Seeking God First

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This past week, my husband Ed was in the hospital a few days with worsening congestive heart failure (causing pulmonary issues with his COPD).

I was multi-tasking, running in a gazillion directions at once, when I walked nose first in the dark into an open door I’d forgotten to close. Thankfully it wasn’t broken, just wounded. Ed is “ok” but continues to struggle with activities of daily living, as exercise-induced shortness of breath and weakness take over—just as frustration and learning to accept more limitations within his many diagnoses affect us both.

Knowing we are among many others who face various trials and tribulations, I reread the words below taken from my larger essay written in 2014. Nothing can separate us from the love of God when we face difficulties, and I needed to be reminded of that, too. For God is still here, guiding us each step of the way.

I was asked to speak at a local women of faith retreat in December 2014 on their theme, “Wise Men Still Seek Him.”  It was an honor to have been asked to share my life’s faith testimony, but it was also a humbling experience to open my heart in a “public” venue.  It’s entirely different from writing poems and reflections and podcasts, which are often shared behind the scenes. 

While God has graciously given me more understanding and wisdom gained over a lifetime of spiritual growth, He has also continued to draw me into a deeper faith through all of life’s ups and downs. This may not seem like a Christmas type message, but without the birth of our Savior, who would we seek when times get tough? My prayer is that God will use these words taken from my larger speech to bless your heart.

I’m the oldest of six children, blessed to be born into a Christian family, albeit a somewhat dysfunctional and fractured family, with my father divorcing my mother not long after I married. There was never a time I did not know about Jesus from church, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Christian elementary school. At 14, having moved 15 times, including to a new school district for the fifth time, I was complaining that I had no friends when my father reminded me that as a little girl I would say Jesus was my best friend. Ouch! I’d forgotten that. 

At 15, I recognized my need for Jesus as my Savior and asked Him into my heart. Still, I did not seek God and His will as I should have during my late teens. Tet, it’s in knowing that when I seek the Lord with my confession and repentance, He forgives me and wipes my slate clean for “…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Ps.103:12 NIV)

I was married at 19 to Edward in October 1974, waiting until the fall crops were in. Celebrating our 47th anniversary this past fall, I look back and see how immature I was. But I also look back and see how faithful the Lord has been, always beside me, guiding and drawing me closer to Himself, and He has given me a husband whose love, insight, and wisdom have met my needs.

Like other young couples, Ed and I thought we’d live happily ever after without problems. Instead, like so many others, our life together seems to have been one struggle after another, though it’s how we react and what we learn that makes a difference.

There was a time, years ago, when I did not understand that; when I felt lost, questioned whether I was truly saved, and didn't know how to accept or learn from problems sent my way. But the Lord took the wounds and scars in my life and turned them into blessings as He helped me grow spiritually through those tough times.

Admittedly, it’s been the journey of a lifetime learning to seek God, to listen to His still small voice and nudges within my heart. Sometimes His message is loud and clear. Sometimes God is quiet and doesn’t seem to hear my prayers, with no clear answers, no direction, no healings. 

Yet it’s in those times that I remind myself to keep moving forward in faith knowing that God is with each of us through the tears and difficulties, not just the best of times, for “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 NIV)

Despite my share of struggles and failures when I take the reins instead of allowing God to have control, I can honestly say, as I look back, that it’s also been through the toughest days that God has blessed me in many ways. Sometimes I long for a quiet simple life, one without any difficulties. But that is not the life given to me. I need to rest knowing that He is in control. He uses our struggles to teach us, to draw us closer to Himself, and to reach others through struggles we go through. He understands what we face and allows our difficulties in order to help mold us into the person He wants us to become.  And I can’t help but wonder if I would have grown spiritually if I had never faced the various trials sent my way. 

For God does not always heal our problems in the way we want just because we pray for healing. Literally being told that Ed was not healed of his blindness because we were not praying right, or that we should pray certain ways for healing, set dangerous tones of self-centeredness, not seeking or accepting God’s will.  

As we scroll through Scripture, we find that Paul sought the Lord three times to be healed of his “thorn in the flesh.”  Instead of healing, he heard the Lord say, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…" and Paul responded by saying “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness… for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)

Yet, Ed and I know how hard it is to live out those words of faith when we have not seen the healing we prayed for.

So, it’s the Lord’s wisdom I seek to guide my steps, to direct my path, to cover me with mercy when I am weak and fail yet again. And when I’m stressed to the max by life and its busyness, I find He is there, even in the mundane. He’s teaching me to seek Him, to lean on Him, giving me peace and contentment in the turbulence. 

In this, I can find satisfaction doing what He expects of me even when it’s not the easiest path nor the direction I want to go. For our walk of faith takes us to new dimensions with Christ that we would not have known without those difficulties.

As the Lord has drawn me and Ed closer to Himself, He has strengthened our faith, taught us forgiveness and patience under his grace and mercy, and carried us when we feel so overwhelmed. He has been with us through days when we wondered why it seemed He wasn’t answering our prayers: when we lost our unborn babies, later giving birth to three beautiful healthy children; when Ed, a premature twin who was legally blind from pure oxygen in the incubator, went to an eye doctor for vision issues, told to quit farming that day, had 9-hour retinal/eye surgery, and I had to find a job; long-term effects of my undiagnosed PTSD from past abuse; my Tourette’s syndrome since age 10; when our son was diagnosed with a rare congenital heart defect needing an implanted defibrillator; when our oldest daughter died at age 25 from an undiagnosed heart abnormality; when Ed went to The Carroll Center for the Blind for training, then lost his job as customer service rep after 9/11, telling God he’d tried everything he could to find work, putting it in God’s hands to find him a job—and God answered him with a new job when the company’s owner knocked on our door to ask what Ed could do for them!

When I had multiple neck fusions, back and hand surgeries, an autoimmune disorder (sarcoidosis) with severe IBS necessitating a very restricted diet, and breast cancer. When Ed had permanent statin drug muscle damage needing multiple surgeries to repair torn cartilage in knees and shoulder from struggling to stand from sitting, neck fusion, a brain shunt causing seizures, unrelenting pain and dizziness since 2008, severe CHF, COPD on chronic asthma, diabetes; and much more I’m not going to list. But now, retired, I’ve been blessed with a sub position in our local public schools, hoping to make a difference in the lives of our youth.

Through it all, God showered us with love in answering our prayers in ways that best fit His plan. As my friend Natalie wrote, “God does not always reward faith with blessings. He allows our faith to undergo challenges, to be tried through a fiery testing.” Job, Paul, and James all speak of God knowing our path through trials as we persevere in faith and wait on God’s timing, as hard as that may be at times.

And in seeking Jesus this Christmas season, may we each find Him in the humblest of places within our heart, not in the rich embellishments and trappings which boldly confront us. May we find Him in serving others with a heart of love, even the least among us—in caring for the hurting souls among the noisy din of humanity. 

Then, wherever love is needed, may we reach out to reveal Christ among us, and know the gift of His strength and comfort, and hope and peace in the midst of life’s turmoil. For with that peace comes the gift of inner joy because in Matthew 6:33 we are told to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

In this joyous Christmas season, as we celebrate the birth of our dear Lord and Savior, may we all remember to wisely seek Him first—whatever comes our way.

Seeking You
Linda A. Roorda

Seeking you Lord, Your will in my heart
Giving all thanks and praise to Your name,
As Your loving hand with mercy and grace
Guides through rough seas to calm peaceful shores.

Seeking you Lord, in the dark of night
When sleep won’t come and dreams bring on fears,
As I arise to the morning dews
And greet the sun for a bright new day.

I’m drawn to Your side when cares overwhelm
Teach me Your ways from words filled with hope.
Grant me Your peace when life darkens doors
Guide every step, Your wisdom impart.

With riches great we travel secure
Thinking we have control of our life,
But when troubles come we turn quick to you
Pleading for strength to carry us through.

This strength I seek from Your loving arms
Moment by moment to face new demands
With head bent low my prayers rise to You
To humbly shine Your light from within.

May I ever know You walk alongside
Guiding my steps and the path that I take
May words expressed show love to others
From a heart that seeks your wisdom and truth.

Then may I know Your mercy and grace
Covers my soul with comforting peace
Granting wisdom from within Your word
As I praise Your name and seek Your will first.

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