To Be Continued, With Hope in the Lord
By Sharon Eaton
I read a book this past summer that had a profound effect on me. Something in me has been different ever since. But the reading of the book was not the beginning of the story.
I have been learning a lot about myself over the past couple of years. God has shown me a whole belief system I have had in place that is contradictory to what I also believe about Him. I have seen the symptoms of this conflict over the years and have shared some of these struggles with you, but I have finally been able to get down to the root of the problem. I do know God and trust Him, but at the same time I have been trying to please people and keep tight control of the things happening around me. The belief that I had to do those things was like an invisible wall I kept running into. I couldn't understand how I could know God and yet feel such anxiety and stress. At one point the anxiety got so bad that I finally went to see a psychologist. God used that psychologist to make the invisible wall visible, and things started making a lot more sense to me. I realized that even my behavior that seemed Christian was often motivated by my own personal belief system. It was easy for me to be a servant because I already believed it was my job to keep everybody happy. It was easy to take the lowest place at the table because that was the only seat I felt I deserved. I was finally able to see that these beliefs did not come from the Lord, and by His grace I began adjusting my thinking.
The growth in me since then has been significant, but there continued to be signs that something was off in my thinking. I was experiencing a lot less anxiety, but sometimes I still felt miserable. I was not at peace and felt that there were still things in me and around me that needed to be fixed. One day as I shared my frustrations with Randy I found myself saying, "But I know everything is going to be okay.” Even though I was unhappy, I trusted that God was at work and eventually things would start to look a little more like I wanted them to. To me this was a sign of faith that I was able to cling to God and hope for better days. But then Randy said, "Everything already is okay.” It was not what I wanted to hear.
Randy and I are both familiar with this verse:
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)
I knew that was what Randy was referring to when he said, "Everything already is okay.” The Bible tells us that right now we have everything we need in the Lord. We don't have to wait for better days to be content. But during that conversation with Randy I could not get behind that truth. From where I was sitting it really seemed like things needed to be different before everything was okay. I was running into another invisible wall. I knew in my mind that God was supplying all my needs, but I still felt like I was in a constant, desperate search for something. It wasn't adding up.
Just a few weeks later I found myself holding a book called Love Focusedby Bob and Judy Hughes. I hadn't been looking for a book to read, but as I flipped through the pages it piqued my interest. I read the whole thing in a few hours to get the gist of what the authors were saying. As I read through the book something in me actually changed. It was like going to a chiropractor and getting something popped into alignment, only it was my thinking that was adjusted. The invisible wall blocking me from believing that God was meeting all my needs was revealed and removed, and it was as if the truth that what I have in Him is sufficient for me suddenly dropped down into the core of my being. The experience wasn't that of learning something new, it was the physical sensation of being set right.
What exactly was inLove Focused that had such an effect on me? I think if I were to try and describe what I found so helpful the parts wouldn't add up to the whole, so I would rather refer you to the authors' own summary at LoveFocused.com. In general, the book helped me distinguish in my mind between the things I need which God has provided and the things I want but do not need, which prepared me to then thoughtfully answer the question of whether what God has provided is enough. It was somewhere in that process that something in me shifted into place.
Now I finally understand that things in my life don't have to be different in order for everything to be okay. That desperate search for something has been replaced with peace and contentment right where I am. Everything is okay at this moment because God has given me everything I need. Even when things are difficult I can rely on His strength. Even when others fail me I am loved immeasurably. No matter what happens in the future, I know that God's grace will be sufficient for me. I might want some things in my life to be different, but I don't need them to be. I know what I have right now in the Lord and I know what I don't have, and what I have in Him is enough.
I won't say I no longer struggle, but it is different than before. Even in my struggles I know that I have everything I need. Instead of just holding onto the Lord and hoping for better days, I am learning to stand up tall and draw from the sufficiency that is mine right now in Him.
It has been quite a journey getting to this point, but the story doesn't end here. It continues right where it began... with my hope in the Lord.
"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love." (John 15:9 KJV)