When God’s promises are for everybody else.

God led me to a dead end recently. After a couple years of praying diligently for breakthrough and seeking direction from God, it seemed like things in my life were finally coming together. I felt like I had renewed vision. I felt like things were starting to make sense. I felt like I could dream again. And then, unexpectedly, God shut the door.

I can’t say I’m not thankful, because He rescued me from a situation that could have been really bad. He saw what I couldn’t see, and He brought about things that revealed it. But, you know, it’s still hard.

Here I am, right where I left off. Weary of hoping for something different. Unable to even think about what the future might hold. Here I am, able to trust Him with today but struggling to have faith for tomorrow. And I hate to admit it, but it’s like I’ve begun to wonder if God’s promises are for everybody else but me. Have you been there before?

And when I say that, I really just mean some of His promises. Because I can believe that God is my Comforter, My Strength, my Deliverer, my Joy — He really has been so faithful and kind to my heart. I can believe that He will use it all for His glory. I can believe that eternity matters more anyway. But when I read that God’s plans are to prosper me, when I hear the scripture that says He grants me my deepest desires when I delight in Him, when I’m told of the blessing God has for me and my children, I find myself wondering if He really means me.

Isn’t that just what the enemy of our souls wants to do — to convince us that somehow we are the exception? That somehow God’s mercy, faithfulness, or unconditional love is for everybody else…but us?

So tonight, as God revealed these doubts I’ve been trying to ignore, He reminded me that I can’t just pick and choose what to believe about Him — or His Word. That either He is who He says He is, or He’s not. Either all His promises are true, or they’re not. Either He is worthy of all my trust, or I’m wasting my time.

It’s the great paradox of God’s character. The tension we live in. That He is a God who calls us to suffering, and yet a God who takes joy in fulfilling the desires and dreams planted deep within. A God who asks us to die to ourselves, and yet promises us abundant life beyond what we can imagine. A God who tells us to be content in Him, and yet to contend for more. And if I only embrace one part, I’m simply not seeing Him clearly.

So here’s to letting God reveal to each one of us those truths that we unknowingly disregard — whether out of fear, or doubt, or brokenness. Here’s to believing Him for all that He is, and not tailoring it to what we see and feel today. Here’s to embracing dead ends and relentless hope…all at the same time.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. [2 Corinthians 1:20]

Let emptiness come

A few weeks ago, my life slowed down.  After months filled with planned vacations, family events, and social engagements, things just…faded out.  And at first, it was nice.  You know, sleeping in on the weekends and declaring (to myself, of course, since I live alone), “I can do whatever I want today!”  I love a day with no plans.

But even for me, time began to slow down.  Even for me, it was…Too. Much. Space.  And then…that dreaded thing we all fear began to settle in.

I started to feel lonely.

The thing about loneliness is that it’s in itself isolating.  You can’t just tell people you feel lonely.  Then they feel bad and think about what they can invite you to. Or they think up ways to help.  Maybe you need a hobby…or an eharmony account…or a puppy.   (Our world is all about quick fixes.)

For me, as well, the temptation at first was the same.  I wanted to fill the void, and I knew I could.  I could over-commit at work, or try to plan some weekend trips away, or call up friends until I had something to do.  None of those things are necessarily wrong.  But deep down, I knew I didn’t want to be busy just to be busy, you know?  Deep down, I knew I just needed to embrace the emptiness and see what God would do.

And our God, He’s all about the empty things.  In the scriptures, we read that it is the hungry who are satisfied, and the needy whose cries are heard by God.  It says that those who mourn shall be comforted, and that it’s the dry, barren places the Lord comes to fill with streams of life.

There is something about the empty things that move the heart of God.  But it’s sure hard to get there.  Everything in us wants to fill that void before we get there.  Everything in us would rather be satisfied in anything else but God alone.  Everything in us seeks to avoid feeling empty, or sad, or lonely.

And yet maybe the very thing we’re running from is exactly where we find what we’re looking for.

It’s the emptiness that reveals our brokenness, our frailty, and our need for something bigger than ourselves.  It’s in the waiting that we realize Jesus is truly enough.  It’s in the quiet that we begin to know His voice.

And if you’ve ever held out, and let the emptiness come, you’ll know that it’s Jesus Himself who meets us there.  And in that space, there is peace and there is joy so much deeper than that superficial, temporary stuff the world wants us to settle for.  Often it’s getting to those empty places that leads us to the greater things God has in store.

So when the pressures of life begin to unravel our confidence.  Or when the things of the world no longer satisfy our hearts.  Or when the quiet becomes too much to handle.

Let emptiness come.

I don’t yet know all that God has for me in these days, but I know He’s in this.  And instead of dread, I’m starting to even feel excited, because some of His most beautiful treasures are found right here in the waiting.

 

 

 

Fully loved and fully known

People often think I look younger than I am. In fact, every time I find myself in a high school, I get mistaken for a student. Seriously. Every time. And people say that I should be happy about this. And that I'll miss it one day. Which is probably true. And I'm not complaining, but sometimes I just wish that when people see me, they actually see me…you know?

I'm sure lots of us — maybe all of us — have those kinds of moments in life. Those moments where who we are and where we've been simply cannot be contained within the box people see us in. And no matter how much we explain it and push our way out of the confines of assumptions, there's just no way for people to truly know the depths of who we are and what we've experienced…especially if they weren't there. The thing is, even though it happens all the time, even though it's a part of life, it's kind of a big deal. Because, all too often, how people see us and respond to us affects how we see ourselves and who we become.

I know it's not rocket science, but it's a crazy thing how relationships shape our identity. It's like we were made to be loved, and to be loved, is to be known. I've moved a lot. And if you've ever moved, or lost important relationships in your life, you know that when certain people aren't around anymore, it's not even like you just miss those people. You miss who you were when you were with those people. You miss the experiences that only those people were witnesses to. You miss a part of yourself.

So here I am, 32 years old. And like anyone, I've done things, and seen things, and loved people. I've seen God move and change me and my circumstances. Yet, where are the witnesses? Who in my everyday life can remember with me, and remind me who I was and who I am today? It almost feels like it never happened….like it's just gone. It feels like such a loss. It's so easy to define our reality through whatever is right in front of us, and through the eyes of what others see. Then we often get overly concerned about our image or reputation. We try to create evidence to prove who we already know we are. And when we feel misunderstood or unseen, we question ourselves and wonder what's really true.

It's pretty tiring, actually.

Yet the Bible even tells us that all of this is a losing battle. Not that human relationships aren't valuable and important, but that no matter how much others know us, people will always see dimly and can only know in part — that until eternity, only to God are we fully known (1 Cor. 13:12). So no matter how hard we try to establish our identity upon the opinions of others or upon our own understanding, it is never a complete picture of who we are. The One who brought us up from our mother's womb (Ps. 71:6), who writes each one of our days in His book (Ps. 139:16) and records every tear on His scroll (Ps. 56:8), is the only One who can make us feel fully known and wholly embraced…the one thing so many of us are looking for.

In all my ponderings, there I was last night, rummaging through old papers and photos, when I came across a bunch of letters from former students in years past. And in that moment, I felt so much love for these children I haven't even thought about in months, as I remembered who I was to them and who they were to me. It reminded me that even our own memories cannot be trusted to contain all that we are and all that we've encountered in our lives. The world wants us to define who we are on our own, but I humbly confess that I'd rather give that job to God — the One who sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), who with eyes of perfect love looks on us and sees us for all we are and were meant to be.

Praise God that He was there when no one else around me was. Praise God that He sees in me more than what others see and more than what I see in myself. Praise God that in Him we are fully loved, which means, in Him, we are fully known.