Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14

What do you do when it seems like God is silent? Or maybe it feels like He’s not holding up His end of the bargain. Your heart believes this is His will, you’ve prayed about it, but the pieces just aren’t falling into place. Discouragement and discontent erode the initial peace you had and begs the question, God, why isn’t this working out?

Sarai knows the feeling. God promised her and Abram a son (Genesis 12:7), but years passed and no baby came. In these times of questioning and waiting, we have two options of how to respond – wait on His timing or take matters into our own hands. Unfortunately, Sarai did the latter.

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”(Genesis 16:1-2)

For 10 years, Sarai patiently waited on God. But discouragement lead to discontentment and she decided to take action. Abram took Hagar as his wife and she bore him a son. But he was not the son God would use to build His great nation.

How many times have we done the same thing? We force our timing into God’s, hoping He’s on board. And the funny thing is, God allows our stubborn hearts to wonder down roads He never intended us to travel. He gives us free will, the choice to move on our own accord or sit and wait.

Psalm 27:14 says, Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. I believe God is speaking directly to our tendencies to want what we want when we want it. He acknowledges that waiting is hard, but encourages us to take heart and be patient. It’s as if He’s saying, “Just hold on, I’ve got this.”

Sarai’s choice lead to a great deal of undue stress. Let’s remember that God’s silence may be a reminder to sit still. When pieces don’t fall into place like we thought they would, it may not be His will. He is trustworthy of faithfulness. He kept His word to Sarai and Abram. He’ll keep His word with us, too.

His Presence is the Comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4a

Elijah was one of the Lord’s passionate prophets of the Old Testament. While many Israelites during that time began serving Baal, an idol, Elijah remained firm in conviction and challenged them to return to the One True God. He called fire down from heaven. He earnestly prayed for the end of a long drought and it began to rain. (I Kings 18) He gave of himself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, leaving his soul depleted and fatigued. He needed rest and restoration but Queen Jezebel was threatening to kill him.

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. (I Kings 19:2-5)

Elijah was ready to throw in the towel. Spending his life as a prophet for the Lord seemed pointless in that moment. Have you ever felt that way? Perhaps you’ve tried to do right by God in many aspects of your life but continue to wait for that coveted blessing. Like Elijah, our wounded, hurting hearts needed comfort. We need relief from the pain.

An angel tended to Elijah in the wilderness, giving him food and water. He rested. Then he got up and traveled for forty days and forty nights, reaching a cave at Horeb, the mountain of God, before resting again. It was there, in a chilly, damp cavern where he expresses the ache in his heart:

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (I Kings 19:9b-10)

Was everything he had done been for nothing? Would God hold up His end of the bargain? It would be reasonable and understandable if Elijah wondered these questions – I know I have. It’s frustrating to dedicate time and energy to the Lord’s calling without seeing the fruits of our labor.

Elijah was ready to walk away at this point. What could God possibly say to change his mind?

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (I Kings 19:11-13)

What could God possibly say to change Elijah’s mind? Nothing. Because God doesn’t need words. His presence provides the comfort we need to keep going.

Matthew Henry comments, “Gracious souls are more often affected by the tender mercies of the Lord than by His terrors. The Lord could have spoken within the fierce wind, earthquake or fire. But instead, He chose a gentle whisper. In that moment, Elijah needed to be redirected to the mission at hand, but not before he reconnects with how much the Lord cares for him.”

Living for God can be exhausting. It’s ok to need a break. When faced with discouraging opposition, fear and anxiety may follow. It’s ok to want to run away. But the best part is that God will always meet us right where we are. He may not change our circumstances or tell us what we want to hear, but He wraps our frazzled souls in the soothing warmth of His presence. He renews and restores our heart’s passion to serve Him.

And that’s all the comfort Elijah needed.

Are You Wrestling With God?

Submit to God and be at peace with him;
in this way prosperity will come to you.
Job 22:21

This past weekend my sons competed in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), a martial art focused on ground hand-to-hand combat. Points can be earned by executing specific techniques of take-down and control, but the ultimate goal is to win by submission through joint locks and chokeholds. Elementary-aged children aggressively compete under the supervision of a referee and coaches. It is intense and exciting to say the least!

In BJJ, a submission is fought for. There is strategy, skill, and strength involved. Force is used against an opponent who is desperately trying to avoid loosing. All it takes is one move and the match will be over.

With God, submission is the opposite. He will not wrestle us into compliance. It does not take strength, skill, or strategy to surrender to the will of God. And rather than a singular burst, God desires a willing heart, dedicated to following Him daily.

This is what Eliphaz was referring to in Job 22. In the midst of great loss, Job was looking for understanding as to why God allowed him to continue suffering. His friends erroneously thought Job was the cause, that somehow he was not right with God. If Job would just willingly submit to God, the wrongs would be righted and he would experience the Lord’s blessing again.

Ironically, Job was a strong example of a man postured under the will of God. Chapter one tells us Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. Satan set out to shatter his faith by destroying his family, servants, and livestock. Job was stripped of everything all at once and yet he did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:22)

How many of us can honestly say the same? Personally, I’m quick to question God’s plan when life gets rough. My trust in Him weakens. I am less willing to submit my heart to Him when difficult circumstances arise – I find myself wresting against God rather than surrendering to Him.

Job 22:21 reminds me to “Submit to God and be at peace with Him.” The Hebrew word for submit used here is cakan, which means “to be of use or service”. Submitting to God means we yield our will to the Father, allowing Him to use us as He sees fit. Be at peace with Him is described by the term shalam which means “to be complete”. Therefore, we are complete in the Lord when we surrender our hearts and minds to His leading.

May we never forget the way Jesus demonstrated a willingly compliant spirit by praying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Is there something God is calling you into but you are resisting? Perhaps you’re wrestling with God to see prayers answered the way you want them answered. Be encouraged that He is trustworthy. He can handle whatever life is throwing at you. It may feel scary to leave the familiar, to walk away from routine, or to step out in faith; God will be with you every step of the way, coaching you to victory in Him.

**Personal side note: currently, my goal is to post to my blog weekly on Mondays, preferably in the mornings. After a busy weekend of family birthdays, it just wasn’t going to happen.

When I asked the Lord what He wanted me to write about this week, He gave me the word submit. But rather than “submitting” immediately, I thought it would be more efficient to complete a work of writing I had already begun rather than starting from scratch.

So I sat in Starbucks this morning, desperately trying to complete something worth reading. Nothing. My mind was completely blank. Finally, after 30 minutes of writer’s block, I gave in. I began writing this post and the Lord poured the words through my fingers onto the screen. He was teaching me the very lesson I hoped to encourage others with – submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Thank you for reading and supporting my blog! xoxo

At the Intersection of Chaos and Calm

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14 (NIV)

 

Do you ever have trouble sleeping?

This is unusual for me as I am chronically fatigued from the mental and physical demand of raising three young, energetic boys. Our days are filled with curiosity, conflict, and craziness. Needless to say, bedtime is an event I look forward to daily. 

I typically fall asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow. But recently, I cant seem to get my brain to turn off. I think about all the mistakes I made that day, all the conversations I could have handled better. I wonder if Im following Gods plan for my life. Insecurity about my mothering skills, anxiety about the future, and feelings of loneliness steal my peaceful dreaming. 

If only I could calm the chaos and get some rest, I think as the moments tick by. Have you ever felt that way?

The network of our minds is similar to that of a carefully designed map of a large, heavily populated city. Thoughts travel the highways and byways like lightning fast race cars, and if we let them, they will overtake our ability to live a healthy life. The overwhelming thoughts I was having were an indication I had gone too far without a break. Rather than heeding the caution of yellow stop lights, Id rush through the intersection full speed ahead. But taking breaks are crucial to our well-being and we have Jesus example as proof.

In Luke 5, we find Jesus beginning His ministry. He has been baptized by John, tempted by Satan, and called the disciples. Now, He is performing miracles. While in one of the towns, a man with leprosy approaches Jesus, asking for healing. Jesus heals the man and orders him, Dont tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them. 

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. (Luke 5:14-15 NIV)

Can you imagine? Crowds of people came to hear Jesus preach and ask for healing. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people followed after Him. I think its Jesus can relate to feeling overwhelmed. He understands what it feels like to be in high demand. And He knows what it takes to maintain calm amidst the chaos as the next verse explains. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16 NIV)

From the beginning, Jesus carefully and diligently set aside the duties of ministry to commune with the Lord. I dont know about you, but I have a tendency to recognize my need for rest well after I am exhausted. For Jesus, solitary moments with His Heavenly Father were a necessity. They provided the energy needed to continue preaching and healing. In those moments, Jesus was refueled and recharged. 

We are unable to control the amount of chaos we face, but we can control how we respond. At the intersection of chaos and calm, we find Jesus. There, the craziness of life meets order. Anxiety meets peace. Fear meets courage. Insecurity meets confidence. Jesus is waiting for our daily visit and as our key verse mentions, His presence will go with us, and He will give us rest. 

If youre feeling overrun by your thoughts today, find hope in the promise of peace Christ offers – From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2 NKJV)

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your peace that passes all understanding. May we be mindful of our tendency to press through fatigue as You teach us to purposefully pursue time with You as Jesus did. Restore our hearts, minds, and souls, equipping us to be used by You.

Amen

Choosing the One Thing Needed

But few things are needed – or indeed only one.
Luke 10:42

Have you ever felt called to do something for God – something you were super excited about doing, but the details of daily life seemed to hold you back? I felt this way when the Lord first called me to write. I would sit down, ready to transmit His message onto my computer screen. Then I would see the pile of laundry needing to be folded. Or the crumbs under the kitchen table. Or the leftover food permanently gluing itself to the dishes in the sink. The details distract me.

Martha, too, was distracted by the details. She invited Jesus to her home, the home she shared with her sister, Mary. Martha wanted His visit to be perfect, for the food to be prepared just right, the house tidy, the decor warm and inviting.

While Martha scurried around the house making preparations, Mary sat at the feet us Jesus. She listened intently, absorbing His every word. He captivated her attention, freeing her from the distractions of Martha’s frantic efforts.

As Martha’s frustration comes to a boil, she says something to Jesus –

She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

I can relate to Martha’s perspective. I imagine her thinking, If Mary would just help with the preparations, we could both sit with Jesus. Likewise, I think, If I can just get the house clean, then my mind will be clear to hear what God wants me to write. However, I think we all know what that is like – cleaning the house turns into just a few dishes, a small load of laundry. The details are never ending.

Thankfully, Jesus has something else in mind:

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus recognizes Martha’s longing to please Him, but the taste of the food and the ambiance of the home matters much less to Him than her heart. Mary understands the importance of Jesus’ brief presence and He will not take that from her.

Choosing the one thing requires setting aside everything else.

Just as Jesus wanted Mary and Martha’s undivided attention, the Lord desires the same of us. He wants to meet our needs, bring us peace, and bless our lives. When we are distracted by the busyness of life, we miss the opportunity to hear from Him, even when we are in the business of serving the Lord. Before we start our day, we must spend time with Him.

If you can relate to Martha’s distraction with the details, consider the one thing we need to tend to most – our hearts. Everything else – laundry, the dishes, the bathrooms – are of less importance and can wait. Give the Lord a period of undivided attention today and see what happens!

Lord, thank You for Your presence in my life. You are never too distracted by the details to spend time with me. Teach me to reciprocate by setting aside everything else to sit at Your feet each day. Help me to choose the one thing needed above all else – You.
Amen

Peace Takes Effort

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

Have you ever considered how much mental effort goes into maintaining a sense of peace in our lives? I have struggled with anxiety and fear in the past and would exhaust myself thinking of all the potentially negative outcomes, conversations, and conflicts I might have. I spent so much time entertaining negative self-talk that I had little time to consider the goodness of God; that things might actually turn out well.

Once I surrendered my fears and anxieties, I experienced an overwhelming peace like never before. It was dramatically different from the fog of worry I had grown accustomed to. My thinking was clear, I was less overwhelmed by uncertainty and I began trusting God to be in control of whatever comes my way.

Peace is an amazing state to be in. I wish it was my natural state. But the sad truth is, my nature is to be afraid. To doubt God has a good plan. To worry how my failures will affect others. It wasn’t until I experienced God’s peace that I knew what I was missing out on. Once I had it, I wanted it all the time. It was as if I was becoming addicted to the Lord’s presence in my life.

What’s the problem with that?, you might ask. It’s not that desiring peace is wrong, but expecting it to naturally occur in my life without working for it is.

I recently went through a season of questioning and found myself entertaining old negative thoughts. I felt discouraged by my lack of sustained serenity, frustrated how I got off track so quickly. Then it dawned on me – having peace takes effort.

Isaiah 26:3 reminds me how the Lord “will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”Those whose minds are steadfast – marked by firm determination or resolution; not shakable.

I don’t know anyone who never doubts, never feels insecure, never worries. So if perfect peace is desired, we must pursue a steadfast mind. Satan’s mission is to keep us from perfect peace and if his firm determination is stronger than ours, we lose.

So how can we maintain this perfect peace available to us when we have an enemy relentlessly inhibiting it? Colossians 3:2 tells us to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

We won’t find peace by praying on a whim when we’re in a tight spot. We won’t find peace by going to church weekly. We won’t find peace simply reading our bible occasionally. Maintaining perfect peace takes firm, consistent determination to set our minds on God, to refuse to entertain negative thinking, and to bathe our minds in the truth of God’s word.

If you find yourself struggling to maintain peacefulness in your life, be encouraged today as you meditate on these truths –

  • Grace and peace are yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:2)
  • And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
    will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7)

Perfect peace is absolutely possible. It just takes effort.

Lord, thank You for Your perfect peace which is available to us through Your Holy Spirit. Teach us to surrender any thoughts that may be preventing a steadfast mind set on things above. My we learn how to experience peace by trusting You in the difficult times.
Amen

When There Are No Words

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. 

2 Corinthians 1:3


My breath silently caught in my throat as I understood the words being spoken through the phone – she went to be with the Lord last night.

And that was it. The day had finally come and I was wrestling with the hidden hope of healing for my friend. Words could not express my emotional state. Tears escaped my eyes and did the job instead.

The loss of someone special can be gut-wrenching. Anger, fear, and grief compete with our desire to trust in the One who has complete control over life and death. We want Him to do what we want; to provide comfort in the way we think we need it.

Mary and Martha experienced a similar struggle. Their brother, Lazarus, became ill and was dying. The women knew Jesus personally. They witnessed miracles He performed. They genuinely believed He could heal Lazarus.

But He didn’t.

Four days after Lazarus was laid in the tomb, Jesus came to the town of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Understandably, the women were upset, mourning the loss of their brother.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (
John 11:32-36)

Even while Jesus knew He would miraculously raise Lazarus from the dead, He was overcome with emotion. Understanding the permanence of death, empathizing with the devastation in losing a loved one, He wept.

Jesus cared for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus just as He cares for you and me. He weeps when we weep. He identifies with our pain. He doesn’t offer condolences. He doesn’t  distract us from our pain. He doesn’t coax us to look at the bright side before we’re ready to leave our pit of despair.

He simply meets us where we are, holds our hand, and wraps His arm across our shoulders. Like a mother who sitting on the edge of a bed next to her daughter after a miscarriage – there are no words that could offer more comfort than her presence.

If you have ever questioned the Lord’s love for you or His presence in your life, consider this quote by Max Lucado:

Does God care if I’m sad? Look at the tear-streaked
face as He stands near Lazarus’s tomb.
~ An Angel’s Story

Sometimes, no words help. Sometimes, no words are necessary. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words. Jesus put His love into action by taking on human flesh, authentically experiencing every emotion we feel. May we find comfort in His presence.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4
Amen