Phew. This week the Lord has been speaking to me in a variety of ways with the same question. Amber, what has your faith? I have struggled over the past few years to get clarity on what to have faith for. For the first two years after my marriage blew up in my face, I put all my faith towards a reconciliation and keeping together my family under all circumstances. While those first two years of Berlyn’s life will always hold the most sacred of places in my heart, those were also the years that I had very little peace - sometimes no peace for long periods of time. Have you ever had a season where you were consumed with a desire for something to change or for something supernatural to happen that you felt consumed every day looking for evidence that something was happening?
I see this in people’s health journey. They are on a healthy path for 3 days, 7 days or even a couple of weeks and they message me that “nothing is happening” and “it must not be working”. This happens more often than not. That is why having a coach is so important for women really committed to the journey, because when you are looking for evidence that it is working in every waking second of the day, you will quit numerous times in a day - therefore leading to zero results. But this is how we are hardwired. We live in an instant gratification society and forget our bodies are not something we can just swipe away or “edit” like we do on our phones.
You see, I believed I heard God clearly when everything came out into the open. He told me to stay. I didn’t want to. He told me to be a servant. I wanted to punish and withhold. He told me to live in joy every day. I wanted to feel sorry for myself. He told me to pray. I wanted to throw a tantrum. He told me to read and listen to His word. I wanted to binge watch Netflix. He told me to spend time with Him. I wanted to get together with my girlfriends, chug a bottle of wine and let it all fade for a few moments. He told me to forgive. I didn’t know how. But I listened, not perfectly, but for the first time in my life, I put more weight on what God was telling me to do versus my opinion, other people’s opinion or my feelings.
I would love to tell you that everything got better. It didn’t. Most of the time I felt like nothing was shifting and whenever there was a shift, it was usually an explosion (on my end) built up out of frustration with the lack of nothingness going on. Between motherhood, my marriage and my faith walk, I felt like I was in a never-ending personal development seminar that I couldn’t check-out of. Every day I felt as if I was failing and walking in faith at exactly the same time.
I kept telling myself that God wants Berlyn to have her family. I kept telling myself God wants me to keep my marriage covenant. I kept telling myself that God loves him more than I do, so He too will find the path to freedom and walk on this journey of life to eternity with me. But everything kept pointing to a path that did not look like any of these outcomes.
How can I have faith for something that doesn’t fit what I believe to be the right way? This is the tension I struggled and still struggle with every day. So here is what God showed me this week. I had faith, but the faith was conditional. It was conditional not only on the outcome but also how the path looked. As long as it matched up with what I believed was the best, most Godly and logical way, I had faith. I mean, how could there be any other outcome than reconciliation and redemption and no divorce? So every time something would happen counter to my plan, I would fall into doubt.
Now, doubt is a normal part of the human condition. Even Jesus doubted. He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” – Luke 22:39-44 This shows that Jesus was questioning the plan. He was asking if there was another way. Was going to the cross and dying a grueling and humiliating death really the only way to bring us life and reconciliation to our Father?
So I get that self-doubt is not the opposite of faith and it is not a sin. But Jesus gave the answer to self-doubt - “yet not my will, but yours be done”. We know how the story of Jesus ends, but at the time this was actually happening, the apostles were faced with doubt. As Jesus was being led away and crucified, they had to be wondering, how could Jesus dying be part of the plan to save us? The apostles had even more doubt when Jesus was put in the tomb. They hid from fear that they too would be executed. The doubt during those three days Jesus was in the tomb was obvious from scripture. These are the very men who walked three years with Jesus in the most intimate way possible. He saw Him perform miracles first-hand. They heard Him speak every day. And they doubted the plan because it didn’t look like what they thought. They doubted the plan because they didn’t know the full plan and based on the information they did have - it didn’t look good. It was only until the plan full unfolded and Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them, that the path they had just traveled made sense and all doubt disappeared.
I have to believe that this is a message for myself and some of you. The plan doesn’t look like what we thought it would, but it doesn’t mean the outcome we are believing for isn’t going to happen.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8
I cannot tell you how many times I have said this bible verse as comfort for myself and others. But God is taking me even deeper. The key to the Christian walk is faith. By faith we believe and by faith we are saved. It is all about faith. And faith is not necessary if we know the path and get all the details beforehand on how our life is going to unfold and then, and only then we have the faith to walk out the journey.
I see this often with the health journey I lead women through. They are all-in, if they can release 1-2 pounds a week. Seriously. They will make great decisions, say no to temptations, exercise regularly and drink water - despite having to pee 5 or 6 times a day or having to move around their schedule. It’s amazing what lengths women will go to when they have faith that the outcome will turn out a certain way. But that’s not how it happens, is it? Nope. The energy may improve or the cravings start to subside, but when the weight doesn’t go - the self-doubt comes in - what if I am destined to be like this? What if this doesn’t work? What if I commit and it fails? What if I am broke? What if? The what if questions lead most women right down the wide and well worn path to fear and away from the overgrown and less traveled path of faith.
I get this. I have been delivered in my health journey, but God uses the areas of our greatest insecurity and weakness to reveal to us what needs to go and to plant in us what we need for what He has for us next. I don’t know all the reasons God said to stay and I won’t know the full plan until I am face to face with my Creator and Father. This is what I do know. The relationship between Berlyn and her daddy was solidified in those first two years. Even though Berlyn will never remember those years, we will. We will never forget the journey to keep that precious human being alive while also shifting into the identity of a parent.
It also aided in the process of forgiveness in a weird, twisted way. Every single day I faced that in which I wanted to bolt from. My tendency is to bolt. God told me to stay to face my grief every day. That was the most difficult thing I have done in a long time - maybe ever. It’s so much easier to run away and hope that what we are running from doesn’t catch up with us. I couldn’t escape the realness of what had happened and what was happening inside of me because every day I looked into the face of it’s reality. And as God led me on the path to forgiveness, He put a mirror in front of me and showed me what I had showed up in the relationship. Ouch, that hurt. My heart softened with compassion in light of my own need of forgiveness and grace.
Most women don’t stay on a healthy journey long enough to feel the stages of grieving their old ways. It is a process to break up with the dysfunctional comforts of the past. It’s like losing an old friend that has walked with you through the deep waters of life and soared with you on the wings of eagles. It is more emotional than what people expect. It is also what leads people back to old, familiar patterns of dysfunctional comfort where at least they could numb out their emotions.
But there always comes a tipping point when we just cannot remain in the same place any more. My tipping point was not anything monumental except that something inside of me said - no more. As the words hurled between him and I - a voice inside of me said, “this is the end of the road. You can leave.” With all of the certainty of black is black and white is white, I walked into the room and said, “I’m moving out. I need two months.” He said, “okay”.
Often in a health journey, this happens. There is usually a crisis of some sort. Sometimes it is a diagnosis and sometimes it is like what I just explained - you do something or experience something and it just clicks - this cannot and will not go on. In that moment of decision, things are never the same because we are no longer the same. I find that if women have not reached this pinacle, then there will be an ongoing battle between the new life necessary for the transformation and the old life necessary to remain in comfort.
Now, let me be clear, just because we have reached a tipping point, it does not mean that there is never a feeling of doubt. I truly believe that after something snaps inside of us, there is a process of grieving that has to be experienced. The shock of “is this really happening?” and the doubt of “can I really do this?” that come and go like waves washing over us.
But something has snapped. A wind has shifted. Things will never be the same. This is the place I found myself in. As I moved forward, almost in a trance, I took one step and then the next. Doors opened that were only by the hand of God. The day I moved out was the biggest leap of faith I had taken in my marriage and to many (including me), it seemed like a leap in the wrong direction. But that day, I found my peace again. As I sat on my couch, surrounded by boxes and furniture, I looked out at the water and I felt God speak to my spirit and say, “My sweet daughter, this is where I have brought you to heal, to rest and to just be with me.” Tears streamed down my face. I didn’t make any sense, but I finally had peace. Peace in the midst of self-doubt. Peace in the midst of grief. Peace in the midst of the unknown. Peace that transcends all understanding.
Most women never find peace in their health, towards their body or with food. I believe it is because we are searching for peace in a number on the scale or a size of jeans or just a smaller version of ourselves. We search for peace in an outside solution for our internal struggle. We look to others for our peace. We look at an old version of ourselves and think that was when we had it so we need to get back there. (Even though when we were there, we didn’t have it.) Here’s what I have learned about peace. Peace is the revelation that God is the source of everything we are searching for and it is found through the process of God revealing this to us through the difficulties in life that feel as if they will destroy us and that brings us to the end of ourselves.
Sometimes I look at my life and I think, “I would not have placed myself in the situation and circumstances I am surrounded with in a million years. I literally could not have made this up.” Where I am is so different than what I dreamed for myself and at the same time, I have peace that I am exactly where I am destined to be. They key is in what “I dreamed for myself”. So often our faith is tied to our expectations, our plan, our desires and when God doesn’t perform and conform to our standards, we lose faith in God and we partner with fear. But just like Jesus said, “not my will, but thy will be done.” Hello, peace.
So this is all leading up to what God has been speaking to me this week and perhaps someone else needs to hear it like I did. As I have found myself teetering between being certain and not being sure of the path I am on, I have felt a fear that I am not hearing from God. I have a fear that I am doing this wrong. What if I am making the wrong decisions? What if I need to increase my faith for the miracle that is deep inside of my heart?
But I felt God gave me a revelation this week. Amber, do you have faith in the “what” or do you have faith in the “who”? This hit me and I had to catch my breath. I have been walking in faith for the path that would lead to the outcome I have created inside of my head, instead of faith in who God is. I know what I am asking God for. He knows it too. But the path He is taking me on is not to be determined by me. I can still stand in hope and faith for the desires of my heart while being obedient to God and walking the path He is illuminating step by step in front of me. I have to have more faith to walk with God in what APPEARS to my human mind to be the wrong direction versus walking in faith towards my desired outcome without the presence of God. Whoa. Revelation. Hello, more peace.
Let me tie this back to the health journey again. So many women I work with are carrying deep disappointment of a life spent struggling with their weight, self-image and confidence. By the time they get to me, they are pretty beat up emotionally and have very little hope that they can ever experience freedom in this area. But God knows the path they were going to take to put their
- faith in diets to lose the weight
- faith that a thin body would attract friends
- faith that the wine would help them escape
- faith in the drugs to relax
- faith in shopping or comparison to feel better about themselves
- faith in men to feel connection, etc.
He knew what would lead them to the end of themselves where they would realize that nothing and no one can fill the gap in our souls that was created to be filled completely and eternally by God. The greatest temptation in life is to find our validation in a source other than Christ. So, where you thought God had left you, is actually where God may have led you back to Him.
So as I stand in an uncertain place that makes absolutely zero sense to my logical, human brain, I choose to have faith in God. That He will never leave me nor forsake me. That He is working ALL things for my good. That He knows the beginning and the end. That there is no piece of information that God is waiting to get when it comes to my life and how this is all going to work out. He knows my heart. He has the full story and the plan and therefore I trust Him completely with the process. His plans are to prosper me and not to harm me. His plans are to give me hope and a future. I don’t need to know the path, I just need to trust and know God is leading me to the purpose He has created me for.
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!
Ephesians 3:21 - 21 (The Message)
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