There is a reason why Jesus used the analogy of the vineyard so often in the Bible. If you look through Scripture, you find so many references to this humble, fruit-bearing plant. In Jeremiah 2:21 it talks about the fruitful vine as being God's obedient people while the empty vine (or wild grapes) were the disobedient ones who failed to follow God. In Isaiah 5:1-8 and John 15:1-2 God used the vine once again to illustrate how hearts must be pruned and tended if they are to produce good faith. Of course, John 15:1-5 is the most famous passage where Christ describes Himself as the Master-Gardener and all of us believing ones as the vines He cares for.
However, while watching a travel show on Italy late at night recently, another interesting lesson from this plant jumped out at me: the travel guide said that the vineyard-keepers evaluate when to water and not water their grape plants because "when you water them, they reach for the water and grow taller; but when you withhold the water, they put down roots and go deeper into the ground where moisture may be found."
It struck me that God does the same thing with these hearts of ours: He evaluates what we need and orders the seasons of our lives accordingly. Sometimes He knows that He must send the water of His refreshing presence and love in such a way as to cause us to reach higher, grow taller, push ourselves toward greater levels of faith and holiness. But other times, He knows that we need to dig deeper and put our roots into better places and get grounded in truth and firmly planted in grace. Thus, He withholds Himself to an extent that we must reach down and grab hold of His promises and His Word so that we are "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord..." (1 Cor. 15:58)
How precious and wise and loving of God to care for us in this way?! As a reminder of our feeble sense, we would most likely ask for a continual supply of water from Him, but we would grow too tall for our own good and we would drown ourselves so that we could not be fruitful. God knows we need the drier times too, the wilderness seasons where we must discover where our roots are placed. We must go deeper instead of higher so that we are balanced in the truth and our soul-vines can be fruitful and abundant for our Master-Gardener.
It's amazing how God reveals so much of Himself and His treatment of us through His creation. We are absolutely without excuse (Rom. 1:20) and have every reason to plead God's forgiveness for all of the times we've mis-judged His dealings with us!
Just trust His process, my friend, and all will be well with your soul!
"To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath is we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God."
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you."
"The first thing God does with us is to get us based on rugged reality until we do not care what becomes of us individually as long as He gets His way for the purpose of His redemption. Why shouldn't we go through heartbreaks? Through those doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son. Most of us fall and collapse at the first grip of pain; we sit down on the threshold of God's purpose and die away of self-pity, and all so-called Christian sympathy will aid us to our death bed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, and says, 'Enter into fellowship with Me, arise and shine.' If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart."
"Our affairs are forever getting tangled, like threads in a child's hands - and we cannot straighten out the tangles ourselves! We cannot see how anything beautiful or good can come out of our poor living, or our feeble striving.
Our days are full of disappointments, and our night's rest is broken by anxieties. Yet it is the Christian's privilege to commit all life's tangles into the hands of Jesus Christ. He can take our broken things - and build them up into beauty!
One of the finest windows in a great cathedral is said to have been made out of the fragments of broken glass which the workmen had thrown away as worthless. A skillful hand gathered them up - and wrought them into lovely form.
In the same way, Jesus Christ can take our failures, our mistakes, our follies, our broken fragments of life, and even our sins - and make them into beautiful life and character!"
"Let every afflicted believer, therefore, rejoice in that he is made low. God deals out our comforts and our sorrows, with exact, unerring hand, in number, weight, and measure. Hence we have not, either of joy or adversity, a grain too little or too much. If less tribulation would suffice, less would be given. We are bad enough, with all our troubles: what then should we be, if ye were exercised with none?"
"Let me not murmur under the heaviest cross in the prospect of such a crown. Let me not refuse to pass cheerfully through the hottest furnace which is to refine and purify me for this exceeding and eternal weight of glory! Allow me to bear with calm serenity, whatever cross You see fit to lay upon me."
Recently I came across a newly-released song that has been ministering to my heart these past days. The title of the album (soon to be released) caught my eye: "Farewell To Fear" by the group Finding Favour. In clicking on this song title, I knew I had found my new favorite. I wanted to share these beautiful words with you today because I think we could all use a little comfort, a little reminder that God is still sovereign and in control over all aspects of life. We just have to trust Him!
"Your Spirit's my assurance when trials may come;
I'm holding to the promise that You've already won,
"Think of the brokenness, the incompleteness, the littleness of these lives of ours!
We get glimpses of beauty in character, which we are not able to attain! We have spiritual longings which seem to us too great to ever come true. We dream of things we want to do but when we try to work them out, our clumsy hands cannot put them into realizations!
We have glimmerings of a love that is very rich and tender, without a trace of selfishness, without envy or jealousy, without resentment - a love which does not seek its own, more is not provoked, and bears all things. We get the vision from the life of Christ Himself. We say, 'I will learn that lesson of love - I will be like that!' But we fail.
We strive to be sweet-spirited, unselfish, thoughtful, kind - but we must wet our pillow with tears at the close of our marred days, because we cannot be what we strive to be! We have glimpses of an inner peace which is very beautiful. We strive after it, strive with intense effort - but do not reach it!
So it is in all our living. Life is ever something too large for us. We attain only fragments of living. Yet take heart, 'The desire of the righteous shall be granted!' (Proverbs 10:24)"
"...Wounds can be openings to the beauty in us. And our weaknesses can be a container for God's glory. Hannah tasted salty tears of infertility. Elijah howled for God to take his life. David asked his soul a thousand times why it was so downcast. God does great things through the greatly wounded. God sees the broken as the best and He sees the best in the broken and He calls the wounded to be the world changers."
"I thought I'd encourage you this week with one little thought - and that's that you don't need to hide from God. In fact, do we realize how funny that even sounds? As if we really could.
So we put on a mask, put on a front, and try to only put our best foot forward to our friends, our spouse, or the outside world on social media. But that's what's awesome is God didn't die for the 'best foot forward' us. He died for the messy version. The failing version. The one who deals with shame, and past decisions, and hurt, and anxiety, and depression, and on and on. He sees us right in that. Right in the hard place. And with fiery white hot eyes of love says I see you. You are who I want to be with. I died for this version of you, you don't have to hide anymore.
His voice is tender and gracious and beautiful and calls us out of hiding. Might we step into that call today? Because that's where freedom is at."
"Maybe us with broken hearts simply need that - key people who break us open to see how Christ never stops holding our wounds, to break us free from all the crushing expectations, key people who simply say, 'Come, it's safe to be real here, safe to let the brokenness come.' Who doesn't need key people who free us from the old courtrooms where judgement and the scales of perfection have felt like millstones around our breaking necks? There isn't one of us who doesn't need key people who believe that the broken are the most beloved, that the busted are the brave, that the limping can lead - and that everything that looks like it's breaking apart might actually be falling together.
And isn't this what I've been longing to be - broken and broken free to be a key person? One of the soul emancipators who unleash others into who they are already in Him, no judging skeletons in closets...
Maybe - we become a key person when we hand a key to break someone free...by giving each other our broken hearts.
It's always the vulnerable heart that breaks broken hearts free.
Am I brave enough...to live not afraid of broken things?"
- Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way
Today, I am thankful for the key people in my life who love me enough to not be afraid of my brokenness and who are the human hands and feet of Jesus to me daily. I hope and pray that through this blog I have been and can continue to be a key person to some other hurting soul out there!
Over the three and a half years I've been blogging on here, I've made many confessions. I've discussed things that I never expected would ever be brought to light. I've opened up some fairly painful conversation on here regarding myself...and all of ourselves. How we're not getting it right but God is...how the worst things are never the last thing...that redemption is always winning even if we don't readily see it.
Well...today I'm going to make yet another big revelation about myself. Perhaps you've picked up on it in previous posts, but I'm going to go deeper this time. The last couple of weeks have wrecked me in the best way possible. And I've come to conclusions that have and will forever change the way I do life.
For most of my life, I've been a fear-driven person. Never really saw that about myself since I have a pretty confident, independent spirit about me. But it's true...and I'm beginning to embrace God's given grace to face the hard truth about this fact.
Over the years, I've feared rejection; I've feared failure; I've feared success; I've feared darkness; I've even feared heights (and still do, by the way!) But the one thing I'm realizing I've feared the most is being known. Deeply and lovingly known. I've always done relationships of any kind on my terms, only letting others in as far as I felt comfortable. Then...setting a boundary when it got to be too close. I've missed out on love in so many little ways because I wasn't sure I could be known and still accepted for the worst of me.
God has worked through two of three stages of healing in this area of my life as I've journeyed toward grace over the years: 1) to be loved fearlessly by God, 2) to fearlessly love others...and now, 3) to be fearlessly loved by others. I'm realizing just how bad at this I really am. I am slowly learning how to let God love me radically, and I'm getting the hang a bit of how to care for and love on others unconditionally. But this receiving love thing?...that's hard.
Earlier this summer, I had a conversation with a friend who bravely spoke to my fear about some things involving our friendship going forward and the truth was presented to me in the most gentle way possible: your fears have no place here. This is the safe zone where all things vulnerable, imperfect, not right, weak can be discussed and presented to God in all graciousness and understanding. This conversation led me to begin realizing just how much I doubt others care, how much I question if their love is genuine, how much I hold back out of fear they will leave. I am not willing to let myself be known. It's that simple. And I am wrong for doing so. I'm afraid of what might happen if I let the truth about the worst of me come out. And so I put up walls.
But what I'm starting to see is that true love takes risks. Those who love fearlessly are willing to go places others won't go. Those people change lives because their love opens closed doors so that others can be fearlessly loved. It's happening to me thanks to a couple of bold and beautiful friends in my life who are kindly but courageously letting me know that it's okay to not be okay, that grace covers all mistakes, that forgiveness runs deep, and that God is forever good regardless of my failings. They are proving one little word or act at a time that those who are my true friends are the ones who wade deep into the heart-messy without fear and bring prayer, healing words of life, and love. Those who walk away from my life are simply ones not willing to be fearlessly loved and known either.
And so...I'm saying farewell to fear. Because I'm realizing I can't let this run my life anymore. It's been too much of a hindrance to me for more years than I care to admit. It's held me back from taking steps of faith that God and others ask of me. And I'm done with that. I'm ready to be brave. I'm ready to live fully. God cares too much and, as I've recently discovered, others care too much to let me stay in this afraid-ness any longer. It's time to put out my hands in trust and be willing to risk. God's got me...and so do my friends.
Perhaps you've got an area of your life where you're afraid to be known and deeply loved. Maybe you struggle as do I in this place of being willing to be fearlessly loved and to love fearlessly. It just might help us both if we remember that God risked His life because of His love for us and, therefore, we are free to risk our hearts to love one another in a flawed but similar manner.
We're more loved than we realize. So let's say farewell to fear. Let's take the faith dare and choose brave together.
"Jesus risked Himself on me. How can I not risk my life on you? You may not love me back. You may humble me, humiliate me, reject me, shatter my heart, and drive the shards into my soul - but this is not the part that matters. What matters most is always the most vulnerable communion...What matters is that in the act of loving we become more like the givenness of Love Himself. What matters most is not if our love makes other people change, but that in loving, we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone, we become more like Someone. Regardless of anything or anyone else changing, the success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving."
This weekend I sat at my computer, and my heart ached. Scenes of neighbor shouting against neighbor, friend divided against friend, skin-color pitted against skin-color...endless feed of human bitterness, anger, hatred. People bashing one another over religious, social, political, or other differences causing the soul-pain to run deep on all sides.
As I stared at the news coming out of Charlottesville, as I saw the endless string of social media posts aimed at "pointing out the truth" while making others feel stupid, as I un-followed some individuals whose angry tone I just could no longer take...I honestly felt sick. Deeply sick.
Where in the world...in all this broken, sinful world...is grace?!
Grace. Yes. I think we could all use a bit more of that. And not just grace given from God Himself...but the passing on of that grace to one another. When I see the worst of humanity coming out at times like this, it causes me to realize how often we make society's problems worse because we condemn instead of love, we beat down instead of raise up, we judge others instead of looking at our own selves first. We use our beliefs as a justifying reason for what we say and do but fail to notice the prideful tone in which we do them. We pray and ask God for forgiveness, yet we fail to forgive and pray for those who are in contradiction to our own convictions. We request God's grace, only to turn around and fail to give it to someone else who needs it too. More often than not, we are like the servant in the Bible who was forgiven his own debt but wouldn't forgive the debts of someone else who owed him (Matthew 18:21-35). And, in so doing, we cheapen the very thing God has given us to save us.
Sometimes, as His followers, we aren't very wise imitators of the One we profess to believe in. We throw around the phrase, "what would Jesus do?" but in practice, we act of our own will instead of the Savior's. And oddly enough, we feel like our Lord needs defending - like it's up to us to set the world right when, in reality, God really doesn't need us at all. The all-Sovereign God is fully capable of sorting out the issues of the world, and He chooses to use us as His living sermons to a dying culture...yet we think we must, in the name of God, fix everyone and everything. Yet, if we were truthful, we usually end up hurting more than helping God's cause.
It seriously pains me to watch so many people who claim to follow God shouting in the streets against the things they think God is against. And I ache inside to think of all the opportunities we're missing, of all the souls we are turning away and hardening, because we aren't willing to listen, to love, to get down into the heart-messy, to be the hands of Jesus to a world in need. We preach about how we need to go and teach nations of God's love yet...here we are: being known to our society as simply the people who are against everything instead of the ones who are for.
Our witness to a watching culture is being diminished more and more as they see us marching in the streets, yelling on social media about how "they're all wrong," turning away those whose hearts are broken because we simply can't figure out how to relate to them, giving the stares to those who are different from us, staying away from the uncomfortable because we're too afraid to step into that in faith. It's easier for us to do as Jesus's disciples did to call down fire and judgement on the ungodly (Luke 9:54) or to start cutting off ears as did Peter (John 18:10) than for us to put aside our emotions and simply extend grace.
Have we so quickly forgotten what we have received? Have we neglected to do for others what Christ selflessly did for us and demonstrated as a pattern that we should follow? Have we so soon failed to remember the simple fact that mercy changes everything?
After all, if it were not for God's mercy, we would not be able to experience the blessings of this one life we've been granted. God could have had His grace run out a long time ago if He had chosen to, but He continues to be patient with us as His children way beyond what we deserve. If we were to truly take this to heart, perhaps it would be easier to set self aside and learn to love deeply. Only grace can make a human being able to love and care for others who least deserve such.
And when we choose to picket instead of pray, to holler and shout down our opponents instead of use soft answers to turn away anger; when we take the position of know-it-alls when our Savior went to the cross and died for sinners who knew Him not, then we've failed miserably in our assignment to represent Him on earth. And people are dying in the soul because of it. People are leaving our churches because of it. People are turning away from our Jesus because of it.
It's time for us to stop focusing so much on setting the wrongs right and instead start embracing the lost, the broken, the least of these with the radical love of Jesus. The kind of love that takes freshly-baked muffins out to the rioting street corner and offers food and says, "You're loved." The kind of love that listens deeply and seeks to find common ground instead of staking out divisions. The kind of love that chooses the humbler path, knowing that apart from God, you would most likely be messed up too. The kind of love that remembers what it's been given and simply wants others to feel it too. That kind of love is what can set captive hearts free, open the prison soul-doors and let God's light walk in. That kind of love is what can change a church, a community, a nation, and the world.
Racial divides would be torn down if we only saw one another as beautiful creations of the living God, made in His image regardless of whether or not we agree. Arguments about social ills, political correctness, church doctrine, religious practice, etc would be demolished once we simply sought God's Word and way as to how to treat one another and how to fear and honor God Himself.
See, it's not really about the issues themselves. It's about us. Our hearts. All the ways in which broken people are trying to get along with and "fix" other broken people. And really, God is the only cure for us all. Grace and mercy must be the beginning and ending points. Otherwise, the noise and the anger only grow, the tensions rise, the hurting continues. It's high time we ask God to forgive us for going about it all so wrong. For choosing fear over faith, for taking sides instead of siding with Him, for picking fights over things that don't matter in the long run.
Whatever your cause is that you are engaging in, whatever outreach you are doing, whatever ministry you are taking on, whatever platform God has given you to speak truth to a world that needs to hear about Him...tread carefully how you go about it. Criticizing, judging, making fun of, condemning, picketing, shouting, defending are not the way to bring God's love to a hurting world. Showing grace in the little things as well as the big is.
Just keep God big in view, and yourself small, and all will right itself. God will go before you and give you words to speak in the moments you need to speak them. God will prepare hearts to receive as you listen to and act on His direction. Because this fight isn't really yours at all. It's His.
So please...stop the arguing on social media, stop picketing in the streets, and shouting at your neighbors and enemies, stop taking your causes so seriously that you leave God out. Stop taking on the mountains of falsehood and simply asking God to come along when all God really wants from you is humble, faithful, loving service. Just accept and give grace. And God will take care of the rest.
"We thought we came to God by doing it right, and lo and behold, surprise of surprises, we come to God by doing it wrong - and growing because of it! The only things strong enough to break open our heart are things like pain, mistakes, unjust suffering, tragedy, failure, and the general absurdity of life. I wish it were not so, but it clearly is."
How many times has someone ever told you it's okay to fail? Probably not many. And you've most likely never told yourself that it's okay either. In our performance-driven society, mistakes and failures are not given enough credit. I don't mean that striving for excellence isn't a good thing, or that setting goals for yourself and pushing hard to achieve them isn't admirable. But often, an improper idea of failure can cause us to give up hope. We think that it's not okay to fall. That the hallmark of the one who impresses in this world is the one who "has it all together," who finds perfection at every turn. But we fail to remind ourselves that any person who ever did anything worthwhile in this world first learned how to fail before they could learn to succeed.
I've struggled with this fear of failure for most of my life. I've never been a natural at anything and, so often, my many attempts at mastery in things left me more discouraged than hopeful. Years ago I would sometimes quit because I felt like I could never be "good enough" for the thing I was striving for, or the people I wanted to please. Over time, I stopped trying because I didn't want the pain of my own lack of ability to hit me in the face... one. more. time.
After awhile, this began to carry over into my view of the Christian life. I knew I didn't read the Bible as much as I should, pray as well as others, feel as close to God as the "model believer" ought to, and I felt like I was more fake than authentic. Because I played the believing game and tried to force faith... but I lost. So I gave up. But little did I know that God didn't give up on me that quickly.
Grace began to teach me a new way to look at life. And, to this day, it's continuing to revolutionize how I live each God-given day. I'm starting to understand that, when it comes to matters of the heart, belief is a risk you take. Love is a risk you take. Because the Son of God was hurt for you...because He believed in you!
You who can't see beyond your own inability to get this trust thing right...
You who think you're never good enough to love and be loved authentically...
You who fear that all your strivings are in vain...
That all your sins are too great to be forgiven by a holy God...
That you'll never be able to move past these failures of yours and that you're forever defined by the mistakes you've made...
You who have accepted your wounds as un-healable...
YOU ARE THE ONES HE CAME FOR!
You are the broken ones that He went willingly to the cross for so that you could experience forgiveness and grace abundant. You are the very people He set the Gospel in motion to save. Because nothing is ever wasted in the kingdom of God. And your pain is never the end of the story...unless you tell yourself that it is. The serpent lie of "God isn't enough" has ruined stories and souls since the beginning of time. And our only true failing is when we believe that.
Over the summer I have been reading a book that has changed so much for me in regards to the concept of Grace and how living in it opens up the heart to so much hopefulness in spite of continual shortcomings and failures. In her book, Extravagant Grace, author Barbara Duguid writes to all broken ones:
"If you are in Christ you are cherished...wherever you have sinned and continue to sin, He has obeyed in your place. That means that you are free to struggle and fail; you are free to grow slowly; you are free at times to not grow at all; you are free to cast yourself on the mercy of God for a lifetime. Repeated failure does not mean that you are unsaved or that God is tired of you and disappointed. It does mean that He has called you to a difficult struggle and that He will hold on to you in all of your standing and falling and bring you safely home. You have great reason to hope."
Because the thing is...it's not up to you, dear hurting hearts! It's not up to me either. Our Savior has done all that was necessary to fulfill the perfection we owed God but couldn't make good on. His one death, burial, and resurrection changed the trajectory of all human history so that mankind could have eternal hope in the face of their own failure. And this is why only once in time has a perfect life been laid down for the imperfect...God's Son Jesus did that for us broken ones.
As a result of this, God says to us that it's okay to not be okay. It's okay to hurt. It's okay to risk on love. It's okay to fail to get it right...because we're human and we fail all the time. God gets all this and yet loves us deeply anyway. Once you realize that His approval of you isn't dependent on how much you do, how often you do it, how well you do it, or even if you do it...then you can take heart even though you fall.
God gives grace to fail...and grace to get up again. Sometimes its easy to think that grace is only there for us when we are fulfilling all God wants us to and, when we fail, that grace somehow goes away. We think that we need to get beyond our sins in order for God to love us more. We think we need to start succeeding and stop failing.
But what if we started to see that God won't always give us the victory over our sins as we desire. He may give us grace to overcome them, but He may not. And He may leave us to struggle with our failures so that we come to depend on Him more. But either way He chooses, grace is provided.
In short, because the God-Man Himself was strong, we are free to be weak; because He won for us, we are free to lose; because He was Someone, we are free to be no one; because He was extraordinary, we are free to be ordinary; because He has succeeded for us, we are free to fail. And fail big.
Once we recognize the simple fact that we can't sustain our good intentions, no matter how hard we try...once we realize that sin will be a constant influencer in our lives until we finally reach our eternal home...once we grasp that we will never be "good enough" but that Jesus stepped in to be all these things on our behalf, it somehow becomes a little easier to breathe freely. To thank more frequently. To notice miracles and blessings previously ignored because we were running ourselves silly trying too hard.
It becomes a little easier to face ourselves and live with ourselves because "ourselves" are being re-made and this isn't all there is. Whatever you are beating yourself up about today in your journey through life...your inability to love well, your repeatedly failed attempts at consistent time with God, your lack of prayer, your addiction that keeps haunting you, your fears that keep speaking un-truths in your ears...whatever is keeping you from seeing through to God...know this: God is offering you grace, and He loves you...even though you fail.
All your tears, your broken places, your empty soul-spaces...they aren't the end or the defining point of your story. Because God is more. And it's okay that you don't have it all together...because He does...and that's what we need to trust in.
"Beloved in the Lord, when anything tries me and my heart sinks, the moment I think of God, the burden is either lightened or removed. The name - the very name - of Jesus soothes and comforts, and I feel nothings is wrong, but all is right that He permits. Oh, it is sweet to repose in His bosom and shelter there until the storm is past. How is it that the Lord places His people so frequently, and keeps them so long, in the furnace? When one trial is over another comes, scarcely, sometimes, allowing breathing time between! Wave resounding to wave! Oh, it is because He loves us and will have us know it. And when trouble comes, small or great, we then shelter beneath His wings or nestle within His bosom and feel the very throbbing of His heart."
"To be brutally honest, it doesn't really matter what place you find yourself in right now. Your part is to bring Him glory...The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His."
"To all who truly know God - it is a most comforting thought that their affliction comes from Him. It seems to take away the strangeness and the bitterness of it. When once they can realize His hand, then in all their sorrowful thoughts about their afflictions - they think about God too, and this comforts them. It is no longer mere trouble - but trouble which God has sent. If He has sent it - then it is wisely and kindly sent. Is there not a hidden blessing in it? Then the heart goes in search of the blessing and begins to ask why the trouble was sent, what it was meant to do, and how far is has done what it was sent for. And this is the very way to find the blessing.
Besides, when the sufferer thus sees the hand of God in trouble - he reasons that God will never let the trouble be too great. If He sends it - He will not send it too sharply, nor too heavily. There is no chance about it. All is measured and dealt out by an omnipotent hand of wisdom and love! The affliction, therefore, cannot become too sore. When the right point has been reached, when the fit time has come - then He who sent it will say, 'Hitherto shall you come, but no further!'"
"Whatever may be the grievous circumstances in which I am placed or the injustice of others from which I am suffering, if my God says, 'Fear not,' I ought surely to be brave and strong. If we can only get firmly fixed in our hearts the truth that the Lord's hand is in everything that happens to us, we have found a balm for all our woes, a remedy for all our ills. When friends fail us and grow cold, when enemies triumph and grow confident, when the smooth pathway upon which we have been traveling suddenly becomes rough, stony, and steep, we are apt to look askance at the visible second causes and to forget that our God has foreseen every trial, permitted every annoyance, and authorized each item of discipline with this set purpose: 'The Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.' Oh heart of mine, what is your response to this demand? Do you not love Him enough to endure any test to prove it?"
I ugly-cried. Not gonna lie. It was a full-blown, let-loose, surrendered breakdown. But it was at the same time, a break-through. A moment of clarity. Of realizing that love accepts broken things. Love pursues and embraces broken people with the sole purpose of redemptive hope.
I've honestly been a jumble of emotions the past few weeks. It seems as though life has swung between the painful and the joyous, often within hours or even minutes of itself. I've dealt with everything from the heart-ache of hearing about death, soul-resistance, and denial, to the happiness of success, potential, possibility, and second chances. I've advised and comforted souls who were facing the worst about themselves and others, and I've celebrated with those who are stepping into the best life has to give. And I've ridden the ups and downs of my own soul-struggles at the same time.
I've spent the recent days processing new beginnings and what they might hold, facing the uncertainty of uncharted territory, contemplating how these new paths might unfold.
And just the other day, it hit me. Like a healing wave over my worn-down soul, the truth washed over me deep and wide. I confessed my jumble of feelings to a close friend, and they listened. After I had poured out my heart, they spoke to my lack of perspective, to my fear, to my uncertainty, and lovingly told me to open my hands and say "yes" to God. Told me that God's love is enough to fix what isn't right inside and that I have no reason to keep fighting such irresistible grace. Told me that here, in this place of acceptance and forgiven-ness, one is safe to be broken and to give one's self room to grow and change. The friend shared their own journey recently - how dying to their own will opened the way for God to work, how accepting the fact that God asks hard things of His followers changes everything.
The prayer and honesty of a timely conversation like this opened the flood gates of this soul of mine and I felt a release of grip in the heart...a letting go that long needed to take place. And it began to sink in deep into my belief - one cannot keep bringing past failures, past mistakes, past struggles, past hurts into the present without it being a detriment to all things new and redeeming that God is desiring to perform in each life.
We fail to often grasp that God uses the adversities of our journeys, the broken paths we tread, as a re-ordering of sorts in our souls. The losses that He asks of us are simply making way for better gifts to be granted to us that we may experience the love of God in greater measure. We think we know where God is moving at any time but the reality is, we view the trajectory of all our lives with selfish perspective, and we often demand that God allow us to hold onto people, situations, and opportunities that may not (from His perspective) be beneficial to us in the long run. We get angry when He asks us to sacrifice for His sake because we sinfully think that we should be able to receive His blessings but never have to give up anything for Him. We think that God somehow owes us better than what we have...and we're always requesting Him to do what we desire instead of understanding that it is us who must bend our will to His.
God has not failed us...because He cannot. God's purposes are fixed since before the dawning of time and He is working out a kingdom-plan that none of us can or ever will fully grasp. If we were to be able to see inside the mind of the Sovereign God, we could not comprehend such a vast and beautiful scheme. And yet, we think that we - the created ones - know better. How foolish of us!
In my own life I see how many times I've let my clouded understanding determine how I will accept or reject God's plans. I fail to think of all the times God has over-ruled my will in order to accomplish His...and just how awesome it turned out to be in the end. I become discontent, frustrated, disappointed. And I fail to thank. I fail to bless. I fail to submit.
Through my tears the other day, I pleaded, "God, forgive me! Forgive my prideful soul for ever thinking that I can trace your dealings with me, for ever thinking that Thou art a harsh God with no care. Redeem this broken heart for better things."
Following the broken way of the Master, the surrendered path of Grace, is to choose hard things. Every person in the history of the world who ever did anything to advance God's work has had to grasp this great truth: one must choose brave. Every day. Every minute. One must make the constant decision to walk in faith...even when the road doesn't seem clear or make sense.
And so...I'm making a choice in this day, right now, to trust God. No. Matter. What. I will honestly have to renew that choice probably in a few minutes or hours from now. And will continue to do so for the rest of my life as new challenges arise. But I'm done over-thinking. I'm finished trying to figure it all out...because I miss God when I do so. I miss the blessings. I run past the miracles because I'm holding on too tightly.
So let people come and go. Let things die and things be born. Let the cycle of in and out of my life take place...all so that God may do a new work. I'm ready to step into the unknown with bravery and faith. Ready to put my hand into that of the One who knows it all. And because He's guiding it all, I have nothing to be afraid of. Not even my one broken self.
"What is my dream of God's purpose? His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and unperplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. God is not working towards a particular finish; His end in the process - that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God."
"God wants us to trust Him with abandon. He wants to show us how He works and cares for us. He wants to be our refuge. Walking in genuine intimacy and full surrender to God requires great faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, 'Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.'
Back when I was in Bible college, a professor asked our class, 'What are you doing right now that requires faith?' That question affected me deeply because at the time I could think of nothing in my life that required faith...
God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through."