Overcoming Despair: God is Bigger

mountain_full_perspective

Continued from here.

Please know that I do not take the subject of despair lightly. I am not a proponent of minimizing pain or the human condition and balk at the advice to compare my situation to someone else’s so I can gain perspective that my situation isn’t that bad. Sometimes it is “that bad,” and your situation is the one people compare against to feel better about their own.

Being repeatedly raped as a child was “that bad.” My father’s sudden, unexpected death was “that bad.” Being unable to conceive a child was “that bad.” The Bible does not shy away from “that bad” life situations, nor does it minimize the depth of the pain. Instead, the Bible assures us that God is bigger. Jesus said,

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Worldly trouble is to be expected. It does not mean that God has forgotten you. Instead, it means that God is going to show you that He is bigger. I have lived this truth, so I know firsthand that it is so. God was bigger than my childhood abuse, grief, and infertility. He was able to heal my pain and bring me joy and peace. He was even able to heal a post-traumatic disorder condition that experts said was incurable. I am not minimizing your problem: I am encouraging you to recognize that your problem is dwarfed by the size of your God.

If you are ensnared in despair, you have zoomed your lens onto your problems so that they take up the entire screen of your focus. It’s time to zoom out so your focus includes not only your problems but also your God. As you do this, you will gain perspective: not that your problem is not big but that your God is even bigger … much bigger! Shifting your focus back onto God is the key to removing the shackles of despair and restoring you to a place of joy and peace.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing in front of a large cube with “Problem” written on it and a huge triangle behind them with “God” on it. The huge triangle makes Grace and the “problem” cube appear small. Courtesy Bitmoji and Grace Daniels.]

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A Lesson in Humility

airplane_take_offContinued from here.

I continued my meditation on the enormity of God as I flew to visit a friend out of state. As I looked out the airplane’s window, I considered the reality that God fills all of this space! He fills the plane, the atmosphere as far up as I could see, all the way down to the earth thousands of feet below, and every house peppering the landscape below.

And that was only as far as I could see! In that moment, He was also surrounding the Alps in Switzerland, the tropical fish at the Great Barrier Reef, and the penguins in Antarctica. Our God is truly massive!

Then, I thought about myself in comparison. I was taking up this little sliver is space in the middle seat of one airplane, wedged between my son and a stranger. The God of the Universe is EVERYWHERE, and I’m in this teeny tiny space. So, why do I often act as if the world revolves around me?

When I consider the mammoth size of God (actually, He makes a mammoth look teeny tiny), how distorted is my world view when I behave as if the world is supposed to cater to my desires? How could I possibly have any expectation that the rest of the world should defer to my whims?

And then consider my arrogance in trying to bend God to my will. How dare I tell God that He should do X, Y, and Z when my perspective is so severely limited. He sees EVERYTHING while I cannot even see through the seat of the person sitting in front of me on an airplane. How ludicrous of me to presume to know better than God how my life should go.

In my humanity, my own comfort often fills the frame of my perspective: what I want, need, or desire. So, what I view as “good” or “bad” is based on this teeny tiny sliver of space that I inhabit. Only God sees the whole picture. Only He is in the position to know what is truly “good” or “bad” because He sees the needs of EVERYONE. And He is good, so He cares.

C.S. Lewis said,

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

When I think about the enormity of our God – that He is, quite literally, EVERYWHERE, I am deeply humbled as I take my eyes off myself and place them onto my God, where they belong.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace waving through an airplane window above the words, “Ready for take off.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

No Longer a Victim

heartsContinued from here.

I cannot remember who said this (probably Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore): we live what we believe, not what we know. I knew that I had on the Armor of God, but I believed I was a victim. Thus, I behaved as a victim rather than a warrior, metaphorically cowering in my church’s parking lot like a wounded child rather than standing up and fighting, using the Armor of God.

My problem was believing that God is distant, with the Holy Spirit being my “walkie talkie” lifeline to Him. I saw the world as an unsafe place, with God always with me in more of a long distance way … like a Skype relationship rather than a face-to-face one. Through His book The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God, Williard has blown this lie to smithereens!

Willard points out that God is located everywhere, viewing the most beautiful places and hearing the most beautiful sounds of the world while also surrounding me. Because of this reality, I have complete access to unbounding love, joy, and peace at all times. This is the truth that Jesus knew, enabling Him to be joyful despite also being a man of suffering and pain.

To help me process this reality, I have been seeking to view the world through spiritual eyes, recognizing that no matter where my eyes look, the God who created the universe is there. Whether I look up to the cloud or stars, down into a valley, or as far as I can see over the ocean, He is there. This means there’s nowhere I can go without being surrounded by boundless love, joy, and peace. This makes this world a safe place, regardless of what my past experience has been.

This also means that the vast majority of this world is filled with God. There are only pockets of places that aren’t, which are inhabited by people who choose to reject God. They are the masters of their own space, and when they congregate, they create a bigger bubble of rebellion against God. However, compared to the enormity of the earth – the mountains, oceans, and everything in between, they are a small percentage of this world. Even when I am in their presence, the God who created the heavens and earth is both around me and in me, so I am never in an “unsafe” place. Where there is God, there is limitless love, joy, and peace for the asking.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace surrounded by hearts. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Living in a Safe World Because of the Presence of God

god_is_biggerContinued from here.

I have been sharing my journey of processing something I learned in Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. Willard talks about the reality that God is located everywhere simultaneously, which has profound meaning when you truly consider the implications of this truth.

I ended my last blog entry by saying that the only part of this earth that isn’t filled with the presence of God is people – all those who remain separated from Him by their own choice. I said this has deep implications for someone like me, who was severely abused in childhood and grew up viewing this world as an unsafe place. Let me elaborate on what I mean by this.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was a man of suffering who was familiar with pain. I never think of Jesus in this way because he was so joyful. (See Luke 10:21 and Heb. 12:2.) How could Jesus be both a man of suffering & pain AND a man of joy?

Willard says that Jesus was joyful because he saw the world through spiritual eyes. He knew the world was a safe place because it was filled with God.

Being fearful of living in an unsafe world has been my state of being for my entire life. When the illusion of safety is stripped away from you as a young child through people doing things to your body and spirit that should never be done, you grow up believing that the world is an unsafe place. This shapes your personality, putting you always “on your guard” – always looking for ways to protect yourself through either fight or flight. In other words, you grow into an adult with a victim mentality.

But God does not want us living our lives through victim’s eyes. He has made us victorious through Jesus, and He wants us approaching life through the eyes of a victor, not a victim.

God gave me a powerful visual of this a few years ago. I was falling prey to my tendency toward viewing myself as a victim, and God gave me a picture of myself cowering like a small child in my church’s parking lot while wearing the Armor of God. I clearly had everything I needed to be victorious in a fight, but I was behaving like the helpless abused child I was rather than the Warrior of God that I am.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Photograph of a wooden plaque that says, “God is bigger.” Courtesy Grace Daniels.]

The Earth is Surrounded by God

lucerneContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I shared how Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God has got me thinking about the enormity of our God. While I knew that God is always with me, I had not pondered the significance of God always being with everyone, everywhere.

In my quiet time with God, who I know is with me in the room, I started thinking about where else God is at that very moment: watching the sun rise over a body of water somewhere in the world … watching the sun set over a different body of water somewhere in the world … watching the beautiful mountains over Lake Lucerne … watching the tropical fish swimming by the Great Barrier Reef …

It hit me that the whole earth really IS filled with the glory of God. I always thought of this concept as the earth reflecting His glory while He is located in a distance place (Heaven), with the Holy Spirit serving as my “walkie talkie” connection to this distant God. However, I’m awakening to the reality that the earth is filled with the presence of God! This has profound implications for His children.

I have been practicing “seeing” the world through my spiritual eyes, which means that I am “seeing” the presence of God in every nook and cranny around me. When I drive down the road, I am “driving through God,” who fills the earth. The leaves of the trees rustle through Him as the gentle breeze blows. The flowers offer their beautiful colors into the presence of the LORD Almighty who, in a very real sense, surrounds them.

In fact, the only part of this earth that isn’t filled with the presence of God is people – all those who remain separated from Him by their own choice. This has deep implications for someone like me, who was severely abused in childhood and grew up viewing this world as an unsafe place.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Photograph of Grace in front of the Swiss mountains over Lake Lucerne. Courtesy Grace Daniels.]

The Enormity of Our God

I am reading Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God, which is one of the most profound books I have ever read (after the Bible, of course). I am learning so much from Willard, and I will likely be blogging about various topics he raises as I process what he has to say. Right now, I am processing the enormity of God.

As I have shared before, one of the four fundamental beliefs of Christianity is that God is always with us. This is a truth I frequently remind myself of when I am struggling. As life is filled with struggles, it’s safe to say that this is a truth I meditate upon quite a bit. Through The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God, I am coming to understand and appreciate this truth in a much deeper way.

Willard walked me through understanding the enormity of this truth (and the enormity of our God) by asking me to think about the most beautiful place I have ever seen. I immediately thought about the mountains of Switzerland over Lake Lucerne. Willard pointed out that God always sees that sight … and the tropic fish swimming in the ocean … and the beaches of Hawaii (OK, I added the part about Hawaiian beaches, but you get the point).

He then said to think about the most beautiful sound you ever heard. I thought about a classical music concert I attended in Vienna. One song was so unbelievable beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. It touched my soul in ways I cannot put into words. God hears that song all the time!

While I have reminded myself repeatedly that God is always with me, even when I cannot “feel” His presence, I had not pondered the reality that while He is with me, He is also in these other places, soaking in the beauty of His creation all over the world. This concept has profound implications that I will address in my next blog entry.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. Courtesy Amazon.]

Victory over Eating Disorder

god_is_biggerContinued from here.

I cannot identify the moment in which God healed my binge eating disorder. This healing was a “slow miracle.” The process was so gradual that I did not recognize all of the healing work that God was doing inside of me. One day, it hit me that I could not remember the last time I had binged on food, and I was shocked! After being enslaved to food just about daily for decades, I didn’t even recognize freedom when it came.

Being freed from the idolatry of an eating disorder was only the beginning. I still had to learn about food’s intended nature – to nurture my body, which is God’s temple. I had to learn how to choose food based upon what nourishes my body rather than on what tastes good. Over time, my tastes have changed so that I would truly rather snack on cashews than on a bag of Dorito’s. I no longer feel deprived by not eating junk food. I love my body and want to care for it as God’s temple, and that requires fruits and vegetables rather than chips and chocolate.

For decades, I had a love/hate relationship with food. Today, it’s just food. I need it to nourish my body, but I can also delay eating it to fast. Food has lost its power over me. This is all to the glory of God.

I know how hard I pushed the mountain of a food addiction, and that mountain would not budge. After inviting God in to heal me and free my from my prison, I experienced the miracle of this mountain being moved. I know none of this happened by my own strength. I was powerless to move it.

God is bigger than your addiction. Whether your addiction is food like mine was or something else – alcohol, drugs, pornography, compulsive busyness, overspending, workaholism, or anything else that has mastery over you, God is bigger. Invite Him into your brokenness, and He will heal you as you work in partnership with him to remove the idol from the throne of your heart and put God in His rightful place. If God could do it for me, then He can do it for you!

[Graphic: Photograph of a wooden plaque that says, “God is bigger.” Courtesy Grace Daniels.]