I've got a confession to make... my perspective has been pretty lousy the past couple months. Things got really difficult for me both physically and emotionally after surgery. Nothing went wrong necessarily... it just seems that the longer I go through treatment, the harder it is to stay focused on God and what he's doing through all of this. The bottom line is that it's just harder and harder to see past all the difficulty of this journey. I haven't even had the emotional energy to blog (hence the radio silence for so long... sorry about that). Needless to say, I'm ready for the train to stop, so I can get off already!
But I was recently reminded by a few good friends that maybe that's not the point. Maybe... no, most definitely... I'm not supposed to see exactly what God's doing through all of this right now. Maybe I never will. But that doesn't mean he's not working through it anyway. Isn't that the fundamental definition of faith anyway?
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" ~ Hebrews 11:1
Having faith is a matter of trusting God with what you can't see in the first place! Well, that's exactly where I am. So many people have told me that they see God working in great ways through this trial in my life... that they see him preparing me for something big that's still ahead of me. But when it comes down to it, I have the most difficult time seeing that for myself when I'm laying in bed hurting and feeling sick and miserable. Yet, I still long to be a woman of faith, trusting my God even when I can't see what he's doing through my circumstances.
Thankfully, I have a tremendous bunch of friends who love God and me and are willing to keep pointing me in the right direction even when I'm playing the broken record of my woes to them. As I was sitting in Bible Study the other week, I bore my heart and shared just how low I've been feeling. I asked my friends to pray that I would have the strength to get through all of this and the encouragement I received was something I wasn't expecting (isn't that always the way with God?). A dear friend reminded me of a story in the book of Joshua:
The Israelites were preparing to go into the land that God had promised them. They continued forward trusting a crazy promise that God would get them across the Jordan River, even though they had no boats (not even an inner tube!). When they got to the water's edge and dipped their feet in, the water stopped flowing upriver and the ground dried up in front of them! Pretty cool story, but I'm even more fascinated by what happened next: When they got to the other side, they were told to go back and get twelve stones from the middle of the river. Joshua set them up as a monument there on the other side, so that whenever their children would ask later, "What do these stones mean to you?" they could retell the story of God's great work and faithfulness in their lives (Joshua 3-4).
My friend reminded me that sometimes when we're feeling lost in the midst of difficult circumstances, it does us a lot of good to look back instead of trying to look forward. He encouraged me to focus once again on the milestones of faithfulness God has already laid throughout my life. Well, needless to say, I left that Bible Study nearly in tears, feeling overwhelmed once again that God would provide such encouragement when I was being so faithless. The next day, I set out to remember as many of my own milestones as I could. Here's part of my list:
- God saved me and freed me from my sin when I couldn't do it on my own
- He has given me a loving family that has stood by me, not only through cancer, but through all of my many mistakes (and, believe me, there have been many)
- He has given me several close friends who keep on loving me even when I'm unlovable... and who continue to help me in my walk to know and serve God better
- He has given me a couple precious mentors who have helped guide me along the way
- He has given me truth in his Word to stand on, a firm foundation to build my life upon
- He has taken my life, even my sin, and somehow worked good through it
- He has taken one of the most difficult times in my life (my parents' divorce) and used it to help others through me
- He has given me the strength to get through some of the most emotionally difficult times in my life so far and I've become a stronger person for it
- Three times, he provided me with a car at no cost when I was in need of one and had no money
- Numerous times, he has provided financially for me when I was faithful to give to him first
- He made a way for me to go on two separate mission trips, both of which have shaped a part of who I am today
- He opened up a job for me (one I wasn't qualified for in the beginning) when I desperately needed to make a change to continue moving toward ministry
- He worked out all the details and made a way for me to go back to school and complete my bachelors degree after having failed out the first time around
- He made it possible for me to get to and through surgery, which greatly increased my chances of seeing a day when I'm told I'm cancer free
- He gives me grace and strength to get through each day of treatment
- He continues to heal my body, thus giving me good reports of continued process through treatment...
The list goes on, but you get the drift. I found that just the simple act of looking back like that and seeing the milestones of God's faithfulness in my life has already started to change my perspective about my present and my future. There are still low moments and days. There's still a lot of stress to handle in my life... but once again, I find myself being carried through it all by a God who loves me and is faithful to me in ways I know I don't deserve by my own merit.
I am left speechless at how he loves me and cares for every detail of my life and what I'm going through...
What about you? What are you facing today? Has anything got you down? Are you having a tough time seeing the big picture and finding joy in the midst of your trials? Then I encourage you in the same way my friend encouraged me. Instead of trying to look forward and figure it all out, take some time to look backwards and remind yourself of how faithful and great this God is who would care for you in such real and practical ways. I trust that your milestones will begin to change your heart in the same way mine have for me.