Relief From My Unbelief

Spring has sprung!.png

“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.

The Righteous Shall Never Be Moved

When we’re walking with God in His will, we will not stumble, slip, fall, or be shaken.-4.png

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. For me, it’s a waste of time and thought. Everyone knows most resolutions don’t make it more than a couple of months before being cast away and forgotten. However, I have enjoyed the aspect of choosing a word for the New Year around which to base my life and growth. Last year, I picked the word “breathe” to remind myself to live in the present and to not stress over things. I can’t say I mastered the practice, but that single word acted as a compass when I needed it the most.

As I prayed about what my word would be this year, the first thought that came to my mind was “love.” It seemed logical after all the time I’ve spent studying it out over the past year and trying to apply it to my life, but oddly enough, it just didn’t seem like the proper word.  A couple of others passed through my mind, but I discarded each one for various reasons. Then, yesterday while on a hike with Jason and Barnabas, I found the word I was looking for. Yes, my word for 2019 is “settled.”

The term “settled” has a lot of different meanings, but for my purposes, I want to focus on these: to be placed so as to stay; to become quiet or orderly; to be fixed or resolved conclusively; to be established or secured permanently; to come to rest; to conclude. What an awesome word, right? It encompasses the idea of security, rest, resolution, and stability. Honestly, I can’t think of a better term for this little red-headed writer who’s been called to the mission field of Wales.

Of course, God couldn’t leave it at the wonder of the word. He had to tie it into today’s devotion in our Negatives in the Bible series so I could, once again, make the connection between my life and God’s promises.  Isn't He awesome!

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
— Psalm 55:22
A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.
— Proverbs 12:3
I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
— Psalm 16:8
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
— Psalm 46:5

There are at least half a dozen other verses that match those above nearly word for word, not to mention the many throughout the Bible that teach the principle of the righteous being settled and secure in the care of the Lord.

To ensure I didn't see a connection where there wasn’t one, I looked up the word “moved” in my Bible dictionary. Would you like to take a guess at what it means? The definition is this: to totter, shake, or slip; to be overthrown; to dislodge, fall, or drop; to be greatly shaken. Whoa! The term “moved” means the opposite of “settled.” So, to not be moved means to be settled, right? There’s no missing the connection.  My word for 2019 is based on one of the promises of God repeated throughout Scripture—the righteous are settled; they shall never be moved.

If you’re anything like me, your first thought was, Wait a minute! I’m saved and consider myself righteous, but I’ve fallen plenty of times. I’ve slipped and messed up and had to make my way back to God for forgiveness.  My faith has been shaken more times than I can count. So, how can this promise be true? Something doesn’t make sense here. I hear you. It seems like God’s Word and real-life experience aren’t matching up. But hear me out.

The word “righteous” doesn’t mean those who are saved; it means those who are saved and living right. When we fall, mess up, and slip, are we living right? No, that’s why we fall. When our faith is shaken, are we right with the Lord? Not according to the Scriptures: But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) We can’t be right with God (aka righteous) when we do not please Him. Does that make sense?  

God’s promise states when we’re walking with Him in His will, we will not stumble, slip, fall, or be shaken.  We will be settled, like a tree planted by the water. Secure. Unwavering. At rest. It’s only when we get outside of His plans for our lives that we run into trouble. That’s not to say the Christian walk will be easy. It won’t be. There will be plenty of trials and heartaches, but when we’re secure in God’s will, we’ll make it through to the other side.

Settled. Unmovable. Fixed. Resolved. Yes, I like that. I like it a lot. What about you? Do you have a word for the new year?  I’d love to hear which one you’ve chosen and why you’ve chosen it, so please leave a comment below.

Working Together

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Jason and I enjoy watching the show, Food Network Star. For those of you who are not familiar with it, a group of chefs (some professional, some not) competes for the chance to gain their own show on the Food Network Channel. The challenges vary from week to week, but all of them include a cooking portion and a presenting portion where they tell others how to make their dish. It’s entertaining to watch the chefs grow in both their culinary skills and their presence in front of a camera or a live audience. Each week, the chef who performed the worst is eliminated, leaving the others to continue vying for the spot of the next Food Network star.

One of the most difficult challenges the contestants face is near the end when they’re down to just a handful of contestants. The eliminated chefs return, and some of them are partnered with the current contestants to act as their sous-chefs (basically, an assistant). On the surface, one would think this challenge would be easier than the others because the chefs have an extra set of hands to prepare their meals in the allotted time, but it all depends on the willingness of their sous-chef to trust and follow directions.

On one of the most recent episodes we watched, a Kentucky chef named Jason was one of the final contestants and was joined up with a former contestant who was a know-it-all. While the sous-chefs of the other contestants followed orders and trusted the instructions of their chefs, she questioned every order and often did as she thought best.  

At one point, the head chef instructed her to leave the sauce boiling until the flame disappeared (his sauce included a heavy dose of bourbon). Afraid of the flame, she kept saying, “I don’t think this is right. This doesn’t look right. I’m going to turn it down.” Each time, Jason, the head chef, assured her, “No, it’s fine. Just let it keep burning. It’ll be fine.” Despite his assurances, she fretted over the flame, and as soon as the head chef turned away, she mumbled, “This doesn’t look right. I’m turning it off.” And she did.

When the judges tasted Jason’s food, everything was wonderful except for one thing. Yup, the sauce. The bourbon hadn’t cooked down enough, and the sauce was too strong. In her failure to trust the head chef and follow his orders, the sous-chef nearly cost him the prize.

I think you probably already see where I’m going with this. How many times are we, like the sous-chef, unwilling to trust the Master because we don’t understand the plan? How often do we take matters into our own hands because things don’t look right to us? So many times, our doubts and uncertainties cause us to question the Lord’s instructions, and we decide we know better and do things our own way. And the result is often a catastrophe.

Funny enough, I found myself furious with that sous-chef. She should have listened to Jason. It was his dish, his recipe. He knew what he was doing. She should have trusted his judgment and obeyed his instructions. I was shouting at her, “Just leave it alone, and do what he said!” And then, I received a heavenly thump in the back of my head, and my outward criticisms turned to inward rebuke.

I should listen to the Lord. It’s His plan, His creation, and He knows what’s He’s doing. I need to trust His judgment and obey His instructions, even when I don’t understand. Especially when I don’t understand. Lord, help me!

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6