I have found myself more easily distracted these days. With so much changing in my life, I am becoming focused on myself and how I wish my life to pan out. To be completely honest, I’m feeling more and more weak in my faith. Discouragement is my companion, and frustration often hangs around. I would like to shake these distractions, yet I haven’t been able to.
I am noticing a pattern in my life. I have always known that nothing lasts forever, but for me it seems that nothing can even last six months without falling apart on me. I’m growing more and more pessimistic about the future. I’m losing hope. Somehow, I managed to lose any friends I had, any good reputation I may have possessed, any connections I maintained. I moved back in with my parents forcing me to quit my job and in turn, pushing any plans of a wedding or a marriage farther and farther out of reach. My family cannot afford to send me to school to finish my degree, and I still have loans I am paying off for the time I was at school. It seems that no matter where I go, I upset people, turn people against me, or create conflict without ever intending to. I’m becoming more and more discouraged that God really has any plans for me after all.
I read a lot of John Piper books. I love the idea of Christian Hedonism, that God is most glorified when we are most delighted in Him, but I am finding that it is a lot easier in theory to live this out. I often reminisce on my time spent in Mount Hermon. God really has blessed that place, I never felt Him closer than during my time there. I can honestly say while I was there I truly knew what it meant to delight in God and God alone. It was freedom, it was light, it was saving. I spent hours just being with Him, soaking up His word, learning more and more about Him, writing, reading everyday and there was nothing that brought me greater joy. In turn I was able to sit with whomever God brought to me that day, and talk with them, serving them through encouragement and wisdom offered by the Holy Spirit. So much about my life was different during that time. I remember returning to William Jessup after the summer, feeling afresh and new, ready for whatever the season brought. But, I also remember, the moment I stepped on campus, the nightmare that I had left behind as I escaped for the summer was still very much alive. I knew I would not be able to complete my time there. Ever since then, this spirit of discouragement has not left me.
It is difficult to remain focused on God. I am learning that it does not mean I am “less than” in any way. It means only that I am a human. I am frightened easily, quick to doubt, slow to trust. I am fighting the lies that I am worthless, good for nothing, replaceable; a message that has been so clearly communicated to me throughout my life. I fight everyday to believe that God is doing something in my life, that I have purpose, that I am valuable. If all that I have read through Scripture and supporting literature, why do I even allow these thoughts to penetrate the forefront of my mind? How do I better fight this?
“Is it true that God is love to me as a Christian? And does the love of God mean all that has been said? If so, certain questions arise. Why do I ever grumble and show discontent and resentment at the circumstances in which God has placed me? Why am I ever distrustful, fearful, or depressed? Why do I ever allow myself to grow cold, formal, and halfhearted in the service of the God who loves me so? Why do I ever allow my loyalties to be divided, so that God has not all my heart? John wrote that ‘God is love’ in order to make an ethical point ‘since God so loved us we also ought to love on another’ (1 John 4:11). Could an observer learn from the quality and degree of love that I show to others- my wife? my husband? my family? my neighbors? people at church? people at work? – anything at all about the greatness of God’s love to me? Meditate upon these things. Examine yourselves.”
(J.I Packer, Knowing God)
Ever since I read this, I have been meditating on it. The conclusion I have come to is that I have allowed the fire to grow cold. I have allowed the love, grace, and faithfulness of God to become a normalcy, not my hearts one desire, extraordinary and miraculous in nature. I have let the ideas of stability, security, provision and earthly loves become what it is I chase after. As I have written this all out, I more clearly understand the discouragement I succumb to. I am not to say that my life is any more or less difficult than another, but it has not been easy. It continues to change without my consent. New challenges arise each day, and new challenges shall always arise. But what is it I have read over and over?
This life is not promised to be easy. This walk of faith is not meant to be a stroll, but an uphill climb against numerous obstacles. Why? So that I do not rely merely on my own strength. God knows my hearts desire is to be near to Him, to depend on Him, to love and be loved by Him. He is my heavenly Father, who will allow the trials of this life to catapult me into His arms every time. The light of my life will be the joy I find in the Lord amidst the suffering. As I write I am reminded of all that God has brought me through, of all that I have learned. The world, the enemy, would have me living in a state of forgetfulness. But I will remember what my Savior has done for me, for you, for the world. I will not forget.
Discouragement, hopelessness, frustrations. They are common to all of us. What will set us apart is our joy in the Lord when life seems to be pointing to the opposite of that. I encourage you today, as I find encouragement myself, to hold fast to the Lord. He is your hearts deepest longing. I know this life is full of brokenness, hurt, suffering, loss. But we are not meant to let these things hold us captive, for God saved us from that by offering us freedom through His son. Imagine a life where you can love freely, serve wholeheartedly, and feel peace and comfort in the midst of any circumstance? Oh, my dear friends, it is available to us. I am as guilty as you! I have not embraced this gift to its fullest extent! When it is all that I have been searching for. The discomfort I have felt in my life is just a reminder that I am meant for much more than what I currently am. But what freedom would I feel if I could be content wherever I am, with whatever I am doing? I am not claiming to have experienced that as of now, but you best know I will be on my knees tonight asking for it.
I refuse to let the enemy win over my thoughts and my feelings tonight. I encourage you to do the same. For we were meant to live a life of freedom. We are no longer slaves to the sin that so easily entangles us. We must continually press in for more. We must let the truth of Scripture penetrate our deepest insecurities, our most horrifying fears, our oldest wounds. We must cling to our God who loves us more than our human mind can comprehend. Fight for the joy my friends, alongside me. Let us gather in prayer for each other, let us lift each other up in encouragement and love.
“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2:19-21)