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
I was breathless, but not out of breath. In some ways it seemed like the culmination of my adventure – something tugged at my soul – something I didn’t understand, but was about to. I knew it was just the beginning, perhaps the end of one journey but the start of a passage, an understanding, the fulfillment of a promise. I felt understood. I felt loved. Purpose was speaking to me, calling me out of the shell I had survived in. I felt like a flower, opening up for the first time. Someone was looking into me, seeing me, seeing in me what I never saw in myself. The unveiling of hope was revealing itself to me. I laid down in the grass. It was covered in dew, but I welcomed it. It made me feel alive. My spirit was alert as if it had heard something I hadn’t – a concerto playing for me, written for me and only me. It felt like a new beginning.
She wrapped herself in the grass. The dew caressed her with the tears of my love; the joy of my heart enveloped her. She lavished in it. It was refreshing. It was a moment I couldn’t interrupt. She’d come. This very moment inevitable. That’s why she had made the journey. I could wait a little longer; I sent my song of love to her, carried on the wings of the birds. My heart swelled at the fullness of love that was emergent in her. She had never dreamed of this kind of love and I wanted nothing more than give her everything I had to give. Gratitude began to fill and surround her – she would never know fully that it was I who was grateful that she embraced the gift I gave her – it was in the giving that love grew.
I felt satisfied and grateful as if the greatest gift had been bestowed upon me. It was in those moments that I realized that I had been walking in a shroud of weariness before I set out on this walk, before I came to lay myself beneath the sky. Heaven seemed to be speaking to me. I had never known this comfort. There were no words to express how touched I was. I wanted to stay there in that moment and never let go, but no – there was more to come. I felt strong, yet weak. I didn’t want to move but I felt compelled to get up. It was as if I had found a treasure map and had been relishing in the find of the map and not the treasure. I was overcome by tears. I had never known this kind of joy. Something was growing inside me.
She picked herself up and began to walk in my direction, though she hadn’t yet seen me. I knew I would surprise her. I knew she would have doubts and wonder who I was. For a brief instant she would feel unsafe, unsure of herself, unsure of me, but it wouldn’t last. It was me she had set out to encounter when she began the journey. Ah, she noticed me. I pretended not to notice her, to give her time to process what she was feeling and thinking. Her mind was cautious. Her heart was intrigued. Her spirit knew me. Her spirit recognized me. Everything inside me wanted to run to her, to pick her up in my arms and hold her, to melt away every little bit of pain and doubt, to answer every question, but I knew I had to move slowly. I had to let her come to me and she would, sooner rather than later. The course had been set; she was already out of the starting blocks. She wasn’t about to turn back now.
I saw him sitting beneath the willow tree, on the bank of the river that had been calling me. My spirit longed to approach him, but my mind was tentative. Who was he? Why was he there? Was he waiting for me? He hadn’t noticed me. I was glad. I wasn’t sure about what to do next. Should I keep walking to the river? Should I say hello? Something inside me kept telling me that he had been waiting for me all this time. My heart was intrigued. Was it a coincidence that he just happened to be sitting there? I had never seen him before yet there was something about him. Outrageous thoughts began to overtake me. I wanted him to run to me, to hold me in his arms. He had this look about him – this ‘je ne sais quoi’ – something alluring, something enticing and appealing, that radiated from inside his spirit as if it was connected directly to my own. I couldn’t turn back now.
The decision was made. She walked toward me – tentatively at first. I could hear her heartbeat. She didn’t know it yet, but it was beating for me. It had always beaten for me as mine had for her. She wanted me to turn my head toward her, to meet her gaze but at the same time she was reticent. I respected that. I could wait a few moments more, although nothing inside me wanted to wait any longer. The earth sounded her approach to me. I looked into the water, restraining myself from jumping to my feet. She would know the exact moment of truth because I would tell her – I would tell her from my spirit to hers, “Come to me. Come to me.”
Even had I wanted to turn back, my feet would not allow it. They had charge over my entire body. My heart beat so loudly; it resonated through the ground. I was sure he could hear me coming. I was glad, but I was tentative. He was looking upon the water. Our spirits spoke to each other as I made my descent. His arm reached out slowly, his hand reaching for mine as if it was waiting for me. I heard a small still voice within me whisper, “Come to me. Come to me.” He stood and began to walk in my direction. I didn’t understand why, and I didn’t care. All I knew was that everything inside me wanted to run to him.
She was more resplendent than anything I had ever seen. She was ready. There was nothing more urgent for her than to be in my arms where she belonged. She wanted to run to me. I smiled at her, inviting her to take my hand. This was the moment I had waited for yet it was just the beginning.
He was magnificent. There was nothing left inside me to hold me back – I wanted nothing more than to let go – let go of anything and everything that had ever kept us apart. This was the moment I had waited for. My purpose, the reason for my creation, was unfolding.
She ran into my arms. I held her. I held her so tightly, tightly but gently – reassuringly. I wanted her to be confident in my love. I wanted her to know that, from this point on, I would never let her go. I loved her more than I loved my own life. I would lay it down for her and her alone and I needed for her to know that. I needed for her to understand that. Yet how could she? She was mine, finally. I’ll spend the rest of my days living to show her that I am completely hers.
I wanted him. I needed him. I knew as I began to run toward him that I had found the one I had been looking for. I had found what had been missing, what had kept me from being fully alive. I had no shame. I was spiritually naked before him, hiding nothing. I sensed that he knew more about me than I knew about myself. I felt loved, so loved by him. I knew he would have sacrificed everything, his very life, to express that love. I knew I’d never fully understand. I gave him my heart. I gave him my mind and my soul with every bit of strength I had. I knew, as I stood there, wrapped inside his arms sheltered beneath his wing, that I would spend the rest of my days living to show him that I am completely his.
I was sitting on the bank of the river, beneath the willow tree. The branches cascaded gracefully around me, sweeping me into their gentle embrace as the breeze floated through them, bringing them to life. The water rushing over the rocks serenaded me with its song as I waited for her. I knew she was coming. I had been anticipating her arrival for some time. I watched the reflection of the sun beaming off the surface of the water like dancing stars twinkling about. Were they waiting for her also?
It was a warm day but not unbearably hot, just the kind of day I love. I felt drawn to walk – not my usual path. For some reason, I felt adventurous that day. I felt a calling, as if the cool breeze was delivering me an engraved invitation to linger in the midst of creation. Was it the thought of sitting at the river’s edge that made me thirst so? As I walked up the crest of the hill, I realized that it wasn’t a natural thirst. I wasn’t parched by any means, yet there was something inside me that needed to be quenched, an unnameable thirst. I could hear the sound of the water – it awakened a need in me. I knew I was close when I saw the top of the willow tree. I would sit beneath it and breathe everything in.
I could sense her approaching. She had plans. She was seeking comfort – from what – she didn’t know. Through all her senses, I was drawing her near to me. I knew she felt it. She just didn’t realize that it was me. How could she? I knew she thirsted for something that would satiate, something that would satisfy, something everlasting. The sweet smell of the irises carried her up the mount. My heart smiled within. Every beat thumped within me increasing my exhilaration. It would only be a matter of time before she’d be mine. She didn’t know I had been waiting there for her for what seemed an eternity.
As I climbed up the hill, the willow became more lifelike with every step. It beckoned me. I felt drawn. My heart called out to me in a way I’ve never experienced before, as if the summit of love was waiting to embrace my arrival. The walk was steeper than I had anticipated. I wasn’t tired from the climb – it was more like a sweet exhaustion caused by an unknown anticipation that had overtaken me. My senses were heightened, finely attuned to creation’s calling. “Come to me, you who are weary and burdened.” I wasn’t weary or burdened in a natural way, though there had been something missing – something in a place I couldn’t name. “Come to me. Come to me,” everything around me whispered – not into my ears but into every part of my being – parts I was just then becoming aware that I had.
Her fragrance delivered her before her shadow cast itself over the hilltop. She didn’t see me. She sensed me though. She began to feel mesmerized – captivated by a mysterious passion she would not be able to release without me. I was the key. Before her body crossed the peak, her spirit recognized my presence. Before she became aware, it was already responding to me, seeking me, longing for me. I had planned it that way from the beginning. Understand – my longing for her, my yearning for her, was far greater and overwhelming than hers for me. There was something about her, a combination of virtues and values that were unique to her. Her heart wasn’t the only thing I wanted. I longed for her love. I wanted to be embraced by all of her – her heart, her soul, her mind – with all the strength she possessed. I had been waiting so very long, yet – she was worth the wait.
There was something powerful calling me to hasten my last few steps. My legs were weak, but not from the climb. It felt like one of those dreams where you find yourself running toward something with everything in you, yet your legs don’t seem to be moving. The summit of the hill seemed so far away, yet merely steps separated us. My heart, soul, and mind – every part of my existence needed to see what was on the other side. It felt as if I had spent my entire life on the journey to this very place – but it was only in these minutes that I sensed an urgency to be where I was going. I yearned for something that was on the other side, suddenly that longing felt as if it had been there since before my life began. I needed something and I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I’d find it on the other side. A revelation of something I had been searching for without understanding was about to be unveiled.
A symphony of life announced her appearance. Everything in creation applauded her. The wind blew my kisses through her hair and planted my words of love into her ears. She breathed deeply and sighed, filling herself with my love. A new life began in her that very moment. Her beauty left me breathless. I knew her before she knew me. It was as if I had only heard of her loveliness, as if I had only seen an artist’s rendition, but as she began to take those next steps my spirit was taken aback – she was breathtaking. The reflection of the sun on the water danced in her eyes and mirrored my love for her. Her gaze fell upon me like the morning dew glistening at daybreak. My spirit called out to hers.
Oh, I know you’ve spoken to me many a time. I don’t discount any of what you’ve shared, not ever. I realize you’ve shared before, you’ve confessed many things to me. You’ve cried, you’ve told me your dreams and yes, you’ve even told me what frightens you. But last night was different – you know it was too.
Last night you brought tears to my eyes. Somewhere between your disappointment, your fear, and the dreams you’re afraid to dream was your heart – stripped bare and surrendered to me for the first time ever. You spoke to me and then you waited for me to answer and you listened. You really listened! Do you know how long I’ve been waiting to tell you how very much I love you?
You said that you’ve never been able to go to “that place” with me for fear that you’d experience so much emotion that you’d explode, lose control, even die a little inside.
But you went there anyway and you went there with me; you went there for me. You let me in to that place in your heart where only I could fit – a place where the only one ever meant to fit was me. Last night you gave me your heart and I promise I will not break it. You went to the place where I’ve already been for you.
I can’t promise that life will always be fun and filled with laughs, but it sure will be different. No matter what you go through, from now on, whether good or bad – we’ll always be there together. I also can’t promise that you’ll never experience pain again, or that everything you don’t like about your life will be instantaneously changed for the better, but I can promise this: you’ll be transformed – from the inside to the outside. I’ll give you a kind of peace that surpasses any experience you may encounter. I promise that if you follow me, I will always be at your side – always and forever. I heard you.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18