“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
When I opened the mailbox on yesterday and saw the big, white envelope, I knew exactly what it was…my final divorce decree. Signed, Sealed, and Delivered.
It wasn’t like I didn’t know the package was coming. I initiated the process. I was in court the week before. I was there through the whole thing. But something about holding the papers in my hand finally made it all real.
Less than a year ago, I was filled with so much hope for myself, my husband, my family, my marriage….my future. Even though we had hit rock bottom, I thought I saw so clearly how God was using our trials to transform our lives, bring us closer together and closer to Him. That hope renewed my strength and gave me so much faith. Needless to say that when my “transformed” marriage went back into the gutter only a few, short months later, so did all that faith and hope I found.
I was disappointed. I was hurt. I was angry. I just knew that God HAD to hate me. I was convinced I had no future. I was hopeless…or so I thought
Receiving that final decree in the mail brought me so much clarity, because I finally took a moment to truly reflect on what had really happened in the 6 months since I filed for divorce.
I had spent my entire marriage trying to “fix” everything on my own in my own way – change this, do that, compromise this. Even when I convinced myself that I was praying to God and putting my situation in His Hands, I really wasn’t. I was praying without faith. My mouth was asking God for help, but my heart didn’t really believe that He would, so my actions were putting a backup plan in place just in case God failed or didn’t answer my prayers to my liking.
This time was different. This time, everything had been stripped away from me. I thought I had nothing left to give or to offer, and I was tired…tired of hurting, tired of fighting. I thought if I just closed the blinds, crawled in my bed, and curled up in my covers, I would eventually wake up from the nightmare that had become my life. But I had tried it and failed enough times to know it was not going to happen. I desperately needed to immerse myself in something else and block it all out.
I’ll be 100% honest, what I really wanted to do was bury myself in man who would care for me, make me feel better about myself and push my problems out of my mind, even if only temporarily…problem with that, I was still married, and I wouldn’t give the devil the satisfaction of making me an adulterer. Yes, that is the ONLY reason. It may not have been the best reason, but it was all I could do.
So, I decided it was finally time to do something different. I ran to God with my arms wide open. I didn’t run to Him, because It was the “Godly, Christian, right” thing to do or because I remotely thought that 6 months later I would be sitting here typing about this amazing epiphany it would bring. I ran to Him, because I had nowhere else to run, nothing left to do, and everything I had been doing obviously wasn’t working.
I buried myself in church. It was safe. It kept me out of trouble. I didn’t miss a service or event. I really committed to serving on my team. I even registered for Second Mile, an 8 week church leadership class without knowing how I would pay for it, who would keep my kids, or how I would get home from work in time to pick them up and make it to class…but I knew I had to take it. My parents stepped in like always, my church family supported and encouraged me, and God made it happen. I loved every minute of it. It challenged my faith and made me want to be a better, be different, and live my life in the Second Mile (Matthew 5:41; Matthew 5-7 Beatitudes).
The biggest feat ended yesterday morning, right before I opened the mailbox to that letter. Prayer & Fasting for 2013…I seriously type this praying God doesn’t send a lightning bolt through my ceiling…I used to hate those 21 days. I hated when my prayers didn’t get answered how I thought they should. I hated feeling like an inadequate Christian for not having the amazing testimonies and breakthroughs at the end. I hated being hungry, and I hated that I usually cheated! This year, my Pastor chose to do 13 days for 2013 instead of the usual 21…ok, a little easier. But then He said God told Him that if we committed this year to prayer and fasting, 2013 would be the best year we ever had. My ears perked up to that. I NEEDED my best year like I needed the air I breathe. His challenge to us: “Is it worth it? Is what I’m believing God for worth my meals, my time, my prayers? If I really believe God answers prayers, then why not pray and fast? Why not give Him 10 minutes, an hour, a few meals, my 5 AM???” CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
For 13 days, my kids and I woke up at 5 AM, to go out in the cold (when it was still dark my 9-year-old reminded me) to attend 6 AM prayer. It was completely worth it. It was amazing. It was addicting. On the last two days when prayer was held 3 times a day, I was at every service. I couldn’t miss it. It was like a fire was lit in me. I praised, I worshipped, I prayed, I believed. In return, God spoke to me (like really talked to me), I felt His Spirit move in me, and I got clarity and peace on things I had been struggling with for months. I had unexplained favor. AND, I, Queen Procrastinator, was PRODUCTIVE! For the first time in years, even though my world wasn’t perfect, everything was just right. I had FAITH in Him. I probably can move a mountain right now J
6 months ago, that letter would have made me fall apart. I would have let it “officially” classify me as damaged goods and a failure. Today, I KNOW it’s the beginning of a beautiful future full of promise and hope that God has designed specifically for me.
The fact of the matter was that God had taken my worst, lowest, most hopeless moment, and used it to build my faith and give me hope in Him – which I’ve learned is really where my true peace, strength, and joy should have been coming from anyway (Psalm 62:5-8; Isaiah 40:31). Truth is, the greatest man in the world (whether it had been my husband or the man I wanted to find to wash away all my marriage woes), the best job, the biggest house, the nicest car, or whatever could only temporarily take my attention off my circumstances. They couldn’t make me whole again. They couldn’t mend my brokenness. They couldn’t heal my heart. They couldn’t give me peace, and they definitely couldn’t restore my hope. When I ran to God, He was waiting for me with open arms. He took me as I was – hurting, broken, unbelieving, faithless, disobedient – and He made me new. For every one step I took, He took 100. When I decided to stop worrying about the “how” and simply surrender to Him, everything fell into place. Every time I was obedient to Him, He made a way for what He was calling me to do. He took care of every detail…and I might add that His Way was ALWAYS better than anything I could have come up with in my grandest dreams. The God we serve is a Big God who does Big Things and shows up in Big Ways when we fully trust and put our hope in Him!
How do you restore your hope?
1. Run to God with arms wide open
Like the Story of the Prodigal Son, no matter what we’ve done or how bad we think it is, God will always be waiting for us with open arms. He is patiently waiting to wrap us up in His comfort, grace, mercy, peace, joy, and strength and remove our sins as far as the east is from the west (Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 102:12).
2. Completely Trust and Depend on Him
God is our Ultimate Provider. He is our rock and salvation, the source of our strength, our health, our finances, our peace, our joy. He is our everything (Psalm 62:5-8). We are not capable of “playing God.” We are not responsible for any of our blessing or successes; they come from the Lord alone. We have to completely depend on Him for everything we do, everything we have, and everything we are. The Bible says cursed is the one who trusts in man or depends on his flesh for strength, but blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord (Jeremiah 17:5-8).
3. Give, Pray, and Fast (Matthew 6)
Tithing, giving God the first and best of what already belongs to Him, is one of the greatest ways we can prove that we completely trust Him with every part of us. It also brings us fully under His umbrella of protection and opens the windows of heaven's blessings so that we don’t have room enough to receive it(Malachi 3:8-12). This is not just limited to financial blessings, it's every aspect of our lives - favor, health, peace, joy, everything.
Prayer increases focus, faith, and favor. The Bible tells us not to worry about anything, but pray about everything and we’ll experience His peace that exceeds anything we can understand and will guard our hearts (Phillipians 4:6-7).
We must also fast. As uncomfortable as this sacrifice may be, there are some breakthroughs that only come from prayer and fasting. Sometimes the key that unlocks the door we’ve been knocking on for years, moves us to the next level, or breaks strongholds is adding fasting to our prayers (Mark 9:29).
4. Wait Expectantly on Him
After we’ve done our part, stand strong in faith and wait expectantly for God to bless us abundantly more than we could ever ask or think. Psalm 5:3 says that the Lord hears our voice when we lay our requests before Him and wait expectantly.
5. Don’t seek God as the last resort
So often we try to fix everything on our own. When we fail, usually miserably and usually several times, that’s when we turn to God in prayer. And not really in prayer, but more like begging and pleading Him to fix what we couldn’t or broke even worse. God shouldn’t be our last resort; He should be our first option and our only option.