It was only four years after leaving my church, that I could see what God was doing. He deliberately hemmed me in by painful thistles. Each thorn of rejection, triggered trauma and pressed me into the arms of Jesus.
It humbled me and opened my eyes to God’s loving presence in my immediate family and friends, awakening my heart to the steadfast Promises in His Word. It helped me to let go of the idols of self, church and man that were suffocating me in fear, self-condemnation and shame and to walk into Christ’s love and grace for me.
In Isaiah 55:13 (ESV), God promises us that His Word shall come to pass in our lives:
“Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Interestingly, briers and thorns abound in the desert, while the myrtle abounds in mountainous regions and the cypress in wet soil, close to the sea. Likewise, briers are arid thorn bushes that easily burn, while myrtles and the cypress are lush plantings. As I lay in bed at night, God brought all this to mind and showed me something so beautiful.
Christ humbled Himself on the Cross, so that now, He can lift us up to Himself, through His humbling work in us.
Christ hungered and thirsted in the desert to quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger in our own desert now.
God sent His only Son to be pierced for our transgressions to give us beauty (myrtle) for ashes (brier), burning our thornbush to give us the riches of His eternal Presence in Christ Jesus.
He takes us into the valley to lift us up to the mountain top. He takes us into the desert to lead us out into a tropical and lush climate.
And now I see that as we follow Him, He leads us to repeatedly take up our own Cross that we might follow in His footsteps. To keep descending into the valley and to keep walking into the desert, so that the life of Jesus might be manifested in us to draw others to Him also. “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:11, ESV).
Jesus did not hide out in the Temple. He willingly chose to forfeit the religious leaders’ respect to do His Father’s will: to sit and break bread with those whose weakness, poverty and illness prevented them from leading a self-righteous life and excluded them from entering the Temple. So, He brought the Temple to them and later, awakened the Temple of His Holy Spirit in them.
The maligned, ostracized and excluded ones – the little lambs caught in the thorn bush of their accuser – are the ones Jesus drew nearest to on earth. For, He knew their hearts had been tilled in their weakness to acknowledge their inability to fulfill the law, so that they would be hungry to receive His fulfillment of the law at the Cross.
And He invites us – His children – to join Him in His suffering outside the camp also. That in His humbling, we too might clothe ourselves and His long lost sheep in the righteousness that is ours in Christ Jesus alone, as we proclaim the finished work of the Cross. As we boast in our weakness, speak the truth in love, confess our sins freely and extend the mercy of our God, as He extends that mercy to us also.
Helen Roseveare asks in Living Holiness: Willing to be the Legs of a Galloping Horse (Kindle Location 1170):
“Could I thank God for trusting me with the experience, even of severe illness, and seek His grace to learn more of Him through it, so that I in turn could help and encourage another – or would I demand healing, thinking of such as my ‘right’ because I am a Christian?”
If truth be told, I at first did not thank God for this humbling experience of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the severe trauma triggers that had me wanting to take my own life. I didn’t thank Him for the thorns that cut me off from the Christian life I knew and prided myself in. But what I didn’t see is the gift those thorns would become to me and to others through me.
What God has taught me – through the waves of trauma coursing through my body – is that the shaking in our lives is only ever permitted to reveal what is unshakeable: the foundation of Christ’s love for us all and His calling upon our lives.
I now know, thanks to CPTSD, that complete healing and wholeness is already ours in Christ Jesus. Whatever trials come our way are only God’s way of proving the power of His love at work in us, for us and through us.
Praise God (Isaiah 55:10-11, ESV):
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall [God’s] word be that goes out from [His] mouth;
it shall not return to [Him] empty,
but it shall accomplish that which [He] purpose[s],
and shall succeed in the thing for which [He] sent it.
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” (2 Corinthians 2:14, ESV). For, Christ’s “food is to do the will of him who sent him and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:31, ESV).
A few months ago, as I was about to head into further hospital testing to better understand my heart condition, I was reminded of my repeated prayers before God. From the moment He brought me home, I have prayed for Him to humble me and from the moment I began to realize the power of God that makes itself known in human weakness, I have prayed that God might make me ever weaker. That He – my true strength – might arise in me and draw those I love so deeply, unto Himself.
You see, as I shared in Chapter 1: Strengthen Your Brothers, I came home to Jesus because I palpably felt the Holy Spirit’s Presence descend upon me and upon my dying Mum. The more her body and strength deteriorated, the more palpably I felt the presence of God in our midst. She couldn’t move, speak or even swallow at the end and yet I have never in my life felt the peace of God with me as I did in those final days of her life on earth.
Later, flashbacks and trauma triggers of my Mum’s suffering tried to steal the gift of that peace that passes understanding from me. But those flashbacks and triggers could not erase the memories I still have of experiencing the palpable peace of God upon my dying Mum. And as I shared in Chapter 4: I Know You, God beautifully exchanged those flashbacks of horror with vivid visions of life and beauty, giving me palpable evidence of the hope of glory awaiting us all.
Ultimately, my mental illness has in fact cast me into the arms of Jesus – as He has been teaching me how to be genuine, and how to open my heart in trust to receive and give His love. Through my illness, God is opening my eyes to see by faith – to take hold of the eternal hope that is mine and my loved ones’ in Christ Jesus.
I now know my family belongs to Jesus already: for His Word that beats so strongly within me tells me so and reminds me so again and again. But my heart still so yearns and so grieves for them to know that too – for Jesus to awaken them by the touch of His Holy Spirit. And so, I thank God for answering my prayers through my new illness that is plunging me deeper and deeper into the love and mercy of Jesus, as He exchanges my fears for faith and my unbelief for childlike faith in His holy Word to me.
I thank God for making me weaker still, so that by the power of His Holy Spirit, Jesus might become ever more palpable and visible to me and my loved ones. Just as He did to me and to my Mum, through my Mum’s breaking body and my breaking heart, upon which the Spirit of God descended with great power to declare us His own.
May God continue to shake each one of us, that what is unshakeable will be uncovered in us and in our loved ones. May He set us free to speak the Word of God boldly – not just with our lips, but with our very bodies, as we present them in Christ Jesus as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing unto our God. May our mighty God reveal the power of His Son in us, as He strips away all that is fading away to reveal what is eternal and everlasting by the power of His Holy Spirit.
Celebrate Jesus and Behold Him Face to Face
Will you join me today, as I turn to look full into Christ’s wonderful face amidst the horror unfolding in this shaking world? Come, let’s rest together in the unshakeable and everlasting arms of our God, who is holding the whole world in His hands:
As you read today’s Scriptures below aloud, what word/s or phrase/s linger/s?
Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to reveal why it lingers and what God our Father wants us to see, know or do in response to His Word to us.
Acts 4:31 (NIV) After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Hebrews 12:26-27 (ESV) At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.