“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV
Sitting in a car full of people, waiting for God to tell me what to share with them that day, this phrase, “You see, I can still do something new”, resounded in my head. To be honest, I was like “thanks, that’s pretty catchy, but, ah, what?”. As I meditated on that phrase for a few seconds God reminded me of the year our program and our team had been through. We had seen favour and provision at the beginning and we started strong, but then we had seen huge lack and days where I actually didn’t know what I was doing. I just had to wing it because so many things were just not going according to plan. But that day, the last day of our program for 2016, we had a van full of volunteers. In fact we had so many volunteers that we had a problem figuring out how we were going to get everyone out to our destination. And like that I felt God show me, sometimes, when you’re near the end, you think that because things have been a certain way for so long and you’ve just been able to deal with them that way, that they will never change and you will just have to find a way to accept that this is just the way things are going to be. But even when you’re at the end and you think God probably won’t do anything now because things are closing off and winding down, He can still show up and sprout something new in the most unlikely of moments, in the eleventh hour, on the last day. Even when you’ve BEEN in a season for the longest time and have gotten used to the fact that things are just not going to change, He can still come and do something new.
This may sound obvious to some. But have you ever been in that season where things have just been so difficult, so unclear, so disappointing, so confusing, so frustrating, so defeating and so never ending for so long that you actually just “make your home there” in a way? You get so used to it being that way that you forget to even hope for it to be any different because you get so used to this just being the way things are for you. You sit in the middle of this season and give up on ever believing there will be an end in sight because things just never change, never get any easier, never get any better. When you get to this point it’s not that it seems impossible, but rather that it just seems highly unlikely that God will ever show up, because if He hasn’t shown up by now He probably isn’t planning to…
To be quite honest, and excuse me while I get extremely “bare” and vulnerable, this is the place I find myself right now. To say the last year and a half has been hell on earth for me is putting it lightly. In fact, I would have to say that roughly the last 3 or so years have been my own personal hell. But this ongoing season of struggle seemed to have reached its peak last year and just plateaued there and never came back down to a normal struggle again. From the outside people might say that I seem miserable, difficult or negative, but only a handful of people in my life know the gravity of what I’ve been going through. What you see on the outside is the absolute best I can do considering where I find myself. I feel like I’ve been clawing through life for the longest time, like I’m pushing forward through a sand storm that just keeps beating away at my body, ripping skin here and there and knocking me down at every chance. Every time I think this is finally where God is going to step in and bring something good, it just gets smashed down as if to say “Syke! Nope.” So I gave up hoping for anything anymore. And the problem is, this is where I live now. I don’t see an end in sight and I’ve lost the ability to imagine how it could ever be any different for me. So I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve basically said to God, it’s ok, you don’t have to do anything for me anymore, I’m used to this now and I’ll just make this work. It just seems that I’m just not one of those people He’s ever going to do those things for I guess… Ever been here? Ever been in this place? You might say no, you’re not the kind of person that thinks like that. You’re one of the fortunate ones then. Or maybe you just haven’t been through the magnitude of struggle that would get you to this place, and I pray you never do. But some of us, we end up here. And this is the place I’m talking about, this is the place that I want to remind you that God CAN STILL do something new.
But how will we ever see the day that He does show up if we give in to where we are now as if this is the destination? The things I say next can sound so cliche and “easier said than done”, but I wanted to let you in a bit on my struggle above so that you can know that for me it’s not just some pretty words that look cool on paper but are impossible to apply. I’m IN the thick of it with you, I’m living this with you, but these are the things I’ve had revelations on in this season.
Things to remember when you start to feel that God is done and this is all there is:
- Don’t go back – “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Isaiah 43:18. The first thing we want to do and the quickest or easiest remedy we see to our current place of despair is to run back to the most recent place we felt familiar or comfortable. We conveniently forget all the reasons we left that place in the first place and only the glimmers of happiness stand out to us. We feel like if where we are now is all there is, well then what we had back there was way better and we’d rather go back thanks. This quote always resounds in my head in these moments: “God didn’t help you stand up so you could run back to what knocked you down” (credit to whoever wrote this). I think of the Israelites and how every time they hit a snag in the road, thinking God couldn’t possibly help them out of this one, they immediately wanted to run back to Egypt, even though they were slaves there, because it was the last place they remember feeling familiar. The place you’re in may be unfamiliar, it may seem like a dead end or maybe a never ending story of nothingness, but don’t go back. There is only more nothingness and more darkness back there, nothing good can come from going back. If God wanted you there He wouldn’t have brought you out of it. Keep going forward. How will you ever know what God COULD have in store for you if you don’t keep going forward? What is back there is NOTHING compared to what God quite possibly is still GOING to do.
- Endure – “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Romans 5:3-4 NLT. The work that seasons like these do within us is invaluable. One of the most valuable qualities that a season like this can develop is our capacity to endure. If our ability to remain steadfast, unshakeable, unwavering and strong can be refined, then God can count on us and use us for many important and challenging purposes in His bigger plan. A person who can endure is a very valuable tool in God’s belt. See this season, however long it may seem, as a season of preparation and refining so that at the end of it, whenever that may be, you will be more of the person He designed you to be and ready for whatever He has for you to carry.
- Get that hope back up again – “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 NIV. “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:5 NLT. Trust me, I know how impossible it can seem to stir up hope for things to ever change. But when we lose hope, we lose the battle. Hopelessness is a very dangerous play ground where the enemy gets the upper hand and begins to fill your head, heart and spirit with lies that will defeat you. And that’s all it is. This feeling that this is it, this is all there ever will be, nothing will ever change, this season will never end and the things you once hoped for will never come to be. LIES! That’s all it is. You lost hope and he got in your head and filled it with lies, using your current reality as proof. When that is all it is. Your CURRENT reality, not your permanent reality. Remember what you once hoped for and continue to pray on it and commit it to God in prayer. We show faith in God when we continue to hope for something we cannot yet see and because we know He loves us we can know that putting our hope in God can never lead to disappointment. It may not ALWAYS turn out exactly as we’d hoped, but I don’t think He will ever let us be disappointed. No matter where you find yourself in your season, pick up that hope again, put it in your pocket and keep walking with your head up you trooper.
- Be MORE patient – “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 NKJV. I know you’ve BEEN patient, but sorry, you’re going to have to KEEP being patient just a little more. It’s when we start to get impatient that we start to look for ways to make what we want to have happen, happen in our own way. And this is where the proverbial poop hits the proverbial fan. We make a complete mess and get in God’s way. At the end of it all, IF He steps in and helps us clean it up, He places us back at the place we were just before we got impatient and we have to start waiting and being patient all over again. If you get what I mean? So let’s just skip all that and just stay put, be patient and wait on God’s timing and God’s releasing.
- Ask for wisdom – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 NKJV. If there’s one thing God will never say no to giving you, it’s wisdom. The most immense peace can come from receiving wisdom on where you are in your season and understanding of what God is doing. Wisdom enables you to see things differently and strengthens your relationship with God in the midst of an unpleasant season. Wisdom about your season will help you navigate it more effectively.
- God’s presence is a promise – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NIV. No matter where you are, God is still there. Jesus died so that God never had to turn away from us ever again. And as if this wasn’t enough, He sent His Holy Spirit down to us when He left so that we would never ever be alone again. We would never ever be far from His presence again. We could ALWAYS have Him with us no matter where we were. Where ever you are in your season, you are not far from God, no matter how the enemy convinces you that He no longer has His eye on you or has His hand in your life. BULL!! If there is one thing God has promised, it is that He will ALWAYS be with you.
- Stick to Him and His word – “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.” Josh 3:3-4 NIV. In the unknown stick to Him, His people, His word and His covenant, then you will know which way to go even though you have not dealt with these things or been in this place before. When you are unsure, confused or can’t see your way through the forest follow His word and His people who carry His word with them in their hearts and you will find answers and you will find guidance.
- Leave nothing undone – “As the Lord commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses.” Joshua 11:15 NIV. “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.” Joshua 11:23 NIV. This reference may seem weird and off base, but I am currently reading the book of Joshua, and something that stood out to me in these verses is that the only way Joshua could give what was promised to Israel and enjoy a season of rest there after is because during the season just before that he made sure to do every single thing God instructed him to do. This season that we find ourselves in now is actually an amazing gift if we choose to look at it that way. God has given us the opportunity and time to focus only on Him, on our relationship with Him and on refining some areas that may need refining before He can give us what He has promised or what He has planned to give us. It may just be that He can’t let you progress to the next season and give you what He has for you until you have mastered some things in this season. He may need you to learn how to trust Him in the unknown, He may need you to learn to persevere passed the point you thought was the end, He may need you to work on some issues you have or let go of some things you have previously refused to let go of or He may be using this season to show you and the world that it is His hand alone that brings you through tough seasons and brings the break through. Without this season we may step into what He has planned for us before we are ready, thereby messing it up and not being able to enjoy it the way we are meant to, with “rest from war”. We may enter into our new season carrying things with us that we were meant to resolve in the season before and that will now cause us to continue to fight old battles in our new season that we should have mastered in the season before. I encourage you, in this long and unpleasant season resolve to leave nothing undone. Work on all that God leads you to address in the midst of this season so that when He does release you from it you may leave this season with nothing left hanging or undone, carrying nothing with you into your next, new season unresolved. That there may be rest from war in your next season and that you will be able to enjoy it to its fullest potential.
- This is a journey, not a destination – “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.” Hebrews 6:11 NIV. I think what gets to us the most is seeing this season of lack, of despair and of nothingness as the destination, that this is all it is ever going to be for us, instead of just part of the journey. And a vital, necessary, valuable and rewarding part of the journey at that if we make a point of mastering it before God releases us into the next season. This is after all JUST a season. And you know the great thing about seasons? They all have an end. Especially the unpleasant ones. They may last long, longer than we want them to, but they all have a point, they all have a reason, they all have a goal and they all have an end. So keep navigating through this season with the same determination and diligence as when it started and press on until the very end so that you may receive what you hope for in full and not just in part because you gave up half way there. A new season IS coming.
- Something new can happen at the end, and not always in the beginning – Look at these lyrics: “I cast my mind to Calvary, Where Jesus bled and died for me. I see His wounds, His hands, His feet. My Saviour on that cursed tree… His body bound and drenched in tears, They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb. The entrance sealed by heavy stone, Messiah still and all alone… Then on the third at break of dawn, The Son of heaven rose again. O trampled death where is your sting? The angels roar for Christ the King!” – O praise the Name, Hillsong Worship. Tragedy came on day one. Silence, confusion and despair came on day two. The miracle that shook the earth for all eternity came on day three. We seem to think that “new” and “beginning” are synonymous, that something new needs to always come at the start of something and if it doesn’t then we’ve missed the boat. And when we get stuck into our “day two” season where nothing is happening, nothing is changing, nothing is looking any different and all that we hoped for just isn’t materialising we get discouraged and hopeless and start to feel that all we thought was coming our way was just our imagination. But God does His most important and greatest miracles on day three. You’re only on day two, hold on for day three. God can STILL do something new.
“But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I WILL make a pathway through the wilderness. I WILL create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT