“He wanted to take your pride away. He wanted to put you to the test and know what was in your hearts. He wanted to see whether you would obey his commands.” Deuteronomy 8:2 NIRV
In every season of life God commissions us to guard our hearts and minds- an action we cannot do on our own. Our very next breath depends upon the strength of Christ. When we pull away from Christ, we feel the separation (whether subconsciously or physically) and the joy and light once held in our heart begins to dim.
All too often, we settle for what we feel satisfies us in the moment. While grieving the loss of a loved one I found myself searching for that love in a different capacity. This misplaced trust in myself and the choices I made only resulted in more hurt. This is a message to myself, a reminder of what I know in my heart but can lack the courage at time to act out at times. Take away from this what you will. 2016 has been a journey of healing and I hope to share with others who may be going through the same!
“The eyes of the Lord are toward the [uncompromisingly] righteous and His ears are open to their cry.. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their distress and troubles. The Lord is close to those who are of a broken heart.. Many evils confront the [consistently] righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. The Lord redeems the lives of His servants, and none of those who take refuge and trust in Him shall be condemned or held guilty.” Psalm 34:15-19, 22
How did I become dissatisfied with a priceless gift that I did nothing to earn? I misplaced the essence of my identity.
I began to trust the very fears I had fought through to follow my faith. God was relentlessly pursuing me, regardless that I was pulling away.
“..left the place where they belonged, they do whatever their instincts tell them so they bring about their own destruction. Trees in autumn that are doubly dead, pulled up by the roots.” Jude 1:6,10,12
So how do we keep fear from uprooting our faith?
“THE Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshes and restores my life; He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him–not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake. Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me. Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place.”
Psalm 23:1-4, 6 AMP
I was rooting my identity in something entirely separate from his presence. I had been entertaining my wants, needs, and emotions but lost sight of my calling. Drawing close to the wisdom and comfort in His words, I tried to re-center. I needed to pull strength from the creator rather than from the relationships I was surrounding myself with. There is rest in His presence. Strength and courage to make the right choices. I couldn’t let His word soak in until conviction opened my eyes. In desperation I sought him, seeking comfort, and finding truth. Finally, a passage that mirrored how I saw myself and thought God saw me:
“There will be people who don’t take these things seriously anymore. They’ll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts. These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There’s nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit! But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of Jesus. This is the unending life, the real life!” Jude 1:19-25 NLT
Then it hit me.
You can’t earn it, work for it, and you don’t deserve it.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions – it is by grace that you have been saved. God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can burst.” Ephesians 2:4-9
I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I knew I wasn’t making choices that glorified God. I wasn’t happy or proud of where I was at. But God still offered me everything. And I wanted to give my all to Him. So what was holding me back?
Selfishness. The dissatisfaction that undermined my hope and trust in Christ? It arrived because I took my focus off of Him and put it on myself. Rather than looking to the one who knows the future I said, “Where am I going? What am I doing to further myself?” Introspection is important but too often we over analyze till we deem ourselves the controller of our lives. As Christians, we have surrendered to Christ and his plan. My life is not my own.
As the Lord was working on my heart, a guest speaker shared a word the next day at church. He spoke about grace and I felt like I finally began to grasp the concept. Grace is given freely, a gift you were born with (through salvation, our inheritance) you chose when to unwrap it. How are you using that gift? Or are you simply waiting for the best time to unwrap it? There is no “perfect” time or season and even in the biggest successes, we still need grace.
He expanded further from the gift of grace and posed this question, “What are you doing with the little bit of heaven Christ has given you?” How are you using your worth, talents, and treasures? At the time, I had thrown them away, gave them to people who didn’t care. I mistook their company for commitment because I wanted to invest in others. No harm in that. Except when those “others” are tearing you down. I needed to give my everything to Christ and focus on that one relationship. I needed to heal and grieve, something I hadn’t let myself do. The wheels were turning in my head and my heart.
Where do I look when dissatisfaction undermines my hope and trust in Christ? How do I step out what my heart knows, but I lack the courage to act out?
“Yes, God is working in you to help you want to do what pleases him. Then he gives you the power to do it.” Philippians 2:13 ICB
This takes surrendering your all to Christ. It took a lot of prayer and a few bruises to find myself back on my knees. I had to fight to get there, but I knew only in that place I would find my healing.
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”” Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
Scripture after scripture, I clung to, standing firm through the highs and lows. It was not an easy fight but it wasn’t a fair one, either. God had already won. It was a matter of holding onto His victory.
“For I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus and Him crucified. And I was in (passed into a state of) weakness and fear. So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and has not entered into the heart of man, [all that] God has prepared (made and keeps ready) for those who love Him. Yet to us God has unveiled and revealed them by and through His Spirit, for the [Holy] Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God [the things hidden and beyond man’s scrutiny]. For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord so as to guide and instruct Him and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.” 1 Corinthians 2:2-3, 5, 9-10, 16 AMP
Christ has called us to bury the desire of our hearts and follow him. In Christ’s presence our hearts find worth, joy, peace, purpose. Let this last scripture be a call to action, your daily challenge to accept victory over the world through Christ.
“Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” 1 Corinthians 15:43b, 57-58 NLT