A lot has been said about spiritual warfare these days, and rightly so. The devil knows his time is short and is presently in the process of wearing out the saints. But there is another kind of trial that people don’t talk about nearly as much that can be just as difficult. It’s a test from God. See, as Christians, we all want to be pleasing to our Lord. We do our best to get the hang of whatever it is God has called us to do, and then He ups the game. That happened to me this past week. God called me to do something that was extremely distressing to me. I whined, pouted, and finally submitted. Somewhere right in the middle of it, I remembered that when God calls, God equips. He is in absolute control of all the variables.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial, which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.”1 Peter 4:12
In the above verse, according to Bible Hub, the word for “trial” is Strong’s Concordance number 4451. It means “a burning, hence a refining.” It refers to the “calamities or trials that test character.” The idea comes from a process called “smelting.” It involves heating metals so hot that the metal liquefies and separates. The dross (the impure part) rises to the top and can be skimmed, leaving the pure metal behind. Got Questions has done a great study on this subject that includes around fifteen different Bible verses that mention dross and/or the smelting process.
My Trial Started with a Spanking
As children of God, we have all been there. The dreaded moment when God points out something very clearly that He is not happy about. Hebrews 12:7 says, “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” Those are always times to be grateful to the Lord for helping us, but gratitude (at least for me), often comes a few heartbeats behind shock, realization, rationalization, resignation, and then finally repentance.
I was kind of slow to catch on, but my last blog, From Haggai: 5 Lessons to the Remnant of Today, was my rebuke. Right after I wrote it but before I published it, my pastor preached a message from 1 Chronicles 15 that featured a similar storyline. In a very loose summary, the people weren’t pleasing God, He told them what the problem was, and they fixed it. Then God blessed them.
Specifically, in Haggai 1, the people basically said to themselves, “The work of God is hard. It must not be God’s timing for us to do it. Let’s make ourselves comfortable instead.” God sent the prophet Haggai to tell them that just because the work was hard didn’t mean that it wasn’t God’s will for them to do it. When they gave God the right response, He let them know He was with them and helped them to do the job He called them to do. Then He blessed them.
Background: Fasting Is Hard
I’m a foodie. I’m also a teacher, and for the 2021-2022 school year, I felt led to fast at least once per week, sometimes more. I would usually eat Sunday lunch and then fast until noon or 5:00 PM on Monday. There were also quite a few Saturdays until 5:00 PM. In the summer of 2022, the Lord ramped up that program to include some no-water fasting as well as some frequencies that were, let’s just say, not pleasing. By the time teachers went back to school this past fall, I started to feel the pull even more. During the two weeks of teacher in-service, I fasted Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until 5:00 PM for both weeks. All those days when I would have gone to lunch with my teaching team, hashing over the events of the morning’s training, were instead spent in my classroom hungry and praying.
By the time school started, I was starting to get frantic. I wondered if it might be the enemy torturing me instead of God leading me. I fell into the enemy’s trap with some very foolish “defensive eating” on the days when I didn’t feel the pull to fast. Even worse, I was also starting to entertain the spirit of fear, dreading the next time I would feel the nudge not to eat. Right around that time while I was praying, I had the thought, “You don’t have to protect yourself from God.” Later I took this to mean that it wasn’t His voice after all — not that He knew what He was doing, and I wasn’t going to starve to death on His watch.
Anyway, as in-service came to a close, I felt the nudge to fast for two days straight. That would have it ending on the first day of school at 5:00 PM. I absolutely freaked out. The first day of a new school year is stressful on a good day. How could I possibly show up hungry and weak? “That FOR SURE isn’t God telling me to do that,” I thought. That HAS TO BE the enemy just harassing me and God is “unhooking me” from the program. “Maybe it’s just not His time for this. I had a good year run.” So, I quit.
I went about four months with only fasting Sunday evenings when I would go to my church’s prayer service early instead of eating. Often, though, I would wake up in the morning with a kind of vaguely guilty feeling about not fasting that I was still attributing to the enemy.
Fast Forward to Haggai 1
Right after that blog came out and I noticed the pattern, my church decided to call a corporate fast for January. Each person who could fast would take a few days in the month so that we would have the whole month covered with fasting and prayer. (We are praying for a spiritual breakthrough and a great harvest of souls.) Before the schedule even came out, I had a feeling that the last day of my Christmas vacation would be a fasting day. It was kind of a bummer because the schedule counted the day as starting the night before at 6 PM. I would be the one to miss the New Year’s Day potluck dinner at the church.
Sunday morning as I sat contemplating missing the dinner that night, I started counting in my head. “So, if I still fasted for dinner to come to the church to pray like I usually do, I would miss three meals: Sunday night, Monday morning, and Monday lunch.” I could eat at 6:00 PM on Monday night. Then I heard it loud and clear, “Nine.”
Just as I thought the word, I flashed back to the week before. I remembered I had the thought “three days.” I also remembered a sister at church saying, “One day our pastor called a three-day fast – even the children. It wasn’t as bad as we thought.” I squirmed for a few minutes, casting about in my mind for some way to deny that this was the Lord calling me to do this. The Haggai story echoed in my mind, “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not God’s will.” In those few moments, He added my next day off on Saturday too for good measure.
Then it hit me. That would have me two days without food when the teacher workday happened on Tuesday and three days without food on the first day that school got back into session on Wednesday, January 4th. How was I going to function? Did He want me to call in sick to work? I had only done a three-day fast one other time. It was right after I got saved and just remember spending the third day in bed and having soup and crackers for dinner because I felt so bad.
Shine Don’t Whine
That Sunday night after church, the pastor asked if anyone needed special prayer with anointing oil. I raised my hand. Not only was I going to miss the potluck dinner, but I was in for three days of fasting culminating with the start of a new semester. I needed special prayer for my very bad attitude. The next morning after I said my morning prayers instead of breakfast, I did my daily Wordle puzzle I like to do. I won’t bore you with the details, but I thought the word was “shine,” like “shine for God.” The word was “whine.” God was calling me out!
After Monday, the first full day, I went to bed with a pounding headache and a stomach that was on fire. I just “knew” that if I asked for prayer everything would be okay, so I stumbled out of bed, found my cell phone, and put myself on the ladies’ prayer line. By God’s grace, I felt a little better and was able to sleep. When I woke up, I saw a sister’s comment on the prayer line. “The devil is a liar!” That was so true.
Where God Calls, God Equips with Strength
Here’s the amazing part of the story. Tuesday, my first day back to school, was supernaturally good. Other than being a little hungry, I was totally fine and had plenty of energy. Wednesday was the third day, the day when I would have to teach. I got a headache by the end of the day after all my students were gone, but it was basically another terrific day.
When 6:01 rolled around Wednesday night, I felt well enough to eat a generous piece of chicken pot pie and a little bit of banana bread before church. That headache and stomachache Monday night were lies. I had fallen for the enemy’s tactic, doubting God. But even when we aren’t faithful, God still is! Normal human functions are not a challenge for the God who made the heavens and the earth. He is absolutely in charge of how we feel no matter the scenario.
Where God Calls, God Equips with Encouragement
“Then spake Haggai the Lord’s messenger in the Lord’s message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the Lord.”Haggai 1:13
Not only that, but God had set up messages of encouragement for me along the way. Just like when God let the remnant know He was with them, He did the same for me. After my request for prayer Monday night, that same sister who commented about the three-day-fast messaged me privately to suggest a vegetable smoothie to ease my fasting pains. Earlier that day, I had felt led to add juice to my fast. (I had the thought that if I didn’t, that was PRIDE.) The juice I “happened” to have on hand was vegetable, even though it had been years since I bought that kind. God had totally set me up with what I needed.
He also sent scriptures. The YouVersion Bible app verse of the day for Monday, January 2nd, was the verse I heard when God came for me to save me almost eleven years ago. (See my testimony). Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me.” The verse of the day on Tuesday, January 3rd, was about trusting Him even when we don’t understand. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
And finally, the YouVersion verse of the day on Wednesday, January 4th – the day school started – was Jeremiah 29:11. It was the exact same verse that was printed at the bottom of my prayer journal page when I went to record my experiences on the day before. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,’ saith the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.’” As faithless as I had been, and as much as I had complained and worried, doubting God, He had sent that message twice. I should absolutely have known it — it’s in the Bible. But it was like a parent bending down to a child’s level and catching her eye with purpose. “Hey. Look at me! I’m telling you something important.” He is so kind and caring even when we’re downright bratty!
Where God Calls, God Equips with Answers
The last thing I want to mention is what happened when I had gone to God in prayer with tears that first full day, Monday. I told him that for over a year I had fasted and prayed faithfully at least once per week, often more, and day after day in the summer. My prayers were always first and foremost for lost loved ones to be saved. I said, “Lord, I prayed and fasted SO MANY TIMES and nothing is happening! Am I doing it wrong? Are you doing something behind the scenes, that I can’t see? You obviously have a purpose for this. Please tell me!” Right after I got done with that prayer, I went to Facebook.
A brother in Christ had posted the video for the song “Weary Traveler” by Jordan St. Cyr. As I watched the video, I started to cry. The song was good and has a great message, but it was the storyline in the video that spoke to me. In it, an old man is calling out. He’s walking and walking. He’s reading a map and fighting his way up steep, rocky hills. He keeps looking over the hills at how far left he has to go. In the middle of the video, we see him stop and kneel, cradling this backpack with care and sadness.
The song then starts the bridge, “Someday soon we’re gonna make it home. Someday soon we’re gonna make it home.” We flashback to a fight between him and his son. It’s his son’s backpack he has been carrying all the time. Then we see the man again, alone and traveling. He’s calling and calling, carrying this backpack…and then he finds his son and hugs him.
In a moment I knew that God was letting me know that in this life, we are called to carry a burden for others. We are to strive in prayer (and sometimes fasting) for their souls and to cry out for them. When we are faithful to do this, God will allow them to be found.
I sincerely hope that my story isn’t a stumbling block to anyone. Christians who never get whiney or bratty and always hear God’s voice correctly might get puffed up. But the fact is that none of us always knows God’s plan or how He will work things out. As for me, this experience has taught me that where God calls, God equips. When He asks us to do something that looks physically impossible, we have to remember that nothing is impossible with God. It’s not just a snazzy bumper sticker or a colorful message on Facebook. It’s real. God isn’t bound by what we think or even the normal physics of reality. When He sends us, He is with us. And that alone is enough to make the journey worthwhile.
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