Religion and Spirituality

A challenge to trust, remember the dance floor

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Mum challenged me with a question when I was worried about something over the weekend:

“How can you tell others to trust God when you can’t trust him in this circumstance?”

Snap!

She said it very nicely, but hit the nail right on the head.

It reminded me of this part of the Bible:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:25-33 NIV

 

I have to admit, I start sinking all the time, so Mum’s reminder is a good one. If I’m telling others to trust, it’s nothing less than hypocritical to not trust God myself. Understandable, in some circumstances, but still hypocritical.

So, how do I trust?

For me, it always helps to listen to the song ‘Oceans’, by Hillsong United. This is the song that got that critical draft of my book done in just 10 weeks before the writing conference last year. Every time I freaked out (happened on average every 3 hours), I listened to it. And it reminds me that God is bigger than whatever problem I’m focusing on.

I also have some go-to Bible verses, (Is 40, Phil 4:6-7, Ps 139 and Ps 55 are favourites) and I remember what I learned from Daisy: whatever’s happening, God can and will use it for His glory.

And prayer makes a difference. On Sunday I remembered this post from 2014, and how I used to spend time with God on the dance floor. That post really defined my prayer life for at least six months, but in the two years since I slowly forgot about it.

I’m glad God reminded me. 🙂 It was a really special thing, still is.

What about you? What do you do when your trust is challenged?

Share in the comments below!

 

How do you ‘Rejoice’ when you are really, really sad?

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While my own life is pretty good at the moment, I know several people who are in very hard circumstances. Are there are also times where things happen in my own life that get me down.

Joy has been a big topic that my friends and I have been talking about lately, and once of us voiced this question the other day: “People tell me all the time to be grateful for [the good things in my life], and I am, but that doesn’t change that right now my life is hard.”

And I totally get it. Often when hard things are happening, people try and tell you to be thankful, trust God, and kind of imply that you can just stop being sad and feel happy again.

But that doesn’t work. Sadness can be a valid emotion. To steal a line from John Green, “That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.”

But I also know that God tell us to ‘rejoice’ in Him.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.

Phillipians 4:4-9 NIV

 

So how do you rejoice, while experiencing grief and pain?

I used BibleGateway.com to search for the word ‘rejoice’ in the New Testament. And scanning through the results, I noticed a trend.

Many of the times the word is used, it’s telling people to rejoice because of our hope in an eternity with God.

And I think that’s the balance. It’s possible to feel sad, and yet have thankfulness and hope because of the eternity God has planned for us.

I also asked my friend Daisy  her thoughts on the subject, as her life has been extremely difficult, yet she faces each day with joy.

She said that when she’s struggling for joy, she spends a lot of time reading the Bible – even hours – because, “It reminds me that I am His”.

She also makes a conscious effort to praise Him for the salvation and love that He offers.

What about you? How do you seek joy in the midst of grief? Share your thoughts below!

 

Why did God wait to teach me about joy?

Joy.

What does that word really mean?

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Let’s backtrack. Two weeks ago, I blogged about my first major ‘lightbulb’ moment of this year. To sum it up in three sentences: multiple people I’d looked up to really let a lot of people down. I was mad. God helped me forgive them (a story for another day) and I realized what my life would be like without God—and the amazing difference He makes in it every day.

That’s had multiple effects on me over the past six months.

First, it cleared up that whole lingering doubt that you can read about in last fortnight’s post.

Second, it unlocked a whole area of joy and thankfulness for me.

Every time I get mad, I think of what it would be like, and I’m just so glad that didn’t happen.

When I have a flash of fear that I’ll always be single, or life is stressful, or my book edits seem to be too much for me, I remember what He’s saved me from.

Do I skip around singing about daisies all day long? No. But a sense of profound thankfulness does fill me, because I can clearly see two Jessica’s in my head and I’m just so glad that one of them isn’t me.

The thing is, ever since I was 18, I’d picture my life without God, wondering what it would be like. And it was never a pretty picture.

But that was different to this. I still struggled with joy, trust and doubt.

But in March, where all of a sudden I could imagine ‘alternate universe Jess’, it was so clear, and the gratefulness was immediate. It was like God flicked a switch in my brain.

Why did He take six years to do it?

I have no idea. I don’t think it was because I was doing anything wrong. I have pursued God my entire life.

All I can say is, He decided the timing would be six years. And how can I argue with that?

All I can say is, if you doubt, don’t walk away to figure it out. Keep the conversation with God open. You can be mad, sad, whatever. Just keep searching, keep pursuing, keep talking.

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Matthew 7:8-9 NIV

I know, sometimes it doesn’t feel like he plans to answer. I waited six years. I’m sure others have waited longer.

But there was encouragement along the way, in those six years. He sustained me. He taught me things. And now I’m getting to use the things I learned in our new church plant.

So my prayer for you today is, no matter how long it’s been, don’t give up on God. He’s not gonna give up on you.

The 50 Year Secret that Changed My Life

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I didn’t understand trust until I met Daisy.

Let’s backtrack for a second. I am, by nature, a worrier. And my mother’s response was always to tell me to ‘trust God’.

The most recent example is my living situation. I’ve had housemates coming and going, which meant rising rent, an angry real estate agent and uncertainty over who I would be living with—and if I would like them.

Stress, stress, stress.

When Mum said ‘trust God’, I didn’t understand how that helped. God never promised me awesome housemates. (Even though that’s what I’ve ended up with. 🙂  ) But nevertheless, I’m very aware that God owes me nothing. He promises love and comfort in hard times, yes. But things going the way I want them? No.

Then I met Daisy, an older lady who came and spoke to my Bible study group. She was sharing her testimony for the very first time.

And what a testimony it was. Daisy is not her real name, and for privacy reasons I can’t share much of her story. But I can tell you, this woman has suffered. Continues to suffer.

And yet she continues to persevere, not only forgiving those who have wronged her, but actively caring for them (literally, she’s their carer) with joy and kindness every day.

As she told us her story, she spoke a lot about trusting God. Eventually, I had to ask.

“Can you explain to us what you mean by ‘trusting God’? Obviously pretty much everything that could go wrong for you, did go wrong. So what does it mean to trust?”

She nodded, thoughtful. It was true. She’s experienced grief at every level of relationship. Disappointment every year for the last 50 years.

Then she said, “Trusting doesn’t mean believing that God will give you what you want. It means believing that God will use your life for His glory, no matter what happens.”

Those words have changed my life.

No longer do I worry that things may go wrong. That I might be single forever. That my career will hit a dead end. That my friends will all move away.

Sure, those things could still happen. Worse happened to Daisy.

But whatever happens, it won’t be in vain.

No tear will be purposeless. No struggle fruitless. No disappointment, futile.

Even if I suffer every day for the rest of my life, my existence holds eternal purpose. God will, somehow, use it for his glory. Even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Just look at Daisy. Her life hasn’t felt glorious, or victorious. For fifty years, she’s struggled alone. Circumstances meant that few people knew her story. Before this year, she’d never shared her testimony.

But nevertheless, those 50 years were witnessed by God. And now, those decades of isolation and heartbreak have resulted in a major watershed moment for my life. By sharing her story—the small part of it I can tell—I hope her journey can help you, too.

And who knows how God will use her next? Even if I’m the only person her story affects, I’m certain there’s a crowd of angels in heaven on their feet, applauding her faithfulness.

Her life, while imperfect, hard, and isolated, has brought God tremendous glory.

And ours can do the same.

 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, with joy and thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

 

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 1:2-5

 

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

 

Just a Thought: Love Proved Beyond Doubt 

So much HOPE in these verses. We will be made like him!!!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

1 John 3:1‭-‬3 NIV

http://bible.com/111/1jn.3.1-3.NIV
All of life has gotta be viewed through the truth that God proved his lavish love four times over:

  1.  he left HEAVEN to come here,
  2. he DIED for us,
  3. he sent his Spirit to live in our hearts individually so we could have PERSONAL relationship,  and
  4. he is planning a perfect eternity that we can spend with him!  That’s how much he wants to spend time with us!

When I’m feeling distant or mad at him, I always try and remember that he’s already proved his love beyond doubt,  no matter what’s going on in my life.

Just a Thought: Ridiculous Love

These ‘Just a Thought’ posts are just thoughts I have on the verses I read during my quiet time each morning. 🙂 Some days I’ll have a few, some none. I often share them in the Facebook group chat I have with my Life Group, so I thought I’d start sharing some here too!
These posts will just pop up when I have inspiration, and I’ll still do my longer article each week. 🙂

LOVE this reminder that God loves us so much he died for us while we hated him. Incredible love!

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6‭-‬8 NIV
http://bible.com/111/rom.5.6-8.NIV


And…
What an amazing attitude toward suffering. I think when Paul wrote this, he’d already been stoned, whipped, jailed and shipwrecked a few times- he knew what the word ‘suffer’ meant. Awesome to see none of it was experienced in vain!

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3‭-‬5 NIV
http://bible.com/111/rom.5.3-5.NIV


I love this one. If we want more of God, he promises we will find him.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Luke 11:9‭-‬10 NIV
http://bible.com/111/luk.11.9-10.NIV

What would my life be without God?

For years, I have struggled with the nagging fear that maybe, just maybe, God isn’t really there.

The fear says I’ve convinced myself of the whole thing. And my life is finite.

I expressed this fear (read: broke down on the way to church) one Sunday with my parents when I was about 18. They told me that arguments about science, logic and philosophy can go on forever, but the major thing that convinced them of their faith was the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

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1 Corinthians 2:22 is just one of the verses I found referring to the Holy Spirit as a ‘deposit in our hearts’.

I listened, I believed them, I found the Bible verses to back it up, I prayed and I waited.

I waited for that sure-fire conviction that I KNEW the Holy Spirit was in my heart.

For six years.

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Photo by Dianne Hope, sourced from Morguefile

Don’t get me wrong, I was pretty sure. Hey, I was a church leader. I was mentoring a brand-new Christian. I’d based my entire life around this belief.

But that fear nagged, and whined, and whinged.

Then a series of events occurred in the lives of some adults I’d grown up around. Very disappointing, disillusioning events. ‘Hypocrite’ is the nicest word I can think of.

And that whisper of a fear became more than a whisper.

Finally, one day in March this year, I was driving home from work. And I was sick of it. I had non-Christian workmates who were better people than the ‘Christians’ I’d grown up trusting. So what was the point of God? I’d been looking for that certainty from Him for 6 years, and I’d been a Christian my entire life. What was the point?

As I pulled into my driveway that afternoon, I said this to God:

“I feel like I’ve been hanging onto you by my fingertips for months now. Well, this is me letting go. It’s up to you to catch me.”

Then I went inside and had a completely normal evening.

But over the next few weeks, something changed inside. At random moments, I’d get a mental flash of what my life would be like at that moment if I didn’t know God.

And it wasn’t pretty.

Without God, my life would end at death. At 25,  I’m already ¼ (if I’m lucky) of the way there.

Just thinking about it, I can sense the wave of panic that would overwhelm me if that were true.

I would be tortured, wondering if I was missing out in life, if I was screwing up my one chance, if I should do something different, live somewhere different, be something different. And that’s just worrying about my happiness levels. What about things that really matter, like making a difference in someone else’s life? What impact would I leave behind?

(And worst of all, the question of vegetarianism. If I really believed I came from an evolutionary chain of animals, could I eat one? Not in good conscience. But they taste pretty awesome.)

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of worries that would overwhelm me if my life on earth was all there was.

The point is, with God, I know I have hope. I know I have purpose. I know there’s such thing as truly unselfish, sacrificial, perfect love. Endless forgiveness. I know that my life, experiences and sufferings all have meaning, nothing is in vain.

And that was the beginning of this year’s journey.

I’ll share more of it next week. 🙂