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Oh for Grace…

A few years ago, I did some pretty extreme fasting as an act of obedience to God. I felt strongly that He had called me to do it, and as I muddled my way through it, He gave me the grace and strength I needed to complete it. I kept a journal during that time and as we approach the Lenten season of fasting in the Christian church, I’ve been re-reading it. What did I learn during that intense spiritual journey and am I still applying it today?

An overwhelming theme of the journal is that I didn’t really feel any big change or shift during the fast, but I kept on going out of obedience and surrender. A month after the fast was over I wrote something that summarizes what I believe it was about.

“To know the heart of God is to trust Him and to believe that even in the most uncertain times, He is the solid rock of certainty.”

That was the lesson I learned during the time of fasting, and that lesson has stayed with me in a profound way. I learned that no matter what is happening to me, to the world, or to those I love, I can trust and depend on the Lord. When I don’t understand, which is often, I don’t have to worry about it. God is using it to work out something for my good, so I can relax and let it go.

That lesson has defined my life since then and I suppose it will for the rest of my life. As a new mother, I’ve faced the strangest fears – I might get a disease and live my life in horrible pain, unable to care for her; I might die and leave my daughter without a mother, always questioning her place in the world; or she might die and leave me crippled with a broken heart staring into space for the rest of my life. The only way I’ve been able to overcome those fears and embrace joy is to acknowledge them and to know that if those things do happen, God is still in control. None of it would take God by surprise and I can rest assured that His promises are still true.

As a daughter and niece, I’ve struggled this last year to understand and accept the cancer diagnosis that mother and aunts have faced. I’ve dealt with skin cancer and horrible, constant pregnancy sickness for months on end. I even vomited during labor. Other family members are going through tremendous, stressful trials. Why does so much rain fall at one time, in one family? Shocking, really, to realize that we aren’t in any way “special” or out of the reach of disease and destruction. Aren’t we godly tithers who minister to others? Yes, and yet we face the same issues. We are not guaranteed immunity. Why should it be shocking? We know these things. But somehow it still is. Is it part of growing up to discover that our bodies will someday fail us, and it may be sooner than we think? Is it a lack of faith in God’s healing power to acknowledge that? I wish I had the answers. All I know is that I still believe in God’s power to heal, but I also acknowledge that if God allows me and those I love to suffer, it isn’t because He has failed me. He uses all things for His glory, so I pray to bring Him glory. And I trust.

I have surrendered to His will. The battle that raged in my heart for so long is over. My will has been broken and although it tries to regain control from time to time, it will no longer rule my life and cause me to wrestle with God in the same way again.

For this Lenten season, I am joining in the time of fasting that so many of my Christian sisters and brothers observe. I’m nursing, so it can’t be anything too extreme or calorie-diminishing. As usual with fasting, God has been preparing my heart for what I can do and it comes as no surprise. I’ll be giving up sweets this year – no desserts, Cokes, candy, or other sugary treats. I got gestational diabetes with the pregnancy and had to really think about my sugars and restrict myself for the last several months of the year.

Since she’s been born, I’ve been, um… celebrating my freedom, eating my way through piles of things I rarely allowed myself before. YUM. And happily I haven’t gained weight because of the nursing. But I can tell it’s affecting me and I don’t feel as good as I could. It’s time and I’m willingly offering this small sacrifice back to the Lord. For all He has done for me, what is it to me to give up an unhealthy overindulgence for 40 days? To reset my body so that it once again understands restrictions and stops screaming for another cookie?

That’s not to say I think it will be easy. I’ve become addicted and it will be a struggle, but one that is worth it. God has been so good to me. I’m glad to be able to do a little something to let Him know how much I appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross.

To all of you who are also fasting this Lenten season, I pray that God will empower us to keep our commitment and offer up this sacrifice joyfully until Easter, when we can celebrate together the resurrection of Christ and the end of the our temporary suffering.

And in closing, my prayer will continue to be: Oh for grace to trust Him more…

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