Moving from anger to joy

Just a short note and request. (Wednesday morning, January 16) I received a message last night that my dear oldest brother is being put into hospice and having the life support systems removed. He has had leukemia since May. I would so appreciate your prayers for our family during this time--that they would all be comforted and have a renewed sense of God's love for them.--especially my sweet brother Bill and his wife who have been caring for my brother for 6 months in Texas. Also, please pray for me as I have to speak this weekend in Colorado--that the Lord would sustain and help me to stay focussed and that many women would be greatly blessed and have their hearts inspired and encouraged.   *********************************************************************************************************

“Only a Christian has a right to hope, for only he has the power of God to give substance to his hope…Earth is bearable because there is hope." A.W. Tozer

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews

"You seem to have such an utter enthusiasm for the Lord, it seems to just pour from your soul. The wisdom you have about God seems so unreachable for me. I am a mother of a two year old, a stay at home mom who plans to homeschool someday. I am a wife to my sweet husband. I am a daughter to the King. But for some reason, I just seem to be lacking the enthusiasm and wisdom that you seem to contain. I yearn for such excitement and knowledge of the scriptures. Honestly as a 30 year old woman, mother and wife, I am not sure how to get what you have."

Several sweet women have written letters to me in the past few weeks who have struggled with learning what it means to walk with God, to know Him, to feel that He is relevant. In the midst of these letters, I have also seen a pattern of women feeling anger and disappointment in their hearts. Life does not measure up, it is stressful, disappointing. Sometimes the anger is more personally focused--anger with their children, husband, life, circumstances (miscarriages, finances, marriage, homeschooling, themselves, etc.) I think that it is so important to know that all of us experience anger and a sense of injustice--I have been good and tried hard to please you, Lord, and this is what I get?! Anger, I believe, comes from disappointed expectations. We expected life or a person to behave in one way and it surprises us by behaving in just the opposite way that we wanted it to or hoped that it would. We feel anger when we think we had the right to expect that life or a person would behave in that way and if it didn't we get mad and feel justified in that anger. Anger can lead to depression and despair. There are many things in this fallen world that can oppress our spirits and tempt us to despair because the end results are not as we would hope or expect.

Several years ago, I had two miscarriages in one year, all of my three children at that time had pneumonia, chicken pox, ruptured ears and ensephalitis--all within two months! We had made a move to a very tiny town in Texas and I had no friends, Clay had no job and we were almost out of money. I was quite tired and danced with depression but was really seeking answers from the Lord. We lived with my mother-in-law at the time and going for long walks by myself was the only way I could get away to think and pray. Walking some days for 4-5 miles, I would review my life and think about so many things that were against us, and then I would pray.

One day, as I was walking and pondering, it was as if the Lord said to me, "Sally, if I took everything away from you that you hold dear, would you still believe in me?" It was suddenly as though God was shining a spotlight onto the deepest part of my soul, and I found at the very bottom of it, that with all the difficulties that a fallen world could throw at me, I would still rather hold on to my faith in God and believe in His love and goodness for the rest of my life, than to choose a life of existentialism and despair. But a realization came to me that this choice would require constant vigilance--that I would have to guard my heart and feed it with the truth of God's word and His Constancy in my life.

A part of me realized that day, that faith was planting a flag, so to speak, in my heart, and deciding to settle it once and for all--that the rest of my life, no matter what, I would choose to believe in the Bible, that Jesus was real, that God was loving, no matter what! Faith was the assurance of things hoped for but not seen. Faith was choosing to hope--to place my hope--in Him--every day, acting on that faith and hope--and understanding that without this commitment of my will to choosing to believe and hope--I couldn't be pleasing to God or sense His wisdom and hand upon my life.

I would look back on that day as a day which would determine my present and future walk with God--I would choose to believe the best, and act in light of what scripture said He was--loving, righteous, good, kind, wise, and so on. I would believe in light when I found myself in darkness. I would believe that love redeemed and was a perfect bond of unity, even when I was confronted with unloving, immature people

"as far as it is possible with you, be at peace with all men." Romans12:18---

Choosing to believe that God did listen to my prayers and that the prayer of a righteous person avails much--and that in His time, I would see eternal results--even if it wasn't on my time schedule.

"Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be open for you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks, finds and to him who knocks, it shall be opened. " Matthew 7:7-8

I knew that if every time something difficult happened to me, I put God on trial again, that I would only be unstable and insecure in life--wondering and fearing when the next trial or danger would come my way. But I also had the sense that if I built my life on the foundation of believing in Him, sowing faithfulness and goodness, that I would reap the blessing of freedom and peace from sowing on true and eternal principles.

"Do not be deceived. God is not mocked.Whatever a man sows this will he also reap." Galatians 6:7

I decided never again to go to the active place of doubt--that I would disregard it because of my once and for all commitment to believe in God, period. I pictured that in the same way that I made a promise that I would stay married to Clay and choose to love him unconditionally for all of our years--that divorce would never be an option--that I needed to picture my commitment to God like that--forever and final. The promise I had made of forever faithfulness to God that day would lead me to obey in my heart by looking at the flag I had planted on that day--every time my faith was tested. As I look back over the years, my commitment determined my behavior and always gave me direct instructions in which way to go--always to God, always to faith and always to obedience always to the word.

This did not mean that I would always have good feelings or not feel fear or doubt. The Psalmists give us a pattern of the anguish and sadness that life can bring. It is all right and normal to feel deeply sad, angry, disappointed and discouraged. God is the designer of our emotions and they serve a purpose. But, even in our emotions, we need to serve God and cultivate redemption and response to His will, by submitting our lives into his hands as Jesus did--not my will but yours be done.

The Role of Goodness and Beauty

We have this sense of beauty and goodness in our ideals because, I am convinced, we were made to experience excellence and perfection in every area by God's design. Intuitively, we sense there is a better way, a better place, and a sense of justice knows that tells us in our heart that life should be fair. We were made for justice and peace and beauty----and these shadows of reality lead us to hope for heaven--that place where we will not be disappointed. My deep longings become a platform for my hope for heaven. Paul and Peter depended on this hope, and it was so real to them, because they had experience Jesus face to face, and knew that their hope was founded on reality. It was their sure hope of heaven that gave them joy in this world.

So, my promise meant that I would act, in faith, in light of my commitment, and believe what I had learned from scripture was true. Along with that commitment, I redoubled my efforts at making a habit of giving God the chance to speak to me as often as possible by disciplining my life to have quiet times almost every day. Sometimes the quiet times would be great, sometimes they would be extremely short and sometimes I was dull and dead inside. But, I really have learned to turn my worries, and fears, one by one, to God and leave them there with Him. (Really, this is the reason I wrote the book The Mom Walk, because I wanted to encourage moms to understand more what it looks like to walk every day with God.)

I also began to understand that righteousness is something each person must grasp for. Only I knew how I cultivated faithfulness in my heart when no one else could see. Only I could choose to believe God every day. Only I could choose to be thankful and to observe the tangible beauty that He had place in my life for my own pleasure through creation. I was a conductress of my own symphony. I was responsible to cultivate all the good things in my family's life together so that the tangible reality of God would seem more present--setting the tone of celebrating life by bringing color and music and beauty in every aspect of our home--gathering great, hopeful stories through books, cultivating great memories with friends through parties and Bible studies meals and traditions. Lighting candles in the darkness and playing music to lift our souls. I made the goal of cultivating goodness and beauty into the moments of our days, so that our living would reflect the reality of what we believed about God.

Literally years and years and hundreds and hundreds of hours have I invested in faith and hope. As a consequence, I have seen more and more how the Holy Spirit, as a spring of living water, fills my soul--at the least expected times--with the ability to go on one more day or one more hour. My perspective has changed and deepened--I have learned little by little to let go of the things my hands grasped for in this world, to open my heart to priorities which are eternal--to those things which will reap and experience as a reward in heaven. By sowing faith, I have reaped the knowledge of God's love for me and a deeper understanding of His transcendence and humility. I have seen the Holy Spirit springing up through living waters in my heart--more peace and freedom from pleasing others, more joy at small gifts--a sunset, a hug, a friend's kind words, a Sunday morning breakfast with all 6 of us laughing, discussing scripture, sharing in our close fellowship and belonging as a family. My life is more centered in Him and less in my preoccupation with myself--but it has come through many years of building little by little in this direction--amidst a lot of stumbling and getting back up.

Once someone became angry with me because she said that in my blogs and articles it seemed as if my children were perfect and hers were not. I don't have to go very far to see all the flaws of my children, my husband or of me. And it would be easy for me to take credit for all of their failures, since I am their mother--and supposed to be responsible for training them. But instead of focusing on the bad, I have focussed on faith and potential which will someday be realized after years of praying and seeing God work--faith that God can take my honest offering of faith and hope--that He will make up for my deficit--that even though I don't understand why so many bad things happen--I can know that He is stronger and bigger than all the "bad" and that in His time, He will redeem everything. I live by faith in His power and not in my own. I trust in His ability to reach my children--not in my own lack of strength. I give Him my best and then leave the results in His hand and wait for His timing. This relinquishing, however, is one minute at a time--choosing one detail of my life at a time.

Personalizing that Faith

For instance, my oldest brother is on the border line between death and life with leukemia. He had a bone marrow transplant in early September, but now has lost so much weight and has moved into a semi-conscious stage. One nurse said it would be a huge miracle if he recovered from this. I have slowly processed these sad issues from afar--little by little. Simultaneously, Joy was experiencing some digestive problems so I decided to take her to the doctor to see if he could get to the root of the problem. He took a blood sample. Unexpectedly, Joy's blood levels of her white cells were at the same level of a leukemia patient--very, very low. Possibilities of Mono, Epstein bar, an internal infection, and worse. This all just happened on Thursday and Friday of this week. So yesterday morning, as I was driving in my car alone to meet Sarah for breakfast, the whole issue of leukemia and what had happened to my brother came upon me. I momentarily went through a "Oh, God, I don't know if I could bear to lose Joy. I cannot take more at this moment. Please, please don't let it be bad." And the sadness of some of the areas of our recent life came upon me. (the shootings and death of the two homeschool girls, my brother, our two mothers who are suffering in the senility and fragility and dissipation of old age, etc.)

But, because of habit, I turned my heart over to the Lord and gave the results of these issues into His hands. "Help me to trust you and to have perspective, Lord. Give me your words and your grace. Let me have peace in my heart." In the next few minutes, scripture after scripture came to my mind--Elijah resurrecting the widow's sick son, Jesus healing the little girl who had died; then my own life--almost dying of pneumonia 4 times in one year when I was Joy's age." I remembered God's faithfulness through Sarah's 7 years of being ill, of my own near death experience through a miscarriage when I hemorrhaged. In all of these times, he had carried us through. I remembered that He loved Joy and me more than I could imagine. I knew that whatever we found from the doctors, He would still be omnipotent and present. One worry at a time.

By the time I exited the freeway, to meet Sarah, I had placed my heart and my issues into His hands, realizing that Sarah needed me to be at peace and happy to be with her. By taking the responsibility of responding to His promptings, I had a blessed and wonderfully encouraging time with Sarah and emotional stability the rest of the day. It is not as simplistic as it sounds--but it is a process and habit I have learned as a way of life as I talk with Him all day!

(By the way, I just received a call from the doc and they said, "Amazingly, her blood counts are 1500 to 1700 higher and we no longer see the evidence of mono or hepatitis--her liver is clear and all of her counts are looking very healthy--so we have a different situation today!" I am so very grateful, of course, and think the Lord is strengthening her, but is also made me be more vigilant to supply her with lots of nutrients that she will need to go with us on all our trips the next few months.)

I bought some daffodils and went home to serve Joy and her friend a breakfast for princesses--candle light, fruit smoothies with whip cream, cinnamon toast on wheat bread, and scramble cheese eggs--at the girls' request. Beautiful instrumental music adorned the moment, and as we thanked God together for the breakfast, I blessed the girls and thanked God or giving such wonderful princess of His making and of beauty of soul. It was one more memory of delight and joy stored up in these girls' lives, which will be there for them to go to in any difficult times they face ahead.

I won't find out the final results of Joy's further blood tests until Monday or Tuesday, but I have put it all back in the laboratory of heaven, where God will direct and chosen to live life today in peaceful celebration of one more day to live for Him. A final heart step, though, is humility. Unless I understand and acknowledge that God is God and has a right to work in my life in whatever way he would, I will find myself shaking my fist at Him. Two people cannot rule at one time. If we are going to really know and follow God, we have to humbly give Him permission to do whatever He wants to do. Even as Jesus recited Psalm 22 from the cross--my God, my God why have your forsaken me?" All the Jews knew the next passage--"Yet, you are holy! Indeed in you our fathers trusted."

In other words, "You are the King, you know what you are doing. You rule and I bow the knees of my heart to your rule."

May the peace of the Lord be with all of you and may He bless you this week with a sense of His faithful love!


PS One of the deep pleasures of my life is reading Sarah's writing. She wrote a blog yesterday related to ideals in a fallen world at Itinerant Idealist. I think you will really be encouraged by it!