Saturday, 26 March 2016

Out of These Ashes

This morning was difficult. My back was in pain.  I did something to my back last Saturday and have had to deal with the pain all week.  The doctors are not sure, but it is either a sprained or pulled muscle or a problem with a disc in my back.  I'm on steroids and Aleve and taking painkillers and muscle relaxers as needed.

I find my family once again in a chapter of transition where God is asking us to let go of one thing before really telling us what it is we should grab a hold of next.  Chris, my husband, has taken a job in another city, and without long explanation, the kids and I are living with my parents (7 hours away) for a few months as we try to see how God will put the pieces of our broken hearts and lives back together in a story of redemption like only He can write.  We were all set to visit him in the town that will likely be our new home during our Spring Break from school when this back fiasco came along and has now completely ruined our plans.

With all of this weighing heavy on my mind, I awoke this morning with my body in pain and my mind clouded and overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair.

I have fought all of these mental battles before but never with a sense of physical helplessness and pain that is leaving me dependent upon others and unable to literally get up and out. There is nowhere to run but to my Lord.

As I laid in bed, I felt the sense that I was being overwhelmed and something rose within me that thought: though I can't push back all of the physical pain in this moment, I have to fight in the Spirit to push back the mental anguish because it is crushing me. (Side note: Yes, I do believe and pray for physical healing, it was just not my focus this morning.)

So I began to pray in the Spirit and tried to push back against the anguish, these are the things I felt and sensed God showing me as I prayed....

I felt some space begin to lift between the darkness and my mind. I asked God to fill in that space with His hope, love, and joy...Hope for the feelings of hopelessness, joy for the feelings of despair and comfort for the helplessness I was feeling.

I felt as I prayed that God was speaking to me the words  from a Stephen Curtis Chapman song...
"Out of these ashes, beauty will rise 
You will dance among the ruins. 
You will see it with your own eyes."

  "Beauty Will Rise" by Stephen Curtis Chapman

A glimmer of life and hope awakened inside, but even still, I felt like despair was trying to overtake me. So I began praying and asking, "God, what is the opposite of despair?" because I knew that is what I needed and is what I need right now.

The only thing I could think is that the opposite of despair must be joy, and I remembered these words from another song.

 I am pressed but not crushed,
Persecuted not abandoned,
Struck down but not destroyed.
I am blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
That His joy is gonna be my strength.
Though the sorrow May last for the night, His joy comes in the morning.

 "Trading My Sorrows" by Darrell Evans

It's not just a song, it is a promise in God's word.

2 Corinthians 4:7
7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed

So I prayed (and continue praying now... For me and for you..)

"God help me not be crushed by the disappointment and despair I feel. Help me have understanding where I am absolutely baffled and perplexed in the midst of what you are doing in my life. You see the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) but I can't, and I need understanding and peace in this storm.  Though I feel struck down, let me know that I am not destroyed!"

"God please give me joy in the midst of pain and despair, the secret treasures hidden in darkness that you speak of in your Word."

Isaiah 45:3
3I will give you hidden treasures,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

"God give me The secret treasures of Your hope, Your life, Your peace, Your comfort, Your Presence, Your Strengthening, Your freedom."

"Go before me and as Isaiah 45:3 says level the mountains I face and break down the gates of bronze and cut through the bars of iron that are imprisoning me in my own hopeless and despairing thoughts."

Isaiah 45:5-7
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you...
6so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things.

Friends, I am choosing to cry out to the one and only God who forms the light and brings prosperity and disaster, so that He may strengthen me that I may know Him and His treasures hidden in darkness and that others may see His light and glory being worked in and through my life. That the world may know and see that He is real, true, and completely with us in the midst of our grief, pain, sorrows, joys, highest moments, victories...God is with us, Immanuel, in every time, season, and chapter of our lives (Matthew 1:23).

As I continued to pray, I felt God comforting me with the words from another song....
I am not alone, I am not alone.
You will go before me, 
you will never leave me.
 I Am Not Alone - Kari Jobe
Verse 1
When I walk through deep waters
I know that you will be with me
When I'm standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
Oh I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

Verse 2
In the midst of deep sorrow
I see your light is breaking through
The dark night will not over take me
I am pressing into you
Lord you fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as your own

You're my strength
You're my defender
You're my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You have always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul

I know God is with me walking through this chapter, as He has in every chapter of my life.  I am not alone.  He has not left me.  He goes before me. He never leaves me. He never will. 

His word also promises this truth. Nothing can separate me from His love.

Romans 8:37-39

37In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,kneither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate me from God, and all of this momentary light affliction is working in me something eternal for Your  glory .

2 Corinthians 4:
16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Romans 8:18
18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

So in light of his Truth and promises in the Bible, I pray God will help me as I wait to keep perspective and that He will help me know that this chapter will not last forever. 

Another song awakened in my Spirit, a song for me to treasure in my heart....a hope that God will give me
Beauty for these ashes, 
A garment of praise, for my heaviness. 
Beauty for ashes, 
Take this heart of stone and make it yours. 
I delight myself in the richest of fair, 
Trading all that I have,   
for all that is better. 
A garment of praise for my heaviness 
You are the greatest taste, 
Your the richest of fair.

"Beauty for Ashes" - Shane and Shane

Again it's not just a song but a promise from His Sovereign word...

Isaiah 61
The Year of the Lord’s Favor

1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,a
2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
4They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

This is what I am realizing, I
n order ....

...for me to To be an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor....

....for God to rebuild ancient ruins and restore places long devastated for generations in my life...

....For me to bind up the broken-hearted and proclaim freedom to the captives...

Right now ....

In this season and in this moment,

...I have to allow God to bestow upon me a crown of beauty instead of ashes

...the oil of joy instead of morning

...and the garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair that I have felt weighing me down.

This isn't easy for me.  


Because it requires faith that as I surrender my pain, grief, suffering, disappointment, He will actually take it and give me something better. Somewhere deep inside my heart, I struggle to put all that trust in Him because I fear disappointment.

But from somewhere deeper inside my heart, I have to remind myself...I have to remember that God is a good, good Father (yes that's yet another song...)

 Good, Good Father - Chris Tomlin

and When I ask for bread, He will not give me a stone. (Matthew 7:9) It is His desire to work in my life for His will and good pleasure, and mine too (Philippians 2:13). His promise is to prosper and not to harm me, to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

So this morning, God once again as always, has come to me in my place of despair and encouraged me to fight for the promises and hope that the devil, is trying to devour, steal, kill, and destroy. (1 Peter 5:8, John 10:10). I must remember that Jesus has come to give me life, and to have it to the full. (John 10:10).

Though I can't say I feel the glory of heaven, I can say that I do feel lighter and that the darkness has been pushed back and God is filling in those places of darkness with the light of His love.

This I know, I will continue to press into God and fight back against the despair...

....Until the hope in me is secure and I become that oak of righteousness for the display of His splendor,

...until the ancient ruins and places long devastated in my heart are rebuilt and renewed.

....Until I am restored and able to with newfound boldness and the freedom that comes from one who has overcome, bind up the broken-hearted and proclaim freedom to the captives, to comfort those who mourn and help them to also receive the oil of joy and a garment of praise. 

I resolve to fight, not just for me, not just for my family, but for those that God will use me to reach in the future.

Easy? Not really.  But I have nothing to lose. So I chose to press on. Will you?

Philippians 3:12-14
12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

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