Tag Archives: faithful

I’m Glad Jesus is Okay with the Journey

David’s obedience didn’t start with being King of Israel.

Abraham’s faithfulness didn’t start by carrying Isaac up the mountain.

Their stories are more than just peaks and valleys. When we limit them to such, we miss the progressive nature of it all; we miss the emotional process that were their lives and walks with God. In any given description, Abraham is either “faithful father of our faith” or “weak, doubting father of Ishmael.” David is “King of Israel after God’s own heart” or “adulterous murderer.” Their process of trusting God was so much more than that.

The problem isn’t necessarily that we limit their stories to the peaks and valleys, but the ways that that narrowness distorts a view of our own stories. It allows for illegitimate comparison, where we can be someone with “more” faith than Abraham when he sleeps with Hagar, “as much” faith as Gideon when he puts the fleece out twice, or “less” faith than David standing before Goliath. It doesn’t do justice to the fact that our incredible God is one of patience, grace, and commitment to our human processes. It makes it about us.

The kingdom of God isn’t comparative. It’s not about how “big” of a jump we’ve made into trusting and obedience. Because, ultimately that “bigness” is relative anyway. Jesus offers us grace for the moment.

The reality is that human faith is never perfect. Abraham and David have valleys because there’s a lot of humanity mixed into our divine obedience. Lest we ever think that our trust in the Lord has anything to do with the righteousness in us or that we’re too committed to obedience to screw it up. Let me reiterate to my own heart: it. is. not. about. me.

So, when we put the stories in the context of the journey, we see growth. And growth is encouraging because it reflects our own walk with Jesus.

David’s faith began back in the field, when he trusts God to help him watch over the sheep in his care. It grows again when he is anointed by Samuel, while Saul is still on the throne. It grows, yet again, when he stands before Goliath. And again, when Saul is threatening his life and David is on the run. He didn’t start with the faith of a king after God’s heart. David started by being obedient to the thing that required the biggest amount of faith in front of him, whether it was sheep, a warrior, a king, or a kingdom. By the time David gets to the death of his child or the death threats of his other child, his eyes are so oriented towards the Lord that the outcome of the faith matters less than the Object of it. He’s intimately acquainted with God and that’s what matters.

It’s the same thing with Abraham. We hail Abraham for his unquestioned willingness to sacrifice Isaac, but that action is the result of decades of putting all his hope and trust in the Lord, not the promises themselves. He’s willing to leave all that he knows in his homeland to follow God, which was the biggest act of faith that he could probably envision at the time. His faith is tested again when God promises him a child – with a twenty-five year waiting period attached.

It’s not just the stories of Scripture that encourage me in this, either.

There’s a missionary whose example, story, and unquestioned dependance on Jesus have, quite literally, changed my life. She’s seen God move in powerful ways through her wholehearted commitment to Him. She believes that Jesus really is who He says He is and that He moves when we’re in positions to need Him to. I see the ways she doesn’t question the promises of God and the ways she walks in bold expectancy for impossible things. I’ve seen the outcomes of that faith (and they’re incredible). When I’m doing the comparison thing, my faith feels pretty weak next to hers. My current walk of trusting feels less like a peaceful stroll and more like a jungle. The vines and thickets are barricading doubts, questions, or anxieties that seem to keep popping up in my heart. Somebody hand me a machete, please.

But, the Kingdom of God isn’t comparative. He’s asking me to depend on Him in the places that feel the biggest, for me, right now. Right now, I don’t need the faith of Abraham on the mountain, David on the throne, or a missionary before a whole system of injustice; I need the faith of a twenty-three year old before future-deciding applications and a faithful, gracious God.

Trusting Jesus in the decision to go to Wheaton five years ago felt like a crazy leap of faith. It was far, expensive, cold, and I had no first-hand experience with the campus or anyone who’d been. Deciding to go was all about obedience to Jesus, not my plan. None of it made conventional sense and people didn’t hesitate in telling me so. I knew that for God to get the glory, I couldn’t be in control – but, at the time, it felt like I was jumping off a pretty intimidating ledge. At the time, I would have been hard pressed to envision a decision that required more faith. Signing that deposit was a wholeheartedly peaceful and uncomfortable surrender.

My seventeen-year-old self was not ready for the rhythms of trust that I’m walking in right now. This feels a little deeper, a little harder, a little more; the jump feels that much higher. It makes me smile to think of my trust five years ago. I couldn’t have known Christ’s trustworthiness like this or what leap would be next.

Hopefully, my thirty year old self will read back on this and smile too. I hope that this step of trust feels small someday, in light of new dependance on God and obedience for His glory. I’m just glad I don’t know what that is yet.

I’m grateful that Jesus is big enough to handle the biggest thing He’s calling me to, whatever that is today and ten years from now. I’m grateful that he doesn’t compare my faith like I do. I’m grateful that the “I believe but help my unbelief” prayer was included in Scripture and isn’t unfamiliar to Christ. I’m grateful that He’s committed to the journey, even when I resent it. I’m grateful that a mustard seed is enough.

Walking with Jesus isn’t passive. It’s an active, daily dying to self and choosing obedience to the things that He calls us to, the things that feel crazy, overwhelming, or impossible. It doesn’t have to be Abraham’s mountain or David’s kingship. At least, not yet. It’s less about the “stage” of trusting that we’re in or how big the thing He’s leading us into feels. What matters is that, for whatever it is, we’re all in with Jesus.

It’s the “further up and further in” process of trusting. It’s a faithfulness that isn’t ours but that of an infinitely good, kind, and faithful God.

He can be trusted with all we are, all we have, and all we hope for, until the day when He is all of those things in us. The goal is to be one day closer to that day.

Overseas.

I let the papers slide from my hand into the recycling bin and climbed onto my bed. Across the room I could still see the corner of the support letter papers I’d printed out, mocking me from the trash can. Pictures from previous trips lined the bottom of blank pages where I’d planned on writing heartfelt pleas for summer funding. If you didn’t want me overseas this summer, Lord, why not start with that? Why lead me to meeting after meeting, sorting through a dozen different opportunities and organizations, to find one that I was sure I sensed You moving in, only to have it all fall through?

I’ll spare you the details of my angered, and often one-sided, spats with the Lord and suffice it to say that those pleas of winter break 2015 led into what would become the transformative summer of 2016 – all without leaving Wheaton, Illinois.

You make me laugh, Jesus.

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A year ago, I couldn’t force my way overseas; I know because I tried. It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – nothing fit, felt right, or worked out in the end. In typical, omniscient God fashion, He knew better. Little did I know that I needed both the refinement and redemption that would come from a summer working at World Relief in Wheaton. So, with initial begrudging, I let the Lord do what He wanted to do. I should’ve expected this, but as it turned out, the last year has been so clearly the Lord; way better than any plan I had tried to concoct for myself.

I could take you through the successive, crazy, it-has-to-be-the-Lord-because-otherwise-it-doesn’t-make-sense chain of events that has followed since the summer (but let’s be real, He’s been moving in those kinds of themes for a lot longer than the winter of 2015). I struggle to find a starting place and would you even believe me if I tried? Maybe later I’ll start writing down some of those individual stories. They aren’t necessarily grand or exciting, just lots of little moments and random connections that the Lord likes to break through in.

I’m looking at my calendar and three trips overseas sit in front of me – trips that I didn’t plan or go looking for. Trips that scream the name of Jesus and the continual call to simply trust what He’s doing. A trip to Europe with friends, better friends than my lonely and scared freshman year self could’ve dreamt up, exploring the countries where a missions organization that I’m considering works. A trip to the British Isles with family, an unexpected blessing that has opened the door to potentially meet missionaries working with refugees in a context that I’ve been praying about for awhile. And a vision trip, to a country in the Middle East, where I’ll get to experience what the Lord is doing in refugee camps up close, and tangibly discern further what He’s leading me into long term.

I say all of this for two reasons:

  1. because I would love your prayer as I go on these trips and take the next eight months to really press in, pray, and discern not only what the Lord is doing in the moment, but what He may be leading me into long term. It’s all the normal prayers for direction that anyone with an impending graduation date (although mine is a little extended because of a master’s program) needs, with a little extra tacked on because if He’s asking me to raise support and move halfway around the world, that can feel just a little daunting. (If you want a prayer card to tuck in your bible or stick on your fridge, let me know!)
  2. because every story, be it stories of the details or the overarching narrative of the past year, points directly back to the trustworthiness and faithfulness of Christ! I don’t know where you are at in terms of believing the Lord or what you need Him to do; I don’t know what He’s doing in your life or what situations of dependance He’s put you in (or perhaps you are running from). But I know this – He is more gracious, powerful, and wise than we often give Him credit for.

My Dual Identity

It’s one thing to say that my identity is in the Lord. It’s another to actually walk in that. It’s yet another thing to begin fully grasping at what that exactly means. Jesus has been clear in these past few weeks that there are two pieces to who I am in Him. What’s more, I so easily confuse the two; it’s humbling and convicting to realize how much of what I perceive as my identity is actually deeply rooted and a little backwards

On one hand, I am (or strive to be) the good and faithful servant. It’s the Matthew 25 or Luke 19 principle, the master’s praise to the hard-working, mindful, selfless servant. There are countless verses and stories that detail our call to obedience: to love the hurting, feed the hungry, share the Gospel, shelter the homeless, fight against injustice. To do for the least of these and imitate Christ. After all Luke 12:48 makes it clear that if we’ve been given much, much will be expected. We are called to obedience, to follow the Lord into hard things, to love our neighbors and lay down our lives. My prayer becomes “Lord, let me be faithful in all that you’ve given me” – whether big or small (which, in and of itself is really just my hierarchical perception of what “big” and “small” even mean). I want to be found faithful in my commitment to the Lord and to loving His people, regardless of the cost. And that’s a good, biblical, God-glorifying thing.

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However, when I start or end with my identity as a good and faithful servant, while partially true, I err in terms of living into who God actually and fully says that I am.

Because first and last, I am the beloved. I am only able to love because He first loved me, irrespective of anything I’ve done or deserved. I’m called beautiful and whole by the one who’s very body was broken for my redemption. It’s the childhood truth of Jesus’ love for us that comes not by anything we preempted or for anything other than the fact that He simply loves us. Except it’s not simple, because this love is deeper and stronger than we will ever comprehend; no human love even comes close to measuring the love through which God sees us. The only reason I can even think about leaning into my identity as a faithful servant is because I’m doing it out of a place of being unequivocally loved by Faithfulness Himself.

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I don’t know that the church has always done a good job at explaining the relationship between justification and sanctification, or our place as both faithful servant (sanctification) and child of God (justification). Believing that I’m simply the beloved seems to negate the command for obedience, for love of neighbor, and for service. It trivializes or minimizes everything I’ve ever done, sacrificed, or stepped into on account of the Lord. And if it doesn’t mean anything, I’m not super compelled to continue walking into costly obedience.

That’s the tension we are asked to navigate everyday – because being good and faithful servant does matter. It matters a whole lot. We please the heart of God when we walk in tandem with His Spirit. We are called to follow Him, to die to self, and care for others. However, the tension comes when we realize that we can never start with that. That can never be the whole foundation of our identity. Because if base who we are in being a good and faithful servant, we inevitably come back to a view of God’s love that makes sense, something that we control. “I know God loves me . . . after all, how could He not when I’m so clearly following Him?” It no longer becomes the whole, pervasive, inexplicable love of the Father but the kind of love we can earn, maintain, and understand. The kind of love that feels comfortable and makes us feel worthy.

I feel like the mental shift should be easy: I am beloved first, faithful servant second. Both necessitate one another. However, I think that this tension will likely take a lifetime to master. Because being beloved, for as beautiful and amazing as it is, carries with it some fearful connotations.

We know that perfect love casts out fear, but the fact of the matter is that my only concept for love is human love. For as much amazing human love as I’ve experienced, it has not been without failures, heartbreaks, and conditions. If I lean fully into the eternal, incomprehensible love of God for me, I inherently strip myself of any control. It becomes this wholehearted trust in the heart of God for me, that it will never fail or diminish. That none of how He sees me is contingent on what I do or don’t do. And even though my theology tells me that nothing can separate me from His love, the questions still seem to arise in my heart from my flawed, fleshly concept of love. Because what if I’m too messy? What if I lean into being beloved and then He gets disappointed in me? What if I’m not good enough for the Lord or He decides He doesn’t want me anymore? What does it mean if my obedience isn’t changing His view of me, isn’t earning me more favor in His sight?

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He’s pleased with me as His faithful servant, but He loves me as simply His daughter.

I think that’s a dichotomy worth wresting with, since it has everything to do with who we are, how we approach life, ministry, and the posture with which we go before God. I’ll probably be wrestling with it for the rest of my life.

A Deeper Kind of Trust

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I love the book of Daniel.

I’m not really sure when it started or how I ended up in a book that is full of end times graphics and mysterious prophecies, but somewhere along the line I came to love the stories and truth in this particular book of the Bible.

Also, as you’ve probably gathered, trust has been an overarching, preeminent theme in my life. Even just looking through old blog posts, it’s clear that trust is something that the Lord continues to put his finger on over and over again (see when I trust from the stroller, do you trust me?, something about trust). This post is just some recent prayer-time revelations about a deeper level of trust that Christ is calling us into.

One of my favorite stories in Daniel comes at the end of Daniel 3. It’s not about Daniel, but his fellow Jewish bro’s, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Long story short, Nebuchadnezzar erects a massive, golden statue of himself that he puts in the center of Dura. Then he asks everyone to bow down to it.

Naturally, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse, knowing the king is going to have them thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment. But that’s not even the part of the story that my soul finds so captivating and convicting.

Before sending the men to what should be their certain death, he asks them why – why didn’t they bow down? Who do they think is going to save them?

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

It’s one thing to trust that God is mighty enough to save you. To believe that He can heal and provide and show up in amazing, unexpected, supernatural ways is to trust who He is as God.

It’s another thing, a deeper thing, to trust in a God who can, but may not.

What’s amazing to me is that Jesus demonstrates this same kind of trust Jesus demonstrates on the cross. In Matthew 27, Jesus is hanging disfigured, bruised, and bloodied on the cross for our sins. The crowd and Pharisees begin jeering, asking Jesus to jump down and save Himself.

The thing is – they weren’t wrong. He could have saved Himself. If I were one of his disciples at the cross, I wonder if I wouldn’t be pleading for Him to jump down too. Show everyone who He is. Shut them up once and for all. End the grotesque torture and pain. Be the God He knows that He is.

“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Matthew 27:42-43

Jesus did trust God. He was God; His trust in the Father went beyond anything we could ever comprehend or imagine. It wasn’t merely the kind of trust that believes He could get off the cross. It was the kind of trust that knew He would still be God, would still be good, and would still be able, even if the plan said this was better.

I don’t just want the kind of trust that says “my God can do this.” I want my trust to be so deep, my relationship with Him to be so intimate, my love and reception of His love to be so penetrating, that my soul proclaims, “He can – but even if He does not, still I will praise Him. Still I will love Him. Still I will believe He is faithful.”

It doesn’t mean getting to that place in my soul is ever easy. Honestly, I wish trusting weren’t this hard. I wish this deeper level of trust didn’t require so much nitty gritty soul work. I almost wish trust wasn’t such a necessary part of walking with the Lord. I almost wish – because I’ve seen, at the end of the day, that trusting Him who is worthy of it leads to so many beautiful stories, souls, and an unparalleled closeness with our Savior. It’s more than the place of trusting His might – it’s trusting that His might can, even if His providence says no. We know He can save us, we know He is good, regardless of what the outcome is.

It’s the sacrifice of whatever it is that we are so hesitant to let go of. Because we know we may not get it back (or get it in the first place). It’s trusting that His plan is better because He is God and we are not. It doesn’t mean we always like the plan or are in full support of the outcome. Jesus Himself wasn’t the biggest fan of the whole crucifixion plan (Matthew 26:39). I’m sure Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not voting for the “die in the fiery furnace” option when they said that they’d never bow to Nebuchadnezzer. But this deeper level of trust seems to grasp more fully at what it means to truly trust Him with our lives.

Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself (and the Lord’s been asking me) for several months now: what are the things that I am sure about when it comes to the Lord? The promises I’m willing to bet my life on, whether or not I actually see them come to fruition? The unwavering places of trust that proclaim who God is, regardless of whether or not He meets my expectations and desires with what He allows to happen?

The Ordinary Life of Making Your Block

The other night, wrapped in one of my dad’s oversized sweaters, I had some much-needed introvert time. I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a peppermint mocha and some Christmas-themed worship music, flipping through old journals. I came across the following words from the middle of my senior year of highschool: “One day, I’m going to sit… Read more. . .

Five Non-Cliche Truths You Need To Hear Today

One thing that I’ve learned in my mere twenty years on this earth is that if I’m not preaching to myself and letting Jesus speak His truth over me, then something else is going to. It’s like my heart wakes up every morning searching for something to cling onto. And to be totally transparent, the… Read more. . .

Don’t forget: the faithfulness of the Lord

Rereading through my journals as the semester winds down, I am amazed at how many times “remember” or “don’t forget” show up between entries. And yet, for as often as Jesus reminds me of the necessity of remembrance, I forget so quickly. Things like doubt, confusion, stress, worry, fear, all usually in the context of… Read more. . .