This week, I wanted to share a few thoughts on some things that I have discovered in this oddly revealing season of life. Ironically (not really), this message is an example of the process I'm about to explain.
In the last two weeks, I have written on subjects about God's preparation process. The jist is this:
Hard times can produce a purpose--Confusion and change can often birth the question: What am I supposed to be doing with my life? We suddenly understand the brevity of our time here on earth and that there is more to our existence than the wash, rinse, and repeat of how we've been living. This year forced us to pump the brakes on everything and take inventory.
The hard time is preparation for the purpose-- In slowing down, looking around, and allowing our hearts to respond, many believers are finding their "Esther" moment ("perhaps you were born for such a time as this" Esther 4:14). Many are realizing that God isn't calling us to batten down the hatches and wait this out. He's calling the Church to minister to our neighbors in ways that only a hard time can create.
It's a radical thought to believe "I was meant to live through 2020," but we have to! However, this thought brings more questions than answers...
So... what is my role in this season?
How can I serve others when I feel like I don't have the bandwidth for anything else?
What does the world need from me?
Here's where I want to say the thing that maybe no one else has said yet... you are allowed to wrestle with this.
Can you think of a time when you made a decision after wrestling with it for a long time? Maybe you changed jobs or bought a house or adopted a child. These decisions come after long, painful chapters of praying, making pros/cons lists, waiting, and seeking wise council-- each tactic creating a clearer vision that shows your placement within something different. What were your days of wrestling like? Did you lose sleep, daydream, spend hours journaling, or keep a running conversation with your best friend for the decision was made? If that decision has serviced you well, then so did the wrestling. We need to approach God's Word and purpose expecting a similar process.
If you're like me, the notion of wrestling with God's Word/God's Will leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I want to be accepting, open, and obedient... but, friends, we're not. We just want it to look like we are, which is a behavior pattern that tries to impress man, not obey God. We forget that God knows that our resistance, fear, and grumbling is rooted in unbelief. SO... if God already knows this about us, we should enter His presence with
1. Confession of our doubt (that He already knows about)
2. Faith that there is an answer to the doubt
3. And joy that we are about to enter a process that will grow and stretch us
In my last post, I talked about how I used to fear reading Jeremiah. In Jeremiah, God is really really upset with His people. They are so far gone from Him that even when life brings them to their knees, they just keep doing more pagan things instead of turning to God. Jeremiah and God both use really harsh and direct language. This used to bother me a lot. I didn't like angry, wrathful God because, well, I don't ever want to think about God being that angry with me! What helped me overcome that was reading Jeremiah in context. When we begin in chapter 1 (of anything) it sets the stage for where God is taking us. As Christians, how often do we get consumed with our own development that we don't even recognize our former selves in someone else? What is the point in growing in Christ if all we hope for is that it will get easier and we get to forget all about our sins? Easier means less wrestling. Forgetting our sins means a narrow ministry. Less wrestling means less faith required. I hate to break hearts in this post, but God doesn't hand out five year plans. We walk through life praying "Guide my steps, Lord. Show me what to do,"
but God is beckoning, "Come sit with me, get to know me first."
Knowing God is half the battle in this life. As I read through Jeremiah, I began to understand that in God's angry language, He expressed such a deep longing for their return. His anger was in sorrow for His own creation, for by betraying Him they ultimately chose a death instead of God. In this wrestling through what I assumed was this scary "Great and Powerful Oz" version of God, I began to understand that how badly the Lord wanted the hearts of people that wanted nothing to do with Him. We see much of the same today. But when we get to know the heart of God first, it helps us see our fellow man, no matter how wayward, as a precious part of God's kingdom. In fact, He would leave the 99 (us) to go get them (Luke 15:4). How different would our questions be if we could root ourselves in the love that God established in both His grace and His truth?
Make no mistake, God will lead us right into a fog but it's for our benefit. It's in the fog that we learn about God's true nature. Every aspect of Him is rooted in love because He is love. Even when God handed His people over to the Babylonians, He told them it was all part of their route back to prosperity (Jeremiah 29:4-11). He loved His people enough to not only allow them to live, but to reteach them how to follow Him regardless of how much they betrayed Him and despised His law. It was truly the love of a Father toward disobedient children and He came up with the plan to soften their hearts and refill them with love.
This conclusion is a far cry from where I began--believing God had this mean, ugly side that we just tried not to talk about in church. As I prayed and read and reread and discussed and researched and wrestled with these things, I grew closer to a God that is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Thus, I also have a conclusion about wrestling...
Wrestling leads to true revelation.
Let's not approach the Word of God or the Will of God expecting instantaneous results. God does not have a "swipe to refresh" feature like Facebook. He has no "get rich quick" schemes. You can't look at someone else's test because yours is a custom copy. God is easy to approach but hard to understand on purpose. He wants us to think differently, question what we know, and even struggle because He is not of this world thus He contradicts and blows the top off of any box we try to put Him in.
You want a God that is warm and fuzzy? Too bad, there is evil to respond to in this world.
You want a God that's full of rules and rituals? Too bad, He actually used grace to save us all.
You want a God that stays in your back pocket for a rainy day? Too bad, He's going to keep tapping on your heart.
You want a God that doesn't look at your sin? Too bad, He's already sent His son to die for it so you don't have to.
You want a God that can "keep up with the times?" Too bad, we aren't the first generation that has lived for our own flesh and we won't be the last.
You want a God that punishes your enemies? Too bad, your own sin made you an enemy to God and His son reconciled you back to Him--something you should pray over your enemy too.
You want a God that shows love through earthly blessing? Too bad, we can't put a Uhaul on a hearse.
A relationship takes work, let us rejoice in the fact that we are working toward a relationship with a perfect Father that cannot contribute more sin to the relationship. Let us embrace the wrestling! It will lead to a tried and true, battle-tested revelation that will walk with us the rest of our days!
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