Is this season in life producing faith & good fruit inside of me? How pain can make us better.
We often hear the success stories of what God has done at the end of our battles. We hear about the breakthroughs. But what about what God is doing in the middle of our stories? What about the amazing transformation that God does in our hearts in the middle of our long fought battle? Sometimes, we can have a lack of transparency and vulnerability when it comes to sharing our painful middles with others. I get that. I struggle with this as well. We don’t like to share our weaknesses with others. We want to appear tough and faithful. We want to upkeep our almost perfect image. Society tends to place so much value on appearance, image and being strong in our own strength. However, God places more value on what’s going on in our hearts than how tough we can appear outwardly. If we are able to have strength to make it through a trial or illness, it’s only by his strength that we can do so. We are only ordinary vessels for God to do His great works through. We none have special powers that cause us to come out of our pains and trials untouched. Therefore, it’s okay to feel weak at times and it’s okay to not have it all together in the middle of our journeys.
The enemy doesn't want us to know that our painful middles can make us better and grow lasting fruit in our hearts. Our middles can glorify God and can be used to help others.
In our middles, the Holy Spirit will sometimes reveal strongholds and idols that have taken up residence in our hearts. When the pain seems too hard to bear, I often ask myself, “Is this season producing faith and good fruit inside of me? Is it making me better or bitter?” Pain has a way of bringing out things that are deeply rooted in our hearts and sometimes, I find it to be the things that aren’t that pretty. Often times it’s the ugly, prideful and selfish things that will rear its ugly head when we are under pressure.
We live in a fallen world where suffering and sickness exists. We will all go through trials while on this earth. However, the enemy can’t keep us down unless we become bitter and let him. The pain that the enemy is using to try and take us out, we can rest assured that God is using it for our good. God doesn’t always remove the painful trial right when we ask. However, the pain that he allows can purify us and can work on our behalf producing lasting fruit inside of us. We can rest in knowing that he is a loving and good Father. He wants what’s best for His children and we have to persevere and trust in that.
You see, right now as I write, I'm in the middle of my story. I haven't yet seen the victory or my healing. But I've found valuable treasures here in the middle. The things God has so mercifully been working in me is something I would have never received without my journey through suffering. The fruit that the Holy Spirit has been growing in my heart from the depths of suffering is priceless.
Over the years I've heard the story of Jesus on his Journey to the cross. Dying on the cross is the one thing that he came to earth to do. He was the sacrifice that gave us forgiveness of sins. This was his "cup" here on earth. This was the journey that had been placed before Him. His story had a significant middle. A middle full of the mundane, miracles, joy, suffering, rejection, love, loyalty, healing, teaching, leading, faith, friendship, humility, pain, grief, sorrow and betrayal. This was the middle of Jesus's story. Without the middle of his journey to the cross we would be missing out on so much of who Jesus really is. But because of His middle, we can have comfort in knowing that we have a God who can relate to all of our middles. Even our painful ones.
Two years ago I became sick with a chronic illness, it came out of no where and came with intense suffering. I remember telling God, ”This is not the cup I wanted nor the cup I had asked for." I did not want this cup of suffering that he had allowed in my life. I couldn't do it. I couldn't walk this journey with chronic illness. As the journey got harder, my self sufficiency died. My pride and dignity left, and there I was stripped away, standing bare before the Lord.
As my health and energy has started to improve, the one thing I had left was my passion for writing. I started blogging about things that God would place on my heart and of course it included chronic illness because that just so happens to be the journey that I'm walking through at the moment. I remember getting frustrated and asking God, "Why would you give me this passion for writing, when all I have to write about is the mundane, messy middle of chronic illness? Not a success story, not how I made it to the other side and not how I'm healed."
But through the intense suffering God started revealing to me the beauty of the middle of my story. I could see the beauty and the transformation that the Holy Spirit was doing inside of me. I could see the pruning and the good fruit that was taking place in my life. The outside of my situation still looked grim and messy but the real work was taking place in my heart. What the enemy had used to try to take me out, God was using to make me more like Christ. What the enemy meant for my harm, God has been turning it for my good.
Chronic illness relapses has had a way of stripping me of my pride. When you lose your ability to lift your arms to wash your hair at times, it has a way of chipping away at your pride and dignity. Having to turn to someone else and ask for help was not something that I was used to at all. What the Holy Spirit revealed to me was that pride and self sufficiency had become an idol in my life. He spoke to me, “You can choose to let this trial make you better or you can choose to let it make you bitter. You can choose to allow the Holy Spirit to do a work in you or you can choose to let your heart become hardened.” This was not the answer I was looking for. It would be so much easier if I didn’t have to go through any suffering at all. I just wanted my Father to remove the trial. I didn’t want to walk through it. It was too humiliating and it had brought me low according to the world‘s view of success. But thankfully God doesn’t see success and abundance as the world sees it.
So, although God hasn’t removed this fiery trial yet, He has started revealing some of the idols that I have had hidden away in my heart. Things that were taking his place and hindering my relationship with him. My pride, people pleasing and the need to be understood by others was taking the place of God in my heart. These were strongholds that were destroying His daughters abundant life.
If you also struggle with these things, just know that we are not alone. Some of God’s greatest and most faithful warriors, of the Bible, also struggled with these same issues.
Job was one of these faithful warriors. Job’s life tells a story of great perseverance in the face of unthinkable suffering.
In James 5:10-11(KJV) it says,
Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
It's been the middle of Job's story that's helped me persevere in the face of suffering. Knowing that my God is in complete control and full of compassion and mercy gives me courage. God will clothe me with strength and dignity to laugh at the days to come, good or bad.
In the book of Job, God says that Job was perfect and upright, one that feared God, and eschewed evil (Job 1:1 KJV). We know when the Bible says that Job was perfect, that it doesn't literally mean that he was sinless. We are none sinless. Even as upright as Job was, we see later on in the middle of his story that suffering had a way of breaking him. God said job was one of his most upright servants in all of the earth and even he had idols hid away in his heart. This should give all of us imperfect people, hope.
Have you ever wondered why God didn't just put the end of Job's story in the Bible? You know, the victory and the restoration. Why would he put the depressing devastating middle of Job's life in His Holy Word? Because the middle of Job's story is where it shows the long fought battle and the perseverance. It shows the fruit that grew, even from the depths of sorrow. Job’s story shows us that even the strongest of God's warriors can go through life altering difficulties and even experience depression. We are not the strong ones, but God is. We are not the ones in control, but God is. We are merely human. Job, even as upright as he was, when adversity and trauma hit he found himself fighting with self pity and wondering why evil people were prospering while he was enduring extreme suffering and loss. It comforts me to know that an upright man such as Job still struggled to make it through suffering. He didn't necessarily walk through his losses gloriously and neither do we. We have to depend on God and his strength and not our own.
Just as Job's middle helps us to persevere, yours and mine can also help someone else persevere. Some people may not receive our middles and that’s okay. Our middles aren’t meant for everyone but they ARE meant for someone. Adversity comes to us all. No one's journey is the same. But through authenticity we can see just how similar our struggles really are. We can be a light in someone else's darkness, not because we have any power to help them but because we carry the power that can help them, the Holy Spirit. When Christ was lifted up and died on the cross, He said he would draw all people to himself (John 12:32). He is the one who draws people not us. But the middle of our story has meaning, no matter how horribly we seem to be handling it. Fruit is growing in the middle of our mess, even when we can’t see it. We can trust our Father even when the healing hasn‘t come yet.
Someone is needing to hear your middle. They need to see the works, the fruits and the glory of God coming from our middles even when the end and the victory seems no where in sight.
All we have is our testimonies. We can't talk about things that God hasn't personally walked us through.
And they overcame him (the enemy) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. - Revelation 12:11 (KJV)
I would love to hear what God has been working in you in the middle of your hard fought battle. If you feel comfortable, please leave a comment. It might be the one thing that someone else needs to hear today.
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