“You don’t have to bow to your feelings.” Sounds pretty simple, right? My emotions have a place, and rightly so, God made us to be feeling creatures, but emotions shouldn’t have the final say about what is true in a situation. God, in his severe mercy, has given me a number of opportunities to practice this lately. As the waves keep crashing, I keep grabbing the opportunities, though sometimes not very well, to sink into the truth.
I have been thinking about this analogy of being a racquetball court instead of a sponge. I think somewhere along the way I got this idea from the book, Loving the Little Years, by Rachel Jankovich. For me, being a racquetball court and not a sponge means I don’t have to absorb other’s emotions around me and take them all in. When I absorb the emotions of my kids, for instance, I become enslaved to them. Or if I absorb the frustrations of others, I think I must “fix it”. Rather, the wall of the racquetball court feels the hit, the sting even, of the ball, yet it lets it go.
If I am a sponge with my kids, it means that when they are happy, I am happy. When they are mad, I am mad. When they are scared, I am scared. We can logically see how this is not helpful when we take a step back. Thankfully, God is not like this with us – taking on our emotions, being changed by them, and responding in kind. Yes, He weeps with those who weep and clearly and vividly displays emotion! Yet, He is not controlled by other’s emotions or His own.
You may not identify with this at all – I am a “2” on the enneagram whose core words are love, approval, helper, and feeler. In some way though, we all absorb the emotions of others or follow our own hearts and feelings. Most people can identify with being trapped in the endless cycle of feel – act – feel – act. 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us to cast all our anxieties on Jesus because he cares for us. I imagine throwing emotion onto Jesus, knowing He can handle it, and asking Him to lead me in the truth, then bowing in submission to that truth, not bowing to my ever-changing emotion.
In his phenomenal book, A Loving Life, Paul Miller says this about Naomi as we see her at the beginning of the book of Ruth,
“Naomi neither suppresses her feelings nor is trapped by them. She didn’t have to act on her feelings. She felt anguish, yet she was free from the tyranny of her feelings…if we follow (our feelings) we become trapped by them.”
Naomi is dealing with great pain and anguish – and most of her anguish comes because she trusts that God is Sovereign and good, but she can’t see it in her circumstance.
There is something liberating about not being trapped in our feelings; being able to feel and lament and love deeply – yes! – but not having to act on every emotion that rears its head up. Satan may prowl around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour – whether through internal suppressed emotion, or explosive words, or anything else, but the truth is: Jesus IS the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the Lion. While Satan prowls like a lion, his power is limited by the power of the true Lion – the eternal King.
As I was driving to pick up my kids from school this week, I was in the midst of “knife fighting with the devil” as my husband lovingly says, internally fighting between my flesh-driven instincts and thoughts (the barbarians roaming the streets of my mind), OR looking up to Jesus, attempting to sing and proclaim THE truth louder than the thoughts in my mind, and this worship song by Phil Wickham came on leading me to worship and to the truth of freedom in Christ:
“Out of the silence, the roaring Lion declared
The grave has NO claim on me!
Hallelujah! Praise the one who set me free.
Hallelujah! Death has lost it’s grip on me.
You have broken every chain!
There’s salvation in your name – Jesus Christ – my Living Hope.”
This King has delivered us from the tyranny of ourselves if we belong to Him. We are not held hostage by emotions, or our past, or our sin. We are filled with and empowered by the Spirit to kick out the lies, for me, it’s the fake conversations I’m having with others in my mind, particularly if I’ve been hurt or am angry. We can replace these with the truth:
My Father is in charge.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
All power belongs to God.
The Lord has delivered me from myself; the Lord IS delivering me from myself. All I have to do fall into dependence on and look up instead of down, planning my response in my own strength by staring intently at the circumstance.
Submitting to the Lord and leaning into him instead of our natural flesh driven responses, having to wait and trust, can lead us into sweet moments of worship. Even the sins of others, or choices of others, are allowed by God to impact me because it drives me to Him in dependence which becomes a sweet opportunity for growth and sanctification.
This is soul work. This is good work. And it’s also a knife fight with the devil.
But Jesus has won and will win finally and fully.
“For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.” Psalm 25:11
I’ve done more personal posts lately, but today I want to dive deep into a spring of theological truth that is thirst-quenching, life-giving, and crucial to our life with Jesus. It changes our everyday outlook on life.
It is this:
Christian, He has pardoned you for His name’s sake. Not for your name’s sake. Not only is He faithful to pardon us, because He cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13), but He is Just. Have you thought about how it is God’s justice that secures your forgiveness?
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to cleanse us for all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Jesus bore the weight of all our sin on the cross; therefore, it would not be just to Jesus if our current sins were left under the crushing weight of the law and of guilt.
Even David, looking forward to Christ, was able to walk in the foretold, coming faithfulness of Christ:
“Prove me O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is ever before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.” (Psalm 26: 2-3)
It’s a reminder we don’t walk in our own faithfulness. We are not saved by our own goodness. If we were, then we would be living by the flesh – as if my own penance and guilt could make a way for my forgiveness! But, no! We have a great high priest who is seated at the right hand of God, always interceding for us. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
“Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is there to condemn us? For Christ Jesus, who dies, and more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God – and He is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:33-35)
Am I saying that “no one can speak to you about your sin or ask you hard questions?” Absolutely not! (Romans 6:1-4) Far from it! Because we KNOW that we are covered and hidden in Christ, that justice has been satisfied, we are free to walk in the light with others. We are free to struggle with our besetting sin. We are free to be courageous, bold, and even get things wrong.
For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, whose through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve a living God. (Hebrews 9:13-14)
I am proposing that often times we don’t live in a state of awareness of our sin and desperation enough. When we don’t live in that awareness, we think we can be our own savior. Even David said – “prove me and try me.” Because his hope was in the forthcoming justice of Christ, he could be honest about his sin, rather than hide it. A place of brokenness is the most beautiful place for us because we are relying on grace, justice, and our faithful high priest instead of ourselves.
How often do you carry around guilt for your sin, waiting until you “do better next time” to accept God’s forgiveness and Christ’s righteousness on your behalf? That’s a false gospel, friend!
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. O foolish Galatians! Who bewitched you? …Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 2:20-3:4)
You were once in a courtroom, and the Judge stepped down and called you his son or daughter because Christ’s righteousness speaks for you. Get out of the courtroom of your own making of fear, condemnation, and cursing. Because it is for freedom He has set you free – to proclaim the good news to the captives of His recusing, redeeming, steadfast, and just love. Christ did NOT die for nothing! His forgiveness over you, if you belong to Him, isn’t only merciful, but it is just – to Christ.
It’s not up to me to stay forgiven! It’s up to Him and since He has been proven faithful and just I get to live in and live out of the power of His just forgiveness!
Silent Saturday. I didn’t coin this term; I read it a couple different places and Ryan and I felt the weight of it. Silent Saturday. Jesus’ body is in the grave. He is buried. Friday night’s despair, agony, fear, and grief rolls steadily into a silent Saturday – a place of darkness, waiting, and apparent hopelessness for Jesus’ friends and followers. For them, it was the Sabbath and they couldn’t do anything.
Since we know the end, sometimes it’s easy for us to skip quickly past this place of grief, darkness, and silence. Yes, we will sit for a moment in the horror of Friday…yet we often jump quickly to the victory and celebration of Sunday. While we should and will celebrate greatly, what would it look like to sit in the depths of darkness and silence with Jesus’ friends?
Life is like this right? The shadow doesn’t immediately pass and turn into victory. The darkness hovers before the triumph. And we don’t always feel the purpose of sitting in the silence.
For Jesus’ friends, every light seemed to be extinguished. In Luke 23 and John 19 we find Joseph and Nicodemus burying Jesus. Think about that for a moment. Physically and literally these members of the Sanhedrin, wealthy men, are getting blood on them, transporting and gently wrapping their Lord’s body up, giving him a proper and beautiful burial. They are giving greatly and forsaking their titles because it would have been disgraceful, as a member of the Sanhedrin, to associate with Jesus. They gave substantially out of their means to properly bury Jesus. They loved him and their love resulted in courage and action…their belief in him led them to lovingly care for him.
They grieved hard, I imagine, and Saturday was likely lonely and silent for them after they completed Friday nights painstaking and horrific task of burying the Son of God’s lifeless body – cold and stiff. Like Jesus’ friends, we will sometimes sit in the darkness. We will listen to the silence. We will weep over the unknown and the brokenness. We can do this because we trust in Jesus.
Through the prophet, Isaiah God says to us in Isaiah 45 and 42
“I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, that you may know that it is I the Lord, the God of Isreal, who call you by name…I call you by name. I will lead the blind in a way they do not know, in paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light…These are the things I do and I do not forsake them.”
(Isaiah 45:3, 42:16)
Your darkness may be dark. Your silence may be deafening. Those are true and real and need to be admitted and grieved. Because, when we know the depths of darkness, we love the glory and beauty of the light all the more clearly. Jesus knew the darkness and it’s because of this we get to know the light. Don’t roll past your Savior’s death without being silent, without feeling the pain. Don’t ignore the shadows that are won’t move in your own heart and life. The light and victory are all the more beautiful when we grieve and acknowledge them. I’ll leave you with some words Paul wrote about what Jesus accomplished in the darkness and silence of Saturday:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. HE disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him. (Colossians 2:13-14)
Embrace the treasures of darkness and let your Savior lead you to the light of His triumph over death this weekend, friends.
Ryan and I did part of this as a short, 10-minute video devotional for our church – check it out here!
You can also check out our livestream service here!
“Sometimes God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”
Guilty confession: I sometimes live in a fake future; a future of my own projection where God is not present, sovereign, or good. Maybe you can relate? We don’t say it exactly like that, but anytime we project thoughts, emotions, and turmoil into the future— where God hasn’t given us grace to live yet— we are imagining a fake future where He is not God.
For me, because I have Multiple Sclerosis, living in this fake future can happen when my nervous system stops sending signals to lift my foot while on a hike, or when there’s a pandemic, or just on a normal Tuesday morning … The pervasive thoughts of this fake future can come in and steal my joy, robbing me of the beauty of the present moment anytime that I stop preaching the gospel to my oh-so-prone-to-wander heart.
Well, as it turns out, that fake future is a bad place to live. Not only is it gut-wrenching, but it is simply not true. It’s a bold lie that Satan, my flesh, and the world tempt me to live in. Anytime those three are in cahoots together, say during a pandemic, my fake future is all the grimmer. And if I live there, I will self-protect, self-preserve, and ultimately self-serve, forgetting about God and others in the present. This pretend future becomes ridden with the stench of self – what Jesus came to rescue me from! This future is an awful place where I am the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good and all-wise one… except, since I’m not those things, it is a place of great fear – a place where God is not present.
During our livestream worship gathering last week, we sang Sovereign Over Us and I was convicted that I’m not living as the song declares:
“There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trust
Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever – perfect in love
You are sovereign over us.”
In my broken, immunosuppressed body (that fights against my nervous system), I can choose to worship God no matter what. In brokenness, I can worship more deeply, fully, and beautifully. Yet, as I stood singing, my heart was unsettled and restless. “You have to be careful!” my mind shouted.
This is very true. The ramifications of getting sick while I have less B-cells to fight it off (taking forever to get over sickness and incurring permanent damage resulting from white blood cells attacking the covering of my nervous system) are very real. Yet, I can choose whether or not to abide safely in Jesus with this knowledge. My outward actions probably need to remain the same – safe and cautious – but my heart needs a heavy dose of the truth, stability, and safety found only in the One who is faithful forever, perfect in love, and sovereign over us.
The reality is that even if I get sick, and even if my broken white blood cells go rogue and attack my nervous system, and even if my foot and leg (or eye, or hands, or bladder or whatever) stop working permanently, He is still sovereign over even that. Even if I am more permanently damaged, to God be the glory forever because that is what He has planned for me to love Him more deeply and proclaim Him more fully.
Nothing can touch us, as children of God, without God’s permission. Remember Job? Satan had to ASK God for permission to take Job’s stuff, make him sick, allow his kids to die, and more. The book of Job is 42 chapters long, but the story could have been told in merely 6. There are 36 chapters devoted to allowing us to walk with Job through his questions, anguish, and pain. While knowing God is sovereign doesn’t take away the difficulty, or the grief, or the sitting in pain and suffering for a time, it does put those feelings in perspective with the eternal glory that outweighs it all (2 Corinthians 4:17).
I’m thankful for the words of another song, He will Hold Me Fast, that reminds me of the truth: “When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast.” His grip is stronger than my lack of faith. This is encouraging to me as I am bluntly, yet kindly, reminded of my own lack of faith in who God says He is and who He has proven to be, time and time (and time) again.
This body is what God has given me to worship Him in. Broken, and hurting, and not always working right – it is where my soul lives. And, I can worship Him in my present reality: In my strong faith or my lack of faith; in my fears and insecurities or my deep and abiding trust. This is the body, the season, and the place in which He has called me to live, move, breath, and worship. So, I will trust that I am held fast by a sovereign God who is always good, loving, faithful, and in charge.
And when I forget, I will repent and believe again (and again) … with this body that will one day – on the day of God’s choosing – finally and forever be made perfect.
 Sovereign Over Us | Aaron Keyes. Bryan Brown, Jack Mooring
 He Will Hold Me Fast | Ada Habershon & Matt Merker
*I am grateful to have this article appear in enCourage!
One of my favorite books to read to my 5th graders when I taught school was, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, by none other than the quintessentially odd, Dr. Suess. I love it still, as it projects real life ups and downs into strange cartoonish charactors. I identify with the book and I thought of it recently as I was studying the subject of waiting.
We, as Westerners, are prone to look upon waiting as an inconveince, as something that we are far too good for. Even the great Dr Suess says it like this:
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting….
That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
It sounds good on the surface, doesn’t it? But underneath, isn’t it saying that people with a purpose, ability, or tenacity, don’t have to wait?
Don’t we all want to be purposeful – or at the least, have others think that we are?
We fear waiting because it doesn’t appear productive. We think there’s nothing to show for it. People may judge us.
By contrast, scripture points us to a different reality. No, not a lazy or cheap reality in which we don’t work hard; but a reality in which we are paitient because of our hope for what the waiting will produce….Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the prophets, the discipes in the upper room waiting on the Holy spirit, not to mention the entire book of Psalms…? Or the entire nation of Israel waiting all those hundreds of years for Jesus? A quick read through Genesis or Psalms or any book in the older testament will show us how little we know of waiting.
What if we thought of our waiting as purposeful, deep, and good?
What would change?
How would we change?
In the poignant and, well, ordinary book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Warren says she learned this from a farmer friend:
“Our waiting is active and purposeful. A fallow field is never dormant. As dirt sits waiting for things to be planted and gorwn, there is work being done invisibly and silently. Microorganisms are breeding, moving, and eating. Wind and sun and fungi and insects are dancing a delicate dance that leavens the soil, making it richer and better, readying it for planting.”
Whoa. Don’t you love to think of microorganisms breeding below the surface of your heart? But really, if they didn’t, the soil wouldn’t be as rich and the harvest wouldn’t be as plentiful – or perhaps, there at all…
What season of waiting are you in today?
Because somewhere in your life, there’s a waiting happening, and sometimes…well…
Flourishing often looks like letting the field lay fallow and the work happen in the invisible places.
Sometimes waiting looks like things are diminishing, but God is in even that apparent diminishing….a diminishing to provide glorious growth. A way for our eyes to be opened to the gifts of the waiting – gifts we wouldn’t see otherwise, as my friend Zoe described to me about what a time of waiting is giving her…She’s a runner recovering from an injury and as she’s having to bike more now while she heals, she said she’s seeing things that she missed on her runs through the same exact areas. Things of beauty that she missed while running, and listening to books and podcasts she never would have been able to listen to while running. This period of waiting to heal, while frustrating, is useful – Jesus is giving gifts and working below the surface even in the waiting.
The truth is that Jesus came to do a deeper work in us that we would ever choose for ourselves.
We’re in a season as a family where we’ve pulled back from some opportunities and things we were involved in. The kids whine and wail and I awake in anxiety over the things we’re not doing. In fact, it looks like there’s a barren field there. And yet, paiteince is really putting your hope in something that is yet to come. Believing that the fallow field is not dormant but being made ready for the coming season of planting and eventually harvest.
While Dr. Suess wants us to “escape the most useless place”…
what if we see our waiting doing something only waiting can?
what if we watch and we wait with hope?
what if there are gifts in the waiting?
what if God is doing more below that surface for our good and His glory than we could ever ask for or imagine?
Because…it is, we can, there are, and He is.
I can’t save my kids.
I can’t change their hearts.
This, at first, strikes fear in me…but then, relief. As it settles down and I think upon the promises of God, my sin nature, my limits, and His omnipotence, I remember that I cannot produce lasting change. But, I know the One who CAN. And I carry my children to Him in prayer and in conversation day by day. I can’t change their hearts; which is a relief, because honestly? If it were all up to me, I would either become too all important or I would sink into a pit of despair. And probably both within the same hour.
But what I can do is sow generously.
In what has become one of my favorite passages, Mark 4:26-27, Jesus says that the farmer works hard scattering and planting seed on the ground, and as he sleeps and rises night and day, the seed eventually sprouts and grows, and he knows not how. But when the harvest comes, he is ready then too. He doesn’t cause the rain or the sun – there are more things out of his control than in his control…So, he works, he waits, he trusts.
Can y’all relate here? I know I can. There are many variables over which I have no control over – so I work. I pray. I trust.
I sow gospel seeds and treasures.
I sow in prayer. I sow in discipline and consistency. I sow in laughter and giggles and fun messes. I sow in scripture and catechism memory. I sow in one more hug and kiss at bedtime. I sow in repenting often to them, in front of them, and to my husband. I sow in receiving new morning mercies for each day for these kids God has given me.
But, the accuser of the brethren will accuse me. He will remind me how I didn’t read an extra story last night and induce guilt. He will remind me that I’m just not enough for my kids – not doing enough, not repenting enough, not fun enough… and on it goes. And yet – how often do I take on his voice in my mind? How often to I, a child of THE King, actually agree with the accuser of the saints and accuse myself, being pushed by fear and shame, rather than led by love?
I was with a group of parents recently and the conversation turned with a downward and guilty tone (as it often can) to “I should have done more of ____” or “I guess I should be doing ____ better.” And my mind started shouting, “no! stop! This doesn’t sound like Jesus, this sounds like Satan!” So, I bravely said so.
Do we need to repent often? Absolutely.
Do we need to teach our kids the Word and be consistent in discipline? Definitely.
Do we need help from parents who are farther along than us and make changes as our kids grow and as we learn too? Of course.
But, here, the question is: are we being led by love into true self-reflection and genuine repentance, OR guilted into trying to do better in and of ourselves – not trusting that God will use ALL things for our good (and our kids good) and HIS glory. No, all things are not good; we do mess up. But God IS good. And He wastes nothing – not even our mistakes or sin. He is fully and completely good and powerful beyond comparison.
And so, we keep speaking the truth as we read the bible to and with them. We keep pointing them to the truth in our conversations. We keep abiding in the Word of God ourselves that we may know and speak the truth to ourselves and to our kids.
As we do, we plant seeds and we know not when they will produce a harvest, and so God sanctifies us in our waiting and active trusting.
We bury treasures of gospel truths and scripture memory and catechisms because when the Spirit awakens them to the truth, our children will have a treasure trove of His Word stored up within them in their minds.
Sow generously with your life; bury gospel treasure within your kids’ minds; pray, trust, and wait for the Spirit of God to open their hearts and minds, and continue the work He’s beginning in them, through you. You are His chosen vessel to work in these kiddos that He has graciously given to YOU.
May He lead you in love as you abide in Him.