It’s hard to hold on to hope, when you’re waiting in the dark, doing daily combat with oppressing fears.
Sometimes, you listen to sermons, you read the Bible, you fight “the dark” for all you’re worth—clutching for truth as if your life depends upon it—because it does.
I have those days when I have a strong grip on hope. My feet are firmly planted. I’m on course.
I also have days, when it seems like the slightest breeze will send my ship off the edge of the world the way the ancient mariners once believed; days when I am weary in soul and tired of waiting for things to change.
Unrelenting trouble can be so exhausting.
What do you do when you’re just, too tired, to hold on anymore?
(Uh-huh, you heard right.)
You do nothing at all—because those are the days when the only thing you can do—is let His love wrap around you and hold on to you.
Listen, no matter how deep the hole you or I might find ourselves in, no matter how black our night looks—His mercy will be there.
His mercy is sometimes tough, sometimes tender, but always, always there.
New, in the middle of the night.
New, in the morning.
New, when I feel close to Him.
New, when I don’t.
No matter how dim hope’s candle burns…
He’s quietly there fanning it back into a flame.
I’ve learned a lot about hope walking through my dark valleys, and Jesus has taught me a lot, about the kind of encouragement that brings life. But mostly, He’s taught me that His love never, ever, lets go… no matter how long the darkness in my circumstances lasts.
Because of that?
I have learned to let go of my “why’s” letting Him plant the seeds for new hope in all of my soul’s dry and barren places.
Then, I can hold on to His hope when life gets HARD…
While He takes me in His arms… and we dance.
It wasn’t easy learning to accept His invitation to surrender, “Why?”
(That cry of pain put up a fierce fight in me!)
But, may I share with you?
There’s so much relief in the surrendering.
It’s peaceful in my soul now that all those “Why’s?” have had their say… and gone their way…
(And this dancing in the Arms of Grace has made me strangely… hopeful.)
Perhaps I am finally at long last—learning to trust Him with everything. Not just the easy stuff, but all the gut-wrenching questions, He only answers with His own eloquent silence.
It is curious how His silence stills all my questions… while speaking VOLUMES to my soul.
It is odd and peculiar, how I am learning about this powerful love of His, by walking through dark valleys of pain and loss…
Stranger still, the way He keeps whispering, “For such a time as this…”
VALLEY OF TROUBLES
When My hand lifts you up many will criticize and condemn.
Many will say, “Who is this?”
As I lift you up and put you firmly in your place, I want you to remember, that a prophet is never accepted in his own land.
Many will say you don’t deserve My favor. Many will accuse you of things you have not done.
It is part of the cost.
To be chosen for such honor will cost you dearly.
This is why you have gone through this Valley of Troubles.
All the lies, and false accusations; all the scorn and slander; it is only a fortaste of what is yet to be endured.
You have wanted many times to ask Me, “Why?”
(You have let the question die in your throat.)
Well, My child, this is why… training, toughening, and tenderizing.
(To be given so much blessing requires very refined graces to carry.)
Your schooling will soon be complete; lessons soon over.
Preparation for all that is ahead is essential for your balance.
You will be grateful in days to come.
You will thank Me over and over for bringing you through this valley.
As I take your life, and transform it from an agony to an ecstasy, and others gather to exclaim, “Who is this?”
You and I will look each other full in the face, smile, and say, “…a door of hope!”
“…He personally will come and pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever.”
You think this storm has been raging way too long, yes?
There have been days when you believed, ” …this will be the end of me.” You looked at your depleted strength, your absent support, your meager resources, and you thought, “I can’t go on like this.”
And still the storms kept coming; kept beating down on you. And, oh how you wanted to just quit and walk away. But, you couldn’t. The storm wouldn’t let you. And, in your soul, where only we two can go, you would turn to the storm, and shake your fist, and curse…
(Yes, I know.)
Weariness does strange things.
Can I tell you something?
I do not condemn you.
(You thought surely I would, yes?)
No, child. I love you, much too much, to pay attention to the tantrums weariness brings.
You yourself know, that a tired child, who is acting up, needs rest.
Are you a better parent than I?
You need rest child.
Lay down some of that frenetic activity of yours. Choose the things that bring restoration. These storms will not go on forever.
Moses is a hero of mine because he was an ordinary guy who lived an extraordinary life. He had family issues. He had a bad temper. He was called by God to throw down with some of the worst bullies of his day, yet God used this humble and insecure man to change a nations destiny, and all because he chose to believe, trust, and follow directions from a burning bush!
I once heard someone say, “If God can speak from a donkey’s mouth He can speak from an ordinary bush!”
Just ask Moses.
A talking bush definitely grabs your attention!
Frankly, I think God loves to blow our minds by doing something totally insane! Then there’s not a shadow of a doubt about who pulled the dream off, right?
Just take ten minutes out of your busy day to look at those pictures from the Hubble site, and then tell me that what God has planted in your heart is impossible for Him!
Perhaps it is for you but for Him?
Not a chance!
I’m not saying there won’t be folks who will tell you your dreams are impossible—even totally insane! There will always be those unbelieving-disbeliever-types.
This world has always had it’s bullies and we have all run into one of these guys at some time. Dream-slayers are nothing new. David had his Saul, Joseph had those darling brothers, and Moses had Pharaoh and his magicians.
So, what are we supposed to do about those drooling “BIG dogs” in our lives that try to intimidate us and push us around by virtue of their size or position?
Why does God allow these puffed up BIG boys to mess with us?
It’s hard isn’t it? When God doesn’t protect us from all the bad guys the way we expected He would.
I confess I have really wrestled with questions like these, but right here, is where I remember a quote by A. B. Simpson. He really helped me transform my thinking about bullies, big dogs and God’s sovereignty. Maybe he will help you too, the next time you encounter one of these guys.
Simpson said, “God may send you some valuable gifts wrapped in unattractive paper. But do not worry about the wrappings, for you can be sure that inside He has hidden treasures of love, kindness and wisdom. If we will simply take what He sends and trust Him for the blessings inside, we will learn the meaning of the secrets of His providence, even in times of darkness.”
I think David knew this and I believe it transformed him into the kind of king God could use in a mighty way.
I am certain that Joseph knew this, or he would never have been able to say to his treacherous brothers,
“As far as I am concerned, God turned into GOOD what you meant forevil, for he brought me to this high position I have today so that I could save the lives of many people.” [Gen. 50:20]
Notice please Joseph doesn’t mince words here. He calls evil what it is. And I am equally sure that David had no doubts about what was in Saul’s heart after all those failed attempts to kill him!
But both men eventually saw the sovereign hand of God as more powerful than their enemies plans, and they were able to surrender themselves as well as their hopes and dreams, to a good God with a good plan for them.
They trusted in HISgoodness.
God loves to keep faith with those who are willing to pay the price to wait for Him as He transforms ALL THINGS for their good.
So, if the BIG boys are laughing at you and looking down their noses at your dreams? If they are singing that same old tired song, “Who do you think you are?” Remember God is in His heaven—watching.
We all have had doors that we have walked through expecting to find that moment of maximum opportunity. We step across that threshold with a certainty that this will be it! That moment when we would meet our destiny, only to realize later that this was not what we had hoped or expected. We made our plan, we followed it to the letter, only to arrive at another disappointing dry well.
It truly can be a lonely moment.
Time is such a precious thing, and once lost it is irretrievable. It doesn’t take one long to learn how precious and few are those moments in life where everything comes together. Wisdom, if heeded, teaches us they are to be treasured.
So how will we know when one of those propitious kairos-moments comes along?
Here are a few things my kairos moments have taught me.
First, it will be an opportunity we will be expecting in faith.
Second, it will be an opportunity we have been preparedfor.
And most important, it will be an opportunity where circumstances, people, and timing will all converge—unforced by any manipulation on our part.
That last one is far easier to say than to do.
I think that often we can interfere with things God is doing and before we know it our impatience has gotten the better of us and our good intentions have jacked things up. (This I know from first hand experience!)
We meant well. We believed the time was right. Intending a perfect outcome we thought we would just give things a little push. We thought the time had come. Then, everything goes sideways.
Ever had one of those moments?
Yeah, me too.
It is so wonderful to know that, no matter how much you mess up, or how BIG your mess becomes.
“I cannot count the times when you have faithfully rescued me from danger. I will tell everyone how good you are, and of your constant, daily care.” Psalm 71:15Psalm 71:15 English: World English Bible - WEB 15 My mouth will tell about your righteousness,
And of your salvation all day,
Though I don’t know its full measure.
Whenever I hear the words “becoming real” I think of the fairy tale: The Velveteen Rabbit.
It has taken me a lifetime—this unlearning, this surrendering to the undoing of God. Getting back to what God originally made, when beginning to create me, in my mother’s womb. Back to me—all by myself. No props. No safety nets, or safe bets. Just God. Letting go of all the false expectations (mine and others) and sorting out this journey of mine. Asking those deep soul-searching questions we so often try to avoid:
Where have I been? What have I learned along the way? How does God want me to use all of this stuff; the good, and the not-so-good?
Life can take the living right out of you… (I think of the words to Pam Thum’s song…) yeah. Life can beat the livin’ blankity-blank out of you, and it often did. So, I agree with her.
Perhaps Margery’s right. Perhaps becoming real doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have to be carefully kept. But isn’t that all of us, really? We all end up with lots of those brittle rough edges. And only Jesus knows how, and where, all those broken edges came to be. And only He knows how to remove them, with a gentle tenderness that will break down all those stone walls you hide behind, hoping against hope, that the cruelty and hurt won’t find you again. Except, here’s the thing. Safe from hurt is a phantom-myth, a lie the enemy’s been peddling since that day he slithered up to Eve in the Garden.
There’s no such place—but we’ve been hiding our hurt, and searching for safety, ever since!
I don’t know about others—I can only speak to my own journey. Personally, I have come to believe that it is in the breakings of life, where we are offered our greatest chances to “become real.” (I think it’s always optional.) We choose real, or we choose layers and layers of superficial band-aids, covering up our hurt-cuts-and-bruises; taking on an image of what those others in our lives want or expect—so that our wounds don’t show.
The world avoids the messy. We know that. We learn it early in life. So we choose to wear our masks. Often ones provided for us, rather than endure the additional hurts, that pulling off our temporary fixes will inflict. We choose our version of safe so that the world can’t see our real. We carefully tuck our pain way down deep, out of sight, instead of wearing our wounds (and scars) where they “speak” for all who want to see and hear. We fear what folks will say; how they will judge us. (Yeah, that too.)
I always thought, “This should be easy.” (Figuring out the one I call me, I mean.)
As far back as I can remember people have been tellingme who I really was. That the who, I wanted to be, just wasn’t good enough. Their message seemed to be, “Here’s who we need you to be—so just do it!”
What do you do when the labels never feel quite right? If they never ring true in the deepest part of your heart?
Truth be told, I often resented those labels while meekly (and silently) wearing them.
In my house? You had to go along to get along. Or, so it seemed at the time. So, I’ve lived most of my life silent. Scared. Browbeaten. Threatened. Intimidated, or just plain bullied.
Oh, and afraid. (Can’t forget that one!)
If I disagreed or spoke up for myself? I was told I was thankless, or worthless, or (add any four letter explicative you can think of here) and therefore, I was deserving of any abuse, all threats and humiliation, or any well deserved indignity that might be meted out to me for my impertinence.
I have spent a good deal of my journey doing exactly what was “expected of me” by others. I was told (and believed) it was “the loving thing” to do. The Christian thing. Seems I was forever trying to work off a “debt” I had been told, and believed, I owed. There were lots of voices (and agendas) pulling this way, then that. I was always trying to please someone. (Make all those others in my life peaceful and happy.) And, always, always coming up short.
I had to face it. I was a classic People-pleaser, working myself ragged trying to fulfill another’s agenda or plan, while living frustrated and disappointed on the inside, with all those unfulfilled longings of my own. I take fullresponsibility for that. My misery was of my own choosing. I accepted the anger of others, as my “normal,” when it was anything but.
That’s the big problem with trying “to please” everyone—bring an unattainable peace into the lives of the others around you—when in fact history teaches they will actually choose anything but—peaceful.
It cannot be done. And in the end? You get what you most fear—being surrounded by angry and disappointed people. You hate where you are, or who you are, or what you’re doing, so in the end… you please no one, and there is no peace—for anyone, ever!
You cannot find it in yourself, or with the Lord, (who calls us out into the deep and risky purposes that He has for us) and certainly not, for the ones you are seeking to please or appease.
I kept hitting a stone wall. It was this insidious and powerful LIE I was raised believing:
Love and acceptance must be deserved—EARNED by pleasing.
Peace in this house will only be attained by pleasing us —and it was my responsibility alone, to pursue, find, and preserve that fragile peace! When I failed? The shame of failure was mine. After all, what possible good is a peace-maker who can’t bring about any peace?
This of course, reinforced continuing messages of unworthiness, and worthlessness, that led to deeper feelings of failure and shame, and the cycle just went round and round. The insidious lies of the enemy; lies that got planted in the fertile ground of the abandonment and rejection from my earliest years; grew and were regularly watered by years of further abuses, where they grew, ever, AND EVER stronger, and more deeply entrenched. Their well-worn rut had become my—NORMAL. So, I kept trying to please…
And trying to bring some kind of peace…
And, I kept failing at it ALL—miserably.
Actually, arriving at Rock Bottom is a good place to be if you choose to begin walking out this transformation-thing that the bible speaks of.
Becoming “undone” hurts like a mother, but once I faced it out, I found out—it’s every caterpillar’s destiny!
Undone in Habakkuk’s Vineyard!
It’s “THE PLACE” where you, and a God who loves and accepts you, without limitation or condition can meet up, fess-up, and begin to take stock of the REAL you, your purpose in this life, and begin to make decisions that move you in some better, more positive, and hope-filled directions.
That is, if you can scrape together all the brave you’ll need to walk away from that “comfortable” rut. And don’t let anyone fool you—you’ll need a lot!
It takes guts to ask yourself the hard questions. It’s far easier to stay as you are, blame outside circumstances (or other people for your misery) choosing the “comfy-rut” of least resistance.
Or, you can choose a road called change.
Change involves risk.
Maybe risking everything!
Change involves discomfort; maybe pain.
Maybe lots of it!
Change may involve making everyone else unhappy or uncomfortable…
Bringing with it, the anger, rejection, and abandonment, you have most feared.
And finally, change involves gettingreal—about your own faults and bad choices.
For me, it involved saying that word I hated to say, always dreaded to say… No.
No, not for a Pleaser!
Saying, “No.” (And meaning it.) brings all manner of havoc and ugly unpleasantness! But, when the only view from your life is up?
Rock-bottom can become a real blessing.
It’s basic with life stripped down to very limited choices for sure but also with new and exciting possibilities!
Don’t get me wrong, walking away from the path of least resistance is painful and lonely. I found myself looking up from that deep, deep, very empty, dark hole. Starting over anytime takes courage, but from rock-bottom? You have to reach deep inside yourself, and listen hard. You have to find two things:
First, you need to hear the clear and unmistakable Voice of the Holy Spirit. (He’ll be the only One cheering for you, after everyone else has walked away!) He’ll be the One tenderly touching all those aching, newly uncovered, scar-places. He’ll be the One who calls you, “SweetHeart…” whispering hope for tomorrow, when everyone else is calling you ten kinds of traitor-and-bum!
And, He’ll be The One pointing you to that second thing…
He’ll be the One telling you, you need to find that “something” He created you for—your REAL purpose; that THING that gives your life zing, and your heart wings!
BIG HINT: It will be “the thing” that brings the sweet taste of crazy joy bubbling up from deep inside your soul.
SERIOUS WARNING: This. Ain’t. Easy!
Finding Christ is easy. (Chances are good He’s been looking for this opening called Rock Bottom long before you were.)
Finding yourself? …becoming yourself? (Not so much.) That’s a journey. Rock-bottom is only the beginning… but it’s a start!
And, after all, isn’t that THE PLACE you’ve been looking for all along?
When the world tells you that it’s impossible to be who you really are.. the who you were created to be? I hope you will listen to Your Father in Heaven and His Voice calling you out, into the risky-and-real-deep, of His purpose.