My pastor preached this week on faith as it relates to the power of prayer. Sometimes when our prayers are not answered in the way or timing we want, we allow fear and doubt to creep in. I’m very guilty of this and it has been on my mind a lot lately as I have a big issue we’re facing as a family that I’ve spent countless hours praying about.
Two years ago my husband was arrested and sent to prison. He committed a crime and while there is no excuse for his behavior, I will say he had been off his medication (he is bipolar and suffers from PTSD from severe childhood abuse) and had been drinking excessively leading up to the events surrounding his arrest. I believe his sentence was outrageous but that’s a topic for another day. In the meantime, he comes up for parole for the second time in October and my prayer is that God will grant us mercy and allow him to come home.
The last two years has been difficult to say the least. However, God has seen me through this time and grown my faith in ways I could never have imagined. I know that no matter what happens or what the timing is, He is in control and He will see us through to the end. He has already been denied once for parole and that was quite devastating for me and made me feel somewhat abandoned by God. Recovering from that blow took a lot of introspection and I had to take some steps to get out of the “woe is me” mindset that we all often fall into. Here are the steps God led me through to build my faith:
Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 advises us to “pray without ceasing” or “pray constantly” depending on which version you’re reading. In my previous post about Choosing Joy When Life Hands You Sorrow, this was the first thing I did when we first started this season in my marriage. Learning to trust God, even when you don’t understand the why behind what He’s doing starts with prayer. When you ask God to help you have faith, He will and sometimes, it’s by stretching you out of your comfort zone or allowing you to endure difficult circumstances – and it’s often painful. God will give you the strength to endure whatever trial you’re facing, all you have to do is ask. I know this because there is no possible way I could ever have had the strength to go through this on my own; I would have disintegrated into a pile of sobbing mush and yet here I am, two years later still making it with the peace that surpasses all understanding. I cannot take one shred of credit for that and give all the glory to God.
Study the promises in the Word. First off, I believe God’s Word to be divine in nature and wholly true. Because I believe this, I know the promises God has made to His followers will be fulfilled but I also know His Will and Way of doing things are not necessarily my ways or will. A simple Google search about the promises God yields tons of results that you can use as a resource for study. I printed several of them out to look at every day and know that God is true to His word so this helps me affirm my belief in His truth. One verse of particular comfort to me is from 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV), “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” While to me a little while might be days or months, to the eternal God, Creator of heaven and earth, Alpha and Omega who has no beginning or end, a little while might mean something entirely different!
Confess your unbelief. This one is hard for me. I have a lot of pride and I know that is not what God desires in my life so to say that I struggle with unbelief, while encouraging you to have faith may seem contradictory but I want you to know I am right there struggling with you. In my pastor’s sermon on Sunday, she talked about the story of the father with the child who was troubled by demon-possession from Mark 9:17-29 and focused on the fact that the disciples, who by this point had been given power to cast out demons, could not cast this demon out due to their lack of faith (verse 19). However, the part that has been heavily on my mind as we draw nearer to my husband’s review date is where Jesus explains, “If you can believe all things are possible to him who believes,” (v.23 NKJV) and the father immediately responds, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” (v.24 NKJV) Do you know how many times I have asked the Lord to help me with my unbelief? Countless times! I ask Him to forgive my lack of faith and not allow that to be a hindrance to my husband coming home. I know He will be faithful in His time in His way.
Recognize that fear and anxiety are reflective of your lack of trust but also can be due to your hormones or body chemistry. Again, I’m preaching to myself here. Anxiety is a constant struggle for me, so much so that I’ve had to seek counseling and professional help for what has been at times overwhelming feelings of anxiousness. I am not ashamed to admit that this is a struggle for me but that has not always been the case. For a long time my pride kept me from acknowledging this struggle because I didn’t want to admit to myself, much less anyone else, that there are times I am just not strong enough to deal with the stresses of life. While it is better in this day and age than it used to be, there is frequently a stigma associated with what is often classified as mental illness. I’ve even heard from people in the Church that taking medication or seeking professional help makes your faith look weak. What a crock of you-know-what. As Chonda Pierce succinctly put it, you tell those people to “take your (their) glasses off and drive home!” And tell the father of lies, “I know what you’re doing and you’re not going to win!”
Literally count your blessings. Write them down. Stick them to your mirror or computer monitor or somewhere where you’ll see them every single day. And when life gets rough and you want to give up, start thanking God and naming every single blessing He has given you. I assure you, it is hard to remain anxious and disheartened when you begin speaking His blessings and praising Him for what He’s done. A wise friend once told me, “when it gets hard, I start thanking God for everything. From the walls in my house, to a roof over my head to the air conditioning and heating to keep us comfortable!” And that simple change in mindset has helped me to grow a grateful heart.
I don’t want to be in this valley. I don’t want to be facing the possibility of yet another denial and all the heartache that comes with it. Yet I know God is right here with me. He’s walked where I’ve walked. He will lead me. My last piece of advice is to read Psalm 91. This precious book of the Bible bears one of the most potent and powerful promises that has given me much comfort over the years. It is my own father’s favorite passage in the Bible and when he was diagnosed with cancer, we claimed those promises. I have claimed the promises over and over since that time and God has delivered me and my family time and time again. I know God is faithful because I’ve experienced His faithfulness countless times. And I know He draws near to the brokenhearted. So I encourage you to continue to cling to Him, trust that He is faithful and His Word is truth.
Stay salty, friends.