Tag Archives: faith

Open Palms and Applications

Trust is not a new topic for my thoughts, my prayer life, nor for this blog. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned and written about trusting Jesus over the past five years and a little update about where we are now:

In 2013, I wrote about what it looked like to trust the Lord in moving to Wheaton.

1.) Trust is harder when you feel the need to prove yourself. Control is a natural feeling when situations seem to necessitate changing other people’s perceptions. I’m young, I’m single, I’m currently living at home while I finish up my M.A. – it can feel like all eyes are on me when it comes to my future. What is she going to do next; how is she planning for it? When the goal is less “pleasing God” and more “appeasing  man” (Galatians 1:10), it becomes a lot harder to step into crazy places of trust. Because, as might be self-explanatory, it can make you look a little crazy.

2.) Trust is synonymous with peace; it’s not synonymous with comfortable. There is tension, impatience, and anxiety when I’m trying to figure things out in my own strength. Manipulating variables so that I feel like I have a handle on something usually means I spend most of my energy trying to keep my handle on it. When I’ve submitted something to the Lord and am walking in what I know to be His will, there’s an inhuman level of peace and security. It’s the kind that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7), because you feel it permeate everything even when the variables don’t make sense. He offers peace and it’s amazing. But peace doesn’t mean it ever really feels comfortable. It’s imbedded in my human nature to want to be in control of things. Just because I’m feeling divine peace doesn’t mean that I’m ever like, “wow, it feels so natural, comfortable, and easy to give up everything that makes conventional sense so that I can trust Jesus and watch Him show up!” Feels good, exciting, and full of security in who He is – but it’s rarely comfortable.

3.) Sometimes, trust is less about the emotion and more about the action. If God says to do something, I wouldn’t second guess it, regardless of how much sense it makes. Scripture is full of stories of those kind of commands. My life is full of those kind of commands. Chances are, if it’s something that brings Him glory, and is something you wouldn’t choose or didn’t bring about, you can probably trust it. What’s more, if you’ve prayed, fasted, been honest about your humanity in it, and sought wise counsel (remember 1 Corinthians 1:27 here), and the consensus is that it’s right, I wouldn’t hesitate. This may mean giving away the money, signing up, buying the ticket, getting in line, or getting rid of most of your army (a la Gideon in Judges 7). You’re heart still may be wrestling, the doubts may still creep up, and the discomfort may feel debilitating at times, but sometimes, you’ve gotta force the step and pray for faith as your wait. Believing with unbelief is not an unfamiliar concept to our Lord (see Mark 9:23-25). Thankfully.

In 2014, trusting God was less of concept that I was trying to wrap my head around and more of a gracious, nudging, reassuring command of the Lord.

4.) Trusting God starts with the small things. How am I supposed to believe God for miraculous provision or impossible actions if I’m not believing that He will sustain me today? You can pray for God’s glory and for miracles and you can want Him to show up all day long, but if you aren’t willing to give Him the little places of dependance this hour, your soul is going to struggle when trusting Him means turning everything on it’s head. You’ll struggle when trusting makes you look really crazy. Have faith that God sees everything, including your emotions, your frustrations, and your confusion. If you don’t see Him as big enough for your daily slough, then your conception of Him is still too small. I’m grateful for all the crushes, tough classes, and “small” prayers that had me clinging to the Lord; every time I believed Him and He proved Himself faithful, my heart gained that much more resolve in trusting Him with all my finances, healing for my body, and open doors for my future.

5.) Trust is strengthened when we look back. Journaling may not be your forte, but I highly suggest writing your prayers, your stories, and the works of God in your life – big and small – down. Or speak them into your iPhone voice memos. Set up rocks in your bedroom. It doesn’t matter, just find some way to keep an account. When you see His faithfulness in the details, when you see pieces of the story that connect in ways you missed in the moment, it becomes easier to trust that He is who He says He is and that He knows what He’s doing. Help your heart out here. Not only that, but it makes it easier to tell the stories and give the Lord glory when you have a way of looking back on what you believed Him for and how He showed up. You can’t tell the stories of how the Lord has shown up if you don’t remember them.

 

2015 had me smack-dab in the middle of the trusting God, confused and frustrated by things that didn’t seem to be working out or lining up, and using truths from my past to propel my faith.

6.) Trust rarely makes sense in the moment. It feels uncomfortable. It’s often not what we want or had anticipated, both on the front-end and the back-end. Trusting God doesn’t mean we ask for want we want and then open our hands to receive; we ask Him what He wants, open our hands in submission, and then act, pray, and live accordingly. And the things that He gives us are usually not the things where we go, “this is exactly what I thought, happened exactly the way I anticipated, and is exactly what I wanted to do!” From what I can see, that’s not typically the reaction when God says He’s going to light wet wood on fire (1 Kings 18) or asks you to march around a city for a week (Joshua 6). If it makes sense to my rational mind, it’s probably in my control, which means that it’s more about me than it is about the glory of the Lord. When it feels a little crazy and like it doesn’t totally make sense, that’s when I know I’m probably on the right track. That doesn’t mean that we’re rash, unthoughtful, or idiotic; quite the opposite, in fact. The things of God should demand more thoughtfulness, prayer, care, and processing. Just because we step into them with care and intentionality doesn’t mean that they likely make logical sense. Jesus gets the glory in things that are impossible or strange for our humanity; it makes sense that those are also the things that tend to raise an eyebrow.

A big year for my trust in the Lord, the health issues, life changes, and future plans of 2016 deepened my trust in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.

7.) Trusting God means confidently believing that He can . . .We need to have a bigger view of God than we often do. To use some good, adjectival conditionals: He’s stronger, more loving, more faithful, more powerful, bigger, better, and greater than we dare to imagine. The response that people have in Scripture to those who doubt or question the craziness of their trust is always, “who should speak against, stand against, or hold back the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). How can I not be all in with my God when I know who He is? As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say, not only do we believe that He able to do it, but that He will (Daniel 3:17). A little future imperative to demonstrate just how resolved they are in the belief that God not only has the abilities but the trustworthy characteristics that define His actions. We should have that same confidence.

8.) . . . but also believing so fully in His sovereignty that you are okay with “He may not.” If our “trust” is contingent on a certain outcome, it’s not real trust. That is just us believing for something that we want. Our view of God should be big enough that it leads us to believe Him for impossible things, but it also has to be big enough that we believe any outcome means that His sovereignty is still in control. It doesn’t mean we have to love all the different outcomes equally, but they should not affect our trust. As soon as we put our hope in the expectation of the thing itself, we’ve missed the point. In that, we run the risk of having a disappointed or offended heart. The end result of trust CANNOT be the object of the trust, it has to be Jesus. If all we ever gain in this life is Jesus, that is more than enough. And if our “trust” leads us to be disappointed, disillusioned, hurt by, or offended with Jesus, then it somewhere along the line we lost real trust. Ultimately, we don’t get the healing, the home, the open door, the family, the city, the situation, or the resolution, we get more of Christ.

9.) Trust comes from intimacy. That is why trust has to come from a nearness to the Lord. First, we only know the heart of God and what He’s leading us into by being near to Him. That means investing time, emotion, and energy into the relationship – like with any human relationship. What is Jesus asking you to do? Don’t ask me; ask Him. Ask Him to speak. Sit and listen, without any pretense. Soak yourself in Scripture. Learn what it means to be intimate with our incarnate God. Experience the nearness of God with others, in community. Second, if the real prize of trust is gaining Jesus, that’s going to feel pretty lame if you haven’t experienced the life-changing, radical, consuming love of the Lord. If you don’t quite get how Paul can say that everything is a loss compared to the infinite value, the surpassing worth, the excellency of knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:8), then let your journey with trust start there.

And here we are, nearing the end of 2017 . . .

I’ve submitted an application that pretty much every current plan for my future is dependent on. I’m walking forward in things that aren’t, by any human terms, for sure. I’m doing things, talking about things, and praying for things in a way that is a little crazy. The rubber finally meeting the road on some of the biggest places of trust in my life. And I’m all in with trust. I’ve stepped off the ledge and it’s up to Jesus. I’m not betting on any human process here; I’m betting on Him.

When it comes to believing my God, I’m all in.

I know, it’s crazy. It’s always crazy. And believe me when I say it’s not always comfortable. I’m not under any illusion that everyone understands. But if God is who I believe Him to be, that means He either gets everything or nothing. So, He gets everything.

And time and time again, He’s proven that He’s worthy of that.

More than that.

Here’s how it goes: He asks me to keep my palms open. To let Him work. To step out of the way, give up my control, so that He can get the glory. He, graciously, slowly, and methodically places things in them. His dreams, hopes, things to believe Him for.

The hardest part for me isn’t opening my hands in the first place or getting okay with whatever Jesus puts in them.

It’s keeping them open when He fills them.

When something is in our hand, our biological reflex causes us to want to clench our fist. We want to grasp onto, wrap our fingers around whatever our palms feel. As soon as I do that, I take the glory away from Jesus, I throw away my trust, and I try and manipulate His plans into something I can control.

It’s easy to trust when my palms are open and empty. It’s a heck of a lot harder when I’m holding something concrete, something He’s given and grown in me, something that I’ve come to love. THAT is when He asks me to trust Him. To hold the things in my hand with steadfast, unwavering faith. To believe that He can. And to keep my palms open, so that He can give and take away as His sovereignty demands.

To be unoffended with the outcome.

To gain Jesus.

This is what I’m learning about trust nowadays.

10.) Trust really has very little to do with us. If you think that trusting God is solely about His faithfulness to you or your role in it, you’re probably missing the point. Our God is faithful just because He is. It is, very simply, who He is. And chances are, the things that we are trusting Him for reflect more than His faithfulness to just us. Remember, His vision and glory are for the nations, the marginalized, and the grand narrative of humanity. It’s less about your ability to hear him, to pray steadfastly, to fast continuously, or even how well you live into the other nine parts of what it means to trust the Lord, and more about who He is. Because, ultimately, it’s not about you. A small part of it may be, because, in His infinite love and mercy, the God of the universes chooses us and cares for us. He demonstrates His faithfulness to us because He’s not just a God of the macro things but delights in the details of who we are. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think that we, in some twisted and subconscious way, are in control because of our trust in God. We’re not. He is. Which means all of it has very, very little to do with us, and everything to do with who He is.

That’s the story. And He’s the only one who gets the glory in it.

A Prayer for Your Thursday Afternoon

Here’s why I love written prayers, poems, and stories: they often use words to explain the thoughts and emotions that we may not be able to fully articulate. As a visual, emotional, internal processor, putting how I’m doing or what I’m feeling into words is often a challenge. It’s not uncommon for me to voice something days or weeks after I initially felt it, after finally having worked it out in a way that can be expressed. Anytime I can borrow the words of someone else, I often find myself blessed and moved. It can make me feel less alone. It can put words to what I’m seeing or feeling. It can give a sense of eloquence and beauty to situations that often feel confusing and messy.

A friend shared this poem with me recently and as it’s been passed around our campus, I’ve realized more and more about how well it speaks to where so many of us are right now. Somewhere I will probably be for the rest of my life. A place of trust. A place of unknown. A place of waiting. A place of tension between the newness and oldness of what I see the Lord doing. A place of faith.

May you meet Jesus at the well today.

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Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Teilhard de Chardin

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When I Trust from the Stroller

It was the appropriately coined “solo day” on Wheaton Passage, the transition retreat for incoming Wheaton freshmen. This was our final stop after a day of fasting, prayer, and silence. Another park, this one a little less beautiful than the one before.

As I sat there on the patchy grass, trying to keep my thoughts off my rumbling stomach and lack of new thoughts to journal about, I rested my back against a less-than-comfortable tree. My wandering eyes roamed around the open Bible and journal on my lap and eventually fixed upon a woman with her son a few feet in front of me. I couldn’t help but smile as I watch the young boy chase a squirrel in circles around the tree, his mom resting her arms against the back of the stroller.

And as I sat, content to watch the young boy’s joy and delight in the simple things of life, drawing parallels for my own need for delight in life, the moment was interrupted. Just as my my heart was settling into the sweetness of the moment, the mom came behind the boy, scooped him up, and proceed to strap him into the stroller. He began to kick and scream, protesting the abrupt end to his playtime. I watched as he pulled his shoes off, his patient mother picking them up and pushing the stroller away.

Flashbacks of babysitting flooded my mind. The boy has had his fun and now it’s time to go home. It’s what’s best for him. It’s about dinner time anyways. He’s probably hungry, although he was probably too distracted to realize it. In the young boys mind, nothing could be more wonderful than chasing the squirrel in the park. But he doesn’t know what’s best for him. He doesn’t see that the constraints of the stroller are bringing him to deeper places of care and necessity. He can’t see past his own little boy vision of what he wants and what he’s not getting.

And as I reflected on this reality, I began to write. . .

“Is that really how it is, God? I wander around this world, sometimes it leads me to discover something new about your world and sometimes it leads me to be a little too far away from You. I cry when you put me back in my spiritual stroller. I pitch a fit when I don’t get what I think I want. I feel hurt. I feel frustrated. I throw a temper tantrum at the God of heaven because you let me. But deep down I know it’s for my own good. I just don’t see what you are doing. Your delight is in watching me laugh and explore the world you are showing me. You love it when I delight in You. You correct me – always seeming to me, in the moment, harsher than it actually is. I don’t appreciate how much you love me. I don’t value that all you have is your glory and my good in view. I’m sorry. Increase my view of grace. Teach me what it means to trust you, in the things that make sense and in the things that don’t. Jesus, renew a steadfast spirit in me.” Friday, August 16, 2013

And two years later, I’m as convicted by this truth as I was sitting by the tree that day.

grassytoes

On Waiting, Advent, and deja vu. . .

I don’t know what it is about Advent that seems to bring me back to the idea of waiting. There must just always be something in the air, because the things the Lord was speaking during my quiet time yesterday seemed incredibly familiar. After typing “waiting” in the search bar of this blog, I realized they were.

I wrote this post almost exactly a year ago, but it could have just as well been written yesterday:

On Waiting, the Incarnation, and 27 Drafts

Except the fact that I only have 14 drafts right now, everything else I wrote a year ago resounds in my heart today. Because I’m still waiting. And the point is that until the day I die, I will be waiting.

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I’ve reflected recently on the fact that I don’t know what the Lord is doing. And when we don’t know what the Lord is doing, we must learn to be good at waiting. That’s what life is. We will never stop waiting until we reach heaven. And how appropriate is it that that is the very thing Advent reminds us of. The paradox of waiting is that we are called to hope for the things that Christ does “far abundantly beyond we could ever ask or think,” but also within realistic expectations. We can’t idealize our future but we must be present and content where we are. And where we are is a place of waiting. And here’s the kicker: just because our hearts know that the Lord is trustworthy, doesn’t make it easy. It makes it easier, sure, but waiting is never easy. And so we’ll do anything to get away from the tension and frustration that is waiting. We develop patterns of thinking that say the waiting, or at least the big waiting is going to end when. . .when I get married, when I graduate college, when I have an established ministry, when I know the Lord’s plans for my future, when. . .

Waiting for the next step. The next season. The next thing. My dreams, the Lord’s dreams.

We try and escape the pain and frustrations of waiting because it’s uncomfortable. It takes away whatever sense of control we think we have. We want to reach the place where we feel we’ve arrived, where we aren’t waiting for the next thing – good or bad. The next diagnoses, the next phone call, the next date, the next bill, the next direction, the next conversation. It’s like the waiting place in Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. We like to pretend we don’t live there, and sometimes we assume we don’t live there because we just choose not to focus on the things we are waiting for. We believe that waiting is inherently wrong, unbiblical, and displeasing to the Lord.

for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting. 

During my time with Jesus, I started humming the Toby Mac song “J Train.” We’ve got a ticket to ride to the other side, that is, heaven, and we’ll be in a constant state of waiting until the train drops us off on the shores of Eternity. The Lord designed it that way. We are waiting for unbroken intimacy with God; we were created to wait, to yearn, to long for Heaven. And so the things we think we are waiting for in this life are just a shadow of the greater, perpetual waiting of our hearts. When we are focused on the temporary things we wait for, it is only a problem because it often leads us to discontentment and causes us to miss what the Lord is doing in the present. The waiting itself is good. The Lord is with us on the “J Train,” empowering us in whatever car and with whatever people we may find ourselves around. He is also the conductor of the train and we aren’t entitled to information about the tracks He chooses to run it on. But, we can’t forget that God is also the final destination. The One we are ultimately waiting for. I think we are fighting something beautiful that the Lord gave us when we dismiss the tensions of waiting in our heart. We struggle to wait for the next thing, the next dream because we are ultimately waiting for the one thing our hearts were created for – Jesus.

But this isn’t an excuse to live focused on the future. The art of waiting is that the waiting we are called to, the waiting of the men and women in Scripture (like I’ve found in my recent reading of Ruth) isn’t passive – it’s an active waiting. Waiting often requires strength and grace because it is so dangerously easy to slip into distracted, discontent, temporal waiting. The kind of waiting that leads to the idolatry of earthly things and the dreams of my flesh.

As we are reminded through Advent of the waiting for the birth of Christ at Christmas and our continued waiting for the return of Jesus, let us rest in the beauty that is waiting. We were created to wait. To wait upon the Lord. To wait in the hope of Heaven. All the things we are waiting for in this Advent season of 2014 should be a timely, blessed reminder of how our hearts were created to wait in, upon, and for the One who is eternally worthy. Our waiting is not in vain because He has already come – as the squealing baby in Bethlehem. He lives in us now. And we wait for the completion of the love and joy we have in life now, in our broken, changing world.

The other thing that goes along with waiting is what we are waiting for. Are our dreams also God’s dreams – and what do we do when God’s dreams don’t come or go or look the way we expect? I’ve been wrestling through that with the Lord this semester. . .but that’s another post for another day.

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;

for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children” Psalm 103:14-17

What’s He Up to?

“When an answer I did not expect comes to a prayer which I believed I truly meant, I shrink back from it; if the burden my Lord asks me to bear be not the burden of my heart’s choice, and I fret inwardly and do not welcome His will, then I know nothing of Calvary… Read more. . .