Relief From My Unbelief

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“There is great joy in serving Jesus.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this statement. I’ve even said it many times myself. And deep down, I know it to be true, which is why I’ve had such a hard time reconciling the feelings of stress and overwhelm swirling within me over the past months.  After all, I’m serving Jesus to the best of my ability. I am doing all that I know to do to live for and honor Him. So, why am I not basking in joy? Why am I struggling to find my song?

As I poured out my heart to God about this, I felt so ashamed. I thought of how many Christians are serving in horrible places and dreadful conditions, yet they praise the Lord with every breath. Here I am with more blessings than I can count, yet I can’t seem to ease the ache within my soul. I feel so alone, so out of place. Some days, it seems as if the task of deputation is far more than my body and mind can take. I long for the peace of God to overflow in my heart and life. I crave the joy I know can only be found in Christ. To quote a line from a song, “I want to believe there’s beauty here.” Yet, I weep in the in-between moments when I finally have a chance to stop and catch my breath. When I can lay down all the masks and costumes of “the good Christian girl who has it all together” and just be me. The real me. The confused me. The disheartened me. The shamed me.

I know it’s a privilege to serve the Lord, and I count it as an honor that God would use me. So, why, at this point in my life, doesn’t it feel like a privilege? Why does it feel like a trial? Why is it causing anxiety and stress instead of peace and joy? And what kind of lousy Christian must I be to feel this way?

I’m happy to say God met my questions with some powerful verses that opened my eyes to some precious truths. While there is joy in serving the Lord, that does not mean we will always be happy with where He leads us. In fact, sometimes, we’ll be heartbroken and afraid. . .just like Jesus was. Yes, Jesus. He came to this earth to do His Father’s will. He knew He would have to die for our sins. He knew the price He would have to pay, and He was more than willing to do it. But that doesn’t mean He wanted to go through it. He prayed the cup would pass from Him.

And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. - Matthew 26:39

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. - Luke 22:41-44

Praying. Pleading. Sweating blood. If this isn’t a picture of someone who is dreading an upcoming season of life, I don’t know what is. On the one hand, Jesus wanted to do the Father’s will. On the other, He didn’t want to face such cruel agony. To quote another song, “His humanity cried, ‘Lord, any other way.’ His divinity rose up and said, ‘This price I have to pay.’” And if those two passages don’t paint a vivid enough picture, check out what Hebrews says.

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; - Hebrews 5:7-9

Did you catch that? Strong crying. Tears. Fear. Oh, that sounds so familiar. Jesus, in the center of God’s will, cried out to His Father. He felt overwhelmed by the task to which He had been called. I see no joy or peace in these verses, only fear and anguish. I see Jesus being obedient but not jumping up and down for joy at the prospect. I see an example that makes me feel less ashamed, less like the worst Christian in the history of Christianity. I see Jesus as a man. A man with emotions. A man living in the nasty now and now and deciding to keep serving whether or not He feels like it. I see a man desperate for different circumstances, for a change of heart and attitude. I see someone seeking for joy amid a less than joyful situation. I see myself. . . and I smile.

Jesus has been right here. He’s walked in my shoes. He’s felt my pain. He understands the tears I shed in secret and my seemingly fruitless search for joy and peace in my ever-changing life. He can relate to my roiling emotions and aching heart. And through His Word, He’s reminded me that it’s okay. He’s shown me that while there is joy in serving the Lord, there’s also suffering. At first, that doesn’t seem like much of a comfort, but if we know the truth of that going in, we’ll feel less disappointed and desperate. We’ll feel less alone in our struggles. When we realize that even Jesus Himself dealt with fear and the sense of overwhelm, it helps us know that we’re not as “off track” as we thought we were as long as we continue to follow Jesus’ example and be obedient. And if you’ll look back at that passage in Hebrews, it tells us that Jesus learned obedience through suffering.  

My life right now may not be all that I hoped and imagined it would be, but through it all, God is teaching me to be obedient. He is showing me how to put His will above my own, to set His purposes before my peace. And in the midst of it all, He’s reminding me I’m never, ever alone, and I don’t have to hide my pain. I can be honest with Him because He knows what I’m feeling anyway. There is a brighter day coming, but in the meantime, I find comfort in knowing I can be myself, and that myself is not such a bad thing after all.

Running to the Master

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A few nights ago, I was awakened by a bright flash of light. Groggy from sleep, I lay still trying to determine what had disturbed my blissful slumber. A long roll of thunder confirmed my suspicions—a storm had rolled in. As the roar tailed off, I expected to hear the pitter-patter of feet on the hardwood floors, but none came, so I closed my eyes and did my best to get back to sleep. 

 Before long, another flash of light lit up the bedroom, and once again, a roll of thunder followed in its wake. This time, however, there was no hesitation. I heard Barnabas as he jumped down from his comfy place on the couch and made his way to our bedroom. Within seconds, his cold nose nudged my arm, and his big pleading eyes met mine as if to say, “Mommy, I’m scared. Can I sleep with you?”

I patted the space on the bed between Jason and me, and in no time, the area was filled with 95-pounds of dog. Barnabas snuggled into the space, breathed a sigh of relief, and promptly went back to sleep. Though the storm raged on through the night, Barnabas slept soundly because he knew he was safe with his masters.

As I watched/listened to my sweet pup go from anxious to completely settled, I couldn’t help but smile. I can relate. How sweet it is to run to my Master when I’m afraid. When the storms roll around me, and I don’t know what to do, it’s such a blessing to know I can find peace and safety in the arms of my Lord. Sometimes He actively comforts me, but other times, just resting in His presence is all it takes to ease my mind and calm my fears. And not once have I ever been turned away. Every time I’ve approached the Lord and said, “Daddy, I’m scared. Can I sit with you?,” He’s invited me into His presence. Every time! And I know He always will.

Are you afraid today? Do the storms have you running for cover? If so, seek refuge with the Father. He loves you and understands your fear. He longs to comfort you and give you peace in the midst of your storm. And He will never, ever turn you away (even if you do have a cold, wet nose!).

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
— Psalm 56:3

NOTE: I apologize for the lack of audio lately. Last week, I was sick and had little to no voice. This week, for some reason, my recording software is giving me fits and picking up a lot of background noise. Oddly enough, it’s noise that isn’t really in the background. I have no idea where it’s coming from. Lord willing, I’ll get it running smoothly before long and get back to recording the daily devotions. Gotta love technology!

Whoa There, Thoughts!

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I mentioned to you a few days ago about how my thoughts were keeping me up at night. It’s like a vitamin commercial I saw a few days ago where this man walks into a dark room full of bright neon signs. The signs read all kinds of familiar thoughts, and one by one, the man turns off the lights. When he reaches the last—and only unlit—sign, he pulls the cord, and the words, “Nighty Night” light up. What a perfect picture of my nightly battle to calm my mind and get to sleep.

The trouble for me is that my mind not only spins at night; it turns all day long. I find it difficult to focus on the task at hand because my mind is already fretting about what comes next or if the next paycheck will arrive before the next bill or if scientists are going to discover that lettuce is fattening. You know, the usual. The psalmist who penned Psalm 94 understood the turmoil of various thoughts yet still found comfort and delight in the Lord.  

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.
— Psalm 94:19

The multitude of thoughts. Yep, I get that. Delight of the soul? Well, sometimes, but not typically when my thoughts are on a never-ending roller coaster. Weariness? Sure. Fatigue? Absolutely. Delight? Is that even possible?

It is, and I discovered the secret in my daily Bible reading yesterday. Well, I say it’s a secret, but the truth is, it’s in the Bible in full view of all who read it. Somehow, I’ve just missed the power of this verse until now. But now that I’ve seen it, this verse will join my ever-growing list of favorites.

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.
— Proverbs 16:3

As I read through Proverbs 16 yesterday, verse three jumped out at me. I read it again and again, then looked up the various words of the verse to gain their full meaning. I’m so glad I did!

The word “commit” means to roll (which is very similar to the word “cast” in I Peter 5:7). As Christian author, Lysa Terkeurst put it, “This may sound unusual, but consider this: we roll heavy things. We roll things we can’t carry. We roll things too awkward or burdensome to bear alone.” She’s right. To commit our works to the Lord means to roll them on Him and allow Him to carry them. We don’t have to.

The word “works” is no mystery. It refers to our actions, deeds, or paths. When we commit our works to the Lord, we’re essentially handing Him our calendars and to-do lists. We’re saying, “Lord, there is too much here for me to handle, so I’m giving it to you. Please lead me to do what You want me to do when You want me to do it, and please help me live in Your strength today. Thank you for reminding me I don’t have to face today or any other day on my own.”

We could stop right there and be blessed, but we haven’t even gotten to the best part. The verse says if we commit our works unto the Lord, our thoughts will be established. So, what exactly does that mean? I’m so glad you asked!

The word “established” is defined as “to be firm, stable, or fixed; to be prepared, arranged, or settled.” Oh, hallelujah! That’s what I want. I desire my thoughts to be stable, fixed on the Lord instead of my to-do list or my troubles. I would love for the Lord to prepare and arrange my thoughts instead of allowing every idea that pops into my head to have free rein. And did you notice the last word in the definition—settled? That’s my word for 2019. Coincidence? Definitely not!

No wonder the psalmist could say he found delight in the comfort of the Lord despite the multitude of thoughts within him! He’d discovered this “secret” as well. It would seem he had learned how to roll his problems, decisions, and worries onto the Lord thereby allowing God to direct, settle and stabilize his thoughts. And if he can do it, my friends, then we can too.

Are you seeking comfort today? Are your thoughts keeping you up at night and running you ragged during the day? If so, I invite you to roll those burdens onto the Lord. Better yet, He is encouraging you to do just that. The outcome is a lighter load and a brighter spirit. Who doesn’t want that, right?