I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!
It is the end of a long day, and almost the start of a new one, and I am the only one awake. While I desperately need to get some sleep, I enjoy these quiet evenings and the quiet time that I am able to spend reflecting on the day and sharing the goings on of our family and our lives with the Lord. As I sit here I am reminded of a night much like this one, when we were going through a particularly difficult time as a family. My husband was the senior pastor of a small inner-city church and had devoted himself full-time to that vocation. Things were more than a little ‘tight’ financially, and we had made cut-backs every where that we could in order to ensure that our family was provided for as well as the people of God. We were young…and somewhat naively (I’m being nice) believed that if we took care of the ‘church’ and all of its responsibilities, that God would miraculously take care of us as well. And while we weren’t wrong, we weren’t right either. In our thinking back then, the church that we were taking care of was the building, and it’s utilities first, and then the people who came to worship and fellowship, and their needs. On this particular night, I was awake very late at night, pouring my heart out to the Lord. My car had just been repossessed, and my home was being foreclosed on…and I didn’t understand why…or how. Oh, I understood that if you don’t pay your bills, this is what happens. But I didn’t understand that you could truly believe that you were serving the Lord to the best of your ability by the power of His Spirit, and this is what happens. And I was hurt. Why was God allowing us to suffer loss when our lives were committed to Him? So that night, I prayed…fervently, passionately, tearfully, heart-wrenchingly…and quietly…in a whisper… My kids and my husband were sleeping upstairs and I didn’t want to wake them up. But I wanted God to hear me!!!! And I cried and prayed and groaned and moaned….and whispered. Had someone been spying on me, they would have definitely thought I was crazy…but I knew…I knew He would hear me…if I yelled, if I wailed, if I screamed, if I cried…if I whispered…and even if I wrapped my arms around myself and never uttered a sound. I knew the He would know, and more than know, I was confident, even in my loss, that He cared about the things that were hurting me.
As I cried that night, I thought that losing those things was almost more than I could bear. For some reason, I had bought into the lie that so many have fallen for in today’s church, that ‘stuff’ is the sign that the Lord loves you and has received you as His own. I wasn’t hurt because of the house and the car. I was hurt because of what I believed they represented…and because of what I believed losing them meant. I was hurt because I erroneously believed that God had withdrawn His blessings from my family, and He had done it publicly. I shake my head as I look back on that time. Understand, God had not withdrawn His Spirit. We had only lost a house…and a car. That’s all. But the joy comes in as I look back because even though I grieved the loss of these material, replaceable things, God still listened to my prayers!!!! He still comforted me as I lamented and moaned because I didn’t understand. He still walked with us when other pastors treated us as if loss was contagious…as rumors started and it was said we must have sinned against the Lord to suffer loss ike that. God, who knows our beginning from our end, never wavered. He never closed his ears to our prayers. But as our patient father, He comforted us, and let us cry. When I was all cried out, then I was able to find peace in His word. I was lovingly reminded that material things are not the sign of His acceptance, but it is His Holy Spirit. We had suffered the loss of things that could be replaced…and we grieved…I grieved…but God remained Faithful…even though our perspective was wrong and immature…He remained patient. And he knew something we didn’t know yet; He knew we would learn from this. He knew that we would come out of that situation better people…more committed believers…more compassionate servants…more humble children…He knew. And He waited. And that night, like so many others, He wiped my tears…And I grew up.
If you have gone through difficult times and experienced the loss of some of the material things that we amass on this earth, know that God’s plan for your life is bigger than a house. It’s bigger than a car. It’s bigger than a job. his plan in your life is to work in such a way that everything that we have placed before him in our hearts or minds is brought down. His plan is to bring all of us to a place where when we look up, we see only Him. He truly desires to be the object of our affection…the One who we adore. Things are just that…things. And there is no thing that you have right now that can’t be replace. But the presence of God…the joy and peace that is only found when we are in right relationship with Him…if we were to lose that, then we would have reason to grieve.
I haven’t sat up late at night and cried to the Lord for the things I have lost in a long time. Not because I haven’t lost anything since then, but because my perspective had changed through my losses. I have learned that God is Faithful! And that everything that we go through, every loss that we suffer, is an opportunity to thank Him and show gratitude for what we have and for the person we are becoming as a result of that trial.
When I look back, every loss in my life has drawn me closer and closer to the Lord. I encourage you to allow your losses to do the same. Decide to outlaw bitterness and anger from your heart. Those evils only make your ‘growing up’ take longer. In other words, they are growth retardants in your life. Instead choose joy…choose peace. And let God be God. He truly knows what He’s doing in you. When you sit quietly to talk to Him, thank Him for every loss. As we lose our grip on the things of this world, we gain a firmer grip on the things that matter to Him most. Find rest in Him no matter what you are going through. His goodness in our lives isn’t dependant on what we have, but on who He is.