“Jesus loves me this I know…” I sang this song over and over to myself last night. I made up my own words to remind me of His faithfulness, goodness, and forgiveness. But mostly, I reminded myself of His love. In the darkness, I needed to be reminded of the light of His love. The darkness is great, but the Light is always greater. I cling to His promises and to His love for me.
When sin stains our lives, we are reminded that we are powerless to overcome it and to protect ourselves from it. We cannot insulate ourselves from its effects. We cannot afford to pretend that it's not all around us. “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Today, it seems he’s prowling after me. I feel his teeth ripping at me. I feel the weight of his massive paw upon my chest. It's suffocating. I gasp for air but can gain only a shallow breath. He knows my weaknesses. He has been observing me as he stalked me. He waited and when the opportunity presented itself, he pounced wounding me deeply.
How grateful I am that his strength does not compare to that of the Lion of Judah. He will come to my defense- without fail. Of this I am sure! The Lion has numbered my days. The devil cannot take my life- he can only inflict pain.
“Jesus loves me this I know…” I know because He floods my heart and mind with His truth. John speaks of Jesus as the vine and believers as the branches.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. … Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. …for apart from me you can do nothing.” John? 15:1-5
God prunes the branches so that they may produce fruit that is plentiful and nourishing. He prunes us and it totally sucks. The knife cuts deep to remove the flesh that is diseased as well as the surrounding healthy tissue. The pain is excruciating. We may wonder if we can bear it! The amazing grace of it is that His hand is never closer than when He’s pruning. Though He may feel far off and we may feel forgotten, He is near, and He is able to heal and to strengthen any branch to make it more fruitful than ever before.
There is a scene in Forest Gump where the main character is so overwhelmed by grief that he just begins running. He runs day after day. He runs to forget the pain, to escape, to get away from the overwhelming heartbreak that has overtaken him. I wonder if you have ever felt this way? There are times that we just want to run away as though we can outrun the pain or fear or disappointment that has overtaken us. We don't want to feel the pain! The feel of the wind in our hair seems refreshing and free. Fleeing the pain seems so much easier than facing it. Facing it seems impossible! It seems too much to overcome. Running seems easier. But running away isn’t easier. Running away is isolating.
Running is just moving forward one step at a time. Left, right, left, right. Just moving forward, doing the next thing, taking the next step. This seems doable. But where can we run? Where can we run except to the Lord?!
We are commanded to run the race that God has set before us. We don't get to choose the race. We don't have control over the terrain. The course, at times, will be rocky and long. We cannot see the end, and we have no idea what the end will look like. The race will test our perseverance, our endurance, and our faith. We must each ask ourselves these questions when tempted to quit:
Do I desire to be faithful more than I desire to be comfortable?
Will I quit before the end and miss the blessing of experiencing God’s faithfulness in a new way?
Do I trust that God is able to give me all I need to persevere?
When God allows us to face trials, quitting cannot be an option. If we allow it to be an option, there will be a day that we choose it because it seems easier. With God, it is always worth it to persevere! Always. I remind myself of that over and over- when I fall, when my strength fails, when the path is steep and requires more of myself than I want to give. I CANNOT STOP. Those are the moments that I will lean more closely into my Savior and allow Him to carry me through. Those are the days and weeks where I am able to experience His great power… if only I cling to Him.