Sometimes I feel crazy with awareness. Paranoid even. When I speak of and share the spiritual battles that rage around me and list the firestorm that inundates me–I’m pretty sure, deep down, people think one of two things. 1.) Thank God I’m not Michelle, or 2.) She’s insane. I’ve seen it in your eyes, heard it in your comments. I know.
and I’m ok with it.
After reading “Sifted” though, I feel vindicated. Silly to feel that way, but the truth. Rick Lawrence opens with telling me what I kind of already felt I knew, that we can withstand a tragedy that comes along not so often in our lives, but the onslaught of little battles that occur often and simultaneously and endlessly…those are the battles that tear us down. They eat at our foundation like termites.
I received this book in my mailbox for review on July 26th. The past six years, maybe even the past decade, feel like a war. I said, “I’m afraid that if I get close to Him again, something worse will happen. And I don’t know how to let go of that fear.” Looking back, I feel I was right to be afraid. In 2010 my mom found she had a brain tumor and died eight weeks later. Phil’s dad died. and finally on July 27, 2011, Phil got fired, which meant we lost our home as well as a job. Life has not been easy.
I started reading “Sifted” the night it came in the mail thinking, I”ve been sifted. The next morning when Phil told me his job was terminated and we had to move within forty-five days, I kinda knew I (we) were still being sifted. I spent the next few days reading this book replacing “Simon, Simon” with my own name:
“Michelle, Michelle. Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Michelle, that your faith may not fail. and when you have turned back, strengthen your sisters.”
I think the first thing I had to understand was that “Trust is the currency we spend and receive in all our relationships–if there is no trust, there is no intimacy.” And I was not trusting God. I was too afraid of the circumstance I might have to go through if I did trust Him. Silly? Maybe. But true.
Accepting that I need to trust God, also means admitting I must accept what comes next. After all the death, betrayal, loss, hurt, pain, and everything else that has been endured in the previous decade of my life, the question bubbles up often, “What more could happen?” and the answer to that very question is paralyzing.
Rick Lawrence examines under a microscope the intricacies of this being sifted. From understanding Satan’s MO to God’s sovereignty. He gives us truth to stand on.
1. Satan does not operate out of legitimate authority; he navigates solely by deceptive and illegitimate legal authority.
2. Satan is detailed, organized, shrewd, and systems oriented.
1. God is never leveraged by evil
2. There is never a moment when God is not telling the truth.
3. God always goes first.
4. God is love and love allows its beloved to taste the delicious fruits of hardship.
“God’s assent to His Enemy’s demand to pound Peter (Michelle) with hardship is like a gardener’s commitment to fertilize his crops–he knows that fertilizer is just the sort of poison that will fundamentally perpetuate his plants’ survival in the face of killing assaults. Only an ignorant farmer refuses to fertilize. And only a disrespectful and pandering God keeps His children from the hardships that will make them impervious to the only true fear: ‘Do no fear those who kill the body buy are unable to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both the soul and body in hell” If the only fear worth having is the fear of One who can destroy both soul and body in hell, and instead of fear we feel only magnetic love toward that One, we are free indeed.
I dog-eared more pages in this book than you can imagine. It seemed that nearly every page had this blaring siren of truth jumping from the pages.
“… faith is a tension between extremes–like a person balancing on a tightrope wire, you have no chance of walking on the wire unless it’s pulled taut. Likewise, there must be tension in our faith, or we won’t be able to live it.”
“God is unfailingly kind but only sporadically nice. That’s true because the nature of His kindness is radically different from its popular and shallow translations. Kindness isn’t measured by the act but by its effect.”
Truly, I could go on for hours or days unpacking the weight of this book and distributing it to the compartments of my life. It has helped me more than one single book has ever helped. Not just for what I’ve been through, but what I will go through and because of reading it, I am better equipped. The fear is no longer so prevalent.
“The best use of our energies is not to try harder to be like Jesus, but to stay closely connected to Him–the branch embedded in the Vine.”
“Application as a discipleship strategy is severely overrated–real transformation happens when we draw near to God.”
“Understand-and-apply is a me-centered, exhausting, and ultimately demoralizing exercise in manufactured grace. It is the same exercise once practiced by the Pharisees, who were lambasted over and over by Jesus for practicing a ‘form of religion’ without its ‘substance.’ We cling to it because we are controlling–we understand how to do-and-do-and-do but we don’t understand how to abide.
“Application can take us only so far. Sifting will expose it for what it often really is–a willful determination to live our lives outside of desperate dependency on the grace of God. ”
And yet, I’ve only skimmed the pond with a rock here.
Do yourself a favor and just buy it. Seriously.