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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Caregiver: Having a Soft Heart in a Hard World

My entire life, I have been the “mom” friend. You know, the one friend in the group who is the voice of caution, the advice giver, the “wise” one. This has always meant I am placed in the position of caregiver, whether I like it or not.  I am relied upon to be there when friends and others fall, and to be the one who they can come to when times are rough. These are duties I have always been happy to attend to. However, this title has also often meant lots of hurt in relationships, acting as what I felt was a weakness in my personality. I have found myself in relationships where I am considered the “mom” reach a point it becomes a one way relationship—me taking care of them, constantly, with hardly anything in return.
When my relationships seem to morph into these sorts, is when I always disdain being a caregiver by nature. I begin to resent these relationships because I feel like I am giving so much care, pouring my entire heart into this human connection, and receiving little to nothing in return. I ache because I want so badly for these people I love, to love me the way I love them in return. I love so deeply and completely I want to feel the same from them. I can’t even count the number of sleepless nights crying, feeling weak for loving like I do, sobbing to my mom, asking underneath tears why I love too much.
As a disclaimer, I said before I have always loved these duties I am given in these relationships, so some of this is brought on by myself. But there has always been a part of me that questions myself, asking why, just why do I have to care so much, pour so much in, love so much when I am not guaranteed that these people I am giving my heart to will love or care for me the same way in return, and in reality often don’t.
These questions have often been the reason I have known ended friendships. I start to hurt so bad that these people aren’t loving me like I expect them to or care for me like I expect them to, so I push them away and claim I can’t do it anymore.
However, I have been lead to the realization that this is not my duty. It is not my duty to determine how others are supposed to care for me or how they are supposed to love me. We are sinful beings incapable of delivering to one another the type of love and care we need. In fact, my desire to make these people “love the way I love” is a kind of greediness.
As I contemplated this topic this week, I began reading Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst.  It was here where it was reveled to me the true nature of these desires of wanting people to love me the way I “needed” in return. TerKeurst tackles the topic with these self-examining words,

“We must respect ourselves enough to break the pattern of placing unrealistic expectations on others.  After all, people will not respect us more than we respect ourselves,” and continues, “No, it’s not wrong to need people.  But some of our biggest disappointments in life are the result of expectations we have of others that they can’t ever possibly meet.  That’s when the desire to connect becomes an unrealistic need.  Unrealistic neediness is actually greediness in disguise.” (page 45 of Uninvited)

I love to paraphrase that, but I don’t think it could possibly fit the topic at hand better. I have come to the following realization: It is merely my duty to care and love to the best of my ability all those around me. To remember that I sin and they sin, and that breeds hurt no matter how complete your human love or care might be it is not enough. But this heart that I possess is not a weakness, it was created by God and given to me to be a caregiver and a deep, deep lover. So that is what I will do.
But then, I am still left with the inherent desire for human love and care.
Don’t get me wrong. I have several relationships where I am cared for and loved beyond measure. But regarding those relationships where I would question if that is the case or not—I can release my unrealistic expectations of others and rest soundly. I can be contented with a peace in my heart that can only be known by understanding that I am loved for and cared for by the ultimate caregiver, by the ultimate lover, Jesus.
So as I sit here and contemplate my heart’s varying feelings and desires I can find a comfort in knowing that the God of the Universe, who is love, sent His son, to show His love for me, to show His care for me, to make me clean. All in a fashion that I could never even attempt to wrap my mind around, because the nature of Jesus’ care and love is beyond human comprehension. All I can do is accept this gift of grace humbly and learn from it how to love others.
His love and care reaches so far beyond that of human beings’ capability, including mercy and grace that no human can deliver, that only his love and care can present.
With this I challenge you to examine your life and find the areas where you feel that you are being let down and recognize that God is using that in your life to help you realize something bigger in His plan and recognize His deep, deep care, love, and provision for you, that will never fall short, that will never fail. 
 
The LORD your God is in your midst, 
  a mighty one who will save; 
he will rejoice over you with gladness; 
  he will quiet you by his love; 
he will exult over you with loud singing. 
                                                      Zephaniah 3:17
                                                     (emphasis added)