The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Psalm 23:1-3
Most people that know me would say I’m always laughing, making jokes, and smiling. Some probably think I’ve never seen a bad day. It’s only because God has delivered me through so many traumatic life circumstances that I’m able to have joy.
Can I be honest with you guys today? This last month has been really hard on me. Within a very short period of time I have gone through loss after loss after loss. My family went through a difficult situation where all of our lives were in danger. My summer plans to do my dream internship in New York fell apart. I lost thousands of dollars of savings. My cat ran away. A close friend of 7 years was choosing not to speak to me when I needed her most. My phone was stolen (later returned). I was being gossiped about. And most recently, my little chihuahua that I’ve had for almost half my life passed away unexpectedly. You would think it would stop there but it doesn’t. I could go on and on with this list but I just want to give you a picture of my life lately.
Before any of this happened, I was already feeling tired,emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally. So when all of this happened, saying I was tired was an understatement. I was exhausted. There were a few nights that I just wept and poured out my heart to God. I told him I don’t know how much more I can take. I was starting to feel like Job. In the Bible everything was taken from Job suddenly. Servant after servant came telling him his family, his wealth, his animals were all gone. Later his health deteriorated as well. Everything he had was ripped away from him.
After my dog Princess died, it felt like salt in an already open wound or like being kicked in the stomach when I was already down. The demonic attacks on my family and I were getting more and more personal. I sat in my room praying to God “Lord, please don’t take everything.” He didn’t answer me, but brought to my remembrance what he spoke to me at the very beginning of 2014. While everyone was making New Year’s resolutions I prayed and asked God what this year would be like. He revealed to me that this year would be like Psalm 23. He said that I would watch each verse unfold in my life. When I read the scripture I wasn’t really looking forward to the whole darkest valley thing.
At one point or another each of us will go through a storm in our life. It’s not a matter of if but when it will happen. Some experience more extreme storms than others. Sometimes they are brought upon us because of our own choices other times they are simply an attack of the enemy. However, we are not entitled to an explanation as to why we go through the things we go through. God’s ways are sovereign and his thoughts are so much higher than ours. If God allowed it, there has to be a purpose. He will never allow us to go through something that is more than we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13). Even if something terrible happened and it was not a part of his plan, He can turn it around for his glory (Rom.8:28).
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me. Psalm 23:4
Through each storm in our life, God will always provide comfort. The Israelites were having a hard time after escaping slavery in Egypt. However, God still comforted them. When they were stranded in the wilderness, God provided manna as food for them. In Hebrew the literal translation for manna is “What is this?”. When we go through trials in life God provides comfort for us and we say “What is this?”. It could be exactly what we need, but we still question God and ask him to explain himself. We look at our circumstances and say “God, what is this?” We want to Him to explain why we are going through these trials. But God doesn’t owe us an explanation. Sometimes he will give us one but not always. God is so wonderful and mysterious we couldn’t possibly understand everything He does. When he doesn’t give us an explanation we still need to trust him because He’s faithful. If everything is His, then it was never ours to begin with. It’s important to release everything to Him. We are only stewards of his possessions.
“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”
Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad? Job 2:10
God gave me a revelation while in the midst of my own storm concerning Psalm 23. After reading this portion of scripture over and over I realized that in order to receive a greater measure of anointing, blessings and favor, you HAVE to go through a dark season with God. If you look at the order of the scriptures in Psalm 23 first God establishes that he’s with us and he’s guiding us. Then, He walks with us through the darkest times of our life. Then immediately after we see in the next verse it says “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:5-6.
The day my dog Princess died I took my other little chihuahua Tito for a walk. I have had Tito for even longer than Princess and they were companions for several years ever since Princess was born. I knew Tito was starting to realize that Princess had passed and was getting very sad about it, so I thought a walk would get his mind off things. Tito who is usually a very vocal dog was silent as we passed people and other dogs in the neighborhood. I remember that day being very dark and cloudy outside because it was about to storm and rain. At the beginning of our walk Tito was excited to be outside, but as we turned around to go back home he was starting to lag behind and look discouraged. I said to him, “Come on Tito. We’re almost home.” He looked at me and had a burst of energy to keep going, but soon was tired again. I picked him up and held him while he laid his head on my chest. We finished the rest of our walk that way.
Suddenly, God showed me how He does the same for us during the darkest times of our lives. Sometimes we don’t know it, but the trials are about to end and there’s breakthrough on the other side. Tito didn’t know we were almost home. We hear God’s voice and try to keep going but it feels like we can’t. Just like I held Tito, God holds us when we feel that we have no strength left. Notice I didn’t pick up Tito and run home. God doesn’t pick us up and run to hurry and get out of our darkest valley. He lets us know he’s present. Because He’s Lord, we don’t have to be afraid. It doesn’t matter what the circumstance is. God can handle what we go through. We just need to relax and rest on His chest. In my arms Tito was safe from other dogs that came chasing after us. In God’s arms we’re safe.
After all of Job’s tests and trials. God blessed him with twice than what he had before! A lot of times God wants to use these trials and storms to bring promotion and bless us. Even though the enemy meant to destroy us, God uses our situations to position us to be blessed even more and to bring him glory. We have to maintain the right attitude though. God wants to be just in blessing us with more. It’s so easy to get a bad attitude, lose your peace and miss what God is doing in this season. When you’re going through a storm, it’s a critical time to draw closer to God and strengthen your relationship with God.
Here are practical ways to maintain your peace during a storm. One is to magnify God and not the problems. To magnify means to enlarge something. By constantly dwelling on the problems you start to make them larger than they really are. God is so much bigger than any circumstance. Also, don’t feed fear. Don’t give in to fear and fearful thoughts. By feeding fear you are diminishing your faith. Ask God to cover you in His love because His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Declare scripture over your life. If you feel like you are becoming fearful, remember that faith comes by hearing. So declare out loud what the scriptures say about you and God’s promises. Another way to maintain your peace is by worshiping. When we worship the Bible says His Spirit inhabits our praises (Psalm 22:3). Our praise literally changes the atmosphere. Encourage yourself by remembering all the times when God has done something for you and shown himself faithful. And finally, count your blessings and be thankful for all that God has blessed you with even while you’re going through a hard time. If you feel yourself getting bitter and discouraged about your circumstances, it’s because you haven’t released it to Him. Let go. It’s out of your control, so just let Him in to comfort you. Bitterness and discouragement can fester when we listen to the lies of the enemy. He’ll tell us we’re alone and that God doesn’t love us and things are only going to get worse. But when thoughts like that come up quickly cast them down in the name of Jesus. Don’t listen to them. Most times when we go through a storm we have an open wound from that. We have to acknowledge the pain and not just brush it off. Pour out your heart to God. Tell him how you’re feeling. It’s okay to cry. It’s not a sign of weakness. Even if we are weak, in our weakness Christ’s power and strength is made perfect (2 Cor. 12:9). The quicker we admit we are hurt to God, the quicker we are able to start healing and be comforted by His presence. Ignoring a wound and listening to lies causes bitterness and discouragement. Another way to combat bitterness and discouragement is by putting on the full armor of God (Eph. 6) and stopping any negative thinking and speaking. Negative thinking and speaking is only going to encourage your pity party. With everything in you fight the negative thinking and speaking.
I know a lot of you reading are going through a storm right now. It may seem like it doesn’t end, but just like the night has to end, the sun will rise again. Don’t let the devil steal your peace. Keep your eyes fixed on God and not the circumstances. He’s taking you deeper to places of trust where you’ve never been. He’s preparing you to be effective in your calling. Learn what you can now. Don’t miss what God has for you in this season. Because he loves us, we can trust him. We may not understand why everything happens, but the one who does is leading us. Sometimes God strips us of things to bless us with better. Allow this night season to refine you in your character. Surrender everything to him and just rest. His promises are true and you’re going to make it.
.. appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. Isaiah 61:3