I knew it was bad news as soon as I heard my husband’s voice on the phone that February day.
His job…along with several others at his company…had been cut as a result of the economic crisis.
I hung up the phone, shaking my head in disbelief. This had happened to us once before, when the economy took a nosedive after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I prayed it would never happen again.
But it did.
I chose the above photo for this post because it perfectly conveys how I felt at that moment in time. The skies had suddenly turned dark and ominous, warning that a powerful storm was on its way. I had no way of knowing what was around that bend…or how long the road would be.
The first phone call I made was to my mom. Her heartbroken, shocked silence brought tears to my eyes and I let them fall while I felt the clammy grip of fear begin to try to take hold around my heart.
I gave my mom the details; then suddenly, I heard myself speak these words, with a confidence I certainly didn’t feel at the moment: “You know what, Mom? I am not giving any ground to the Enemy on this one. None at all. NOT ONE INCH!!!”
At that moment, I knew that those three words would comprise my battle plan for this new…and very unwanted…season of life.
Not. One. Inch.
It is at time like this when one’s professed faith is put to the test: Will I believe only what I can see with my physical eyes? Will I allow my feelings to run the show? Will I allow fear to fill my mind and poison my outlook on the future? Will I allow worry to steal my sleep and my peace?
OR…will I give priority to God’s eternal, unchanging Word? Will I rest and trust in His rock-solid promises, as well as His goodness? Will I approach this scary cirumstance in the attitude of conquest, filled with the courage that my Savior freely and fully offers me?
I had a ton of head knowledge about Jesus. But He was about to take all that knowledge and make such a blazing imprint on my redeemed heart that I will never be the same again. It was time for a dramatic encounter with my Savior. I have learned that there are times when He will not hesitate to take drastic measures to not only get our attention, but to wake up a slumbering soul.
Before my husband even got home from his last day at work, I had a list of Scriptures ready to live on for the days, weeks, and months ahead. These promises would be my lifeline and I would cling to them with all the strength I had. Jesus led me to Scripture after Scripture for my battle plan.
A crisis is no time for posturing or pretense…I needed to be totally honest with Jesus. So, the first thing I told Him, through many tears, was that I was disappointed and heartbroken that He has allowed this.
This would be my first test: what do you do when your sovereign Savior allows one of your worst fear to come true? When your spirit feels crushed and your heart is filled with pain?
Ps. 62:8 says, “Trust Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our Refuge.”
Where in the world do we get this idea that we have to “clean ourselves up” before we can come to Jesus? We come to Him for the bath! He would much rather have us approach Him with red-rimmed, puffy eyes, mascara streaks halfway down our faces, yet honest and real, as opposed to every hair in place, makeup perfectly done, pious-sounding words that we don’t mean coming from our lips, mask firmly in place, and all the while, our hearts remain cold to His touch, encased in bitterness and hurt feelings. He seeks…and sees…ALL of us…the good, the bad, and the ugly…and yet He loves us with a passion that is beyond our ability to fully grasp.
When we pour it all out and are empty and spent, we have made room for Jesus to then fill the hollow places.
What does He fill our hearts with?
*A gentle reminder that trials are part of life on this fallen planet, but He is in control: “In Me, you have perfect peace and confidence. In the world , you will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer (take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted!). For I have overcome the world. (I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.” —John 16:33 (Amplified Version).
Even in the face of one of my worst fears, Jesus was telling me that because I belonged to Him, I could be confident, certain, and undaunted. Courageous!
Beth Moore once said, ” There is no denial in courage. Courage is denying the reality its’ victory over you.”
Christians were never meant to live in denial. We can meet any circumstance straight on because we have:
*the certain knowledge that He will never leave us: “…God Himself has said, “I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. (I will not, I will not, I will not, in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake you nor let you down (relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!)” —Hebrews 13:5 (Amplified Version).
*the fact that we are more than conquerors through Him. (Romans 8:37). In the original language, the word conqueor means: “to gain a surpassing victory, to overcome, to prevail.” I am NOT a victim of my circumstances! Neither are you! Because of Christ’s strength working through us, we need NOT come through our tough seasons defeated and a shell of who we once were. Not on your life! We can emerge out of that battle stronger, more purposeful, filled to the brim with faith and grace, and more in love with our powerful Savior than we have ever been!
*overflowing HOPE: “May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing…that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.”–Romans 15:13 (Amplified version). Jesus Christ Himself IS our living Hope (I Peter 1:3). Hope for the Christian is never wishful thinking! Our hope is firmly anchored in the Person of Jesus, our resurrected Savior, who promises to work ALL things for our ultimate good! (Romans 8:28). The King James Version declares this to be a “lively hope” meaning, ” to be fresh, strong, powerful, to have an expectation of good, joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation.” Our hope in Jesus blows away the stale dustiness of our days and breathes fresh life into our souls, even in times of trial.
*the realization that most importantly, it’s ALL about HIM: “In Him, all things were created…all things have been created by Him and through Him. He is before all things and in Him, all things hold together.”–Colossians 1:16-17. I exist to make much of Christ, not the other way around. The late Christian recording artist Rich Mullins once said that he wanted his life to be an arrow pointing to Christ and that is my desire as well. If I have to go through a trial so that others can see that Jesus is alive and the supreme treasure of life, then it is all worth it! Much like a diamond sparkles brightly against a black velvet backdrop, the dazzling beauty of Jesus can sometimes best be seen by a watching world during our dark days.
This has been by far the hardest journey Jesus and I have ever taken together. There have been good days and bad days. It wasn’t always pretty and it has been scary and heartbreaking at times. It’s not even over yet. However, as I walked (and to be honest, sometimes stumbled or crawled) along this painful road, I made an amazing discovery:
He is more beautiful that I ever knew.
He is way more powerful than I ever imagined.
He is infinitely more tender than the sweetest human love.
He is firm—yet kind–in His conviction of sin in my life.
He is more wonderfully creative than I ever dreamed.
His resources truly are inexhaustible.
He is radically committed to bringing His light into all the dark corners of my heart.
He still does miracles.
He will not tolerate divided affections. He wants ALL of me. He is LORD.
Sometimes, He shakes the foundations of our lives so that we can see what can’t be shaken. (Hebrews 12:27). My identity was all wrapped up in externals prior to this season (although I wasn’t even fully aware of that). He has shown me that I can be stripped of those things and still be okay—even thrive!— because they do not define me. Christ alone defines me…and He will never change. He is my sure Foundation.
Were there days when I did give ground to the Enemy, despite my best intentions? Yes…sometimes it seemed that I gave up miles! Yet…Jesus was faithful to lift me out of that pit, dust me off, steady me, and put me back on my feet to walk the path He had chosen for me, hand in hand with Him. (see Psalm 18). In His strength, I regained that lost ground and haven’t looked back. Not one inch.
“…Even during storms when the winds are most intense, we are more than conquerors. You may be tempted to run from the ordeal of a fierce storm of testing but head straight for it! God is there to meet you in the center of each trial…He will whisper to you His secrets, which will bring you out with a radiant face and such an invincible faith that all the demons of hell will never be able to shake it.” —E.A. Kilbourne