The impossible setting:
Hope deferred makes the heart sick but hope without faith pulls the plug and watches the heart die. Lord…that our desire would be to make every act an act of worship, give us a broken heart, but give us one that refuses to be impressed by impossible circumstances.
The fall season has now arrived as an empty handed messenger. The income we’d hoped to see remains the income we hope to see eventually. Until then, we’ve stopped paying our mortgage in order to cover essentials. Better to face foreclosure in the next few months than to face the next few weeks without food and utilities. On the hands of another messenger, a five fingered version of our own Goliath, came a six figure lawsuit that was filed against me and set in motion last month. It’s a long story about rights, the rights of a bank to pay an attorney to convince a judge that a man with nothing can pay back everything from that nothing.
This wilderness continues to break my heart by barely failing to kill it. So dimly lit were the days of the last few weeks that hope deferred became hope unplugged. Yet those same days were joyfully dark enough to expose the timid faith resting on my lampstand – faith like a bulb so loose in its socket that it flickers with every distant roar from a toothless lion. Saintly upon the floor or sinfully beneath it, my days were spent with hands cupped, a faithless smile, and a memory that lasts like penny gum – asking if He’s still generous – generous enough to drop another coin in the gum machine. But instead of a coin He deposited a word in my heart.
“The sweet testimony of My extravagance is alive in you but it lives in your heart like an orphan.”
With an income that appears to be lost on the horizon, I cannot defend, I cannot replace and I cannot out swim a tidal wave born from the aftershock of my failure. All I have in this moment is that word to cover my needs. What does a generous God do with my sloppy faith?
Tour the prison:
I’ve never been bold like John the Baptist but I take great comfort in knowing that he was once afraid like me. Depression is a spirit that flings false testimony upon the mind like hot tar in the heat of discomfort. From Herod’s prison that spirit asked John if Jesus was really the one. And from the prison of my need it asks instead if that same one has left me for dead. The hand of depression holds circumstance like a chisel. Its skill is not in denying the truth but in chipping away at its context until the truth is no longer welcome. Like little bites of rotten food that eventually wrench the gut and gain our full attention, so the enemy uses false context to painfully remind us of our truthful circumstances.
If we listen, as I listened, then every missed mortgage payment, collection call and deputy at my door becomes a reminder of what God is NOT doing. The circumstances are accurate but no longer reside in the context of truth (what God IS doing). As a result, my outward faith toward God shifts inward toward me and eventually in the opposite direction toward the enemy (“Oh no…God isn’t meeting my needs, what shall I do? Who will help?”) The enemy builds prisons from the bricks of agreement. If he can gain our attention, he’ll start asking questions that are tough to ignore. For example, here’s one that I’ve heard recently:
“You’ll remain faithful even if God doesn’t rescue your family. But if He doesn’t…will it not prove that faith actually makes little difference in your circumstance?”
Don’t answer! We’ve been had…
The temptation to answer that is strongly linked with our desire to defend God as if we were David and the enemy was Goliath. The grit of an honest answer is our way of facing that villain but it’s only a trap loaded with inspiring bait. This villain is not a giant, he’s a pickpocket who steals everything while looking us in the eye and gently listening to our passionate response. The enemy was never really Goliath or the Philistines but rather the unbelieving heart of Saul and his army who feared them. So let’s be very clear, in the context of depression as a tactic… engaging in conversation with the enemy IS agreeing with the enemy. Goliath represents the opportunity we have to trust God for the impossible – a battle designed to break our heart and build our faith. Whereas the real enemy “unbelief” is simply designed to kill the heart until it is dead.
It was my willingness to engage the enemy that made the difference, not how I answered his question. Once the door was opened for conversation his questions became my own, turning my heart inward and launching a retreat that rendered me kingdom-useless for weeks. (“What have I done? What will people say who’ve seen God move, but now question my sanity? If foreclosure occurs where will we spend Christmas? How will we homeschool our kids?” etc…) He used my integrity to draw me into a battery of questions that surely led to unbelief. I literally felt sick for weeks.
Remember this…God isn’t leading us into conversations with the enemy. Those questions are not puzzles for us to solve, they are faith-grenades that we must avoid. It’s not a question of rebuke or casting anything out, it’s a question of knowing that he’s been rebuked, cast out and put behind Jesus. God is saying consider the source not the content. The questions are irrelevant – keep moving forward because answering irrelevant questions will always and only blow us off course.
Eyes ahead please…
If we consider the declaration “get behind me Satan” to mean “you’ll never again receive my focus” we begin to understand why our only option according Proverbs 4:25 is to look directly ahead. But it’s not a point-n-shoot trajectory. Knowing where “ahead” begins comes only from knowing where you’ve been. This is why remembering what God has done (our testimony) provides direction for knowing where He wants to go (the spirit of prophecy). The testimony of Jesus (who lives in us) is the spirit of prophecy. Rev19:10 But we need an unwavering belief in that knowledge (our faith) to generate forward progress – the substance that propelled David toward Goliath while everyone around him fainted.
Without being commanded, David stepped willingly into what God presented, an impossible circumstance that by faith he stewarded to victory. He was able to do this by prophesying victory over Goliath based on testimony “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Sam 17:37 God is a good provider, so we wait diligently on our break-through. But while waiting we must steward what He’s already given us, the fertile environment for break-through to occur (the setting). We co-labor in the order of responsibility, our assignment is to fight the battle and God’s responsibility is to win the battle. We declare the victory by faith and He establishes our faith by the victory (for His glory). But it never happens if we forget the testimony that lives in our heart… because it lives there like an orphan.
Note from the King (as spoken to my heart):
You’ve been searching the skies for a cloudburst while standing in a pool of water – you don’t have to talk me into providing for you. Instead, embrace the depth of this struggle and steward it well. My water is gathered and stored here in your lowest place. Stop asking for rain and plant the seeds that I’ve already given you. And from the rich wet soil beneath your feet will spring trees of living sacrifices among the weeds. With a renewed mind I have given you this wilderness to civilize – With the light of men I have given you this darkness to illuminate – With my leaven I’ve given you this fire to make everything you touch rise with you. And having been crushed into salt, it’s with my hand that I will scatter you and make savory the culture that surrounds you.
A broken heart is good but it does not relieve us from the responsibility to live by faith. Only by a broken heart that’s full of faith are we able to face the impossible moment set before us, and steward it well. Thanks dear friends for your continued prayers. Blessings…