Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spiritual Warfare -- Part Three


I really related to the way Job felt in chapter three. By this point, he's lost his home, his family, his financial status and ability, and now his health. Like me?

I posted a while back about failing the Down's Syndrome screen for the baby, and then posted briefly about how Fiance and I were reassured that the baby is fine and all is well with her. But then came the next test ... The one hour sugar test. I failed. So they told me to come back in a week, fasting, and do a three hour sugar test. Failed it, too. So now I've got gestational diabetes.

I've been having to check my blood sugar four times a day, watch my carbs and sugars, and generally be very careful ALL THE TIME. I've gotten so that I'm afraid to eat or drink anything, for fear of what it will do to me or the baby. So we're losing our money which could lead to us losing our home, we're losing our car and have no way to fix it. It may be replaced soon ... but we only hope and pray that it will be in time, and that the car we have will last long enough to get us to the hospital for the birth of this baby. I feel like Job. Big time.

And I know there's probably a lesson to be learned. Some spiritual growth to be had. Some prayers to be uttered. Some fears to be conquered.

But in the meantime, I feel so ... stuck. I feel like my life is falling apart, like I'm standing in the middle of a condemned and decrepit building, trapped there as the building falls down around me. And all the while I'm alternating between screaming for help and trying to clear the rubble so that after the disaster is over I can dig out of the mess. But I'm not hearing any human answer to the "help" calls, and the rubble is piling up faster than I can throw it away.

And then I read Job 3:25-26, and I can relate. It's a man who's in the depth of his sorrow, his life seems in shambles, his faith is still there but perhaps a little shaken in the disaster, and he says, "What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil."

There is encouragement offered in Job 4:3-6, where Job's friend has spoken out against his obvious depression and said, "Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands. Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees. But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed. Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?"

Now before someone takes that the wrong way, let me say that I don't profess to be perfect. I don't always consider myself pious, and I am by no means blameless in any way. But Job's friend was right. If you spend all your life loving God, struggling to fight life's temptations, trying to uplift the people around you, being supportive and loving to the best of your ability ... then why apply that only in the good times? Why would you love God only in the good times, taking no appreciation for the things to be learned and experienced in the bad times?

After all, if I hadn't had a bad marriage, I wouldn't be able to testify to God's grace in loving me even though I left my husband when it became clear that our marriage meant nothing to him? If I hadn't had my daughter Teenybop and gone through all that I've been through with her heart defect, I wouldn't be able to testify to God's amazing power to heal his children and support them in their pain. If I hadn't been told about all the complications with the new baby, I wouldn't be able to testify to God's incredible penchant for turning the bad into something beautiful. So there must be something to be learned here. But ... no one said I had to really like the lesson, right? Some lessons are hard and unpleasant, challenging to deal with. And this is a whole pile of them ... or at least, it feels like it.

But more encouragement lies in chapter five, where Job's friend continues speaking in Job 5:9 and says of God, "He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted."

And I believe that. I believe that I serve a miraculous God, one who loves his people fiercely, who never turns his back on those who love him, and who answers the cries from the hearts of his followers. But as depression is beginning to take a hold in my home and my family it becomes somewhat easy to forget God's miracles, to lose my hold on His wonder and His grace.

I find understanding and someone to relate to in chapter 6:11-14 where Job answers his friend and this bit stands out to me, "What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? Do I have the strength of stone? Is my flesh bronze? Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me? A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty."

In all of this, I feel alone, and that's a big part of depression. The feeling of being alone, of having no one on your side, no one who understands you or even wants to. I've tried to talk with Fiance about all that's going on, just to commiserate with him, to hear him out and have him to lean on. To be a partner ... and to find one in him. But he isn't really there anymore. The stress is eating at him as well, he's feeling just about the same as I am ... but he shuts down. He doesn't lean on me. Instead, he's shut me out, he doesn't talk, he doesn't reach out to me or to Teenybop. And I feel all the more depressed because I'm reaching out to him ... but I can't reach him. I feel as if the person who should understand most how I feel these days has completely backed away from me, not only leaving me without the support I need, but forcing me to watch his sadness without being able to help.

And other than God, no one else could be as supportive right now as he could. I believe that God hears my cries, that he feels what's in my heart and that there's something better coming. But I need Fiance too. I really feel that God led us together, to love and support one another, to teach one another, to be partners and companions in this life. But all I have of him right now is the physical presence when he's home, on the couch or in the bedroom sleeping from a long night at work. When he's awake, he might be right there beside me ... but he's not really there. He's set himself apart, forcing both of us to go through this alone.

Job 8:5-7 gives a little reassurance ... it gives another reply to Job's depression from the second of his friends who says, "But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place. Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be."

And in verse 8:21? "He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy." Reassurance that God does not abandon his people. In a challenge, the idea is to remain strong in your faith, to hold onto your knowledge and awareness of his strength and power. You struggle to remember his mercy when you've messed up and didn't get what you deserved, his grace in loving us though we are all unworthy ...

Job continues his pitiful speaking against God, complaining freely about his troubles in chapters 9 and 10. His heart is pained, his mind is stressed, and even his body is troubled. His depression is deep and dark, he wishes for death as a form of relief, and he can see no end to his problems. I can relate.

I'm tired of being afraid of money, of never having enough money to really raise my kids. My daughter has wanted to be a ballerina since she was two. Now she's five, and I still can't afford the $60 monthly cost to actually put her in ballet. And it's sad because she's thin and fragile looking, very light. She loves music and dance. She'd make an amazing ballerina. But money is a struggle, it always has been. And I despise the fear that overcomes me when I see the envelope from the light company, never knowing what number will be on the bill ... or if I'll have enough to pay it right now. Will it have to wait? Often, it does. But God sees us through, and before the end of the month, the bill is paid. The rent is paid. The cable is paid ... most usually. But along with that, I hate this new fear of food, the feeling that I'd rather be so hungry I'm nauseous just so that I don't have the struggle of figuring out the right food. I hate the finger-pricking. The job situation. My car..

But in Job 11:13-19, I'm reminded of God's faithfulness, his mercy, and his constant willingness to provide for his children when they are in need. It says, "Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor."

As the story continues, Job's friends keep trying to speak to him, and he keep arguing back with them about his right to feel angry and miserable. Finally God steps in and gives them all a lecture, reminding them that although we live with the breath of God in our lungs, we don't know what he's up to. We can't know his plan, we can't see the whole picture. So we have no business being angry with him, not knowing what he's leading us to. Because as the saying goes, "if God leads you to it, then he'll lead you through it."

And in the end, Job repents of his angry attitude toward God, and he is blessed and rewarded for learning to hold strong in his faith. And while I pray earnestly for some relief from all the my family is going through, I also pray that we are able to learn whatever it is that God's trying to show us ... and that we are able to pass the test.