Don’t Allow Life’s Experience To Change Your Identity

 

Dear #PrisonersOfHope

Have you fallen in love with being bitter, without realizing that you were the biggest loser in the process? Have you purposefully made a choice to be bitter or have you stumbled into it? Unbearable circumstances can make us bitter or better, it’s a choice we have to make. Bitterness is an oppressive and destructive emotion having its root in hate. No one can have peace with such emotions tearing at her. Ever heard of the saying, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the next person to die?”

There was a beautiful Jewish woman in the bible who was very bitter. she did not even try to hide it. Her name was Naomi. Ruth 1 v19 -20 “So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem.​ When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” Naomi means “my joy” and Mara means “bitter.” This woman had allowed her pain to define who she was. After losing her husband and two sons, in a foreign land, her grief had consumed even the essence of her identity.

Naomi wanted to return to Bethlehem by herself. She wanted to deal with her pain alone.  You see, true love exposes your vulnerability when you are hurting, and therefore when we go through painful experiences in our lives we do not want to be surrounded by people who care and love us. Somehow we want to believe that we are protecting them from “our pain”.  We somehow don’t mind those who are always throwing direct and indirect provocations at us. Our response to them in return for their aggressions may also be full of bile and hatred. In the process, we lose again. This is not just the story of Naomi, but my story, and your story, if you relate to it.

I don’t think Naomi was “a prisoner of hope.” She had already given up to the point of changing her name. But God allowed Ruth to be part of her journey. Maybe for Ruth, it was just to offer hope for survival or helping Naomi to remember who she once was. Her hope paid off because God had greater things in store for both her and Naomi. God not only redeemed them but He restored them too.

A lady I befriended while in Zimbabwe relocated to South Africa. She is a business woman and it seems as if she turns everything she touches into gold. One day she called me. As she was telling me about her new business venture, I said to her, I really need some of your Midas touch.” She responded by saying, “I don’t mind as long as it is in exchange for your grace.”

Grace? I sat down after our telephonic conversation, repeating the word “grace.” I knew very well what she was talking about, but what she did not know was that “that grace” was gone, it left me. You see the day bitterness entered my life, grace left. Some things just cannot co-exist. Bitterness came in my life like a thief, and made my heart its dwelling place.  I did not make a concious choice to be bitter, but I allowed anger and its first cousin, resesntment to fester, and soon they became the corrosive ulcer called bitterness.

Once bitterness, was at work in my life, I would say things and react to situation in a way that would even shock me. I would always ask myself later, “Where did that come from?” I did not know I was capable of saying or doing that. Remember the scripture that says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Bitterness had filled my heart and polluted my soul. My reactions to situations were evident of its presence in my life. In the process, it gave my adversaries an added advantage over me.

In Ephesians 4 v 31 – 32, the bible teaches us to “let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking, be put away from us, with all malice.” And it goes on to tell us how to deal with such bitterness and its friuts by being “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave us. We must always be careful not to allowing”bitter roots” to grow in our hearts, because such roots will cause us to fall short of the grace of God. God desires for His people to live in love, joy peace and holiness, not in bitterness. Therefore we must always watch deligently, being on guard against the grave peril of bitterness.

I once heard Bishop Jakes giving the simplest definition of deliverance, saying it is when you now control  what use to control you. Once in a while, bitterness does try to rear its ugly head again, but the this time around, it is no longer in control.

Signed: #RestoredMe

Strange Trials

Dear #PrisonersOfHope

I have been fighting……… fighting the enemy that has been creating destructions, strange trails, obstacles and frustrations in my life. Making everything I do trying, tiring and difficult. My fight with the enemy did not start now. As a little child I ate razor blade, by the time they discover pieces of razor blades in my mouth, the rest of the pieces were already in my tummy and would only come out in hospital. That experience threatened to end my life but I survive.

But in the last few years the battle took a different form all together. The battle became fierce, no amount of prayer, fasting and bible reading was going to hedge me in and exempt me from “these” attacks. A messenger of Satan has been assigned to buffet me, if I were to use the words of the Apostle Paul. During this time, I experienced loss, disappointment, failure and rejection. I wonder what it is about me that attracted so much of the enemy’s attention, what qualified me to be such a target. What does the enemy know that I do not know? But it does not matter “for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” No amount of persecution, harassment and attack has ever stopped God’s plan for one’s life.

In the book of 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul spoke about a thorn in the flesh that was given to him. He said concerning this thing, he pleaded with the Lord three times asking him to remove it. And the Lord responded by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The Lord gave Apostle Paul assurance of His grace and His strength. Evidently, there has always been grace for both my race and my case, and there has always been strength in my weakness.

I have always have this love affair with music, I love music, it has a way of expressing what am feeling but just cannot find the right words to say it. As I was meditating on the grace of God for my life, I thought of the words in the song by Darlene Zschech titled “The greatest our God”, there is a verse where the song goes like:

Give me grace to see beyond this moment here,

To believe that there is nothing left to fear,

That You alone are high above it all,

You my God are greater still.

This song reminded me of who is in control. Sometimes we make a mistake of making Satan bigger than God. We exalt Satan’s attacks beyond God’s ability to deliver. Truth be told, there are many battles God has fought unbeknown to me. God has allowed this messenger of Satan to buffet me so that I can learn to trust and depend on Him completely.

Life is a battlefield, you and I will always be fighting something. I read somewhere that the ship to our destiny cannot be smooth sailing, we will encounter contrary winds that are designed to fill the boat with water and sink the ship. But, the One who is the storm calmer, Jesus Christ will arise in times of desperation and say “Peace be still.” Mark 4:39

Yes, I have been fighting……… fighting strange trials. But I am here to tell the story. I might not be where I am suppose to be, I might have had many interruptions aIong the way, I might be driving around life on a slow lane with a flat tire, but my destiny is still intact. The enemy might have thought he has diverted it, but God is redirecting it.

Signed: #RestoredMe

In The Wilderness

Dear #PrisonerOfHope

Have you ever gone through a period of time where you felt like you were separated from the rest of humanity? I am not talking about an inconvenient situation, for example, when you accidentally lock your keys inside the car or have a flat tyre on the highway at night. What I am talking about are those moments when you find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Times where the situation looks so bad that your hands seem tied, no earthly person can help you and you cannot do anything to change the situation. As desperation knocks, hope begins to fade away. You start to feel like a caged animal being poked and provoked by onlookers. If this is how you are feeling. then you must know that you are officially in the wilderness.
In the, wilderness God will sever all lifelines. But do not worry; it is all by design.

Several times in the bible we see God using the wilderness experience to refine His people. Jacob was led into the wilderness to “wrestle with God”. The Israelites, 40 years in the wilderness. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, and the Apostle Paul spent 3 years in the wilderness.

The wilderness is a place where God feels far away, distant, absent and unresponsive. Faith feels uncertain, we feel alone, vulnerable, lost and unprotected. There is fear of hopelessness and the unknown. Honestly, it feels like a place where Satan dwells. I have been through this season, for what seems like forever: Encouraging myself every day that my present will soon be my past. I have spent countless days with my back against the wall. By nature, I like to make things happen, I love to fight and have never been comfortable sitting back and letting life happen to me. So during my wilderness experience, things had to be done differently. As I willingly submit to the purging process of the wilderness experience, I realize that I needed a distraction, a project or anything to divert my attention from “this”. Like a caged animal, I have spent some time thinking my options are very limited. So I decided to focus on what I still have, my heart, my mind and my voice. My heart is not imprisoned, my mind is not caged, and my voice is definitely not silenced.

So are you going through the wilderness experience? Are circumstances restricting you from doing certain things? Does hope seem lost? Does it seem as if things will remain “this” way forever? Do you feel forsaken by man, or even by God sometimes? His word says He will never leave us nor forsake us. God in the book of Jeremiah 2 v 6 The Massage translation says it is “a land that no one who enters comes out of.” But God led the children of Israel through that place. The wilderness just like the valley in Psalm 23, it is not our dwelling place, we go through such places. It is a place characterised by great trials and tests. We can only survive it if we put our trust in God and rely on His word.

As Andrea crouch will say:

Through it all, through it all

I’ve learned to trust in Jesus

I’ve learned to trust in God

Through it all, through it all

I’ve learned to depend upon His word

Signed: #RestoredMe

Using Our Ruins For His Glory

Dear #PrisonersOfHope,

As I was entering my favorite shop at any mall, CUM bookshop, something got my attention, a cover of a CD. I thought the drawings were done in a haphazard way and yet there was something strikingly beautiful about that art work. As I drew closer, I caught a glimpse of the title “Glorious Ruins,” yet another release by the mighty Hillsong. Immediately, the question that came to my mind was, ‘how can something that is ruined be glorious?’

“Ruins” according to the dictionary is the state of complete disintegration, state of decay, remains, rubble, debris, wreck. On the other hand “glorious” means great beauty, honor, worthy of admiration. These are two contradictory terms appearing in conjunction. Could something worthy of admiration come out of rubbles, debris, wreck? Yes, sometimes God will allowed our lives to be in ruins or state of brokenness so that He can find glory in the very broken pieces of our lives.

Truth be told, we are all a little broken, it is only the brave ones who are willing to admit. The rest of us often hide our brokenness, preferring to present to the world, a safe façade of who we are. But here is the good news, just because we have been broken does not mean we are thrown away, it does not mean we are forgotten and it does not mean we are unusable. There is beauty in being broken. Brokenness has the power to bring forth new beauty, strength, and inspiration to others. I have heard that ‘broken things become useful in the hands of God.’

The bible in the book of Isaiah 61 v 3, talks about giving us beauty for ashes. How can something beautiful come out of ashes? God is able to pick you up out of the ash pile of life and make something beautiful out of you. I have come to realize that there are no wasted moments with God. He can take every moment you thought was wasted and use it to create a story that help someone else believe.

My mother was very good with her hands. I grew up wearing the most beautiful frilled dresses produced right in front of me. What fascinated me the most as a little girl was her needlework. I noticed that while she was still working on the product, it looked like a complete mess, especially the inside. It will be a tangled mess of threads and knots and a mismatched grouping of colors, it was hard to even see the pattern. But the end product was always a masterpiece. Could it be, that maybe this is how God works in our lives, He will use all the threads, threads of different colors. Threads of our past mistakes, threads of our character flaws, threads of our failure, threads of our shame, threads of our disappointment, to form us into His masterpiece. We might not see the pattern while He is still at work, but the end product it is for His glory.

There is always a reason why God has allowed that state of decay in your life. That state of decay or that mess, that you cannot even see a pattern, it’s just a process, a process to your destiny.  There is no way that you would have come to our home and place an order of what my mother was still working on, it was too much of a mess. But wait until you see the end product. Therefore we must be careful not to judge people while there are still going through the process. Sometimes we are too quick to put a period in a sentence that God is still writing. No one knows how God will end His book, but He tends to save the best for last. So, whatever area of your life is laying in ruins today, God might use it for His glory tomorrow.

Signed: #RestoredMe

Feeling Hopeless?

Dear #PrisonersOfHope

What do you do when you are watching a loved one wasting away because of the disease the doctors are saying there is no cure for?
What do you do when facing problems with your children that you just cannot solve?
What do you do when there are so many problems at work and it seems like there is no way out?
What do you do when you are enduring a marriage that is hanging on by dental floss?
What do you do when you have too much month left at the end of your money?
What do you do when you have followed a loved one’s body to the grave and you just cannot escape the pain of loosing someone so dear to you?
What do you do when you have waited for such a long time to hold that first baby in your arms, only to loose him in the labor ward?
What do you do when you have sown all the right seeds and yet you keep reaping what you did not sow?
What do you do when you are walking through the spiritual wasteland and there seems to be no way out?
What do you do when you are stuck in a body that does not function properly?
What do you do when you feel like the crashing waves of hopelessness are unrelenting?
What do you do when your hopes have been crashed to a thousand pieces, and some of the pieces are even missing?
What do you do when your heart is broken and your dreams are shattered?
What do you do when your prayers for a loved one battling a chronic disease were answered with a funeral rather than a miracle healing you had hope for?
What do you do when the pain seems bigger than the purpose?

At some point, we all find ourselves in one of these low points of life. As long as we are still alive, we will all have our days of trouble and trial. Our troubles and trials though they may look insurmountable in our own eyes, they are actually God’s opportunities in disguise.
Of all the miracles recorded in the bible, the one that stood out for me is the parting of the Red sea. God could have done it any other way, but no, He chose to part the sea. That for me, was God showing off.

Next time you feel hopeless, remember this, no matter what you are called on to face in this life, when God show up in your case, He will show off.

Signed: #RestoredMe

Betwixt And Between

Dear #PrisonersOfHope

I studied Anthropology at varsity as an ancillary. Honestly when I registered for the course I did not know what it was all about, I just liked the name, it sounded more sophisticated than Biology, and I would later fall in love with the course.

It was during this time where I learned the concept called “ liminality” which means “threshold”. Liminality is the in-between state, when you are neither here nor there. When you are officially in limbo. Significant transitions in life involve this experience. This experience brings chaos and confusion in our lives. During this time we try to resolve our problems and we fail, the reason being the rules of what you have known don’t apply anymore. It is a time of great transformation which requires death, death of the old you, so that you can become something new. The status quo is destroyed to make room for something new. Prophet Isaiah says  “every valley shall be exhalted, and every mountain and hill brought low. The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth.” Isaiah 40 v 4 NKJV.

The concept is about learning to live with pain of waiting. Yes, waiting. Waiting for change, hoping your present situation will soon be your past,  your today will soon be your yesterday. I love this quote by Jeff Goins “ Life is waiting. Not just waiting in line at the grocery store or waiting to renew your driver’s license, but waiting to love and commit and find the work you were meant to do. Our lives are full of inconvenient setbacks, not due to some great cosmic mistakes but because of some divine purpose we don’t comprehend. In waiting, we become.” After reading this I started wondering, could it be that God allow seasons of waiting in our lives in order to birth purpose?

As I was navigating through the betwixt and between space in my own life, I found a song that expressed exactly where I was. From Juanita Bynum’s album “a piece of my passion, “ there is a song titled ‘ I DON’T MIND WAITING’ and it goes like this:

You know, sometimes in life situations are going to occur,

Where you may look to the left or the right and you can’t find any answers and you can’t find anybody to help you

But I am reminded of the Word that says,

They that wait upon the Lord, He shall renew their strength.

They shall mount up on wings as eagles.

They shall run and not be weary.

They shall walk and not faint.

Come on. You’ve got to learn how to wait.

Are you currently going through a liminal experience? Remember, God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him’ John 3 v 17. Similarly God does not allow this season into our lives in order to punish or destroy us but to free us from the snares that would stop us from obtaining the promises He made to us. At the end we will be transformed into new creations empowered by His strength and grace.

Signed: #RestoredMe