Tuesday morning, I awakened at 3:30 in the morning and couldn't go back to sleep. I finally got up and listed all the areas of worry that were on my mind. I have tried to make it a habit to reject thoughts of worry, fear and discouragement. One of the ways I have dealt with these thoughts is by remembering scripture, thanking and praising the Lord for what He is and what He has provided. So I spent quite a while acknowledging His love and light and beauty and different passages that had spoken to my heart. Then I listed out to Him all the areas that were worrying me! By morning time, as everyone began to awaken, I was at least back to neutral. But, first thing off the bat, as I had made Joy a piece of peanut butter toast to eat in the car on the way to a half-day computer camp, I spilled her drink all over my lap and started off in the car wet. Then on the way down the freeway, after I had picked up her friend, I was pulled over by a policewoman. My adrenalin shot up! Seems she was stopping people and asking them why they weren't getting over in the left lane if there was a policeman on the side of the road. I asked her if she had seen the truck with trailer just left of me. She said she had, but thought maybe I would have had time to get safely over in the left lane. "I guess you didn't have time. But is your insurance current?" "Yes, I said, as I showed her all the cards. (thanks to Clay who is organized!) Well, let me check your record. (So we waited while she checked on my record as the minutes clicked off!) "Well, I guess you are clean. You can go."
Came back home and had a looooonnnnnng conversation with Clay before he left for work. He was feeling quite down about all the things I was worried about. When my husband is down and I try to lift him up, it can tempt me to feel quite down as I love him and feel responsible for his well-being. (Finding an apartment for Nate in NYCity that he can afford, should we send him there? What about his loan? Will he be able to pay it off? What about Joel? Will he be able to find a job and room mate? Should he move to Nashville or work and complete his degree at home or go to school in Boston? What about all the finances in that? What about all the financial issues facing us? House, cars, medical? printing and publishing and staff? The impending medical issues for a couple of family members? The bad economy--will Whole Heart go under if women quit coming to our conferences? If supporters quit believing in our ministry? How will we help our college age kids who are struggling so hard? What about Mom--will she have to move to a nursing home against her will with her increasing health problems?
The next chain of thoughts after Clay went to the office was something like this, "I am so tired. Everyone takes from me--my children, my husband, the women I minister to, my staff, my friends. But, I never have a break. Lord, do you even care that I have been faithful all these years? What about all the hours and hours I have prayed? Am I invisible to you? I need to see you do something today to show me that you are real and that you still care. And so on!"
I call this the Elijah syndrome. I, alone, am faithful! Well, sometimes it does seem as if us moms are carrying the world on our shoulders. And I am convinced I have had much more on my shoulders than most other people! (It is how we feel--baby years there is pregnancy, ear infections, behavioral issues, learning to give up all of your rights, housework, too much to be done, not finding other believers that have our values, isolation--and then the universal areas that plague us through all seasons--finances, loneliness, marital stress and strain, moving, husband's jobs, problems at church, depression and so on.)
I think, in general, American culture sells us a bill of goods--if you just have the right things, or right home, or good figure or exercise program, or find the right school or right homeschooling resources, or if my husband or children would just change, then I would be happy and then I could deal with my life. The commercials and magazines promise easy solutions.
But in reality, we are in a war. Jesus said, "In this world, you have tribulation. In this world you will be persecuted. Lay up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal." None of what he said promised a panacea in this world. So, after I had some good cries and felt the depth of my discouragement fully, yesterday, I remembered some things that have really helped. 1. Satan is a father of lies and he whispers false thoughts about God and causes us to doubt God's goodness. In John 8:44, Jesus says to the Pharisees, "You are of your father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father, who was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar and the father of lies!"
I Peter 5:8 tells us that we are to "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."
In Genesis, the very first time we see temptation from Satan to Adam and Eve, Satan casts a shadow of doubt over God's goodness. "Indeed has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree in the garden.'?" Then he proceeds to lie, "You shall surely not die. For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Satan wants us to think we cannot trust or believe in God because of all the difficult things that are happening in our lives. He also tempted Job that way. So we must know that much of our emotional battle as women is to fight against the feelings and thoughts that tempt us to think badly about God and His provision. He tempted Jesus and Peter, he will tempt us.
2. Satan particularly hates moms who are raising godly children. Revelation 12: 12 tells us, "Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time." Great wrath! But in verse 17, it goes on to say, "And the dragon (Satan) was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimonies." Satan is making war with the offspring--our children--especially those who keep the commandments of God!
3. Realistically recognizing that there is a battle every day and understanding the implications in our life. I am so engulfed with the details of daily life, that I forget that I am changing eternity by bringing God's excellence and character and truth to bear every minute of every day when I display His attributes--even in the small ways I relate to them and keep my home a life-giving place as well as the attitudes I have about work and my husband and life and challenges! But Paul, who loved and served God so very passionately, warns us:
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual fores of wickedness in the heavenly places. therefore, take up the full aror of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day and having done everything to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; and in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the Helmet of Salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God."
I find that it is in my heart, my thoughts where I am either totally defeated or strengthened. I need to hold up the shield of faith--God will provide, I believe He will take care of me, living by fear cannot exist with faith. I have His favor and understanding and He will provide my needs in His time. God is faithful. I pledge my allegiance today to him.
Interestingly, Peter said pretty much the same thing that Paul said, and we know both of them had very challenging lives. He says, "But resist him, (satan), firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren throughout the world."
All of us are experiencing the same kinds of trials. Many sweet moms are struggling against the work load, the fusses, the loneliness, the pressures, the piles and the emotions. But those of us who push through, stand strong in faith, resist temptation and negative, dark thoughts, are joining with the over-comers--those sweet believers whose lives will bring great glory to God when we see Him face to face.
So, today, I am approaching all the same pressures, but today, I am putting up my shield of faith and letting God carry my issues. What I practice, I will become. If I practice faith, I will become more a person of strong faith. If I practice negativity and doubt, I will become depressed as I quench the Spirit. Sometimes it is moment by moment, but already I am moving toward a place of His peace where He lives. May he give His sweet grace and an abundance of His gracious love to all of you today!
I would so appreciate your prayers for Clay and me as we move into strategic meetings, relationships, decisions and circumstances that God's wisdom and ways would prevail. Thanks so very much.
I have already prayed for you who will read these words. You are indeed precious to Him and your work is noticed and oh so important! Bless you!