Always A Way Forward

By Dan Kivett

 

So here I was minding my own business (this makes me laugh for some reason), listening to a sermon by my friend and mentor and all of a sudden God gives me the urge to start writing. I haven’t felt that urge in a long time. Perhaps though, it’s more honest to say that I haven’t followed that urge for a long time. I’m not sure why but what I want to write about is what happens when you are a new believer.

It’s a truly wonderful time in life. For me personally I was able to live life in a way that I had always wanted to but never thought was possible. I met people that I never would have let myself be around before I believed in Jesus. People that were kind of like me but had taken the opportunity to get to know God in a way that I never had and it showed.

I loved studying the Bible and couldn’t wait to finish it so that I could go back and read it all again. It seemed like I would have these amazing Revelations on an almost daily basis. I couldn’t wait to share these thoughts with my new Christian friends and see what they had to say about the same Bible verses that I was reading.

I truly felt like God was leading me in new and exciting directions, toward places that I could never reach on my own. It was fun and it was scary and it seemed like the possibilities were Limitless. I prayed often that God would show me the direction that he wanted me to go in with this new life that he’d given me. I had no idea really what God wanted but I was so eager to follow him wherever he wanted me to go even if I was scared sometimes. But this column isn’t really about all of that. It’s about what happens when you’re living your life and doing everything right and all of a sudden something comes from out of nowhere and kicks you right in the face.

I started getting sick about six months after Jesus saved me. All of the health problems I had did not come all at once, in fact they have been very slow and gradual. When I first started having trouble walking I leaned on the people around me (haha, I wrote that without realizing it) and trusted in the Lord that he would guide me toward whatever doctor would diagnose me and I naively figured it would be a pretty easy process. Every other time in my life I had gone to the doctor and every other time I had come out with the information that I needed. This time wasn’t so easy.

As the months went by my walking started to get worse. I went from just moving around awkwardly to needing a cane. One doctor appointment led to another which led to another. While I was certainly uneasy about everything, I trusted in the Lord and did my best to get by. Someone even noted to me that I was still happier at this point in my life than I had ever really been before. Most of my twenties were filled with me being angry and sometimes not even knowing why. In spite of being sick and knowing that my health was declining Without knowing the specific cause, I still was enjoying the life of learning how to follow Jesus.

When I look back now I feel like maybe it would make more sense if my big crisis of faith had happened when I first got sick but that isn’t how it was for me. It didn’t really happen until about a year later. After many attempts at getting diagnosed, I spent several days in the hospital. It really seemed like this would be the time when I would finally find out what was causing my walking problems and what could be done about them. It seemed pretty simple to me that this is what should happen but it didn’t. Instead I spent five days in the hospital and was sent home with no idea what to do next. I had so many people that were praying for me and wanting to know how things went and I had no good news to give them. For the first time since getting sick I felt like I could not see a way forward from this.

Upon traveling back home and climbing up a couple dozen stairs to my apartment I sat there alone, scared and angry. This isn’t how it was supposed to happen I thought. Why would God lead me down this path and then there’s not any answers? Everybody else gets diagnosed, why can’t I? These were dangerous thoughts and they led to me getting upset at God. I started to think that maybe everything that I thought I believed about Jesus wasn’t true. I had done everything right, or at least the best that I could and I didn’t have the answers that I so badly needed.

I stood there crying and not having any idea what I was supposed to do next. I questioned my faith and started wondering if anything that I  had learned about Jesus was even true. At that moment a thought came into my head which said “Just because I’m angry doesn’t mean that any of this isn’t true. Just because I didn’t get what I wanted, even though what I wanted absolutely seemed like the best thing for me, it doesn’t mean that anything I learned about Christ was false.” I knew as soon as I heard it that this was true. So what, I didn’t get what I wanted. Nowhere in the Bible did it ever say that would happen.

While this revelation wasn’t the most comforting or peaceful thing that I had ever felt, it was enough for me to keep moving forward and believing in Jesus. Just because my circumstances change it doesn’t mean that Christ does. Jesus still loved me and while I didn’t feel that love as clearly as I would have liked to at that moment, I still felt it. I felt it through my friends that did their best to console me through this bad doctor visit and the many others that would follow. I felt it as the Lord continued to take care of me no matter how bad my health would get. The cane I used would eventually be met with a wheelchair and a walker and throughout that I still felt God’s love in so many different ways. Eventually I wouldn’t be able to push the wheelchair very well anymore so the Lord would get me a motor for it. God enabled me Keep On Moving and he kept on loving me regardless of how I felt.

I guess the message that I’m trying to say is that no matter what has happened to me in my life or how badly I feel like life has hit me sometimes, God has shown me a Way Forward. I may not see it right away or I may not be thrilled about what it looks like at first but God has shown me the way and has taken care of me every single step and every single day. If he’s done it for me then I have no problem believing that he will do it for anybody else too. I’m not saying that it’s easy. I’m just saying that God shows the way to those who look.

If you’re new to believing in Christ I just want to say congratulations. You have stumbled into the most amazing ride that you will ever go on. The Lord will bless you and take care of you and show you things that you never thought were possible. There will likely be a day though, where you will feel like life has hit you as hard as it can. When that happens just remember that God has been preparing you for this and he will show you the way forward.

Learning to Run Like a Deer

By Jamie Martelle

 

Nothing brings you closer to the Lord like being broke.  I say that with a bit of a smirk, but it is during those times when you find yourself in a situation akin to a quagmire, flailing around for a life rope of some sort, when you can choose to square your shoulders with the determination to trust God in this, and He will show His glory.

We have a few things going on, medical bills and tax season, mainly.  It’s nothing terrible, but definitely a different sort of financial picture than we would prefer.  I was struggling with this, but I knew that God would not appreciate my lack of trust in this situation, so I just gave up.

I gave up worrying.

I gave up being angry.

I gave up feeling sorry for myself.

It wasn’t without some doing.  But a beautiful memory surfaced in the process, of a message I heard during our revival last fall, from the Reverend Nathan Covington.  He talked about the feet of a deer, specifically, this refers to a female deer, known as a hind (as in the King James Version).

For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?  It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.  He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.  (Psalm 18:31-33 NIV)

“What is special about the feet of a doe, a deer, a female deer?” you may be wondering.  Reverend Covington explained, a hind is the only animal that has the ability to perfectly follow with her back feet the steps taken with her front feet.  Because of that special gift, she is able to climb the steep, rocky face of a mountain and find her way around, without ever getting lost, and her young are able to follow more easily.  These deer don’t get lost the way humans would, climbing a mountain, veering one way and then another, searching out the way to go.

The way that God makes our feet like the feet of a deer doesn’t have as much to do with our feet as it has to do with our thoughts.

My mind goes so many different directions.  I know what I need to do, but then my thoughts turn toward my resistance to doing it.  Can you relate?  I have the deliberate thought of what I know I need to do, then from my subconscious mind comes the nagging, “I don’t want to…this makes me so mad…why should I have to…,” really unhelpful, negative thoughts.

The other day when I was struggling with the sad news of our recent income tax report, and those negative kinds of thoughts were plaguing me, a thought that was not of my own came to me.  I had a choice.  If I trusted God, I ought to choose not to fear, not to worry, but to know that this situation did not come as a surprise to Him, and He will bring us through it.  I could choose the security of resting in His care for me, and freedom from anxiety and depression.  That felt really good, I must say.

Those old yucky thoughts didn’t just go away, but I had a defense to deal with them then.  I kept fighting them off with the assurance that God is in control, and He has a great track record for taking exceptionally good care of us.  Soon, I remembered Reverend Covington’s sermon about the hind’s feet.

The hind’s special ability correlates with the way we can learn to pattern our conscious and subconscious thoughts.  We have the ability to select or reject the thoughts that we think.  When we select only the thoughts that take us in the direction we know that we need to go, the direction that God tells us so plainly we are to go, we can reach the highest heights of the life He has planned for us.

I found that turning my thoughts back to focusing on God’s promises to me and on His truth took some effort, but not nearly as much effort as it takes to keep up with and deal with all my negative emotions.  I was actually empowered when I did this, I believe because He rewarded those efforts with His supernatural strength.  Without the “junk” thoughts (think “spam”) weighing down my spirit, I was much better equipped to move on and deal with our situation in a productive way.

There are times when this will not be so easy, I am certain of that.  I’ve already walked through plenty of those times; I imagine there will be more.  This is not a blog post to tell people how to “just deal with it and move on,” ignoring and stuffing emotional pain.  This is a story of a tool that was given to me, that I plan to use, again and again.  I offer it to you, as well.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

(Helen H. Lemmel, 1922, public domain)