Last week I had the privilege of preaching for the first time.
Now, anyone who knows me personally or who has followed this blog for a while may be saying, “You’ve been preaching for years.” But last week was the first time I’d been invited to speak…in a church…from a pulpit…with the express purpose of bringing the Word.
I was nervous and exhilarated and humbled that God would choose me for such an awesome and important task. But the word He gave me for this young adult audience was unique and on-time…just as He is and just as our relationship is.
Gratefully, my dear friend Penny videoed the entire 13-minute sermon. Take a few minutes, check it out, and commit to #bepetty for Jesus.
And I have to give credit to the amazing Awesomely Luvvie who is the genius behind all the “petty” names at the end. Pick up her petty T-shirt here! *And no, she didn’t ask me to endorse this and I’m not being compensated. Just giving a shout out to something/someone who inspired me.
Blessings to you! I hope it inspires you and speaks to your situation.
But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
As I read and re-read this passage this morning, the thing that really stuck in my Spirit was the tense of the words the author chose.
Preceding verse five, the author was crying out to God, asking Him how long will he endure struggle, imploring our Savior to answer him, to show up.
But then we get to verse five and something amazing happens. The sense of woe ends sharply and, if we look closely enough, we see a change — not in the author’s circumstances, but in his perspective.
Verse five begins with the word “but.” The word “but” can play a number of roles in English grammar. It can be a preposition, an adverb. However, in this use I believe it’s most important as a conjunction, a word to add together groups of words. That’s what’s important to note: even though a change is occurring in the author, nothing has changed in his circumstances. Rather, he’s chosen to use what he’s going through as a part of what’s to come.
Further, any good grammarian will also point out that the use of “but” also signifies that everything before it is now inconsequential in reference to what will follow.
My bills are due and I don’t know how I’m going to pay them, BUT…
My body is ill and the doctors say they don’t know what more they can do, BUT…
The vision You gave me is too big/expensive/scary and I don’t know if I can accomplish it BUT…
They said they’d always be there for me, and they’re gone now that I need them, BUT…
It feels like I’m going through this all alone, BUT…
The verse goes on, after signaling a change in the author’s perspective to say, “But I trust in your unfailing love.”
“I trust.” That’s current. That’s present. That’s now. And, following the author’s please for response, and then his decision to shift his focus, “I trust” being present tense tells us that even though all hell was breaking out in this man’s life, the hell didn’t negate his faith. In essence he’s showing us that even as he’s going through it and doesn’t know how much more he can or even when God will will show up, he still trusts in God’s unfailing love.
The author knows that no matter how badly it hurts, or how uncomfortable what he’s going through is, his circumstances do not affect or reflect the fact that God loves him and that God’s love never fails. It never falters. It never doesn’t reach us. It never judges us. It never decides to show up today and not tomorrow. It never abandons us because we’ve sinned or doubted. God’s love just is.
You need to know that trials and trust are not and should not be mutually exclusive in your life. They will not be exclusive. In fact, this scripture shows us that trust in the Lord is ever more important when we’re going through our trials. That trust is a reminder that we aren’t in it alone, that God still cares, and that He isn’t oblivious to what we’re going through. Trials and trust in God go hand in hand.
The verse then goes on to say, “I will rejoice because you have rescued me.”
Now this is where it gets really good, where the “but” has shown us that the author’s perspective is changing, and the “I trust” show us what the author’s two conflicting states of mind are, “I will rejoice” shows us a decision.
“Will” is future tense. It also reflects a decision. The author, even though he’s going through hell, even though it doesn’t appear that God has reached out to save him, he knows that in spite of his uncomfortable circumstances that God still loves him unfailing. And, as a result of that knowledge, the author decides that he will rejoice.
Right there in the midst of his hell.
Right there in the midst of his storm, his trial, his going through.
Right there with the overdrawn bank account.
Right there with the 100th no call back after applying for a job.
Right there with the raggedy car that won’t start.
Right there with the daycare closed and no way for you to watch the kids and go to work.
Right there with the rent/mortgage being due and no money to pay it.
Right there with that unreliable friend/partner.
Right there in the midst of those silent cries alone at night.
Right in the thick of it, the author decides, no matter what it looks like or feels like, I am going to rejoice. And that’s an important decision because the Bible tells us that when we choose to celebrate in the midst of our adversity it confuses the enemy.
In fact, when I looked at the word “rejoice” in my concordance, I learned this:
the original word used here is a Hebrew verb
in the Bible it’s used to mean to exult and to be glad
Strong’s Concordance goes on to define it as “to spin around (under the influence of any violent emotion)…be glad, joy, be joyful…”
Whoa. “To spin around under the influence of any violent emotion.” To me, that means that all of the anger, the fear, the frustration, the helplessness, the pain, and every other intense emotion the author was feeling as he cried out to God in the beginning of the chapter was still there.
Even as he decided to change his perspective, he then decided he would force himself to be glad, pouring out all of the negative emotions the enemy wanted to use to oppress and depress him as positive praise for a God that never fails — even, and especially, when hell is breaking out all around us.
Then the verse continues with, “because you have rescued me.”
“Because” is a preposition here. It’s setting us up to understand why. Everything that comes after because tells us why the author’s perspective changed and why he forced himself to praise God in the middle of his turmoil.
And why did he, you ask? “Because you [God] has rescued me.”
Don’t miss that: “rescued” is past tense.
It’s already done.
Before this storm erupted. Before all hell broke loose. Before I lost all my money. Before he or she walked out. Before the doctor gave me the diagnosis. Before the bills became due. Before I lost my job. Before I cried myself to sleep.
Before it all even happened, God had already rescued you. He’d already saved you. He’d already provided. He’d already blessed you. He’d already made a way.
And get this, once a person or a thing has been rescued, that which threatened them can no longer harm them.
So before you started “going through” God had already seen to it that what you would go through wouldn’t hurt you, couldn’t hurt you.
That means that before the storm even erupted in your life, God had already made you victorious over it.
Look, tense matters. Tense matters in this scripture because it reminds us that everything that happened before we were saved, before we prayed, before we rejoiced, before we decided to worship God is no longer important and never could touch us.
And tense matters because if you’re still overcome with the emotion your circumstances have you feeling, then this scripture is a roadmap to peace.
Tense matters because where you are has no bearing on WHOSE you are or where you WILL be.
Tense matters because if He did it back then. If He did it before. He’s the same God, with the same unfailing love. He WILL show up and show out on your behalf this time, too.
Tense matters because how we choose our thoughts and words dictates whether we remain stuck in a place where we’re telling our God — Who’s already saved us — about our problems, or whether we’ll choose to move to a place where we tell our problems about our God.
Tense matters because we have the God-given authority to change our circumstances, to speak life and death to situations in our lives based solely on the words we speak.
So tense matters. Because you can be going through forever, or you can choose to celebrate the victory you already had now.
It matters. It matters to God. It matters to your storm. It matters for you.
Many thanks all of the women who joined the inaugural Leap of Faith Prayer Call for women last night. I pray it was an encouraging, empowering, and inspiring time, and that everyone who called in got what they needed from God.
If you missed the call yesterday, want to hear it again, or want to share it with folks you know, you can listen to the recording by using the number and codes below:
How often have we heard in our lifetimes Psalm 118:24? “This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
I would venture to guess that we’ve heard it countless times, and probably recited it as well.
But what God really wants me to impress on each of you, my Sisters in Christ, is that we’re thinking too small when it comes to what God has predestined for us and what He wants to do for us.
In fact, if we really want to give God space to move, we have to know and confess that this is the YEAR that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
I believe with everything in me that this is the year for women to to take Leaps of Faith in their lives, careers, ministries, relationships, and even in their dreams.
It’s why the Holy Spirit led me to establish a luncheon series to cultivate networking and empowerment for women. And it’s why I’ve prayed that you’d all join me on this call this evening. Just so I can agree with, intercede for, and pray with each of you for the breakthroughs you’re expecting God to deliver for you this year.
As I prayed about what God would have me to say to you all tonight to encourage you, He told me to tell you that you, women, we are strong. We are not weak. We aren’t shrinking violets. No we were made from strength. And as we prepare to go and possess all that God has for us this year, we need to know that we know that we know that we are strong in and because of Christ.
The evidence of our strength can be found right in the first book of the Bible. In the first chapters of Genesis, God walks us through the creation of, well, everything. Light and dark. Day and night. Earth and heavens. Water and land. Animals. Everything. Then He creates man and woman in His image to rule over His creation.
And that’s where it got interesting.
The Bible says in Genesis 2:7 that God formed Adam, the first man, from the dust of the earth and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils. But when we get down to verse 22 of the same chapter we see that God then forms woman, Adam’s helper, from his rib. So we’re actually made in God’s likeness from bone.
So I did a little research on bones. And here are the two most compelling facts I found:
– Our bones, inch-for-inch, are stronger than the steel used in the construction of skyscrapers; and
– Our strongest and longest bone is our femur, or thigh bone.
These two points alone underscore the fact that we, women, are literally made to withstand. We were created from the stuff that supports, protects and strengthens others. And literally what we are made of makes it possible for us to take on, shoulder, carry, and face every weight life attempts to heap on us.
Women were made from bone. Not men. Women. We were made to be strong.
Now, I certainly am not saying that women are stronger or higher or better than men. We were created to be their helpers and we are called, once married, to submit to our husbands who are submitted to the guidance of our Lord. That hierarchy is not debatable. It is the right order of things.
But you need to know that you’re made of stuff that doesn’t break easily. It doesn’t back back down from a challenge nor does it yield in the face adversity. You need to know that you’re made from some of the toughest stuff in the entire human body and that’s not by accident.
It’s not by accident because you and I are also created to do something that men are physically incapable of: give birth. To deliver new life. And I declare that it is time for you and me to give birth to the ideas and desires God’s planted in us, according to the Word of God.
That idea for a new business or nonprofit? God wants to deliver it and deliver you to the larger territory it holds.
That dream of a promotion or new job? God wants to deliver it.
That heart for service and love? It’s time to deliver.
Those prayers for guidance and wisdom? It’s time to deliver.
Those prayers for loved ones? God’s about to deliver.
Prayers for relationships? Delivered.
Prayers for finances? Delivered!
I confess according to Matt 6:33 that all these things are added to you in the name of Jesus. All God asks is that you shift your focus from your problems, and even from His promise, to seek Him first. And then, He will deliver you!
For the past day or so, I’ve been listening to The Walls Group album “Fast Forward” almost non-stop. (if you haven’t heard it, you should! It’s awesome!) And one song has been on repeat in my Spirit — I woke up singing it: “God on My Mind (feat. Brandy).”
Now, I’ll admit, a minuscule part of the reason why the song resonates for me is because it samples Brandy’s “Always on My Mind,” and hers was the first CD I ever owned back in middle school.
But this morning, when I woke up singing the song’s chorus, God gave me a revelation about its lyrics. They go:
From the mountains to the seas, from the day that we believed to the beginning of time. I can’t get you off my mind. From the stars in space, to that empty grave, no matter how hard I try I can’t get God off my mind. Always on my mind, your always on my mind. Thoughts of you all the time, your always on my mind.
I’ve listened to the song so many times and found myself inspired by the aspirational quality of these words. I aspire to have God on my mind ALL the time. In fact, the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV to “16 Rejoice always,17 pray without ceasing,18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And what more is prayer than thinking of and talking to God?
But this morning, the Holy Spirit gave me this epiphany: “You’re always on God’s mind. He never stops thinking of you. He’s obsessed.”
And suddenly, the lyrics had even greater meaning.
“From the mountains to the seas…”– No matter where we are or end up physically, nothing can separate us from the love of God. He loves us so big and so wide and so deeply, that even when we stray from Him – physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, whatever – He’s still thinking of us.
“…from the day that we believed to the beginning of time..” — The Bible tells us in Jeremiah that before we were even in our mothers’ wombs, God knew us. Even then, He was thinking of us. And as we grew up, even before we chose Him, He was thinking about us enough to send his Son to die in our place. From before our lives started and every moment since, we’ve been on God’s mind.
“Always on my mind, your always on my mind. Thoughts of you all the time, your always on my mind.” — And His obsession with us is consistent. It’s constant. He is always thinking about us. It, like Him, is unchanging.
Isn’t that overwhelming? To consider that God is always thinking about me. About you. Your situation. Your hardships and trials. Your joys and successes. What’s important to you. What you’re worried about. What you fear. What you need.
Every moment of your life, God is thinking of you. Nothing surprises Him. No circumstance sneaks up on Him. He knew. He knows. He’s thinking of you.
I don’t know what you’re facing today, but I hope you’ll know this: God is absolutely obsessed with you. You’re the apple of His eye and, because you’re so important to Him, He’s made you more than a conqueror; He’s defeated your every foe; and He is always working things out to benefit you. He’s thought about all you’ll ever need and want, and has created a plan to give you hope and a future. To bless you.
God can’t get you off His mind.
So walk through today in godly confidence that the Creator of the world, the King of all nations, the Alpha and Omega is thinking about you. Right. Now.
Some of you may remember that last Thursday I finally brought to fruition a God idea nearly a year in the making.
But what no one knows (save my husband and my Mama) is that the day before my big event was bookmarked with disappointment.
The day started with me receiving word that I had not won a Chase Mission Main Street small business grant for my small business.
Disappointed is an understatement for how I felt. I felt abandoned, alone, angry, sad and overwhelmed all at once.
Just like that, the way I thought God was going to move in my life had changed. And I was left with the overwhelming heaviness of the reality of my situation. My goals for my business, the debt my family had amassed supporting my business, they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
I cried a lot that morning. I couldn’t sleep I was so grief-stricken. And when I got into the shower, I broke down. The tears and the anger and the hurt all flowed freely. I was overcome.
But somehow, mid-rant, I found myself humming this song: “Lord You are good and your mercy endureth forever. Lord You are good and your mercy endureth forever!…I worship you! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”
Even now, a week later, I remember clearly the puzzled look that crept across my face when I realized the dichotomy of the moment: here I am sobbing into the shower stream on the outside, but my Spirit was praising God.
The reality is that nowhere does God say we won’t be disappointed. Similarly, nowhere does He say we aren’t allowed to feel, to have emotional, human responses to the changes in our lives.
So even as our flesh mourns, if we stay prayed up, our Spirit will minister to us…even without out participation.
In fact, as I reflect now, I smile at the thought of a scripture that the Lord brought me to in my devotion. It was Job talking, chapter 13, verse 15a: “God may kill me, but I will trust Him…” That’s how I felt in that shower, ranting about how sad and disappointed I was. Reminding God of His word and His promises. (He’d later – much more politely, I might add – remind me that HOW He plans to fulfill the promises of His word is none of my business. My only responsibility is to believe and expect that He will.)
The corresponding disappointment bookmark came later that Thursday evening. My day ended with my best subcontractor giving me 30 days notice. She’d gotten a job offer for a job that was perfect for her and where she wanted to go. For months, I’d been praying that God would enable me to hire her full-time. But, it wasn’t to be.
Here’s the part that pulled me out of my pity party and put my day in perspective, directly from the blog:
13 Bible Verses & 6 Steps to Overcome Disappointment
Believe in God’s plan. Our God is a miracle worker. He can part waters, move boulders, heal the dead (not just the sick, remember, the dead), save, destroy, bless, and curse. He can do anything, everything, things beyond our comprehension.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
When I say you have to believe, I mean you have to believe that God has got this thing in His hands. He is looking out for you. He is working out a plan that is bigger than you, and you are going to be better for it in the end.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
Sometimes, it takes a painful disappointment to teach us a skill or strengthen our faith or to put us in the right place at the right time. We don’t know His ways or His thoughts. We just have to believe in His promise.
Grieve. Things have not gone the way you wanted. Your hopes and expectations have been defeated. You need to spend some quiet time being sad, mourning the way you thought things would be.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
Cry. Exercise. Read. Do whatever it is that releases the sadness, the disappointment, the defeat.
And then, eventually, you have to stop grieving and move on.
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5
Disappointment is not meant to define you, my friend. It is not meant to hold you hostage or weigh you down into the mire of depression. Don’t give it that power.
Pray. You had to know this was coming, right? Spend some time talking to your Heavenly Father. Tell Him your heartache. Tell Him about the plans you had and ask Him to show you why He’s taken them away. I promise you that He has good in this for you, and it’s okay to ask Him what that good is.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28
Talk to Him like you’d talk to your best friend. Your prayer doesn’t have to be pretty or sound like one at your church. It just has to be honest and come from your heart.
Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22
You, my friend, are the godly. You are chasing after God, trying to do the right thing, seeking a better understanding of Him. Aren’t you? He’s talking about you.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Listen and wait. Big things happen when we pray. Sometimes, they are blessings beyond our expectations.
But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:6
Sometimes they happen right away, but usually they happen later when we least expect them. Keep waiting. You’ll know when your prayer has been answered.
Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalms 27:14
Search for the good. This is a miserable time to try to be thankful. I don’t know about you, but all I want to do is wallow in self pity of my dreams deferred (or dreams lost). This is the time when it’s hardest – and most important – to find the good, grab onto it with both hands, and celebrate it. You need to.
This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
In beginning this post in the middle of the night, I came to understand that it wouldn’t have happened if my plans had worked out. I wouldn’t have been sleeping fitfully. I wouldn’t have jumped out of bed to write these words. It was God’s plan for me to write these words. (It has been an incredibly soothing and cathartic process). It is also His plan for you to be reading them right now. I am thankful that He chose me.
Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19b-20
Believe in yourself. You too are part of God’s great plan. He is preparing you to do His work right now, even in this time of disappointment. No matter what burden comes, know that He will help you stand underneath it, carry it up the hill, and triumph over it in the end.*
Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31
God believes in you. You may not feel equipped to handle this on your own, but He’ll give you what you need to get through it.
For I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
*The triumph doesn’t always happen when we think it should. Sometimes, we only triumph over our struggles as we leave this broken world. A conversation I had with my pastor illustrates this point:
“Tara, God will heal her.”
“I just don’t know that He will. She is so sick. She hardly gets out of bed.”
“He is going to heal her. He might heal her body now, or He might heal her soul in heaven, but you can trust Him to heal her.”
Wow. The simplicity and immensity of that statement left me with many tears but complete peace. We can trust Him to defeat our disappointment, no matter what it is.
Look, I don’t know where your disappointment lies.
Maybe it’s in a relationship that ended, or never took off. A professional opportunity that passed you by. Or a personal dream that has yet to come to fruition.
Whatever it is, I hope these passages encourage you. No matter how disappointed we feel, nothing has changed with God: He’s still just as in love with us; just as dedicated to our success and peace and joy; just as committed to giving us “hope and a future.”
Sometimes, just sometimes, we have to go through the disappointment to get closer to our destiny.
Because sometimes the thing we really wanted wasn’t God’s best for us. And what is yet to come is infinitely better.
I love the Amplified version of James 1:17, the first half in particular. It reads:
“Every good gift and every perfect (free, large, full) gift is from above…”
The expounding upon perfect is the part that really gets me: free, large, and full.
How many times do we pray for a thing and, in our excitement and haste to see/get/have it now, we begin trying to make it happen?
We pray for a mate, so the next time a young man or lady catches our attention and gives us the time of day, we are already thinking forever…even though the signs are there that s/he isn’t the one.
We ask God to get us a new job with more pay, so we begin applying to jobs based on the salaries we want…even though something inside tells us we won’t enjoy the job or the people or the mission of the organization.
Or we ask God to grow our own business with more income, so we start chasing every person or organization with a bank book…even though none of what they do aligns with our gifts or interests or talents or capacities.
But what we find in the first half James 1:17 are some good parameters by which to measure our “blessings” to determine if they are from God, or just an attempt to distract us from God. Are they something we want to further our own plans, or are they a part of God’s plan advancing for us?
Let’s take a few minutes to unpack the parameters laid out for us in this passage of James.
Perfect (verb) – I love this word used here. God is perfect. Jesus is perfect. And God made us perfect in His image to fulfill His purposes for our lives, and then sent his only Son to shed His blood so we could be reconciled back to Him and His perfect will. That means that in Christ every messy, uncomfortable detail of our lives is perfected, because only that which is perfect (the Son) can make perfection out of flawed materials (us).
So no matter how jacked up we think we are or our lives are, they — and we — are made perfect by Christ. This act, this action, of making the flawed as good as it possibly can be is the definition of the VERB perfect. So, literally, God is always WORKING for and through and on us. It’s the nature of who He is and what He does through his Son.
Perfect (noun) – When we look at the definition of “perfect” as a noun, it says: “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.”
This is what God gives us. When He blesses us, His blessings, His gifts, have everything we need (and likely much of what we want!) and there is nothing better that exists. That’s why His will and plan for our lives is perfect: there is no better way. His love for us is perfect: it never changes, covers all of our faults, and is unconditional. Glory to God!
So if the “blessing” you are claiming isn’t in alignment with God’s perfect will or His perfect plan for your life, it doesn’t measure up.
Free – As cliché as it is, Jesus really did pay it all. So when God blesses, the cost has already been paid. There’s nothing you can do to earn it because God blesses us out of the character of who He is not out of what we can do. If this new “blessing” you are claiming requires you to pay in ways that aren’t in alignment with God’s character or His plan for your life, or asks you to do or say things that just plain don’t feel right in your gut, then it isn’t free and it ain’t measuring up.
Large – We serve a big God. He’s bigger than the vastness of space and time that He created. His word tells us in the latter half of Matthew 6 that He guarantees us the necessities of life – food, shelter, clothes, and their trappings. And the Word also tells us that He knows what we need (utility bills, maintenance on the car, tuition for the kids, down payments, etc) in Matthew 6:8 and will in fact supply all those needs as well (Philippians 4:19). So knowing this, and that His plan is to draw everyone unto Himself, if the “blessing” you’re claiming isn’t big enough to give God glory and credit and show Him to others (or just plain show him mighty in your own life), something there ain’t measuring up.
Full – Does this “blessing” you’re claiming require you to add to it, fix it, adjust for it, or otherwise do something to make it complete or to make it fit your need/prayer? If you answer yes, hold on — something isn’t measuring up. Full
means to capacity, no extra room, no free space. God-blessings leave no room (or need!) for us to add to it. Period.
The reality is that yes, it is necessary, that we make sure the “blessings” we claim measure up because we are called to a higher calling, a higher purpose. If folks of the world are created to, expected to, conform and just take what the world sends their way, how much more do we, the children of the Most High God, have to be diligent to ensure that all that we allow into our lives meets the standards of the God whose delight it is to bless us?
The patience and faith it takes to let something that ain’t for you go can be tremendous. But the energy it takes – the spiritual, physical, and mental energies – to deal with the consequences of trying to rush or force the Hand of God is far greater.
Let’s decide now this year we will take the time to ensure that every new person and opportunity that crosses our path measures up to what God has promised us. And then let’s endeavor to support one another in letting some “blessings” keep right on going, because if we err on the side of caution and let something go that God did intended for us, it’s still ours and His word says that as long as we’re acting out of what we believe to be His will, He’ll bless us all the same.
As time does, today finds us acknowledging that time has swiftly passed.
It seems as though it was just summer…just autumn…just Christmas. And now, we’re embarking on a brand new year.
For a lot of folks, the New Year is filled with the hope of what’s to come. There’s so much possibility in the coming days, weeks and months. I’m excited, too.
But what I feel in addition to excitement is a renewed confidence. A belief that no matter what comes or what the future holds, God brought me this far. I know He won’t leave me.
Much like the line from “Invictus,” we’ve made it “bloodied but unbowed.”
Last year was hard for so many. Folks lost loved ones and jobs. They fought physical, spiritual and mental illnesses. They sacrificed, nearly succumbing to hell all around them.
So while many are facing this new year with excitement and optimism, there are a great many still who are simply relieved. Those who are glad to be done with a year that tested and tried us — our patience, our faith, our fortitude.
We were bent to near breaking last year. We often felt as though we cried more than we smiled. Worried more than we hoped. Fought more than we simply lived.
We struggled and scratched and clawed through layoffs and loss, debt and depression, sadness and sacrifice. We prayed and pursued. We protested and proclaimed. We worked and waited.
Many of us made it to 2015 only by the grace of God. And we’re relieved just to have made it.
If this is you. If all you feel about 2015 so far is relief that 2014 is over, know this: you made it.
The storms that the enemy thought would take you out only made you stronger. The traps the devil meant to harm you only catapulted you forward with more focus and greater determination. What would have literally caused someone else to lose their mind motivated you to keep going, to not give up.
And you’re here, standing at the dawn of a new year. Bloodied, but unbowed. Bent, but unbroken. A little weary, but still a battle-ready warrior.
To you I say own your stripes. There’s a courage, a confidence, and a determination that comes with overcoming. Yours is a testimony no one else can give because they haven’t walked in your shoes, haven’t fought the battles you’ve won.
To you I say stand tall and proud. Because while others were too busy wishing away their todays hoping for tomorrows, you lived and breathed every moment — the good, the bad and the unbearable.
To you I say don’t shrink back. Don’t be so overcome with relief that you forget the strength, the faith, and the resilience your trials earned you. Yes, you may be bloodied, but you remain unbowed.
To you I say this is a new day. A day ordained for your victory; predestined for your triumph.
This day. This week. This year is a year of restoration for you.
God saw every test, every trial, and every tear. He heard every prayer and every plea. And for you He has worked in the background to bless you in the open.
Time will not slow down. It won’t ease because we’re tired or overwhelmed or overcome. But it is the knowledge of what we’ve already been through – and beat! – that spurs us on in our weakest moments.
My prayer for you is that even as you make resolutions, that you’ll also make it a point to count your blessings and your wins. In all of your forward thinking, look back long enough to claim your hard-earned strength and faith and fight.
Own your stripes, your bruises. And honor the important parts of the “old” you in this new year.
Bloodied, but unbowed. Bruised, but unbroken. And blessed in spite of it all.
*A version of this post appeared on The Huffington Post yesterday. You can check it out here.
For the past few months, the Lord has really been working with me on one simple, yet significant, principle in my walk: trust My promise, don’t worry about My plan.
You see, my husband and I have been believing God for some very specific things and I found a few weeks back that what had began, for me, as bold, expectant faith, had somehow morphed into anxious, obsessive lusting after this thing. So much so that I began trying to orchestrate for God how He could deliver said thing.
Needless to say, my plans never came to fruition.
But even as I continue to learn this lesson – the importance of guarding your focus when you’re waiting in faith – the Lord encouraged me to share it with you all, too.
I pray my latest contribution to The Huffington Post, “On Being a Dictator,” blesses you! (You can also just scroll down and check it out!)
The Holy Spirit gave me the revelation one day as I lamented why the blessing the Lord said He’d give me wasn’t coming the way I thought it would, or should.
Imagine that: I was trying to tell the Gift Giver how to give the gift.
It happens much more easily than you might think. The Holy Spirit confirms to you that indeed the Lord heard your prayers for a new house, a new car, a way out of debt, peace about that child, or whatever.
Excited, you begin looking at your circumstances trying to figure out how He’s going to do it. And that’s when the enemy slides into the conversation.
Well, Lord, I know you said I’m the lender and not the borrower, but I don’t make enough to pay off all of these credit cards.
My God, you know I need a new car, but with a credit score like this, it’s never going to happen.
I’ve been praying for a new job for weeks, Jesus, but they gave that job to someone else even though I interviewed. What gives?
Just that quickly, your focus has shifted.
Instead of keeping your eyes on the One who is your Source and Provider, you’re looking at what He wants to give. Instead of fixing your gaze on and pursuing the face of God, you’re inexplicably fixated on His hand.
Unavoidably, when what you see in your human life doesn’t look like what God has promised you in the Spirit, you then get downright depressed and indignant.
You question God, you wonder if it was really His voice, and you quickly lose the sense of peaceful and patient expectation you once had.
How did we get here?
God’s word is clear: we are to trust God.
In fact, the Bible says in Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
When we presume to know how God will bless us or deliver our breakthrough, we go from asking of God to demanding of Him. We move to telling Him how to be God, instead of through faith trusting Him to be God.
And there are many risks associated with taking our eyes off of God.
First, we run the risk of making a little-g god of the very thing God intended to be a blessing.
Second, for the God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we think and imagine, we also run the risk of limiting His move in our lives when we confine Him to blessing us in the way that makes sense to our human logic.
And, third, trying to force God to work within the boundaries of our plan can ultimately cause a delay in us receiving the very thing we so badly want.
It’s a no-win situation. I mean, why would we even allow ourselves to go down this path of trying to play God’s hand for Him?
We know from Isaiah 55:8 that His ways are not our ways, yet we somehow still try to plan exactly how and when He will move in our lives.
Well, as a recovering faith dictator, I share this word of hope: there is a way back.
Simply readjust your focus.
When you find that you’re obsessing about this thing, always trying to guess how and when God will deliver it, actively choose right then and there to offer praise to God for simply being God.
As your praises go up, your focus will be returned to the Gift Giver and away from the gift; and most likely your peace about that thing will also be restored.
That space – inexplicable peace in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds – is where God wants us to stay, to live. He sent His Son to die for us so that we might have eternal life and unlimited access to the peace and joy that comes with not having to worry about anything.
Do you need to check your focus? Are you now consumed with the how of God’s blessing, instead of with God Himself?
If this is you, cut yourself some slack and decide to put your eyes back on God.
And if you aren’t sure if this is you, here’s a quick test: does the idea of how God is going to do that thing for you cause you anxiety? Do you feel like you’re obsessed with getting that thing, and you find it frustrating that the way you thought it would happen didn’t come to pass?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, welcome to FDA (Faith Dictators Anonymous). We’ve saved a chair for you.