Monday, August 20, 2012

praying for faith

I have at times been called a Pollyanna. Not that this is bad--I tend to look for the good in life, to see the glass half-full, to wade through miry swamps of confusion with hope and joy, knowing that safety and sunshine are not far off.

But in the past year, I've had a few instances in which my hope has been challenged. I am in one of those times right now. Finding myself pregnant a mere four months out of the hospital has been raising all sorts of fears, doubts and insecurities. Along with the great joy of discovering I was pregnant came intense fears that I would relapse, or even worse, lose the baby. 

It has been less than four months since Jesus himself met me in my hopelessness and sorrow, casting his great light and hope and grace into that dark hospital room. For weeks after, I walked in a space unlike anything I've even known: I was teary but with joy; I was deeply loved yet greatly humbled; I felt closer to my savior than ever before and completely dependent on his care.

In four months' time, I seem to have lost hope. With the unexpected pregnancy came an onslaught of relapse-like symptoms. My body backslid, from incredibly good health and healing to pain and anguish. Even worse, my heart has backslid from a place of trust and hope to fear and desperation. In the midst of it all, I clearly heard God say to me, "Trust me," yet it is clear from my heart posture that I do not.

I'm frustrated by my sick body, but even more so by my fickle heart. Why is is so hard for me to trust? Why am I so quick to believe lies, and not the truths of God's character: he is good, he is gracious, he is in control of my life, and he is glorious?!

I've been pouring through the scriptures like a hungry animal, devouring passages and promises, all in the hopes of believing and not just reading words on a page.

Here's what I've recorded in my journal so far:

Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord. Luke 1:45

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:9-10

Just obey the voice of the Lord in what I saw to you, and it shall go well with you.
Jeremiah 38:20

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."
Psalm 16:1

I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies.

It is you who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
Psalm 18:28

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heart; yet their voice goes out through all the east, and their words to the end of the world.
Psalm 19:1

May the Lord grant you your heart's desire, and fulfill all your plans. May he shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of the Lord set up our banners. 
Psalm 20:4

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God--not there result of works, so that no one may boat. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Ephesians 2:4-10

Yet you are you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame...It was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother's breast. On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Psalm 22: 3-5, 9-10

Even though i walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff--they comfort me...surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.
Psalm 23:4, 6

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are...suffering. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 
1 Peter 5:6-10

Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you.
Psalm 55:22

O Most High, when I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
Psalm 56:2

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. Consider my afflictions and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.
Psalm 25:16

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Romans 12:12

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! "Come," my heart says, "seek his face!" Your face, O Lord, do I seek.
Psalm 27:7-8

This morning's Psalm reading led me to a collected works of Charles Spurgeon. It is so, so good, and just what my heart needed this morning. About the above words, Charles Spurgeon writes: "In this verse we are taught that if we would have the Lord hear our voice, we must be careful to respond. The true heart should echo the will of God as the rocks among the Alps repeat in sweetest music the notes of the peasant's horn." God prompts the Psalmist's heart to seek Him and the response is immediate.

My sweet husband prayed over me this morning, reading many of these scriptures, among others, claiming God's promises over me and for my healing. As he read, I saw my Father beckoning me onto his lap. (In the past, there's been several instances where I've envisioned myself like a small girl, nestled against the chest of my Savior, safe and cared for in his strong and capable arms.) But this morning, my response wasn't immediate. Though he beckoned with open arms, I saw myself refusing, like a stubborn child! Shortly thereafter, unable to resist his arms of grace, I found myself running into his arms, tucking into the crease of his neck, arms wrapped around him, holding the locks of his hair between my fingers (something Sam does to me when he snuggles in close looking for comfort).

In times of need, God beckons us to himself. As the Psalmist said, our soul tells us to seek his face. Will our response be one of immediate obedience, or delayed reluctance? Why at first am I so stubborn? Why do I think being by myself, sad and alone, is preferable to the comforting arms of a God who loves me?

If I'm honest, it's because I'm sort of mad at him. I think he's withholding something from me rather than giving me what I want. Like my own kids when they don't get their way, I'm keeping my loving parent at arms' length, throwing a tantrum with arms folded and lips downturned. I think my way is better than his.

So why do I write these things down? Why do I share these things with you? Why turn to the scriptures in times of need? Because this is what the Bible says, and I believe it: 

So then faith comes by hearingand hearing by the word of God.
Romans 10:17 

I'm going to keep praying these verses, over and over, until they move from my head to my heart. When I believe in my mind and experience with my heart what God has promised to be true, it is then that my fears and anxieties will subside. I pray the same for you, dear readers.

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