I ran into an old tennis buddy this week – not really a close friend, but an acquaintance I once played tennis with regularly long ago. Let’s call her Annette.
Annette asked if I was still writing; that was surprising because I didn’t realize she knew I was a writer. I didn’t think she was even aware of my inspirational (Christ-focused) books, for which I was just beginning to seek publication back when I knew her. Annette isn’t a believer, and I don’t recall her ever before taking an interest in my writing.
Although I surmised she wouldn’t really understand the deeper spiritual implications, I felt led to be honest with her in answering her question. “Well, I finished my last inspirational book nearly three years ago and a lot of hard things have happened in my personal life since then. I sort of lost my vision for inspiring others while I’ve been just trying to keep my spiritual head above water. I wouldn’t call it a crisis of faith, exactly – I’m leaning on the Lord more than ever before in my life. Sometimes His is the only strength I have. It’s just that I often feel overwhelmed in continuously dealing with the bad stuff of life. I’m trying to figure out the dichotomy of how to live my faith honestly when some days I’m so discouraged and disillusioned that I can hardly breathe.”
Annette just kinda stared at me, aghast. TMI. I guess she wasn’t expecting an answer like that to a mundane, “How are you?” type question. And I wondered just how many Christians she had ever heard express their struggles so blatantly.
After a few long moments (while I rethought my oversharing with more than a little embarrassment), Annette closed her phone and stuck it in her pocket. She’d been quite absorbed by it when we started conversing. Then she took a step closer to me and made full eye contact.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” she said sincerely. “And a little shocked too. I thought you Christians believe that Jesus is the answer to everything.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “That’s what we believe.” I felt totally humbled and not at all willing to sugar-coat my failings. “But some days it’s a horrible struggle to apply the faith that’s in our hearts to the miserable circumstances we’re going through. Being a Christian doesn’t insulate you from the bad stuff – sickness, death, divorce, financial troubles, failed dreams … and sometimes you feel like even more of a failure because you’re sure you’ve let the Savior of your soul down by not handling your troubles as a believer should. It’s really easy to beat yourself up.”
“Hmm. I see.” I could tell Annette was seriously considering what I’d said. “But you know, if that’s how all believers are thinking, then that’s exactly what you should write about – what you just told me about your daily struggles. They’re probably all going through the same battles you are, but don’t want to say it out loud. Because it’s so much added pressure to be a weak human and a superhero Christian at the same time.”
This time it was my turn to stare at her.
“You should keep writing, Debbie. I’ve heard you’re a good writer. Sorry, I’ve never read one of your books. But you know what? I’d sure want one if I was a Christian trying to figure out how to live my faith out loud in a world that constantly dumps trouble on you and expects you to just sail through it without feeling discouraged. Maybe your discouragement is by design. Yeah. That’s probably why you’re going though this slump – so you’ll have something important to say that people need to hear.”
Annette’s reasoning was a bit different than I might have gotten from a Christian friend, but snippets of wisdom were sprinkled in there nonetheless. I appreciated it. And I received it.
Isn’t it awesome when Papa God uses non-believers to achieve His purposes? I mean, we expect believers to listen to what their spiritual ears are hearing and spiritual eyes are seeing when the Holy Spirit gives them direction. But whoa – how about when guidance we’ve prayed for comes through the unexpected channels of those who aren’t overtly tuned into the Holy Spirit’s band width?
I think back on times the Almighty used nonbelievers in the Bible to accomplish His purposes. Here are a few:
- Pharoah allowing Moses to emancipate the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12)
- Potiphar’s wife having Joseph thrown into jail where he was in the right place at the right time to be discovered (Genesis 39)
- King Nebuchadnezzar ordering Daniel’s lion-delivering God to be worshipped in all the land (Daniel 3)
- Rahab the harlot who helped the Israeli spies escape from Jericho before it fell (Joshua 2)
- Caesar Augustus ordering a census throughout Judea so that Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem in time for Jesus’ birth as a fulfillment of ancient prophecy for the coming Messiah (Luke 2)
Yep, thankfully, God can use anybody to get His work done. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If God wills it, He fulfills it. No matter what.
So, BFF (Blessed Friend Forever), when has the Holy Spirit communicated with you through unexpected channels?
Cindy P says
I don’t have a story to share right now. I would have to dig deep to where I may have hidden the feelings associated with it. I do want to let you know how lovely this story is. It gives me thought and you told it so well. I would like to see you write that book.
Tricia Pimental says
Hi Deb–I’ll just say I totally understand your state of mind and heart; the times can certainly be tough. We are clearly so blessed to have the Lord with us, and I pray your friend “Annette” comes to know Him as her Redeemer.
All good on my end, but the winter turned very cold here in recent weeks and we are looking forward to springtime with all our heart! Love ya, T.
You do have a way of using all your circumstances and pointing other to look to PaPa God, the good, the bad and the funny! I appreciate your willingness to be used by God for so many others! You are a blessing!
I’m so sorry that right now is a shadow-y time in your life. We all have them and Papa gets us through them. Even if we’re not aware at the time. The best way out is always through but we don’t go through alone.
You’re in my prayers
Janine, your encouragement about getting through the shadow-y times hits home with a lot of us. Yep, we can’t go over or around them, so we have to pass through them and that ain’t at all easy. I thank Papa God every day that He’s right there with us so we aren’t alone. I sense that you may be navigating through some shadows right now too, so I’m stopping right now to lift you in prayer, my friend. Hugs!