Forever Faithful.

Forever

The whole bible is a testament of God’s faithfulness, a faithfulness that comes to fruition in the life of Jesus Christ. From Genesis 3:15, God promises offspring of the woman to come and bruise the head of the serpent—that being Jesus. The whole of the bible, every letter, every word, every story, every event is about one thing and that is the coming and death of a savior, Christ Jesus who came to do just that, save his people.

And he did.

That is the truth that we can dwell upon, the truth that we are to guard our hearts with, the reason that we can continue on in the face of persecution, pain, and suffering. That he did. That Jesus did come, he did live, he did die, he did take every bit of our pain, he did take every bit of suffering, he did take every bit of our sin upon himself, and he did die for us. He did all of these things because we have a faithful God. We have a God who promised us in the third chapter of the bible that he would send him, and kept reminding us of this promise through the whole of the Old Testament and made it come to fruition in the New, and he keeps on in this same faithfulness each and every moment of everyday, now and forever.

Faithful

Anxiety has ripped me apart at the seams. The past month has been a torment.

I returned from a weekend of rest, restoration, realizations, and the Redeemer with RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) at their Fall Conference in Montezuma, NM, only to get a bad case of bronchitis or the flu or something of the sort; all I know is I was miserable for more than a week and a half.

Prior to the trip and prior to my illness, I had been feeling better than I had in five years. I was happy again, I was interested in things again, and I was sleeping well again. I felt like a new woman. Then, the illness hit and along came a crippling bout of anxiety.

I am still not sure of the origin of this anxiety, I have my suspicions that it had to do with how miserable I was while I was so sick, that I was scared that it was going to continue or get worse, but even after I overcame those thoughts, the anxiety remained.

The last few weeks have been nothing but an inner battle with myself, trying to convince myself that everything is okay day in and day out. I’ve been trying to find anything that could comfort me and make me feel good again.

But let me tell you, this stuff is consuming. It’s like every moment is a fight to keep going, to keep breath in my lungs, to keep tears from my eyes, to keep my heart from racing, to keep myself out of bed (where I would no doubt remain all day if I could), to keep myself from panicking, to keep from blaming myself for anything and everything happening around me.

With all of this inner turmoil, I am sure one can deduce just how hard it has been to keep faith. All I can do is ask God why this is happening to me? Why it has to be that every night I have a series of panic attacks that make me worry if I will be able to sleep or not? Why I can’t just go back to the progress I was making a month ago—to the feelings of wholeness and that I was finally overcoming this silent beast?

But even as I type out these questions that have been the real life things I have been proposing to God, I see the error in them. I have been begging God for all the wrong things.

In Philippians, Paul writes from his Roman prison cell, where he has been imprisoned for spreading the gospel. When looking Paul’s circumstance, one would think his first response would be to ask God why; why if he is serving him, would he let this happen to him? However, when I look at Paul’s actual response to his imprisonment, my own hardened heart that is prone to ask “why” questions of God is challenged and changed. Paul says,

“I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known among the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”

Philippians 1:12-13

As Paul sits in prison he looks at it not as a burden or a reason to ask God the “why” questions, but rather an opportunity to spread the gospel to the guards that watch over him and give vigor to those who still remain out in the world seeking to share the truth of Jesus. Paul even manages throughout the whole book to rejoice, to rejoice in the fact that still in his suffering, he is allowed the privilege to serve Christ and is still be able to call on others to rejoice in doing the same.

This God of ours is a faithful one. One who can take the things that seem to be holding us captive and make them good. He is a faithful God that despite our shortcomings and selfish requests of Him still calls us back to the reality of Christ, his faithfulness incarnate. He was faithful to Paul in contenting him in the revelation of the truth and purpose of his imprisonment, and so He will be faithful to us.

While I examine my own prayers and thoughts against Paul’s, I can do little else but be convicted. As I sit in my situation with this anxiety that has created a sort of prison for me, I recognize that I should be praying that God would use this pain to ultimately propel me to press on to serve Christ. While this circumstance hurts and is confusing this is where I am supposed to be.

He will be faithful to me and to you to the very end, because His faithfulness is never ending.

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Coming to Terms with Time

I have taken to this blog as a place where I can do what I do best, writing. When I write, it serves the chief purpose as to gather my own thoughts in one singular place and to look over them in hopes of reaping from them some particular insight or epiphany and hopefully help someone else along the way. Sometimes though, my writing isn’t always in that fashion, it doesn’t always afford me the opportunity of a great epiphany or understanding. Sometimes it is just ramblings in hopes of getting them out of my head, and that is a bit like what I seem to be doing here with the concept of time.

On August 30th I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I decided to leave behind the only sure thing I have known in the last fifteen years—school. I decided to take a semester off of college, a hiatus if you will, in hopes of making some attempts at getting well.

In this time off there have been marked improvements.  There have been improvements like the fact that anxiety is not gripping everyday of my life, or that I am not dealing with horrible side effects of former medications, or that I don’t feel like there is a dark cloud above my head in every moment preventing me from living. I have had time to come closer to God and to contemplate his truths. I have had the opportunity to make a platform for myself to share these things and because of this I feel like this is the place to contemplate the following thing that I have been too scared to admit to myself, that this whole thing is going to take time.

I have no good explanation for you as to what I thought was going to happen when I decided to take a semester off of school. I remember going in to it considering it a time of healing, to give myself time to repair, to heal not only physically and mentally, but also spiritually. My words, however, seem to have rung hollow to myself, I seem to have just been justifying my hiatus with this concept of allowing myself time, and leaving it as just that, a concept. Though I have made strides in these places of healing mentioned above, there seems to be a part of me that thought it would all be over by now.

But this is not the case. While I have come to this place before and explained great things God has revealed to me through this pain and have had the excitement of coming to know him better, I have also come to realize that there is a difference between knowing God is in control and accepting that he is in control. That may seem fairly obvious to some, but it’s a hard pill to swallow, a painful realization when you thought you were being accepting of such a thing, then having it proven by yourself, to yourself that you have been trying to hold fast to your own schedule and your own plan. It seems to be that He has decided that his plan for my life, for my healing, will take time, the very concept I justified my hiatus with, and it will take longer than human me wants.

Time is cruel, but yet again, I am left here in awe of the revelations of himself that God has presented me through this pain. Again I am left with the recognition that He is in control, and it is now my turn to relinquish my own attempts at having said control. I am still hurting. I am still broken. But it is time that I not only allow God to do what he will, to align my desires with his will, but also to start to be truthful with myself about where I am and what I need which is his good and perect time, not what I want in my human schedule.

 

Dealing with Apathy as a Notorious Feeler: Finding Comfort in Truth

I am absolutely certain that God created and called me to be a feeler and an empathizer. He created and called me to be one who thinks about others before myself, to be one who is moved to my core by other’s triumphs and failures. He created and called me specifically and intentionally to be one who identifies with the feelings of others—for large groups, for small groups, for nations, for individuals, for the marginalized, for the broken, for the underdog, for the successful.

In this calling I have found both blessing and difficulty. With it, I am able to empathize with others and to help them, to feel for them and to connect with them. Due to this, there is little more I want from this life than to help others and share my deep feeling nature with the world in a positive manner. However, with this calling also comes difficulty: ease at feeling too much, a simplicity in taking on others feelings to the point that I forsake my own health, to feel too deeply too quickly. I am then tempted to value feeling over truth.

Throughout the last few months I have dealt for the first time in my life with what I would brand as “serious apathy”. I have found myself going from my norm of feeling deeply about everything I hear, every person I encounter, and every word I read, to feeling nothing about anything. I have felt, however, that apathy doesn’t feel right and is a burden. I have felt like my being has been swiped away and dangled in front of me when thinking about who I “actually” am.

For someone who feels deeply about nearly everything, apathy is a terrifying concept. Apathy to the feeler is like the ground being pulled out from beneath your feet and being told, “Find somewhere to stand.” It is the opposite of your core being. In handling apathy I have found it to be one the most discouraging things I have ever encountered (I use “handling” lightly as I really haven’t handled it well).

Throughout my bouts with apathy these past months, there is one thing that I found which prevails over the feeling of apathy and the temptation to value my feeling nature to an uncanny degree, and that is truth. The only thing that I have been able to grasp is the fact that I am in fact called to be a feeler, but also to value the truth over feeling.

In apathy I have found it difficult to worship, to pray, to bring glory to God, and to serve him in any manner. I can’t explain the painstaking attempts at praying and worshiping when I feel nothing. Looking back on these moments from a place of feeling, I can’t help but recognize the sin in my attempts to feel again in my time of apathy. It is like telling God, “Sorry, but I can’t bring glory to you, the one who grants me this breath to live, the one who has given me this life, the one who has redeemed me and saved me from the sin of this world, all because I just don’t feel like it.”

When put in those terms, it makes me come to a place of nearly disdaining my apathy for making me feel this way toward God; however, I stop myself here and am able to recognize his blessing in it. Experiencing apathy has allowed me to evaluate the way I feel about Jesus. To recognize where my focus lies, on feeling and not truth, is not where it should. How this focus should be put on the truths of Christ rather than on my human feeling. Feelings cannot only be misleading, but they are human, and while they are integral in the human experience and allow many beautiful things, when fully relied upon, they are seen for what they are, just that—human experiences.

When we rely on our feelings to be good toward God and rely on our feelings to trust in the truth of Jesus, we will always be prone to be discouraged from our walk with Christ. It is not until we value and recognize the truth of Him–of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us, of Christ who died for us, and of God who orchestrates every moment of our lives–over the feeling of our human tendencies will we be able to find true peace.

From this peace found in truth, comes proof that God will prevail despite our human tendencies. From this peace comes the opportunity for me to feel for others better, on the basis that I live in a place of truth rather than of feeling.  From this peace comes a freedom from the pains of apathy and a reminder that these things are ordained by God. No matter my own human feeling, He will always be the one guiding the way.  He will always be there. He wants us to dwell on this truth, not our misguided feelings.

We are created and called as God’s people to dwell on the truth of who Jesus is, what and who he died for, and fact that we have been made new in him, a truth that reaches beyond human feeling and overwhelms our understanding. When you embrace that knowledge, you will find that the truth is your only resting place.

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A Jealousy to Rest In 

When I was in seventh grade I fell in love for the first time and adversely learned what unrequited love was for the first time.

I was crazy about a guy who I sat next to in my math class. He made me laugh, and he had beautiful green eyes that lit up when his wide smile was shown. Everything a thirteen-year-old girl could want. I thought this guy was the one, just as one does when in middle school and thinking they know the whole of the world. I was so set on this guy, I talked about him nonstop to anyone and everyone: my mom, my friends, the poor person I sat next to in English class, anyone who would listen—I wanted them to know how wonderful I thought this thirteen-year-old boy was and how he was going to be my boyfriend someday.

However, there was only one problem with this boy—he was a flirt. He would flirt with every little middle school girl that gave him a chance and thus I was one of many for him, so for the first time I also learned what soul crushing relational jealousy felt like. I say soul crushing, because that’s what it was. I was jealous of any other girl he made laugh, or any other girl he showed that bright smile to, and it consumed me. It took me over. I wanted to be the only one. I wanted to be his only one like he was mine.

That boy and I never worked out. I was perpetually put into his group of many and he was forever placed as my one and only, at least until middle school ended.

This narrative about my middle school romantic life has a purpose other than to make myself cringe at the memory, I promise.

I would like to wager that any number of you reading this has known this feeling. Whether as a blossoming teenage girl with a teenage boy like me or vice-versa, or perhaps in a friendship, or even in seeking a job that you thought was the perfect fit for you but those hiring seemed to think otherwise. A feeling of jealousy has washed over you, at the many other girls, or the friend spending time with other people, or the person who got the job instead of you.

I would like you to draw up that experience. It may be uncomfortable, looking back on it you may recall how bad the feeling was or how you wished you hadn’t had to feel that way, or that you had been smarter than to allow someone into your life who would make you feel that way. Now, I would like you to consider the following scripture,

“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

Deuteronomy 4:24

Remember that feeling of jealousy, remember its affect on you, remember the magnitude of it, that feeling of thinking you deserve this thing, and multiply that by infinity and more. That is how Jesus feels for us.

When we live in this world and trust in this world, we are no better than that flirtatious boy who had many teenage girls at his beck and call, we are him. We have someone namely a man who died so that we may live, who counts us as His one and only. He wants to tell everyone about us and wants us to be his forever. He is jealous for us. He wants our heart. He wants our requited love. He wants our communication. He wants our life. He wants our trust. He wants our entire being. He took on our sin as a blameless man and died “the greatest sinner of all time” according to Luther, all because he was so jealous for our life.

Now I ask you to revisit those feelings of jealousy again, how you so desperately wanted to prevail, to be the one the boy, the friend, the job turned to and accepted. So does Jesus desire of us. His desire is that we might turn to him and that he might be our one and only as we are His; that we might want to talk endlessly of him and to him and be his for eternity.

When we stop turning to the many things of this world, acting like that boy who broke my heart, we receive that which we so desperately seek—prevailing as the one and only of Jesus. And the beauty of it all is that unlike my placing this boy as my one and only until middle school ended, we won’t stop being his one and only. If we give him the trust he desires in earnest and stop communing with this world more than him, it won’t just be until the “end of middle school” that this is true, it will be for eternity. He is jealous for us, and that is the most beautiful truth of this world.

CH Spurgeon in his devotional Morning and Evening says,

“To abide in him only, this is true love; but to commune with the world, to find sufficient solace in our carnal comforts, to prefer even the society of our fellow Christians to secret intercourse with him, this is grievous to our jealous Lord. He would fain have us abide in him, and enjoy constant fellowship with himself; and many of the trials which he sends us are for the purpose of weaning our hearts from the creature, and fixing them more closely upon himself.”

 CH Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Morning, September 12th

Spurgeon calls on us to give in to this jealous Lord who wants us. That we might enjoy constant fellowship with him, in order that we stop relying on the things of this world that will ultimately disappoint, and turn to him for truth, hope, and comfort.

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