My Struggle

There are 17 days left until I walk down an aisle and vow before the LORD and all my friends and family that Jeremy is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with.  We just recently got our Engagement Photos back.  They are beautifully done.  Steve does amazing work.  I would love them completely if I weren’t in them.  I can’t stand to look at myself.  And I knew this was becoming a problem as I debated on simply starving myself for the next 17 days, or eating and just throwing it all up.  I have never done either before, and it shocked me that I considered doing it now.

There are many reasons for this.  And every last one of them is Fear of Man issues.  The people who are around me all the time already know what I look like.  But there are going to be people at the wedding who have never met me before.  There are people on Facebook who I know decades ago, and that I haven’t seen since.  I fear the judgment.  I am embarrassed by the common assumptions.  And to be perfectly honest I completely hate how I look.  I am ashamed of it, even though I know Jesus took that shame away from me.

I was never the skinny girl growing up.  But neither was I fat.  I simply had curves.  I generally fit into a size 12 or 14 as I grew up.  Then once I was out of school I actually got into the best shape I had ever been in and fit into a size 8.  I was a size 8 when I met Jay.  I can’t tell you if I felt healthier than ever or more beautiful, because I honestly don’t remember.

I ran in to some of the girls from my swim team a short time into what happened to me.  I had put on a good amount of weight by then.  I remember the looks I got.  I know what looks I get now.  I don’t like those looks.  And I really hate the assumptions people make when they see anyone over weight.  I am not trying to justify how I look.  I am trying to work through it.  And hopefully, maybe, somewhere along this path I might give comfort to someone else who knows what this feels like.  Even if it isn’t the same situation; the end resulting feelings are the same.

What I am about to talk about is very honest, raw, and might make some people uncomfortable.  So I will write it in italics, so if you are unable to read it all…you can scroll down to find the place where I stop talking about what happened to me.

In 2001 I was with a man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with.  He was sweet, caring, and understood me, even my hard to understand parts.  That year my appendix ruptured, and I spent several days in the hospital.  When they released me they advised me against having sex for a week due to the surgery, and the fact that I had a lot of my innards moved around.  Jay lasted three days; he was used to us having sex one, sometimes two, times a day.  He begged me to at least try, that I wouldn’t know if it would actually hurt until I tried.  That if I truly loved him I would try.  He promised he would stop if I told him it hurt.  I believed him.  So we tried to have sex.  I told him to stop because it hurt.  He didn’t.  I begged him to stop; he said it wouldn’t take much longer.  He raped me that night, rolled over, and went to sleep.  I cried most of that night, lying on my side.  In the morning he apologized, and promised nothing like that would happen again.  I believed him; after all I wasn’t planning on having any more abdomen surgery so this wouldn’t be an issue again.

That Sunday I was a passenger in my mom’s car when she came to visit.  She made a left turn and a car plowed into my side of the car.  I was the only one injured.  My kneecap was crushed, and I pinched three nerves in my lower back.  I couldn’t walk.  I was in so much pain.  I didn’t want to move at all.  Needless to say the last thing I wanted to do was have sex.  Not only was I not in the mood from being so physically injured, the pain that sex would cause was undeniable.  Jay, again, lasted only 3 days.  I can’t tell you how many times he raped me.  I can’t tell you how many times I was sexually assaulted in various ways.  He made me cyber with guys on the computer to ‘help get me in the mood’.

It lasted for six months.  For six months I was raped, abused, tormented, and tortured.  All by the man who helped me bathe because I couldn’t do it myself.  By the man who took me to all my doctors appointments because I had no one else.  The man who picked up my prescriptions.  My physical therapist couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better.  It took me six months before I was strong enough to tell him to stop.

A month in I knew it wouldn’t stop.  So I did the only thing I could, I gained weight.  Food was the only aspect of my life I had control over.  He had to help me with everything else.  So I ate.  I was unable to walk or move so gaining weight was easy.  I thought if I made myself big enough, unattractive enough, he would leave me alone.  It also helped me look on the outside as I felt on the inside.  Worthless, ugly, disgusting, and completely unlovable.  If I couldn’t stand to look at me, how could he?

After I escaped that relationship I was completely broken.  I was a robot, void of soul and emotions.  I did what I was supposed to to pay rent.  I went through the motions, but I wasn’t at all in my body for five years.  In those five years I didn’t want anyone near me.  I didn’t want anyone touching me. I didn’t want anyone close to me.  The weight seemed to do that.  People looked at me differently.  They kept their distance.  So I didn’t try to correct this problem, I made it worse.  If I couldn’t stand to be in my own skin, how could anyone else stand to be near my skin?

Five years later I was brutally woken up when a strange man touched me.  I had a complete melt down that involved scratching most of the skin off my arm where I was touched.  I finally had to tell someone what had happened to me.  No one knew.  Not my mother.  Not my father.  Not my best friend.  Granted I lost most of my friends due to the fact for the last six years I secluded myself away into my own little world where people on the outside simply didn’t exist.

I saw a rape counselor.  I went to group sessions.  I learned that I would always feel broken.  That my soul would always be shredded.  That he stole something from me that I would never get back.  I believed all of this because that is exactly how I felt.  Despite trying to get better mentally and emotionally … I kept the weight on.  Despite having a membership to a gym and access to a pool.  I didn’t want to lose the weight.  By that time it was my security blanket.  It kept people at bay.  No one could hurt me again; no man would rape me again, as long as I continued to look as I looked.  I was safe.  No one would get close to someone who looked like me.

This lasted a year before I went to Massage School.  I wanted to learn how to touch people again, and to be touched again.  It was impossibly hard for me to go through.  I never told anyone at the school how I wanted to vomit every time someone touched me.  I don’t think anyone could understand how it made me feel powerful that I could touch something and elicit a response … even if it was simply relaxing … and not have to give any response of my own.  I learned how not to engage in touch, how to keep my bubble up.  Massage School taught me how to be a wonderful massage therapist…but I warped some of that teaching into how to further keep me emotionally separated from my body.

I told myself, then, that I was ready to lose weight. I was ready to shed this shell of protection.  But the truth is … I wasn’t.  I didn’t want intimacy. I didn’t want people close to me.  I used their judgments and their looks as weapons, reasons, to keep myself locked away from all the hurt people cause.  I wanted physical touch, but I didn’t want to feel anything about it. I didn’t want it to mean anything.  And I found a comfortable way, a known way, to do that.  My lifestyle fit my needs perfectly.

Then along came a man who turned my world upside down.  Somehow he managed to become more important than my fears, more important than my doubts, and more important than my self-loathing.  My desire to know Jeremy came with a twist I didn’t expect.  Jeremy introduced me to Jesus.  Everything changed.  Everything is still changing.  Some things I still struggle with.  My weight is one of them.

For the first time I wanted to connect with someone on an emotional, intimate level.  I began to earnestly want to lose weight.  Life has a way of interrupting that.  I got cancer.  Then after I got cancer I injured myself at work in a way that left me unable to walk for 2 years.  An injury I am still dealing with and one that has left me with only the pool to work out in.  Needless to say up until recently I haven’t been able to lose weight.  I did have a lot of time to get to know the Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Now Jeremy and I are getting married, and I haven’t lost the weight I wanted to.  I am nowhere near the size 8 I was before what happened.  I still can’t stand to look at myself.  I am terrified of what people will think.  I am embarrassed by the judgmental looks I get when we go out.  I hate my body.  Steve took beautiful pictures of us.  Pictures of my future husband and myself; and I can’t even stand to look at myself.  I want to stab the part with me, scratch out my face, and just keep the part with Jeremy.

I am struggling, bad, with seeing myself as God sees me, as His daughter.  My wedding dress is beautiful, but I cry because of the size.  I cry because people will see the fat shape I morphed myself into to keep me safe.  How can anyone see me, when I can’t even see myself in my reflection?

I know this is my own pride and vanity.  I know it is my own sin.  I am praying and begging the Holy Spirit for help in this.  Because I know I can’t change how I see myself on my own.  I try to repent by telling myself how God sees me.  But I only feel stupid in saying it.  I feel like I am lying to myself, which I know is a lie.  But this doesn’t make it any easier.  I want to be able to look at those beautiful pictures and not want to cry.  I want to be able to look at my wedding photos and not feel horrific shame at how I look.  I want to feel only love and excitement over those pictures.  But I don’t know how to get there.

I need help.  I need prayer.  I am not sure if anyone around me realizes how deeply this goes.  How strongly it affects me.  It is a big deal to me.  I don’t want to get an eating disorder.  I don’t want to break every mirror I come across.  I don’t want to burn my beautiful engagement photos or my wedding photos.  I am struggling, bad.  And I hate writing all of this.  I want to be able to say I am comfortable and confident in my skin.  But I am not.  I am disgusted and ashamed.

I know I am going to the pool, and I am losing weight.  I know it will happen eventually.  But I don’t want my self-image to depend on my weight.  I don’t want to teach that to my children.  I don’t want to feel like this between now and then.  And I don’t want to hate my wedding day because everyone is looking at me … seeing me … and all my fat.

So please, pray for me, over these next 17 days.  I really need help for the Holy Spirit to really dig out these lies, to pluck out my own eyes so I can see myself with God’s eyes.  I know it will probably take more than 17 days; but maybe it will be a little less severe.  Our LORD can do miracles.  I just … I need a lot of help, encouragement, and support.  And rather than hiding this as I normally do … I am taking the chance of exposing myself.  May it help you, as much as it will help me.  I know all women have body image issues.

LORD, Abba Father, Brother Jesus, Holy Ghost … please help me.

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The LORD’s name for me

“No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.” (Genesis 17:5)

“(15)Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. (16) And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.’” (Genesis 17:15-16)

“And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’” (Genesis 32:28)

“(17) Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (18) And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.’” (Matthew 16:17-18)

“Then Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him.” (Acts 13:9)

I was saved four years ago this autumn.  Very soon after I was saved by the blood of Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit laid something on my soul.  The problem was that I was a new Christian, I didn’t know much about the Holy Spirit, and I thought this ‘thing’ being laid onto my heart was just in my head.  I was told to change my name.  That I was such a completely different person, this change went down to the very roots of my being.  I am not the person I used to be.  I am nowhere near that person.  But I didn’t understand the fact I was a new creation.  I didn’t have the Biblical knowledge that God did this sort of thing; changed people’s names at key moments in their life.

You see I, Sarah, was a practicing pagan: a Druid.  I had a spell book, practiced rituals, and belonged to a grove.  I regularly communed with spirits.  I was also heavily into the BDSM community.  I was a submissive, a sexual slave.  Sarah is a masochist.  In my life I have had numerous sexual encounters with males and females, some younger and some much older, some married.  On top of all of that I persecuted Christians.  I mocked them, belittled them, and lashed out at them in so many horrific ways.  I told myself it made us ‘even’ since it was the Catholics who burned Druids, and tortured Shamans.  I think somewhere in my heart I was angry at Jesus for doing this, or supporting this, or thinking this was okay.  I assumed this is what Christians wanted.  And I was adamantly against reading the Bible to learn any differently.

Then I got cancer and I started to read the Bible thanks to the pushing of my fiancé Jeremy.  I read the book of John three times before I had surgery to remove the tumors.  I was terrified of the surgery.  My neck is the one place on my body where I am not supposed to have cut open.  I prayed a lot that day as I waited to be taken back.  Then, right before I went under, I heard the most amazing thing.  Three words were spoken to me that changed my entire life.  I heard Jesus say to me, “You are mine.”

When I woke up everything was different.

Everything had changed.  I actually couldn’t remember anything about my old religion.  I couldn’t tell you the names of the gods or goddesses.  I couldn’t remember if it was Winter Solstice or a Winter Equinox.  I couldn’t remember my spells.  I couldn’t remember the meaning behind any of my rituals.  My desire to go back to the fetish club was gone.  For the first time in my life I began to long for monogamy and hungered for marriage.  I found myself thirsting for the Word, and I began to read my Bible a lot.  I stopped persecuting Christians and instead publically proclaimed myself one.  I lost almost all of my friends.  My entire world turned upside down.  Nothing about me was the same.  From the inside out I felt different.  Everyone who was still around me began to pick up on the difference.  I no longer responded to things and situations as Sarah would have.

Back then, nearly four years ago, the Holy Spirit laid it on my heart to change my name.  I resisted Him.  I told myself it was just my imagination.  I knew that it would hurt my mom deeply if I changed my name.  I couldn’t even begin to fathom how to get people to start calling me a new name.  I convinced myself it was too much work for such a little thing.  For such a simple thing.  So every time the Holy Spirit continued to bring it up, I shoved it back down.  It was nonsense.  I told the Holy Spirit it wasn’t something that happened in the Bible.  So He took me to several verses, the ones above, to show me it was Biblical.  That when Jesus grabs a hold of someone for God they so completely change that they are a new person.  A new creation.  Who Sarah was died four years ago.  She was left under the water when I was baptized.  Someone new came out of that water.  Someone I am still learning and at times fighting for.

What has brought this to a head in these last few weeks is that I began attending a Redemption Group.  I signed up because I read the most wonderfully horrific book I have ever read in a long time, “Rid of My Disgrace” by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb.  If you have ever been raped, sexually assaulted, or abused this is a book I HIGHLY recommend reading.  It took me nearly three months to read it.  It was so hard, but in reading it I realized I have PTSD from being tormented and raped all those years ago.  Despite having seen a rape counselor I am not okay.  I realized he helped me merely to function again as a normal human being, but I wasn’t healed.  I was so broken inside and I had just come to accept the fact I would always be broken.  For six months of my life I was tortured in a hell I couldn’t escape.  Then I lost five years of my life because I was completely checked out of my life.  I haven’t grieved all of that.  All the gritty, horrific, terrifyingly painful memories.

And I have been fighting the Holy Spirit again.  He is walking me through this.  He is the reason I joined a Redemption Group.  On the first night He pressed in on me so tightly.  Despite what Jay did to me I am a new creation in Christ.  I am completely redeemed.  I can be whole through the cross.  The blood of Jesus covers even what happened to me.  My identity can no longer be there, nor can it be held captive any longer.  I struggle with this concept.  I struggle with fear.  I struggle with the weight the Holy Ghost, HG, has placed on my soul.

I am not who I was.  I haven’t been for four years.  For four years I have been a new creation.  I am a new woman, a fresh and good tree, one who bears the figged fruited desires of God.  HG has told me the name of this new creature, this new being, this godly woman.  And I am scared to call me by His name for me.  I still don’t want to hurt my mom.  I don’t want to offend her because I don’t think she will understand.  I know this is a fear of man issue.  I know Jesus gave me a name.  I know I need to start using it.  So I pray I have the strength.

Abba, Father … You are wonderful, mighty, and worthy of praise.  I can’t believe you wanted a wretch like me.  I am in humbled awe that You, Jesus, pursued me for 30 years.  You never gave up.  LORD you are so good.  You are so incredibly good to me.  Thank you for giving me this chance to be the woman You want me to be.  Thank You for taking out my heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh.  Holy Spirit, please, I beg you to be with me.  You have been after me for nearly four years now to do this.  I want to stop resisting you.  I want to fall into the freedom of Your strength, guidance, and control of my life.  You wove me together from the very start.  LORD You had a name for me from the beginning.  Please give me the wisdom to explain this change to those who question.  I need Your strength.  I will curl up in the comfort of your arms Heavenly Daddy.  I will be your daughter.

My name is Lael (Lay-el).  It means “Belongs to God.”

I pray that will always be true.  I hope to always strive to live up to this name You have given me.  In Jesus’ most holy, profound, and wonderful name I pray.  Amen.

Abba, Father I am struggling

“(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  (4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NKJV)

“(2) Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (3) because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (4) Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”   (James 1:2-4 NIV)

“(2) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (3) for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  (4) And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1:2-4 ESV)

 

This is one of those life verses for me.  My life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses these last four years.  And I have only been a Christian for four years.  I didn’t become a Christian lightly or by chance.  It was by God’s design.  In God’s providence He prepped me right as I found out I had cancer.  The Holy Spirit gave me the will to read the Gospel of John three times before I had the surgery to have the cancerous tumors removed.  And then right before I went under Jesus spoke to me three very simple words, “You are mine.”

Those three words changed everything.  They rocked my world.  When I woke up everything was different.  I was a completely different person.  If I had the money I would have legally changed my name.  So many I was ‘lucky’ in the sense that I got saved while dealing with cancer.  I was never under the false impression that my life would be easy simply because I was a Christian.  Which is a really good thing because my life has been one really had challenge after another since Jesus reached down and claimed me for His team.

I have trials of many, various kinds.  And I put the three different versions of these verses up there because I think if you read the slightly different variations you get more out of them.  Or at least I do.  All of Scripture is God breathed, so I believe the various versions can really help paint an over all picture of what my Father is trying to say to me.  Especially when I am not feeling very patient, steadfast, or filled with perseverance.  I get there most days, but some days it is hard to reach that spot.  It is a daily walk, or hobble in my case.

My struggle right now is personal, and has nothing to do with my physical health.  It is a struggle I have been dealing with for a long time so I am actually pretty good at steadfastness and perseverance.  I waiver on the patience more than I ought to.  I try to change things even though I know I can’t.  All I can do is pray and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  The one aspect of this struggle that I have a very hard time grasping is counting it as a joy.

I don’t see it as a joy at all.  It is painful.  It causes my heart harm.  Some nights this struggles has me cry myself to sleep.  I don’t know how to look at it and see it as a blessing.  It just hurts.  And I know it likely won’t stop hurting any time soon.

I know my lack of patience is a sin.  I know I am supposed to wait upon the Lord.  And when I am waiting during my trials, while I am persevering, and holding steadfast I am to turn to Jesus because he is my strength.  I know I cannot do this on my own.  I am not even sure why I try.  Pride.  Pride is why I try if I am honest.  I think I can handle this on my own, that I can do this on my own, that I should be able to take care of things on my own.  Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  I am not sure why my pride comes out so strongly when I am struggling.  Humility, humbly seeking out Jesus should always be my first response.

I, of course, say it is.  But I don’t do much more than say a quick prayer to him while I am annoyed.  I don’t seek Jesus out in His word.  In my frustrations and fears I turn inward, wanting to figure everything out myself (my pride again) and I alienate everyone around me.  Rather than turning to those who love me for help, rather than seeking the aid of fellow Christians, and rather than seeking out godly counsel.  Besides, I am in too bad a mood to listen to it anyway.  I wouldn’t want to subject them to me (pride again) so it is better if I just keep to myself.  The devil is really good at telling me little lies to feed my frustrations and lead me further and further from the very person who can help me.  Jesus.

Humility is hard.  Telling someone you can’t do something, and that you need help is hard.  Swallowing my pride and going before a large group of people and asking for help is hard.  Getting angry, getting frustrated, getting annoyed, and withdrawing from the world is easy.  The devil always makes his path easier than God’s path.  That is why his traps are so easy to fall into.  God’s way takes thought, effort, consideration, love, devotion, care, and utter selflessness.  We have to die to ourselves which means giving up my pride.

Which is really a kinda funny, odd sorta thing to realize.  The biggest struggle I have with finding joy in Jesus is pride.  Pride is the biggest thing this world tries to sell me.  I would rather have Jesus.  The joy isn’t what is important, Jesus is.  And I need to realize that when I go down that easier path, when I pick pride, annoyance, frustration, and anger….I am telling Jesus that He isn’t worth it.  I am telling Jesus He isn’t the most important thing.  I am telling Jesus He is second place.  I am saying Jesus, even though you are God and have promised me only good things….I don’t trust you enough to handle this.  So I am going it on my own.  I don’t need you.

“I don’t need you”

Those four words make my soul shutter, and I cry thinking about how my actions and deeds actually say that to Jesus.  I am horrified and shamed to think of how those four words stack up to the soul sweet, life altering three words Jesus spoke to me, “You are mine.”  And the thing is Jesus doesn’t need me.  Jesus wants me.  Jesus wants me and loves me.  Jesus pursues me even when I betray Him and give Him a gabillion reasons not to.  I am not just undeserving of Jesus, I am ill-deserving.  It is a miracle and a mystery why He would want me and love me.  I am just grateful God does.  And I am grateful that the Holy Spirit never gives up on me and is always by my side to pick me up again.

I know I will go to bed tonight wrecked and in tears over this struggle, repenting in my heart with the pure hope I will do better tomorrow.  I am also shamefully afraid that tomorrow I will do just as bad a job of it.  The one thing I am not afraid of, though, is losing Jesus’ love.  I do not fear the Holy Spirit turning His back on me no matter the countless times I have, and will, turn my back on Him.  I pray I will do a better job tomorrow.  I pray for joy in this trial, as well as the others in my life.  I know that Jesus fully understands what I am going through.  I know the Holy Spirit knows my mind and heart.  I know my Heavenly Father will answer my prayers, and only give me good things.  I know this in my heart to be true.  I just have to be patient.  I need to persevere.  I need to worship Him in steadfast love and adoration.

Abba Father, you know I am not perfect at this.  You know I never will be perfect this.  I will never give up trying.  Just as I know you will never give up on me, your daughter.  Thank you for being a dad on whose chest I can beat my fists in pain and frustrations.  Thank you for being a daddy in whose lap I can curl up and cry out my sorrows on Your chest.  Thank you Dad, for being somewhere safe for me to be myself, where I am enough….in all my flaws, brokenness, and imperfections …it is nothing but beauty and perfect for you.  Thank you for always being the one man in my life I can count on to be faithful, honest, and true.  To love me without conditions, restrictions, and comparisons.  Abba Father, I know you are Holy and Divine and Righteous.  The Creator of heaven and earth.  But tonight, right now, you are my heaven dad.  Just that, right now, for me.  So thank you daddy, for being here for me.  I love you when you are Mighty, and I love you when you are mine.  I love you when I am Yours.  Amen

Today before Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Good Friday.  Tomorrow is Passover, the day Jesus willingly, submitted Himself to being betrayed, beaten, tortured, and then crucified.  Jesus knew what tomorrow was.  He knew what it would bring.  He had set His face toward Jerusalem and toward the cross for months now.  Knowing what His tomorrow would look like I can’t imagine what His today felt like.  I have only one day to try and compare this to and it is nowhere near a comparison.  It is probably even shameful and wrong for me to call it a comparison, but it is the best I can do in trying to even remotely wrap my head around what Jesus went through today.

I had flown out to visit a friend of mine with the hopes of building on the friendship to become something more.  I went out there knowing something was wrong with our friendship, but that maybe some face to face time could bring about some truth and honest and we could get back on the right track.  The first few days went fine.  Then we had a really good night of dinner and conversation.  We connected mentally and there was some real honesty.  Some real vulnerability.  I felt we had taken a step in the right direction.  I was happy.

Then I found it the next day.  A gift from another girl.  And what I already knew to be true had finally be confirmed.  I knew I had been betrayed.  I knew he was going to admit to the betrayal when he got home and I confronted him on it.  But that was not for several hours.  So what could I do right now?  I did the one thing I am really good at doing when I am upset, I cleaned.  I cleaned from top to bottom.  His entire apartment I cleaned it.  I even made him a really nice dinner to eat for when he came home.  Then I sat down on the couch and watched the sun go down, and I waited.

I don’t know how long I waited. I know the house got dark.  When he got home, he ate.  I didn’t say anything to him at first.  He didn’t say anything either.  The apartment was very quiet.  I think the silence lasted an hour or so before I finally confronted him.  Needless to say the conversation didn’t go well.  I unpacked everything he ever gave me, and left them there on the floor of his apartment in the corner so he wouldn’t see them at first.  I wanted to hurt him as he had hurt me.  Then I left.  He drove me to the airport.  I was devastated.  I felt betrayed down to my very soul.  I wanted to be so angry, but the truth was I was so hurt.  It hurt so much that I did nothing but cry that entire night and many nights after.

Thankfully Jesus did not respond as I did.  I had only been a Christian for a handful of months, and that isn’t an excuse.  But I can look back on that situation and say I did not understand Jesus’ tomorrow, or even Jesus’ today….to treat my friend the way I did.  I behaved shamefully.  I behaved selfishly.  I did not behave lovingly at all.  And it may not look that way to a lot of people, and a lot of you might say I did the right thing or that he had he coming to him.  Thankfully Jesus doesn’t think nor behave like any of us.  The problem is I just gave you a snap shot of the story for a reason.  You don’t know everything that was going on in our relationship.

Even so I can’t think of the number of times I have betrayed Jesus.  I know I have denied Him countless time.  I have cheated on Him with other idols.  I have put stupid things before Him.  I have cussed Him out.  I have belittled His words and everything He has done for me.  The things I do to Jesus on a weekly, daily, monthly, yearly, repetitively basis makes what this man did to me seem like nothing.  And Jesus still went to the cross for me.  Jesus still took every lash from the scourge for me.  He took every blow from a balled fist for me.

Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him for thirty silver to have Him murdered.  He still washed Judas’ feet.  Jesus still had a meal with Judas.  He still spoke with Judas all day.  He was still a friend to Judas up until the very end.  Even after Judas betrayed Him, Jesus didn’t lash out at him.  My friend betrayed me to a much lesser degree, and I couldn’t even share a meal with him.  I didn’t even really have a conversation with him.  I convicted him.  I tore into him.  I got very self righteous and condemning.  But I didn’t reach out a hand.  I didn’t try to help him at all.  I didn’t listen to his struggles.  I didn’t even think to shine a light into the dark place he was because his darkness had caused me pain.  And I was wrong for that.  I did my friend a great injustice in that.  I wasn’t a friend that day.  I put myself first.

Jesus, thankfully, isn’t like me.  And I keep thinking that today.  He isn’t like me at all.  I wonder if today Jesus savored what little time He had left with Judas.  Today would be the last time Jesus would get to spend time with His friend.  Jesus would see all His other disciples again, both in this life and in heaven.  After today Judas would never again be a part of Jesus’ life.  They would never share a conversation.  They would never share a meal.  They would never laugh over a joke.  Knowing what I have learned of Jesus through my study of Scripture I am sure this made my Lord and Savior sad.  So I wonder if today Judas got a little extra time, a little extra attention.  Not because it would change anything, but because Jesus loved Judas.  Judas was His friend.  Even though it is hard for my mind to comprehend I think Jesus is going to miss Judas, despite everything.

And I think about that day for me, and I am humbled and ashamed.  Because I stood there on my high horse of self-righteousness spouting off about how I loved him and I wouldn’t betray him.  And there I was not loving him and betraying him at the same time.  And it has taken me a few years to realize that, to come to a place where I can look at that moment and see ….. wow….I really dropped the ball here.  I really was unloving.  He invited me out, knowing I would find out about this betrayal and this dark spot.  He trusted me to deal with it with him.  And I betrayed that trust.  I told him he wasn’t worth it.  That his betrayal, and my pain, were worth more to me than he was.  Than our friendship was.  And there I thought I was in the right.  I wasn’t.

Jesus gave me this awesome chance to really step into a role He Himself had.  He gave me a chance to learn a lesson He Himself had to learn.  Jesus gave me this amazing opportunity to grow in intimacy with Him, to know Him better by walking with Him down this path.  And I threw it back in my Lord faith. I said “Nope!  This is too hard!  This is too painful!  I ain’t goin there!!”  And I turned my back on what God said I had the strength to do, and I turned my back on my friend.  And I hurt the both of us so deeply.  My friend was in a dark place, and Jesus gave me an opportunity to shine His light into my friend’s life to help him find a way back to Christ…..and I completely failed.  I dropped the ball.  Because I was selfish.

And I know the world’s way of thinking what agree with me on this.  I know many people won’t agree with me on this.  But there is the world’s way of thinking….and then there is the Kingdom’s way of thinking that Jesus taught us.  I am to follow the example of Jesus, and that day I didn’t.  Kingdom ethics don’t put me first, they our neighbor first.  No matter what anyone says my actions didn’t shine the light of Christ into the situation nor into either of our lives.  Rather they continued to shroud us further in darkness.  And I owe my friend an apology.  So I am very, very sorry.

Strugging with being led

“(1) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  (2) And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.

(3) Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’

(4) But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by the very word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”’” (Matthew 4:1-4)

 

Then Jesus was led.  Led.  My Almighty Savior and Lord was led.  He followed someone else.  Jesus was subservient to another person’s will.  He was submissive in walking second in line rather than first in line.  And Jesus lost none of His strength, none of His dignity, Jesus didn’t become less valuable in doing so, and He certainly didn’t become any less God.  These four words are some of my favorite in the Bible because they justify me as a submissive woman and they challenge the world’s long held beliefs on what it means to be submissive.

These four words also challenge me by what follows them.  Jesus did not just submit to any Tom, Dick, or Harry.  Jesus Christ followed the will of the Holy Spirit.  If you are going to follow anyone, the Holy Spirit should be it.  And that is where I am challenged.  Before I became a Christian I was really good at following various Dominants, or Masters/Mistresses.  I was a fairly obedient submissive.  I know how to follow physical instruction well.  Go here, do this, come back.  I follow baking and cooking instructions perfectly too.  And I am actually really good at putting together furniture from the complicated instruction things you get from stores.  If you gave me directions, or a map, I can find my way anywhere.  I am pretty good at following.

But then I became a Christian and the one thing I was really good at was challenged.  The Holy Spirit led Jesus, and I am to be like Jesus, which means I need to be led by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is the Holy Spirit doesn’t come with a map, an instruction manual, or a Google webpage of ‘How To’s”.  Or at least not a reliable one made by a sane person.  Instead I have to get to know Him.  And that meant recognizing the fact that the Holy Spirit is indeed a Him.  Then I have to begin to recognize His voice among all the other noise going on in my head and heart.  I needed to cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit.  At this point I realized this would take time.  This made me realize that Jesus didn’t just come up from being baptized in the Jordan, introduce Himself to the Holy Spirit, and follow Him perfectly immediately.  Jesus had spent years, probably His entire life, getting to know the Holy Spirit intimately and personally so that when this day came He could follow the Spirit into the wilderness easily without getting lost.

I know this is true because it says in various other places in Scripture that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit.  They knew one another that well.  Right now I don’t think the Holy Spirit would want to fill me.  I have too much stuff inside of me still that would completely offend Him.  Stuff I am working on with the Holy Spirit to clean up His living quarters inside of me.  So I can be filled and led.  But right now I am not there.  I feel the Holy Spirit’s urging me, or His guiding hand sometimes.  But it is never with the distinction of being led.  Or maybe I am just making up the distinction, but from the world I come from…when you submit to someone….there is a distinct difference between being guided by them….submitting to their urging…and being led.  Being led is like being blindfolded, hands tied behind your back, and completely trusting the other person to get you to the place you are going.  I can’t say I have that sort of trust yet with the Holy Spirit.  I still buck and ask too many questions, and demand to know too many answers.  And I know I don’t know the Holy Spirit well enough, yet, to perfectly hear His leading direction.

With those thoughts in mind I continue forward in my swimming in verse one to read where the Holy Spirit was leading Jesus to.  The Holy Spirit wasn’t taking Jesus to the nearest five star hotels.  The Holy Spirit wasn’t taking Jesus on the easiest and safest road.  The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness knowing Jesus had no tent, no food, no camping gear … nothing.  And what amazes me is that Jesus followed, knowing They were going out into the middle of nowhere with nothing on hand.  I know I wouldn’t have that kind of faith or trust.  I know that if the Holy Spirit began to lead me out into the mountains or the Cascades I would be like…..um no.  I would claim the Holy Spirit’s voice as me losing my mind.  I would turn my back and go home.

Jesus doesn’t do that.  He continues to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit into dangerous and unknown territory.  He knows the Holy Spirit well enough to trust Him.  Jesus doesn’t worry about His comfort, or His stomach, or His safety.  He trusts completely, wholly, and without reservation.  Jesus, instead, looks forward to this time to be alone with His Father.  He doesn’t worry about spending one day gorging on all His favorite foods before this fast.  He just follows the Holy Spirit, who leads Him into nowhere land, and says……Hey let’s fast and pray for 40 days and 40 nights.  And Jesus is okay with that.  He would rather spend time communing with His Father and with the Holy Spirit…..than eating, than sleeping in a bed, than hanging out and partying with His friends.  God is His priority.  In a way I can’t comprehend.  In a way I admire in awe, and with great humility.  Because this Man, this Jesus, would then come away from His time with God to be tortured, beaten, flogged beyond recognition, and then hung on a cross to bear the weight of my sin, the sin done against me, and all my shame.  And He followed God, and the Holy Spirit there, willingly…again.

Now I believe it is the book of James that says God does not tempt us to sin.  Only Satan, the world, and our flesh tempt us to sin.  But never God.  So I know and trust that completely.  Which makes the end of verse one hard for me to really grasp because the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Verse two tells me the tempting was not the only reason; there was communion with the Father as well, prayer, fasting, and by Jesus’ answers I am going to assume some Old Testament Scripture study occurred during those forty days and forty nights.  And I guess I struggle with this because I have this ‘world’ view that being a Child of God means God will lead me away from pain and suffering and only onto good paths away from bad things.

But if I were to read my Bible I would know differently.  Jesus tells me I will suffer if I follow Him.  Jesus warns me that if I follow the lead of the Holy Spirit I will be attacked by the devil, by people who hate Jesus and therefore hate will hate me, and that the storms will come.  Jesus actually prays for my protection in this world because the only way I will ever follow a safe path led by the Holy Spirit is outside of this world.  Apart from this world when I am in heaven.  And I want to rail against that, denying that claim saying no no no no no no…..my world will be perfectly safe, and a model of a little heaven with a house and a yard, and picture perfect.  The problem is when I do that I buy into the world, I invest into this world and this life and put it into the place of most importance….and I tell my Lord and my God and my Holy Spirit…..sorry you need to lower down on the list because I don’t agree with you.

In this little snippet of Scripture I am shown the right away.  What is wonderful about Jesus is that he doesn’t just tell me the way to do it, but He models this for me.  He doesn’t ask me to do anything He did not do in all His humanity rather than in His divinity.

After forty days and forty nights Jesus is hungry.  It seems like a no brainer statement, but I think a lot of us need to hear it.  I know I need to hear it.  Jesus is my Lord and Savior.  He rose from the dead.  He is my God.  So in my mind I tend to forget Jesus is also human.  He got hungry.  He needed to sleep.  He was fully human with all the weaknesses of our bodies.  I doubt not eating all those days was something easy for Him.  I am sure He had stomach cramps and pains.  I doubt He got cranky and testy like I would have, but it is a question I plan on asking Him.

So there Jesus was, unbelievably hungry, with the vague possibility of being cranky, and physically weak from lack of nourishment.  The Bible doesn’t tell us He was barely able to move, or that He was crawling, or unable to walk.  Jesus had His mind about Him.  He was standing with the devil on the pinnacle of the Temple.  I have seen people come out of a week long fast and they are almost like zombies.  They are completely drained.  Jesus, however, doesn’t seem to be like that at all and He fasted for forty days.  Which leaves me to believe there is some real truth to the words He speaks to the devil.  So real truth to that Scripture He quotes that I don’t always take advantage of.

First of all the devil challenges Jesus’ identity by saying ‘if’ He is the Son of God, as if Jesus might be unsure of who He is.  The thought seems ridiculous in the context of Jesus..but it is common place in the context of me.  I know I struggle sometimes with the identities the enemy wants to put on me to replace the identity Christ put on me.  I am in Christ.  I belong to Christ.  I am a Child of God.  I belong to Jesus.  I know this, but then little whispers in my ear bring up my past.  They tell me I am a sinner, I am a whore, I am a victim, I have been raped, I have led other people down into the pit with a smile on my face.  Sometimes I give in to those lies.  Sometimes I reach out to put on those identities again and cover up my true identity in Christ.  Jesus is the only identity that counts any more.  All the others have been washed away.

Jesus models how I should respond to this type of badgering.  This type of lie.  He doesn’t even acknowledge it.  It doesn’t affect Him.  Jesus is so secure in His knowledge of who He is He brushes the attempt away easily.  It doesn’t get to Him.  It doesn’t bother Him.  Which I think it is a very important point.  I know that when I respond to an identity being pinned on me it is because there is some small part of me that fears it is true, so I feel I have to defend my true identity.  The truth is I don’t need to defend my true identity.  My identity in Christ it the truth, and nothing can change the truth.  No matter what anyone says, Jesus has a hold of me and nothing will make Him let go.  I need to remember that.

Then Satan tries to get Jesus to perform on command like a dog trick or a pony.  Jesus will turn water into wine.  He will feed thousands upon thousands with a child’s lunchable.  If he wanted to, he could have done what the devil said.  He could have turned the rocks into magnificent feasts to eat.  Jesus doesn’t take orders from satan.  He doesn’t perform on command for His enemy.  He doesn’t need to justify Himself, or validate Himself, to anyone … much less a fallen angel who knows exactly who He is and what He is capable of.  And that is exactly what a lot of non-Christians want me to do.  They want me to perform on command for them so that they might believe or see Christ.  When they really have no interest of seeing Christ at all, they merely want to make me dance.  Jesus doesn’t perform on command for His enemies, for the Pharisees, to make them believers.  Neither should I.

The last part of this section is Jesus’ answer to Satan.  What I love about this is that Jesus answers a non-believers question with Scripture.  He quotes text from Deuteronomy.  Men don’t live on bread alone, they are sustained by the words of God.  And Jesus is proof of that.  Forty days he didn’t have food and he came out of that with His mind intact.  He wasn’t feeble.  He wasn’t falling over.  He wasn’t near death.  Jesus fed His soul, which in turn fed His body.  Which is something that goes against science.  I am, by no means, encouraging people to not eat.  I don’t even think people should go out and fast for forty days and nights without seriously talking to their doctors first.  They aren’t Jesus.  We aren’t filled with the Holy Spirit.  We don’t have that sort of relationship, but it has been done in the past by others.  So it is doable.  But it is just something for me to think about.  I eat three meals a day and what not to feed my body.  Am I reading enough Bible, or doing enough study in God’s word, to feed my soul?  Or is my soul starving?

Back to my original thought, I love that Jesus answers this question with Scripture.  I know a lot of people argue non-Christians with science and everything else.  They do combat on academic worlds and planes.  Jesus quotes Scripture.  The perfect book that God wrote is enough.  People may ridicule me for quoting Scripture to them, but at least I know that the source is good and Holy and right.  The point of teaching I get from this is that Jesus didn’t quote Scripture to Satan to convert him.  Jesus knew it was impossible.  He knew there is no forgiveness for Satan and his minions.  Jesus quoted Scripture because it is the truth.  So when I discuss religion with people and my only book source is the Bible….I am not trying to convert them or win the argument.  The only agenda I have in the conversation is sharing the light of Jesus into their life for whatever amount of time they will allow me.  What happens to those seeds afterward is up to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus spoke Scripture because it was true; and not simply because He wanted to be right.  I need to repent of wanting to be right, or to be understood.  I simply need to share what is true and let the Holy Spirit have His way.  Which goes back to that leading thing.

Hope because I am Reconciled

“(1)Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  (3) And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulations produces perseverance;  (4) and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  (5) Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

(6) For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  (8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(9) Much more than, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  (10) For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  (11) And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Romans 5:1-11)

 

This is a section of scripture that is very timely for me to hear.  It is also one I have to really pour myself into the very depths of, to drink up every last drop, and saturate my very soul in the depth of what these few sentences are saying.  I want to rush right into the hope spoken about in verse four.  I want to go there, grip there, and hold there.  But I know if I rush to the hope, and skip over everything else my grip will be weak, my hold will be shallow, and at the first shake I will lose what is in my hands.  I need to start at the reason for my hope: reconciliation.

Before I become a Christian I had no clue I needed to be reconciled to God.  I had heard Jesus died for my sins, but I didn’t get the whole “wrath averted” aspect of it.  It was a very little gesture to me.  This was back when I thought I was a good person.  I had never killed anyone.  I didn’t cheat people.  I wasn’t a liar.  I didn’t hurt people.  I didn’t steal.  I didn’t break the law.  I worked.  I paid taxes.  I was a nice person.  People seemed to enjoy my company, so why wouldn’t God?  I didn’t get it, at all.

I had gone to Church on Sunday since I was a child and I never once heard that I was an enemy of God.  No one told me that I was a sinner through and through, and thus I was at war with God.  I was on the losing side.  No one had ever told me I was deserving of God’s wrath.  The anger He poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah, His displeasure that came with the flood, and the righteous fury He will devastate the world with in Revelations is all something I was worthy of enduring.  I had earned such treatment.  No matter what justifications I could come up with, all of them will fall short of the Glory of God.  There was nothing I could do.  There is nothing I can say.  And it is a terrifying thought to sit in, to look at.  To know that I was against God, I was His adversary, I was His enemy.  Even though I thought I was good person.  Despite all my good deeds and good works I would still be destroyed.  I would still endure His wrath.

With that pulsing in my heart I look at the cross with new eyes.  I get what Paul was saying in Romans.  It is hard to find who will die for a righteous man.  Only a very small handful of people would even die for a good man.  We all like to say “I’d die for you” to the ones we love.  Some actually do this.  And we lift those people up, as we should.  Jesus commends the giving of our life for a friend.  But how many of us would give up our life for our enemy?  How many of us would be willing to get tortured, and then put to death for someone you are at war with?  Picture your enemy in your mind, bring that person’s face into your mind.  The person who hates you, persecutes you, ridicules you, and makes your life a living hell.  How many of us would give up everything in our lives to be tortured and put to death so that person could live?  I know I couldn’t do it.  I wouldn’t have the strength.  It takes a supernatural strength to do something like that.  It takes the Holy Spirit.

Jesus did that for me.  I was His enemy.  I was at war with Jesus as a non-believer.  I was in the crowd shouting “CRUCIFY HIM!”                 I was the soldier who hammered in the nails.  I was one of the guards who held the whip to scourge Him.  Judas betrayed Him for 30 silver; I would have done it for less.  I know all of this in my heart.  Jesus knows all of this about me in His heart.  And Jesus thought of me when each one of these happened.  He thought of me as He suffered.  He suffered each one of these things for me, His enemy.  He died the shame of the cross to reconcile me to God, to Himself.  So that when I stand before God I do not stand in the shadow of His wrath.  Instead I am bathed in the brilliant red light of Christ’s blood.  When God looks on me now He sees the righteousness of Jesus because I believed in Jesus and what He did.  All the wrath I have accrued, all the wrath I will accrue, was poured out on Jesus on the cross.  And Jesus went there willingly in my place, with me in mind, so I wouldn’t have to.

Through my faith in Jesus I am now justified.  I am cleansed.  I am now at peace with God.  I am in His good graces.  He poured out His grace on me through His only Son Jesus, and now I am able to be drenched to the core, full up and overflowing with, His grace if I only believe and trust His word.  The word above.  If I can hold to the truth of the scripture I read today in Our Daily bread.  Which is really hard for me considering I am going through the very thing it speaks about in the third verse.  My Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is coming back.  I have a lot of extreme, intense pain to look forward to.  I might lose more nerves in my leg.  I might lose my ability to walk again.  My foot is already swelling to the point that my shoe is hard to put on.  I will again have to be put on morphine, oxycodine, and gabapentin.  I will again lose the facilities of my mind.  I will again have to rely on other people to take me places because of my inability to drive.  I will have to rely on other people to help do every day things.  I fear the pain.  I am frustrated at the helplessness I know will come.  I really don’t want to do this again.  I don’t want this tribulation.

But just because I don’t want something doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a purpose and design through it.  Jesus didn’t want to be crucified, but God used it to save everyone who believes.  I know if I can trust the Bible that the world was made in six days that this should be no problem.  To worship God through tribulations does teach me how to persevere.  It also gives me a chance to understand a small portion of what Jesus went through.  It gives me a chance to draw closer to my Lord and Savior in a way others who don’t suffer can’t.  Because when I can’t walk, when I am weak, He is there to carry.

And I don’t know if that will help me build character, but it will help me grow and nurture a relationship with my Father, and with my Savior.  It will help me cultivate a prayer filled needful relationship with the Holy Spirit.  It will force me to rely on Them, rather than myself.  It will give me a more godly aspect to who I am, it will help draw me into Their intimate relationship in a way I couldn’t do if I wasn’t going to go through this again.  So maybe that is what Paul is talking about when he mentions character.  And if this is what he means he is right when he says this will lead to hope.

Hope is where I want to be.  Hope that it will be better.  Hope that I will be better, from the inside out.  Hope that people will see what the Lord is doing for me on the inside, rather than what I am experiencing in the world on the outside.  I have a hope that I can cleave to scripture and the truth of these words and others like that.  That when I am at my weakest, Jesus is my strength and He is strong enough.  Hope that I can trust in that without faltering and giving into my ‘what ifs’ or the here and now of pain.  Hope that my focus can remain vertical on all the good God is doing for me…..and I can shine His glory to the world…..rather than having my focus be horizontal and worldly and glow with the ache of circumstance.

“Count it all joy”

 

“(1) James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.
(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
(5) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (6) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
(7) For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:1-7)

 

It is the third word in that catches me and holds me with shame. You see James was not only a high priest of the Church, but he was also the biological brother of Jesus. James knew things, stories, about Jesus we will never know because they grew up together. Very few humans that have ever walked this earth can say that they were not only a high priest in Jesus’ Church, but that they were siblings of our Christ as well.

What blows my mind is what he does with this rare position of his. James throws it away. He proclaims himself a bondservant of his Savior, of his Brother. A servant. How many times have I addressed myself as a follower of Christ? A follower has a much loftier status than a servant. A follower has a right to question and to judge. A servant is obedient. A servant does not question his/her Master. A servant is not equal to his/her Master.

So which am I? Am I equal to Jesus? Do I have a right to question Him or judge His teachings? My free will, a very gift from God, say that I do; but my heart tells me different. When I accented Jesus as my Lord and Savior I gave up my free will, willing, and chose to be a servant of Christ. So why then do I still think of myself as a follower? Pride. The root of all evil.

Today’s world tries to convince me that I am no one’s servant. That servitude is wrong. So often the world tries to build me up as if I were a god myself; or that I could somehow find equal ground with the One true God; the God of Abraham; God the Father of our savior Jesus Christ. But the world is wrong. The Holy Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Ghost–is so far beyond our comprehension. I can never be equal to Him. I am the servant of Jesus Christ. I am the servant of God the Father. I am the servant of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because I love them and there is no room for pride in love.

(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,

That love, that surrender, and that servitude does not exclude me from hardships. I do not get a free pass and an easy life because I choose to devout my heart and soul to the living Christ. I can’t even say I wish it did. This last year has been pretty bad for me; but there is little I would change. Each hardship has taught me something new. Every rough turn in my life has enabled me to help another swim through their own rough waters. In all my nuggets of pain I have found blessings that I can count as joy.

God did not put these trials on me. He didn’t instigate my pain or these rough waters. God is a good God. Those rough waters were coming my way and Christ stepped in to give me aid. He kept my head afloat. He made the bad times worth it due to the blessings I gout out of them. It was only through the power of Christ I was able to keep my peace. Through it all I was able to find a smile-sometimes through tears-and know it would all be okay.

I don’t think I counted enough joy in this last year. I know my own self-pity, frustrations, and pain kept me from seeing all the ways in which Jesus carried me, and God blessed me. I know I missed many chances to allow the Holy Spirit to work through me. I am trying to change that. It isn’t something easily changed. It requires a lot of two things: patience and trust. Something a servant should have their Master in spades.

(3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

In a world filled with immediate gratification Patience is nearly impossible to find in people any more. I am often guilty of wanting things in my time, when I want them, and exactly how I want them. God, thankfully, doesn’t act according to my schedule and plan. He has His own. This very fact makes it very easy to slip into a “God why are you doing this to me” mindset. When we experience hardships, pain, and suffering it is so easy to blame God. It is true that He has the power to do anything so He could have altered everything to make it so you did not have to suffer. And I think the truth is God often does this. Think of all the ‘close calls’ you and your loved ones have had.

It can’t always be like that. If it were like that we would live in a perfect world. We don’t. Adam and Eve introduced sin into this world. And sin has been destroying it since then. It isn’t God’s fault when bad things happen; it is sin. Our sin, someone else’s sin, or just the fact that the world is no longer perfect and in the evil born out of the Fall of man some really nasty things were given life. So many diseases that aren’t God’s fault. But discussing the whole pointing fingers thing is an entirely different story.

The point I want to make is that God isn’t the cause; He is the solution. He is the light at the end of the tunnel. When bad things happen people find themselves in despair, lost and forgotten, because they didn’t have the patience to wait faithfully for God’s solution. Remember God does not work in our time. He works in His own time. Sometimes our own misery drags on longer than it should because we don’t turn to God soon enough, quick enough, often enough. We don’t have the faith in His goodness. We don’t have the patience for His time and His healing. I want it now. I want it my way.

This year has taught me so much patience. Now my patience isn’t perfect, but it does have a perfect work. It does work perfectly in me when I choose to practice it. That doesn’t mean my patience is flawless. What I am saying is that when I find my patience in my faith what happens inside me is perfect. When I find my patience in my faith I feel such peace. I am perfectly at ease. I no longer struggle or despair; I curl up against the chest of my Savior while He carries me through the thorns. The sense of peace is astounding.

Having patience in hardships isn’t about giving up. It isn’t about saying whatever will happen will happen. Because I am patient doesn’t mean I am completely resigned to accept whatever hardships come my way. My patience in my faith in Christ’s love and God’s goodness is a choice. It is a decision to look on it with the positive and loving light that no matter what happens I fully believe it will happen better in the end because of God. And I am willing to wait for that end to this storm with my Lord. It is about me being steadfast in the knowledge that God will handle things. Jesus will hold up His hand to calm my seas. I just need to wait for it, and to show Him I am willing to surrender my life until His hands.

 

(5) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

My decision of faithful patience didn’t come to me easily. Sometimes I still often struggle with it. I don’t have to struggle alone; thankfully. I often have to ask God for help. I often pray for the wisdom, faith, patience, and trust to rely fully on Him. I know He will give them to me. I know He will supply me with everything I need. I know this because of the above passage. It is just one of countless others that tells me the goodness of God.

He doesn’t negotiate. He gives liberally and easily. If wisdom and faith were skittles God wouldn’t keep His favorite colors to himself. When you asked for skittles He wouldn’t just give you one or two. God wouldn’t just pour a handful of skittles into your hand. God doesn’t just give you one bag of skittles and calls it good either. If you ask our Lord, in full faith, for ‘skittles’ you will find countless buckets of those rainbow colors all around you. There would be no end to them.
God only asks for one thing in return. Only one thing.

(6) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
(7) For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

God only desires for us to believe Him when He tells us He is a good God. He asks for our faith. How trusting does it sound for us to ask, “God please give me the strength to get through this, but I doubt you will.” We might not say the last part, but God can see into our hearts and be wounded by the doubts that rest there. How can any of us claim to have a passionate faith when we don’t trust what we have faith in?

God made the world in six days. God covered the entire world in the grate flood. God parted the red sea. Jesus performed countless miracles. Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead after he had been dead for four days. Jesus rose from the grave. The Holy Spirit moves inside you. Our Lord and Savior specializes in the impossible. He created this entire universe and all its natural laws. He has broken and ignored those laws countless times. If we have faith, and if we believe, everything the Bible teaches ..why should my small, tiny life be so impossible for Him to fix?

I am not beyond the reach of my Savior. My life, my hardships are not too much for Him to handle. I am not too small, too unimportant, for my God to notice. He loves me. He loves me specifically with a love so intense I can’t comprehend it. He will answer my prayers if I just trust in Him to do so. If I can only manage patience to wait for His glory to shine through. Because it isn’t about my time. I am not a follower of my God and Savior who can make demands and question His authority. I am a servant. I am obedient. I am trusting. And I have faith that my Master will not lead me astray or let me wander in the high, rocky places of life like a lost lamb.

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