I remember sitting on the beach, watching a man who owned the water. Unlike the lady I watched five minutes before, he ran up to the gigantic waves and dove straight into them. He didn’t inch forward with trepidation. He didn’t put his arms out to balance. He didn’t look back to his wife beach-bumming-it on the sand. He owned that water. He went in, looking far stronger than the waves. I couldn’t help but think his water-approach said much about our spiritual life approach.
When we walk out on the world with the confidence of God, we aren’t easily knocked over.
To say, “My heart is confident in you, O God” (Ps. 57:7) is the equivalent of saying, “I can run up to that 6-foot wave and dive right into the middle of it and be fine.” Why? Because God is greater than any force that wants to pummel me. Nothing can eat me alive.
To say, “This I know: God is on my side” (Ps. 57:9) is to silence opposition in just eight words. Distraction and irritations lose their effect. If God is for me, who or what can be against me?
To say, “God will fulfill his purpose for me.” (Ps 57:2) is to dismantle doubt. God will do what He purposes to do.
To say, “All the Lord’s promises prove true” is to walk fortified with the solid rock of Christ in you. All that God says is real and God really is good.
How will you approach the waves of your life? Ready to be tossed around or ready to thrust right through them?
“How blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD.” Ps. 40:4
In winter, I spend an inordinate amount of time holed up in my home under a blanket, guzzling hot coffee, and longing for spring’s arrival. It’s not my favorite season, but favorite or not, winter is important. Despite what we see with our eyes, the earth in winter is busy creating life. We only know this is so because spring eventually comes, and then we marvel at what that life looks like.
Is it possible that God designed winter and the earthly cycle of life, death, and renewal in order to speak a deeper truth? I believe, because the Bible says it’s so, that everything in creation is designed speech about its Creator. Just as we find him on warm summer days, standing in the sand, listening to the waves crash against the shore, we find him in the stillness of winter.
Winter, however, often speaks of a barrenness we don’t want to hear about.
Annie Dillard writes, “All that summer conceals, winter reveals.” And so we need a life with winters, because we need our hearts revealed. Winter comes to strip us bare of our delusions, to make us face reality: we have imperfections that we can’t perfect. We are helpless to find a formula to reason or act our way out of our helplessness. We are human, and we, in our barrenness, must be acted upon if we’re to experience eternal life, joy, and the supernatural.
Winter then, after stripping us bare, points us to the invisible motion as if in invitation to these very things: life is happening. God is at work, acting upon us.
The harshness of our waiting winter tells us that this world has nothing for us and that we have nothing for ourselves. We have this hope–one, and only one–that there is life waiting for us beyond death.
Although we are not yet in that world, we have reasons for our hope: the words of God. With words, he formed the earth and its seasons and cycles. With words, he continues creating. We can trust his words. In our winter, we must draw ourselves under the warm blanket of God’s promises, a sure comfort in the darkest of hours.
This is what God did with the prophet Jeremiah:
“And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see? And I said, ‘I see an almond branch.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.'” (1:11)
In Jerusalem, the almond tree, the first to bud in the spring, was said to “watch for spring.” God used the almond branch to comfort Jeremiah in his lamentable circumstances. The almond branch was a reminder that God is always in process of keeping his promises, that he is, at this very moment, hurtling all of us toward eternal spring. He pointed to the almond branch—the coming of spring—and told Jeremiah to watch and wait.
We too watch and wait, not in fear of this winter in which we live, nor in fear of our own spiritual poverty or even final death. We watch and wait, comforted, because all of this God is right now working for our true life, when winter will forever turn to spring.
Christine Hoover is a Bible teacher and the author of several books, including Messy Beautiful Friendship. Her latest book, Searching For Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time, frames the life of faith according to the seasons and according to Ecclesiastes 3:11: “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” Searching for spring is really a search for God’s redemptive work, where suffering and death become fruitful life. Christine invites readers like you, who may be weary and withering, to join her on a treasure hunt for beauty in both familiar and unexpected places.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
I am the oldest of two kids in my family. While growing up, it was hard not to notice that my mom seemed to spend all of her time helping my younger brother. To be fair, he needed more help than I did but it was sometimes hurtful that I didn’t get the same level of attention. It kind of forced me to become independent. When I was an adult, married with kids, I asked my mom why there was such a disparity in my youth and her response was, “You didn’t need any help. You were perfectly capable.”
Now I call it the curse of the capable. Because you don’t need help, you won’t get any.
I’ve seen this curse play out a dozen different ways since then. For example, my husband and I are both independent people, and while we love to be together, we don’t always need each other. That can be good sometimes because I don’t have to wait until the weekend change a smoke detector battery or kill a spider. It can be a bad thing, however, because it’s easy for independent people to grow apart. We have to be careful about noticing when we’ve drifted and come back together.
I have also seen the curse among women. I am a natural born encourager. I use phrases like, ‘to die for,’ or ‘phenomenal’ when I’m cheering for you. I’m the friend that will literally jump up and down screaming when you share good news. I like to think I’m the ‘there for you’ friend in good times and bad. The problem I have seen is that as a natural encourager, it’s often hard to find encouragement for myself.
On the outside, it can appear as if I am confident and capable, therefore I don’t need anyone to build me up. Inside though, I am still the little girl thirsting for comfort in an arid desert. I have come a long way in this area. I found Jesus later in life and knowing I have his never waning encouragement is the most phenomenal comfort of all. But I have to admit that I still think it’s nice to get some affirmation from friends, family, and community.
If you are independent or competent, you may be under the curse of the capable. Maybe you are an encourager that needs to be affirmed or a mom who could use a reminder that she’s a good one. Perhaps you are a leader who would love some help but feels bad asking for it because you ‘should’ have it under control. Take heart, friend. As someone under the curse myself, I see you. I think you are doing a great job!
I want to invite you today to take a minute and think about someone in your life that could use a little boost. Even if that person seems like they have it all together, a quick note or message from you may be what she needs most. When we take the time to pour into others, the curse breaks and being capable becomes a blessing.
Father God, you are the ultimate encourager. Please help us to encourage one another regardless of whether or not we need it. Help us never to give up and to break the curse for people we love or admire and that in turn, it would be broken in our lives as well. Amen.
About Anne Watson:
Anne is a former sleep in on Sunday’s girl who didn’t meet Jesus until way later in life. She recently quit trying to be holy, however, after spending an inordinate amount of time trying to shuck her unholy habits to fit into the Christian world. As a bullying survivor, Anne knows first hand the pressure to belong and why changing yourself doesn’t work. She now spends her time fiercely encouraging women to be badass for Jesus by being who God created them to be…themselves. She is a writer, a speaker, and a podcast host for the Declare Conference. She and her husband are raising three hysterical kiddos and are also in the process of going broke while paying for college. You can find more from Anne on her blog, GodDots.com.
It’s a shame I got so angry.
It’s a shame I didn’t give in to the demands and now, those people are still upset at me.
It’s a shame that I handled things all wrong and hurt people’s feelings.
It’s a shame that I regret it and can’t rewrite history.
It’s a shame. Or actually, I am a shame. I am a shame of a girl who should be ashamed of myself for how I acted.
This is the line the devil feeds me: “Oh, Kelly, look at you. . . you should be ashamed of yourself.”
And now, look what you’ve done:
They all hate you. Everyone remembers. You are a bad testimony. You’ll never recover. No one will ever support you. You’re ruined.
He’s sneaky, that devil.
But I can be sneaky too. I can be. I’m sneaky when I remember: if I’ve confessed it, God’s forgiven it.
At this point, the face of that issue no longer faces me. Jesus’ love speaks louder than my history. Yet, I can be sure if there’s a voice still talking, it’s the enemy’s. And at this point, it will always sound like shame or regret.
But I don’t have to live with it. I can tell it to shut up. Here’s how. . . I say:
I am not controlled by what I’ve done, but the Word of Truth and the Spirit of life. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. There is no perfect person and if that is my standard I will always fall. I can forgive myself. God is my hiding place, and in Him no harm will touch me. God knows the intentions of my heart. The Lord watches over me, because I fear Him. (Ps. 33:18) The Lord protects me; He is my shield. (Ps. 33:20) The Lord thwarts any evil schemes coming against me. (Ps. 33:10) I am not perfect, but the perfect sacrifice of Jesus perfectly covers me and marks me righteous.
I am fully restored in Christ.
And that’s how the voice stops talking. You tell it the truth.
I didn’t push the girl’s sheet of paper. I didn’t. She was the one who kept inching her colored sheet over mine and trying to irk me all throughout art class. And despite my best efforts to ignore her, she wouldn’t stop. She did something else annoying too. She kicked me under the table. It was taking everything in me not to respond.
Until, I did. She pushed too far. So I screamed out in the middle of the elementary school classroom, “Stop it.” The girl barked to the teacher that I’d been pushing her sheet. But I hadn’t.
I got in big trouble. The girl sat there unscathed. I sat in the punishment seat. The girl sat there smiling. I sat fuming. The girl sat in victory.
Where was my defender? Who stood up for me? Why didn’t God bring justice? I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
I still ask these questions, even as an adult.
Why? Why did all that happen? Where were you God? Why did I go down those roads? Where were you God? Why did I get hurt like that? Where were you, God?
When I look back and see God’s absence, it makes me believe He was negligent.
But was He?
While horrible stuff happened, it never kept me away from God’s love. While things went wrong, I still lived. While stuff hurt my insides, it never ruined me. While there were some close calls, I often squirmed right past.
Just because we can’t see God work doesn’t mean He isn’t working.
There is so much I can’t see in the moments when I believe He’s not defending me. Like His hands holding things back, the angels He sends on my behalf, and the wisdom He pours down from high to help me understand things. Like the arms wrapping around me when I think I am alone, the heavenly court docket that has no record of my wrongs, and the road he reroutes to make sure I am take care of.
Don’t discount the Protector working in the unseen just because you can’t see Him.
Here I stand today. I may have fallen and felt alone yesterday, but I stand victorious in Christ. I stand wanted and in His love. I stand whole and wholly loved. It looks like God took care of me pretty well. He continues to. He does the same for you.
I have got so much to do and I don’t know how I can ever take care of everything because there is not enough time in the day plus I can’t even begin to get on top of that laundry and the family needs clothes and I wish I was a better organizer…it seems everyone else has buckets and labels for all the things they have so that everyone knows where things are located…and I can’t seem to keep track of where the scissors went…plus I am hardly making dinners, most nights it is quick-eats, not gourmet dinners and I need to get my kids more nutrients because they need to have strong bones and I really should be taking my daily vitamins but I am not even doing that and what if when I get old my bones crack in half and I am hunched over and have to spend the rest of my life sitting in a lawn chair or strapped to a recliner…
“Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs.” Lu. 12:29
God knows our needs.
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” Lu. 12:30
Seeking the Kingdom first = Getting everything you need.
Letting go of the mind-rubbish consuming you to let God’s plans consume you = Getting everything you need.
Seeing the world as God’s drawing board and you as the paintbrush = Getting everything you need.
Getting love loosened from you and into the world = Getting everything you need.
Keeping your eyes on the kingdom of God, versus the kingdom of your every-waking-need= Getting everything you need.
Being watchful through prayer and diligently pursuing God = Getting everything you need.
God knows what we need. He has a good plan to give it to us. We need not worry about our fiefdom; it is all about His kingdom.
This is both a hard question to ask, and perhaps, one we’ve all been confronted with. Are there times, reasons or seasons to pull away from a friend? And should we feel horribly guilty about it?
I stood facing exactly this type of decision only three weeks ago. I liked the girl, but she had been giving me far too much detailed advice about topics I never asked her input on. This annoyed me. It was as if she was rewriting my life with a pen I never handed her. It was as if she was telling me a list of things I should improve, but the hard part was she didn’t even know my story or what God was doing behind the scenes. She was quick to talk and slow to ask questions of understanding.
My finger was pointed at her. And my mind kept circling the thought, “Guard your heart. Create distance from her.”
This meant avoid her: Avoid confronting her. Avoid the problem and avoid dealing with the repercussions of having a real discussion.
But God bless my husband. He essentially told me, “Love has hard talks.”
It does? So I talked with her.
Which I’m so glad I did, because if I didn’t I never would have seen:
-How my wounds made me react quickly to her words.
-God had things for me to learn through this discussion.
-Her heart was in the right place.
-God has deeper healing for me.
-There are safe boundaries that can be set up.
-I am not always right.
-Communication about what works and what doesn’t is vital to any relationship.
-We both have good goals in mind.
-The enemy is sneaky and he loves to create division.
I am not perfect, and neither are my friends. I haven’t always been a good or an enduring friend but I am learning to give people the benefit of the doubt.
So to answer the question, “When do you end a friendship?” I don’t have all the exact answers and there are far too many nuances to explain in black ink…but I do know: you never ditch people like trash. That is for sure.
You talk and you tell. You love and love some more. You give and accept grace. You listen and you learn. You dive in and you uncover. You persist and listen to God’s direction.
You take the risk, even when you want to turn your back and walk away. Sure, there may be times God leads you to go a different path. But, before this point, you enter the difficult spaces and get real. You seek to understand.
Take a hard-learned lesson from me.
Prayer: God, I want to be a good friend. I want to be a person who is slow to anger, quick to listen, patient and kind. Grow me in this. Show me how to communicate well. In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.
It is that which makes you feel guilty that you aren’t on the right track.
It is that which pressures you into doing something you don’t really feel right about.
It is that which tends to speak over God’s voice.
It is another person’s perceived answer to your deep heart problem.
It is unsolicited input that creates average output.
What opinions are coming at you? Are you reliant on them?
I spent years reliant. I needed your answer to my problem. I didn’t believe in myself much. I didn’t know if I could trust myself enough to not make a fool of myself. I thought you knew better than me. If I had an idea, I would change it if yours was different.
I was horribly pulled in every direction and completely unsure of my life-path.
Until, one day, I realized: I was on man’s course, not God’s. Maybe this is the case for you too?
Little by little, voice by voice, we can become so swayed by others’ insight that we have no sight to see God’s unfolding plan for us. We hear all the swirling voices but miss God’s. We may be sure we are on the right path, only to have someone else doubt us.
This is why prayer is paramount.
Praying hearts understand this truth: you can ask and expect God to answer. Often He answers by giving you peace. Peace for a specific road you want to travel. Or, He answers with a random word through a person (it often doesn’t sound like advice, but a random comment that strikes you). Or, He answers with a verse in your mind. Or, He answers by putting a situation right in front of you.
The vital component to the answer is waiting. When we wait on God, we create space for the move He wants to make. Then, we gain certainty.
What advice does your heart need to turn away so you can turn toward God in prayer and follow Him?
Prayer: God, we want to hear you first and foremost. Soften the loud voices around us so that what comes through is your heart and your heart only. Give us a view of our best path. Lead us, with your arm around us. Grant us peace and certainty in our walk. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
My daughter came into my room this morning and spotted a reddish container of lip- gloss that had fallen out of my purse. She immediately picked it up. Then, all 4-years of her looked over at me and said, “I have to put this on. I want everyone to see me nice.”
She wanted the girls at her school to see her nice.
We all want to be seen nice, don’t we? We try to put on our best face at get-togethers. We try to hide our nervousness and to soften our points of disagreement. We try to be the person everyone likes.
It is human nature to want to be seen: nice.
But what happens when, despite our best efforts to love, share, or to be honest, something goes horribly kaputz? What do we think in our mind when we tried, yet failed. When we speak and someone is offended? When we aim to apologize but the argument gets heated?
How do we contend when our best efforts go horribly wrong?
Galatians 6 says, “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ”.
Something here speaks to me. It says: If my goal highest goal is to ensure man is happy, I will hardly be in service to Christ.
The fact of the matter is while we look at people’s faces, God always looks at hearts. And while we are tallying up what is happening with others, God might be working something fantastically new within them. Face-value reactions are not our guide; the Holy Spirit is.
When we are true to God, he will be true to see the best result through. We, in humility, wait and respond accordingly. Sometimes, it involves an, “I’m sorry,” or “I should have done this better.” All this is okay.
We just move with God, always. And rest in the truth that He has already figured out what we haven’t. And this is peace that feels – nice.
Prayer: God, far more often than not I want to look nice to man. God, help me to have a heart and mind that aims to always look nice to you. Align me with your truth, will and heart. I want all of you and less of what holds me back from you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Why? Why do we toss out that rote prayer line to complete our prayer time, without even giving thought to it? Is it just how we do things or does it actually mean something?
To give you some background, for a long time I prayed like a beggar.
God…please answer my prayer and fix things. God… please hear me. God, I can’t do this any longer. Won’t you please fix it?
Then, I’d use an “in Jesus’ name,” like a bow to wrap up all my complaining, agonizing, and posturing. It seemed like the right thing to do.
Jesus approaches prayer differently than I do. I’m struck by the time he addressed the blind man. Of course, this stumbling man wanted to see, but Jesus still asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Here, I notice Jesus wanted to hear the blind man’s “specific” request. Jesus pushed deeper than surface level words into the deep requests of the heart. He pushed past the nebulous words into the real.
Friend, today I believe God asks you, “What’s your real request? Child, what do you want me to do for you?”
What is your answer? No, not that one. Your real one.
Mine is: that I would trust God when no one sees. That I would really believe His words in those super-hard, I-hate-life moments.
There is extreme power in asking Jesus for that thing you really want/need “in the Name of Jesus.”
Ever wondered why? When we use this phrase, we should expect God WILL:
Glorify the Father
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Jo. 14:13
Complete our joy.
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” Jo. 16:24
The degree to which I can dwell on the Father being glorified, through my prayers, is the degree to which I experience joy.
The irony is – I often don’t even have to see my prayer swiftly answered to get this joy. If I can trust that, behind the scenes, God is pulling the best glory-falling strings, I can rest in His timing. On the contrary, if I believe my prayers serve no purpose, are too big, are wasteful or are worthless and I only focus on my natural eye, I’ll miss His supernatural purpose behind the scenes. I must “keep the faith.”
Why? God’s working ways are much higher than our praying ways. There is always a grand purpose. Our prayers are being answered. And God hears. Loud and clear.
What prayer do you need to recommit to believing in? How might you imagine the Father’s glory building because of that very prayer?
Prayer: God, thank you that you hear my every prayer. You know my every desire. You are well acquainted with all my needs. Help me, Lord, to know my true wants. Help me to go deeper than surface-level pleas, so that I can see true and meaningful life change that brings joy. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.