Six years ago a good friend of mine was suddenly killed—I still feel tears in my eyes when I talk about her. Now her sixteen-year-old son has posted an insightful piece that I’ve asked permission to re-post. I praise God for insight like this in one so young.
To 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. – Is. 61:3.
This verse is my testimony from the past couple months. God has been teaching me about struggling in valleys of life, and how we respond to those things. In my case, I’ve been struggling with sin.
I seemed to always have a heavy spirit about, well, everything. It seemed like I was always getting things wrong, not necessarily in school or things like that, but on the inside. It seemed like I was constantly struggling with not being selfish, not being prideful, not seeking the respect of man, not being lazy, not getting wrong thoughts. . . . You get the picture. These are real things that we struggle with, but it seemed like these problems just kept popping up all the time; like I kept falling and failing time after time. And as much as I desired to not do those things, I did them.
So I’d admit my sin to God and confess. But eventually those confessions became just words to me because they didn’t change my heart. Instead, I just tried harder not to do the bad thing. But that just made the problem worse. By the end of every day I was so down because of my failure that I had basically given up. And thus, I was down nearly all the time.
But God has been giving me comfort and showing me that these problems are things that we struggle with our whole lives. We don’t overcome them in an instant and for good. Sanctification is a battle, a good fight. But in the fight He’s been teaching me that it’s not right for me to become entrenched and obsessed with battling those things. He’s been teaching me that physical effort and strength is worthless. The important thing in our struggles is faith. That’s why in 1 Timothy Paul advises Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.” So He’s been teaching me that I’m completely inadequate, and I need to trust in Him when I’ve failed. I need to trust Him that He knows my heart and will help me stand back up and defeat the problem.
The other thing that He’s been teaching me is basic: giving it over, and devoting myself to prayer and praise. And that’s where the verse at the top of the page comes in. It tells us to lay aside our struggling and mourning. Cast our pain and anxieties on Him. And obviously when we’ve failed at anything, we’re not going to feel good about it, so I’ve learned to start singing and praising Him.
There are two different responses to our problems: faith or fear. Repentance or arrogance. Surrender or physical effort. Prayer or worry. Praise or anger. Ultimately, we need to stop our anxiety over any problem, even if it is a real problem. God’s been showing me that we need to turn around, repent, entrust the problem to the Lord, ask Him to show us how to defeat it. If we’re confused, we ask Him to show us the way. We then need to devote ourselves to prayer for grace and strength. Then we praise Him. That He might be glorified.