Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, because the Lord will do wonders among you tomorrow.” Joshua 3:5
At the beginning of 2014, I chose this verse as my verse for the year. Actually, I felt very strongly that God gave it to me. I believe that God has great things planned for this year, and I have been heavily focused on seeing the promises He has made me fulfilled.
However, I began to wonder what God meant by “consecrate.” One version of scripture uses the term “purify.” I have prayed repeatedly, asking God what it is I need to do to be ready for His promises to be fulfilled, how I need to go about purifying myself.
Four months into the year, I think I am beginning to understand.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. … Romans 8:18
My life has been turned upside down—again. I have actually made the statement that I am under at least as much pressure today, experiencing at least as much pain today, as I did in the early days of adultery and divorce. I have found myself wandering through my days, wondering if I can hold it together long enough to find a quiet place to cry. I have found myself crying out to Jesus, but realizing I have no words to pray. Sleepless nights are again becoming a normal part of my life, and the physical exhaustion exacerbates the emotional pain. I have been absolutely numb, lost, confused. I am at a loss as to what I need to do, how I need to move.
But, there’s a difference. My relationship with God is so alive and real. Despite the pain and fear, there’s an underlying sense of incredible peace. As I wonder how God will ever fulfill His promises to me in light of what has happened in the last few weeks, I find my faith unshaken, my confidence in God surprising—even to me. As I walk into the fiery furnace again, I have an unwavering belief that God is still in control, that He is working something into me that will be worth every ounce of pain.
I know that if God is allowing this immense suffering in my life, He must have an amazing purpose. He is consecrating me, purifying me, so that I will be ready to receive the amazing wonders He will soon do in my life.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. Romans 8:22-25
I have been groaning—a lot lately. My heart has been so heavy. I have literally found myself awake all night, begging God to step in, to intervene, to change my circumstances. I eagerly await redemption, believing that God is doing something behind the scenes that I simply am unable to see today.
I literally had a promise walk away from me recently. I found myself wondering if I had mistaken my own desires for His will. As I have wrestled with God, He has constantly sent me the reassurances that I have heard from God, that His promise still stands. But I can’t see how it can happen! He has very clearly told me that I must walk by faith and not by sight. I am hoping for what I cannot see right now, eagerly believing that God will still fulfill His promise. My patience is running out, but I am committed to seeing this promise through to the end. It is simply that important to me.
In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27
As I lie in my bed at night, as I drive down the road each day, as my mind wanders to the trials that my family and I are facing, I am often at a loss as to how to pray. I always pray for peace. I always pray for wisdom. But, I am uncertain how else I should pray. Should I ask God to intervene, to make it all go away? Should I ask God to protect us? Should I ask God for complete healing? Should I ask God to let me win?
The truth is, some of the circumstances my family is facing are beyond my comprehension. They have taken us all by surprise, and I simply don’t know the best way to pray. I take great comfort in knowing that the One who is interceding for me knows the Spirit’s mind-set, that He is interceding on my behalf. And, when He is interceding for me, I know that He is praying according to God’s will. 1 John 5:14-15 says that when we ask anything according to God’s will, we know that we will receive it.
Not only does our intercessor know the Spirit’s mind-set, but He searches our hearts. He knows the ugliness that is still buried deep within me—the deep and hidden places of bondage that prevent me from fully experiencing the abundant life of freedom that He has planned for me. That’s why I am in the fire: to bring to light the deepest, hidden recesses of my life so that I can be fully consecrated and purified, ready to receive the blessings He has planned for me.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30
The fire is hot. The fire is uncomfortable. The fire is scary. But, I am confident that God will use it for my benefit, that He will bring something good out of the pain. He promises that it will work for my good! He also promises that those He foreknew (me) He has predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. His will for me has always been—and always will be—to be conformed to the image of Christ! How can that happen? It certainly doesn’t happen by having a life that is filled with all good and no bad. I can’t spend my life skipping through fields of daisies and expect God to conform me to His image. It’s when I am in the fire that I am brought face-to-face with the condition of my heart, the bitterness that is still there, the anger that is buried deep down. It’s in the wilderness that He shows us our hearts (Deuteronomy 8) to humble us, to prove that it is by His grace alone that we can prosper. It is through the trials of this life that we are humbled so that He can then pour out blessings upon us (Deuteronomy 8:16). It is in the divine wrestling matches with Him that our faith becomes our own (Genesis 32).
I am definitely in a time of testing—a painful, difficult time. My dad has cancer. A promise God made me seems to be slipping away. My sister is facing trials. My kids are hurting. It seems as if my entire family is being thrown to the lions.
And yet, I find that my God surrounds me with His peace. I can look with confidence, knowing that God is doing something in me, consecrating me, preparing me to receive blessings only He can give. He is conforming me to His image.