Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Struggle

The Struggle, copyright 2000-2002 Nikki Appel

My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but Thou dost not answer; And by night, but I have no rest. Yet Thou art holy…1

This Psalm written by king David speaks to God about David’s personal struggle in two areas:
  1. His sense of rejection by God
  2. His obvious rejection by others
The first time I read this (and every time since then), I’ve thought of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross for my sins and those of every other human being; I viewed it as a prophetic utterance by David. This morning however, I’m looking back and hearing the singular voice of David, a man in spiritual and emotional crisis.

I read this recent expression from a fellow blogger:

I've been struggling with my Christianity BIG TIME. I know some of you are scoffing at that statement and are saying with a sarcastic toneOh well who isn't struggling in their faith.Well, guys I need you to be a little sympathetic here. Anyway, as I was saying, it's been so, so, so hard with everything. Earlier, I was trying to express to my friend ____ how I was feeling but I couldn't quite find the words to say.

I read this and thought back to what seemed for me an eternity ago but in truth it has only been five months since I expressed similar thoughts. After years of ignoring God, I finally decided that my life and the decisions I’d made resulted in complete and abject failure. I decided to seek the Lord in January, beginning with daily prayer, bible study and meditation. At this time, I was not attending a church; I was attempting to connect with God in my own comfortable way.

The skills I developed in my professional career were what I depended on to analyze, identify, strategize and implement a plan that would successfully resurrect me from my personal abyss. For me, this is the methodology I always used for problem solving and resolution; it’s what I knew, I was comfortable with this approach because it worked for me.

What I didn’t know was this methodology didn’t work for God.

God was going to resurrect my life but it would have to be done His way, using a schedule and method I was unfamiliar with. I was too dependent on me, instead of God. In order to experience a real resurrection in my life, it would mean I’d have to forsake me.

Through the first four months of 2010, I experienced a peace in spite of the outward chaos around me, but not once did I feel or sense that I was really connected to God. I was following my methodology but God remained silent to me. By April, I began to ask myself,

What’s the matter? Why is God silent? Why am I being ignored when I genuinely want to hear from Him?

These series of questions became a part of my daily prayer, but still, there was no reply from God.

I remember being home alone and as I prayed, something happened, I began to confess to God that I didn’t know what to do, there was no one else for me to turn to, I had no place to go; there was only God and me. I began crying from a sense of utter helplessness and part of me tried to hold back those tears because, I’m a man and where I come from, men don’t cry.

I found myself struggling then; with myself. I don’t have a clear understanding of what I was saying or doing; there is a part of me fighting to get composed and there is another part of me pressing to escape. I remember saying,

Intense Worship of the Lord, image courtesy of fotosearch.comIf God is done with me, if what I’m doing is pointless and miserably hopeless, then I’ll be miserable but I’m not going back to where I was.

I’m not giving up!


This was my moment of breakthrough, my moment of forsaking me. It was the moment that the Holy Spirit helped me to see that my life wasn’t about me, my life is about God. I believe that even though I didn’t understand it, I experienced a worship of the Lord. It is the reason that despite David feeling all alone and struggling with a sense of rejection he could say,

Yet Thou art holy…2

Despite what he felt, David acknowledged that even in the midst of his unenviable circumstances, God is holy, just and right in every way!

I finally arrived at the place of worship and like David; I recognized the righteousness and holiness of God. It no longer mattered to me what I thought or felt about my own personal circumstances; the only thing that matters is my recognition and acknowledgement of God. The supremacy of Almighty God is all that matters to me.

Even if it meant that there was no God at all, a premise I was unwilling to accept; I would believe the truth about God rather than what others might consider a lie.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:

…if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins…If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.3

If salvation is nothing more than a fairy tale, then I am nothing more than a child who mails letters to the North Pole, hoping to get a response from Santa Claus. Those around me with intelligence (believe they) know the truth, but they indulge me because they understand, "I can’t help the way I am"; I am a man to be pitied.

There is a passage in Daniel which the Holy Spirit keeps affirming in my spirit. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were threatened with death by king Nebuchadnezzar. They were given the choice of two options:
  1. Submit to idolatry
  2. Suffer painful death
What I’ve come to realize is that God doesn’t have to prove anything to me or anyone else. If God does something to demonstrate His existence, love, kindness or grace; it is because God is sovereign and He simply chooses to.

Faced with a fiery painful death, these three young men recognized that God could save them, if that’s what He wanted to do, but they decided that even if God chose not to save them, they wouldn’t give up on God and submit to idolatry.

God wasn’t obligated to answer me when I felt so alone. He didn’t have to prove Himself to me in order to be assured that He exists. He’s God all by Himself. God has already done everything necessary for me to live for Him. When Jesus hung on the cross and said,

It is finished!4

Everything God needed to do on my behalf was accomplished to save me. This is what provision from God accomplishes for me. Whatever I need is there for me, in Christ Jesus. Whether I accept the grace and provisions of God is my choice but God finished what I needed Him to do.

It was me then who changed from demanding assurances to declaring dependence. I could be bombarded with thoughts of abandonment by God, and the futility of faith; but those thoughts became irrelevant and insignificant to me. I determined that even if I never got an inkling from God, I believe in Him.

Many have faced the struggle of trusting God, hearing a voice in their head that quizzes:

If Jesus is truly the Son of God, then why…?

You may be in a place of desolation, a desert and you’re spiritually, emotionally and physically weary, helpless and feeling so alone; God says,I AM

You may be helpless but you’re not alone. God is with you, and in your desperation, something deep inside you wants to proclaim with a sense of urgency,

Don’t give up on God! Declare who God is, affirm your faith; worship Him.

Worship God in your spirit, image courtesy of neusebaptist.org

You may find yourself unsteady as you speak, but don’t stop; keep worshipping the Lord, confessing your unyielding faith and trust in Him alone.

Your struggle to trust God will free you.

Father God,

I struggle within myself to affirm that You are holy, just and true. I have doubts but I see that I'm looking inward instead of to the author and finisher of my faith. Jesus Christ completes me in every facet of my life. I see my purpose now. My purpose is to worship and honor You with my life. I trust You Lord. Though I can't see, I believe and see through the eyes of faith. I've never known real victory until now. "I have victory!" Not because of who I am but because of who You are. Even if all around me is sinking sand, I will trust in the Lord. Thank You Lord Jesus for giving me faith that is uncompromising, resolute and determined. Amen.


Footnotes:
  1. Psalm 22:1-3, NASB
  2. Psalm 22:3, NASB
  3. 1 Corinthians 15:16-17; 19, NASB
  4. John 19:30, NASB
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6


37 comments:

Ian Curtis said...

Amen. The Christian who feigns at never suffering or doubting is deceiving themselves. God leads us to many spiritual peaks, but there are valleys inbetween; and they are deep sometimes. I empathize with you 100%. I walked away from God for many years before coming to my senses and coming home! Praise God, that when He owes us nothing, yet He is is willing to give us everything in Christ.
I appreciate the honesty, friend. More people need to see that, above all, Christians are still human. We hurt, and we become lost or disillusioned. I thank the Lord that He brought you home, too. Your friend, Ian.

From The Heart Online said...

Woo! Powerful post.
"God wasn’t obligated to answer me when I felt so alone. He didn’t have to prove Himself to me in order to be assured that He exists. He’s God all by Himself." I can completely identify with that. I'm a woman so God has dealt (and continue to deal) with me this same way about emotions. Whether I feel happy or emotionally destitute, neither changes who God is.

Once I get past the self pity of it, there's a whole lot of freedom there!

Thank you, Lord that you are the same yesterday, today and forever!

A Peculiar Person said...

A wonderful post, as always!
I think we can all relate to that feeling of utter abandonment - when we look around at our life and see nothing but disaster and enemies on every side, and no matter how hard we look we just can't seem to see God.

I know I've been there, and I can still remember how even in my utter despair something inside me reminded me that God was still worthy because he is GOD. We don't worship, serve, or submit to him because we are happy ... but because he is holy!

Amen!

MTJ said...

Ian: You're so right, many sheep wander and get lost. I am thankful that the grace of God called out to me. There is an indescribable joy when God embraces you with His love, forgiveness, salvation and hope.

Kim: There are no cracks in God's identity, His love and faithfulness are not shaken by doubt and discouragement. I am at the place where I accept that there is a God and that He is that God revealed in scripture. he has fulfilled His promise for me. I trust Him.

Paula: Coming to that place and recognizing that God is holy puts everything in perspective for me now. I depend on Him and not myself.

lioneagle said...

Greetings MTJ -

I forsook the Lord twice - both times for a relationship. One relationship lasted 5 years and the other about 6. The last time, in particular, I knew that the Lord was going to get me...I just did not know when or how but I always knew that my days were numbered as a backslider who enjoyed sin for a season. My season came to a devastating halt.
The pain of my disobedience...indescribable...

In my last relationship, the guy that I was living with actually told me that he was not feeling me anymore. He suggested that I move out and perhaps distance would restore what we had... Did I heed him? No, I stayed even though I knew that the Lord was wooing me back to Him. My decision was "Lord, if You save him then I can have You and him." Well, of course, that did not go over well with the Lord.... I decided that I wanted my way more than GOD's way. One thing led to another...long story short - my "man" left me for a woman who lived in the building directly next to ours. She had moved in five months before...

I do not want to use up much of your blog space...but that is one of my stories of doing it my way...and the Lord's resounding response...

MTJ said...

Sandra: You don't ever have to be concerned with blog space here; there always seems to be room. I've never met a Christian that never failed. Personally, I wanted success at any cost. I believe that God gives grace in sufficient quantity that what I did was irrelevant; all that matters is that I surrendered to Him. We are both appreciative of God's infinite grace, love and forgiveness.

Sharon Kirby said...

MTJ - This was a POWERFUL message, friend. Really, really good.

There were three particular ideas that "resonated" within my spirit. I'd like to respond individually to those:

1) "In order to experience a real resurrection in my life, it would mean I’d have to forsake me."
WOW! How often do I (needlessly, uselessly) focus on whether I "feel" God's presence or not. Has he forsaken me? I KNOW He hasn't...but this thought you've brought to me is profound! Unless I "forsake" ME, I'll never really "find" Him. That's the important part - letting go of ME, my agenda, my "reality" of God's presence, my feelings, my expectations...you get the picture. Forsake me - interesting thought. Forsake - turn away, leave behind...ME.

2) "I determined that even if I never got an inkling from God, I believe in Him."
YES! That is a WARRIOR statement, as I like to call it! NO MATTER WHAT, I take this stand, I draw this line in the sand - I refuse to retreat from this ONE FACT - I BELIEVE IN HIM. If He "feels" close - awesome. If He doesn't - He's still there, and I choose to believe that!

3) "Your struggle to trust God will free you."
I love the juxtaposition of two seemingly "opposite" words. Struggle / free. Who would think a struggle could be freeing? I am reminded of Jacob who wrestled with the angel of the LORD, and in the morning, he was a changed man. If I am struggling to trust God, then I am searching hard after Him - and that is the ONLY freedom in life. Pursuing God ABOVE ALL ELSE - AT ALL COST!

GOD BLESS - thanks again for your thoughts, and for listening to mine!

Wanda said...

MTJ,

My soul is feasting as I read your post. So much to glean from what you've written. I can attest, as I think any Christ follower can, to the fact that it times it is a great struggle to remain in faith. By nature we're inclined to accept the statement that seeing is believing as truth. Yet according to the kingdom, faith is seeing. It's faith that produces the substance. So many great lines but this one really stood out, "If salvation is nothing more than a fairy tale, then I am nothing more than a child who mails letters to the North Pole, hoping to get a response from Santa Claus." Thanks for allowing us to peep and see what you're learning along the journey.

MTJ said...

Sharon: I appreciate that you share with me some things which resonate in your spirit. God speaks to me as I listen to how the scriptures speak through other believers. I thank God for Christians like you who stand boldly in the grace of our Lord.

Wanda: You are so right my sister; it is a marathon-like journey. There may be times when we get tired, when we question, but God is God enonugh to handle what I face in this life. We have to move from the place where our senses rule our life, to where faith guides.

Nicole said...

When I first started reading this I thought you were talking about me! I have never doubted who He was it always just the fight with myself to live the way He wanted me to and not the way I wanted to.
I have way more to say but I have just deleted it like 4 times! I just can't get it to sound like I want it to.
Wonderful post this morning and a great one to wake up to.
I love your prayer and said it for myself too. =)

MTJ said...

Nicole: I've read several blogs this week in which believers have openly shared their struggles; it's something to which I can easily identify with.

I thought it best to speak about my own struggles, praying that others might understand that they are not alone.

I hope you, Shane and Maddie have a good weekend.

lynnmosher said...

What a touching look into your dear heart! I believe we all struggle with this at one time or another. Sometimes, we do feel that God is distant but He is Jehovah-shammah, Immanuel, God with us!

God also dwells in our praises (Ps. 22:3). Though He is always with us, our praise draws Him closer. While in my prayer time one day, God whispered to my heart, “This is the way to My heart, to My throne, to My Living Room!” Wow! My praise brings me into the Living space where He abides, where He is seated. My praise connects me to that alive space of power around Him, the space full of Eternal Life!

Scripture says those “who seek Jehovah shall praise Him.” (Ps. 22:26 Masoretic Text/Hebrew) I think we forget this.

God also once said to me, “Does My nearness suffice?” Praying for you, dear one, that you sit at the feet of your Beloved that His nearness is enough.

Peggy said...

WOW MTJ... awesome, powerful, truthful post of "Struggle" and
Victory!!!???! Quite the journey in actually a very short time! Quite the growth!

I can tell that many thoughts whirled and a big heart wrote this! Great encouragement to anyone who is feeling alone, in a place of desolation... AMEN! HE IS! He is Our Helper... though at times our prayers do seem to be bouncing off the ceiling and not getting through

"Don't Give up! Declare who God is..."

There is Strength in the Power of His Name! There is Hope! There is Victory! He is Our Strength, Our Deliverer, Our Rock, Our Shield of Faith, Our very Righteousness!
Praise His Holy name!

Thank you for sharing honestly your struggle and praying that these words will resonate and minister to ALL!

Peggy

shannon i olson said...

How often we need to be reminded that it is God that life is about, and that worship of him is his way not like you said our comfortable way. When I feel far from God it is always because I have gotten too comfortable in my skin.

Dianne said...

MTJ,
Now I don't want you to get the "big head"--smile--but this is a classic post. There's nothing else left to say. I am printing it and at my age I do not go back and reread many things--don't have that kind of time--another smile--this is one I will keep close by during my devotional time.

Thank you sincerely,
Dianne

Judy said...

Hi MTJ,

This is a very thoughtful post! Thanks for being transparent. That's what good writing is all about, sharing our inner most thoughts, fears and struggles so others can relate and know they are not the only ones with challenges.

I too struggle. This week my struggle is waiting upon the Lord for answered prayer, which is my latest post. BTW thank you for responding to my post. Your response really ministered to me. I will be following your blog.

Blessings,
Judy

MTJ said...

Lynn: I so admire your heart for God and people. You are a conduit of encouragement, teaching others that a relationship with Christ is not only possible but necessary. Thank you for standing tall in faith. Blessings and peace.

Peggy: You are a dear sister and I value you as a friend. You shine a bright light that others may see Christ. You offer a guided tour into your garden where worshipping the Lord is always welcome. Thank you for many prayers offered in intercession and for being a friend. Blessings and peace.

Shannon: You are so right! Who said being comfortable is better? I am learning that the Lord leads me to areas of my life that I haven't surrendered; as I surrender, I discover a newfound joy and peace. Blessings and peace.

Diane: I'm still relatively new to writing so it hasn't registered that what I say makes sense to anyone but myself. My wife also serves quite effectively as the Ego Police, keeping my attitude in check. Blessings and peace.

Judy: I want to get to that place of transparency. I believe the Lord is opening my heart and allowing Him and others access. I found strength and encouragement as I read your recent post (Waiting Upon the Lord). Blessings and peace.

Jane said...

More and more brothers and sisters in Christ are revealing through their posts about their struggles in life and the awareness that their significance lies in having a real and personal relationship with him. There is so much evidence, not just events happening in the world, but things happening deep in our hearts that point to the fact that the last days are here, I mean God turning men's hearts to Him. Thanks MTJ, your sharing is very helpful.

Joan said...

Well, I'm not often at a loss for words, but after reading this, I'm speechless. Like Diane, I'm going to read this over and over again. Powerful message here.

Blessings,
Joan

Charlotte said...

What a wonderful insightful post. Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us. I know many will be blessed as I was in reading it.
Charlotte

Lloyd said...

After reading your post several times it brought tears to my eyes because the message was about me and all of the doubts that sometimes pop-up in my mind about my love for our Lord and Savior. I sometimes cry out, "Lord have mercy on my soul!" I continue to fight off demons of the past, but I know that when God looks at me He sees only His son because of the blood that was shed on the cross. I continue to count all of the blessings God has given me and that no matter what happens in my life that Jesus will always be there and that He will never give up on me. Thank you again for such a well written and inspirational message. God bless, Lloyd

Renee said...

I appreciate your openess here. We have all felt what you are feeing at some time in our life....Your insights are so helpful on our journey of faith. God bless.

MTJ said...

Jane: I am encouraged and strengthened by you and others who call upon the name of the Lord. Blessings and peace.

Joan: Though I've only recently begun to read your blog, I'm learning much from your writings. Blessings and peace.

Charlotte: Although it has been a relatively short amount of time, I am blessed and encouraged from the words of your heart. Your love for Christ and people is inspiring. Blessings and peace.

Lloyd: What you express is for me, the joy of knowing Christ: "He will never give up on me." Blessings and peace brother.

Renee: It is through the example of other believers that I am learning what it means to live for Christ. Blessings and peace.

myletterstoemily said...

wow. the epiphany for me came when you
said i had to forsake MYSELF.

how hard is that?

but, people who have died to themselves
are fearlessly given to Him and His.

thank you for sharing these deep thoughts
with us.

Wendy said...

MTJ,
Powerful post. "God doesn't owe me anything...He is not obligated."
Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him.
Complete surrender.
His love, His enabling is the only thing that is important. Man's ways are not God's ways. (I seem to have to learn this over and over and over...:)
Thanks for sharing from your heart.
Blessings,
Wendy
Faith's Firm Foundation
www.wendygunn.net

MTJ said...

Wendy: I read this comment and two things just grabbed me: 1) "Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him." and 2) "His love, His enabling is the only thing that is important."

Thank you for imparting this into my spirit. Blessings and peace.

THE OLD GEEZER said...

MTJ, A Christian that says he/she never struggles with issues of faith at certain times is either lying or self deceived.

2 Timothy 2:13
If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.

Susan said...

Either God accomplished it ALL on that Cross by giving His only begotten son, or He did not. We can not add to it, or take away from it. It is plain and simply His WORK. BUT, we......must believe, accept and acknowledge!!!!
I'm glad you did, I'd glad I did, His desire is that ALL men will.

sarah said...

your posts always hit me...you write truth and you write it in such a way that it always speaks to me. Thank you. ☺ Hey...want you to know...you shine and reflect Him all the time.

MTJ said...

Lea: Blessings and peace to you. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this topic.

Ron: "If we are faithless, He remains faithful..." Doesn't that just grab you in a manly sort of way, allowing praises to freely flow from your mouth? I'm praising Him right now! Blessings and peace brother.

Susan: That's what impacts me with the words, "It is finished!"...God did it all! I too am thankful. Blessings and peace.

Sarah: I rejoice that our paths have crossed through this medium. You encourage and inspire. I know it's presumptuous of me but I consider you my friend and comrade. Blessings and peace.

Ginger~~Enchanting Cottage said...

Having faith is so peaceful to me.It has taken me awhile to be at such peace.
Your prayer is beautiful, thank-you for sharing your heart.
Blessings,
Ginger

Country Wings in Phoenix said...

Good Morning MTJ...
What can I write that the others have not already written?

You have made my heart "Happy" today, by sharing the love in your heart.

What a glorious share. I have signed up to follow. I want to come back and drink from the fountain my friend. Yours runneth over with faith, love and peace. Your writing is exquisite and you are truly walking the path that God is leading you to follow. I am truly blessed with your share today.

Many country hugs, Sherry

MTJ said...

Ginger: I think for me, having faith instills a peaceful assurance that I can rely upon the Lord. I'm appreciative for both you and Charlotte. Blessings and peace.

Sherry: I rejoice with you in your happiness. I thank God for the grace He bestows upon us. Blessings and peace.

Mari said...

"my life wasn’t about me, my life is about God." How wonderful is to know and understand that. I too went to something similar and once I learned that, I felt relieved and free of stress. When we realize that we are empty vessels for our Lord to use as he pleases, we than understand that many things we do in life are worthless and not necessary, that we should walk like Jesus and strive for salvation.

Have a blessed week.

MTJ said...

Mari: I agree, my life is less burdened by anxiety, and stress. I still face the day-to-day issues of life but I have greater certainty to face whatever obstacles I encounter. I give God the praise for strengthening me with His grace. Blessings and peace.

JT said...

Things in our lives can not always be just as we would like them to be. There are problems. These are the times when we struggle. May God Bless You.

MTJ said...

John: Blessings and peace to you my brother.