Waste: 1. The act or instance of using or expending something carelessly, extravagantly, or for no purpose.
I’ve almost finished reading Ps Steven Furtick’s book Greater and Chapter 7, titled “Wasted Faith”, has really resonated with me.
Ps Steven writes: “When God asks you for something and you don’t get anything back, it can feel like a sacrifice. Or it can feel like you just got robbed.”
As that one sentence jumped out at me I realized that all the disappointments of the past still cause me pain.
During the past few years as I journeyed through a long season of doubt and disappointment, time and time again I was baffled as to why it seemed like God showed up in a dramatic fashion (as they say in the Emergency Department, “with lights on and sirens blazing”) to orchestrate tiny details of other people’s lives and yet when I needed Him most – when I was at my most desperate and vulnerable – it seemed like He had gone missing. Absent. Silent. I felt lost, abandoned and forgotten. I felt like all the years of faith had been a waste.
And I felt robbed.
Robbed not just financially but robbed emotionally and spiritually.
I had sacrificed so much over the years for God, for the church, for ministry and for people and it felt like I didn’t get anything back in return. And that hurt.
I don’t know how many times during those three years I prayed and the rain didn’t come. I burned my cows and I burned my plows and I was left with nothing other than smouldering remains. It felt as though I had been left destitute on the sidelines while everyone else got on with their lives. Everyone else walked around victorious, triumphant, favored and blessed. I walked around in misery and despair, trying to paint a positive picture and keep the smile pasted on my face pretending everything was “fine” when really I felt as though all the years I’d sacrificed in faith were wasted.
Now that our season has ended and I have picked myself up and washed off the lingering and invasive smell of smoke, I still have many unanswered questions. The biggest one is this: Why? Why did we have to go through what we went through? What was the purpose of all of that?
Ps Steven answers my question in a way that I had never considered until now.
He says that the journey towards the ‘greater’ life I prayed and believed God for would be marked with setbacks and suffering, tragedies and triumphs. He says that sometimes it will seem that just as your faith gets stronger, your situation will appear to take a turn for the worse. Oh, how I found that to be so true! Sometimes I would pray in faith, act in obedience, feel strong and full of trust with a firm belief that finally I was about to receive my breakthrough…and the miracle still wouldn’t happen. Again and again I would go forward for prayer in church and walk away empty. Faithless. The rain didn’t come and the ditch I had dug stayed dry. Sometimes, even after I’d burned every cow and every plow and done everything I knew how to do, all that I had left was a sense of disappointment in God. A feeling that God has failed me. Let me down. Again.
So for awhile I gave up. And as I’ve blogged in the past, I tried to walk away. Away from God. Away from my faith. Away from church. Away from Christian fellowship and friendships. Away from everything I knew to be true. I didn’t want to bother to believe in Him again. Trust issues? Yep. Major Big Time.
The truth is, I prayed in faith for something to happen and for a long time it didn’t. And because of that I believed that there was no purpose in having faith in God. It felt like an extravagance. It seemed like having faith in a God who was not
hearing listening answering my prayers was a total waste of time and energy and effort.
But Ps Steven says: “Suffering is not a detour on the road to greater. It’s a landmark. Discouragement is a marker, often not of being on the wrong path, but of being on the right one.”
Oh I need to print this out and stick it somewhere prominent and read it every day. How true! I might have suffered (a lot) during our long season of disappointment but I’m still on the road to ‘greater’! I’ve just taken the scenic route! The detour He took me on went past so many landmarks but I walked past them and never noticed! (Probably because at times He had to drag me kicking and screaming with my heels dug deep and my eyes closed!) Each time bitter disappointment and discouragement rose up in my heart I should have marked that spot with an ‘x’ so that later I could look back on the journey He had taken me on and see how these markers had become the stones that formed the road that I’m now on.
One thing I have learned is that the road to the ‘greater’ life in God is not linear and straight. It is not neat and ordered. (Oh how my Type A personality would love it to be that way!) The road to the ‘greater’ life is full of more twists and turns than the Great Ocean Road. It goes up and down and sometimes even around and around.
Next time (because unfortunately I know there will be a ‘next time’) I feel lost and alone and robbed and out of touch and out of control and when I feel like God has totally forgotten me, I will look back on those markers of discouragement on the road and I will be reminded that God has remained faithful. He does see the big picture and He will walk me through to the ‘greater’ life He has planned for me, always. With that wonderful perspective known as hindsight, I can see that God isn’t deaf! He was actually just collecting each little measure of my faith and causing everything to work together for good for His ‘greater’ plans and purposes for my life.
One day I will still ask Him: “Why?”