Patience in the Middle

Just by the title, you probably thought of something you’re waiting for. We are almost always waiting on something, whether it’s a goal to accomplish, dream to achieve, promise delivered, or an answered prayer. Oh, and the lines at Disney.

There are always beginnings, middles, and ends to situations. The beginning of a new job, a marriage, new friendship, or new semester at school is fun and exciting. The ending might result in a promotion, the start of a family, lifelong impacts, or graduating with a degree. The middle, however, is not as sweet as the beginning and end. There’s a lot of waiting around, maybe some tears, a lot of perseverance, and a lot of hard work. Perhaps God intended it to be this way so he could use the most vital part of a situation to mold the best version of you.

Romans 8 (MSG) encourages that “we are enlarged in the waiting.” Oh, how true this is. We are stretched far and wide in “the middle.”

A lot of times we try to rush through seasons of our lives that are God-given, instead of growing though them at the pace He intended. We don’t have to know the reason behind our circumstances, but we do have to remember, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). God’s design is to bring you to your “end” with a deeper knowing of who He is with a heart that deeper resembles Him. Here are four things to know during your middle:

  1. The enemy is a liar. Okay, it’s no secret the enemy does not want you to grow closer to God. Instead, he wants you to fail miserably at being effective for God, and knowing who He is. He steals our joy, magnifies the negative, and whispers the lies that God is not working even in the middle of our waiting (which He is). After we’ve established this, we can now take hold of any negative thoughts that may block our sight of God and redirect them to the truth of God’s Word.
  1. We will go where our eyes are fixed. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:3-4). God’s love, faithfulness, and mercies never run dry. That’s amazing. When our eyes are fixed on His faithfulness while we trust in Him, we are consistently moving toward God, and not backward. When we allow ourselves to become a slave to our emotions and our no-good days, we do the enemy a favor, and we remain ineffective for Christ. We all mess this part up over and over…it’s impossible to be perfect. So what’s the good part about this? God’s grace covers these mess-ups and pity parties, and we can pick up and keep moving forward.
  1. God sees you, and He hasn’t forgotten. There were several people in the Bible who had to wait for a LONG time. Imagine never seeing rain before, God telling you it’s about to flood, and trusting Him to clear the water off the earth so you could get off your boat? I’m glad I wasn’t in Noah’s place! After 150 days of waiting for the rain to stop, Genesis 8:1 says that God remembered Noah, and the waters receded. This is such a familiar story that shows God’s faithfulness. I love that God doesn’t forget, and because I know this, I can have full assurance in His provision without worrying whether or not He will.
  1. Be joyful in the waiting. This is the hardest thing to do in my opinion (seriously, though). Who can actually say they love to wait? Although it seems like the hardest thing to do, it might be the easiest in some ways. If I step back and think about who God is, I don’t see my problems as big, and my waiting as long. If I know God has good plans for me, that He doesn’t forget His promises, and that He has divine timing for every dream of mine to align, then I can be joyful for the day that His plans will pass. The “when” part makes me impatient, but it comes down to a matter of trust, surrender to my own plans, and knowing that God will nurture me from now until I’m ready to move to the next season of my life.

Hold onto those desires deep within your heart. They’re God-given dreams and they’re seeds carefully planted by Him. They take watering (a time of growth and maturing) and they take patience. But we are enlarged in our waiting, and those dreams will bloom like the flowers on the trees in the springtime. God has impeccable timing. Wait on those desires, nurture them with God’s Word, prayer, and worship where you’re at, and in the season you’re in. After you’ve obeyed and trusted God to do His part, you’ll find your labor wasn’t in vain.

“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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Joy in the Middle of Pain

Pain is a word we are all so familiar with. We’re always faced with some magnitude of pain, grief, loss, sadness, loneliness, and depression. Pain is a result of this broken world and we’re bound to face it, but God defines how we face it.

On December 23, 2014, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was the day my entire world changed. The pain of my reality is/was unreal…but yet so was God’s peace. The Bible talks about how peace passes our understanding, and ever since the diagnosis, that is exactly what has happened. Despite the diagnosis, I literally have no understanding as to why I can sleep at night and remain at peace. But what I do know is that God is with my mom and the rest of us, and He’s with you too. He’s with you no matter what your day has looked like so far, or maybe even the past month or year.

Some days I feel on top of the mountain like nothing can ever shake my trust in The Lord. Other days, I feel defeated and beaten by my circumstances. On these days, one of the most beautiful things I’ve learned is to just pour out my heart to God and know that He is with me. Know that He catches every tear, that He’s right there with me as I hurt. I can rest in the fact that He knows the deepest parts of me, and He’s just working behind the scenes of my life as I run to Him. It’s in those broken times that I feel closest to Him. But hear me clearly: this peace does not excuse sadness. It means God’s comfort is closer than ever as we walk through difficulties.

“He bought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.” -Psalm 107: 14

While this is the hardest season of my entire life, I know that God is not surprised by the news, and this brings me so much comfort. He knew the diagnosis before my family, before the doctors, and before any machine could see what was going on, my God all ready knew. And though it’s time for treatment because we have found this news, He was already starting to fight for us when we did not even know we had to fight. I find peace in the fact that this didn’t throw God a curveball. God wasn’t scratching his head in shock when the doctors told us this news! He has a divine plan, and I have no clue why on earth it had to take this route, but even as I’m typing, I am reminded of His grace and sovereignty at my weakest moments.

I’m glad I don’t have to hide my pain and be strong for God. That brokenness is what draws me to Him, and it can draw you to Him no matter your circumstances. There’s no perfect way to walk through pain except by bringing it to Him, and I urge you not to have it all together. Let yourself be a mess; God is pretty awesome at cleaning up a mess. There is such strength in bringing your weak, human, sinful self for God to redeem.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

There has never been a better time for me to recognize that joy is not circumstantial. It’s a true gift that God gives us through the pain, and it is our biggest strength. If there is anyone who knows pain better than you and I, it’s Jesus himself. He was tortured, beaten, abused, neglected, and felt sadness and temptation. He had a journey of his own to get through. He paid for that pain you and I naturally feel, and instead we can choose thankfulness and joy, give that pain to God, and walk in victory. That’s all because Jesus chose you and me. He chose us to be free despite the pain that this earth brings. We don’t have to carry the load of our circumstances. I’m thankful that we serve a God who is FOR US and who fights for us while we are still (Exodus 14:14). He’s not done with me, and He’s not done with you. He is molding you into who you were made to be, just like gold is refined in fire.

No one can fill the void that pain does except for God and God alone. We don’t know the depth of this unless we let him show us. Everything else that can possibly fix the pain we feel or take our minds off of it is only temporary. He is our source of life forever. And He is literally all that we need. He is the source and He is the fix. He comes to give you life, and He comes to allow you to experience His love, His fullness, and to see how deep that will go. This is all for you to experience if you grab hold of it. Isn’t it awesome that if we seek God, He’s there? We can have this love and fullness and all we have to do is take it. It’s that simple. God is so cool. He allows us to experience a taste of Him all because the pain of Jesus took the place of ours.

When we have a full understanding of who God is, that He is on our side and we already have victory, we can walk in freedom and not live as a slave to our bad days. God is behind the scenes of every aspect and when we remember He’s out to do us good and not harm, we can rest in His love. We can count on Him to turn our sorrow to joy (Isaiah 35:10) and our mourning to dancing. He’s good always.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you. – 1 Peter 5:10 (AMP)

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The Comparison Game

In the land of social media, it can be all but “social.” It unfortunately ends in comparison of some sort. So often that you may not even realize it. However, let’s realize that we are comparing our bodies, faces, hair, lives, feelings, and everything in between to a filtered picture that was so carefully posed. A picture is only the final product; the final product will not tell you the missing pieces, or even what is 5 feet to the left of the picture’s border. These captured moments are so misleading, as well as the messages the enemy would have us believe: You’re not happy like that, smart like that, pretty like that, you need those clothes, you don’t have friends like they do, you need a relationship like that (I bet at least someone came to mind with one of those thoughts)…the list goes on and on. And pretty soon you have compared your dullest moments to someone’s best filter. We filter out the moments we don’t want the world to see and we get to choose how the world sees us regardless of if it’s even true. The fashion industry knows this; that’s what Photoshop is for (listen, I love clothes and beauty but I have a point here). Whatever we want the world to believe about us is what we place in front of it to see. I have news for you: every person has struggles, every person has bad days, and every person fights constantly against their sinful nature. I’m NOT counting myself out. I am quite a fan of instagram, BUT when we let our thoughts get out of hand, we may become addicted to comparison, and starving any sense of contentment within us.

There are a lot of feelings that can sprout from comparison: jealousy, greed, discontent, and maybe even bitterness and sadness if it grows. Let’s be real, no one wants to expose their flaws… no one wants to post a bad picture for everyone to see, and no one wants to post imperfections. Take Adam and Eve for example (Genesis 3): they sinned in the garden and immediately they covered themselves up to hide their guilt and shame from God. I love this because it sounds so familiar… they chose to keep God out of it and cover themselves up to look perfect on the outside. They wanted to look okay even when things weren’t okay. If that doesn’t sound familiar, I don’t know what does. Whatever is exposed will long to be seen as perfection, but this is a distortion of our culture. The more we compare ourselves to these “perfect” images, the more we feel we need to measure up to. And guess what? The farther away we get from God’s likeness.

So how do we get to this place of contentment? Well, I’m glad you asked because I’ve had to learn this myself. We get vulnerable with God. He really loves to just talk to you and be real for a second. Adam and Eve’s story didn’t end there: God covered Adam and Eve with his own hands. He related to them with love and he restored their relationship with Him. I find that when I’m vulnerable with God, I’m really being honest with myself AND with God. And that is something that heals you anywhere you’re at.

Second, you have to know who God is. It’s not until we know who God is that we can see ourselves like He does and not as the world would have us see. You’re a product of His creation, His goodness, His likeness, and he chose you and set you apart for His glory. And there is such freedom in knowing that. When we take hold of who He is, mess-ups become less messy, and mistakes are covered in His grace.

The next thing we have to do is love like nothing else. Mark 12:31 says it perfectly: “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” If we are too busy comparing, we won’t have the energy to love. The problem with comparison is that the view of ourselves is always depending on the changing world around us. Our self-view is always shifting because our world is always shifting. When we compare, we either feel better or worse about ourselves all because we are comparing ourselves to a worldly standard. However when we compare ourselves to Christ (Ephesians 5:1), who NEVER changes and is always constant, our confidence is firm and we have the strength to show this aching world a taste of His love.

Lastly, we have to realize that 100% of ALL we need is found in Christ and not in any thing, circumstance, or person on this earth (John 4:14). God’s love is ENOUGH to supply our every need. This world is aching for approval, adoration, love, real/quality things, and not manufactured, filtered, cover-up “good.” It’s time we see through God’s lens and show the world what it is to live under his freedom. This doesn’t mean our days will become great 24/7. It does mean that God’s strength will be more than enough to carry us on our best and worst days. And I myself want a life that reflects that.

Let me be clear: being content does not equal being perfect. Being content with our lives right where we’re at means that we know our satisfaction is found in God and not other possessions or even other people, no matter how God-fearing they are. Discontent and comparison will affect where our eyes are focused and it distracts us from worshipping God. We will always go where our eyes are focused, and we will always try to become what we remain fixed on. God gives us exactly what we need at exactly the right time. And we have to trust that he does this! If God knew you’d be better off with anything added to your life, it would be added. God is enough and YOU are enough just as you are. So stop feeding the lies of comparison and jealousy, and start feeding contentment and love; the love that never fails, and never goes out of style (cue Style by Taylor Swift). Social media doesn’t have to dictate your self-esteem. This world aches for genuine things and they don’t know how to experience it until we show them.

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Overcoming the Lies of Fear

Fear, worry, and doubt… Such familiar feelings, thoughts, and often talked about topics. Yet we all still struggle with them. It’s just not enough for someone to tell us not to worry; maybe it’s because once the endless thought train starts moving, the momentum is so hard to stop.

Throughout elementary school and part of middle school, I struggled with panic attacks and felt I couldn’t ever escape my worry and fear. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, my heart truly goes out to you because it was an awfully scary, lonely feeling that simply made me want to escape everything. They became so frequent that I thought I’d be struggling with this constant battle for the rest of my life. No, my mom didn’t take me to the doctor to be put on medicine, but God healed my fear, worry, panic, and constant what-if thinking. Thank God for praying mommas like mine. I knew it was irrational and I was worried about something that hadn’t happened, but goodness the pain of fear is so very real. From an early age, I was faced with the obstacle of learning how to combat this eerie feeling with the still peace of God through prayer, worship, and His Word.

In all my worries throughout life, I’ve come to the conclusion that worry (grouped together with doubt, deception, and fear) is the belief that something negative or disappointing will come as a result of my current circumstance. Yes, it’s possible that bad things do happen, but we cannot remain paralyzed. It’s a mindset of negative FUTURE effects based on how I FEEL about something now. Worry does two things: It replaces God’s control with MY control, and it counter-acts God’s Word. It’s imagining our future with a hopeless mindset and uncertainty of God’s guidance and sovereignty.

Here’s something we need to understand…from the beginning of time, Satan used the weapon of doubt/deception against Eve to make her question God’s command in the garden.

In Genesis 3:1 the serpent asks, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

Eve distorts God’s original command saying to the serpent, “You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.” (God’s command in Genesis 2:17 says, “If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”) Verse 6 goes on to say that Eve had been convinced by the serpent; she had fallen into the trap of doubt. And just like that, our doubt/fear causes us to act on our own behalf and control our own future, but it leads to death and separation from God’s love, grace, and most importantly, His perfect plan.

When we’re caught in this whirlwind of fear and worry, it will either paralyze us dead in our tracks, or move us to act without the wisdom of God. However, both have one thing in common: where there is fear, the presence of God does not exist.

We can get rid of worry through FAITH. Fear is a lie from the enemy, but faith is truth and brings the peace, confidence, and all-knowing hope that God loves you, desires good for you, cares about everything you are going through, and that he is FOR you. When we stand on promises of God’s Word, we can boldly act in faith and resist the enemy’s attempts to steal our joy. Here are some important steps in taking this leap of faith:

Become content in not knowing every detail. This is so very hard to do, but it’s a crucial step. We are not going to know every detail to our futures and we have to get used to that. Isn’t it funny that we find ourselves trusting in God more easily when we know some of the details? Really trusting in God is learned when we can surrender our control, and not just when some evidence is there for us. Faith does not possess sight.

 

Hold onto hope for dear life. Our hope in Christ is not wishful thinking; it’s an all-knowing assurance that God will come through because He is absolutely wonderful at keeping His promises! Reading promises that scriptures offer us (Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 3:5, Romans 8:28) and not only agreeing with them, but declaring them with confidence over our lives, knowing God will work on our behalf allows us to loosen our control

 

Put away all the what-ifs. When our focus is on the what-ifs, it’s not on God’s promises that he will bring good when the enemy meant to harm us. Christ defeated death, so don’t you know that he is perfectly able to come through and take care of ANY situation no matter the outcome? He calmed raging storms, helped Peter walk on water, created the planet, and told us we could move mountains with our faith. We need to CHOOSE to believe that he is never going to leave us but we can’t use our present circumstances as a gauge.

 

Remember that God is STILL good. Life brings some not-so-pretty circumstances. But God never leaves us. There are deaths, break-ups, losses, failed moments, and bad days, but they allow us to experience God’s grace, love, peace, and goodness all the more! He loves you, and thank goodness our feelings of hopelessness do not determine His sovereignty. He is God no matter how we feel, and he’s big enough to take us through our joy, grief, and everything in between.

 

Be thankful. Philippians 4:6 tells us to present our requests to God with prayer and thanksgiving. Be thankful and look at what God is doing in your life, and already has done. Thankfulness makes us aware of the hand of God actively working on our behalf, allowing us to really see God will never leave us. He fights for us and intercedes for us, and we can enjoy the waiting by being thankful for his presence in the middle of our circumstances. Most importantly, thankfulness will invite his presence and illuminate his love and cancel out the fear.

 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. –Jeremiah 29:11

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