Welcome GraceBreak Cycles. Embrace Grace.
There is a song by Elevation Worship that repeats in my mind and meets me in the life-overwhelms and reminds me where my strength and hope is placed. One of my children had a dental procedure and the weight of the unknown overwhelmed her and I felt overwhelmed knowing how to help her. Have you been there? You’re overwhelmed by the weight of the unknown and you desperately cry out for help and your friend or husband or kids can’t help you. It’s the kind of overwhelming feeling that can only be carried by Jesus.
I couldn’t do anything for my daughter except hold her hand and comfort her the best I knew how and the best I know how is to point her to Jesus and remind her that he is calling her to himself. He calls us to come to the altar when we’re hurting. He calls us to come to him when we don’t know if we can handle one more second of the unknown. The fear weighs us down and we suffocate from it.
And so I remind you and me and anyone who wonders if they can take another step of this:
Jesus is calling. He calls you when you’re broken. He calls you when your sin threatens to overwhelm you, and he calls you to come drink from his well that never runs dry. He says to you, “Turn your back on your regrets and mistakes. Those are in the past and I have redeemed you, look to me—the starter and finisher of your faith. Don’t be afraid. Come to me. I have refreshment for you in the midst of your trials and pain.”
Ah friends, whatever you’re facing, there’s an altar waiting for you. An altar that points your eyes to Jesus. An altar where you can receive forgiveness. It’s an altar where you leave your mistakes and regrets as a testimony to God’s faithfulness because rather than your regrets pointing it’s accusing finger at you, you can use it as a reminder to yourself of God’s redeeming power in your life.
Sorrows and suffering. They go together like peanut butter and jelly—only they don’t taste as good–and I would never choose them. In fact, they sometimes leave a bitter taste, but when we recognize our feelings towards our sufferings, we have an opportunity to head straight to the altar and surrender our expectations to Jesus.
And then he does this amazing thing: he bears them for us while walking with us through them. But if we leave the altar, we stumble and fall because we begin relying on our own strength. We begin to rationalize away our feelings about our reality and once the rationalization happens we lose touch with the reality that God is with us in the midst of the unknown.
Jesus is calling us to come to the altar. He’s calling us to come when the weight of the world threatens to crush us. He’s calling us to come when our sin weighs on our hearts. Jesus is calling you to come to the altar. Run to him and find rest.
O Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship
Are you hurting and broken within,
overwhelmed by the weight of your sin?
Jesus is calling.
Have you come to the end of yourself?
Do you thirst for a drink from the well?
Jesus is calling.
O come to the altar,
the Father’s arms are opened wide.
Forgiveness was bought with
the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Leave behind your regrets and mistakes.
Come today there’s no reason to wait.
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy,
from the ashes a new life is born.
Jesus is calling.
Senseless deaths. Wounds fester. Terrorists attack. Fingers point blame. The news channels sensationalize the bad and minimize the good and I wonder, where is hope? When life falls apart and I have no good words, what do I do? In order to know hope, I must walk through the suffering.
We can’t bypass it. We can’t go around it. Sometimes the only way through the suffering is to immerse ourselves in the suffering. And then call out all the fear and pain and lay it at God’s feet.
If we can read in the daytime that God promises to be with us, we must believe it when the darkness is so pervasive we cannot see our hand before us.
If he promises to be with us in the fire then we have to believe when the flames lick our skin and burn our hearts.
If he promises that nothing can separate us from his love then we have to believe him when the darkness closes in and God seems separate from us.
We must sit with him in our suffering. He’s there. He’s there when the world is trying to tell us that he’s not. I’ve chased peace and healing outside of my suffering because I didn’t believe God was right there in the middle of it. And when I leave my suffering, by refusing to acknowledge the pain I’m feeling, I leave God behind.
He’s always with us in our suffering and he wants to hear our hurts and disbelief. He wants us to rage at him because he wants our hearts and sometimes all that’s in our hearts is anger. This is lament.
The Psalms teach us to lament. The Psalms are full of how could you-s, and where are you-s, and why don’t you do something-s. But they’re also full of praises to God while still in the dark. They teach us to empty our hearts of the pain and then to fill our hearts up with reminders of God’s love and faithfulness. And this isn’t a one time experience, but it sometimes needs to be done minute by minute, hour by hour, or day by day.
Do you want hope in your suffering? Then enter into your suffering and feel the feelings that threaten to overwhelm you and then turn your lament into praise. Give words to your pain and then turn your heart to truth because what it true in the daytime is true in the nighttime.
He is a God of hope, of comfort, of peace and when my gaze is fixed on him, I don’t fret, worry, or grow anxious. Hope is Jesus. He is our hope in a fallen, decaying, dying world. I can believe in myself all I want, but when it comes right down to it, my effort is weak against the power in the name of Jesus. What if we wore the name of Jesus and felt the weight of the hope that is in his name rest on our shoulders?
But I don’t. I lie awake at night worrying a prayer, attempting to convince myself that I do trust God and my hope is in him. But my sleeplessness proves my struggle with hope.
Suffering. I’m afraid of it, but I’m learning to embrace it because I know that when I suffer, God gifts me with four things:
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10
God restores. He confirms. God strengthens and He establishes. And it all comes through our suffering.
God will restore what the locusts devour. He will confirm his truths in your heart. He is your strength. And he establishes you.
Enter into your suffering, not alone, but with him. He will carry you through and he will give you words to speak when your own are gone.
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?