Ebb and Flow

You wanna know the honest truth about life in the hard seasons?

One day you may feel amazing and so happy. You reach these highs and have the fullest sense of peace and joy. And then the next day you are back in the valley. Feelings of hurt, sadness, disappointment, and grief are back. A few days ago I knew I was right in the will of God. I felt so much peace and joy in Christ. I knew exactly what God was leading me to do and I did it. Now as the gravity of what I did sinks in, I’m somewhat surprised to find myself feeling kinda sad again.

This idea has been in my head the past few days. Feelings Ebb and flow. They come and they go. We feel good and happy one day and then we feel sad again and that’s normal. The more I walk down this long path of uncertainty and surrendered desires, I’m realizing that I can’t always trust any of my feelings. My feelings would have lead me down a dark and hard road if I followed them.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to feel certain ways. I can’t always stop myself from feeling happy or sad. I can’t change my circumstances either. But I find this to be helpful. When I’m in the valley, there is one thing I can change. I can change my view. I choose to acknowledge my feelings and then I take them to God. I remind myself that God is with me and He is the one who lead me to this valley. When I look to God instead of my feelings I find peace in knowing that God has a purpose for each and every hard season I walk through. I find strength in the unchanging nature of God that gives me clarity over all of my changing feelings.

So all I’m trying to say in this post is that feelings ebb and they flow. If you felt so happy and content in God one day and then your down in the dumps again the next day, don’t stress yourself out. God is still with you even though your feelings may have changed. Choose to set your eye’s back on God when the days get hard again. Find comfort in God who is your Rock. Don’t forget all the ways he is leading you and caring for you and choose to trust that he will keep leading you and caring for you. The place your at and even the feelings you experience all have a good and perfect place in God’s plan for your life. Choose to walk with God through the good feelings and the bad ones, understanding that they will ebb and flow, and that’s okay.

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.

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.

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.

Doing Nothing

I went on a walk and I talked to God a bit.

I was thinking of all the possible ways that God could be working things out for me in my situation. I thought about what my heart wanted and the different ways God could restore it all back to me. I thought about the little bit of news that I do know and the little ways in which I do know that God has been working. But for how long I spent thinking about it, I also realized that there really is only one thing I can do. All I can do right now is do nothing.

Let me tell you, doing nothing isn’t easy. Doing nothing is the hardest thing ever. I really want to know what God is up to so I can offer my assistance somehow. I don’t like being in the dark. I hate being in this place of not knowing what God is doing in his life. But I also know that it’s not my place right now to know what God is doing. Nor is it my job to help God as he’s working.

I am confident that God is working. I don’t know how to explain to you all this feeling that I have, I just know that God is working and doing mighty things for me. But with a reluctant heart I have to admit to knowing that if I want God to keep working I need to do nothing. When I do nothing, then I can be fully assured that God is the one working. Doing nothing is the only way to show full dependance on God in my situation.

All the great characters of the Bible, when they were in times of hurt and mistreatment, they did nothing. When I read my Bible I can see how God was working for them. I see the outcome of their struggles, but I also need to remember that they didn’t see the answer. They probably felt a lot like me, in the dark about God’s plans for them. And what did they do? They did nothing so God could work. I imagine it must have been hard for them, as it is hard for me, but they knew it was necessary.

I let out a strangely relieved sigh as I finished my walk. Doing nothing is what God has called me to do right now. Doing nothing may be the hardest task God has ever asked me to do but I know he has given me the strength to do it. Doing nothing is what I am choosing to do right now and somehow that brings a sense of peace to my heart. I choose to do nothing so God can work and get all the glory.

Encouragement for Waiting

Well, I have talked about Abraham, and Job, and David.

All great men of faith whose stories I found out all correlate with mine in some way. And now I want to talk about another Bible character whom I am just now finding out I have another connection with. I have been studying the book of Genesis with my bible study group (I attend an international bible study called BSF) and we are currently reading through the life of Jacob.

Jacob was Abraham’s grandson, the son of Isaac and Rebekah, and a twin to his brother Esau. Jacobs story is a messy story. His family life was full of sin and issues, not much different from families today actually. Isaac favored Esau even through the Lord had said that Jacob, the younger brother, would be the one blessed. One day Isaac had the crazy idea to try and bless Esau instead of Jacob, which led to the crazy story of how Jacob deceived his own father into giving him the blessing.

Long story short, Esau wasn’t happy and Jacob was sent away in order to save his life. Jacob had to face the consequences of his sinful choices. Now he was alone and far from his home. The Bible tells us that Jacob was a home-body and that he loved his mother. Sadly, he was never going to see his mother again. I’ll pause here for a moment to say something. Sin never gives us what we want without devastating consequences. Jacob may have got the blessing, but now he was alone and fleeing for his life. Things would have been different if he trusted in God’s timing.

When we choose sin, at first it may seem okay, but sin will always come back to bite us. It’s almost scary how much my life is like a reflection of what Jacob is dealing with. In a way, I can relate to how Jacob must feel. He is alone, in a new place, and those he loves most are no longer with him. There was sin issues in the relationship I had. Even though it wasn’t my sin, but rather his sin in our relationship, it still resulted in both of us getting hurt. Now I find myself alone, in a new place, and far from the one I love, just like Jacob. In both my case and Jacobs case, it was due to sin issues in the family and relationships.

But now let’s get back to the story for some more encouraging news. While Jacob is alone and traveling to a new place he stops along the way to sleep. He lays his head on a rock and he has a dream. You probably are familiar with what he dreamed. In his dream he saw angels descending and ascending on a ladder and God was at the top of the ladder. God spoke to Jacob in that dream and told him this promise;

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Genesis 28:15

What an amazing promise this is! Jacob must have felt so encouraged after hearing God say those words. God was basically saying to Jacob that he is still with Jacob in this new place and he has a plan and a purpose for Jacob in this new place. God tells Jacob that he will bring him back to his home again when the time is right. I know that God is speaking the same promise to me in my life too. God is with me in this new place and he has a plan for me still. Even though this isn’t the place I want to be right now, I know that being here is a part of God’s plan for me and that God won’t ever leave me.

I find comfort also in the fact that God told Jacob in his dream that he would one day bring him back to the land he had left. And as we see in Jacobs story, after many years away, he eventually does return home. This is my hope too, that this promise is going to be true for me too and hopefully it won’t take as many years as it did for Jacob. Right now I don’t understand what God is doing in my life or why he took me to this new place, but I do believe that God will once again return me to the joy that I had before, whether it physically means returning to the place I left or finding a new home up here (of course I pray and long for the first option most 😉 ).

So, in conclusion, Jacobs story in Genesis gives me hope and encourages me to keep on persevering. It reminds me that even when I feel alone and am missing those whom I love, God is always with me. This story reminds me that God has a purpose for me while I am in this new place and in his perfect timing and perfect way, he will bring me back to the place where my heart longs to be. I can rest in God during this season of waiting and be confident that God is always working things out for my good.

The Purpose of Waiting

I realized something the other day

I was having my quiet time with God in the morning with my coffee. I’ve been reading from a devotional called “Embraced” by Lysa Terkeurst. The devotion for the day I read talked about the life of David. I love the story of David. His story in the Bible is so encouraging, definitely one of my favorites. As I was reading the devotion though, something happened. I saw myself in the life of David! I had a rough weekend, it being Valentines week and not being able to be with my guy. So my heart was hurting and feeling a lot of pain. The correlation I was able to make with David’s life and mine was the perfect little pick-me-up for my soul. I know God loves me so much because he always shows me just the right Bible story/verse when I need them.

Anyway, like I said, I saw myself in the life of David. David was God’s chosen king for Israel. He was a man after God’s own heart. But even though David was called to such a important role in God’s kingdom, David didn’t get to be king right away. David had to wait for God’s perfect timing. And David’s life wasn’t easy while he waited. Saul threatened David many times and tried to kill David. Much of David’s life was spent in hiding from Saul. I don’t know if you ever get this vibe from reading the Bible, but it seems like God is always asking his people to wait. He takes his people through seasons of waiting before he lets them step into their calling.

Why is God constantly making his people wait? What good does waiting do for us? There are so many times in our lives that God takes us through seasons of waiting. Waiting for the right guy to come along when it feels like you’ve been single forever, waiting to have children when you have struggled long with infertility, waiting for guidance when you find your life at a crossroads. I could go on and on. I have had many season of waiting in my life and here I am in another one.

One thing I’ve learned is that waiting draws us closer to God in new ways. During the times when our hearts are breaking, God becomes our comfort. When our future’s a big looming mystery, we learn to fully trust in God as we move forward. Waiting is a time when God comes near to us and strengthens our faith. Waiting is how God prepares us for what is to come!

Let’s go back to the life of David. The rough season that David spent waiting to be king, was a what made David into the amazing king we see in the Bible. The time David spent as a shepherd taught him to lead people humbly and with devoted care. His time running from Saul made David into a warrior who relied heavily on the Lord for every move. Without the seasons of waiting, David would not have been the man after God’s own heart that we know him to be.

One more little aspect about David’s life I found encouraging, was there were two times that David had the chance to kill Saul and end his waiting. But David would not kill the Lord’s anointed. He trusted God so much that he knew in God’s timing and God’s way he would become king.

Oh wow, I just got to say, this is just so encouraging to my heart! David’s faith inspires me so much! I know that there have been times in my relationship I’ve wanted to ignore God’s voice telling me to wait and make things happen on my own. How easy it can be for us to ignore God’s call and try to make things happen in our own way. But the story of David in the Bible has showed me that a heart that is devoted to God is a heart that is fully surrendered to God and it is a heart that is willing to wait for God’s perfect timing. And it’s so encouraging to know the seasons of waiting we go through are never in vain. God is using the times of waiting in our life to prepare us for the calling he has for us in the future.

Just think for a moment of all the people you can help and encourage once you get to the other side of your waiting season. Think of how much closer and sweeter your walk with God will be because you learned to trust Him fully during this time of surrendering. No matter how hopeless you’re situation is, we have such an amazing God who is using all things for His glory and His good. Just like with David, God has a purpose for our waiting. God is going to use our time of waiting to prepare us for what comes next. In God’s perfect timing our waiting will come to an end. But until then, we need to keep trusting, keep choosing, and keep chasing after God.