Finding Vision in the Valley

Life is filled with ups and downs.  Sometimes it seems we see more valleys than mountain peaks.  More often than not we have been taught in this day and age when trials come, and we feel ourselves descending into a valley, we need to pull ourselves back up and say, “Enough!”

I am determined enough.

I am strong enough.

I am resilient enough.

I am smart enough.

These statements are filled with a ton of “I”‘s — yet when things go wrong or aren’t going right fast enough (there’s that word again), I start to wonder where is God at?  Why is he allowing this to happen to me?  I like to think I am a good person.   A faithful person.   Why isn’t he helping me?  Yet in all of the statements above there is not a single mention of God…

Suddenly my vision is beginning to clear.  God hasn’t left me or forsaken me.  He hasn’t tossed me out into the woods where hungry wolves prowl.  He has been right beside me through thick and thin.

His lack of response is because I have shut him out with my determination to be self-sufficient.  I am the biggest cause of my own separation from the Good Shepherd!

When things in my life have become difficult, trying, or impossible, I have cried out to God but turned deaf ears to him.  Then I would become angry, or feel lost and alone, because I couldn’t feel his presence or hear his voice in my suffering.  All along he has been and is right beside me.  He was, and still is, patiently waiting for me to be still long enough to talk with him and listen to what he has to say to me.  He is waiting to guide me through every valley.

We as a society and culture have done the same exact thing.  We no longer trust in the Good Shepherd to guide us.  Instead we create manmade codes of law and justice, erect walls, and other things of our own invention to fix the bane of humanity.

Problems with addictions

Homelessness

Illnesses.

We believe in the power of therapy and counseling to help determine what we are missing so we can fix ourselves.  We trust in the ability to fix society problems through human agencies.  We look for answers in our doctors and modern medicine to fix maladies.

And when these things let us down we finally ask, where was God in all of this?  How could he allow this to happen?  Why does he let these things continue?  If he truly loved us he would not allow bad things to happen.

He is the last place we are looking to for guidance, care and healing when he should be the first!

How different would our world be if the politicians and people in business were Godly men and women who were actively seeking to hear and be directed by God in both their personal and professional lives?  What if they were leaning on God through the power of prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit when making decisions that affect the masses?

It all comes back to a personal level.  It starts with me.   To be a Godly woman I need to seek God through prayer.  As often as needed to successfully navigate the road I am on.  Daily, hourly, each and every moment.

God our Father doesn’t want us to be fair weather friends.  He created us to be in community with him. God gave us the ultimate example of what fellowship and relationship should look like.  He sets the example for us with the relationship we see between the Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.

God didn’t choose for man to fall, but he also didn’t abandon us.  He has since the dawn of creation desired to be in relationship with all of his children.  Unfortunately  we humans seem to be just as determined to forgo that fellowship with our creator because we are convinced we can do it on our own.

Fortunately God is patient with his wayward children.

Despite our best attempts to go it alone, He still wants an intimate relationship with us so that when the storms of life come we have a secure anchor in him.  He will guide us to safe harbors.

Lean on the Good Shepherd.  He will lead us through the high peaks and through the low valleys.  He will comfort us when we fall. He will protect us always with his staff.  And he will always be there to listen to our cares and give us the best Fatherly advice ever breathed day or night.

God’s grace for us is abundant.  His goodness and mercy will never end.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. Psalm 23:6 (NRSV)

 

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Of Spirits and Their Warfare

Spiritual warfare.  What can I say about it that hasn’t been said before?  Is it real? Absolutely!

The doldrums, the blues, Jonah days — call them whatever you want. They are dark days mentally and spiritually depressing.

Dark nights of the soul.

Like most things in life, it doesn’t come in one shape or size.  Each experience is different for each person.  I suppose there can be similarities, but since no two people are alike no two experiences can be exactly alike.  I am not sure if what I experience is the norm in these instances or not, but this is what it feels like for me:

I feel like I am slipping into a deep dark hole drowning in darkness. It leaves me feeling hopeless and lost and lonely. And it is the loneliness that gets me the most.

I feel isolated and completely alone. All hope is gone. Which I know is not true.  I know that I have ever-present hope and I have been cleansed and saved but in the midst of the darkness it feels like I have lost all hope.

It feels like I’m alone and that is how he attacks me.

He isolates me and separates me and makes me feel as if no one in the world cares about me in any way shape or form and I am a lonely island adrift in icy cold dark waters.

So is there a spiritual warfare? Yes, unequivocally yes —  and the reason that no one can explain exactly what spiritual warfare is like is because it’s tailor-made for each and every one of us. The devil and his demons pick out their target and then look for the weaknesses and put together a custom plan of attack specifically for you, specifically for me.

The devil and his minions don’t stick to one plan of attack either.

Once they have done all they can with their frontal attack, then  they become even more covert and spring up from the sides or come from behind. They continue with other little attacks when you’re already feeling lost and hopeless and alone.

The evil army begins to make you question things like your confidence in yourself as a professional.  Or perhaps it is your  dependability or worthiness as a mother or a wife or a homemaker .  Maybe it is centered on your physical appearance making you wonder if anyone can take you seriously because you don’t fit into the super model mold.

Why do these attacks happen?

Not because Satan has anything against you per se, but because as soon as you make that choice  to step out in faith  and strive to be all that God has called you to be you have captured his undivided attention.

You see we are the front lines in our communities spreading the love and good news — Light bearers in a dark and broken world.

Satan’s  issues are with God not man . He is using his attacks at us to attack God.

Our Father in Heaven is just like any earthly parent and wants to protect us.  We are after all made in God’s image.  He wants to keep us safe and sheltered and covered with his love.

How far do we go to protect our loved ones?  Can you imagine how much farther our Father God goes to protect and care for us?

He went so far to protect and care for us that it cost him his Son!

So what can we as brothers and sisters in Christ do when faced with spiritual warfare? How do we help each other and support each other when in the midst of a great attack? In the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians, we stand firm, ready for battle, clothed in the full armor God has provided to us:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.  Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.  As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints– Ephesians 6:10-18 (NRSV)

It has been said that we Christians have forgotten how to pray.  Our prayers ask for safety.  We ask God to watch over us and to watch over those we love and to keep us all safe.  We pray that no harm ever come to us.

The Christians in the early church, as well as Christians in times of persecution, didn’t pray for safety.  They prayed for boldness.  For the ability to go forward proclaiming the goodness and saving grace of Jesus on the cross no matter what the cost.

We also need to be more diligent in wielding the sword of spirit.

The Bible.

The Spirit-breathed words of God.

We need to study and immerse ourselves in these words committing them to memory and storing them away in our hearts. That way when the attacks come we are at the ready with our sword to defend ourselves.  Jesus himself gave us this example when he was tempted by Satan in the desert.

Perhaps the biggest enemy we have when it comes to spiritual warfare is ourselves.  We have become so caught up in the concept of self-reliance in twenty-first century America that we try to take on the battles alone.

We need to embrace the examples of our ancestors and rely on our mighty and powerful God to fill us with his strength.  We need to leave behind the preconceived notions that we must handle things on our own or be considered weak.

In the end we are all weak.  We need to cling to and place our hope and faith in God.  Only he can can equip us for the battles and only he can lead us through them.  We are engaged in a battle for today, but Jesus has already won the war for eternity.

Indeed, you are my lamp, O Lord, the Lord lightens my darkness.  By you I can crush a troop,
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.  This God—his way is perfect;
    the promise of the Lord proves true;
    he is a shield for all who take refuge in him.
 –
2 Samuel 22:29-31 (NRSV)

The Littlest Things

I realized something startling about myself tonight.

For years it has been a running joke that I don’t get the mail in the mailbox until the poor thing is so crammed full that it is literally vomiting pieces of mail.  Or the mail person has lost patience with me and stopped my mail service all together requiring me to make a trip to the post office to get the massive piles of accumulated mail with our names on it.

I have come up with various reasons, ahem, excuses, for this over the years that have always been readily accepted:

  • It isn’t a priority for me because all of our bills come electronically so the only thing in there is junk mail
  • I am so busy I forget
  • I get home so late that it is already dark so I don’t stop at the box
  • I get home and have to immediately start supper if we want to eat before midnight

Our address has changed but the excuses have not.  I have been just as “forgetful” getting the mail out of our mailbox at our new address as I was at our previous address of eight years.  I have been very grateful to this new post person that anytime I order packages they have been very considerate and placed them on my porch.

However, today I was expecting my latest package from Amazon with the required books for my January Fellow’s reading.  Faithfully all day long I have kept a watchful eye on the porch.  Books are my precious friends, and as it has been a delightful winter mix of precipitation today, I wanted to retrieve them from the porch as soon as possible.

The package never showed up on the porch.

So I hemmed and hawed and finally realized the package must have been small enough to fit in the box.

I was going to have to get the mail.

The very thought of this filled me with dread.

I realized as I walked through the cold winter mist towards the mail box in the fading daylight that I was terrified to get the mail.  In fact, I have been afraid to get the mail for several years now.  To the point of feeling sick.

Why on earth would a person be afraid to get the mail?

Because this particular person and her husband went through years of financial struggles.  The mailbox became a place of bad news.  Bills that were past due on an income that couldn’t get caught up.

It is no secret that we have always lived very pay check to pay check.  We would just barely get by. We would occasionally rob Peter to pay Paul.  But we got by.

Until the day thirteen years ago when my husband, through no fault of his own, lost his job.

We had no savings.

I still had my job, but it was nowhere near enough to cover our monthly expenses.   We got behind on car payments and mortgage payments.  By the time another job was found six months had passed.  There was no catching up.

So we filed bankruptcy.  The kind where you still get to keep everything while catching up.

Then we had a baby.

Our already stretched thin income became even thinner with the new expenses of daycare.  We never truly recovered from the months my husband was unemployed.   We had no choice left but to file for bankruptcy again.  This time is was the big one.

We lost our house.

Even then, we still had a very rough road.  We had bad credit for several years.  Our income didn’t quickly increase and our expenses didn’t go down.  We didn’t have a mortgage anymore, but we still had to pay rent.

Fortunately, ten years later, our financial picture is much brighter.  Through hard work and divine leading our income has gradually increased.  God has been very faithful to us and has continued to bless us abundantly.

This past August we FINALLY were able to purchase a home!  Through out the entire process that began back in April of 2015  we could see the hand of Providence moving.  He ironed out all the details and has provided for us the perfect house to make our home in.

For the first time ever we can comfortably pay our monthly expenses and actually have a little something left over at the end of the month.

But I am still afraid of getting the mail.

It struck me as I was taking that cold brisk walk down our driveway.

No matter how much we know and believe that God will provide for us, Satan still has the ability to zero in on that insecurity in me.  He continues to exploit on my fears and by doing so is distracting me from all the wonderful ways God has provided for us over the years.

And God will continue to provide for us.

I would like to  say that this realization has cured me and that I will once more get the mail everyday like a normal person.  That is my intention.  But the seeds of doubt and fear that the devil sows in us can be very powerful things.

It is going to take me being very intentional about not letting those words of fear be whispered into my ears.  It sounds like such a little trivial thing to get the mail.  And that my friends is the whole point here.

Satan steals our confidence and robs us of our joy in being the chosen children of our most holy God with the small everyday things.

I refuse to allow him to win this battle anymore.  The war has already been fought and won.

Jesus Christ conquered this world and took authority away from Satan on the cross.

He has redeemed me.

No more shame.

No more anxiety.

No more worries.

I am a beloved child of God.

I am enough.

And I will joyfully get my mail every day.

 

 

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” -Deuteronomy 31:8 (NRSV)

 

 

 

MennoNerds Affiliate – It’s Official!!!

I am thrilled to announce that Wisdom Wanderings is now a MennoNerds Affiliate!!!  What an incredible blessing to be affiliated with this talented group of Anabaptist-minded thinkers!

MennoNerds

If you enjoy what you are reading here at Wisdom Wanderings, head on over to MennoNerds for more great folks to read and follow.

 

God is good!  All glory  and praise to Him as He holds my hand and continues to lead me on this journey.