It's 4:30 in the morning, and I have two hours to make this post happen. Then I have to get ready for work. The family is sleeping, and it's hard to see my hand-written draft in the dark. The desk, a green folding table I've had for more than 10 years, is crowded with things to do. But none of it will get done today. When will it get done?
Breathe ... At least there is a job, a family, a roof, and a publishing contract.
The past five months have been hard, the last two extremely so, and December didn't start well. Asperger's is hard; PTSD is hard; Forgiveness is hard; Being a working mom is hard. I don't have time to write, dance, parent, or take care of the house--the things I like best, and everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. And there's no end in sight.
But that's not the worst part.
Here's the worst part. For the first time since being born again four years ago, I started doubting God's promises, started losing heart, and started wondering if this whole Christianity thing had been a tragic mistake. Oh, the heartbreak--for me and for God.
I kept thinking: I have a debut coming out--a redemption story, of all things!--and I'm miserable. How's this going to work out? How am I going to promote the novel and talk about faith? I'm a fraud and a joke, and this is an absolute disaster.
Then something happened.
After hitting rock bottom during the Thanksgiving break and asking people to pray, a sermon on Numbers 21 (and a Numbers 20 attitude comparison) helped me see straight and started a spiritual upward trend.
Here's what I learned:
1) It's not okay to complain.
2) The devil loves a discouraged Christian.
3) The biggest blessings are often on the other side of wilderness faith.
4) There is a purpose for these seasons of extreme trials (Deuteronomy 8). God sees things that don't belong and will work them out of our systems through trials. He will burn off what's useless to strengthen us. He will humble His people. He will test our faith. He will test our hearts. He looks for obedience and faith in the middle of the storm. The struggle is real and complaining is natural, but be quick to repent. Trust God.
5) Only those who are willing to follow God when things go bad and when it feels like He is nowhere around will get to see His best and enter the promised land of victorious Christian living.
6) Pray: forgive me for complaining and losing heart, increase my faith, give me wisdom to endure and do better, go before me, win my battles.
7) You need to be strong in the Lord ... in the power of His might.
8) Put on your armor daily and for every battle.
9) Stay close to the Word. Read, pray, ponder.
10) Be rooted on God's love and concern for us. Chastening is designed to educate, train, and mature us. That's the Biblical pattern. From liberation in Exodus to Canaan there was wilderness. From baptism to ministry, Jesus was in the wilderness, too. It's God's design. From salvation to victorious Christian living there will be wilderness, too.
11) Jesus used scriptures to pass the wilderness test. Follow that model and also lean on Him. He gets it.
12) If people are making your life seem unbearable, remember that God is the judge. And remember Joseph. What people did out of an evil heart, God used for good.
13) Wilderness is a season. It isn't life. Rebellion makes it longer. Accept God's training. Expect it. Stay humble, on your knees, prepared.
14) Hold on to God's promises--especially when they don't seem true.
Wow! I should have known all this. I've read the whole book. I feel so babyish. I think I once knew this in theory, but without the practical exercise, it didn't stick. I pray it sticks this time.
Not every moment in this wilderness is bright and shiny, but having perspective and a map--and hope and faith!--changes everything.
The idea of writing a simple book for baby Christians has crossed my mind. The Baby Christian Guide to Doing Life with the Creator of the Universe. Should I pitch it? It's probably been done before. And chances are each walk is so unique that there's no guide beyond one's personal relationship with God.
How are you doing today? What do you do when life (and God!) gives you lemons?
This is my last blog post of the year! I pray you have a beautiful Christmas season, a wonderful break, and a great start of 2017 :)
(6:07--now to find pictures...)
Patricia Beal writes contemporary Christian fiction and is represented by Leslie Stobbe of the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency. Her debut novel, A Season to Dance, comes out on May 9, 2017 (Bling! / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas).
She’s a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and First Impressions finalist. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati in 1998 with a B.A. in English Literature and then worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army for seven years. Now, after a 10-year break in service, she is an Army editor. She and her husband live in El Paso, Texas, with their two children.
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