It’s been a while since God has really put something on my heart that I felt led to write…to all of you who think some of my posts are too long – then this probably isn’t the post for you lol. I wasn’t really over editing my grammar in this – wrote it quickly…and didn’t put too much effort into overthinking my punctuation, word choice, or other editing woes:
I have found myself in a place of complete brokenness over the past couple of months – a place where prayer became difficult, feelings were numbed, and my faith was tested. I became very discouraged and found myself wondering if perhaps I had slidden backwards, and somehow left God behind. Weeks turned into months, as I looked back to the hopeless realization that the fire and passion I had experienced for the past year was fading, and I was no longer hearing from the Lord as consistently as I had this time last year. As hard as I would try to pray and reconcile my relationship with Christ, I failed to be able to kindle the flame that was in my heart, and I found myself truly beginning to question whether God had been working in my heart at all.
A few weeks ago, God began breaking my heart. I woke up with a horrible sinus infection; I was terribly weak; and I was beginning to feel the familiar depressive spirit that has attacked me most of my life. I found myself flat on my face, as the Holy Spirit enabled me to cry out to God a few simple words – “create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. Take away my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh.”
God impressed my spirit man to look up the Scripture passage where the above verse was found, and I found myself crying out before the Lord as I read Ezekiel 36 in the light of where I found myself. I laid prostrate before the Lord for a brief time, and all I could do was cry – something I had not allowed myself to do for months and months…a place where I had asked God to bring me, but was not at all certain that I truly wanted to be.
As I lay there, God began to speak to my heart and revealed the place in my journey where I had stopped trusting in the work He wanted to do in my life, and I had instead began running after man’s approval. It didn’t happen intentionally, or all at once – but little by little, I had gotten to a place of self-sufficiency, perfectionism, religiousness, and ultimately, my heart had become hardened by pride. I realized the condition I had reached, but I had no idea how to break the cycle. I was frustrated with myself; I was hopelessly trying to depend on structure and routine; I had become full of myself.
For a solid year, God had led me on a journey, teaching me how to be obedient and faithful, showing me how to stay committed through structure and routine – something I had desperately needed in my life as I left behind the lifestyle of addiction and repetitive sin. I had started a spiritual race, fueled by a passion to know God – my efforts were indeed to seek His face, as I memorized chapters of Scripture and spent 7 to 8 hours a day reading through my Bible completely for the first time ever. I experienced complete deliverance, a renewed mind, peace within my home, and acceptance by church family. My new life had begun, and I was ecstatically committed to everything that seemed right at the time.
However, God had more for me, and as much as I wanted to remain in that one season, I found the spiritual color of my leaves changing seasons, as I hopelessly tried to hold on to everything God had already done – not wanting to leave it behind – and fearfully holding on when He was asking me to continue on to a new place He was calling me.
A dear friend of mine had spoken a word of encouragement to me one afternoon at church – a simple word, and one that did not make sense at the time. She said that she felt impressed to tell me that there was a spirit of obligation that was trying to latch itself on to me and that this spirit was not from God. I was puzzled by her words at the time, as I placed them on the spiritual shelf of my mind for future thought. It didn’t make sense at the time because I was still not at the breaking point. I was doing fine for myself, and found myself at what seemed to be the plateau of ministry and service to God.
The problem was, God was trying to take me into a season of learning to rest in Christ and learning to be completely dependent on His Spirit instead of the structure and ritual that had quickly become the idol of my heart – seemingly good things that I had committed myself to – perhaps, even commitments that had once stemmed from obedience to Christ – but had soon become commitments that I was keeping without question and for the benefit of self promotion rather than bringing glory to God.
One of the last chapters of Scripture I had memorized was Psalm 34 – and the day God began to chisel at the hardness of heart that I had allowed – He brought me back to Psalm 34:2 – “my soul will boast in the Lord, the humble shall hear thereof and be glad.” I began to meditate on those words throughout my walk that day, and God began to reveal the place where I had gotten off track. As scary as it was for me that day, I began to let the Holy Spirit examine my heart and my motives, as I found myself begging for God to do what only a few months before I had asked when I had memorized Psalm 26 – “examine and prove me – try my reins and my heart.” God was answering my prayer, and I was truly uncomfortable with what He was revealing to me.
In my efforts to search after Him, I had lost touch with what it meant to boast in Christ alone, and instead, I had become boastful of self. God wasn’t being glorified in my life – Joyelle was getting lots of credit and approval from men…and as uncomfortable as their accolades made me feel, Joyelle didn’t know how to move the focus on to God and off of myself. I had found myself in the midst of a million commitments, and I was spiritually exhausted. God had certainly asked me to do many of the things I found myself doing, but it was the timing and length of the season that I was holding on to – instead of being sensitive to God’s timing and season.
As God began to strip away at my pride, I became fearful that I had gone too far off track again, and found myself begging God not to stop the work He had begun in me. I knew what Scripture said; I knew the Truth that God would never leave or forsake me; but my feelings were telling me otherwise. My prayer life had dwindled down to a few minutes a day, if even that. My Bible study time had completely vanished. My obedience was beginning to fail. I had reached the place, where the passion that once prodded my obedience to God had waned…and I was at the end of my own abilities – a place most uncomfortable for me to find myself.
The morning God gave me Ezekiel 36 – I committed just enough time in my brokenness and tears to truly sit before the Lord and allow Him to minister to me at a time when my spirit man was in a desert place of barrenness, and I realized I had nothing else to offer God – a place, where today, 9/8/2016, I truly realize is right where God wanted me.
In Ezekiel 36, God uses Ezekiel to prophesy to Israel about the work He was beginning to do in them – to till and sow their hearts – to be glorified in and through them….and in the middle of that prophecy, He made a declaration and a promise to complete the work He had started within them, not for their sakes – but for the glory of His name. All their works had become like dung before God…works that He ultimately allowed to succeed for a time, only later to allow them to utterly fail. Wow – there couldn’t have been a better picture painted to describe what was taking place in my life.
You see, there is a fine line between a Spirit-led life and a religious proud spirit – a line that as much as I would like to eternally erase – yet, will eternally be the thorn in my flesh – a line that is meant to exist, and one that only God’s Spirit can help me recognize and be aware of. God certainly brings us to seasons of worshipping Him through service, but because of man’s desire for approval and recognition, it is quite difficult to recognize when God is asking us to lay down what we are doing and follow Him into the new season He wants to take us. What was once something we did for Christ, can soon become something we do for self – and it is a place that is extremely hard to recognize because it appears to everyone else that we are doing the right things and have reached some sort of spiritual peak in our lives where we are ever so important to God’s kingdom – so important that surely, we are “right with God” because of all the good and spiritual things we are committed to. However, as Scripture proves over and over again – not all good and Godly things are things He has called us to do in all seasons of our lives. What God wants is our obedience to Him and our sensitivity to His direction and correction. Sometimes, our spiritual work becomes an idol to self – and we soon find ourselves in a place of routine and structure that God is indeed wanting to wreck. God was bringing me to a place of wrecking, and I was trying to hold on to what was familiar to me. And I soon found my spiritual fuel wanting. I was in a place of working in my flesh rather than letting God work in and through me….and I am thankful He allowed me to fall on my face. I am thankful He humbled me.
My human nature wants God to forever complete and finish the work of removing my flesh – and although this work has been completed in and through Christ, as long as I reside in this vessel of clay – I will never be completely free of the struggle until I leave behind this carnal world and enter into Christ’s spiritual kingdom. If I could reach my spiritual destination here upon this earth, there would never be reason to depend on the work of Christ, and God’s name and reputation could not be glorified in and through me. It is not the failures of my life that will ultimately mar His reputation in my life – it is my failure to repent when I have fallen and allow God to continue to lead me that defames His name – it is the place of allowing my heart to stay hardened instead of relentlessly giving my heart to Him to break and remold.
God is interested in being glorified in my life. He wants me in a place of constant dependence upon Him for spiritual direction concerning my time and my talents. The efforts I make that are not built upon Him will ultimately fail….and when I find that I have very little to offer God – this in fact becomes the place where I am most useful to Him and He instead gets all of the glory instead of me.
God is in the business of growing fruit in my life. And God is the perfect farmer. He knows when the land needs to be purged of all that is, when the soil of my heart needs to be tilled and rested for a season, so that He can replant, and regrow what and how He sees to be useful to His kingdom in the new season He is leading me into. When I find myself in a place of stubbornness, trying to hang on to a vine that He is purging or pruning, I will soon find myself withered, juiceless, and unable to truly bring God any glory – a place of disobedience and pride…a place where in His love, God will correct and discipline me – and ultimately allow my hard heart to reach its end, so that He can create anew.
I am in this place. I do not know where God wants to take me next, but I do know He is tilling the soil of my heart, and He is asking me to trust Him instead of my routines. He wants me to recognize that my value and worth do not stem from man but from who He is….He wants to be glorified in my life, and that means, what has become easy for me to do – is now something He wants to wreck, so I can find myself dependent again upon His strength and not my own.
I am certain there are people I will fail and let down while in this season – God help me to remember that it isn’t their opinions that matter. My relationship with You is of utmost importance. Please teach me how to grow integrity in who I am with You. Forgive me because I have truly fallen. Please pick me up and put me on the right path. I am in need of your mercy, grace, and restoration. Please help me to depend on You alone, and teach me how to wait patiently and with thanksgiving for the next assignment.
I have succeeded only to find that I have miserably failed by becoming boastful in the strides I had taken-
For just like the seasons, my goodness has shifted, and trusting in myself left me shaken.
To abide in God’s rest is my soul’s steady search- learning what it means to walk in His grace-
My works have utterly not measured up to His call and I find myself flat on my face.
I struggle to find the balance between my laziness in abiding in His rest-
I really don’t know how to let Christ do the work- and let Him help me pass the test.
I am trying to learn to dwell in this place of letting Him test and prove me-
Revealing the sin I have camouflaged in my heart- and allowing His love to prune me.
This place can be daunting- the road can grow dreary- the enemy will try to tell me I’m not worthy-
But I am reminded that I never measured up in the first place – and that His blood is what cleans all my dirty.
I have reached a place where I understand that all my good works are like dung –
I found myself again struggling with sin and forgotten the cross where He hung.
My passion and purpose have ceased to drive my desire- I have grown too dependent on self-
I have found my commitment hopelessly hanging too much on how I have felt.
Guilt wants to shame me and tell me it’s over – the enemy screams I’m a liar-
All of a sudden God’s grace reminds me that it is is Him that pulls me up from the mire.
Yes, I have fallen, I have miserably failed, the truth is – I will never measure up-
Then I am reminded of God’s goodness and mercy- and His love overflowing my cup.
This journey isn’t over- the test hasn’t ended- and God’s faithfulness to me hasn’t ceased-
The secret is learning to humble myself and allowing spirit to increase
To continually find myself back on my knees regardless of how badly I feel-
Allowing His mercy and goodness to fill me right in the place where I kneel.
Stop trying to prove to the world that I’ve changed- trying to earn applause and approval-
Instead staying humble and boasting only in Christ and submitting to His correction and reproval.
I am restless and I have reached my end-
trying to get some where only to see my wheels spin.
Going around and around trying to figure it all out-
To maintain something I was freely given and cast out the doubt.
Worn out and broken I finally understand-
God’s righteousness can never be reached though my efforts as man.
Why look to myself to achieve all that He asks-
When He’s freely given me Christ to achieve such a task?
Of experiencing His faithfulness when I wanted to quit-
Of receiving His goodness when I learn just to sit?
In His mercy which drew me from the start-
And let His love by what perfects my heart!
The one thing that never changes is the goodness of God.
The goodness of man will ebb and flow like the tide- failing to ever measure up to the standards of man.
But God’s goodness will keep us in His favor because His goodness is what led us to Him in the first place, and His standards are the only ones that matter.
The one thing that never changes is the faithfulness of God.
The faithfulness of man will falter when self desires get in the way.
But God’s faithfulness will keep us in His will- for His desire is to see us succeed.
The one thing that never changes is God’s mercies- as the sun comes up in the morning, so His mercies are renewed day by day.
The mercies that mankind can offer always cease when pride taketh hold of the heart.
But God’s mercy never fails. It leads back to repentance when we find that we have fallen.
The one thing that never changes is God’s love- it is as constant as the cross and as consistent as the Word.
The love that man can offer will never measure up to what we long for; it changes with circumstance and fails to always go the distance.
But God’s love abounds to the very depths of the human soul; it compasses our understanding; it supersedes our abilities to grasp or fully understand it.
I am so thankful that the character of God never changes. He is always good, faithful, merciful, and full of love.
Man’s character can never stay consistent unless it constantly abides in the character of Jesus Christ because He is love; He is mercy; He is faithful; He is good – consistently, unconditionally, and eternally- perfect.
The hope of this man lies in the perfection of Jesus Christ- so only in Him will I boast.
The one thing I can never attain on my own is the righteousness of God- because I am man- and man always changes. The only constant is Jesus Christ…His righteousness is the only way.
I am thankful that the one thing than never changes is God’s righteousness – not only is He the perfect God- He has righteously provided us with a perfect path to His righteousness- He has perfectly done it all. In His goodness, He provided us atonement for our sins before He spoke creation into existence.
In His faithfulness, He gave us a perfect Savior.
In His mercy, He allowed Jesus to die on the cross in our place.
In His love, He gave us the promise of salvation through faith.
In His character, He stands by His Word- this I know I can depend on every promise within it.