trust

Trusting God

Am I 100% happy with everything in my life right now?

Well, probably 95%. 🙂  I’m pretty excited about my new house being built.

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Sorry that it’s sideways. 🙂 Won’t let me rotate. 

But what do we do with that area of our lives that’s frustrating, disappointing or scary?

My ‘5%’ certainly plays on my mind sometimes, as I wonder how I’ll change that circumstance. Because it’s actually a decent-sized issue (maybe worth more than 5%) which really affects my future.

Then this morning I read 1 Samuel 7-15, which follows the adventures of the prophet Samuel and Israel’s first king, Saul.

There were a few critical points in time where King Saul was freaking out over stuff, like countries attacking Israel, and the actions he took demonstrated a lack of trust in God.

And that cost him his kingship.

Now, the situations he was in were legit. There was a big army about to crush his army into oblivion.

But in the end, the circumstances didn’t matter, because God will always be bigger than circumstances. Saul should have used his life to glorify God through trust.

Imagine what he could have accomplished if he trusted God!

So I’m going to remember that today. I might not be able to change a frustrating circumstance, but I can trust God, and that will be something that really matters to Him.

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What My Book Has Taught Me

 

I finished this round of edits for ‘Hating Jeremy Walters’ on Saturday. WOOHOO!

It’s been about 3 years now since I first started working on this story, 7 months since I started this round of edits. And the process of writing HJW and this blog has taught me some pretty interesting stuff.

  1. How to step out in faith and rely on God for something I can’t do on my own.

In late May last year, I had 3 chapters of my second draft written. I’d taken a writing break for 6 months after burning out while trying to work full-time and write.

Then I got an email that I’d finaled in a competition, which announced the winner at a September writing conference in Dallas. It was a great chance to go to a conference and talk to agents, but I knew I’d need a finished book for that.

Which meant I had about 12 weeks to write 60,000 words and a book proposal.

I had never written half that fast before. I kinda expected my head to explode from stress after week 3. But God got it done.

2. Keep God at #1, don’t make success an idol

This is something that’s always been a tug-of-war for me. But this blog has really helped, first in processing my thoughts about it, and then as a practical example.

When I first wrote this blog, I put an effort into getting the word out there about it. I had about six times more readers than I did last week.

Then I put it on a hiatus, and when I took it up again this time, I decided not to ‘market’ it. I just didn’t have the time. Therefore, my readership is much smaller.

The thing is, I’ve enjoyed the process just as much this time, if not more. And that’s really helped me to see that while I’ll enjoy the process of trying to make my book as successful as possible, I’ll have just as much fun if I sell 500 copies or 50,000. It’s no reflection on me as a person, and if it didn’t sell a lot, it just means I’d try a different strategy next time.

3. Edits are not as terrible as they first appear.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re still terrible. But they are possible.

And when I got a looooong letter from a freelance editor telling me all the things that needed to change in my book, I wasn’t sure if it was  possible.

But again, trust in God and a lot of persistent effort got us there. And my book is so much better now because of it.

So, thanks for travelling with me on this journey! There’s still much further to go; Hating Jeremy Walters could need a lot more work, still. And then there’s the other three writing projects currently in a Hunger Games match for supremacy in my head. 🙂

But it feels like a victory every time I hit a milestone.

So, thanks for your support!

Six lessons that changed my life in the last three years

This month, it’s been three years since I started this blog, and I am such a different person to what I was back then.
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I’ve been scanning over my posts, reflecting on what God’s been doing in my life. And while I am very much still a work in progress, I feel like he’s taken a person bound up in guilt, fear and worry, and set me free to be the person He made me to be.
Not that I don’t still struggle with all those things. I do.
But only one-tenth the amount that I did when I was 22, this time three years ago.
So here’s my top major changes since November 2013.

God taught me I didn’t need to be terrified that He had something He wanted me to do, but I was missing it

I always wondered if I was in the right job, the right ministry, living in the right place. Any time I had to make a decision, I felt that it would be the wrong one either way. I was certain I was doing things wrong, disappointing God, but I couldn’t figure out how.
In this blog post, I shared how the whole year of 2014 taught me that God will convict me if something needs to change, but never condemn me, and he doesn’t speak quietly in a corner. And, most of all, He loves me.

God taught me that my feeling that He wasn’t using my life for anything that mattered eternally wasn’t true

I struggled for years, because people talked about the power of God changing people, but it seemed that I never saw it.
I see now that was probably due to a number of factors. I’ve also now seen that God’s eternal purposes are fulfilled when I’m obedient, whether I can see anything amazing happening or not. A big part of this has come through the lessons I’ve learned in being a part of a now almost two-year-old church plant. But another major lesson came from Daisy, whose faithful life was lived in isolation for 50 years, yet it brings so much glory to God. Which leads me to another lesson…

God taught me how to trust

I always struggled to understand trust, because saying ‘trust God’ doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen. But Daisy’s  testimony showed me that trust is about believing that God is with you, loves you, and will use your life for His glory, no matter what happens.

God taught me to take a step of faith

In mid-2015, I had three chapters of a second-draft manuscript and a 10 week deadline before I went to an American writing conference. That meant I had to write 60,000 words and put together my book proposal in 10 weeks. The last time I tried something half that difficult, I completely burnt out.
But before I could even start writing, I had to go lead at a Christian youth camp. I was in turmoil for much of the week, about many things, as well as writing. And while we were listening to the song ‘Oceans’, I heard that quiet voice in my head say, “You can stay in this place forever, or you can step out in faith. We have bigger fish to fry.”
I decided to step out. I had to cancel everything in my life except working, eating, sleeping and writing. Every morning I woke up and thought, “I can’t do this again today”. Then I’d have a shower, listen to ‘Oceans’, pray, and go out and do it again.
Ten weeks later I went to the conference with a finished manuscript and a proposal. It didn’t even matter if I had a successful conference – we’d done it! God had sustained me through something I never thought I could do.
(And I did end up having a very successful conference. 😃 )

God taught me not to wrap my identity up in things other than Him, like my job or writing

I have no anecdote for this one, other than to say it’s been a 3 year process (which will probably continue till the day I die) of unwinding my identity from things that are not God.
But the less I depend on things like my financial security, writing career, an interesting job, or relationship status, the more secure I feel in God. I can think of nothing more beautiful than a person who has their identity 100% in God.

God helped me to forgive, especially the church

In the space of 5 years I watched two churches I was involved in fall apart, plus a number of other painful events involving other Christians. And though I knew that I had resentment against the church as an institution, I didn’t know how much until I became a church leader at the beginning of this year.
I love my current church, and the people in it. They had nothing to do with the painful incidents of the past.
But I had so much anger inside at the church as a whole. I thought I’d forgiven those people from before, when a quiet voice in my head said, “Say it”.
And, lying in bed, when I went to whisper, “I forgive–” the words stuck in my throat when I reached the name.
I couldn’t physically say it.
And then I realised that I had a serious problem.
So, I prayed. About all of it. And I had to say, aloud, “God, this person doesn’t deserve forgiveness. But neither did I, and you forgave me. So because of what you did, I forgive XXXX.”
And 99% of that anger and resentment melted away.
I’ll be honest, 1% raises its ugly head from time to time. So I pray the prayer again, and again, and again. And each time, it works a little better.
So, there you have it: that’s most of what I learned in the past 3 years in a nutshell.
Who knows what the next 3 will bring?

Am I really relying on God?

I woke up this morning with a to-do list in my head.

In the next two days I’ve gotta talk to builders, do my tax, go to the dentist, edit my book, visit a friend, run home group, and write this blog. Oh, and go to work. And find clean clothes to wear.

It’s not impossible, but the list is taking up a lot of brain space. And making me a little tense.

But while I was thinking about it this morning, God was like, “Why are you concerned? I can deal with the blog. I can deal with the book. They’re both things that should happen in My time anyway.

“And the other things will all be done once these two days are over.

“So chill. I’ve got this.”

To which my response is, “Sweet. Please help me to be chill. And pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease let things go well at the dentist!”

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.

Phil 4:6-7 NIV

 

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!

 

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