I Will Trust You Lord

sinking_shipContinued from here.

I have been struggling for several weeks to find my way out of a deep emotional pit that has both physically and emotionally worn me out. I have earnestly prayed throughout this time. I have sought God’s leading. I have steeled myself for following God, no matter what. And I have gotten back up again and again to follow God in the midst of emotional pain that runs so deep that I cannot put it into words. I have looked for a way out, and God led me to it through an oldie but goody – Twila Paris’ song from the 1980’s entitled Do I Trust You, Lord?

The bottom line is that either I trust God, or I don’t. If I trust God, I will keep getting back up and following Him, no matter how many times that I am knocked down. I will keep believing that He will restore me, even when I am so blinded by the pain that I cannot see the blessings. I will keep forgiving the people who are unknowingly pouring salt into my wounds as they judge me in my brokenness. I will keep extending those people grace, even as they continue to hurt me. I will keep loving them. And I will keep loving and giving to others, even as I am tempted to withdraw from everyone to lick my own wounds. I will continue to prioritize what God cares about, not because I feel like it but because I trust God.

The cry of my heart has become the climax of Do I Trust You, Lord?:

I will trust You, Lord, when I don’t know why.
I will trust You, Lord, till the day I die.
I will trust You, Lord, when I’m blind with pain.
You were God before, and You’ll never change.

I will trust You. I will trust You.
I will trust You, Lord.
I will trust You. I will trust You.
I will trust You, Lord.

I will trust You. I will trust You.
I will trust You, Lord.”

Trusting God, even while blinded with pain, is the way out.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace in a tuxedo playing the violin on the tip of a sinking ship. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Do I Trust You, Lord?

shrugContinued from here.

While I can choose not to judge the wounded and broken, that does not prevent others from doing this to me. I have been reeling for weeks as God is healing my post-traumatic stress at a deeper level. God is allowing the iron in my soul to surface so he can heal it, and it’s a painful process. Being judged for falling short of others’ expectations when it’s taking everything within me to stand upright (or even to stand at all) has been extremely painful, and I have been struggling with how to hold onto my faith and keep believing that God is working all of this pain for good.

I am spiritually mature enough to know that there’s no Plan B – either God will come through for me, or I’ll spend the rest of my life flattened. At this stage of my relationship with God, it’s not an option to walk away from Him, nor is it an option to stop following Him. And yet the weight of the emotional pain has been unbearable for weeks, with some Christians in my life heaping judgment on me when it’s taking everything within me simply to keep getting back up. How do I keep pressing on and following God amidst all of this?

God blessed me with KLOVEclassics.com, which has me listening to Christian songs that blessed me all the way back in the 1980’s. One particular gem has become my anthem during this incredibly painful season in my life: Twila Paris’ Do I Trust You?

I will be graduating soon with my Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, so I particularly relate to this lyric:

I know the doctrine and theology, but right now they don’t mean much to me. This time there’s only one thing I’ve got to know: Do I trust You, Lord?”

I know the “go to” Bible verses for suffering and pain. I know that God will work this all for good. I know that God’s ways are higher than mine and that He is good. However, knowing all of this “doctrine and theology” isn’t much comfort to the wounded child inside – the little girl who experienced so much trauma and who, even after many years of therapy and healing work, is awash with deep-seated pain as God surfaces the iron in her soul to heal her. And that “doctrine and theology” isn’t helping as some Christians in my life – the very ones who should be extending me grace and praying me through this pain – are instead judging me in the place in my deepest vulnerability.

So, in the place between knowing what the Bible says and experiencing pain that threatens to break me … when the “doctrine and theology” aren’t making a difference … where is the way out? It’s found in a simple question: Do I trust you, Lord?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders with a thought bubble showing an emoticon shrugging its shoulders. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Judging the Wounded

judgeI apologize for not blogging last week. My schedule for Father’s Day weekend was overstuffed, and I had to choose between blogging and sleeping. Here’s hoping I can get back on track this week.

God has been teaching me a particularly painful lesson over the past few weeks that I hope you can learn by reading about it rather than have to learn it on a “field trip” (as Beth Moore puts it) as I have. It’s a lesson about grace and why Jesus told us never to judge other people. I am learning this lesson by being on the receiving end of being judged during a particularly vulnerable season that most people simply cannot relate to. It’s one thing to be judged when you are being intentionally obstinate. However, when you are judged in weakness, vulnerability, hurt, and brokenness, the lack of grace heaped on top of that vulnerable season can seem unbearable.

Casting Crowns has a great line in the song, Jesus, Friend of Sinners:

Nobody knows what we’re for, only what we’re against, when we judge the wounded.”

And you know what? We’re ALL wounded. Your wounds might looks quite different from mine. In fact, your area of wounding might be in an area that’s a strength for me. When I judge you in the area of your deepest wounding, I can compound what’s already painful for you as I heap judgment upon you rather than grace. Not only do I squander an opportunity to saturate your wounds with God’s loving grace, but I actually rub salt into them, which can lead you to question whether you even have a place in the family of God. After all, we expect judgment from the world as “peculiar people,” but judgment from others in the Body of Christ can actually deepen the wound, that’s what I have been experiencing on this “field trip.”

Joyce Meyer recently preached on Ps. 105:18, which literally says that iron entered Joseph’s soul when he was enslaved and imprisoned in Egypt. If that makes no sense to you, thank God for sparing you that experience. Sadly, many of us know the pain of experiencing something so traumatizing that we cannot find the words to express the agony of iron entering the soul – words do not exist that can communicate the depth of your pain to someone who has not walked in your shoes. Judging someone with iron in his or her soul exacerbates the pain in ways you cannot possibly imagine if you have not experienced it yourself. I hope that you never do.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting in a judge’s chair over the word, “Judging.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Celebrating the Milestones

wootContinued from here.

When God calls me to run a marathon, I find it helpful to celebrate the milestones as I go, such as whenever I complete a block of classes. I just wrapped up classes 9 and 10 and will start classes 11 and 12 on Monday. I need to take some time to celebrate being 83.3% finished with my classes before diving in to complete the last two.

God is all about a party. He is also all about joy. One way to finish the race well is to celebrate how far you have come along the way. No, I am not where I need to be yet, but I am also a long way from where I started, and that’s worth celebrating!

I also don’t need to be putting energy into mulling over what’s next. God will show me when He wants me to know, just as He led me to enroll in school a year ago. If I knew what was coming next, it might steal my focus from finishing this race first. I also might become overwhelmed by seeing both what needs to be completed to finish this race on top of whatever will be required for the next race that God is calling me to run.

One final point worth noting – God often calls us to run races that we are not equipped to run in our natural state. God-sized callings require total dependence upon God to complete. As people see you succeeding in running a race that is way out of your league, God is glorified because He is the only explanation for your successful run. Always remember that other people are watching you when you follow God – whether or not you finish well affects many more lives than just your own.

If God is calling you to run a race, I encourage you to dive in and follow Him. Whatever He is calling you to do will likely require much time and effort, but the journey will be worth it. Not only will you accomplish much for the Kingdom of God, but you will deepen your relationship with God as He provides all you need to finish the race … and to finish it well.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace cheering over the word, “Woot!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

To Finish Well, You Must Run with a Good Attitude

im_into_itContinued from here.

Paul did not only finish his race: He did so with a good attitude. Even though he had suffered much as he ran his race, his eye was on the prize until the very end:

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” ~ 2 Tim. 4:6-8

Paul did not feel sorry for himself for all he had to suffer to finish the race. His focus remained on the goal – loving God enough to finish all he was assigned to do. He was joyful about what awaited him when he spent eternity with God. His focus was on spiritual matters, not temporal ones.

This one is the hardest part of finishing well for me – running with a good attitude that is focused on the eternal rather than the temporal. The temporal voices are so loud – my family and friends wanting more of my time … my body wanting more rest … my extroverted nature wanting more “fun time” and less “work time” … Unless I remain mindful of focusing on why I am putting myself through this season of sacrifice, I am vulnerable to finishing the race as a grumbler, which does not honor God.

It was an honor for God to choose Paul to run the race that he was called to. It is also an honor for God to choose me to run the race that He has given me, and it’s an honor for God to have called you for your race. We need to remember what a blessing and honor it is to be called by God and serve Him wholeheartedly and without grumbling. That’s the only way to finish the race well.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling and pointing to herself above the words, “I’m into it!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

To Finish Well, You Must Finish

finallyContinued from here.

Earning my Master of Arts in Christian Ministry required me to complete 12 three-credit-hour classes. At a full-time pace, that’s two 8-week classes at a time, taking just over one year to complete. I knew I did not have the stamina to stay in school for two years at this stage in my life, so I chose to go the full-time route. I was willing to be stretched too thin for one year but not two.

For the first classes, I had the excitement of a new adventure with God to keep me energized. Also, the school strongly recommends taking the classes in a particular order, with the less rigorous classes completed first. So, while my first six classes certainly required effort, the second half of the program has been more laborious. I don’t recall being tempted to quit during the first half of the program, but that temptation hovered during classes 7 through 10. I experienced frustrating challenges in two of my later classes that were not issues in the earlier ones. I never actually considered quitting, though, because I love God more than I disliked the struggles.

The halfway point of a journey with God can bring lots of temptation to quit. You have been working so hard for so long, and yet the finish line is still far beyond the horizon. You see how far you have already run, and what looms ahead has more hills and valley than what you already ran. The excitement in the “newness” of the race has faded, and all you see ahead of you is hard work …. day after day, week after week, and even month after month or year after year. You must set your mind on finishing, or the temptation to quit might become too loud to drown out.

Starting out can be exciting, with the people in your life supporting you and urging you on. However, as the weeks roll into months of seemingly endless sacrifices, those supportive voices begin to fade. Your family and friends forget about the reasons you started running as they tally up all of the times they have had to proceed without you because you were focused on the race. At the halfway point, it is often only God who continues cheering you on because He sees the bigger picture. Align your perspective with God’s, not of anyone else’s, or the temptation to quit might become too strong. Set your mind to finish the race, no matter what anyone else says.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace raising her hands and smiling as she crosses the finish line through a banner that says, “Finally.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

To Finish Well, You Must First Start

lets_goContinued from here.

One reason many Christians don’t finish well is that they never start! One cannot complete a race without first entering it. An athlete can dream about running a race, talk about it, plan for it, and even train for it, but he isn’t going to finish the race without showing up and running in it.

Starting a new journey with God is not easy. It wasn’t for me when I committed to returning to school as I was pushing 50. At the time, I had a full-time job in Corporate America, a family to take care of, and a Bible study to lead. When on earth was I supposed to squeeze in school?

On top of that, I had absolutely no interest in returning to school. I already have a law degree, which required enough work to last me a lifetime. That was hard enough when I was single with no child or job requiring my attention. And I had no interest whatsoever in going to divinity school. I didn’t want to spend my time debating various aspects of the Christian faith. To me, my faith is actually pretty simple: My job is to love God and other people. My perspective is that anything that does not directly affect my loving God or other people, such as whether the earth was created in six figurative or literal days, is not worth my energy debating.

My one and only motivation for enrolling in divinity school in my late-forties while working a full-time job was because God placed heavily on my heart that He wanted me to do so. I love God enough to obey Him, even when I don’t want to do what He is telling me to do, so I enrolled. I started the race solely out of love for God, and that’s been my sole motivator throughout this race. When I earned my law degree, I was motivated by future financial security and prestige, neither of which apply to this degree. Love for God had to be enough to motivate me to enter the race and start running.

You will never finish a race that you do not start running. If God is calling you to do something, step out in faith to do it. Don’t waste your time creating a pro/con list to decide whether or not to obey God. Let your love for Him motivate you to do what He is calling you to do.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling and running above the words, “Let’s Go!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]