Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Results Are In!

Three years ago, when I moved here to care for my grandparents, I began an experiment. My life up to that point had been unusually comfortable and easy, and I felt that I needed to be stretched and put in a position where I had to depend on God more directly. I wanted to prove to myself that God was enough for all my needs—that I didn’t have to depend on my parents, or the church I’d grown up in, or any of the other supports that I was used to.

I didn’t know what I was getting into. The past three years have been the most difficult—and the most wonderful—of my life. Looking back, I marvel at the goodness and perfect love of God, how He so perfectly balanced struggle and strength, giving me challenges that were just hard enough that I had to reach for Him in desperation, but not so hard that I was crushed beneath them. My heavenly Father custom-built my load, knowing just what I needed to learn and what disciplines I needed to develop—and although it has not been nearly as heavy as that which so many other people carry, it was just heavy enough for me.

As my time here draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about some of the lessons that I’ve learned (or at least begun to learn.)

I’ve gotten a glimpse of just how weak I am, and just how strong God is. I guess I knew this in theory before, but I had never before reached the point of KNOWING that I did not have the strength to do what was required of me.

I’ve found that I’m more impatient and selfish than I ever suspected. And that God is able to give patience and love that I could never manufacture on my own.

I’ve been lonely beyond anything I felt before, and learned that although God usually doesn’t wipe away all the loneliness, He can wipe away the tears. And depths of loneliness can become portals to the sweetest fellowship with Him. He may not give me the one for whom I’m lonely, but He gives me One far better, Himself.

I’ve learned that hope and disappointment come together when applied to any thing or person on earth. How comforting it is to know that hope in God “does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

I’ve begun to learn that “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), but that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

I’ve learned more about how unlovely I really am, at the core of my being—and I’ve learned a little more about just how much He loves me.

I used to live in dread of facing a “real” trial in my life. But the Lord has so proven Himself to me during these years, that although I know better than ever how unable I am to handle trials, I also know better than before how faithful He is sure to be when hard times come.

And that’s really what my experiment comes down to—it has proven God’s faithfulness and goodness to me. I am stunned by the intricacy of God’s dealings with His own, as He weaves together all that we don’t understand and asks us to trust Him for the results. And yet the simplicity of His care is breathtaking, “I was brought low, and He saved me.” (Psalm 116:6)

I am not the same person that I was three years ago. It’s not that I’ve become any stronger, any better in myself, any wiser in my own reasoning—on the contrary, I’ve learned a lot about how utterly inadequate I am. But I do know my God better, because He has been nursing me along, spirit, soul, and body, with infinite care and love.

Hardship plus random chance, fate, luck, or whatever you want to call it, could never result in the blessings that I’ve experienced. This is the work of the God Who at once keeps all the stars and planets in their place, and gives me about fifteen breaths and seventy heartbeats each minute, who arranges the kingdoms of the world and the minutes of my days. It’s the work of the God Who knows me better than I know myself, and loves me better than anyone else could love me. It’s the work of the God who “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

The experiment has been a success. God has proven Himself worthy of every fragment of faith that I placed in Him—worthy, indeed, of so very much more faith than I had! I hope that for the rest of my life I will be learning to trust Him more, and will thus see His works more and more clearly. It’s an exciting prospect, because I’m already sure of the answer. It’s underlined in my Bible, Psalm 25:3, “Indeed, none of those who wait for Thee will be ashamed.” I will never have to admit that God failed me, that I drew on one of His promises and the check bounced.

I can’t say it any better than David the king, “Blessed be the Lord, because He has heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.” (Psalm 28:6,7)