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Guidance

A Crack in the Heavenlies

By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer

CBN.comSome days I wake up and that familiar fog threatens my day. Today I woke up and there was a crack in the heavenlies. I think I am having a revelation, so I am going to capture it on paper before the thoughts escape me.

Typically, I try to write from a place of victory, having “been there, done that” through some difficulty and come through to the other side with faith still in tact. But God has been challenging me lately to speak while still in the process, while still undergoing the pain and the frustration and the struggle, while still being confused and depressed and even faithless.

The spirit of pride in me complains that I really don’t want to have to be this vulnerable, that I am doing more harm than good by presenting a current situation that is messy in a lot of ways. I want to say, “How is that going to help anyone?”

I know that isn’t the real issue, though. It’s not helping people that I’m most worried about; that’s my very pious and religious answer. No, it is really more about being seen in a good light. Honestly, I don’t want you to think less of me and judge me as being less “Christian”. Undergoing a crisis of faith that many Christians don’t understand is pretty humbling and sure puts a damper on that pristine image I try to create.

But I know that God wants me to be fully real with Him and others, so I am going to bare a bit of my soul to you.

Valley Vision

Can I just say I have been living in the sludge of a sunken spirit lately? Now, I know that this is not how my life is supposed to be. This is not the emotional state God desires from me, to be so unsteady and easily given to tears.

After all, God’s Spirit is living inside of me and that means I have newness of life and that I am a new creature and that His power to change is available to me. I have been forgiven, redeemed, and renewed. God loves me no matter what happens and no matter what I do or others do to me. God has not and will not give up on me. He promises to pull me out of that slimy pit. Hallelujah!

My life should be about joy and peace. It should be about walking in the freedom of the Lord. It should be about living in the blessings of God and praising Him with a heart of thanksgiving.

But something happened this year. Many times, those things have gotten stripped.

Shaken and Stirred

Everything that could be shaken has been shaken and continues to be shaken. Funnily enough, I recall God mentioning that shaking business to me the year before when I was in prayer – I even have it written down in one of my prayer journals. Interesting how I glossed over that to get to the “good stuff”. Yet, here I am, wondering if I will survive it all and pass the test. (OK, I know I will, but some days it sure doesn’t feel like it.)

Things got so complicated and confusing. I have been desperately trying to please God and understand His will, so this lack of clarity really has me scratching my head. Well-meaning Christians just tell me to press into God and seek Him. But I am doing just that, and finding that I cry more and sing less in His presence. Answers still escape me, and my spirit is still often downcast and fearful.

Many things haven’t made sense. I have been asked to have answers, but I truly don’t. I need God to show up like yesterday, yet I have felt that He is tremendously delayed and He has chosen not to share those reasons with me.

Often, I haven’t felt that release to praise Him like I know I need to and want to. I have tried to worship but have often felt hindered. I keep questioning my decisions, my opinions, my desires, and even why I am here on this earth. My sense of self and my future have all been up for grabs and out of my control. I lost my confidence and my direction.

Where exactly is God? Is He still good? Does He still truly care for me in a personal and understanding way? Why do I feel so helpless and hopeless?

I want to serve the Lord so badly, but I am not completely sure what that is supposed to look like right now. I want to step out in faith but fear tremendously the kind of failure that I won’t bounce back from. I am tired of chasing the proverbial carrot only to have my dreams dashed again. God, what is going on?

A Season of Brokenness

I guess you could say I have been in the valley, in the dark. It’s a crisis of faith. Many call this season brokenness.

And though it is incredibly painful while you are going through the process, the results will bring joy and they will be lasting. I don’t say that as some cliché saying; believe me, I don’t want to hear any more of those, and I doubt you do either.

No, that’s my understanding when I look at my Bible. My new season has been promised (Isaiah 43:19) and my breakthrough is coming – when and how I don’t know just yet.

But I do know that there are times when God must break down a vessel in order to rebuild it for His purposes. That’s exactly what’s happening with me right now. He must pummel it in order to reshape it. And somehow in that process, the pot comes out more beautiful and stronger and with an incredible purpose.

And I have to admit, I am really not enjoying the process. It’s not just because I have to be smashed. It’s also because God doesn’t really seem to care about my opinion of what kind of pot I want to be fashioned into. I think I could bear the refashioning if I just could have a say in what the end product is going to look like. Sometimes I find myself directing Him through my prayers, “Um, I would really like to be one of those ornate pieces that gets to travel around the world and astound everyone. Don’t you think that would be a good idea, considering my personality and gifts?”

The Bible has an answer for those like me who try suggesting things to God: “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:20-21, NIV).

Ouch! Yes, the desire to influence God – which is really a thinly veiled lack of trust and a desire to control – really has to go.

I have also been recognizing that I have relied on my abilities and other people’s approval of me for a sense of purpose and worth for so long; now I must learn to rely on God and His approval alone.

I have thirsted after activity and popularity and instant meaning; now I am asked to thirst after God alone, to relinquish some of those activities in favor of spending time with Him, and to wait for His timing, which is more often later than now.

Instead of desperately clinging to the things I know and understand, now I am being asked to let go and cling to God, seeking Him with every fiber of my being.

I am holding on for dear life. I am so desperate for Him that I find myself running home to pour myself out to Him in a flood of tears almost daily.

Brokenness, coming to the end of myself – yep, I guess it is time.

This is something we must all go through at one point or another in our Christian walk. Some of us learn it early. Some of us learn it late in life. It comes in seasons, and some of those times are more desperate than others. It can be a short season or a long season. Partly that depends on us, and partly that depends on what God wants to do.

Testing: An Answer to Prayer

Sometimes, that broken place is even an answer to our prayers. How does that work? It sounds so contradictory and so unloving.

Do you know that the last couple of years I have prayed that I would know that God loves me no matter what happened – no matter if anyone else loved me or approved of me? It’s true. I think somewhere in the mix I prayed that God would rid me of my perfectionistic tendencies, too. Oh, yeah, and throw in that desire to have more faith. Little did I know that the way He would answer these prayers was to put me in the fire.

I am deducing that my current trial with issues of disapproval and strivings and feeling like a failure has a lot to do with those desperate pleas cried at the Mercy Seat. The Lord is bringing these unresolved and incorrect patterns of thinking and behaving to the surface so that He can deal with them appropriately. That isn’t the solution I would have picked, and most certainly not with some of those closest to me knowing all this. I would not have expected that from the Lord, but then I did pray it to Him. And He is strangely answering that.

I know that I have said, just as many of you have, “I want to share in Christ’s sufferings.” But do we know what we are asking? The sufferings of Christ encompassed everything from loneliness and hunger to misunderstandings to even death itself. It is not all about the glory – that comes later, and it will be absolutely brilliantly amazing. But first come the trials and testings ( 1 Peter 4:12-13; Romans 8:16-18).

We say we are willing to die to ourselves; that famous “not my will but Yours be done, O Lord" (Luke 22:42). It’s a great prayer to pray, and I would encourage you to pray that because it is what God wants for us. Jesus even prayed those words. But just know that God will answer that His way, and typically it doesn’t come in the form of fixing you or fixing your situation overnight.

You might have to say no to some things in your life that you have enjoyed immensely but have taken up residence in your heart as idols, effectively squeezing out the purposes and direction of God. You might watch God take other things out of your life that have hindered you, and not necessarily understand God’s greater good until much later. And you might have to spend a season confessing your lack and then professing the promises of God before that mountain will move, and you just wonder how many more days of the same old, same old, how many days of taking two steps forward and one step back before your breakthrough.

Hiding in Him, not from Him

So, what do we do? I ask this of God often when my heart is floating on this sea of unresolved issues.

I believe that what the Holy Spirit is trying to show me, that revelation, is that you have to hold on to God even and most especially when everything around you is swirling and threatening to take your joy.

Instead of looking for that instant pain relief, we are called to run to our Strong Tower, God Himself, and settle down in being still at His feet as He works the process out in us.

Our tendency is to run away and hide from God rather than hide in Him, or we try to fix everything ourselves. We yell at God and then try to regain control. We attempt to do it our way and then get upset when it doesn’t work out.

But these reactions are completely unhelpful and will keep you in your desert. I know because I have tried it and I am still speaking from the pit.

The key ultimately is the one thing that you think you can’t do in that season of darkness. In that moment of complete brokenness, you are asked to trust God when you are scared and unsure and have no real Plan B. You are asked to stand on His Word alone, which you are struggling to believe in.

In the end, Jesus does give the victory, but in the meantime, you are going to have to withstand the assault. Some Christians might have trouble with that concept because they have been trained to understand that your first line of defense is to bind that rotten spirit, whatever it is, and tell it to go back to the pit of hell. You bind up the junk, and you loose the things of God (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). This is very biblical. We ask that His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2). We have the authority to do just that according to the New Testament .

Going Through Like Job

But then we have those Job moments in our lives when we bind and loose but God has a purpose in our trial, and He isn’t going to let us get the victory too soon before we learn the lesson. We are in the trial, firmly planted in the muck, because He wants to transform us through that situation. He doesn’t want us relying on tried-and-true formulas professed by well-known Christian leaders. He doesn’t want us believing in bibbity-bobbity-boo Christianity. He wants us to rely on Him alone for our deliverance.

He wants to know, “Are you going to trust Me when all else is stripped away?” It’s classic Job stuff. If you remember, Job was a righteous man. And God allowed Satan to buffet him. God did it to reveal Job’s heart. God did it to test him, knowing that in the end, Job would still say “yes” to Him.

I have really been enjoying reading the Psalms lately because they really speak about this place of desperation. Sometimes they seem depressing, but then I have been depressed. Still, there is a glimmer of hope in them. We know that David did gain the higher ground, though it took years and it took a season of very deep, dark brokenness. And this guy was called to be king – anointed and appointed as a young man to do great exploits for God.

How many times have we looked at other Christians around us who seemed to be shooting stars going up that faith ladder, only to watch them taken out of the limelight? We can easily accuse our brothers and sisters of falling from grace. There are times when that fall could be the result of secret sin, yes. But there are times when it might not be that at all. It could be God’s way of redirecting that person toward greater fruitfulness, as in Job’s case. We see a mess and we judge; the Lord sees a potential that only He can realize, and He completes that good work. The end result is a life restored, a new work, a new creation, and ultimately praise to the Lord who gets all the glory.

Blessed Are You

I have also come to a new appreciation for the beatitudes while trying to come to terms with this place of struggle. I used to hate to read this passage of Scripture in Matthew 5:1-12. Frankly, I couldn’t relate to it at all. I couldn’t understand how all these misfit people could be blessed for enduring such hardship. They didn’t look blessed to me at all. And how could all this suffering be God’s plan anyway? I determined early on that I wasn’t going to be one of those “blessed” types. But then I read it in the Message version, and I really understood it at a deeper level.

Often, we can think that when we are in those alleyways of life, we missed God completely or He is just going to pass us by. But when I read these words, I find comfort and hope in a God who can and will turn things around, a God who understands all the trials we are going through.

3"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. 4"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. 5"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought. 6"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat. 7"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for. 8"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (Matthew 5:3-8, Message).

I read these verses and I can’t help seeing a pattern: God has His own reasons behind our pain and our trials. It’s about God working His plan in and through us. We can look at those troubling seasons through His perspective. It’s a good reminder that He understands, He loves us even while we are in our trial, and He has a redeeming work that He will do when we get through that trial. Isn’t that good news?


Strangely Encouraged

It is so easy to look at the wind and waves, especially when the surf is incessantly pounding in your heart and the events of your life. It’s easy to look at what is happening or what is not happening around you instead of the promises and possibilities in Jesus.

But I read something really profound that speaks to this balance of faith that we must have. Author Catherine Martin in her book Walking with the God Who Cares says this is what we should ask when we go through fiery trials: “Which is more true – your feelings and circumstances or God’s Word?” When I read that, I realized my heart and mind have been in the wrong place.

I am reminded that in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). If we don’t feel alive, if we are paralyzed instead of moving forward, if our being is negatively affected, then I have to wonder just how much we truly are in Him. Jesus said apart from abiding in Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Draw near to God and He promises to draw near to us.

Sometimes God makes us purposefully uncomfortable and troubled because He wants to do a greater work. He wants to reveal the junk in our hearts so that He can heal what no one else can and nothing else can restore.

While it feels so much like punishment, we should be strangely encouraged by this because we can recognize He hasn’t ignored us and He hasn’t given up on us. How could He when He is more intimately involved in this sanctification process than we realized? He is more interested in getting our hearts right than we are – which is why He puts us through the wringer (Proverbs 3:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

So, if God is bringing this season, and it appears that He is, then He is in control.

Surrender is really what He is after. Do I know what that means? Not completely. But that’s what He wants. I think, though, that as I spend more time with Him, nurturing my relationship with Him, as I seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, that I will come to understand what true surrender looks like.

The goal right now is to seek His face continually, to weep at His feet, to sing those songs of deliverance when the deliverance is nowhere to be found (Psalm 32:7), and ultimately to hold on.

And I say the same to you who are going through major trials. Hang in there. It hurts, and it’s OK to acknowledge that, but God has a purpose.

He will turn our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11). He will restore. He will redeem. He will rescue. He will ransom His Beloved. I await that with everything that is within me.

Recommended Books

Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge
Prayers for Emotional Wholeness by Stormie Omartian
When the Lights Go Out: Surprising Growth When God is Hidden by Graham Cooke
Book of Psalms in the Bible

Comments? E-mail me.


How to Give Your Life to Christ:

1. Admit you are a sinner and need forgiveness.

2. Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the Cross and rose from the grave.

3. Through prayer, confess that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and commit to live for Him for the rest of your life.

What to Pray:

Dear Lord Jesus,

I know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe that You died on the cross for my sins and rose from the grave to give me life. I know You are the only way to God so now I want to quit disobeying You and start living for You. Please forgive me, change my life and show me how to know You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, please send us an e-mail to let us know. Or you can call our CBN Prayer Counseling Center at (800) 759-0700. We would love to talk with you and send you some resources to help you begin your walk with the Lord.


Laura J. BagbyLaura J. Bagby produces the Health and Finance channels. She writes inspirational, humor, singles, and health articles.

 

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