When Faith

Woven

When words cannot describe the soul’s movements. When the mind can’t understand what is going on in the heart.

When I’m completely baffled by the way the world works, by the way that God works. When I don’t see how what’s in the Bible matches up with what I see in life. And when all the confusion makes me want to pull away and not even mess with trying to figure it out.

When I’m engulfed in guilt, but not knowing why—and just wanting to get it all right, but not knowing how. Why do I feel this way when I think about God? What’s wrong with me? What do I have to do to make it better?

When you can’t explain it, but it’s so real. When your heart relates something that your mind can’t really agree with.

When I want to be close to God and give glory to Him, but I don’t see amazing things in His Word like I think I should. Or I don’t understand it. Or when I’m drawing near I feel indescribably uneasy.

When I analyze to pieces everything that I do or say. Is it something to correct? Or should I just forget about it?

When a mere feeling taints everything in my life. When everything else makes it seems like I’m disqualified to be a good servant of Christ.

I know that feelings don’t always portray what is real, but feelings are real. They are a struggle. They are a prison that we need to be freed from. They must be overcome so that we can take another step.

But it’s better today. It’s not because I have a ten-step system that clears away all of that. There’s no handy set of perfectly clear directions for the Christian walk, like there is on a cake mix. Because if we had a bunch of directions on the box of our Christian walk, we would trust those instead of Jesus.

Jesus is always the same. He is changing me to be like Him, but there’s still lots of me left that doesn’t look like Him. There’s still lots of sin. And while my life might look the same to everyone else, inside it’s raging or crying or baffled. I still need Him to save me from all of this.

When it’s the worst, it’s time to seek God. And when I can’t feel like I can, I can trust what I already know.

When I remember, “Satan is the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). Satan would love nothing more than to make me forget that Christ is the one who cleanses me by His blood. Satan wants to convince me that I have to fix all the mistakes that I’ve made.

When I remember Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” If God needs to convict me about something, He will be faithful to do that. He is not the God of confusion. But Satan condemns unreservedly. And I am pretty good at helping him when I look inward rather than upward when he accuses me.

When I do sin—“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). My only way to be right with God—for salvation and after salvation—is  the blood of Jesus.

When I know that what He says is real—more real than my feelings about it. When I can pray that He would change me and cleanse my mind from all this junk. When I know that He is making it better. When faith looks to Him, faith grows stronger.

When I don’t have it all together, “in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

Look to Him, to His Word, pray to Him. In our weak state of human feelings and inconstancies, He is our only hope.

~Rachel Sue

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Steps of Obedience

Feet walking

Sometimes I want to hear God’s direction. I want to hear exactly what He wants me to do. For some reason I think His voice will always lead me in a happy direction.

Other times I’m afraid that what I’m hearing really is God’s voice, because I don’t want to obey what He’s telling me to do.

I wonder, Why does His voice seem clearest when it’s the last thing I want to do?

I try to convince myself that it’s some other voice—any voice except His. I want Him to tell me what would be more comfortable to do. Easier. Less painful.

Sometimes His leading is hard to discern, but other times it’s unmistakable. And I don’t have peace until I say yes.

I discovered, though, that when I determine to obey, Christ gives me the desire to do it, even though it’s the last thing I would want to do. He gives me peace and strength, even though I’m shaking inside. I have the assurance that I’m doing His will.

I learned today that that assurance is worth all the risks.

Today I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit who convicts, the God who loves me enough to correct me, and the Savior who can change my heart to want His ways and who can give me the strength to carry it out.

~Rachel Sue

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Excited at His love.

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This morning I stuck a Christian book back on the shelf. I think it was a good book, but it wasn’t clicking. God wasn’t speaking. I wasn’t getting it, even though it may have been good stuff. It was like an apple that should have been great—that looked bright and juicy—but tasted dry.

That’s how I felt my relationship with God and quiet time had been lately. I’d read Scripture and I could understand it with my mind, but my spirit wasn’t being fed. I knew these great passages should encourage, excite, and teach me—but it just wasn’t there. The words just sat on the page. I didn’t know what God wanted to teach me.

And I didn’t know what to do about it.

Can you relate?

For some reason I had put the first book back on the shelf because God had wanted me to pick up another. It happened to be Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life by John Piper.

It didn’t take me long after starting the first devotional to realize that this was God’s answer to my dryness. Somehow the book pointed me to God to see Him in a new light.

Sometimes a new mindset changes everything.

“and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” (Ephesians 4:23, NKJV)

John Piper wrote:

“If the church is going to reassert God’s rightful place in the soul of man and the center of all life, we will need a sharpened focus of who he is and what he is like…What we need is a big picture of a great God who is utterly committed to joyfully demonstrating his greatness in doing us good…We must experience this magnificence as the explosion of God’s uncontainable zeal to satisfy his creatures by showing them himself.”

It hit me: I had been focusing on what I could get out of this quiet time, this relationship with God. I was unsatisfied because I was trying to fulfill me with my own security. I had been searching for verses about God’s being with me, clinging to them in order to make me feel better.

But I learned: that doesn’t satisfy. Instead, I must turn my focus to God and his glory. I must enjoy His greatness. I need a “big picture of a great God.” In light of Him and His greatness and His magnificent love, He does satisfy and His gifts are enough.

Maybe I was just looking for the gifts instead of enjoying the indescribable character of the Giver.

I don’t know if I’m describing this right. But I tasted it—it’s perfect. I want you to taste it, too.

I am convinced of this: God delights in loving and blessing His children. “For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you” (Deuteronomy 30:9, ESV). That’s one of the verses John Piper cited. It amazed me. God loves to love us. Not so that we can go confidently and independently along with our lives, but so that we can turn back and praise Him for His great love…and simply, for His greatness.

We are so small; God is so large. And yet He is glorified when we take delight in His person. And He “takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Psalm 147:11, ESV). (Thanks for including that verse as well, Mr. Piper.)

Now this makes me excited. This puts a spring into my step and a smile upon my face.

Lord, please open my eyes to see more of Your greatness.

~Rachel Sue

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Life, Opportunity, and Courage

“And the strongest emotion was that life was as precious as it was puzzling. It was an ecstasy because it was an adventure; it was an adventure because it was an opportunity.” ~G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Lock

In my reading of this incredible book, I have been challenged by Chesterton’s excitement for life. He saw so much opportunity and beauty and magic in merely life just because it was life. The opportunity to live and discover and learn and experience and be.

He’s right. Life should be exciting because I get to exist and do things. How often do I dread the monotony, the dead moments, and the little things that seem to have no meaning? But all of that makes up life. Life—that indescribable web in which we are allowed to find God and see Him manifested in the greatest star to the tiniest molecule.

Do I try to see this life as drudgery, time that I have to use up, hoping that the next thing will be better? Or do I see it as the opportunity that God made it to be—the opportunity to find out things I don’t know, the opportunity to enjoy love and friendship, the opportunity to experience all that is possible with my body, my mind, and my spirit?

Today I learned that seeing life as an opportunity makes me more willing to break out of my comfort bubble and touch life. Sometimes that idea terrifies me because the unknown can be so unwelcoming. But deep down I know that the unknown holds treasures unmatched by what is familiar to me. I forget that a lot.

But stepping out into opportunity is so freeing. I’m free to experience life because I’m not chained by my uncertainties and discomforts.

Today my mom encouraged me with Joshua 1:9:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The opportunity thing is exciting (it makes life so much bigger!), but it takes a lot of courage. It’s worth it. I believe that the more riches I find in life, the more I can glorify God for putting them there. The greatness of the world is just a glimpse of the greatness of God.

Happy New Year. Find opportunity this 2014. Be brave.

~Rachel Sue

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Why I’m Trying Not to Judge

Pointing

Sometimes Facebook makes me paranoid. People—great Christian people that I respect—post great-looking things. But I admit that I’ve posted similar “great” things with an ulterior motive (I’m sorry, but I don’t promise that it won’t happen again). So I can’t help but wonder, “What is YOUR motive?”

Maybe it’s only me, but this can basically make me lose faith in the whole human race. Since I can’t see the human heart behind the Facebook post, the truth is left up to my imagination. And when I stop to analyze your heart via your timeline, I honestly can’t tell if you’re being real or insincere, heartfelt or fake. If I have to come to a conclusion, it probably won’t be right.

If I wonder, I start to doubt. I can’t trust you. I can’t learn from you. I’m afraid to count on you because you might let me down.

God showed me this week, amidst my distrust and caution, that I don’t have to worry about it.

“Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls” (Romans 14:4, ESV).

I am, you are, each of us is individually responsible to God. He sees the heart; He will judge rightly. In the end, He will make it all right. So this means that I don’t have to walk around with guard walls around me. I don’t have to judge people and be afraid of trusting them in case they don’t have everything quite in order.

If you don’t have the right motive behind what I see, it’s not my problem. It’s between you and God. My responsibility is to obey God for myself, not for you. This is actually rather relieving.

Over the past several years, there were Christians who seemed infallible and wise, people whom I never dreamed could take the wrong path. But the outcome surprised me, and they weren’t who I thought they were. Even though it can be painful confusing, I am not responsible to judge them or decide how it should turn out.

I can pray. By God’s help, I can discern what is—or what is not—pleasing to Him. I can appreciate the good coming from people around me. But I don’t have to worry if you are one hundred percent worth believing and trusting. I don’t have to carry the responsibility of knowing if your heart is right or not.

“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12, ESV).

Looks like making sure my heart is right will keep me busy enough.

~Rachel Sue

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Don’t Fear the Small Things

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Sometimes I’ve found that the things I dread the most are also the things I enjoy the most. Or perhaps those things impart a sense of accomplishment, something that is even better than simply the pleasure of the moment.

My favorite YouTube fitness instructor says to “find comfort in the discomfort.” Surely this applies to more than plank position. If I only did what brought me pleasure at the moment and avoided the awkward, the hard, or the monotonous, I would never see any results or achieve anything meaningful.

Take school, for example. I HATE interviews, but it seems that professors often think that they’re a beneficial exercise. However, I can’t avoid them since they are right there, as much a part of my homework as anything else. (I’ve seriously considered fabricating a nice-sounding interview with an imaginary person, but I know I would die from guilt afterwards.) Yet these times I’ve worked up the nerve to interview the local judge about justice, a random social worker about foster care, or people I respect about their views on various issues, I’ve come away having learned something I never would otherwise. Not only have I overcome a challenge, but I’ve also gained wisdom from those who have gone ahead of me.

Or cleaning. Sometimes I really enjoy housework, and other times I watch papers assemble all over my desk, hating the mess but also feeling too lazy to do anything about it. (I can always use the “busy” excuse, right?) Actually, I’ve never died from cleaning my desk. In fact, I’ve never even regretted cleaning my desk.

Paperwork. Phone calls. Ironing. Working out. Or big stuff – you know what it is.The stuff that life is made of, and also the stuff we dread the most. It’s nothing to be scared of. I think Satan enjoys telling us that it is so that we miss out on the good that we can experience if we cross the line of comfort.

I have a long ways to go in this area. It’s definitely easier to check Facebook than to get through a good book. However, I am proud that I made myself finish school before I wrote this post. =)

This does’t translate over into spiritual life in such a way that the more we do for God, the more He blesses us. No. His richest blessings are those whose hearts are loyal to Him, who seek Him with all of their hearts. And We love Him because He first loved us. And I believe that as much as is in our human wills, we will never regret what we surrender to Him.

~Rachel Sue

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