Tag Archives: Jesus

When Healing Isn’t What You Thought

Disclaimer: this is a little long and pretty honest, so read at your own discretion.

“I, too, have known years of waiting – years of hoping and praying and dreaming of a cure no doctor could offer, years of waiting for a healing encounter with Jesus. Every new morning  was a reminder that I was promised no healing and guaranteed no end stamp on the condition I carried. . .It was in the middle of these questions and prayers and confusion that I found myself waiting for a God I couldn’t always make sense of or understand. But I met him in the waiting. And for me, that changed everything.” Ann Swindell, Still Waiting 

Every time I get my period without medication, it’s a miracle. Like a “Jesus really came through” miracle. Not the kind that is easy to talk about, but still glorious nonetheless. I want to share with you why.

I got my first period right after my thirteenth birthday.

And as you should be at thirteen, I was so excited. It meant I was less of a kid and more like my twenty-year-old babysitter who I thought was pretty much the coolest person since Hilary Duff.

This was my face after realizing my period had started up again in the airport before our trip to Europe. Shoutout to my grandma who found pads at an airport kiosk! Little did I know that my period wouldn’t stop for another 5 weeks.

I didn’t get my second period until months later. And it lasted for six weeks. Six weeks. That’s six weeks of PMS, cramps, and hormone levels, on top of my already crazy adolescent emotions. Tired, overwhelmed, and anemic, I saw the only gynecologist who would take on a thirteen year old. Pitying the poor, exhausted girl in front of her, I was put on the strongest birth control she could prescribe. It seemed like a one-stop-shop answer.

As the months went by and my birth control prescription kept changing because of insurance, it became alarmingly apparent that something wasn’t working. I had noticed a little weight gain and increased lethargy, but it was my emotions that proved to be the most concerning. I was on high levels of synthetic hormones and, at fourteen, I was self-aware enough to realize that something felt very, very wrong. When asked by my parents, I would describe myself as feeling detached, apathetic, and unaware. I felt like I was watching my life instead of living it, like I was in a daze or a dream. I didn’t seem to care about anything in a life that, months before, had been vibrant and energetic. I found myself wanting to sleep as often as possible, though often struggling with insomnia at night. There were daily headaches. Hot flashes. The need to hide my birth control from my church friends to avoid being questioned.

By fifteen, doctors were concerned enough to take an ultrasound and fifteen vials of blood. As they massaged the ultrasound machine over my abdomen, my thoughts were less about my impending diagnoses and more about how awkward it was going to be when I peed all over the examining table. I made it out of the examining room sans embarrassment and waited for answers.

“We don’t really know what is wrong. But you probably have PCOS.”

PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is an endocrine disorder that affects 1 in 10 women. As a syndrome, the diagnosis comes from your symptoms and there is no cure. It’s categorized by cysts on your ovaries, irregular periods, weight gain, insulin resistance, anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestive issues, and infertility. I was like the poster child for genetically inherited PCOS. It varies in strength and affects every woman uniquely and individually.

It’s hard to struggle with things that aren’t visible. Most PCOS symptoms aren’t, and the ones that are, like weight gain, can always be blamed on something else. When you acting irritable, exhausted, and anxious, it’s easy for people to write it off as annoying. It’s harder for people to “get it,” to believe that something really is off, when they can’t see it. And when it’s attached to inherently female issues and hormones, it can make people a tad uncomfortable.

at a dance competition in 2009

So, silently and often alone, I tried to fix it myself. I kept a journal. I spent time with Jesus. I tried to maintain friendships. I ate healthy. I danced competitively. But despite my best efforts, I still did not feel like myself and I continued to gain weight.

And that began to cause other problems. Dance teacher’s told me that if the XL leotard didn’t fit that they would have to special order a bigger size. We would be measured for costumes and our measurements would be called out, which all the girls would later compare. We’d try on our booty shorts and, while everyone else complained that theirs were falling off, I struggled to make mine not look like they were tailor-made for a stripper. Friends would bring cupcakes for their birthday and I would feign a stomach ache. Without realizing it was happening, my world suddenly became about how I looked, what I weighed, and what I ate. Getting a solo or mastering a triple pirouette didn’t seem to matter when I heard girls snickering about how I was the biggest in the company. My crushes were exploited for laughs and my body was used as a punchline.

My medical diagnoses swirled with the reality of my teenage life into a perfect storm of disordered eating. I would go hours without eating. I would count calories. Skip meals. I would come home from hours at dance to do more workout videos. On occasion, I’d jam a toothbrush down my throat to try and make myself throw up. Then, when I got hungry, I often found that I couldn’t stop – I’d binge on a whole jar of peanut butter or pack of cookies. And I’d beat myself up about it, crying myself to sleep and vowing to do better tomorrow.

junior year of college, hiking in Colorado, on a new medication and feeling very sick

When I lost weight, people would comment. When I gained weight, people would comment. Everyone had an opinion on my body and everybody had an opinion on PCOS: if you lose weight, it’ll go away. Everything will stabilize if you would just lose 10, 15, 20lbs. One gynecologist even suggested that I tried belly dancing, offering that maybe my weight gain was just a workout plateau. I tried every medication – ones to help stabilize my hormones, ones to help lose weight, ones to help with insulin resistance, ones to help regulate my period, ones to help with my headaches or insomnia. But none of it worked.

 

With every new doctor, every new lab result, and every worsening symptom, I kept crying out to Jesus: Why won’t you just heal me?

He healed the woman with the problem of blood and all she had to do was touch His clothes. My problem felt eerily similar and yet, month after month, the headaches, the weight gain, the mood swings, the insomnia, the irregular periods journeyed with me. Jesus, in your power and for your glory, won’t you please heal me?

That is still my prayer.

For me, full healing still hasn’t come.

But the funny thing about healing is that it doesn’t take completeness to see miracles. It doesn’t take victory on the other side to assure you of Christ’s presence with you in it. In a season that reminds us of the blessings of God in the midst of waiting (advent), I’ve come to see my journey of healing the same way.

Because while PCOS, it’s associated symptoms, and the remnants of my teenage eating disorder still creep their way into my daily life, I’ve found healing in vulnerability. I’ve found healing in people who believed me, who didn’t tell me to try not eating after 7pm to lose weight, but instead cried with me as I told them my story. Who believed that when I told them that I was experiencing gut-wrenching stomach pain or that I couldn’t fall asleep until 2am, that I wasn’t exaggerating.

I’ve found healing in giving myself freedom, in the permission to both enjoy my life and be honest about my physical pain or emotions, especially when they mean leaving a situation. I’ve found physical things that work – vitamins that help supplement low levels, always having ibuprofen on hand, watching silly TV shows when I can’t sleep, or not eating breakfast until later in the day.

I’ve found healing in clinging to Jesus when the day feels long, stress emphasizes my symptoms, I can’t fit into an old pair of jeans, or it all just feels like too much. I let Him take my tears and frustration and anger. An incomplete healing propels me closer to my Savior, as I put my hope and expectancy in Him and the empathy He demonstrated on the cross.

My story of healing isn’t over, but in reality, none of our stories of healing are over. I know, with full confidence, that all Jesus would have to do is say the word and my cystic ovaries would look shiny and smooth. My wacky hormone levels would be balanced. My sleepless nights would be peaceful and I wouldn’t need carry a sweater around in the summer. But if that never happens, it doesn’t make Him less loving or faithful.

cliff jumping in Turkey, in the summer of 2017 – living into the freedom and hope of life in Christ

For as much as I believe that the Lord can heal my PCOS, I know now that He may not. I may never have biological children. I may always get headaches, have digestive problems, struggle with insomnia, and find myself unable to regulate my weight. But you know what? That isn’t the worst thing because it, quite literally, keeps me clinging to Jesus. I recognize, everyday, that I cannot do this without Him.

My hope is in the healing and redemption of eternity, not of this life.

My hope is in my risen Christ.

I won’t be living in a redeemed body until I’m standing before my Jesus, face to face. And if that means I have to carry PCOS in my bones (or, more accurately, my reproductive organs), for the rest of my life, that’s okay. He gets to

chose the story that brings Him glory. And, as He’s proven time and time again, He is faithful.

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.

When Jesus Speaks

It’s no secret that I’ve done a lot of prayer these past few weeks regarding where the Lord is leading me. Specific, bold, expectant prayers for clarity and provision. There’s been a lot of asking, listening, and keeping an awareness of His voice throughout the day. What country. What people group. What city. What timeline. What organization. What are you doing, Jesus?

Sometimes, I slip into a mindset that says the more others-focused my quiet time is, the holier it is.

Intercession has a place and a critical one at that. It deserves more energy and attention than we often give it. I need to spend time everyday praying for specifics and going before the Throne of Grace on behalf of others.

BUT, that is not the point of my intimate time with Jesus. I go to Jesus to just be with Him, not for the sake of getting answers about my life. The idea isn’t to walk away with some revelation about what He’s calling me to or where I’m going (although, that’s often a part of it). It’s not to figure things out for someone else. It is literally to just be with the God of the universe and savior of my soul. To read His Word, to worship Him, and to hear His voice.

I go before the Father to hear what He thinks about me, because my soul needs to be reminded who I am and who He is.

May the magnificence and the humility of that not be lost on us! That we get to approach the Maker and Sustainer of the world with boldness and in our brokenness because He wants to be near us. He chose and chooses still to be near us. Over and over again in Scripture, even with the separation between God and the people in the Old Testament, we see Him drawing near to His people. His judges, kings, and prophets speak words about the compassion of God again and again.

Don’t forget: He cares way more about His will and His glory than you do. He’s not going to withhold specific answers or prayers that will disrupt His glory (as if that was possible). It’s okay for your time with Jesus to be selfish, in the sense that you sit with Him to hear His heart for you. It is from that place, of knowing our belovedness, that we become generous in giving, convicted in sin, abounding in service, overflowing with grace, and aware of His work in the lives of others. It doesn’t replace intercession, it needs to be what it flows from.

We hear our God telling us, not in a trite, cliché sort of way, just how much He love us and is for us. And we are, in turn, able to worship more fully the God who loves us enough to walk among us, to indwell us with His spirit, and to sing His faithfulness over us!

The other night, He was clear, in the classic “gracious but firm” sort of God-way, that my orientation and questions have been a little off in my recent moments alone with Him:

You hear me clearest when you hear me saying I want to be with you. I delight in you! I love you. I love being near you. I love watching you draw near to me. You move my heart. I see you – I redeem you! And I take delight in that. You ask to hear me for clarity and you will; you do. But clarity on the specific things you ask comes in a moment. My love for you is everlasting. Knowing what country I’m sending you to is one thing, but knowing just how deeply I take delight in you is another. That’s what you need to hear. It’s what Israel needed to hear. Over and over and over and over – I’m never going to stop reminding you, never going to stop singing it over you because there will never be a time it won’t be true. There will never be a time where you won’t need to hear it. I want to make you glorious! I want to make deserts into gardens more beautiful than you’ve ever seen. I have compassion, such compassion. I have more mercy, grace, and justice than you could ever even comprehend. My plans are good, my hand is strong, and I do not fail. I am your God, I am here, and you are mine. As a treasure, as my beloved, as my delight! Feel my heart for you, read about my heart for you, hear my heart for you, because it overflows and it will never stop. Know, deeply and daily, that I love you.

Let us not forget – our holy, holy, holy God, the Almighty on the throne, not only allows but delights in our approaching Him. For love, for compassion, for grace. Ask Him what He’s doing, ask Him for specifics, but don’t forget or be afraid to listen to His heart for you. Ask Him what He thinks of you. And sit in His presence, letting Jesus speak words of love and delight over you. Open the Scriptures, notice the Holy Spirit. Let Him love you with His everlasting love.

Because when Jesus speaks, things change. Because when Jesus speaks, people are seen. Because when Jesus speaks, His sheep know it. Because when Jesus speaks, it is good. Because when Jesus speaks . . . there is love.

Don’t be Like Usain Bolt, Be like Jesus.

The realities of how our world, and more specifically our American culture, is structured are such that the demands are never ending. What concerns me in this? The church has structured herself in the same sort of way.

It’s not uncommon to have a pastor who is planting a church, while sitting on the city council board, leading local outreaches, is working on his PhD, and raising half-a-dozen kids. It is not just one missionary who feels the pressures of both her local context and her supporters, trying to meet all the needs around her by working from sunup to sundown, babysitting kids, leading worship, discipling women, running English camps, working at homeless shelters, and doing street evangelism, only to come home and answer emails after dark. It is not just one person, one family who has left ministry, the mission field, or whatever it is they were doing because they found themselves tired, overwhelmed, burned out, and disillusioned.

The needs were great and at some point, the exhaustion becomes greater. I’m worried that the people of God are going to run themselves into the ground if we keep up this Usain-Bolt-type-pace.

We may not be sensitive to the biological and physiological issues caused by overworking (which in and of itself is concerning), but I find myself confused that we don’t seem overly concerned with Jesus’ model for it either. If we’re supposed to be “imitators of God” (John 13:13-16, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1-2, 1 Peter 2:20-22, 1 John 2:6), shouldn’t the primary basis for our action, response, and engagement in ministry be that of our Lord?

Even the Gospel of Matthew, which seems focused on thematically emphasizing the works and preaching of Christ (Matthew 9:35-38), still makes space to note the significance of solitude with the Father. In one chapter alone (14), Matthew mentions twice that Christ went to be alone and even sent people away to go “up into the hills by himself to pray” (14:22). Matthew is also the only Gospel who records Jesus saying the following about life in Him:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light” (11:28-30).

Even the writer who seems predominantly focused on the scope of what Christ is doing finds it necessary to record that He offers rest.

For all of that, Matthew has nothing on Mark and Luke when it comes to recording Jesus’ pace and emphasis on being alone with the Father. Mark’s description about the life and ministry of Jesus includes different details than Matthew, often recording the ways Christ not only pursues rest Himself but often calls out His disciples for neglecting self-care and having an improper orientation. We don’t get a chapter into Mark and we already see the city stirring for the presence of Jesus, the disciples eager to send Him out before the people. Christ’s first response is one of movement away: “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them too. That is why I came” (1:38).

Another example of this sort of pulling away, even from places of considerable stirring, is in Mark 6. The disciples come back to Jesus, excited about the ministry that they’ve just gone out and done (6:7-12). Yet, Jesus’ response is not one of enthusiasm, planning, or eagerness to send them back out. There seems to be little focus on the needs of the villages. Jesus calls out the apostle’s orientation and need for rest. Honestly, he seems more concerned with the fact that they haven’t eaten:

“’Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (6:31).

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Are we comfortable with the idea that there are times in Scripture where Jesus moves away from places where we perceive potential fruitful ministry? That there are places where people need Him, need the Holy Spirit, and need healing, and we see Him walking away? This isn’t to say that Jesus ever moves or acts lightly; when He walks away from a city or a crowd, He’s not being neglectful, unloving, or unfaithful. Even in His humanity, He is still God. He knows the will of the Father because He’s making space to hear the Father. We see Christ underscore that in places like John 5:17-23 and John 8:28-29.

A missionary mentor in Asia wrote the following once: “The need is not the call. The call is the call.” A mom to some incredible, adopted children, she has constantly been bombarded with questions of why she closed the doors on taking in more children. After all, if anyone could do it, she could. The Lord could do it. And gosh, look at the need. But that has been exactly her point: We aren’t called to look at the need, we are called to look at Jesus. There’s always need, and until we reach eternity, there is always going to be need.

Our view of maximized efficiency and meeting the most needs aren’t the same as the Lord’s. We don’t see things like He does (Isaiah 55:8-9). The needs of the world orient us towards our calling and the heart of Christ, but if we keep our focus on them then it is no wonder why people don’t last more than two years when serving in ministry. Jesus was acutely aware of every need and we see Him stopping to meet needs when the Spirit, the same Spirit that lives inside of us, compels. He’s not afraid of interruptions. But it is always rooted in rhythms of rest and a nearness to the Father. He’s also not afraid to say “no” and pull away.

If Jesus, as a human, recognized his own needs and limits, where did we get the idea that we’re somehow being holy by ignoring ours?

An orientation towards calling, knowing what God is asking you specifically to do and operating from a place of intimacy with Him, makes it easier to say “no” to everything else, no matter how good or needed it seems. I’m not saying that’s easy or that I’ve figured it all out, but the more I read about the ministry of Christ, the more central it seems to become. Obedience and faithfulness may seem counterintuitive to modern principles of efficiency, but we know that God’s order is very different than ours (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Knowing that comes from a deep and intimate knowledge of the Father and His voice.

I’m not saying that the needs aren’t important. I’m not saying that Christians should be content with laziness or apathy, or that it’s okay if our hearts don’t break at the places of brokenness in our world. Christians are not allowed to throw their hands up, shrug their shoulders, and live blind to the screams of a dying world. Our hearts should burn, leap, and weep for the world. If anyone modeled that, it’s Jesus. He felt and feels more deeply for the needs of the world and the “lostness” of the people than I ever will. His heart moves with compassion and He often welcomes the interruptions of those who call upon Him (i.e. Matthew 10:36, Matthew 14:14, Matthew 19:2, Mark 3:20, Mark 7:24-25, Luke 8:27,).

Yet, and this is what I’m concerned the church has lost, even in those interruptions, His focus is solely and unashamedly on the Father and what He is being instructed to do. There are an equal number of times where He dismisses the crowd or leaves what seems to be places of potentially fruitful ministry (i.e. Matthew 10:30, Mark 1:36, Mark 3:12, Mark 5:36, Mark 7:17, Mark 8:33, Luke 5:42).

We should pray with a fervency for all the things that are wrong in the world! We should learn to lament places of hurt and pain! We should be giving ourselves passionately and wholeheartedly to the things that God has called us to! But all of that must happen from a rootedness in the Holy Spirit, a dependence on Christ, and an intimacy with the Father. We only cultivate those things by having time and space for them. Give yourself wholeheartedly to what God has called you to do. I’m not you, but based on what I see in the life of Jesus, I find it hard to believe that He’s calling you to a-hundred-and-one-thousand things in this season, especially if it’s at the expense of your primary calling (and the place every other calling flows out of) to love and worship Him.

Christ knew the will of the Father because half of His time was spent listening for it. I see Him operating from a place of refreshment and rhythms of rest, by saying “yes” and “no” based on obedience and faithfulness, rather than the perceived needs around Him. The question for you and I then, is are we?

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Am I Loving Something Else More than Jesus?

We know that Christ’s proximity to us never changes, so if I’m walking through a moment, a week, or a season where He feels distant, there’s a chance there’s something going on in my heart. I question my heart when I’m feeling anxious, apathetic, or overwhelmed. If I’m wondering where Jesus is or having trouble hearing… Read more. . .

The Old, Old Story

In the beginning, God created . . . . . . and He created everything. Every star, every blade of grass, every rock that has eroded into the sea. Night and day, every animal, every insect, every wave, He created. It was all beautiful and very good. Then, He created man and woman. He loved… Read more. . .

Meeting Jesus in the Quiet

I’ve become hesitant to talk so frequently about having “quiet time,” “devo time,” or “time with the Lord.” Not because I don’t think it’s one of the most important ways we can spend our time, but because it’s not the most important. In our individualistic, western view of Christianity, it’s easy to adapt a solely… Read more. . .

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… Read more. . .

The Sinlessness of Jesus = Grace

The other night, my She Reads Truth Bible reading plan had me in Hebrews, specifically the following verses from chapter 4: Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with… Read more. . .

When God says Wait

Wait. How about now, I mutter. Wait. Now. There’s demand in my voice. I can hear the whine of a two year old In my prayer But sometimes I feel obligated To use a more mature voice when I pray As if I can hide All the vulnerable pulses of my heart. I trust you,… Read more. . .