Sunday, December 27, 2015

He Sees What I Don’t See


One of the biggest struggles that I have is not complaining, whining, and resisting my new life situation. It's hard because this isn't something that I can just forget about; it's in my face everyday. When I roll over in the morning, when I walk by the family photos in our home, when a child calls with a problem that dad would handle better, or when I'm handed the microphone to say something "light" at my son's wedding reception.  It hits me in surprising moments too, catching me unaware.  It's only natural to sigh... "If Scott were here, then..." But it's hard to leave it at that.

I used to get angry and frustrated a lot.  I used to cry and rant about what a stupid plan this was for my life, but honestly that got me nowwhere... It only caused me to spiral downward into an all-out-fit of despair and hopelessness.  For the most part, I have given that tactic up. (For the most part) It's way to emotionally draining and totally unproductive, but I still resist on a lesser level.  

Sometimes I wish that I wasn't here, that I didn't have to still do this alone.  It's hard not to look at other families and feel pangs of jealousy.  But those thoughts also take me nowhere but down.  The kicker is that I know that every time I allow myself to complain about my life, I am doing the equivalent of shooting myself in the foot.  

It lessens my faith.

It cripples my ability to act.

It pulls me from the spirit.

It destroys hope and replaces it with despair.

It is so easy to loose sight of what this trial can teach me and to focus on the pain involved in that lesson. I can choose to let grief cloud my vision.  I can let discouragement blind me to my own potential.  I can focus on my weakness and become paralyzed... or I can ask to see what God sees in me.

I believe that each one of us has a plan to fulfill in this life. I believe that God allows us to go through difficulties so we can prove ourselves... prove who we are and what we are capable of, not just to God, but to ourselves.  Those challenges can strengthen us... They can strengthen our confidence in the power He can give us to overcome these challenges.

Overcoming is hard work... It's tiring and sometimes I just feel like I want to quit. Sometimes I don't feel like I am strong enough, but when I think of the end game... When I go back to my understanding of the purpose of the plan, then I fall to my knees and desperately plead for extra help to see more clearly and to have the strength I need to keep pressing forward. 

It's there... I have felt it. Somedays I loose it... But on my knees I find it again. He is there to strengthen and help us through all of the difficulties, and He knows that is the best way for us to really develop a relationship with Him... and He knows that relationship is critical if we are to achieve our potential.

When I loose sight, I go back to the basics.  I go back to prayer and scripture study.  I go back to trusting God.  

No, I don't have a clear vision of the future.  None of us do.  That is also part of the plan and part of growing our faith, but I can have confidence that He sees it.  For now that can be enough.  I can choose to trust and put my faith in Him.  I can choose to improve that relationship by trying to be like Him.  As I do that, I feel that power reenter and the previous struggles become easier to bear.
Questions to Ponder:
  1. What potential does God see in you?
  2. What can your struggles teach you?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Battling the Dark

Some days I really work hard to fight the darkness.  The other morning was one of those days. 5:15 AM the alarm sounded. My early morning bible study class started in a hour, yet this dark forbidding blanket enveloped me.  I uttered a quick prayer as I rolled out of bed and my feet hit the cold tile bathroom floor.  "Please, Heavenly Father, I have to feel the spirit to teach... please... help the darkness to go away."  As I brushed my teeth and starred blankly into the mirror, I kept rehearsing that prayer in my mind. At that moment all I felt like doing was crying, but determined not to let the darkness control me, I kept moving forward.

After breakfast, morning prayers and scriptures with my two teens, I was in the car by 6:00.  "Please, help me today,”  I repeated as I drove down the dark unlit country road, still feeling that oppressive feeling. 

Is there something I have done to bring this darkness on?  
Why do I need to suffer through this again?  

These were the questions swirling through my mind during the drive. "Please, help me to feel the spirit.  Help me to teach today." I hustled into the church building to set up my class.  With a smile on my face, I greeted my first student.  The darkness miraculously left and I was able to teach. However, later at the store, I felt the darkness settle back in.  I sighed and just kept moving.

One of the regular cashiers, who knew about my husband’s death, noticed my expression and asked me how I was doing. I just couldn't help it, right there in the store, I broke down and cried.  The words just spilled out of my mouth, toppling over one another,  "This is just a really hard time of year for me..."

After 10 minutes of empathizing and a hug, I headed to my car. During the drive home, I cried, not just tears but gasping sobs.  Try as I might, I couldn't make myself stop.  The weight of the darkness was so oppressive that I literally wanted to crumble to the floor.

As I sobbed, I worked to put the groceries away and get ready for my morning service project.  The more I sobbed the more angry I got... not at God, or the people responsible for the accident, but at the darkness.  I was sick and tired of having this overwhelming, oppressive feeling come over me.  I was tired of being hounded and thwarted when I was trying to focus my life on doing good.

So I let the darkness have it! Right there in my house I screamed out to this dark unseen force that we bent on ruining my day.

"I don't care what you do... how hard you try... you are not going to win!  I am not listening to you!  In fact… I'm going to do more good today than you can imagine! You picked the wrong girl to mess with!”

I stood again in front of the mirror starring at a very different face.  The eyes were not darkened with sadness... they were are on fire with determination.

I cheerfully pitched in at the service project. Afterwards I met up with a former student. As I listened to him tell me about his recent struggles with feeling the darkness, I knew exactly what to say.  The words just flowed and my experience fit perfectly. The spirit was there.  We both felt it.  A smile crept on my face as I watched him leave. Not only was the darkness gone, but I felt incredible, amazing light!

It was all so clear to me now. I knew why the darkness had attacked me and tried to thwart the good I would do today, and I had won.

We don't like to think about the unseen forces of evil in this world, but they are real. They exist, and we have to face them. The darkness has power but not more than what we give it. It only wins when we give up and choose not to actively fight against it. 

There are time when we are lifted and protected, when we are cradled by the light, but there are also times when God in his wisdom pulls back and lets us feel the dark. Those times are temporary, and if we keep asking for help and moving forward, the light always returns and banishes the dark.  

God is there to help us fight our battles.  He will come, but he will also let us learn how to fight.  He gives us light and strength so that we can learn to be powerfully on His side.

Today was a temporary win.  The darkness will return, but each time I overcome it, I get stronger for the next encounter. God lets me grow in confidence and faith and bit by bit into the person He wants me to become.

Questions to Ponder:

1. How will you respond when you feel the dark?

2. What are the steps to overcome and feel the light again?