I've not written here for a year. As I read over the last words I penned, I am shaken by their contents. What had risen up as goodness, and swelled to such an extent that I'd write such extolling praises, has, in a year, reversed much in my mind, and that sharpened eye of which I'd spoken, has become clouded, polluted and turned much within itself unto despair.
I wrote last year from Spurgeon: "faith cures fretting; sight is cross-eyed and views things only as they seem, hence her envy; faith has clearer optics to behold things as they really are, hence her peace. Very much of our outward depends on our inward; where there is heaven in the heart, there will be heaven in the house." To reread these words here this morning, juxtaposed against the passed year's circumstances, I am bewildered at how the trials, planted in the blessings, have become transfigured within me, and the brilliance of faith's eye has been nearly snuffed out.
There is a tendency in everyone to grow weary under perpetual trial. Hebrews 12:3 states: "for consider Him who endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Now, my context is surely different than my Lord's, but the premise is the same: ongoing trials without an effective and curative renewal in perspective causes us to grow weary and lose heart. We begin to question the goodness of God and very quickly we find ourselves wandering, as in the Israelite's wilderness, unable to perceive the daily manna and quail He provides for us. Though He gave the cloud and fire to guide, we, like the Hebrews, often perceive the hardness and privation in His ways, and see only what His hand hasn't given. We neglect to see the tender mercies in our storms, and feel only the battering sleet, unpredictable hail, and the fear of more of an unrelenting cold. The longer the season of privation lasts, the greater our doubts grow, extinguishing our original hopes, and making our reality again, only that which we experience and perceive. Faith is removed in all practical scenarios and reduced only to our means of salvation, further diminishing our joy and fostering a stunted, survivalist mentality.
Though I am speaking specifically of my own foolish ways, I believe this is a universal difficulty for the saints. Though we may consistently renew our minds with Truth, the unrelenting nature of persisting trials, compounded in multiple areas of our lives, are apt to leave us bereft of the full support of hope that our Lord offers, if we are not wise to this temptation. Our hearts are prone to wander and become famished in the barren lands of trial, for we think there is a proper length of season for them, and our weak minds become disillusioned when that season does not end when we think it ought. Psalm 119:82 says, "My eyes fail with longing for Your word, while I say, "When will You comfort me?" Psalm 102:3-4 "For my days have been consumed in smoke, and my bones have been scorched like a hearth. My heart has been smitten like grass and has withered away." Psalm 107 intimates several analogies the sons of God experience in our pilgrimage to heaven. "They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region; they did not find a way to an inhabited city. They were hungry and thirsty; their soul fainted within them. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses." Psalm 107:4-6. Though Jesus tells us we will have trouble in this life, the actual experience of our pain in our trials informs us much more loudly than the still small voice of truth, and we are so often tempted to believe what we feel versus what we know to be true about God and our circumstances. His supernatural power to transform our hearts through His truth is our only hope in navigating through the complexities we each face.
Over the past year, sleep has been an incredibly elusive foe, and ensuing health issues have complicated the manifold scenarios into which I've entered. My emotional state has been unstable and all about has seemed quick sand. I've searched and failed at landing myself upon the Rock of Christ and have been tempted to give up. Last year, as I'd penned the words before the new year's dawning, I was enabled to see by faith what God was birthing out of years of a longing He'd placed in my heart and Josh's. Faith was becoming sight, and at the time, I did not perceive any of the incredible difficulties that were to accompany the great gifts He was choosing to give us. It is often that way; we cannot see the future, and as things unfold in unforeseen and difficult ways, we begin to question whether we'd somehow made a wrong choice. We forget that hardship is an unpreventable reality for the Christian, and that God gives it for our good. The unrelenting trials have wooed my flesh out to an extended stay at Doubting Castle and all that is gift has been as gravel to my aching heart. My meditations have recently turned to Psalm 107 and I have found great relief in the contents.
I hope to spend more time expounding on some of the impressions from this Psalm, but for now I wish to acknowledge plainly that I have been woefully off course in my perspectives. I have felt burdened excessively and despaired of life (2 Cor. 1:8) and I have not known how to please God. I have felt incapable of obeying Him and stretched far beyond all capacities. I have lost my perspective on what is true, right, noble, and lovely and all of this has occurred because I have lost hope that anything will change. In an attempt to change that faulty perspective, I wish to state this all and count it joy as I've been under these trials. I wish to reclaim the diminished hopes and I believe this is partially done by adjuring others in the same ways. Psalm 107:22 reads: "Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing." Vs. 32 states: "Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him at the seat of the elders."
Josh and I were married July 9, 2016 and enjoyed an incredibly beautiful, God-honoring day. A majority of our most precious companions were there to witness our union and extol our Maker. The presence of trusted and beloved friends and family was the half of the joy; many came from great distances, put off busy lives, and brought with them grateful, servant hearts that spilled out in a unified praise. Our families worked tirelessly to ensure that the day would go well. So much difficulty surrounded our day that it is hard for me to remember all the beauty in the shadows, but remember it, I will. I am reminded just now that the beauty that comes from our lives is extracted by our Maker, and is pulled out of us through difficulty, betwixt our sin struggles, relational confusion, and brokenness. As Psalm 107 repeats four times, "Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death." (vs. 13-14.) The Lord, in His wisdom, sends us to the desert to wander to know His leading; the prison to know bondage and to seek His release; to ill health to know our frailty and His healing; and into storms and waves to show us who rules them all. He takes us all to the end of ourselves to show us again and again our inability to do anything apart from Him. The most difficult thing for us to do is to offer those sacrifices of thanksgiving, but the only way out is through and praise Him, we must. Psalm 107:43 ends: "Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things, and consider the lovingkindnesses of the Lord." I am powerless to do this all on my own, but by His grace, He will allow me to stand. I adjure you, reader to do the same with me, in the power of His name. The attached photos are some of the incredible ways He has blessed this year that I cannot overlook. My greatest earthly blessing is without rival: my dear husband, Josh.