Thursday, March 31, 2016

Through the Pain

Reflections of a Transformed Heart,
a Conviction Ministries Blog

Through the Pain by Autumn Savage Clark

In the last few years God has brought me through some incredible situations. When I look back I cannot help but reflect , not only on what I went through, but the fact that God was with me through it all.

That said, let me tell you a story.

A few years ago I was living in a beautiful relationship with God. I had not only given God my heart, but my dreams, aspirations, and hopes. I had given Him my life. In an effort to understand His plan for my life I continually sought God’s will. Surprisingly though, over time, it almost appeared as if things were falling apart every sincere plea and every cry out to God. Now, I’m not saying I was perfect, but the more I sought God, the worse my life became. Though not quite as extreme, I couldn’t help but see similarities between the story of Job and my life.

The heart-torn cries and pleadings to really connect with God were pouring from the soul of a single mother with two daughters. A single mother who, in spite of  working full time, had dedicated her waking hours to studying the Word of God with designs to enter into full time ministry. I had sensed God’s anointing on my life and had covenanted with God to live accordingly.

Though I didn’t know what my future looked like. I was being drawn into an ever increasingly intimate relationship with God. An inner thirst for His Word, His Truth, and His love continued to increase to a point to where no matter how much I prayed, no matter how much I studied, it was never enough. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for ... God.” (Ps. 42:1 ESV)

In the midst of these cries and pleadings was a person desperate to fully serve God. I interned under pastoral leadership, opening my doors on Monday evenings for Bible study groups and led the youth at church every weekend. All so that I could share the love and Word that God had revealed to me, and during it all, God perpetually equipped me with the courage, strength, and wisdom to do it all.

It was In the midst of these things, that I was confronted with what would be the first of many integral decisions in my walk with God. The situation that arose next would turn out to be one of the most important events of my life. After having experienced success after ministerial success, a morning came where I heard God specifically tell me to “Quit your job and Trust me.”

Hearing God wasn’t strange for me. The relationship that I shared with God was an intimate one. His Spirit and I communed all the time and so, with haste, I quickly answered “Yes Lord!”. I hadn’t contemplated what a change like that would require of me, nor did I immediately realize how much faith this change would require.  As Israel had done on Mount Sinai, I said, All that the Lord has spoken I will do. (Ex. 19:8)

Though my intent was righteous, I had made the decision without contemplating what God’s call would require of me.  Being the “all or nothing” type of woman that I was, I hastily decided to obey Him without really evaluating what that obedience would require and it was that hastiness that would be my downfall.

It wasn’t long and fear and doubts crept in. I began realizing how difficult this calling would be. Then the weight of quitting my job and entering into full time ministry began to present itself. By meditating on the fears, I had given Satan what he needed to rent space in my head. Instead of relying on God to equip and strengthen me, as He had done before, I allowed the Satan’s lies to take root and grow within my walk with God. With every passing day self rose up. I began rejecting the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The fears and doubts resulted in me telling God that I couldn’t obey him, that I couldn’t just quit my job and move into full time ministry. Everything I had accepted as a reason to flee God, was actually the reasons why I should have grasped God more tightly.

Like Jonah running away from his duty. (Jonah: 1:1-3) I started to bury my burden. I excused away and justified my disobedience in an effort to numb the voice of the Spirit. Unlike Jonah though, my rebellion didn’t end so quickly. One bad decision led to another until eventually the person from ages past, the old woman whom had died when I gave my life to Christ, was resurrected and given the dominate position in my life. The revelation of what had happened and how far I had fallen became a weight around my neck. I resorted to using narcotics to aid my flight from God and as the narcotics gained control the Spirit’s voice receded and like King Saul God’s anointing lifted from me. (1 Samuel 16:14 )My intimate relationship with God faded away like the sun’s rays at sunset.

By now you would think that I had realized the degree to which I had separated myself from God, but the truth is that I didn’t. I continued as though God was still empowering my life, but when I opened my mouth to witness there was no power. In a way, I had become a whitewashed tomb. (Matthew 23:27)

I could recall the days when I would open my mouth and God’s words would come forth. People would be utterly convicted, but now confusion was taking over me. Slowly, with every passing moment,  I stepped out of the will of God and all of the roles He had placed me in.

However, regardless of how far I drifted away from God; He never left my side. God’s providential care, His love, His long-suffering was evident the day that I left the house and encountered a stopped semi-truck while traveling at 50mph. Here I was, pregnant with my fourth daughter, sitting in a scene of devastation .

I can remember opening my eyes and seeing a man standing standing there with a look of shock in his eyes. His face said it all. As my voice crackled, “Help me I am on fire”. The day that had begun in devastation ended in trauma. What followed were months of tears, surgeries and rehabilitation.

I can look back at all of that and lament about it, but the truth is that the accident acted as a catalyst for reuniting my relationship with God. Here I was years later, once again given an opportunity to walk with God as I had years ago when, as a child, I encountered him face to face. As a child he and I had spent hours with one another. Hours of communion filled with joy and heart warming love. This time though, rather than being a joyous child filled with laughter, I was a child pleading for my life. A child begging to feel His warm embrace!

Fast forward a few months and my life was barely recognizable. There I sat, in a wheelchair, but at least I would walk again. He helped me all the way! From a wheelchair; to a walker; then crutches. Weeks later I  delivered my 4th girl.

I am who I am only because of the grace of God. God’s strength took over while pain remained. Healing began spiritually, emotionally and physically. My grief, abandonment, resentment and anger were dissipating through the study and application of His Word.

My journey of healing and restoration did not take place in an environment of encouragement. As a friend said, “true spiritual growth takes place in the crucible of tribulation”. No one was anywhere to be found and though at times that was difficult to accept, it was by divine design, it was God’s plan.

In reflecting upon those moments in my life I can see that my entire falling away from God had been intricately initiated by Satan. He had seen the calling on my life and capitalized on my inner weaknesses, on the places where I had not submitted myself to God. What was so shocking was that his actions were nearly imperceptible. Had I been ever ready, had I been vigilant by watching for Satan’s attacks, maybe I wouldn’t have had to go through the pain that I have.

How about you, when Satan “seeks to steal, kill, and destroy” the calling on your life, you will discern His voice and tactics?  Will you destroy “every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience?..( 2 Cor. 10:5-6a).” Or will you, like me, find yourself crying,  “Help me I’m on fire”?

-Autumn Savage Clark

For years she lived in the wasteland of  life. Day after day of difficulties and disappointments dominating her life the moment came where encountered Jesus Christ.

It was her encounter with Him that she saw, not only who God was, but the truth of who she was in Him. Since then, joined by her husband Richard and their four daughters, she  has been embarking on a divinely ordained journey of discovery, growth, and ministry.

Autumn & Richard Clark

John 10:10 is quoted from the ESV with permission from Crossway Publishers

2 Corinthians 10:5-6a is quoted from the NIV84 with permission from Zondervan Publishers