Welcome GraceBreak Cycles, Embrace Grace
With this week comes the busiest five weeks of the year. We have a beautiful celebration of thanks this week, and it becomes the opening score to a beautiful opus of celebrating the Author of Life coming to this world in human form. But as the weeks proceed we will experience a range of emotions.
For some it will be mostly sad with happiness sprinkled in. Bleeding hearts lurk behind smiles. Sadness roars to life when you least expect it. For other’s it will be mostly happy, with a few undertones of sadness throughout the melody. I’ve experienced both kinds of holidays, but I’m learning to give voice to each set of emotions. My happiness is richer when I feel the sadness, and my sadness feels less dark when I acknowledge my happiness.
For many of us, though, the holidays are riddled with anxiety. Are we doing enough? Did we buy the right gifts? How will we handle the probing questions of Great, great Aunt Matilda?
And then we get anxious because we’re not enjoying the holidays and we wonder where the happiness went. Or we’re sad so we grow anxious about that and wonder if the dark clouds will lift. Our darkness seems even darker in this season of light. Anxiety. It can take over and run rampant in our hearts and mind.
You see, sometimes we think we’re not trusting God when we feel anxious. An absence of anxiety is not the same as trusting God. Trusting God is recognizing the anxiety and then turning to him for hope, consolation, comfort and direction. Anxiety should turn us towards him because it provides us with an opportunity to experience God as our refuge, to pour out our hearts to him, and to practice trusting him.
I found a slip of paper on my nightstand the other day. On it were these words: “Don’t ignore your anxieties, entrust them to God.”
When we entrust our anxieties to the Lord, we then experience our anxiety within the framework of God’s love and security. Trusting God implies absolute confidence and certainty. Things, people, and expectations disappoint, which causes anxiety, but God doesn’t disappoint. When anxiety is great within me, God brings consolation to my soul.
To entrust means to charge with a responsibility or to commit something. Let God be responsible for the thing that is causing you the most anxiety this holiday season. Are you anxious about spending the holidays with someone who disdains everything you hold dear? Entrust your anxieties to God because he’s big enough to handle it, and he cares about your heart. Then look for him throughout the day. Maybe you’ll see evidence of him in the sunrise or the way your breath forms shape as you exhale in the wintery day. Maybe you’ll see evidence of him in the smile in your child’s face, or the private joke shared between you and a loved one.
Anxieties don’t indicate that you don’t trust God, they indicate that you feel less than confident or secure about a situation. Run straight to him for help and guidance. He is good and he will carry you. You simply need to entrust your worries to him and let him do his thing. Have confidence, not in yourself, but in God’s ability to work on your behalf by providing you with comfort and peace.
God is the comforter of our souls. So as you step into this week and know that anxiety lurks, entrust it to him and trust him to provide you with peace.
*Write 3 things you are happy for this holiday season.
*Write 3 things that cause you anxiety.
*Entrust those 3 things to God. And when those three things cause your heart to race, remind yourself that they are God’s responsibility. Your’s is to let him do his job.
*Then receive the peace that he gives and smile.
The anxieties I refer to are not debilitating anxieties. If you are experiencing anxiety that prevents you from functioning in your daily life, please see a trusted healthcare provider.
Are you ever weary? Do you wonder why some things in life are just so hard? Do you ever dream of a remote hide-a-way? I shouldn’t be shocked when life slaps me alongside the head. But I kinda am. I sometimes don’t understand why troubles should come if God loves me. Doesn’t God’s love guarantee a trouble free life?
It is said that in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart because Jesus has overcome the world. This verse can be encouraging and discouraging all at once. We try and avoid trouble, pain and heartache. But it’s part of life. And a life lived to its fullest needs to experience all the emotions this life offers.
However, sometimes it’s difficult to decipher if the trouble is a result of our own choices and actions or if we’ve been allured to the desert like Hosea. Either way, our troubles offer us opportunities to grow in faith and love and to put action to the words we say we believe in, such as: “I trust You.” or “He never leaves me nor forsakes me.”
Trust the Giver
Sometimes, though, we begin looking to our own abilities to help us through our troubles. We all have strengths or defaults we return to again and again. For some, it involves emotional stuffing where we don’t recognize the feelings of abandonment or anger or angst. For others, it involves working harder and longer in order to prove to ourselves and others that we have it all together. Still others, give up, so their walk with Christ often looks like two steps forward, three steps back.
It’s common to run to other things when life feels out of control and God appears to have abandoned us. How does he seem to do this? By not showing up when we demand, or answering that prayer the way we want or by not making other people behave the way we think they should. Yes, I try to boss God around, and be strong in my own strength. But the more I’m strong in my own strength the weaker I feel.
I need the reminder that it’s not my abilities or giftings that save me or help me. It’s God. He is the one who makes my way clear, one step at a time. He is the one who holds me up when I cannot stand up. I trust his eyes more than my own.
It is God who saves and so we boast in him. We say to ourselves: He is strong and if I rest in him, he will carry me to victory. God is the giver of your abilities. Everything you have that enables you to navigate through this life comes straight from him.
Do you want victory in your life? Begin by trusting in the giver of the gifts rather than your abilities.
“For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever.” Psalm 44:6-8
What ability do you have a tendency to turn to when life gets hard?
List 3 attributes of God that you can boast about. It might be joy, strength, peace, power, comforter, redeemer, righteousness, portion, or provider. Choose three that resonate with you.
How are they are evident in your life? Say a prayer of praise.
I’ve prayed like I’ve never prayed before. I’ve reminded God of who He was and who I was. I’ve laid out my devotion and faithfulness. I’ve believed for a miracle. And I got a non-miracle. I got a, “Nope, I don’t think so.”
Upset? Yes. Crushed? You bet. Disappointed? Absolutely.
But I was determined to trust. Until I realized that trusting God was too dangerous because His love didn’t seem safe. He refused to give me what I wanted. To not answer my prayer the way I wanted seemed mean. So maybe He didn’t love me as much as He said He did.
My flaw? (Besides thinking I could boss God around?) was this: I was looking at God’s love through the broken glass of my own life. When I view God’s love through my brokenness, I see warped love. But when I view God’s love through His lens: I see a perfect love that casts out fear. I see a love that watched His son bleed a violent death so that I might know Him intimately as Father, Hope, Light and Life. I see a love that gave all so that I might know a hope and peace that defies all human explanation.
When I base my understanding on God’s love by what He does or does not do for me, I am doomed to struggle to trust Him. But when I base my understanding on God’s love on His character and His word, I am assured an unshakable trust.
Unshakable. Who wouldn’t love that? Who can really, truly understand that? Nothing in our finite world is unshakable. Buildings collapse. People disappoint. Jobs fail. Governments corrode.
But God. His love is steadfast. Unmovable. Unwavering. Resolute. Constant. Relent-less. Singleminded. Unyielding.
We get hit with bad news and our world is shaken. So we question whether God really loves us, but instead of confronting that issue, we decide we just need to trust Him more. We try harder, but then struggler harder when the bad things don’t quit hitting us.
We equate love of God with peaceful lives, answered prayers, and clear paths.
We don’t equate God’s love to trials, desert experiences, and dim paths.
However, God’s love transcends what we see, feel, or experience. It’s something we receive in faith, believe in faith, and grow in faith.
He loved us before we knew Him. We love Him because He loved us first.
And then He calls us to love Him first.
So, lets talk about love before we talk trust. Because the root of trust issues is a love issue.
Love & Trust
Do you believe God loves you? Really, truly loves you? Not that you feel like He loves you, but do you believe He loves you?
The Bible is full of examples about His steadfast love. He loved Joseph and gave Him favor: as a slave, in prison, and as second in command. He loved the Israelites even when they refused to love Him back.
He loves us more than we love our favorite people.
Sometimes we just have to say, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
It doesn’t have to be proven to be true. It just is.
Okay, but what about if you need proof? Grab a mirror and smile. See those muscles move? That’s proof that God loves you. Hold the mirror close to your mouth and exhale. Again, that breath? It was gifted to you by God. Find your pulse–that involuntary muscle? Who started it? God.
I know what it’s like to ache and wonder whether you’re loved or not. I know the heart that aches and wonders if you’re the only unloveable one in the room. I know what it’s like to wave from the outside and realize that no one is waving back at you.
The King of the universe has this crazy, unshakable love for you and he lavishes it on you. Do you have a teflon heart or a velcro heart? Does this truth slip right off or does it stick?
1. Copy Psalm 21:7 on a card and tape it on the dashboard of your car.
2. If you have a teflon heart, why? Can you point to one circumstance that caused you to disbelieve God’s love? Now, write it down. Then, look at your disappoint with fresh eyes. Finally, use a Bible search tool to find three verses that describe God’s love for you.
3. Repeat: “God loves me with an unshakable kind of love,” 3 times before each meal.