2017 has been a hard year. 6 months in and I still feel like I'm stuck in a big pit. All darkness and no way to the light. It's like you're in a tunnel and you're trying to see the opening - the end to all the blackness...and you strain your eyes and look...and there's nothing but more black. But maybe there is an end and you just can't see it because Satan is holding a blindfold over your eyes. And if he is ... well then, there's two things you can do. Let him keep blinding you and drown yourself in self pity - or fight back. And as for me, I'm going to fight.
Satan has been working hard this year in our little ..."community", shall I say. Both inside and outside of family, things have been rather challenging as of late. Just when I would think things couldn't get any worse, things would. And unfortunately, that didn't happen just once. It happened multiple times until now I've gotten to the point where I'm completely unsure of what the future holds, and I've even doubted whether God was actually there. How can a God who supposedly loves me let there be so much hurt and pain? How can He let such horrid things happen? Maybe I'm being punished... Those thoughts sound familiar? Mm hmm... Job and his oh-so-helpful "friends". But as I'm realizing, the instigator of all these toxic thoughts, all these thinkings that cloud my better judgement and make me see the dark side of things - they're all from Satan! He's shooting those arrows, trying to sway my faith in God. And for a time, much as I hate to admit it, the devil was winning. He gained a foothold in my heart and made me bitter and angry at everything and everyone. I don't know about you, but personally, for me, when I don't know exactly what is going to happen...I get scared. And Satan knows my weakness - and he pounced on it. When there's no light or any seeming end to the mess and I doubt anything will ever be resolved... when I try to pray and it feels like He can't hear me...when things change in a heartbeat and one second things are going well and then the next it's all going downhill...or when it feels like I'm falling in a bottomless pit...it's scary. And at first, I didn't try to fight. I let myself drown in utter miserableness and self-pity. I let Satan continue to rule my heart and mind and anger just kept building up inside me. I let evil thoughts have free reign in my mind, and, that in turn started creeping into my heart and turning it ugly and black. And Satan was winning. He was turning me into exactly what he wanted - and I felt helpless to fight back alone.
But I wasn't alone. And I am not alone, nor will I ever be.
"The Lord your God will never leave you not forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6
"The God of peace be with you." Romans 15:33
"The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?" Psalm 27:1
For one, (and a very big one too!) I have God on my side. Even when it looks like He's not there...He always is. And He always will be. Who here likes to just look at the tree? *raises hand* It's hard really. All you can see is just what's happening and you can't see into the future. And sometimes, well, you forget to look at the bigger picture, at the whole forest. And in this case the whole forest is the fact that God has a plan. He knew that this was going to happen since the very beginning of time...and He knows how this will end too. And somehow - though I have utterly no clue as to what exactly He will do or how He will do it - He is using this for His ultimate plan. There is something good that will come out of this struggle of pain and darkness and hurt. Even though I can't see it, doesn't mean that it isn't going to happen. All I can do is continue to trust in God. Forever and always. Trust. In. God.
"For You will light my lamp;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop,
And by my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him."
~ Psalm 18:28-30
My family. In the last few months, I would say more specifically my dad, my mom, and my sister. Not choosing favourites or anything...but I have grown a lot more close to these three in the past little bit. They have stood behind me and given me encouragement. They didn't scold me or give up when I felt discouraged or couldn't put it all behind me...rather, they comforted me and pointed me back to the Lord. I've been able to pour my heart out to my sister and even share a few tears. Ok who am I kidding...a LOT of tears. Bucketfuls upon bucketfuls. She let me vent out my frustration and confusion to her, and she understood. And despite the times we don't always agree on things, I love my mom. She was there when I was scared out of my wits. She was there when I needed advice. She was there when I ended up sobbing my heart out on her shoulder. She has, and is, and always will be, there for me. She also reminded me to "take my thoughts captive" and to not let Satan reign. Easier said than done, to be sure, but when it is done...oh doesn't it feel good to know the devil's been conquered, if even for that moment. And Dad. My steady and constant protector. He was so very reliable and gave some much needed advice. I may not always understand, but I know that he is always doing what he thinks is best for me. Because he loves me.
And my friends too. A certain special person who always has the time to pray with me, no matter how busy she is (you know who you are :D). And of course, my sister counts as one of my best friends too...even if I already counted her in family. Doesn't hurt to repeat her ;) Why, even while I'm writing this, she just came to show me a discovery she had made in a blessings devotional we had been given as a present from our Awana teacher (who also happens to be our family friend too). The devotional was talking about how you might feel after being hurt by a person. I mean, we all know what comes naturally when you get hurt. You want to take revenge and make things right. Or anyway, what you think is right and just. But we gotta leave it up to God! Trust Him to do all the revenge necessary. He knows what's best, we just have to trust, trust, TRUST Him!
I honestly don't know what I would do if I didn't have these two by my side. They're two of God's biggest blessings towards me. I don't deserve such wonderful people in my life - but I thank God every day for them. They've helped me face whatever might happen, to remain strong in the Lord, and to fight back all the depressing thoughts that try to get back into my mind. They have encouraged me and l.o.a.d.e.d me with prayers and lots and lots of Bible verses. We've laughed and we've cried. I foresee a lot more laughs and even more tears together...but you know what? I kinda look forward to them. We're all growing so much closer and stronger together in the Lord.
I was talking to my friend a little while ago, and we started sharing all the good memories from this year. And that's when I was hit by that song again.
"When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will SURPRISE you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by."
[Count Your Blessings by Johnson Oatman, Jr.]
I hadn't been counting my blessings at all. If anything, I was only counting all the bad things that had happened. And I've gotta say, that's one of the best ways to make yourself feel even worse and more sorry for yourself.
When those sad, dreary, dark, toxic memories and thoughts start fighting for room in your mind...you've gotta take them in hand - and tell them to just shut up! Then start countin'! Every single blessing, either massively big or teeny weeny...count them all! Amazing friends. Love from my family. The chance to be able to teach. Singing. Reading. 7 awesome siblings (ok, if I'm to keep this realistic...I don't always think of them as blessings *grins guiltily* But they're blessings just the same). The Bible. Love. Joy. Peace. Grace. A wonderful trip to Virginia. Surviving another year of school. Receiving a letter from a university commending my English work. Getting my driver's license. Hugs. Visits from friends. Laughs. Tears. Music. Books. Freedom. Getting to serve. The advantages of technology. Even trials can be blessings. "But nothing good ever comes to me...I'm just the unluckiest person in the world." *shakes head violently* Not true of anyone. God has blessed all of us, all in different ways. Look around you. You're alive and breathing. That's a pretty big blessing. God made you. That's an even bigger blessing! You're a masterpiece made from the King of all Creators. Christ died for you and gives the gift of salvation to you. That's probably the biggest blessing of all. Then you can look at the smaller things too. A simple, yet pretty flower. A golden sun that has risen and set every day without fail. Clouds rolling across the sky. And don't forget how God positioned the earth just right so we would neither burn nor freeze to death. And how we live on the only planet in the universe that has oxygen and water. We're all blessed, people. Oh so very blessed.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast sprit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me." Psalm 51:10-11
I was also reminded of God's ultimate plan in one of many conversations I had with my friends. Maybe God makes these problems where we feel absolutely helpless...just to show us His power. Show that He can conquer with a snap of His fingers. That He is completely and utterly in control. Isn't that just amazing to think of?
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths."
I'm tired of feeling sorry for myself. I'm tired of feeling helpless. I'm tired of letting Satan take control of my life. And, with God's help, I am going to change! I'm shaking off this burden Satan is trying to drag me down with...and I'm following God, y'all! I AM going to be happy and I AM going to sing. My heart is going to be full of joy at what God has done in my life. Too sad to dance? Nuh uh! I'm gonna spin and twirl and jump around (I'm horrid at dancing, but hey...it works xD) I'm going to praise the Lord with all my heart and I'm going to let His light SHINE!
"But I will sing of Your power;
Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning;
For You have been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble.
To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises;
For God is my defence,
The God of my mercy." Psalm 59:16-17
My friends and I (and when I say friends, I'm also including my sister in that :) have also been able to pray a lot together. Not in person, unfortunately, as distance is a bit of a problem at the moment, but we make do with FaceTime. I treasure those moments when we're able to just get together and pray. Lift our hearts up to the Lord and ask for His guidance and strength. And in doing so, we not only grow closer to the Lord, we grow stronger together in our friendship too.
Another thing we've been doing is finding Bible verses that talk about the situation we're in, or just encouragement from the Bible. Psalms has been a favourite place. It's amazing to think of David who, in the midst of all those trials, was still able to praise God and glorify him for His grace and mercy and complete and utter wonderfulness.
"He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defence;
I shall not be greatly moved." Psalm 62:2
"In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God." Psalm 62:7
"In You, O Lord, I put my trust;
Let me never be put to shame." Psalm 71:1
"For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways." Psalm 91:11
"The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble.
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You." Psalm 9:9-10
"I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye." Psalm 32:8
"The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit." Psalm 34:18
"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret - it only causes harm." Psalm 37: 7-8
"Direct my steps by Your word,
And let no iniquity have dominion over me." Psalm 119:133
"A man's heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9
"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand." Psalm 37:23-24
I know God loves me and that He will always be by my side. He will never leave me nor forsake me and just as I will fight for Him, He will fight for me.
The devil can try his darnedest, but he will not win. I won't let him. I am God's, not his.
So there. Take that, Satan.