Strong Faith is Built By Enduring The Darkness

What God didn't tell me ended up strengthening my faith.  

Michael:  "God, I can't take this anymore.  I know you helped me get through the loss of everything and I know you protected me in court, but now I need something to work in my life.  I can't just keep working like this for free on my story video and doing ministry work, helping other people, but never having any money or any freedom.  How am I supposed to pay my child support...I'm getting so far behind?"  

God: "Just trust me." 

Michael: "I understand I need to trust you God, but I need to see some additional evidence from you that I'm on the right path...this makes no human sense at all and I'm putting myself and my children in a painful situation.  I've lost my dignity and my credibility with everyone around me because I'm 'trusting you' to the point of cutting my own arm off, Lord.  I'm afraid I'm going to give up and quit God...it looks like I'm just digging myself further in the hole!  Honestly Lord, who else do you see around me that is loving you and obeying you like I am, and yet I have nothing to show for it.  On the contrary, it looks like you've forsaken me and because I'm obeying you, now even my enemy has false evidence that I'm everything they accused me of."

God: "Just trust me."  

Michael: "I am trusting you God, and I want with all of my heart to be used by you and to make a difference in the lives of others and to bring you glory, but how much longer is it going to look like I'm being punished by you? Why are you not allowing me to take these video jobs? Your Word says I have to work and even Paul made tents for a season, so why are you telling me not to do any secular work?"

God: "You have used the gifts and talents I gave you for your own purposes and your work became an idol. Now I want you to serve me.  Trust me.  Finish the work...tell the story of what I have done in your life." 

Michael:  "God, I'm honored to tell the story, but please God send some sign to show you are with me fully in this...I have literally nothing left except my faith in you.  My circumstances are deteriorating day by the day. However, if I know you are with me and still pleased with me, I think I can keep going no matter how bad my finances or circumstances get.  You know I want you above everything else in my life but God who will want to follow you, at my recommendation, if you don't demonstrate that you are with me in someway?  Is this how you treat your faithful ones?

I wanted so many times over the last few years to quit and just go back to my old ways of self-sufficiency and having a "normal" life.  But thank you Jesus, He ALWAYS blessed my weakness with His grace and kept me going, day by day.  He never showed me the kind of things he had planned to do, but he encouraged me along the way and just kept saying, "Trust me."

I might imagine if God would have told me beforehand, the story you'll read below which is at Barnes and Noble magazine racks all across the country today, how much easier it would have been for me to keep going through my days of total darkness.  And certainly if God would have said, "Michael, there is a young precious daughter of mine who has gone through something extremely dark.  She is going to attempt suicide in just a few months, and so I need you to finish your story video because I'm going to use it to save her life.  Oh, and then Michael about 18 months later, I'm going to inspire you to write a book about discipleship called 'The 31 Day John 7:17 Challenge that will help people find more of me and will provide you with your financial needs.  I'm going to use her to help you get it printed because you aren't going to know how to do that, so just two weeks before the book is finished you are going to pray to me about how to get it printed.  In answer to your prayer, I'm going to have her email you and mention out of the blue that she's been in the printing business for 14 years and can help you if you ever need anything printed." Now you know why I kept saying, "Trust me."

I trusted and obeyed God to the point of ending up homeless and having to be separated from my children for a long season.  I didn't end up homeless because I didn't have any other choices, it was because I was obeying God's specific directions. He had a plan and He knew exactly what He was doing!  I slept on the floor of my friends downtown office, for four months. I wrote the entire book while I was homeless...every night...every weekend...I never stopped working on it.  God freed up my schedule, so to speak.  Right after I finished the book and four months "to the exact day" God provided a house for me to live in.  He was with me so close while I was homeless...it was AMAZING!  Do you remember Kay's story? That only happened because I was living in the office building she cleaned.  I also spent every day pouring God's word into my friend and having Bible studies with him each morning.  We both grew immensely during this time.  I grew in my gratitude for simple things like a hot shower and soap to wash my face.  I was so humbled and grateful for the experience.  God used it all and I wouldn't trade a single minute of it! It's good to lose your dignity and to be in a position where you have nothing but God, because you come to know through actual experience that He's all you ever needed!  

My biggest nightmare is to think about how close I was to quitting, so many times.  I would have been added to the list of people's who testimony is, "Well, I waited but God never came through for me so He either must not be there or He must not do the things He used to do in the Bible through faith."  My faith today is strong because it has been tried and tested for five straight years, but it wouldn't be as strong if God had answered my prayer and told me in advance, the "rest of the story".  

I have some bad news and some good news for you.  The bad news is that I'm a big reader and I can't think of a single person that God has ever used for anything significant that didn't have to go through a prolonged period of darkness, stripping, and unanswered prayers to test their faith before they could be used by God in any significant way.  Most recently I'm reading about Hudson Taylor's amazing story. He obeyed God's call to evangelize inland China to the point of being persecuted, slandered, completely broke, separated from all of his children by thousands of miles, losing three of them to death, and burying his first wife (in her 30's) before their 13th year of marriage.  However, what God did in his life was astonishing!  The good news is that there is always a treasure of joy, unequaled by any other joy, behind that period of darkness if we respond correctly.  I wonder what God isn't telling you today about your bright and redemptive tomorrow, that you can only access by surrender, faith, obedience and endurance?  If you are walking in darkness and can't see your way, continue to trust in your Lord, and He will get you to the promise land, day by day.

Be sure to click through the pages below and read this incredible story God wrote in the life of my new and sweet sister in Christ, Ginny Souther!  I love you Sis!  Keep Your Eyes on Him!

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.
— Psalm 71:20-21