I’ve been feeling kind of confused recently. It feels like my mind is running circles around my heart and everything is just a blur.
At the moment, I have a lot of questions and not many answers. I hate feeling like that. Yet even in my uncertainty, God has been faithful and has continued to reveal his presence to me.
One question that came up today was “Why doesn’t God always bless those who are faithful to him?”
This evening, I had a really good conversation with one of my friends. She has been very intentional about spending time with God and trying to seek him first in everything. We were able to celebrate the joy she is experiencing right now. It is so fun to see how God has blessed someone who has been faithful to him.
As we were talking, I started to feel a little bit of jealousy creep in. As soon as I recognized that, my first thought was “AH! NO! What are you doing here, jealousy? Go away!”
I thought about my feelings a little more. I began to ask myself the “why” questions. Why do I feel jealous of her joy? Why can I not just be totally and completely happy for her?
Then it hit me. I have believed the lie that because I have been “good” and because I have been faithful to God, that I deserve blessings. How conceited is that?! I BELIEVED THAT I DESERVED TO BE BLESSED.
Wow. That hurts to admit. That hurts a lot.
We don’t deserve God’s blessings. We could never earn God’s blessings. So when God chooses to bless someone, it’s something above and beyond. God’s blessings are an act of grace. Grace is not just found in the story of salvation—blessings are undeserved gifts, too.
I NEVER deserve God’s blessings. Never ever in a million years could I even come close to deserving them. That’s because there is no scale of “undeserving” to “almost deserving” or anything like that. Nope. Undeserving is undeserving. Just as no sin is greater than another, no one deserves grace any more than another.
God doesn’t always bless us when we think we deserve it. That makes a lot of sense now, but it still HURTS.
God doesn’t always choose to bless us.
God doesn’t always choose to heal us.
God doesn’t always choose to give us the desires of our heart.
Even if you’re faithful, even if you seek his will, even if you do your very best to follow him, he still may not choose to bless you. AND THAT’S OKAY.
I don’t believe in the prosperity gospel, and I never have. I know that is a lie. But I think I’ve bought into the lie that if I am faithful to God, I deserve to experience his blessings, at least once in a while. At least he should bless me with peace, right? At least he should bless me with fruitful relationships, right? At least he should bless me with people who support me, right?
No. He “shouldn’t” anything.
God gives us grace instead. He gives from the overflowing love in his heart. God is so good. When the sun rises, he is good. When the sun sets, he is good. When the rain falls, he is good. When the storms rage, he is good. When the oceans roar, he is good. When the mountains crumble, he is good. When the earth shakes, he is good. When it seems like all of life is falling apart, he is good. He is good because that is who he is, not what he does. He IS good. He IS grace. He IS love.
So what is our proper response? Gratefulness.
If God chooses to bless you, thank him.
If you’re not experiencing the blessings you asked for, thank him anyways.
Because the truth is, God blesses us all the time, whether we see it or not.
Every day, every moment, every breath is a gift.
We don’t even deserve life itself.
Life is a gift. It is grace. It is an undeserved gift.
God might bless you. And if not, he is still good.
Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for being so good to us, even when we don’t deserve it. We love you.
Being vs Doing
Am I good enough?
This is a question we ask ourselves every day, consciously or unconsciously. In a culture of comparison, we are constantly measuring ourselves up against other people or others’ standards to see if we’re “good enough.” Culture tells us, “If you want it, go get it. You have to earn what you deserve. Nothing is given to you. Work work work. And if you stop to catch your breath for a minute, you’ll miss it.”
Even in the church, we often feel the need to “prove” our worthiness to others. We ask ourselves, “Am I a good enough Christian? Do I attend enough Bible studies? Do I participate in enough service projects? Do I know enough about the Bible?” These are good things, but they should not be done to prove that we are “worthy” to call ourselves Christians.
So what is the answer? Am I good enough?
The honest answer is no. Now hold on a second, let me explain.
The Bible says that apart from God, we can do nothing. We have all sinned and we have all fallen short of the glory of God. All by myself, I am a failure. I have failed to live up to God’s standards.
And that’s exactly why we need Jesus. God met us in our unworthiness and sent the one who is worthy to take our place. God allowed the only one who is worthy to be made unclean for our sake, that we might be made clean and blameless and worthy in God’s eyes. Isn’t that so incredible?!
I am only worthy in God’s eyes because Jesus is worthy. Let me repeat that—I AM ONLY WORTHY BECAUSE HE IS WORTHY. I cannot do anything to earn salvation. I cannot do anything to earn God’s favor. I cannot do anything to earn righteousness. I cannot do anything to earn God’s love.
So where does that leave me? What does God ask of us? What should our response be to Jesus?
He wants us to just BE. He wants us to BE in his presence and to recognize that HE is worthy.
I’ve noticed an interesting shift in the way we talk about summer. Before I started college, asking “What are you going to do over the summer?” usually meant “Are you going on vacation?” Now, I’ve come to realize that it means, “What are you going to DO to further your place in life? Are you going to work? Are you going to start an internship? Are you going to take the opportunities you have to earn something for yourself?”
What would it look like if we participated in a summer of just being? A summer where we learned to focus on BEING in God’s presence rather than DOING things in the world? Of course, I’m not saying to sit on the couch all day and do nothing. But even in the rhythms of school and work and whatever else we do, I wonder if we can learn to BE in God’s presence.
You can DO everything for Christ, but if you’re not BEING Christlike, it is worth nothing. In our rhythms of school and work and rest and in between, I wonder what it would look like for us to learn how to just BE in God’s presence.
I absolutely LOVE journaling. Journaling is a way for me to just BE in God’s presence without feeling like I have to DO anything. When I journal, I feel this huge sense of freedom in knowing that it doesn’t have to be perfect or even polished. There is freedom in not having to worry about grammar or punctuation or the formalities of writing.
In a conversation with a mentor of mine the other day, as I explained how I journal both to process my life and to pray to God, she asked me, “How do you define prayer?” I had never thought about that before. I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I usually just define prayer by what follows after “Dear God…”
Then my mentor asked, “What if we defined prayer relationally instead?”
She explained, “We can invite God into the small moments of our lives. We can learn to simply be aware that he is present in all things. And when you start to realize this, you will see that all of your journaling can be prayer, even if it’s not a ‘Dear God’ entry.”
WOW. I was stunned. What an incredible perspective shift.
We can pray continually by simply acknowledging God’s presence. We can BE in his presence without having to DO anything.
When we shift from an attitude of doing to an attitude of being, it gives us a huge sense of freedom. We cannot DO anything for God that he has not already done for us. Instead, he calls us to BE in his presence and to BE who he uniquely created us to be.
So am I good enough? No.
But is he good enough? OH YES.
I AM ONLY WORTHY BECAUSE HE IS WORTHY.
So just BE.
A Picture of God (Part 2)
Sunset Beach. I'm standing on the beach, looking at the brilliant sunset. I can feel his presence, just behind me and a little to the right. His arms are wrapped around me. A closeness and intimacy I didn't have before.
He sees the world from my perspective. He walks with me. I turn around, and he turns with me. I want to see his face, but he won't let me. A bit of frustration. Why can't I just see you now?
Wait. Be patient. Eventually, you'll see me. And you'll get to experience me, fully, forever. But for now, be patient. And yes, ask if you can see more of me. Maybe I'll tighten my hug or show you my hands or whisper a little closer.
I'll always be here. I'm always with you. I'll be here, waiting for you. You don't have to yell to get my attention like you used to think. That image of the sky is my power, and this is my love. I want this kind of relationship with you, too. I love you so much.
We live in the present. Our lives take place in the present world.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the things of the past or the things of the future. We live with regret about the past and worry about the future. But what good is it? When we feel regret or worry, we have to experience the pain of that difficult situation one more time than we need to.
The truth is that the only place God can bless us is where we are, because THAT IS THE ONLY PLACE WE ARE. God has already worked in the past and he is still working in the future…but the only place we can experience his work in our lives is in the present. Life was meant to be lived in the present.
As we move through life in the present world, we must live with an eternal perspective. Our lives are so short compared to the whole span of eternity. Everything we do on earth is temporary. Our relationship with Jesus is literally the ONLY THING that matters. It is literally the ONLY THING that lasts. So if Jesus is the only thing that matters, why WOULDN’T we spend our entire lives serving him and telling others the good news of the gospel?!
Life is not meaningless. It’s not just about “getting through” this life. Yes, our ultimate fulfillment will be in Heaven…but God placed us here for a reason. He has kingdom work that he wants us to do, right here and now.
In the Old Testament, when Moses encountered the presence of God in a burning bush, God had to tell him to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. GOD HAD TO TELL HIM THAT HE WAS STANDING ON HOLY GROUND. How many times do you think we’ve missed the message that right where we are is holy ground??
You’re here. Right now, wherever you’re standing (or sitting or lying) is holy ground. Where you are right now is holy ground because GOD’S PRESENCE IS IN THE PRESENT.
We were made for eternity, but we do live in the present. It’s okay to feel deep emotions in the here and now. It’s okay that this is hard. It’s okay to feel the weight of this moment. You are not guilty for feeling this way. As we move through this life, we have to learn how to be okay not being okay while looking forward to the hope of eternity with Jesus.
Right here, right where you are, in the present, you can experience God. He is here and he loves you SO SO SO much. He wants you to know that he is the ONLY ONE who can love you completely. He is the ONLY ONE who can satisfy you. He is the ONLY ONE whose story matters.
So love a little deeper. Laugh a little longer. Sing a little louder. Hug a little tighter. Speak words of life and love to everyone around you. And through all of it, proclaim HIS name. Let every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. To HIM be the glory forever and ever.
And then there was Saturday.
Jesus. His passion. His crucifixion. His death, his burial, his resurrection.
All of history has been building up to this.
The crescendo of time itself.
The hour was unknown, but now it has come.
It is here. And soon, it will be finished. Once and for all.
A walk in the garden.
One last meal.
Friends and fellowship sit at the table with betrayal.
All the anticipation. How do they not see it? How do they not know what is coming?
Father, come. Come and take this cup from me.
Yet not my will, but yours be done.
Your will be done. Just come.
Hours of prayer. The restless night.
And with a kiss, it begins.
And it all happens so fast.
The betrayal and the arrest and the trial and the condemnation.
The mocking and the torture and the crown.
The cross and the fall and the nails.
The pain and the cries and the shouts.
The wine and the staff and one last breath and then,
It is finished.
Just like that.
The light goes out.
The darkness wins.
The heart is ripped out.
The hope is despair.
The weeping begins and it doesn’t seem to stop.
The silence and the utter emptiness.
And nothing will ever be the same again.
No, more than that. It seems like nothing will ever happen again.
The heart. Oh, the heart. The heart is not just empty. It’s not just broken.
It is torn out. All that is left is an empty void.
And then there was Saturday.
No one really talks about Saturday.
But what is there to say?
Time stood still.
Life was empty.
All hope had completely disappeared.
Not even a song to be sung. Not a note to be played. Just emptiness. Silence.
As his body was brought down from the cross, they stood there in utter disbelief.
They held each other as his limp corpse was bound and bandaged and sealed away.
They sat together as Saturday dawned.
As the red sun hung over their heads.
No one spoke a word. No one had anything to say.
Some cried, and some tried to but were unsuccessful
As they tried to feel something, anything
But realized that their very capacity to feel had gone out with their heart.
Where did he go?
What did he do?
Is this what a life without God would be like?
How long would this go on?
It seemed like an eternity without him.
And then, the sun arose. For the first time, light broke through the clouds.
There was a sense of hope and contentment that came with the light.
It was as if something had awakened within them.
Like they were able to walk on for the first time.
Finally, the silence was broken.
At last, he returned.
And when he spoke, hope returned.
A promise fulfilled.
An eternity restored.
And joy. Oh, the wondrous joy.
The joy of salvation.
The joy of the resurrection.
The joy of the Lord himself, back from the dead.
The joy of a kingdom now and not yet.
It was finished but it has only just begun.
And so we feel the weight of Saturday.
We sit in that pain and emptiness.
We weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn.
And on Sunday, we rejoice.
We rejoice that death could not defeat him.
We rejoice that our Savior is back.
God has not forsaken us.
He is here, he is real, and his presence shakes the whole earth.
Lord, thank you for your scars.
Thank you for your sacrifice.
And thank you for Saturday.