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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Release

 Letting go is tough. But so much of life depends on that simple concept of release. 
Sometimes we don't even realize the baggage we are dragging along the journey of life. We think we've let go of certain things that have long bothered or distressed us but every so often we hit situations that remind us of a friendship gone cold, a loved one's selfish behavior, somebody's hurtful words, a painful move that had to transpire, or an unexplained awkward ending that was never resolved. We think we've moved on, but the truth is, we never fully did. 
 It's become apparent to me recently that I've been carrying unresolved situations for too long, and it's affecting my relationships and enjoyment of my life now. Part of my mind and heart is still stuck back in situations that ended badly years ago, and while maybe I've forgiven the people involved, I've never totally put the issue to rest. There are people who long ago stopped communicating with me (for whatever reason) or I distanced communication with them due to poor choices in their life...and yet, their phone number is still in my phone. Others I've kept mulling over wording for a possible letter or some form of re-establishing a connection that most likely will never happen. I'm still holding out some hope that time maybe changes these folks minds or that I can somehow help or  influence situations that, in reality, there is no investment or relationship to be had anymore. The other people have moved on. Even God has moved on and is doing many new things all around me. But I'm still holding on. I'm refusing to catch up to where God actually is now. 
 See, for those of us who love helping people, it's often hard to know when to stop. We can often hold out in circumstances with people that we should probably back out of simply because we think we can rescue them, save them, fix them, or change their situation. We think it would be unloving to set boundaries and step away when those boundaries have been crossed. We see it as insensitive if we told the people that our help seems to be no longer needed or appreciated.We agonize over the fact that while it may not be best for us to stay in the situation, somehow we think we need to. Maybe things will turn around. We feel badly that we can't see a story through to the end, instead of realizing that God may have only wanted us to help for a season. Perhaps He wants somebody else to take over where we left off in  the process of helping. But we don't want to see it that way. We think we - and only we - can make the difference in certain situations or people's lives. And so we stay. We put ourselves in a bad place because we are overly caring about other people's circumstances or feelings.  We don't seem to be able to tell ourselves that it's okay to let go. 
 But I'm starting to see now just how detrimental this can be. When you keep holding on with closed fists, your hands cannot receive the blessings and miracles of what God is doing today. When you're stuck in the past, you live in vain regrets over things you could've or should've said or done, and it takes strength out of relationships and situations you honestly can be helping in the now. When you allow previous hurts to keep driving decisions or choices you make today, you begin to live in fear of them happening again...and again...and again. You miss out on so much because you're still back thinking that the old might come back or a fresh start in a bad situation might happen. All the while, others have probably forgotten or moved on entirely and you're still reflecting on how you did (or didn't) say such-and-such, how you probably could've (or should've) kept going instead of backing out, etc. More importantly, God has moved on and we refused to come along with Him. 
 Loving others is important. Nobody should be pushed way who truly needs our help and prayers! But there comes a point where we limit our productivity for God when we don't let go soon enough. Sadly, there are situations that just don't turn out the way we thought they would. People maybe asked for our help and we gave it, but it turned out to not be what the people wanted to hear. Relationships where we thought there was agreement turned out to have little in common at all. Perhaps even those we supposed there was shared life-purpose ended up leaving us because they couldn't follow God to the extent that we felt called to. There are so many situations that can happen where we invest ourselves into others and the return of investment is minimal at best. We put in 80% effort and get 20% results...or maybe less. It is at this point that we must begin to listen to when God says, move on. 
 While it may take a very hard conversation to explain to the other party why you're backing out, the maximizing of your giftings and future serving others depends on it taking place. Lately, I've had a string of hard endings like this. I've had to end communication with some people, stop trying to reach folks who long moved past me, tell others my help is no longer affective for them and that I pray they find someone better to meet their needs. I've even had to delete numbers out of my phone of people who were once close to me. So many memories (good and bad) have had to be put to rest. But this process of shutting the door on yesterday, leaving what happened buried once and for all in the grave of time, turning over the hurts of others to the hand of God, has been healing of sorts for me. Healing in that I'm no longer responsible for what happened. I no longer have to keep holding onto some little thread of hope that things things might have switched. I've had to get to the point where I see that it's no longer expedient for me that I continue in situations where I do not have any influence anymore. (Or maybe I never did in the first place!) 
 In order to be in step with God, I must forget what's behind and rather press into what's ahead. I must catch up to where God is. So many good things are happening in my life (and most likely yours, too) but if we're like those runners in a race who constantly look back over their shoulder to see whose behind them, we will slow down ourselves and limit our chances at succeeding at being the best us we can be. We will limit our ability to live our one life well. 
 I'm to the point where I want to be fully invested in only those people and situations where I can truly affect positive change. If the person isn't wanting to be helped (regardless of if they tell you so), if somebody honestly does not want to change (even if they say they do), if you're stuck in situations where it's doing greater harm to you to stay in it than it is helpful to the other people, don't be afraid to seek God's blessing and walk away in total peace of mind, knowing you can no longer be responsible for their feelings or choices. Let God do the rescuing, the saving, the fixing, the helping. We can pray. We can love. But there is such a thing as caring too much. And that is what we must be careful about. 
 I don't know what it is that God may be asking you to release and let go of. But I do want to encourage you to take that step, hard as it is. So many blessings and good things will come as a result of us doing so. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Longing Soul's Satisfaction

"...They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way...hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses...
Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness."
                     - Psalm 107:4-6, 8-9


Monday, March 27, 2017

Quote of the Day

"No one has ever lived, who has not had his times of discouragement, heaviness, sorrow, and disappointment. Cares and afflictions come to all. 
Life has its adversities - it must needs have them. Adversity, pain, sorrow, and disappointment, are the lathe upon which God shapes us. They are the grinding wheel which grinds and smoothes us. They are the polishing wheel which makes us shine. 
If we can never be happy until we are so situated that nothing exists which may tend to render us unhappy, then we shall have little happiness in life. 
Happiness does not come from a life of ease and indolence. It is not the result of the absence of obstacles and difficulties. Happiness comes from triumphing over them. Therefore the song of true happiness often arises from the soul which undergoes many adversities. 
Dear soul, Jesus knows all about your troubles. He knows every heartache, every difficulty, everything you must overcome, everything you must bear. Trusting in His grace, relying on His help, you shall soon find your heart filling again with melody, for the clouds will pass away!"
                     - Charles Naylor

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand."
                        - St. Augustine

Friday, March 24, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...He will mix mercy with every affliction. Like sugar in our tea, it sometimes lies at the bottom and needs stirring up! But there is always mercy there!
...There is sweetness in the bitterest cup which the Father gives us! Let us therefore look for the sugar as we sip the bitter potion!"
                         - Charles H. Spurgeon in Morning By Morning

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Fruitful branches, those actually abiding in the True Vine, are in the hands of a loving and gracious Vinedresser. As He carefully prunes and tends us, there may be some pain in the cutting. But we can be certain that He is doing it for our own good so that we will bear much fruit for His glory."
                        - John MacArthur in The Gospel According To Jesus

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Facing The Inner Atheist

 I'm coming to an obvious but startling conclusion: there is such a thing as "fake faith." One can honestly say (and convince themselves) that they believe without ever truly doing so. And I'm beginning to see how often this has been the case with me. 
 As a Christian, I am finding out more and more how hard living in true faith really is. It's so easy to say that we trust God, that we believe His best for our lives, that we have even accepted His grace for ourselves and believe Him to be our Savior...all the while living as if He doesn't exist. Choosing in daily things to deny Him as Lord of our lives and deciding that our own plans are better than His. 
 Great doubts even can trouble our souls...and yet, we still suspend our disbelief when we walk into the church doors. We sing of His love and of our desire to worship Him, we listen to the sermon and agree with what is said, we enjoy the fellowship and prayer of fellow travelers on the journey to grace...but when we walk out of the doors, we pick up our fears, our doubts, our disbelief - and we forfeit great joy and contented peace because we do not really know Him at all. 
 So often, I see how my old self - the uncrucified me - plays the part of Judas and walks with God everywhere, yet still refuses to fully bow the heart to His sovereign authority. I want to be in control...dragging regrets from years prior, thinking I know what should happen in the present, and fearing greatly what is to come in the future...all the while saying that I believe. But never fully addressing my unbelief. 
 Authentic faith is hard. So hard. It takes more bravery than I ever thought would be needed just to face the daily fears (mountains of them at times) with simple submission to the One who has written my story since before time began. The inner atheist in me is constantly raising its head and trying to tell me to question God. To question who He is, what He's done, what He has in store. It attempts to convince me that His plans are not reasonable...but whoever said I had to figure out God's thinking?! Me. I told myself this for so long...and I was wrong. 
 After years of listening to my inner falsehoods, it's hard to learn to talk truth to them instead. To face the fears of unknowns, of what ifs, of how comes, of whys takes everything in me oftentimes. Perhaps you know the feeling, the struggle. 
 Perhaps you're in the same place as me - just realizing that doubt has kept grace from running deep, that fear has kept faith from blossoming to its full potential. That blessings have been missed because the eyes of the heart were blind to the simple truth that everything is grace...that we can't change a single thing by worrying our one short life away. That we pass by daily miracles and demonstrations of Him because we're too busy trying to figure out what He's up to and what we should do about it. Perhaps we've accepted Him as Savior but have resisted Him as Lord. We've fought His right to providentially and sovereignly orchestrate His plan to completion. And thus, our faith has proven fake. It has turned out to be no faith at all. 
 Truthfully, God doesn't want us to do anything about His plan. Only to submit to it. Only to rest in it. Only to accept and acknowledge that He is good and we are forever loved. His plan may include great pain, great sacrifice, great uncertainty from our point of view. But such seasons of heartache, loss, and obscured revelation only reveal our further need for Him and teach us that the only way to truly grow is to be stretched and tested. Faith can only be proven genuine when it is tried. And God knows this. 
 But can we learn to be okay with it?! That's the real question. Can we learn to let go of our need to figure everything out and instead come to the profound conclusion that, "no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11)?
 My inner atheist needs to be laid to rest and subjected to the Redeemer's rule. My old self must die daily, hard though it is. I must learn to walk toward the things that paralyze my soul the most and say, God has already walked through this; I don't have to be afraid. 
 I see now that God can do much in a willing and submitted life - a life that is given over to the good and gracious dealings of God. A life that is rich in what matters. And such authentic faith can reveal the love of God to a searching world in the biggest way possible. But such a place of surrender can never happen until I learn to let go of my disbelief. Until I don't merely suspend it, but allow God to do away with it for good.