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It was dark. The silence was deafening. Nothingness. It was my eighth consecutive night of virtually no sleep. I was surrounded with only my thoughts. I had cried so much that there were no tears left. The mourning was still in my heart, but the tears wouldn’t flow. God, where are you? Do you hear me? Do you even care?
I would love to tell you that that night was long ago, when I wasn’t saved, didn’t pray regularly or read my Bible. It wasn’t. Truth is, I’ve had many days or nights like that one. There have been days when my prayers seemed to go unanswered, weeks and months where God’s voice was silent, and His prompting uncertain. My Christian journey has been filled with highs and lows. There have been times of unspeakable joy where God’s hand was so evident upon my life that no one could deny it. And there have been other times when I was desperate to hear God’s direction for my life, and I simply couldn’t.
My testimony of God’s goodness is a powerful one. He rescued me from myself. He rescued me from every poor decision I had made. I was once a homeless, severely abused, single mom who was pregnant four times outside of marriage. I lived in poverty, clung to everything empty, and ran from God for years. It’s not hard to track my story and see God at work in my life. And because I now work in full-time ministry, there may be some who would mistakenly think that my Christian life is perfect – easy, effortless. And then there are others of you who already know…it couldn’t possibly be.
Raising teenagers is hard. Being a wife is hard. Being in ministry is hard. Life is hard. It’s that simple. Jesus told us that in John 16:33, that we would have trouble in this world. As Christians, we’ve all had those amazing moments with the Lord, where the Holy Spirit nudged our hearts in a dramatic way. We’ve felt the joy of knowing where we will spend eternity. Most of us have been on fire for God, where we just wanted others to know about what He has done in our lives. But we’ve also gone through the dry seasons, the spiritual wilderness where we hear nothing but silence.
Over the last 18 months, my family has been in and out of the hospital and doctor’s offices more times than I care to count. An otherwise healthy family, we’ve had to undergo seven surgeries in the last couple of years, endless hours of physical therapies, and mounting medical bills. The fear of opening yet another medical bill has sometimes consumed me. The worries of where my teens would go to college or if they would make good choices with friends have kept me up at night. And frankly, I’ve cried out to God when I didn’t feel Him near.
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Too often in our Christian walk we navigate our faith based on how we feel. When God’s moving in an obvious way, it’s easy for us to praise Him. It’s easy to remain faithful, when we are full of happiness and joy, when the new job came through, or a miraculous healing takes place. But if you’ve been a Christian for more than about 60 seconds, you realize, life’s journey brings ups and downs, struggles and joys. Our salvation was and never will be based on how we feel.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Jeremiah 17:9
I once heard a pastor say it like this, “Our feelings are a great servant, but a terrible master.” Our feelings help us gauge where we are or how we are dealing with a circumstance, but they aren’t our litmus test of salvation. When we don’t feel God’s presence, it doesn’t mean He isn’t near. When we don’t see active movement from Him in our lives, it doesn’t mean He isn’t working. When we don’t feel like serving Him, it doesn’t mean we don’t.
Thank God our salvation is far deeper than temporary emotions. Thank God that His word is our truth, not the way we feel when we get up in the morning! And that, my friends, is what brings true joy.
Jennifer Maggio is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on single moms and womens’ issues. She is an award-winning author and speaker who has a God-given passion to see women walking in total freedom. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and has been featured in countless media venues.