Last week at the November Forum, we talked about God's promise of Protection. Christina Walker, former Executive Director of Samaritan's Village came and shared about how God keeps his promise to protect us . . .
I can look back on my life and see God’s presence and protection even in my earliest years, and how his protection did not be necessarily prevent or protect me FROM calamity, trauma, chaos and despair, but it protected me TO be a conduit and minister of His story and His Grace and His mercy. He protected my ministry- before I even had one.
My life was an absolute mess. The trajectory of my life was the same as the many generations before me- despair, godlessness, brokenness. It was during one of these seasons of deep depression that a friend saw my hopelessness and offered to pray for me. We sat outside a Starbucks and she simply said- can I pray for you? And I thought- “eww” “awkward” but said o.k.- as I was pretty hopeless and resigned. She prayed that a fire would rise in me for the LORD. She prayed much more than that, but that is all I remember from the prayer.
Over the next few weeks my heart softened. I began attending church by myself. Read the Bible and this hunger for God just grew. I was baptized about 4 months later. I was all in for God.
That was about 13 years ago. Honestly- that doesn’t feel so long when I say the number- but it feels sooo far away when I think of who I have become. Honestly I often forget who I was. Where I was headed without the Lord’s great providence. Without His pursuit and His protection.
As I said at the beginning of my time, in my story I see God’s providence is not in protection from, but protection to. It was protection to be called according to His purpose. Protection to find my hope and rest in Him. Protection to count it all good. If he had protected me from the sufferings of this world, would I have been as prepared to serve Him in the capacities He has called me to? Would I have sought Him? Would I have been open to His Lordship over my heart… through which he would he have then protected me from the hope of eternal life?
I believe God is fully in control of my life. In Job 42:2 Job says to the Lord, “I know that you can do all things, that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
But also that God does not prevent us from experience affliction. Paul during his ministry experienced much persecution as he spread the gospel, but also that pesky thorn in his side… something that he asked God to remove multiple times to no avail.
Romans 8:28 promises us that God uses all things for our good. ALL THINGS. Not just the good things. ALL things including the thorns. Paul saw this in the scripture passage 2 Cor 12 where he says the messenger sent by satan to harass him, the thorn in his side was there to keep him from being conceited.
I acknowledge, my will, my sinful nature led me to many of the wounds I have experienced and also to much suffering I experienced. But I can see God’s protection and provision woven throughout my life in the form of thorns such as Paul describes. Thorns that keep me close to God. Keep me at the foot of the cross. Keep me aware of my sinful nature, my foolishness, and my deep need for God’s grace. The trajectory of my life is completely different today with Christ as my Lord than it was 13 years ago outside that Starbucks with the world as my Puppetmaster.
God’s protection now seems most often to keep me close to him. Ever aware of my dependence on Him. Protecting me from pride, idolatry, and self-sufficiency. He protects me from complacency in my faith, but not from pain.
Since becoming a Christian, I have still faced loss and suffering. Suffering will continue. The Bible speaks directly to the provisions and meaning in our suffering, not if we suffer, but when we suffer.
Romans 5: 3-5 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Though heartache and loss are inescapable and some wounds will never be healed this side of heaven, I am now grounded in the hope of WHO OUR GOD IS- what He has promised us as his children, and the future we have in heaven. I didn’t have that in my childhood or early adult years.
He has protected me for my good but more importantly for His Glory. He has given me a deep fire in my gut to live a life that serves Him. He has given me a testimony that can be used to speak of His grace and His love. A testimony that illustrates both our need for His forgiveness as well as the hope that can be found in Him.
I like to live very transparently. Actually I just sorta can’t hide who I am and my story. I know what is professionally appropriate to share in the counseling room as I counsel women, or when I served the residents of SV. But I also know the vital importance of sharing imperfections with those around. To share our testimony and God’s pursuit and love of his children.
I had one of the most meaningful interactions with a friend who struggles with shame, despair and hopelessness. I shared my life story… in more rated R details, with her over lunch one day. The good, bad, and the very ugly. She told me she had no idea what I had been through in my life. That she couldn’t picture me before I knew Jesus. It wasn’t the first time I had a moment like this when sharing my testimony, but it was a great reminder of why sharing the way God has pursued and protected us, both before our faith and after our Christian life began, is so important.
God has comforted me, and that comfort has enables me to love and encourage, and sometimes comfort others. The blessing of participation in sharing the love of Christ with someone hurting gives meaning to my life story- and the suffering I had and will likely continue to experience. It has given me not only an incredibly testimony, but a beautiful opportunity to minister to others.
2 Cor 3-10
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God.
I think of Joseph in the bible. What others intended for evil, God will use for His Glory and His purpose. When Joseph is speaking to his brothers- whom sold him into slavery- Gen 50:20 : As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”
God has used all that I have been through, and that my family and parents have been through, to mold me into the woman I am today. To create in me a heart that longs to serve Him and to be used according to His purpose.
Romans 8: 28- and we know that for those who love GOD all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.
Let us never forget that the ultimate protection that God has given us is the death of his son, that we would be protected from the judgement of our sin and have eternal life with Him. He has not granted us protection from death in this world. But instead from eternal death.
Romans 8:18- For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.
Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
It has been my testimony, I believe, that has made me as effective in ministering to other women. Meaning, the work that God has done in me—the wilderness he plucked me out of, the promised land he has brought me into.
Because I have seen great darkness and despair, I am not afraid to sit in it with others. Because of the sin I have committed, I am not shocked by the sin of others… and I judge far less. (Well, on a good day.)
Because of the life I was living, I am sooo grateful for my God’s great love for me that I long to share the new life I have in Christ, with others who feel hopeless… and alone.
Because I have experienced joy even in the midst of deep pain and fear, I can testify to the hope and the provision found in our great good and loving God.
My advocation to serve women, comes from feeling beyond blessed by our great God. It is an overflow. It is a blessing, and in many ways, an example of God’s great protection. I still struggle with shame, self-doubt, and anxiety. But God has given me the blessing of His comfort to sustain me and a calling to share that comfort and the Hope found in Him with others.