Saturday, March 5, 2016

Out of the Mud and Mire

"I feel as if you have thrown me into the mud!" Car rides are often times when I can be "alone with God", even with six kids in tow. On this trip to the library I brought my complaint before Him.

For the past two years I had enjoyed the wonderful fellowship and support of a local congregation called New Covenant (NC). Going to church was my greatest joy. Each Monday I started counting down the days until the next Sunday. Suddenly God removed all this as my husband announced one day, "Next week will be our last service at NC. I have taken on the pastorate of another church in town." I was surprised by the depth of grief this news evoked. In fact I cried every day for seven months straight.

Don't get me wrong - there were some wonderful people at this church, but this congregation was made up of 6 - 15 attendees, most of whom were well past retirement age. With a brand-new baby, a two-year-old and a four-year-old, as well as three older kids, I usually did not last long in the service. Squirms or colic quickly got the best of the little ones and we spent most of our church time in the unheated Smurf-blue nursery. I felt abandoned, even worse, cast out by God from the Christian fellowship I longed for. In my sadness I tried to focus on the Lord, pleading with Jesus to help me through this lonely time. I did not realize how often I just cried out, "Jesus!" until my two-year-old started mimicking me.

So here I was on the way to the library, feeling like I was sinking deeper into the mud. On arriving, Ashley, a friend who had recently moved back from California, greeted me excitedly, "I just found the most wonderful church: when you walk in, you immediately know you are home - it is called New Covenant." My church! "Lord," I prayed between gritted teeth, "You are rubbing that mud in my face, now! Please give me some kind of encouragement."

Little did I know that God was already graciously answering this plea: Four days later a lady from NC delivered a prayer blanket which another church member had made for me. This kind sister had not only crafted this blanket, but had also prayed for me while she was knitting. More meaningful, even, than the blanket was the accompanying card which read, "Sometimes flowers have to work their way through a lot of mud to find the sun." God had heard my grumblings and he had answered! He saw that I was deep in  the mud and gave me hope that I wouldn't be there forever.

So, does God throw us into the mud? Job certainly thought so when he moaned, "God has cast me into the mire!" (Job 30:19) But Job also realized that God is at work, even when we feel abandoned: "on the left hand, when He is working, I do not behold Him; He turns to the right hand, but I do not see Him. " (Job 23:9) Job knew that God would bring good from his suffering, "He knows the way that I take, when He has tried me I shall come out as gold." (Job 23:10)

God definitely used this situation in my life and was hard at work during a season when I assumed that He just did not care. My heavenly father would never send me away like my earthly father did (see my post from Dec. 2015: "God pierced the darkness on Christmas"). God brought me to a place where I felt cast out by Him in order lead me to the truth: "whoever comes to me I will never cast out." (John 6:37b) I realized that my circumstances were not the mud, but rather the lies I believed about God. In learning to trust in His goodness, this flower had found the sun!

"I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on the rock, gave me a firm place to stand." (Ps. 40:1-4)