I mentioned that the last twelve months were difficult. My Dad died in October unexpectedly. Knowing he was always there, that he loved me and believed in me regardless of what I did was always an encouragement. He was a rock. He believed in the power of prayer and healing more than I did. He could always encourage with a word, a hug or just simply being there. I miss him.
I have also been spiritually challenged during these months. I have been confronted with different theological doctrines and been earnestly trying to find God's Truth. I have had to reevaluate everything I have learned about God and my relationship with Him. I was confronted with this very process during my years of pain. Through the Holy Spirit, I had to cut away lies from His Truth. Now, I have to do that once more, but just in a different context. To top it off, I am still adjusting to married life and living abroad. Living in another country, adjusting to the culture, learning a new language and being away from family and close friends is difficult. I love living in Germany and I have no regrets marrying my husband and moving to Germany. But after two years, I still find the adjustments difficult at times and the most basic aspects of life here stressful or annoying. I have the idea that since I have been in Germany for two years, I should therefore, be fluent in German and not missing anything from America anymore. I think that two years is more than sufficient time for me to adjust. If I am not adjusted yet according to my expectations and specifications, than I am failing and I just need to try harder. And this leads me to one of my hardest mindsets to break--
"If I were a better Christian, then..."
"If I were a better Christian, then..." I finish that sentence with all sorts of endings. "If I were a better Christian, I would be more patient/kind/loving." "If I were a better Christian, I wouldn't get so annoyed/frustrated." "If I were a better Christian, I would trust God more." When I spent those years battling horrible chronic pain, I would often say to myself, "A better Christian wouldn't struggle so. If I were a better Christian, I would cope better." I am aware I have this mindset, but in that moment of pain, loss or frustration, I will at some point, be stuck and feel worthless because a better Christian wouldn't struggle like me. How suffocating, damaging, condemning and hopeless this scenario is!
I am rereading a book of Watchmen Nee's titled From Faith to Faith. He writes a chapter titled, The Power of Pressure. He makes the point, that the pressures we feel in our life are to reveal the power of God. He clearly explains how God uses pressure in our lives (stress, pain, loss, conflict, etc.) for the express purpose of revealing God's resurrection power in the lives of His children. Nee writes, "The Lord purposely places us in adverse circumstances in order to remind us that without His life we cannot stand. The power of His life is made manifest through outside pressure...This external pressure causes you to spontaneously trust God, thus enabling you in turn to manifest the reality and the power of the Lord's life." He continues, "The environment of every one of us is ordered by God. Please remember that you are where you are by His doing--be it your home or school or work. Whatever circumstances you are in, whether they be smooth or rough, God wants to manifest the resurrection life of Christ. A Christian's growth depends on the way he deals with his environment. All the things which press us hard are for the purpose of having us trained to know the power of resurrection." And still further, Nee writes, "Let me tell you that God will nonetheless allow you to be pressed beyond what your own power and natural patience and goodness can endure. With the result that you tell Him you can no longer endure and ask Him to give you the power to overcome."
I have always seen my circumstances and trials as something that I must overcome as a good Christian or at the very least, endure as a good Christian should. I am not belittling the importance of how I behave in a difficulty; but I am absolutely calling out the falsehood that I have to do it under my own steam. Some of us are tougher than others. Just as some of us have a higher threshold to physical pain, many of us have higher thresholds for how long we can "tough it out on our own." I cannot even begin to list the many times and ways that I put up a good fight and tried toughing it out by sheer grit. The problem was and still is that I am trying to manage on my own strength. And no matter how hard I push, at some point, my strength will fail me. Meanwhile, God is not impressed with how hard I am trying. He waits; waits until I say "enough" and cry out to Him. While I am trying to "pull myself up by my boot straps," I am missing God's point with whatever loss or difficulty I am facing. He wants to reveal His resurrection power in, through and to me, all to His glory.
I could also share several times when I cried out, "Jesus help me! I can't do this on my own strength!" and God answered with His resurrection power. NOT ONCE did Jesus not answer my prayer. Jesus answering with His power doesn't mean the situation improved. Many of those times to which I am referring revolved around severe physical pain. Ninety-nine percent of the times I cried out to God, He didn't remove the pain (and often, not even lessen the pain). But He proved Himself faithful and strengthened me with His resurrection power. When I look to Jesus and His resurrection power, I am looking at the Cross; no longer looking at myself and my frailties, but upon Jesus and His redeeming love and saving power.
I close with an encouragement. Whatever difficulty looms before you, hurriedly cry to Jesus and ask for His power to carry you. Stop managing, coping, enduring on your own strength. God is always faithful. He will not fail you. He wants His children to cry out to Him so that He can reveal His resurrection power to them. BeStrong!