Do not fear, for I am with you! Do not anxiously look about you, For I am your God! I will strengthen you, I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41: 10
Seems so many sweet ones that I get letters from are living overwhelmed, weary, distraught and feeling a failure. How I identify with such women as I look back through the journey of my life. My life has not been what I thought it would be. Being an intentional mother was harder than I could ever imagine and a longer journey than I understood. Staying faithful and giving up my rights in marriage is more challenging than I ever thought it would be. Finances have been difficult; good community in church has been hard to find, things fall apart, Christians are sometimes disappointing and the world is falling apart.
I wish I had understood and known that life would be such a battle when I had started out with my ideals. If I had been prepared to be a warrior, I might have not struggled as much. But I was not prepared or trained to handle real life and certainly had no realistic expectation of what marriage and motherhood would require of me. I just supposed that I would easily be happy, and that I would handle the struggles with ease. And then I came up against my own limitations.
Yet, I can also see that as I met with God and studied scripture I would have the strength to pursue my faith ideals one more day, as it seemed like God never allowed me the grace to give up when I felt like I couldn't go on.
Recently we had lunch with some of our very dearest friends and they related to us a story. A sweet young couple had decided to kayak from Maine down to Florida. They planned their trip, got sponsors to support them, and blogged and wrote about their trip. With all of the seasons and storms, it took them a year to finish their trip.
Storms of great magnitude arose amidst their journey, and would send the waves crashing all around them. Often the rain would pelt continuously on their weary bodies and soak them to the bone. Discouragement would overwhelm them and they would think, "Why did we undertake this? We will never finish. It is too difficult. No one can do it!"
One time, however, in the midst of one such storm, they made a pact with each other. "We will never make a decision to quit when we are in the midst of a rain storm."
A simple, but profound commitment. I decided that this was a statement worth following.
So many dear friends are surrounded by storms in their lives right now--economic, illness, weariness, loneliness, no support systems or anyone to help; difficult marriages, prodigal children, fear of the future, despair because of the times we are in, ......... The list goes on and on.
I have been through so many storms in my own life when I felt I could not go on---3 out of 4 asthmatics with constant illness and emergency room situations; 17 moves and loneliness; 4 children to homeschool and very few or no support systems over the years and years of exhaustion; stress in finances, ministry, marriage, "giants" within our family that caused great difficulty and despair, about which I may never write, because I believe in honor and loyalty in family relationships.
Often, I would think, "I cannot go on. My circumstances will turn out for the worst. There is no hope. Where has God gone."
And yet, it is in the midst of the storms of life, that our faith is most precious. It is in these times when we can say to Satan, "You would have me fear, but I choose to believe in the goodness of God and in His provision."
I love the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzar had commanded them to bow down to the serve his idols and to worship them. The three godly men refused to bow down to his gods. The king then said that he would throw them into the fiery furnace and there would be no one to deliver them.
This is the threat of Satan, "There will be no one to deliver you."
Yet, their response is what I desire to be the response of my own heart, "Our God whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire, ..., but even if He does not, let it be known to you, Oh king, that we are not going to serve your gods." Daniel 3 gives the story.
Of course the result is that the great king found out who was really God and made a proclamation to the whole land of God's greatness and never ending kingdom.
We are told very clearly in scripture that difficult times will come. We know from the warnings of scripture that at the end of the times, earthquakes will increase--and so they have. We know that many Christians will be persecuted all over the world. Great economic troubles, shaking our foundations as we know them, have been predicted and are coming true before our eyes. That as Paul has told us, immorality and wickedness and godlessness will be rampant. We know from Revelation that, Satan, knowing his time is short, is pouring out great wrath. (Revelation 12:13)
This, then, could from God's eyes of history, be one of the finest hours for Christians to stay true, to be faithful until the end, to endure hardship, to rejoice in His reality, to live by faith, "assurance of things hoped for, convictions of things not seen."
When I was working in Communist countries many years ago, where there were constant persecutions and imprisonments, I was so surprised to see the fervor of so many Christians in their worship of God and their delight in His reality, their praise of Him in music was heavenly. I asked an old woman about it and she said to me, "You Americans have had so much heaven on earth, that you have not known what it is to long for and hope for the heavenly Kingdom of God, where righteousness will rule, where our real longings will be satisfied, and we will see our precious Lord face to face."
And so, when our hearts are surrounded with fear and discouragement in the storms of life, let us look to the face of Jesus, our king, our savior and our Lord. He is with us. He will not abandon us. He will carry us through. Today is the best time, to believe, to hold fast, to worship by faith and to rest in His strength.
He is coming. We don not know when, but if He has seen fit to "born" us into these times, then these times are the best place where we have the opportunity to live our story of faith, which will be a testimony for eternity, that He is our trustworthy God.
May our hearts be as David's,
"The Lord is my light and salvation; Whom shall I fear.
The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and enemies,
they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear.
Though a war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident." Psalm 27: 1-3
Today, He would say to us, "Fear not, for I am with you. Be not anxious, for I am your God."
Today, may His love, strength, wisdom, and overcoming spirit be ours. May He give you the grace to keep going with a heart that says, "I believe this is the pathway God would have me follow, He will give me the grace to persevere and to finish well."