It was a dark day.
The sun was out, birds sang, people went about their day, but around me, it was dark.
My heart sank to the bottom of my chest and I could barely breathe. I felt so sorry for myself, lost, and empty. But what was worse is that I felt stuck. There seemed to be two voices inside of me trying to make sense of what has just happened. One was trying to convince me it wasn’t that bad, that I should be grateful. The other was reminding me of all the times I messed up, why they didn’t like me, and why my efforts weren’t worth anything. My life, my purpose, the whole reason I got up in the morning. Gone.
Shame washed over me, and that only made it worse. The flood of tears would not stop. My eyes were sore, my throat was dry, and I continued to sink until I slept.
It was a dark day.
But God used that darkness to remind me that my efforts, although good, determined, and for Him, were worth nothing without His presence and plan.
Replacing Relationship with Resourcefulness
Working in full time ministry had been my dream job, and when the church was reorganized, I was asked to step down. The fallout may not have been that bad if I wasn’t elevating this job, this “God job” to a point where my entire identity rested in serving Jesus this way. But He had a bigger plan, a purpose that removed me from church administration to the real ministry of my family.
I had been a Christian most of my life, in church, reading my Bible, living that life of faith – believing in things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). But looking back now, having that “church job” was actually deceiving. I fooled myself into thinking that faith stopped there. Like church was the hub of all things spiritual, so as long as I was within the walls and doing my administrative thing for Jesus, all was well.
Not so. More than anything, it now seems that God used that job to show me that I had been depending on my own efforts as a Christian than really trusting His purpose and plan. People are still people, inside or outside of ministry.
I couldn’t let this one event distance me from the church or even my own faith. It was tempting to blame others and God, to shout, ”Didn’t I do all of this for You?!”
Who does that sound like?
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’” – Matthew 7:21-23
Faith in the Position, not the Person of Jesus
At this point, I was faced with the reality of loss as I had not experiences before. We we lose something or someone close to us, we tend to walk through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. (see Losing Myself: How One Working Mom Finally Came Home) It wasn’t long before I realized, “Wow, my faith had been in this God job, not in God Himself!” If my faith is in the Lord as I profess, my security must be in His plan and not mine.
“When we put our faith in Jesus as our Savior, we have a purpose to fulfill. It is not to escape the hard times, to exaggerate life, or to wear a badge of honor displaying all we have been through. Our purpose is to love God and give Him glory.”
That’s it? Then what was I worried about? God gives and God takes away, right? (Job 1:21) What I had done is attach my faith to the thing: the job, the position, the opportunity, the skills I had. Instead of the Giver of those things. What I had failed to recognize in my own striving was that it was so NOT about me and what I could do for God! It was Him, it was all His work, His blessings, His fruit. It’s the beauty that He produced in me, and when I stopped acknowledging Him for that, I was not longer useful.
I don’t mean that I lost my worth, but Christian, hear me: when we stop giving God glory and take it for ourselves, He cannot use us in His kingdom. He cannot (or rather will not) use a glory-seeking human.
James 4:10 says:
“Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
1 Peter 5:6 says:
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”
These two men, James and Peter, walked with Jesus! One was the disciple who kept saying the wrong thing (Peter), and one was Jesus’ actual brother! I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that they had learned a thing or two about real ministry with real people.
As low as I felt after this loss, this devastating bruise to my Christian ego, God humbled me (notice He had to do that before I humbled myself), and showed me that He is the author of all things. By removing me from the comfortable hub of Christian work, I could see myself more clearly in His light and the real purpose He had for me: home with my family.
It’s All His Anyway
Another quote from Anchored In that spoke to me:
“Sometimes I feel like a bruised banana, and it seems as if I do not have much to offer. But God sees the fruit. In fact, God produces the fruit. I do not have to try to product what I cannot create. God creates all things. He gives life. He saves our souls. He lifts burdens, and He calms waters… He transforms burdens in your life to blessings.”
Friend, if you’ve been leaning on your own Christian understand for too long, step out. Take a day or so to step away, go to a quiet place, and seek the Lord in silence. He may be calling you away from something that seems good, but it’s been the substitution for real relationship with Him.
Even though things happen that rock our world, as Micah says, “don’t hold that burden like a badge, don’t let your problems form your perspective.” Rather, let the Lord into those dark places and shine His light to show you the truth.
“With the kind You show Yourself kind; With the blameless You show Yourself blameless; With the pure You show Yourself pure, And with the crooked You show Yourself astute. For You save an afflicted people, But haughty eyes You abase. For You light my lamp; The LORD my God illumines my darkness. –Psalm 18:25-28
He is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) Even to a good Christian girl who thought she could work her way into heaven. He is a good, good Father, because he saw me fall, but he reached down and said, “It’s okay, sweetie. I got you. There’s something better.”
It’s been almost three years, and He has opened up the world to me, through Practical Family and in a closer relationship with my husband and kids. Lean in to what He has for you, it may not be what you think.
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