turning adversity into perseverance

I’ve had many people come to me with the question, “If God is so great, loves us, and protect us, then why does He let bad things happen?” First off, I’m not here to give you those answers, because frankly, I don’t know. To be honest with you, I’d stop trying to find that answer, because you probably won’t find it. I ruined myself trying to do that. If God were to actually reveal a reasoning like that to us, I guarantee all of our responses would look a little like this..;)

God did not create our brains to have that amount of mental understanding to rationalize His plans. If you haven’t figured it out already, we aren’t running the show here. To me, that is the most comforting, relieving thing there is to know. I’m not in control. In my opinion, a better question to ask when caca hits the fan is, “How can I seek God to help me through it?”

I have walked along a long, rocky road to uncover this truth. Here’s just a little bit of my story about how I turned my greatest hardship into a growing, beautiful experience.

At just ten years old, I found myself in a psychiatrist’s office insecurely trying to explain the constant fear I was in. It felt like no one understood, and I was trapped.  As the awkward years of middle school went by, I was now entering high school. Everything became so much worse. The haunting images of perfection became my shadow constantly following me, a good night sleep never existed to me, and I just wanted to be accepted. I soon turned from Liz, to Liz- the girl with depression and anxiety disorder.

Much of freshman and sophomore year of high school is a blur to me because of the deep sadness I found myself in. I didn’t see much hope for myself. I pretty much tried as hard as I could to survive up until my senior year of high school, when I gave my entire life to Jesus Christ, finally realizing the importance of living. You can read an in-depth of that story here.

The severity of this illness soon began to fade, but I still struggled immensely with fear. It just manifested itself differently, turning into a drained soul who tried everything in her power to fix people and situations. It robbed me of my very self.

It wasn’t until just a month ago I realized I cannot control the circumstances that happen in my life, but I certainly can control my reaction to those circumstances. We all have endured challenges we didn’t think we had the strength to overcome. Maybe some of us are still in the midst of that all. By surrendering and crying out to God saying, “I can’t do this anymore,” I patiently awaited for His answers. They sure did come, but in a much more wonderful way than I expected.

Here are some truths God showed me that turned my adversity into perseverance:

The first step I had to take was let the God of all comfort hold my hand through it all. I had to break down the barriers between Him and I, and just let Him hold me. You wouldn’t believe it, but I actually asked Him to break me. I wanted to be a broken vessel, because I know that would cause me to do nothing but depend on God to sustain me, and eventually use me for His glory.

When I think of the Great Comforter, a small child doing something, maybe something they aren’t supposed to do comes to mind. Usually, they fall down, hurting themselves. And what do they do? They run to daddy, arms reaching as high as they can, “Hold me! Hold me! Daddy, it hurts!” I was at this point. To be honest, it was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever had with My Father. I won’t bother describing it because words will never do justice.

“To the roots of the mountains; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.” -Jonah 2:6 (NIV)

And you know what is even better? Our God doesn’t just pick us up to say, “You need more faith. You need to seek Me more. Why do you keep ignoring Me?” He picks us up, wraps us tightly in His arms and says, “I’m here, My Child. I know…I know how badly it hurts, but I have given you strength, because I love you. I believe in you, My love.” 

Just let that sink in for a while.

Soon after we let our God pick us up, we have the peace that He is completely sovereign over us. I know how difficult it can be to let go of our self made plans. God fulfills His promises, and if we believe this, even if we don’t see those promises materializing yet, we demonstrate true faith. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Start consistently praying for the day when you are able trust God enough that you know, by faith, He is greater, and very much present when life is hard, overwhelming, and chaotic. I didn’t think that day would ever come, but my oh my, it sure did. It is by far, the most freeing experience I’ve ever had.

“It is crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him. This is the way Paul thought in Philippians 3:12, ‘Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own'” (ESV). -John Piper

I don’t believe God “caused” the pain of our lives, but I am very confident He uses it to drive us to Himself. I cannot change the fact that my brain is wired in a way different than others, causing me to worry irrationally. Am I suppose to lock myself up for the rest of my life, ashamed of the mess my illness causes? There’s a much better way.

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” -Ephesians 5:14 (NIV)

Paul tell us in Ephesians that we were once darkness, but we are now light in the Lord. We must live as children of the light. So arise, my dear friends of Christ. Jesus did not die so that we can hide behind our deepest bruises and shame. He died so that we may reflect our faith, being the broken vessels we are, as we walk alongside Him. 

We can turn this adversity into perseverance to advance the Kingdom.

Paul was imprisoned because he was proclaiming the gospel. For many, this would cause many people to become depressed or to give up. Paul says in Philippians 1 the palace guard and everyone else became clear that he was “in chains for Christ.” Paul saw this imprisonment as an opportunity to spread the news of Christ. He realized his current circumstances weren’t as important as what he did with them. Paul reached out to the Roman soldiers and encouraged Christians who were afraid of being persecuted. In Acts, an earthquake so violent came, that everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up frightened, about to kill himself because he thought everyone escaped. Paul told him about Jesus, speaking the word of the Lord to him and all the others. As a result, the jailer took Paul and Silas to his house, washed their wounds and and fed them. The jailer and his entire household were baptized, and they were all filled with joy because he had come to know God. Because of the way Paul demonstrated his faith in this discouragement, “most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear,” (Phil. 1:14). When we speak fearlessly for Christ, or live faithfully for Him during difficult situations, we encourage others to do the same. What happened to Paul actually served to advance the gospel. God does the same for us.

If we run to God when trials come, He will use that challenge as a testimony to help others in the future. In the strength of God’s grace, we gain the ability to offer comfort to others that goes much deeper than mere words. We bear witness to His Word and His promises applied to our experiences.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” -2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 (NIV)

I know sometimes it hurts, and searching for hope in the midst of it all can be the most exhausting thing. But I promise you, there is hope. Rest in knowing Our Father is bigger than any of this. He never forsakes. Like Paul, we must all look for ways to demonstrate our faith, thanking Him in every situation. Let’s all be an encouragement by the way we live. My prayer for all of you is to let the Spirit transform your heart, even when the circumstances aren’t the greatest. Whether or not the situation improves, our faith will become much stronger.

I’d like to conclude with a passage from The Message: 1 Peter 1: 6-7 says, “Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.”

Take comfort, trust and arise from the battle. Because guess what? Jesus already won. 

In His bomb diggity victory,

-Liz

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when God led me into the wilderness

I thought the dull season I was going through was a result of failing as a Christian. I had done everything in my power to control circumstances when all He wanted was for me to say, “Jesus, take over.” 

I’m certain all of us have endured a season of despair sometime in our lives. The sorrowful season could be a result of an occurrence like the death of a loved one, fighting cancer, or losing a job. But some of the time, these seasons can come at the most random times, when everything seems to be going right. For me, I had felt as if I was stuck in the mud, but in complete overdrive at the same time. I had the desire to sprint so freely towards my Father’s open arms that no baggage, person or circumstance could get in my way. But why did it feel like I couldn’t? How was I supposed to spend my summer running towards God if I couldn’t even bring myself to put on my running shoes?

And it was then God said, “Liz, I don’t want you to run. I want you to be still.”

While I was in college, I didn’t have time to stop and realize how exhausted I was in every way. My schedule, body, mind, and final exams did not allow me to acknowledge the severity this was and could potentially become. As soon as I moved back to my hometown for the summer, I became aware of a level of exhaustion I never knew existed within me. All of the exhaustion from constantly going, constantly trying to meet expectations and constantly trying to have a good attitude had built up and punched me right in the face. Sometimes my Christian life feels like such a heavy weight- being a good Christian, good daughter, sister, friend, leader and person in ministry. As long as I can remember, I’ve made such an effort to figure out and rationalize life’s circumstances so I could get every aspect of it under control. My brain was constantly doing this and I let it ruin me. I felt so much pressure to DO when all God wanted was for me to simply BE. I shouldn’t have dwelled in “What can I do? How can I advance the Kingdom? How can I become a better woman of Christ?” when this whole time God was wailing His hands like crazy to get my attention saying, “MY CHILD, MY CHILD! BE STILL!!”

I feel like in today’s society we are so romanticized by achieving and staying busy, that we don’t take the time to just be. BE what God desires us to BE, instead of constantly filling our lives with doings. The gospel is not about what we do for God; it is about what Jesus did for us and how He continues to work through us. The right mindset to have is not trying to be like Jesus, but letting Jesus live His life through us. Silence and solitude are incredibly important when it comes to knowing God intimately. It is valuable to withdraw from our addictions to noise, words, and expectations of others. The Lord invites us into this stillness so He could reveal Himself to us. He then frees us all from this burden and we experience God as our ultimate reality. We release our own agendas and control and become more willing and able to give ourselves to God’s loving initiative.

Jesus frequently set aside the incredible pressure of life in order to slip away to spend time with His Father. When Jesus healed the man with leprosy, the Gospel says “the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16). Many people were running towards Jesus to hear him preach and have their diseases healed, but Jesus MADE SURE he withdrew to quiet, solitary places to pray. Many things yell for my attention and I often run myself exhausted attending to them. Like Jesus, I need to take time to go to a quiet setting and be intimate with God. Strength comes from God and I can only be strengthened by being with Him.

In 1 Kings 19:9-13, The Lord appears to Elijah. A great and powerful wind came, then an earthquake, then a fire, but God never spoke to Elijah through these. A gentle whisper came and Elijah knew it was God’s voice. God doesn’t always reveal himself in powerful, miraculous ways. He is often found in the quietness of a humbled heart.

This is where it all comes back to being led into the wilderness. Hosea 2:14 says, “Therefore, I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” In this case, God promised to bring the people to a place free from distractions, (the wilderness) so he could clearly communicate with them. I felt as if I was stuck in the mud, depressed and I couldn’t hear God’s voice at all, but it really was God leading me to a place where I could give Him my undivided attention. Sometimes He needs to take those distractions away in order for us to become aware of how much we need God to function. This was guidance for me to step back from all noise and activity and listen humbly to God’s lead. He spoke tenderly to me, “be still, Liz” and I felt my heart beginning to transform, growing more in Him every day because of it. When we take the time to listen, He will lead us, and often times it is in a direction very differently than how we thought we should handle a situation or how we feel about it. God uses even our negative experiences to create opportunities to turn back to him. God can speak to us when we feel desperately alone in the desert, not just in times of prosperity.

I thought the only way to get close to God was to drop everything, put everything past us and just run like crazy toward the King. It is a way, but not the only way. Sometimes we need to be still, know, and listen. Embrace today’s present love, joy and mercy and soak it up. Dive into the depths of his glory. Whether it might be taking some time to ourselves and growing intimate with Him, shooting some hoops, going to the studio to dance, calling up a friend for lunch and discuss our sovereign God…whatever it may be, have the mindset of Him working through it all. It is not dishonoring Him if you aren’t out and about proclaiming the gospel or constantly trying to seek other things to do in order to advance the Kingdom. Growing intimately with Christ is a mission field in itself. There’s going to be times when we have to start at the basics of a relationship with Christ by accepting Him again and focusing on our personal relationship with Him.

So my dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, do not be afraid if God allures you leading you into the wilderness. Praise Him, even if it may be a little scary, because the amount of grace and love you will feel as a result is beyond words. Hang on and be still.

God’s blessings to each one of you!

Liz 🙂