Every year our family takes a trip to Minneapolis, Minn. to visit dear friends who have five children and, along with our four boys, we have a great time going to the zoo, laughing, talking, swimming at a hotel, eating out, etc. But this year I was wandering in the wilderness, wondering if I was going to make it out of the pit I was in? I was having anxiety attacks and, out of the blue, fear would grip my body to the point where I wanted to flee, feeling like a caged bird with nowhere to go (except maybe to the toilet to throw up).
"Zoo day" morning found me roaming the hotel hallway nauseated and panicked, hoping someone would answer my cell phone call for help. I needed my good mentor friends to speak truth so the running obsessive, crazy tape in my mind would stop telling me that I had a terminal illness, that I was going crazy and that I would never be well again. I needed hope to carry on. But none of my friends was available, so I walked into the hotel’s public restroom, locked the door, opened my cell phone, held it to my ear and began talking to the One whom I knew was available…Jesus.
First, I shared my thoughts out loud, telling Him how afraid I was. “Is my constant nausea due to stomach cancer? Why am I losing weight? Why is my parents' divorce so grievous and complicated? Oh, God, it’s all crashing in on me! I’m a mess! Take it all away!” And then I put my head between my knees and moaned. But as I became still and stopped moaning, I heard Him speak the verse I had memorized the week before, Micah 7:7. I repeated its truth out loud and it became my hope to hold onto; “But as for me, I will look to the Lord and confident in Him I will keep watch; I will wait with hope and expectancy for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”
It’s important to always remember that God is not surprised by what we are experiencing; our trials first have to pass through Him before they come to us. We need to live in the present, not the “what ifs” of tomorrow. Of course that can be extremely difficult because living in the present is sometimes living in the pit. But if we’re there, God is also there; present, faithful, strong, loving, true and resurrected.
I know from John 10:10 that God has a great and abundant plan for me, but I also know from this same verse that the Enemy is prowling around trying to kill, steal and destroy this great plan. Satan is a liar, and in my weakened emotional state it’s hard to hear the truth and to think clearly. What works for me is to say out loud; “I’m gonna choose, in my troubles, to have a positive attitude and to focus on the possibilities and not on my problems.” I then begin a private counseling session with myself by asking: “Debbie, are you putting your confidence in God or in your feelings, your circumstances or in other people? Are you keeping watch, hoping and expecting good things from a good and loving God? Do you believe God hears you?”
I then answer with the truth: Listen, Debbie, you may feel incredibly awful and that you’ll never feel like you again and like you won’t find your way out, but that’s not true. Now, listen carefully and closely! God does hear you. He knows you intimately and personally and He created you for a very specific purpose. Remember Zephaniah 3:17 which you memorize? Well then, say it and know its truth: 'For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.’ Debbie, God doesn’t like it when you hurt and He does have a plan for your healing and restoration. He loves you with an everlasting love. He is making you lie down in green pastures to restore your soul (Psalm 23:2) while He is getting up to do something about your situation! He hasn’t changed His mind about you just because you’re in a hard place. He has an amazing plan for your life!” “YES, YES, YES!” I yell out in the bathroom but then I add, “I do believe, help me in my unbelief!”
Over and over I’ve often asked, “Why? Why is life so difficult?” But then Jesus would say to me, “I won’t always give you the answers to all your “whys” but I am the way and I will show you the way to walk and give you the strength to face difficult people and the difficult places. And one thing you can be confident of is that I will never leave or forsake you!!! I realize, too, that I may not know the mind of God but I can know His heart by the promises in His Word.
Psalm 94:14 says that when my anxious thoughts multiply within me God’s Word delights my soul. But if I don’t know His Word how then can it feed and comfort my soul? It can’t. The most frequently asked question, after I speak at a conference or retreat, is, “How do you know so many scriptures, how do you memorize it all?” I suppose being a theater major and having had to memorize numerous lines for plays has helped me. But because I need His Word to survive and because I want the joy and peace He has to give, I need to think about and memorize the His Word because that’s how God speaks to me.
Since 1995 I have been consistently in God’s Word, writing His words of encouragement to me in a little 3 x 5 spiral memo notebook, which came to be known as my “manna” book. God gave the Israelites manna as they journeyed toward the Promised Land, giving them precisely what they needed each day and, if they stored more than they needed, it was stinky and maggot-infested the next day. I learned that the same is true for me. I can’t harvest and store all of God’s Word I need on Sunday mornings at church or even at a really good Beth Moore Bible study on Thursday nights. I need to feed on the truth of His promises EVERYDAY. Otherwise my “manna” will be stinky, day-old “manna.” I carry my "manna" book or a note card around all day so I have the truth God lays on my heart, the something He wants me to know and memorize.
That’s the beauty of Easter for me; Jesus dying on the cross for my sin, my troubles, my weakness. He didn’t die on the cross so I could have a religion but He died and rose again so I could have a real and personal relationship with Him. Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, which means His Word is living and active, too! That’s powerful! With all that I’m been through in my life, the one thing that carries me through my marriage, parenting, my extended family and friendships, our basement flooding, health problems, financial concerns, etc. is the fact that there is a God who is alive and well, whom I can talk to at anytime. I’m at the place where “I get to read the Bible” and not “I have to read the Bible.” Now, not only do I talk to God, but I can hear Him answer me from His Word! And when I call Him on my cell phone He always there. It’s because I know and trust the relationship that I have with Him that I want to follow the plan He has for me, His way, His rules, His Bible.
God our Redeemer lives and I do know I will come out of my dark pit stronger with a blessing and testimony of His greatness that will allow me to help others out of their pit of troubles. I’ve seen this happen time and time again in my life and in the lives of others.
As I left the bathroom I wish I could have said I felt this, too. But I, for one, am not comforted by the knowledge of this when I’m stuck in a pit of despair. I would love to tell you I had a happy-go-lucky-it’s-going-to-be-a-great-day-at-the-zoo kind of day, but I didn’t. However, because I had hope I was able to leave the hotel and take the next step to the family van. As I walked to the parking lot I finished my phone call with God by saying out loud (and with quite a bit of passion I might add) Micah 7:8; “Rejoice not against me, O my enemy! When I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light to me.” And that truth, along with the sunny day walking outside at the Minnesota Zoo, was all the faith I needed for that day.
Fortunately, faith isn’t a feeling. Faith does not always keep me from having trouble; it most often carries me through trouble. If I never had trouble, I would never need faith. And, doesn't God say; “Don’t worry about tomorrow for each day has enough trouble of its own?!” And to that I say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord and AMEN!” Because I know our risen Lord will be walking with and loving me in all my tomorrows no matter where I’m…everyday!