Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Where is God When Life Falls Apart?

Problems? Trouble on the road ahead? Sometimes it feels like problems the size of boulders are pummeling us on every side. It seems like so many people are just trying to hold on and make it through life. The struggle to survive can be overwhelming. People have lost jobs, homes, stability, and some have even lost family members. They feel overwhelmed just trying to keep their head above water. Many feel like they are drowning in despair as heaviness keeps trying to pull them down.

We’ve been there, too. It’s hard to hold on to your faith when you’re starting to believe the lie that God has abandoned you. It’s hard to hold on to your resolve to do the right thing when the devil is whispering everything he can think of to get you to cast away your confidence in God. It’s hard to stay true to your convictions when you feel that your convictions haven’t produced any rewards. It’s hard to keep yourself motivated when you feel like tossing in the towel and staying in bed. It’s hard to believe in God’s promises when you’ve lost sight of dreams, ambitions and haven’t heard His voice in a long, long time. It’s hard to get anything out of His word when you don’t feel the desire to read it, and when you do, you find yourself looking at black words on a white page, reading and re-reading the same sentence several times and …nothing. You close the book in frustration and walk away.

“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint…but happy is he who keeps the law.” (Prov. 29:18)  In other words, when people lose sight of God and have no vision for their future, they will eventually return to their old ways of life. There is a fine line between being truly free from a religious spirit and not succumbing to the pull of the world which draws a person into apathy and departing from the Lord. It is a constant tension that must be maintained.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)

You feel dry. Empty. Discouraged. Where is God???

Where is God when you are hurting, feeling hopeless, and have no answers for the problems that seem beyond your ability to overcome?

God sees your struggle to live and He is there. Even when we feel like He has left us in a field to die and just walked away. Ezekiel 16:5-14 tells a story of a newborn infant that was despised and loathed at it’s birth and thrown into an open field to die. God saw and said, “When I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, “Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you thrive like a plant in the field and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful.” 

Notice how God reaffirmed His word twice. He wants us to feel assured that He is watching over us and is willing to step in to help! He knows that we need a place to not just barely survive, but to thrive. Will you trust Him today to take you to that place? Will you trust Him today to show you what you need to know to get beyond your own personal limitations and enter into a place where you can experience more of His loving care? God is much more loving and gracious than we know. Every time we feel we have discovered an aspect of His grace and mercy, God comes to do something new, different and reveal another dimension of Himself that we have not yet encountered. He is infinitely so large we cannot comprehend His vastness, His love, and His tremendous commitment to our lives! God does this so that people will continue to experience more of His goodness, more of His grace, and through their experiences, come to know His ways. When we learn God’s ways, He succeeds in unraveling the devil’s lies, false doctrine and ideas that give people an incorrect perspective of His nature and character. Unraveling is God’s technique to teach us real truth.

The truth is, He sees everything. He knows that in order to get free from religious thinking, hypocrisy, pride, zeal,selfish ambition and other undesirable qualities, He must bring us to a place where it's literally 'waiting it out.' We cry out, we seek Him, implore Him for answers, a visitation, something...He is quiet. He tests our responses and maturity level. He allows temptations to come to see if we will hold on to the promises in His word or cast off our confidence. He knows when we have nothing left and are barely holding on - but it doesn't mean He has left us. It simply means we can't sense what He is doing or His presence. God knows our struggles and our pain. He knows our thoughts and feelings, and He knows everything that has happened in our lives that have developed a false belief system in our thinking. He knows that pain, disappointment and discouragement often manifest as pride, anger and resistance towards Him. But He loves us too much to leave us feeling abandoned.

Sometimes life is just hard. It doesn't seem fair. Life happens to the just and the unjust. Good things happen to wicked people and good things happen to good people. The same with the bad. We have to learn to hold on to what God has said when we can't hear in the moment we're in. His heart hasn't changed. His thoughts for us haven't changed. Like any tough place in life, this too shall pass. You will get through it, even if that is not the way it feels right now. So hold on. It's a valley you're passing through but He will walk you out on the other side.

Sometimes though, the answers we need to resolve our problems elude us because we are so conditioned to struggling. Sometimes it’s that sense of fighting to survive that allows a person to get through very demanding circumstances. It’s understandable, but at the same time, that struggle to live in less in a less than healthy or safe environment can cause people to develop an independent spirit towards God. It can cause a person to set up a shield of self protection around their heart, but the wall of defense that is intended to shield a person from more emotional pain also serves as a wall of resistance towards being yielded and submitted to God. And that’s a lot of the problem. God simply can’t get through our wall of defenses. It’s like an invisible force field of pride, insecurity, fear and brokenness. All of our trust issues are covered up with a masquerade of pretense, false faith, and an outward display of “togetherness” that gives ourselves and others a false impression of who we are and what we really feel. The thing is though, as hard as it may be to admit, that is what hypocrisy is. It's play acting.

When a person is struggling it's usually about this time that the devil will make sure to send someone across your path with a religious answer. People can have a variety of opinions about why others are going through certain things, but it doesn‘t necessarily mean they‘re correct in their assumption. Jesus made a powerful statement in Matthew 7:5 by declaring that hypocrisy blinds a person to seeing clearly. It works both ways, blinding both those that judge others, and blindness in how we see ourselves. So the best possible answer is found in Matthew 7:1. Don't judge, period. You know how I sum it up? If you haven’t walked in another person’s shoes, refrain from judgment. You can’t possibly know what someone else is going through and they certainly don’t need a religious answer. A religious answer is from someone that thinks they know biblical truth about a matter when in fact they have never personally walked through the same type of situation and had to live that truth through their own experience. There is a big difference between zeal for the things of God, and knowledge with understanding. There is a big difference between knowing what a scripture says, and having it worked into your life through experience. One without the other can lead to spiritual error and false judgments. I used to think I had a lot of answers for others, but that was just pride speaking. God had to take me through a lot of learning experiences (produced by pain and hardship, I might add), because truth be told, I didn't really have the answers I thought I did. That's a painful truth to admit, but I'm being brutally honest and transparent here. I wanted to help but my efforts reeked of spiritual pride and self righteousness. I wanted to spare people from pain and hardship, and in an effort to try to help, I gave them answers they weren’t ready to receive. I guess I thought they just needed a scripture and well meaning advice, but I missed the mark so many times. It makes me cringe to admit those mistakes, but you know, we all make them. My husband has always told me, “You can’t give a person an answer to a question they haven’t asked yet.“ It’s true. Well meaning people think they are being helpful when in fact they may only be causing more offense; a tactic used by the enemy to keep a person in that state of resistance towards God. People need answers, that’s true, but they also need a friend. Take the time to develop a relationship and you will have a better chance of being heard when you do have something important to say. Unless God has sent you to a particular person with a word from Him, or unless they ask and seem willing to receive what you have to say, odds are you are casting your pearls of wisdom before people that will only trample all over them. It’s better to wait until their hearts are made ready and they can see value in what you have to say. And maybe God will send someone else into their life to speak to them. Either way you can be assured that He loves them enough to help them when the time is right. It doesn’t necessarily have to come from you.

God has a way of preparing people to receive truth. Truth is not always easy to hear, and when a person has a hard time hearing and applying the truth He wants them to understand, God will allow circumstances to communicate a spiritual reality. He does it in such a way as to make repentance look more desirable than their current state of circumstances. Sometimes that is why they encounter hardship, loss, trials and tumultuous situations. God wears down people's resistance. He dismantles their walls of defense, and finds ways to penetrate their shield of self protection. He sends arrows of truth to find their way between the plates of armor, so that truth will hit home and understanding will come. This is His way of preparing the hearts of those that have become so self reliant that they are afraid to trust God and put their lives in His hands. The reality is, God is for them, not against them, but the enemy has twisted things around so much in their minds that they’ve got it backwards. It’s the enemy that brings destruction, poverty, loss, and robs people's lives. When people go through troubles, sometimes it is God allowing it for the purposes of refinement. But more often than not, what many people experience is the result of an open door to the enemy that allows a curse to operate in their life to rob and plunder them. Jesus said He came into the world so that those who did not see would receive their sight. (John 9:39) He wants to give sight to those that have not understood the root cause of their problems. He also said that it’s the thief  that only comes to steal, to kill and destroy. (John 10:10)

Don’t let the enemy lie and present the truth backwards. That’s His scheme. God is trustworthy, all the time. God is for you, not against you. But He wants people to get to a place where they stop struggling and start living. He knows your every need and I guarantee you, He has a plan to put your life together in a good way. (Jer. 29:10,11). He has an answer for a place to live, provision, a new job, healing from illness, or whatever it is that you need. I know, because I’ve walked through it -more than once. I’ve been at that place where I’ve had no other option but Him. He is faithful, but He is looking for a response of faith in those that seek Him. Faith and obedience - returning to what we know is right in His eyes - unlocks provision. Humility and repentance unlock revelation. A heart that is quiet and teachable is ready to receive from the Lord, and it is in that place where we will hear Him speak.

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