Wrestling in the Woods

November 2019

One morning not long ago, I walked into the woods. Defensive and with worship music playing in my ears, I charged onto the path needing my walk to be one of distraction. You see, I had recently experienced a blow by the enemy that had left my vision blurry for a few days. It was a sophisticated sacking I didn’t see coming; a tackle I didn’t think to prepare for because I was super confident in God’s promise. 

That morning, I walked fiercely over the trails listening to a playlist that had launched me out of a season of tremendous darkness only a few months prior. Welling up inside were a plethora of emotions reflective of the last season’s difficulties – primarily bitterness and confusion. These emotions set my walking pace, directing each step I took and each breath I made. I was hurting and trying to pretend it wasn’t a big deal; that there was no need to wallow in the shards of the broken situation or give it a second thought. I told myself, “It’s over. It’s not important. You. Just. Heard. God. Wrong.”

And then, it hit me – HARD. In the midst of a melodious sound and the breaking of tree branches beside me, the tears began to pour. The dam that had been holding back the current of strong emotion finally broke and the conflicts of my aching heart began to rise.  Sobbing, I felt so misunderstood.  So full of doubt.  So confused by a promise that had yet to be fulfilled.  There in the middle of the woods, I felt so alone. I felt forsaken and frustrated by God’s leading – irritated by His sovereign orchestration of my life’s events. There, I was reminded of all the times I suffered in this journey – in pursuit of His namesake, His honor and glory. I wondered: Lord, why did you bring me here? What purpose do you have for my life? How does what I am believing you for impact that purpose? What am I doing wrong? ABBA, I’m scared.

Rounding each bend along the path with more and more tears in my eyes, my heart continued to pour out question after question. There, I stood with sunglasses on my face trying to hide the torment of my ransacked heart. Unable to withstand the mounting tension, I collapsed bent over – resting my body against the bark of a sturdy tree. There, I surrendered what I could, allowing the Lord to hold and capture me with His embrace.  In that moment, my indignation, resistance, and confusion gave way to the graceful breaking He had ordained for me thousands of years ago.  It was there that I was confronted with the promises of God – the ones I knew He had already fulfilled, not just for me, but for others too. I was reminded of His death and resurrection. His conquering of all doubts and fears. His promise that I’d never walk alone. Against the bark of that tree, I was reminded of my Savior’s outstretched arms; His body on the cross. A war already won.

Moving to a wooden seat along the path, I looked up into the blue, morning sky with tears still streaming down my face. In that moment, I felt the breaking of my soul, but the strengthening of my spirit. Little did I know, this unfulfilled promise was serving a purpose – not necessarily one of reward for me, but one that would usher in a new request upon the conclusion of our morning encounter.  In His magnificent glory, God’s predestined plan – the delayed manifestation of my heart’s desire – would begin to develop a strength in me that I had never known; one that I was beginning to sense in the middle of the woods surrounded by nature’s breaking. I was surrounded by God’s creation – things that were growing, breaking, and dying under the specific rhythm of their ordained life. Why would I think my life would be any different? Why would I think God’s promises for me wouldn’t involve their own unique rhythm?  

In the sacredness of the moment, I began to feel the Lord set my heart afire. He questioned me.  He corrected me. He challenged me in order to cleanse, redirect, and establish a newer, better version of His daughter.  I could sense His eagerness to set ablaze the blemished, wooden planks of pain that had again complicated my walk with Him.  Indeed, this breaking had to be for my good, as Romans 8:28 so poignantly states. I began to envision God moving me to a new place in faith; a new position of humility and surrender. 

On a platform made of wood, God led me to the most perfectly seated position – a figurative altar where I would again be challenged with giving my plans and hopes over to Him. In the pressing of my soul, He challenged me to give it all up – “ALL TO JESUS NOW.” There was nothing to be held back. Nothing to keep. I couldn’t continue to acknowledge truth based on what I was feeling or seeing. The difficulty of believing in the promise – of seeing the victory – could no longer be defined by what I thought He said.  I had to honor what was at present; what He had allowed for the moment. I had to FULLY surrender. 

And I did.  My surrender was characterized by tremendous sobbing and prayer. It was ugly. It was messy. It was painful. The squirrels witnessed it, and the people walking by witnessed it too.  Like Hannah in the temple, I’m sure they wondered if I was drunk, if I was really okay. But it didn’t matter what they thought. What was of import was what God thought; what God saw as He witnessed His daughter give Him her doubts and fears. What was of import was the strengthening of my faith, and what God knew I really needed that morning – a wrestling in the woods; my soul’s reckoning.

Then suddenly, a great strength rose up inside of me, and a power at work transformed my very questions and tears into a warrior’s cry. I heard the sweet sound of chains breaking and a guttural roar of thanks and praise being released. There, I stood up and began to walk, limping only momentarily.  My tears dried, as I looked ahead at the tree-lined path illuminated by a warm, bright light. The veil of haziness and unbelief that had marred my vision had been lifted. Out of the woods, I emerged… more hopeful, more grounded. Miraculously, I was more free. It was a freedom reminding me that the Lord remembers His children;  that all breaking is simply a set-up for a rebuilding… for a special gifting. 

That morning, I had walked into the woods with a wounded heart. But now, after a long and intimate encounter with the One who had ordered my steps,  I walked out with a mended one. Upon my lips was a new request– one that had nothing to do with what brought me into the woods, but instead the very thing that was bringing me out them. It was a simple, yet profound 7-word prayer. One I hope to consistently utter until it is no longer needed: Lord, give me the faith to believe.

Worship for Encouragement

“Your power at work in me. I’m broken gracefully. I’m strong when I am weak. I will be free.”