These are a few of my least favorite things…

I was sitting at the table thinking of the things most people, if not all, hate. On the back of an envelope I scribbled: funerals, suffering, sorrow, tears and separation. No sooner had I written this list I thought of the good things each one of these things bring.

Funerals:
I just recently was at my Grandfather’s funeral. It was much harder than I expected it would be. There were a lot of tears. But there were two positive outcomes for this funeral: my Grandfather (I believe) is in heaven, and my family received a lot of support.

If you were given the option of attending a wedding, or attending a funeral, the majority of people would pick the wedding. However, if you want to be known as a good friend, you will go to funerals. Whether it be for your friend’s mom, family member, a mutual friend, you will more likely be remembered for attending a funeral than attending wedding. Let’s be honest, your friend needs you more at a funeral than a wedding. Your presence for both would be the best, but a funeral is always less attended. I remember several friend’s showing up for my grandma’s funeral and it meant the world to me. I know how hard funerals are to attend- especially unexpected ones. The people who show up for funerals to support you are the friends to keep.

Suffering:
“Mr. Smith [not real name] is in the hospital again” my mom said as my heart sank. How much more can this man suffer? He wasn’t expected to live longer than a few years. His disease is terminal, yet he continues to persevere- as does the rest of his family. Time after time after time I have seen this family suffer. Car problems, terminal illnesses, cancer, broke bones, prodigal children, job loss, and the list goes on. You look at this family’s life and you’d start to ask God why He allowed them to suffer so much? God is a God who can heal; yet, for this family He’s allowed illnesses to remain- why? It’s to prove He is faithful even in the suffering. When the father of this family first became ill, each child went through a rough patch at one time or another. Yet because of the parent’s faithfulness, one by one the children have come back to serve God. They have been a living example of James 1:2, 12. Everyone faces trials at one time or another, but this family is especially unique because over the past 10+ years they have suffered more than most people do in a lifetime. Yet, they have allowed God to use their suffering to become more like Him. They are following in Jesus’s steps. Hebrews 5:8 says, “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things He suffered”. Although none of us would wish to suffer, it is one of the tools God uses to make us more like Him.

Sorrow:
I could not hold in my tears when I was told, “Gina left Jack”. I knew things were a little rough but never in a million years did I think that they would ever separate. I admired this couple so much. I even prayed that I would have a marriage like them. Why? How? When? My head was filled with questions and my heart filled with sorrow. I was in shock. I didn’t even know how to pray. Confusion clouded everything. How does this happen? How does someone say, “I do till death do us part” to parting long before death in even on the horizon? I think the questions will be there for a long time, as will the sorrow, but I am realizing that sorrow can be one of our dearest friends. How? Because when I am filled to the brim with sorrow, I cannot bear it on my own and have to turn it over to God. I have never felt so much sorrow for a marriage in my life. Because I have the gift of mercy (this may sound crazy) I sometimes feel so deeply, it feels as though it is happening to me. At first, this caused depression (and still can from time to time), but when I take this to the Lord, my prayers are more serious. I feel like I am pleading as if it were my marriage. In Isaiah 53:3a it says, about Jesus, “He was despised and rejected- a man of sorrow, acquainted with deepest grief…” Our sorrows and grief are not meant to be something we ignore, but used as a catalyst to fall into our Fathers arms and plead with him either for our own woes, or those closest to us. Let’s be like the widow in Luke 18:1-8 who persisted until she received what she had asked for.

Tears:
I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of crying. There was a period of about 5 years when I refused to cry in front of anyone. If I cried, it would be alone when no one could hear me. Now, I feel like tears come so easily, and it is okay. The closer you get to God the more He softens your heart. The more your heart begins to break for the things that break His heart. Today it was an absolutely beautiful day and I spent a lot of the day in tears. God has been stirring my heart so intensely. He has been revealing things in my life that I need to repent of. As well as burdening my heart to pray for my country. At times, it feels so overwhelming all I can do is cry. It breaks my heart that we have taken another step away from God by going against His design for marriage. It breaks my heart that there are millions of men, women and children sold into sex-slavery and slave-labor. It breaks my heart that Islam is on the rise in the Middle East and America. It breaks my heart that 50 million babies have been aborted in America alone. It breaks my heart that 50% of men in the church are addicted to pornography. And ultimately it breaks my heart that I have not done more. That I have loved my comfort above the lives of others. God gave me everything and I’ve given maybe 1%. Yet, despite all my failures, He still reaches down and decides that He has not given up on me and never will. He reminds me that He chose me, He loves me, and He even bottles all the tears I cry (Psalm 56:8). Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart”

Separation:
Separation is one that is hard for all of us. For me, it has been separation from my family. I moved always from my family thinking I would move back within the year. It has since been 4 years since that move. I hate not being able to see my nieces grow a little every day. I hate missing big milestone birthdays for my sisters. I just am not a fan of separation. However, God knew that separating me would cause me to rely on Him more. He knew how heavily I relied on my family. He knew He could not take me to where I needed to be because I am comfortable around my family. It is easy to be around them. They have been my support (and still are), but God knew that in order for me to grow, He would have to be my sole support. Jesus even separated himself from Joseph and Mary at one point (Luke 2:43). He also had to separate himself from the disciples and crowds. Although separation is never fun or easy, it is necessary. My relationship with Jesus needs to be intimate, and intimate relationships don’t bloom and blossom in crowds. It is in the stillness and quietness we commune with Christ and that communion takes us to a deeper level.

I don’t know what you may be facing today. It may be a funeral, suffering, sorrow, tears, or separation, but the good news is NONE of these things will be in heaven. 2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”!!! I want to encourage you today to learn from these thing. Don’t run from them. They are achieving for us an eternal glory. If you are not the one facing sickness, separation, a broken heart, or suffering in one way or another I encourage you be Romans 12:15 to someone, “rejoice with those who rejoice [maybe at a funeral- someone’s home-going]; mourn with those who mourn”. It will not be pleasant but let your heart be burdened for someone else. It says in Isaiah 53:4 says, “He took our pain and bore our suffering…” 1 John 2:6 says, “Whoever claims to live in Him must LIVE as Jesus did”. We as Christian have a HUGE task before us. But we cannot live as He did without His help. Don’t give up my dear friends. Seek God and do good!

“Only one life twill soon be passed. Only what’s done for Christ will last”
-C. T Studd

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Getting stuck at good enough

“God what am I doing wrong? What am I missing? Am I that messed up?” I uttered similar words roughly a year ago. I did not understand why it felt as though I was hitting a brick wall. I was doing all the things a Christian is supposed to do: reading the Bible, attending church, and praying.

If you don’t know me, I was raised in an amazing home. My parents were in full-time ministry. When I say full-time ministry I do not mean they worked 40 hours a week for a ministry and got paid for it. I mean their daily lives were filled with ministering. Whether it be my mom raising and teaching me and my 6 siblings, my Dad teaching us the Bible and taking time to train us, or them counseling whoever called or stopped by. Their daily lives exemplified their beliefs. It took a little while for me to realize I could not live off my parent’s beliefs. I had to figure out what I believed and why. By God’s grace, He chose me and made Himself real to me as a 14 year old. Fast forward 10 years. I was working at as a manager at a sub shop. I was involved in church. I was reading my Bible, and I was praying. I knew these three things were important, but I did these things more out of duty. Then God decided to pick me up from where I had been and put me in the ministry. I thought, “Great, I’ve always wanted to be in the ministry”. Little did I know I was about to experience some of the hardest battles I have EVER faced. At first things were great. I had a set job to do and it was pretty simple. Then more responsibilities came and then the expectation was raised. All of a sudden, I was in the fire. I kept begging God asking Him what I was doing wrong and why it feel like all hell broke loose. I remember one night when it felt as though someone were on my chest and all I could hear was, “Christi, you are a complete failure. You can’t do this. You might as well quit”. I thought it was all me thinking this. But it was straight from the pit of hell. When I finally woke up, I called out of work. I knew I had to get myself together, and I desperately needed God’s help. I remember hearing the Lord say, “why are you giving excuses when I have given you declarations”. I started to think of the verses that have declarations. “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13. “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” Romans 8:37. So, I started to say these things a when I felt as though I could not do anything right. I also wrote down a list of the things I thought I was, and found verse to go with each area I struggled with. Then, whenever I had a thought come into mind like, “You can’t do this” I would say, “Yes, I can because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. After this, I felt like I grew a lot. I had to realize that as a Christian, I am in a battle, not a walk in the park. When I was working in the sub shop, there were days when I felt some warfare, but nothing to the extent that I have experienced with working in ministry. It is a battle. My mind is where most of my battle rages. If the enemy can get a millimeter of my thoughts. I can absolutely count on him taking it. He is like the guy you wish would pursue you. He stops at nothing but the name of Jesus.

So, you may be asking, why are you writing this now. This turning point happened in your life over a year ago. Yes. You are right. But I had something happen this week that brought all this to my remembrance. I just got back from a trip this weekend. I got to see my family- which is wonderful. Almost all my siblings are married and have children which is exactly what I thought would happen to me at 18. But, God had other plans. I have to make sure I stay focused when I am home because it would be easier for me to live by my family, and it wouldn’t be as difficult had I had a similar life. So, I get back and I just felt discouraged and lazy. I felt as though I needed to veg out on a movie, or just “enjoy” my evening (I had the walk in the park mentality). So I did veg out on a few movies and enjoy my evening, but it left me empty. When I woke up this morning, I read my Bible and got ready for work. I started to feel like I was hitting that brick wall again. Why am I feeling like this? I am reading my Bible and praying. I started to go through the things I was doing for God (like He should be impressed). Then we had a time of prayer at work today and I felt as if the Lord was saying, “I know you can give me more”. My first reaction was to say, “But God, I do this, that, and the other” and again He said, “I know you can give me more”. I thought of some more things to say to “convince” God that I was doing enough. Then I thought I could compare myself to others. But again God said, “You’re telling me you can’t give me more? Do you want change to happen in your life? You need to give me more.” Then I started to realize how much more I could do to help if I had more of Christ in my life. What if I heard God every single day tell me where to go and who to speak to. What if God had a message for me to relay to someone who was hurting and only God knew. What if there was someone who could be saved because I spent more time with God and knew how to reach them… I confessed right there. God, forgive me. We finished our time of prayer and the burden for my country laid so heavily on my heart. We have taken another step away from God. At this point, only God can turn us around. We will have a price to pay. I know we will be judged for our decisions. I know that I have played a part in this even if it’s because of my silence. This is my country and I am so grieved. We are killing our children, destroying families, and seeking assistance apart from God. God doesn’t need more social media banter. God don’t need Christian’s who think they are, “good enough”. No, God needs us, me to be on my knees receiving more from Him because the days we face are evil. God doesn’t want us to run way and hide. God wants us to, “… lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God strengthen ourselves in Him and run the race with endurance” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

So do you feel as though you are hitting a brick wall today? Maybe it is because God wants to take you deeper. Maybe He is allowing you to hit a plateau because He has more for you. Maybe he wants to teach you (as He did me) to see how the enemy attacks and how to fight back. He does not want you to have the attitude as I have had, “Oh, I am good enough”. I once heard a man say, “Do not let the good rob you of God’s great”. I challenge you today to give more, seek more, and pray more. If we ever needed a revival in America, it would be now.

Father,

Forgive me for my attitude. Forgive me for wanting to settle. Forgive me for wanting a break from the fight. Lord, You are my strength. You are my exceeding joy. You are the God who sees and the God who heals. Lord, I am asking you to help me. Help me to seek You as the deer who pants for water. Help me to hunger for You. You say to seek and I will find if I seek you with my whole heart. Lord, help me to daily surrender and daily crucify my flesh. This life is not my own. Please use me as you will. Lord, please bring revival to my life and then revival in the church and then revival in my country. Father, I am weak but you are strong. I ask for You will to be done, whatever that may be. Lord, help me to stand firm for You. In Jesus might name I pray. Amen.