No Good Thing Does He Withhold - Part 1
"Where are you, God?"
This question frequented my journal last winter. I'm not sure if I have ever had such a faith-shaking season in my life as this past one. The idea of relating to God as a kind father was laughable to me. What kind of caring father would bring His daughter through insurmountable pain and emotional turmoil, and then leave her alone to deal with it. I entered this past season of my life in an already emotionally tired state. Multiple marriages of those close to us had ended in divorce and I had already dealt with my first two pregnancies ending in miscarriage. Aching for a change and for some slight bit of good news and joy, my third pregnancy came at just the right time. I found out I was pregnant for the 3rd time in early November.
From the day I found out about that baby, I just KNEW their life had such deep purpose and meaning. I could hardly contain my joy for this new life. I could feel the winds changing, bringing a breeze of peaceful joy. After seeing the tiny heart beat and the steady growth of this new life, everything seemed to be moving along flawlessly. About a month later, on a weekday afternoon, I noticed a potential problem. But after being checked out by the doctor, everything seemed to be fine. A week of bed-rest should bring healing to the whole situation, he said. So I laid in bed, day in and day out, waiting for things to get better. To my very surreal and unfortunate dismay, things did not get better, and our third child died in my womb late one Sunday night.
My immediate reaction was to pull from the bank of scriptures in my heart: the Lord gives and takes away, but I will bless His name, He doesn't ever withhold good things from those who walk with Him, He works every situation out for good. I declared decidedly in my heart, "I believe that God is ultimately working out everything for good in this situation and I will not cease to praise His name because of this."
This lasted about a week. It was at that point that I began to have issues God. It wasn't so much that He had let another child die, but that He didn't seem to be bringing me any sort of comfort at all. In fact, I had never felt such a lack of His presence in my life as in this time. I spent hours crying, praying, begging at least for Him to just be near to me. And, silence. What kind of God leaves me alone to deal with this? Doesn't bring me any comfort or even let me know He is with me. On top of that, within 1 month and a half of our 3rd child's death, I learned of 3 other close friends pregnancies.
It was about every 2 weeks that Jimmy and I would learn of yet another couple who was expecting. In determination to never be bitter at the wonderful gift of life my friends were being given, I was driven to my knees in prayer. I didn't know what else to do but to pray for these friends and the little lives that God had chosen to give them. And in that moment, I heard God speak to me in the quietness of my soul for the first time in a while: "Now you know what I want you to do: I want you to pray for these babies and their mothers."
Immediately I responded, "You've got to be kidding me?! That's the first thing you have to say to me? After all that's happened?" Yet, however skeptical I was of my God at this point, I knew enough that to not follow Him and trust Him is pointless. So I took up the charge to pray for all the other pregnancies around me, while my body was still physically recovering from a lost one.
It was in this time that I began to ponder the idea of faith. What does it look like to have faith as defined in Hebrews 11:1: "being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see."? How could I choose to believe the Word of God only when it makes sense to me and only when I can see and feel God's presence? Would I deny the very words of the One I stake my life on simply because I can't understand how it could be true? By very definition, faith exists when you can't see!
So, about a month and half into this challenging time, still without a sense of God's presence, I began to study the Word diligently and choose to believe what it said. I have never done anything more contrary to my natural inclination. "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted" (psalm 34:18) I don't feel like He is near, but He says He is. So I guess I'll believe He is. He IS near to me. I will be convinced of this. "He withholds no good things from those who walk uprightly" (psalm 84:11) Well, it sure seems like He's withholding a number of good things right now, one being Himself, two being children. But, according to His Word, He is not keeping anything good from me. Ok, well, I don't get it AT ALL, but I will grieve the loss of this child and believe that in their death, you have not withheld any good thing. Somehow, someway, that makes sense. He has given me every good thing!
I spent many nights at our church's prayer room alone. In determination, I would walk around and say (or yell) outloud: "God loves me and is not keeping anything good from me." "The Lord is here with me and near to me. He cares for me and is working out all these things for my good and for His glory." "I will trust Him!!"
Everything in my mind and feelings screamed out: "THIS CAN'T BE TRUE! Where is He then?" But I was determined. I WILL believe Him. I WILL trust Him. I WILL choose to lean on His Word.
David's psalms were such an incredible encouragement to me in this time. It's beautiful because He is brutally honest with God about how He feels, even accusing God of abandoning Him and forgetting Him. Yet he always returns to the TRUTH of the Word of God and the history of how God has come through in the past. This became my example of how to be honest with God (which I think is of vital importance in our relationship with Him) and yet not forsake the truth of His word simply because it doesn't feel true.
Over time, it became habit to rely on the Word over my feelings. It also became habit to pray for my friends instead of letting my heart run to bitterness and jealousy. And, oh, how I have benefitted from those trying months!
What in God's Word do you have trouble believing? Do you believe your feelings more than the Truth? Don't let your feelings run your life. Don't believe everything you feel and think. Stand firm on the Word of God, speak it to yourself, write it out in your journal, choose to believe it. Have faith, even in difficult times. That is what we do as Christians, walk by faith, NOT by sight (or feeling for that matter).
But there is more to this story. Check out part 2 here: "No Good Thing Does He Withhold - Part 2"
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/blmiers2/6919282123/">blmiers2</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>