Have you ever felt like you were going through your life with a barrier between you and everyone and everything else? The best way I can describe the feeling I mean is sort of like if you’ve ever been swimming and while underwater tried to yell from underneath so that someone above the surface could hear you.
When I was younger I would go in the pool and from below the water I would always try and see if the people around me could hear me. Usually they couldn’t, but at best they would just hear amuffled version of what I was trying to say. For the past two months or so that’s how I've felt my communications with not only the people around me have been going, but my communications with God have been.
I’ve felt like I’ve been trying my hardest and wanting Him to hear me and give me answers to all the questions I’ve been shouting, but my voice just hasn't been reaching Him.
To give you a little bit more understanding of my life, I’ll go through the quick version of my story. I didn't grow up in church at all, and I grew up with divorced parents and a mother who suffers from mental illness. Tumultuous, chaotic, and unstable are all adjectives that I would use to describe my childhood. I’ve experienced some very rough things, and I’ve seen two of my immediate family members spend time in hospitals for psychiatric care. From a very young age I struggled with depression and anxiety. As a teenager those struggles manifested themselves into experimentation with drinking, drugs, searches to find my worth in approval from men and relationships, and a long fought battle with self-injury.
I never felt like my life had a purpose or a meaning.
When I was 18, all of those things were at their peak. I still wasn't in church or really at a place where I had any relationship with God. That year, I found myself at a church and quickly became planted there. For the first time I surrendered myself and my life (though I still battled with those demons) to God. For the first time, I found joy. I found peace, and comfort. I found real relationship and discovered the furious love that God has for us. Shortly after I found myself at a church, I felt a pull towards ministry. I didn't know what that would look like, but I knew God put that desire in my heart. I knew that He wanted to use me and the story of all that He redeemed my life from to serve others and bring them to Him. He wanted to take my broken life and give it meaning.
In January of 2014, I found my place. I started serving in kid’s ministry and I instantly fell in love with it. I loved the kids, I loved playing with them, I loved telling them about Jesus, and most of all I loved watching them learn to love Him. I served, and eventually was able to lead and it was a dream come true for me. I felt so sure that I was exactly where God wanted me to be. During that time, I was still growing in my faith and still had to struggle with old habits and thoughts, and had to walk through extremely difficult situations with my family. I started dating someone and that relationship took the course of moving towards marriage, but about 9 months ago ended.
Despite whatever happened in my personal life during the two years that I served I remained certain that children’s ministry was God’s plan for me at that time and I threw myself into it full force. It had my whole heart, and I circled my life around it. Everything else could fall apart, but I knew that one thing was sticking and I couldn't imagine my life without that ministry or those kids.
One day in March, I was sitting in our kid’s church room before service and I felt God preparing me. Something in me was stirring and I had a feeling that I wasn't going to be there much longer. Because of how attached I was to that season in my life, I quieted the voice I heard and tried to ignore it. Not two weeks later, I got some news that clarified what I had felt stirring earlier, and I heard God again even louder and I knew. About 3 weeks after that, I found myself no longer serving in the children’s ministry that I loved so much. I was so confused about making that decision.
“How could you call me away from this if I felt so sure before God? This has been my whole life. What am I supposed to do now?”
Fast forward to today, and I am on the longest break from ministry I’ve been on since I started serving when I was 18. During this time I have felt endless emotions.
Fear. Confusion. Sadness. I have lost hope at times, and turned my ears off to God’s voice because I’ve felt so far from Him and His voice, like I’m trying to talk to Him from underwater.
This week I started fighting those feelings.
Since I gave my life to Jesus almost 3 years ago, He has been everything to me and I don't want to stay trapped beneath everything the devil is trying to use to separate me from Him. The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came to mind when I was spending time in prayer over this blog today. In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar threatens to throw them into a blazing furnace if they will not serve his gods or worship his altar. Daniel 3:16-18 is what was on my heart tonight;
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.
Their response to Nebuchadnezzar is what astounds and encourages me in this time of uncertainty and confusion. Even if they were to walk into that furnace and not be delivered from the flames, they would not serve his gods. Even if God did not save them, they had faith and believed He was good.
This season of my life is difficult. I know God has placed ministry in my heart and that it is something I need to do, and that I will do. But right now, I’m not doing it. Right now, I have no clue when I’ll do it again, or what it will look like. This season of life, old struggles have tried to return and I’ve faced repeats of old problems with my family. I feel lonely and tired. There is nothing the devil would love more than for me to bow down and give in to all of that. There is nothing he would love more than for me to walk away from the call of ministry and at times that is what seems like would be easier. But I'm sure that bowing down and worshipping false gods would have seemed much less scary that walking into a blazing furnace with no guarantee of safety. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had enough faith to press on in the face of uncertainty and so will I.
I still feel confused and I have no answers, but I will remain hopeful and I will have faith because God has been so incredibly good and gracious to me. In life we will come up to so many things that are blazing furnaces so to speak, and we will be faced with the option to walk in faith or to bow down to false gods, sin, and so much more.
There will be times with no answers and seasons where we have to wait upon God.
We will have to have the strength to know and to say, even if this season doesn't end soon, even if the answer is not what I want, even if this hurts so much it seems unbearable, God is still God and He is good. We will have to walk into the furnaces that life presents us with full of hope, and full of peace knowing that whatever we face He is ever present. If old dreams die, He will make a way for new ones. If old relationships fall away, He will direct new people into our paths. If things hurt us, He will be the comfort.
My hope and prayer for you today is that whatever form you are facing a blazing furnace in, you will know these things to be true. That you will take up the full armor of God and keep fighting. He’s not done with you yet, so press on.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:3-11
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 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, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2