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.]

 

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The Naaman Principle

forgive_youLately, I have been pondering what I have dubbed the “Naaman Principle,” which is a concept I have blogged about before. You can read about Naaman in the Bible here. In a nutshell, Naaman had leprosy and wanted to be healed, but he didn’t want to do it God’s way (by bathing 7 times in the “dirty” Jordan River). His servant convinced him to do it God’s way. He did and was fully healed.

While most of us cannot relate the specific situation of having leprosy, all of us can relate to having something — some area in our lives – in which we really, really, really want God to move, but He isn’t moving. If this issue goes unresolved long enough, we can wind up questioning our faith and doubting whether God really loves us or cares about our situation.

Sadly, in many of these situations (but certainly not all), God isn’t moving because we are not moving. To quote Joyce Meyer,

God won’t do our part, and we can’t do His part.”

The example I wrote about previously was regarding forgiveness. I prayed for years for emotional healing from my childhood abuse, but it eluded me. Even enlisting numerous women to pray for my emotional healing yielded little fruit. The problem was that, like Naaman, I wanted healing, but not God’s way. God’s way to heal emotional wounds is through forgiveness. As I chose to let go of my bitterness and pray blessings over my childhood abusers, my spirit pulled in His healing power. God began healing my emotional pain (the part I could not do) as I did my part of praying for my enemies, and He completed the healing process after a little over a year. For all the years I was wanting on Him to act, He was waiting on me to obey.

Lately, I’m noticing this Naaman Principle all around me, which is why I’ve decided to blog about the topic this week. It applies to so much more than leprosy and emotional pain.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with an halo and angel’s wings, saying, “I forgive you.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritually Immature Christians

babyThis week, I’m going to blog about a topic that’s important but one that many people might feel uncomfortable talking about: interacting with spiritually immature Christians.

Interestingly, some of the most spiritually immature Christians I have met were unaware of being spiritually immature (myself included back in the day!). Belonging to a church for decades does not make someone spiritually mature, nor does having lots of head knowledge about the Bible. In fact, if having lots of head knowledge about the Bible made someone spiritually mature, then Satan would be the most spiritually mature being on the planet! Earning a theology degree, pastoring a church, or serving as a missionary does not make a person spiritually mature. Nor does the mere passage of time since you received Jesus into your heart result in spiritual maturity.

Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit. In other words, spiritually mature people behave in ways that are consistent with the fruit of the spirit while spiritually immature people do not. Spiritually mature people are joyful even when their circumstances are not, peaceful even when they are surrounded by chaos, and gentle even when people are rude to them. Does that sound like you?

How spiritually mature are you? Joyce Meyer shared a simple way to make this determination about yourself. If you want to assess your own level of spiritual maturity, think about how you behaved the last time you didn’t get your way. Did you cuss the other person out? Complain about the situation to everyone willing to listen? Pout? Manipulate the situation to try to get your way?

Or did you extend grace where it wasn’t deserved? Did you submit to an authority figure’s decision, even though you didn’t agree with it? Did you pray for the person who made you angry? Did you choose not to assert your rights, even though most people wouldn’t blame you for doing so? Did you choose to forgive a wrong? Or respond kindly to someone who was rude?

Having a strong handle on your own level of spiritual maturity can help you better deal with others who are not as spiritually mature as they believe themselves to be.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace drinking out of a baby’s bottle. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Musings about Heaven

 

angelIronically, if I subscribed to this blog, I probably wouldn’t bother to read a blog entry on the topic of heaven. I’m not one of those people who has ever been particularly interested in trying to figure out what heaven is like. I figure that it’s going to be great, and I’ll just find out when I get there.

One of the reasons for my attitude re: speculations about heaven is that the aspects of heaven that appeal to me seem to differ from those that other people tend to talk about. For example, I have no interest in inheriting a mansion in heaven unless God also plans to provide a cleaning crew to do the housekeeping. I’ve done enough housekeeping in this lifetime, thank you very much. I also have no interest in sitting around on a cloud playing a harp – sounds pretty boring to me. Now, I can get into the idea of having an intellectual discussion with C.S. Lewis or singing along with Rich Mullins as he leads a worship band, but I’m much more interested in being with God in heaven than reuniting with other people.

To the extent I think about heaven, I think about how AMAZING it will be to worship God. Think about the worship services! I can just see Rich Mullins leading the praise & worship songs as thousands upon thousands of people sing along with the angels and pour adoration out of their souls toward God. I think about how incredible a Beth Moore Living Proof Live or Joyce Meyer event is and imagine the worship experience being exponentially better than even that. Wow!!

I actually don’t care about how many treasures I have stored up in heaven. The only treasure I care about is being in the presence of God Almighty forever. I don’t know if we will have “jobs” in heaven, but if we do, I’d like to be one of God’s priests – the equivalent of a Levites whose inheritance is God. That makes me weird, I know, which is one reason I don’t generally choose to engage in conversations about heaven. However, C.S. Lewis wrote about his own perspective of heaven in his book, The Problem of Pain, and it’s one that excites me. I’ll share his theory in my next blog entry.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace dressed like an angel. 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.]