I Think God is Holding out on Me

It’s never enough. We double tap, we snap, we share. And it’s never enough. Someone always has it better, someone is always happier, thinner, and every other “-er” you can think of. And we want it. We want “-er” so badly because we feel good to be noticed. We want people to like and applaud us. Applause is the sound our culture and generation loves so much.

“I want you to love me like I love me!” Our culture screams, “Self-care,” and, “You do you.”

“It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.”

But we’re hurting. All of us. Why has “self-care” generation turned into the such a self-obsessed, attention-hogging, empty, and jealous generation?

Is it ironic? No. Inevitable? Yes.

I would love to write about how I defeated comparison once and for all, as if it’s not something I battle. But we’re talking present tense here, because like most struggles, they come back again. Sometimes they’ll resurface in a different area than before. I know I face comparison in different ways than I did at 18 years old.

If I pretend comparison doesn’t exist, I ignore a huge problem in my life. I think we all struggle with this. We always hear discussion around social media, and how it’s a comparison black hole. I am uncomfortable living a life that is always looking to the next best thing, the next best upgrade, the next season of life, and the person next to me who has the next best thing.

It’s my search for “enough” that has kept me running after things that are really not designed to fulfill me.

You know what that “thing” is for you. I know what mine is. Sometimes more than one thing comes to mind.

With each area of comparison we question what God is doing, or what he’s not doing. With comparison, we mostly question what he’s not doing on our time and our agenda. We question God’s heart when we have our eye on something that looks better.

It sounds a lot like Adam and Eve when they ate from the tree. God told them not to eat from one tree. Satan tempts Eve and she starts to believe that God is holding out on her by asking her not to eat from this forbidden tree. Isn’t it funny that what looks like God holding out on us is actually just his protection?

He gives us this entire garden and to protect us from destruction, he creates boundaries. These boundaries are purposeful, but they look an awful lot like hindrances to what we love. What if we truly believed God wasn’t holding out on us? We would live with more freedom, purpose, and joy in each season.

So how do we tackle this? How do we get past the rotten comparison that our good ol’ friend Pinterest says is “the thief of joy”?

Here are some thoughts to help you navigate:

Comparison attacks the areas we care about the most. God made us the way we are for a reason–for purpose. But with those qualities come a responsibility to use them well. If we aren’t careful we can idolize these areas that we care about. Soon enough these comparison traps are our idols. For instance, we might be idolizing recognition or fame when we compare social media likes. We might be idolizing our body image we compare it.

The ladder of thankfulness helps you climb out of the rut. Being thankful is hard when you’re complaining…and complaining is hard when you’re thankful. You really can’t have them at the same time, so which choice wins?

My prayer is that you will choose thankfulness. You see, thankfulness is the key to freedom from jealousy, greed, and coveting.

I don’t want to fear lack of; I want to rest in abundance of. When we are too busy looking at what others have, we miss the gold right in front of our eyes. Eve thought she was lacking something. If we can get good at identifying the gold, that is a thankful heart, we will rest in our abundance that God has provided.

Fear implies I’m in control, but rest implies God is in control. And how good is Jesus at multiplying small amounts of things anyway (hint: very good)? We can rest in his control; we can rest in abundance.

It’s not about me. In the end, comparison focuses on “me” rather than God. If I’m going to really get this thing right, it has to be about a life after God’s heart and not a mountain of blessings.

So how can I practically process this in my own life when the comparison monster creeps its way in? Well, here are some questions I ask myself to dodge the monster’s unwelcome stay in my heart:

Where/how does comparison show up in my heart?

What does my comparison reveal that I am fearing? What do I believe God is holding back from me?  

What is God’s truth about my comparison?

Can I trust God to fulfill my desires? Be honest, and think of ways he’s been faithful in the past.

So now we’ve identified the areas. How do we change our hearts? It always begins with thankfulness.

What is the JOY of this area (what are you thankful for)?

What is the work of this area (what is God asking of me with what he’s given me)?

YOU have purpose, promises of God on your life, and you are called to do extraordinary things whether you believe it or not. God created you to live in this moment, to influence the specific set of people around you, all for his kingdom. Living with eternity in mind is our goal as we pursue his call on our lives. If you ever need a reminder of that, you can read any of these Bible passages: Philippians 4:6-13, Hebrews 10:19-39, Psalm 139, and Proverbs 4:25-27.

Here’s the challenge:

If you need to create a habit of thankfulness, draw a ladder (or imagine one if you’re not the drawing type). Add a rung on the ladder for every thing you’re thankful for. Look at the rungs and see what God is doing! Look at his faithfulness and provision over your life.

And watch yourself climb out of that pit, girlfriend.

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The Secrets We Keep

Secrets can be a great place of intimacy or they can be a place of shame that separates because of manipulation and sin.

“Secrets don’t make friends.”

We’d say this if we were jealous and wanted this supposed top-secret information. We don’t like to be on the outside; we want to be in the know. Maybe you’ve been in on a surprise for someone else. If you’ve ever learned what it feels like to ruin the privilege of a keeping this secret, you know what it feels like to be on the outside.

I believe that’s what Adam and Eve felt–they had the most intimate secret to keep. But their mistake is not where it ends for us.

You know the story: Adam and Eve sinned because they ate the one fruit God instructed them not to (what we can’t have always looks the best, huh?). They notice they’re naked and they are shameful, so they hide. It’s our first instinct to keep secrets from God. We don’t want him to see our mistakes, and we certainly don’t want him to know our sin. We feel more comfortable to run, hide, and bury our sin. These secrets we keep from God separate us. They pit our ugly sin against a holy, perfect God. And why would we want that exposed? So we cover. We hide. We keep it a secret.

And isn’t it just like God to come closer to us even in our sin? I mean, he’s been doing this since Eden. If that wasn’t enough, he sent Jesus to reel us in closer even after Israel rejected God. Here we are today still struggling with this urgency to not let God see us and love us through imperfection; we can’t seem to fathom it.

God is so good at bridging the gap that he took our ugly secrets and turned them into intimacy with him–the secret place with him. This is my favorite secret with God because it’s one I don’t feel a heavy weight over. It’s a secret that brings freedom. You’ll notice that in Genesis 3:21 when Adam and Eve are trying to hide under their own clothes, God comes to give them new covering. God just wants to have the secret place with us–it’s the space we share with him that connects us to him.

Now I know that I have tried to keep secrets from God, and I’d assume you have too. And I know how it hurts to feel that distance between our guilt and His holiness. It makes it seem irreparable. Yet he still restores that secret place with us. He sent Jesus to physically be this closeness, and his Holy Spirit to be close to us now, even after Jesus isn’t physically with us in 2018. This is his restoration of the secret place we traded for the secret sins we kept.

And can you believe that all this time he still had that grand plan for us? It started before we could use language of any kind. He formed us in the secret place. Psalm 139:15-16 reminds us that absolutely nothing was hidden from God when he made us in secret; He planned out our days long before we knew of them. We were fully exposed before him while he was creating us and shaping us. We were exposed at our worst, yet fully known and fully loved for it.

And when I am imperfect, my tendency is to hate my sin and run from God. I don’t want him to see my mess. I am good at concealing. After all, we don’t normally invite people over to a messy house, or post pictures of our weakest moments. We don’t know what it is to be loved in our mess because we are trained to correct it. Yet God loves anyway. It’s unfathomable, and it is my best secret to share with you. He has corrected our shameful secrets and restored them with the secret place with him. And he’s multifaceted enough to share this space with every individual on this planet, because he shared it with you in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

I would challenge you to reevaluate whether you share secrets with God or keep them from God. I promise that God wants to be close to you, and he wants you to be free and restored.

Lean in to the secret place.

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Close The Door Behind You

“Close the door behind you.”

 

It’s a common phrase that maybe you’ve heard when you’re leaving the house. Maybe it’s a simple-minded task to close the door when you rush out the door, but God reminded me that it’s not just for the daily rush. Sometimes we need to be reminded to close the door on the things we leave so we can walk into something new.

 

Transition is hard. I’ve had my share of change and transition in the past two years. I’ve learned to accommodate to the change; I’ve thrown my hands up on this roller coaster and embraced the ride because somewhere in between the huge drops there’s really fun parts to laugh. And if I’m honest, transition implies that I have to leave some great things behind. I don’t always want to do that, and I know I’m not alone.

 

Somewhere scrolling through social media, we’ve stumbled across cliché quotes that beg us to believe that there’s better things ahead for us. But it’s really hard to believe that when you are closing the door on your own plans that crumbled. You close this door in faith that God has a better plan than you can dream up for yourself.

 

I know of a few Israelites who looked back on the past and were wandering in the desert wishing away the very freedom that God gave them (Exodus 16). God gave them the very food they needed in order to move forward out of captivity, yet they were blind to God’s grace because they decided their way was better than whatever provision he was trying to give them. I don’t want to live like this. I want to be confident in my transitions from one door to the next. Sometimes it requires patience—a lot of patience. Sometimes it requires remembering that God is good, worth my trust, and a promise keeper.

 

I have no idea what type of transition you are in. I have no clue what amazing things you are forced to leave behind in this new season. But I do know one thing: if you dare shut that door behind you (to maybe some amazing things that make it hard to leave), God will surprise you. It’s hard to believe that our future can be as beautiful as some of the things we are leaving behind. But if you shut the door behind you and walk in faith, God will be right there to walk to the next place with you. Ask God to help you see the beauty in shutting that door—and leaving all of that (whatever “that” is to you personally) to stay behind you.

 

I know it is hard. But I can tell you it’s possible. Don’t be scared to leave the beautiful behind you to step into what God has next. God is good at making beautiful twice.

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Honest Hour

I have fallen into the trap of believing that whatever I write a blog post about, I have to have already perfected. This is such a lie, and it struck me as I read part of Lysa TerKeurst’s Uninvited this morning. We humans are a work in progress and it’s so important for us to admit that we aren’t perfect. More importantly, it’s important for me to admit that I do not have it all together, and I never want this to stop my ability to let God use my words through my imperfect heart. I do not have to master everything I discuss. And while God does a work in my heart with the things I post, He is ultimately the one who speaks through me. And sometimes, I am blown away at the things that come from the pen to paper because He is in control of the thoughts and words coming through my mind when I shut out distractions. I know I’m not the only one (pause to serenade Sam Smith for everyone) who feels this pressure from either myself or any other outside factor to have it together as a Christian. The danger is when we regard our appearance for people over what God sees (Galatians 1:10).

I can think of a couple people who made a mess and tried to look perfect on the outside: Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3, they both hid from God because they were afraid of honesty and being exposed. But I’ve learned that being exposed and vulnerable actually medicates the addiction of looking perfect on the outside. Let us face the reality that looking at our sin or shortcoming in the face is not pretty. But like Adam and Eve, healing comes after we face the ugly. When we realize we are messy, that we have poison on our flesh, and we have created a tangle of lies, God can redeem and restore. And He is really good at it.

Leading from a place of vulnerability is not a matter of complaining about your struggles in order that others can fill the gap for you; rather, it is about sharing the brokenness we all experience, and giving God the glory in the ways He is walking alongside you.

So, what are we supposed to do with this? How can we become vulnerable?

We admit that we cannot be perfect (1 John 1:8-9), and we accept God’s invitation to come close. Sometimes you might not have to look or listen too much in order to hear God. This is not the case for me in this season. I am in a place of being silent because God’s voice is a whisper. I am fine-tuning my ears because God is leading me in less obvious ways than I have been used to in the past year. Regardless of where you find yourself, we need to choose to accept the invitation to His presence in every single day. He invites us to come close (James 4:8). He is already here, but when we choose to come, it changes everything.

The very name of Jesus is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). What a fitting name for the God that lives inside our hearts and walks alongside our imperfections even when we mask them as perfections.

There are distinct moments when people in the Bible chose to accept the invitation of God to come near and He met them there. The common thread for each one: faith to show up and vulnerability to be seen through mistakes. God is showing me that vulnerability present tense; it is not vulnerability only after I have cleaned up my mess (or so I think). In order to expose my faults, it requires the faith to believe God’s grace loves me through this, and if you allow Him, He will meet you right in that mess and restore your soul.

 

But enough about my words. Try it for yourself.

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Our Heaven on Earth

It really wasn’t until my mom passed away that I experienced the distance between heaven and earth. There is such a separation between the perfection of heaven and the brokenness of earth. I am thankful that my mom is experiencing the fullness of God, and she is whole and well in a perfect heaven we can only dream of until we experience it ourselves. I can’t help but wonder how perfect it must be, because we remain on an earth filled with sorrow, heartache, fear, uncertainty, and brokenness. Because I’ve become aware of this separation, I am hungry for the perfection of God. That’s what we long for. It’s the emptiness we feel when we’re lost; we need Jesus to fill it. I long for that closeness of God where I don’t have to experience a deep pain like we do on earth. Wars, bad test results, job losses, mistakes, and deaths. But because of Jesus we can experience heaven on earth.

 

We can be made whole, and we have an answer to that longing for God’s presence: Jesus. Though the world shakes with terrible news, diseases, tears, and heartache, we have the strength of God because Jesus Christ was heaven sent to earth. He flooded the earth with heaven and Jesus is the threshold to that paradise. How intimate that such a God would send Jesus to be the pathway for us. Jesus came as a tangible gift when he came as heaven in the form of flesh and bone. Even though we are made in the likeness of God, he came down to walk a life in the flesh; a man born into an unforgiving, selfish world who was willing to live among imperfection despite being perfect.

 

Jesus is the very threshold we enter to the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is heaven itself that entered the fragments of earth. Even you and I were born in a more dignifying way than he was. His humble arrival was less than perfect. No one could even make room for Mary to deliver the one who would save the world. But he accepted a life of imperfection. How loving of God that he would think up a solution to our mess by allowing Jesus to experience this painful world. He is the hope of the world, and he’s alive in us. Because of Jesus I can have the hope that heaven brings; a hope that breathes life into my dreams. I’m thankful that he didn’t leave us alone in our tangled mess; instead he left a tangible, human solution. His name is Immanuel. He is God with us, present with us on this desperate earth as living hope. With us (Matthew 1:23).

 

I’m forever thankful that my life is changed and I can live eternally in the presence of God all because He sent Jesus to our desperate and lonely earth that night. Eternity arrived in human form to be with us; what a reminder that we’re not alone. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to fill our hearts with any counterfeit versions of the wholeness heaven has to offer. Jesus is the wholeness we crave, and because he came to earth, we can access the wholeness in the middle of our struggles. What a Savior.

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The Unfair Love

Grace and love are topics that are often talked about in church (obviously, because it’s the gospel). But I have had the tendency to listen to the words without really understanding the full meaning in my heart. When we try to grasp the meaning of grace in regards to our own struggles in life and measure them against the sin that God pardoned for all mankind, we will be overflowing with gratitude.

 

Here’s the thing about God’s love: it does not hold out on us, it’s not passive-aggressive, it’s never small, but it is always daring, bold, and too vast for our understanding. Grace meets us right where we’re at. It takes us by the hand and leads us to deeper places that are hidden in God’s heart. It doesn’t keep us in the low places; rather, it tenderly loves us while we’re mending. Grace calls you “enough.” It says that even though God is completely aware of your sin, mistakes, trials, and flaws, you are unconditionally loved (all parts of you) infinitely more than you are capable of imagining. This grace isn’t fair; it’s not at all what we deserved. God knows this, and He still chose to love us instead of punishing us. This love isn’t broken; it’s whole and unchanging. My failures don’t stop his love, and yours don’t either. This love doesn’t force me, but instead leads me to living fully abandoned to God. I am radically changed by a love that could take a broken, shattered heart and mend it back together as if to never be broken to begin with. He knows each crack, bruise, and hole in my heart, and this makes him the best healer. I don’t want to fill these spaces with anything but the best remedy: God’s infinite love.

 

Grace gives me permission to not measure up. I can just call on the name of Jesus despite my mistakes and imperfection, and I’m forgiven. What an unfair love this is.

 

His love is so detailed and so intricate. He is so intentional in the way he loves. He sees you and He takes notice. He cares so deeply about you, about where you’re at, about what you care about, and about the journey you’re on. He didn’t miss or skip over you. Allow him to love on you. Allow yourself to feel His love. It’s the most compassionate love you’ll ever feel both in this life and in eternity. Grace and love are tenderly waiting for you; all you have to do is just ask for it.

 

Because I have God working in me, I am challenged to lend tangible grace and love to people so they notice that it comes from a well that never runs dry; this well can handle the scarcity of drought and it doesn’t worry about my natural inability to love. This well overflows. I’m in awe and wonder at the thought of a God who would repay my sin and wicked heart by spending eternity with him, handing me victorious freedom, and a spotless heart. I don’t want to abuse this grace by living in sin; but because of His wild love for me, I am drawn to this mysterious love, and I want it. He paid my sin back with a way out. What a beautiful, crazy, and unfair love.

 

When you’re going through trying times and your faith is shaken to the core, He is not punishing you. I don’t know why the terrible things happen aside from a result of our fallen world. But I do know He cares and He doesn’t like to watch you suffer. He endures the pain with you. He walks with you through the fire time and time again. The flames of that fire won’t even burn you (Isaiah 43:2). His love is all protecting; it’s a living shield of protection and help as you walk this earth.

 

I have no clue why God’s love saved us. He sent Jesus to bear the weight of the world’s sins. This didn’t take our human nature away, but it allows us to be completely pardoned and wiped clean of sin. In spite of our sinful nature, God still says we are forgiven and He loves us the way we are. Jesus is the way to eternity in heaven. Because he lived a perfect life, you and I don’t have to measure up. Because he paid for my sin, you and I don’t have to. What an unfair love this is. Thank you, God.

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Harvest Time

Life is all about the seasons; some are good and some are bad. Sometimes we are hesitant to the change of a season, and other times it is embraced. As we immerse ourselves into fall, I’ve had seasons on my mind. They come like clockwork, and we all know the patterns: the weather starts to cool off (sometimes a little slower than I would like), and the leaves start to change color and fall off the trees. The trees go from lush, green, and full to dry, bare, and frail. We see this process and find beauty in the dry and barren trees, because we know that in just a few months the trees will flourish with new life and beauty. I want to look at my own life like this, but some days it is too hard to see the beauty in the empty parts of life. But we serve a God who faithfully turns our seasons over to new life and flourishes the barren places into beauty and restoration; He’s the one who creates rain after drought, and spring after winter. He’s the one who produces harvest after pruning.

Pruning is essential in plants. It removes the dead and broken areas and actually produces a greater harvest. Think of it as getting rid of the excess. It’s an essential step in growing, and spiritual pruning will beautifully mold us just as it does to a garden of roses. Though it does have a beautiful outcome, it’s the process that’s painful, uncomfortable, and confusing. It’s a process of development and faith in the new life to come. This new life is a full life that glorifies His goodness. He will delete the unhealthy areas that are harmful to growth and show decay, and give our fruitfulness better quality to the pruned areas. He rearranges the things that were once good for a past season, and produces the higher quality for what you are about to walk into. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful (John 15:2).

Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. We have little control over the grand scheme of our lives as well as the details that go into each day because sometimes life is just an unpredictable mess, but God divinely arranges the seasons in our lives. He’s never early and He’s never late, and He’s oh so detailed. We are sure to bear fruitfulness when God is the source of life that we draw from.

God is well aware of the season you’re in. It is part of your story, and it’s a carefully orchestrated plan. Maybe you’re in the best season of your life (harvest), or you find yourself in a difficult one (pruning). He’s got it all mapped out, and He is a very detailed and careful planner who has the harvest in mind. I know that we can embrace our process of pruning as we realize that God is faithful in what He starts, and He won’t leave us empty.

Get ready. Your harvest is coming.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

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Thanks a Bunch

I’ve learned quite a lot about thankfulness in the past year, and it’s changed my life. Whether in the middle of organized chaos or your mountain top season, thankfulness will turn your heart upside down, and you’ll realize God is actually fighting for you, that He keeps His promises, and that He sees you. We can be thankful because…

The Bible says to. This is our number one reason for living a sincerely thankful life. When our hearts are sincerely in awe of God’s character, we begin to realize that we don’t deserve the way He made through Jesus, which truly turns the attention to Him. Thankfulness is entirely about God, not ourselves. Our existence is to glorify God; our very nature of living our lives out for God is an act of thankfulness. It’s our pleasure to do the will of God, because we were made for it (Philippians 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Psalm 32:11).

It displaces fear. And when I say fear, I am also talking about its close relatives too (worry, anxiety, stress). When we are busy putting Philippians 4:6 into practice, we are spending more of our time trusting and relaxing in the faithfulness of God to carry us through. I want to be there. I used to fear trusting in God (ironic, yes) because it would put me out of my own control, and leave me available for plans and possessions to be ripped from my hands. On the other side of surrender, I can assure you that God is not out to get you, but He does in fact want to give you an abundance of life at a higher quality than what you’re currently clinging onto for dear life.

It increases your awareness of Him. Sometimes I feel like God has taken a lunch break on me; maybe He left and decided someone else’s prayers were more interesting. Or maybe He is right in front of me, holding my hand as I carefully maneuver through every moment. Thankfulness makes me aware of who God is: never changing and always faithful in the darkest, coldest, lowest valleys. It makes me aware that even in the middle of my sorrows, He provides peace, comfort, and joy; that is something to be thankful for at any time of life.

It destroys discontentment. Discontentment is a competitive, negative, and exhausting disease. It will nag at you, persuading you that nothing is good enough. A “nothing is good enough” mindset can apply to any area of our lives in more ways than one if we’re not careful to keep it in check. However, a thankful heart will recognize the blessings already around you, and you realize God is sustaining it all so you don’t need to strive to keep up. Living in discontentment will actually create a hurdle that keeps us from doing what God has called us to do (Philippians 2:14-15; 4:11). It becomes all about shifting our focus to God, rather than to the ever-changing stuff.

 

It creates peace. By being thankful, we are celebrating who God is. Philippians 4:7 says that when we combine prayer and thankfulness, peace will wash over our hearts. This peace goes beyond what we can even understand. Again, it is completely from God, and not anything we could do for ourselves. It removes anxiety, replaces it with peace, and opens the door for God to move in our lives because worrying in circles is long gone. His warm presence will be openly invited when you decide to be thankful.

It is surrender at its finest. “In everything,” is a little part I like to skip over sometimes in Philippians 4:6. But I want to help you out here: God is not asking you to be thankful for a bad day, week, or year. I’m personally not thankful for what I’m going through right now, but I am incredibly thankful at how God is holding my family and me up in the middle of the most outrageous time in our lives. He asks that in the middle of your toughest (or best) times, be thankful for all of it. It’s easy to question God’s plan sometimes. But just when you think He’s misguiding your steps, you realize He was graciously arranging you to fit His mold in a way you could’ve never dreamt up if you tried. By being thankful, we are also expectant for all that God has in store in seasons to come.

These are only a few reasons to be thankful, and your reasons will be beautifully personal to your own life. But I hope that when life rains on your parade, you have a little umbrella to keep yourself dry. Oh, and remember to use the umbrella when it’s sunny too.

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The Day I Was Mad at God

Now before you read the title of this post and get concerned, let me inform you that I love God with all my heart, but this is an extremely raw post.

As many of you may know, my mom passed away on July 29, 2015. It was a day I never imagined I would be walking through as I barely stumble into adulthood. I needed her to help me pick out my wedding dress, and I needed her to help me as I raise my children someday. Not only those things, but I needed her prayer, love, and advice as I do everyday. It’s not fair. So not fair.

A few things led up to the day that dramatically changed my entire life. I was just coming home from an insanely amazing trip, excited to share what I experienced at Bethel’s WorshipU; I was bursting with everything I learned about music, Jesus, and myself. I was excited because we would soon go on a family vacation to have a break from life, and we would have a sense of “normal” to our interrupted life. But a whopping four days later, we got heart-wrenching news that my mom’s cancer spread viciously to her liver (which was then pronounced stage 4), with multiple lesions attacking it. When my parents came home with this news, it felt like someone took my stomach and tried to wring it out. I’ve never hated cancer more in my life. More importantly, I’d never been so angry in my entire life. And that’s what caught my attention.

You know, I’ve never understood (even through the initial diagnosis) why people become angry with God. I always wondered why they were angry toward a God who loves them, cares for them, and is good. That day I knew exactly what people meant. Let me be even more honest: I felt like God was sitting down just watching me cry as His arms were folded. I got in my car and I screamed as loud as I could handle. It felt dark, it felt lonely, and I felt stranded. I thought God left me. But He never left me. He’s also not going to leave you.

In this moment, I was not thankful. These were raw emotions to be felt and given back to God as our family moved forward into the terrible days ahead. I had to make the choice to not become bitter at my circumstances. A very hard choice.

From there it was a hard, consistent battle between trusting in God, and not acting like my mom’s life was not being threatened by a disgusting disease. What a difficult balance. Our family’s verse ever since the diagnosis is Psalm 112:7 which reads, “They have no fear of bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.” This verse became more stripped down than ever, because in the midst of bad news, God would guide our family through it. We could confidently trust God to care for us. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, nurturer, and he’s with us everywhere we go at any moment that we call on the name of Jesus.

I know that my reasoning for being mad at God may not be the same as yours. I won’t pretend to try and know your reasons, because there are reasons very specific and personal to your life. But let me tell you something very important: God is not the source of your sticky situation. It’s not His will for your life to fall apart. It’s not His will for disaster, disease, loneliness, loss of a job, or whatever else you may be dealing with. All of earth’s beauty and order was destroyed the moment Adam and Eve ate the wrong fruit. But I’ve seen that God loves to turn things around for good, and He’s amazing at it (Romans 8:28) even if our “good” is not the same as His. He swings doors open that I couldn’t pry open for myself, and He closes doors to protect our paths.

It’s okay to be mad at God. He can take it because He’s pretty tough. It’s when we soak in our sorrow, wallow in self-pity, and remain in bitterness that we actually shut God out, making the problem far worse than it all ready is. Life is rough, and I know it’s excruciating when we don’t allow God to go before us. In as little as a week and a half, I’ve learned a few things that I hope will help you as you find yourself in a mess in this crazy life:

Remind yourself who God is. You may not believe the characteristics at the moment, but just do it. Write down all those verses that reveal God’s character. Remind yourself that He does see, He does care about details, and He does love fiercely. This is the perfect time for all your Sunday school memorizations to come out.

Acknowledge that your heart doesn’t line up with your head. Your head has all the Bible verses memorized, and it has the audacity to tell your heart that trials will increase your faith, but your heart doesn’t quite know if that’s honestly true. Your heart could care less about James 1 right now, and your heart doesn’t want to trust God. It’s this beautiful tension here on earth that we can bring these two areas of our being to the feet of Jesus, leave it there, and ask him to mend it. I’m learning that this is probably the most authentic form of worship.

Get into God’s presence. When you have no words, when you have no idea what to pray, worship. God’s presence changes your entire being the second He floods your space. All we have to do is call on His name and He comes running. Thanks Jesus for what you did on the cross for us. I don’t think we’ll ever say it enough.

Don’t power through and be “Mr./Ms. Super-Christian.” It is such a dangerous mask. The world is aching for authenticity, especially from Christians, and we cannot offer it if we are lying to ourselves about our emotions. Feel them and bring them to God. But please, I’m begging you not to mask your tender and real God-given emotions with a half-believed “God is good.” Get to the bottom of this so you can whole-heartedly believe it!

I don’t know what your situation is. But I hope these small amounts of realizations help you overcome your battles. The best part is God all ready won our battles, but we actually have to claim that over our life. Let’s claim it today.

“This is what the Lord says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:5-8

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When Your Emotions Run You Over

Sometimes I think I have enough emotions to go around. It just takes a downward spiral of events through the day for me to burst. We can pretend we’ve never had our fears, sad days, and pity parties (or cried embarrassing amounts of tears during The Notebook). As people, we are made to feel. I know this allows us to live colorful lives of joy and compassion, but I also know it comes with feeling the pain of life, whether it’s your own pain or someone else’s.

We have gradually become a culture that believes in following feelings, emotions, and hearts at all costs. This world is chanting the subliminal motto, “If it feels good, do it.” And this might be true… depending on where our compass is pointing.

There is a balance. We are constantly in a raging war over what we as humans desire, and living to be like Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. But it’s our greatest joy to win this battle; we get the chance in the midst of suffering on earth to purely love God. Galatians 5:17 tells us our flesh and Spirit are constantly conflicting so that we don’t live based on impulsive decisions. The tension of flesh and Spirit causes us to struggle, but it also allows for God to reveal His goodness.

God is not circumstantial. Isn’t this amazing? We are circumstantial; we get frustrated when things don’t go our way, and we love when they do. But God is always steady and constant. God is the very rock we are grounded on. God would be very unorganized if He only met our needs when He felt like it… or when we felt like it. His faithfulness does not depend on how I feel; this is why we see good things happen in the very middle of our sin. God is always faithful regardless of our feelings because He is head over heels in love with the ones He creates.

Keep your thoughts in line. The heart is our center of emotions, and we need it, otherwise we would be numb human beings with no substance and compassion. But anything headed for destruction (or life) starts in our thoughts. We have the power to think as Philippians 4:8 guides us: about things that are true, pure, and excellent. Our thoughts determine our speech and actions, and this is why Paul advises us in verse eight not only to think lovely thoughts, but also to practice them.

Walk with the Holy Spirit. We cannot accomplish godly thought patterns and actions just by trying super hard to be super Christian so we can look super perfect. No, the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness when we walk close to him (Galatians 5:22-23). It takes the pressure off of trying to live perfect because God carries that weight for us. James 3:10-12 also reminds us that we can’t live life by both the flesh and Spirit, just like fresh water and salt water don’t come from the same place. Only submitting our emotions to God can produce a Spirit-led life.

Our emotions are chaotic, but faith is not. Sometimes our emotions can take us on a roller coaster, and it’s a nightmare. However, it does not mean we camp out in our mess of emotions; we prayerfully choose to give our emotional chaos to God because He came to take it from us ages ago. Just because we have the choice of joy does not mean life it’s rainbows and butterflies; but it does mean God will empower us to walk in that choice. Although surrendering our own feelings may seem like our control is being stripped from us, it’s actually our greatest freedom to put our mess into God’s hands.

We are not empty human beings. We are created to love and be loved. When we submit all of our craziness to God, we walk in the power of feeling through our human heart while also walking in the power of God. Next time you need the steady heart of God, create space for Him to enter your mind and walk forward in this peace.

* Cue dance party to Taylor Swift *

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