by D’Anna Lundstrom

As I’m writing today, I’m preaching to myself. That’s not odd, right? Speak it until we believe it. Believing it in our heads is not good enough, not when it comes to this beautiful, hard fight of choosing faith over fear, courage over discouragement, rest over resolving, peace over planning… It’s not good enough until we get the believing down into our bones, our muscles, our blood, so that it can begin to fill all the hollow, empty spaces where hidden, slow drips of poisonous unbelief taint our peace and compromise our joy.

If, like me, you feel like most of your life is lived in the valley rather than on a mountaintop, take heart. Down on our knees looking up is a great position to be, for this is where we grow, learn and mature. This is where we stay aligned with our Father who longs to be in deep relationship with us. Perspective is very distorted from a distance looking down. Things seem smaller and often blurry. We seem larger than we are because everything else appears so small. This is a false illusion that feeds into the hungry mouth of the enemy who wants us to feel larger than life and in control. Control is a very seductive, insidious illusion; a funnel cloud waiting to unleash its wrath on a misguided life.

In the midst of valleys, I find that those days are sometimes more about fighting to remember and believe what I know, than perfect rest. On those days, I constantly have to ask HIM, “Dear Jesus, help me believe.” Life is messy and painful. I am weak and am under constant attack of an opportunistic enemy who wants to turn my gaze to the world and its problems, my problems.

We all find ourselves in these difficult spaces from time to time. Spaces where we have to fight harder than other times. In these moments, I have to intentionally and frequently align my gaze to the Father. It is where we fix our gaze that our hearts follow.~Julie Sparkman It’s not always an easy thing to do. It is like intense exercise, exercising the faith muscles, exercising dying to self. I have never liked exercise, but I know it is the only way to get the results I desire. The same applies with my relationship with The Father. It is hard work. It takes intentionality, focus, and time. It is by no means an efficient relationship, but I know it is effective!

So as I sit here this morning fighting, I say to you fight with me. Keep building those faith muscles. It is a struggle from the cradle to the grave, and we are all in the same fight, our arenas just look different.

This fight I’m speaking of, the tribulations that sometimes riddle our days; their presence should be of no surprise. The Bible is loaded with warnings of the trials we will suffer this side of Eden, but blessed are we that these warnings are always wed to hope. Psalm 90:10 says: The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty if we have strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

…And we fly away. As fighting believers, we can take heart in the fruits of our suffering. Every painful experience is another pruning of our thorny exterior by our loving Creator who longs to make us beautiful in HIS image. The things of this world, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, they are all fleeting, but the refinement of our souls has eternal value. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

So again I say to you, as I am preaching to myself, Take Heart, it is in our weakness we find strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is in our most desperate times that we find our most dedicated Savior who longs for us to lock eyes with him, and fight to keep our sight fixed on him, and not the spawning storms around us. When things look dark, when all hope seems lost, look for him, HE is near!

Many times I miss Jesus’ presence in my life due to expectations and cloudy vision. Expectations of an answer, expectations of time frames, expectations of how the situation will play out… Expectations are thieves of souls, so I’m learning. Their fallibility robs us of innocence and joy. They are the dressed up impostures that follow us around promising us great things, but they never make good on the plans they devise in the minds of believers with misplaced vision and trust. We may be looking for a certain answer to a situation that is not changing, or we are seeing different outcomes than we were anticipating. God has an anointed time for everything, and Jesus himself tells the apostles that in the book of Acts: “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.” (Acts 1:7)

Often I overlook Jesus’ abundant fingerprints all over my life because I am too busy looking for HIS one big handprint. I am still learning that, yes, sometimes God works in big and mighty ways, but more often he works in slow, intentional, small ways that are designed with a specific purpose and perfect timing. Also, I am learning that every time I loose sight of belief, and take charge to corral things into my story, time frame or outcome, I am never standing in victory at the end. Defeat and discouragement are always obliged to greet me with heavy arms at the finish line of a race I run by myself.

I see only the bottom step of the immense staircase of my life. The Author sees the whole staircase. (Isaiah 55:9) Why would I want to be the one in charge? Because I, like you, and everyone one else from time to time forget WHOSE we are. Isn’t it great that HE knows this of us? Isn’t it great that we are welcomed to run back into the forgiving, soft, robed arms of a loving Savior every time? This makes me take a deep breath, and taste such freedom there. Will you rest with me in HIS strong, gentle arms and let him whisper over and again, My child, I’ve got this! (Luke 15:20)

Today, or tomorrow, or when you are residing in the valley again, fight with me to choose encouragement over discouragement. James 1:2-4 says: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it opportunity for pure joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

When I exercise my power to choose, and choose right, I find immense freedom in God’s sovereignty. It is like a large, shady, oak tree under which we can find great renewal for our weary souls! Let’s keep fighting to be alive in freedom, friends!

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