Why, God? Why?

whyA couple of people in my life, whom I love dearly, have been enduring long seasons of perseverance. That’s a Christian-sanitized way of saying they have been suffering from such gut-wrenching, I-don’t-know-if-I-can-survive-this agony for so long that they both have questioned their ability to endure even one more day of misery. I’ve been there. I know from personal experience that they only way out of the pain is through it, holding onto God with both hands and trusting that He will bring good out of situations that appear to be anything but good.

When we are neck-deep in the muck and mire of gut-wrenching pain, it’s human to ask God why. “Why is God allowing this to happen in my life? Why isn’t He intervening? Does He not love me? Am I being punished for something I did in the past? Why would a good God allow such evil to prevail in my life?” As someone who battled post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, an eating disorder, self-injury, and a whole host of other aftereffects from severe childhood trauma, I understand the drive to call God on the carpet like Job did and demand to know why He allowed such suffering into my life. It’s human to question why when we hurt, particularly when our pain persists long past our breaking point.

I have found that asking God why makes the suffering worse, and so I have made a life decision never to ask Him why. I know that sounds crazy, but since I gave up asking God why, I find my life challenges to be easier to navigate. This week, I’ll do my best to explain this.

As for how I first came up with the idea to stop asking God why … I got this from Joyce Meyer’s TV show, Enjoying Everyday Life. She shared the story of a preacher who lost his wife to illness. They were either high school or college sweethearts, and he didn’t know how to live without her. He told God two things after she passed away: (1) Help me remember that other people are watching my reaction. I am fully dependent upon You to help me do this right. (2) I will never ask You why.

I was intrigued by the concept of removing my questioning of why from my seasons of suffering. This week, I’ll share how freeing it is to let go of the quest to understand and replace it with trust in a loving God who works out everything, even this, for good.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Running toward the Giants in your Life

runningContinued from here.

On her television show Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer pointed out that in the story of David and Goliath, David first spoke his victory and then ran quickly toward him. He didn’t do what I do – He didn’t size up the giant, look him up and down, take a few deep breaths, and try to muster up the courage to do what God told him to do. He didn’t give himself time! How much easier might slaying the giants in my life be if I followed David’s example?

While God has taught me assertiveness over the years, assertiveness does not come naturally to me. It is a learned skill that has served me well over the years. However, when I face a giant – particularly like the one God has instructed me to take down – AGAIN – all of that training flies out the window. I take a few deep breaths to build up my courage, and that’s just enough time for the enemy to whisper in my ear all the ways that I don’t measure up. The giant is much bigger … stronger … a more accomplished warrior… Who am I to believe I can take that giant down? And then I lose sight of the fact that this battle is not mine but the Lord’s, and I hesitate.

I need to follow David’s example and speak my victory. I need to remind myself that God is in control and that He would not tell me to go to battle without ensuring my victory. And then I need to step forth in faith, as David did, building courage with each step as I run into battle. And I need to do this quickly or I’ll lose my nerve.

I wonder if David continued to feel fear when he went into battle after taking down Goliath. I wonder if that one victory was enough for him never to doubt or question the outcome in all of his successive battles. Did his knees continue to shake as mine do when I’m called into battle again? Does this spiritual journey ever get easier?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

The Pleasure after the Pain

smile2.pngContinued from here.

On her television show Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer helped me with this concept of the pain and pleasure of following God into deeper levels of holiness. She pointed out that when we choose to follow God, we will first experience pain as we “kill” more of our sinful nature. After we push through the pain, which requires effort, we then step into the pleasure that our spirit experiences as we deepen our relationship with God. Transforming into the image of Christ involves a continual cycle of pain followed by pleasure. We must first allow God to break down our resistance to Him by crucifying more of our flesh, and that hurts. It requires effort, and it frankly does not feel good. However, once we kill that part of our sinful nature, we are able to experience God at a deeper level, which is unbelievably pleasurable to the spirit. That pleasure far exceeds the pain of getting there. It’s well worth the effort and pain to walk into a deeper relationship with God.

Something else Joyce Meyer said on her show resonated with me. She said don’t envy someone else’s relationship with God if you are unwilling to do what they did to get it. I like the metaphor of an Olympic athlete. Yes, winning an Olympic gold medal sounds fantastic, but how many of us are willing to do what is required to win one? There’s so much more to the story than running one race. Olympic athletes train, sacrifice, and, yes, experience pain in their quest to win the gold medal. And when they do, they tell you it was worth it.

Your walk with God is the same way, and unlike with Olympic athletes, an intimate walk with God is attainable for all of us … BUT we must be willing to put forth the effort to attain it. We must be willing to push through the pain to experience the pleasure. We must be willing to because the “Messiah’s misfits”) as we journey toward a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Living God. Developing a close, deep, personal, and intimate relationship with God requires much effort and cost, but it is so worth it!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Motivation for Discipleship is Always Love

love_youContinued from here.

Radical discipleship is not possible without love, which is why it’s so important to invest quality, one-on-one time with God every day. Humbling myself to apologize to the mother of my son’s bullies was not easy for me, and there’s nothing in my natural self that was inclined to do it. I chose to say, “Yes, Lord” because I loved God more than I hated the thought of having that conversation. I don’t know if God will use that conversation to change the mother’s life, but my obedience certainly changed mine.

Each time we say “Yes, Lord” to something we REALLY don’t want to do, we deepen our level of intimacy with God. We get the opportunity to experience Him in ways that most other people do not. God rewards those who earnestly seek Him, and the momentarily pain of obedience is more than compensated for in the long run. Joyce Meyer words it this way: obedience first causes pain to the flesh before it results in pleasure to the spirit.

Radical discipleship is what Jesus called us to. All of his disciples were radical in how they lived their lives and how they interacted with others. Their priorities were not the same as the World’s. They weren’t concerned about saving up for retirement and making sure their kids got into the right college. Their focus was on Kingdom purposes, doing the will of God and sharing their faith with anyone who would listen. They loved God more than their own lives, and they gave up their right to live as they pleased to become slaves of Christ. That’s the same level of radical discipleship that God calls us to as well.

Are you a disciple of Christ? Or are you just going through the motions to avoid going to hell when you die? Do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Or is going to church simply an activity you do on Sundays that you check off your to-do list each week? God isn’t looking for pew warmers – he’s looking for people who will radically follow Him, loving Him more than they love their own lives. Is that you?

In March 2013, I became a radical disciple of Christ, and my life has been completely transformed. Anyone who knew me before then will testify that this is the case for me. I have made many sacrifices, but I have gained so much more in return. God IS the gift. Chase Him! Cling to Him! He is worth it!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up a sign that says, “Love You.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

You are Loved

lovedIf you only ever hear one message from this blog, I hope it will be how deeply you are loved. If Christians really believed this about themselves, they would be transformed, and the overflow of that love would transform the world!

I lived most of my life as a Christian who did not believe she was loved. I actually believed that my salvation was an “add on.” I believed that Jesus died for other people, and since he was doing it, anyhow, it was no sweat off his back to throw me into the mix. A few years ago, God convicted me and made me see that even if I was the only person who ever received Jesus’ gift of salvation, he would have made the same choice. His sacrifice was very personal for me, and it was very personal for you. You were chosen because you are deeply loved.

On her television program Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer made a profound statement that has helped me with forgiving others. She pointed out that people behave badly because they do not appreciate the height, depth, width, and breadth of God’s love for them. If they really understood it, then they would not behave as they do. Praying for someone to see the height, depth, width, and breadth of God’s love for them is something I can always pray sincerely, no matter how heinous someone’s acts are. For example, this is my prayer for the school shooters that have been in the news over the last year. If they really understood how deeply they are loved, they would not have done what they did.

The Bible says that God loves us lavishly – LAVISHLY! God IS love, and He is unending. Thus, we are loved without limits because God has no limits. Anyone who truly embraces this truth steps into a path of transformation and profound healing from all of their emotional pain.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling with a heart by her head. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Temptation of Pity Parties

pity_partyLast week on her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyers preached on the keys to getting the breakthrough you have been praying for. One of those keys is resisting the temptation to indulge in a pity party, which is such a vulnerability for me. Meyers made the astute observation that even though we might have good reasons for engaging in pity parties, they are harmful to us and can interfere with the process of experiencing the breakthrough that we are seeking.

Like Meyers, I have many legitimate reasons to feel drawn toward a pity party. Both of us were sexually abused as children, and we grew into emotionally-wounded adults as a direct result of the child abuse. Both of us had to work very hard to heal from the pain, and neither of us was responsible for the damage that was inflicted upon us as children. The child abuse was unfair, and having to suffer through serious aftereffects from the abuse was also unfair. If I wanted to, I could build a strong case for my “right” to indulge in a pity party.

Meyers stated that when she complained to God about her abuser being responsible for her brokenness, God’s response was that this was true. However, not being responsible for the damage did not give her (or us) the “right” to treat other people – even our abusers – wrongly. Instead, we need to go for God healing and learn how to behave in a godly manner, even when our circumstances are unfair. That was a difficult lesson for me to learn, but it was also profoundly healing.

This week, we are going to explore the appeal of pity parties, why they are so destructive, and how to avoid them. As Joyce Meyers pointed out in other sermons, God promises to give us beauty for ashes (Is. 61: 3), but we don’t get to keep the ashes. If we want the beauty of emotional healing from our pain, we must part with the ashes of our self-pity. I loved my ashes and did not want to give them up: I enjoyed stewing in my bitterness toward my child abusers. However, I did want emotional healing, and to receive it, I had to give up the pity parties. The ashes are not worth the pain. The beauty is so much better.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crying while holding balloons that are crying. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Evangelism: Go Fishing, Not Catching

fishingContinued from here.

There’s no question that Christians are commanded to share their faith with others. Jesus spelled this out clearly in the Great Commission:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matt. 28:19-20

This isn’t going to happen if the Church doesn’t talk about our faith with people who are not yet part of the Body of Christ. God loves everyone and wants to be reconciled with everyone. That’s what Jesus came to earth for: to reconcile as many people to God as possible. If we never talk about our faith outside of our church walls, with people who already have a relationship with God, how are people who do not yet know God going to be drawn to Him?

Joyce Meyer recently made a profound statement on her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life. She was talking about a man who enjoyed fishing but whose children did not. He said the problem was that while he wanted to go fishing, the children wanted to go catching. In other words, the man enjoyed the process of using different baits to try to lure the fish to him, and the process was enjoyable to him whether or not he actually caught a fish. Conversely, the children simply wanted to catch fish – to bring in a large haul – and they were only going to enjoy the experience if they succeeded in this goal.

I think that some segments of the Church have made people feel pressured to “catch fish” rather than to “go fishing,” which is not what Jesus meant when he talked about fishing for people. Fishing for fish or for people involves using the right bait to lure them in … to invite them to join you … and few people are actually responsive to pressure, sales, or Bible thumping tactics. I believe this is at the heart of why so many Christians (including myself) are reluctant to engage in them.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace in a boat fishing. Courtesy Bitmoji.]