Trust: Without Understanding

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

I have trust issues.  Oddly enough, I usually don’t have too much trouble trusting people.  Where I have a problem is trusting myself and trusting God.  It’s complicated to explain, but in a nutshell I could boil it down to one sentence: I want control.

I want control of my emotions.  I want control of my decisions.  I want control over my circumstances.  I want to know where I’m coming from, where I am and where I’m going.  Give me a blueprint with all the steps laid out in a logical fashion and I’ll be a happy camper.  I don’t want to be left in the dark.  I want to know.

Unfortunately, you can’t control what you don’t understand.  And quite honestly, I don’t understand much.  I get overwhelmed sometimes.  I can feel so strongly that I am being led in a particular direction and then suddenly something happens that stops me in my tracks and causes me to turn in a different direction.  Sometimes I feel like I have no sense of direction at all and I am forced to wait on the Lord for an answer.  I know my limitations and that there is only so much that I know, understand and can act upon, which is where my lack of trust in myself comes from.  The truth is that I shouldn’t trust myself.  God tells me not to rely on my own understanding.  I’ll get it wrong.  I’m not able to see the big picture.

But my need for control tells me that I don’t trust God the way I should.  I am learning that when it comes to things I can’t control, I need to throw my hands up in the air, take a big breath and recognize that God is more than capable.  When I surrender the details of my life to Him, I leave everything in good hands.

Not only is God capable, but He loves me.  He desires the best for me and has every resource at His disposal to make it happen.  It says in Matthew 7:11, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”  Our God is the best Father.  He doesn’t withhold His goodness from us.  It says in Psalms 23:6 that His goodness and unfailing love pursue us.  It chases us down.

I begin many of my prayers with this familiar line, “Lord, I just don’t understand…”  He usually cuts me off right there.  “Theresa, you’re right.  You don’t understand and I don’t need you to.  I just need you to trust me.”

We Will Not Be Shaken

For in the hour of our darkest day, we will not tremble.  We won’t be afraid.  Hope is rising like the light of dawn.  Our God is for us, He has overcome.

I love this song.  I can identify with what it means to walk through dark days.  There have been times in my life where I have lived moment to moment.  To even think about tomorrow was too overwhelming a task.  I’ve lived out stretches of time where it seemed like nothing would get better and hope seemed like a foreign concept.  Deep dark depression and discouragement seemed to swallow me whole and in those times I hated myself and was unsure of God’s love.

Something remarkable happened in those dark days. Jesus always came through.  He always loved me and stood by my side through it all.  And with each dark season I have walked through, He has caused me to become a little stronger and I have been able to see His love and His provision through my circumstances a little more clearly.

Each of these experiences has shaped me into the woman I am today.  I have become determined to see the hand of God at work in all my circumstances, including the rough times.  My friends tell me that I’m too positive sometimes, that I’m too optimistic and that I need to be more realistic and less naive.  It’s because I’m always looking for the silver lining.  I know that even in the hardest situation I can find God’s hand at work, if I can just open my eyes long enough to see it.

These days aren’t dark days, just hard ones.  I feel like God has been taking me to school about life.  He has been teaching me so much about Jesus, about myself, about others and about love.  It has been challenging to say the least. But I can say with confidence…

I will not be shaken.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes.” Rom. 8:28 NIV

Not Enough

 

 

 

 

From time to time, I, like every other human being, battle with insecurity.  With it always comes the lie, “You are not enough.”  I have struggled with it especially in the area of my own beauty and self-worth.  For the most part, this is an area of my life that God has really healed me in, but at times the enemy whispers in my ear, tempting me to forget everything that Jesus has told me about where my true value comes from.  I’m just being honest and I think most girls would admit that they struggle with this same battle.

We are constantly surrounded by images of women who are presented as flawless.  We see it in television, in the music industry, in magazines…it’s everywhere.  We are told that this is the standard of beauty we should strive to attain and when we don’t achieve it, we are confronted with that lie.  Not enough.

The worst is when you encounter those women in your day to day life that have reached that standard and are flaunting everything they got.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  They put all their assets on display, wearing what seems to be the least amount of clothing possible and attracting all kinds of attention.

We are ultra aware of the attention this gets from the male persuasion.  Heads turn.  Jaws drop.  Men flock.  Guys go out of their way to chase after these women.  We have restaurants that exist just so that men can be served a burger by a big-chested girl in a tight shirt.  It’s a thing.  To make matters worse, we are constantly reminded that men are visual…highly motivated by appearances and looks.  So we are left wondering where does that leave me, just your average girl?

Usually, I don’t lack self-confidence.  Most days I look in the mirror and I like what I see, but at times I have compared myself to other girls and felt like I must look like a sack of potatoes.  I have been plagued with the thought that if this is the standard of beauty, I’m not making the cut.  Compared to someone who looks like that who will see the value in me?  Who will take the time to get to know me when a girl like that is such an enticing option?  Let’s just be honest.  The struggle of comparison is real.  There will always be someone prettier than us, funnier than us, smarter than us….It’s just the way life is.

Choosing to love yourself for who you are is a choice.

For me, I had to remind myself that I don’t want to be the girl that serves herself up on a platter and I don’t want the kind of man who is looking for that kind of woman.  And this is where it gets tricky.  I also have to recognize that the girls I see that are flaunting everything they got are real women too, real women with their own set of insecurities just like the ones I have.  It would be so easy to judge a girl like that based on her appearance alone.  Why?  Because it helps me to desperately cling to my own sense of security.  The harder thing to do is to realize that we are all up against the same battle.  We all compare ourselves to others.  We all fight with the need to prove ourselves to others, especially members of the opposite sex, and make them see that we are worthwhile.

I suggest that we stop trying to prove ourselves, so we can actually start being ourselves.

I can be secure in who I am and the convictions God has given me. I plan on doing the whole marriage thing one time.  With one person.  I don’t plan on sharing my goods with anyone else…even if it’s just to look at.  That makes me different.  At the right time, the right man will be looking not only at my outward beauty, but my inward beauty as well, the truly beautiful parts of me.  And you know what else?  I am anything but average.  I am the complete package and so are you.

God calls me the crown of beauty in His hand (Isa. 62:3).  He says that I have stolen His heart with just one glance from my eyes (Song of Songs 4:9).  He fashioned me.  He molded me.  He sculpted me.  Every detail of who I am was hand-picked and crafted by Him.  I’m valuable because He says I am.  And He always chooses me.

He says I am enough for Him.  And you know what?  That is enough for me.

 

Audacious Love: Loving People Like Jesus Loves

I met a young 18 year old girl this past weekend.  We got to talking and she was open enough to share her story with me.  She is a preacher’s daughter who walked away from the church.  She got wrapped up with a group of stoners and they all lived in the same house, spending their days smoking weed and taking ecstasy.  Recently, a good friend of hers offered to pull her out of that environment and invited her to live with her family.  She has been attending church with her friend and was on a retreat that I was a part of.  She has been totally impacted by Jesus.  She has begun the process of walking out her faith again.  It is so clear to me that God is doing big things in her life.

A couple of things she said really inspired me.  She talked about the drug house she lived in.  She knew it was wrong and that her life would remain stagnant for as long she stayed there.  But what kept her there was a sense of acceptance and belonging.  She said she didn’t feel the need to conform because she was loved for who she was, which was something she had never felt at church.  At church, there was always a sense that she wasn’t good enough and she could never fit in.  At the church she has been attending, she has experienced love and acceptance from other Christians like she never has known before.

A couple of other girls on this retreat expressed a similar story.  At a time in their lives when they were doing all the wrong things, God put Christians in their lives who loved them consistently.  Even when they would make the same mistakes over and over again, God had put people in their lives who loved them anyways and that made a huge impact.  Now they are living for Jesus.

Stories like these have made me reflect alot about how I love others.  I have alot of friends who have walked away from church.  I have been told that Christians are closed-minded, selective and exclusive, leaving people feeling like no matter how hard they try, they are never going to make the part.

In John 14:6, Jesus makes a bold statement: “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  He also says in 2 Peter 3:9 that “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  My fear is that we aren’t demonstrating that same patience in the church.  I can’t help but think that too often, unknowingly, we make relationship with Jesus seem unattainable, as if it were reserved for only those who think, speak, dress and act like we do. Broken individuals, looking for answers, are left feeling like they can’t fit the mold.  Sadly, many reject the idea of Jesus all together, coming to the conclusion that they would be better loved elsewhere.

I think too often we present the gift of Jesus’ love to people in the wrapping paper of our own traditions, in a language they can’t relate to and with a list of stipulations they must follow if they want to stay in our club.  The package is unattractive.  People yearning to know real love, real joy and real freedom can’t accept that the package we are presenting them with is their only option.

I don’t think that people would have such a hard time wrapping their mind around the idea of Jesus being the only way, if they could see and experience love the way Jesus does it.  Jesus followers were unrefined and uneducated.  Matthew was a tax collector.  A man looked down upon by society.  When Jesus looked at people, His eyes radiated love.  He cherished people and was attentive to them in whatever state it was that they were in.  He was not one of the men standing in line to condemn and throw stones at the women caught in the act of adultery.  In a magnificent display of His grace and His mercy, He spared her life telling her to go and sin no more.  That’s the thing about the love of God.   Once you experience it, you don’t want to live the same way anymore.  His love motivates you to live a life that would please Him, much the same way that a wife or a husband, out of pure love, desires to please their spouse.

I think sometimes we are guilty of taking the opposite approach with people.  We make a big deal about people’s sin, expecting them to comply with our rules and regulations, without giving them the space to encounter God’s love, mercy and grace.  It just doesn’t work.  Isn’t it interesting that the only people Jesus lost patience in were the Pharisees and religious leaders that thought they knew everything, but only made it harder for people to experience relationship with God?

Jesus loved people with no agenda, because that’s just who He is.  He is love.  If you need an example of this look no further than the cross.  When it came to the people who rejected Jesus, His response was to love harder.  He loved more fiercely.  His love for those that rejected Him led Him to His crucifixion. He looked in the eyes of those who refused to love Him as they drove the nails into His hands.  His love didn’t give up.  It wouldn’t rest.

We need to take this into consideration when we treat people like we have an agenda.  When we can’t handle their sin, their brokenness, their doubts or their questions, even their rejection of the Gospel, we write them off as unreachable.  We allow ourselves to grow distant from them, making them feel even more alone than when they started out.

What if we  demonstrated the same kind of patience that Jesus demonstrated with us?  Have we forgotten our own process and journey that has led us to where we are today?  What if we weren’t threatened by people’s sin and questions and chose to love them anyways just because?  What if we took more time getting to really know people?  What if we expressed a desire to know their story?  To understand why they are where they are?  And what if we chose to love them anyways?  What would that speak to the world about what Jesus’ love is all about?  What if?

Audacious Love: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

I am your typical girl.  I love a good love story.  My favorite movies are A Walk to Remember, The Notebook and Titanic.  When I hear that someone I know just got engaged, I need all the details.  How did you meet?  When did you know?  What did he say?  How did he say it?  I have been accused of being in love with the idea of love.

But Jesus has introduced me to a different kind of love entirely.  His love is audacious.  It’s bold.  It’s fierce and it’s unconditional.  For me, the Gospel is the greatest love story ever told.  

Just picture it.  A world ravished and tainted by sin.  Broken down to the core.  Without hope, without meaning.  Lost in depravity.  Looking for a way out.  Looking for an answer, but utterly and completely separated from God by it’s sin.

The Father’s heart broke.  His gut wrenched with compassion and love for the children He had created and designed for the purpose of relationship with Him.  His heart beat wildly in His chest with passionate love for His fallen children.  He had to have them back.  He had to cross the chasm.  He had to bridge the gap.

A plan.  A strategy.  A remedy was set into place.  He would give everything He had.  He would put everything at stake to win them back.  He would give  them His only Son, Jesus.  Jesus would enter the chaos.  He would get His hands dirty in their mess.  He would strap on flesh and blood to make the love of God a tangible reality to them.  A love they had never known or experienced before.  When they looked into His loving, compassionate eyes they would glimpse true love.  They would understand the heart of the Father.  And they would know God Himself.  Jesus would give and give and give to the point of giving His very life as a sacrifice.

In His death at the cross, Jesus made a beautiful exchange.  He took on the fallen nature of humanity.  He took on the sin, the guilt, the filth and the shame.  He bore it all on His shoulders.  And a beautiful thing took place.  Suddenly, humanity was able to experience what it was like to have that heavy weight of sin lifted from their shoulders.  Humanity experienced what it was like to be forgiven, to be clean, to be whole, by simply accepting the sacrifice He had made and choosing to love Him in return.

The Father’s heart swelled with joy, as His children took on the nature of His Son.  When He looked at them, they radiated the light of Jesus.  And for the first time, they were able to boldly approach His throne of grace.  They were given direct access.  No longer were they foreigners or strangers to Him.  He called them His sons and His daughters.

This is the love that I want to give my life for.  This is the love that I want to spend my days sharing with others.  People are already aware of thier sin.  They are already aware of their brokenness.  What they need to be reminded of is this audacious love.

 

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21