“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
It’s no real secret (because I find it fairly difficult to keep them any way) that I have been struggling lately. Unfortunately, I am no good at hiding my true feelings so it only takes a question like “How are things going?” to bring an earful instead of the expected “Fine.” or “Great!”. I mean, don’t ask if you don’t really want to know, right? (I’m so sorry to my true friends who have had to unexpectedly listen to my “this is so hard” speech)
What might surprise you is why I am struggling… it surprised me. There is a Scripture that says “You do not have because you do not ask.” One of the things that the Lord has been drilling into me these past couple of weeks is that I need to ask Him for what I need. He has been fairly clear that He will not be providing until I ask. So today I finally asked, “Lord, why is this so difficult for me? Why am I struggling?” I expected the answer to be “Because you have 5 kids… because your husband is out of town all week…because you are trying to hold down a part time job AND homeschool AND keep the house from being declared a disaster area…because your child loves food more than she loves you… because your new teenager has learned the word “Why?” and uses it every time that you insist she do something…because you never get a moment to yourself and when you do it ends up being spent on some “to do” that has sat on the backburner until it is smoking.”
Instead, when I asked Him, “Why am I so angry? Why do I want to run and hide all the time? Why do I daily feel beaten down and walked over?” the answer was, “Because you don’t like yourself very much right now…”
And that is the nail on the head. My struggle has a lot less to do with this crazy transition and the girls it centers around and more to do with the fact that I really don’t like myself right now. I have to live with me and I really don’t like me.
I don’t like me, because I am disappointed in me. I am disappointed at what comes out of me in the moments of high stress that I face on a daily basis. I am disappointed that after years of serving the Lord, loving the Lord, pointing others toward the Lord, I find myself sporting the worst attitude, losing my temper, living in thoughts that are as far from Christ-like as Peter’s denial, and acting like I don’t know Jesus from Adam. I am mad at myself for writing blog after blog for the sole purpose of glorifying God, and then finding myself in a season where every stinkin’ sin that I thought I had long ago left in the deepest part of the ocean is rising to haunt me. I’m talking things that I struggled with in CHILDHOOD that I am once again finding myself struggling with. What?? LORD, I thought we had dealt with this. I thought this was long behind me. I thought I was a more mature Christian than this.
Today it started to make sense… the reason that He had told me that I must begin to ask Him before He would meet my needs. Asking requires humility and it also requires a need for grace. Asking the Lord for something is not often my first inclination because I am afraid that I don’t deserve it. And honestly, I don’t. Even just from a merely human standpoint, I don’t deserve one thing from the Hand of Holiness. I fall so short. So do you… you might think you have all your Christian stuff together and “I would NEVER do that… react like that…say that… think that.” but most of you just need the right circumstances to prove yourself wrong (BTW, a lot of prideful thoughts begin with “I would NEVER”). And here is a problem that we can’t solve for ourselves…we need the grace of God.
We can be deceived into thinking that we don’t need grace. We can get really comfortable in our lives and be walking the walk and talking the talk and we begin to think things like “Why is that person struggling with THAT?” or “If so and so was in the Word more, they wouldn’t such and such.” or “That is such a tragic situation, but you know, it is really their own doing.” We forget soooo easily that WE need grace…that BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD…that sometimes what a person really needs is a little bit of that grace. And the minute that we forget how much grace we, ourselves, need, we have already entered into the danger zone of sin.
But when we come back to the point that we realize we need His grace…that we ask for that grace…that we are ready to receive that grace… He lavishes it on us. He drowns us in grace…whether it is a divine conversation or a hug from a stranger or a touch from the spouse that you have done NOTHING to earn or a timely verse that jumps off the pages of His Word… He lays it on thick. And suddenly you find yourself a wretched mess at His feet repenting that you have been SOOO unwilling to freely offer grace to others.
You see, anger often comes from a feeling that we have been wronged or are being taken advantage of or that things are not going the way WE want them to. Most of the time, anger involves another person and often it involves a lack of grace for someone else. Anger says “They need to PAY the debt they owe to me.” or “They need to STOP doing that because it gets on my nerves.” or “They aren’t loving me the way they should.” And EVERY one of the these things, the Lord can say about me lately. The God of the Universe has had plenty of reason to strike me dead with a bolt of lightning since we have been home from China… and instead He offers me GRACE. He reaches out His Hand to me and He says, “Candace, it’s okay. I forgive you. You don’t owe anything. I want to help you, I want to uphold you.” In light of such grace, how can I require a lesser debt from my husband, my children, or myself? Grace begets grace.
Yes, no doubt, my default settings are still very wrong. Many times my emotions are out of control, many times I say or yell or do the wrong things, many times my attitude STINKS… I am in the refiner’s fire and it is hot in here! Being disciplined into righteousness is not fun… it is hard…where I’m at is hard. But oh, ya’ll, if it means that I get up close and personal moments with this grace, I will ask for it one hundred times over. If it means that this girl is gonna be more peaceable…more righteous…on the other side, then bring it on. If it means that the relationships that I already have and will have are filled with grace, sign me up. If it means that instead of disliking myself, I forget about me and only see Him, is there any better place to be?
So if I say or post or do things any time in the near future and you are tempted to think “I would never…” or “she has some serious issues…” (haven’t I been telling ya’ll that all along) or “How unChristlike…”, I would ask that only you without sins cast the stones…cause I am freely admitting mine…to you and to the Lord…and He has chosen to meet my confession with grace. So really, there is no one left to condemn me, not even me. And you know what the craziest thing about that is? It gives me so much more power to “go and sin no more.”