I want to apologize to our 34 DGZ readers if it seems like my voice is monopolizing this space. Running a family blog is a bit like getting a puppy – everyone is down for the idea and committed and excited initially, but in the end it’s mom who ends up walking, feeding and bathing the dog. The rest of the family just poses for holiday pictures with the fully-grown collie that’s “miraculously” made it this far.
As I mentioned a few days ago, we were ministering in Oudtshoorn for part of the month of October. Marshall has been teaching on a series titled “Upon this rock”, emphasizing building a foundation in Christ. My personal reflection and reading time has taken me to the book of Judges, which is a great read for when you’re between Game of Thrones seasons/episodes. Judges is where we see Jael drive a stake through Commander Sisera’s head while he was napping for reasons that are unspecified. Judges 4:3 says that Sisera had 900 chariots and ruthlessly oppressed the Israelites for 25 years. It’s possible (I think) that although she came from a tribe that was supposed to be “neutral” Jael had some Israelite homies that the commander and his men had physically and sexually abused one too many times, and didn’t hesitate to pass up the opportunity to turn his brains to stew when the opportunity presented itself. (Score one against rape culture!)
Jael’s valor isn’t what’s been weighing heavily on my spirit, however. It’s Judges 2:21-23 that has set me on edge. As I’ve been praying with women at various intervals, the idea of praising through and despite the storm has been recurring. I began reflecting on what the causes of some of these trials that we are all going through, and Judges 2 gave me an angle that has unsettled and provoked me. It says:
“I will no longer drive out the nations that Joshua left unconquered when he died. I did this to test Israel – to see whether or not they would obey the Lord as their ancestors did. That is why the Lord did not quickly drive the nations out or allow Joshua to conquer them all.”
I shared this scripture during service in Shack Church on this Sunday, not saying this scripture justified the suffering that anyone who was enduring hardship as a result of some great, irredeemable, but to reflect on it in relation to attitude and behavior. What is your default response to your trials? In the book of Judges, God’s frustration with His people was as a result of them turning back to their sinful ways and rejecting His tenants the moment a judge or a prophet died. As long as there was a prophet who carried and spoke the Word of the Lord, the people were in compliance. The moment there was a gap, they returned to worshiping false idols. It was cyclical. Judges says He did this to test their obedience.
It seems a bit cruel for the Lord to play with His people like we were kittens and his statues were a laser that we are forever chasing after, but I truly see the importance of the exercise, even if it’s painful and frustrating for me as well. My default – or false idol, if you will – is worry. As long as everything in my life is going according to plan, I don’t worry or fret. I am confident in God. I have no doubt about His abilities to perform miracles in my life. In those instances, I can pray and admonish another woman to banish worry, doubt and fear from her life. He’s able! But a few moments after things get a really rocky, I become unsure. I go back to my default, which is anxiety. Anxiety is not of the Lord.
I’ll speak plainly and tell you what I mean. Things have been really tight for is financially these past two months because of a whole matrix of things. Our utility bill this month and last was R6000 (about $500) because this house and the appliances are terribly energy inefficient. We still are paying on our house in Atlanta which has yet to be sold, costing us another $700/month. Marshall has taken a pay cut since he left Home Depot to work for himself, and I don’t have my part time job anymore. I’m just being transparent. (Family: Please don’t call and scold us! We are not destitute and we will get through this.) Are we eating ramen and Spam every day to get by? No…but the buffer I have come to rely on is getting thinner and thinner. I should be praising in these moments – but I’m not. I’m anxious…and I feel like God is watching and waiting for me to get it. He’s testing me to see if even I believe what I say about Him. Am I going to be like Israel and go back and repeat the same mistakes that have driven me to depression in the past, or am I going to obey the Lord and trust Him as His word commands?
This is where I am this week. This experiment in South Africa – doing the work of the ministry when I am not perfect makes me feel like a fraud at times. This week is definitely one of those times. But that’s good place to be, isn’t it? None of us should ever get so confident as to believe that our lives provide the answers alone. That’s what the finished work of Jesus was for…to look to Him and His life for the answers we seek.