Does God care?

My Heart is a Big Fat Liar

I suspect my heart is a culprit in the theft of my joy.

shattered heart

A week ago I wrote in my journal that I feel like God’s next lesson for me (in addition to recent lessons on trust) is about joy. More specifically, how to have more of it.

Yesterday morning I woke up after a restful sleep-in; it was the first morning of two days off work. I’d had great fun the night before, yelling at the TV with my housemates (it was a really dramatic episode of Chicago Fire!). But I woke up with guilt weighing me down. It wasn’t sumo wrestler-sized guilt; more like those exercise weights you strap to your ankles. It just made everything a bit harder.

Why? I wasn’t sure. But I felt unproductive, like I’d wasted chances given to me and God was frowning.

It’s not the first time and I know I’m not the only one. About eighteen months ago, I was sitting on a hotel rooftop in Warangal, India, having a devotion time with my seven mission trip teammates. We were all listening as one of us confessed that he’d been feeling distant from God and cynical about his faith for months. The feeling was eating at him, and he didn’t know how to fix it. He was torn apart by fear that this feeling meant something was fundamentally wrong with his relationship with God.

The view from our hotel rooftop in Warangal.

The view from our hotel rooftop in Warangal.

As I listened, I remembered something my Mum once told me during a difficult period of my teenage years: We all have our logic, spirit and emotion. And sometimes Logic and Spirit have to grab Emotion by the arms and drag him along, kicking and screaming. Sometimes, we have to ignore our feelings—our hearts—and go with what we know is the truth.

I’ve also heard of a pastor, who, when someone tells him, “I feel far away from God,” immediately asks, “Are you sleeping, eating and exercising right?” He believes that these are the most common causes for a feeling that God is distant or unhappy.

I don’t want to minimize emotions relating to a tragedy, clinical depression or a spiritual distance caused by sin. Those are real issues, and they need dealing with. What I’m talking about is that vague feeling that God’s looking at me, frowning—and I can’t figure out why.

So today, I’m proposing a new theory: Just because you feel something, doesn’t mean you have to believe it. Even the Bible says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9 NIV)

I think a lot of people—including myself and my teammate—freak out when our emotions tell us that we’ve moved a long way from God. We assume that we are a long way from God and immediately take action to rectify the situation, despairing when nothing changes.

Then one day, the problem is magically gone. Why? It was never there to start with. You probably just had messed-up hormones that week.

Yesterday I woke up and prayed for a while, trying to relieve my heavy feeling. Then I looked back over my week and realized that I’d been working pretty hard. I hadn’t been unproductive. And the feeling that I’d displeased God with my laziness was just…wrong. And with that realization, the feeling evaporated.

Advertisements

Waiting, Self-Doubt and Heroes

You are wasting your time. No one will see or appreciate your work. You’re failing.

Photo by Alex E. Proimos, sourced from everystockphoto.com.

Photo by Alex E. Proimos, sourced from everystockphoto.com.

Even though I haven’t been consciously thinking those discouraging thoughts, they’ve definitely been on my mind over the past few weeks. Self-doubt has been infecting me. Quietly hovering on the edge of my subconscious, a general feeling of failure and foreboding has been like that sticky black goo that covers Peter Parker in Spiderman 3. Strong, dark, evil, and hard to get rid of.

Why?

Part of it is my addiction to affirmation. God’s weaning me off it, and this novel-writing venture is certainly stretching me. It will be a very long time before an agent, editor or reader tells me, “Good job!”. In the meantime I must plot, research, write, read, re-write, edit, edit, edit, re-write and so it goes on.

To put it simply, the waiting is frustrating. Alone at my computer, sometimes I feel insignificant, unworthy and foolish.

But then God reminded me of something I should have known all along: everyone has to wait.

Abraham stayed childless for decades. Joseph served time first as a slave, then as a prisoner. David was chased from cave to cave. Even Jesus spent years building tables and chairs. I’ll bet they were all tempted to feel forgotten, useless or alone. Yet when the time was right they founded nations, ruled empires and saved the universe.

The book of James opens with the words, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds”. (James 1:2 NIV, emphasis mine.) Pure joy? That’s right. Because God is teaching me perseverance; giving me maturity. Same as He did for them.

It’s a little humbling. Suddenly I almost feel proud that God is asking me to wait. I’m sharing in an experience that all the greatest men and women of faith have gone through. It’s an honour, really.

And so is God’s reminder in Psalm 139 that I’m not alone. Even when it’s been just me and my computer all day, God’s actually paying pretty close attention.

Blog 136 O LORD, You have searched me

and You know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

You perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

You are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

You know it completely, O LORD.

Psalm 139:1-4 NIV

 

How about you? How do you feel when you’re stuck waiting? What do you do about it?

The Parade

Does guilt ever affect you? Do you find yourself holding back from God? Do you find yourself envious of other people who seem so close to Him?

If you answered ‘yes’, check out my short story/youth group skit, The Parade.

And if you answered ‘no’, you should still check it out, because we can all do with a reminder every now and then. 🙂

I Don’t Trust God

I don’t trust God.

That’s the realisation I came to just over a month ago.

morguefile trust

Sure, if you had’ve asked me I certainly would have said I trusted God. But my mental agonising, internal temper tantrums and occasional whinge sessions with my sister said otherwise.

There was a very real reason behind my worry. I was at a point where my life could go one of two ways; lets call them Option A (for Awesome) and Option B (for Boring, Bad, etc).

Needless to say, I really wanted Option A. The way this panned out would affect my life in a fairly major way. But there wasn’t really anything I could do to force Option A to become reality.

So I waited. And prayed. And hoped. And day-dreamed. And stewed. And got frustrated. And worried. And grumbled.

For six months.

I said I was trusting God. And I was, to the degree that I didn’t throw my hands in the air and walk out on Him. I trusted Him enough to stay with Him.

But I didn’t trust Him enough to allow His peace to calm me down. No, instead I went through the up-and-down rollercoaster of trying to trust God for about four days, before something gave me hope that Option A really could happen. Then I focused my thoughts on that hope. Then something negative happened. Then I focused on that. And despaired. And the cycle started again.

One day I woke up and realised how ridiculous this was. And what it said about my real trust in God. I knew then that I had to decide. I either took God at His word and believed that He knew best or I didn’t.

I chose to believe.

It lasted four weeks.

After four weeks, I allowed myself to get distracted again. I took my eye off the ball – off God – and fell down again. I lost my peace. But this time, I realised something else.

Option A is never going to happen.

So now I’m living Option B, and again I have two choices. Trust God, or just watch TV for the rest of my life. (TV is my drug of choice when I’m upset.)

I’m finding that trusting God – and the peace that follows – is much better. I’ve also learned that I need to pray for help in trusting God, and remember to do it. It’s now written on a sticky note and stuck on my bedroom wall.

Moral of the story? I’m not as good at trust as I thought. But with God’s help, I can do it. And trusting God is way better than the alternative.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Swap my Heart for Yours

0381-seasonal

I realised on Wednesday that I had to let go of something.

I can’t go into the specifics here, but suffice to say it’s something that I’d been hanging onto for a while. And I felt pretty sad about it. But I knew that it was time.

I talked to my housemates about the issue late Wednesday night, and finally went to bed about 11.30pm.

I often pray while I’m lying in bed. And this may sound strange, but I often meet with God on a dance floor in my mind. I wear a gorgeous dress. He wears a tux. We waltz and talk.

There was no dance floor on Wednesday night. Too tired and disappointed for that. But let me share what I wrote in my journal the next morning:

“Last night as I went to sleep, I lay in bed and held my bleeding heart in my hands. No dance floor now.

“But suddenly You were there too, laying there facing me. You pulled out Your own heart. It was bleeding too.

“You shed tears over my pain, and held my heart carefully in Your hand. You stroked it and kissed it.

“Then You put Your own heart in my chest, and placed mine in Yours.

“I knew my heart would heal there – in fact, it felt more at home with You than with me. And Your heart – which understood my pain – would sustain me, far better than my own ever could.”

And God is faithful. I’m healing; He’s sustaining.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:15-16

Texts from the Queen

Yesterday I got a text message from Queen Lizzy (you know, the one who rules England). She said, “Tell me everything ur worried about. Hand the burdens over to me. I really care about u.”

disbelieving face stockxDon’t believe that one? How about this?

“Cast all your anxiety on Him (God) because He cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 NIV

Even more crazy, but it’s true.

Personally, I tend to either take this completely for granted, or swing wildly the other way and feel like God doesn’t care at all.

What I should do is stay in awe of the fact that God takes the time and effort to share my burdens, and hang onto Him and not let go.

It’s the level of detail that really gets me, when I bother to properly think about it. The Bible says “cast ALL your anxiety on Him”.

Not only the big things, like my career (or lack of it). Whether my book will ever be published. Whether I’m saving enough money. Whether I’m making the right decisions.

All my anxiety. Every little bit of it.

How I’ll finish my Christmas shopping. How I’ll survive work today. Stressing that there’s no garlic bread left in the freezer (don’t laugh – we take garlic bread seriously in our home).

Why does God say ‘all’? Because He’s interested in ALL of me. He wants to know me. He wants to help me with my burdens. He wants me to trust Him. It’s all about intimate relationship.

Same goes for you.

And why would He want that?

Well, that’s a terrific question. We sure don’t deserve this kind of nitty-gritty attention. That’s what makes it so mind-blowing.

So, we have the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God willing to take on our worries and… we’re still holding onto them?

I often have to peel my fingers away from whatever is stressing me out, but I’m finding that it’s worth it. Pinky finger by pinky finger.

Does Anybody See Me?

Does God take any notice of me?

It’s a very good question.

With seven billion people scurrying around on this planet, it’s easy to feel like we’re flying under God’s radar. With so many people to deal with, how much time could He really have left for me? Is He even interested?

Image

I think that Jesus’ words, as recorded in the Book of Matthew, answer that question with a big fat YES!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.

“Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Are you not much more valuable than they?

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

“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—you of little faith?

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matt 6:25-34 NIV (emphasis mine)

Jesus used a lot of words to hammer home this one basic point: do not worry.

God promised that if we put him first, He will supply what we need.

So what does that imply?

Number one: God knows if you’re seeking him first. So He must be paying attention to you.

Did you hear me?

HE IS PAYING ATTENTION TO YOU.

Not just Australia as a whole (though He is watching that too). Not even just your church as a whole. YOU. He is profoundly interested in the state of your heart.

And that leads us to point number two.

God wants you to seek Him first.

Him, and Him alone. Similar to how a husband wants to be the only man for his wife, multiplied by about a hundred million billion squillion.

God loves you enough to get jealous over you.

And that’s a pretty personal, intimate kind of love.