I think I've talked before about what I know to be one of my biggest emotional barriers to faith and trust in God - that question of God's goodness and his provision in my life.
After about 10 years of avoiding the question, maybe 3 years ago I went away for a week of silence at this retreat center (for all you extroverts, I'm sure this seems extreme... even for me it was long). After a couple of days there, I was actually willing to admit that those were my questions. I think before that, I'd been afraid to verbalize them. I know that God wasn't afraid of those feelings and questions, but for some reason, I hadn't been willing to own them.
So anyway, this year has been one of the hardest of my life. I saw some people who were very close to me suffering intensely, and it affected my life to such a point that I didn't see how it was ever going to get better. I'd been living with the belief that I had to take care of them. Going back to that question of whether God is good, whether he will meet needs. I was not really believing that he would. So I was trying to take care of everyone around me. What would happen if I didn't? How did I know that God really would take care of them?
I think I mentioned before my disillusionment with the belief that God will always meet all of our needs because that hasn't been my experience. On the trip I mentioned, I allowed myself to ask those questions, and I even allowed the truth of the goodness of God to penetrate my mind. But it didn't get all the way to my heart. So when I hit on hard times this year, I couldn't allow the needs around me to go unmet. So I was trying to meet them all.
I'm sure you can see what I couldn't - disaster waiting to happen, right? There's no way I can do that. There's no way that's possible. I'm human, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), and I totally have limitations.
By this fall, I'd gotten myself to a point of total exhaustion. I was barely able to pray beyond "God help me," and I couldn't see how I could keep going on that way. That's because I couldn't. With the help of a spiritual director, I was finally able to see what I'd been doing and why it wasn't working.
But then there was the question of what to do about it? The question still remained - if God doesn't always meet everyone's needs supernaturally because he's expecting to use people, but sometimes his people aren't listening, then how can I sit there allowing peoples' needs to go unmet, knowing how devastating that can be?
The answer for me came from John 15 and the picture of abiding in Christ. I can only control my own behavior and my own willingness to hear the call of God in my life. I can't meet everyone's needs, not even all of one other person's needs. So instead of trying to do that, I had to learn to just be faithful and obedient to what God was calling me to do. I had to abide in him and his word in my life and be obedient to the things he was leading me to do.
This brought up another question, which is how to know what God is calling you to do. More on that tomorrow.
For now, I just want to say that I am so thankful that God walked through this with me. I am so thankful that I'm beyond the darkness that this year brought.