So I can’t get past the life changing message in 2 Chronicles 20 (Who would have ever guessed there was such awesome stuff in Chronicles? Who even knows where Chronicles is in the Scriptures?).
Let’s Get Caught Up
To get caught up with this blog, read Juggling. Here’s a quick recap: We know that King Jehoshaphat is up against an army he cannot defeat. He cries out to God and says: “We are powerless against this great horde…we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
God responds: “The battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.” Wow. I can’t get over God’s answer. He says in essence, “You can’t do it. You will fail. Watch me do my thing.”
God wanted to show off to His people. He knew that they could not do anything on their own; only He is self-sufficient. He wanted to prove this to them. So what were they to do during the battle if they weren’t going to fight?
2 Chronicles 20:21: “And Jehoshaphat appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise Him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for His steadfast love endures forever.”
The army simply praised God! And God blessed them…He “gave rest all around”.
I love this story because it proves what I know intellectually, but need to be reminded of emotionally. I can do nothing. I am simply a branch. Do you remember in John 15 in the Scriptures when Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches”? Have you ever wondered what that actually meant?
It means realizing that the vine gives the nutrients. The vine causes the growth. The vine protects, sustains, and fortifies. I simply get to know who Jesus is and then let him come in and do all of the work. The more I get to know him, the more like him I become. I just am because I am a part of the Almighty I Am.
Who Am I?
I’ve said this before, but some of you don’t know who you are because you don’t know who Jesus is. Wait, what? You are trying to find your identity in anything and everything because you are too afraid to slow down and really ask the questions: Does Jesus love me? Does he accept me? The answer is a resounding YES! But some of you have been taught a Jesus that doesn’t exist. You’ve been taught a Jesus arrogant Christians made up to control you. It’s time to stop running from him and figure out who he actually is.
A great place to start is in the Gospels. When I was deconstructing my faith, I started reading in the Gospels. My views and relationship with Jesus were transformed as I read how he interacted with people and loved them unconditionally.
What Happened Next?
And would you know, I started slowing down. Saying no. Leaning into my identity as someone who is loved and accepted by Jesus and so no longer needed to prove herself. I started getting healthy in counselling and loving people with no strings attached. I started being thankful and praising Jesus for the good things in my life that I was finally able to slow down and enjoy. It was not overnight, but gosh was it life-changing.
So what about you? Are you brave enough to come to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Scriptures) and see who Jesus actually is?
Why is it so hard for me to accept that God does not need me?
I need to be needed. I need to feel like I matter. Like people’s well-being depends on me. Cause if people don’t need me, they will leave me. And then I will be alone with my thoughts and feelings and that scares me. I don’t want to have to face my past…I want to distract myself from my past with my busy present. And so I tend to run around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to get things done so I don’t have to think. To feel. And I exhaust myself emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
There is nothing wrong with being busy. Busyness is a part of life. But sometimes my “busyness” is self-inflicted to either distract myself or to find my identity in something else.
And so we always say yes and never say no and now we have so many things on our plate, we aren’t balancing anything, we are juggling everything. God never meant for us to “juggle” our lives. What is that verse in Matthew 11:28? “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” Nothing in there about Jesus’s work requiring juggling, or causing anxiety or exhaustion or overwhelmed feelings. It just says what Jesus asks us to do is “easy” and “light”. Gosh, how do I find that work? Must be nice.
The First Step
In 2 Chronicles 20 in the Scriptures, King Jehoshaphat (crazy name) is in a war that he knows he will not win. He is facing an overwhelming circumstance that he cannot avoid. See, that’s the first step in going from anxious and overwhelmed to easy and light: It’s setting down those things that don’t matter – those things that are just distractions. We will face enough in life that we have no choice but to confront. Why are you exhausting all of your mental, emotional and physical margin on things you don’t have to do? If you are having trouble saying “no” to certain things for fear of being replaced, rejected, or abandoned, that’s a tall-tale sign that you need to find a good counselor and get to work on yourself.
Back to our story: Jehoshaphat turns to God and cries out for help: “You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand You…We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” Wow. To have the courage that Jehoshaphat had to admit that he was nothing and could handle nothing apart from God…
Whether it’s your fear of your past, the intimidation of counselling, or just the looming circumstance in front of you that you cannot circumvent, you have to have the courage to invite God into your situation. You are not strong enough…big enough…brave enough…healthy enough…But God is.
Here is God’s response: “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”
God doesn’t need me
I tend to believe that God needs me…because I need to be needed. I have so many fears and insecurities that I try to temper by being needed, which in my mind is a sure way to evade rejection and abandonment. But if God did need me, then he isn’t God at all, is he? And that scares the sh%$ out of me.
A.W. Tozer says: “This truth [that God is self-sufficient and needs no-one], while a needed rebuke to human self-confidence [ouch], will when viewed in its Biblical perspective lift from our minds the exhausting load of mortality and encourage us to take the easy yoke of Christ and spend ourselves in Spirit-inspired toil for the honor of God and the good of mankind. For the blessed news is that the God who needs no one has in sovereign condescension stooped to work by and in and through His obedient children…In the meanwhile our inner fulfillment lies in loving obedience to the commandments of Christ and the inspired admonitions of His apostles. ‘It is God which worketh in you.’ He needs no one, but when faith is present He works through anyone.”
I have to have faith that God is going to come through for me. That he’s not going to drop the ball. Unbelief, Tozer says, is deadly because I am believing in myself, not God, and I am only human. I will fail. Do I really believe God has got this…whatever the “this” may be in my life at any given time? If so, I will allow Him to dictate my day (“Spirit-inspired toil for the honor of God”) and I will be freed up to love and to serve other people (“the good of mankind”). I won’t be distracted by finding ways to make myself feel wanted and needed and irreplaceable. I will be able to focus on loving God and loving others, which is exactly who God created me to be. I will be living my divine purpose, and there is nothing more fulfilling.
Where to start?
Here’s where I’m starting: I am trying to find 10-12 minutes each day where I can pray uninterrupted. I like to write my prayers – it keeps me focused. When I can’t write them, I like to run and pray or walk and pray. In those 10-12 minutes, I am pouring out all of my anxieties, insecurities, fears, feelings of being overwhelmed, and confused. Then, I get up from that time fully surrendered to do what I know needs done next. Not what will necessarily distract me or make me feel better, but what actually needs done. My yoke actually does feel lighter because I’ve left all of my negative emotions with Jesus, trusting that He will take care of those things. And then I live in the moment.
Want to join me? How and where will you spend you 10-12 minutes in prayer today?
Do you feel like the walls are caving in and God’s just watching your life fall apart? Like, He doesn’t really see you? Do you feel utterly and completely abandoned by God?
The fear of abandonment is what caused my mental/emotional breakdown in 2010. I had experienced the pain of rejection the previous five years and determined that it was the absolute worst, most helpless feeling ever. I decided that I was unlovable, that someone else would always be more interesting, likable, pretty, smart, fun than me. I didn’t value myself – I didn’t think I had worth and so I figured everyone else felt the same or would figure that out eventually.
Rejection makes us feel and do horrible things to ourselves and our relationships.
I believe in Jesus (don’t check out just yet – give me a minute) and so I use some examples for my writing from the Scriptures. I am not asking you to believe any of this, I’m just asking you to stick with me and listen to me read (well, write) this story about Sarah and Hagar.
Sarah was barren and had probably come to terms with the fact that she was. Then God promises children…lots and lots of children. I’m sure Sarah told everyone. And if she didn’t, she kept it to herself but couldn’t wait to get her dignity back. But it didn’t happen right away. In fact it didn’t happen for years. And years. She grew impatient and I believe even more ashamed than she already was. Child-bearing was a woman’s sole purpose – it was her whole identity in those days. And so in her shame and embarrassment, she used Hagar. Sarah told Abraham (her husband) to have sex with Hagar (her slave), because in those days, that child would be considered Sarah’s.
Abraham slept with Hagar and she conceived. As you can imagine, this didn’t go well for Hagar. Sarah, who was already marginalized, defeated, depressed, and discarded by her society, couldn’t handle it. And so she took out her hurt and anger on Hagar by abusing her.
Shame also makes us feel and do horrible things to ourselves and our relationships.
I believe that shame and rejection go hand-in-hand. We cannot allow people to get close to us due to our shame. And so we push people away and reject them. Rejection causes shame, and so on and on the deadly cycle continues.
But here’s where you and I may part ways: I don’t believe that God is ashamed of you and I don’t believe that He has rejected and abandoned you. Yes, he allows bad things to happen, but he does not cause them (as Jennie Lusko reminded me). We live in a broken world. You and I have both heard that “hurt people hurt people”.
Here’s the hope: God promises that he sees, he knows, and he will give us the peace, love, acceptance, forgiveness, and safety that we are looking for if we will just humble ourselves and stop fighting against him.
Hagar ran away from Sarah. She was in the dessert, all alone and hopeless, and that’s when God found her and spoke to her face to face. He promised to protect, love and accept her. And she was never the same.
She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her,
“You’re the God who sees me!
“Yes! He saw me; and then I saw him!”
My heart is breaking because I know people need to hear this…God sees YOU. And He knows. He knows the pain you are feeling. He sees what’s been done. Stop blaming him for the brokenness he died for. He died on the cross and rose again so that we could have hope and a future knowing that someone will always love and accept us and see our worth. You just need to stop fighting him and let him rescue you.
Ephesians 6 lists the shield of faith as one of the pieces of armor to use in defense against the attacks of Satan. Why? I love what Beth Moore says, “When we are convinced that God is believable and we respond to Him in faith, practically nothing can get through to us. But when our faith diminishes, our shield begins to drop, and we are immediately vulnerable to the enemy. Satan will stop at nothing to get us to lower our shield of faith so he can wound and burn us. He stacks up tangible evidence in opposition to God’s assurances. He delights in doubts and lies. He studies our weaknesses and then aims where we’re vulnerable. His priority job description is to keep us from believing God.” And believe you me, he knows our weaknesses. My counselor calls them triggers…you know, those things that seem to come out of nowhere and cause us to become emotionally unraveled. But wouldn’t it be awesome if, as soon as we sensed a trigger go off inside of us, we grabbed our shield of faith and started preaching the Gospel to ourselves? What if we immediately began rooting and establishing ourselves in the love of God so that our emotions couldn’t take us every which way?
Psalm 25:15 says: “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only He will release my feet from the snare.” Triggers are lies of the enemy to believe that we have unmet needs, unresolved issues, and unhealed hurts that are only going to be met by getting our own way. And so, we respond to these triggers by self-medicating. We get angry, abusive, lustful, hungry, depressed, anxious, manipulative, wounded, and selfish, you name it. We turn to ourselves or others as our saviors. And we get trapped in the snare of the deadly cycle. We have to choose to take our eyes off of those things that we think we are owed, want, or even believe we need. We need to center our attention on our loving God. You see, this verse comes after “No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame…” and “Good and upright is the LORD, therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful.” If we don’t really believe that those verses are true, we will never, and I mean never, refocus our wandering eyes onto God. We will never preach the Gospel to ourselves. We will never root and establish ourselves in His love. We will never experience freedom from fear.
Andy Stanley says, “Every good thing that comes your way comes from your Heavenly Father – which is all the more reason to take your unmet needs, your heartfelt needs, and even your embarrassing wants and wishes to him. Will you go to God with these or just keep trying to wring them out of those closest to you?”Going to God and not harboring or wringing takes strength and discipline. The strength part is taken care of according to Ephesians 6:10, which follows the verses on the shield of faith: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (italics mine). I don’t need to be strong in and of myself in order to face my fears. Think of the worst case scenario for the situation you are trying to control in order to avoid abandonment. Pretty bad, isn’t it? Okay, now realize that right now that seems impossible for you to face – because (and I hate to be Captain Obvious) you don’t have to face it right now. Perhaps this is why One oh so much wiser than the rest of us said to not worry about tomorrow…today is enough. We have more than enough strength and grace (2 Corinthians 12:9) to deal with today. However, we are never going to make it if we don’t decide to discipline our minds on the love of God. Train your mind to trust that God is Sovereign. Even though you may think you are in control, you are not. Those things you dread could happen regardless of whether or not you submit to God’s sovereignty and love…so why not just rest in His omniscience and omnipotence? Trust is simple…when you begin to worry or to grow angry or jealous or greedy, remind yourself that God, Who knows everything and Who will ultimately work His will for your good and His glory, loves you and will do what He (as God of the universe) deems necessary. Let me remind you again, this will happen regardless of whether you “allow” Him to or not. Rest in His love for you.
Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Ephesians 2:4-5: “But because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”
1 John 4:9-10: “This is love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
I mean, what can I even say after reading those verses? Did you stop and really meditate on what these verses are really, I mean really, saying? God proves His own love…HIS LOVE…His very own love…for US. How did He prove it? When I was in the middle of the worst sin I will ever commit, the one sin I will be afraid He will never forgive, the one sin I will forever be ashamed of…He died for me. Because He wants to be with me.
Not only that, but because of His GREAT love for me, He made me ALIVE. That’s right. He took away my old life filled to the brim with sins (past, present and future sins) and gave me Christ’s life. That means that when God looks at me, He doesn’t see Nicole. He sees Jesus. He doesn’t see the years I battled with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. He doesn’t see the years I almost destroyed my marriage and family. He sees Jesus’ perfection. He doesn’t see the sins I am going to commit in the future and be so ashamed of. Nope. He sees Christ. I mean, what?! And…I love this. He initiated all of this love first and foremost. It’s His love that defines our relationship. It’s not a mutual love. Nuh-uh. It’s only Him. And that’s great news. Cause I am going to fail and my love is going to go MIA. But He’s still going to be there. Cause it’s His love. Not mine.
It’s a funny thing…as I begin to bask in His love for me, my fear of abandonment begins to disappear.
That’s why God’s Word says that perfect love casts out all fear. But I cannot do any of this without faith. I have to believe that God loves me and hang on to that belief, especially when I experience pain from my own decisions and/or somebody else’s.
Hebrews 11:6 says it’s impossible to please God without faith. We have to believe that He truly does exist and rewards those who seek after Him. What’s the reward? What we have already studied: A life without fear. If you read on in Hebrews 11, you will see person after person who did extraordinary things in the face of real danger because they believed God loved them and had a plan and a purpose for their lives. They found their identities not in things found on this earth, but in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 11:13-16 explains, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” I love that. They could have returned at any point to the people and things that they thought could fulfill them here on this earth. But they knew better. They rooted and established themselves in the love of God and by faith accepted the plans and purposes He had for their lives. Therefore, they were able to live without fear. But living by faith is not easy. It is a moment by moment decision.
This cycle (Read: The Catalyst Emotion) even bleeds over into our relationships with God…we feel as though that is how He interacts with us. While we do good, He accepts us and loves us and wants to be with us. When we mess up, He disapproves and so no longer accepts us and would rather we not be around. And so we run. We become the Prodigal and push God far, far away so that we are not abandoned by Him, but instead reject Him to remain in control.
However, we can also become the legalist…constantly attempting to prove to God that we are acceptable…we are worthy…He shouldn’t abandon us. We are fostering a relationship birthed completely out of fear of God abandoning us and consequently fueled by us attempting to manipulate God into “liking” us.
You see, our fear of abandonment grows out of our knowledge that we are not able to measure up to anything for anyone. We know ourselves. We know we are going to let people down because we let ourselves down. We are so aware of our own struggles we truly believe that if anyone really knew us inside out, he/she wouldn’t love us…especially not the God of the Universe. And so we strive to give off some sort of air of perfection…whether in our homes, our jobs, our finances, our schooling, our religion, or our extracurricular activities. If we can find a way to accept ourselves, then surely someone else will be able to accept us. And yet, the cycle continues.
It isn’t until we come to fully accept God’s unconditional, unwavering love for us that we will be able to love Him and love others without fear. I wrote this in my journal the other day: “God does not see me the way I see myself. He loves me greatly!” I had just read Ephesians 3:17: “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filed to the measure of all the fullness of God.” I continued in my journal, “I have to be rooted and established in the love of God in order to grasp the extent of His love.” Did you catch that? I realized that if I didn’t center myself on the fact that God loves me, then I wasn’t ever going to fully understand just how much He loves me. Reread that sentence if you need to. I need to. We have to preach the love of God for us, to us.
I looked up the word “rooted”. It means, “The part of a thing attaching it to a greater or more fundamental whole. The basic cause, source, or origin of a thing. The essential substance or nature of something.” Wow. The only way I am going to experience wholeness is by attaching myself to the love of God. If I do not allow His love to wash over me and to fill in all of the empty spaces caused by a lack of love and acceptance somewhere in my past, I will constantly be looking to other people and/or things to complete me, and, as we read earlier, that only causes conflicts and deadly cycles. The passage in John 15 about the vine and the branches is beginning to make more sense now, huh? The word “established” takes the concept of being rooted in God’s love one step further: “Having been in existence for a long time and therefore recognized and generally accepted. Having taken root – growing well.” I love that. Not only do I have to attach myself to the love of God, I have to be “growing well” in it. What does that mean? I need to constantly be preaching the Gospel to myself…especially when I fail. I have no choice but to meditate on God’s love for me.