When all the evidence that you see from this person is negative, know that God is working on excavation.
I have a scripture I want to share with you as our jumping off point:
Psalm 88 (NIV)
“LORD, you are the God who saves me, day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.
I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.
You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief.
I call to you, LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you. Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you? Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
But I cry to you for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me?
From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend.”
Sometimes it is really difficult to judge a person from the outside, from all the things that we see and observe. Like Job, sometimes their whole life is falling apart and it. Looks. Bad. But the reality is, unless God shows us, we don’t know what’s going on inside that person. No one does, except God. We don’t know what God is trying to develop in that person, what He’s trying to get rid of.
One of my papa’s sisters said something once that really stood out to me. She said that sometimes we look the worst on the outside when we are doing our best work on the inside. I have found that to be true at times.
A few weeks ago, another of my papa’s sisters came over and brought us dinner. We had just moved into our new house the night before (YAY!!!) and she wanted to do that for us. While she was there she ate and visited with us. For the most part, I just listened to the conversation, which was mostly between my papa and her, though I did have some input here and there. I really enjoyed the discussion.
A while back this same aunt had shared with us a slide show that she put together about the business that she and her husband and his family had founded and grown, which had become quite an anchor and asset in their community. As we watched the slide show, it really hit home to me that she and her family had something that I had never had.
A community. A full fledged community.
I had had a taste, and I mean a taste, of that for a couple of years while I was married. But it wasn’t something that stuck. Honestly, I have moved so much of my life and we never made it a point to get to know the neighbors and things much. We were kind of hermits or recluses, as a family, as far as our general neighbors went. I’ve longed for something different, but it’s hard to create something that you are not very familiar with.
Watching the slide show I got a clearer picture of what it meant to be a community, and I wanted it so badly! That sense of a bigger support group and connectedness, and an identity, not just as a family, but as a community. I’ve haven’t really felt like I mattered all that much in the community around me most of my growing up. Nor did I connect with the community around me on the level that satisfied me. In a lot of ways I didn’t have much desire to. Don’t get me wrong, I had connections with other people outside my family, but they were very scattered. Not tight knit, local neighbors. That is a concept that is pretty much foreign to me. I’ve wondered what it would be like, but I’ve never experienced it as a main course, if that makes sense.
My papa and aunt were discussing and she shared several experiences where she could have been more connected with people, but God went out of His way, in a sense, to make sure she stayed out of it! She said that God can keep people away when He needs to, and bring them back in when He feels it’s time. That was an interesting concept, but I could see that definitely held true in my life.
Then she made a comment that felt really poignant. I can’t remember it verbatim, but the gist was, that sometimes God doesn’t want you to lean on other people, He wants you to learn to lean on Him.
So, He works things out so that all you have to lean on is Him.
I tell you what, that gave me something to chew on. There have been several times in my life, where I felt like all I had was God, and it felt so damn lonely! I don’t know what it is, but sometimes you just want someone with a body–living, breathing and warm, that you can see, hear and touch! I believe that God is all those things, but He’s never condescended to show Himself to me in that way! Sometimes, having only God to lean on is a very lonely place to be. But, the reality is, when it comes down to it—He’s the Only Place to Be. Every other person will come in and out of our lives, sometimes several times. God is the only one who will ever be consistently in our lives. And He knows us through and through. As the scripture says, only God knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. And why is that? Because He’s the only One who’s been around with us long enough to have us all figured out! 🙂
When God is our only stay, our only security, our only place to problem solve, our only rescuer, our only comforter, our only companion, we learn to trust and lean on Him in a way we never knew before. We learn things about our relationship with Him, about where our end of reality is at! When all we have is Him. Sometimes that’s an excruciating process to go through.
I know for myself, when everything else in life seemed to have failed me, and in a lot of places, they had, it was like God took the contents of my life and dumped them all out on the floor. Since then we’re going through the box deciding what’s true, what isn’t, what’s to keep and what’s to toss. On the outside, and honestly on the inside, it’s a little petrifying at times. God’s been taking things out of my life box, so to speak, things I just always took for granted to be true and He’s asking me to examine them, put them on trial, in a sense, and see if they actually are true. Piece by piece He’s taking things out and we’re seeing where everything really stands. It feels like an identity crisis all over again. And sometimes that is terrifying because I get to thinking, well, I thought this was me and I was supposed to keep it and now we’re examining it and I’m realizing it’s trash and what do I replace it with, what’s the truth? It feels like an earthquake inside sometimes.
My point in bringing all this out, is sometimes God’s got to turn your world upside down to be able to get to the source of things, to the root cause. Sometimes He’s got to get you one on one, without any other back up relationships to rely on to work you through a place. It’s about getting to know Him. It’s about getting to know yourself. It’s about getting to know what you’re really made of. It’s a tough one.
All of us have our one on one times with God. Sometimes we get a lot of them. Just because a person’s life is all upside down and looks like garbage doesn’t mean that God isn’t there working along side them. He’s got them on a path for their growth and He knows what He’s doing. He knows how best to reach them. He knows what it takes to put them in a place where they can see what they need to see.
Sometimes it’s hard because we either don’t have those same issues or hang-ups, or we’ve worked through that phase a while ago. But this isn’t a time for judgment—judgment is God’s job—this is a time for compassion and loads of patience. Healthy boundaries, maybe, yes, but you can have healthy boundaries and still be loving and kind.
Assignment for Dare 18:
Write down all the things that you or another person is learning because of current life experiences. In what way are these weak places opportunities for strength? When God turns this weakness into strength what is that going to look like, be like? How is this experience teaching those around you or this other person? How is it a blessing to others? How is this experience an asset now and how will it be an asset later? Make sure to keep for future reference–you may need it.