I know I’m not alone in the years of waiting and praying for promises of God to be fulfilled for my loved ones and those with which I have the privilege of ministering. So many are hurting and lost, searching for true identity and in desperate need of healing.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have seen countless and countless answered prayers — exceedingly and abundantly more than I could have ever dreamed or imagined (and I still have years to go). I know there will be more to come. And yet there remains a yearning, a deep groaning at times, for those unfulfilled promises of God that have been prayed over for years and years.
The temptation is to pepper God with endless “whys.” “Why, God, haven’t you answered my prayers?” It is a very human thing to question what we don’t understand but that question can work against us. It keeps our eyes on our circumstances — on us — and that limits us. As long as I confine my faith to what I can understand, it will be a small world, indeed.
Perhaps a better question might begin with “what.” “What, God, are your purposes being played out as I wait?” “What do you want me to see and learn?” These questions put the emphasis back on God and his work. They open the door for us to enter into “the more” with God.
And what is “the more”?
Here are a few things I’ve learned about “the more” in my years of waiting, yearning, and praying.
Waiting helps my faith grow.
Waiting helps my hope grow.
Waiting helps my love grow.
Examine that list. Are these not the very things the Bible tells us will remain and never fail? (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Of course, not all waiting is holy, but the ordained waiting to which I’ve been assigned (my cup and my portion) has been the greatest expander of my faith. Waiting does the sometimes-painful work of prying our fingers off of fear, the kind that hinders faith. Waiting gives time for God to search my mind and heart (Psalm 139:23). Waiting allows space for God to teach me how to move forward fearlessly, and to empower me to see things from his vantage point (focusing on the solution rather than hyper-focused on the problem). Waiting also causes me to cling more deeply and surely to His truths and promises. This is “the more” that makes the struggle worth it.
In that transformation, hope rises. My hope is banked on Him and not the circumstances or the one for which I am interceding. God Himself is Hope. I come to know Him (His true character) more through the waiting, through the desperation, through the seeking, asking and knocking.
And hope rises …
From it I receive more and more of His heart of love. At times it seems like glimpses or trickles; other times it feels like a flood into my soul. And sometimes, it sure doesn’t even seem like love. Yet as I consistently bring my feelings to His throne of grace, as King David did, then I get to exchange fear, frustration, yearnings, groaning’s, heartaches, for Him — for His grace and love. And as I receive that from Him, then I have it to give back to Him as an offering. In turn, He enables me to love more deeply and purely. He takes our sacrifice of waiting and all that He accomplishes in it and will do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever dream or imagine.
In the process of holy waiting, we get glimpses of the story of God. He is behind the scenes working things out in ways we couldn’t imagine much less carry out. And like those giants of faith in Hebrews 11, we may not see the full fruit of answered prayers on this side of Heaven, but this we can bank on: If we allow God to grow our own faith, hope and love, we can leave an indelible mark on this earth for His glory that will carry through into eternity.
When we see ‘wrong’ our flesh wants to act - do something. Either we want to run away from it (flee); hide so to speak or stay deaf and blind (freeze). Some of us are incensed by it and we want to make impact (fight).
As humans, we tend to be knitted as ‘truth/justice’ people or ‘mercy’ people; and we are prone to respond in extremes when confronted with injustice. If we do this without thinking and act based on our initial visceral reaction, more harm can be done than good. Truth/Justice folks often want to ‘set the record straight’ by speaking out; dictate change; or protest the system. Mercy people, often want to ‘fix the need’, counsel the other, bring peace or change the circumstances.
Many times these two views can clash. They can seem opposing. Yet, are they really? And is this even our job? What does God say about all of this?
Listen to Exodus 14: 14-16.
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.”
So which one is it? Be still and keep silent (keep the peace)? Or get moving (do something)?
Sometimes God’s word can seem confusingJ! There is a concept we use in counseling called dialectics. It can be described this way:
Perhaps God’s word is written to help us synthesize a greater reality as we wrestle with the both/and (dialectics) in Exodus 14:
1.We first wait, trust (take a deep breathe and pray) and remember that the battle is the Lord’s and then 2.we ‘get moving’ (act in obedience to God’s leading). As we embrace and move in the ‘both/and’ we start seeing a bigger picture.
We can only surmise what would have happened to the Israelites if they had not looked to God as their savior (“We’ll figure out how to solve this problem on our own”) or opposed Moses’ leading. (“We didn’t vote for you anyway, so we are not following you”.) If they didn’t respect God’s authority first and the authority given to Moses as he led them, it would not be a far-fetched to conclude, hypothetically speaking, that the people of Israel would have been taken over by their enemies!
BUT God had a plan already. It was beyond what Moses or the army of Israelites were capable of doing or even dreaming up! (Can you imagine that Strategy Meeting:)!!
Yet, it wasn’t impossible, all God needed was a little cooperation from one man; remembering who He was and trusting His provision and then walking in faith when He gave the marching orders. They listened, they obeyed (submitted), and they followed. And in that, the Israelites overcame impossible odds and arrived safely where they were intended to go.
God’s ways don’t change. And His promises are for us all. Throughout the history of God’s people, we see time and time again, that God had the bigger truth and already had the strategy for the battle His children were facing. He’s never blindsided or without a strategy.
So whether it’s a marital/family battle, a political/social battle, a battle in the church (yes, it does happen, sad to say); God ALREADY has a way to get you through.
Can you be the ONE, who will stop and remember, whose the battle is? Can you seek God’s heart for His strategy? Can you be the one who courageously follows?
If so, you could be the ONE that God uses to cross His people over to victory! One situation at a time. God's truth AND grace will prevail. Let’s show our hurting world what God can do!
“Be Born in Me” by Frances Battistelli is my favorite contemporary Christmas song of late. When I first heard it, it resonated deeply in my soul and spirit, and my mind couldn’t let go of it! The cry of Mary’s heart right after she learned that as an unwed teenager she was pregnant and about to become the mother of the Son of God…was, an astounding one:
“I am the Lord’s servant…may it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
WHAT? It’s easy to brush this off and say, “Of course she would respond like she was chosen by God to be the mother of King Jesus. Of course, God would give her the grace to respond that way. And, we might even think, “Shew, it’s a good thing I will never have to worry about my response to that kind of news! “
Yet, is it just for Mary? Are we not all carriers of King Jesus in a way? Is this not what CHRISTmas is all about? And, is not Advent a call to reevaluate ”the inn of our own hearts”? Emmanuel, God WITH US. Holy Spirit, Counselor, God in us! (John 15:26).
What does this mean for you and me? What does it mean to allow Christ to be “born” in us? These lyrics in the song, say it all for me:
“I am not brave, I'll never be. The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy. I'm just a girl, nothing more. But I am willing, I am Yours.”
Much like Mary and Joseph, you and I have NOTHING to give God, but our willingness and a place in our own hearts. We can make room in the ”inn of our hearts” to receive Jesus and allow His power to work through us.
We are NOT brave in and of ourselves, no good thing we do or are, can be good enough for our Holy God.
YET, in the hands of Emmanuel--God with us; God in us--our hearts can become a place that God inhabits and thus new life is born. And in doing so, anywhere God sends us (or we just happen to beJ), we have His presence and power. As we cultivate awareness and ask the Holy Spirit to build our confidence in this reality, we can make more of an impact in others’ lives.
In this Advent season, as we celebrate Jesus’ arrival, and as we experience the tension and yearning for the ”not yet” completion of His final coming, we have the opportunity to let God search our hearts and minds and point out any offensive way in us (Psalm 139:23-24).
Isn’t it interesting that the scriptures specifically refer to ”anxious thoughts”? Perhaps, the biggest obstacle keeping Christ from being ”born in us,” is our inability or unwillingness to REST in the finished work of Jesus. Because you and I, as Christ followers, DO know the end of the story. He did come to save the world from sin and evil. This is THE GOOD NEWS of Christmas.
We can allow the Holy Spirit to ready the ”inn of our hearts” for more of Jesus, by being honest with Him about our anxious thoughts (including our fears). This means more than just telling Him about them, but literally through prayer and repentance, handing them over to Him, so He can exchange them for His Peace, which is an indicator of His presence in our hearts.
This is how you and I, simple folks like Mary and Joseph, can usher in more of His presence in every situation we are placed in. This excavation of our own hearts is how Jesus’ power and peace can be released into our hurting world.
We can’t solve everyone’s problems, or our nation’s ills, but we CAN allow more room in our hearts for Christ to be “born in us.” Then we ARE doing our part to bring His solution into our world, one person at a time, one situation at a time.
One person, allowing God to do what He desires in your heart…just like Mary…What a gift to give Jesus.
Rejection. Nobody likes it, but everyone will and does experience it. No matter how great your relationships may be, at some point on the road of relationships you will get your feelings hurt, feel left out, not considered or flat out abandoned by someone you care about. It’s hard to take and often leaves us with a resolve to protect our heart in attempts to not get hurt like that again. But is this the right solution? Think about it. This would mean never getting close to another and that leads us to isolation.
Last week I focused on forgiving anyone who offends you. Remember forgiveness is about setting us free! If we choose not to forgive, then we stay chained to the very thing or person that hurt us. God commands us to forgive because it’s good for our health. But let’s be clear, forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation or the continuation of the relationship. I am speaking to all relationships, not just the romantic kind, but also your friends and family members as well. Every one of them is important, and requires love and attention.
This week there have been two incidents where hurt, and misunderstandings have threatened several of my most precious relationships. I know you too have dealt with this, and maybe it was also this week! As I referenced last week, ‘friendly fire’ is the worst kind of pain we must deal with! When those we love and count on offend or betray us, it hurts.
Loving in the midst of trials is not easy. There is a saying, “hurt people hurt others.” And the hurt is even harder to take when it’s ‘friendly fire’, coming from those who are closest to us. If we are not careful these hurt feelings can lead to broken relationships. During the trials, do your best to keep perspective and work to maintain the meaningful relationships.
Spring is almost hear and Easter is quickly approaching. Many consider fasting during this time of year. There are many different ways to honor God in your fast. Restore your connection with Him, and feel renewed, and changed!
We are prone to worry. And if you are a parent, like me, you are probably prone to worry most about your kids, no matter what age they are. I remember being confronted with the very real reality that I was NOT in control when my youngest decided to attend a college in California and chose not to stay in Georgia. Now, I’m gaining some respect, right? I hear “Aww” and “Oh my’” coming from many of your hearts. (Thank you). However, many of you have a different response, “So what? I had to send my kid off to war” or “Mine studied over seas or went on a mission”. Our situations may be different, but the same stark reality hits us all…we are NOT in control.
WOW! How weary I am. And so are many of you. I know because I hear your cries: in my office, on the phone, online, in church, at the grocery store, you name it! So much of what I hear from people today is about how tired, weary, and worn-out they feel.
Then again, you may not feel weary; instead you may feel anxious, depressed, scared, lonely, angry, or any mixture of these emotions. Perhaps these are more your prominent feelings.
However you may feel, it’s too easy to look for the source or to find blame: social media; busy schedules; technology; work/family demands; the causes are endless. Of course, these have validity, and we can certainly manage them in more appropriate and successful ways.
Yet, as I sit with God today, in my quiet time, and look over my journals, what I see is the benefit of weariness—the benefit of our broken feelings and situations.
I see, time and time again, over the years(yes, I am rebellious and slow-learning, and God is very, very patient), God working in me and through me, enabling me to receive His antidote to this tough life and all of its problems.
It is so simple; and yet it is so hard.
It is HIM: Jesus; always more of Him.
“But,” you say, “Angel, I have to know what to do with my children,” or, “Angel, these bills are piling up,” or, “Angel, you don’t have a CLUE of how bad it really is.”
And I will say, “You are right, I don’t. And you are correct, these things need to be taken care of.”
BUT FIRST, we have a larger need. Oh, the catch is it doesn’t appearlike the larger need. Our core need, before bills, children, purpose in life, change in our feelings, is to be convinced, truly convinced and accepting of God’s love for us and our identity as His children.
And your heart and head may rebel like mine did.
“BUT, I need to know the answer to my problem.”
And Jesus says:
“I am the answer.”
“I am so tired.”
And Jesus says:
“I know. Let me restore you.”
“I am afraid.”
And Jesus says:
“I know, and my love will take care of that.”
That just doesn’t seem like much; doesn’t seem like enough, when we are about to be evicted or our kids are in harm’s way. That support just doesn’t seem practical enough for our human brains to rest on.
Perhaps then we’ve hit on the real source or problem of our weariness: ourselves. You and me believing that if we work hard enough, try enough, worry enough, take enough time to figure it out, talk enough to that person, ignore it long enough—whatever your “enough” is—WE can fix it. The true problem is that it’s all about US!
We want to stay in the driver’s seat and be our own savior. Or we look to other humans to be that for us. If we believe our answer lies in us or other humans, we are likely to stay in that “out of control” anxious space, and the weariness or depression or addictions are bound to take over. There can only be one driver in our car of life.
The benefit of our struggle is to be wooed into the true solution. Life’s struggles are an invitation to know God more intimately. As we allow Jesus, who is ALIVE, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, to become more real for us, more tangible, as we take Him at His word (Hebrews 13:5), as we choose to focus on Him and His promises, instead of the problems or feelings we are having, then we start to experience the reality of His presence with us. With this, we begin to experience the peace He promises.
Why? Because our problems have been solved? The bills have all been paid? The feelings change?
NO… peace comes from HIS presence. And in that place of peace we can see clearer, hear more accurately, and receive wisdom and direction.
As we “bend our knee” to Jesus’ love, dare to take Him at His word (John 3:16), choose to look to Him and depend on Him, and keep (John 17) depending on Him, then His life-blood starts to flow through us. It revives us, directs us, and transforms our thinking and feelings. Then life and all of its troubles, which are many (John 16:33), become manageable, doable.
Breath comes; rest comes; peace comes.
In this place new life springs forth. New ideas emerge and joy is eventually restored.
Struggling today? Rejoice in it, because it is calling you back home. Home to His heart of love (Romans 8:38-39), the place of true peace and rest.