There is nothing like impossibly hard work to bring out the wimp in me. The decision to finish a master’s degree (abandoned when my parents moved in) was not made lightly. The Spirit of God tugged at me to do it, and I finally relented. The courses have been good, but they seem to be getting more difficult, with more challenging assignments and deeper truths to recall and rewrite, digest and discuss.
I nearly bailed out in the previous 8-week course, but made it through thinking the next one would not require that I view hundreds of videos and take in so much information that my mind was unable to absorb even half of it. However, the current 8-week course is also taxing my brain and stretching my spiritual muscles. No one can take theology without being challenged to apply it, and I am being challenged.
This morning, I prayed for some encouragement. The verses were the same as yesterday, but the reading that went with them spoke answers to my prayer. Here is the verse and I’ll write the rest of it in my own words . . .
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. (Hebrews 10:32–33)
Before God urged me to finish this degree, I felt I was groping in the darkness and not clearly seeing what my next steps with Him should be, not that this choice was easy. I knew it would deeply bless me, but it would also take all my time and energy. Besides, how could someone my age remember and pass exams? Not only that, God gave me no clear reason why I should do this, only to do it. While there seemed much benefit in it, I knew it would be costly. For weeks, I argued with God.
Then in one radiant day, I heard Him clearly say that for me, for this time, this was the way that He wanted me to take. It was clear. I could not argue or say no. After deciding, a strange confirmation happened. I was given an unexpected source of monthly income. It covered the cost of the entire degree, something that I’d not worried about but nevertheless kept poking its way into the decision. I had no more excuses.
Decisions like that are important pivots in life. There is also a glory in them in that “God trusts me to do this?” and I am amazed. Still, I struggled with the decision and am again amazed because that sense of not being sure of myself or even of God voice has not been half as difficult as the struggle that has followed the decision.
I am six courses in (transfers plus 11 or so more to finish) For one thing, the time and energy that could have been put in other efforts begins to appeal to me, sometimes subtly as I sit in front of my computer facing assignments and listening to lectures. I didn’t expect myself to feel a dread at opening a book, even a book on a topic that I’ve always loved, and wishing I could run away from home, at least for a few days. This is hard work and I am a wimp.
Today’s devotional reading says that the most difficult task in life is not to win, but to keep what we have won — never to falter when the going becomes a huge challenge. God calls me to stick to it, not to go back on this decision, not to listen to the voice of the enemy who has harassed me from day one. That alone should convince me this must be important or Satan would not be so busy trying to deceive me into quitting.
The reading also says that important decisions ought to be reinforced by prayer for “there is no weapon like prayer for helping God’s people keep what we have won.” Prayer unites me to the living Christ. Prayer slaughters the worst thoughts and temptations. Prayer is the avenue of grace that brings to my aid the power of the life of Christ. In these gloomy and often lonely days, prayer is my link to the love of God and His desire for my perseverance.
In all my faltering, the Lord continues to whisper words of encouragement and direction saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” This day, I can put one foot ahead of the other. That is all I can do. And the blessed Spirit reminds me of a story about a grandfather clock. The stopwatch asked it how it was possible to keep time for a hundred years. The wise old clock replied, “One tick at a time.”