Take Care

Now that I’m about to wrap up my third year of undergrad, I’m thinking hard about what I want to do for the next (potentially) 10 years of my life. Some of the decisions are up to me, and some of them aren’t. Will I apply to grad school? Will I try to find a job? Will I get married? Will I be able to get into grad school? Will I be able to find a job?

So it’s not surprising that with all these questions in my head, thinking about the future brings me deep anxiety that seems to surpass any praying, hoping, and mentally reassuring that I try.

But today, I attended an intensive at my church, where we talked about intimacy with God. Part of our talk involved trusting in God–in all things. After the sermon I was able to spend time reflecting on parts of my life where I refuse to surrender to God. Naturally, the future was one of my first thoughts. But God takes care of me, right?

And then I realized that God promises that a life of following him isn’t easy. It involves trials, persecution, and hardship. But he takes care of me, right? How can that be part of taking care of me?

Unless……unless my perception of God’s care is wrong. Unless my understanding of God’s love is completely off base. Unless I have misunderstood the kindness and grace of the Good Shepherd to be purely a shower of material blessings to make me comfortable.

Paul writes in Philippians 3:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

What if placing my trust in God meant that I gave up everything? What if his love and care meant giving me more than the material comfort I always wanted? What if God’s blessing meant that I had fullness of joy in Christ, instead of a big house with a white picket fence?

For years, I now know, I have been worshipping the idol of comfort. I have assumed that God’s love manifested as material blessing and wealth. I realize that if God’s blessing and God’s love is merely material, then my God is not great at all. His love would be shallow and pathetic, ephemeral and transient. But no.

My God’s love is deeper, wider, longer, higher than a white picket fence. My God’s love is stronger than the grave. His care for me doesn’t manifest as money and ease in this life, but as riches and joy beyond comparison in the next. His gift to me is his son, who came to die for me. His gift to me is life, and life abundantly. His gift to me is fullness of joy as I enter into his presence.

Yes, I hope for a happy life, a successful career, and comforts of financial security. But God’s plan is so much larger, so much more beautiful than that. What if his love was worth more than the big house I always dreamed of? What if his joy was deeper than the one I could find in marriage? What if his comfort transcended the comfort of my chocolate and Netflix?

I had a small view of God and his kindness. His care ensures the comfort of my soul for all of eternity. His love covers my darkest, ugliest sins. His joy transcends any circumstance I may find myself in. Now that sounds like a God worth trusting in.

He is God.

Psalm 121:3 reads, “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

When I first read this, I was confused because…that’s a given. God doesn’t sleep; he doesn’t grow weary. Why should I care if he never sleeps?

And then I was overjoyed. This is such a powerful statement about who God is. He needs no sleep because he isn’t human. God is…well, God. Not only does he protect me, but he is able to protect me from even myself because he is God. Praise the Lord that he isn’t like me, that he isn’t human. Praise God for his sleepless, tireless watch over me. Praise him for his ways are higher than mine.

Psalm 121:3 is a statement about how God is able to constantly protect me, day and night, which is wonderful in and of itself. But I am fascinated by the deity of God, the holiness of God, the fact that he is beyond me. I am amazed and thankful that I worship a god who isn’t like me. He is holy where I am unholy. He is sovereign where I am powerless. He is loving where I am bitter. He is God and I am not.

Oh Lord, I will worship you for who you say you are. You are God.

Is Love Blind?

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NASB)

The other day I passed a group of students on campus, holding a sign that said “Love is blind.”

Honestly, I don’t really agree with that.

I like to think that God isn’t blind to my sin. I like to think that God is who He says He is, that He sees everything, that He knows the depths of my sins, that He sees the ugliness of my soul. And yet He loves me. And yet He chose me to save me. And yet he sent his son to die for me.

Doesn’t that make the love of God that much more beautiful, that much more wonderful, that much more gracious? Why would I want to hide the disgusting filth of my sin, if I know that when I confess, He is faithful to forgive? Why would I guard my brokenness from the only one able to mend it?

The greatest love in the history of the world is not blind. It is all-seeing. It rages against the arrogant, rebellious sins of my soul. It reviles the failures of my flesh. And yet it lavishes grace upon grace over me. It rescues me. It washes me clean and offers me new life.

God is love. And God is by no means blind. He loved a people whom He well knew to be undeserving.

Sitting, Wishing, or Waiting

“O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
In the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and wait.”
Psalm 5:3
So often, I cry out to the Lord in the morning (or right before I fall asleep at night), and then promptly check off the box on my to do list that says “pray,” and carry on with my day. I move on to forget the things my heart had seemed to earnestly desire just a couple hours ago. But David, when he wrote this, didn’t just sit or wish–he waited for the Lord. He called out to God in full faith, knowing who God is, knowing what God can do, and sacrificed, knowing what God required, and then he waited in full expectation, in full hope that God would deliver. David didn’t offer a sacrifice and walk away; he remained in the presence of the Lord, waiting for God to answer his prayer.
This week, I’ve been doing a lot of praying in preparation for my new semester at college. The challenge for the next semester (and forever, I guess) is to teach myself to trust fully in God’s faithfulness to me. I walk away from prayer unchanged because I don’t entirely trust that God will come and actively change my life. Instead, I go about my day, attempting to control my life and mold it into my own vision of success. When I look at David’s heart, I clearly see how he has come to the end of his own efforts, and has chosen to rely on the might of God to save him.
In this coming school year, my prayer is that I won’t just pray anymore. I want to pray and wait. I want to believe in the power and in the compassion of God to answer my prayers and to accomplish his will through my life. I want to lean on Him to work and to change my attitude that says that my ways are higher than His. I want to stop walking away from my prayer time, unaffected and unchanged because in my heart of hearts, I don’t really think He will deliver or make a difference. I have full faith that God is strong enough, kind enough and compassionate enough to hear me, to deliver me, and to transform me.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us”
Ephesians 3:20

The Help

In Genesis 2, God creates Eve, saying “It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a suitable helper.” And thus, out of Adam’s rib, Eve is created. But as a twenty-first century woman, this idea of only ever becoming a man’s “suitable helper” is such a highly offensive thought. As a college student, I have so often thought, What if I am never going to have the opportunity to use this education? What ACTUALLY is my purpose as a woman? A huge portion of women are under the impression that we (as a gender) were invented solely to help garden and name animals, and then were later blamed because we ate of the apple first. Let’s get this out of the way: women ARE helpers. Women WERE created with the intention of helping men. BUT, this is not the lowly calling to scrub toilets and change diapers. If you look to the origin of the word “helper,” it translates to the word ezer in Hebrew. Ezer is a term used throughout the Old Testament to not only describe the creation of women, but also to describe God himself. Thus, the role of the helper is a high calling that God has even placed upon himself. Women, just like men, were created in the image of God, as seen in Genesis 1:27. Therefore, women are called uniquely to help men through embodying in the flesh the image of God as an ezer. 

Sacrifice

Someone once told me that “Where there is no sacrifice, there is no fire.” More and more, that saying has come to strike me as something I need to not only understand, but practice. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer up your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” Wow. “In view of God’s mercy” I am offering up my life because God has given it to me. He has given me a NEW life in Christ Jesus, and the only way I can ever thank him for that is to offer it up to him, to serve and love him all of my days. I am offering up my life because I know that it is not my own, that it has been bought at the highest of prices. Jesus, a perfect man, had to offer up his own spotless, innocent life in exchange for my broken one. What mercy. “this is your true and proper worship” Not only is my act of sacrifice a response to mercy, but it is also the only logical thing I can do when I am confronted with the sheer majesty and holiness of the Lord. I am in awe of his beauty, and the only thing I can do is offer him what I have. But then I look around and realize…in his presence, I have nothing. He has given me everything. And the one thing that he has given me irrevocably is the gift of eternal life. So this is what I offer in worship to my King. I consecrate my life to worshipping him and seeking his face. That said, I will sacrifice. I want to know the fiery passion that burns in the heart of God. I want to burn with that fire every single moment of every single day. And I am willing to give my life in order to pursue it, to know God’s heart and to worship Him in all His majesty.

The Need for Grace

Last weekend, I had the unfortunate experience of cleaning up after a friend of mine who had a little too much to drink at a party, and ended up throwing up both on the carpet in my dorm room and on the bathroom floor a couple doors down. Needless to say, I was pretty disgusted and wanted to throw up a little bit myself when I realized that it was up to me to clean everything up. But I stayed up late and did it, along with the help of a few compassionate friends.
On the outside, this looked as though I did everything right. I cleaned up the carpet so you’d never know that anything was there, I washed down the bathroom floor, and made sure that there were no remaining traces of vomit anywhere. I did it without complaining and without accusation.
But God was testing my heart in this time. After I laid down to go to sleep at 5am, I realized that, in fact, I had done it with complaining and with accusation. Even if I hadn’t said anything out loud, I had definitely been angry with my friend for not only making me wait in the rain for 30 minutes before we could leave the party but also for forcing me to clean up his disgusting mess because he couldn’t handle himself at a party. The next morning, I was even more frustrated when he failed to truly apologize for any of it and ended up just making jokes about it, not seeing that I was clearly angry at him. I saw all my self-righteous pride, my anger, and my selfishness come out. God showed me that even if I did the right thing on the outside, I sure hadn’t done it with the right heart on the inside. And isn’t that what a Pharisee is–someone who does the right thing on the outside but grumbles and judges others on the inside?
Jesus has shown me GRACE. He went to the cross and died for me without complaint, like a lamb, silent before its shearers. He committed the greatest act of service, allowing himself to be unjustly slaughtered in the most humiliating way, just so that I could live. This is amazing grace.
Not only do I need grace to give to my friend, but I need grace for my own sins, for my failures to have a joyful heart in my opportunity to serve someone else. Jesus, forgive my debts as I forgive my debtors. I am so broken and in need of God’s grace to even continue pursuing this path to righteousness.