Stories. We all have one. Our stories may be of personal loss or rejection, stories of seemingly unremitting pain and suffering, stories of overwhelming health issues, or stories of debilitating emotional trauma–whether it be in our own lives or in the lives of our loved ones. Haven’t we all experienced circumstances so far beyond our control that we grasped for any hope we could find to cling to? Some of us ask God, “Why?”. Some of us beg God for relief and frantically search for a way out. Some of us let go of the small tendril of faith we so desperately clung to after God didn’t answer our prayers as we thought He should.
This is my story…and right now, I’m arguing with God about sharing it. I don’t want to. It hurts too much to write this and have to relive the pain. So, I am praying over every word I write that God will use my story, without sharing too many details, to encourage someone, bring hope to someone, or use it to deepen someone’s faith to just rest in the arms of Jesus.
This season of my life has been one of “stripping away”…and I thank God for it. Every illusion I had lived under about myself and and my purpose was completely obliterated. All pretense was shattered as if a wrecking ball had been taken to my life. Everything I believed in about my identity as a woman and as a child of God lay in an ash heap scattered at my feet. Fear, false guilt, and overwhelming stress became my constant companions as the “fixer” in me realized I couldn’t fix anything. One friend went so far as to nickname me “Jobette”, referring to Job in the Bible. Diagnosed with psoriasis, I was tempted to get a “potsherd to scrape myself with while I was sitting among the ashes” (Job 2: 8). It’s funny now, but I promise you it wasn’t at the time!
I grew accustomed to waking each morning with a sense of dread and urgency, not knowing what shoe was going to drop next or how I could fix it. I would cry out to God, pacing and praying, “How, Lord, how could this happen?”. There were times I would beg Him, “Just take me…” when I didn’t think I could face another day. There were times when the only prayer I could squeeze out was, “Thy will be done”. Then, my ever-faithful God would gently remind me that every emotion, every fear, and every sin of every man was endured by my Precious Savior on the Cross. How could I complain and allow myself to sink into despair when Jesus paid the ultimate price for my salvation? Jesus was spat on and reviled. He suffered rejection, slander, torturous physical pain, and ultimately a horrific death for no other reason than He loves you and me. I began to do much soul-searching as God slowly started revealing and healing the broken pieces of my faith and my life by shining His light into every damaged crack and crevice of my heart.
As painful as it has been, I am learning more and more what it means to be completely submissive to God, to watch for and to catch glimpses of His mighty hand at work in my life and in the lives of those around me, and to rejoice in all circumstances as Paul teaches, because I now know, without a doubt, that God will never leave me or forsake me. God’s love for me is not dependent on me-what I say or what I do or what I write. He loved me first and He loves me just as I am. He calls me by name. He loves me so much that He, in His sovereignty, allows and engineers every circumstance, the good, the bad, and the ugly, to bring me closer and closer to Him for one purpose only- to keep me completely dependent upon Him and to bring glory to His name.
I read a great devotional one morning that changed everything for me. I started praying for God not to change my circumstances, but…to make my circumstances count in the life of someone else. I prayed that God would give me spiritual eyes to see others as He sees them and to give me more and more compassion and love for others as only He can give. I started praying that I would begin to live intentionally-looking for Him to show up even in the smallest of details. I would talk to a homeless person and be reminded of how blessed I am. I would read articles on the horrific persecution of Christians around the world and realize that our brothers and sisters were enduring true suffering in the name of Jesus and never wavering in their faith-and their faith would strengthen mine. God began putting precious souls in my life for me to minister to and to minister to me. I learned that my joy in life is not dependent on my circumstances but only on recognizing and acknowledging from a grateful heart every good thing from above that God has blessed me with.
God is more than abundantly answering my prayers, even though; some of my circumstances haven’t changed (I am still itching with psoriasis!). But, this I know to the core of my soul. God is more than able to make my life count for His glory and for His praise if I am truly obedient to Him and seeking His will. I pray daily that He align my heart with His desires, not mine. I now wake up every morning with a sense of expectancy rather than dread at what the day will bring. That sense of urgency I always had to “fix things” has been replaced with learning to wait patiently– trusting in God’s perfect timing and plan, knowing that nothing can thwart His purposes.
Do I have a long way to go? Sure. But, I trust God to keep me in His magnificent love. Christ died for me. He rose again on the third day for me so that I might have, right now, eternal life with Him. He is my best and only hope in this broken world.
My story is not unique. As I wrote in the beginning, every one has a story. I have a choice, though. I can let my story define who I am or I can trust in who God says I am. I choose to trust God. This I also know without a shadow of a doubt. Jesus will make any and all circumstances in your life count, too, if you let Him. So, don’t give up! Don’t let go of that small tendril of faith you are so desperately clinging to. I truly believe God has a purpose and a plan for you beyond your wildest imagination, even if you can’t see it yet. He loves you with an indescribable love. Just lean in and trust in His love and watch Him go to work. Our God is more than capable of turning your “ashes into beauty”.
By the way, writing this wasn’t painful at all. Instead, God brought to mind so many instances I have stood in amazement at the revelation of His unfathomable grace, lovingkindness, and mercy. He makes me want to sing…
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.