A Sheltered Faith

A couple of weeks ago I picked up an old notebook of mine and out slipped a 3×5 card with a bible verse printed on it. It was a verse from Jeremiah chapter one. It read…

“And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.” (1:18-19)

Gosh, I love that verse. In fact, the entire first chapter of Jeremiah reads as one powerful strengthening word of God that commissions Jeremiah to God’s service. Just reading the words my soul is quickened and I want to join in God’s campaign to save the world.

They will not prevail against us! God will be our deliverer! He makes us a fortified city with bronze walls!

It is a beautiful chapter, but there are 51 chapters beyond those first words. 51 chapters that tell the story of Jeremiah’s obedience to God’s call, and though Jeremiah spoke the words of God the people did not listen. He was beaten and put in the stocks. He was sentenced to death. The King burned all Jeremiahs scrolls in a fire. He was left to die in an old cistern filled with mud. He was called a liar.

“I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar and bronze walls…. they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you.”

I have to laugh a little, because it seems to me that being thrown into a muddy pit to die looks a lot like people have fought and prevailed. So much so that I can completely relate to Jeremiah when he says in Chapter 20,

“O Lord, you have deceived me and I was deceived; you are stronger than I and you have prevailed. I have become a laughing stock all the day; everyone mocks me (20:7).”

A few years ago I found myself in a place of complete disillusionment with God and his call on my life. He had put me in circumstances that I could not thrive in. I could not cope well under the stressors and I was angry. I fasted. I prayed. Until one day, alone in the shower, I told God that “if this was how he treated his kids, I didn’t want to be one anymore.” I didn’t want to be a Christian. God asked too much and he gave back too little. I wanted to walk away.

And then a miracle happened.

I woke up the next morning and my faith remained. Faith clung to me like a burr and no matter how much I wanted to walk away from God I couldn’t.

I can understand Jeremiah’s disillusionment at the words God spoke when he was faced with the reality of his own suffering.

I can also understand Jeremiah when he states, “If I say, I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name, there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot (20:9).”

I WANT the shelter of God to mean that I will not experience pain. I want it to mean that I won’t go hungry. I want it to mean that I won’t be sick. I want it to mean that fear won’t surround me. I want it to mean that words won’t hurt.

But it doesn’t.

My struggle with God is a struggle against my own world view and sense of fairness. My disillusionment and questions draw me closer to the truth of God and, let me tell you, there is sweetness to be found in those answers. God is better than I thought.

Because he truly is our shelter, but in a bigger, more spectacular way.

In those moments of anger and disillusionment when God has stripped my faith down to its bare minimum and I want to give up, I have seen the arms of God embrace my soul and keep me. Little by little that remnant of faith was nurtured and grown until it stood stronger, more stable, and brighter than before.

I am eternally grateful that our God is not a God who takes his ball and goes home when I throw myself on the floor in a hissy fit.


Not my Jesus.

Instead he purposefully and patiently leads me to delve deep into the struggle of my soul until I find his face, casting away the lies previously believed. God did shelter Jeremiah. God does shelter me daily.

And I trust him…not to keep me from pain and suffering… but to KEEP ME HIS!

There is nothing more precious than that.

Rest easy then, because today, God has made us a fortified city, an iron pillar and bronze walls. No matter where we are at this moment, he won’t leave us behind, but he will deliver us safely to the end.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)

Have you ever been disillusioned with God? How did God shelter you through that disillusionment? How was your faith transformed?


  1. Helen June 25, 2017

    Well, I am in that place once again! No I am not talking about that wonderful place near my Father’s heart. I am talking about that place of disillusion. Sometimes its scares me, I need to be strong. How many more times will my Father put up with this nonsense. I am not a young girl any more, will I ever learn? With my mouth I am saying to Him..Lord Your will be done, with my heart I am crying out…What am I doing here? Can I be of any value to anyone when I am so battling with this language? Some days I do not even want to leave the house, if that was possible! I do not want to try again and hear “Wo ting bu dong.”( I don’t understand you) And back home I have two lovely daughters that I could be spending time with. I know they are grown up and can look after themselves, but does a daughter nor always need her mom? I am sorry Lord! It has just been one of those days again, just lead me through this one more time.

    1. Joy Smalley June 25, 2017

      Hi Helen! Man, being in those times of disillusionment are so tough and scary, especially when we have made choices of sacrifice because of what we believed. Our disillusionment calls into question what we have chosen to do. I just want to say that I am honestly praying for you, I have been there, and I truly believe that God is not pushed away by our anger, frustration, grief or fear but he draws himself closer to us. As we get weaker he is the one who strengthens. It is ok not to be strong, he isn’t going to leave. May God graciously give of himself to you today in a unique and precious way that revels his love and care even in the midst of the struggle.

      1. Helen June 28, 2017

        Thank you. I know He will always be there for me, and I know deep inside that I am in the right place…..

    2. Cindy Rogers June 28, 2017

      Hi Helen, I’m Cindy. Wish I could meet you and talk thru it all. My husband and I moved to this Arabic-speaking country about 3 months ago and are in full-time language learning mode. I have 3 grown children back in the US, and am missing them. My girl just gave birth to her 2nd… We spent 12+ years in East Africa as 20-30-somethings, then a big chunk of time back in the US, now back on the field in this new place as empty-nesters. Learning Arabic at age 57!! Have had ups and downs and some tears, and did a lot of grieving previous to coming (felt like dying as I took my life apart to make this move). This whole journey has been a time of leaning into God’s Word as never before. Especially Psalms. Poetry is for the heart, which is where we struggle, no? He gives manna from there for the day. Sometimes I just meditate on the reality of Ps 23:1. I read a Psalm a day, have been for the last couple of years. It brainwashes me and keeps depression at bay: actually has the power to shape emotions over time. Ps 73:21-26 is amazingly helpful for those dark times. Cindy Rogers

      1. Helen June 28, 2017

        Hi Cindy, thank you for taking time to give some encouragement. It was nice to hear that I am not the only “olde” woman out here. I am 58 and here in our city in China I seem to be the only older woman. Being a widow the younger people, working on the field here, are really nice to me, I have become a granny figure, giving advice to younger woman and baby sitting to give moms and dads a time to be together. It does put me in a very lonely position though….where do I go when I need a shoulder? Yes like you I read Psalms daily…..because He is the only place where I can go! Maybe that is good….learning to trust Him in good and bad.

        1. Cindy Rogers July 5, 2017

          Absolutely, that is good! It’s an amazing thing to learn that we can rely on Him to be our only source of true, deep comfort. We are never alone: Jesus says his Holy Spirit is dwelling in us, Jn 14:17. He is there for us, and as you say is “the only place where I can go”. When we need Him to speak to us, He is right there in His Word. Fellowship with the Body is needed, too, but there are parts of our souls that are fed and watered only by God. Psalm 1 says we can be like a tree whose leaf does not wither if our delight is in the law of the Lord. Another “tree” passage I claim is Ps 92:12-15 “The righteous flourish like a palm tree…in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock….” Yeah! for the impossible task of language-learning, I meditate on “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” 1 Cor 13:1. Even if I can’t speak the language yet, I can still love…and pray. And that’s huge! God brought me here (and you there) and none of this time is wasted.

    3. Brittaney Chellsen July 7, 2017

      my name is Brittaney, and I am a younger M… I read your comment, and it hurts my heart to hear the pain and I feel for you, but oh I want to say “don’t give up!” That`s what went through my head while reading what you wrote. Granted, I do not know the whole situation, and how very difficult this last term has been for you, how emotionally draining and tiring it was. I don’t know. I can’t know. You know. God knows. But may I suggest that perhaps you’re making headway into these people and this culture and the community He’s got you in? Perhaps this will get better, only God knows, but please know that you are loved, you are wanted, you are needed, you are valued. Please know that you are not a failure. Whether your field be there or in the States, you are wanted, you are needed and you are enough.

      1. Brittaney July 7, 2017

        oops, that’s awkward. Sorry for the larger than life photo. I thought I was adding a profile photo (it’s always nice to see a face with the text- but in this case it’s just a bit too much…. hahahahaha.Admins please feel free to remove- I can’t figure out how to edit my comment.)

      2. Helen July 7, 2017

        Hi Brittaney. Thank you for your kind words. I love seeing young people being obedient to the call, and it was lovely to see a photo as well, the size does not matter. I can assure, I will not give up. Yes somedays are hard but there are days that are so rewarding too. The language here is really a challenge, I have been studying Mandarin and the young people here speaks Mandarin but the older people speak a dialect that I can not understand at all. Then there are many minority groups here as well, each with their own language. My Mandarin is still on a two year old level so there is no way I can try and learn these other languages as well.So you see the language can be a real challenge and then always being the outsider can be a challenge. I work between people from another culture. I worship with people younger than me and from another country…yes you see I am not American….I am South African. But my Lord never leaves me…and presently I am finding myself very near to His heart again.

  2. Melinda Wilson June 26, 2017

    I’m weeping as I read this blog… I just returned from a nation I thought inwas called to… but I’m this particular trip, all hell seemed to have broken loose. I’m a feeler and I pick up so much in the atmosphere and culture. It’s a very negative culture where people, instead of affirming and encouraging one another at a job well done (much like they do here in the USA) they’re jealous or resentful and discouraging to the others. The lack of self worth in the culture is stifling. Add to that, im a pretty exuberant person so people look at me with disdain as I am not “quiet’ like them. I don’t want to be reserved and complacent like they are and I don’t want that to rub off on me but the linger I am there, the harder it is to stand against it.
    Like the blog, I am not doing well coping with the stressors of that nation. It is muddying the call i thought i had to that country.
    The more tragic thing is that my ministry partner, whom is like my sister and we have run a ministry together for 5 years, wants and feels called to be back there longer term than I feel i can cope. So my heart is breaking over the possibility of us going our separate ways…her to the nation, me to staying in the USA.
    I’m so heartbroken right now…

    1. Joy Smalley June 26, 2017

      Melinda, my heart breaks for you. I am so sorry that you are experiencing this pain and hurt now. I will be praying that you will find rest where you are , along with the peace to start the healing process. Being broken down is never fun. I can imagine it is painful as well to lose one’s ministry partner. After so many years together, moving in the same direction, I know it will be hard. Remember that God is near to those who are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), even when we don’t feel him, trust that he is there will you every step of the way. Blessings.

  3. Janis McArthur June 26, 2017

    Thank you Joy for sharing . I love Jeremiah so much. I am currently in Costa Rica on a trip with my church and serving with the local ministry called Seeds of Hope which ministers to girls and boys caught in human trafficking. I haven’t been overseas since serving in Laos 4 years ago. This trip is very healing for me as I had a hard time in Laos. Costa Rica is very beautiful and yet reminds me of Laos. The tropical weather and laid back life style are similar. God has been showing me that all the hard times I had in Laos are being redeemed and has given me hope again that He loves me and He still wants me to be used for His glory.

    1. Joy Smalley June 26, 2017

      Hi Janis. What a grace from God. It is a blessing to hear your story. I love to hear how God redeems the difficult and painful times of our lives and brings healing to them. Especially as we come out the other end and realize that his love for us has never diminished. May God bless your trip and continue to give you peace!

  4. Ellie December 6, 2017

    “Instead he purposefully and patiently leads me to delve deep into the struggle of my soul until I find his face, casting away the lies previously believed.” beautiful and helpful Joy, that definitely has been a way to describe the process of a lot of what I’ve been wrestling with the last few years. Thank you.

    1. Joy Smalley December 6, 2017

      Hi Ellie, I am blessed that it was valuable to you and pray that God continues to minister to your soul as you wrestle through this process. Blessings.

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