Juggling

Juggling

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.

Juggling

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.”

Why faith?

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?

You are Seen

You are Seen

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.

Brokenness

Brokenness

“When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!” 
Psalm 65:3-4

I have a number of close friends and family members that I have seen wrestle with the devastating consequences of their brokenness. I have been privy to the statements, condemnations, judgments, and even prophecies that have been spoken over their lives. If you have ever lived through a season of “reaping what you have sown” as I have, you know firsthand how quickly the religious people come running out of the woodwork bent on making sure you understand that what has just happened must not and cannot ever happen again.

I was broken. 
I think my angst comes from this: After a season of about 6 months of living through absolute Hell due to emotional problems and self-medicating, I really didn’t need anyone telling me how bad I was or that these behaviors needed to stop. I knew it. O Lord, You know I knew it. I was so broken, so devastated, so utterly ruined by who I had become, I didn’t even recognize my own reflection in the mirror. I was terrified. And it was in one moment, face down on the floor of our bedroom, that I just called out to God from the depths of my heart. Even typing this is making me emotional. I told Him I was nothing. I had nothing. And if He was real, if He truly was my Savior, then the only way I was ever going to go on living was to be reminded in that moment that He loved me. And I’m not lying to you when I say that I heard Jesus whisper His love to me. Right then. Right there. And I was never the same.

True Brokenness
See, I think that’s what true brokenness is – when all we have to cling to is the fact that Jesus loves us. In the past I could’ve made myself feel better by listing my spiritual accomplishments. But my mental/emotional breakdown did just that: It broke me day after day for about a year and I was literally stripped spiritually and emotionally bare before God and others. Yes, my clinical depression and anxiety, my emotional issues were exposed to others. Never before had that been the case. However, my humiliation pushed me to Jesus. He’s all I had. And if He didn’t come through for me in that moment on the floor, then I am not sure what would have happened next.
The Way of Jesus
Isn’t this the way of Jesus though? Didn’t He do this for people over and over in the Scriptures? He met them in the middle of their brokenness and humiliation and didn’t condemn them. Instead, He reminded them of how much He loved them – even in the middle of their mess.
Brokenness looks different for all of us.
I believe brokenness looks different for each of us but one thing is the same for all of us: When you are stripped bare and left face down before God wherever that is, you know. You know the depths of your heart have just been revealed to you. And you know that you will never understand the Gospel and it’s life-altering ramifications better than you do in that moment. You will never interact with Jesus the same again because you quite have nothing more or left to prove. You only have His love, grace, and forgiveness. It’s an incredibly powerful, resurrecting, transforming process. And there is a freedom that comes from true brokenness. A freedom that is often misinterpreted, but a freedom that I will defend the rest of my life.
Freedom in Brokenness
It’s the same freedom the Prodigal Son experienced when he came back home – the freedom to party and dance even though he was still dirty from living with the pigs (read Luke 15). You see, he wasn’t celebrating his brokenness, he was celebrating the love of his father and the fact that he came home and was safe. Why can’t we do this for people? Why do we operate out of fear and guilt? Why can’t we just rejoice when someone comes back to Jesus and trust Him to finish the work He’s started in their lives?

Our church, Centerpoint Church, ministers to hundreds of broken people every week. And I am here to tell you that we celebrate Prodigals coming home. All I can do is to remember my story and the fact that the Father came running to me when I was most helpless. Unable to offer or prove anything. And He changed the trajectory of my life. When we stop trying to prove to God why He shouldn’t love us and just determine to accept His unconditional love, grace and forgiveness for us, He does a miracle. It may look to outsiders like He is letting us off the hook. All I can say, we know otherwise. And that truth saves and sustains our lives.

Entitlement

I am not going to lie…I more often than not feel like I’m owed. I mean, be honest, don’t you? If you are thinking, “No, I really don’t.” Then riddle me this: Why do you get hurt, angry, stressed, or depressed? Because you think you are entitled to certain outcomes, and when you don’t get those outcomes, all Hell breaks lose. You with me? Personally, this is why I struggle to forgive, to extend grace, and to surrender to God. I feel like He owes me and so do people. How arrogant of me! No wonder there are times in my life when it feels like God is against me…James 4 says He’s opposed to the proud but close to the humble. Yikes.

What about Job?

I was reading in Job yesterday. Here’s a dude that had it all…a big family, a lot of money, a huge tent (equivalent to house…haha…for some reason that cracked me up), and a loaded camel (car – funny to me too…sorry). In Job 1:6-12, God basically challenges Satan to a duel. God is so confident in His faithfulness and sovereignty, that He gives Satan permission to utterly destroy Job’s life. Wait a minute…come again? Yeah, God believes enough in His own goodness that He allows Satan to wreck Job. I am not sure if you are frightened or comforted by that thought. In a strange way, I am frighteningly comforted. God knows He will be enough for Job. Here is the crazy thing…God is also confident that Job will rely on God’s immutable character to define his circumstances and not allow the circumstances to define God’s character. Wow.

In verses 13-19, four servants inform Job, one after the other mind you, that everything he has was just destroyed. Everything. Gone. In a matter of minutes. What Job does next hit me hard yesterday…”He fell to the ground and worshipped.” I just had to stop typing for a second and take a deep breath. He explains, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

What about God?

We have heard that verse a thousand times, haven’t we? But think about what Job is saying here. He realized he is entitled to nothing (he came into the world naked – with nothing – and would leave naked – with nothing), but that God is the Creator of the Universe and entitled to everything…even worship during a disastrous season.

Here’s the crazy thing…Job admits in 2:10 that he and his wife have experienced “evil”, which literally means “disaster”, from God. However, Job questions, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job had a proper view of life because He had a proper view of God. God’s character defined Job’s circumstances. God’s character defined how Job viewed himself. God’s character kept Job alive when death looked more promising.

What about Us?

We live in a broken world. And this brokenness causes the evil. The disaster. I mean, read the verses in Job again…Satan brings up Job to God and says that Job won’t still love God if Satan takes everything away. God allowed the disaster, but He didn’t cause it. Satan did. Jennie Lusko and I talk about this in our Scar Stories Podcast. It’s so important that we realize that God isn’t out to destroy us – Satan is – but God offers us Himself, which is more than enough when we lose everything.

I wonder what circumstance you are walking through today that is tempting you to doubt the goodness and faithfulness of God. You’re questioning His love, grace, and forgiveness. You wonder if He’s there…close. You know what you need to do, but you are more afraid of what everyone else will think and aren’t sure God will be enough. You are allowing your circumstances to define Who God is and control what you will do. But I want to challenge you: the Scriptures say we are NEVER given more than we can handle because we are given God – and He handles everything! What you have to determine is will you surrender your heart to Him and realize you were never entitled to anything but Him. And that, my friend, truly is enough.

Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis

Identity is the hinge on which a person’s mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health swings. A lost and/or confused identity is the catalyst for every sin, disorder, or complex. Take that to the bank.

So identity. It’s huge.

Paul spends all of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians dealing with the idea of identity. Paul knows. He knows that these believers who are living in a culturally explosive and seductive time period will be easily swayed to abandon their convictions for love, acceptance, worth and security if not found first and foremost in Christ. He knows that Satan is clever and aware that a simple crack in a believer’s identity will ultimately cause the entire fortress of his/her carefully constructed belief system to crumble. Satan knows. So, Paul belabors the subject of a believers identity in Christ. What does it mean to be in Christ? What does is look like? How does it happen?

In Colossians, Paul calls “Christ in you” a mystery. How true is that? I mean, we talk about our identity needing to be in Christ and the fact that it should be easy since He lives in us. But, honestly here, what the heck does that even mean? Paul defines it for us in Colossians 3:1-4…

– Raised with Christ
– Seated with Christ
– Hidden in Christ

Okay…so let me break this down for you. If you were raised with Christ, you had to have died with Christ. Very simply put, when Christ died on the cross for your sins over 2000 years ago, He died for all of your sins: Past, present, and future. Everything thing you do, say, and think has been covered by God’s forgiveness. You are set for life. Let that sink in. Seriously. Stop, and think about that for a second. I don’t care what you have done in your past or may commit in the future or are contemplating right now, you are FORGIVEN!!! Isaiah says it this way, “You [God] have cast all my sins behind Your [God’s] back.” David explains it this way, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He [God] remove our transgressions from us.” Scripture makes it very clear…ALL of your sin is covered and forgiven. Period.

But how can that be, you ask? Ah, that’s the mystery of Christ in YOU. You see, when Christ died on the cross, your sin and your labels (I could list some, but chances are you don’t need me to…your label just came to mind) were nailed to the cross: God has forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.

Those labels, those names you call yourself and the way you see yourself, are demonic. Yeah, that’s right, they are from the Enemy. Otherwise, why would Paul say in that verse “He [God] disarmed the rulers and authorities…putting them to open shame”? He said that because those are the sources of your faulty identity. If the Enemy can determine how you see yourself, he can control how you see God and how you interact with others.

You are finding your love, acceptance, worth and security somewhere. That “somewhere” is your identity.  You are scared you are going to lose whatever that “somewhere” is. Whoever threatens “that” is who you are out to “get”. Love, patience, forgiveness, kindness…those are obtrusive thoughts to you because those make you weak against the “whoever”. So, you develop bitterness and anger as a way to protect yourself from the threat. You build walls around your heart. You distract yourself with addictions. You hid behind perfectionism. Are you tracking with me?

Not only are you forgiven, you are seated with Christ. After Christ died on the cross, He sat down at the right hand of God in Heaven. His sitting down is symbolic of saying “I’m done”. In other words, Christ did everything that needed to be done for you to be forgiven and to stay forgiven…for all of eternity. In essence, Paul says it is as though you are sitting with Jesus, next to God. You are hanging out in God’s throne room. “Wait a minute…” You gasp…”I am not worthy to be up there with Jesus.” Uh, yes you are. That’s my point. You were forgiven. When God looks at you, He sees Jesus. He sees His perfection. He doesn’t see your label. That was nailed to the cross, remember? Jesus sat down. It’s over. God disarmed the Enemy from using your label as a weapon against you.

But you still feel attacked? Paul explains all through Colossians how important it is to grow in your relationship with Jesus. Why? Because growing closer to Jesus reminds you of the truth of who you really are!

Frederick Douglass was a black slave who taught himself to read and write. Consequently, he was able to escape from slavery and became a leading advocate for black rights in the North during the Civil War era. He explains that as a child, his slave owner was attempting to teach him to read and to write. However, her husband caught word of the tutoring. He quickly put an end to the lessons. Why? Because knowledge is power. If Douglass was able to read and to write, the dividing lines between whites and blacks would blur. Douglass would realize he too, in fact, is human and endowed to certain “unalienable rights”.

Romans says that we have not been “given the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear…” We are adopted into God’s family…we have a whole new identity!!! However, Satan uses our lack of knowledge of what that means to keep us tied up in anger and bitterness and enslaved to certain people and situations in effort to protect ourselves.

You are hidden in Christ now. You are safe. He, Who Colossians 1 says is the God of the universe, is your protector. “Set your minds on things above”, Colossians 3:2 states. Realize, what Jesus did on the cross 2000 years ago defines you. Shut Satan up. He doesn’t deserve your time, or your identity.