God extended my life for another birthday. Thirty-nine. I am blessed to be alive as I am, walking closely with Him and knowing with full assurance that He is all I need. I had what the world would call success– a drug-free life, two degrees, a career, a consulting business, a husband, a home, a few children, and good health. And a car.
How shallow this sounds as it is not success by measure of the faith! It is the picture of what the world would want for me, but God got a hold of me and when He did, I surrendered my life to downsize our living space, and refuse the road to career ambition for the sake of teaching and admonishing my children at home. I homeschool and I don’t want to look back at what I had, or what I could have if I gave up God’s command.
I’ve been beat by life, I’ve hit rock bottom spiritually. I’ve learned to love the One who first loved me. I am amazed by the One who knitted me in my mother’s womb, who knew me before anyone else knew me. Who fearfully and wonderfully made me. He made me. He loves me. I weep at the thought! I am special to Him. I may not be to those who cast me aside as a child, but I was significant to God. “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!” I think of Susannah Spurgeon’s sweet words of praise to God in her book A Carillon of Bells:
Nay, more than this, dear Lord, Thy power is so great that Thou dost sometimes trans form the very things that hurt and grieved me into means of grace and blessing to my heart and life. Disappointments in my work, obstacles to its performance, the estrangement of friends, conscious incompetence and weakness, and often an over powering sense of deepening responsibility, — these experiences are all like thorns and briers, which irritate and worry by their persistent and close contact ; — yet all these vanish when Thou, my gracious God, dost give the word, and I wonder as I find myself walking peacefully among the fir trees, where the pine needles lie thick upon the ground, spreading the softest of carpets under my tired feet ; and where the myrtle’s snowy blossoms and glossy leaves promise perfume and sweetness even to those who bruise them. Thy ways, O Lord, are past finding out, but they are very gracious and tender ; and this turning of seeming evil into good, of making Thy children’s trials grow into triumphs, and their pains into pleasures, is a wonderful proof both of Thy pity and Thy power.
By His grace, after years of disappointment and years of confusion, after healing and being transformed by the renewing of my mind, I praise Him Who saved me. He saved me from a childhood wrought in sin, where my young eyes witnessed wickedness: fatherlessness, abandonment, neglect, sexual abuse, alcoholism, gambling, adultery– all these sins my little eyes saw growing up, but He saved me from those stains in my life that, otherwise, I would have considered normal, until coming to faith in Christ at age 10 through the sharing of the gospel from extended family in another country. It wasn’t until the age of 25 that I fully surrendered my life to Christ and said, Here am I, Lord. Use me as you see fit.
I had nowhere to go but to God. I was desperate to find answers and thus, His word spoke to me. He brought me to my knees in repentance and I began drinking the milk of the Word.
I kiss my Bible. I love His word. I don’t want to imagine where I would be without Him. He got a hold of me just in time. I may have wrecked my life if He hadn’t. How merciful He is to have long-suffered with me, to be so patient with me; to take me through the fires of a bewildered life without burning me. How in every corner of my past, He was there carefully nudging me to Him. I look back at all the compromising and perilous areas of my life in which I could have taken the plunge and made some decisions that would certainly bear scathing consequences, but it was His grace that kept me from falling miserably, for that decision at age 10 was persistent in my mind. Always in the back of my mind…
I don’t get tired of sharing my testimony. There are new things I remember each time I do. I get to thinking about the detours, the shut doors, the closed opportunities that now I know were God’s preventative measure– His protection. And I am thankful. Thankful that my mother, as lost as she was is now turning a bit warmer towards the gospel. As delicate of a situation as it is to be the Christian of the family, it is a badge of honor to carry it for the Lord. I am vexed in many areas of my life, and the heaviness of my heart can get a grip on me when I see things that I cannot change. I turn to rest and take comfort in the scriptures, the passages of His word that edify and encourage me, the words of wisdom that reflect the new life I have in Him, and the direction He set before me.
Taking Every Thought Captive
What these years have taught me is that I need to be ready. I have hope. As Christians, we will hit bottom and we need to tell our kids and be ready to give them an answer for the hope we have when we do. We need to come to a sackcloth and ashes type of humility with our families in order to allow the Spirit to sanctify us.
I’ve learned that we need to get the Bible in us because we have hope. The world doesn’t and thus, we need to seek the answers where the hope is found. His word is a treasure for all matters of life, and in this past year– as I’ve come to learn through bitter tears– I can attest that the guarding of my heart has taken such tremendous strength.
Above all else, guard thy heart; for out of it flows the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23
Solomon in this passage tells us to keep our heart with all diligence, making sure we focus on godly desires, putting boundaries on them by not going after everything we think we need. This helps keep us from getting sidetracked and entering into precarious territory.
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Mark 9:43
This passage stresses the importance of cutting sin out of our lives. Painful self-discipline is required of Christ’s true followers. Giving up a job, a friendship, a habit that is against God’s will may seem just as painful as cutting off a hand! But Christ is worth any possible loss or discomfort.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8
Here is why I decided to shut out the headline news from my life for months now.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalms 19:14
This passage really makes me think about how much I need to change my thinking. It makes me ask myself whether I would change the way I live if I knew every word and thought would be examined by God first. David asks that God approve his words and reflections as though they were offerings brought to the altar. Offerings! God help me to look at my words as offerings worthy of your presence…
I’ve learned in my years that a fair amount of churches are fake. The facades are coming down. Example after example, we see all over the place apostasy that is relentless, that grabs a hold of even the most of lukewarm Christians, compromisers of the faith, those that don’t live by conviction but by convenience, those that don’t hold the sufficiency of scripture as doctrine. Sound doctrine divided between evil and good builds fences that are necessary and churches need to be distinct and unlike the world. The body of Christ needs to stop making concessions for certain areas of life that are ungodly by God’s standards, but by the world’s standards are acceptable. The church body needs to repent and we need to praise God for the facades coming down… praise God for the exposure of sin. It reminds us of Who is still on the throne.
I’ve learned that there indeed is a remnant. God strengthens the things that remain. “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” As a family, we want to be part of that remnant. It took standing apart in the middle of a hurting church that like Sardis, looked good on the outside, but is full of corruption on the inside. It is cold and ready to die, and for that reason, we left with our banner for Christ, and not for man. It is a sanctifying process when we realized that what we were doing was a facade, that is was superficial at the core. We need to say we have been wrong, and begin to love and delight in His word and see Him sanctify our flesh with the work of the Spirit. As we do this, we will eventually see the remnant and a strong core of true faith and love for brothers and sisters in Christ and thus, will not be defrauded. We will strengthen the things that remain by the grace of God. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17
God is ready to love, and He is ready to save those that are broken and lost. I was there, and the life I have been given is not free of hurt or burden, but I am pardoned, and I couldn’t have forgiven myself on my own. My family is ready to live for Christ and we will rest on His word and live out His goodness, with His power and His strength, without fear, knowing He will be pleased. It is a walk, a test of endurance in the race, but knowing He is with us gives us hope for our family to grow stronger in Him alone.
What are some things that God has brought to your attention recently? How has He brought you to a fuller understanding of His character?