Everything is not okay…and even so, I think I’ll be okay

What do you do when everything is not okay? How do you live life when it is no longer possible to pretend that’s your life is all right, that you know how to deal with the horrors you’re going through?

This might surprise you, but I don’t think we do anything in the common understanding of the word. Instead, we sit and watch. We ask God for a greater vision of what He’s doing and we trust Him to bring to pass what He reveals to us.

We use the time in front of us in a way that says “I’m letting God do what He’s doing with me. I’m not going to get in His way–though I’m surely going to be running His way a lot!” We recognize that we’re not going to come through this without His comfort. We believe that because He will give us His comfort, our entire test will become a blessing.

We don’t do this because we want to impress God. Neither do we do this because we hope our sheer willpower can make us more righteousness while we fight. We do this for such a higher reason: We do it so that we may not forfeit an opportunity to treasure the presence of God in moments He wants to redeem. We treat days and years and seasons of pain and pressure like missives written in code. We consider ourselves loaded down with grace not because we see so much good but because we know God does.

He knows where we are, and He may not move us, but He won’t let us mistake that He is right in our midst. Trials teach us to welcome Him in with greater abandon. The teach us that He defines our hope and that no one or no thing can cripple Him though they try to cripple us. We are safe in His arms. What ever wants access to us, to destroy us, must go through Him first.

Trials also bring out the sin in us; they impress us with the magnitude of what Christ did for us at the cross. They remind us that our greatest enemy has been vanquished. They encourage us that we are not beholden to our former orientations–we have been raised to live for Christ.

There is nothing to obsess over. There is only to walk the path He made ready. There is really nothing for us to settle, nothing for us to make right. God has done all that. He simply invites us to enjoy it, to come into the kingdom He has set up. After all, God allows trials in our lives because He wants to get us acquainted with what He can do, what He has done; He knows how handicapped we are when all we know is what we can do.

 

And God is important WHY?

If you’re wondering why God exists, or what is the point of all His works, you are in good company. The whole of His creation must ponder such questions when at their most honest and vulnerable.

What do we know of God, and what difference does it make? we ask. And how can we not ask it? Is this not the beginning of wisdom — to question what we know, and to seek to verify for ourselves what is true? To deny such questions and to forge ahead with such doubts so deeply ingrained in our consciousness would be quite an error on our part.

Oh, that we would have the courage to seek God’s truth! To desire that knowledge of Him — and not solely about Him — that will lead us to realities we’ve lived ignorant of our entire lives. Thought the end of this quest be a mystery, may our desire to test the reality of what we’ve heard and thought, be enough for us to move ahead.

The Work He Wants to Do

We cannot force God to do what we want Him to do in our lives, but we do have more power than we think. We can choose to receive from God whatever He wants to do for us in whatever form He chooses.

This is a gift that I think we too often over-look. We should be asking ourselves deeper questions: What could we be and do and have if we let God take first place in our lives? What could it be like to forfeit our earth-bound agendas in favor of abiding by His heaven-releasing promises?

I think it would mean that we were choosing to know God for the first time — not because we knew just how our faith was fully insured, but because we wanted to put no conditions on God so that we could experience for ourselves who He truly is.

What I’ve Finally Figured Out

Call me “the Quester.” I’ve been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I looked most carefully into everything, searched out all that is done on this earth. And let me tell you, there’s not much to write home about. God hasn’t made it easy for us. I’ve seen it all and it’s nothing but smoke—smoke, and spitting into the wind.

Life’s a corkscrew that can’t be straightened,
A minus that won’t add up.

I said to myself, “I know more and I’m wiser than anyone before me in Jerusalem. I’ve stockpiled wisdom and knowledge.” What I’ve finally concluded is that so-called wisdom and knowledge are mindless and witless—nothing but spitting into the wind.

Ecclesiastes 1:12-17

I’ve thought about it, if my life was so “good” that I could say that it was exactly what I wanted, would it truly be better than the life I have now? If the things God uses — which I often don’t appreciate in the moment — to humble me and correct what needs to be straightened in my character, were not apart of so much of my experience with Him, would I still love Him?

Sound like a silly question? Not if you consider something He has been showing me again and again and again and again — yes, I’ve needed to see it that much — in this season: If I did not know I needed God, and it was not a fact and an emotion and a definition of who I am that faces me every day, than I would not love God.

This idea takes me back to the verse in the Bible where it says:

This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

(1 John 4:9-10 The Message)

So, the very idea that I would believe that I could love God without Him acting in my life, to push me toward Him, is choosing to believe what is absolutely opposed to the gospel. And to find fault with the tools He uses to accomplish this is arrogant; I am questioning God’s knowledge of the nature of my sin and my primary opposition to Him — I am telling Him He doesn’t know what He is talking about, and I know myself better than He does.

Yet, who knows sin better than God? Who has seen its devastation more clearly, and knows from whence this destruction came? Whom can I trust with this grievous heart of mine more than One Whose holy heart can wrap mine up with mercy that can only belong to a God like this One?

Faith in Relationships

Faith in relationships…what does that look like? For me, it is being able to trust God that He is working out all the big and small details that I can’t handle on my own — details that concern more than me, and what’s going on in my heart, but someone I love who seems to see things so entirely different than myself.

That’s what it starts with at least, but from there God consistently leads me into the next stage, pointing out the lessons He has set up for me in this misunderstanding or apparent distance between me and another.

There is always so much to learn through the daily dynamics of our interactions with the people we share this life with. The experiences we have together are what pushes us to work on more than just what will improve ourselves, but will make us more focused on the interests of others.

It can be easy to pursue growth that makes us look good, serving as personal accessories, to trump up what already makes for a wonderful person. It is far harder to choose to see ourselves in the light that others see us, accepting their observations as being capable of being legitimate representations of us.

No, what others think of us will not ever tell the whole story, and their sentiments should not discourage us with the idea that we are not worth anything unless we live up to someone’s expectations of us, but we should not dismiss them either. We should take the  assessments we receive from others to our Father, who is faithful to present to us our true identity along with all the flaws that He is not lax to confront and correct.

Waiting Here

So many of the lifestyle skills I have become proficient in are proving to be a hindrance to truly living. I want everything that is good for me, but I don’t know how to get it. I can’t go by appearances, though they can often seem so reliable, so desirably representative of the outcome I’m looking for in everything I do.

Yet, instead of waiting to find out the end of these things, I live in the hope of even greater possibilities — possibilities too great for me to have the ability to dictate. I should not even be anticipating such broad planes of blessing, except that when I go with God, none of my limitations can limit what God has chosen to give me.

For truly, this is all about God. If I could totally control what I got from/with God, I would undoubtedly miss Him completely in my hustle to obtain endless rewards and resources. I would miss the fact that He is my one true reward and resource.

Surrender to Live?

I can say I want God’s way in my life and try to leave it at that, but I will soon find that I am dissatisfied, feeling the incompleteness that comes with living life apart from our One central point — the One who holds together all of what we know and see and yet wonder about.

Or, I can realize that there can be no other way with me; it must be His way, or I have chosen to live with less than all I could have in this life. I think that I can have it all if I just live for myself, but this only seems like it is a legitimate hope because I am securely at the head. I think that I will lose out if I step aside so God can take that place that I so fiercely covet.

Yet, will I truly lose out? Can living for more than I can hold onto and keep in-check really prove to be a misuse of my passion and potential? Is it worth it to gain if I have not lost? If I am not willing to lose something I value for the sake of something more valuable — can I really expect to be able to hold onto anything at all?

If I’m already surrendering, I don’t have to fear any loss or disappointment or chaos, because I am not ultimately trusting my circumstances to deliver what I need, but my God. He alone knows what I truly need; He knows what is necessary in mistakes and trials to release me from the power of secret sins, teaching me to realize that life is in Him and not in me or what I see.

If I will live in surrender, I will live in hope. And, if my hope (Christ) is able to hold me, than I cannot fear any significant loss. I cannot rationalize unbelief because I am setting myself up to succeed according to my own resources. Considering all these petty “resources” I have now will ALL ultimately fail me, I must ask myself, “What grounds do I have for trying to convince God that I am right in my ongoing resistance to offer myself wholly to Him?”

I don’t. I would be a fool to believe my own ideas about what is best for me apart from what God has said since the beginning of time — long before I was born, or had any ideas about what I would like to have in this life. God knew what I needed, and was eager to reveal it to me. I have been the stubborn one.

I have been the one who is constantly insisting that I know what is up and what will do great things for me; and all my life I have been convinced that that is not God or anything that comes with Him. One, I cannot control Him. Two, I do not know what to expect with Him. Three, I would rather just be able to do everything on my own.

But, do I think He will not ever-so-patiently whittle down all that opposition in me? Do I think that I have to lead this? Do I think that He will not accept exactly what little I have to offer now, and with that make a way for me to give Him all the rest?

Yes, I often do think all these things, but even this He can deal with. He knows what He’s doing — including where sin begins and the only One who can bring it to an end — because He holds the keys to all the freedom that His perfect righteousness has to offer. I will trust Him.

Walking Home to Him

There have been several periods in my life where I have felt profoundly hopeless, or at least short on my supply of hope. I’ve keenly wondered where God was and how He planned to restore my hope and the feeling that I was truly blessed. I wanted to believe, yet I also wanted to not have too much trouble seeing. To demand to see is to long to feel easily aware of what we would rather not hang our whole beings on in unflinching belief.

How little, as a people, we are open to hardships that test our beliefs, and draw out our neediness for God. We can easily proclaim that He is all that we need, when we want to feel very spiritual about our relationship with God, but when we see God test, that we treat it as the worst thing in the world.

And, perhaps it is. Perhaps God’s work to establish our souls in Him through situations and events that only faith will fit is the worst thing the god of this world and his followers will ever know. Yet, it is not something they can have any more effect on. What evidences we do see of their activity in and around us has been no less than schemes submitted to the authority of God and permitted that He might accomplish His purposes in us in such a way that He might exterminate evil and rebuff Satan at the same time, even at the point of his greatest contention: our hearts’ most deeply held allegiance.

Think about it: All the demons in this world — forces in number and power we could not fathom — seek day and night to destroy us, but remain entirely subject to our Father in heaven. They cannot make a move without His knowledge and permission.

Now, this fact may startle some of us, and make us question how the God we serve should be justified in allowing evil to have its way with us at any point. We might decide in a fit of confused rebellion, I will not accept this!

But, please, pause for a moment and consider our alternative: Evil with complete control of our lives. This is what Jesus died to save us from!

God is the One to save us from the evil we fear and the death we are powerless to ward off. Believing in Him and the power of His death to deliver us from evil does not mean that we will never again experience the effects of evil, however. While on this earth, we live in the presence of evil and the bitter consequences of its power; yet, one thing we may already know to be lifted from us, and that is sin’s legal power — it can no longer separate us from the forgiving mercy and loving security of God. We who are in Christ can know in full, throughout our time on earth, the freedom Christ has bought for us from death, damnation and a darkened heart.

That is all the blessing we really need in this life; as Romans 8:31 says, “So what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?” Take this to heart, and you will take Him to heart as well. Amen.

A Life Worth Living

God is letting me feel so much, see so much, of life and me and Him. It has not been with the rosy-hue I am used to holding onto, but more like an investigation of cold, hard facts; uncomfortable realities that splinter your soul, making You need the holy One more than the common illusions of safety and control. Love is taking me on a roller coaster; my God is not Who I have thought He seemed. I’m getting an education, a sorrowful education in what He did, how true love has finally been revealed.

Love in this world is not without sorrow, not without a vulnerability to pain. Yet, what hope do we have without it? Is life worth living?

I used to have a very closed basis for what made life worth living; the elements whose presence made me capable of experiencing full enjoyment. Considering those things now, I see how much fear ruled my life and how little I was able to let love in. Life felt safer when approached fear first, rather than in faith; what then might love seek to do with me?

That question sounds ridiculous now, but that could only be because love has cast out fear, destroying the claim of lies upon my heart with truth. At the time, it was the basis of all my interactions and expectations of relationships, to shelter myself from the perceived negative intentions of others, even God.

But, what do we have to gain in sheltering ourselves according to our own methods of personal security? Certainly not peace. Hope, I think not. Confidence? Not without love.

Love is the secret to discovering all that life was meant to be. But not just any representation of this soul-supply; this does not begin with a virtue we seek to sow within, and cultivate in our behavior, but so much more. This secret is in letting Love, who really is a Person, invade the sequestered quarters of our fearful hearts. It ceases to be about what we can do in and about ourselves, but about God — who’s love for us puts our own to shame — and what He longs to do with our mess.

Because that’s really what we are: a mess. No, our problems are not really with our situations or handicaps or our upbringing or our families. Jesus must have been the most aware of the inadequacies of all these things, yet He was not crippled by them, instead He fulfilled His call with glory that we appreciate all the more because of His background, which corresponds so acutely with our own.

He came to live our life, but without our sin, pleasing God and releasing us from the penalty of sin. With that redemption work comes also the promise of knowing the same freedom from sin’s power as He did. As we grow in Him, stage by stage, we release our flesh to His disposal and receive His Spirit to produce new fruit.

This is the most intense process I know of in life, but I also believe it is what makes life worth living. We can only have so much as we live for ourselves with a close watch on our surroundings. We were not meant to live dominated by fear — a force of Satan that would destroy us — but by love — the began with God pouring Himself out for us in death, that we might submit ourselves to Him in life.

See here the abundance we were meant to know in life, according to God and His gifts, not our own performance or set parameters for survival:

So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, our first father in the faith, into this new way of looking at things? If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.”If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.

David confirms this way of looking at it, saying that the one who trusts God to do the putting-everything-right without insisting on having a say in it is one fortunate man:

Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off,
whose sins are wiped clean from the slate.
Fortunate the person against
whom the Lord does not keep score.
Do you think for a minute that this blessing is only pronounced over those of us who keep our religious ways and are circumcised? Or do you think it possible that the blessing could be given to those who never even heard of our ways, who were never brought up in the disciplines of God? We all agree, don’t we, that it was by embracing what God did for him that Abraham was declared fit before God?

Now think: Was that declaration made before or after he was marked by the covenant rite of circumcision? That’s right, before he was marked. That means that he underwent circumcision as evidence and confirmation of what God had done long before to bring him into this acceptable standing with himself, an act of God he had embraced with his whole life.

And it means further that Abraham is father of all people who embrace what God does for them while they are still on the “outs” with God, as yet unidentified as God’s, in an “uncircumcised” condition. It is precisely these people in this condition who are called “set right by God and with God”! Abraham is also, of course, father of those who have undergone the religious rite of circumcision not just because of the ritual but because they were willing to live in the risky faith-embrace of God’s action for them, the way Abraham lived long before he was marked by circumcision.

That famous promise God gave Abraham—that he and his children would possess the earth—was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed. If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it.

This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father.

We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”

Romans 4 (emphasis mine)

19-25Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.