I don’t know when it became the middle of March, but no one seemed to ask me if that was ok. And seeing as I wasn’t consulted about the speed of time, that means I technically haven’t posted all year. In my defense, technology prevented me from accessing my blog for the better part of January and February.
Needless to say, my lack of posting has not been from a lack of things to write about or silence from Jesus. I just went through my journal and started 21 drafts on what the Lord has been doing and teaching me. Exactly. As my Wellness teacher likes to enthusiastically exclaim: Oh baby! I’m back. Get ready!
It feels like this semester has been longer than 2 1/2 months because it has been a crazy semester to say the least (as you will soon notice when I begin posting each of the 21 drafts I’m now working on). Health stuff, family stuff, friend stuff, dorm stuff, all wrapped up in much bigger spiritual things have made for a whirlwind nine weeks.
I went to my friend’s home for spring break last week and one of the days it got up to a glorious 60 degrees and we headed to a New Jersey beach. Besides the much-needed sunburn I got on my nose and the ability to be barefoot outside, I was reminded of something the Lord has been teaching me this semester.
A few weeks ago, in the prayer chapel I pictured myself in the middle of sand. Unlike my reaction to the sand of Belmar beach, I looked out across this sand with distain. Why have you brought me back into a desert Lord? The warfare of the past semester or even the whole last year was scribbled through the pages of my tear-stained journal. It was a vicious cycle of victory followed by a hard blow by the Enemy. Deep times with Jesus, were met by by recurring health issues, discouragement from people who I’m fighting for in prayer, stressful life decisions, second-hand information from home.
I thought we were done with deserts, Jesus, at least for a few years. Christmas break was a time of perspective and renewal. I wasn’t supposed to come back to this battle. I thought I was coming back to deep places in your presence, not sleepless nights of contending prayer and frustrating attacks. Am I doomed like the Israelites for another indefinite period of wandering, of pain, of questions without answers?
And in the midst of these honest prayers of a weary, desperate daughter, Jesus did something unexpected. He gently turned me around. And I stood before an ocean.
This isn’t a desert of sand. I’m standing on a beach. I just focus on the vastness of the sand. The brokenness of those the Lord has put around me and on my heart. My own inability and failures. And in staring out across the sand, I assume I’m back in a desert. When really, I’m on this journey, which, like Peter’s, actually begins not in the desert but on the sea. Starting with the easy yoke of the Lord. Peace and joy in His presence. Learning to trust His strength, not mine.
“You think that when you doubt Me that it means you’ve lost faith. You haven’t. And I haven’t stopped loving you and working in you. You are trying to sense my presence for these grand things, for these things in the future, for things tomorrow. I see your heart. I see the big things you are believing for. Now, ask me what I’m doing right now, Maddie.”
A friend told me before I left for break that if you can’t even focus on day-to-day because of all that is going on, things the Lord is doing and things Satan is trying to thwart, then just live moment by moment. I told the Lord in February that I felt like I was out of “spiritual stamina.” And then the Lord showed me it wasn’t that I was out of some magical spiritual strength. I was trying to fix things myself. There were cares of this world that still had a hold on my heart.
Release isn’t easy. You have to count the cost. But when Nehemiah said that the “joy of the Lord is your strength” he wasn’t being facetious. When Jesus has 100% of your heart, when hope enters in, when you focus on His sovereignty and victory, nothing can hold it back.
So I’m not in a desert. I’m on a beach. And yes, there are times it looks like a desert, but that’s only when I forget to keep my gaze on Jesus. Because it’s only in Him that I find fullness of joy, I have strength to fight the good fight, I rest in faith, and I rejoice in hope.
“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant their faces are never covered with shame. . .The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. . .The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” Psalm 34
He is really good. Really for us. Really working. Really loves us. Really speaking. Really moving.
Do we see it? Have we turned to face the ocean? Are we whimpering in a desert when Jesus is tapping us on the back to just look at Him and what He is doing right now?
After all, that’s really all that matters. Because once you see His face, everything else grows strangely dim. And your heart exclaims “whom have I in heaven but You, and nothing on earth I desire but You” (Ps. 73) like it never has before.
It’s good to be back to blogging, especially with this new lightness and joy in the Spirit. Despite the fact that circumstances, or even my prayer list, hasn’t really changed. Which is fine, because even when it does, my God never changes. And He’s never surprised.
Enjoy the rest of your (hopefully not as grey and rainy as it is here) Wednesday!