Praying Through Darkness

The  depth of our faith is revealed in our darkest hours. Standing on the victory side of prayer makes it easy for me to advise those facing difficult times to have faith, just pray the worries away, and trust that God will bring something good from the pain. I don’t have tears streaming down my face as I give this advice. I’m not tormented by confusion as I weigh the choices that need to be made. Nor am I standing before God, completely vulnerable, raw in my pain, crying out to Him with my heart in my hand.

crossThat is until I get to the crossroad again. For a brief moment, the obstacle(s) I’m facing overshadow the memory of victory that was clear as day moments earlier. I enter the “dealing with it” period where I walk around like a zombie, feeling as if my heart is dead, feeling as if my joy has been sucked from me, and foolishly telling myself that “this is it – a dead end.” My mind lies and tells me to “get ready, the days of sunshine are over my friend, I told you it was only a matter of time.” It’s as if a switch gets flipped and within seconds my mind goes from being optimistic to pessimistic.

What happens during dark times when the fire in my heart has dimmed because I am running low on hope? I fall into the doubt trap – things that were clear get fuzzy – and I disconnect from my relationship with God.

How then, do I become a Christian living with Christ?

shatterI recently had an earth shattering discovery; the more I understand my faith, the closer I get to God, the farther I run from Him when I’m filled with shame. In anticipation of dark times, I started the “prayer against darkness” bank. When I’m happy I pray out of gratitude, love, celebration, and all the euphoric emotions that accompany those moments. I also pray for the moments where prayer may not be easy, asking God to forgive me and help me even if I do not ask for His help. Undoubtedly these are the times that I need it the MOST.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

This is the verse I use to fill myself with shame and avoid God when I’ve acted unloving when I’m scared, when I’m confused when the battle to “trust God” is lost to my need for control. I continuously tell myself “I know better!” I’ve shared my testimony on overcoming difficulties through my faith, I’ve given my friends tips on how to deepen their relationship with God, and I’ve organized a few of our women’s ministry meetings/retreats at church.  How can I fail this way? People are watching, so much for your good works – I guess I’m a do as I say not as I do kind of gal after all!  I have advised people to act the exact opposite of how I’m acting. It’s shameful to admit but at times it feels good to hold on to the pain, anger, sadness or resentment a little longer. I don’t want to apologize for FIRST or let the other offender off the hook by coming clean and mending the relationship. There is no rewind button to undo the damage, therefore I have to come clean, I have to admit that I was hurt and retaliated! I have to admit that I am scared the worst will happen, scared of having my heart broken, or scared of the sorrow that may accompany my next life lesson (I’ll always accept God’s will – but it doesn’t mean it’s easy or pain-free).

sadI remove myself from God’s light. I hold myself to a standard of PERFECTION. When I fail – I think it’s an all or nothing thing and give up on myself. What’s the point, I’m never going to get it? I focus on my failures – not how far I’ve come – and give myself no slack. I let myself down, I let God down, and I let down those who are close to me and have witnessed the offense. I don’t want to own up to what’s required of me to fix the situation. I don’t want to deal with past hurts or vulnerabilities that have been locked away which may have influenced poor decision making on my end. I cannot bring myself to face God and admit that I’ve taken His blessings for granted and I am acting like a spoiled child. I feel shame in admitting to God that despite Him blessing me abundantly, giving me more than I could have dreamed of, my sinning is causing me to destroy the very things I love and want for my life.I have to admit I have the power to fix things, change things, but my pride stands in the way. How can I stand before God and talk about pride when His son was stripped of everything for the sake of our salvation, yet I am not willing to do the little that is being asked of me? I can’t trust the unknown right now. I find it hard to accept the things I cannot change. This is too big of a topic to just “pray through it.” I’m failing God by being an emotional mess. For some time I avoid prayer – I avoid facing God – because I’m ashamed.

This isn’t the way I’d hope to act.

This isn’t the way a Christian woman is expected to act.

happy-womanWe are forgiven and redeemed because of Jesus Christ, but I punish myself anyway. God understands we need saving, we need His help, He doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but I expect it. I cannot stumble, I cannot fail, I cannot be human, and I cannot make mistakes! Being scared does not go hand in hand with being a Christian, right? I’m not supposed to be anxious, worried, scared, angry, or confused. I’m supposed to be calm in the middle of the storm. The more I try to get myself together the more I fall apart, the more I’m filled with shame, and the harder it is for me to get closer to God. The shame is magnified if the issue is petty. When I manage to pray I start with “God I’m sorry that I’m coming to you for this, but I need to let it out. Actually, God, it would be pretty awesome if you turned a deaf ear right now and didn’t listen to this ungrateful daughter of yours. You can do anything, so please delete these comments from the record.”

I am temporarily shaken. Truth be told – I’ve had the wind knocked out of me because life has been more good than bad – otherwise, I would have been accustomed to this feeling of standing in the dark.

Then something beautiful happens. I remember who I am in Christ.

I am God’s creation, I am human, I am imperfect, and I am meant to depend on God.

jesus-isHe’s the only one who can fully understand me, He’s the only one who can feel the pain that words fall short of describing. He’s the only one I can never hide from, even when I want to turn away from Him because of my shame. He’s the one still trying when I’ve given up. My battle scars, imperfections, or insecurities don’t make me “broken or damaged” as society would like me to believe or more importantly as my MIND would like me to believe. I am BEAUTIFUL because I am made new by God’s love. God’s love shines through my scars and cracks. I may have failed, I may be scared, but what I do despite my failures and fears makes all the difference. I am a sinner who knows God, but more importantly I am a sinner who is known by God. He knows I’m going to fail, He knows I’m scared, and loves me anyway!! This battle is not unique to me – this has been going on from the beginning of time – the Bible is filled with examples!!

I need to forgive myself and accept that I’m not perfect. I need to remember that wisdom doesn’t equal a worry free-pain free-stress free life. Wisdom doesn’t mean I’m done learning or have everything figured out. Wisdom doesn’t mean I cannot fail and should shame myself when I do!

The pain I feel is spiritual growing pain. No one said it would be easy, it’s perfectly normal to be a mess every once in a while. This is where I can learn, regroup, and develop my character. Now when I see someone filled with this inner turmoil – I won’t say “just dust yourself off and keep going” – I’ll pray for them and I’ll have compassion because I know  praying isn’t always easy.

Being a Christian woman means embracing God’s grace and accepting my weaknesses for it is in them that I find the strength of Christ.

 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

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