I wrote this sometime back and never posted it. I'm not sure why, but after reading it today, I think maybe it was left in my draft folder so that I could read it and receive it again. May it encourage your heart, dear sisters. We are in a battle, but the victory is ours! He is ever so good to us.
I'll prepare you ahead of time; this post may not be coherent. I am trying to process this week's lesson in my Stuck study by Jennie Allen. And, let me add this disclaimer...which applies to every word of this blog...I am no scholar. I write to process my thoughts. This is my journal of sorts. My intentions for writing have changed significantly since beginning this blog. I now write so that my girls will have a record of our lives and our spiritual journey. If anything I say helps someone that is just bonus.
First, let me back up and tell you that a new friend of mine started a small group in her home. She and I were the only two that were hard-and-fast committed at first; so, we picked out the first study together and we picked Stuck because, not only did we feel it applied to us, but we also felt it could be helpful to any other women who may decide to join us. We have met three times (and have had a couple of other ladies join us--yah!) and we are just now on lesson two. (Smile.) We are digesting slowly. And I'm not sure that we shouldn't be going slower. This study is perfect for me right now since, as most of you know or have inferred, there has been a battle raging in my life that I have recently decided needed my full attention. This means war! (Isn't that a Petra album? Am I old to know that?)
In a recent post, I tried to relay the depth of my depravity apart from Jesus. It stunned some of you. But I have been reassured over and over that my struggle to depend on Him every second of every day is not unique. And part of me wants to be sad that so many women I know are struggling, but then part of me rejoices because God is allowing us to realize the depth of our need for Him. To the point we realize we are broken, we long for and (I pray) eventually accept His healing power and strength. If we are clinging to Jesus in our struggles, asking for discernment between conviction and guilt, asking for His power to be made perfect in our weakness, then we will not just survive our times of sifting, we while THRIVE!
I'm reminded of a song...
Brokenness, brokenness, is what I long for,
Brokenness, brokenness, is what I need,
Brokenness, brokenness is what You want from me.
So take my heart and form it,
Take my mind transform it,
Take my will conform it,
To Yours, To Yours, Oh, Lord.
I've heard Beth Moore speak about this song. She said that while she is singing, "Brokenness is what I long for," in her head she is saying something like this, "If you deem it necessary, Lord." Because none of us really LONG for brokenness. It is painful. But if God sees fit to allow it, there is a purpose. I believe what Beth said to her husband applies to us all, "You are much better healed that if you had never been broken." And, as a dear friend and mentor has said at least a dozen times to me, "Whole, unbroken people are of little or no use to God."
Here's a word picture of how I imagine the process. We see our pride. We break a little. We see our tendency to judge too easily. We break. We see our self-sufficiency. Break. We see our anger. Break. We catch ourselves gossiping. Break. We become keenly aware of our fears. Break. And before we know it we are a heap of broken pieces.
Or wrecked, or messed up, as Jennie says in this week's lesson:
As God is exalted to the right place in our lives, a thousand problems are solved at once. And while it is that simple, it is not easy. The way to freedom is costly. It wrecks us in the best possible way.
I pray that God would mess you up as much as He messed me up that day over coffee and His Word.
Or disturbed, as my pastor said in his message yesterday. He talked about how Jesus came to disturb us, to make us aware of our sins. His exact phrase, "He [Jesus] is the disturbing Savior." We can not encounter Him without recognizing our sinful nature. But, as he said, Jesus is the "greatest gift," because his purpose in disturbing us is to lead us to repentance, salvation, and redemption.
So, here's the process:
Brokenness: we see our sins and are disturbed, wrecked, or broken.
Repentance: we are sorry, penitent.
Salvation: we are forgiven and accepted. (Or, just "forgiveness" if we have already accepted salvation).
Redemption: we are healed, restored, and renewed into one that can bring God glory!
I told my man last night that I feel like I am going through the same process I went through in college. In college I had to come to the end of myself to recognize some sins in my life and my need for Christ. Now, I feel like God is allowing me to be sifted again to show me my need for Him in other areas of my life. I don't just need salvation from the obvious sins. I most need salvation from the dark sins of the heart. He comes to create in us a new heart. But when you have something old that needs to be made new, it is a process and it can be long and painful.
I was directly involved in the renovation of our church's children's wing. Walls torn down, support beams and hard concrete exposed. Pipes and wires removed. Slowly the basic structure appears as beams are erected. Pipes and wiring re-installed. Windows, doors, cabinets. Then lights, knobs, furniture. More than three years later what was old and worn becomes new and beautiful...and filled with children's voices and laughter.
I've witnessed the same things in our physical bodies. Knee replacements require surgeries, days in a hospital bed, slowly learning to get out of bed. Learning to walk again. Therapy and months of exercise to strengthen those cut muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The old painful joint is replaced with a new one. But there is a lot of pain before the new one becomes painless, a fluid part of the existing body.
Buildings. Bodies. Spirits. In a way, they're all the same. Replacing the old takes time, energy, and sometimes pain. And before there's a rebuilding, there must be a tearing down or, spiritually termed, sifting.
As Beth says, sifting, though painful, is allowed by God when there is something in our lives that needs to sifted OUT. This process is as old as the Sacred Scriptures themselves. The evidence is found in Luke, chapter 22, when Jesus is talking to Simon Peter...
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. (v.31-32)
Peter thought he was already strong enough to do whatever task Jesus had for him, and says...
Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death. (v. 33)
Jesus, knowing everything, knowing fully what Peter was capable of and what his weaknesses were, knowing the future, replies thus...
I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.
Later in the same chapter we see Jesus' prediction become reality. Three times Peter denies even knowing Christ. Immediately, upon his third denial, he hears the rooster crow and he recalls Jesus' words "and he went outside and wept bitterly." (v. 62)
The sifting has begun. And Peter is broken. Aware of his failure, aware of his shortcomings, aware of his lack of devotion, aware of his weakness. And completely broken.
But John! John's gospel gives us a glimpse of the sifted Peter (notice that is past-tense, the sifting is over). In chapter 21, Jesus reinstates Peter to ministry and predicts that, indeed, Peter will go with Jesus to death, just as Peter stated back in the book of Luke that he was ready to do. In fact, early historical writings indicate that he was not only crucified as Jesus was, but he was also hung up-side-down because he claimed he was not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord.
The pre-sifted Peter believed himself ready for the high calling of Christ, even if it meant death; the post-sifted Peter WAS ready for the high calling of Christ, even to the point of death. Amazing--the power of sifting. Us being emptied only to be filled with the power of God's Holy Spirit. Empowered to fulfill the high calling of Christ.
If you feel you are being sifted--becoming keenly aware of your weaknesses--here's the only advice I have for you: cling to Jesus still! Cry out to Him day and night. There's a Scriptural promise for you in Luke 22--that your faith will not fail, and that when you come back you will strengthen your brothers. Jesus, while walking the dirt paths of this world, prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail; do you not believe that He Who now sits at the right hand of God is making constant intercession for you? HE IS! Believe it!
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, NOW to appear for us in God's presence. (Hebrews 9:24, emphasis mine)
The word "now" in this verse "denotes the continuance and perpetuity of His appearance for His people; He is ever interceding for them" (from Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible). He is ever interceding for me. He is ever interceding for you, that your faith will not fail, and that when you return, you will strengthen your brothers [and sisters]. (Smile)
He is whispering to the Father, "She is mine. She is covered in my blood. She is forgiven. I've paid for her. And my life is in her. And one day, when she learns to fully rely on me, when she has been emptied and then filled, when my life is all she has to live, she is going to set her world ablaze."
And we will be able to echo Paul, who--sister, you better believe it!--experienced deep brokenness. It may have been short-lived (3 days), but the pain he felt over his sin and depravity was so intense that he refused to eat or drink (Acts 9:9). But after the time of mourning over his sins had been fulfilled, he was filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 17) and he set his world ablaze, writing thirteen, if not fourteen, of the New Testament books. After all was said and done, he was able to proclaim: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me! The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galations 2:20) This man who once persecuted the church, was allowed to experience deep brokenness so that he might be built into a strong pillar of the early church and be God's spokesman to His church throughout all generations.
That is the wonderful effect of sifting and brokenness. If God allows it, it is not for naught. It is so we may be crucified with Christ. Then the life we live is no longer our lives, but His life in us and through us.
He is making all. things. new.