By Anna Louise Smit
When all I see is sin
And all I should have done
When all I feel is weak
And zapped of strength to fight.
When I begin to wonder
If I’ll ever be who I know in You I can
When I look at those I love
And wonder if they even know I do.
When I sit and stare
Believing all dreams and passions gone
When I wonder if this wall will move
And I’ll ever tread beyond.
When I wonder if I am truly Yours
In all my sin and shame and fear
When all I see is ugly, dark
And hopeless case.
It’s then I hear You speak
Who do you say
It’s then I wonder not
“You are my cloak of grace
My strength and my only fight.
You are my work complete
And Love here growing me.
You are my purposed good
And these wings now covering me.
You are my past, present, future
It’s then I wonder not
The words below come from a blog series I wrote in 2016, called A January of Unwrapping Hope on my old blog. This particular excerpt ties in with the more recent poem I wrote above. May you be strengthened in our Way, our Truth and our Life.
Hebrews 12: 1 – 2 (ESV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
This morning I biked through the rain with my girls to drop my oldest at school and it got me angry and upset, exposing raw parts of my heart, but as these feelings rose, so did a Scripture: “for the joy set before Him”. I couldn’t recall the full verse, but these six words reverberated within me.
When I got home, I couldn’t wait to turn to the full Scripture and soak in it. I thirsted after “the joy”. And it brought me to Romans 5: 20 – 21 (The Message):
All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.
The Joy set before our Saviour was and is our invitation into “a putting … together” and “life – a life that goes on and on”. And in Him this too is our JOY. Why would I let the weight of circumstance and the sin of anger steal my JOY?
“Look up, behold Me before you, Anna. I have come to lead you forward, deeper and deeper into my JOY: wholeness and life abundant everlasting.”
Romans 8: 3 – 4 (The Message) explains that:
“The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.”
I can embrace “the joy set before” me, because my Saviour is embracing it within me, leading me forward into it. My Hope, “the joy set before Him”, is being birthed from the Spirit within me. It is He who sees the wholeness and life that await me, whose “assurance in things unseen” unburdens the weight that presses down upon me. It is my Saviour within me. “God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are”, walking into good and hard circumstances with us, birthing and growing our “unbelievable inheritance” from within:
Romans 8: 15 – 17 (The Message):
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!
Since writing this, I have seen such changes in my heart. The Spirit of God has been gifting different Scriptures at different times to speak into my loved ones’ lives from a position of victory, rather than as a victim of my or their circumstances, even when our circumstances are due to our own (forgiven at the Cross) sins.
He has led me to claim His Word as truth, to thank Him in advance for its fulfillment. But not only that, I have seen the Scriptures He has led me to pray be powerfully answered in my loved ones’ lives. I have seen God move in their lives even though they tell me they don’t believe in Him. I have seen the Word sent not return void, but do what it was sent to do. One day, I know that God will open their eyes and restore what the enemy of their souls thinks he has stolen for good. For I know who my God is: faithful, true and sovereign. And on that day their hearts will fill with incredible joy as they look back and see God’s fingerprints all over their life.
But please know there are days I feel my heart turn to bitterness and anger toward my loved ones, myself and even God. But I have also felt God take hold of these emotions and the lies connected to them and transform them into confident declarations of His love for and authority over me and my loved ones. And I have seen incredible heart change occur, both within myself and others, sometimes even within moments of my heart crying out.
But sometimes, when the scars of my past have been ripped back open through words or actions of others, I have also seen God do something else. In these cases He has set me apart from the hurt being done and any triggers of this hurt, encouraging me to be patient with myself, to allow myself time to heal and be built up in His Word and Spirit. I have often been impatient to return to my busy life or felt guilty for the boundaries He has placed around me, but He has again and again confirmed it as His will for me. He is teaching me to receive His kind and His patient love and this is leading to more and more surrender and repentance in my life.
And from that place of resting in Him, He is building me up to truly believe Him at His Word and pray from a place of victory and compassion, rather than from a place of dejection, rejection and hurt. He is completing the good work He begun in me as a little girl, when my parents faithfully planted seeds that are now beginning to bear fruit. Nothing is ever wasted in the Kingdom of God.
Matthew 11: 28 – 30 (The Message)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Will you join me in prayer?
Father God, I confess that there are moments that I get discouraged, frustrated and even angry or despairing as I dwell upon my circumstances. Upon that which has not yet been restored. Forgive me, Father.
I thank You, Father, that I am not a victim to my circumstances, even to circumstances that are a direct result of my and others’ past sins. I thank You that I am more than an overcomer in Christ Jesus and that because of the incredible sacrifice of Your Son at the Cross, our past sins have been fully forgiven and You are making ALL things new in my and my loved ones’ lives.
I thank You that Your Son has already paid the price for my and my loved ones’ victory. I thank You that even now our boundary lines have fallen into pleasant places because Your Sovereign hand remains upon us all. You are working everything into good for us.
I thank You that You remain faithful in our unfaithfulness. You know and understand that which has led my loved ones away from You. Help me never to forget the words of Your Son: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do” . Help me to cast and pour out at Your feet any emotions and thoughts that are causing me to hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness in my heart- whether toward You, myself or my loved ones. Help me to remember that You already see my heart struggle, and rather than condemn me, call me to come as I am, to name that which is pressing down upon me. Father God please remove anything that is keeping me from resting and returning to You, even if this is something I love dearly and (falsely) believe is something You want me to do.
Help me not to allow the enemy to gain any foothold in my life and where he has already, open my eyes to it, so that I can place it at the foot of the cross, believing You have given me power and authority over it.
I thank You that as I and my beloved Prodigals turn to the left or to the right we will hear a Voice from behind saying: “This is the way, walk in it.” Today, I choose to rejoice in the truth of our salvation for:
“you are always the same; you will live forever. The children of your people will live in security. Their children’s children will thrive in your presence.” (Psalm 102: 27 – 28 NLT), for “[You] looked down from [Your] heavenly sanctuary. [You] looked down to earth from heaven to hear the groans of the prisoners, to release those condemned to die. And so [Your] fame will be celebrated in Zion, [Your] praises in Jerusalem, when multitudes gather together and kingdoms come to worship [You]” (Psalm 102: 19 – 22, NLT).
If you feel like you are walking through a refining fire at the moment as you seek to honor God in your Prodigal’s life, I’d encourage you to read a beautiful poem by Arthur Tappan Pierson about the eternal beauty being created in you and to listen to the truths in this beautiful song: