Sometimes life is just hard, and there are two things I’ve found to be particularly difficult: giving things up, and knowing what and when to give up. Whether it’s physical belongings, relationships or commitments, letting go is never easy. However, one thing I’ve found to be helpful in this process is to take a step back to evaluate what season of life God has me in – because when I know where I am, it is easier to see what I should be doing. God has recently taken me down a path different from any other I’ve been on (as He usually does), and I’ve had to identify some things that are are hindering my progress down this path. I’ve been juggling too many balls, and I have come to the conclusion that I need to temporarily set my blog aside. I will not quit writing permanently, but I need to put it down for right now.
I don’t know that the season for this blog is past; however, I do know that I need to let go of it for the time being because I can’t give it maximum effort right now. This decision was not easy to come to, but I see more and more (sometimes on a daily basis) that I really do need to give this up for the time being. I don’t ever want to say ‘no’ to something because it will be uncomfortable as it stretches and grows me; yet I also don’t want to hold onto something when the season for it has passed and it is time for me to give it up.
So this is goodbye for now. While I am a bit apprehensive about what God has next for me in this crazy journey, I am very excited about how He will grow me through it all. My mantra lately has been, “If He’s brought me here, He can surely see me through.” I serve a faithful God; He’s never once let me down, and I know He never will.
As our culture pulls away from God, it automatically strives to find ways to survive apart from Him. Like lungs without air to breath, we find other things to fill us up; but these things will only kill us in the end. We turn to each other only to find that no one can do what we need them to do for us, so we then try to separate ourselves from other people’s opinions and forgive ourselves and find satisfaction in our inner beauty. But this too will fail. All our human efforts will fail. We will never find satisfaction and rest until our focus is on Christ. We are falling apart as individuals and a society because we have effectively told God that we can do for ourselves, but that hasn’t gotten us to any good place. God is not just about quick fixes – on the contrary, He wants to do a lasting work in us. He wants to give us a strength that lasts in the form of a relationship with Him.
I cannot begin to tell you how getting to know my Savior has grown and changed me over the last few years. It has taken my eyes off myself and opened them to His majesty. When I take a good look at Scripture, I can see a very clear picture of Him, and it’s absolutely glorious. It has made me realize my weakness, but seeing my inadequacies in light of His strength and perfect ability has brought me immeasurable peace and confidence. The best thing is that this growth is that it is not a result of anything I have done. I didn’t have to do anything but trust and follow Him. He took me places I didn’t want to go, and sometimes I was all but physically kicking and screaming, but He was faithful to love and care for me just the same. My peace and confidence didn’t come because I accomplished something great in my own strength, it is a result of His grace and faithfulness.
I still fail, and on a daily basis. Peter started to sink when He took his eyes of Jesus, but Jesus pulled him up and helped him stand, and He does the same for me. Real strength is acknowledging my weakness and drawing on the only real source of strength, but it requires me to take my eyes off myself and focus on Jesus.
Over the last few years, I’ve done a lot of growing and I’ve worked through what I believe and why I believe it. As I’ve tried to live it out, I’ve gotten flack from some people. I’ve been told that I’m too hard on myself because God’s standard is in my sights; but I say I’m not hard enough on myself. I’ve been accused of not fully living in God’s grace; but I say that grace is not all there is to God and I want to fully know the God I serve, not just the parts I like.
I know this may sound legalistic, so just allow me to explain where I stand. I believe that I am a sinner saved by grace from the destiny I deserved in hell. When I stand before Him on judgement day, His grace will be the only thing that will grant me access to Heaven. Positionally, I am His daughter; but I’m not in Heaven yet, so I still struggle against sin. Jesus’ sacrifice defeated death by paying the cost I could not in my lifetime and the Holy Spirit gives me strength to resist sin on an everyday basis, but until I’m in heaven I will continue to struggle against sin. My striving is motivated by my love for Him and my understanding of what He has done for me. As He gives me glimpses of Himself, it makes me want to see more. As He shows me more and more just what He has done for me, it makes me want to serve Him. Then as my relationship grows and deepens, I understand more and more just how much I need Him. 2 Peter 1:3-9 says it this way:
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
The God I serve is faithful, mighty, loving and so many other things, and my only goal is to live a life reflective of Him. Will I stumble and fall short of Him? Absolutely, I do every day! But He picks me up and encourages me to keep running; I could not do it apart from that. In the words of C.T. Studd, “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
David was a man who got things done. If there were sheep to tend, he protected them from anything that might harm them. If there were giants threatening his nation’s army, he killed them. If there were battles to fight, he won them. God’s glory was his primary motivator, and David accomplished great things for Him. The only times David got into trouble were when his ambition went ahead of God’s directions. The Ark of the Covenant was not in Jerusalem where it belonged and he became determined to get it there. But God had given specific instructions as to how His dwelling place was to be moved and David didn’t follow them; as a result, a man named Uzzah died. David’s heart was in the right place, but his procedure was wrong and that made the difference between success and failure. Here’s what he had to say afterwards when he had stepped back and evaluated his actions and their results:
“It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.”
This turning point on David’s endeavor came after He had taken the time to evaluate what went wrong and how to fix it, and the lesson I’ve learned from this is that I need to take the time to fully hear and understand God’s directions before I act. God has requirements that are for my good and His glory, and there are negative consequences when they are not followed. My heart needs to be in the right place and my actions need to line up with them. I cannot be successful when I am only partially following God; I need to completely follow His directions.
This crazy world wants to carry us along at a breakneck speed, trying to convince us to act before we think. Follow your heart and do what feels good, they say; but that philosophy never ends well in real life. The only way to successfully follow Christ is to be too deeply rooted in Him to be moved by anything else. In the words of the Psalmist,
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
In the past few weeks, God handed me an incredible blessing that I am beyond thankful for. He went above and beyond my limitations to achieve something I could not have on my own, and He grew me tremendously in the process. But this blessing came with a challenge; I need to give some things up to take it because I cannot receive anything when my hands are full.
Why is it so hard to let go of things, even when I know that I’m only exchanging them for something better that God has for me? Because My point of view has been distorted. Even though I know that life is a series of seasons, I automatically expect that things will stay the same for a lot longer than they do and I let certain things become a security blanket of sorts. This happens when I take God’s blessings for granted and forget that they are His to take and give whenever and however He pleases. My Heavenly Father only gives good gifts, and He only asks me to give something up if it will be to my benefit.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this particular struggle I’ve been working through is that it feels so dumb. I need to give up some things to take a job, and the thing I’m struggling to give up most it the majority of my vegetable garden. Yeah, I told you it was dumb. But I realized that the struggle is because my garden had become an idol to me. It is something I love doing, something I am fairly good at, and a lot of people know me for it. Also, it has been a way for me to deal with stress because it was a great place to escape. I could think, pray and physically work the stress out of my body – and I could do so in solitude because my family knew that I would try to put them to work if they came close enough. I could work hard and tire myself out enough to sleep well at night. In short, it was an easy way to deal with life. Letting go of my big garden is not easy because of what I allowed it to become. It filled a need I had during the time I had it, but I took it for granted and in my mind forgot that God can fill my needs in different ways as He takes me different places.
God has given me an incredible opportunity with my new job, but He is just asking for trust in exchange. Trust that He can take care of my stress and be my refreshment. Trust that He alone can take me where I need to go and keep me there for just as long as I need to be. Trust that He is more than able to sufficiently fill my needs.
Saying that I don’t like fake is an understatement. It’s a lie to the people around me, and it’s also my way of trying to convince myself that I have my act together. It’s a game I played for a long time before something clicked and I realized that it’s okay to be myself. There is nobody else like me, and owning that reality was frightening; but I have found that while it may be difficult and uncomfortable to truly be my own person, I’m a lot less miserable and a lot more free then I was. Why should I clutch a security blanket when I can hold my Father’s hand?
But along the way, there are the days when I feel like I’m backsliding into a fake version of myself again. Similar to trying to be somebody I am not, going where God leads feels unnatural and uncomfortable at first and that is only because I am not used to it. When I try to be like everybody around me instead of being the person God made me to be, I am settling for a fake version of the real person I could be. Figuring things out takes time and failing along the way is a part of the growth process, but I need to constantly be evaluating who I am trying to be. When I am the real version of myself, I recognize that God has given me strengths and I strive to use them. I still struggle every day to be confident in my God given abilities, but if my focus is on Him and who He wants me to be I cannot go in the wrong direction. There are times I feel that I am being cocky – and I do constantly need to keep myself in check to avoid that – but there is nothing wrong with being confident in my abilities if I fully acknowledge where they can from and where they should ultimately be directed.
I’m not saying that I’ve figured it all out and am never fake, just that I’ve discovered the joy and fulfillment of being the person God created me to be and that it becomes more natural as I spend more time in this place. Letting go of fake is like cutting dead weight, and it is truly a relief when it is gone. After all, I don’t serve a fake God. He is real with us about who He is and who we are, and there is no chance of ever faking Him out. He calls me to be like Him, and that includes being real and honest with myself and others about who I really am. I’ve found that I get disoriented until I look to Him to tell me who I really am. Who can know me better than my Maker?
In my opinion, one of the biggest issues characteristic of my generation is simply this: we are so self centered that we have lost almost all sense of respect. We are so wrapped up in ourselves and our agendas that we fail to step outside of ourselves long enough to see and acknowledge the value in other people. We want respect from other people but are unwilling to give it to them, because that would require time and effort on our part.
This lack of respect that characterizes us stems from the fact that we’ve failed to understand and respect our Maker, and in doing so we’ve swallowed the lies from the world. We are here by random chance, they say; so fight to make the most out of what you have. The only way to make a lasting impression is to fight to the top of the ladder and stay there as long as you can, no matter the people you trample in the process. So they say; but that’s not what God says. No, He doesn’t say to be a pushover, but He does tell us to prefer others over ourselves – and there is a difference. One bows in fear and the other bows in love. He says to treat others the way we ourselves want to be treated, and He lived this out during His time on earth to leave us an example to follow. When we show people respect, they will generally show it back – and even if they don’t, we are still responsible for our part. But why can and should we do this? First, because God says to, and second because each person has value given to them by God. Satan has tricked many into believing that he can take their God given value, but nothing can take what God gives, and God’s gifts are the only things that will last beyond this earth.
The fact is that we are no better then the people around us, because that is not how God works. He gives us each different strengths and weaknesses, but these things should pull us together instead of pushing us apart. This life isn’t all about me and it’s time I stop acting like it is.
There have been significant changes in a few areas of my life over the past few months, and there are also a few other areas of my life that I don’t know exactly where I am or where I will end up. It is making me squirm, it is making me stretch and grow, and it is just uncomfortable in general. I stress out because I don’t know what’s coming, then I realize later that God was taking care of the problem while I was worrying. Transitioning from one season to the next is never easy, but it’s just a natural part of the growth process. The number one thing that I’ve been learning in this time is that it really is possible to have peace in these times, but only when I am cultivating my relationship with God. When I truly know God, He will be a part of my everyday life and my words will be more than noise because they have something solid backing them up. When He calls me to the next season of life, He is just asking me to lean on what I say I trust.
There is something to be said for ‘owning’ whatever season of life I’m in because I cannot be fruitful if I am not inwardly certain that I can really trust God. But it’s so easy to take it to the extent of making my season a part of my identity, and I think that is one reason why God has different seasons for us. Being in the process of entering new seasons of my life makes me stop and evaluate so many things, such as, where do I find my identity? And why do I do what I do? I am forced to depend on God, because when I don’t know where I am going, there is no room for self dependence. But while it may seem like I am giving up things I’ve worked for, God is only asking me to trade it for something better. After all, anything I have is ultimately from Him. What right do I have to hold onto anything? I can’t win the battle if I have shortsighted vision; this earth is not my ultimate home, so there’s no sense in focusing on getting comfortable.
In a conversation with a friend the other day, she said something that stuck with me; “I hate it when people say good things about me to my face. I just wish they’d say the bad things!” “Yes,” I replied, “because those are the things we know are really true about ourselves.”
But why is it so hard believe that there are good things about ourselves? Why do I have so much trouble trusting God when He tells me how much He loves me and how much worth He has given me? Why is it so hard to believe that over the voices in my head that remind me of all my shortcomings and disabilities? Because my focus is often in the wrong place. I trust myself more then I trust Him, because I have a tendency to believe what I see instead of making the choice to live by faith.
Yes, I have flaws; but the God I serve is bigger than them. I am not so flawed that His grace could not cleanse me of my sin, so why do I think that it is too hard for God to use me in spite of my flaws? When He formed me in my mother’s womb, He made me a unique individual unlike anybody else who has been or will be on this earth. That means that I have a distinct set of abilities that nobody else has, and with that I have a responsibility to use them. But the fact that I am a unique individual can be taken in one of two directions; I can be petrified into inaction, or I can be completely free to truly be myself. Satan tells me that there is nothing new under the sun, so could I possibly have to offer? He tells me that if I am unable to accomplish __________, then how could I possibly accomplish anything of importance for the glory of God? But God is telling me not to be afraid because He will never leave or forsake me. He is telling me that He has an incredible plan for my life, and His plan is for my good and His glory. And most of all, He tells me of His love that I can neither earn nor lose.
I cannot completely be myself and fulfill my purpose while I am trying to be like other people. I cannot play the comparing game and effectively fulfill the role He has given me to play. After all, God is my creator; shouldn’t His opinion matter more to me then anybody else’s? It is my choice which voice I will listen to. It is up to me to decide if I live in fear or by faith.
Life is full of change and unpredictability, and things are always changing for better and for worse. Power constantly shifts from person to person because everybody is hungry for a piece of the pie. But sadly, the power we want isn’t real power at all because man’s perception of power was one of the things that was distorted when sin entered the world. The power man has is nothing like the power that God has. God’s power was never used for His benefit, and it has always been motivated by His perfect love for us. Human power is rooted in pride, but God’s power is rooted in love. Human power is oftentimes a brute force that accomplishes things in the present moment, but in the end leaves great scars on the people affected by it. God’s power acts only for our good, even though it leaves Him with scars from our rebellion. Jesus has scars to prove His power that was rooted in His love for me; can the same be said for me, or am I the one leaving scars on other people? God’s power is manifest in me when I have the self control to submit to Christ and make effort to be more like Him. This is perceived as weakness in the eyes of the world, but it is real strength because I am weak until I allow His strength to dwell in me.
People and cultures change just as surely as seasons do, and there is nothing we can do to control it. The only thing we can control in any situation is ourselves. We are responsible for our words and actions; but more importantly, we are responsible for our beliefs that control our words and actions. The most important decision we are responsible to make on an everyday basis is if we will trust that God has as much power as He says He does. Then, we are responsible to act upon our decision. Real power alive in us is to recognize our lack of power and rely on the only source of real power. He has it, and we have access to it!