Borrowing Faith

It happened again. The past few posts have been an outpouring of some of my most embarrassing and secret struggles with trusting God when things aren’t working out the way I think they should. Whenever I feel God prompting me to open myself up like that, I balk. Who wants to publicize their spirituals battles? Not me! But it never fails that when I obey, I receive a letter, email, or message from someone telling me how much they needed to hear what I had to say. They cannot say enough about how much it means to them to know they’re not alone and not the only ones struggling with such raw emotions.

As I read in Lysa Terkeurt’s newest book this morning, I came across two quotes that made me smile, and I wanted to share them with you.

Sometimes when you can’t find your footing with your own faith, you just have to go stand on some else’s for a while.
— Lysa Terkeurst

Oh, I like that! I love the thought of being able to stand on someone else’s faith when mine is weak and wobbly. But even more so, I cherish the idea that someone might be able to stand on my faith when their own is crumbling beneath their feet. That’s what my ministry is all about. That’s why I pour my heart out in writing and share my most secret places with my readers—so they can know they’re not alone. And if something I say gives them enough hope to stand upon my faith while they’re working to repair their own, I say, “Praise the Lord!” This leads me to Lysa’s second statement:

When you make one other human simply see they aren’t alone, you make the world a better place.
— Lysa Terkeurst

I believe that. I know what a joy it is for me to read through a fellow Christian’s struggle and realize they’ve put into words what I hadn’t been able to. They were describing my feelings exactly, like they’d been shadowing me and reading my thoughts. And at that moment, though I mourn for them in their struggles, I find comfort in knowing it’s not just me. There’s peace in discovering I’m not the only Christian who argues with God or doubts His goodness from time to time.

To be honest, I have no idea where I’m going with this. I guess I want to remind you, first off, that you’re not alone. We all go through stuff, and some of it is downright ugly. Welcome to life! But I think I’d also like to urge you to be open with others. Don’t be afraid to share your struggles. Your honesty may be exactly what someone else needs today.  

If you’re in a place where you feel your faith is crumbling from beneath you, I would be happy to let you borrow mine. I won’t say it’s the greatest or most secure faith, but I think it’s strong enough to hold us both while yours is under repair. You’ll get through this—whatever “this” is, and God will make something beautiful from it. Trust in Him. He never fails.

Seeking Great Things

Love and compassion urged Jesus forward when everything within His earthly body cried for Him to turn back..png

In yesterday’s devotion, I laid my heart bare about my current season of life and how I found peace in learning some new things about having joy in the journey. If you didn’t get the chance to read it, I urge you to do so because, in today’s devotion, I want to pick up where I left off and share with you a couple of other Bible passages the Lord has used to encourage my heart. Let’s begin in the book of Jeremiah.

The word that Jeremiah the prophet spake unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch: Thou didst say, Woe is me now! for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest. Thus shalt thou say unto him, The Lord saith thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.
— Jeremiah 45:1-5

As you can see from this chapter, Baruch had an “I” problem. Woe is me. My grief. My sorrow. I fainted. My sighing. I have no rest. Poor pitiful me! Unfortunately, I hear my own cries and complaints echoing in my ears, so truth be told, I’m no better than Baruch. I’ve been so wrapped up in my personal disappointment and discontentment that I’ve failed to see the needs of those around me. As the Lord put it in the passage above, I’ve been seeking great things for myself. “Who cares about anyone else? So what if people are lost and going to hell? I’m not happy with the way things are going. Poor pitiful me!”  I cringe as I type these words. Though these thoughts have not been in the forefront of my mind, they’ve been there nonetheless as has been proven by my actions and my self-consuming prayers. God, forgive me!

Before I go any further, let me say I truly believe God wants to bless us. He gives us far, far more than we deserve. But God never promised us a happy life. He never assured us we’d never suffer or feel disappointment or grief. In fact, He promised just the opposite (John 16:33). The point I want to get across is, God is not cruel. Life is hard because we live in a sin-cursed world. It’s not God’s fault. It’s ours. But despite that, God goes above and beyond to provide for our needs and even many of our wants because He’s a good, loving Father.

That being said, we saw in yesterday’s devotion how even Jesus became fearful and overwhelmed at the prospect of His crucifixion and all that it entailed. While He was willing to do His Father’s will, He wasn’t exactly happy about the circumstances. It wasn’t a joyful season of life to experience.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2

This is a familiar verse, but don’t overlook the words used to describe Jesus’ emotional state. He endured the cross. He despised the shame. Endured and despised. Boy, can I relate to those words? I’ve been enduring a lot lately—going through the motions of doing what needs to be done and trying my best to do so with a good attitude. And I’ve despised the person I’ve become through this season. Cautious. Critical. Cynical. That’s not me. That’s not who I want to be.  

But I want you to notice another phrase within that verse: “for the joy that was set before him.” Not the joy He was experiencing by obeying the Father. Not the joy He felt at laying down His life and suffering agony on the cross. Not the joy of being a good Son. It wasn’t a present joy; it was a joy to come. The joy of defeating Death and Hell. The joy of holding up the keys of Hell in victory. The joy of being reunited with His Father. And last, but certainly not least, the joy of living in eternity with us.

Unlike Baruch, Jesus wasn’t seeking great things for Himself. He was seeking great things for us.  Jesus wasn’t so consumed with His own suffering that He turned His back on others. Instead, He used that love and compassion to keep Him moving forward when everything within His earthly body cried for Him to turn back. He envisioned a brighter day—not for Him, but for us, and that vision gave Him the strength to suffer. Yes, He endured. Yes, He despised. But in the end, He rejoiced, and He will continue to rejoice.

Lord, please help me be more like Jesus and less like Baruch. No matter how difficult the season or how weary I become, please help me keep my focus on others and not myself. Let my love and compassion for them drive me to obedience and surrender. And help me remember there is a brighter day coming!

Temperance as a Characteristic of Love

If we’re allowing others to dictate how we act or feel, we’re giving them far too much control over our lives.png

Leave it to the Lord to save the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) for last.  Yes, today, we’re talking about temperance—another word whose usage has been lost over the centuries.  However, if we pinpoint the beginning of the word, we’ll see something we’re all painfully familiar with—temper.

In its simplest definition, temperance means self-control or restraint.  It carries with it the idea of keeping a tight rein on our words, actions, attitudes, and desires.  This is not a popular principle in this day and age where people live to “get what they deserve.”  Between all-you-can-eat buffets, credit cards, and social media, our self-control is tested every day.  Should I go back for another plate, or is three enough?  Should I go ahead and spend the money on that new furniture even though I don’t have the money to spend?  And don’t even get me started on the rants that take place on social media.  Of course, this is only a few areas where our temperance is put to the test.

First Corinthians 13:5 tells us love is “not easily provoked.”  Jason and I joked about this on the way to the grocery store this morning.  He was in one of his playful moods (which translates into seeing how much he can annoy me) and was making this terrible clicking sound with his mouth.  After about ten seconds, I looked over at him, and I guess the expression on my face was comical because he burst out laughing.  “I was wondering how long you’d let me do that before giving me that look.”  I laughed too and told him how my devotion today was on temperance.  I don’t think his clicking truly provoked me but had he continued, I may have become a bit irritable.  So much for self-control, right?

As if that phrase doesn’t make us squirm enough, Paul doesn’t stop there.  He goes on in verse 7 to remind us that love bears all things.  The word “bear” in this verse implies a covering, as in love covers all sin.  It’s not that we excuse the sins of those we love but instead, we choose to overlook their faults and focus on their strengths, and let me tell you, that takes a lot of self-control.  So many times, it’s easier to see the bad than the good.  Dwelling on the negative leads to bitterness which then leads to hateful words and harsh actions.  From there, the downward spiral continues until marriages are ended, friendships are ruined, and other relationships are destroyed.

As I was praying about and considering my word for 2019, one that ranked high on the list was the word “choose.”  Had I decided to use it as my daily motto, it would have served as a reminder that I have a choice in how I think, act, and feel.  Each day, I choose to dwell on the positive or the negative.  I decide whether or not to surrender my will to God fully.  I determine how I act and what my attitude is like.  Each day is full of choices.  I can choose to let my temper get the best of me—to be easily provoked—or I can choose not to sweat the small stuff.  So what if Jason left his socks in the middle of the floor again?  In the grand scheme of things, does it matter?  Isn’t it more important that I focus on the fact that he took time out of his day off to help me with the grocery shopping so the task wouldn’t be too much for me?  Absolutely!

One phrase we carelessly use in our everyday language is the phrase:  “make me.”  For example, “he makes me so angry” or “she made me feel bad.”  Dear one, if we’re allowing others to dictate how we act or feel, we’re giving them far too much control over our lives.  No one can “make us” angry or emotional.  We choose to give in to those feelings, and that’s where temperance comes in.  I’m not saying it’s easy.  When someone says something unkind, my first reaction is to take the comment as a personal insult and give into the painful emotions that accompany that choice.  Instead, I should shrug my shoulders and hold fast to the truth found in God’s Word.  If someone doesn’t like it, oh well!  As long as I’m doing right, that’s all I need to worry about.  It’s not my job to please everyone in the process, and the sooner I get that through my thick skull, the better off I’ll be.

Temperance.  Self-control.  Restraint.  How are you doing today?  Are you easily provoked by someone’s annoying habits or quirky personality?  Do you find it difficult to look past the negative to focus on the positive?  Do you blame others for how you feel, speak, or act?  If so, you may want to talk with the Lord about helping you work on your temperance.  After all, if we—as Christians—lack self-control, how can we adequately portray the love of Christ?

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— II Timothy 1:7