I was listening to a podcast sermon this morning with my Bible study (thank you David Landrith and Long Hollow Baptist Church for broadcasting your weekly services), on the book of Luke Chapter 1. Reviewing the differences and similarities between Zechariah and Mary in regards to their obedience to God.
If you haven't read it, please do. If you have and know the stories then follow along while I share my thoughts. In talking about Zechariah and his obedience to God's will he doubted what the angel of the Lord had spoke to him. He flat out ask how in the world can he be sure this will happen. A doubting thomas you might say. His response and disbelief rendered him speechless as the angel of the Lord silenced him until the child he was promised was born. Wow....that would make you stop and think twice about questioning the Lord huh?
Then there's Mary....being told in a sense, the same scenario as Zechariah (you will have a child), and her total belief and faith exhibited in her response. Granted the children were definitely going to be different as Mary was to give birth to the Messiah. But how open and willing she is to be God's servant just because an angel said so. Zechariah on his years I'm sure being a wise man, it's our nature to question things that seem impossible. Or perhaps things that seem like something we're not worthy of (in our eyes) or that may seem beyond our reach. Why do we just give up or fail to accept what is right in front of us as Christians? The greatest and most awesome power in the universe is waiting for our obedience, just to bless us beyond measure. Don't get me wrong.....I'm not talking about traveling the Olsteen Road to Oz here.... I'm talking about being in line with God's will for our lives, putting Him first and foremost, and the desires of our heart will become what HE desires most for us. We start seeking HIS will, His favor, HIS blessings in whatever form they may come. Not cars, riches, homes, better jobs, etc. I'm not saying there isn't a time to pray for provisions (not abundance), but don't get me sidetracked.....that's a note for a whole 'nuther day. ;) lol
Mary was young, possibly 13-14 years old when an angel tells her she will become the mother and give birth to the Son of God! WOW. She will face giving up the man she loves and wants to marry (Joseph), along with enduring ridicule, being shunned, and letting go of any possible promise of a future with any husband or family due to the circumstances and fall out she'll experience by having this baby. After all, not everyone in Mary's day believed in the Messiah. What about the naysayers that would gossip or spread the news of a young Mary that has stepped out on her Joseph before every getting married. She's had sex out of wedlock, she's been with another man.....she is having a baby. That went against all the rules. Yet her only response was "How can this happen? I'm a virgin?" She never questioned that it would she simply just didn't understand the way it was going to play out. Pretty bold for a young woman huh? God doesn't mind our questions we ask of him but it's our disbelief that is separates us and causes Him sadness.
I think God not only doesn't mind our questions, but he welcomes them. It is our opportunity to learn more. To seek His guidance when we ask how. But when we flat out question His authority and His word to us is when we find ourselves in trouble. When Mary was told "Nothing is impossible with God" her only response was "I am the Lord's servant, May it be done to me according to your word."
Are you a servant of the Lord? Do you seek His will when you question something? Do you search for what pleases HIM when times are tough or things don't seem to be going your way? Or do you pray for things to get easier and seek the desires of your own heart? Because heaven knows what we desire is often more times than we care to admit, not what He desires for us.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. So do you have faith that He will answer you when you pray? Do you have faith that if you are obedient that He will see you through the struggles and triumphs you face? Time and time again I can see where God has worked miracles in my life over the last several years. I can look back and recall times in my life when I thought I was seeking His will and still fell flat on my face. But when I truly look under the magnifying glass, recognizing my own faults and distance and DISobedience is when I can see that I turned away from Him.
I share at every opportunity that is appropriate of a specific time when I know surrendering myself to His will made the hugest and most life-changing impact on my life. Those who know me, know that my marriage (other than the last 4-5 years) has not been one that fairy tales are made of. Of course every marriage has ups and downs, good times, and really ugly times (if most will admit it). Granted some of you are lucky if you start off on the right foot including Christ in your marriage and it makes it much easier to handle the lows when (and if--assuredly) they come. My husband and I had separated, for what I knew was the final time in 2008. About the time the Fireproof movie came out (coincidence? I think not...), and it couldn't have portrayed a truer picture of our lives. Neither of us focusing on each other but on our own desires and wants in life. (My husband always like it when I point out his were not the same as the movie...computers and online porn were NOT his distraction of choice.) lol ;) We both had hurt one another beyond repair (or so I thought). But Eric had finally surrendered his life and had truly started living out the Fireproof movie in showing me love and patience. To which I blatantly refused to accept. I could only see a change I thought was to get what he wanted. To get his way....yet again. I wasn't about to be deceived or allow myself to be hurt any longer. Not to mention hurting him (at least now I can see that....). So the kids and I left. I had grown to hate with a passion the one person God had designed specifically for me to love. My heart had hardened more than I ever could have imagined toward one person who at one time I put so much faith and trust in. There was no turning back.
After several weeks of 'surviving' on our own the kids seemed to be adjusting (or so I thought), hopefully much better than I was. I was still miserable. Probably more so than before if the truth be known. Living in the same house with someone you despise, at least you can get away and choose to communicate when it's convenient. Sharing errands, responsibilities.... but when you live in separate homes there is only a greater frustration of not being able to contact someone when it's their turn to pick up the kids, or when a bill needs to be paid/settled until you can figure out how to totally separate things. Frustrated and disgusted were understatements. I admit too, I'm not one to thrive in loner situations. I need companionship. I was designed with another person in mind. I was never able to sleep peacefully. If I managed to make it to my bed, I would lay awake for hours replaying events in my mind to the point of greater frustration or worse yet....despair and depression. Crying myself to sleep became the norm. Until one night.....when I thought I couldn't stand it any longer, you know those moments we all have but are afraid to admit to.....when you think you must seriously be on the brink of losing your mind over fear, depression, responsibility.....I did it. I surrended everything in me to my Lord. I started out on my knees at the edge of my bed, begging for mercy. Begging for peace to come. Begging for relief from the brokenness inside me. I stayed there praying until my knees started to hurt and my feet went numb. I crawled into bed still praying. Still crying. I know I prayed and prayed until I passed out. But the last thing I remember praying for, was God's will. Not silently in my head, but verbally, as loudly as I possibly thought I could speak without waking my children (or the neighbors). Please God, if I've ever needed a sign that you are listening to me....it's NOW. I admitted I was no longer able to decide what was best for me. I was no longer making wise decisions for my life. After all, looked how screwed up I (we) had made everything. I was hurting myself, Eric, and more importantly my children. I surrended to God my life again and promised then and there that no matter what He would have me do....for the rest of my life....weather I understood it or not, I would do. (Remind you of Mary? "I am the Lord's servant, May it be done to me according to your word.") I needed just this once, to be shown in a way that I would no doubt know it was Your will not mine God. Some call it a sign, I don't care what you call it. Just a moment that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was God telling me to do it. Not my decision.
I had repeatedly told myself that God wouldn't want me to be unhappy. God wouldn't want me to be in a relationship that wasn't healthy for me or my children. But I also knew God wouldn't be happy with me giving up and letting go of a family and a marriage that I thought He had designed from the start. In reality....God doesn't want me to be unhappy. But my happiness comes on His terms, not mine. God wouldn't want me in a relationship that isn't healthy for me or my children, that's when we should seek Him for help and a way to make it work. And God wasn't happy that I was giving up on my family/marriage. I know because the next morning when I woke up I had the most incredible feeling of peace and assurance. I woke up with an instant feeling of wanting to be at home, with my husband. I missed him. Terribly. Like I missed him when I was 16 and he left for two weeks on a band trip. Like I missed him when I was 18 and he went away to college while I stayed behind in school. I missed him more than anything I can ever remember wanting for. And at the same time, for a split second, I started to say, "Really God?". But I stopped myself. "I am the Lord's servant, May it be done to me according to your word." I had ask God to help me, to show me. He did just that.
I told the kids to eat breakfast without me, I had to go home to talk to their dad. I'd be back shortly. I was a bit confused at how this person I had grown to hate and despise so much was now someone I wanted to see, couldn't wait to be in his presence to share what I was feeling. To confess that I wanted to come home, to fix whatever we had broken. Together. I prayed all the way to the house that Eric would hear me. Not just the sound of my voice, but my heart. When I got home, he seemed a bit shocked (not to mention how he had learned to distance himself from me after rejecting his 'love dares') but as I shared with him what I knew to be true. His only words were, "I love you. God answered both of our prayers."
To make a long story short (this was supposed to be a 'note' not a novel), the kids and I soon moved home (within about two weeks), and we began our road to recovery. I won't say it was easy at first, but it felt right. It felt secure. Our lives have never been the same. The last 4-5 years of our marriage have been worth the prior 20 of struggles and trials. Putting God's desires first for us both and for our family has made a tremendous impact that I never dreamed possible. God does still work miracles. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD. And I have learned what obedience looks like. I have learned how a husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church, and how wives submit (don't come unglued girls until you understand this in the right context) to their husbands. Our lives are running smoothly, our marriage was restored, our children came to life again like never before. To God be the glory.
So I ask you......if faith in God is demonstrated by our obedience. What is your life saying to others about your faith? What does obedience look like in your life? I serve a risen Savior and it's my wish that everyone could experience the same joy and comfort this brings to my life in their own. Nothing can compare. Maybe someday I'll make this note into a novel.