Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I've obeyed God so why have things got worse?

This has been something I have struggled with a lot throughout my Christian walk and it's something that I believe causes a lot of frustration in the lives of believers. It seems so unfair at times and can result in a lot of judgment headed in your direction from both believers and non-believers alike.

I've just finished walking through 40 of the hardest weeks in my life. I ended up having to resign from my job back in August last year as well as losing my health to some degree and ended up missing out on something that I once firmly believed was God's good plan for my life. Throughout this 40 weeks I've been living off a sickness benefit as well as savings from my job and trying to focus what little energy I've had into pushing through and overcoming some very dark places in myself, as well as being overwhelmed with frustration at times due to the way that things had gone down for me.

It can be easy to assume that I ended up in this position because of some great sin that I had committed and that I was somehow being repaid by God for it. However, this was not the case at all. Due to God putting someone on my heart, I developed an immense hope and expectation of what God had planned for me. Everything that I saw at face value seemed to line up with what I believed God had in store for me in this area and God seemed to be speaking very strongly indicating that this person He had put on my heart was going to be a big part of my future. As time went on, I began to see signs that perhaps what I was hoping for was not the right thing for me at all, yet God continued to encourage me to hold on to this person and not let them go. So I trusted Him and held on. Things then started to fall apart for me in terms of health and my performance at my job was subsequently affected. However, I continued to hold on and believe that things were going to get better by holding onto the hope that I had for my future with this person even as it continued to unravel before my eyes.

Eventually, it became apparent that what I believed was not going to happen. I'd got into a position of hope by trusting God and listening to God about this person despite my reservations. Seeing this hope unravel, combined with failing physical health and pressures at work pushed me over the edge and I went through the worst case of burnout I've ever faced. Shortly afterwards I became very bitter and angry about what had happened to me and for a long time, I blamed God for it as He had purposely set me up to believe that I was going to be blessed and had told me not to give up on someone I should have given up on a long time ago. I obeyed God and my life got catastrophically worse. I was angry and bitter, and righteously so as far as I was concerned because I'd done nothing but obey God and then had to see my entire life collapse in flames around me, simply for being obedient.

To say that this was a bitter blow was an understatement. I lost pretty much everything in the space of just a few weeks. I needed an answer as to why God had deliberately set this up to happen. God had allowed me to fail catastrophically and I needed to know why. The following scripture spoke right to the heart of my circumstances - "Then Jesus was lead by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil." Matthew 4:1. Jesus did not end up in a deep period of suffering and desolation due to His own sin and selfishness, as He was without sin. He was there because the Spirit lead Him there.

He did not go there to be destroyed, though it would have been excruciatingly painful and hard for Him to have to face. He went there to fight and to emerge stronger than ever before. I believe that the wilderness is an integral part of our Christian faith and many (if not all) of the strongest and wisest people in the Bible were forced to walk through deep periods of wilderness in different forms. Noah was afloat for 40 days on the Ark with all of those animals. I hate to even think of the cabin fever that must have set in. Not to mention the smell. Elijah lived in the desert and was fed by ravens but he lived in poverty compared to the wicked rulership at the time that had driven him there. He was doing the right thing by God and was forced to live with next to nothing while those who openly practiced wickedness lived in absolute royalty. Job endured severe loss and suffering because God deliberately allowed Satan to test him. All of these people are regarded as heroes among scripture and they are there due to their desire to do right and obey God even when things had become seemingly unbearable.

Though this time of testing was very hard and sometimes had me wishing that none of this had ever happened to me, I am now standing at the end of it and I am really beginning to see the rewards. There is a deeper strength and clarity that has been sown into my life than was ever there before. I am far more confident in myself than I've ever been and I've experienced a period of rest throughout this time of desolation that I must say that I desperately needed. I also believe that I am far more ready than ever before to receive a blessing that I would have never been able to appreciate and probably never would have even been able to receive if I hadn't faced this time. God brought me to it - and as much as I initially resented Him for it - He has also brought me through it and I am now reaping the rewards.

If you have obeyed God and done what you believe wholeheartedly is the right thing and seen nothing but bitterness and destruction come your way, you are not alone. God leads His people into the wilderness and it's those who face the truth about themselves in the desolate times and truly make it through as wiser and stronger people that end up being trusted and highly esteemed by Him. Hang in there - and don't focus on what has brought you there - focus on what God is trying to teach you in this time and once you start learning it, you will see the worth in what has happened. I'd like to believe if the Bible was written today, there would be a book in there about me and what I've endured and come out the other side of. Wouldn't you like to be able to say the same, and to be regarded as one of the heroes of the faith in the modern day era?

Hang in there. You're stronger than you think. If God has brought you into the wilderness - don't resent Him for it. Just allow Him to do His work in your life and the rewards will come when you are ready.

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