My friends, striving has been a big issue for me, one that Abba has been dealing with me quite a bit in this year of intimacy (and I can't believe it's almost been a full year too!). And nothing ministers to our hearts more than when we find out other are walking or have walked similar paths. Our soul wants to know we're not alone. And no matter how long or short you've been a part of this community, you know—we know—we are not alone. We have a rich and amazing community here. And I am so glad we get to hear more wisdom and encouragement from Trish Fuhlendorf. Love you all dearly! ~Dineen
The Snare of Striving
Our lives went from bad to horrible after Stu became a Christian, but for totally different reasons. I remember I actually made a list as long as my arm of all our troubles. This list included, but was not limited to, a huge debt that required enormous monthly payments (leaving us broke each month), us owning a failing company which ultimately landed us in bankruptcy, my husband’s addiction to alcohol which had reached a new level of destructiveness, and finally the Securities and Exchange Commission was charging Stu with fraud and taking him to trial. I showed the list to my newly Christian husband and informed him that we needed to pray through this list often. We had so many huge problems looming over us that we likened our lives to the arcade game, whack a mole. As we attempted to smack down these problems, more and more would surface.
As a woman who loves Jesus, I pressed into prayer. The answer I received when I asked God to alleviate our problems was “not now.” This was not the answer I wanted, so the striving began.
Now here is the definition of strive (and by the way, before I was a Christian, I thought this was a positive trait):
- To exert oneself vigorously
- To make strenuous efforts toward any goal
- To contend in opposition, battle, or any conflict; compete
- To struggle vigorously, as in opposition or resistance
- To rival; vie
I figured that God would start whacking the “moles”, if I would pray differently, pray harder, pray more, and fast fervently. I started reading every book I could find on the topic of prayer. I watched Joyce Meyer lessons frequently, thinking that she would give me the pearls of wisdom that I needed in order to get my prayers answered the way I wanted them answered.
After months of this, I cried out to my sister, Anne (there will be more on this faithful sister in future posts). “What is going on? I’m praying, fasting, reading books, listening to Joyce and NOTHING is happening! What am I doing wrong?!?!”
My beautiful sister said firmly, “Trish, you are striving”. The phone went silent as I thought to myself, I thought striving was a good thing. My heart sank as she continued relaying her very constructive criticism.
Now after reading definitions 1 - 5, is striving a positive trait for a person who knows that God is sovereign over every circumstance? For a woman who knows that “all things work together for good, for those that love Him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)?
Who was I to “struggle vigorously in opposition” to God’s plan for my life? Wow. Repentance quickly followed.
How does Romans 8:28 apply now that we are on the other side of those problems? Allow me to share the result of the most difficult and painful struggle we had to face: Stu’s addiction.
The process of Stu getting sober was excruciating. After years of him trying to stop drinking by his own strength, he finally checked in to rehab after a terrifying 5 day bender. After rehab, he was sober for 30 days and then relapsed over and over again before he finally surrendered his addiction to the Lord.
What was the purpose of this long, drawn out nightmare? Well, for one thing, today Stu and I adore addicts. We counsel them (Stu counsels the addict while I encourage the loved ones), we’ve taken them into our home, we offer paid work around our home for those that are maintaining their sobriety, we launched a Celebrate Recovery at our church, and the list goes on. You see, because it was SO hard for Stu to get sober, we have unending compassion, grace, and love for the addicted. “All things work together for good.”
Here is my take away. When your circumstances seem to remain the same, no matter how much praying, fasting, etc. you do; it’s easy to think that God has forgotten you. But, I know firsthand that He is definitely working and in control of your situation. And most importantly, it’s all part of His plan. Hold fast to Romans 8:28. It’s the promise that brings peace, regardless of your circumstances.
Trish Fuhlendorf is first and foremost a lover and follower of Jesus Christ. She is a wife, married 27 years. God saved her in her mid thirties, then her husband about 10 years later. She is a tireless advocate for the covenant of marriage and has a love and compassion for those in the bondage of addiction. She is a Regional Manager for K-LOVE and Air1, a mother of 2 adult children, loves her home state of Colorado, her 2 big dogs, cooking and exercise (to off-set the cooking).
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