A few years ago, I had the privilege of leading a group of women in Beth Moore's study "Daniel." I never imagined that years later one of her lessons plus some words to a young preacher from the Word would speak very personally to my life. I'm going to share a teeny bit of my real life with the hopes it speaks to you. I hope that if you are at the bottom you can know that there have been many on the path before you and we've made it, in Christ. Praise Jesus! I entered 2008 with a life-long, genuine, mature faith. I'm walking in 2010 with a refined faith. Refining is hard, no joke, but I believe it's better.
I have an unreasonable love for God's Church. I say unreasonable, not because we shouldn't love the Church, but because I've seen so many things happen there that I've often wondered why that love hasn't faded. I realized a long time ago that this love is a gift from God to help equip me for my calling. I felt sincerely called to minister to women particularly in the Church, but of course anywhere else needed. In 2008, I purposed to set about building my "ministry resume" in preparation to enter into a volunteer ministry position whenever He said, "now!" Even with all that I've walked through, I am so much more sure of His love for us.
I've had a mostly blessed life. There have been tragedies but I have always looked at them through my God colored glasses and with my sense of humor. In the past, even in the roughest times, I knew that God was going to work it all out for good. He made the promise in Romans 8:28. "For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Cool. That's me. Then a series of events happened that would challenge my faith. I used to joke and say that if Satan wasn't messing with me I must not be accomplishing much for the kingdom. I won't say that lightly ever again.
This time last year, I found myself in a place where, for the first time in my life, I felt useless to the Kingdom and well...just generally useless. I was in a church that had no need for my gifts. I was supposed to be building my "ministry resume" and I found instead that I simply didn't fit. It was hard on my self-esteem but I told myself God was working and I pushed it to the bottom of my heart and told myself to get over my little hurt feelings. It's good to learn to be a follower and learn from other people so I set about to do just that. Then summer rolled around and tragedy struck, and struck, and struck and kept on striking. I felt as though the rug had been jerked out from under me. Most of these things that happened were personal , many were things that happened to other people and I was collateral damage, but a few Church related. I won't get into specifics, because I can't think how it would lift up the name of Jesus. I couldn't walk into a church without bursting into tears...big problem. If you know me, you know I don't cry in public. Ever. Didn't even know it was possible. I couldn't go anywhere, couldn't do anything, couldn't read my Bible and my prayers were all yell-y. (Serious, I wondered if God was going to smite me just to SHUT ME UP!) I needed help, and because of the circumstances, I had almost nowhere to turn. What I did have was a Comforter sent to me by my God, who promised never to leave me nor forsake me. That's no small thing.
I've always taught people that it's OK to be angry with God as long as you are moving toward Him. I yelled, screamed, blamed, cried, threw stuff and every tantrum an adult can throw, I threw it at God. I never for one minute doubted His love for me, but I didn't like Him at all. I felt like a runaway three year old. He has always been "home base" for me. I've never had to know how to get "home", He's always been there. So like that three year old, when I found myself "lost," I didn't know how to get home because I'd never left before. I'd never wrestled with the God who let bad things happen to those He loves passionately. Intellectually, I understood it. It's not all about me. I get my one piece of the puzzle, but I can't see the whole picture. Suddenly, I was wrestling with some big things. Here are just a few of the things I wrestled with: How can I love and serve a God who...
1) Lets Christians forget they are people and He is God
2) Lets children harm themselves
3) Let children be harmed
4) Lets heinous people into heaven if they repent ..and the big one
5)How can I love and serve a God who would die for murders and pedophiles and evil people and love them as He loves me??? I wasn't sure I cared to share Heaven with "those people."
One day, I looked over and saw "Old Faithful." (My main Bible.) It hadn't been cracked in months. So I opened it and set about reading the love letter written to me from my Father. I won't lie and tell you rainbows popped up over my head, birds sat on my shoulders to sing, small woodland creatures made me a new knock-off couture wardrobe and the world suddenly made sense... but after a lifetime of studying the Word, it was a healing balm. I was reminded that He will NEVER leave me nor forsake me, that if someone touches me they have touched the apple of His eye, that He knows His plans for me and they are for my good and not my harm. It reminded me that Paul had a thorn in his side that was never removed, that Jesus mourns when bad things happen to us and He is always near. I was reminded that the Book Of Job was there for a reason and even when it seemed he was deserted, he wasn't. Then I was reminded of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Here's where it gets good!
They were tossed into a literal fire and didn't burn! Not only that, but SOMEONE was in that fire with them hanging out and walking around. They told Nebuchadnezzar before he tossed them in, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O King. BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18) To his face! I determined that this was going to be me. I could fall down, crack and be broken by the gods of this world, or I could trust God to somehow deliver me. I decided to trust that my bonds would be burned, but only those things that were bondage and nothing else! He would be there hanging out with me too. I decided to trust Him to deliver me. He loves me as much as he loved them. How fab is that?
Here's how Beth describes the situation. We're all going to the furnace at some point in our lives, be it tragedy, trials or illness, and as Christians, we will be delivered. There are 3 possible ways we can be delivered.
1) We can be delivered FROM the fire. Meaning God just drives our bus around the whole thing and we never have to be in it. This is often how I'm delivered, but not this time. That ship had sailed.
2) We can be delivered BY the fire. Meaning it may literally take our earthly life and put us face to face with the Father. There were days I thought this might be the one, but it was not to be.
3) We can be delivered THROUGH the fire. Meaning, we will go into the fire, but we will come out the other side. HE will be there with us. This is where I am. Praise Jesus.
Here's my favorite part of the Shadrach & friends story. Neb sees them walking around in there and yells at them to come out. Their restraints had been burned off, but their clothes were not burned, nor a single hair on either of their heads singed. And here's the good part..."There was no smell of fire on them!!!" (Daniel 3:26-27.)
Praise Jesus for the fire. Fire refines. It purifies and allows things to be shaped. It is my sincere prayer that from now on, I don't even smell a teeny bit like smoke. I hope I smell like the refreshing fragrance of Jesus...with a little Oscar De La Renta tossed on top.
After everything, I can say that "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day." I leave you with these verses from 2 Timothy. I almost made them a whole separate post, but it all goes together. Old Testament and New...Old Donna and new, refined Donna. These verses are my living testimony right now. Today.
Maybe you should consider making them yours.
"So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or about me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us before the beginning of time, but has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to life through the gospel. And of this gospel, I was appointed a herald, an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day. 2 Timothy 8-12