A couple of years ago, I was preparing to run a 5K. I had spent several weeks adding on a block or two of distance and pushing myself a little bit harder every day. I had never run before; I was careful not to push so hard that I might injure myself before the race. I just wanted to do it to prove to myself that I could do it, to prove to myself that I was tough. There was however a life lesson throughout the process which did not manifest itself to me until such time as I would be open to absorb it and learn from it. Unfortunately for me, that time was later rather than sooner. Welcome to my world.
Fear sees the enemy as bigger and more powerful than God. The greater we fear, the greater our problems become. Fear attacks us from the inside and works its way from our minds and emotions into the very fibre of our being. Fear kills us slowly. Fear believes God is distant and aloof. Fear is us handing the enemy power over us by faith that he will move on our behalf. Faith sees God and sovereign and loving. Faith brings comfort in the situation and not only at the end of the situation.
Fear and faith also have a lot in common. Both require a complete trust or confidence in the unknown and unforeseeable future. The biggest difference between them is that faith requires trust in God and fear is basically trust in the enemy. Fear says, I can’t believe that God can, or will, do what He says He can. Fear says, I’m more afraid of what the enemy might have planned for me; he must be more powerful. Fear is a tactic of the enemy and believe me when I say, he knows our weaknesses better than we know ourselves. If the enemy is anything, it’s patient. He likes to whisper lies in our ears and the only reason we have a proclivity to believe them is because he often slips just enough truth in those lies to make them somewhat plausible to someone who has been caught in his snare. Sometimes he just repeats things he may have heard others say to us. There is nothing original about him. Jesus called him “the father of lies.”
God wants us to trust in Him. He wants us to surrender all to Him. He wants us to – when confronted by fear – turn it away by clinging to Him in faith; He wants us to choose Him rather than fear. Fear and faith are attained by choice – a decision has to be made as to which one we will put our hope in and which one we will banish. It is impossible to have two opposing thoughts simultaneously … wouldn’t it be so much easier to choose faith? Wouldn’t it be more comforting to choose faith?
Faith in God does not guarantee a sweet and easy life, but it does guarantee that there will always be a Comforter with you, someone in your corner, someone who loves you without condition, no matter what you have said, or done. Faith is what allows you to cry but helps dry the tears when you bring to mind all the times that you have banked on faith and been rewarded by it.
When faced with a decision to fear or have faith there is something I often forget … but never for long. I choose to recall that my faith has always come through – maybe not always as I had things envisioned or planned – but things have always, always worked out for the best – faith builds faith. If we never had opportunities to test our faith, it wouldn’t be faith, would it? When I choose to believe in fear, there is no joy in the situation – ever. I am robbed of all peace. My entire spirit is downcast. I look forward to nothing but the end. I am never blessed by it and I find myself inconsolable and isolated. When I think of all the time that I have spent awake, worrying, speculating … is always for not because I have never, ever, ever had a situation turn out worse that I had ever imagined it – and I have quite an imagination.
How many times a day do we put faith in the unknown? Every night when I lay my head down, I have faith that I will wake up the next day. I have faith when I get in my car that I’ll make it to my destination. People save money because we have faith that we’ll make it to retirement. We get an education because we have faith we’ll become employed. We have faith in the intangible, against odds that are not always calculable, but so many of us can’t believe that a loving God would care enough about us to see us through whatever life hands us. No, we make a deliberate choice to give glory to the enemy when we give in to his promptings.
There is only one kind of faith and that is fearless faith. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” Exodus 14:13-14.
I could not speak, though much to say,
Words failed . . . thoughts assailed.
Who would I tell anyway?
My pride, my heart, the hurt . . . I wailed.
I knelt. I cried. I tried to pray.
No matter what – I tried and failed.
Left to feel . . . alone . . . untouched
Choking on my tears . . . undone,
A single strand of faith I clutched.
Knowing many . . . known by none
By The Father’s love was touched,
And hope rescued by the Holy One.
When we find ourselves calling upon God to rescue us from the furnace of affliction what we’re really doing is asking Him to save us from an opportunity whose primary function is to bring Him glory and secondary function is to inspire growth in us.
I never find myself asking Him to remove circumstances from my life when they suit me. When things are humming along I’m likely at my happiest though I rarely learn anything in these situations. I guess you could call that “blissful ignorance” and it’s safe to say that I don’t bring much glory to God because my focus becomes self-centred. Candidly speaking, it seems that the longer things go well, the less grateful I am. Why? Because the condition of my spirit begins to degrade – in the Old Testament days that is what they called a “hardened heart”. How many people really spend much time on their knees in worship, praise, prayer and thanksgiving when things are going splendidly?
Then there are those times – when I am being pulled out of the furnace that it seems to me I’m most grateful. It all has to do with mindset – where my focus is – and it’s usually on myself and my comfort rather than God and His promises for my life.
But here’s something new I’d like to try on, (did I just say that?). What would you say if I told you that the best place to practice gratitude is actually in the furnace of affliction? So, why am I not filled with gratitude when God stokes the fire a little? I know that every moment I spend in the furnace results in a spiritual upgrade, but for some reason – the “old man” in me seems to have the ability to resurrect itself when the coals begin to turn red.
Yahweh was in the furnace with Abednego, Meshach Shadrach, but since then He has made atonement for us, He is in us in the furnace – with all-conquering power and glory. Before we even step in there, He knows what the outcome will be and He invites us to come into the fire. I have, on occasion, bowed down to fear rather than accept His invitation.
It’s all in the mindset – like Joshua and Caleb who believed and saw the promise of God while the other ten spies needed see in order to believe. Glory is achieved in the furnace – His and ours. Daniels’ friends stepped into the furnace full on and later came out refreshed and with an attitude of gratitude. God is in our circumstances – we belong with Him.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither 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.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV.
Many people believe that being alone and being lonely are synonymous. In fact, they are not. Being alone is a choice one makes; being lonely – for the most part – is not. I am an introvert and I enjoy being alone – I like and quite look forward to solitude. I don’t enjoy being lonely. I have had an extensive amount of experience in this area. Some of my lovely, and well-meaning friends and family members have often recommend that I join groups and find things to do as a means of meeting other people. Joining an organization – such as a gym, or joining a bowling league, for example – are activities. Being lonely is not always related to an absence of activities. Being lonely doesn’t necessarily indicate an absence of loving family members or friends.
I am not a member of the Lonely Heart’s Club. My opinions don’t represent the opinions of all the lonely people in the world; I can only speak for myself. Being lonely is a heart condition. I have been (many times) in rooms filled with people who truly care about me and the feelings are reciprocated – yet I have – many of these times – felt lonely and alone and hopeless. For some, myself included, that can be a dangerous place to be for too long a period.
Loneliness is accompanied by a persistent ache, whose description is almost impossible to put into words. It’s like a cancer looming in the soul of your existence. Oh, sure it might seem to go into remission from time to time but then you wake up one day and just know it’s back. Each time it returns you sure it’s here to stay this time. It wants your life. You don’t know why it’s here, but it hurts so very much – no one can possibly understand your pain. Some even say, “But you’re so lucky. You’re so blessed. You should be happy”…. They haven’t been there. They don’t understand. There is something significant to be said when a person can examine the exterior of another’s life and determine that, because they are blessed, suffering has been taken off the table.
If you are suffering, I want you to know that I have been there and I do understand. If you think, even for a moment, that ending your life will solve this problem … I’m writing to you specifically.
There was a time in my life when the pain of loneliness was so great that even the love of my beautiful children could not fill the emptiness that seeped into my thoughts, heart and spirit. All the faking in the world may have fooled others but it never fooled me. It seemed that loneliness was my shadow and the sun exacerbated my pain by shining into my darkness. There were times where it took more energy than I had to keep on, to hope. Hope requires energy … or does it?
Maybe you’ve been in this “place” for so long you have completely given up hope. Can I ask you, since you’re here and reading, can you please just hang on a bit longer? Will you do that for me? I know that we perhaps have never met, but we do know each other. We share a bond and that means that you’re not alone! There are far too many people still suffering, but TRUST me when I say, there are many who were able to move past this. There is hope. There IS hope.
It may seem that hope requires too much energy – what it really requires of us is to make a commitment to hang on to all hope, when all hope seems lost. Hanging on does not equate to filling the emptiness with substances or activities such as: shopping, alcohol, relationships, pornography, television, working 12 hours a day or, even exercise done to extremes. Hanging on to hope does not mean waiting for another human being to fill the void. Neither does hanging on to hope mean engaging in the latest methods of “self” improvement; there is nothing “wrong” with you … there’s something missing. While all these things may very well take a temporary bite out of loneliness the problem will always be there unless you find the only thing that fits the void. If you’re searching for a permanent way out of loneliness I can assure you that the hole inside you right now will be felt for next to eternity, by those who love you, if you leave this world before trying to fill your own with a living and perpetual hope.
By design, we came into being with an emptiness, a void, a hole in our spirits. Our Creator fits into that hole. He longs to fill that emptiness in you. He longs to complete you. He is kind and loving and waits for an invitation. He will not bulldoze His way into your heart. Call on Him. He will answer. I guarantee it. He answered me and I was no one special, but I am now because His hope lives in me. Please, call His name. He is our Hope – the author and finisher of our faith.
“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His Holy name,” Psalm 33:20
“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – the Lord, who remains faithful forever,” Psalm 146:5-6
“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my saviour, and my hope is in you all day long,” Psalm 25:5-6