Unlocking Doors

I was realizing something today

I’ve noticed that in these last few months my walk with God has really changed… a lot. I have experienced I closeness with God that feels more real than all the other times in the past. I was even sharing with my mom that I suddenly felt like I had this new boldness in my faith and strange and wonderful joy in the Lord.

I’ve been thinking about the last few months and all the times that God has brought me to surrender something to Him. I feel like after each act of surrender I made my relationship with God took on a new level. It’s as if taking the step of surrender is a key opening a door that leads to a deeper closeness to God. But just one time isn’t enough. Surrender is something we have to keep doing. Once we open one door, we will find another one behind that. Each door taking us closer to Jesus and his love for us.

I really like this idea of a key unlocking doors. As we live this life and choose to follow Jesus down the paths He has for us there will be doors we face. These doors are a vital step in our walk. They appear when we reach a point where we have to surrender something that we have been focusing too much on and choose to follow God. It’s not easy to to make these decisions of surrender and sometimes we see the door and we think it’s a dead end. But when we take the step, insert the key, and unlock the door by giving our desires to God, the most beautiful thing happens. The door opens up and we find ourselves on new ground with our Lord and Savior. He fills our heart with a new love and closeness to Him and gives us the strength we need to keep on following Him.

I pray that on my journey, each time I reach a new door I’ll be able to take the step of surrender and choose to follow Jesus through it because I know that there is deeper joy on the other side. And I hope that this idea can help you too as you keep on following Jesus through your doors and grow closer to him in your walk. Each door and act of surrender we walk through will bring us closer to our dear Savior and that is the most beautiful place to be.

I Am Joseph

What is the right response to suffering?

This question has been on my mind a lot lately and God has been so gracious each time my heart has a question like this one to guide me to the right answer and example in scripture. In my Bible study, we are still working our way through Genesis. I’ve talked about Abraham, Job, Jacob, and even David on this blog. Are you ready for the next Bible character that I’m finding myself in. If you know your bible, you may be able to guess which one comes next. It’s Joseph! And oh boy, what an amazing story is Joseph’s story. It’s a story full of unfair and unjust suffering, but one that is overflowing with God’s goodness and good purposes!

I’m not gonna lie to you, I’ve kinda created a new little saying that I keep telling myself each day. I’ve been saying “I am Joseph”. As I read the story of Joseph and look at my life, I keep finding myself saying “I am Joseph”. In my Bible study, we were discussing the life of Joseph and the sudden onset of suffering he faced. Joseph went from being the most favored/spoiled child to becoming a slave all in less than a day. I was thinking to myself, “wow, I wonder what it must have felt like to have everything and then lose everything”. Then I literally felt like I had my eyes opened up to the fact that, that is my story. I saw an almost identical pattern in a way my life has been these past few months. Only months ago I was so happy. I was finally on the verge of all my dreams coming true. I was engaged and in the process of starting a life with someone and oh it was bliss. But then it ended so fast. One thing after another came to light and before i knew it, it was all gone.

I AM JOSEPH. I can feel the same hurt and pain and disappointment that he must have felt. All his dreams, gone. All his family and friends gone. His life suddenly taking a completely different route and an unwanted move to a new location. (Okay, wow, there really are a lot of similarities here, granted I still have my family and friends, but I moved to a new area and have been struggling to get connected so I do relate in a way to the loneliness and I do in a way also feel like I lost a family because how close I became to his family).

There really is not a lot of good happening in Joseph’s story, but if you keep reading the story of Joseph there is something very encouraging. It is said at least three times in the book of Genesis that God was with Joseph. In each season of suffering Joseph faced, Joseph had every right to complain and despair. Maybe he did at times, but the Bible never mentions it. Instead Joseph rose to the top of every situation he found himself in. He was greatly blessed and God gave him success in all he did. Even as a slave Joseph rose to high favor. And let me tell you something, you cannot rise to favor if all you ever do is complain about how bad your luck has been.

I imagine Joseph must have known that God was with him. How else could he have had the faith to keep on going without despairing. His pain had to have been great. And I’m not saying he no longer felt the pain and hurt that his brothers inflicted on him. Later in Genesis Joseph says “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” So obviously, his pain during this time was constantly on his mind. But what Joseph shows us here is how to rightly respond when suffering happens and we have no control over it. We must get up and keep going. We have the choice to either wallow in our self pity and despair, or make the best out of whatever situation we find ourselves in. I’ve gotta believe that when we choose the latter, God truly blesses it, just like he blesses Joseph.

God blessed Joseph and gave him favor in each place he found himself in. In Potiphar’s house, he rose to leadership. In prison, he rose to leadership. Then, lastly, in Pharaoh’s kingdom, he rose to leadership. None of these places Joseph found himself in were places he wanted to be. In fact, if he had the choice to go back to his family, I’m sure he would take it without even looking back. I can tell you that there are definitely times in my life that I wish I could just go back to those happy days and forget about the pain. But I have no control over the place I’m in right now which is why Joseph’s story has been so encouraging to me. I’m learning from Joseph’s story that God’s will for me in this season is to keep on trusting Him and to find ways to keep on serving Him even while I’m hurting.

I also want to talk a bit about the end of Joseph’s story. As I’m sure you are familiar with how in the story of Joseph we get to see how all his suffering would one day make sense and play a role in God’s amazing plan. God used Joseph to be the means of saving many nations, including Israel, from a devastating famine. Joseph became a great leader in Egypt, a wise man who was full of integrity. But if he became a ruler in Egypt right away without first spending years as a slave and in prison, I don’t believe he’d be the same ruler. God was using the hard seasons of suffering in his life to teach him how to be humble and also how to lead and manage other people. When God’s time was right, Joseph was given one of the most coveted positions in all Egypt. Truly, Joseph was finally able to say that God had taken all his sorrow away.

I think that it’s so encouraging to see how God was using Joseph’s suffering to position him in the right place at the right time to bring provision to God’s people. God was preparing Joseph for something greater. And that is what God is doing when we suffer! God is preparing us for something bigger, better, and greater. God is using all the suffering in our life for his good purposes. Often times, like Joseph, we can’t see the whole picture of what God is doing while we are in the middle of it. Maybe all we see is the pain and unending waiting. But we can hold onto the truth that God is going to work all things out our for good and God will be with us, as He was with Joseph.

So yes, I am Joseph! And maybe as you look at your life, you are Joseph too. Maybe God has brought sudden or unjust suffering into your life. The big question to ask yourself then is “what is my response?” Remember, it’s okay to feel hurt and pain. In fact, if you don’t feel any pain as you suffer I’d be worried that something is wrong with you. What really matters the most is what you do with the hurt? Do you dwell on it and let it lead you to despair. Or do you get up and keep on chasing after God and serving him in the place your at, trusting that God is going to do something great through it.

Let us hold onto the truth that God is always with us through every trial we face. Every season of suffering has a purpose that we may not be able to see until the time is right. But we can know this, God is taking us down these hard paths because he wants to prepare us and make us into something greater! God’s purposes for your life are so much greater than whatever it is you have lost, so let’s be like Joseph and keep on suffering well in this life!

Unfulfilled Desires

Do you have any unfulfilled desires? What do you do with them?

These past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about unfulfilled desires. It seems we all have something in our life that we want but God has said no or not yet. The other day I was seeking counsel from a dear friend and she asked me a hard question. She asked me how much of my wanting this relationship to work has been me just simply wanting to have a relationship. Ever since I was a young girl I’ve had the desire to get married and start a family. It’s always been my biggest unfulfilled desire. It’s also been the hardest thing to surrender to God. The more time I spent thinking over this question the more I realized how much my desire really has played a role in my decision making.

Let me tell you all, I’ve been doing some deep heart searching this past week and it’s been hard. I’ve come to realize my desires aren’t wrong. Marriage and a family is a good thing to desire. Whatever it is your waiting for, if God says no, it doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing to desire. We often forget that God has plans for us that we can’t see. God’s timing is always going to be best for us. But making these desires come about with our own method will not lead to the blessing God desires to give us.

I believe that I’ve been desiring certain good things of God so much that I’ve allowed it to cloud over my vision and cause me to make poor judgments. I feel almost a bit ashamed of all the years I’ve spent chasing after something I wanted so bad when I can see clearly now that God is saying not yet, wait longer. So I decided that I needed to come to terms with these unfulfilled desires that I have been letting rule my life. I talked to God about the desires of my heart. Instead of just surrendering to God my relationship I also gave to him my desires for marriage and a family. I told God that I desire this good thing, but I desire it to be from Him. I desire God to lead me to it in His timing and in His perfect way.

I didn’t feel better right away. My desire is still here and still very strong. But God did give me his peace and I can feel God slowly working on my heart and putting this desire back in it’s rightful place. I’ve also come to realize that I’m quite content right now being single and growing in my walk with God during this season. Honestly, those are words I never thought I’d hear myself saying.

As I continued to think about all these unfulfilled desires we have, this question crossed my mind; What are we supposed to do you with these unfulfilled desires? I didn’t have to think hard to find the answer. You do the only thing you really can do. You just keep following God with all your heart. You keep trusting that God truly does know what’s best for you and the path your on is His will for you. This really is the only way for God to bring us to a place where we can truly be ready to receive the good things that we desire. It allows us to rest knowing he will bring it to us in His timing and He is all we need in the seasons of waiting that we must walk through first.

Lastly, as I finish up my thoughts on unfulfilled desires, I find myself thinking of Paul in one of his letters. In Romans 1:10 Paul says – “and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.” Paul had unfulfilled desires. He had been desiring to go to Rome for some time, but the Lord was not opening the door for him to go. Even though Paul wanted to go to Rome, he never took action to make it happen. He stayed where he was called and served God with all his heart. Finally, when the timing was right, God took him to Rome in chains.

When the timing is right God will bring our desires to fulfilment, and hopefully for us it won’t also entail being in chains, as it did for Paul. But like Paul, while we are waiting for the God’s timing, we can keep on serving God and pursuing the calling that God us in the place we are in right now.

Faith Is…

Do you know what faith is?

Have you ever wondered what faith looks like? Yeah, you probably can recite the definition of it. The first verse in Hebrews 11 even gives us this definition of faith; “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” But what does that look like other than just a definition?

The other day I was having another rough day. But in the midst of the pain I was feeling I kept thinking about faith. And I kept thinking about what faith looks like in the midst of hard seasons. It’s one thing to understand the textbook definition, but it’s a completely different thing to live it out. And I needed to know, in the moment I was in, what it looked like for me to live out my faith. This is what I came up with about what faith is…

Faith is taking a step forward, not knowing where you are going. It’s when you don’t know where the path is going but you know it’s the path you need to be one so you take a step forward. It’s a step forward into an unknown future while following a known God.

Faith is moving forward, even when it hurts and when all that is inside you wants to turn the other way. It’s choosing to move and not stay still because you know that God’s calling you somewhere new. It’s moving forward with a hope fully trusting in God.

Faith is taking it one day at a time, and trusting with all your heart that God holds the future and His plans for you are good. It’s is such a beautiful and hard thing to do. It’s believing that in the end there will be God’s blessing even though you don’t feel it in the moment.

Faith is hard. It’s not easy. To truly live out faith amidst all the trials and hardships of life takes so much strength and pure trust in God. But I find comfort in this; Faith is simple. When you really think about you’ll see that it really is pretty simple. It is not about a certain set of complicated rules to follow and turns to take. It’s simply about trusting God. And it’s when we are in the midst of trials that our faith truly is tested and has the potential to shine.

So today, I am simply reminding myself that faith for me is looks like taking just one more step in the right direction and choosing to follow God. When I think about it this way I feel better. I feel like I can keep following God and not get overwhelmed. Because I’m choosing to not focus so far ahead but instead to focus on the moment I’m in and what following God looks like for today.

This is what faith is! It’s simple and you can do it too. It’s less about the definition and more about the simple act of trusting God. So whatever your facing, just keep following God’s call on your life one day at a time and you’ll begin to see what faith is.

When You’re Stuck

Do you ever just feel stuck

Well, that’s how I feel right now. Stuck. I feel stuck whenever I think about the future and try to decide in my mind what I should do. My life feels stuck right now, not moving forward, and not moving backward, just staying here. When I try to think about the decisions ahead of me, all I feel is stuck.

But there’s been this idea running through my head that I keep coming back to. Not many people know that in my spare time I manage a blog for a christian adventure camp. I work on their blog about an hour a week and I post a blog post every two weeks. The last post I wrote for them was on how to make wise decisions. And the post I wrote has just been running non-stop through my mind during this time that I feel stuck. So I thought, why not share it here too, of course, I’ll make a few changes to it so it fits better with my situation. It’s been helping me so much as I walk through this difficult season so I hope it can help you too.

So here you go! (Note: as you read this it might be helpful for you know that it is a rafting camp I work at and I have been a river guide at that camp for the past two years. Also this idea is not my original idea, it came from a devotional book I’m reading by Lysa Terkeurst, I just gave it a river guide twist.)

The Process of Making Decisions

When you feel stuck what do you do? When it comes to discerning how to wisely make decisions, are we all on our own, or is there a tried and true formula to follow? Life is full of choices and opportunities.  Some choices are easy and some are hard.  Sometimes in life, we come to a place where we need to think hard about making a decision.  When we hit a crossroad and there two choices before us and new opportunities within reach, what are we supposed to do?  Should we jump right in and take the first opportunity that knocks on the door or do we wait?

In the devotional book I’m currently reading, this illustration was given; coming to a decision in life is like coming to the edge of a river.  The river represents the opportunity before us.  It may be tempting to jump right in without any thought and grab that new opportunity.  But when you jump into a river you don’t have any control.  I can tell you from experience that the current in the river will sweep you away with it as soon as you enter. If you decide you want out you will have to swim hard against the current to get out.  A nearly impossible task in strong currents.

Step one: Scout out the river

So what are you supposed to do? Before you jump into the river, you should stop and take a moment to survey the river.  You do not need to jump into the river to see which direction the river is going.  By simply looking ahead and taking notice of the current, you can learn a lot about what will happen once you jump in.  River guides are constantly doing this.  If a guide isn’t familiar with a river or a certain rapid, they will take the time to survey the water before going down.  This act of stopping to look ahead at the river is called scouting.  This helps guides to decide if the way the river is going is safe and what actions they should take before they go down.

As you survey the river before you, maybe you will see that the river is taking you somewhere you don’t want to go.  If you see that the opportunity will take you somewhere you really don’t want to go, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it or else you may find yourself swimming hard to get out later and it could have all been avoided if you simply stopped and scouted first.

Step Two: Ask experienced guides for advice

Another tactic that can help you in making a decision is asking other experienced people for help.  Whenever I go down the river I learn a lot from more experienced guides. I know that I am not as experienced as other guides and I don’t always trust my own judgment.  When I’m unsure about how to go down a rapid I will ask other guides what routes they take.  Seeking advice from more experienced guides helps me to safely maneuver down the river.

If there are people who know you well, consider asking them to survey the river with you.  They may see an obstacle that you didn’t see and give you counsel against jumping in.  Or they may confirm to you that this opportunity is a good fit for you and worth the risk of jumping in.  When it comes to decision-making, something you should never do is trust yourself.  There are times in life when you may have a gut feeling and you know without much thought what the right thing to do is.  Other times we need the help of others to search our hearts and learn what is the best path is for us.

Step 4: Know the Risks before jumping in

Once you jump in you can’t jump back out easily.  When I was learning how to guide it didn’t take me long to learn that swimming against the current is pointless.  When swimming in the river, river guides know to use the current to help them get to where they need to go, they will rarely swim against it unless absolutely necessary.  Jumping into the river is fun but it can also be full of danger and it’s important that we access these dangers before jumping in.

After you have scouted out the river and asked for advice and feel like you are ready to jump in and take that opportunity, one last thing to do is to evaluate what the dangers are.  What are the risks that might come up as you take this path?   If things go wrong somewhere along the way and the current starts taking you somewhere dangerous, what’s your plan to get out?  One thing that river guides are always scanning the river for are eddies.   Eddies are places where the water is actually moving back upstream.  When you are in the current and need to get out, you can swim into one of these eddies and it will keep you from being swept downstream.  So before you jump in, know where your eddies are, have your back-up plans ready for when you need them.

Step three: If it’s all clear, Jump in

Once you’ve done all these things and you have found this opportunity to be safe and a good move for you, then, by all means, jump in!   You can confidently jump into this opportunity knowing that this decision is going to lead you down a path that you can follow.  You have had confirmation from others who know you well that this new opportunity is good for you and you know what the all risks are and have your backup plan for if things go wrong. Or maybe you decide not to jump in, and that is okay too. There are some rapids river guides don’t ever attempt because they know they are too dangerous. If you deemed the opportunity not a good fit for you after going through all these steps, than you most likely are saving yourself from much struggle and heartache down the road.

I also want to note that there are times when God will ask us to jump into deep waters without going through all these steps.  When God asks us to jump in without hesitation, it’s a leap of faith for us and we can rest assured that God will be the one guiding us. 

Some concluding thoughts

And there it is. This is the post that has been running through my head and reminding me that all these steps are important to take whenever we feel stuck.

What step are you finding yourself in? At this point in my situation, I am finding myself in the middle of the first two steps. I will be here for a while. The waters before me are very rough and dangerous and I need a lot of time and help if I decide to jump in. So right now, I’m choosing to take some time to evaluate the water before me. I am not ready to jump in because I need to seek out counsel and learn more about where the river is going before I can make any sort of decision. I am also realizing that I may be stuck on the edge of this river for awhile. Only God knows when the time will be right to jump in, or if that time will ever come. But I’m not stuck when I remember that there many ways to take action and prepare myself for what is ahead. Taking my time and waiting is the wisest thing I can do right now.

I hope that if you ever feel stuck and have to make a difficult decision, you don’t forget how important these steps are. Prayerfully walk through each one and hopefully it will help you realize that in God’s great time table, you never truly are stuck.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you, when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, the flames shall not consume you ”

Isaiah 43:2

While You’re Waiting

When God says wait, what are you supposed to do?

I don’t think I am not the only who thinks it sometimes feels like pure torture to just do nothing and wait for God to work. When everything I want is out of my reach and still one big unknown. It’s enough to make me panic and feel stressed. Especially when I think that waiting could mean waiting a long time. It’s important to move on and keep taking steps forward, but I also realize that for me each step needs to be a tiny-micro-baby step. Otherwise my heart will just ache too much.

But if you find yourself in one of these extended periods of waiting, what can you do? I have found that there are a few simple things that have helped me stay calm and focused. These simple habits I’ve started doing as a result of my hurting heart have become so comforting to my soul. I want to share some of them with you all in hopes it’ll encourage you too 🙂

A consistent bedtime routine with a focus on scripture memory

The first helpful habit I started is journaling each night before I go to bed. I have tried many times to have a consistent bedtime journaling routine and failed. But because of how heavy my heart has been, I have found so much comfort in journaling a few thoughts before bed and it is finally a habit I do every night. I write four categories in my journal; “Verse“, “Reflection“, “Thankfulness“, and “Prayer and Confession“.

In the verse section I write out a verse to focus on. I have been using this as a tool for memorizing so I will pick a verse that goes with a passage I want to memorize. For example, I currently am working on Psalm 118 and each night I write one verse down. The next night I’ll do the next verse. In the reflection section I usually write down any thoughts about the day I just need to write out and put on paper. Often I’ll write things related to how I felt and how I am processing my hurt. Then in the thankfulness section I jot down a few things I’m thankful for from the day. Lastly in the prayer and confession section, I try to think about a way that I have not loved or followed God well. I write out a simple prayer of confession and ask God for help to do better the next day.

It takes me only about five minutes at the most to go through all these steps. Then when I turn out my lights and begin to get sleepy, I go over all the verses in my head and work on memorizing them until I fall asleep. I have noticed my sleep has improved so much when I fall asleep memorizing scripture. It’s really quite amazing! Memorizing scripture has always been something I struggle with and I’m so happy to have finally found a method that is working for me. It brings new meaning to the verse in psalms 63:6 – “When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.”

Long walks for praying and journaling

Walks have always been a way for me to unwind and process things. When I need to talk to God about the things on my heart I always go on a walk. I have started calling them prayer walks. I find so much relief in being able to talk outloud to God as I walk. Often times I will bring my journal with me on my walks. If I feel led I will find a pretty place to rest and write a few thoughts down in my journal. Often times I will write down song lyrics from my favorite worship songs.

When you are hurting, I highly encourage getting outside each day and going on a walk. It’s good for your physically health too. When we get overwhelmed by life it is too easy to let the sadness keep us from moving and making healthy choices. But something beautiful happens when we choose to pick ourselves up and move our bodies and talk to our Lord about how we feel.

Reading good biblical books

In this season God has me in, I have so much time on my hands and I need to keep my mind busy so I don’t’ sink back into my sad feelings. One thing that has helped is reading good books. Especially good biblical books that keep me focused on God. I have a dear friend who even mailed me a few christian books to read. I’m currently reading one she sent me by Paul Miller on the story of Ruth. I am loving the truths in this book so much. It speaks to my hurting heart. I try to read at least one or two chapters before I go to bed each night.

Other great books that I enjoy are books that talk about the attributes of God. I have really enjoyed the books that Jen Wilkin wrote on the attributes of God; “In His Image” and “None Like Him”. Tozer also has some books on the Attributes of God that are on my list to read soon.

Jamming to worship music

I have found that music does a lot to my mood. Listening to love songs is something I avoid right now. One of the best ways to lift my mood has been listening to worship music while working and driving in my car. The words of worship songs always speak to my heart in deep ways and remind me to keep seeking God. I will often break into a giddy little dance or smile ever so widely when the lyrics in a song hit my heart just right.

To be honest with you all though, I still listen to non-christian music on occasion, but I found myself shifting more and more to mainly christian songs because of the huge benefit it has on my soul.

Staying connected and attending a Bible study

Lastly, I want to say that it’s important to stay connected. When we go through hard seasons it can be so easy to shut ourselves up and keep ourselves isolated. Sharing is hard and it hurts. But we can never truly heal if we don’t let others into our life. I find so much encouragement from my weekly bible study. It has been such a foundation for me during this time.

I also have found so much love and support from others when I reach out to them and ask them to pray for me. There are a few people I will constantly reach out to and ask for prayer and share with them a little update on my situation. God gives us other people to help us get through these hard seasons. When we don’t reach out to those people in our live than we do a disservice to ourselves. We make our hurting heart take longer to heal. Because I just moved to a new area, I really feel a lack of good community in my life. I’m also not the best at creating a new community so I hold tightly onto the small community I still do have because It helps me remember that I am not alone and there are people who are praying for me still.

Okay, think I should think about ending this post soon. It has ended up being quite a bit longer than I had anticipated it to be. I could keep going on with the ways I have been learning to rely more on God and keep my focus on him. When I look back at all the ways God has been growing me through this hard season of waiting I am thankful. I’m thankful to see that God is faithful to me and he is using this time to help me develop Godly habits and rely wholly on Him. It’s still hard, but there is good in each day and I’m choosing to focus on that good. I pray these things will encourage you to keep chasing after God and let whatever it is your facing be a means for God to grow your faith.

A Wrestling Heart

Do you ever wrestle with God?

When God takes you down a path you don’t like or when your face fears that seem like they will consume you, have you ever cried out to God and wrestled with him and asked him to take it away? Have you ever fought God on an issue of the heart when deep down you realize true surrender is the only way? I always get upset at myself for showing such weak faith in God during these times. Surely doubting and not trusting God is not a good sign for my faith. But what if God actually delights in seeing us wrestle? What if our wrestling heart is actually a sign that we truly are among God’s chosen? What if wrestling constantly is actually the only way to a fully surrendered heart for God?

Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about the life of Jacob and especially about the story in the Bible where Jacob wrestles God. If you have been following along with my journey through Genesis, this is the next big story that I am finding so much encouragement from. During my bible study we spent a lot of time discussing this story. I am just amazed and in aw at what took place in Jacobs life. Jacob physically wrestled God! If you aren’t familiar with the story here it is from Genesis;

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  The man asked him, “What is your name?”“Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”  
 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.  So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (Genesis 32:24-30)

It is believed that this ‘man’ who wrestled Jacob was possible a pre-incarnate form of Jesus Christ. Some think that maybe it was an angle of God. But we know that it was no ordinary man that wrestled Jacob that night. I wonder, what was it like? Did this ‘man’ approach Jacob slowly and come out of the shadows, or did he attack Jacob head on with much vigor? What must Jacob have been thinking? Jacob was scared. In the verses before this passage, Jacob is afraid for his life because his brother Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. Jacob said the most honest prayer asking God to save him and now he is all alone, waiting.

I can relate to Jacob in this place. He is alone, he is scared of the future, he is at a point in his life where all he can do is wait. Waiting to see if God hears and how God will answer. This is probably one of the hardest places to be. I was just talking to my mom the other day about how hard it is being in a place where you don’t know what God is going to do. Whether God does one thing or another thing in my life, my heart would have so much more peace if I could just know what is going to happen. But no, God hasn’t let me in on what he’s doing, and Jacob didn’t know either how God was going to answer him.

But it was in that waiting time, while he was alone, that God came and met Jacob. The ‘man’ came and wrestled with Jacob till morning. The part about this story that intrigues me the most is that Jacob was actually able to have some sort of advantage in the fight. They kept fighting and fighting and neither one would relent. Even when the ‘man’ touched Jacob’s hip and put it out by just one touch. Jacob had to know then that this man he was wrestling was God, and yet, Jacob still fought. Jacob refused to stop until the man blessed him.

Let’s take a break and look at this idea of wrestling for a little bit. Jacob physically wrestled with God, but I think that in our christian life, we often partake in a similar type of wrestling. We wrestle spiritually with God. When we don’t know what God is doing or when God takes us somewhere that is hard and hurts, don’t we often cry out to him and tell him no. We tell God we don’t want to go down this path, but we also want Him, so we wrestle. We wrestle with our desires for the good things of this world and a desire to want God above all these things. If you take a look at the psalms there are countless times that the psalmist cries out to God in agony. Yet the psalmist always goes back to praising and trusting God.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises[a] of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (Psalm 22:1-5)

This makes me think that God must like this wrestling we do with Him. That when we come to God with our questions and we wrestle inwardly with our conflict of desires, God looks on us and smiles. God is there with us as we wrestle. He wants us to choose Him. He is delighting in the fact that we are wrestling so much about following Him. I wonder how many people God has watched walk away from Him the moment hard seasons come, without even putting up a fight. Fighting is proof that you have something in you greater than them. You wrestle because God has got a hold of your heart, and even though it’s hard and you want to run, there’s something in you that says no, stay, wait. You know that you want God more.

As I was thinking more about this idea of wrestling with God, I thought about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Easter is coming up in a few weeks so this story may be fresh in your minds. But on the night of Jesus’s crucifixion, Jesus knew the pain and agony he was about to walk through. He wrestled with God in the garden. He wrestled so hard His sweat was like drops of blood. He prayed and asked God if there was any other way. And yet Jesus also said, “not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus was perfect, sinless, but also human. He wrestled with God, he didn’t want to go through all the pain, but Jesus was also fully surrendered to God as he wrestled. This is the perfect example of godly wrestling with God. It is fully surrendered to God and it always ends with a “not my will, but yours be done.”

Is your wrestling with God fully surrendered? When you take your questions and hurts to God, do you end by saying “your will be done”? I don’t know about you, but I find so much comfort in knowing that it’s okay for my heart to wrestle with God. It’s okay to go to God and tell him my heart, tell him how much I hurt, tell him I want out. I know God hears me. But I also tell God, I want Him more, I want to follow him and I trust that whatever his will is for me, it’ll be good.

Okay, this post is getting long. But there’s one last thing I want to share from this story. So back to the story of Jacob. In the end, when morning finally comes, Jacob refuses to let the ‘man’ go until he blesses him. Jacob knows this man has the power to bless him so he clings onto him and asks for a blessing. And he did get a blessing.

Did you know that God is waiting to bless you too. The Bible is full of blessing and promises that apply to us. During the time of waiting when Jacob was scared, he held tightly onto the blessing of God. When we are in these seasons of waiting and wrestling with God, God’s blessings are all within our reach. They are truths that we can hold onto and rest in. If you are worried about the future God has plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11). If you are dealing with a broken heart God promises to be near to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18). If you don’t see any good in the path your on you can know that God is working all things our for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). So, as you’re wrestling, reach out, find a blessing, and hold onto it. Let the truth of that blessing carry you through and give you hope.

As you go through this Christian walk, remember that a wrestling heart is a beautiful thing to God. God loves it when we take our deepest worries and concerns to Him. We wrestle, yet we remain fully surrender to God. As we wrestle, we find rest in knowing that God’s ways truly are best and his promises to us are good. I pray that as your wrestle, you will find promises to hold onto. Jacob had no idea that the next day Esau was going to welcome him, not attack him. You are on the verge of God’s blessing and I know it’s hard. I’m in the dark too during this season in my life. But keep wrestling, and keep choosing God, and God will bring you safely through the night into a new day full of his blessing, just like he did with Jacob.

Still Obey

When the feeling is gone and life is hard, we must still obey

I came across this quote the other day from C.S Lewis’s book The Screwtape Letters:

“Be not deceived, Wormwood, our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

I read The Screwtape Letters in high school. I remember it being a very interesting book about how satan’s demons are working hard to attack Christians and make their walk ineffective. When I read the book I didn’t come away thinking wow, that book really spoke to me. But fast forword to now and finding this quote has really spoken to my heart and encouraged my soul.

It’s probably because I can relate so much to the truth in this quote. When the all the good feelings are gone and you still choose to obey God and keep following God; choosing the hard path and forsaking pleasure. That is the place that the devil and his demons see as dangerous. Because once you reach that place where you feel forgotten and forsaken but still choose God, that is when you have reached the place where you will forsake anything for God. The devil is no longer able to lure you away with the pleasures of this world and he doesn’t like that.

I appreciate how the in the quote from C.S Lewis’s book he mentions how the Christian is questioning why he is forsaken by God, but then still obeys. I have cried out to God questioning Him and saying “Why?, Why this? Why me?”. But even though I cry out and at times feel forgotten by God, I still choose to walk down this hard path that leads me away from the pleasures I long for. It makes the verse in the bible about denying yourself, and taking up your cross to follow Jesus a lot more real when you have to walk away from pleasure in order to follow Jesus.

If you feel forgotten and forsaken, take courage. When you keep obeying God even when you don’t feel like it, that is when you cause those demons to shutter. That is when God is looking down on you and smiling. You bring God great joy when you choose to still obey him through the deepest of waters and forsake the pleasures of the world. And remember, God is always with you as you follow Him even when you don’t feel him. Cry out and talk to Him. Let Him know how much you love Him and how much you need Him and keep on choosing him.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Matthew 16:24

Shining Faith

True faith shines the brightest when we reach our lowest low.

I’m realizing something. The more I study the Bible and read about all the different people in the Bible, I see a pattern. All God’s people who were known for their great faith were not perfect people. They didn’t have perfect lives. They didn’t instantly have the faith that can move mountains. But they did have one thing; a strong resolve to follow God and obey God’s voice in every circumstance.

At my church the pastor has been preaching through the book of Hebrews and he currently is in chapter 11. The great chapter about faith. This chapter in Hebrews speaks of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David… to name a few. All these men went through many long seasons of waiting and suffering. All of these men also made some very bad choices that lead to some terrible sins. How is it then that these men are all listed in Hebrews 11 as great men of faith?

I think that we all wish somehow that we could attain such great depths of faith without doing all the hard work of trusting God through every circumstance. That would be everyone’s dream goal, right. To know God deeply without having any of the hard trials and suffering in our life. It’s a great idea but it isn’t really realistic. Because I’m beginning to see that the reason all these men are remembered for their faith is because of all the trials God took them through. They walked with God through the fires of life and never stopped choosing God even when things were hard. They came out with shining faith and even though they sometimes made mistakes, they always turned back to God.

Here’s the thing about faith. Suffering and trials make faith grow. When God’s people cling to God through the hard days and rough waters of life, they become stronger. God grows their character and makes their love and resolve for obeying God even stronger than it was before. Suffering and trials cause God’s people to draw nearer and dearer to God. Here are just a few verses from the New Testament to shed some more light on the purpose of suffering and trials;

"Count it all joy my brother when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4
"In this you rejoice, if now for a little while, if necessary, you have been tested by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:6-7

Shining faith is something that is made, not given. Granted, there may be a few cases where God gives people supernatural faith through the work of His Spirit. But more often than not, having great faith is a process. If we want to be remembered for having great faith then we should be prepared for trials and suffering. And there will be times when we make mistakes and fail, just like all the men in the Bible did. Oh what a wonderful thing it is that God promises to only remember us for ways we serve him!

So let us be encouraged that God doesn’t remember us for our mistakes. All the great people of faith in the Bible were sinful people and they sinned. They were broken people. But God remembers them by their faith, not their mistakes. God will remember us for our faith too!

To be broken is only the beginning of being used by God for great things. Trials, suffering, and seasons of waiting in our life are the building blocks of great faith. When trials come, rejoice. When suffering comes, draw near to God. Whatever path God takes you down, stay focused on God. This is how your faith is grown. If you simply allow God to lead you through the trials of life, before you know it your faith will be shining for all to see, just like the great men of faith in Hebrews 11. So let us strive each day for this shining faith that God gives to his dearest of children.

Perspective

Do you need a perspective change?

The past week was harder for me for some reason. I had many emotional days. All I wanted to do was lie in bed and cry. Multiple times I did just that. And I was feeling so good the week before. I was finding more joy in the simple things and not finding myself as sad. So why did I all of a sudden take a few steps back into despair and start feeling sad again?

I think I have figured some of it out. On Sunday it all made sense to me. After worshipping the Lord on Sunday and spending time praying and journaling, I realized a sudden change in my attitude. Nothing changed in my circumstances, but I suddenly felt more joy and I had a peace that I didn’t have before. What did I do that made me start feeling better? I simply stopped thinking about me and started thinking more about God.

I’m actually a bit ashamed at how me-focused I let myself become the past week. I didn’t feel good and I missed him so much. I know that it is normal for me to have these feelings and I know that I’m not going to ever stop missing him. But I was letting myself narrow in only on how I felt. I was focusing on my feelings and my hurt so much that I found myself paralyzed by the pain. I was no longer able to see the bigger picture or God’s promises to me.

That wasn’t a fun place to be. I’m so thankful that Sunday came along. On Sunday, worshiping brought the blinders of my eyes and I saw again of God’s goodness to me. It was refreshing for my weary soul to focus on God and being able to find rest in God. For the first time in a while, God’s joy returned to me.

This experience reminds me that when I focus on myself and my troubles, that is all I will see. When I ignore God’s goodness and choose to give into my worries and fears, I find myself trapped in a cycle of damaging emotions. I need a perspective change in order to be set free. I need to be living my life with eye’s that are focused on God. When I look to God, the hurt is still there, but I can finally see it in its proper perspective. I see how my pain is nothing compared to God’s goodness towards me. I see that God loves me so much and has good things instore for me. I see that God is going to work all things out for His good.

Where in your life do you need a perspective change? When you begin to feel overwhelmed, stop and look to see where your focus is. Is it on you or on God? It’s amazing how the simple act of shifting our focus back to God can encourage and return us back to joy. As we go through life, looking to God is the only cue to our hurting and weary soul. We need less of us and more of God.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 3:30

Also before I end this post, one last little tip I’m learning that really helps get the focus back on God is listening to worship music. To often I just let my playlist play. It will play christian songs and some songs that aren’t christian. But when I start playing worship songs in the car and while I’m working it helps my heart stay focused on God. So try jamming to praise music when your feeling down and see where it takes you 😉