“We’ve taken this to God, and trust us – he’s not going.”
Those were the well-intentioned words I clung to for weeks. From their lips, to God’s ears. I was relieved by their confidence. God won’t allow this to happen. It’s too great. I’m too weak. But deep down, I knew a storm was approaching. As the weeks continued, I fearfully awaited the dark clouds that were coming. And when the phone rang that fateful afternoon, my greatest fear had come true.
God didn’t answer their prayers. My husband was leaving for Iraq.
The months leading up to my husband’s departure were a whirlwind of stress and tears. We had only been married for six months. Saying goodbye for almost a year was unimaginable. How could I possibly go through this? Every day seemed to bring another news story of more troops being killed over there. Over there – where my husband would now call home. But this was his home. With me. Safe. Here. Please God, stop this from happening!
God didn’t answer my prayers. The storm was here, and there was no getting around it.
Family and friends tried to help. I was so grateful for everyone God placed around me. But the nights brought a desperate fear I wasn’t prepared to face. And then, the guilt. Was this really the depth of my faith? Women kept telling me I was so strong. They told me my words brought them comfort and strength. But I didn’t believe my own words. I felt like a fraud – and a failure. What if they knew that my pillow was stained with bitter, angry, resentful, desperate, fear-filled tears? Who am I, Lord?
God didn’t answer my prayers. But He would show me.
Those ten months were some of the darkest of my life. I was desperate for faith. And yet, my husband had faith strong enough to conquer giants! And it did! His faith confused me. How could he see death and danger all around – every moment of every day – and have such peace? He didn’t just hope that God would keep him safe – he knew God would. He would tell me, “I won’t disarm my angels with fear.” I wanted so much to have faith like his. Please God – give me that kind of faith!
God didn’t answer my prayers. Not yet.
What I didn’t understand is that true faith isn’t our own doing. It is a gift from God. And God wanted my faith to grow in due season. Jesus compares true faith to a mustard seed. Have you ever seen a mustard seed? It is one of the smallest seeds in the agricultural family. The black mustard seed is most common to the Middle East and is thought to be the seed referred to by Jesus. When fully grown, a single black mustard seed can produce a shrub or tree that’s over twelve feet tall!
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32
A mustard seed doesn’t mature into a tree overnight. The garden soil must be cultivated. The seed must be strategically planted and continually watered. As it grows, it must be pruned to keep it healthy and strong. It must endure all kinds of seasons and storms. And then, in due season, it reaches its full maturity and potential. Its branches are strong enough not only to weather seasons and storms, but to also give wild birds safety and rest. That’s the kind of faith God wants for us! It’s the faith He wanted for me!
I had only been willing to trust God to a point. I didn’t want to endure the pain or the fear of war. Answer my prayers – and I will trust You. Give me my will – and I will trust You. Keep my husband from war – and I will trust You. But that’s not trusting God. That’s fearing the storm. Faith is trusting God not because He kept you from the storm – but because you are certain He will bring you through it!
[L]et us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
It’s been eleven years since my husband returned home from Iraq. We have two beautiful children now – and our marriage is stronger than ever. Looking back, I am so thankful God didn’t answer my prayers. I’m thankful He knew better than to keep me from facing those fears. I am a stronger woman – a more grateful woman – a woman who isn’t afraid to face the storms of life. And God has blessed me with a greater measure of faith because I have learned to trust in His will. I still waver at times. I am human. But I am not consumed by fear. I couldn’t say that eleven years ago. So yes, I am grateful for every dark valley God led me through. He was with me the entire time. I just had to stop focusing on the darkness and see the Light.
What are your fears? Are you relying on your own strength? Are you putting limits on God? Confess your weaknesses. Surrender your fears to Him. Trust in Him and His love for you. Believe in the great things He can accomplish in you – and through you. Let Him show you what true faith can do!
If you’d like to read more stories about trusting God, following His will, and finding the faith of a mustard seed, join me over at Suzanne Eller’s Blog http://tsuzanneeller.com/live-free-thursday/