God Sees | 9.19.16

Here’s a question that I’ve wondered at times, and maybe you have too: Does God really know and care about what’s going on in my little world? Doubt sets in pretty fast – especially when going through really hard stuff. You know, those dark sleepless hours in the middle of the night, when you feel most alone, and the fear comes up strong that really, you ARE alone; you have been left to make it through life as best you can. God, if He’s out there, isn’t going to bother Himself with your concerns, if He even sees them. You can’t even seem to pray coherently.

Have you ever felt this way?

The book of Exodus in the Old Testament is the story of the people of Israel going through super tough times as slaves in Egypt—but, what is really interesting is watching the involvement of God in their story. The last couple of verses setting up the story in Exodus 2 says it like this:

  • God listened (to their groanings)
  • God remembered (his covenant with Abe, Isaac, Jacob)
  • God saw (what was going on with Israel)
  • God understood.

What’s important about the rest of the story is that God didn’t just watch. He responded. But honestly, the process He used to rescue them probably wasn’t what any of them would have asked for. They were in for a very rocky road on the way to being rescued. Putting myself in their shoes, I have to wonder how I would have felt when the trial seemed to go on and on, and there was no immediate happy ending.

My young friend gave me permission to share something she posted on FB recently: Here goes for number nine bone marrow biopsy tomorrow morning. I think that there should be a law or something against that. Seriously, I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m done. Didn’t they listen that I’m allergic to doctors, nurses, needles, and drills or hand cranks? I don’t want to go! Don’t make me…

Her situation seems unbearably hard, as maybe yours does right now. If this were me, would I choose to trust that God cares and is listening, seeing, and understanding my pain and fear? To believe that He is working even now to bring about what is good, even though His actions may not be what I expect? To hold on to hope in His ability to bring me through this situation? To trust in His heart and goodness?

This story of Israel tells us about God’s heart: that He hears, He listens, He cares and understands, and He acts on our behalf and for His good purpose. Could it be possible that your pain and fear, doubts, and questions in the dark are actually where you might end up meeting Him?

Hard Times | 6.5.16

 

Noticing and enjoying the presence of God is sometimes easier when things are going well. But what about those harder times, when you have just hit the bottom, and it’s all you can do just to get through the day, consumed with worry, fear, insecurity, guilt, physical or emotional pain?

The brokenness inside us and of the world we live in can’t be denied by happy talk or bland optimism. Nobody gets to escape the darkness, suffering, and injustice in our own lives and in the world around us. That’s often when God seems to be silent, uncaring and so very far away.

But, remember that God can only be experienced in the reality of the present moment. So, this must include good AND bad, sunshine OR rain. We have a default tendency to think that God is loving and blessing us only when we are happy, healthy, successful, and perfectly behaved – and forget that His unconditional love never stops. His mercies are new every morning. His compassion never fails. He weeps with those who weep. His grace covers every sin. He has promised to never leave us alone, that He knows the bigger story and is working everything toward a good ending.

Christian faith is based on hope and confidence in the grace of God and in His power to save us, not in having everything go our way. Light in darkness, hope in despair, life in death; this is the reality of faith in good times and in bad. We wait in hope for the morning light because we know it is coming. And many who have walked through intense suffering will tell you that it was inside their pain, with nowhere else to turn, that they most deeply experienced the presence of Christ and peace that wasn’t dependent on their external circumstances. C.S. Lewis says this in his book, The Problem With Pain:

We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

There is not a single circumstance that He isn’t right there, waiting for you to notice Him, to see Him loving you in the middle of it all. He may not resolve the circumstance or pain in the way you would prefer, but you can choose to interpret your story in light of God’s story, trusting in all that He is, all He has done, and all that He will do.

Beloved | 5.15.16

About the topic of loving God with our whole heart, I thought that maybe we need to back up a step. What if the issue is not that we don’t love God enough? Maybe it’s that we don’t understand just how much God loves us. We hear this a lot, but do we really get it?

Do you know who you are, or whose you are? God has had you in mind since before the world began. You were created in love and your core identity is a very-much wanted child of God. He made you to be His image-bearer, inherently valuable, possessing hidden greatness and beauty. So, why don’t we really believe this?

Long story short, God wants your heart, but so does the enemy of your soul. Satan hates God and wants to destroy everything and everyone that God loves. Satan uses every opportunity to whisper into your heart and mind, weaving a tory through the wounds and fears you carry from living in a fallen world. Stories that you are a failure, unloveable, will never measure up; thoughts that God can’t be trusted, or is punishing you, and that your past is unforgivable, etc. You come to believe these stories, often without recognizing their source.

Make no mistake; Satan’s purpose is that you continue to live separated emotionally and spiritually from yourself, your friends, your family, as well as from God – simply filling in time.

From The Sacred Romance, by Curtis & Eldredge:

“He (Satan) accuses God to us and us to God. He accuses us through the words of parents and friends and God himself. He calls good evil, and evil good and always helps us question whether God has anything good in mind in his plans for us. He steals our innocence as children and replaces it with a blind naivete or cynicism as adults. He separates beauty from truth…replacing the love affair {between God and us} with a religious system of do’s and don’ts that parch our hearts.”

The true story told in the Bible is that God loved you into existence and has been pursuing you your whole life. We don’t have to get God to love us by doing something right – even loving Him back – because His love for us is not based on what we’ve done, but on who we are: beloved child of God. We love God because He first loved us. Loving Him back is a response to His love.

Heart Love | 5.8.16

Let me ask you a question: Do you love God? What does this mean to you? Jesus told us: “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ And he caps it off by saying: ‘This is the most important, the first on any list.’”

For years, I have puzzled over what loving God means, what loving Him looks and feels like. The word “love” is all over the Bible. Our cultural definition of love, especially romantic love, has more to do with something or someone that makes us feel good.

By personality and upbringing, I tend to be pretty reserved in my expressions of love for other people that I care about. I used to feel pressured to raise my hands in a worship service at church; it seemed fake for me to do that – I wished I could, but just wasn’t feelin’ it! So is that what it looks like to love God, I wondered? Are they feeling something that I don’t? Maybe, maybe not.

I find it easy to love God with my mind – to be awed and amazed by what I learn about Him through the Bible, through Jesus, through creation. I understand the loving God in a tangible way means unselfish caring for and serving others. But there’s an emotional heart piece to what Jesus says about our relationship with God that can’t be overlooked or denied.

There is a story told in the gospels about an immoral woman who broke into a dinner party and kneeling in front of Jesus, she wept all over his feet, wiped them with her hair, repeatedly kissing his feet while she poured out a very expensive perfume on them. Can you picture this?? Her actions seem ridiculously passionate and over the top to the Pharisees and disciples, and honestly, to me, too; I would never do that! She was oblivious to the fact that everyone there was looking down on her judgmentally, both because of her reputation and for wasting all that perfume. But Jesus commends her for loving him so openly and extravagantly – so passionately. Is this what it looks like to love God? And what caused her to feel this way?

I think that loving God with our heart will look differently for everyone. But it seems clear that external religious performance, activity and service won’t get us there.

From The Sacred Romance, by Brent Curtis & John Eldredge:

The truth of the gospel is intended to free us to love God and others with our whole heart. When we ignore this heart aspect of our faith and try to live out our religion solely as correct doctrine or ethics, our passion is crippled or perverted, and the divorce of our soul from the heart purposes of God toward us is deepened.