My husband always says there are two sets of tracks on the railway of life. One track is all the blessings and things going right and one track is all the negative things going wrong. Both tracks are necessary to keep the train moving, and if you only focus on that negative track your train will surely derail. I hear this often because I tend to linger over on the negative track. Some people (*ahem* like my husband) naturally see the positive in life. Others, like myself, have a little more trouble finding the positive; especially when the positive is HEAVILY outweighed by the negative.
Earlier this year, as I approached forty years old, I challenged myself to write every week for forty weeks. This will be my final post in that series and then it is time to move on to other topics. This year has been filled with trials that are warring to throw my train off track. I have struggled. My flesh has been fighting hard to keep me focused on the negative in my life. Does that ever happen to you? It’s so exhausting! And unnecessary. In the final post of this series, I want to share just a few truths that God teaches in His Word that I have learned over the course of my forty years. Without these truths, I would have been without hope this year. Without the foundation of God’s Word, my train would have derailed a long time ago. Here are five truths that give me the proper perspective.
- God is Sovereign.
Job 2:10 – Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?
Job 42:2 – I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
God can do what He wants, when He wants, how He wants, to whomever He wants, at any given time. My life belongs to God and it is not for me to decide what happens or doesn’t happen in my life. If He chooses to allow trials, so be it. This key truth is vital to living the Christian life. Knowing that God has allowed the trials in my life does not make it easy to walk through them. However, knowing that God is in complete control and that I am right in the center of His will gives me strength and determination to hang on. I can have peace because God knows what He is doing. He never makes a mistake and everything He allows is ultimately for His greater good.
- Satan is Real.
I Peter 5:7-10 – Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
When you commit to serve Christ, and you are actively on mission for Him, there is an enemy who will do everything he can to stop you from being effective. On January 1, 2019 I reset my entire schedule for the new year. The purpose was to add to the time I was spending in Bible reading, prayer, and Bible study. It also carved out time to go to the gym and eat healthier. My desire was to have a more balanced and healthy life both physically and spiritually so that I could be more effective for the Lord. My new schedule lasted for almost two weeks. January 11, 2019 I was in the emergency room with my daughter on her birthday. She was at the very worst of her mystery illness. The first six months of this year was spent with a doctor from Riley’s Children Hospital trying to figure out what was wrong with my fifteen-year-old daughter. She is still symptomatic, and we have yet to find answers. I have no doubt that the series of trials that followed can be at least partially attributed to spiritual warfare attempting to keep me from the balanced, spirit filled life I was seeking to strengthen. Many of the decisions I made this year were in direct fight against these attacks. Our enemy does not want the message of the gospel of Christ to reach the hearts of those around us, so he will do everything in his power to silence the faithful Christian. He has done some damage this year, but I refuse to stay silent, and I will not stop working toward a balanced life.
- Flesh is Weak.
Matthew 26:41 – Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
I have had health problems since I was a teenager. I am no stranger to doctors, hospitals, or surgeries. I have learned to live with a lot of constant pain and have learned to not allow this pain to stop me from living my life. This year threw me a curve ball. In addition to walking along side one daughter with a mystery illness and another with a knee condition we have to watch, God allowed more health concerns to come into my life. In March, I went to the doctor about a persistent pain that was not going away. Because of my age and family history, he decided to send me to have my first mammogram. The results are read while you wait, so I was sent home with the knowledge that I would need a second mammogram and ultrasound at the next available opportunity. We scheduled the second test and I left in peace, knowing it was probably nothing. Then, a week before the next test, I slipped on a wet, hard tile floor and fell flat on my back and head. My daughters watched it happen and reported that my head hit, bounced and hit a second time. I only recall one hit and was in complete shock, unable to move. This fall left me with several damaged disks in my neck and lower back, a concussion, damage to one eye and now a life of daily migraines. Still reeling from this new pain, I had my second mammogram and ultrasound the following week, only to discover that there was in fact a cyst-like object that we would have to look at again in six months. (I have since had the six-month visit and it is still there, but unchanged; so, we are now waiting another six months to check it again.) The flesh is certainly weak. Our bodies are broken vessels. When we are tired and our bodies are weak, it is tempting to give up. The temptation is always there for me to just stay in bed and ignore all the responsibilities and blessings that God has given me. So, I pray. I pray long and I pray hard. I pray through God’s Word and converse with Him. He reminds me of who He is and what my life is really about. He keeps my mind focused on what is most important, which is proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Life is Hard.
2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.
God never promised me a life of comfort and ease. The week that I fell and was facing the unknown about my upcoming mammogram was the week that my husband announced that his pay would be cut at the church. He would begin a full-time job in a factory to supplement our income while still being the full-time pastor until the church finances were healthy enough to start paying him again. Two weeks after that, we lost our health insurance. One week after that the engine started going out on my van. In addition to all of that, I was struggling to maintain my business and my income was dwindling. Add to that the normal, daily struggles of life, growing debt, busy schedules, home repairs and maintenance, trying to keep everyone in your life happy with you and fighting off an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. Life is hard. But God brings peace. He is my calm in the storm. No one wants to go through such a concentrated onslaught of trials, but my trials are no different than anyone else’s. Life is just hard all the way around, but God truly does bring peace.
- Counseling is Biblical
Proverbs 15:22-23 Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed. A man has joy in the apt answer, and how delightful is the timely word!
Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.
I have struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life. It is only by the grace of God that I am not consumed by it. When I am under pointed spiritual attack, this area of my life threatens to rear its ugly head again. Since I understand a depressed heart, I have often been able to speak into the lives of others. One tool that I consistently refer people to is that of true biblical counseling. There have been many sources of wrong advice and unhealthy counsel in my life over the years. Not all counsel is good counsel. However, proper counsel from a solid believer using the foundation of God’s word as its source is not only good for the depressed heart, but it is vital for healing.
When I found myself in a place of paralyzing despair, it occurred to me that I had never followed my own advice. So, I prayed about the possibility of going to see a professional biblical counselor for the first time in my life. I had begun the process of becoming a biblical counselor years ago, so I already had insider knowledge of a few good locations. I went back and forth with it for a few months. You see, before everything crashed in on me at the beginning of this year, I was already suffering some serious emotional strain. God was already nudging me to take the step of talking to someone about it and I was fighting Him. I didn’t want to seem weak. I didn’t want to seem immature or ungodly to people who were watching me. I didn’t want . . . well, I didn’t want my pride hurt. All the while God was saying, “Melissa, you know better.”
When everything happened this spring, I broke. I was physically broken. I was emotionally broken. I was trying hard to hold everything in my life in place, pouring myself into God’s word and prayer, seeking all the right places for healing, knowing that it was only God who could fix me. Why wasn’t I fixed yet? In my brokenness, I took my own advice. I spent a few months talking with a trained biblical counselor. It was the best decision I could have made.
She didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. In fact, she said I was already doing all the things she would have me do. Here’s what she did help me realize: I couldn’t name one person in scripture who was used by God in a big way who didn’t also suffer major trials and feel broken before the Lord. When Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:8 that he was “afflicted but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed” we like to focus on the second part of each of those claims. We must also remember that we are broken people who get afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. These are not fun things to go through. In fact, they are impossible, heart wrenching things to go through. That’s why we need God! Counseling was not a magical “fix all” for my emotions; it wasn’t supposed to be. It was the outlet I needed to process through my knowledge, feelings, and choices to make sure I am serving God to the best of my human ability.
At the end of the day, my job is to proclaim the name of Jesus and to tell you that He loves you, died for your sins, rose again the third day and desperately wants to have a relationship with you. If you will repent of your sins, believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord then you can have eternal life. This message is so important that Satan does everything he can to silence it. Jesus gave up EVERYTHING and suffered a horrible death so that I could be right with God, so how can I not suffer through a few bumps and bruises and go through a few trials in order to share that message with the world.
My salvation is the greatest blessing God could ever give me, and on my worst days this blessing ALWAYS outweighs the negative things going on. Just in case you were wondering, there have also been many positive things going on this year. Thankfully, I have a God who loves me and a husband who helps me keep my eyes focused on the positive. Positive things such as three amazing children who bring so much joy to my heart. Our hundreds of friends all around the globe who have come along side us to pray for us and enjoy the blessings of life with us. We both have amazing families who support us and cheer us on, even when I get stuck in the negative rut. Out of the trials came the vision, opportunity, and strength to set out on a new journey of seminary and published writing. I wish that I didn’t battle depression. I wish that I just naturally saw all the good and ignored all the bad. That’s not my story. Positivity does not come natural for me. I work hard for it. The positive side is that the trials drive me deeper and deeper into my relationship with the Lord and build my character as God brings me through every trial in my life.
James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.