Today we continue in this powerful, yet vulnerable entry from ministry wife, Karla Ford. Last week she shared about a trying season of anxiety and panic attacks. To read last week's entry, click here.
Let's continue this week where she left off...
I spent a lot of time in the altars during those years. In the summer of 1991, after going through two and a half of the hardest years of my life, I went on my first and only trip to the Soviet Union. I remember thinking how crazy it was that God would trust me to go. Here I was struggling so hard emotionally, spiritually, and mentally, but at the same time I had never been closer to God. It was at the end of that summer, during the preacher’s kid retreat at Turner Falls Youth Camp, that God called me to Siberia. To think that it was the first one I had ever attended. I knew that God wanted me there, but I wanted to be anywhere but there. (A story for another time.)
Here I was struggling so hard emotionally, spiritually, and mentally, but at the same time I had never been closer to God.
God orchestrated it perfectly. A girl asked me to sit with her on the front row that night and, if she hadn’t, I don’t know if I would have had the guts to push past other people to go to the altar when God asked. He knew! And He has been faithful. I don’t think that I would have had the strength to face what I have over the years, if I hadn’t gone through what I did in college. God Himself taught, discipled, and mentored me as a believer. I had all the head knowledge from growing up in church, and I had some heart knowledge, but I hadn’t met God and learned to walk with Him personally until that time.
I was finally able to admit to myself, and verbalize it to God, that I didn’t believe what Scripture taught.
The next level of victory was overcoming Satanic oppression that required a daily working it out through a heavy reliance on the Word, and by learning to take every thought captive. The lies that the enemy had been feeding me were just too real, and they seemed so much more true than God’s word. At the time, I don’t believe that I could distinguish between my thoughts and the lies planted by the enemy. When you don’t realize that you are facing an enemy, you can’t pick up a weapon to fight him. At one point, when I realized that no one could help me, and things were not getting better, I again cried out to God, admitting my weakness and inability to control my thoughts. I was finally able to admit to myself, and verbalize it to God, that I didn’t believe what Scripture taught. I didn’t believe that it applied to me. I remember in deep brokenness confessing that I didn’t believe it, but I knew that it was the truth and I wanted to believe it. I just couldn’t. I asked for His help.
Once again, the Holy Spirit lovingly and painstakingly taught me how to fight. I got multicolored 3x5 cards and began copying the Scriptures that spoke what God had to say about the thoughts I was battling. I carried a stack with me wherever I went, and I taped them all around my bed and bedroom. When my thoughts were swirling and carrying me down a dark hole, I would get the cards out and begin reading them over and over. I was choosing to believe what the Scripture said, rather than what seemed real and true to me at the time.
At first, I was reading the cards almost constantly, when I wasn’t doing something else that required my mind. Gradually, more time would pass between my times of repeating the Scripture verses. I don’t believe more than two weeks passed before I noticed that I was beginning to believe what the Scripture said and a small flame of hope was growing. Then, after another month had passed, I realized that the fog was lifting. I continued my practice for a long time, and even took my card box of Scripture with me to Russia when I moved there to become a missionary associate.
During that time, I learned to distract myself from negative thoughts by immersing myself in a physical activity, and by serving others. Over time, I learned to catch my thought process when it just began heading down the wrong path, and I could avoid it getting too bad. I was in church every time the door was open and spent as much time as I could with believers. I avoided any and all gray areas in my TV or entertainment options. I religiously controlled input in order to better manage output. I spent a lot of time listening to worship music, and I avoided being alone as much as possible, especially when the struggle was at its peak. The battle continued to rage periodically throughout my college years, but looking back I understand that it was part of my training for battle, training that would sustain me on the mission field.
This time, though, I knew that I had a choice.
Fast forward a few years, and once again, this time in Russia, I found myself spiraling back into that heavy oppression and anxiety. This time, though, I knew that I had a choice, and the Holy Spirit told me that I was strong enough this time to choose. If I chose to entertain the thoughts bombarding me, then I would fail and end up going home. However, if I chose to stand against them, then I would be delivered and would be mightily used by God. I chose to stand, but it was once again a daily battle for a few months.
Years passed with just mild but very real fears that would sometimes run like a tape recorder in the back of my mind as I went about daily tasks. One of the most persistent was the fear of being kicked out of Russia or not being allowed to return. Another was again a fear of failure, or letting down my family or sponsors. But they were manageable and although pesky, like a fly that won’t leave you alone, were just innocuous enough to leave un-confronted.
Then, in Siberia, many years later, I was attacked in my home by two thieves looking for money. Although I wasn’t physically injured, mentally I was tortured again by fear for my safety and an anger at God for not protecting me. That struggle lasted five years before it was completely won. I knew that I had won the day I could go to an evening event and walk home the 10 minutes from the garage without fear.
Final lasting deliverance from all my fears came in 2010. I knew when it was done! I was no longer afraid of what man could do to me. My trust in the Lord had grown to the point that fear had no hold on me any longer. Although complete victory has been won, Satan will still come and test me resolve at times. However, the stronghold of fear is gone! He has lost his power over me! Praise the Lord!
What are you facing today?
I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it disappear. But I can tell you that the Word of God is absolute Truth and, when you take Him at His Word and apply it to your situation, using it at times as a flaming sword to demolish the fear and doubt in front of you, you'll take the ground before you again and again. Healing came as I continued to surrender what I had to take up what He had waiting for me--freedom.
Surrendered Healing, Part Two, is ENTRY FIVE of our May series, Holding Onto Hope.
Karla (Isom) Ford has been involved in full-time ministry since 1993. Following an internship with Teen Mania, Karla served in Russia for 22 years, first with Book of Hope, then as a Missionary Associate, eventually becoming generally appointed as a missionary with the Assemblies of God in 1999. "God answered my prayers and sent (my husband) Kirk to me in 2007." The couple married in January 2009, and he joined Karla in Russia. "Pioneering ministry in Siberia, much of the time with only nationals for colleagues, and usually operating way beyond my natural abilities, really influenced the way I view and do ministry." Her greatest passion is mentoring and helping people discover their calling and talents. Kirk and Karla are currently in the process of adopting two toddlers while also raising funds for new ministry opportunities in Spain. "With toddlers now in the home, there isn't much free time to be had, but I love to read and spend time with friends and family." To learn more about Kirk and Karla Ford's next endeavor, visit their site at www.nexusministries.org.