I am eager for you to read this testimony today because I think someone needs to hear it. Carrie is a great friend of mine who I call on for prayer, counsel, and encouragement. I hope that her willingness to be vulnerable and share her struggles will bring glory to the Father today.
2013 was a year full of trials for me. It would take a book to name them all, but they included: anxiety over identity theft and health issues, grief over the illness and death of my grandfather, weakness and exhaustion while trying to help my grandmother pick up the pieces and hold it all together, frustrations and stress while having multiple flat tires and the transmission dying in our van, heartbreak over marriage problems and children disappointing me, loneliness when friends moved away, families argued, and my husband spent weeks away, witchcraft (trust me –you don’t want to know), and of course-financial struggles. There were probably more, but by God’s grace I’ve forgotten some of them. Listing them and lumping them together like that somehow seems to minimize them in my mind, but when it is you that is living in them daily-It. Is. TOUGH.
Most of last year, I was afraid to look forward for fear of what would happen next. I used to think I had a great deal of faith because I had come through so many things in my life and my Lord had walked beside me through all of them. He protected me and gave me wisdom. He was always my Shepherd! But last year, I was definitely shaken. I prayed and cried out to God for deliverance from struggles and for certain things to change, but they never did. I started to feel like He had abandoned me. He who had walked with me for so long, just stopped! It hurt like nothing else imaginable. To feel as if God doesn’t care is a hopeless place. Fears and doubts crept into my mind and as the year went by and struggles increased, I withdrew myself from many things in my life and people I love, and I really kind of threw in the towel emotionally and just kind of floated into Christmas and the New Year in a numb sort of way. I was definitely someone who had reached her limit of what she could handle.
On January 2 of this year, I was sitting alone reading my email and opened one I receive almost daily by Ann VosKamp. I love her blog and had just discovered her in 2013 in the midst of all the mess. She always speaks to my heart wherever I am in my spiritual walk. Anyway, on this day her blog was about the New Year and resolutions. You can read it here.
And there, I began to read these words:
The most important life skill to have in 2014 is to live aware that Jesus is the only life I have.
Nothing will happen this year apart from Him. Nothing will be remade, nothing will be transformed, nothing will be satisfying apart from Him. Jesus is the only life I have. His shed blood is the only blood I have. His given heart is the only heart I have. His identity is the only real identity I have.
The most important skill to have in 2014 is paying attention to Jesus — nothing else is worth spending your one beautiful year on.
As I read, suddenly I could hear The Shepherd’s voice again! His Spirit overwhelmed me and I knew He was there with me. He had not abandoned me! I cannot tell you how wonderful that felt.
I read on :
When I long for nothing else, desire nothing else, hope for nothing else, but Jesus — I have everything I ever hoped for.
This isn’t Sunday School cliché – this is real world oxygen. Try standing at a grave without Him. Try walking out of the doctor’s office without Him. Try picking through the minefield of life without clinging to Him. Try it – who knows how 2014 could explode?
Jesus is not only our only way back to truly finding God — He is our only way back to truly finding ourselves.
So on the second day of the new year, I wear His name on my wrist to remind me who I am. I pray His name gets pressed right into my paper thin skin. I pray I get branded. Marked. I don’t know what else a new year needs: Intimacy with Jesus results in ultimately being like Him.
What had Ignatius said?
“My dear Jesus, is so deeply written in my heart, that if my heart were to be cut open and chopped to pieces, the name of Jesus would be found in every shard.”
The world can wax loud. The world can go ahead and explode. Just give me that — Let the name of Jesus be written so deep into me that my heart could explode and His name would be found on every shard.
All there is to see is Jesus.
For others to see Jesus in me. For me to see Jesus in others.
All there is to be is Jesus.
And with those words, He recentered me.
Did you read what she wrote? “Who knows how 2014 could explode?” I could completely relate to that question. Resolutions were not even something I could conceive of at that point in my life. I had just barely survived 2013 emotionally intact and I was squinting and bracing for what was next.
But that day, in that moment, I didn’t care anymore what was next. I have Jesus. JESUS. Yeshua. Adonai. The only way I could survive was with Him-in Him.
It is extremely difficult to relay in words what happened to me that day, in those moments, but it was life changing. If you’ve ever had your faith shaken or been so bombarded by the enemy that you’ve felt left for dead, you may be able to relate. I had not expected to go through the obstacles I faced last year and when I did not understand or could not see what He was doing, I felt alone. I fully believe now His intention was to let me endure the trials so that I would reach the end of my ability and to reach this point. He allowed the tribulation and the trying of my faith so I could get this little golden nugget. Why does the light always appear at the END of the tunnel? Because, just let me say, those were some very dark days. So, for light to shine on this day, for The Shepherd to pull the sheep from the dark pit, was a beautiful thing. I even sent out an email about it praying friends and my dad. I just had to share in case they needed it too!
The very next day, 2014 exploded. While reading the email I sent to him the night before about all this, my dad had a heart attack. And to God be the glory, my Sweet Shepherd had already prepared me the night before. He had not allowed me to go into another year struggling to keep afloat, but He –loving me and knowing what lies ahead- had given me a strong but tender reminder that HE is all I need. In fact, I think all of 2013 was an exercise in remembering that I am nothing and that He is over all things.
As I drove alone to see my dad, I had to have that discussion with God that everyone dreads having. You know the one- where you are praying for miracles but what if He chooses not to answer the way you desire? I can honestly say, I had a very sweet time of fellowship with the Lord. But, I think part of His lovingly preparing me for all of this was also preparing me to accept and REJOICE in whatever outcome He chose for my dad. In that four hour drive, I had to relinquish my desires for healing and come to grips with the idea that I might lose my father. And that, if that happened, He was still ALL I NEED.
“But, I’m an only child, my grandparents are dying one by one, my mom almost died in 2012 and her health is cruddy and now my Dad! I need him because I practically have no one. If I need anyone to stay alive, it is my Dad. He’s who I talk to and confide in. He understands me!”
And He said, “I am STILL ALL you need.” “I will hold you.”
He was right and I knew it. He had proven it. I had to admit it, out loud, in prayer, in the car, NOW! He required that of me for whatever reason. And I did and still do. Then He gave me a sweet peace with any outcome He chose for the situation.
Praise Him-my father lives after a quadruple bypass and cardiac rehab! But, I will never forget how God prepared me and held me through it. He keeps on making me exercise my stronger dependence on Him. And as always, He walks with me. I’d like to tattoo that on me somewhere so I won’t ever forget again.
So often, I hear people praise God for this or that especially when things are feeling blessed, people are healed, they got the job, and all is well in their world. To praise Him is right and good. But, I often want to ask, “What if it hadn’t gone your way?” Would you still rejoice and give praise? Would you still speak up in church of His great mercies toward you? Could you still sing His name? Would you still seek Him and follow Him?
We who are in Christ have everything. In this life, we are guaranteed nothing. Yet, He is Faithful- always. Though He slay me, yet will I praise HIM!