riches of their enemies, willingly handed over: gold, silver, jewelry, costly fabrics.
Next came a quote from Streams in the Desert, by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman:
The gospel is so arranged and the gift of God so great that you may take the very enemies that fight you and the forces that are arrayed against you and make them steps up to the very gates of heaven and into the presence of God.... God wants every one of his children to be more than a conqueror.... You know when one army is more than conqueror it is likely to drive the other from the field, to get all the ammunition, the food and supplies, and to take posessession of the whole.... There are spoils to be taken!
Now, this next part of the story may shock you. You might even think I'm a lunatic. But I'm willing to take that chance....
When I read the part about stepping all over my enemy and up to the very gates of heaven, I cried out, "Hallelujah!" And then I read it again. And again. And then I stood up in my closet and danced for joy. I spun in circles and jumped up and down and laughed. I cried and laughed some more. And then I praised God for about 20 minutes.
"Yes, yes!" I repeated over and over. "I am more than a conqueror through Jesus who loves me!"
I'm sure this trial is far from over, but I WILL hang onto this treasure from the darkness. Not only am I going to survive this trial, but when I come out on the other side, I will be stronger than ever before. And not only that, but the things that the enemy has been trying to steal with me, God will restore them double. I don't know how that works in this case, but I believe it. I am going to emerge from this dark valley loaded down with riches, the spoils from my enemy who thought he would destroy me.
Again, I wanted to just go to bed and fall asleep rejoicing, but I felt compelled to read on. And I'm glad I did, because then I saw the most delicious irony as I read on about the deliverance of the Israelites (Exodus 35). Guess what they did with all that plunder? They gave it right back to God. They freely offered gold, silver, bronze, fine yarns and linens, and acacia wood for the tabernacle and its furnishings. They gave olive oil and spices for the anointing oil and the incense. And they gave precious stones to be mounted on the priests' garments.
So they took the possessions of their enemies and used them to glorify God! Hallelujah!
And that, my friends, is why I sat down at 6:30 in the morning to tell you about all of this. I want God to be glorified through my life. I want to tell others of his all-surpassing power, so that other people who are suffering devastating trials can find the courage to believe their deliverance is coming. Consider yourself told.