The devil, who has for the most part ignored you up to that point since you weren't a threat, starts to take notice. And so do other people. Believers and unbelievers alike may become your adversaries. Remember what happened to the boy David when he decided to fight Goliath? His brother attacked him angrily. Then Saul, the king, challenged him, "You're just a boy." Then Goliath himself mocked David. In that moment, David had no supporters except the Lord. Get in the battle and see what happens. ~Tim Haring, April 30th devotional for Faithwalkers journal, available in it's entirety hereThis has definitely been my experience. At certain points along this difficult road, as I follow God like a blind woman down a path I didn't choose that leads to a destination I am totally unsure of, I have felt overwhelming support and love from my community. At other points, that support has fallen away and I have been forced to wonder, "Am I even on the right road any more? Did I slip up somewhere?" I have to re-examine everything - my motives, the reasons I have faith I am on the right path, the signs God provided along the way, and most of all, my relationship status with God. Cancer, initially, was a huge wake-up call. All my priorities were shaken up like papers in a raffle basket, and, since the dust settled, nothing has ever been the same again. What I knew in my heart has become what I do with my hands: 1. God; 2. Aaron; 3. children; 4. blood family; 5. church family; 6. the lost. The challenge has been to sort through the various activities that fill my days and put them in their correct slot on the priority list. School, for instance, is particularly challenging. I believe it fits somewhere between church family and the lost - my reasons for going to school are to witness to the lost and to build the church family by going on mission as a nursing professor and being a voice of the church in the broader community. Adoption is another challenge - is that up there with children, blood family, church family, or is it an edict from God and something that should take top billing as Aaron and I pursue it together? These are the two activities that have undoubtedly drawn the most "heat" in the battle surrounding my life and my time and my service to Christ. School and adoption are two aspects of my life many people do not understand. Yet they are part of what Christ has called me to do, and I must "enter the battle and see what happens". I cannot, in good faith, table these things because it doesn't make human sense to pursue them. Aaron and I are in agreement, after long, hard examination, that these two things stay in our lives. We have to keep stepping forward on that, even if brothers, kings, and enemies oppose us and question our sanity.
A little book of collected writings on suffering, edited by Nancy Guthrie (who definitely knows her subject), has been a comfort through the latest onslaught. Corrie ten Boom recalls a conversation she had with her father when she was a child:
When I was a little girl, I went to my father and said, "Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ." "Tell me", Father said, "when you take a train trip from Haarlem to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?" "No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train." "That is right," my father said, "and so it is with God's strength. Our wise Father in heaven knows when you are going to need things too. Today you do not need the strength to be a martyr; but as soon as you are called upon for the honor of facing death for Jesus, He will supply the strength you need - just in time."
God has called me to face cancer, various other health difficulties, a child with special needs, graduate school, homeschooling my children, homemaking for my family, and pursuing adoption - all at the same time. He has given me the money for the ticket. Only He know how much strength I need to survive this - nay, to shine for His glory while doing these tasks. From the outside looking in, to friends and family and strangers who don't have the ticket for this train in their pockets, it seems impossible, improbable, unwise, fool-hardy even. But I have the ticket in my pocket - my Father has given it to me just in time to board the train. Now that I am on the train, jumping off would be the fool-hardy action! God is holding my hand and we are steaming along just fine.
I plan to type up an entire article by D.A. Carson titled "Dying Well". The verses he opens the essay with remind me to number my days and resolutely press on if I am sure of what God has called me to do. The entire passage is Psalm 90:3-4, 9-12, but verse 12 is what gets my attention: So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom. The wisdom and strength God is pouring into me is probably very different from the wisdom and strength He is pouring into you. We have different tasks for which He is preparing us!
Having your faith tested is not all sorrow, misery, tears, torment, agony! Charles Spurgeon states, "It is as great a mercy to have your salvation proved to you under trial as it is to have it sustained in you by the consolations of the Spirit of God." The old adage, what doesn't kill you will make you stronger, comes to mind. It's true in our marriages, isn't it? When our vows are tested by sin in our spouse, or sin in ourselves, we walk through that fire begging for the trial to be over, only to emerge on the other side realizing we can now trust those vows. We know now that they stand up under fire! So is faith that has been tested by suffering - I know now that I will not lose my faith, that I can walk bravely (albeit with tears and sweat and begging for grace and mercy) toward the day He has fixed for my death. I will not crumble. His strength holds me up. I have tested it now, and so I can believe all the more.
Finally, the story of Manoah and his wife - Samson's mother and father - keeps coming up in various conversations and books. I think God is teaching me immensely through that story, found in the book of Judges. God speaks to them, and their reactions are polar opposite. They hear from God, and develop a set of expectations. When life fails to meet those expectations, Manoah falters, and his wife ponders the whole situation and arrives at a conclusion on which she acts. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it this way:
Suddenly, everything seems to go wrong. The situation is perplexing and baffling and quite the contrary of what we had expected and anticipated. We seem to break down altogether and to lose hope entirely. We jump to conclusions, and almost invariably, to the worst conclusion that is possible in the given circumstances, the same assumptions as that which led Manoah to his worst conclusion, (namely) that somehow or other, God is against us, and that all we had so fondly imagined to be an expression of God's goodness and kindness was nothing but an illusion. In the midst of disaster and trying difficulties, the Christian religion, instead of acting like a charm or a drug, and doing everything for us, and suddenly putting everything right, asks us, nay rather commands us, to think and to employ logic. Manoah's wife understood that God is never capricious; God is never unjust in his dealings with us; God never contradicts himself and his own gracious purposes.
Finally, Lloyd-Jones concludes with lines that bring me such peace in this time when everything seems questionable, chaotic, unsupportable. You may not understand what is happening to you; it may seem, to you, all wrong. Trust yourself to him. Believe when you cannot prove. Hold on to his constancy, his justice, his eternal purposes for you in Christ. Regard these as absolutes, which can never be shaken, build your case logically upon them, remain steadfast and unshaken, confident that ultimately all will be made plain and all will be well.
For now, we are staying in the battle, and seeing what happens.