This is Part Two of a series of Two Articles about Trusting God and the role of difficulty in our lives....How does God use our pain and our struggles? And what must be our response to them? If you have not already done so, please scroll down to the post preceding this one and read it first. Thanks.
In Oswald Chamber's devotional for June 1st, there is a quote which says, that "The degree of hopelessness I have for others comes from never realizing that God had done anything for me. Is my own personal experience such a wonderful realization of God's power and might that I can never have a sense of hopelessness for anyone else I see?" And in the same article he mentions the dry bones of which God asked Ezekiel, "Son of man, can these bones live?" and Ezekiel's answer was not, "NO WAY, man! You've got to be kidding me!" It was simply, "Only you know, Lord."
I'd actually read this passage yesterday by mistake (I NEVER know what day it is!) so I've been thinking about it for two days now. And the stories I relayed to you in yesterday's post, are ALL TIED in here...so please hang on for the ride while I try to verbalize what God is showing me. As you may have picked up (if you are a spiritual sort who is not misled by verbiage); I have been struggling a bit lately. Yesterday, my husband told me that I'm (and I quote) "The nastiest, meanest bitch that ever lived" (Jezebel, look out, your record is under attack!)
No, seriously, those words hurt. And they made me think. And I realized that I've seriously lost my joy. I mean I can still be funny and laugh....but in my house...in private....I'm a pretty glum Gus. And this is caused by and results in the fact that I'm struggling spiritually. Now that may come as a surprise after reading of my victory in yesterday's post. But you know what?? The glow of victory usually doesn't last longer than the day in which you win them. Now it's true that in that case, I learned a valuable lesson....and I THANK GOD for teaching it to me so profoundly....because if I had to be in my life right now without that calm trust...I would be an awful mess. Even worse than I am.
But after one race is won, there comes another, harder one. After you reach the top of a long climb, there comes a valley and an even higher mountain to struggle up. And part of the struggle I'm having now, is doubting my fitness to be called a child of God. I am really seriously feeling unworthy of that title...and maybe, as my husband pointed out: rightfully so.
The reason this has been such an issue with me is that I've stared Death in the face now, for close to a decade...and every brush with it...brings it closer and closer. Now I do not fear death. I know where I'm going. But I often think...what awaits me there? Will I hear that "Well done, good and faithful servant...enter into your reward"??? Honestly, I haven't done all that much for God....not really. Not in the sense that I see others serving anyway. But I thank God that his grace doesn't rely on what I can do for Him, but in what He has done for me! But still these niggling fears and doubts. Is my life ready, should He beckon me to his Kingdom at any moment? Is my character “complete” - at least as far as it needs to be here on earth? Have I accomplished the work here that he set out for me to do??Can I be the person God wants me to be so that he can heap delight on my head and show me the beauty of his approving smile?
I And I hear God ask, "Cynthia, can these dry bones live?" And I know that these self-deprecating thoughts are both truth based and are attempts of the enemy to get me lost in unworthiness which can only lead to distance between my God and I. So all day yesterday and today, I've found myself whispering "Only you know, Lord. Only You know."
Here s a new area of trust for me. Trusting that I am fully accepted in Jesus. Trusting that I'm a dearly beloved daughter....And trusting for HIM to, not only take care of my present life....but to take care of my Eternity also. I have to trust him to love me, despite the sin that so easily entangles me... And here's a thought I recently heard that blew me away: That it is GOD who accomplishes the work of sanctification in my life and I need to TRUST him to do that. Maybe I am picking up a load that was not mine to carry??
In yesterday's devotion by Chambers, he quoted the verse later in that same “dry bones” passage: Ezekiel 37:12, “Behold,O my people, I will open your graves.” And all my soul resounded with a “YES! This is what God has been doing in me! He is raising the bar. Showing me the depths of the corruption of sin in me. Whether or not I am being “more sinful” at this stage in my life, is almost irrelevant. What I'm learning is that it is NOT IN MY POWER TO “FIX” MYSELF.” I need help. I need the Ruach who blew his life into those dry bones....to blow some life into mine. To blow away the dusting of sin on my bones....And I know that this work has already been accomplished at the cross of the Christ. And that he is just holding back and waiting for me to STOP writhing around in my muck and to stop trying to free myself in the quicksand o f sin by struggling....because as you know, struggling often only makes it worse. What is needed is for me to rest in his strong arms to pull me out.
Hardship and pain?? Yes, my life has been soaked in them. I read an interesting thing in Sarah Young's devotional, Jesus Calling (also in the June 1 entry)
“...expect to find trouble in this day. At the same time, trust that “My way is perfect, Even in the mess of such messy imperfection.
“ Stay conscious of Me as you go through this day....Let the Holy Spirit guide you step by step, protecting you from unnecessary trials, and equipping you to get through whatever must be endured.”
I was so struck by that last thought. That there are Unnecessary trials and there are Necessary ones. Some trials, like the false career educational paths and their abrupt terminations in my husband's life: they were Necessary ones...because through them, God was not only planning to bless E . with the knowledge he gained from them that would aid his career now; but He was planning to use that WHOLE scenario to teach me a valuable lesson about Himself. So the “necessary” can be defined by both concrete, practical use (or need) or by a spiritual necessity.
What are unnecessary trials?? They are the ones we cause ourselves by our own sinful responses to the necessary ones, I think. They are the drugs we reach for to obliterate our pain rather than going to Jesus with it. They are the nasty attitudes we develop out of the sense of entitlement we feel we have to be obnoxious just because we are in pain (pain of any kind). And these can - and should - be avoided. And, might I add, that it is against the Unnecessary ones that we should be praying both in our lives and in the lives of others. To pray against the necessary trials is to oppose the working of God in the lives of ourselves or others!! This is where we need spiritual discernment to determine what the will of God is in that person's life. This is what it means to pray “in Jesus' Name!” Is this a prayer that Jesus can sign his name to as a witness? As a partner? As a co-pray-er??
So many people have told me that my pain and my illness and suffering are “unnecessary.” And that God “doesn't want them for me.” And I have to raise my voice and object. Firstly, it is up to GOD to determine what is or is not useful and needed in the life of a person. And secondly who are we to infer that we know and understand the mind of God in the life of someone else?
I know personally that this pain has served to do several things in me. It has brought me down to the Valley of the Dry Bones. It has pointed out to me every sin and weakness of character that exists in my life. Through it God has been opening my grave....and showing me that “in me, no good thing lies...” It has brought out the grumpy grouchy and yes, profane Cynthia and exposed her for what she really is at soul level.
It has also awakened a desire for Heaven in me that roars at fever pitch. It has brought me to my knees....and to the lap of Y'shua. And now, it is showing me my complete inability to “FIX myself.” and pointed out my need to trust Jesus to hone and buff me to a sheen. It has taught me to rely on him fully to get me through long hours of suffering.
Will He blow life into these dry bones??
Only you know, O God....but I have a pretty good idea that you will.