There once was a bride. She was betrothed to a prince and as she awaited the wedding day she was being readied for her new role. God was overseeing the process. She had gone from a peasant girl to a beautiful woman. She was known throughout the world for her kindness and compassion. One day she would be without spot or wrinkle, but until then the refining process continued.
Satan approached the throne, and God asked him, “Have you considered the bride of my son? There is no one on earth like her. She is honorable, she loves him greatly, and she rejects evil.”
Satan replied boldly, “You lie. She is far from honorable and she does not reject evil, she creates it. I do not believe she loves anyone but herself. Does she love your son for him or for what he can do for her? Does she listen to you because you give her blessings or does she love you? Her every move is your concern. She doesn’t know a life without you overseeing it. If you allow me to sift her, as soon as things don’t go her way, she will turn away from both you and your son. She is flighty and fickle. Anyone can see that about her.”
God thought about the enemy’s words and replied, “Very well, you have permission to sift her, but hear me now…you would do well to remember that I cannot lie. What I say about her is true, because I can only speak the truth. I tell you, she will not crumble. I know her. Her foundation is strong in me, even if you can’t always see it. You may sift her, but you must spare her life.”
One day, while the bride was feasting at the table of God, a messenger came to her saying, “Beloved of God, there is danger for your life, you must not meet at the table any longer. The risk is too great.” And while he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “You must not travel into the world to help others. It is too dangerous for you and for them.” As he was finishing up, yet another messenger came and said, “Beloved of God, you must go to your quarters. No one will be allowed in or out, and your outward appearance will no longer be visible to those around you.”
And so, the bride was sequestered. She scrambled to find a way to be with others from a distance, but it was not the same. She cried out to God, “What do I do? How can I hear you without someone to teach me? How can I help those around the world if I cannot go? How can I become the beautiful bride I am destined to be if my beauty is hidden within four walls and not cultivated?”
Then she fell on her face. She wept and she worshiped in spirit and truth. She said, “I don’t understand all that is happening, but I will trust you God. You have given so much to me, and it is now taken away, I choose to trust you even in the shut-up place to which I am confined.”
After some time, God told Satan, “I told you my bride would not crumble. She is learning to hear my voice. Even though you tried to shut her away, she trusts in me still.”
The enemy spoke quickly, “But you did not allow me to touch her. Anyone can stay strong if the pressure is only from the outside. Internal stress and physical trauma are what will be her downfall. If her very life was threatened, she would collapse under the weight of it and curse you to your face.”
“I put her into your hands…except you must not take her life.”
The bride was afflicted with anxiety that plagued her day and night. Panic seized her mind and body. Her fears were realized when she lost her stability and soon she would not have any food at all. At the beginning of her confinement, she tried to feed herself healthy sustenance but she didn’t know how. Starving, she turned to unhealthy nourishment and to alcohol. She watched porn and put horrible thoughts into her head. She became lethargic and depressed. Then one day she woke up and it felt as if her lungs were on fire. She couldn’t take a breath, even to save her life. She was more afraid than she had ever been.
Inside her room, she was suffering deeply. She restlessly thrashed about. Her fever was so high she didn’t know if she was awake or asleep. Her mind was in a battle with itself. She was whimpering quietly because her lungs were barely able to take in air.
She wished she had never been born and she said so. “Why was I born only to suffer in this way? It would be better for me to go to the grave than to continue like this. Sighing is my daily food. My groans pour out like water. What I have feared has come upon me. I have no peace, only suffering.”
Soon her friends heard of her affliction. As she lay in her bed, a friend knocked on her window.
The friend offered her advice, “God showed me clearly how those he blesses prosper. Up until now you have lived a life with his favor. But now, the tides have changed and the opposite is true. Those who struggle are not blessed of God, but cursed. No one who is innocent has ever been stricken with such suffering. You have some sin in your life, otherwise these things would not befall you. You are being disciplined by the Almighty for your failings. If were you, I would apply these words to your life and repent.”
The bride responded, “I only wish God would take my miserable life from me. Why should I have hope? I have no power to help myself, now that I am cut off from his blessings. I listen to your words, and seek the truth of them in my heart.”
She cried out, “Oh God, my life is but a breath. I will never breathe freely again. I will complain from the bitterness and anguish of my soul. Why have you done this to me? Why will you not pardon my offenses? It does not matter, because soon I will be no more.”
Shortly, another friend was knocking at the window of the bride.
The advice of the second friend was this, “Certainly, you know this horrible thing has befallen you because of the rulers of the land. You trusted in them instead of God and this is how he repays you. All who forget the sovereignty of God are without hope. Trusting in anyone else is useless. Therefore, you should ignore their pleas. There is no real danger to your life. It is but a deception for them to gain power. Forget your need to take a breath. Forget your raging fever. You should show everyone what real faith looks like by refusing to stay shut up in your dwelling. Your freedom is all that is threatened. It is your right to do as you please.”
The bride was gasping for air, but managed to say, “Who can prove their innocence before God? Certainly not me. He moves mountains and raises up leaders and topples governments. He shakes all that can be shaken, even rulers and kings. If he snatches them away or puts them in place, who can stop him? No one can challenge his strength. I can only request that he have mercy on me.
He has taken my breath from me and my mind is so clouded I cannot see my own shame, but it doesn’t matter because he has made clear who is in charge, and it is not me or you. He is the one who holds all things in his hands, even the air in my lungs. I will ask God what charges he has against me? Why the wave upon wave of suffering? My despair is complete.”
There was one more knock at the window, and the bride who was barely breathing, and only partially conscious tried to lift her head to listen to the words.
The friend said, “You have believed in a lie. Your anxiety is not real, but only a figment of your imagination. The fever too, is completely the power of suggestion. God recognizes liars like you. He sees your falsehood and he takes note. If he confines you to prison, who can oppose him? You must belong there if he has put you there. A fool cannot become wise. You are deceived and there is no defense for you. You should curse God and die.”
The bride was angered by these words, “You act as though I do not have a brain in my head, but I tell you I am not inferior to you. I have become a source of conversation for you. I am discounted in every way. Your contempt for my catastrophe is considerable and you take pleasure in my suffering. It proves your point, which is that I am to blame for all that has happened to me.
Yet, still, I am the bride and I am betrothed to the prince. All wisdom and power, counsel and understanding belong to God. Those he imprisons cannot be released. Those he wants free will be free. Both the deceived and the deceiver are his. He breaks shackles put on by kings. He silences the lips of advisors and takes away their discernment. He removes the leaders of the earth of their reason; he makes them stagger in darkness.
You would be wise to be silent. You claim to speak for God, but your words are ashes and clay. They are your words, not his. I will present my case to him alone. Though he slay me, still I will trust him. He will deliver me one way or another.”
The friends heard the bride’s labored breathing. Yet, they continued to try to help her see her wickedness. She had not the strength to plug her ears. She heard their words against her, and she continued to declare her innocence before them. She listed her kindnesses and told them of her righteousness, but they would not listen. They were set in their views, and so the bride argued her case to God alone.
“Oh God, have I not reached out my hands to the poor and given both compassion and supply? Have I not wept with those who weep? Have I not helped those who are suffering? Now, I have cried out to you in my own pain and you are silent. Do you not see what I have done in your name? Haven’t I brought light into the darkness? Haven’t I fed the poor and set free the captives? Why, oh why, won’t you help me now?
My health is gone. My riches dried up. My very life is in danger. I am shut up away from everyone. My friends are blaming me and contending against me. Why will you not help me and come to my aid? If I have taken what is not mine then, I have been unfaithful. If I have worshiped money then, it needs to be removed from my hands. If I have rejoiced over the downfall of my enemies and spoken against them, then may my tongue fall out. If I have walked in falsehood then, let the truth be known. If I have left the poor hungry then, hold my selfishness against me. Oh God, show me my ways.”
Then God spoke out of the storm. “You have questioned me; now I will question you.”
“Were you there when the universe was created? Were you there when the stars were put in the heavens? Did you see when man was formed? Were you there when the seas came into being? Or when light shattered the darkness? You accuse me of abandoning you. You say I have brought disaster upon you. Will you correct the creator of all things? Do you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you discredit my justice? Can you adorn yourself with purity without me? Can you bring the proud low and humble them? Everything under heaven belongs to me alone.
The enemy is strong. He cannot be driven away with words or swords. He is king of the proud. He reigns over the haughty. He destroys and kills his prey, sometimes with their own words and actions. Only I, can prevent it. He lies and he twists. He steals the very breath from his opponent. He has no fear, because he is fear. Only I, can thwart his purposes. Any other you depend upon will fail you, even yourself.”
The bride spoke quietly, “I am unworthy. How can I reply to you? I have no answer. I will say no more. I spoke of things I did not understand. My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes see you. I bow before you and humble myself.”
Then God told the bride, “Pray for your friends because they have not spoken the truth about me. I will receive your prayers for them because you have humbled yourself and proclaimed my name. I will not punish them for their folly because of your righteousness.”
The bride obeyed and prayed for those who had accused her. She lifted them up to God with her words and he honored her prayer. After that, the bride’s health was restored. Her lungs could breathe freely again. Her fever broke. She was released from her confinement with new eyes. She spoke life to everyone. She continued to serve but with a different purpose, not to win God’s favor, but to show his compassion. Not to earn his love, but to express it. Not to check off a list, but to receive each breath with thanksgiving. Her beauty was no longer external, but internal. The stains of her pride had been washed away. Her heart was humble and therefore full of the life flow of God which moved through her. She no longer argued or defended herself, she knew better. She came out refined as gold, more like the bride she was destined to become. The wedding was closer than it had ever been.
Satan realized he had been had. Instead of forcing her downfall and destruction, he had been used as a tool to bring the dross to the surface so it could be scraped away. He stormed out of heaven, furious that he had been used, once again, to forward the purposes of God in the earth.
God threw back his head and laughed a glorious laugh, and all of heaven shook with the power of it. “Prepare the table! The wedding draws near!”