“I can’t help the way I am.”
“It’s purely chemical.”
“It’s the way I was raised.”
“It’s my family history.”
“It’s not my fault.”
We’re often asked the question, “When life hurts, where do you turn?”
It’s a good question, and it challenges us to learn to turn to Christ in the hard moments of life.
But I want to pose a slightly different question to you today.
“When life hurts, who do you blame?”
When I look back on my life and the moments that I believe shaped me into who I am today, I have to admit that those moments were some of the most painful experiences of my life. And yet, God used those times of suffering to make me into the person I am today.
We all have moments in life that define us, and unfortunately, they’re often related to suffering of some kind.
As much as we’d like to think that it’s the mountain top experiences that shape us, that’s rarely the case. Rather, God tends to use the valleys of our lives to grow us, to change us, and to make us into the image of Christ, and it’s those very moments that enable us to experience the joy of the mountain top.
The valley is dark, scary, and painful. Sometimes the suffering is a direct result of our own sinful choices. Sometimes it’s the result of the sinful choices of others. And sometimes it is simply the result of living in a fallen world. Regardless of the cause, the way we respond to resistance, pain, and difficulty reveals what we truly believe in the deepest part of us. In those moments, we are faced with some of the hardest questions we will ever face:
Do I really believe God is good?
Do I really believe God loves me?
Do I really believe God is in control?
Do I really believe God is all I need?
MAKING GOD ENOUGH
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the saying, “You won’t know God is all you need until God is all you have.”
Unfortunately, it’s a common saying because, for the most part, it’s true. At least, the idea behind it is true. But the phrasing itself lends itself to the idea that you won’t really know if God is enough until you’ve lost everything. And while it’s true that you won’t know it by experience until that point, I’d say that you can know that God is enough before you lose everything. In fact, that’s actually the goal.
If we wait until we experience the loss of what we love to discover if God is enough, we will find that God is not enough. Instead, we must learn how to let God satisfy us in the here and now so that when the times of crisis come, we already know that He will be enough and He will carry us through. Otherwise, when we experience the pain and suffering that is inevitable in life, we will instead turn to ourselves or others to make us feel better, following the path of idolatry we talked about last week.
The fact of the matter is that what you believe in the light is what will be proven in the dark. If you want God to be enough for you then, you must make Him enough now.
Hope is a funny thing. It can lead to excitement, joy, and peace. But hope can also lead to despair, discouragement, and defeat.
Hope fulfilled is the best thing in the world.
Hope disappointed is the worst thing in the world.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi,
One of those sins that Christians tend to address as "minor," "little," and "unimportant," fear is often deemed unnecessary to address. We don't see it as a big deal, so we just ignore it, hoping it’ll go away. Unfortunately, though, as time goes on, fear not only doesn’t disappear – it actually grows. Before too long, the “little” sin is now the BIG sin that has begun to push us around and is grasping for control over every part of our lives.
I think part of the struggle we have to take fear seriously starts with the fact that fear in and of itself may not be a problem. Fear is a God-given emotion. The danger is found in what we’re fearing and how we respond to that fear.
I am so thankful that God uses people
Our God is a very personal God. He is a relational God. He lives in community, and He designed us to need that community, as well – starting with the fellowship we have through a relationship with Him. But it doesn’t end there – He also created us to need other people. Other Christians. Fellowship and relationships through the local church. Because God uses people.
We need encouragement. We need help. We need hope.
When we’re overwhelmed, frustrated, tired, and broken, we are tempted to isolate. But it’s in those broken moments that we most need each other. We benefit the most from our relationships when it’s the hardest – when we’re most tempted to give up, close up, or shut down. When we’re vulnerable. When we’re scared. When we’re desperate.
The pattern in scripture is that when people (or even the nation of Israel) were desperate, they cried out to God. And God sent a man. God sent a woman. God sent a person. And He used that person to help, encourage, and bring about deliverance, both personally and corporately.
When Adam was alone and needed a helper,
God created Eve.
WHEN DAVID WAS RUNNING FOR HIS LIFE,
GOD GAVE HIM JONATHAN.
When Israel cried out for deliverance in Egypt,
God sent Moses.
On the surface, we all know this. But it’s what’s lurking below the surface that’s the most dangerous. It’s those thoughts we don’t even realize we’re thinking. The things we don’t know we’re telling ourselves. The initial fears and doubts that run through our minds so fast that we’ve emotionally and physically reacted before we even realized what was happening.
The more I consider the power of fear in my life and in the lives of those I’ve worked with over the years, the more convinced I am that fear is the single most underestimated tool in the Enemy’s arsenal. I believe that’s why, in Revelation 21:8, the first quality noted of those thrown into the Lake of Fire are the fearful (http://biblehub.com/greek/1169.htm).
When I was younger, my parents taught me a lot about trust. I learned to trust them, to believe them. They also taught me the importance of trusting God. Surrendering. Not having to have it all figured it out. They taught me how to balance caution and planning with my faith in God and the sometimes blind obedience that he requires me.
All of this was tested when God did something totally unexpected and completely beyond my understanding: he took my best friend, mentor, and father to Heaven.
The roller-coaster of emotions I experienced during 2017 is beyond description, and even thinking about what I went through, especially those first few months, exhausts me. I went back and forth between supernatural confidence and faith in God, to crushing fear, anxiety, and an overwhelming, oppressing sense of despair. One moment I had hope; the next I felt like I’d never have hope again.
Why? What was happening? How could I so quickly falter?
In a word: passionate.
About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even
iced skinny soy mochas.