This is the story of one of my first affirmations from God. For the first time, He spoke to me, not through a teaching or while reading my Bible. He broke in and spoke to me in my mess. This is the beginning of my heart knowing Him in a way I had dreamed of, but was not sure was possible. He is so much kinder than I had imagined.
Like most stories, to really appreciate what God has done, the reader has to see how I was undone. At the age of 20, I was overwhelmed with troubles in my family, years of sickness and unanswered prayers. One night, I was supposed to meet my friends at a restaurant after work. I drove my car to the restaurant and could see them having a good time inside, I could not bring myself to join them. I knew I was hurting and did not want to bring the pity to their party. So I left the parking lot and went home.
A while later, my best friend, Erica, called me. She had seen me in the parking lot and wondered why I hadn’t come in. I poured out my sorrow, and she listened patiently. At the end of the conversation I said to her, “If I could just really know that He loved me, I could be alright. I mean I know He loves me in my head, but I need to know it in my heart. I think that if I really, really knew His love deep that this stuff would still hurt, but I could get through it. It would be different.”
I was talking about my Heavenly Father. I had walked with him all my life, read the Bible through many times. I had gone to church four times a week, listened diligently, but something was missing. Something I longed and prayed for. Something I would never be satisfied without. We prayed a prayer before hanging up asking God to make Himself known to my heart and tearfully I went to sleep.
A month later, my plans for a summer mission trip had fallen apart and I came home early. This was another disappointment. All the summer jobs were gone in our small town, but my Sunday school teacher had recommended I go to her parents’ mission and help there the remainder of the summer. I was supposed to leave the following day. I had promised my brother that I would take him to the new Star Wars movie and was intent on keeping my word before leaving for Georgia. So I hustled home and took my brother to the movie. On my way home from the movie, I saw flashing lights behind me. I felt hollow in my stomach as I pulled over for the patrol car. What had I done wrong? Here I was trying to go on a mission trip and trying to keep my word to my brothers, a pretty upstanding citizen in my own mind. What now?
It turned out my taillight was out and all I needed to do was get it fixed and prove it to the judge and he would throw out my ticket. The only problem was that I was trying to leave town tomorrow. Early. And this was going to slow me down.
As I was thinking about the injustice of the moment, it wasn’t really the taillight that was bothering me. It was my sick body, my unanswered prayers, the state of my family. This taillight was the last of many puzzles I could not solve about God. Is this how God treated His faithful ones? Why couldn’t just one thing go right?
And then everything changed in a moment. A simple little reminder. “Have you considered my servant, Job?” I was reminded of what Job never knew. Before Job lost his family, fortune and health, something happened in heaven. Satan came to heaven to heckle God. Evil was prevailing in the earth. Nobody cared about God. Everyone was doing wrong. Satan was having his way on earth and coming to heaven to gloat about it. Satan never mentioned Job. Who brought up Job? God. “Have you considered my servant Job?” He said. When the enemy was bragging about destruction, God’s big comeback was Job. God knew all about the havoc the enemy was wreaking on earth, but He was watching Job. He delighted in this man so careful to please Him.
That’s when the trouble started for Job, when God started bragging. Somehow in that moment, I knew something that changed everything. God had watched me all these years and bragged about me. That’s why I was experiencing all this trouble. That may seem like a stretch to you. Or worse, it may seem self-righteous, but it was like green pastures and still waters to me. My sorrow was turned into joy. I laughed boisterously while that cop wrote me a ticket. My brother thought I was losing it. But I had gained something that I could never lose. My Daddy loved me. I was the joy set before Him. When He was being assaulted by his enemy, He thought of me, His faithful one. I affected Heaven’s Heart. It was finally real in my heart. It would need to go deeper, but it was enough in that moment to give me strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. Giving God joy gave me strength. Still sick, still with a list of unanswered prayers I couldn’t understand any good reason for, and with the same problems in my family, there was a stream in the desert. There was a loving gaze and word from my Father. It changed everything.