“Life is hard and life is good.”

“Life is hard and life is good. ‘That he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end’ (Deuteronomy 8:16).” John Piper

I love how God is constantly walking me through situations in life that redirect my focus from my circumstances to the Gospel and to Christ. Especially recently.

The season of life that I’m walking through currently leaves me feeling anxious, excited, and simultaneously both nervous and confident. Sometimes seasons feel drawn out and slow and other seasons feel like time merely flies past and there’s nothing you can do to slow it down. Last night I realized that somehow our hearts understand these different seasons, even when we can’t analytically understand them. At this point, this season feels like even time is as divided as my heart. It’s like I can feel time rushing forward in slow motion and I’m held in between the extremes. Crazy, I know. The only thing I can liken it to is watching an egg timer. The sand seems to rush as it drains from one end to another, but that three minutes always feels like an hour.

I have learned over the course of the last several years to never waste a season. I always want to look for the lesson, learn from any mistakes I have made, and enter the new season looking more like Christ. I’ve personally experienced what Deuteronomy 8:16 says – that we are humbled and tested by God for our own good. It’s remarkable, really. It’s hard and it’s good. It’s beautiful and painful. It brings both joy and tears.

Truthfully, seasons are never about circumstances. Seasons are always about the heart. Life is all about the Gospel. Circumstances are a tool God uses to redirect our hearts back to the Gospel.

This season has been about illuminating and breaking my pride, developing humility, submission, waiting, trusting, and learning to simply be still and let God be God. More than anything, it’s been about faith in God’s promises and confidence in His Word. I’ve continually looked to Habakkuk 2:3 for assurance:

“But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.”

Recently I’ve blogged a lot about Romans and Abraham. I’ve been totally overwhelmed by Abraham’s response to God and by his faith:

“No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:20-22).

I want faith like that. So today my prayer is this: “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; Guide me in your truth and teach me, For you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 24:4-5).

A heart fully submitted and devoted comes from a heart that has endured seasons, it would seem. Seasons are always about the heart. “To do you good in the end.”

Thoughts from a snow day

I find out a lot about myself when I look at how I spend my time. I typed something in a conversation the other day that hit me pretty hard once I looked at it again. I said, “Sleep always trumps food. Wait no, sleep trumps everything except God.” And then I realized that all too often, even sleep trumps God in my life. And then… when I take a deeper look I realize how much pride I struggle with… the idea that I’m somewhat in control is probably one of the hardest things for me to let go of. I find that I let it go and then somewhere between there and here, I’ve unknowingly picked it back up again. It determines how I behave, how I spend my time, and where I place my trust.

Pride. Sin. They keep me from God. I know that He’s completely sovereign… that He holds my life in His hands, allows each breath I take to provide oxygen to my lungs and has all of the hairs on my head numbered, but so often I question His timing, His plan, and the path I’m walking down.

Change. There’s very little I hate more than change. Especially if it’s life-altering. I recognize also, that change is good and that without change we die… but these recognitions don’t make it any easier to make the leap. I find that when I’m faced with it I begin to shut down on the inside… I tell myself it’s ok, that I’m ok, and that the distrust is merely preparation for the inevitable losses that will occur.

I’ve been this way my whole life. I’ve never been able to dive head first off of a diving board or do a cartwheel. And I think it’s because I’ve always been too worried about protecting myself – as if I could add even a second to the days I’ve been allotted (Psalm 31:15, 139:16).

Fear is a lack of faith. And its sin. We so clearly see that in the life of Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter’s an ordinary guy who displays extraordinary faith at different points in Scripture – He leaves his job to follow Jesus at just His words, “follow Me” (Matt. 4:18-19), walks on water out to meet Jesus at the word “come” (Matt. 14:28-29), and understands who Jesus really is before many other people do (Matt. 16:16, Mark 8:29). However, Peter is so often reactionary and easily swayed instead of unmovable in his faith. He starts to sink when he is distracted by the wind and the waves (Matt. 14:30), he cuts off a soldier’s ear when Jesus was arrested (Matt. 26:51), and then swears he never knew Him when he’s associated with Christ later (Matt. 26:69-75).

All of this to say: I find myself feeling a lot like Peter today. I feel like sometimes I wake up to the fact that I’m walking across water and I can’t make it on my own – I will certainly drown unless saved by grace. These times, the times when I recognize how very much I need Jesus – the times when my total insufficiency comes to light and all of my pride is exposed – this is how He keeps me close. In His overwhelming goodness, He walks me through change often so that my own heart is exposed and I’m forced to come to terms with the fear residing there. Without the grace of God, I’d be off always doing my own thing… forcing doors that aren’t supposed to open and clinging to things that I should gracefully let go of.

Ryan shared Acts 16:6-10 with me the other day:

“6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down lto Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul3 had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

The message here is great and I love the way he put it: “They kept moving. God closed doors. They changed directions. God closed doors. They went a different way. God showed them what they were to do.”

I was also reminded of Matthew 6:25-34 today:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?7 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, jeven Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

I’m learning to leap. I’m learning to let go. I’m learning to trust completely, all over again. All because of this truth: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16)”

“Finding Myself Extra Amazed by God Today”

(from November 3, 2009)

This past week has been one of intense revelations. The contentment theme continues…

Today my gchat status said this: “finding myself extra amazed by God today.”

I don’t know why, but I really didn’t expect to be asked why. It stands to reason that people might want to know just what it was that prompted such a statement in the midst of an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. I got SO many questions about it – “just what did God do for you?” and “why is God amazing?” and “PLEASE tell me the story behind your gchat status.” People were so curious and I think I learned two things from said curiosity – a.) it really matters what I say there (even in that tiny little box) because people really do pay attention, and b.) I really need to be giving God glory more often, and not just because people pay attention, though that’s a good reason as well.

So, what did happen? I’m sure you, like everyone else, are dying to know. It wasn’t that something really good happened at work, or that a huge prayer had been answered, or that a desire of my heart had been met… or was it?

I think it was the latter. The desire of my heart is increasingly God Himself… just to know Him better and to find Him… it’s a constant life of seeking and finding. Recognizing all that I am not and all that He is. Pushing myself to decrease and to allow Him to increase in me (John 3:30).

That gchat status gave me multiple opportunities to share with coworkers, friends, and acquaintances about my faith… and about the overwhelming feeling I get when I think about the cross and grace, and just how… close I get to be to God. It’s an honor, a privilege, humbling, and totally undeserved. It’s truly amazing… an answer to prayer and the desire of my heart granted.

I’m realizing more and more that it doesn’t matter what I think or want, unless I first want Him and His kingdom and that it’s incredibly prideful to think that I can be effective in the kingdom of heaven or bring glory to Him outside of His plan and my preordained role in it. Each day, He increases my desire to make Him great. It’s almost like I can feel my heart expand inside my chest and I want His will for my life more each day, whatever that may be… and I want to fill my proper role within the kingdom.

so, I hope that each day I find myself extra amazed by His friendship and increasingly grateful for His grace.

sometimes pride hides well

I haven’t blogged in several days now and there are a couple of reasons – I was too busy relaxing, spending time with God, and just learning to be alone over the weekend to take the time to sit down at my computer. And the other reason is that sometimes when something really hard, really transforming, really revolutionary, or really hard is going on in my heart, I just can’t bring myself to process it all on paper for a little while. Now, obviously a blog isn’t the proper venue to do a lot of serious and in-depth soul searching, but it’s definitely helping me to catalog a lot of the transformation that’s going on in my heart.

I’m learning what humility really is. This summer has been the summer in which I’ve realized that I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface on a true and proper understanding of humility, my sin nature, and what it means to totally rely on Christ and love Him more than anything. And at the risk of sounding dramatic, I have to confess that I am learning that in many ways I’ve never even known Him.

I’m learning that pride has many, many forms and that it can hide, especially within my own heart. I can be, and have been, prideful without considering myself better than others, without treating them poorly, and without even realizing my error.

I’m learning that confession isn’t easy and that sometimes you hurt the people that you care about the most. But with that I’m learning that confession is priceless… that the freedom that comes with such vulnerability is worth any amount of pain that it takes to take the step. Humility brings a lot of beauty with it, if you accept it and allow it to change your heart.

I’m definitely not as transparent as I thought I was. I’ve cared a lot more about perception than reality, and I’ve denied people who love me the opportunity to teach me, train me, and guide me. And with that lesson has come the incredible understanding that people don’t stop loving you when your humanity is made so blatantly obvious. Instead, they hold you closer, support you, and love you through it (or at least that’s the kind of love I’m being shown). Disappointment is one of the things I fear the most, but I’ve learned I cannot allow such fear to inhibit me or my relationships, because at the point that I’m disingenuous about one thing, I become disingenuous in all.

And maybe the most important lesson of all – I’ve learned that sometimes God calls sin what others wouldn’t ever categorize as sin, or that we don’t realize is an issue until the Holy Spirit reveals it to us.

The hard part, even harder than all of these realizations, is walking it out. Asking the Father for forgiveness for such large blind spots, begging the Holy Spirit to make me more aware of my own failings… and then drastically turning and walking the other direction… it seems that the mistakes that don’t even look like moral failings might be the ones that are the ones that have the greatest ability to trip me up.

My commitment to Christ is displayed in how I spend my time and my treasure and the Holy Spirit has shown me that the direction I have poured a lot of resources into has been excessive and wasteful. So now I get to redeem the time, so to speak, and learn from Him how to love Him better. I love the point in life situations like this where I’m able to clearly see where the lesson is going and how I’m growing and benefiting from it.

God is truly so graceful.