But running clothes are cute. So then, maybe, I should run. Just so I can look cute.
But I do run towards Christ because I’m on a pilgrimage.
It’s a journey we walk, run and battle our way through. We set our hearts. We fix our eyes. And we move our feet.
“I will run in the way of your commandments for you set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
I don’t know about you, but this whole life thing can trip me up, trap me fast, and triple my heartache. My heart sometimes doesn’t feel free.
It gets caught up in performance or perfection. My heart trades worldly wisdom for godly wisdom. It mistakes man’s words for God’s word. Lies snare. Idols form. And soon I’ve traded the glory of God for a false light. Then I no longer run, but stub my toe on a rock, trip over a boulder, and tumble down the cliff.
I sit stunned and wonder how I got here. You too? Do you feel like you stumble more than you run? Do you want to know how to run? I do, too.
Reveal Your Heart
Ask God to show you your heart. It’s okay if you cringe, I know I do. But this is the deal. We can forget, for a while, the contents of our hearts and fool ourselves into thinking that nasty little section that gossips or harbors bitterness isn’t really there, but God sees all. Only instead of following our example by condemning us, he lovingly convicts. Because how can we run free if our hearts are bound to sin?
How can we run free when we are bound to performance or perfection? How can we be free if we are more worried about what other’s think of us instead of doing what’s right in God’s eyes? When fear rules our lives, we cannot be free.
So. Freedom to run. Not away, but towards God. It comes when our hearts are set free of any sin that stops forward momentum. Freedom comes when we know who we are in Christ and when we surrender all to him.
I know that my ability to run lies in how open I make my heart to God. Will I let him have unfettered access? Will I risk trusting him with the most intimate details of my life?
Take the Risk
It’s risky. This journey we’re on. But one unequivocally worth it. So, how do we run? We fix our eyes on Jesus. We give the Holy Spirit full access to our heart. And we trust God for strength and endurance.
We can do it. I know it looks hard, but running well is a benefit of freedom. Step into the freedom and run. He has set your heart free.
Our paths take us through valleys and mountaintops.
We linger in Vanity Fair.
We dance with Ignorance.
We battle Giants.
We wrestle Pride.
All the while we march ever onward, ever upward with our eyes fixed on the perfecter and finisher of our faith.
Maybe you’re on a battlefield and the giants are about to crush you. Or you’re lingering in vanity fair where all things pleasurable tempt and distract you from your purpose.
It could be that pride is having it’s way with you and ignorance is deceiving you.
But either way–it’s time to get up again.
Hope is calling your name.
Lift up your weary head and look to the source of your strength: God.
It is he who carries you. He gives you the strength to take the next step. He inspires you and whispers encouraging words to help you onward and upward.
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” Psalm 84:5
Rest. Then respond.
He will fight your battles–the battle of complacency that we sometimes don’t even know we’re in. But we are. It’s found at the end of the day when we can’t remember the beginning. We discover it when we forget to care about others. We run into it when we resist change.
We grow weary and stumble in this journey of onwards and upwards. But we have this hope:
“As they [you] pass through the Valley of Baca, they [you] make it a place o springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They [you] go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:6-7
We journey strength to strength.
That’s how we make progress. We go from God’s strength here to God’s strength there. One jaunt at a time.
And as we do so–the valley of bitterness is turned into a valley of growth and refreshment.
This is a journey we all can take. Will you step out and onward? I’ll be cheering you on!
What do you do when the hard is hard? Do you hide? Do you immerse yourself in all things chocolate and a good book that takes you to places long-gone? Do you find yourself paralyzed by the what ifs? Do you stare it in the eye and wrestle it to the ground?
We all have hard. It comes in different packages, but it’s still hard. And what might be hard for me, might be easy for you, but you have your own set of hard too. If there’s one thing that’s chronic in this life–this is it: hard.
Hard days. Hard lives. Hard hearts.
And that hardness is an indication that I need the softness and the power of grace.
The Softness of Grace
The softness of grace gives me freedom not to compare my hard to yours, because in reality: I am healthy. My kids and my husband are healthy. I am able to pour my life and energy into raising my kids and then ministry to others. When I compare my “hard” to my friends who struggle and suffer with health, family, or financial issues, I don’t feel I have the right to my hards.
When I compare, I rob myself of receiving God’s grace because I minimize my experience in the journey he has me on. And it’s in the journey that I learn dependence on him and comparing feeds my independence.
I feed my independence because I won’t admit this day, this week, this month is hard and I fail to reach for God’s help and rescue. So comparing our difficulties robs us of the softness that grace brings to our lives. Comparing actually leads to competition and competition leads to compulsively looking to ourselves for strength and success.
The Power of Grace
When I run smack dab into the middle of hard, I know I need to reach for the power of grace, but so often I reach for anything else rather than the power of God. It’s the power of grace that makes living this life possible. But that seems so nebulous. It’s much easier to look to Pinterest, Facebook, snapchat, or Instagram for the latest tips and tricks to live this life well. It’s even easier to turn to the words of others rather than the Word of God.
It’s the word of God that shows me how to live through hard. Joseph. David. Abigail. Rahab. Moses. Deborah. Peter. Paul. Job. These are my examples on how to live well through the hard. They knew the power of grace in their lives. The power that enabled change, not their circumstance, but themselves within the circumstance.
So often I think I need to change my outside: maybe if I were more organized, or slimmer, or researched the latest health news, my hard wouldn’t be so hard. But it’s our insides that change our outsides.
For two consecutive months my heart sank when I maneuvered my over-filled cart to the checkout lane and “The Daydreamer” bagged my groceries. As I watched her gaze off into the distance for every two items she packed, I wanted to snap my fingers in her face to grab her attention. Could I push her out of the way and bag my own groceries?
I did neither.
I did put a smile on my face.
But my insides did not match my outside.
Waiting. It can make me crazy. I put on a patience facade, but inside my heart races and my blood pressure rises. But God is calling me to wait on him and he shows me how in real-life incidents.
I’m grasping the idea that waiting is much bigger and much more important than I ever anticipated in my walk with Christ.
It’s also hard. Really hard.
It takes discipline. Ugh.
It takes perseverance. Too much sometimes.
God wants my inner self and outer self to be in harmony with each other. I might be able to fool others, but God is aware of the state of my heart.
If I were the most giving person, but my heart is resentful, my giving means nothing. I can be the most vocal for the socially oppressed, but if I oppress my fellow believers then my voice loses impact. If I raise my hands in worship or bow my body before the Lord, but refuse to surrender a secret hurt or offense then my worship means nothing.
Our outer self must reflect our inner self.
Psalm 37:34 “Wait for the Lord, keep his ways and he will exalt you to inherit the land.”
The key to having harmony between my inner and outer self lies in these three words: “keep his ways.”
Sometimes keeping his ways is hard. Sometimes his ways lead us to a sea with our enemies closing in. And keeping his ways means surrendering a lifestyle or habit that is the opposite of kindness or unity or self-control or patience or goodness or life-giving words.
But we fail. You know? In one experience in the grocery store, we lose forward momentum. But we want to honor God and his word and we want to please him and receive his blessings so we keep trying and we keep failing.
Soon we are driven to the cross where we fall on our knees. We lift up our hands in surrender and we decide to wait on him because we are exhausted and can no longer keep doing and failing.
Waiting on the Lord begins with our impotence. We can do nothing in our own strength.
“Put your power in God’s omnipotence and find in waiting on God your deliverance. Your failure has been owing to only one thing: you sought to conquer and obey in your own strength. Come and bow before God who alone is good, and alone can work any good thing.” Andrew Murray, Waiting on God
We can talk ourselves into failing just by the overwhelming statement of “keep his ways.” But this I know: God takes us from strength to strength. Ability to ability. And we must carefully keep those that we have received the strength for, trusting him to guide our steps and guide our growth into the next one.
In my impotence I am strengthened and filled with his goodness, his righteousness, and his love.
Waiting on God is about God’s magnificence, his faithfulness, his strength. It’s about recognizing that I am small and he is big. And it’s in my smallness that I experience his work in my life. The work that he brings from the inside out. The work that can only come from him, the work that is only through him, and the work that is only for him.
Trivial pursuit is not a game I play. Jeopardy is not a show I watch. I suppose I could learn something from both of them, but random facts don’t interest me. I want to know more than just facts, I want to understand motivations and reasonings.
Have you ever struggled to understand why? Why there is pain, disease, cruelty?
There’s an underlying assumption that as God’s chosen ones, life is a field of green and sweet meadow flowers that we skip through on our way to eternity.
However, this doesn’t quite fit into the calling to be like Christ: Christ suffered. He bled. He died.
We will suffer. Our hearts will bleed. And our old nature will die a thousand deaths before we see Jesus face to face.
Even though I know these facts, when I’m in the middle of the hard, I act like a two-year old and roll on the floor screaming, “I want to understand!”
I want to understand why someone is healed of cancer and another is not. Why would a child raised in the faith walk away from it while another grows stronger in it? How come it’s so hard to do the right thing? I want to know why some people are able to live a victorious life, while other’s wallow in the pain of their past. Mostly, I want to know why God doesn’t intervene in my circumstance right now–as in yesterday!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
I know I trust in God, but my understanding prevents me from acting on that trust.
My understanding is a trust buster.
God’s proven he’s trustworthy, time and again. But before I can say wholeheartedly, “I trust you,” I have to struggle through a whole load of hard questions that often have no answer.
Seriously, we are information junkies. We have immense knowledge at our fingertips. Google. Alexa. Siri. It just takes asking the question and we have an instant answer. And the more instant the answers are the more we crave instancy.
In my prayers, I demand to know “why?”
I want to know what needs to change or adjust or move so this uncomfortable circumstance is gone. done. finished. I want to wrap my head around the motivations, the reasonings, and the plan to get from point A to point B or even to get back the place I was before.
When I try to understand with my understanding of a situation, I’m normally wrong. Just saying.
Oh, sometimes I have the Holy Spirit inspiration, but that doesn’t happen all the time and just because I might know why something is happening doesn’t mean that: A. I understand it. or B. I stop struggling.
But when I surrender my need to understand and release my agitation, trust becomes easier.
We have to come to the point where we can be okay with saying, “I don’t understand and I’m okay with it. I can’t lean on my own understanding because I fail myself, but you never fail.” And that’s when we stop leaning on our understanding and instead lean into trusting God because despite what we see or feel, he will make our paths straight.
It’s January and maybe you have your planning sheets color-coded with your year long strategy broken into manageable chunks and you’re crossing them off your list one by one in hopes that this is the year you will make 2017 your best year yet.
Or maybe your year is looking a little like a train wreck and you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re suppose to be focusing on, you just do the next thing because that’s all you can concentrate on because the big picture threatens to gobble you up.
Or maybe your life just changed in an instant and it will never, ever be the same again because a loved one is missing and you’re grieving and wish you could rewind the clock to 2016 when your loved one winked at you with a twinkle in their eye.
Regardless of where 2017 finds us, we could all use some courage.
I know I could. The first morning of 2017, I awoke with a deep, deep sorrow in my heart. A sorrow over what? I don’t know. All I know is that my heart felt burdened and so very heavy. I led worship that morning and rather than leading us in an opening song, I led us to a place of prayer…a waiting on God, if you will.
“Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 ESV
Waiting on God is not a phrase unknown in Christian circles. We throw it around to convince ourselves that we’re trusting God to move and to act on our behalf. We encourage fellow believers with it when we have no answer. “Wait on God,” we blithely say.
But do we really understand it? Waiting on God isn’t a feeling, it’s not manipulating God into doing what we want, it isn’t one of those Christian disciplines we do to check off our list. So often, when we’re waiting on God, we’re really waiting on ourselves.
Andrew Murray writes: “You are not going to wait on yourself to see what you feel and what changes come to you, you are going to wait on God to know first, what he is, and after that what he will do.”
Jesus summed up the whole of the Old Testament law in two commands: to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. Loving my neighbor is hard to do if I cannot love myself the way God sees me and if I can’t see the way God sees me then do I really understand the love he has for me? And if I can’t understand the love he has for me then how do I love him with all that I am?
Wait on God.
Let your heart take courage.
Waiting on God in this manner takes diligence and is often accompanied by an internal battle to trust him despite how I feel. I watch my circumstances and see no change and judge God to not care about the big stuff in my life. I’m moved to tears in a church service and conclude that God must be on the move, but the next week, I lead worship and see little response so I conclude that God must not be moving. So then I wait on God some more so that he will move in the hearts and lives of the people I serve. It becomes a cycle of wait, expect “something,” disappointment, repeat.
But rather than waiting on God to do something for us, what if you and I waited on God to receive the love he has for us?
Andrew Murray implores us to wait on God to know who he is.
And who is God? God is love.
He is full of a love that overwhelms and captures us. Sometimes his love is a gentle rain and sometimes it’s a raging torrent, but it’s there, in the kind of quiet, expectant waiting where our hearts are strengthened and gain courage.
Courage isn’t found in formulating a three-pronged plan of attack. It’s not found in the right self-talk because I’ve found that when I’m scared there’s nothing I can say to myself that will induce an ounce of courage.
When I come to him broken, bruised, and bleeding and don’t try to hide the weakness and simply wait in his presence just because He is God and not wait for what he can do for me, courage shows up and I gain the strength to get back up again for one more go around.
It’s winter here so I wear sweaters, scarves, drink hot tea, coffee, or lemon water in futile attempts to stay warm. I’ll even hand wash a sink of dishes to warm up my hands rather than use the dishwasher (I have to be pretty desperate for that one). But my favorite way of warming up is finding a patch of sun to sit in and letting the warmth soak into my bones and warm me from the inside out.
We can do multiple things to encourage our hearts to take courage. We can read blogs, books, the Bible, listen to worship music, or take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. These are good and right practices and help produce perseverance, hope, and maturity in our lives.
But if we want courage to seep all the way to the marrow of our bones, then we need to cultivate time into our day to wait on the Lord.
Waiting on the Lord gives us the opportunity to bask in his love. His love takes our feeble limbs and infuses them with strength because when we wait in God’s love he infuses us with himself and he is the greatest blessing we need.
He is the reason why we can wake up day after day to face the hard of life. Waiting on him gives our heart the courage it needs to tackle those goals, to do the next thing, or learn to live with grief.
So, today, today, today, trust his heart for you and wait on him and imagine his love soaking into your chilled heart and warming it from the inside out. Find a patch of sunlight, sit down in it and wait on God and as you soak in the sun, imagine God’s love soaking into the deepest part of your heart. Be strong and let your heart take courage.
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 me? You'll receive weekly devotionals straight to your inbox. By subscribing you'll receive my 7-Day Devotional, Kicking Perfect, as a thank-you gift from me!