The Strength of Our Heart

Today, Anna is sharing a small part of her own Prodigal journey.

Psalm 73: 26 ESV
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Outwardly I was the “good”, obedient girl through my teenage years. I was, like Bettie’s son, placed on a pedestal by those around me, and I hated it. You see, inwardly I was weighed down heavily by grief, fear, rejection, anger and distrust. The “good” girl was the girl living enslaved to fear – a fear of man fed by the accuser of my soul, both from within and from without.

What I didn’t realize then, is that the hissing of my enemy actually defined me as God’s chosen and beloved child. I didn’t realize that the fear I felt was an invitation to enter Perfect Love’s embrace.

Oh yes, I knew the truths of Scripture. I had been fed the Word of God since I was a little girl, having given my heart to my Savior at the young age of 4. But this is where the battle gets ugly. We do not fight against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness. And what does our accuser do best? Just look at Jesus in the desert. The enemy takes what we love and turns it on us. He speaks the Word to us, not to free us, but to frighten and enslave us.

What is a Scripture he loved to scream at me on a regular basis:

Ephesians 6: 1 – 3 (ESV)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

But what do you do, when your very human parents fall into sin? When they parent from a place of fear and frustration, fed by Scripture the enemy is twisting to steal, kill and destroy? Rather than see my parents’ actions as sinful choices stemming from fear and lies sent by the enemy to enslave them, I listened to the taunts of my accuser. This enemy breathed Ephesians 6: 1 – 3 down my neck – taking the incomplete Word of God and using it to build up an idol in my heart.

Before long I was worshipping my parents as God. I began to believe that everything my parents thought, said and did – whether good or bad – defined who my God is.

Proverbs 29: 25 (ESV)

The fear of man lays a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

When I returned to my Savior’s arms more than twenty years later as a Prodigal child, the very first thing God did was to build me up in His Word. His complete, living and breathing Word. I cannot tell you just how many tears I shed as He opened His Word to me anew – as a love letter that affirmed me, comforted me, protected me and breathed Life into me. Multiple Scriptures that I had come to absolutely hate as a child suddenly became such treasure to me. And as I wept, multiple confessions also left my lips, as I repented of numerous sins in thought and deed I had all these years been collecting as confirmation of God’s rejection.

But God knew that for the Truth He had begun soaking me in to root more deeply, He would have to allow the enemy to attack me. For trees grow deeper roots precisely in and through the storms.

I always assumed that when God told us not to fear that meant we didn’t truly trust Him, if we feared. And yet, God tells us that perfect love DRIVES [not “has driven”] out all fear. Why would He tell us it “drives [it] out” and why even bother telling us not to fear?

In February, 2015 I began to experience my first attacks of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The attacks would begin with flashbacks of my mother’s last day, of her body breaking and being sucked of all life from the ravages of cancer, and as those moving pictures, sounds and smells took hold of me, trapping me in that moment I felt everything slip through my fingers, I was almost immediately hit with an incredible wave of emotion: fear being the strongest of the lot, a fear attached to powerful lies that told me the only way out of the incredible pain, grief and helplessness was to end my life. It felt as if someone had strapped me into a frightening roller coaster and wouldn’t let me out, no matter how hard I screamed.

And yet, within minutes the attacks would subside and my rational and logical brain would return to its senses and I was left feeling ashamed and embarrassed of the desperation and suicidal thoughts that had only just plagued me. Everything in me told me to jump, and yet NO WOUND WAS FOUND ON ME. The open mouths of the lions were REPEATEDLY shut.

Daniel 6: 23 (NIV)

 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted [Hebrew root- bittachon: to lean on, feel safe or secure, be confident- John J. Parsons, Hebrew for Christians] in his God.

How? Why?

Psalm 62: 7 (NIV)

On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.

Our salvation and our glory do not rest on us, but on Christ alone. Our thoughts, feelings, words and deeds counted alone define us as sinners with deceitful and wounded hearts, making us fall short of the glory of the LORD. BUT when we give our hearts to our Savior, He covers each and every part of our sinful and wounded self in Himself – the pure and spotless Lamb.

And as I spoke and sung the truth of this covering love over myself, my God became my Rock and my Refuge as the winds and waves of emotional overwhelm continued to lash me. Each and every day, I tuned into worship songs, Kari Jobe’s You are not alone on repeat. And I had this Scripture on my fridge and repeatedly read it, over and over and over and over and over again.

Romans 8: 38 – 39 (NIV)

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a]neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Footnotes:

  1. Romans 8:38Or nor heavenly rulers

Were my wounded, deceitful and weary flesh and heart pouring in life, abundant, full life? NO! The enemy of my soul was in pursuit:

Ephesians 6: 12 (NIV)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

But as a child of God, covered by the blood of the lamb, the enemy of my soul had His angry, evil, prowling mouth shut tight, again and again, and NO HARM WAS DONE. My feet were planted upon the Rock, as friends near and far waged war in prayer and Scriptural truths in the Name and calling of their LORD and Savior.

Dear, dear Reader. Don’t ever believe the lies of the Enemy. You are beloved, worthy, beautiful, treasured, whole, upright and complete in Him, the Rock of Your Salvation. He’s holding you and your Beloved Prodigals tight, even as each and every emotion and thought pulsing through you or them tells you otherwise. You and your loved ones offered Him your life, He’s accepted it, fully and wholly by the blood of the Lamb. And in His safe and secure arms, He will carry you close to His breaking heart for you, and NO WOUND WILL BE FOUND on you.

Now, I know the Truth – to honor my parents is to love and worship my God above all else. To honor the sacrifice Jesus made, by casting and pouring my heart out before Him, again and again. It is then I give Christ access to my heart to write the living Word upon it by the power of the Holy Spirit in me.

My accuser told me that my God sanctioned the punishment of broken children’s hearts, as they cried out to be held. He told me it was my fault I couldn’t protect the one I loved.
BUT Jesus tells me this makes Him angry and He tells me to feel the anger I have pressed down far to please Him and please others. He tells me He will hold me tight and encourages me to flail as a toddler. And as I do, He holds me tight and tells me: “It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. I am angry too. You cannot see it yet, but I am working everything into good. Everything.”

I was told to go away.
BUT Jesus sees my pain and calls me to come sit on His knee. He holds me close and asks me to stay.

The enemy told me nobody saw me.
BUT Jesus sees my grief, fear and hurt and cups my face to catch my tears and draws me close to His heart.

Little kids told me, the foreign missionary kid, to go back where I came from and the enemy used this rejection to tell me I didn’t belong, wherever I went.

BUT Jesus tells me to stay. He tells me that I belong. He tells me that He wants me. That He chose me and appointed me to do good works for Him.

The enemy told me I was a bother to God and those around me, who had more important things to do than listen to my struggles.
BUT I am not a bother to Jesus and those He has given me. He and those He has given me, love to spend time with me. Jesus (in them) loves the sound of my voice and invites me to pour out my heart before Him, again and again.

The enemy told me I had to earn the love and acceptance of God and others, by doing and saying what I think they expect of me.
BUT Jesus tells me He has approved me at the Cross. He has paid the debt for my past, my present and my future sins. He tells me that His grace and love and acceptance are free gifts. All He asks of me is that I open my hands to receive what is already mine. He invites me to live in the truth of who I am: fiercely loved and fully accepted.

I was told I am too intense.
BUT Jesus tells me I am wonderfully and fearfully made to be full of life and full of a desire to use the giftings He has given me.

The enemy told me that the anger I felt at God and those I loved separated me from God’s love and grace. He told me my questions and my doubts confirmed I did not belong to God.
BUT Jesus tells me nothing can separate me from His love for me and that He wants me to come as I am. He calls me to cast my burden of anger upon Him, to pour out all I feel and think before Him, assuring me that His love and grace will meet me there. He reminds me that HE will complete the good work He has begun in me, healing every wound in my heart. He invites my questions and my doubts, reminding me that trusting Him means resting my full weight on Him.

Cancer ate away at my Mum, stealing her energy, her ability to move from one thought to another, her physical movement, her speech, her swallowing, her communication and then, finally, her breath. The enemy told me this was my fault, that if I had not turned away from God, my Mum would still be alive.
BUT Jesus has made my Mum whole and complete. She is standing before the throne of the Most High King, crowned as His co-heir. Her illness and death are NOT my fault nor my punishment, for Perfect Love casts out all fear of punishment. My Jesus bore the wrath for all my past, present and future sins. My shame is nailed to the cross.

Thank You, Father, that You never let us go. Thank You, that You are working every awful attack of the enemy into good. Thank You that when our Beloved Prodigals return Home their faith will be much stronger than it ever was before. Father God, right now, we ask You to give us wisdom in loving and praying for our Beloved Prodigals. Open our eyes to any sin in our lives that the enemy has used to drive our loved ones away. Give us the courage to confess it openly before them. Let Your glory be revealed as we bow our knees before You, boasting in our weakness to shine Your strength and Your Light. Let any idol that has grown in our and our loved ones’ hearts  replacing our love and worship of You be revealed and broken. In Jesus’ Mighty Name. Amen.

Return here on Wednesday to hear more of my story – to hear how God is still using gifts He poured out of my dying Mum to transform my sinful heart.

8 thoughts on “The Strength of Our Heart

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  1. Anna, from beginning to end, your story is beautifully told. The redemption is so clear and I love how you are holding fast to HIS WORD. Yes, yes, a hundred times! It was ultimately His Word He brought you to and taught you truth and helped you learn the lies you believed. Thank you for sharing this and writing it in such a clear way. What a blessing.

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  2. Amen, Caitlin. May God keep fixing our eyes on Christ – the Word made flesh living in us in His fullness through the gift of the Holy Spirit. May He keep opening the Word to us in fresh revelations that lead us deeper into Him – our Way, our Truth and our Life. Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement- you have been such a gift to me.

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  3. Dear Bettie, oh yes! I think the closer we are to God’s will, the more he prowls and roars – but we remain safe in our mighty God’s hands – He is holding onto you and will strengthen you as you stand firm (just as He has been doing me this past week through your love and timely encouragement). Sending you hugs from afar and praying for you and your precious family. Love you!

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  4. Dear Anna,
    Thank you for the these precious Scriptures and reminders that we are held so secure by our Saviour’s Love! The enemy continues to roar out his lies, but our God is mighty! I needed to hear these words again today, to stand and hold onto Jesus. He knows exactly what the enemy will try to twist, but the Word of our God stands forever. I am so blessed by your story of God’s Faithfulness, my friend! Love and Hugs to you!

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  5. Such a moving testimony of our ultimate victory in Jesus, Anna. I think the closer we long to be to Jesus, the more desperately the enemy will try to pull us away and bring us down to despair. And the devil can be so deceitful by even using Scripture. This especially comforts me – “BUT when we give our hearts to our Savior, He covers each and every part of our sinful and wounded self in Himself – the pure and spotless Lamb.” Thank you for encouraging us to cling to our one and only Savior! Love and hugs to you!

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  6. Thank you, Anna. So much of what you wrote spoke to me. My kiddos are also missionary kids and they’ve also struggled as I have with belonging. The truth of what you wrote — the promises of God are the very ones He is using to minister to me during these days. Reading them here is an affirmation of what our Heavenly Father is speaking to me about.

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    1. Oh Hulda, I so wish we lived closer. I’d drop by to give you and your kiddos a hug. It is SO SO hard to walk through that struggle. But God’s grace meets us there, doesn’t it? He still is me – all these years later here in the Netherlands, where I still have my moments. He is so kind and compassionate to keep reminding me that I will always always always belong to Him. I pray He keeps breathing that truth into you all too. I’m so thankful God used this to affirm what He has been speaking to you. It was a post I spent so much time in prayer for – being led to remove bits and add new bits. He always knows what His children need most.

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