From My Journal

by Dottie Ryan

I initially took Falling in Love Again with your Lord in the summer of 2007.  As I rummaged through my old study, I ran across my final journal entry from that period of time. So I wondered if it would be okay to share with you where I was then…how the study touched my heart back then — and to let you know that He who began a good work in me continues to complete it.  I praise God for the measurable truth He has brought me to because of the truths He began to speak to my from the study at that time.

Dottie Ryan’s closing reflections on Falling In Love Again With Your Lord 2007 [slightly modified for this blog post! -ed.]

When I began this Bible study, I had expectations that through it the Lord would meet me where I was and would expose my idols, lies, and sin.  And that He would, in a gentle way, restore me to himself and I would be healed of all my past hurts. Period.  I had romantic visions of Falling in Love with God.   Having my journey all planned out for the Lord, when He did not accommodate my well-thought-through plans in the way I thought He should, I was tempted to despair.  I must be honest with you ladies.  In the process of attempting to let go of control of my life and surrender to God, I found myself trying to control Him.   No, not knowingly.  But having not yet been totally healed of my old selfishness ways, I, like a little 2-year-old throwing a tantrum, kicked and screamed to get my way.  But My Lord is so gracious and patient.  Yes, even in this, God understood me and was doing a work in my life.  He had begun a work in my heart and was cutting open some of my very old scarred-over wounds that had never truly healed.   I became a whiny patient as I mistook his tender mercies (because they were painful) as punishment.  And because of the pain I had encountered during this study, I was certain I had suffered enough and it was now time to experience the pleasant feelings.  But I was not ready.  It was not time.

With a prayerful heart, I disclose the secrets of my last week’s journey…

JOURNAL ENTRY: Oh Lord help me!   Help me breathe.  I am running from you — from life — from praising you — from seeking you!  My desire to spend time with you today is all but gone!  And this scares me.  My mind, emotions, and energy are all spent.  At times I feel, Lord, as if you have totally deserted me and I am tired.  I feel naked.  And I am scared.  Will you come rescue me?  My thoughts accuse me of having no faith.  O God, this study says that it is ultimately up to you — but I must seek you.  What does all this mean?  Do you do it?  Or do I?  I need clarity.

I need something only You can give Lord — not from my friends — not my family.  And I am so tired of crying — of emptying myself only to remain “feeling” empty.   How do I give you everything yet let You do it?  I am confused this day, Lord.  Do not let me despair!

It seems in some strange way that I am walking this journey all alone!  Have I pushed you away?   Where is that place in my soul that you promise to meet me?  Please meet me there. You are the only thing in life that matters.  Will you come close?  I long so desperately for you.  I’m trying to follow you – to rid myself of my idols.  I’ve set myself apart for you.  … How long O Lord? 

O how I could relate to David during this time.1  The final week of this study served as one of going even deeper than the whole study itself had taken me.  Was that possible?  Was there a deeper place?  If so, what was its purpose?

There is a time when a doctor operates on a patient when he can not close up the wound because there is still infection and the wound must heal from the inside-out.  To close it up too early would mean the infection could spread into the patient’s system making him extremely ill and, left unchecked, would eventually kill him.  When I finally settled down just a bit to let the Lord speak to my heart, it seemed He was showing me that this is what He was doing in my life: He had opened my scarred-over wounds of the past and was allowing the infection of my sin to seep out.  It was ugly and it stunk: impatience, pride, shame, insecurity, control, judging, and unbelief — these impurities continued surfacing from, what seemed, the toes in my feet where I had securely stuffed them so many years ago.  He longed to replace them with His love and compassion.  But the healing must occur from deep inside.  And that would take time for me to realize.  I felt the effects of my sins — I was experiencing them — and they seemed to rule my life.

“Your right hand upholds me…My grace is sufficient for you.”

It is during this process that I felt, and even believed, that I was going to die — that I’ve actually gotten worse and have fallen further away from our Lord than I ever was.  Life even seemed darker.  If this is where you find yourself now after having taken this bible study, you may be thinking you’ve wasted your time because you, too, might be in pain.  Do not despair, O suffering one.  Be encouraged.  Not only is this study working for you, but, through it, your Lord is getting ready to deliver you of those lies that have held you in bondage most of your life.

My Lord had drawn me to the place He needed me to be so that I, like Much-Afraid,2 would ask Him to bind me to the altar so that I, being a coward, would l not struggle and move as He puts His hand in my heart to pull out all the roots and fibers of sin — years of lies that had twined and thrust themselves into every part of my being.  It’s like He is asking me to come, again, to the cross so that He can do an eternal work in my life.  And I am terrified and angry because, at every turn, it reminds me of the circumstances of my youth that caused me so much pain from those I should have been able to trust.   And like Much-Afraid, I am exhausted and frightened.  Surrender is not easy because I risk being hurt yet.

I’m reminded of Bunyan3 and Augustine4 and how they struggled through extremely difficult and dark periods in their walk and came through on the other side to make a marked difference for Christ.  I think of Spurgeon — how he wrestled with depression and despair,5 yet He became one of the most renowned preachers of the 19th century.  And this brings me comfort to know that the great preachers of times past also struggled.  So through this process, I am reminded that, even when I struggle, because I belong to Christ, there is hope.  I am no longer chained to the iniquities of my past: I am not obliged to live in the fear, shame, and insecurity that accompanied me as a small child.  I am — you are — a child of the living God: Goodness and Mercy follow you.  And even though we do not have it all together, our Lord is not going to punish us and withhold His affections. In fact, in Christ the Father sees us as perfect.  He loves us.  And He is patient.  So, trusting this, we must make a determined decision to put the lies of our past behind us and believe that the Word of God is true for us or we will remain in torment.

As we continue in our healing, we must be reminded “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  He will not abandon us.  And as we journey through the shadows of darkness, let us cry out to Him to walk with us through those places we have always kept hidden from Him.  Then trust Him to meet us there.  Kathy Olsen reminds us that Christ never promises peace in the sense of no more struggle and suffering.  He does not promise us un-lonely lives.  Instead the answer he gives to our cries is Himself.  If we go to him for anything else, he may send us away empty.   But if we go to him for Himself, we go away with the deepest of all our hungers filled.6

Dear fellow sojourner, if you also find yourself in the midst of healing-pain, we may at the end of this particular phase of our journey find that the pain is not all gone and that sin is still there.  But maybe our hearts have become more tender and compassionate.  Some of us may have recalled asking our Lord to do whatever it takes to allow us to experience healing in our lives.  And because of that, we may now be coming to know Him as our compassionate Savior, our Healer; as Jesus the Lover of our souls.  If this is not the case for you, believe the truth and do not let your feelings or circumstances lie to you.  Rest assured that God promised He will not let you slip from his hand.  So be patient and learn to trust Him.   But if you do find that you now seek Him with a renewed passion — with a true hunger and thirst in your soul — with a trust that is inexplicable, you may also have begun to realize that you are indeed Falling In Love Again With Your Lord!  Either way, pause to thank your Lord because He is doing a miracle in your life.

1Psalm 22 and Psalm 38 for example
2See Hind’s Feet On High Places, by Hannah Hurnard, Chapter 16
3John Bunyan, Grace Abounding, Section 186 & 192 for example
4Augustine, Confessions
5Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity, by John Piper, 1995 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors.  Here are some quotes from Piper’s sermon:

“The final adversity I mention is the result of the others – Spurgeon’s recurrent battles with depression.”

“It is not easy to imagine the omni-competent, eloquent, brilliant, full-of-energy Spurgeon weeping like a baby for no reason that he could think of. In 1858, at age 24 it happened for the first time. He said, ‘My spirits were sunken so low that I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I knew not what I wept for’ (see note 48).”

“Causeless depression cannot be reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings. As well fight with the mist as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness … The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back (see note 49).”

“He saw his depression as his ‘worst feature.’ ‘Despondency,’ he said, ‘is not a virtue; I believe it is a vice. I am heartily ashamed of myself for falling into it, but I am sure there is no remedy for it like a holy faith in God’ (see note 50).”

“In spite of all these sufferings and persecutions Spurgeon endured to the end, and was able to preach mightily until his last sermon at the Tabernacle on June 7, 1891.”

You can read the whole sermon here.

6Kathy Olsen, Silent Pain, Pg 204, Paraphrased

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