Tag Archives: dependence

Embrace Your Life {Or, Why I’m Writing a Book on Joy}

3 Feb

Just the other day, I was driving from Rochester to pick Travis up at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and had found a Christian radio station to listen to. I’m not a huge fan of radio in general, but I usually choose to listen to Christian radio over Country or The Hits because 1) There are fewer commercials, 2) I don’t have to worry about the song lyrics, 3) I like at least 60% of the songs, and 4) Christian songs can serve as good reminders of Truth.

But every once in a while, I hear something in a song or some musician says something that I think is not entirely helpful. On Sunday, it was this statement:

“The only thing we have to fear is living an insignificant life.”

I disagree with this statement on so many levels, it gets me riled up. It’s statements like that that are the reason I’m writing a book on how joy in life is found in accepting the circumstances God allows, and embracing your current place as God’s will for you.

You see, I struggled for years believing statements like the one above. I thought that God’s will for me must be Something Other than what I was doing, Something Out There that I hadn’t yet discovered, and I went crazy running in circles trying to discover what God’s purpose for me was, and what I should be doing in order to be doing His will.

All the while, the Enemy (Satan) was laughing hysterically, thrilled to the core that he had gotten me to focus on Me and My Life and How I’m Living Out My Faith, instead of focusing on Christ and His Cause and His Power to change me from the inside out.

Here’s what I discovered: God’s will is that we focus on Him and let the rest go. We lay down our expectations and standards and ideas about what makes life significant, and we spend time at our Savior’s feet. As we grow in our relationship with God, we are inspired to pray more. Our eyes are opened to the way the Spirit works, and we start watching for His direction and guidance throughout the day, instead of living out our own agenda. The most amazing thing about living this way is that it brings us the most joy, and God the most glory. Because He gets to be all-sufficient, and we get to be all-dependent.

If you’re like me, you might be thinking “But if stop striving for things in my life and self to change and make a difference, how will anything get done?!?!” To that, I would answer: Make God your focus and it will happen. It is impossible to truly fix your eyes on God and stay the same. Like A.W. Tozer so eloquently put it in The Pursuit of God, “The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.”

Another question you might have is “What do you mean by ‘look to God’ or ‘fix your eyes on God’?” What I mean is: Study the Bible. Read commentaries and wise Christian authors. Pray about everything, even the menial stuff. Meditate on verses. Sing and listen to worship songs. Practice forms of fasting. Research what God says in the Bible about cultural issues. And I say all that with a caveat: The purpose of doing those things is connecting with God, not building up your spiritual resume or checking off things on a to-do list. If you feel guilty about not doing something, examine why. Maybe you’re just not there yet. If your desire is lacking, bring that very thing to God in prayer, and ask Him to change your heart.

Fixing your eyes on God also means turning away from your expectations and standards about life. You stop trying to determine your life’s worth. To borrow the words of Tim Keller, if you have been declared righteous by the blood of Jesus, accept that the verdict is in and get out of the courtroom. Then move forward in faith that if something in your life needs changing, or if God wants you to go in a different direction, He will tell you. Jesus says in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” If the message is truly from God, He will keep repeating it until you get it.

What is the result of living this way? Freedom. Rest. Joy. Peace. No more do you have to worry that you might not be doing everything God intended for you to do. No more do you have to agonize over the fact that you fall so short of who you want to be. God knows that you can’t do anything without Him — and He doesn’t expect you to. What He wants is YOU. He wants a relationship. He wants your honesty and humility that comes to Him and urges for Him to accomplish in your life through the Spirit what you want to have happen, but cannot do yourself.

He doesn’t want your failed attempts at living what you think is a significant life. He wants YOU, fully surrendered, willing to accept whatever He has for you — even if, especially if it’s nothing like you pictured it would be. Even if it’s nothing glamorous or monumental or earth-shattering. Even if it involves a dead-end job, or mounds of laundry, or tasks that no one appreciates or even notices.

Or maybe you’re one of those rare people who is called to something big (and you know specifically what it is), and it scares the poop out of you. Maybe you wish you could just stay in the shadows and not take a risk. Being faithful to God’s calling for you is taking that leap and trusting Him to be everything He has promised to be.

So instead of saying “The only thing we have to fear is living an insignificant life,” I would say:

The only thing that brings us true joy is living the life that God has for us, in dependence on the Spirit, for God’s glory and favor.

Keep your eyes on the Savior, and rest in the good that He has planned for you.

{Repost} Breathe in freedom.

28 Sep

So our Minnesota trip was a little rough. It was great seeing my parents but Emma had a hard time napping and sleeping at night – I think it must’ve been that she was in a new place, and she has a little bit of a stuffy nose. I’ll admit that I was VERY angry that Emma needed to be bounced and rocked, and sometimes held, or she refused to sleep. I was there to help my parents and she was making that next to impossible.

That situation, combined with the rest of everything going on and my general feeling of ‘meh’ and stress, has sent me back to blog posts from last year, to remind myself of the Truth I was learning then, and am still learning – or needing to relearn – now. That’s where this post comes in. It’s just as true now as it was when I wrote on June 1, 2012. Enjoy.

………………………………………………

When your body is challenged in yoga and weight lifting, the natural response is to hold your breath. We need to be reminded to breathe with the movements. Inhale, lift. Exhale, lower. Inhale vitality. Exhale tension. It may not seem like it at the time but breathing actually makes the postures and exercises easier because it gives you something else to concentrate on than just the muscle fatigue and supplies your muscles with oxygen.

I’ve been thinking about this the past couple of days because I realized that this applies to life too. This week, I have felt tired and lazy. And I found myself emotionally gritting my teeth to “just get through” the week – essentially, holding my breath to survive.

But is that really what God wants for me? Are I really reduced to just gritting my teeth to get through life?

The trouble is that I associate the fullest life with being on top of things, things going my way, falling into place, being easy.

The fullest life is still available even when life isn’t that way (which is often). Even on the days, weeks, or months when things are hard, I’m tired and feel overwhelmed, and everything feels like a burden. Instead of holding my breath to survive, I can breathe through life’s challenges with God. 

Just like holding my breath doing a Half Moon, it seems easier and less painful to not think too much and just go through the motions. To not care. To resign myself to life being crap for the next few days.

In reality, I’m making the situation worse. And when I actually think about what I’m doing, it seems ludicrous. Why do I think that hard situations are easier to handle without God?

It’s because I think He’ll make me (wo)man up and deal with the situation. And the last thing I want to do is deal with the situation. I want to escape, withdraw, ignore.

What I forget, though, is that living in dependence on God is where I find joy always. Not just when I feel up to it, or when life is going well, or when I’m naturally happy. Always.

I also forget that living in dependence on God doesn’t require me to feel me up to it, or life to be going well, or me to be naturally happy. In fact, living in dependence on God comes most easily when I am starkly aware of my weaknesses and insufficiency. When I feel too small for something too big. When I’m struggling with the same thing yet again. When I’m having trouble even mustering up the energy to not give up.

I find freedom in acknowledging reality. Instead of shutting down and going through life on autopilot, I can admit that the situations I’m facing are affecting me and that it’s not all coming up roses. Jesus promised us peace in the midst of difficulty – not peaceful circumstances.

I stop trying to change reality. Once I acknowledge the tough circumstance, I stay there. I don’t try to change, fix, or manipulate it. That’s God’s job. My job is trust. This is the challenge I come back to time and time again. Asking me to live with God in the midst of my weaknesses and insufficiency is like asking a dog to walk on its hind legs. It’s not impossible but it takes a lot of work to actually stay there because it’s not my natural inclination.

I focus on the moment and give thanks. In yoga, you breathe with the movements to get your mind focused on the here and now. Stop thinking about all the things you’re going to do later in the day, all the bills and laundry and dishes piling up at home. Live in the now. Jesus told us this too: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). I especially like The Message’s paraphrase:

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

And the best way to live in the moment (I’m discovering) is to give thanks, for everything. Specifically. Audibly. Remember God’s blessings. Remember His faithfulness. Remember His grace.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a quote or two from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts:

“Life is so urgent it necessitates living slow.”

“Life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change.”

Resting in God for Life

1 Jul

{While I’m reading copious amounts of books in Alaska, please enjoy these posts from the archives and random thoughts library of Life, Really.}

–Originally posted January 15, 2011–

God is so faithful.

I had a rough start to this past week. Being back from Mexico, I was confronted with all of the problems I had left behind: namely, my struggle with what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Again, I was stressed out. It felt like there was a heavy ball of anxiety sitting right on my chest. I felt paralyzed. I had nothing that I had to do and yet didn’t feel free to do anything. I felt like I had to be productive. Like that’s what a good model citizen does – they get stuff done. But I didn’t want to get stuff done. I wanted to relax and read.

Little by little, God has been inviting me to release the responsibility I feel for my life. At first, He showed me I could let go of being responsible for my sanctification. Instead of rifling through my own soul looking for sins that I needed to work on, I could trust God to convict me of the sins that He wanted me to work on.

He then showed me I could let go of being responsible for projects at work. Even though I don’t technically have a job right now, I am helping out at the church and as such, I feel involved enough to be held responsible for things succeeding or failing. But God says that I can release those projects to Him too. It’s not me accomplishing His work – it’s Him accomplishing His work through me. I wrote these points in my journal:

1. God knows what needs to be done and when.

2. I can trust God to guide my day and to provide the wisdom, inspiration, and motivation necessary. I can even trust Him to bring to mind things I need to remember.

3. I can leave unfinished projects in God’s care – this is His work after all. He will take care of it.

4. If and when I fail, I can run to God and He will help me fix the mess. He is a gracious, patient and loving God.

Finally, God showed me that I can let go of what I have perceived to be the things I needed to be doing to live the life I want to live. I had been creating my own religious rules about how to live but God had not empowered me to live those. I constantly felt like I should be doing more than I was doing. If I bought a coffee at Starbuck’s, I felt guilty that I didn’t donate that money to charity. If I spent time reading a book, I felt guilty that I was making myself happy instead of helping someone else in need. I was constantly questioning my motives and constantly feeling condemned by what I perceived to be the selfishness of everything I did. Even the good, thoughtful things I did for others were swallowed up in the notion that they were just drops in the ocean of my own patheticness.

But praise the Lord, He has revealed the truth to me! On Thursday morning, after feeling very discouraged and fed up with life on Wednesday night, God showed me that what had started out as a good desire – wanting to live above the status quo for Christ – I had turned into an end in itself. I was trying to make myself right with God by setting a high standard for my way of life. I only succeeded in making myself miserable. Because I can’t make myself right with God!

And I don’t have to. I don’t have to procure my own salvation because of Jesus and I don’t have to make my life count because of Jesus. For the longest time, I thought that surrendering control meant conceding defeat. Resting in Christ meant that I didn’t care if my life changed – it meant I was ok if I just kept on living the typical American lifestyle. But I did care! So I couldn’t, I wouldn’t surrender. I had to make my life what I thought it should be – because if I didn’t, who would?

I am in awe at God’s perfect timing. Just totally in awe. In the past month, I read 2 books that revolutionized the way I look at my relationship with God: Walking With God by John Eldredge and Soul Craving by Joel Warne. Both authors talk about listening to God, walking through situations with God, talking to God, communing with God. I had never before realized that such an intimate two-way interaction with God was possible!

Because of that new discovery, the idea of surrendering control of my life and my expectations and desires to God makes sense. Before, I didn’t understand how I could let go of control and expect things to still happen. I mean, after all, even though God is sovereign, He is not a puppeteer. I still have to act. So how would anything change if I gave up trying to change things?

I see now that change comes out of an intimate relationship with God. As I am walking with God, talking with Him, listening to Him, inviting Him in to every area and experience of my life, I am changed. I sense His Spirit’s leading. I see doors open that I would have missed before. I find courage to do what I couldn’t in the past. This is exactly what I wanted for my life and was so desperately striving after. But now, it is God leading me. It is God doing the hard work. Joel Warne writes in his book that our relationship with God is a responsive one. He leads; we respond.

Moreover, if there is something amiss in my life, something I should abstain from or do differently, I can trust God to reveal those things to me. I don’t have to obsess over everything and continually feel guilty. This has been the biggest relief of all. I can finally put in correct perspective all of the mundane, practical, trivial details of life. I don’t have to question everything anymore! I can live everyday life in faith that when God wants to change something, when He wants to move me, He will reveal that to me. And He provides the courage and grace for obedience on top! So now, instead of asking God to show me what He wants me to do with my life, I pray:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there by any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”(Psalm 139:23).

I cannot undermine enough what a revolutionary shift in paradigm this is for me. I feel like I had been going through the motions of life in black and white but now I am rejuvenated with vigor and eagerness to engage in life in Technicolor! Because my life is what it is because of God. And I can rest in Him for wisdom, guidance, sanctification. I can trust Him to do in my life what I have been desiring – because He desires it even more than I do!!

GOD IS AWESOME!!