This Path, His Purpose

Facebook keeps popping up my posts from years past. The ones that hit me are the ones from two years ago. I look at those and realize I am in a completely different world now. My life as a whole has certainly not been easy, but these last two years have been some of the most difficult years.   They have also been some of the best.

Two years ago, on September 1, 2014, Labor Day, four days before my 27th wedding anniversary, my husband left. That day, and the weeks that followed, my world was turned upside down. The past was tainted, the present was traumatized, and the future no longer existed. This was the event I thought would never happen. As rocky as our marriage had become, I thought we were both committed to no divorce… I thought wrong. In the weeks and months that followed, God was faithful. He provided money where none should have existed. He dropped a part time job in my lap, not just any job, but one that I loved, and would lead me directly to my future career. He provided a wonderful lawyer. My family supported me. My karate students and my friends supported me.   My church family supported me. My biggest fear had been my church’s reaction… I’ve known quite a few women going through a divorce that were abandoned by their church, or even worse, given very bad council. In spite of what many churches teach (and what my fears told me), divorce is not the worst sin ever… in fact this divorce wasn’t my sin at all. I am certainly not saying I was a perfect sinless wife, and I freely admit that I shared in the breakdown of our marriage; but I tried to fix it too. The divorce was not my sin.

So in spite of doing all the right things to the best of my ability, focusing on my family, being active in church and missions, and homeschooling, my marriage came apart.

These last two years, and my life today, were not my plan. It was not something I had ever considered. It was devastating. But in that devastation, God was rebuilding a whole new life for me. A new life that has brought me great happiness, and more importantly, joy and peace. I cannot explain it, except to say that God blessed me beyond belief with Himself, with His Word, with His Church, even with the world around me. In taking my marriage, God gave me even more of Himself.

I believe in the Sovereignty of God… that He has a plan that even includes the bad things in this life, because He is all powerful and nothing can stop His Sovereign Plan. In those devastating moments in life, He grieves with me, He counts my tears, He comforts me… but He also has a much bigger plan that will use that devastation for my good. Rarely can the good be seen in that moment of pain, but my life today is proof that it exists.

In the most difficult times of my life, God taught me things I could not have known otherwise. He has shown me His faithfulness in very hard places. I trust Him more today than I ever have before. He has shown me how to find joy in every day, how to thank Him even in the midst of tears. And how to hope for a future in Him, even if it is not the future I envisioned.

I am now half way through a graduate program in Library studies. I have loved school and homework more than I could have imagined. God has given me jobs and experiences to support my studies, and I am actively pursuing a job in a seminary library. The future is uncertain, but I know where I am supposed to aim. I trust that God will open the right doors at the right time. Two years ago I had no future, no direction. Now I have a clear picture and a goal. But even more than that, if God changes my direction, I trust Him. He is the source of my joy, not a future job. God did not save my marriage, but He saved me, He protected me, and He taught me to trust Him for the future. And I thank Him for it.

When I am struggling with the Sovereignty of God in the midst of bad things, I remember this:

  • God is not happy when I suffer. He weeps with me, He comforts me.
  • But He is happy when I obey in the midst of my suffering, and when I cling to Him in my grief and pain.
  • That brings Him glory, and makes me more like Christ. Christ suffered, not just because of the ones who put Him on the cross, but to pay the price for our sin, yours and mine. He suffered, and was obedient, and clung to God in His grief.
  • I tend to suffer in anger… forgive me Lord.

Proverbs 16:9    The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Romans 8 – Just read the entire chapter. I was going to quote 8:28, but I can’t just read that verse without the rest of the chapter.

Psalm 138:7-8

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
You preserve my life;
You stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and Your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me;
Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of Your hands.

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.

Amen.

©Rebecca A. Givens, 8/21/16

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Sacrifice of Forgiveness

(Make sure you read Sacrifice of Thanksgiving first)

Yesterday as I wrote about “sacrifice of thanksgiving”, I was very pleased with what I was writing. It is right. It is true. I knew it was key to moving past the divorce.

Until I got to the end. As I wrote the end, as I said in my heart, Thank You Jesus, I suddenly saw what was missing from the equation. And I was no longer pleased. At all. And without that missing piece I could not say thank you.

What was missing, was forgiveness.

I would think I would have that lesson down (that sounds familiar). After all, I managed to forgive my abuser many years ago. This divorce wasn’t in the same category as sexual abuse for a child. Right?

But here’s the deal. That man is long dead. I never have to see him again, I never have to deal with him again, he is gone. My ex – he is alive and well. His name is on the child support check, I will see him at kids’ functions, he is the father of my children, I still run into people that don’t know he left. I cannot get away from any of that. And I resent it. Every instance flashes anger or depression across my world. It is not enough to thank God for my kids and my life when I hold my ex in judgement.

So, amidst tears of anger and frustration and bitterness (the one thing I prayed from the beginning that I would not be) I submitted to God. I forgave Wesley. I listed very specific things, and very general things, and I let them all go. Because God asks me to. Because God has forgiven me. Because I trust God, and I trust His plan.

Forgiveness was my sacrifice of thanksgiving on the day before Easter,
I cannot truly be thankful holding this against him.
Forgiveness is performing my vows
Submitting to God
Forgiveness is me calling upon God in my day of trouble
asking for strength to do the impossible
asking for peace with Him
Forgiveness is God delivering me
Forgiveness is me glorifying God
Forgiveness is the right order of my way
Forgiveness is my salvation
Forgiveness is rejoicing in my suffering
Forgiveness is leaving Wesley in God’s hands
and getting on with my life
my good life
the life God has planned for me
a life that glorifies God
a life that has been cut loose to serve God freely
Forgiveness is peace.

 

And then I got up this Easter morning and had to say it all over again. I suspect that will happen a lot of days. Thank God, forgive Wesley, thank God. Not for his sake. Not because I want to, it is hard for me. But for the sake of Christ, who has forgiven me.

©Rebecca A Givens, 3/28/16

Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

I have been contemplating two stanzas in Psalm 50 for several weeks. These verses appear in the midst of God rebuking Israel.

Psalm 50:14-15, 23
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!

These few verses contain difficult truth for anyone going through any kind of suffering. These last few weeks I have struggled with recurring anger and depression concerning my recent divorce. Not overwhelming, not constant, but it just keeps coming back, in spite of the fact that I am happy with where my life is going. As these verses kept coming to mind, I looked at them intellectually. I thought, “I’ve got this lesson.” Thanking God became an integral part of my life years ago; I have a list of blessings, big and small, that I thank God for in the back of my journal that I add to daily. But these verses carry that concept to a deeper level. And when you add Romans 5:1-5 into the mix, it becomes profound.

Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I was walking a couple of days ago, with all of these thoughts and emotions and verses swirling around in my head, and an old lesson came to mind. Years ago, when I was going through the process of dealing with the abuse I suffered as a child, there were many times I could not control my thoughts or my emotions. These episodes were attacks from what I called my beast, the beast in my head that whispered lies to me – lies about myself, about God, about reality. I am not one to see Satanic attack behind every difficulty in life, but I believe there was an element of that involved too. I learned to battle those attacks with Scripture, the only thing I knew was absolutely always true. The Truth of God’s Word became my weapon and my protection, and I carried it in my back pocket so I could pull it out and read it at any time. I have done that ever since.

As I walked, it came together in my head. Sacrifice of thanksgiving. Rejoice in suffering. The Word of God. And I realized the recurring emotions concerning the divorce must be dealt with in the same way as those recurring thoughts, memories, and emotions of the abuse. But in addition to the Word of God, and thanking God for what I considered blessings, there is something much deeper and much harder. Sacrifice of thanksgiving. Rejoice in suffering. Not just rejoicing after the fact, but rejoicing in the midst of suffering. Not just thanking God for what I like and appreciate, but in a sacrificial way, in a way that costs me something. Thanking Him for the suffering itself. Not because I am a masochist, but because I trust God to glorify Himself and to work for my ultimate good.

In the midst of my suffering, I thank God for that suffering.
In the midst of my suffering, I fulfill my vow to God when I continue to do what God tells me to.
When I call on God in my suffering, He will rescue me – but maybe not in the way I desire.
And in the end, I will glorify Him, which is my highest and best good,
better than what I desire in that moment of suffering.
Offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifies God,
rejoicing in suffering glorifies God, and fulfills my vow.
I must order my way rightly,
seek first the Kingdom of God, not my own desires,
And I will see salvation, I will spend eternity in Heaven with God.

So I thank God. Not just for my children, who are my greatest earthly blessing. Not just for the future that I am excited about. Not just for my life that I enjoy. But even for the divorce that pushed me here.

 ©Rebecca A Givens, 3/28/16

I don’t usually post twice in one day (or even week, or sometimes month), but the next post, Sacrifice of Forgiveness really should be read now.