Monday, June 27, 2011

Before the Rooster Crows

Have you ever experienced a time in your Christian walk when you just couldn’t sing songs of praise and worship to the Lord?  Or a time when you just couldn’t or you didn’t want to read your Bible?  How about a time when you could not feel God’s presence in your life and all you felt was darkness and despair?  If you have, then you know that those are painful days where life feels hopeless.  I am not a stranger to those days, either.  I experienced a time like that as well and that despair eventually led to an inward denial of my Savior.

Here’s my life once again laid out for all to see and I don’t share this story so you can look at me, but so you can see THE ONE who sent me to share this with you.  God, in His infinite wisdom, has clearly pressed upon my heart to share my struggles, along with the story of my denial of Christ, in hopes that it will encourage you in your own faith.  I hope what is penned here will bring you comfort and encouragement so you can see THE ONE in the midst of your own anguish and pain.

I will never forget the time that this brokenness occurred.  It was right around the time of my spiritual birthday.  I had been saved for 13 years.  In fact, as I write this today it was right around this time 2 years ago when something unusual took place in my walk with Christ.  I felt mentally, emotionally and spiritually different, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong.  I told my husband and my closest friend that I was ‘not right’, but I did not know why.  There were no new storms that were added to my life, just the ones we were currently living through that sent me into spiritual exhaustion and despair. 

For a couple of weeks I was somewhat melancholy and the perspective I had on life was a bit gloomy.  With the new health treatment that I was on, I assumed that my body was trying to adjust, so I figured I was just experiencing a mild depression due to my imbalanced hormones. Soon, I thought I would eventually bounce back to my normal self, but that was not the case.  Eventually I started to become bitter about serving the Lord and I became callous towards reading my Bible, thinking, what was the point?  I was sure I would read something that told me to die to myself and live for Christ, which is what I had been doing for so many years. 

Let me back up a little here in the story.  On July 6, 1996, I gave my heart to the Lord and at that time, I had decided to fully follow Him with an intense passion.  So, what did that look like, you might ask? 
Here were a few things I did: 
  • ·     My number one pursuit was to become a disciple of Christ.  I wanted to fully know Jesus and truly have Him as the Lord of my life.  I wanted more than just fire insurance as well.  I was not okay with just merely having Him as my Savior so I would not end up in hell.  I desired the abundant life and the Living Water.
  • ·     One decision I made was to have Jesus Christ choose my husband, because the Lord is much smarter than I am. (smile)  Through God’s miraculous Hand, He blessed me with a man that I do not deserve.  I knew before I walked down that aisle on my wedding day that this was a man that I was going to purposefully respect and follow as best as I could, all the days of my life.
  • ·       I made the decision to learn to become a Proverbs 31 woman in my marriage and family.
  • ·      I was going to purposefully remain in Christ and abide in Him, in other words, I was going to seek Him with all my heart.
  • ·       I was going to diligently remain in God’s Word. 
  • ·       I was going to faithfully attend church every week, along with attend Bible studies.
  • ·       I was going to serve Him with the gifts that He had given to me.
  • ·      When we were blessed to have children, I was going to raise them to be warriors for the Lord.  I was going to teach them to use their life for Christ and build His kingdom and I was going to do that as I homeschooled them upon the foundation of the Word of God.

Bottom line: I was going after God and my life was immersed in the things of the Lord.  Who I wanted to became was a God-fearing, Christian woman, wife, and mother.  That was my purpose in life and that was what my life had become after 13 years.

Now, back to 2009.  So what happens to a woman that has pursued all those things for so many years and her faith in Christ is starting to fail and she is now beginning to doubt and deny the existence of the Lord?  Who was I and what did I believe in?  I felt so lost.  Was everything that I pursued a big, fat lie?  Why didn’t God help me?  After all, I was looking to pursue Him and Him alone.  So, where was He in all of this?

When I got saved, my trials started immediately and I had continued living in the storms ever since.  My life before Christ was never as painful as my life was with Christ, yet, of course, what I had with Christ was eternal life and without Him was eternal damnation.  However, thirteen years of pain, heartache, long-suffering, afflictions, persecution, broken relationships, spiritual warfare, etc.  I was done!  I couldn’t take the pain anymore and I was empty inside.  I had no more to pour out and no more to give.  I was becoming indifferent towards my relationship with the Lord.  I did not care about pursuing Him, living for Him and abiding in Him.  I felt that He had abandoned me at my deepest darkest hour and I was forsaken by Him as well.  As the psalmist David cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?  O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent.  Psalm 22:1-2  I, too, felt that same way.  Many times I felt like God was on a vacation while I was crying and curled up in the fetal position.  I went further down into the pit of darkness and I had no strength to continue on in my pursuit of Jesus Christ.  "I am counted with those who go down to the pit; I am like a man who has no strength."  Psalm 88:4  "You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths."  Psalm 88:6

Before this dark time in my life, I had a deep faith in Christ.  I believed with all my heart that He could move mountains and heal whoever He wanted, whenever He wanted.  When you think that God is going to just miraculously fix the problem overnight and He doesn’t…what does any good, God-fearing, Christian do?  They wait on the Lord and perhaps your problems will be fixed the next day or the next…and so what do you do?  You wait, and wait, and wait.  How much longer Lord must I endure this?  I cry in anger when I don’t hear him and I groan in anguish.

In the days and weeks during the months of June and July of 2009, my despair continued on and as the numbness inside my heart turned towards indifference, my husband realized that this situation was not normal.  One day in particular, I shared with him all that I was experiencing, and as he sat listening, he lifted up his down-trodden head where you could see tears coming down his face from the news that I shared, and he said, “Where is my wife?” and “I don’t know how to help you,” was his response.  I knew what he meant by those words.  It was like I was a different person to him.  Where was the woman who stood so strongly for the Lord with unwavering faith?  Ironically, as I was struggling with my own spiritual issues, as a result of what I shared with my husband, I now became concerned for his walk with the Lord.  Did what I have to say to him bring him to a place that may cause him despair as well?  I felt bad for him because not only was he broken from all of our financial woes but now he had my spiritual issues to deal with as well.  I did not know how to fix my problem either and I now wondered about what was going to happen to our marriage that was built on the Rock.  In an instant I became even angrier towards God.  Where was He in all of this?

I continued to go through the motions of my so-called Christian life with my family, because honestly, I did not know what else to do.  I was still serving the Lord because my husband and I were the ones that started the ministry, so I wasn’t even able to take a break from that.  I felt stuck and trapped, and inside I was dying. 

We still went to church on a weekly basis and I remember one Sunday morning I DID NOT WANT TO GO!  I got in the car just like every other Sunday morning, but this particular Sunday was different.  My beloved husband was asking me all sorts of questions about my relationship with the Lord and what was going through my mind.  I had various emotions raging through me.  I was angry, indifferent, bitter, callous, and I felt forsaken.  I did not want to go to church and sing to a God who did not hear me when I cried to Him.  I did not want to go to church and hear a message of hope when I felt despair.  I DID NOT WANT TO GO!  But since my children were seated in the back of the car, I could not express those thoughts to my husband, (at least I had enough discernment to protect them from what I was going through.)  Logically, I believed the Truth so I did not want to destroy the foundation that I was building for them, yet, in my heart I was no longer trusting in Christ and believing in Him; denial of Him was starting to take root.  He wasn’t in my life.  He left me. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?  Jeremiah 17:9

So I walked into church and I just stood there during worship, not singing nor praising the Lord.  I turned my mind off to the message that was spoken that morning as well and at the end of the service I left the sanctuary (to run to the bathroom) as our Pastor was giving the closing prayer.  When I came out of the bathroom, I could hear the last worship song being sung and I stood in the foyer of the church alone as I waited for my husband.  As the people walked up the aisles, a complete stranger headed straight for me and honestly, almost tackled me and said, “There you are.”  I did not know her and wondered what she wanted from me.  She asked if she could pray for me.  I was stunned by her question but I said, “sure”.  We walked outside and she prayed a prayer that was SO SPECIFIC you would have thought I told her my entire life story, yet, I did not tell her anything.  Words she used were illness, healing, sickness, provisions, long-suffering, afflictions, strength for a warrior, and then she prayed that I would know and remember that God’s Word says, “He would never leave me nor forsake me.”   Tears came down my face as I heard this prayer that came straight from God.  Afterwards I said, “You obviously have the gift of intercessory prayer and I am sure you know that.”  She said "yes".  I asked her how this prayer came about and then she told me about God’s hand...

She was seated a few rows behind me in church.  Like I said, I did not know her and I also happen to attend a very large church.  Our sanctuary seats over 2,000 people.  As she sat there and waited for the service to begin, the Lord had told her, “that one right there, pray for her.” (He was pointing to me.) “Okay” she said.  But then the Lord said to her, “Get on your knees and pray for her.”  (I can’t help but cry when I type this.)  “Get on my knees?” Oh, Lord, you have never asked me to get on my knees before and pray for someone”, she said.  “Get on your knees,” He said.  Later, she told me she did not obey Him by getting on her knees.  She did not want to have everyone looking at her, so she just prayed for me where she was.  All throughout the service the Lord would prompt her to get on her knees and pray for me.  When the service was ending and after our Pastor gave the closing prayer, she looked up from praying and saw that I was gone.  Her spirit was grieved because she did not obey the Lord, but then as she walked out of the sanctuary she found me.  As she was telling me all of this, she said, “You know, I did not obey the Lord when He told me to get on my knees and pray for you, so I am going to get on my knees now and pray for you again.”   

She, a complete stranger who was sent by God, knelt on the outdoor concrete as she lifted me up to the Lord.  The healing and restoration of my faith was beginning to take place, through this stranger’s prayer.  That morning, God showed me His love for me. He heard all of my cries and saw all of my pain and through all of this, He hoped to make me stronger so He could use me more.

There was a purpose for all my pain and I will share more of the 'why' at my next post, Before the Rooster Crows, Part 2.




This post is linked to Titus 2sday, Moms the Word, Some Girls Website, Good Morning Girls and Women Living Well

8 comments:

BarefootButtercup said...

What a beautiful beautiful testimony. Thank you so much for this. I have been though dark times as well, every Fall almost. What God can do through those times though is so amazing. He's so good!

Heather said...

Amazing story! God really does work through all people. This reminds of the story called Footprints. Thank you for sharing this; and I look forward to Part II.

I found you through the Good Morning Girls Link-up.

Jolene Engle said...

@BarefootButtercup Thank you for your comment! It really encouraged me.

Jolene Engle said...

@Heather Hi Heather, thanks for your sweet words and letting me know how you found me! Part 2 is coming soon!!

Amy Sullivan said...

Let me answer your the questions posed at the beginning of your post: yes, yes, and yes! Did you hear me screaming.

Powerful.

So glad I clicked over from Ann's.

Jolene Engle said...

@Amy Sullivan
Amy, you just blessed my soul by sending me your comment. I believe there are women who struggle with this particular issue and I want them to know they are not alone. Although it is hard to go through those times, God is always faithful. Thanks for taking the time to stop by, I am honored.
Blessing to you my friend,
Jolene

phyllis said...

I came across your blog by accident and oh my goodness. I felt as if i were reading my own experience. I am a pastor's wife and so much of your story is like something I experienced a few years ago. I find that those in ministries are so hush hush about their own spiritual struggles and rarely do i encounter on who is willing to be so open. Which in turn makes us feel we are alone in our struggles. God bless you for sharing this story. Sometime I feel as if I am the the only one who has ever gone through something such as this.
God Bless

Jolene Engle said...

@phyllis
Hi Phyllis,
Well the Lord knew you needed to stop by The Alabaster Jar, that is why you stumbled upon it! =) Those in ministry have a huge target on their backs. Satan wants to destroy us and take us out of the battle of good vs. evil. God needs His faithful servants to boldly proclaim His name. Our precious Savior has entrusted us with a powerful message of hope even in dark times. He knows we will be found faithful that is why He has allowed raging storms to take place in our lives. Stand strong sister! I would agree about your hush hush statement 100%! It is unfortunate that we remain silent because inside we are hurting and if we are hurting, then you know somewhat else is too. He has called me to SPEAK UP and be transparent. I will address the elephants in the room, so to speak. You can read more here at, God is Bigger than Our Credit Score.
Be faithful to Him,
Jolene