We are called to be in this world for a time, and while we are, our responsibility is to love and honor our fellow humans, showing off the love of Jesus through the way we live. This is why I implore my sisters in faith, to vote this November with a heart surrendered to Christ alone.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable.
Romans 12:2 ESV
In the past I have not cared for politics, and to be honest it’s still not my cup of tea. However, if there is one thing I have learned and taken for granted it’s the importance of understanding what I’m voting for. I’m not going to tell you what to vote, but I am recommending how you should go about it.
In a time when it our differences seem more numerous than our similarities, let us not forget whose we are and where we are going. Do not be discouraged or distracted by the things that the enemy rejoices in. Know this: his time is surely coming to an end.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10 ESV
There are many non-partisan websites out there that are designed to help easily locate the politicians, stances, and issues that are up for vote. Two that I have found particularly helpful are: votesmart.org and vote411.org. The reason I trust the information on these sites is that they only share facts and refuse funding from any political or special interest groups. This means that none of the information has a chance of being tainted by money changing hands under the table.
The Bible says that our hearts are not infallible (Jeremiah 17:19). Sometimes we can be gravely wrong. Don’t assume your opinion is necessarily in line with God’s. Sometimes it will line up, but sometumes it will be swayed by changing feelings. Be diligent to tease out any opinion that is outside of God’s word. We cannot vote righteously if we do not know what the word of God says. If your heart is on that track, you will not go wrong. If you are honestly seeking to honor God in your vote, you will.
Voting is a chance to let our character as a nation shine through. Regardless of the outcome, we, as dual citizens of heaven and earth will have the satisfaction of sharing our saltiness with the rest of the country.
I have worked remotely for more than ten years. Previously, people were always surprised and excited to hear this. They ask if I work from bed, and if I nap on the job, but the most common question is: “So you don’t even have to wear pants, right?” And now I have a platform to finally set the record straight: Nope, I don’t have to wear pants. Just to be clear, I DO, but it’s not technically a job requirement while I’m at home… 😂
But this year I am no longer one of the lucky few, as almost everyone in the world has joined the telecommuting club. And just like me, they quickly discovered that it is less Risky Business and more standing crouched over your keyboard because your cat stole your office chair.
Working from home is a double-edged sword. While it comes with amazing perks and benefits, it can also be isolating and discouraging. Now that you’re working remotely you no longer feel that human connection with your coworkers. While before when you were in the office, you could get face-time with the boss, build relationships with coworkers, and be that salty bright-shining lover of Jesus you are. But now, on top of quarantine, and all else going on in the world, it feels a bit like a prison sentence. (Okay that was a huge exaggeration, but you get my point). How in the world can we thrive and grow in a situation like this that is so not ideal? By taking care of yourself, connecting with your co-workers, and giving 100% to your work. Here is what I have learned about how to have a thriving remote work life.
Take Care of Yourself
Forget your job responsibilities for a second. Before we go any further, please take care of yourself Physically, Mentally, and Spritually. I know you’re probably sick of hearing it but I’m going to be your mother for a second and say it again: Drink more water. Exercise. Get more sleep. Stay connected to your people. If you’re struggling personally, find a solid counselor who can walk through this time with you with the right perspective. Finally, Pray. Be in the Word of God every single day. Cast all your cares on our Father who loves your soul too much to let you remain undisciplined. Consider this your official permission to be patient and forgiving toward yourself.
Invest in Relationships
It’s difficult to feel connected to your job if you aren’t connected to your co-workers. I have always advocated for this; happiness in a job is really about the people. If you aren’t able to relate in a healthy way to the people around you, the work day will be long and difficult. What helps me is that I like to think of my job as a mission field. It helps infuse meaningful purpose into my otherwise boring daily tasks and gives me an opportunity to work my faith muscles and practice Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” That’s why I make an effort to invest in relationships with coworkers. Choose one person and show them in your own way that they valued and appreciated. Keep it simple and professional. You don’t have to be best friends, but to take interest in a person’s life, feelings, burdens goes a long way.
Take Care of Business
To put it simply, do your very best work, every day. Make a commitment to integrity. Proverbs 10:9 says: Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. This means doing the right thing even when no one is watching. Here are some ideas to let people know that you not only care about them, you are committed to being a team player.
Metrics. Fulfilling the job description is the most basic thing you can nail. If you are struggling in some area to deliver results, work with your manager to come up with a plan. He/She will see that you are trying and you will feel good knowing there’s nothing to hide.
Contribute in Meetings. One of the most awkward things to sit through is a meeting when no one is responding to a question. Most of the time I try to prepare a little something to say, even if it’s not mindblowing. I know that I am always put at ease when someone gets up the courage to unmute and weigh in. More than this, managers notice the people who are engaged and interested in collaborating. It’s the next best thing next to real-life face time with the boss.
Bring the Solution. Think of something that is missing from your daily processes that would help improve on your goals. Perhaps a process that could be done more efficiently, and have fun coming up with ideas on how it could be implemented, and then share them with your team. A positive attitude and focus on solutions while pointing out flaws is much better for everyone and they will all benefit from the outcome.
If there was one time I wish I could look into the future, it’s now. As I know you probably are as well, I am just aching to see how this all shakes out. In the meantime, working from home is here to stay. My prayer is that you wouldn’t just be barely surviving from week to week, but that this adversity would test and strengthen all of our resolve to continue running the race of faith.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
The thing about working for large public corporations is that unless you are very high up, you are at the mercy of the decision makers’ whims. We all understand that it’s impossible to please everyone. Likewise, it is understood that perfect justice is just not possible in human terms. Regardless, I still find myself in a state of unfounded anger when things are “just not fair”. If you are the lowest on the totem pole like myself, changing circumstances at work can feel like you’re drifting aimlessly with the tide.
This morning I discovered that a certain work benefit was being taken away and replaced with something inferior. That old familiar pang of helplessness mixed with anger reared its ugly head. Nevermind the objective reason that it is a for-profit company reallocating money from one thing to another. I felt indignant, affronted, entitled to the previous level of benefits I had enjoyed before. I am neither the newest nor the oldest employee, nor the one with the most responsibility. Still somehow it was a personal insult in the face of my hard work and loyalty.
After I had a moment to cool down, I was convicted in my spirit that something else was going on inside. This job is steady. My pay is not bad. I have very good health benefits. I enjoy a healthy work-life balance. My management stands behind me and my coworkers are conscientious. I am good at what I do and while I don’t consider this job my purpose in life, I believe it is preparing me for what is next. Why then was I so outraged by such a small change of circumstance which, honestly, could be worse?
There’s a deep disconnect between what we believe we are entitled to and the ebb and flow of circumstance. Now I may only be a thirty-something millennial from southern California, but bear with me here: Pride is the root of sin everywhere. As citizens of the world we are steeped in this lie. Lenders, salespeople, marketing agencies, even your own trusted people will all tell you at some point that you deserve X simply because you exist. Maybelline declares, “You’re worth it”, and we believe that we are. But don’t miss the metamorphosis of a “blessing” into “right”. How can we guard against these false prophets of pride?
Be in the Word and prayer daily
Remember, prayer isn’t for changing our circumstances. It changes us as we engage with our Father and the Lord of Heaven. As we engage in prayer we get to know ourselves in relation to the Father and as we read the Bible little by little with an open heart and mind, we get to know God: his character, his truths, and the overarching story of redemption that he is bringing to completion with each passing moment. Let the Holy Spirit convict you and show you what this looks like. Don’t assume you have to do the same thing your friend does – this is your relationship so take ownership and watch how he grows you!
Consider the Input
What do you willingly allow into your mind? (Movies, TV shows, social media, etc) What messages are you accepting whether intentionally or subconsciously? This is a personal question and the answers will vary wildly from one believer to the next, based on experience, sensitivity, and where you are in your faith journey. It is important to recognize that influence by the world on a believer is real. The enemy is really out there, and his greatest desire is to build up our tolerance for things that stand against God and his will for his children. Believers must take responsibility to actively monitor their own decisions and repent from disobedience.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Filter each message through the Truth of Scripture
We must be careful to examine the messages we are fed every day. Even well-meaning words can be destructive if you don’t have a healthy biblical filter of God’s word. I confess I struggle with this too, sometimes life just comes at you so fast that you really don’t take time to stop and remember to do this. It’s not an excuse to rely on what other people say or write or post online. Don’t take even your Pastor’s word for it without checking to make sure it is accurate.
What comes out of my heart manifests in certain ways, like unkind words, or pride building up that causes anger to overtake my mood. When I noticed myself reacting in these ways I can pretty much bet something is going on underneath the surface. It is a big red flag that something is going on that needs to be dealt with. What kind of benefit could I possibly deserve in my own merit? I have nothing to my name except for what my Father kindly and compassionately gives. Romans 3:23-24 says: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Thankfully, believers have the Holy Spirit to communicate and convict us of these things.
Where in my life do I feel entitled to a certain circumstance/blessing/outcome?
How does pride manifest itself in my heart over this situation?
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
1 John 13:8
The one thing I did not expect to find in the pandemic was a deeper purpose in my day job. I am an account manager for an online conferencing company, and I am faced every single day with dozens of calls and emails from our customers who are reaching out for help navigating our changed world.
Many callers are owners of small businesses and worried about the future. They are on edge and deeply anxious about how they will get through the next year. With the stay-at-home order my job which was seemingly unimportant before the spread of COVID-19 was suddenly elevated to highly in-demand position. My focus is working with customers to help them find the best solution that will allow their businesses to succeed. It’s difficult and rewarding. While I would not have described it that way four months ago, these trying times have helped to shift my perspective from the immediate daily things to the eternal things.
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.
These circumstances have revealed what I did not see before as valued. I have a unique opportunity and responsibility to answer customer calls as a representative of Jesus. Dealing in integrity and love, listening patiently to them when they are upset, and yes even when they are awful and rude. It is simply the challenge that He has put before me and planted me in for this season.
I am coming to understand the real reality of what Jesus was talking about when he told us to love our neighbors. Not when it’s convenient, but in all circumstances. Love one another in good times and bad.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I don’t intend to over-spiritualize my job, but it was just such an unexpected but welcome thought, that I have been given this daily, built-in opportunity to serve others as a representative of Jesus, and it’s renewed every single morning. It’s because of this I have joy and peace amid the madness.
So, I want to encourage and challenge you, friend, if you’re feeling like what you do doesn’t matter, if you’re being obedient to Jesus’s command then you are doing the biggest thing you could ever do. We don’t have to run large charitable organizations in order to make a difference. You and I, and everyone else, have all been given a particular sphere of influence – a mission field – in which to carry out the Word of God. Like the apostle Paul said: “but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).
So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice and no one will take away your joy from you.
When things don’t go according to plan, my feelings tend to get involved. Whether it’s feeling restless, lack of peace, fear, hopeless, or helpless to change the facts. Our feelings are strong and can be impossible to ignore at times.
But in this verse from the Gospel of John, Jesus isn’t saying suffering is good or to be enjoyed. He’s telling us that HE is to be enjoyed in the midst of it. All he is, all he’s done for us, and the gift of hope he’s given us – is the reason we will rejoice in the end. So suffering is temporary and it is not the end of our story.
A few years ago I experienced a season of debilitating depression and constant panic attacks. I was always on the edge of either crying or hyperventilating in my seat at work. More than once, two of my managers drove me home in my own car in the middle of the day because I wasn’t okay to even drive. Some days I would drive all the way to church, or to a friend’s house for a party, and sit in my car, totally paralyzed with fear. No more than 15 minutes would pass before I was in reverse and on my way back home where it was safe.
I remember one time watching two of my friends laughing and thinking to myself how strange it was that they could be that happy and wondering if I would ever be happy like that. It was like I was a silent spectator and they were actors on a stage. I was not part of their world.
I can look back on it all today with perspective and peace. But when you’re in it, it feels like a dead end. No light at the end of the tunnel. No way out of the hole. You’re just stuck. This is the time when we tend to get a whole lot of well-meaning and unsolicited advice like, “You’re not trusting God enough” or “You’re being dramatic. Just snap out of it.”
One trusted mentor at the time told me that the reason I was still depressed was because I was being selfish and that I just needed to stop turning my attention inward. I was all manners of annoyed and hurt when I first heard that. But now with many years’ distance and perspective from what I took as a personal slight on my character, I realize the profundity of that statement (and I leave the insult in the past).
It feels counter intuitive to our flesh that leaning into God could possibly resolve our inner turmoil. The wisdom of the unbelieving world might call that “sticking your head in the sand” or “being in denial”. But I found from experience that getting out of my own head truly was the antidote to this inner turmoil.
By the help and discipleship of a few godly women I began anew to pursue God through his word. I bowed all my brokenness and expectations to Him and he met me exactly where I was, with no hidden agenda other than to love me. Slowly and surely, the depression and panic attacks subsided. I began to attend social events again. I trembled in prayer and earnestly jounaled as though I was leaving a precious and vital record of my last days on earth. And I guess I was, in a way.
Of course, the pain of different things wasn’t gone. I’m still working through some of it, but I realized that a good life isn’t actually the absence of suffering. Suffering is a given in the world, but God doesn’t change.
Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will recedive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Now, I was living a dual reality where I simultaneously know suffering and the peace of God. I take comfort in the fact that in our frailty we aren’t able to or expected to resolve the thing. We just know that what is happening is the thing we were told would happen.
You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Jesus didn’t promise perfection in this life, but he gave us a way through it: hope. We hope for the day we take our room in the Father’s house (John 14:2). We hope for the day we are crowned with everlasting life (James 1:12). And we hope for the day that God is proven to be exactly who he says he is (John 4:23).
“So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts of great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest.”
These days you can find me sitting out in my garden early before my family gets up, reading scripture, scribbling furiously in my notebook, and drinking copious amounts of tea. But as for online publishing I have been struggling lately with what to share and how to share it, as the Internet is already too full of everything… and nothing
It’s not that I don’t have a lot to say on things these days, or how the Word of God continues to strike awe and reverence into my heart, but a thought has been forming inside and growing larger. It’s a concern of the heavy burden of words. As we know from reading James 3, we have the ability to both bless God and curse others with the same mouth. We see this everywhere for better or for worse.
Are you using words responsibly? Am I?
Despite the minefield of stumbling blocks in my vocation, I have decided to stop hiding and press on with authenticity and humility. Jesus never just preached without proving his words by the way he lived. “Actions speak louder than words,” they say, and so it is with Christian writers like me who set out to be a coworker with God and point others to Jesus.
It king of makes me wonder what others see of my life when I write, that either agrees or contradicts the Word of God. Reader, can I ask you what you hope to find here? I believe that what we readers seek is not a shining example or an empirical reference guide, is a real person, warts and all. And words though dangerous are vital.
I’m just trying to live every day like Jesus and I fail a lot. To show that in my writing was always my intent from the beginning 8 years ago, but I’ve strayed from that and gotten into my head about it. As a result, I think my writing has become sterile and lacking joy. I really want to change this.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
As redeemed daughters of God, we spend our days on earth constantly passing between two worlds: our personal lives and the secular workplace. In the morning we leave our home where we are free to paint our lives with the joy and freedom that Jesus brings. But then as we arrive at work we step into a very different place where Jesus is unwelcome and our selves unwelcome because of him.
If you’re like me, you feel a very real tension between your two worlds and have not quite mastered the act of passing between the two seamlessly. Of course we understand that we shouldn’t act differently, and that we shouldn’t fear the judgement and persecution of the secular world. However, we also firmly stand on the heritage of boldness and hope exemplified throughout scripture as we seek to live our faith out where it can be seen. (Matthew 5:14-15; Romans 1:16).
I confess that I struggle with my identity in Jesus and the identity that the world expects of me. I want the best of both worlds. I want to be regarded highly both in church and at work. I want to be able to express my faith boldly in both arenas without skipping a beat and without receiving dirty looks or being avoided.
You may be getting a sense that this topic applies to much more than just being Christian at work and you’d be right. Even with a heavenly calling on me, I can get caught up in sin in spite of myself. The line gets blurred constantly. Things like gossiping, grumbling against management decisions, or even participating in less-than-godly conversations just to fit in can knock me off course at work.
So how do we maintain our purpose and razor sharp focus while the ruler of the world works to render us inefficient? Here are some practical ways that we can reinforce and realign our minds in the face of this great “tug-of-war”.
Commit to being in the word of God daily
The Word of God changes us as we read it. And as you are being changed, your heart will naturally linger over Truth as you go about your day, even if you aren’t directly thinking about it. Romans 15:4 says: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Hope. This is what we need when in the thick of it every day. The world is an ugly place, and everyone acts ugly in it at times. But the scriptures were meant for our benefit and instruction so that as long as we don’t give up, all the encouargement of our heavenly Father would produce hope. Not “I hope I win the lottery hope.” The joy and confident expectation of our salvation which we all await.
But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
[Author’s note: There is no substitute for reading scripture for yourself without the added opinions of Bible scholars and other authors. While commentaries and devotionals certainly have their places as we grow spiritually, I would exhort you to make a point of getting to know God’s word with all your heart and all your mind, and depend on the Holy Spirit to do what He is best at: teaching and guiding us. The point is that you will be letting it change your heart. And as you persevere in making scripture a priority on a daily basis, I think you will find, as I have, that you become hungrier for it and stronger from it.]
Gather together – whatever that looks like
Christians aren’t meant to work alone in a vacuum. We are wired for community, especially in a gospel-hostile environment. Do you happen to know any co-workers who are Christian? Or people who might be on the fence? Taking extra care to pray, discern and respect comfort zones, be empowered to approach someone about starting a bible study. Depending on circumstances, suggest meeting over lunch once or twice a month. Perhaps you could work through a published study, or just read chapter by chapter through a book of the Bible. And then see what happens.
I recently had this impression that I should approach a certain co-worker of mine to see if she would be interested. I honestly had no idea where she was in her walk of faith or if she was even Christian. To my complete surprise, she was super enthusiastic about the idea and told me she had always wanted to do a bible study but never had the chance or tools to think it possible.
Perhaps you don’t know a soul who would be interested right now. That’s okay. In the meantime, consider asking one or two other people from your church or social circle. Meet regularly to study and pray. Don’t be afraid to share the highs and lows of what it means to be a Christian in a secular workplace.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 PETER 2:9
Pray for your workplace
Make a commitment to pray regularly over your job, co-workers, leaders, organization, and physical workplace (if you have one). Pray that Jesus would be on display first and foremost in your words and actions. Pray for hearts to be softened in order to receive the gospel message and that they would come to know the Lord if they haven’t already. While your prayers do not have the power to accept Jesus on behalf of others, God will certainly hear your intercessions and work things to the good of those who will come to know him. You’ll be changed too, as you pray for others, the bible tells us that our hearts are being sanctified too.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 TIMOTHY 2:1-5
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
In what ways do you maintain a vibrant faith at work? What did I miss? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
I was recently at a coffee shop chatting with a friend and a man came to sit at the table near us. Feeling his stares, we both turned to him with a questioning look. “Would you ladies mind if I drew you for practice?” He pointed to a large sketch pad and pencil. We agreed, and about 30 minutes later when we got up to leave, he held out his drawing of us. Delighted at his talent, I encouraged his perseverance in art and turned to leave. My friend, however stood still and bluntly asked him a question. “Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?” I admit, I was embarrassed and uncomfortable. I wasn’t used to such blatant evangelization. People nearby turned their heads to listen in and I silently prayed for her to wrap it up so we could leave.
For a long time I considered this as the only way we Christians could share our faith, and it turned me off the whole idea. As a follower of Jesus, I know that we are commanded to “go and make disciples of all the nations”; this isn’t an option. However, for years I chose to ignore this command because, let’s face it. I care way too much what people think of me. I could never be that bold. My reaction that day in the coffee shop was shameful, but a small seed was planted that day, what would mature when the time was right.
Thankfully the Lord has ways of bringing certain topics around again when we are ready. Recently I was studying Acts chapter 16 and it dawned on me that the aggressive brand of evangelization I had experienced was NOT the only way we are able to reach out to others in the world. It was the story of Paul and Silas in prison that taught me my preconceived notions of witnessing were inaccurate.
I highly recommend reading the chapter for yourself in order to place this passage into proper context, but here is a snippet:
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
Notice that up until this point, Paul and Silas had not been sitting in their cells trying to convert every single prisoner and guard. They had not been preaching, or shoving pamphlets in their faces, or aggressively asking about religious beliefs. They were simply praising God and singing, doing their own thing. They were basking in the joy that comes from knowing God’s greater plan was at work whether they were inside or outside the prison walls.
What I love about this story, and why it gives me so much hope for my shy, terrified-to-share self is that while the seeds of faith were planted by faithful humans just doing their part, God orchestrated the larger circumstance of the earthquake to bring those seeds of faith to sprout. The point is that direct witness (sitting someone down to recount the gospel) is NOT necessary all the time. And that is okay. Sometimes we are simply called to be ourselves wherever we happen to be.
My faith hasn’t changed since that day back in the coffee shop, but it has matured. It is strong enough to permit me to enter into the hard dark places with people at work. I can no longer sit nearby to hurting people, comfortable in my salvation bubble, while the ones close by are hurting. Nor am I a lion tackling a gazelle, leaving it dazed on its back with a pamphlet in its hand. I’m gently and lovingly being myself, constant, in my daily path. And when circumstances arise, I am there doing my thing, in full belief that His will WILL be done.
Do you ever feel that sometimes you run to a certain verse of the Bible and you just can’t get it?
Perhaps you are at a low point or going through something difficult. When going though hard times, it’s my experience that you often get a whole lot of advice on what to do, but very few examples of modeling that advice. It’s like slapping on a band-aid when surgery needed.
About 10 years ago I went through such an emotional and spiritual dark place and of course, received lots of well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful advice like: Pray more. Read your Bible more. Go on a trip to relax. You just don’t trust God. (That last one isn’t really advice…)
It’s not wrong to encourage one another to read the Bible and pray. In fact it’s our duty to keep brothers and sisters in Christ accountable to the faith they proclaim. However, because they weren’t willing to walk in the dark with me, none of us got to experience the blessing of a community of faith “mourning with those who mourn.”
This is a verse that was quoted at me a lot: “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6
I was a young Christian and dutiful to follow the Christian checklist exactly. I glued my eyes to the page. I read this verse with all my might and slowly, so that I would not miss one single word of it. But however hard I tried to read and just get. it. in. my. head, I could not understand it with my heart.
I was reading it in a very limited and inward-seeking way and therefore fruitless way. A step-by-step Ikea instruction manual kind of way.
Don’t worry – Ok I’m concentrating…Check
Pray about everything – Doing that… Check
Tell God what you need – Double Check! He’s been listening to me all day
Then I come to the very end of the passage. “And thank him for all he has done”. This part often remained ignored for me. I reasoned with myself that this one couldn’t be done until my circumstances were different. For some reason I was expecting God to answer my prayer before I was able to thank him for it.
I don’t think I’m the only one who sometimes treats her relationship with God this way. How could I blame anyone for thinking this way? After all this is exactly how the world around us operates. You don’t send a thank you note before you receive a gift, right? Reciprocity.
It turns out that the god I was praying to and the true God in heaven were totally different. The god I had designed in my head was not the one described in the pages of scripture. My small god was a stubborn one who had to be poked and prodded several times before he would even think about turning his attention to me and my problems. He was quite busy enough already. With this type of person you need to negotiate and secure a guarantee.
It was this false belief that in turn, had put a false twist on scripture for me. I may as well have been reading an instruction manual.
Today I am much grown in my spiritual life though not arrived, I read it now through the lens of experience of God goodness. That last verse which I ignored before now stands out to be in heavenly neon yellow ink.
And thank him for all he has done.
What I considered a throw-away line 10 years ago, I now realize is the most important part of that verse and should not be considered separately from the rest of it.
We are to pray and give our worries over to him with all that he has already done in mind. We are to consider all the worries and weight in the world through the lens of a correct understanding of God’s goodness. Not only for this small verse, but for every single word of the Bible.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
This is the wonderful discovery of living Word. Coming across a verse that perplexed me 10 years ago and which now has blossomed into great joy and peace for my heart because I finally get it and it permeates everything.
Before I can even think about 2020, I have to get my head around what 2019 has meant to me.
I spent this morning leafing through hundreds of pages of handwritten 2019 journal entires with one purpose in mind: to remember. This year has been a milestone in my spiritual and personal life and I am particularly proud of the growth I have experienced this year.
It seems that many of us take this day to reflect back on the last year and look forward toward the next, partly with nostalgia and partly with excitement about the possibilities that exist for us. Many of us might even pray for and about the things we think we want or need to have for the next year; the goals and ambitions that light our fires. I certainly do, but today I wonder: Do we ever stop and wonder in awea at how he got us through it all while we were preoccupied with our business?
I thought I was going to be reflecting on what God did through me this year, but really, I’m realizing that this is only a small part of the story. Maybe even only an afterthought or a side-effect of what he has done.
And what is the the true measure of a year of our lives? Like really, what are we counting as a “successful year”? Gross income earned? Amount of books read? Miles traveled?
For me, I’m counting my success as a whole lot of unquantifiable grace.
If I died today I would not regret one thing because I know and He knows that I have done my best to obey and please him in my heart. He knows because he was in it the whole time helping me through it.
And now that I know where I’ve been I can turn toward the future. Into the unknown with a cloud of glory leading the way and more glory following behind me.
In 2019 He kept me going. My heart understands this better than my mind. Even now while I’m typing these words, worried about whether I can post this article on time and trying to find the words to put together for you all, He is literally sustaining my drive, passion, and pouring into me the words and sentiment he desires, all while simultaneously upholding the universe.
I can’t move swiftly past this fact. With each word and breath I take, our father is Good. Holy. Sustainer.
Last New Year’s Eve I chose one word to define my goals for the year. I even wrote it in my best script diagonally across the first page of my 2019 Moleskine planner to set the tone for the whole year: COMMITMENT. And each week I made great and imperfect strides toward that goal, determined never to give up on my commitment to lean into what it really means to pursue God and the calling to which he has drawn me (writing).
Now in 2020 I want to DEPEND on him and know what that really is like.
And so we go into the unknown with a cloud of glory leading the way and more glory following behind me.
Isn’t that how we should face every day?
We are forever traveling to our destinations, whether it is to Egypt or Babylon, or back to Jerusalem to rebuild. But the whole way we know that our ultimate destination is to be with our Good Father forever, even though we must spend a while in exile.
Lead them like a shepherd, and carry them in your arms forever.
If my desire is DEPENDENCE, then God, you must also be made BIG. As much as I am weak and in need, you must be made all the more powerful in my life. After all, what is the point of being dependent on God if the God of my imagination is too small and boxed in to help?
Today is a new day and a new year for all of us. My prayer is that God would be made big and gloried above all else in our lives. Lord, fill us with awe and wonder at yourself, so that we may truly rest in your goodness and glory.
The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare. In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”