Thriving, Faith, and James

This morning, I was listening to Casting Crowns’ song “Thrive” on the way to work. I love the way the music makes you feel joyful. And I realized that, yes, I am thriving now, and life is good.

Then I realized it’s now been 10 years since my ex-husband met the other woman. (Or at least when I met her. He said, “There’s someone I’ve been wanting you to meet.” Which I figure means I was still his best friend. Unfortunately, that changed.) As my marriage fell apart, I NEVER would have guessed how thoroughly I’d be thriving now. God is SO good! And I guess I can trust Him if things in the next year or so don’t go as I hope they will!

I can’t emphasize enough how dark that time was for me. I couldn’t imagine ever being happy again. Yet now life is very, very good.

I wouldn’t be a Librarian, wouldn’t live in my own lovely condo in Virginia, wouldn’t have a son who’s graduated from the best high school in the nation, wouldn’t attend Gateway Community Church, wouldn’t be up for my dream job if all of that hadn’t happened. God can bring good out of even horrible things.

And God also used it to show me how MUCH He loves me. Our pastor said once that great faith comes from desperate need. No glory to yourself, but when you’re desperate, God comes through.

And that gets me thinking about Faith. Our church has been going through James this summer, and Faith is a big theme in James. In fact, they’ve titled the sermon series “Faith That Works.”

I think when I was a kid, the “double-minded man” passage in James 1 kind of disturbed me. Were you supposed to ask for something and then screw up the ability to believe that it would happen, and if you doubted, then it wouldn’t? When my marriage fell apart, I prayed earnestly, for years, that it would be restored, and that my husband would come back to me. And I thought God was telling me that would happen.

And when I did file for divorce, I was afraid I was lacking in faith. But when I was praying about it, asking for direction, God’s answer was in Hebrews 11 — “By faith, Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar… even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.'” I felt like God was saying to give Him my marriage and my hopes for the future. I was still hoping, like Abraham, that the end result would be resurrection. But I had to make the offer genuine, either way.

Abraham believed God had promised him abundant offspring. But he didn’t cling to his own view of how God would do that.

And I noticed that the double-minded man passage in James comes right after the verse about “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God.” That’s what we’re supposed to have faith about. And faith in James is always about what we do. So I really think that James is saying, “If you need direction, ask God. And then do what He tells you, or you don’t really trust him.” I don’t think it’s about holding onto your own ideas of what God will do, but trusting God enough to do what He tells you.

This actually fits with the study of Psalms I did last Spring. I noticed that David pours out his heart to God and tells Him what He’s feeling. He is bold about asking God to act — but he just doesn’t tell God what to do, like we tend to do.

So a better way to pray for my marriage is to tell God how my heart was broken and that I’m lonely — and trust Him to figure out what to do about that.

And when I look back at what I thought God was telling me as I prayed — everything I thought He was telling me to do was good advice. Okay, maybe He wasn’t telling me the future. Maybe the promises about my ex-husband are that he’ll come back to God some day, not to me. Eventually, I felt that God was telling me that I shouldn’t be yoked together with someone who wants nothing to do with God.

A year ago, I started thinking about dating. I prayed about that as well. The pastor was doing a sermon on Abraham, and I thought Hagar would come up, and I’d hear about “Plan B living,” and I was afraid no longer hoping to remarry my ex would be lacking in faith and going for second best.

But the pastor brought a chalkboard up on stage and drew a diagram. He made a line across the board which he said represented a continuum. On one end was just letting things happen. On the other end was trying to completely control everything. He said where we want to live is right in the middle, on the Path of Trust.

I realized that “Standing for my Marriage” and trying to pray my husband back was trying to Control things. If I couldn’t have the perfect marriage, well then I’d be the perfect little martyr and pray until he gave in. But that was all my idea. I decided it would take a lot more trust to start dating again. (It still took me six months to actually do it. But that was when I decided that doing so would take more faith rather than less.)

In Hebrews 11 again, the author summarizes what, to me, Faith is all about: “And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” You have to believe that it’s worth it to follow God.

And that means doing what He tells you. When you ask for direction, don’t ask for advice, which you can take or leave. If God really knows best, then do it.

And the really cool thing? He works all things together for good for those who love Him — even truly horrible things like divorce can bring great good things in your life.

Isn’t He amazing?

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