My feelings roll and rage like a rushing river. At times they laughingly flow over smooth rocks and other times they tumble and roar over dangerous rapids. If I were given the option to cross a mountain divide by climbing a narrow path or floating down the river, I would choose the mountain path. I have a greater fear of drowning than falling. But sometimes I feel I’m drowning in my feelings even though my feet are firmly planted on solid ground.
I ride the Feelings River and wonder if I’ll manage to hold on or if I’ll survive. But I do survive and soon I find myself languidly floating on a calm stretch of water. I forget the fear, the tossing and turning and feel the warmth of the sun and watch the clouds flit and flutter across the blue, blue sky.
I feel tranquil yet aware that another set of rapids could appear suddenly. Our emotions are like a winding river. We experience turbulent and tranquil times. When we’re in the tranquil moments we feel strong, loved, secure, but when we’re in the turbulent waters of strong emotion our security is threatened, our world turned upside down and life looks threatening. There are days I wish I didn’t feel.
Our feelings are not the problem. It’s the decisions we make when we’re in the midst of feeling the feelings and our feelings deceive us into making bad ones.
Deceit is a little bit of truth mixed with a lie.
We might feel rejected and it can be true: Parents reject their children. Children reject their parents. Friends reject each other. The bank rejects your loan request. The publisher says no. The contest says loser. These are true things that happen. But our feelings take the facts and add a dozen other non-truth’s to the situation and pretty soon we’re twisted into believing a lie that says we’re not acceptable and that we deserve to be rejected.
Emotions are indicators. They are diagnostic and can be used for our healing, but when we allow them to deceive us into making bad decisions, the enemy gains a foothold in our hearts where he can wreak havoc. God made us with emotion and called us good, but we have an enemy that uses deceit to prevent us from knowing who we are in Christ and who Christ is.
The thing with feelings? Their intensity surprises us. Their absence worries us. Our feelings can run our lives rather than the Holy Spirit. And when emotions rule our lives we experience constant chaos, but when the Holy Spirit rules our lives we have a guarantee of peace.
My feelings may say I am not enough. But God says I am enough.
My feelings may declare that I am not worthy, but God says differently.
People may reject me, but God accepts me.
Friends may forsake me, but God never will.
Feelings use the circumstances of our lives to keep us locked in bondage to the ways of our flesh. We will be rejected, forsaken, inadequate, or unworthy because life is hard. But when we’re locked into following our flesh, transformation cannot happen. We cannot be transformed until we change the narrative in our mind.
“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:8
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
What are you listening to? Are you listening to your feelings whisper deceit to you? Or are you listening to the word of God speak truth to you?
We all want to be winners. We’re hard wired to survive and scramble for top position. For some, winning comes easy and for others it never comes. Victory. I told myself it wasn’t that important. If there’s a drawing to win, I won’t. If teams are chosen, I’m last. It’s just the way it is.
But it is important.
Christ set us free for freedoms’ sake. For his sake. He didn’t set us free so we would struggle and believe the lies of defeat. Victory is important. Winning is important because God wins in the end. At the end of it all when the dust settles and the fight is over, God is triumphant. You and I need to have winning attitudes.
In Christ, I am victorious. I don’t have to live defeated and it’s something I have to remind myself of everyday. You are victorious. But maybe you doubt it? Maybe you think winning is bad. We live in a world where children receive trophies for participation rather than for winning. But participation in the kingdom of God isn’t our end goal. Victory is.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your mind; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV
Step One to Victory
The first step to victory is to put off our old selves. We’ve been given a new identity in Christ. We’ve been covered with robes of righteousness. The problem is that sometimes we still wear our ratty, smelly clothes underneath. So that stinky sock? Throw it away. That shirt that’s seen better days? Burn it. Colossians 3:8-9 has a lovely little list of stinky clothes we need to throw away: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lying. Throw them all off if you can, and if you can’t, then tackle them one by one.
Step Two to Victory
The second step is to be made new in the attitude of our minds. It doesn’t work to merely change our outsides. That is temporary change that burns up like dried kindling when under pressure. Lasting change happens when our minds are changed: specifically the attitude of our minds. An attitude is a tendency or orientation of the mind. So if you’re trying to put off swearing, but you’re still thinking it, eventually it will slip to the surface. If you’re acting cordial to someone, but in your mind you’re thinking the worst of the person, it will be made known. Our attitudes must be renewed and the power of Christ does that for us.
Step Three to Victory
The third step is to put on the new self. The gift of righteousness is given to us through Jesus Christ and God sees us as righteous, but in order to love people as he commanded, we must put on righteousness so others can see God in us. Colossians 3:12-14 gives us a list of our new clothes: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. Once we’ve exchanged unkindness for kindness, throwing kindness around like confetti becomes easier. Loving others becomes a reflection of selflessness.
We achieve victory in this life when we put off our old selves, have our attitudes in our minds renewed, and when we put on the new self. It won’t matter if you’re chosen for the team or you win a contest or if you’re the slowest runner in the race. It won’t matter because you know that in God’s eyes your life victory is assured and everything else is merely a training ground for you to learn to walk in that victory.
Because he is the wonder-doing God, he can turn the desert into streams, barrenness into beauty, and he can make a way of hope through our pain.
We only need to be still.
Deserts make me nervous because I can feel so lost and lonely. I search this way and that way, running here and there, but never finding what I’m looking for. I grow weaker and desperate. Panic wells up in my heart. I fear death.
Do you remember when you were a kid and what you should do if you got lost?
Stay where you are.
Let them find you.
And so it is with God. Sometimes he leads us into a desert and we wonder where he went, so we start searching for him and questioning his leading. But a desert place is a perfect place to be still.
Be still and know that he is God.
In the desert, our gimmicks and tricks for making sure all our plates stay spinning, don’t work. One by one they crumble to the ground. It’s in the desert place that we become aware of our need for God as each of our coping mechanisms dry up.
The desert place is a place to practice being still. I’ve found that in the desert place, I exert a lot more effort to do the things I normally do: prayer, church, volunteerism, parent, homeschool. Do I get frustrated when I’m in the desert? Absolutely!
But I’ve been to the desert enough times that I’m learning a new dependence on God and most importantly, how to still my soul.
When I still my soul, my eyes begin to see God working and moving. He draws me to himself when I let go of the distractions of life. He grows fruit in me. He makes my pain a door of hope.
“Therefore I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. ‘In that day,’ declares the Lord, ‘you will call me, “my husband,” you will no longer call me, “my master.” Hosea 2:14-16
I have never regretted a desert experience. I’ve seen the phenomenon of how God turns my desert into an oasis and makes something so beautiful out of something so barren. The desert becomes a place of worship, a place to eagerly meet with God, and a place to be still and know him.
Be still and know that he is God today and follow him through the desert places. He will bring beauty to your barrenness.
I have blind eyes. Not the eyes that see the snow falling and melting on a day in May. Or see the way the blackbird’s head shimmers like teal taffeta, but my heart eyes are blind and, probably, yours are too.
We see mountains and think we’ve got to move them. We see loss and feel we can’t acknowledge our pain. We screw up and look for something or someone to blame.
Our eyes are blinded by our perception of life and love.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” Ephesians 1:18
Without knowing God as love and resting in the fact that his crazy, impassioned love is directed towards us, we will falter. We will fail. We will stay stuck in the cycle of the try-harder kind of life.
That’s what grace is for. It’s to transform us. Grace isn’t there to pat us on the head and let us live in our sin and filth. It’s there to transform us into a truer reflection of God himself. Grace helps us to lay self down and guides us to live a Spirit-led life.
But that blindness? The blindness of the heart? It prevents us from seeing how God works all things for our good and his glory.
So our mountains may actually be a place to meet with God. Our storms may be just the thing needed to sweep the landscape of our heart clean. The fire might be what’s needed to burn the dross away.
But sometimes I don’t want to see that the pain I’m experiencing is for my benefit or the swirling and twirling unsettledness is for my good. And so I go blind. I become blind to seeing how God is working and moving. I fail to look for him in my circumstances. I fail to see that He is only good. Then I dismiss the revelation that He is only light, and when I choose to look at just the darkness, that’s all I see.
God is love. He is light. But we sometimes cannot see this because our pain supersedes the truth. Our circumstances overshadow his love. We make God small in our eyes and our circumstances large.
Then we can no longer see his love.
But it doesn’t have to stay this way. We don’t have to stay in the place of heart blindness. We can see love because God is love and if we ask, he will open our eyes to see it. His love transforms. His love causes repentance and redemption.
Imagine? That mountain, that fire, that trial? Imagine looking at it with eyes wide open to the hope and love that’s yours in God. Does it look a little different? Can you look at it and not feel abandoned by God, but wrapped up in his love?
It’s a daily battle–this battle for sight. But the peace that comes when we can see his love and know his love brings a sense of security and safety that carries us through darkness.
Mountains. They’re beautiful, unless they’re in my way. And then they become a nuisance. I know that a 5 mile drive on the prairie will be a quick trip, but a five-mile drive through mountains is not.
I’m use to moving at a fast pace, but when I run into an unexpected spiritual or life mountain I stomp my feet and command it to move. Then when it doesn’t, I throw an adult size temper tantrum. When the temper tantrum doesn’t work, I try whining because I think that might be more effective. Then when the whining doesn’t work, I give God the silent treatment. Mature? Moi? Nah.
I treat mountains, those things that crop up in my life unexpectedly, as destructive forces out to destroy my life. This is me when I’m self-absorbed and self-led instead of God-absorbed and Holy Spirit led.
But God reminds me of the things I know and the things I need to remember:
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silencefor my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5-6
God is my hope. But life sometimes distracts me.
He is my rock, my salvation, and my fortress.
Why, then, does life shake me?
Because it’s far too easy to place our expectations in what we can control then to place our expectations in the One who controls everything, but seems so unpredictable.
But this mentality is faulty from the onset. We cannot control anything. We think we can because we have calendars we dictate. We have jobs we perform. We’re mothers and fathers who are raising little human beings. We decide whether we’re going to take the direct route to our destination or the scenic route.
It’s this control that we cling to that deceives us into thinking we’ve got it all covered. Then when something, whether it’s a sickness, an internal battle, or job issue becomes a mountain in your way and nothing you can do causes it to move, that’s when freaking out happens.
We worry and fret. We question God and ask: “why in heaven’s name isn’t he moving this mountain?” We try to invoke the name of Jesus and still the mountain doesn’t move. So then we come full circle and pull a grown-up size temper tantrum, whine, or give God the silent treatment. Sometimes we even try and hold our breath in protest.
God is our hope and our rock. Mountains are made of rock. And maybe God is in the mountain and he wants to meet you there.
Our hope, our expectations can be placed in the most trustworthy one: God.
So the next time you run into a mountain, don’t assume it needs to moved, maybe, just maybe it’s a place to meet with God and be transformed. Maybe your mountain, that you want moved more than anything else, is actually a holy place.
With Christ’s death and resurrection the beginning has ended and the eternal journey begins.
It is finished! No more wondering if we’re enough, because we are.
No more questioning whether Christ really is who he says he is, because he is.
It’s the end of the beginning. The end of wandering, the end of separation from God and the try hard life.
Jesus is our beginning and end. The veil that separates us from God is torn and now his love is accessible through the One who was torn, beaten, mocked, and killed for us.
We all have the same beginning: darkness and bondage even when we think we’re free and in the light. But when self rules our hearts and our lives, we become enslaved to what self wants: what we see, feel, and experience.
Christ has come to set us free from the tyranny of self. Christ defeated death so that we may live a life holy and set apart for him. So, you see, Easter really is the end of the beginning.
We get to live the middle part now. It’s the part of life between our resurrection from spiritual death to life, and the day when we see Jesus face to face in eternity. How well will we live?
Will we falter and fail? Will we doubt and question?
Yes and yes. But we have a power available to us. A power that says that “greater is he in me than he that is in the world.” And this I know: it’s grace that enables me to live this life for Christ, through Christ, and in Christ.
It’s grace that transforms me. Grace enables me to give myself up for a living sacrifice. It’s grace that enables our lives to be set apart and holy. I crash and burn when I try and live for Christ through my strength and understanding. I know failure well.
But the beautiful thing we get to experience in our failures is redemption. It’s redemption that makes getting back up again possible. It’s the daily resurrection of my spiritual life when I make “self” the number one motivator in my heart.
I want to live this middle life well, but I know how life gets monotonous and we forget what we did this morning let along two days ago. And when life gets monotonous I forget to look around and see evidences of grace in my life.
Or life is one crisis after another and rather than holding onto the anchor of grace we flounder and hold onto ourselves and our limited understanding. Crisis’ can blind us to the redemptive work of Christ in our lives.
It’s the end of the beginning! Your beginning steps are over and done and now it’s time to run. Run the race God has for you with your eyes fixed on the prize–eternity with the Father of Light. Let him shine that light into all the recesses of your life and keep on running.
You’ll make it. How do I know?
Because God is your strength. He is your love. He is your light. And he will finish it.
I write to encourage you that you can experience a vibrant, transformative relationship with God even if your past or your shame tells you otherwise. God invites you upward and onward, will you join him? You'll receive weekly devotionals straight to your inbox.