Day 1: The Struggle

When Faith and Reality Collide

Our bodies had no rest, but we were pressed from every direction—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us.
2 Corinthians 7: 5-6

The Struggle, When Faith and Reality Collide

 “All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.” ~ Oswald Chambers

Fair-Weather Faith

For years, I had what I considered to be a strong faith in God and the truth of His Word.  Everything in life seemed to line up exactly with what I read in my Bible.  I had no reason to doubt that all His promises were true.

There was a particular point in my life where I felt connected to God so much closer than ever before.  When I prayed, I truly felt that we were meeting together in an intimate conversation.  I felt like I was on a mountaintop with God.  I had an incredible view and a sense of significance. I thought my foundation in Christ was rock solid.  I had built my life upon the Rock and I was convinced that no storm would be able to shake me.

That’s when the bottom dropped out of my life and the struggle of my faith began.

Faith, Meet Reality

I took a huge tumble off the mountain top and landed battered and bruised in a very dark valley.  There was an entire 12 months of my life where nothing seemed to work out right.  I felt beaten by several back-to-back gut punches life threw at me and plagued by a myriad of small struggles as well.

The knock-out punch came when my son was unexpectedly stillborn while I was away from home.  The son that I was carrying because I had obeyed God.  The son whom my husband was praying for when my water broke; signaling the entrance of his tiny, lifeless body.

That alone would have been enough to undo me, but I also hemorrhaged that day and again a week later, leaving me too weak and too exhausted to fight for my faith.  I rapidly sank into a dark pit at the bottom of the valley.

It was the Valley of the Shadow of Death—the death of my baby, my health, my hope, my energy, and eventually even my faith.

 Battles on the Outside & Fear Within

After losing my baby and so much more besides, the resulting waves of grief crashed unrelenting upon my broken heart.  I cried so long and so hard in ways I did not know were possible until then.

When does grief become depression?  I don’t know, but at some point, Depression gripped me—strangled me, making it hard for me to breathe in the life-giving Truth of God’s Word.

Depression often visits with her fretful twin sister, Anxiety—and my unrealistic fears spiraled out of control, making a mockery out of peace. My anxiety even turned on God and I began to fear Him in unhealthy ways.  What would He do next to hurt me? Who else would He take from me?  I struggled with despair, doubt, and utter exhaustion.

I wanted to give up on life, but I didn’t even know how.

A Struggling Faith

My faith had hit reality like a brick wall.  Caught off guard, I was left stunned, hurt, and confused.  Reading my Bible seemed to actually unravel my faith rather than bolster it.  I would read passages like this:

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”

and you make the Most High your dwelling,

no harm will overtake you,

no disaster will come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways;

they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread on the lion and the cobra;

you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

Psalm 91: 9-13

And would secretly think, “That’s not true.  At least not for me, anyway.  I’m the one getting trampled.”  I remember having the awful thought, “Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, I’m not so sure I want to be counted among them anymore.”  I still went through all the motions of being a dedicated Christian, but on the inside I felt as lost as a saved person could possibly be.

I felt the promise of an abundant life had left me nothing but a hollow shell.

A Firm Foundation

I cried out to God for relief, for answers, and for rescue.  There was no dramatic turning point—nothing movie-worthy.  But bit by bit, God tore down my fragile foundation that had been built on everything going my way.  Slowly, He began to rebuild a new foundation that would not be shaken so easily.

My struggles made me stronger.  I been in some very dark, cold, and lonely places and I have found that God will never let me go, even when I am too weak and broken to hold onto Him.

I learned that it’s in the valley, not on the mountaintop, where the river of God’s sustaining grace and power runs (Ezekiel 47:12).

I’ve seen how God brings purpose to our pain, beauty in our brokenness, and good out of evil. I’ve learned who I am in Christ and that in Him I can do all things because His strength never fails.

And I’ve seen my enemy for who he really is.  My real enemy is not my circumstances or the people who hurt me.  My real enemy is the Father of Lies who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy all that is beautiful and true.  By the power of God and the truth of His Word, this enemy can be resisted—and when we resist, he flees.

I am learning what it means to stand strong in my faith and how empowering it feels when I do.

Unwasted

God does not take our pain lightly.  He does not waste anything.  He takes nothing for granted.  We do not suffer one second more than is necessary for our good and for the fulfillment of His plan.  Our struggles set the stage for the next great thing He will do in our lives.  I have learned so many faith-building truths while walking through the valley.  I can be a slow learner sometimes, occasionally just down-right stubborn.  Some measure of my suffering was self-inflicted as I resisted the only One who could actually heal me.

My hope is that I can share God’s wisdom and encouragement with you and maybe spare you some of the pain I endured.  I want to be open about my failures so you can learn from my mistakes.  Consider me a fellow traveler who wandered the lonely valley just a little before you. I long to warn you about the potential dangers and pitfalls so you can avoid some of the snares the enemy has set for you.

If you are in a season of fair weather, I want to equip you for whatever future trials may come your way.  None of us are exempt.

If you are in the valley right now, I want to encourage you to hold on.  Victory is on its way.

And when you just can’t hold on anymore, I want to encourage you to fall on Jesus and know that He will catch you.

I have a burning passion to make sure you know that you never walk alone.

We don’t all walk through the same shadows, but we all have our valleys. 

We don’t all break in the same places, but we all break somewhere.

And wherever we are, God is always right there with us—even when we can’t sense His presence.

In the Valley of Shadows

Search Your Heart

What part of your experience are you having trouble reconciling with your faith?
W
here does your reality appear to contradict God’s Word and His promises?

 Call to Action

  • Admit your struggles to God.  Be honest with Him.  He already knows anyway.
  • Resolve to not abandon your faith in God, but to allow the pressure you feel to push you further into His loving arms.
  • Hold on.  If you feel your faith slipping, will you at least commit to reading these devotionals for the next 31 days?  You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

Seek His Face

Father God, we are desperate for You.  Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are dependent on You for everything.  We need You.  Sometimes You feel so far away.  Sometimes life’s struggles press hard on us and we have battles without and fear within.  We can’t seem to find rest or catch a break.
Help us to remember that the very shadows that darken our world are evidence that the sun is still shining.  Above the clouds and the shadows, You are still on Your Throne.  You have not lost control.  You see us.  You hold us.  You adore us.  You catch every tear we cry.  You are always good.  You are faithful to comfort the downcast.  You are near to the broken-hearted.  You alone are able to make us stand strong and live undefeated with a faith that cannot be shaken.
In the name of Jesus, the One who defeated Death, we pray.  Amen.

Find Strength in the Song

“Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said,
“Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house,
when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house.
It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.
Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
~ Job 1:18-22

To read other posts in this series, click the image below.

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Blessings, Elizabeth

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8 thoughts on “Day 1: The Struggle

  1. These words just some up it all for me “We do not suffer one second more than is necessary for our good and for His plan”. Thanks for reminding us that all we go through is never wasted.

  2. I’m on a journey, too, and so often I’ve been in the valley. But that is where lessons are learned.

    This is going to be a great series! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hey Ellie, I was getting on the computer just now to forward one of your old posts to a friend who is going through a real faith struggle at this time. Then I read this one and decided that it was perfect to address what she is dealing with. Thanks for being led of the Spirit as your timing was perfect. 🙂

  4. I am so deeply sorry about your precious baby. I can see how that would really cause your world to fall apart. It must have been indescribable. Thank you for sharing this all so openly here. I went through a hard time and I remember too going through the motions of faith while inside I was seething with rage, just seething with it. It took a long time to heal and I sometimes am not even totally sure the healing is complete but you’re so right. God is so faithful. He does bring us back to Him. God bless and I look forward to reading more.

    • Colleen, I’m glad you are in a better place now, but you’re right – our healing doesn’t feel complete until we see Jesus face to face. So glad to share this journey with you. Thanks for your honesty.