My Own Understanding

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A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a word game app called Wordscapes. The levels consist of a crossword grid at the top of the screen and a circle of letters (between 5 and 7, so far) at the bottom. The object of the game is to create words out of the letters within the circle and earn points and coins toward future games. I’ll confess—I’m hooked!

The game is an excellent exercise for the brain and acts as a refresher course for both spelling and vocabulary. As a writer, it’s perfect for me. Once I introduced it to Jason, he was equally intrigued. It’s now become one of our favorite things to do in our quiet time together.

My biggest problem with the game is that I lean on my own understanding. I get an idea in my mind of what I think a word is, and when it doesn’t work, I get frustrated. I see a five-letter word and falsely assume it must end in the letter “e.” Why do I think that? I don’t know, but once I do, I can’t seem to make myself explore other options.

The other thing that trips me up is when words begin with vowels. I’ll go through every combination of letters I can think of to figure out the next word, but in my attempts, I neglect to try words that begin with a vowel. I’m getting better about keeping this in mind, but it’s still a struggle.

I do the same thing in life. I get ideas of how I think things should be, and when they don’t work out the way I expect, I fall apart. I make plans, but I do not allow God to lead, so I act in my own understanding, and things become stressful and messy. I’ve learned with my word game that things go much smoother if I don’t have any preconceived notions. If I relax and enjoy the game, it’s actually enjoyable, not frustrating. However, if I try to force things to be the way I expect, I’m headed for disappointment.

I’m learning the same thing in my life, but it seems to be a slow process. I know my spiritual walk will be smoother if I allow God to direct my steps instead of taking the lead myself, but putting that knowledge into action is difficult for me. The planner in me wants to know what’s coming. The control freak in me desires to see things done her own way. And the worrier in me seems to think she knows what’s best. But the warrior in me knows the truth.

God knows our tendency to try to control things and to act in our own strength. I believe that’s why Proverbs 3:5-6 are in the Bible. They serve as our reminder that the puzzle of life is much more enjoyable if we leave the pieces in His hands and trust Him to guide us along the way. He has all the answers. He knows every bend in the road and what’s around every corner. He sees the beginning from the end and cherishes every chance to show us how much He loves us.

It’s time for us to let go of the illusion of control. We don’t know what the future holds, and we would be better off if we didn’t manipulate things to work in our favor. Yes, friends, we need to let God be God. He’s much better at solving puzzles than we will ever be.  

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

Nothing Can Separate Us From God's Love

Photo by  Eric Ward  on  Unsplash

Isn't it amazing how Satan can fill our minds with thoughts of both worthlessness and pride? Sometimes, he comes to us whispering how good we are and that we don't need to depend on anyone but ourselves. He fills our minds with powerful thoughts of pride, fame, and self-sufficiency, similar to the way he dealt with Eve in the Garden of Eden. He tells us we're fine on our own, and sadly, many times we believe him. 

Ironically, he is also the source of the worthlessness we often feel. He is the one who comes to us and tells us no one cares. He convinces us we're all alone and the reason for that loneliness is that we're unlovable. He parades our faults and failures before us as a reminder of how lowly we truly are. He persuades us that God, no matter how good and kind, could not possibly love us after all we've done. According to him, we're on our own. 

Well, which is it? It can't be both ways. We can't be too good and too bad at the same time. We must recognize this ploy for what it is—lies from the father of all lies. Think about it, what could be better for Satan than a proud or discouraged Christian? It's an attack. Nothing more. Nothing less. The question is, are we ready for it? When he comes knocking on our door, are we too distracted to notice the subtle darts he's firing at us? 

Here’s the truth: we need God. We’ve already discussed the fact that without Him, we can do nothing. We weren’t good enough to save ourselves from hell, and we’re not strong enough (on our own) to get ourselves through this life. We need God! We were never designed to walk through this life alone.

Sadly, we make many mistakes along the way. That’s part of living in a fallen world. We should strive to live a life that’s pleasing to God, but this flesh makes it nearly impossible. That being said, there is nothing we could ever do to make God love us any more or any less. His love is perfect, and we are never separated from it. When we mess up, we should confess our sin to God and renew a right relationship with Him, but we also need to remember that our failings don’t make us failures. Yes, we make mistakes, but God knew we would, and He still felt we were worth dying for.

We’re not perfect, but neither are we worthless. Whatever lies Satan throws at you today, throw them back and say, "I am loved, and nothing will ever change that!“ 

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:38-39 

Questions, Questions - Part Two

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And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? - Mark 4:35-41

In yesterday’s devotion, we discussed the disciples’ question: “Lord, don’t you care?” In case you missed it, you can go back and read it here.

Today, I want to look at the double whammy of questions posed by Jesus to the disciples. Two questions back to back, never even giving time for the men to answer the first before uttering the second, which is probably best since the disciples didn’t seem to have an answer for either one—only more questions.

“Why are you so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” These are not tender inquiries. There is a rebuke in them. I detect a hint of frustration and accusation or perhaps sadness, especially in the latter question. In fact, that inquiry holds the weight of a dozen questions.  

Don’t you trust me?  

Don’t you know who I am?  

Don’t you know I control the wind and waves?  

Haven’t you seen what I can do?  

Did you think I would let you die?  

How could you even doubt that I care for you?

Didn’t I say we were going to the other side?

And on and on. . .

Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many times the Lord has spoken these questions to my heart. “Dana, why are you afraid? How is it that ye have no faith?” Honestly, like the disciples, I have no answers, only more questions. Why don’t I have more faith? Why am I afraid? Haven’t I seen God come through time and time again? Don’t I know that my life is in His hands and He is working all things for my good? Haven’t I meditated on His Words repeatedly? Aren’t they hidden in my heart, ready for every attack from the enemy? Then, why, oh why, do most storms have me running for cover while pointing an accusing finger at God and whining, “Don’t you care this is happening to me?”

Fortunately, the Lord does care. He cares enough to still my storm or to still me amid my storm. But more than that, He cares for me enough to ask the tough questions. Why? Because He knows I can be so much more than a scared little girl who jumps every time someone says “Boo!” And He loves me enough to bring my fear to the surface so I can examine it more closely and figure out the answer to His questions. Why am I afraid? Where is my faith? And, of course, He doesn’t simply pose the question and leave me to figure out the answer for myself. He leads and guides me. He gives me wisdom. And above all, He is patient with me. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I’m a slow learner.

What about you? How do you react to the storms in your life? Have you, too, been questioned by Jesus, “Why are you afraid? How is it you have no faith?” If so, do you have an answer or simply more questions?  

The good news is Jesus loves us. Nothing we say or do can make Him love us any less or any more. Even when we doubt, God loves us beyond measure. Even when we can’t understand why we’re afraid, He cares. And even when our spiritual life seems to be an endless game of Questions Only, the Lord helps us to grow in Him. He didn’t leave the doubting disciples on the wind-tossed seas because of their lack of faith, and He won’t leave us either. His promises are true. He will never leave us or forsake us. Never! Even when we’re full of questions.