This morning I felt crumpled on the side of my current mountain, before I hauled my cookies out of bed. The rain slashing against the windows felt like a special effects choice perfectly suited to my inner gloom. The heroine stumbles and falls again. This time she stays down, arms and legs splayed out, face against the shale, shaking in the cold. Can she get up? She’s been lost on this mountain for years. The core of her will to live is depleted. Her bloody hands lack strength to push herself back up. The urge to quit grows stronger than the desire to keep climbing.
She knows all she dreamed of will die here if she doesn’t move. The kernel of hope that good things wait for her on the other side of this mountain, lifts her head. She pulls her arms in to lift herself once more time. The pain of putting weight back damaged hands causes her to cry out. She manages a kneeling position in the same moment the dark skies open with hammering rain, as if nature itself wills her to stay down.
Long trials are desperate places where the enemy does everything to flatten you. For decades I faced a mountain much larger than my current one. Troubled innards created a world of health problems that made me sick in bed, hospitalized or performing life’s activities in pain and illness. I climbed through everything from kidney stones, gall bladder and colon attacks to intense muscle pain wrongly diagnosed as spinal meningitis. Chronic sinus infections and bronchitis threw their hats in. I damaged my liver with excessive ibuprofen and my digestive tract from endless antibiotics. This started in college and didn’t resolve until my forties, when God led me to wise doctors. I’m healthier now than my entire twenties and thirties.
During those years, only my family and close friends knew my battles. Most people knew nothing about my struggles to get out of bed each day and stay out. I prayed, believed God and His word, asked others to pray over me and still this mountain loomed, malevolently. No matter how hard I climbed it seemed I couldn’t get over it, through it or around it. How did I keep myself from giving up? Why did I continue to hope and believe that God’s healing promises applied to me? Two words: God’s grace.
I put my resignation on God’s desk many times. I’d shout at Him during quiet times and say, “I quit! I’m done. I’m out! I know you heal others but I’m not seein’ any evidence that those promises are for me.” Each time, God lovingly slid my pitiful little papers back over to me. He’d quicken a verse in my spirit or I’d sense His presence in a special way. Sometimes He’d give me a breakthrough with one specific health issue and resolve it. Godly friends and my husband spoke apples of gold (Proverbs 25:11) at perfect times. My Good Shepherd tailored sermons, Bible studies, books and prophetic words to capture my thoughts and speak to me directly in dangerous moments when quitting seemed reasonable. See the thing is, even when I wanted to quit, I didn’t turn my back on God, His Word or His people.
Are you discouraged by a particular problem that’s been confronting you for years? It’s okay to feel incredibly discouraged at times, as long as you don’t turn your back on the only One who can change your attitude and your circumstances. In 1 Kings 19 we find the great prophet, Elijah, in a state of deep despair. The evil queen, Jezebel, set herself against God and His people as soon as she entered Elijah’s turf. For a man whose heart belonged entirely to God and Israel, I can’t imagine the angst he felt as Jezebel erected pagan idols and worship centers all over the land, with her Israelites husband’s approval. (Imagine your church becoming a brothel.)
If that isn’t dreadful enough, she hires assassins to murder Elijah after his showdown with Baal’s prophets. Instead of life getting better for the prophet after God showed up miraculously, his feud with Jezebel becomes worse.
Elijah runs away and turns in his papers to God. He actually says, “I’ve had enough Lord. Take my life.” (I Kings 19:4) God ministers to Elijah and restores him to ministry, but He doesn’t remove Jezebel from the picture right away. God is still speaking to those who’ve been flattened by a long-standing challenge.
Do your part in the natural. For Elijah, it meant to eat something. For me, it became a search to find doctors with pertinent insight and knowledge. Listen to the everyday things God is telling you to do and do them. They are important.
Keep moving forward. God put a knowing in me that answers could be found so I kept looking even when some doctors didn’t work out and I experienced physical setbacks. Elijah traveled forty days and nights, uncertain of any guaranteed outcomes. What sometimes feels like random activity to you is not, from God’s perspective. Walk through doors he opens; take opportunities he brings and listen to His nudges, even though you are still climbing your mountain. Don’t make your mountain into an idol by allowing it to consume all your personal resources.
Go deeper and listen for the quiet voice. God sent an earthquake, powerful winds and fire, but He didn’t speak to Elijah in them. He whispered. When I quiet myself and listen to God, I can hear Him. He gives instructions, fresh insights and new marching orders. Elijah went from this point to recruiting Elisha. What are you missing because your mind is too occupied with the discouragement of a mountain that seems stationary?
Stay connected with God and His people. Elijah began his partnership with Elisha instead of laying down and dying. I am deeply grieved for people who give up on God, His word and church attendance because they don’t see their situation changing fast enough. Don’t let go of the very things God may use to blow up your mountain!
Position yourself in faith, not fear. What is controlling your thoughts and actions? You want it to be God’s promises and His thoughts spoken directly to you not continuous worry over the size of your mountain and its challenges. God’s hand is moved by faith more than pity. (Matthew 17:20)
At some point, your mountain will be cast into the seaif you don’t give up (Mark 11.23). God designed a breakthrough for you. Ask Him for the gift of faith so that you can believe it before you see it.