Tag Archives: doubt

Living for God’s glory

8 Nov

Oh, how hard I struggle to do this: live for God’s glory. It seems every time I turn around, I have yet another selfish, narcisstic, vain, sinful ambition or motive. Nothing brings these times out like marriage. A few days ago, I listened to a couple sermons on marriage by Tim Keller and in one of them, he says that marriage is used as a santificiation tool. Now, I knew that before I got married, and I do believe God was sanctifying me through Travis even before we were married. But nothing prepared me for this!

If marriage is a sanctification tool, then sanctification happens quite a bit differently than I thought it did before getting married–because I see all my sin coming out, but don’t feel like I’m being “sanctified” from it. I’ve heard it said before “When you pray for patience, does God give you patience or does He give you situations that you have to be patient in?” Marriage is a constant situation that requires so many virtues, all of which I feel I have only a microscopic sliver of–nowhere near the full amount I would need to be a good, humble, servant-minded, submissive wife.

Travis frequently tells me “You’re such a good wife.” While I know that he says it in knowledge of (and in spite of) my sinfulness, I truly feel like I don’t deserve such gratitude or compliments. So I respond “No I’m not.” I fall SO SHORT of who I want to be–and who the gospel says I could be! Just this past weekend, I kept saying and doing things I immediately regretted (over stupid stuff!) and got to the point where I wanted to just go to bed and sleep so that I didn’t have to deal with the stupid, horrible, sinful person I was being.

I know that I’m not believing the gospel. Reading Knowing God by J.I. Packer and listening to those sermons by Tim Keller, I have been shown that I am not resting in God’s opinion of me and in the hope of the gospel. I am living in a “world without windows” as Tim Keller says–meaning I am not living with my eyes set on the hope of heaven but rather set on the concerns of this moment–namely, my own desires, needs, and happiness. When I don’t get MY way, I get angry (and most of the time, I also get even.)

I just read a blog post about marriage and the struggle to believe in the sufficiency of Christ and the gospel by my friend Katie. She wrote, “I know I am being changed daily to be more like Christ, but it seems such a slow process…If I’ve been radically forgiven by Christ for all of my short-comings and for all of the sin in my life, shouldn’t I freely give grace to those around me, especially my husband?” I feel like I could have written those words. Except I probably would’ve said “I know I am being changed daily to be more like Christ…wait, do I know that? It doesn’t seem like ANYTHING is HAPPENING!!”

I have come to realize that while in the bubble of Campus Outreach, I was guilty of using all those truth phrases of the Christian life that have been so conveniently encapsulated into bitesize nuggets (so that the Christian can suavely throw them out in any conversation). Well, that bubble has popped. And all those phrases are still floating around my head–except I no longer know what any of them mean. Oh sure, I could explain them with WORDS. But the practical side of those truths got lost somewhere on the highway between Minneapolis and Denver.

Take, for example, living for the glory of God. I can sort of wrap my mind around the concept. But I can’t for the life of me seem to figure out what that truth means for my life.

Or take Living in light of the gospel. I understand the idea. I also could tell you what the gospel is and why it should effect me. Here is what I would not be able to explain: why it DOESN’T affect me. Why I am left with being the sinful, selfish, stupid person I was before I became a Christian. I know that I will continue to sin as long as I am on the earth. I just didn’t know I would still be so…pathetic.

I feel like I am at a stalemate, like the apostle Paul (oh, what glorious words!): “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!…There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 7:18-8:1)

The Bible doesn’t mention specifics in its exhortations to “live for the glory of God.” It doesn’t say “To live for the glory of God, you must work for charities in addition to serving the homeless, all while caring for sick animals and doing at least one mission trip every year.” It doesn’t say “To live for the glory of God, you must work at a job that contributes something to the greater good of society.” There are no specifics like that in the Bible. In fact, to illustrate this point about living for the glory of God, the apostle Paul uses eating and drinking, 2 things that every single human must do or else they die.

Even though there aren’t any specifics, I have been trying and trying to discern them for my life–and to no avail. I am starting to realize (through the help of the Holy Spirit no doubt) that the specifics of how to live out the Christian life come out of the principles of the Christian life. I need to understand the principles before I can understand the specifics.

That very thought leaves me completely empty-handed. I have seen increasingly more over the past year how completely incapable I am of discerning any spiritual truth without the Spirit’s guidance and prompting. Each time I blog, pray, read, or think about these things, I am left without my own resources, but utterly dependent on God’s spiritual provision in my life. To be sure, without Him, I am nothing.

“Wretched woman that I am! Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” The gospel is all I got.

Too good to be true?

7 Oct

I  just started reading J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the book and thought that at this stage of my Christian walk, when I am struggling to understand the practical implications of salvation and the Christian life, that it would be a good book to read. After all, Packer says in his preface that instead of balconeers who just muse upon things they experientially know nothing of, “this is a book for travelers, and it is with travelers’ questions that it deals.” A traveler is out there experiencing and doing.

But I have gotten to chapter four and the book has convicted and saddened me of how much I don’t know God. It’s not that I have been living a sort of exterior Christianity or that my desire for God isn’t authentic. It’s that I don’t understand. I don’t get it. It’s kind of like a calculus problem for me: I can understand the basic idea, I can even follow someone solving a problem, but I can’t for the life of me solve a problem correctly on my own.

As I was reading tonight, I came across this part in chapter 3: “What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it–the fact that he knows me…He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters…God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good…his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me…”

As I read that, my heart stops. My throat gets tight. I can hardly believe it’s true. Literally. I can feel in my heart that being loved by God like that is my ultimate desire. I was made for God’s love–to live in it, thrive in it, and be transformed by it. But my heart seems so…closed right now. I keep waiting for salvation and a relationship with the God of the universe to make sense, for me to really understand why and how. How I want it to be true!! And deep in my heart of hearts, I know that it is. But I don’t believe it enough for it to transform me. The knowledge of that truth has no impact on me except for making me fall on my knees before the Father and admitting that I cannot understand anything about Him without the aid of the Holy Spirit. Truly, God’s ways are higher than mine and without His enlightenment, everything about Jesus and salvation is utterly confusing and incredulous.

My heart is saying, “Yes, this is the truth and love that I have been longing for,” but my mind is questioning, “Doesn’t it sound a little too good to be true?” My mind has been asking that very thing for the past several months. I believe that God has me questioning these things for a reason, that He has chosen to withhold understanding for a purpose, and I can only pray that this season will bring me into a deeper knowledge and understanding of Him in God’s time.

Not just wishful thinking

14 Sep

For the past 5 or 6 months, I’ve been going through this period of questioning. Not questioning that God exists or that the Gospel is true. I still believe that He does and that it is. My questions have been more about how the truth of the Gospel affects me in my everyday life. This post in March and  this one in June explains some of what I’ve been struggling through, specifically what I wrote in my March post:

“Why does it matter that God cares for me? That I’m released from the bondage of sin? If I’m having a hard day at work and pray to God for strength, how does my prayer really matter? How does it change my circumstances? If I say that I’m relying on God and drawing down strength from Him, does He really do anything for me? Or are those words just a human attempt to make life a little easier, to make hard times a little better, to deceive ourselves that ‘everything is going to work out for our good’ when the dice could really fall either way?”

In my other posts, I came up with 2 reasons (out of many, I’m sure) why the Christian life does work and why it does make sense in some weird doesn’t-make-sense kind of way. One was that after we are reborn as children of God, we have the Holy Spirit inside us, who gives us the ability to do, believe, and say things we wouldn’t have done on our own. The other was that it isn’t about me getting random strength from God to go through tough circumstances, as if just the existence of God is enough to alleviate anxiety. Rather, my confidence and trust in God is based on real circumstances and real promises.

I was praying about this the other day, still struggling through it. Because even though I get these flashes of understanding, they go away after a while and I’m left still wondering how the Christian life works. For some reason, I can’t get past the question of why it all matters. “Jesus died for me and I’m going to heaven; what difference does that make right now?”

It’s funny how I know the answer to that question. I can read about it because it’s all over the New Testament. But my heart says “So what? Why does that really matter for this moment?” As in, why should knowing that God loves me make me feel better? He’s up in heaven and He’s the God of the universe. How sure am I that He really cares about every detail of my life? If everyone on earth hated me, why would it make me feel better that God loves me?

Again, the answer is obvious but my heart-response is missing. I don’t believe questioning is a bad thing and I don’t believe that my salvation is in any way jeopardized by these thoughts–after all, I do still believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. But it’s a weird thing to be unsure about things you took completely for granted before.

Anyway, the real reason why I am blogging about this (again!) is that the other day, I read this in The Purpose-Driven Life: “Our hope in difficult times is not based on positive thinking, wishful thinking, or natural optimism. It is a certainty based on the truths that God is in complete control of our universe and that he loves us.”

That really spoke to me because it is what I have been leaning toward these many months but not been quite able to believe. When you think about it, if the Bible is true, then it is indisputable that God is in control of everything and that He loves us–enough that His own Son would not only die for us, but absorb the complete wrath for our sins as well. It’s an amazing thought. Another amazing thing is that the God of the universe communicates with us. He wants to have a relationship with us. He is present in our world, in ways that we are so ignorant of.

While writing this, I kept thinking of Hebrews 11:6–“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Faith involves 2 things: 1) believing that God exists and 2) that He rewards those who seek Him. God is perfect and holy so if He wants us to believe that He rewards those who seek Him, it must be true.

And the best part about that verse–we can draw near to God.

According to this verse, God draws near to us too: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a)

This is another verse that I love:

Blessed are those you choose
and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.
(Psalm 65:4)

It continues to astound me that God chose me to know Him, to receive joy in this life and eternal salvation in the next. Our God is an awesome God.

Clinging to the Cross

19 Jun

The Lord gave me a revelation this morning as I was praying on my way to work (I have a 30 min commute). I was expressing my doubt and confusion about how God and the Spirit work inside me to enable me to withstand and endure hard situations and circumstances; how He gives me peace that surpasses understanding; how He enables me to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do myself.

Then I heard Him say, “It’s not about your ability. It’s about the Cross.” I was silent for a few minutes, pondering that thought. It made complete sense. It’s not about me getting strength from God–random strength–to go through tough circumstances. It’s about holding to the Cross, clinging to my hope of salvation and the Truth about God revealed in the Cross: that God loves me and died for me; that He is good and just; that He is willing to do anything for me; and that I am going to heaven no matter what happens in this life.

As I took that thought and applied it to all of the hypothetical situations I had been wrestling with, I saw how clinging to the Cross and the Truth represented therein would really be effective and enabling. I was reminded of a quote from “The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer. It goes something like this (I’m just recalling it from memory so it’s not verbatim): “The man who has long been struggling to fix himself will find that once he turns his gaze from himself to his Savior, everything he has been trying to do to himself will be getting done within him.” I have to keep my gaze fixed on the Cross. I have been trying to fix myself. I have been trying to get God’s power within me so I could fix myself (kind of an oxymoron huh?)

I am so thankful that the Lord revealed this Truth to me. It is very freeing. I have a ways to go before I depend on God and continually look at the Cross for the strength, motivation, and hope I need to live but I’m on my way!!

What it means to be born again

29 Mar

A couple weeks ago, I went through this period of spiritual doubt. I had a hard time understanding why the Christian life works. Whenever I heard stories about people giving up addictions because Jesus freed them, I thought, “How is Jesus enough for them?” When I hear of people who are going through a rough time of trials and they say they’re hoping in God, I wonder, “How does the knowledge of God aid them in their despair? How is it enough that God is a stronghold? Why does it matter that God cares for me? That I’m released from the bondage of sin? If I’m having a hard day at work and pray to God for strength, how does my prayer really matter? How does it change my circumstances? Why do I need to rely on God? What does relying on God do for me? Is it even possible to do? If I say that I’m relying on God and drawing down strength from Him, does He really do anything for me? Or are those words just a human attempt to make life a little easier, to make hard times a little better, to deceive ourselves that ‘everything is going to work out for our good’ when the dice could really fall either way?”

I guess you could sum up my doubts in one question: “How does my relationship with God affect my life beyond salvation?”

As I was journaling about these thoughts on March 15th, I had been reading Romans 7 where Paul says that we are released from the Law “so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” And as I pondered that verse, I realized that the key to the Christian life, the thing that makes it “work,” is the Spirit. Without the Spirit, I am the same person before and after conversion. But with the Spirit, I am changed. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

My mind was comforted after that revelation given to me through none other than the Spirit. But what brought this again to my attention was something Pastor John Piper said in his sermon called The New Birth Produces Love. This is what he said: “As we enter Holy Week, the aspect of the new birth that I want us to focus on is the fact that new birth creates the connection between God’s love for us and our love for each other. If anyone ever asks, How does the fact that God loves you result in your loving others? The answer is: the new birth creates that connection. The new birth is the act of the Holy Spirit connecting our dead, selfish hearts with God’s living, loving heart so that his life becomes our life and his love becomes our love.”

When I heard Piper say that, it validated my personal Bible study. I wasn’t deluding myself with soothing words and vain hopes. This is true and real. My nature really is changed after conversion and I am enabled to do things I couldn’t do before. The Spirit empowers me to live for Christ, to desire God, to conquer sin, to be loving, to desire godly, eternal things over worldly, temporal things.

This is the hope that we have in Christ: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1: 13-14)