Seek First: An Entry from my Journal

Recently, I have hit a sweet spot in my life. I said this in my last post and I will say it again. I am facing the exact same set of circumstances. The same challenges, the same complications, the same questions, the same job, the same ministry, the same relationships and the same family dynamic. But I am looking at everything through a new lens. It has been a long, grueling and gradual process. There have been many nights I have stayed up late, unable to sleep. There have been several times I have ugly cried and broken down over the phone or during one-on-ones with friends and spiritual advisors. I have been exposed to a lot of ugliness that I have carried in my heart for far too long. God has stood in the muck of my life with me. He has been faithful to hold my hand and has not abandoned me in the process. Although the process is far from complete, I feel like the sun has come out in my life. Where I used to feel despair, I feel hope. Where I used to feel sorrow, I feel joy. Where I used to feel dread, I feel expectation. I am hearing his voice more clearly and I see the small, yet significant, steps He has helped me to take in my personal growth and walk with Him. Looking back over the past several months, I see progress. I am far from perfect and there is so much more work that needs to be done, but I know that God will be faithful to complete what He has begun in me. I have seen His faithfulness in operation, up-close and personal in my life. So much of that has to do with God re-aligning my priorities and causing my vision to come into focus.

The other day I was journaling my reflections on the verse Matthew 6:33, where it says, “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Here it is:

Do not lean on your own understanding…I will never be able to gain a sense of understanding by looking at my circumstances, my perceptions of my circumstances, the opinions of others regarding my circumstances, or even the players in my own circumstances. Analyzing the details, over thinking and projecting into the future will bring about a sense of anxiety in me and do little to bring resolution to my questions. Trying to make sense of things and make everything fit into a tidy formula gives me a false sense of control and causes me to act out of my own intuition rather than being led by the Spirit of God.

What then should I do? Seek first…I hear it over and over again resounding in my spirit. Seek first the Kingdom of God and all of these things will be added unto you. It has become my daily question. What am I seeking first? Is it His Kingdom or all these things? This is the right question to be asking. It is the question that brings all other questions into focus. When I invest my time and my attention in a vain effort to control matters that should be left in God’s hand, I find myself given over to fear, worry, anxiety, even confusion and chaos at times. When I set my gaze on Him and let everything else fade into the background, I am able to rest and be secure, knowing that He is working out all things for my good. It becomes less about figuring it all out and more about hearing His voice every moment. Lord, what step are you asking me to take now? Where would you have me to go in this moment? What would you have me to do?

God is using the situations and circumstances to draw my attention to how much I need Him. He is allowing me to feel things, to experience things and to walk through the fires of life to draw me closer to His heart and to increase my awareness of my dependency on Him. He desires to satisfy every hunger. He longs for me to rest in Him. Day by day He reveals Himself to me as my constant companion. When I understand that His love is all that matters and that nothing can separate me from His love, no situation seems as pressing, daunting or scary.

Today, I choose to lay down my questions. I chose to stop asking for a time even, to seek Him first. My desire is to come to a deeper understanding of Christ, my answer. The Answer.

I mentioned that all of this work that God is doing in my life has been without a change in external circumstances. I believe that God desires to change me first, before He changes my circumstances. I think God knows that before I can walk into all that He has for me, He needs to walk me through a season of preparation and maturation. Otherwise, I would not be able to properly manage or handle the coming season when it arrives. God is teaching me valuable lessons and principles that I will need to rely on to get me through the challenges of the next season. Maybe you, like me, have walked through some challenging times this year. Don’t be discouraged. Nothing that you have experienced will go to waste. God is preparing you to receive the promise. Don’t lose heart in the wait.
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Hope. The Expected End.

Lately, God has been busy doing so much work in my heart. On the outside, my external circumstances don’t look much different. On the inside, God has given me fresh vision and fresh perspective. My joy, faith and expectancy levels are on the rise and growing by the day. God has brought about a restoration of hope in my life.

Hope is crucial for us as lovers of Jesus. Hebrews 6:19 tells us, “[Now] we have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whoever steps out upon it-a hope] that reaches farther and enters into [the very certainty of the Presence] within the veil (AMP).” Recently, I was listening to a sermon by TD Jakes, who I can’t get enough of these days. He had this to say about hope, “Hope is an expected end. It’s not a specific process.” That one simple statement jumped out at me and really caused some things to come into focus in my life. Finally, it clicked.

There is so much that happens in “the process” that at times it can be very difficult to hold on to hope. It never seems like the process has anything to do with the destination or our end goal. Things never go according to plan (or should I say our plans) and it often seems like we are heading in the opposite direction of our dreams. Doors close. Things fall through and sometimes seem to fall apart. Seasons come and go. When things don’t go as expected, we tend to fall into a place of discouragement and we start to think that maybe the promises and the dreams that we are after aren’t really going to happen after all. We think that maybe we didn’t hear God right. We think that maybe it would be safer, wiser even, to downgrade our dreams to shield ourselves from the risk of disappointment. I have definitely been there before.

Recently, God has been showing me areas of my life where I have stopped dreaming. He has showed me places in my heart where, without realizing it, I had given up on hope and bought the lie that the way things are is the way things will always be. God presented me with an invitation to pray risky prayers and dream big dreams again. And I accepted. Once I realized that my hope is in who God is, who He has called me to be and what He has purposed for my life, I became liberated to dream with God once more. We forget sometimes that we already know how this story ends. God will have His way in our lives. He is faithful to complete the work He has begun in us. He will accomplish His purposes and the promises He has spoken about us will come to pass.

The process that we need to go through and the journey we have to take to get us there can be challenging for sure. There will be bumps, delays and detours along the path, but when we go with God, nothing can stop us from reaching His destination in His timing. Nothing can rob from us this hope that we have and get to hold unto. All the things that come up on a daily basis and that attempt to discourage us are merely details. We can’t get so hung up on the details, or the specfics of the process, that we lose sight of hope altogether. We have to face the fact that God’s process never looks anything like we expected it to, but it always leads us to exactly where we need to be. There is so much freedom that comes with choosing to set our focus on what God has said rather than what we can see. A weight is lifted off of us when we choose not to overthink the details and trust God with the outcomes. It takes the pressure off of the current moment by eliminating the idea that in order to see the fulfillment of our dreams, things must look as we expected them to. Hope says that even when things don’t look like I expected them to, God is trustworthy.

Going forward, I am choosing to take my eyes off the specifics of the process, in order to set my gaze on the expected end. Each day I am asking God to help me to have eyes, mind and heart fixated on hope. As Paul writes in Col. 3:1-2, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” I was driving home from a friend’s house last night and Josh Groban belted it out through my radio. I heard the following words and knew God was speaking directly to my heart: “Don’t give up. Because you are loved.” Just knowing that the Father loves me gives me a reason to keep going every day and to never lose heart. Being loved changes everything. Where love is, hope is also.