This past weekend, I found myself frustrated by not just one, but a few people quite close to me, who appeared to have reverted back to their former ways. I became quite saddened and disappointed in myself for failing them and not being there when they needed me the most.
One of the people, who I hadn’t seen in about a year, was devout in attending church service every Sunday. Turns out, he and his wife had stopped going altogether. The words he said to me when I asked haunted me for the rest of the weekend—“well you haven’t been in my life to encourage me.”
I was devastated as this pattern turned into a theme throughout the rest of the weekend. Was God trying to tell me something?
If He was, it certainly reminded me of how the job of a believer is to help keep our fellow believers on track, as Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5…
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
But even though God chooses to work through believers at certain points, it’s ultimately up to the Holy Spirit to motivate someone. So, I knew that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, as this was way beyond me at the same time. It was all part of God’s plan. Somehow. Someway.
Well, that’s a difficult thing to accept when you care so much for others.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn throughout my spiritual renewal is giving up complete control to God—trusting Him in His timing and not my own. All the moments I’ve spent investing in the lives of those He places before me is good and all, but I cannot rest in good works alone. As Ephesians 2 teaches us…
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
But if it’s the good works we do, that we expect to make a difference are not in line with His will and His timing, then there really is nothing we can do to change that. Even if it goes against our own understanding and logic.
God often works outside of the realm of human thinking, that we often come to appreciate and understand in hindsight, and rarely in foresight.
So I found myself praying, “Lord, how do You want me to pray for these people that frustrate me? These people that I’ve invested so much of my time in to help them put their lives back together, encouraging them to turn towards you. And yet, when I turn my back, they are so easily seduced back into their old ways. It leaves me hurt and disappointed and feeling like I have failed You. And it frustrates me, O Lord. It makes me filled with anger on so many levels, and even on some level at You. Why do You not step in and set their hearts on fire for You? Why do You continue to let them drift away from You at the moments they need You the most?
“I know I should trust You, regardless, but it is not easy. Especially with the heart you created me with—a heart filled with passion. I realize it can be used for good or evil. So please Lord, keep me in line with Your will and Your timing. Help me not be consumed with hurt, or anger, or disappointment at Your timing, but to be encouraged by You along the way. Help me to trust in Your timing (and not my own timeframe), to rely on Your abilities (and not my own), and help me to be patient with them (and more forgiving of their imperfect nature that is made perfect in Christ). Transform their hearts along with mine, so that we are not attracted to the world, but to You and You alone to meet all of our needs.”
And strangely enough, after writing these things out in this post, I suddenly became reminded to keep faith in His faithfulness—to keep trusting Him amidst the choppy seas. Or as GotQuestions.org explains better…
“One command God often gave the Israelites was ‘Remember’ (Deuteronomy 8:2 and Isaiah 46:9). When they remembered all God had done for them, they could more easily trust Him for the future. We need to intentionally remember all the ways God has provided for us and delivered us in the past. Keeping a prayer journal can help with this. When we recall the ways God has answered our prayers, it equips us to continue asking and expecting answers. When we come to Him in prayer, we know that He always hears us (1 John 5:14 and Psalm 34:15). He provides what we need (Philippians 4:19). And He will always make everything work together for our good when we trust Him with it (Romans 8:28). We learn to trust God’s future faithfulness by remembering His past faithfulness.”
Bingo. That must have been what God had been trying to teach me.
In other words, when I feel disheartened, I need to remember what God has already done for me in the past, and to let that light shine the way in my darkness, as I wait eagerly to see what He’s going to do next.