Lessons Learned and New Mercies Found in Hard Places

 

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Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

God is our strength and our provision even in hard times. Hard times come in many guises: a major illness, death of a loved one, the loss at a job, the desertion of a spouse or the betrayal of a friend. In the words of Eliphaz, humans are “born for trouble as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).

Hard times, much like sleep, are a necessary and natural part of life. I have matured because of my struggle with both hard times and sleep.

By definition, few comforts exist during hard times. Enormous energy is needed to acquire the essentials for life: food, shelter, sleep and fellowship. I have been jobless for more than six months and am definitely in the midst of hard times.

I would have never visualized myself among the long-term unemployed. Yet, here I am feeling needy, vulnerable and fully cognizant that I am “at risk.”

Into my heart comes a Rhema word. The word still rings in my spirit: “Be still and know that I am God.”

I hear and I imagine that my feelings probably mirror those of Peter as he walked on the water. Like him, in the midst of a storm, I hear a call to stillness and a call to growth.

How am I to understand stillness in the midst of my turmoil? How do I practice waiting on God when the storms of life continue raging? I found answers when I understood the similarities between stillness, or waiting on God, and sleeping.

Sleep is vital for life. It may look like inactivity but sleep is a dynamic process and is necessary for health and growth. Still, young children sometimes resist sleep and consequently experience grogginess, behavior problems, colds and impaired functioning. Caring parents counteract their child’s resistance by enforcing regular bedtimes and ensuring children have adequate sleep.

I need to sleep. During sleep energy is restored, strength is renewed and consciousness is altered allowing me to dream, problem-solve and re-create daily challenges in a safe environment.

Sleep is like stillness. As I wait on God, I am refreshed, I mature and I grow. Like the apostle James (James 1:2), I must welcome hard times with joy and redeem the time by refocusing on Him – looking attentively to Him for direction as old things, old thoughts and old ways of being become new.

Seeing things differently is uncomfortable and scary. I find myself running to His word for strength and for hope. Although my vision is changing, my situation remains the same.

Obstinately, I remain standing on what I know. God is a good and caring God. I shut down external stimuli, relax in His grace and Providence and continue to wait.

Waiting on God is an attitude of the spirit that is reflected in choices and actions. I diligently monitor my words, choosing to praise Him rather than to whine or complain. I also continue to live in obedience, persevering with my job search routine: networking, sending out resumes, scheduling interviews, sending thank you notes and doing volunteer work in the community.

I wait knowing that God is trustworthy. He is at work and will sanctify all things — even the hard things — for my good and His glory.  Amen!

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
 to guide the future, as He has the past.


Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
 All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Words: Katharina von Schlegel, 1752. Music: Jean Sibelius, 1899

Hope in the time of struggle

I’m looking out my bedroom window at my new patio.  It’s gorgeous!   The sand colored pavers contrasts beautifully against the brunette colored retaining wall creating an artistic pop of color within the tree covered setting.

The patio was my sister’s idea.  She started the project five years ago and got distracted midway through.  The area has remained an eyesore covered by tarp for the past five years.

My backyard used to disturb my neighbors. They kept prodding me to finish the project. However, I did not have the time, finance or know-how needed to build a patio.  So, I placed the unfinished patio on my prayer list and I fervently beseeched the Father for help.

Over this past summer He answered. He brought friendly consultants, miraculously stretched existing supplies and sent two full weeks of warm, sunny weather.  The patio was completed and my neighbors are thrilled with the results.   The finished patio is my newest symbol of hope.

Hope is quite precious in this season of unemployment.  After months of no replies, invasive interviews and disturbing rejection letters, I struggle to remain positive.

I’ve been unemployed and uncomfortable for far too long.  Friends now wonder if I somehow brought this on myself, and some fear that my circumstance might be contagious.  Others worry I may be tempted to ask for a loan!

Yes, I’ve been in this painful place way too long.  My financial resources, both the brook and bird that brought me sustenance, are drying up.  The days and months of unemployment have left bruises and scars and I’m now bone tired and discouraged.

Into this valley come a word Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord’. Ezekiel 37:4.  God is saying to the cries of my heart “My daughter, hear my Word.  Don’t just listen, hear what I’m saying.

To hear you must first give me your full attention.  I see your mind wandering during prayer. You are distracted by worries. Divided attention is the same as a divided mind.  So, while in my presence let me be the only One on your mind.  Allow my worship, my Word, my thoughts to dominate your mind.

Rehearse my Word. Repeat them over and over again in your mind until they make sense. I am your shepherd.  You will not want. Let your thoughts about joblessness, your bills and your weariness become my thoughts. I will lead.  I will restore. I will provide.”

My friends, in your days of struggle and weariness, what do you hear the Lord saying?  What Word comes to you about your struggles?