Friday, August 18, 2017

My Struggle is My Joy

The Struggle

Jax and I leave for Ethiopia in a little over a month.  Like clockwork somewhere in the month or so before we go on these trips, life falls apart. When I say life, I mean everything. Family, friends, health, finances, and pretty much every aspect of life that matters. It all slips out of my hands, and I can't stop it. The first couple times I didn't know what was happening. By the third time I knew exactly what I was facing: spiritual warfare.

1 Peter 5:8 - Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Looking through my journal writings and blog posts the timing of when my depression flares up and when my self confidence is completely crushed, it isn't coincidental. My post about depression was about six weeks before our trip last September. My post about self confidence was two weeks before our April trip this year.  When God has big plans, the enemy will do anything to stop them.  He wants to distract me or slow me down.  He will do what he can to take my focus away from where it should be.  From Who is should be on.

This time I thought I was prepared. I knew it was coming as soon as we had our first training meeting last Friday. I reached out and asked several friends to cover me in prayer during this time.

Yet somehow, it came out of nowhere. It smacked me over the head and knocked me off my feet.

I am so tired everything hurts.  I haven't been able to fall asleep before two or three in the morning every night this week.  I can't silence the voices in my head, the ones that tell me I have no purpose, I don't matter, that life isn't worth living.  I've been deeply hurt by circumstances I have no control over. I've been frustrated beyond words by situations I cannot change. It's been one thing after another with no sign of letting up.

I'm embarrassed to say that despite asking friends to cover me in prayer and despite trying to mentally prepare myself for these attacks...I've been trying to handle them on my own.   I'm so exhausted I can't think straight, and I completely forgot to arm myself with the weapons God has given me for battle.  (Ephesians 6)

Last night after the third hour of tossing and turning in bed I called my one a.m. friend. Everyone needs a one a.m. friend. If you don't have one already, call me.  I'll be that for you. What's a one a.m. friend? Someone I can call crying in the middle of the night and ask for prayer. She didn't hesitate to say yes, and not only did she pray with me, but she listened to me cry and pour out my heart. More importantly, she reminded me that in Christ I have the power to fight these attacks. I don't need to listen to the voices inside my head that were making me crazy. I needed to tell them out loud to shut up.  In the name of Jesus I can stop the noise that is pounding in my head.

This morning God poured into me verse after verse after verse.

Isaiah 26:3-4 - You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

He is my Rock.  He will keep me in perfect peace.

Psalm 91:1 - He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I get to live under the protection of the shadow of the Most High.

2 Corinthians 2:14 - But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

He always leads me to triumph in Christ.  Always.

Psalm 37:23-24 - The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

He makes my steps firm.

Psalm 34:18 - The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

He is close to me and saves me.

2 Corinthians 4:8-18 - We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Right now I feel hard pressed, perplexed, and struck down.  But I am not destroyed, and He has never once abandoned me.

Where does the joy come in?

I titled this post "My Struggle is My Joy".  You may be wondering where the joy comes in.  There is nothing joyful about spiritual warfare.  I have no joy in being awake in the middle of the night.  I'd be lying if I said I could find joy in the trials I'm facing right now.

But there IS joy.  The joy comes in obedience.  The joy comes in living out the purpose God has created me for.  The joy comes in perseverance.  The joy comes in getting back up when I stumble.  The joy comes in resting in the arms of my Savior who loves me and gave His life for me.  

Why do these attacks happen?  Because God has something big planned.  Something huge.  And I can't wait to be part of it.

In the meantime, I know where I need to keep my focus:

Proverbs 4:23-27 - Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.  Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.  Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.  Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

In her book Uninvited, Lysa TerKeurst writes, "The beliefs we hold should hold us up even when life feels like it's falling apart."

I know my God and His promises are true, and that is more than enough to hold me up.

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