It's amazing to look at my situation now and see all the prayers God has answered through this hardship. Prayers that I prayed months, even years before, God answered. I've been reading through old journals recently and seeing prayers written in there that I have seen God answer and can see Him answering right at this moment.
There were three prayers in particular that I'd like to share with you.
1. Assurance of salvation: I have struggled with my eternal security for a number of years. The method by which I was saved was not "ideal", but I can't deny that I was saved in spite of the method. I was very young when I received Christ and at the time, I can't say I had a knowledge of sin to the degree that I became aware of as I matured. I just wanted Jesus. I just wanted to be His. As I got older, I ran into areas in my life where I fell into sin that I knew were wrong. As a young married woman, the guilt from my sin made me question my salvation. Even after confession, I struggled with guilt. God was always there to reassure me, to show me how the Holy Spirit was convicting my heart, which showed I was His, I was safe and secure and that I just needed to receive His forgiveness and place my trust in His work done on the cross for me. And I would stop doubting...for awhile. But then I would do a Bible study or hear a message that talked about how a believer could never practice sin and it would remind me of my former years of sinfulness and the doubts would come back. I remember asking God why He let me sin like that and His answer, I will never forget: "To humble you."
It was true. Growing up in a Christian home, I avoided making a lot of the outwardly common mistakes many unbelievers make. I thought I was a pretty good person. Outwardly, I appeared to be an exceptional young person, but I had hidden sin that no one knew about. However, since it wasn't seen by others, I had a very self-righteous attitude toward others whose sin was more outward. And if it hadn't been for that area of weakness in me where I seemed to continuously fail and I couldn't gain control over it no matter how hard I tried, I don't think I would've ever had a real awareness of what being set free from sin was like or what the sacrifice of Christ meant for me (unless God had somehow revealed that to me in some other manner or form). God set me free from my sin when I came to Him in humility, wanting to be free and acknowledging I couldn't be free without Him.
God had been my Friend for so long and I had been so fond of Him as a girl, so simple with Him. After repenting of my sin and being delivered, I started to really see God as the holy God that He was and is. But I somehow lost my closeness with Him in the middle of that. I was afraid of Him. I was afraid of failing Him. And I wasn't trusting in Him anymore, I was trusting in myself. It wasn't simple, now it was complicated. There was still that self-righteousness in me and any time I failed in any way, I thought for sure that I must not be a Christian, that I must not love the Lord; otherwise, I wouldn't have done this or that. And so my life became one of performance again. Before, I had been performing for my family and friends, putting on a good facade to cover up my sin. Now I was performing for a God I desperately wanted to please and be right with. I can't tell you how many times as I go back through my journals through the years, the same prayer is there. "God, I want to be secure in my salvation! I don't want to spend the rest of my life doubting my salvation!"
Well, friends, God hears our prayers. And He ended up answering mine in a way I couldn't have imagined. He took my health away. Just utterly flattened me, physically. I remember one morning upon waking up shortly after this trial had begun, God spoke scripture to my heart that made me understand the purpose for this trial. The scripture was from Luke 22:31-32 and the Lord simply spoke to my heart, "Satan has asked to sift you like wheat, but I am praying that your faith will not fail." The moment I heard that, I knew. I knew that this was about the assurance of my salvation. I knew that this was about my faith being tried. I could not have imagined, however, how hard and long I would have to fight or how severe the battle would become.
2. Anticipation of heaven: This was something else I prayed about. I did not have an excitement and anticipation of heaven. Whenever I thought about it, there was almost a feeling of dread when I thought of it never ending. That seemed a bit dull. I knew something was wrong and that my heart's response wasn't right. So I asked God to change my heart and my view about heaven. Goodness!! This trial has certainly done that! I yearn for heaven now. I am looking forward to it so very much! I still can't wrap my mind around forever and ever...that just makes me feel so funny! Haha! Something having no end just...wow! But something about having a physical problem that could well indeed last the rest of my life and knowing that it's not forever. That this trial is but for a moment and that heaven is forever and all will be right and perfect there and all suffering will be forever gone! I am so excited about heaven now!! =)
3. Passion for the lost: When Gary and I were a young couple with just two small children, we went out with people from our fellowship and shared the gospel. We would go to shopping centers, parks, and various public places, sharing the gospel with people using tracts and having one-on-one conversations with people. I can't tell you how fulfilling this was. I remember the first night I went out and I came back just so filled, completely amazed at how rewarding it was. I remember writing a song that night about sharing the gospel. That night had a huge impact on me. And we kept doing it here and there through the years.
Then as life got busier, we didn't go out as much. Our kids were older now and some of the conversations wouldn't have been appropriate for them to have heard, so there was the dilemma of one of us going and one of us staying. Neither of us really like that dilemma. My handing out tracts dwindled. I was busy and just needed to do my errands, not have passing out tracts to worry about, for crying out loud! Wow...writing that is sad. Pretty heartless of me, I know.
Another baby came along and it was at the hospital that I realized something was wrong with me. I had a hard time giving our labor and delivery nurse a tract...I was almost embarrassed and ashamed to. And I couldn't get the guts up to give people tracts that came into the room to take care of the various things that are taken care of when you're in recovery. I would literally get all nervous and scared and freeze. I ended up just leaving a tract in the room before I left. Someone would find it, right? I started praying about this obvious decrease in passion for the lost. I didn't do much about it, to be honest. With a new baby and life now even busier, it wasn't a top priority. But it was on my heart and God knew that and He used my health crisis to get my attention and impress into me an awareness that I will never, ever forget for the rest of my life.
When things with my health were at their worst, my body felt like it was literally on fire inside constantly. It was beyond agonizing. I really thought I was going to go crazy, it was that incredibly tormenting. I would just get through the day moment by moment, often praying, "God, You are my Keeper. Keep me right now. Keep my mind." I prayed that all throughout the day.
There was a day when I said (either silently or out loud) something like, "This is hell...this must be what hell is like!" What followed immediately was God's reply of, "This is NOTHING compared to hell!" It was at that moment that I realized if what I was facing and experiencing was just even a tiny taste of hell, then people headed there have absolutely NO IDEA what they will experience. I mean, I can't even begin to describe the torment I was in, because it is completely beyond words. The only, only reason I am sane is because God kept me. That's the only reason, period. There were moments when I was on the brink of just losing it. This really got my attention and I saw that here was God answering another prayer. So completely unlike how I thought He would, but it was answered just the same. I got a tiny, minuscule taste of hell that made me not want anyone to experience even as much as I had.
I'm honestly still working on this. I haven't actually gone out yet to talk one on one with people...not strong enough for that yet. But I've had other opportunities to share the gospel with others, like my old neighbor, relatives, here on line. I know it's not much, but it's something. And I've got to build back up to that place of having the confidence to just walk up to anyone and share the gospel. For me, it starts with putting tracts in my purse...I keep forgetting! My personal favorite is this one from Living Waters. It's small, has a thorough and biblical explanation of the gospel in it if all you can do at the moment is leave it by the sink in a restroom, on a table at a restaurant (with your generous tip), or simply put it into the hands of someone as you're leaving a grocery store, at a gas station, taking a walk...wherever!
My 13-year-old is actually such an inspiration to me in this. She is so bold and passes out tracts a lot. She doesn't ever seem to forget to pack them in her purse! I need to be more like her and I need to get into following her example. It's true...there's a lot of excuses we can find to not do it. For myself, I just hardly go anywhere. But when I do, I can give tracts out...that's what I need to remember. That's a starting point. I've got to get back to sharing one on one. That is a goal of mine and by God's grace, I will get the strength back to hit the shopping centers and public areas and be able to handle the initial stress of that first one on one conversation. Whooo! That first one is the hardest, but it seems to get easier from there. Just talking about this makes me want to go out and do it! haha! =)
So there you have it! The three very big, specific prayers that God used this health crisis to answer and remedy in my life. There are so many more prayers that have been answered, I could go on and on. But I wanted to concentrate on these three, because they were ones that had been on my heart for awhile and it just shows that God cares and He hears the cry of our hearts. My health trial has been a means of God's healing in spiritual areas that I couldn't remedy myself. It's interesting as you continue walking through a health problem, how many aspects of healing begin to emerge. My healing has been deep down inside of me so far.
I've only got one more part in this series to share with you to wrap things up and then we're done. Thanks for hanging in there with me. If this has bored you to death, I'm so sorry!! But I needed to lay this foundation, so I could move on to sharing a journey with you that I mentioned in the second installment of this series. We'll be headed out soon! =)