Coming up in a few weeks at my Bible study is Sharing Day, where we will be sharing what we’ve learned and how God has impacted our lives through this year’s study of Genesis. What I am going to be sharing is from all the way back in early October, one of my first weeks attending. The focus that week was on Genesis 3, the Fall, where Adam and Eve committed the first sin (with several sins to follow in attempt to cover their guilt), events that completely altered the course of human history. Oh, but even then, God had a plan to rescue us, and he rescued me a little bit too, on that brisk October day.
I had just muddled through a difficult year, adjusting to new motherhood alone in a new state after having moved to Minnesota a week before my son was born. I had come out on the other side of a bout with postpartum depression and was feeling more hopeful, but having a needy little one as my constant companion with rarely a break was hard on this introvert mom, who just wanted some time to herself to shower alone, go to the grocery store alone, or really just do anything alone. I loved my son and was so thankful to have him, especially after two health scares and knowing I could have lost him either time. But with all the grandparents two states away and my husband’s long days at school and long nights of studying, I was feeling worn.
This weekly Bible study I had just joined was the first time I was spending any regular time away from my son, who was a year old at that time, and it was a stretch for both of us for me to leave him in the nursery. While I sat in the large group lecture, I fought off guilt for leaving him somewhere he wasn’t used to and for handing the poor nursery workers a child who cried every time I left him. I’d start to wonder if I was doing the right thing or if I was being selfish by taking this time for myself, but I knew God had led me to do this study, and he usually brought a reminder pretty swiftly during those moments of doubts.
This particular day we were discussing Eve and why she gave into the temptation to disbelieve what God had told her and subsequently disobey his command. I was paying casual attention as the speaker talked about how Satan twists the truth to make God sound unreasonable and controlling, encouraging us to doubt God’s goodness and love for us. She went on to ask, “What do you feel God is withholding from you?” and that captured my attention. I tried to answer the question in my mind, but I didn’t really feel like God was withholding anything from me. Sure, I felt like I was lacking help with my son and freedom and time to myself, but I didn’t really feel like it was God who was withholding it from me. But then I realized, if I really believe what I say I believe about God and his involvement in my life, I cannot separate him from what I am experiencing. Living a life of faith means viewing everything that happens in light of him. Anything less is akin to keeping God in his Sunday box and not allowing him to infiltrate the rest of my life, and that’s not the kind of worship that is pleasing to him, nor is it the kind of faith that has any real power for my life.
So right there I made myself come to terms with the fact that by allowing myself moments of self-pity over my situation, I was essentially believing that God was withholding from me something that I needed. I was doubting his goodness. And you know what realization struck me next? Right in that very moment I was attending a Bible study, alone, one that was refreshing my heart and mind. Some wonderful people were volunteering their time to take care of my son for two hours every week so that I could have that time and be anchored in my faith. And that day I had even gotten a glimpse of Elden smiling as I had walked past the nursery, a gift to reassure this mom’s tender heart. The very things I was doubting God’s goodness for, he was already giving me in that very moment. Oh, how he loves.
I also knew that he had permitted this season in my life, directed my path to a place where I would lack the help that I wanted (that I wanted, not that I needed) so that he could grow me into someone who could handle pressure and hard work a little better. And today as I look back on that day I see it even more, because my husband has just signed on to join the Air Force and I know there could be a time when he’s deployed and I am really going to need the strength to function, and hopefully thrive, as a solo parent for a while. Even more importantly than preparing me for the challenges that lie ahead in my life, he wants to make me more like Jesus.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…” Romans 8:28-29a
My job is just to be someone who loves him, and then he will orchestrate everything I go through to be for my good. I know he is good. I’ve seen it over and over again in my life. And if I intentionally bring that knowledge into my daily struggles, it will transform them, and transform me. That’s what it is to live a life of faith.
I wasn’t being “holy” by keeping him out of my situation any more than if I had been blaming him directly. Maybe it seems more spiritual to buckle down and deal with things yourself, but it’s not in the least. As someone in my small group discussion pointed out last week, the saying “God helps those who help themselves” is one of the least biblical sayings there is. What the Bible actually says is that God helps those who believe him. I don’t want to separate him in my mind from what I am going through. He is in it all, and if I live as though he’s not, I am essentially living as an atheist. If I believe he is distant, then I believe he is weak, selfish, not paying attention, not powerful enough, not good. When I call myself a Christian but live in a state of discouragement and stress, I am sending the message to those around me that God is unreliable, that he’s not faithful enough to be trusted.
Oh, but he is faithful. Even in the valleys, he is faithful.
“He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” –Psalm 91:4