First I want to put out there that if you have any form of struggles in your life...or problems of any kind...severe or daily annoyances, I want to recommend this book to you.
"Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts" by Jerry Bridges.
For the past two years I feel as though I have been "drifting" as a Christian. I had moments where I was strong and loved the Lord. And especially this year I have fought hard to come out of this season of mediocre-ness. The desire to be closer to God and to be seeking him was there, but I struggled so hard to make it happen. I didn't want to lose my desire for him, and I believe that I was worried I would do so. But God is so great in his grace by putting us through years of struggle, never letting us so far that we lose the hope we have, but just enough to grind out all the qualities in us that should not be there.
For myself I have never really struggled with "trusting" God. Money seems to be the hottest topic here...you always hear people say how they don't trust God with their finances...blah blah blah. I never really struggled with that particular thing and as that was the most severe problem I had ever experienced in my short 24 years, I figured that I just didn't have a problem with trust. Oh the wisdom and grace of God. To know how desperately I needed to learn to truly trust him.
The last few months have been very revealing of how much I don't trust God. If you are like me at all then you know that if you want something you can basically know that God will never give it to you. Because God just doesn't give me "good" things. It's not that he doesn't love me just that's how he deals with me. The root of this problem is several layers thick...but a big part of it is lack of trust. Trust in his word when he says "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
I don't want to write a novel here, so to keep things short I will say that I have struggled with trusting God in singleness, trusting God with the salvation of friends that I care deeply for, and for my job. A few weeks ago I even found myself finally admitting it out loud. I was angry with God for not doing things my way. Not honoring all the prayer I had invested in these things. I had begged, pleaded, fasted, and cried and God had ignored me. I didn't trust him. And, because God works in his own way without regard or counsel of another, I was convinced at that moment that I didn't want to trust him. What if he chose not to save my friend...what if he chose to leave me single the rest of my life...etc. I couldn't live with the outcomes.
But, God is so good. Allowing this to come out so that I could see it and not deny it. So that it could be dealt with and that I could be refined. Made more like his son. Again I highly recommend the entirety of the a fore mentioned book, but I want to pull out a few specific sections.
The first was that our tendency during hard things is to live in the world of pity party. We like it there because it's easy. We focus only on what we don't have and where we are not. It's often followed with depression and thoughts that revolve completely around ourselves. It's filled with anxiety about the things that we cannot control and the outcomes we are terrified of.
Jerry Bridges offers this verse from Psalm 42:11
"Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God."
He talks about how we CHOOSE to trust or not trust God. That we can choose to trust him. But, what I loved here was this concept...that we are so led by our emotions and how we feel we negate Truth. If we don't feel like trusting God we don't.
"...trusting God is first of all a matter of the will and is not dependent on my feelings. I choose to trust God, and my feelings eventually follow." (Jerry Bridges)
This is so true. And there is so much relief for me in being able to say that I don't feel like trusting you God, BUT I will choose to because your word says that you are trustworthy.
The other lesson I had to learn about trust is...humility. I wouldn't call myself the most gracious person I have ever known. I don't hand out compliments, don't thank people nearly as much as I should or they deserve...and I do it even less with God. Perhaps there is some expectation on my part that I somehow deserve the things I'm given or that I expect God to act like God and be good to me. Regardless my thanksgiving is often much less in the attitude than what it can and should be. God's word says that we should give thanks at ALL times, in EVERY situation. The hardest times to do this is when you don't feel like giving thanks. Jerry Bridges talks about Job in his chapter about giving thanks. Job after he just lost everything important to him...that he had spent his life in dedication to....this is his response.
"He fell to the ground in worship and said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." (Job 1:20-21)
There is a concept of complete humility and submission to God in is infinite wisdom and sovereignty in all circumstances.
I have been lacking in this severely. I never understood the balance of praying with a hope that God can and will do what is being asked, but submitting all desires and requests to his ultimate authority and wisdom. "...not my will but your will." Not only this but being thankful to God, not just for answering or not answering prayers or for saving me or saving others or for all the good he does...but just purely for being GOD who is good and holy and righteous and perfect. For working all things for my good and his glory.
A little over two years ago I asked a friend to pray for me to learn humility...I thought I had learned that lesson a few weeks later when I opened my mouth and said something that hurt my best friend pretty badly. But I believe that was only the beginning of my journey of understanding a humility before God. A humility that recognizes that I am not God, I am not righteous or perfect or justified in what I want or desire. Recognizing that because of that I must submit to the one who is.
Unfortunately this won't be the last time I struggle with this...but I leave you with this verse that resonated with me this morning, and brought me to my knees before a loving and sovereign God:
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."