Thursday, February 13, 2014

Peace In The Darkness

I just can't believe
Where my life was at
All that I know is that my heart was broken
And I don't ever want to go back

Those lyrics are from a new MercyMe song called "Shake" - a song that I don't truly care for. Maybe if I liked to dance I could appreciate the song in its entirety, but no. However, I do love the first four lines. This is how I feel. Often, I find myself comparing where I was to where I am now. Not just during the affair until now, but also as I grew up and began my walk with Christ. I see who I was in college, and how much I have changed. How much my faith and my understanding of God has grown. I suppose that's quite normal. It's just that I remember that idealistic college girl who took the Bible at its word, didn't question anything God said in it, and dreamed of some day working in some remote Indian village in another country.

And while I still take the Bible as truth without questioning if this is true or that, or trying to argue theology (because I just don't care-God is who He says He is, the Bible is true, Jesus is my Savior-that's enough for me), I just never imagined my life turning out the way it has. I suppose that is the folly in grand expectations or trying to actually plan out your life. We really can't know what will happen day to day. We can't predict what situations will arise in our lives that will change our dreams and goals.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with my desire to be a missionary on some foreign field. In fact, that dream is still in my heart. It's just that as life happened and circumstances evolved, my goals changed. I married young (age 19) and had four children, relatively close together. Sure, some families take their young children on the mission field and do quite well raising them. But I can see, looking back, I wasn't ready. There is a reason that God did not open up doors for Kris and I to minister to others in that way.

I think that God knew the path that Kris and I would take. I think He was able to foresee that had we been on a mission field somewhere, our ministry would have been false. Kris with his hidden addiction could not possibly have had the same impact then as he can now, as he experiences freedom from something that held him captive for over 20 years. And me? Would I have committed adultery if our lives had been played out somewhere else? It's hard to say. Perhaps I would have chosen some other outlet for my lack of faith in God and the devastation that Kris' addiction brought into our lives. I don't think that just because we were missionaries my heart would have held onto hope. Obviously there is no way of knowing what would have happened. Perhaps Kris would have found freedom sooner. Who knows, but God?

The point is we were not ready.

And I see that now.

And I am grateful that God called us to stay where we were (physically speaking). Because I look at where Kris and I are now as a couple and spiritually, and I see how much more effective we can be in ministering to others and sharing the love and grace of God, and the freedom found in Christ. Because God carried us through all of the pain and sin and shame.

Praise the Lord; praise God our Savior! For each day He carries us in his arms.
Psalm 68:19

Kris and I began reading "Jesus Calling," a devotional book by Sarah Young. And the verses these last few days have really spoken to where my heart is right now. One in particular just really summed up the most detrimental mistake I made almost 9 years ago, when I shut down and pushed away Kris and God.

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:3

Consider Christ, so that you do not give up. Consider the deep love he had, willingly sacrificing his life for me, because it is only in doing that that you can find strength to keep going, to hold tightly to hope. The same day that verse was in the devotion, a line from the book really struck both Kris and me. The book is written as if God is talking directly to us, which is an interesting alternative to a devotional that sounds like the author is speaking words of wisdom. This book allows you to really feel as if God himself is speaking the words, and perhaps he really is, directly into our hearts. This is what we read:

Hardships are part of the journey too. I mete them out ever so carefully, in just the right dosage, with a tenderness you can hardly imagine. Do not recoil from afflictions, since they are among My most favored gifts. Trust Me and don't be afraid, for I am your Strength and Song.

Have you ever thought about seeing your problems in this light? I mean, can you imagine running headlong into troubles, into the pain of life, knowing that God is carrying you? Knowing that you can trust him, that he drives out fear, and that he will give you strength to endure whatever hardships you face? I love that the author imagines God allowing certain trials in our lives, but with a tenderness, a loving concern for ensuring that we are not burdened beyond what he can carry us through. Just the realization that hardships are part of the journey is something to consider.

Just because we follow Christ doesn't mean we are going to be exempt from pain. It is part of life. It is actually a large part of life. Think about how God handled Adam and Eve in their sin. Sin brought pain. It brought hardship. It brought afflictions. It is normal. Consider this, also from "Jesus Calling":

On darker days, My Peace stands out in sharp contrast to your circumstances. See times of darkness as opportunities for My Light to shine in transcendent splendor. I am training you to practice Peace that overpowers not grow weary and lose heart.

I don't know about you, but I would LOVE to have peace that overpowers the pain! But this words above seem to indicate that it isn't something that will come overnight. It's something we have to practice. We have to train ourselves to recognize God in the dark times, and to hear His voice above all the others that would try to take our focus from Him. It is only when we take our eyes off of Jesus (Peter stepping out of the boat onto the water) that we no longer have strength to endure the trials of life.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

The only way to have peace in the darkness is to keep our eyes on the only True Light.

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