A few months ago, I had the privilege to speak to a group of precious women called to homeschool their children. The leader asked me to speak on “joy” in anyway I felt led. I heard the Holy Spirit immediately whisper to me, “Count it all joy, when you face many trials and troubles…” (James 1:2-3) I have to say I wasn’t very excited at first as I wanted to talk about “warm, fuzzy things” and not trials or troubles. But this is exactly where I learned the true meaning of joy!

Many years ago, we were facing some financial hardships as the economy took a hit. While driving to the store, I had a conversation with God where I was whining about a client who owed us over $5000 and wasn’t paying us. I started to complain, “we deserve…” And before I could say the word “it”, my spirit sensed I was on a very slippery slope! As I tried desperately to swallow back my words, the Holy Spirit promptly reminded me that what I deserved was death! Ouch!! I immediately choked on those words and repented for my grumbling. After composing myself and knowing I couldn’t change my current circumstances, I asked the Lord what I was supposed to do next. And He said, “Praise Me Anyway.” Three simple words but not always so simple to do…

It’s a choice! It’s a heart-felt decision to choose joy when we face hardships, trials, offenses, illnesses, and so on. Having an attitude of joy will allow us to find the good that God promises us, is really there.

For my family, 2017 was probably the hardest year we ever walked through. We started off ringing in the New Year with great anticipation and declarations of His promises. In mid-January, I had one of the most incredible encounters with God’s manifested presence. As I journaled, I could barely keep it together. I was totally wrecked by Him. I was filled with so much joy and hope and His promises, that I think I actually floated into the month of February.

On February 18th, I was driving around Tampa after attending a team meeting for a friend who was directing a large women’s conference, who’s theme was “Choose Joy”, and got a call from my dad. We talked for a long time, which was not normal as my dad was deaf in one ear and very limited in the other, even with a hearing aid. Because he couldn’t hear me, he’d rush off the phone within a minute or two. But that day was different.

Two days earlier, my dad had an operation to receive Cochlear implants at age 77. He had been unable to hear for over 50 years. As he excitedly shared hearing the sound of the birds by his house that he loved to photograph or the sound of coffee poured into his cup, I reflected on how I take these things for granted. As we got off the phone, we told each other how much we loved each other and I told him how much I couldn’t wait to hear all about his other “hearing adventures”. But that night, he had a massive heart attack and was gone.

As my phone started blowing up with calls from my brothers, I tended to their needs, speaking as the Holy Spirit led me. But the next day as I sat with God in my quiet time, my flesh struggled with his death coming less than 48 hours after receiving the gift of hearing. Financial concerns began flooding my thoughts about how to even get to GA with an old car, hotel stay, food, etc. But God reassured me that He had it all covered and to trust Him.

God miraculously brought provision for us to travel to GA for the funeral, including getting our car serviced for free, being handed cash for gas, lodging paid for, and unexpected money. And then He used me to minister to my entire family and strangers while speaking about the joy of the Lord during the service.

But when we got back home, our lives were about to be even more tested than ever before. You see, we had been following God’s call on our life for quite awhile, without wavering or compromise, yet had been hit with financial hardships and illnesses, one after the other. And it didn’t seem to be slowing down…

As my husband’s business got hit financially, he took things into his hands and started taking any job he could get. Clients started demanding more from him and paying even less, which only made him work harder with an average of 3 to 5 hours of sleep per night, giving him little or no time to seek God for direction in our business. The more he strived, the more we felt the impact. And on the flip-side, I was spending most of my time on my face before God crying, pleading, complaining, demanding, and even questioning Him. I started to believe we weren’t doing “enough” and therefore began holding Curtis, me, and even God under a microscope. Striving became our vehicle and hope, along with joy, went out the window.

As I felt our entire lives being shaken, I prayed for God to search our hearts and repented for everything under the sun. But God assured me over and over again to put my hope and trust in Him….that He’s got us.

Later, in mid-April 2017, the Holy Spirit gave me a word about a different type of shaking…one not just for my husband and I, but also for His Remnant People – His Disciples. I sat on this word and prayed over it, waiting for His timing to finally post it. This is what He said:

[Daughter – I am also bringing you a prophetic word to speak to My Remnant People — for I am shaking them too — because I love them and want what’s best and not what’s good — I am causing the dross to rise and will remove it to leave you purified and prepared for promotion. Yes Promotion!
I have declared many of My Disciples – My Remnant People who have felt the shaking of their foundation for sometime, are now feeling it again in a more personal way of cleansing and purifying — This is not a punishment but preparation for promotion. Yes — I declare My steadfast disciples are being prepared for greater promotion!
Allow Me to cleanse from you, all impurities that hinder you in your calling. We are in crucial times and the kairos moments should not be taken lightly. Therefore, My Remnant Children — Come! Come boldly…come humbly and come surrendered before Me and receive your assignments for the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.
It is time My Remnant Children arise and take hold of their mantle. Do not delay!]

Yes! The Lord was shaking us, refining us, removing the dross (what wasn’t healthy or necessary like wrong belief systems, habits, thoughts) to prepare us for promotion! Although this sounded great, getting there really stunk. I felt lonely and it hurt! Doubts, fears, abandonment, depression, condemnation came up to the surface…sometimes all on the same day! You see, when things don’t go as I feel I’ve heard the Holy Spirit tell me, I often question IF I heard Him correctly or IF He’ll keep His promises for us. Both of these are scary roads to travel and my default is to strive for Him.

And if I wasn’t striving, I would have a few moments of peace or go to the opposite end and became indifferent. I think that’s the worst place to be with God, because it’s where I question the depths of His love. Although I thought I dealt with this area long before, the Holy Spirit whispered to me that many, many layers were gone, but what was left had been hidden so deeply, that I didn’t know it was there. However, He knew and He wanted me healed and whole!

The truth is that during this process, I saw God sadly through my own image as judgmental, legalistic, demanding perfection …basically unloving. It broke my heart to know that I made Him very small in my life after so many years of walking with Him so closely. I later asked God where I made Him small and He showed me it was in believing the love that He has for me had limits and was attached to my performance. Oh my! My heart sunk in the pit of my stomach as I cried and repented! Where did this skewed belief come from and how do I fix it??

I am often reminded of 1 Peter 1:7 – “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

I believe part of the refining fire we walk through during the process is to remove the dross of our skewed views of Him. As the Master Silversmith, God removes the dross until the metal is pure and shows the reflection of the Master. I admit the fire hurts, but I know it’s worth the reward. Because the truth is, I want more than the promise! I want to come to tears of joy when I talk about God, when I think of Him, when I meet with Him. When I share of His love and goodness, I want it to knock someone over!!! But there’s a process in this…not the quick rip off the bandage approach, but one that will be long lasting. And the only way to get there is through humbled, surrendered, brokenness!

During this journey, my journal passages seemed like a roller-coaster ride of faith and emotions, often ending with God telling me to REST and REJOICE…and me thinking, Rejoice?? Are You kidding? How? How do I find joy in what seemed like a wilderness?

One day God spoke to my heart and said:

[Precious One – The difference between great faith and little faith is not in the absence of wavering but in the presence of getting back up, repenting, coming before Me with an open and humble heart to grow and thus driving your roots deeper into My fertile ground. I have never asked you to be perfect. Even My perfect Son, in despair on the cross, cried out, “My God, My God. Why have You forsaken Me?”
Charlotte, I’m calling you to cease striving and rest in Me. Hold tightly to Me and let Me guide you. I don’t want your perfection. I want your brokenness. It is only in brokenness that I can do My greatest work in and through you… in your strength and striving, your light can only shine so far. But in brokenness, it is My Light that shines and it is far reaching and penetrating to the very heart of people.]

This is when I realized, it wasn’t just about me or my family. It was so much bigger than us. I had to Choose Joy… Choose to praise Him anyway… Choose to stand on His Word and not my experiences.

So even if my journals began with rants or cries of desperation, they didn’t end that way. After pouring out my heart, I would draw a line and write “BUT GOD…” Then I would declare and decree the truths of His character and stand on His promises and His Word as I wrote them out.

He would remind me or lead me to Scriptures that became lifelines for me to declare over our lives! Here are a few: Jeremiah 15:16, Hebrews 10:23, Psalm 126:5-6, Psalm 16:11, Habakkuk 3:18, Romans 15:13, and Nehemiah 8:10.

While, reading the book “Rooted, The Hidden Places Where God Develops You” by Banning Liebscher, the Director of Jesus Culture, God opened my eyes and grew me so much! Banning taught on how to thrive in the process of being deeply rooted. He shared:

David wrestled with impossibilities, fear, heartbreak, disappointment, betrayal, anger, and grief. But every time, the wrestling drove him back to the source of his strength: God. And every time David accessed that strength, whether in the field, a house, a cave, or a castle, it led to his thriving.”
For us to navigate the same range of circumstances and find God, our strength in every situation, we have to know where to look and how to continue to look there in the face of the Enemy’s distractions. Typically, these distractions are going to try to get us to (1) wish we were in someone else’s process, (2) resist the lessons God is trying to teach us in our circumstances, (3) rush the process, or (4) skip steps in the process.

Well it was obvious I was being distracted! I immediately repented to Abba Father and asked Him to help me be patient in growing me into His vision for me. As the enemy continued to shoot his fiery arrows at me, I had to remind myself to “stay in my lane” and focus on what God placed in front of me. I didn’t want to get distracted and stuck in the process by focusing on what someone else was doing. I needed to constantly remind myself not to rush His process either, as I was learning that every assignment and lesson in the refining process was vital to my foundation.

Banning also shared:

If you don’t have all the components of your foundation, then when God adds the weight of your calling and vision to your life, your foundation won’t sustain it.

In this wilderness, I became so rooted in Him, stronger than I ever imagined possible, being able to withstand the attacks of the enemy in His strength and not mine, and minister to others along the way. I chose to not just believe His Holy Word was true, but that it was true for me and my family… standing firmly in knowing that I know and hear His voice and that He didn’t want what was good for us because He wants what’s best for us.

And in times when I still faced disappointment, heartache, fear, and offense, like David, I ran back to my source of strength, God Almighty, who gave me a clear visual of driven piles, pounded deeper and deeper into soil to provide foundation support. He reminded me that every time the enemy hit me with another blow, it caused me to run back to Him, thus driving me deeper into His rich soil!

Fast forward to the fall of 2018. After praying and seeking the Lord about leading a Marriage Small Group, God led my husband and I to name it “Rooted: Pursuing God. Empowering Couples”. We kicked it off by studying John Bevere’s book called, “God Where Are You?” coupled with his “Wilderness Course”. Sharing our testimony while leading this group brought an abundance of joy, for we know we’re healed by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. It’s no coincidence the Lord had us walk through our wilderness, for such a time as this.

Wherever you are in your journey, know that God loves you beyond measure, has a high calling on you, and wants what’s best for you and not what’s good. He’s counting on you too. So don’t abandon the process. Reach out to others to hold you up in prayer as you run with endurance the race God has set before you.

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace [who imparts His blessing and favor], who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you [making you what you ought to be]. – 1 Peter 5:10 AMP