This year I was given a daily devotional called Streams in the Desert by an incredible woman that helped me repair the broken wounds of my heart and exposed me to a world of Truths I did not think I was ever worthy of being a part of. At this time, I was in the midst of applying to schools, waiting to hear back from several contacts, and was very unsure about a lot of things in my life. Therapy was extremely hard, many life decisions were pending, and my heart was still broken from the unkept promises someone had left me with. I had been praying fiercely for God to reveal the answers to me, to expose the truth of His intentions, and grant me the peace and grace to continue walking in faith. The direction of my life was uncertain at best and I felt humbled before His Divine mercy. I asked him for unwavering faith, and the first night I opened my devotional this was the reading:
Passive faith accepts the Word as true-But never moves. Active faith begins the work to do, And thereby proves.
Passive faith says, "I believe it! every word of God is true. Well I know He has not spoken what He cannot, will not, do. He has instructed me, 'Go forward!' but a closed-up way I see, When the waters are divided, soon in Canaan's land I'll be. Lo! I hear His voice commanding, 'Rise and walk: take up your bed'; And, 'Stretch to Me your withered hand!' which for so long has been dead. When I am a little stronger, then, I know I'll surely stand: When there comes a thrill of heading, I will use with ease my reclaimed hand. Yes, I know that 'God is able' and full willing all to do: I believe that every promise, sometime, will to me come true."
Active faith says, "I believe it! and the promise now I take, Knowing well, as I receive it, God each promise, real will make. So I step into the waters, finding there an open way; Onward press, the land possessing; nothing can my progress stay. Yes, I rise at His commanding, walking straight, and joyfully: This, my hand so sadly shriveled, as I reach, restored will be. What beyond His faithful promise, would I wish or do I need? Looking not for 'signs or wonders,' I'll no contradiction heed. Well I know that 'God is able,' and full willing all to do: I believe that every promise, at this moment can come true."
Passive faith but praises in the light, When sun does shine. Active Faith will praise in darkest night-Which faith is thine?
What I took away from this reading is that we are all presented opportunities in life to grow in our faith, especially through times of uncertainty and adversity. We are called through our suffering and weakness to be renewed, strengthened and dependent on Him. God wants us to believe wholeheartedly in what He has promised us in this very moment, despite our struggles, and continue on as if his promise has just been delivered to our doorstep. We may not have immediate answers to the intricacies and struggles of our daily lives, but if choose to believe the He has already given us the answer, God promises to deliver us from evil. We become purified and are sustained by His unfailing love. Instead of waiting for things to be perfect in order to pursue a Holy life, we are called to do so anyways, especially in our brokenness.
This reminded me of the scripture passage from 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
It is in our brokenness that God desires closeness with us. For many years I relied too heavily on the affirmations of other people in order to know that I was sufficient, and that I was pursuing the right path in life. When I realized we are all broken and imperfect in some ways, I discovered God alone is capable of healing our hearts. Many of us turn away from God when we are broken because we are either angry with Him or feel insufficient to come before Him and ask for help. He is the Father and creator of all things and we often forget that He alone knows completely of our individual suffering and wants to help heal us by seeking closeness and dependence on Him. Jesus's life is the ultimate paradox. In suffering and sacrifice there is strength, beauty, healing, and renewal. We are here to help one another navigate through the turbulence of life, and when we push each other away, it's more often then not a mere reflection of our own pride, selfishness, and insecurities.
People often ask "Why do good things happen to good people?" or exclaim "I don't believe in a God that would allow something like this to happen." It is easier to harder our hearts and turn away from God, then to examine the truth the lies within. The truth is that we all have free will. This is both a blessing God has bestowed upon us and an enormous responsibility. Because free will exists in the world, so does sin. And with sin comes evil. Evil that creates wars and death, induces fear, and silences Truth. Sin only exists because we all have a choice to either live a life of integrity and love or use our words and actions to cause pain and suffering in our own lives and the lives of others. God does not take away life or create situations that inflicts suffering. Suffering and pain is the result of our own sin. And God wants us to turn away from sin and return back to Him. The word 'sin' in literal translation means to 'miss the mark'. What areas of your life are you falling short or missing the mark in? Do you really think you can go at it alone?
We must not forget to act in love. And we must not be 'fair weather fans' to our faith. As the devotional reading says, "Passive faith but praises in the light, When sun does shine. Active Faith will praise in darkest night-Which faith is thine?"
It is easy to be gracious when things in our lives are beautiful and turning out in our favor, but what about giving thanks on our worst days? How can we navigate the darkness when our troubles seem to suffocate our opportunity to spark a flame? This can be an extreme challenge initially, but I believe being grateful in all circumstances, no matter what the circumstances are, is when true transformation in our faith can occur. When we are able to give praise to God and try to find good in even the most bitter of circumstances, the Holy Spirit has an unbelievable ability to unleash us and make us feel whole once again.
I believe God attempts to communicate with us every day, only more often then not, we aren't listening. I found it extremely difficult to hear God's voice when I was too consumed by my own grief. I pitied myself and the circumstances life had dealt me and was enraged with the people that had hurt me or could not understand what I was going through. I felt further away from God, because although I was asking him for help, I wasn't acting actively in my faith, but remained rather unconvinced He would save me.
How dangerous it is to live in a world that that we are convinced is inherently deceitful and self-serving. When I began questioning this thinking, I realized that the people who had caused me the most pain had also experienced extreme pain of their own. It was not a reflection of something I had done to them, but rather a reflection of their own insecurities, grief, and sin. I came to the realization that unless we mend well the garden of our own souls, we are unable to give love and light back to others.
I remember driving to my church one day after two very precious relationships in my life had crumbled before me. It was early afternoon, I left work mid-day, and took refuge in the only place I could think would give me solitude and peace. The church was empty and I keeled in a pew in the back and cried. It was an out-pour of my vulnerability. After listing my grievances, I eventually cupped my hands in front of me, as if I was holding something very precious. I slowly raised my hands upward and said, "Here. I am giving this up to you God because I don't know what else to do with it. You are the only one I can trust. I am giving this back you." It was in that moment that the Holy Spirit unleashed my soul. It was a moment that changed me forever. I asked for God's help to mend my own soul and relieve me of the things I did not understand or have the answers to. I begged him for mercy. I turned to Him in my brokenness and despair instead of blaming others or trying to fix it on my own. I had to come to this place of brokenness to fully understand in suffering there is renewal and hope.
I opened up to scripture that day for the first time in while, and these were two the readings that spoke to me:
'Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.'-Philippians 4:8
'The light shines brightly in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' -John 1:5
Only the individuals I was praying for would know of the impact and power this scripture had over me. God was ensuring me he would take care of it and that I wasn't alone. And I wouldn't have been open or receptive to His voice, had I not been humbled in my weakness.
As I began to change my thought patterns, I stopped criticizing myself and others and chose to pray about it instead. When someone hurt me, instead of wishing they would come to understand the consequences of their actions, I prayed for good things in their life and forgave them anyways. At first it was really hard. I mean when has it ever been easy to pray for someone who really hurt you? Instead of thinking, 'I hate that person,' I replaced my thinking with, "Maybe that person is having a really bad day and maybe they were in need of compassion too'. It sounds like a really naive way of thinking, but it was amazing how I was able to start approaching situations and freeing myself of the people and situations that didn't make me feel good. It created new space for love. I was friendly to even those who unhappy or somewhat rude to me. I had a customer yell at me over the phone one day at work, and when I responded in a way that was completely calm, rational, and empathetic, this person's demeanor changed instantaneously. They immediately apologized and explained that their oldest daughter was really sick and in the hospital and their reaction had nothing to do with me. How freeing it was to stop taking everything so personally.
The things I did not understand, I gave back to God, and more often then not, He began revealing answers to me that I wasn't expecting. I even learned how to forgive myself and be gentle in my own thoughts.
We are all called before Him. We cannot begin to understand His mysterious wonders and goodness. It may not always be the answers we are looking for, or the 'signs or wonders' we wrongly seek. Instead, He continues to bless us with affirmations that He loves us and wants us to turn to him.
I finally realized that the world wasn't against me, that we are born inherently good and sometimes we just get stuck. The truth is that life is good. And God knows each of us more intimately than other person ever could. Life may not always be perfect, but as we begin to seek the light in our own lives and the good in the lives of others, God's love reflects brightly back at us.
Every day, every thought, is a choice. Let us choose to be active in our faith and praise God for providing us with countless opportunities to hear His calling.