In 2019, the focal theme God gave me was “She Kept Pouring”. It comes from the biblical story about a widow and a jar of oil written in II Kings 4. In this passage, the woman cried out to the prophet Elisha saying that her husband had died, and she had incurred all of his debt. This widow had no money and became fearful that she would have to offer up her two sons as indentured servants in order to pay off the debt.
Elisha responded to her cry, “Tell me...What do you have in your home?” She answered, “Nothing, but a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha then instructed her to ask her neighbors for empty jars and to not just ask for a few. He then said, “Go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour the oil into all the jars (or vessels) and as each one is filled, set it aside.”
The widow with the small jar of oil did as she was told. She collected jars from her neighbors, went home, closed the door behind her and her sons, and her sons brought the jars to her...and she kept pouring. When there were no more jars, the oil stopped. She went to tell Elisha and he said, “Go and sell the oil to pay back your debt, and there will be an overflow for you and your sons to live on the rest.”
If there were two words to describe my last year, it would be “Closed Doors”.
Last year in January, God led me to the widow’s testimony, and He spoke three words: Sustain (Endure), Maintain, and Gain. As I reflected on 2019, I realized that I was in a season of sustaining. A few definitions of sustain reads “to endure without giving up; to keep going; to continue for an extended period of time without interruption”. The definition of endurance that I liked reads “the power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult situation without giving way”.
I’m not sure how many neighbors the widow had to talk to, nor do I know how many jars she collected. My guess is a lot. She had to walk all over her neighborhood and carry the jars back to her home. I can only imagine how long it took her to just begin the task especially without quality transportation. Endurance. She then had to pour and pour and pour and pour the oil into each and every jar. Endurance. The Lord spoke to me saying that 2019 would be a year of me pouring and pouring and pouring. He will build my endurance and be my strength for what I’ve been called to do and build my character for who He’s called me to be.
I cannot express how badly I’ve wanted to give up this past year in various areas of my life. It was draining and exhausting. It also increased my anxiety and depression. It felt like I was running on a treadmill with no breaks, and every so often, my Heavenly Coach would increase my speed and incline. I'd reach a maxout and He'd be there saying "Go! Pour! Don't give up." And folks, I wanted to. But this widow who had lost everything -- her husband, her possessions, and was on the verge of losing her sons -- she didn’t give up.
She kept pouring.
It was behind a closed door that God provided for this woman, saved her sons from slavery, and encouraged her to have faith; knowing that He can do exceedingly more than she could ask, think, or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). I believe 2019 was not only a year of building my endurance, but a year of testing my FAITH. There were many prayers answered this year; countless things to celebrate and be thankful for. However, many of the answered prayers and high hopes were followed by closed doors. Whether my attempt to restore a familial relationship, decision to purchase a house, battle to overcome depression, or the start of a new relationship; the outcomes resulted in anger and resentment, anxiety and denied offers, continued recommendation of medication, and unexpected bruised emotions. It sucks and it’s painful, but the encouragement is that I chose to live on the basis of my faith not my feelings. I took risks and leaps of faith, and my Father honors that.
“Taking a step of faith doesn’t mean there’ll be no pain, and just because pain exists doesn’t mean you are defeated.” DeVantae Dews, Divine Unity Community Church - ENC Leader
You see, God loves me through closed doors. I know some people may not understand. We are supposed to be hopeful, expectant, and yearn for open doors. But I find there’s this one-sided view of favor. God’s blessings aren’t always pretty nor wrapped up in positivity. Jesus dying on the cross for our sins is a great example of this. Therefore, if our only frame of reference of God’s blessings are open doors, healed hearts, and times of joy - we will miss it. We will miss the beauty of God’s love, intentionality, and care of our souls. We must gain the awareness that God’s love for us comes in a variety of packages - the pretty and the ugly. I’ve learned to appreciate the ugly blessings - maybe even more than those advantageously wrapped. God loves me through the conflict, struggles, and obstacles. So, I get excited about the inaccessibility of closed doors! Closed doors are God’s kisses on my cheek because I know without a shadow of a doubt, He is working out everything for my good!
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
My faith in God overrides what I experience here on this earth. And every mile I have walked to collect my jars, and all of the oil I’ve poured without stopping has been a test of faith. I’m not sure I’d be able to stand firmly in joy and contentment in 2020 if I didn’t endure the hardships of 2019. My hope, faith, and trust are in His processes and promises.
Now, I would be lying if I said I didn’t ask God “why”’. "Why give me the gift I’ve prayed for only to have it taken away? Why tell me to go only to have me stop? Why haven't I overcame this yet - You promised?!" I’m sure I’m not alone in questioning God. In the scripture, you’ll notice there wasn’t one time the woman questioned Elisha. She didn’t ask why jars, why my neighbors and not the flea market, why can't I just ask for a few - I don't want to be a burden, why do I have to shut the door, why use the only oil I have left. There were no questions, excuses, or bargaining like many of us do today in our earthy relationships. She committed herself in faith to Elisha’s instruction knowing that God’s provision and His strength was be her portion.
This revelation changed the posture of my heart and my dialogue with God. What I desire more than figuring out the reasons why crap happened to me is the reassurance and revelation my Father gives in spite of. The reassurance that He still loves me, He has not left me, His promises are still true, that I’m still worthy of love, I am enough, I am not too much, and that my PURPOSE IS STILL INTACT. We cannot hang our hearts on others nor put our confidence in people. People disappoint, and your response should not be based on the person or the thing that hurt you. Let’s not give power to the enemy through how our flesh wants to respond. Empower your spirit by responding with praise and thanksgiving.
You can always tell where your foundation lies based on how you respond and react to life’s circumstances. If your foundation is in Christ Jesus, the firm foundation, you will not waver, and your heart will not harden. Instead, your response will be joy and the pouring out of your worship and praise onto our Heavenly Father. When you worship in the weather, it doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t terrible, and it doesn’t mean you can’t cry or want to throw a chair across the room. (Healthy ways of dealing are important, folks!!) But when you choose to worship, it loosens the enemy’s grip, it gives your heart permission to accept the oil of joy instead of mourning - because if your hands are lifted high in praise - you can give your wounded heart permission to let go of the pain and place it in the hands of the Pain Reliever. He loves to have your worship, along with your tears; and through it all, He is faithful and just.
Romans 12:12 "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
There were a lot of answered prayers in 2019; followed by people walking away, crushed hopes, and promises being unfulfilled. But Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly [and maintain] the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” This is my scripture for 2020. I’m hanging my heart on His faithfulness and truth. To maintain an unwavering faith in Jesus and the promises He has for me!
I don’t know what horrible things happened to you last year. Perhaps, you’ve had to conjure up “the power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult situation without giving way” just like me. I know that God will provide the revelation to you in His timing; and like the widow with the oil, your faith will not only give you enough to get through, but there will be an abundance left over to sustain you for life. Behind a closed door is the incentive and empowerment to choose Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.
Could you treat your closed doors as a blessing and an opportunity to be the trusting, empty vessel, He longs to pour into? #BeEncouraged
Scripture: 2 Kings 4