Saturday, July 12, 2014

Then the unthinkable happened...

There I sat, on the floor of the closet, hugging my knees tightly to my chest and rocking back and forth; silent tears streaming down my face. I was more broken in that moment than I have ever been in my life. I hurt from the very core of my innermost being and it felt like I was completely and utterly alone. 


I have tried to write this post no less than 10 times and every time I either deleted each word methodically or I just deleted the page and wrote about something else. I could never seem to be able to take myself back to that place and share it with you. I wanted to, but it was a wound that I wasn't sure I could actually bear to expose again. To be vulnerable to it and to the judgement of others because of it has been a battle that I wasn't sure was worth the price. Today I am going there. Today I am going to share with you one of my deepest hurts ever and the lesson of faith that came from it. I am not sure why today, but today it is.

Several years ago, our family was the simple, four-person typical American family with two dogs and two cars. God had seen fit to bless us with two beautiful daughters, a lovely home, a nice vehicle and jobs that we both loved and felt called to do. All of that changed one April. Someone with way more power and prestige than we took a small amount of truth and combined it with a large amount of untruth and proceeded to systematically destroy my husband for personal gain. It was horrible to watch; unbearable really. I love my husband completely and I want everyone to know that I am married to the most amazing father, husband, man I know. He is generous, loving, hard-working, full of integrity, Godly, decent; all the things I had ever imagined in a spouse. Not that Trey doesn't have any faults or ever mess up, he does and did then, but he will readily admit when he messes up and will work to move on.

When I felt my husband's integrity attacked, I immediately flew into that beastly protective mode; I needed everyone to know the man I loved, not the words they read or heard. (can you say control issues?) In the next year to year and a half, we lost most of our worldly possessions because he lost the job that he lived and loved for many years. Every week it seemed like some new bad event was happening, or something else would be lost. In the end, things are just things, but the impact this long, stressful time of our character being questioned and attacked was almost unbearable. Watching my husband become withdrawn and battle depression sent me into a mix of the same and stirred an intense need to fight for our survival.

Thankfully, our family was (and is) rooted in Christ and losing temporal things was not as devastating as it might have been otherwise. Every morning, we met as a family and prayed together that we would each have a good day. I searched scripture daily and had landed in the Psalms, reading about God delivering David from his enemies and not allowing them to have the victory. I knew, that I knew, that I knew that God was going to take care of everything and that this injustice would not be allowed to happen and be a final blow. I knew it with a deep faith certainty. (in case you missed that)

Here is where things get tricky and I hope I explain my mindset well. I have always believed in miracles. I am one of those people that if we had a need, a physical need, going to God for that and expecting the miracle to happen is second nature to me. I don't worry about the physical needs. That may be because I grew up without a lot of extras but mostly because I know that is how my parents were in their faith; God will provide. This situation was a bit different. It wasn't a physical need I was so fixated on, but the need for an injustice not to happen. The need for "good" to prevail and justice and right and....(this is starting to sound like a Marvel comic) Anyway, you get the idea. I knew God would not allow this awful thing to happen to my husband. I shouted it from the pages of Facebook and to anyone else who would listen. I didn't know how, but I knew it would work out somehow.

And then the unthinkable happened. God didn't come through. God didn't come through?

What was I supposed to do with that? I was devastated and confused. How in the world could I reconcile this in my mind? I knew without a doubt that God had told me it would be okay. I knew that God had given me scripture references to back it up. I had even set the stage for the miracle to happen and for Him to get the glory.

Oops...I had set the stage. Had I become a miracle manipulator in my intense desire to see good prevail? Had I basically tried to lay it out so God had no other option? Like I was really that much in control? (Again, control issues)

You see sometimes I think that is what we do with God. We think that we can set the stage for him to swoop down like a comic book hero and fix things and then we can shout to everyone around that our God is awesome and He just ____________ (did whatever it was.) What if He doesn't want that from you or I? Does He really need us to lead the way for Him; set His stage?

Reread the first few lines I wrote above:

 There I sat, on the floor of the closet, hugging my knees tightly to my chest and rocking back and forth; silent tears streaming down my face. I was more broken in that moment than I have ever been in my life. I hurt from the very core of my innermost being and it felt like I was completely and utterly alone.

I had prayed. I had believed. I had faith even more than a mustard seed; and you know what happened? God let me down! He didn't come through! How could He do that to me?

I was at a faith crossroads. I had to figure this thing out because I was on that floor of my closet and I was crying out to God and I honestly didn't think He was answering at all; maybe not even hearing me. I had never been faced with "What if God doesn't come through? Then what? " He had always come through. I never stopped believing in God, but I had to decide who God was in a very real, very painful, very personal way. It was almost more than I could bear to think that my God had let me down. I had to face those inner demons of thinking bad things are a punishment for bad people; the whispers of Satan trying to steal the faith embedded in my heart. Oh and he is a great whisperer.

To make matters worse, every friend, every worship song, every sermon seemed to focus or mention something about the goodness of God. I LOVE to sing and worship with my voice, but during these weeks, I couldn't. I tried and ... nothing, I mean not even a squeak came out. It was as if the words would not form on my lips. I would stand in the church and not even realize I had tears running down my face and not even be focused enough to know when to stand or sit. I was in a faith-battle haze. I was waging a war against Satan in my heart so difficult and so hurtful that I felt like I might not make it out alive. Praise God, that He resided there already and had decorated the place so well that Satan could fight but he would never have won.

The verse Romans 8:28 became a constant thorn for me during this battle.



"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."


Well-meaning friends would quote it or paraphrase it and one dearly loved elderly man of God at church kept saying to me every time he saw me, " God is good, all the time; All the time, God is good." (Mr. Paul would always pause as though he expected me to finish the phrase for him, but I just couldn't do it.) This was a huge part of what I was coming to terms with. I fervently prayed and read the Bible and searched and still felt like nothing was happening; I was getting no answers. For the first time in my Christian life, I was searching for, grasping for, answers that I thought I already knew, and they just weren't coming easily. I felt like I wasn't praying enough, or maybe not well enough; like I wasn't doing enough to get God's attention and all the time the recordings of Satan's whispers were set on replay in my mind. It was a battle extraordinaire.

You see, one of the weirdest things about me is I am very emotionally driven and very logical and the same time. When I take those left-brained (logic/math/order) versus right-brained (creative/emotional/experience) quizzes, I am always split right down the middle. So during this faith battle, my logical side would be saying things like "This isn't 'good.' Why would God allow something so unjust? How can that possibly be good for His children? If He is a loving Father God like I believe He is, He wouldn't allow something that would ruin our lives to happen like this." And then my emotional side would be saying, "God is bigger than this. I know He loves me, He has shown me. I believe Him. He can still fix this." 

After the final blow of God not showing up, our foreclosure was final, we had nowhere to live (but of course God provided), we had no way to give Christmas to our kids (but of course God provided), We lost our vehicle (but of course God provided.) We opened a business and lost a lot of money when it also closed.( but still God provided for us). I was literally in such a state that I felt like God was allowing this attack just like he allowed Job to lose so much. At one point, I even became fleetingly fearful that my children would be harmed or die next! (more whispers of Satan) And then I looked at the story of Joseph.

 This young man was one of many of his father's and his brothers didn't really like him much because he was Daddy's favorite. They plotted to kill him, but instead they sold him into slavery. (Genesis 37:18-36) Talk about an injustice! He became a slave to a very rich man in Egypt and worked his way up in the household of this rich family. 

Just about the time things were starting to look up, Joseph gets wrongfully accused of something he didn't do and thrown in prison for it without so much as an investigation. (Genesis 39:16-20) Now it doesn't say this in the scripture, but I imagine Joseph thinking that God would not allow his brothers to really sell him into slavery. Or maybe he knew that God would come through for him when he was falsely accused. I imagined he thought that the man he worked for knew him better than the words that he had heard and would investigate a little further. Or maybe he just believed God would not allow such an injustice to happen. But it did. All of it happened. He was sold as a slave by his own brothers.  He was imprisoned for something he did not do. 

So how does that reconcile with Romans 8? "God works ALL things together for the good of those who love him." Here is my only answer to that. I finally came to terms with this because I know that my little brain is laughable compared to God. He is beyond my understanding; I already knew that before all of this happened. How then do I expect to understand "good"; or at least God's version of the word. What if He has a different definition of good than I do? What if I, as usual, don't even have a teeny tiny idea of what good really is?

 Joseph, while in prison, interpreted a dream for the Pharoah. This led to him becoming second in command and in charge of all the food that Egypt had stored up during a time when people were starving to death. Guess who came knocking on his door to ask for food for their family? His brothers did and he was in a position, years later, to save his own family from imminent death and to reunite on good terms despite the evil things they had done to him. (Genesis 42) Seriously, it is a cool story- go read it! The thing is, Joseph had time to get beyond the hurt and pains that he had encountered along the way. I do not know if he was ever vindicated or publicly presented as innocent of what he was accused of. Maybe his integrity, hard-work and decency just proved to others who he really was. I am sure he made some stupid mistakes along the way, but Joseph was a man of God. How different would it have been if Joseph had stood in his prison cell screaming obscenities at his accusers and insisting the release him and prove his innocence. I am sure he must have felt like doing that at least once or twice. I wonder if the Pharoah would have ever trusted him to eventually run a large portion of the land? I wonder if some other not-so-loving guy would have been in charge of the food and Joseph's family would have perished? 

So one thing I learned is that God's version of 'good' may not match up with my version of 'good' and that I need to get over it. I don't have the panoramic view of life and I would hate for my family to die in a few years because I was pitching a fit somewhere instead of being used by God. 

The second huge faith lesson and this was what I think hit me incredibly hard and fast. I had to determine in my heart that I was placing my faith in God no matter what. No. Matter. What. Even when He doesn't, I still believe He is. He is working; He is doing; He is loving and yes, He is good. Even when I don't feel it, He is. I decided at the end of those few weeks that my heart was stuck. Even when God didn't come through like I knew, that I knew, that I knew that He would, I still trusted Him. Honestly, that was a hard fought internal battle for me. I had to decide that my faith was not conditional on how I felt or what I saw; my faith had to be completely unconditional. I trust you Lord, even if you don't come through. (like I pictured anyway)

The last thing I learned, and one I probably have to continually work on, is not to be a miracle manipulator! I like control. I think we all struggle sometimes with wanting to feel like we have a little control, but even more so when things are spinning wildly around us. I still have faith that God will provide my every need. I have learned that even though he had given us beautiful things, that His provision could be in something different. For example, I loved our house before, and it was such a God-thing that we even were able to buy that house, so it was confusing when I felt God allowing us to lose it. We had nowhere to go, and no real options to look at, when suddenly, God provided another home. This one is much smaller and not the same as a newly built house, but He provided and it has been good for us. Honestly, by the time the foreclosure happened, the house that was such a blessing had become so much of a burden that it was a relief to let it go.

 God wants us to be content in what we are given. We should rejoice with blessings we know He lavishes upon us, but don't be so selfish to believe that they are ours forever. It is a balancing act of gratefulness and trust. In that trust I need to never lose that ability to have complete and utter faith that God can move the mountain but even if He doesn't my faith cannot be swayed; unconditional faith. 

I had a friend say the other day that "God will not sift you unless there is something that needs to be sifted out." Which sounds really nice, but I am not sure I completely agree. Or maybe her meaning and how I interpret it are different. I think God does whatever needs to be done, and sometimes doesn't need to be done, to further His Kingdom. Furthermore, He sees the past, present and future as one continuum which we are not at liberty to have the panoramic view. Of course when we need something sifted out of our life, He does what needs to be done to remove it one way or another. However, I think sometimes we get sifted because we are standing too close to someone else who really needs the sifting; maybe we are there for them.  Sometimes, maybe because God needs us to be in a different place in the future and although there is no real clear reason in our vision path to be placed in slavery or prison right now, we find ourselves there metaphorically. Sometimes I think we mistake sinful human nature and choices as God's sifting. We live in a fallen world and people all around us make bad, even evil, choices daily . Those consequences have to go somewhere and often they are not contained in and around the one person making the choices.

I don't know if you've ever felt broken and alone like I did on that closet floor. I hope you never have to experience that kind of bone crushing, soul wrenching pain. If you do or have, know you are not alone. Don't stop crying out to God and don't mistake His silence for abandonment. He is there. He is allowing you to work through your faith battle and He is there. Trust Him even if He doesn't come through; unconditional trust is what God wants from us. He does work things together for the good of those who love Him, so don't roll your eyes at the sweet older guy who says "God is good, all the time; All the time, God is good."  every time you see him because he is much wiser than I am and he's right (and because I love Mr. Paul a lot). Just remember that God's idea of good probably doesn't even remotely match your idea of good, so get over it. And whatever you do, don't try to manipulate God to react in the way you want Him to. He is the designer of miracles, not us. Those are my lessons that I hope can help you get through your faith battle maybe more swiftly than I did mine. Oh and get rid of that record player in your head of Satan's whispers. Instead fill your head with new recordings; louder recordings and recordings that you have memorized so well that you can replay them as loud and as often as needed to drown out the enemy of your heart. Scripture is your best weapon when those whispers start. You can't use scriptures you do not know.

FYI: We all survived that awful time. This all happened before I even started writing and this is a family photo taken more recently. (We need a new one already though. This is a several years old)


Blessed more than I deserve,

~Stephanie

srieper89@gmail.com
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