Since I’ve been re-reading and studying Philippians, some things keep coming back to my mind. Memories of other lessons from this book, some quite a while ago… like “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13 KJV)
Alone in the apartment, I stood in my bedroom and yelled at God. Out loud. I raised my fists and shook them at him. I called him names. I said, I don’t like you! I don’t believe you! I don’t believe in you! I don’t believe anything in your Bible. You don’t love me and I don’t love you! You didn’t take care of me.
It was early evening and my children were off somewhere with their friends. I had no friends.
There was no place I could go, or wanted to go, because somebody I knew might be there and they would go out of their way to avoid actually speaking to me. And besides, I had no money.
I had a good time wallowing in self-pity. Sometimes I paced around the darkened room, sometimes I stared out of the windows overlooking the street, watching a few cars go by. Sometimes I examined the sparse furniture in this rented apartment bedroom, wondering who had lived there before. But who cares, I thought, they were no doubt better off than I am.
And after a while, I heard a quiet voice intruding into my thoughts. Are you through?
And yes, I was through – for now. I realized that he had been listening to my rant, not arguing back, not zapping me with lightning bolts for being rude. Just being patient, patiently waiting for me to be through.
I clenched my teeth, clenched my fists, and determinedly began to speak out loud again.
But I choose to praise you. I choose to thank you. I choose to worship you. I choose, by an act of my will because I sure don’t feel like it. I WILL get through this. I WILL survive this.
I CAN do all things. I CAN DO THIS.
Out loud I began to repeat any verses I could think of. Scripture songs I had memorized. Psalm 23. I began to thank him for the ordinary things, like the clothes I had on. The shoes I wore. The fact I actually had a roof over my head and food in the kitchen. That my teenage children had clothes and food.
More and more things kept dropping into my thoughts. Health. Job. Car. Family. Books. Library card.
I began to praise him with clenched teeth for who he is. Not what he does for me, or gives me, but just for who he is. Almighty. Creator. Alpha and Omega.
After a few minutes I realized my attitude had changed, my feelings had changed. Although my feelings of hopelessness and loneliness had not totally vanished, they weren’t as dreadfully painful.
The praise and gratitude became real. I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time, recognizing how much had evaporated from my emotions. I was surprised. Surprised and puzzled.
The voice of the Holy Spirit spoke to me again. Better now?
The year was 1978. My children and I had left our beautiful home and mini-farm, left a situation of abuse that had become intolerable to them and to me. What now, God, what now? was like a broken record running around in my head.
One thing now, I had learned a valuable lesson. Praising God doesn’t stroke his ego, doesn’t increase his power, doesn’t do anything for him. But it certainly had done something for me.