Friday, September 11, 2009

Cast Not Away Your Confidence

I am still in the midst of a very difficult part of my life. Unlike most difficulties in my past, this is not short-lived, nor will it simply disappear in time. Part of what makes it difficult is that I am very prone to putting myself in another's place, and of feeling deeply another's pain. One might say this is no vice, but it means that others' opinions of me matter far more than my own, and that I constantly doubt myself and who I am before God. For the past year or so, I have come to realize that God is not susceptable to others' opinions of Him. Therefore, I see that the gift of empathy in me has become rather corrupted, modeling an attribute that is not of God and serves to give the Adversary a wedge to drive between me and my Maker.

Only last night, after I struggled to communicate what I am feeling without sabotaging another's opportunities, and feeling as if I failed miserably, I surrendered to painful self-reflection. I realized that I am separated from my God right now by a keen lack of confidence in myself before Him. Although I can logically look at my life, and see that I have done right in the sight of God, I have been emotionally damaged to the point where I have trouble believing it, and find myself seeking others' validation. I spent a sleepless night pondering my place in His eyes, and pleading with Him to help me understand whatever it is I am not understanding. I felt prompted to read my scriptures in the middle of the night, and was directed to Hebrews 10 and 11.

"Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise."

This was painful to me, because it is exactly what I fear: that I have not done the will of God despite all my attempts to do so, that somehow in the end all my efforts will not be enough.

I read on to chapter 11, which speaks of faith as the substance of things hoped for, etc. This is a very familiar passage to me, but this time I noticed several breaks in the usual narrative. The first was that "without faith it is impossible to please [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."

The power of this verse struck me deeply. I may not be right, I may not have done everything the way I might wish to have done it, there is no way for me to know for sure. Yet one thing I know: that I have done my best to seek God and His will. It does not say that God rewards those who are perfect, it says that he rewards those who seek Him. The promises that He has made to me, which now seem like dust, are not dead as I fear. I am in His hands. My life is in His hands. My struggle to forgive as new wounds are inflicted is known to Him. He has seen me struggle to feed my children and make ends meet, He has seen me try my best to turn the other cheek and not revile again, He has seen my pain as those in authority are blinded by rationalization. He has seen how much work and effort I put in to make things in my life work the way they were supposed to work, and has guided me through learning that it is time to take another path.

The scripture says later that Sarah, Abraham's wife, had Isaac because she "judged him faithful who had promised." In other words, God had promised rich blessings, as He has to me, and I have worked hard to make myself the sort of person who can receive those blessings. It is in Him to make it happen. It speaks of Abraham's seed who "confess themselves strangers and pilgrims on the earth," as I have often felt, because they seek "a better country . . . a heavenly [country]." Because Abraham believed the Lord, he went to sacrifice his only son, believing that God would raise him again because God had promised that in him Abraham would have his seed.

Chapter twelve begins with a final poignant thought for me, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, (rather as I am,) let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us." In other words, set aside the worries and cares, and do not let yourself be separated from God. "And let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith . . . . For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, let ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord . . . for whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth . . . ." And if you endure chastening, you belong to God.

It does not matter that, despite the truth of my claims, the evidence of which will likely never be reviewed by those who matter, and the infamy of the opposition, they seem to be believed. I know the truth. They know the truth. Most importantly, God knows the truth, and I can keep my confidence in Him who has promised.

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