Forever Faithful.

Forever

The whole bible is a testament of God’s faithfulness, a faithfulness that comes to fruition in the life of Jesus Christ. From Genesis 3:15, God promises offspring of the woman to come and bruise the head of the serpent—that being Jesus. The whole of the bible, every letter, every word, every story, every event is about one thing and that is the coming and death of a savior, Christ Jesus who came to do just that, save his people.

And he did.

That is the truth that we can dwell upon, the truth that we are to guard our hearts with, the reason that we can continue on in the face of persecution, pain, and suffering. That he did. That Jesus did come, he did live, he did die, he did take every bit of our pain, he did take every bit of suffering, he did take every bit of our sin upon himself, and he did die for us. He did all of these things because we have a faithful God. We have a God who promised us in the third chapter of the bible that he would send him, and kept reminding us of this promise through the whole of the Old Testament and made it come to fruition in the New, and he keeps on in this same faithfulness each and every moment of everyday, now and forever.

Faithful

Anxiety has ripped me apart at the seams. The past month has been a torment.

I returned from a weekend of rest, restoration, realizations, and the Redeemer with RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) at their Fall Conference in Montezuma, NM, only to get a bad case of bronchitis or the flu or something of the sort; all I know is I was miserable for more than a week and a half.

Prior to the trip and prior to my illness, I had been feeling better than I had in five years. I was happy again, I was interested in things again, and I was sleeping well again. I felt like a new woman. Then, the illness hit and along came a crippling bout of anxiety.

I am still not sure of the origin of this anxiety, I have my suspicions that it had to do with how miserable I was while I was so sick, that I was scared that it was going to continue or get worse, but even after I overcame those thoughts, the anxiety remained.

The last few weeks have been nothing but an inner battle with myself, trying to convince myself that everything is okay day in and day out. I’ve been trying to find anything that could comfort me and make me feel good again.

But let me tell you, this stuff is consuming. It’s like every moment is a fight to keep going, to keep breath in my lungs, to keep tears from my eyes, to keep my heart from racing, to keep myself out of bed (where I would no doubt remain all day if I could), to keep myself from panicking, to keep from blaming myself for anything and everything happening around me.

With all of this inner turmoil, I am sure one can deduce just how hard it has been to keep faith. All I can do is ask God why this is happening to me? Why it has to be that every night I have a series of panic attacks that make me worry if I will be able to sleep or not? Why I can’t just go back to the progress I was making a month ago—to the feelings of wholeness and that I was finally overcoming this silent beast?

But even as I type out these questions that have been the real life things I have been proposing to God, I see the error in them. I have been begging God for all the wrong things.

In Philippians, Paul writes from his Roman prison cell, where he has been imprisoned for spreading the gospel. When looking Paul’s circumstance, one would think his first response would be to ask God why; why if he is serving him, would he let this happen to him? However, when I look at Paul’s actual response to his imprisonment, my own hardened heart that is prone to ask “why” questions of God is challenged and changed. Paul says,

“I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known among the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”

Philippians 1:12-13

As Paul sits in prison he looks at it not as a burden or a reason to ask God the “why” questions, but rather an opportunity to spread the gospel to the guards that watch over him and give vigor to those who still remain out in the world seeking to share the truth of Jesus. Paul even manages throughout the whole book to rejoice, to rejoice in the fact that still in his suffering, he is allowed the privilege to serve Christ and is still be able to call on others to rejoice in doing the same.

This God of ours is a faithful one. One who can take the things that seem to be holding us captive and make them good. He is a faithful God that despite our shortcomings and selfish requests of Him still calls us back to the reality of Christ, his faithfulness incarnate. He was faithful to Paul in contenting him in the revelation of the truth and purpose of his imprisonment, and so He will be faithful to us.

While I examine my own prayers and thoughts against Paul’s, I can do little else but be convicted. As I sit in my situation with this anxiety that has created a sort of prison for me, I recognize that I should be praying that God would use this pain to ultimately propel me to press on to serve Christ. While this circumstance hurts and is confusing this is where I am supposed to be.

He will be faithful to me and to you to the very end, because His faithfulness is never ending.

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Coming to Terms with Time

I have taken to this blog as a place where I can do what I do best, writing. When I write, it serves the chief purpose as to gather my own thoughts in one singular place and to look over them in hopes of reaping from them some particular insight or epiphany and hopefully help someone else along the way. Sometimes though, my writing isn’t always in that fashion, it doesn’t always afford me the opportunity of a great epiphany or understanding. Sometimes it is just ramblings in hopes of getting them out of my head, and that is a bit like what I seem to be doing here with the concept of time.

On August 30th I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I decided to leave behind the only sure thing I have known in the last fifteen years—school. I decided to take a semester off of college, a hiatus if you will, in hopes of making some attempts at getting well.

In this time off there have been marked improvements.  There have been improvements like the fact that anxiety is not gripping everyday of my life, or that I am not dealing with horrible side effects of former medications, or that I don’t feel like there is a dark cloud above my head in every moment preventing me from living. I have had time to come closer to God and to contemplate his truths. I have had the opportunity to make a platform for myself to share these things and because of this I feel like this is the place to contemplate the following thing that I have been too scared to admit to myself, that this whole thing is going to take time.

I have no good explanation for you as to what I thought was going to happen when I decided to take a semester off of school. I remember going in to it considering it a time of healing, to give myself time to repair, to heal not only physically and mentally, but also spiritually. My words, however, seem to have rung hollow to myself, I seem to have just been justifying my hiatus with this concept of allowing myself time, and leaving it as just that, a concept. Though I have made strides in these places of healing mentioned above, there seems to be a part of me that thought it would all be over by now.

But this is not the case. While I have come to this place before and explained great things God has revealed to me through this pain and have had the excitement of coming to know him better, I have also come to realize that there is a difference between knowing God is in control and accepting that he is in control. That may seem fairly obvious to some, but it’s a hard pill to swallow, a painful realization when you thought you were being accepting of such a thing, then having it proven by yourself, to yourself that you have been trying to hold fast to your own schedule and your own plan. It seems to be that He has decided that his plan for my life, for my healing, will take time, the very concept I justified my hiatus with, and it will take longer than human me wants.

Time is cruel, but yet again, I am left here in awe of the revelations of himself that God has presented me through this pain. Again I am left with the recognition that He is in control, and it is now my turn to relinquish my own attempts at having said control. I am still hurting. I am still broken. But it is time that I not only allow God to do what he will, to align my desires with his will, but also to start to be truthful with myself about where I am and what I need which is his good and perect time, not what I want in my human schedule.

 

From Darkness Comes Beauty: Living with Hope through Pain

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6

Beauty comes from darkness.

Some of the world’s greatest works of art were born out of the pain of the artist. Pick up any good poetry book and read a few lines. They will move you to your very core and manage to make you question how something so dark could be so beautiful.

With this idea in mind we look to some of the greats: Michelangelo’s work was defined by its melancholy themes, and yet he is considered one of the greatest artists of all time. Vincent van Gogh was in so much pain he cut off his ear, but still managed to create some of the most inventive and beautiful paintings the world has ever seen. T.S. Eliot battled severe depression and still produced pieces of poetry that defined the Modernist period (have you read The Waste Land? I keep a copy in the stack of books by my bed). Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath, both had such ways with words they are now set apart as some of the most influential writers of all time, but the works they produced were ridden with the hopelessness they felt that was their ultimate demise.

These artists all knew pain and darkness, but have gone down in history as having made some of the most beautiful works of art the world has ever known. Thus affirming in part the theory that beauty comes of darkness.

However, there is a greater explanation of this idea beyond these great artists.

The God of the Universe made beauty out of nothing (Gen. 1:2). He took the dark and made light shine. He created the most beautiful works of art ever, namely the mountains, the oceans, the land, the sky, the moon, the stars, plants, animals, humans, and every thing that inhabits the earth, all beautiful works of art that were brought to fruition out of darkness that only He had power over.

When we look to this, we can do little but be affirmed in the fact that He has power over darkness, not excluding the darkness that human’s feel. If human’s can create such beauty in their times of suffering, it has to be proof that He has reign over what will be allowed out of such pain, because He alone has power over darkness; just as He did at the beginning of time. After all, we are created in His image (Gen. 1:26) and this is not lost on the way that we produce works.

We can look from God as the artist behind all things and move through God’s word. We can look to some of the stalwarts of the faith, people like Abraham, Jonah, Job, Elijah, Jeremiah, and David all who experienced such depths that they questioned God’s power. I mean for heaven’s sake Elijah asked God to end his life (1 Kings 19). But God sustained him in his darkest time, giving him strength to continue on to bring to fruition God’s beautiful and perfect plans.

Then we can look beyond these biblical figures and to great men of the faith like Luther, Cowper, and CH Spurgeon, all men who made contributions to Christianity that are still blessing us today. These men all dealt with severe depression, though through it all looked to God and trusted that God would deliver them, and He did.

Every morning and night I read Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. I cannot possibly express the number of times I have been laying in my bed either with the light streaming in calling me to the day I don’t think I can face, or closing a day I am just happy to have made it through, reading Spurgeon’s words and sobbing into my forest green pillow at the realization that I am not the only one. That I am not the only person who has had such faith in Jesus, but experienced the agony of a day in which each moment brings the thought that it could not get worse.

I am sad to say I have lain out with Elijah, asking God to end it all. I have cried out with David, asking why God has forsaken me. I have sat with Spurgeon and suffered silently while putting forth the desire to show God’s glory through my life though it seems nearly impossible, only able to attempt at grabbing every truth I possibly could and hope that would sustain me.

I am broken. I am in pain. I see a therapist every week. I take an anti-depressant every night. I left college because I was too overwhelmed to continue. I am struggling through each and every day. I am full of dread when six o’clock rolls around because that seems to be when my biological clock’s alarm reminds the sadness to kick in.

But from this darkness beauty is prevailing. I am allowed to dig deeper into God’s word, to draw nearer to Him. I am allowed to have quiet time with Jesus every morning when I wake and every night when I close my eyes. I am allowed to feel in full force all of the emotions that He has called me to experience. I am allowed to write to my heart’s content, the only thing I have wanted to do since the age of seven. I am allowed to see how I require His strength in each moment of everyday. I am allowed to heal. I am allowed to give my life to Jesus—the truest beauty any person can experience on this side of eternity.

Out of darkness comes beauty and that fact comes from a sovereign God. A God who is not the author of sin, but who uses all things, including the sin, the darkness, the pain of this world, to work together for good (Romans 8:28). His son has died for us that this pain and this suffering is assured to be temporary. As we wait for eternity—you and I alike—can rest in comfort, knowing that through darkness, the beauty of the cross will prevail.

“My witness is, that those who are honoured of their Lord in public, have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil.”

–CH Spurgeon

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

John 9:3

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