Empty for a Reason, Perfection Not Necessary

Christmas at Our Rich Retreat

Christmas at Our Rich Retreat_Come Empty, Leave Full

We don’t simply decorate our house for Christmas; we do a Christmas Load In. It’s as though every Elf on the Shelf comes to a pre-season-kickoff-convention and collectively loses their minds partying. Let’s call it the 6 Days of Chaos at Our Rich Retreat. Sometimes as I empty the boxes, I learn a lesson.

Must … not … accept … empty …

Around Day 4, I pulled out an ornament-holding tree that stands about two-feet tall. I decided I would adorn it with a set of dinky-sized, metallic-red bulbs. Due to the way I’d used these itty-bitty ornaments in past years, the little guys were in various totes around the house. Digging through dozens of boxes, I came up with almost enough ornaments to fill the little tree, but I was one short. It became a game-stopping quest to find this missing one-inch bulb. To understand the scope of my quest, check out the number of totes we have for Christmas (… and check your judgment; I know I’m crazy).

Christmas Crazy_Trailers are NOT empty

Empty Spaces are Meaningful Spaces

I eventually had to admit defeat; I couldn’t find that last bulb. My decorator-elf-self started thinking about unearthing another set of small ornaments to alternate and fill the tree. In the next moment, however, the Holy Spirit gave me a better idea: Leave that spot empty because it’s a picture of so many things.

  • The lost. As diligently as I’d searched for that missing little bauble, God is searching for those who currently are rejecting His offer of love and grace. Going past that tree this season, I’ve been reminded to pray for the lost. I pray for some by name. I also pray that my eyes are open to seeing how I can reflect God to those I meet … maybe it’s an opportunity to point a lost soul to Him.
  • Those who feel left out. Many come to church but don’t feel included. They look around and see all the “matching ornaments” and don’t feel like they belong. Because they feel different, they drift away and leave an empty spot. When we’re at church, we need to look up and around. Let’s break away from our friend groups when we see someone alone. It could be the difference between those folks feeling the joy of being visible and connected or them leaving feeling empty.
  • The missing people in our lives. I lost it last night looking at pictures of my mom holding my kids when they were little … she’s been gone for 10 Christmases. The missing ornament on that tree reminds me to pray for those who are also navigating the holidays with those empty spots on the trees of their hearts.
  • Seasonal emptiness. The holidays can usher in so many disappointments that leave many feeling hollow. Again, let’s keep our eyes open for those who need encouragement through a kind word, an extra hug or an invitation to spend time together.

With Jesus at the Center, We're Never Empty

Emptiness Leads to Holiness

That spot on my tree is empty for a reason. Only one thing can fill it – prayer. I pray expectantly – not only that God would work in others, but that He will work through me.

Out of the chaos of decoration boxes came an invitation to holiness. Out of the manger in Bethlehem came the One who can fill our emptiness with His holiness. May any emptiness in our lives lead all of us to more holiness this Christmas.

A Bruised Heart Full of Sprap

sprap = spam + crap

Bruised Heart

My heart is bruised. It has a specific cause rooted in the actions of others. I thought I was fine; turns out, I’m not. It hit me as I stood in a church to sing:
      Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
      Holy, holy is He
      Sing a new song to Him who sits on
      Heaven’s mercy seat
In the past when I sang this, I could always recall a new work I’d seen God do that week. I’d think about it and effortlessly praise Him with a ‘new song’—but not this time. I felt flat and disconnected. I couldn’t sing…but the song kept going. I couldn’t sing, so I prayed. “Lord, all I can tell You is I’m aware my heart is bruised and I know it has nothing to do with You. I love You, but the hurt is making me numb.” I’m not sure what I expected God to do…but before I tell you what He did, let me unpack a little about a bruised heart.

“You’ve Got Bruised Mail”

See if you can relate to this: You’re going about your life. Over time, you become aware that truckloads of junk you know you didn’t ask for are getting deposited into your life-inbox. Feeling strong, you scroll through, select and ‘delete’ that junk. You don’t open it or look at it. Out of sight, out of mind, you think you’ve cleared it away. The next day, however, the crap reappears looking exactly the same. With irritation, you take a peek, but then quickly close and trash it all.  However, it won’t go away. Crazy as this sounds, the following day more junk just like it starts to infect your mind/heart-inbox because you made the fatal error of looking at something in that sprap.

SPRAP - Spam + Crap = unwanted junk deposited into our life-inbox

facepalm

You looked at the sprap, and now you can’t shake it. The ridiculously ugly content has gotten into your head and has bruised your heart.

 

What the sprap bruised your heart?

I know the nature of my sprap. Is yours within this list?

*Degrading words
*Family dysfunction
*Abandonment
*Being overlooked
*Made to feel inferior
*Betrayal
*Broken trust
*Abuse of power
*Death
*Addiction
*Deception
*Rejection
*Prayer that seems unanswered
*Low self-worth
*Your pride alienated others

The list of human-to-human ugliness is unending.  While it’s awful, God has the power to bring something beautiful from it. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph—who could put a check mark by most of the hurts on the above list–saw God’s mighty hand at the end of many bruising years. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Our bruises, too, have the power to help others if we’ll deal with our sprap and let the Holy Spirit begin the healing.

Healing a bruised heart
Some hearts are more than bruised, they’re broken. Healing may be a long process and require professional help before the pain can connect to God’s promised good.  Psalm 147:3 is a sustaining hope for the journey, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” My heart is saddened thinking of how uphill that path is for the deeply wounded because I’ve been there, too. What I can tell you is that those I’ve known who’ve opened their sprap and done the hard work to heal are some of the most interesting and dimensionally profound people I’ve met. Their ‘new songs’ are powerfully moving.

For me, God began healing this bruise on my heart in that worship service. When I couldn’t connect to singing a new song because my bruised heart was too numb, the Holy Spirit met me there. As the music played, I suddenly had this understanding: You are singing Me a new song. This is the first time you’ve sang to Me with a bruised heart. This is a new song and now you know what it sounds like. I receive your praise in this new song. That assurance was the beginning of my bruise fading; but it’s just the beginning.

His love gives us courage to keep moving toward healing. That’s my new song. I’m praying for all who read this—whether bruised, broken or healed. May a new song rise up and may that song point people to God’s love.

 

How to ‘pain’ with someone

Be present in someone's pain

Be present in someone's pain
My teen had her throat ripped out this week. Please indulge my dramatic way of sharing she had her tonsils removed; I’m a bit sleep deprived. I find it interesting that in all the post-op literature, I didn’t find the note: Parents of teens: Prepare to return to an infant-sleep-schedule. In order to manage my girl’s pain, every 4 hours, jarring digital bells alert me it’s time to serve  “Pre-Dawn Pain Be Gone” cocktails…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My daughter is a trooper, but this is incredibly painful for her.

Being near her over the past few days. memories over a decade old are stirring. The intensity of her pain has reminded me of the days my sisters and I stuck close to my mom as she dealt with cancer. Apples and oranges to a degree, but pain is pain. One connecting thread between the two events has emerged as I’ve loved on my little one this week. It’s not something that I articulated when we were in the throes of caring for mom, but the truth is timeless: It is a tender and precious privilege to be allowed this close to someone’s pain.

PAIN IS PAIN

People hurt deeply on relational, emotional, spiritual, physical and mental levels. When I’m invited into a person’s pain, it’s a privilege no matter what the cause. While it’s my joy to journey with them, their pain can become a transferred pain if I don’t interact with it well. Maybe that’s why some folks shy away from being near pain. Perhaps we fear we’ll take on their burden and be debilitated by it.  As I prayed this week, God brought to mind some of His wisdom regarding how to be present in someone’s pain.

HOW TO “PAIN”
  • Don’t be Jesus: Especially in relational, emotional and spiritual hurts, but true in all pain, our job is to point people to the true Healer. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in being there for someone that they begin to rely on us for healing instead of God. They increasingly need assurance from us. They begin to quote our words instead of His. Their pain transfers to us as its host. We need to be wise, pray before coming alongside and continually point them to healing through prayer and His promises.  Isaiah 53:4-5~Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
  • Be on hand, not handy: Why do we feel the need to “fix” things? Probably because we see the brokenness. However, the best gift we can give is to allow a hurting person to ‘be’. If we’ll listen, we can discern when he/she is ready to take a step toward healing. It sounds odd, but even physically hurting people need the space to be overwhelmed in their pain before they can embrace taking steps toward wellness. Not having to be alone in that space is a gift we give and a privilege we’re granted. Put simply: Listen and don’t tell them how to get over it. Be present in their pain. James 1:19~My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
PRAY PAIN AWAY
When we’ve been in the presence of intense pain, it’s human nature to absorb it. We feel the way to honor someone’s pain is to feel the weight of it on us. However, that equals us trying to be Jesus. He is the one who has the ability to heal, not us. Our job as we travel on a painful path with another is to have a burden for prayer. As we lift the weight of their pain to the Lord, we are ‘doing’ the best thing we can for them. When the Lord leads us to act, then we are His hands and feet. By praying their pain ‘away’, we remain available to help them with clarity as the Spirit leads. And we’re available for the next hurting person we meet.
pain bearable with God
May we respond to pain with prayer.
May prayer lead us to respond to pain in love.

 

 

The Grace and Truth Tightrope

truth in love tightrope of grace

 

tightrope between grace and truth

When does a tightrope walker think, “…Point A to Point B on a skinny rope strung between high towers? Sign.me.up.”? Probably after observing someone do it well—someone who made it appear an attractive, thrilling adventure.

Our lives are a balancing act. We walk the Tightrope of Tasks and the Rope of Relationships. If we take a misstep along either, we lose equilibrium. We flail and try to regain control. In the meantime, we attempt to stay upright as we hyper-focus on not crashing.

Some tightropes are short and only affect the moment. Others, though…others are lengthy and have long term effects. One lengthy tightrope caught my attention this week—the tightrope between grace and truth.

Tightropes too tense

It seems that in the Christian community (and I realize I paint with broad strokes here), when a person commits a sin, he/she is met with a lot of truth. It’s as though the community absorbs the sin and puts their collective head down. They force the one who committed the sin to drop his head in a sort of community-imposed, “Look at what you’ve done.” The focus is on the one who made the mistake. The way that person is received causes him to center on himself. Truth, truth, truth pounding—even when it’s God’s truth—throws a hurting person off balance. The tightrope he’s walking? It should be a twine woven of love. However, if the community heaps condemnation—whether openly admitted or secretly harbored—the twine starts snapping under the walker’s weakened feet. It doesn’t feel like love. Yet…

truth in love, tightrope
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Ephesians 4:15

…it should.

Tightropes gone slack        

On the flip side, I recently soaked in an atmosphere that caused me to consider the imbalance of grace without truth.

Scene: A hipster coffee shop in East Nashville
Characters:

  • Me: computer and caffeine at the ready
  • Baristas: long-haired, tattooed, relaxed, open, in their zone
  • Customers: Hipster moms and dads, college students, bearded/tattooed/funky hair/lots of metal in body parts/all holding cell phones/most seemingly relaxed and in their zone

As I watched the baristas interact with their new and regular customers, my pastor/writer’s mind started speculating. Let’s assume—not with any judgment, but simply for the sake of assuming—that most of the folks in the coffee shop were not Christians. Here’s what got me. Take that hurting tightrope walker from the above scenario. If that guy were to come and share that same sin with this group, he’d find acceptance. Because there is no scriptural truth on which non-believers base their lives, the kinds of things that wig out Christians don’t hit their radar as an issue. If the hurting person shared how condemned he felt by the Christian community, he wouldn’t find that here. Instead, he’d find acceptance and “grace”. The tightrope under his feet would strengthen by the non-judgmental love this community extended. Their grace may be the very thing that causes him to walk away from Christians all together.

However, this twine becomes ensnaring. Because God’s truth is not part of the life-conversation, the feeling is…well Dori comes to mind with the message…

just keep sinning

…“Just keep sinning, sinning, sinning, sinning”. He’ll be stuck in that spot on the tightrope. It’s loving, but it’s a deceptive encouragement.

Tightropes that go the distance

After someone has messed up and we have the privilege to walk with him on the tightrope between grace and truth, let’s take our cues from this:

  1. Have a vision of “Point B”: Point B is where this hurting person will emerge after coming through their mess. Is the goal of Point B to rub his nose in his sin or is it to see him stronger in his relationship with the Lord? Knowing the end goal shapes how we interact with him today…because today is prayerfully one step closer to Point B. It also prevents us from reacting in ways that cause him to turn around and give up even trying to do the walk. Our actions should help restore the hurting person without us putting ourselves in the judgment seat. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? (James 4:12)
  2. Check your twine: Are you laying down “love” as the encouraging pathway out of the mess? If love leads, the hurting person can receive truth that will be life-giving as they journey. The encouragement to suffering friends is to “Just keep swimming” away from the mess and to know that your love is there for them. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13) …but the greatest of these is love.
  3. Lean on the grace you’ve received: It’s disappointing when people let us down. Hmm…with 7+ billion people on the planet, I wonder how frequently God says that. We let Him down often, but we never want His grace to fail or flee from us. The more we feel His grace, the more we want to live a life that pleases Him. That’s the beauty of God-ordained grace and truth. Let God be God in other people’s messes. (2 Corinthians 12:9) But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

 

Tightrope between grace and truth

I have struggled with this tension between grace and truth, so I write to you and to me.  Here’s what I know: I want to be a person who powerfully navigates the tightropes of my life so others see that walking with Jesus is an attractive and thrilling adventure. I want to be a person who encourages others on their tightropes to look up, see the truth in God-Point B and know they are walking toward it with my love under their feet.

What tightrope are you navigating? I pray you are feeling God’s grace from His people. I pray His people are speaking truth, but only after loving you well. If you aren’t experiencing that, don’t give up on God, but find Christians who get it. There’s nothing like hearing grace-filled truth because it will lead you to deeper experiences of God’s love.

 

Loving God with your mind when you feel like you’ve lost it

In bible college, I was assigned J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. In it:

Moreland explains the importance of using your mind not only to win others to Christ but also to experience personal spiritual growth. Moreland challenges you to use logic and reason to further God’s kingdom through evangelism, apologetics, worship, and vocation.

Moreland highlighted that Western Christians are often not respected intellectually because they’ve pursued the experience of God and disregarded pursuing the knowledge of God. I was inspired by the book and its invitation to engage my mind as an act of worship.

That said, this week I’ve been looking at Matthew 22:37 in a new light.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.

As a pastor, mom, wife, sister and friend, I’ve walked with people as they’ve experienced brokenness that sent their hearts and souls reeling from the pain. These soul-shattering faithquakes often release anger and blame—many times toward God. Even more concerning, faithquakes can open cell doors to a numbness prison where self-sentenced, devastated people lock up to escape the pain.

During these dark seasons, many people report they cannot feel God. In the grip of overwhelming hurt, they can mistake that lack of feeling as a sign. Is God not there? Has He gone away as a form of punishment? How does all this relate to Matthew 22:37?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.

When the parts of us that are made to feel and experience God—our heart and soul—are locked down or consumed by our situation, God offers a way to keep hope strong through loving Him with our minds. We can do this by:

  • Remembering how He has transformed our reality. Former situations in our lives may not have anything to do with what we’re currently experiencing. However, using our mind to recall how God showed up in the past is basically saying, “God, I don’t know how You’re going to work in this current mess, I just know that You’re going to” (1 Samuel 17:37). It isn’t a magic prayer that will immediately change things. It will, however, allow us to stay connected as we’re navigating the mess. Loving God with our mind in this way prevents the spiritual attacks of doubt and anger from getting a foothold when our circumstances are the most intense.
  • Using words of faith not fear. Words matter (for more on this in a former post, click here).When we speak the truth that we know God is working (Philippians 1:6)…that God has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11)…that He will work this mess for something good (Romans 8:28)…we are loving God with our mind. Even though we have no idea how He will do it, even though our heart hurts and it isn’t well with our soul, loving God with our mind means speaking words of truth anyway. The alternative is to speak words of fear and freaking-out which will block our minds from receiving God’s creative way forward. Here’s a powerful truth: Our words become our world.
  • Trusting past the pain. We will most likely not understand why God is allowing so much pain. In the space between the initial shock and some understanding of “why”, we need to limp toward trust. God is in control and is holding everything together (Colossians 1:17). Trusting keeps hope alive that good is on the way.

It takes time to rebuild after a faithquake. As we’re navigating it and healing, the last thing we need is to feel condemned because we’re not being a good Christian. Loving God with our mind when our emotional and spiritual self is bruised or broken keeps us connected and growing through the pain.

I’m praying for all those who are hurting and reading this. While I don’t know the specifics of your situation, I pray you can relax into loving God with your mind and have grace for yourself if the feelings aren’t there right now.

 

You can’t go back

Do you ever wish you could “go back to how things were”?

Most of us can recall days when things were easier…better… Usually, we’re remembering a stretch when relationships were stronger, everyone we loved was around, ‘bill’ was a guy’s name not something we had to pay, and chocolate was free. It’s tempting to not only spend time wishing for a return to the old days, but to also spend energy trying to recreate the feelings and settings of the past.

It doesn’t work; but it doesn’t work for a reason. God doesn’t want us to “go back” in our relationships…not with each other and not with Him.

When we’re straining to get back, it’s often to escape what is. Pain, anger, loss, disillusionment, betrayal…these can be so disheartening that we can—mistakenly—think, “If only things could go back to the way they were.” Not only can we not go back, but renewed purpose is found in embracing the truth that adventure lies ahead.

How can we be people who look forward instead of back?

It’s about taking the pain, disappointment and scars and creating something new.

  • Often, we will stay in a situation that is not good for us simply because it’s all we know. When life leaves a mark on us due to our circumstances, we must decide: Will we can keep picking at the wound, or will we allow it to become only a reminder of what we’ve learned? 2 Corinthians 5:17

It’s about knowing other people and knowing God in new ways because you’re different.

  • As we learn from the shifts in our lives, we cannot help but be molded by them. If we are open to growing instead of longing to go back, we become more interesting…and more interested in others. Some of life’s lessons can only be learned in the hard, dark places. God is there. If we are open to it, we gain new understandings of Him when He meets with us there and loves us through it. Isaiah 43:19

It’s about knowing wisdom comes with experience.

  • While I wish the hard things in my life had never happened, I wouldn’t trade what I learned because they did. I remember this when new difficulties come. I know that I will gain from the experience because I know God will be there to guide me. Romans 8:28

It’s about knowing we shouldn’t long to go back; we should long to learn and grow.

  • Whatever we feed is that which grows in our lives. If we constantly are looking in the rear-view mirror at what was, we’ll miss the beauty of what’s around us and ahead of us. If we are determined to only glance back for safety (to recall the lessons we learned when they are needed), we are open to continuing the grand adventure God has in store. It requires us to have the discipline to only feed thoughts that take us forward. 2 Corinthians 10:5

When we’re tempted to say, “I wish things could go back to the way they were”, I want to encourage us, instead, to say, “Because of what I’m going through, I’m looking for the meaning in this and looking forward to what lies ahead.” This isn’t a positive-thinking mantra. This is a faith statement that will lead to our hearts’ desires.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Write a comment…men and women invited!!! Also, be sure to subscribe to this blog and you’ll get updates when new posts come out.

Turn your “OW” into a “WOW”

When life is hard, that pain = ow.

I’ve always equated hard times to giving birth. If you, as a couple, knew exactly how long labor pains were going to last, you’d pace yourselves. Let’s say you knew that in exactly 14 hours and 36 minutes it would be over. Even at the 12-hour mark, you could pant, “Only 2 hours and 36 minutes to go! Hanging in there!”. However, when labor pains transform a normally lovely woman into a sweating, red-faced mess of “hee hee hoo”, the unrelenting agony can trigger a loss of perspective. The only goal is to get it over with.

Difficult seasons in our lives feel this intense. Emotionally, financially, relationally, spiritually it can seem as through we’re drowning in the Sea of Ow. During these times, we’re not able to see when–or if–there will be a guaranteed end to the pain. We can be so consumed by the situation that it’s hard to see any point to the “ow”.

Many people know the story of Job from the Bible. He is the poster child for suffering through a ton of unfair circumstances. In every way possible, Job was afflicted. In Job 30:20-22, he’s had it.

I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
    I stand up, but you merely look at me

You turn on me ruthlessly;
    with the might of your hand you attack me.
You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
    you toss me about in the storm.

Have you ever felt like that—maybe even feeling it now? Everything you wanted…everything you hoped…everything you worked for – gone. Perhaps, like Job, you have called out to God and told Him how you think He ought to handle the situation. And, as in Job’s case, maybe God didn’t do things the way you wanted them done.

When the ow is overwhelming, we can lose perspective. Yet, the most inspiring people are those who share their story of surviving a crushing challenge. But honestly…? It’s easy to be inspired when the pain is over. Think childbirth again. Labor stories are about intense pain that lead to the wonderful “wow” outcome of holding a new baby. Rather than waiting for life’s situational agony to pass, is there a way to help our “ow” become a “wow” as it’s happening? Let’s consider Job again and take some cues:

  1. Don’t waste your suffering. To be blunt: You have to deal with whatever is happening to you, so you might as well suck it dry for every lesson it can teach. As you open your eyes in the morning and the reality that the “ow” is still there washes over you, convert that pain to prayer. Ask God to show You what you need to learn. Job mostly wallowed in his pain and spun his wheels—not a great role model for this point. Ask yourself: Am I praying as much as complaining?
  2. Understand there is purpose to your suffering. Like Job, you would never intentionally put yourself into a hard situation. However, certain things can only be learned in the hard, dry, dark places of life. The most interesting people are those who have walked through a pit, come through and now share what they’ve learned. I say all the time that while I wish I hadn’t had to go through the ugly times, I wouldn’t trade what I learned for anything.
  3. Take strength that it’s a season. After the Lord gave Job the equivalent of a spanking, He restored Job’s life (Job 42). Sometimes, there is no way to “go back” to how things were. Loved ones die, families dissolve, homes are lost, relationships are severed. I’ve discovered a simple truth that has allowed me to handle hard times with peace. God never wants us to “go back”. He always invites us to move forward. As we stay close to Him in prayer, take comfort from His Word and His past faithfulness, He’ll begin to gift us with a glimmer of the “wow” that could be ours because of the current “ow”.

Are you in the middle of an Ow? I’m praying that you’ll be able to suck it dry and see that this season will lead you to become more than you thought possible.

Have you survived an Ow? My prayer is that you are actively looking for how you can help someone else who is currently hurting.

The only difference between “ow” and “wow” is that first “w”. Let that “w” = a win in your life.

 

My Worst/Best Faith Building Moment

It was well after midnight. I was in the middle of one of those cry-so-hard-til-your-tongue-sticks-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth-and-cuts-off-your-breathing ugly cries. My first husband had left me and I was devastated. Everything I’d worked toward was falling apart. Drowning in a lonely darkness without boundaries, I had the crushing thought, “There is no one in the world who knows I’m crying right now.”

As I lie there struggling to breathe, something happened. I had an identity-shifting encounter with the Lord that set my life’s course in motion. I had always believed in Jesus. I had a good relationship with Him, but I had never needed Him this way. In that dark moment, I felt His presence and the hint of a touch on my cheek. Without anything audible being said, in every part of me that processed words I heard, “I am here.” And then, I felt peace.

That moment was one of my worst/best. I wish I had never lived through the pain that birthed that ugly cry, but—at this stage of my life—I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The experience caused me to fully understand the phrase, “Take it all, but leave me Jesus.” The beauty in enduring that season is that I’ve never been afraid to face hard things since. I may not like having to navigate them, but God’s, “I am here assurance in that dark hour replaced the fear with a new deposit of faith.

I think “faith” is often misunderstood. Have you heard—maybe even said— “I need to have more faith”? It’s framed in the context of putting the responsibility on the individual…that if “I” can just force my mind to let go of all my fear and reason, I will be able to manufacture more faith. And, if “I” can have more faith, then I can do better business with God. He’ll hear me more clearly. He’ll be more inclined to answer my prayers. He’ll send healing. I just need more faith….

There is a biblical flaw in that logic. Faith is not something we can create more of; faith is a gift from God. (Romans 12:3, Hebrews 12:2, Romans 10:17)

Our response to the faith God gifts to us is to believe it. In Matthew 21:21-22, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt what was done…If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Let’s run the idea of “I need more faith for God to answer my prayers” through this biblical filter:

  • As we pursue God’s will first—pray to ask what He wants before telling Him what we want—we are available for new deposits of faith that will guide us in following His will.
  • God initiates the faith. He provides us a picture of His will for a situation through the principles contained in His Word. (Romans 10:17)
  • When we have spent time in His presence through prayer and meditating on His Word, we can understand His will.
  • Our response is to not doubt that God has given us guidance. We believe that what God wills is what will be, and we act out of the empowering faith He gifts to us.

For a more in depth look at faith through this lens, I liked how this article explored the topic.

If we aren’t seeing the results in our lives that we want, let’s not layer misplaced shame on top of the difficulty. We cannot “get more faith” by any formula. Instead, we pursue God. We ask what He wants us to do in a situation. As we understand His will—which will never contradict the principles in His Bible—He is giving us faith.* Sometimes, what He shows us is not the way we’d do it, but He invites us to act…to walk by the faith that He gave (2 Corinthians 5:7).

When my life was broken and empty, God graciously filled it with a faith deposit. At the time, I wasn’t being super holy nor spiritual—the faith was a gift. My response was to believe He was there and to pursue Him even more.

What kind of faith-deposit moments have occurred in your life?

 

*I know some folks struggle to know, “Is it God or is it me?” Next week’s post will be about a method of journaling that helps me get clarity.