I was thinking about how tired I was of slipping backwards in my healthy eating plan, and having too much junk in my diet for too many days of the week. I was also thinking it seemed I was doing so much struggling and striving lately and not getting very far in so many areas of my life, and there were parts of that I desperately wanted to receive God's instruction on, but for a couple of weeks, God seemed silent to me. I decided that it was a good time for the fast, and in the beginning, I started it just as I had all the other times, thinking about it primarily as a healthy way of eating in order to honor God. But it "just so happened" I found a book about the fast which I had never read at the thrift store. So I bought it, and in it, I read all the things that should occur during a fast, and the main thing was fervent prayer and a spirit of giving up anything that might take the place of God in our life.
It is shockingly easy to have "idols" in our lives without realizing it. I came to understand through another life changing Bible study I did based on the book Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst that an idol can be anything we go to for our comfort instead of God, like food, for instance. I already was aware that I had done this, and in doing that study for the fourth time, I felt that I had finally been freed of my addiction to sugar. But the pull I felt towards things that were salty, cheesy and deep fried was still there. So in these moments of reading this book, God spoke to my heart loud and clear. He pointed out to me that I had stuck with the fast the other times that I did it, except I always allowed myself the exception of one thing. Coffee with cream, because, face it, without cream coffee is not good. (Sorry, black coffee friends.) And actually neither of these are supposed to be a part of the fast. I heard God say, "You are willing to give up everything except the one thing you love most." Ouch.
Well if you know me, you know the thought of drinking no coffee for three weeks would be enough to make me cry, much more so than giving up any of the other foods that are not allowed. But for God, in order to get closer to Him and hear Him speak to me more clearly in my times of great challenge, would I be willing to prove that I loved him more than sweet, creamy coffee? Well when you think of it in those terms, there really is no question, is there? So I said goodbye to coffee, and also to my TV, because that is the other thing that seemed to call out to me at the end of a bad day. Let me tell you, in my mind there is nothing like a binge session on Netflix to turn off my brain and forget my troubles. But is it beneficial? And it is more effective than prayer or reading and listening good quality content would be if I filled that time with those things instead? Certainly not. So for these three weeks, I didn't just see it as a time to clean up my diet and pray a little more. I saw it as a time to immerse myself in Jesus every day, while cutting out all the negative material that has every opportunity to bombard us wherever we go. And something amazing happened! It was like the culmination of every meaningful Bible study I had done and sermon I had heard so far this year. Everything became crystal clear, and I knew that the secret to joy no matter what our circumstances in this life are is to truly seek God first, and seek Him just because He is God and not because of the blessings we want Him to provide. My three weeks was so hard some of the time, but for all of the time the experience was so amazing, to actually FEEL the joy and peace of God, which surpasses all understanding right in the middle of the mess going on in my life. I wasn't just relying on God to "get through" anymore. I was feeling happy when I didn't necessarily have circumstantial reasons to feel very happy. I almost hated to see my 3 weeks come to an end, but I left it with this truth finally being fully understood.....
I get it now. What is in your heart takes you over and spills out into your life. I may have had some things that were sad going on around me, but sadness was no longer filling my heart. Complaining was no longer filling my mind and heart. Discouragement was no longer filling my heart. Because God was present and He is always good, even when life isn't good, and the Bible tells us His plans for us will stand no matter what we see happening in the present. Isn't it amazing to think that the final say belongs to the One who placed the world in which we live in perfect order? He promises us that all things will work together for our good! Yes, there are still things I am praying for, believing for, and waiting for, but I will praise God and enjoy my life just as it is while I wait. Am I anxious that things won't work out or worried about how long God's timing will be? Not so much anymore. Because I know the secret.
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
So as I am waiting for the things I asked God for, I asked Him for my one next step. What should I do first? And what He said was to share what He had done for me. Tell people. Tell as many people as I could that I have overcome depression multiple times in my life only through His strength, and that finally in the year 2016 He helped me get it under my feet for good. Tell people that it's possible to be free of unhealthy addictions and ways of dealing with stress. Tell people that even when life looks dark and things seem irreparable, all is not lost. As long as we are alive, we have purpose, and where God has a purpose, there is always more hope. So here is the beginning of doing what I was told. I want to tell you more about it. I hope the little pieces of my story will help someone else. Even one. That is all it takes to make it worth it.