Broken to be Transformed
"Waiting on the Lord" Series
by Sarah B.
from Virtuous Daughters, April 2017~Volume 17, Number 1
“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)
True words indeed! The shattered remains of once-beautiful hopes...the memories of things past...the crushing grief of an arrow that pierced our tenderest and dearest desire (Lamentations 3:12). The path seems so painful and narrow that we can barely breath (Lamentations 3:7). Will the pain of this dark night ever pass?
The disappointment of a hope deferred, a broken relationship, or even engagement is not uncommon—although not many talk of it. Yes, we read countless courtship stories that turned out beautifully. But how many stories do we hear, about the years of waiting, tears, shattered hopes, courtships that did not end in marriage...? No, those aren’t the “they lived happily ever after” stories people like to tell about. And they certainly are not what we would chose to be part of our story. However, God is the One Who ultimately writes our life stories. Who can say unto Him, “What doest thou?” (Job 9:12) Our wise Father has a plan larger than our brief life spans; He is weaving us into a framework vast as the universe, in the way He sees fit.
Trusting God with a hope deferred—while we know and trust that God does work all things for good, from our human perspective, sometimes it seems that there’s no way this could possibly be good! We feel the pain...wonder what went wrong...and ask why did we have to ever meet “him” to start with? If we would have known this would happen, we would have avoided it all from the start! Why? Can any good come of this?
Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes! Even amidst all this rubble? Yes--“that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:7). In the softened soil of a hurting and aching heart, God purifies and conforms us a bit more into the image of His precious Son. The facts we know about God sink down into the depths of our soul, and we experience the reality of His love, strength, tenderness toward us. We bear a little of the suffering of Christ (Philippians 3:10), and we give thanks that He is touched with the feelings of our weakness as our High Priest (Hebrews 4:15). What a glorious thing it is to learn more of Christ when walking with Him hand in hand through the valley. If this is the eternal result of an earthly trial, then how can our hearts not but echo Mary, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38)?
James 1:2-3 tells us, “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” It is so important to be patient, pliable, and surrendered in these trials. God does not waste pain in our lives, but is using it to accomplish His will for and in us—which is the working of patience (Romans 5:3). Patience is accepting a difficult situation from God without giving Him a deadline to remove it. If we run from the pain, we will squelch the work God wants to do. Impatience does not hurry God up; it slows us down. It stops spiritual growth and fruit. However, as we bear patiently, the Lord will bring forth abundant fruit!
During a trial, we must choose to cling to the solid promises of our Father by faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We may not understand why a certain trial happened; some situations are unexplainable, some are frustrating, some require much forgiveness, some require a deep-rooted trust in parental wisdom (Proverbs 21:1)—but all require the choice to trust our loving heavenly Father. Ultimately, we don’t need to try to figure it all out. All we need to know is that this is the particular means God has chosen at this particular time to sanctify us. To purify our feeble love for Him. To keep our eyes on Him. He teaches us what really faith is—He brings a distant concept to a minute by minute reality.
There isn’t a definite definition of what "faith" is in the Bible, but rather its results. It is looking. In the Old Testament, the Israelites looked to the serpent and believed in God for healing. Today, we look to Jesus for salvation. Hebrews 12:2: "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." We believe He does what He has promised. Faith is simple, and God has equipped every one of us with what we need to have faith in Him—simply looking to Him. So simple. We don’t "force" ourselves to have faith in God in some psychological act. We simply look to Him! What a comfort this is, when we feel keenly our inability to even "crawl" to Him for strength. As we make a practice of looking to Him, it will become natural for us to live by faith (Hebrews 11:6). This quote by A. W. Tozer really describes faith well: “Faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God. Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him.”
Walking by faith in a trial is an on-going choice. Even when we do not feel like it, we must believe the promises in Scripture. Verses such as...
Psalm 84:11: “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” I choose to believe He is good and does good (Psalm 145:9), as I obey Him. “This” was not the “good thing” God wanted to bestow for my own spiritual well-being, and He has something better in store.
Matthew 7:11: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, knows how to give good gifts and is doing so, even in this trial!
Isaiah 30:18: “Therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted...” God will receive glory in this suffering. I choose to trust He will continue to be gracious to me, despite my failures. I will hope for the blessing He will bestow to those who wait patiently (Psalm 37:7).
God’s truth will help us navigate the barrage of doubts, temptations, and emotions we face. It is a treasure trove of comfort (Psalms 73:26, Isaiah 25:4, Hebrews 4:15-16, Romans 8:32). I have been especially blessed by a study in the Psalms of God’s blessings to those who wait, obey, and trust in Him. The Scriptures truly are a Rock to cling to!
And how we need something that is sure and steady, to equip us for the critical battle: the battle of our minds. Sometimes those constant thoughts are our worst enemies...it is just so hard to forget and move on. One minute, we are fine—whoever said being single was hard?! The next moment, something reminds us of those dashed hopes and we’re in a puddle of mental tears: I just can’t do this another day. Here we face a choice. We will either cave to our feelings, or we will anchor our hope in our loving Father. The choice is one or the other. Only we can make that choice—but everyone around us will reap the consequences or benefits. One guarantees bitterness, grief, weariness, discouragement—the other leads to peace, trust, and a safe Shelter from a tsunami of emotions (Psalm 46).
How does this work? First, we must be prepared to encounter these thoughts and feelings that will pop up—for they will. A flashback of times together in the past. An overwhelming wave of loneliness. That moment when you’re happily making dinner, and it hits you: I could be married right now, cooking a meal for two. If we realize these things are going to come up (at the most inconvenient times), we can prepare ourselves. How? Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” I’m sure you are familiar with this verse, but if you really study what it says, it’s incredible. God’s Word gives us all that we need to fight this battle of the mind. We can have Scriptures memorized, even verses that address specific doubts and emotions, so that we can immediately turn from untruth to pull out our Sword—God’s Word. We as believers can’t live in a world of second guessing, giving in to ever-changing feelings; it will only bring pain and doubt. God is sovereign, and we must choose to delight in His truth and will. Once we have refuted those thoughts with God’s Word, we can turn to prayer or singing aloud. Make yourself a “plan of attack” for this battle! We have to be vigilant to filter everything through Philippians 4.
But, we wonder--how do we pick up the pieces of shattered dreams, and move on after God has shut a door? We don’t. We trust the One writing the story. He alone can transform those hopes and dreams as we wait patiently on Him. Job 5:18 says, “For He maketh sore, and bindeth up: He woundeth, and His hands make whole.” The only right course of action is to continue in obedience; as Elisabeth Elliot advised, “Simply do the next thing.” We leave the burden of figuring out the future to God, and we put our hands to the work at hand. Is it faithfulness in our duties? Is it doing the laundry? Big or little—do the next thing. We cannot allow a trial to become an excuse for slacking in our Biblical duties as a Christian, daughter, and sister.
I’ve certainly experienced times when the “next thing” doesn’t feel like enough direction; times when today’s duties seemed mundane and fruitless. I remember a few years ago, I was cleaning the house one day, feeling like I was just treading water in life, not getting anywhere. The Lord caused me to realize that even if there was only one reason God had me in my home that day, it was enough. I needed to wake up thinking, There is a reason God has me here today. I’m going to get up and find out what that is—by fulfilling my duties and looking for opportunities to bless my family. This thought helped me to be obedient to the Lord through those difficult months of weariness. I couldn’t see at the time what God was doing with my life or why I was needed in that place. Now I can, and I am grateful God’s ways are much higher than ours. But we don’t always understand or feel that truth. We just have to be obedient.
II Corinthians 1:4 says the Lord “comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” This is so true. It is incredibly healing to encourage others who are in need or going through difficulties; we are able to share with them the comfort we have received of the Lord (2 Corinthians 1:4, I Thessalonians 5:11). The more we focus on serving others, the less we feel our own pain. Romans 12:12 tells us: “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” Serving and encouraging others is an important source of healing and comfort.
Ultimately, in difficult seasons such as hope deferred, we must come to the place of realizing, “God is worthy and able to be trusted with these hopes.” Trusting the Lord does not necessarily mean the pain goes away overnight, but it does mean we find divine and eternal purpose in that place of brokenness. Not a millisecond of pain is wasted in our lives. By God’s grace, our trials are meaningful. What great comfort our hearts find in the promise that our afflictions are working for us an exceedingly great eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17)! Trials are a tool our Shepherd uses to purify us as gold, to offer us up as an acceptable sacrifice to God (Malachi 3:3). Dear sister, never, never think for a moment that He does not care about your sorrows. Jesus not only bears our grief (Isaiah 53:4), but He also is afflicted with us in our affliction (Isaiah 63:9)! He knows, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (II Corinthians 12:9). Therefore, “lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,” for “if thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.”
Gorgeous stained glass windows are composed of thousands of pieces of colored glass. Clear glass sheets are simple and plain, but by the careful wisdom of a glassmaker, they are colored, broken, and then crafted together, to create a masterpiece design that filters the sun’s rays of light. The results are breathtaking. In a greater way, the Lord breaks us, so that He can transform our hearts to reflect His Son’s glorious light and beauty. “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory” (II Corinthians 3:18). Let us look to Him as He crafts us anew, and thereby be transformed into His image!
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