I’ve wanted to start a blog now for about three years, but something always seems to get in the way. I now know that, that something is me.
Be it procrastination, intimidation, or just plain fear, l realize now that getting over that initial hump is the worst part, and in many cases it’s all downhill from there.
I love Nike’s motto: “Just do it.” Sometimes you just need to sit down and get to work. Don’t worry how it will come together or how long it will take. Just do it. Set your mind on the goal, and don’t stop until you get there, no matter how many bumps or challenges you may face, or encounter, along the way.
So, Ill start my own journey with sharing some of what I have been learning over the last few years, my joys and hardships.
The hardest lesson for me to learn over the course of the 8 3/4 years I have been a disciple is to have faith despite obstacles, persecution, hardships, disappointments, or when it looks as if there is no way in sight.
(March 7th is my spiritual birthday when I exclaimed, “Jesus is Lord”) WHOOOOHOOO!!!!
Reading the passage below recently reminded me of an elemental truth that is oh so hard to hold onto:
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? (NIV)
“If people say they have faith, but do nothing, their faith is worth nothing.” (NCV)
This scripture really struck me in a new way this week. Which is something I love about the Bible. No matter how many times I read it, it has the ability to touch, convict, rebuke, or encourage me in a new way each time. Not so surprising considering God’s Word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12).
The scripture says “if we claim to have faith, but do nothing (meaning action), then our faith is worth nothing, or useless. It’s like having a book on the shelf that has never been read. Years go by and the only thing that touches it is dust.
Normally, it is easy to equate deeds with an action outside of ourselves. This may include any number of things. For example, someone may want to demonstrate his/her faith by reaching out to others. For others, it may mean applying for a job and trusting that after their part is done, God will do his.
An example that sticks in my mind is from the movie Hitch. Yes, Hitch. It is the part where Alex Hitchens (Will Smith), the main character of the film and “date doctor” is teaching one of his clients, Albert Brennaman (Kevin James)—a goofy, overweight financial counselor—the rules of kissing.
Hitchens spends his life helping rather “hopeless” men romance the women of their dreams. Yet, a number of different factors may get in the way, such as poor hygiene, bad pick-up lines, or just plain lack of courage.
His motto goes a little like this: “Luckily, the fact is that just like the rest of us, even a beautiful woman doesn’t know what she wants until she sees it, and that’s where I come in. My job is to open her eyes. Basic principles: no matter what, no matter when, no matter who… any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet. He just needs the right broom.”
Hitchens tells Brennaman to go 90 percent, or move in about 90 percent of the way, allowing the woman to lean in the remaining 10 percent. With God, I see it this way: we give 10 percent and God gives 90. ALWAYS.
Still, though, God requires effort on our parts. We can’t expect God to find us a job if we don’t do our part when it comes to preparation, job seeking, and networking.
When reexamining this scripture, I realized that the action part, or “deeds” also strongly ties to our thoughts. We can’t necessarily control every thought that comes into our minds. But there are several ways we can safeguard ourselves. For one, if we tend to struggle with lust, and want to overcome this struggle, we have to let it starve and die. What I mean is, for example, actively looking away when someone is immodestly dressed, no longer purchasing inappropriate magazines, or watching steamy television shows and/or television scenes.
But what about those who struggle with heart sin more so than outward sin, such as self-doubt, worry, or being too hard on themselves? I heard once that worry is practical atheism. It is because we are trying to assimilate control over a situation that we really have no control over. The worry gives us a false sense of security, but also can lead to a lot of other problems, including health issues.
2 Corinthians 10:5 reads:
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Couldn’t this also apply to our action internally of choosing to trust God instead of our fear, or like emotion?
It’s kind of like cognitive behavioral therapy that we can do with ourselves. That despite being in the heat of an emotion, or even at times paralyzed by a certain emotion, we still can maintain a level of control. We can “talk to” ourselves. The logical (brain) can level with the emotions (heart) going on inside.
In essence God is saying that faith is not just a feeling. Just like true love is not, and cannot, be just a sentiment that waxes and wanes with one’s emotions, faith cannot be either. Despite emotions and/or desire at moments, we choose to love another person the way God would have us love.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
We choose to trust, exercise patience, and serve others even during the worst of feelings or circumstances: feeling wronged, hurt, angry, or just plain lazy.
In the same way, whether we are seeing God work on our terms our not, we choose to have faith in what he is doing. The hardest thing for me to trust God in is that my needs will be taken care of, that my childlike heart will not be ignored or shut down, that my deepest need to be loved will be fulfilled.
Because who are we really to demand our way with God anyways? He wants to hear our heart’s deepest desires, pains, joys, fears, etc., but in no way is it respectful to him or anyone else to demand our own way.
My way, my will, or I will find it elsewhere. It’s as if we are having a spiritual tantrum. And, yes, I have had these before.
In the moments when it is the hardest to trust God, or to understand what he is doing, is when I can make a decision to hold onto the promises he has made. I can choose to believe that God is who he says he is over doubting or worrying that he is not.
All of my life I have always asked the question “why?” to just about everything, honestly driving my parents nuts a good portion of the time.
In math I realized that I was not content at problem solving if I didn’t understand why I was doing it. Never mind the fact that I could do it well and get the right answer. I didn’t have the reason it worked, and this stumped me.
For example, how in the world does A2 + B2= C2? I may never know the answer to this, but it just does. In order to conduct the problem I need to have some sort of belief or confidence that it is going to work. Otherwise, why use it?
With God, I am learning it is the same way. I don’t always understand the what, when, where, or how He is going to do something, I just need to trust. If I begin to question his ability to do something or even his desire, I begin arguing with God himself, thus defaming his character. I begin accusing him that he is not who he says he is. And this must not be.
Why wouldn’t God want his children to have the desires of their hearts?
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
He does! But I have found several loop holes where doubt or selfish ambition can sneak in and prolong the blessing from coming, or if at all.
1) Lack of faith:
“But Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor’ and he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”
2) Wrong motives:
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
3) Any number of reasons including timing or things too lofty for us to see in the spiritual realm such as with Job: These may include not being ready for what we are asking, it’s not in our best interest, or we fail to see that God has already given us as an answer to our prayers.
But if we know our consciences are clear and motives correct, then we just need a little bit of patience!
So I need to remind myself of the promises God does make. He does not promise, marriage, wealth, fame, success, or even a specific job. But He does promise that “He works for the good of those who love him,” (Romans 8:28) a “hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11), and to take care of us. And he reminds us not to worry about what “we will eat or wear.” (Matthew 6:28-34)
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
One of the hardest areas of my life to trust God in is his desire to take care of my needs. Despite the logic that tells me otherwise, I am extremely fearful because of the way I grew up. My mother struggled with a mental illness for some of the most important years of my emotional development. My father worked in the evenings and didn’t engage with me emotionally. Mostly because he did not know how.
What I needed in those moments was validation, comfort, and emotional protection and guidance. Comforting words such as this would have immediately dissipated even the most crippling fears:
“Erin, it’s ok for you to feel this way. I know you are hurting but we will get through this. Let’s be prayerful and patient. What are we able to do in this exact moment?”
I didn’t expect my father to fix it, I just wanted him to hold me and tell me it was going to be ok, or at least we could come up with a solution together.
But even in reflecting on these situations I have the choice to continue looking at God through the lens of how I grew up, or I can look through a different lens: one that reveals God’s true character through the scriptures. I can choose to trust what He says in his Word and find “proof” for all the ways He’s conducted himself in my life thus far, and all the ways He’s taken care of me no matter the circumstances.
When I take the time to see things through the right glasses, I see an entirely new perspective. And this perspective gives me so much hope!