WorryWorm

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 4:6-7

I tend to worry.

A lot.

In those moments of worrying, it’s not like I am intentionally telling God that I don’t trust Him or that I think I can handle things on my own, because He and I both know that I can’t.

Still… this is the message my worry sends to God.

Worry says, “I don’t think You can handle this.”

Worry screams, “I HAVE TRUST ISSUES!!!”

Worry whispers, “I am all alone in this.”

Worry lies, “There is no hope.”

Worry (verb): to give way to anxiety or unease; to allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.

When we worry, it is a choice.

Ouch… yeah, that even stings a little for me. This means that when I worry, I am willingly taking my issues out of God’s capable hands and holding onto them for myself. I am choosing to give way to my anxiety, letting it take over. I am choosing to allow myself to dwell needlessly on something or someone.

When I worry, I become a mess. I cry. I shake. I crave endless amounts of chocolate. Sometimes I have panic attacks.

To worry is to choose these things.

I know. I get it. Who would choose to be so miserable over trivial (or worse) things?

But you did. And I did, too.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
– 1 Peter 5:7

The Bible tells us to cast our cares, our worries, our troubles, our anxieties on God. He is able to handle anything we could ever throw at Him, be it fear or even anger. Even if your anger is directed at God? He can take it.

In fact, He wants to.

What?

O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen
on your walls;
they will pray day and night,
continually.
Take no rest, all you who pray to the
LORD.
Give the LORD no rest until he
completes his work,
until he makes Jerusalem the pride of
the earth.

– Isaiah 62:6-7

Yep! He wants to hear from you, no matter how you may be feeling towards Him personally. He wants to hear your voice. He knows your struggles and He knows your heart, yes. But isn’t it so much more satisfying and meaningful to hear the words, “I love you,” from your significant other rather than just assuming or knowing they somehow feel this way? It’s the same with God. Sure, He already knows. But it means so much more for you to open up to Him and tell Him what’s bothering you so that He can fix it. The relationship between us and Him is a two-way street, and when we are silent…. well, the relationship doesn’t exactly develop. He talks to us all the time, but most of us are too distracted to even notice.

God even appointed people to pray– that’s how much he longs for us to communicate with Him! “Give me no rest,” in other words, “BOTHER ME! DON’T STOP BUGGING ME! Don’t stop talking to me! Don’t stop petitioning me! Give me no rest until I answer you.” – GOD

He longs to hear from you, sweet friend. He knows what is on your heart and He wants you to trust Him enough to whisper to Him in the dead of night when sleep evades you. He knows what you are going through and He yearns for you to lean into Him as the tears fall from your weary eyes. His arms are ready to carry you to a safe place where all your troubles are heard and cared about. He is the best listener. He won’t tell you that you’re stupid for feeling how you feel. He won’t reject you because of your struggle. He won’t alienate you because of that secret sin issue that hardly anyone else knows about.

He is here. He always has been. He wants to hear from you. Before you post your struggle to Facebook, before you tell Twitter and Instagram. He longs to take care of your burdens for you- only He can truly take them away.

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
– Matthew 6:27;30;34

Worrying hurts. It hurts us far more than whom or whatever we happen to be worrying about.

Those people that hurt you? They aren’t the ones sitting up late at night dwelling on your pain. The person who denied you the loan? He isn’t worried about where your next meal will come from. Your high school crush? They aren’t dwelling on each word they said to you at lunch today, and they certainly aren’t preparing themselves for what they will say tomorrow.

Everyone you are worried about is not focused on the fact that you are worried, and most of them aren’t concerned with your pain. It is far from their minds. Dwelling on every possible detail of what went wrong and what you could have done will not help the situation. Dwelling on “what if”s and “could be”s are just as toxic.

Worrying hurts… it hurts you. Not them. You.

Why worry? Why willingly put yourself through even more suffering?

It’s not because you “can’t help it”, because as we discovered earlier, worrying is a choice.

Do we worry because it’s a semblance of control? Do we think that if we have a say on what we choose to worry about, it will somehow remedy the hurt we feel?

Why DO we worry?

It boils down to a lack of faith. A lack of faith and a lack of trust in the One who holds your tomorrows. The One who knows the exact amount of hair on your head- including the ones that have fallen out recently. The One who knows how many tears you have cried, how many miles you have walked without the help of a Fitbit and how many sleepless nights you’ve spent staring up at the ceiling.

Choosing to worry is telling God that He is incapable of understanding you. The Creator of the Universe and the very same Creator of YOU. Worry tells Him that you don’t think He gets it. Worry tells Him that you don’t trust Him to know you inside and out, or to even understand how to fix the problem you’re having.

Choosing to worry is telling God that you don’t believe. You don’t believe that He can sort things out; you don’t trust that He has things under control. In fact, you think He couldn’t care less about you or the problems you’re dealing with.

Choosing to worry is choosing to stiff-arm God. You are saying, “Whoa there, God! I have got this- You stay out of it!”

I don’t know about you, but that image right there makes me uncomfortable. I certainly never intended to do that to God! I would never say that to His face, much less ever think it. But… when I worry? That’s exactly what I’m doing. When I go to social media and complain about my issues rather than go to Him, that’s what I’m doing. When I choose to wallow in self-pity rather than ask Him for help, I am rejecting God. I am casting Him aside. I am spitting in the face of the One who loved me enough to die for me.

Have you spat in God’s face lately? Have you been dwelling on something for weeks on end without asking Him for help? Have you avoided His Word because you know deep down that He will speak Truth you need to hear but desperately want to ignore?

Do you want to change? Or do you want to hold on to these worries, these fears, these grudges and other things, just so you can have something- anything- to “control”?

Sweet friend, I am in the boat with you. The waves are rocking, the sky is terrifyingly dark, and I am just as scared as you. But God has not forgotten us! He is walking towards us in the midst of our storm. Here’s the thing…

Do you let your faith falter during the storm?

Or will you cry out in faith rather than in fear?

Will you let Him climb into your mess with you?

Satan will feed on your pain and he is currently thriving on the doubts, worries and fears that you have been having. In this world, we will have trouble. We are guaranteed that fact:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
– John 16:33

This trouble can be emotional, mental, physical, environmental, relational… and it will happen. We can see it all around us- the shootings, the mass hysteria, the beatings, the murders- we are in the midst of a mighty storm filled with terror and pain. But take heart! Take courage! Be stilled by His peace! He has the victory. In Him, you are already victorious. He has overcome the world.

Don’t let the enemy make you feel defeated in whatever storm you might be facing right now. If you feel the urge to talk to someone about your pain, please do so! It helps to go to a trusted friend or family member about what you’re going through. But don’t forget about God. You were never meant to carry these worries beyond the cross. Whatever it is, especially if it’s an insecurity or something bubbling up from your past? It’s covered. Jesus already paid for that. And don’t think for one second that He wouldn’t do it again.

Open up to Him about your struggle and be willing to actually let go of it this time. Whenever you feel the urge to take those worries and doubts back, pray. Even if you’re in your car, turn off the radio (GASP) and talk to God. You don’t have to close your eyes to talk to Him. Even if you’re walking down the hallway at work, you can pray without outwardly saying a word. That’s what Paul meant when he talked about “praying without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians. 5:16-18). It doesn’t mean literally 24/7 eyes closed and meditating. It means that whenever you feel yourself struggling, immediately telling Papa God about it. Prayer is our instant line to God. He speaks to us through the Bible, through music and even through other people, and we speak to Him through prayer. It’s meant to be a two-way conversation.

Worrying will not help your situation, friend. Nor will it help mine. It’s a hard lesson to learn, because it seems like all I can do in a tough spot is worry. This is why God’s grace is so wonderful- He understands us so well that He knows we are going to struggle. He knew we would fail miserably at this whole praying and not-worrying thing. And that’s okay. The important thing is to keep striving to do better. To admit when we mess up and keep going.

Take a moment right now to thank God for being here with you through your struggle, even when you didn’t realize it. Then, take your struggles to Him. Tell Him everything on your heart, even if it’s painful to admit out loud. If it helps you, write it all down. This is why I prayer journal- I write down most of my prayers. This helps me not only stay awake (because we have ALL fallen asleep while praying) but it helps me focus. I can look back and see where He answered prayers… and that’s one of the neatest things. I encourage you to give it a try!

♥ You are not alone in your struggles. Feel free to reach out about what you’re going through! We cannot do life alone. ♥

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All Bottled Up

A few days ago on my way to work, I spent some much-needed time talking with God. This is something I really should spend more time doing… lately I’ve been so distracted. Most of these distractions have been on purpose.

See… if I’m busy, I don’t have time to truly deal with the complicated emotions swirling inside like the tempest that seems to be threatening to break me down at any moment. Though I realize that this is no excuse.

Work and fun events have been wonderful distractions. I am beyond thankful for this new experience- it’s a definite blessing. But I must admit, I’ve been pouring my heart into it so much that I’ve left no room for myself… or God.

I had the radio set to Air1 and was singing along to a song- I honestly can’t even tell you the name of it, which is strange for this musical personality. I was running on autopilot, singing yet not really feeling the music, driving the same route I’ve driven many times now. Suddenly, I felt compelled to turn the radio off. As I did, I looked to my right and saw the most breathtaking sunrise.

Hues of lush pinks and oranges blurred together amidst the clouds that were tainted purple and dark blue. The sun shone a reddish orange and hid behind dark, wispy clouds, barely peeping through. Rain was threatening to cascade down by misting every now and then.

Have you ever looked at the sky, wondering if God thought of you as His hand caressed the clouds, forming them into their billowing shapes? That He might have chuckled to Himself, knowing that with each brushstroke of color you would be in awe of His latest masterpiece? Have you ever just stared at the sky and smiled up to the heavens, nodding at His artwork, feeling as though He chose those hues and patterns just for you?

There was a sudden warmness inside of my chest, making its way up to my cheeks. I took every chance I could take to look at the miraculous scenery before me.

As I accelerated through the curves of the highway, taking in the changing leaves that were falling around me, I noticed another beautiful sight. A rainbow was just ahead of me. It was barely visible, like mine and God’s shared secret. It was as if He was reminding me as I poured my heart out that not only was He there, listening, but He was also in control.

“Okay, God,” I muttered, letting a sigh escape my lips. “I trust You… You are good. You are in control and You know exactly what You’re doing. I trust You to take care of my heart. I trust you to love me like no one else possibly could. I trust You to lead me, to grow me and to chisel away at my imperfections. I trust You, LORD.”

Saying these words out loud was harder than I expected. I had to keep repeating that same phrase, “I trust you, LORD,” so that hopefully it would sink in. I believe that God is good. I believe that He is good to me. He is for me, not against me. So why was I having such trouble truly entrusting everything to Him? He is capable of absolutely anything! Why was I struggling with giving my fragile heart over to Him so that He could mend and protect it?

It’s funny how simply seeing a glimpse of a rainbow or a brilliant sunrise can remind us that God is in control. He has us in the palm of His mighty hand, and He does have it all figured out. We have a purpose! We are not simply here just to exist. There is so much more to this life than we know… and the great thing is we don’t have to know it all. I’m pretty positive that if I knew every detail of what would happen in my life before it did, I would obsess over every little thing. I would become even worse of a perfectionist than I am now. I would fret over silly things, thinking everything had to be “just so” in order for it to come to pass as I was told it should.

God knows me. He knows I can only handle so much… and when I try to take too many things on, I become overwhelmed and stressed, sometimes to the point of getting ill. He only gives me little tidbits when He knows I can handle them.

Right now, my heart is still in the process of healing. I guess I didn’t realize just how broken I felt until a recent conversation with the Young Adults pastor of ParadigmKC. Through this conversation I discovered that for some reason, I had been subconsciously beating myself up just for feeling hurt, as though I had no right at all to my feelings… when I definitely do. And so do you.

No one, not even me, can write-off feelings. Real or imagined, they are going to happen. The important thing is to not look at life through the lens of our feelings. These feelings are fickle- they will not always be present because they can change on a dime. We need to look at life and different situations through the lens of God’s Word, which is unwavering in truth.

Honestly? If I looked at everything in this way, my feelings would not rule over my heart and decisions so much.

Another realization brought on by this conversation was that I haven’t been extending the same grace that has been bestowed upon me. I have been distracting myself on purpose to avoid dealing with the elephant in the room. Instead of addressing the heart issue,  I would rather run from conflict, bottling up my feelings, thinking that it would somehow make things better.

Ha-ha…. no.

I don’t know your personal situation, dear reader, but I can tell you from experience (and lots of it) that bottling up your emotions will not end well for you. Have you ever noticed that you never feel any better while you’re hiding your pain from others? That’s because in the end, the only one who is hurt or bothered by your whistling tea pot of emotions is you. You can’t expect things to get better if you keep how you are feeling to yourself. You’re no mind-reader! Neither are those who have hurt you. There’s a pretty good chance that they don’t even realize that they have hurt you and are moving on while you sit and stew.

Not helpful.

You might have the mindset that they need to be the ones to come to you and apologize for what they have done, which I completely understand. Hello! Been there. Practically made a banner and a Facebook page for it. However, the other party involved won’t always be the first to come to that realization. Sometimes, people just say or do things without thinking about what it might do to those around them. I am sure I’ve done this, and as you read this I’m sure you can think of a time where you’ve accidentally stepped on someone’s toes, too. 99.9% of the time, those who have hurt you didn’t really intend to do so.

Bottling up these feelings also gives the enemy plenty of ammo to use against you. So many triggers ripe for the picking! He hardly has to try to put you on edge or to get you to wallow in self-pity. With all of those emotions built up, you’re practically a ticking time-bomb, and Satan will gladly light the fuse.

So, how do we mend this sticky situation?

Prayer and conversation.

Eeek! I know. The confrontation stage of a discussion is never the most comfortable scenario. It can be extremely awkward and every fiber of your being will be wanting to bolt right out of the coffee shop you agreed to meet this person in. I’m right there with ya, friend. It’s not easy, but it is worth it! Every second of that uncomfortable, stomach-knotting and thumb-twiddling conversation means you are closer to freedom from those feelings… and closer to the possibility of reconciliation.

Step 1. Prayer:

Seems easy enough, doesn’t it? Au contraire! I’m not talking about spending a mere 5 minutes talking with God about how frustrated you are and then leaving it at that. Trust me, I’ve been the one to do that and it got me nowhere. When I say prayer, I’m talking about taking the time to really dig in deep in a conversation with Papa God.

  • Spend time writing down your thoughts and then speaking them aloud. God knows what’s on your heart, but that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t want to hear it from you!
  • Pray for the conversation to go not as you want it but as God would have it go- He knows best!
  • Pray for your tongue, that it might not be on the defense- that you would seek to understand rather than to be understood.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” -Proverbs 15:1

  • Pray for the other person in this, that even if things cannot be patched up between the two of you that they would forgive you for your part in the conflict and vice versa.

Whoa, hold- up. Did you read that right? Yep! I said YOUR part. It takes two, my friend. Even if you had 1% or 35.6% in the conflict, you still had a part. Be willing to own 100% of your 1%. Even if that means apologizing for running away and pretending for weeks that you weren’t bitter, when in fact, you were.

  • Pray that God would help you speak in His love rather than in your hurt feelings. Separate your emotions from facts, here.
  • Pray that you could extend the same grace that God has given to us all. You may be thinking, “I’ve forgiven them. I just don’t want to have anything to do with them ever again.” That’s not true forgiveness, nor is that grace. What would we do if God had that same attitude towards us? Think on that for a moment. What if God forgave us of our sins, yet completely cut us out of the blessings of knowing Him? Praise God that He forgives us totally and opens the way for genuine reconciliation! He calls us to forgive others in the exact same way:

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:12

  • Pray that no matter the outcome of the conversation that you would walk away knowing you pursued the other person the way Jesus would have. That instead of fighting tooth and nail to avoid conflict, you ran towards it in an attempt to mend the broken bridge.

Step 2. The Conversation:

Be sure to have this conversation in private. Even if you have talked to others about this, ultimately it is between you and those initially involved. If you have tried to talk to the individual and they weren’t willing to listen, then it is okay to invite someone else in to help mediate.

Take a deep breath. Take your time- don’t rush into spilling your guts just yet. See if they would like to speak first. Be willing to listen and do so intently. Let the other person see by your actions that you are sincere in wanting to resolve this issue.

“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” -Proverbs 18:13

When it is your turn to speak, be careful not to let your hurt feelings take over! If it helps, have the facts of whatever occurred written down in bullet points so you can point out actual events rather than assumptions of what you perceived happened. This way, you can say, “________ happened this way, and because of that, this is how I’ve been feeling.” You won’t be over-exaggerating and you also won’t be letting your temper lead the conversation. You’ll simply be stating the effects these events had on you.

Though it may be extremely difficult, be honest with yourself and with them. If you truly have been having a hard time because of this issue, let it be known. You don’t have to go into gory details of the sleepless nights and tears shed, but let them know that you have been agonizing over the issue. They need to know your heart.

Now, take another deep breath. Prepare yourself.

Take this moment to apologize to them for your part in this conflict. It doesn’t matter if you think you are completely innocent in the matter- trust me, you aren’t. Set your pride aside and think, “What part did I have to play in this issue?” Think on these questions:

  • Did I bottle up my feelings for weeks on end, giving the other person the cold shoulder without explaining why?
  • Have I been avoiding them?
  • Have I made vague posts to social media without naming names about my pain and frustration?
  • Have I gone behind their back and gossiped about the issue and how horribly they treated me?
  • Have I called them names, whether aloud or in my thoughts?
  • Did I say anything cruel or snippy to them, whether to their face or in passing?
  • Have I dragged other people into the issue, baiting them to take my side even though they don’t know the whole story?
  • Have I ever, even once, thought to myself how much I dislike or even “hate” this person?
  • (Enter your own questions here- you get the idea)

Ask for feedback from the other person involved. Give them a chance to tell you how they feel the situation could have been handled by you. It may sting to hear their opinion, but sometimes we need a healthy dose of humble pie. We can learn so much from encounters like these so that hopefully we won’t repeat the same actions in the future.

“Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” -Proverbs 18:2

Trust God throughout the entire situation . He will not give you anything you cannot handle! He will be with you as you speak with this person. He has already gone before you, so you have nothing to fear.

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – Deuteronomy 31:8

Remember that you cannot expect them to approach the situation in the same way that you are! We have no control over how others act and react. What matters is how YOU approach the situation. You can either choose to do so in love or in anger, but it is my hope that you would go for the former. There is a good chance that they may come into the conversation prepared for a verbal throw-down, and you need to be prepared for that as well.

For example, I faced a situation in college where my roommate was prepared for just that. She wasn’t expecting me to handle it in love or maturity. I had written down all of my feelings and asked for her patience as I read it all to her. I was honest in how I felt, and by the time I finished reading, her expression and body language had gone from confrontational to apologetic and understanding. We ended up having a heart-to-heart and aired both of our grievances. We worked everything out and even laughed together by the time the conversation ended. Later on, she gave me a chance to “chew her out” because she believed that she deserved nothing better, which broke my heart. She is a wonderful individual that has had pain in her life, and I didn’t want to make her feel as I had felt before… God was telling me in that moment to give her grace. We aren’t as close as we were before, and we may never be. However, I can rest assured that the conflict was pursued whole-heatedly. I no longer harbor any ill-will or bitterness towards her as I once had.

Sometimes, these conversations don’t go as we would have liked. And you know what? That’s okay. If, in the end, the conflict isn’t resolved and you tried your hardest, there is nothing wrong with loving them from a distance. Yes. Love them, not curse their very existence for not resolving things with you. As I said, we cannot control how they react. We can only prepare ourselves and approach these situations as God would have us do.

Forgiveness is not easy. It takes daily commitment to forgive and to do so fully. Sometimes, it helps to think, “I forgive you,” any time you see or think of that person. To live out forgiveness and grace in our daily lives, we need to keep these things in mind after a conflict:

  1. I will not dwell on this incident.
  2. I will not revisit this incident or use it against those involved.
  3. I will not talk to others about this incident.
  4. I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.

Forgiveness is a spiritual process that you cannot fully accomplish on your own. As you seek to forgive others, continually ask God for grace to enable you to imitate His wonderful forgiveness towards you. Seek Biblical counsel from others! We cannot go through this life alone, and sometimes we need help from others to keep us grounded and to remind us of how God would want us to handle these sticky situations.

Let’s be honest, sometimes our initial reactions to conflict aren’t the most “Jesus-like”. We are human, after all. It’s in those moments where we can be especially thankful for God’s grace. He gives us thousands of second chances to get things right, so it’s up to us to do the same towards others.

………

Even though it took some time for me to come to my senses, it is nice to know that God won’t give up on me. Seeing that sunrise and a glimpse of a rainbow that morning gave me reassurance that I don’t have to be in control. I am in good hands. I can only control how I go about living life and treating others. This conflict that I’m faced with has essentially been “dealt with”, but of course it takes more than a conversation or two to mend a hurting heart. Thankfully, it is also in very good hands.

I just want to encourage you today. If you get nothing else from this post, I hope this can sink in:

You are not alone, even in those moments where you feel as though you are. You are not the only person who has been hurt, and you are not the only human in this vast world who struggles with bitterness, loneliness, forgiveness and so on and so forth. We are in this together, my friend! And we just so happen to have a mighty God on our side who knows our pain- He has faced everything we will ever go through on this side of heaven. Don’t think that just because we can’t see Him that He isn’t here. Don’t underestimate Him! He warned us that we would face difficulties in our lives, but He also gave us hope: He has already won the battle. We are more than conquerors because of HIM!

So, even though we will face conflict… in the grand scheme of things, it is something so very small. In the blink of an eye, this too shall pass. One day, we will look back and wonder why we were so bent out of shape over something so insignificant in the light of eternity. Though it may seem big now, sweet friend, I promise you… it will get better.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

Wait.

Waiting is definitely something I have struggled with. Just when I feel sure of myself in my wait, BAM! Impatience, doubt, worry, fear and sometimes even frustration set in. I’ve even told myself that this season is just a “waiting period” and that it will be over soon. I console myself by thinking of possible outcomes, all of them colored with my desires rather than God’s.

It appears to me that I have more of an issue with placing my faith in a favorable outcome rather than a God whose favor I am undeserving of yet have anyway.

Honestly, take a moment to evaluate the season you’re in right now. Are you content with where you are, trying your best to make things work? Or are you chomping at the bit to move forward and get this part of your life “over with”?

Regardless of where you are, not only do I understand completely, I have experienced both of these scenarios recently.

Six months ago, I was trying desperately to hold on to what I knew God wanted me to completely let go of. I wanted so badly for Him to do what I wanted… not the other way around. I was stubbornly hoping that in the end, things would resolve the way I intended them to…. boy was I sorely misguided.

God began working on me… and slowly I began to realize that all He wanted was me. Not who I could be or who I once was. Just me. And in order for that to happen, I needed to focus on Him. I was so distracted by my selfish desires that I was hindering the blessings He had in store for me.

Did you catch that? At times, we are the ones who stand in the way of the blessings God wants to bestow upon us. 

How terribly unfortunate!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

When I finally let go? He blessed me in more ways than I ever expected. Different doors began to open and since then, I have learned quite a few lessons:

He taught me that His plans truly are better. We may have our own agendas, but in the end, He has something far better in store for you and I. Twice now I have thought that I found my future husband, and twice now I have been wrong. God chose to close those doors for me… to protect me. Then it hit me: I thought that I found. I didn’t trust in Him or even truly dig deep to see if I was following His will or my own selfish desires… it was definitely the latter. I didn’t wait for His “green light”, so to speak. He keeps surprising me after each hard time and heartbreak, though… always bringing me through to something much better than I could have imagined.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21

He showed me that right now, I need to be single. I was so excited about the thought of commitment and a future, I let myself get too vulnerable too soon. Instead of guarding my heart and keeping my boundaries up, I let the idea of love fuel my actions. You see, I met someone through the young adults group I attend regularly and now serve at. Instead of staying grounded in the Truth, I followed my emotions and what I thought were clearly “signs” from God. As a result, it ended rather quickly. I am actually thankful that it all happened the way it did… because what I thought I wanted was not what God desires for me. He wants me to focus my attention to His plans for my life right now, rather than worrying over who I will marry someday. The truth is I’m not as ready as I thought for forever.

“I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him.” – 1 Corinthians 7:32

“Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” – Song of Solomon 3:5

He is teaching me what true forgiveness is. I thought I had things under control. I told myself that I had forgiven people from my past as well as recently. I underestimated the power of unforgiveness! It can fester under the surface, much like a sink hole. Eventually it catches up to you and collapses, taking you down along with debris and whoever might be near. Bottled up feelings always do. In reality, I hadn’t completely dealt with my bitterness and it came back to bite me. It reared its ugly head amongst other situations that had nothing to do with my past, and now I’m learning how to properly deal with it. Forgiveness is liberating! It frees you from the damage you’ve been putting yourself through all that time whilst harboring a grudge. Unforgiveness hurts you much more than it does the other party. Sometimes, most times, they are unaware. Silently suffering, you watch them move on while you can’t understand why you’re stuck in the muck. Forgiveness is freely given to us by God even though we don’t deserve it. Others may not “deserve” forgiveness in our opinions, but God loves them just as much as He loves you and I. He forgave them, and He has more than enough reason not to… we can forgive them, too. We all desperately need forgiveness.

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” – Mark 11:25

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” – Micah 7:18-19

Again and again, He helps me realize that He’s in control. I am one of the biggest worry worms out there. I definitely have gotten better, but I tend to take up worrying any chance I get. It’s not good. Still, every single time I worry… God is right there gently nudging me to give Him my anxieties, fears, doubts and struggles. He patiently waits until I figure out, once again, that I can’t do this on my own. Praise God, I am NOT ALONE! He has surrounded me with such wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ who are here to pick me up when I fall. They even keep me in check when something isn’t quite right. They edify and observe me and vice versa. He has provided me with ample resources- He equips others with specific gifts to help one another, so it’s foolish to not reach out and tap into that blessing! I look back and see His hand in everything that has happened, and I’m learning to see it even now. He is with me. He is for me. I have no reason to worry about anything.

“…Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of opposition, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, Your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.” – Isaiah 43:1-3

“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?… And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” – Matthew 6:27;30

He’s showing me how to let go. I hold on to things so thightly that sometimes it hinders the blessings God is wanting to bestow upon me. For example, I did not want to let go of my first love. Despite the issues we were having, I did not want to see what God was trying to tell me. So He spoke to me via friends in my community who were worried about me being unequally yoked. They saw the issues clearly; I wanted to ignore the issues for the sake of my selfish desires. I loved him. I wanted that to be enough. But it wasn’t, and God had other plans. He needed me to let go on my own so that Joey and I could breathe… and grow. Here I am, nearly six months later, having grown so much… I have experienced my first mission trip, delved deeper into God’s unconditional love and His word, I’ve made new friends and connections, and I am healing. God wanted me to let go completely so that He could stretch me, teach me, protect me, train me and ultimately so I would learn to lean on Him instead of others.

I am finding my worth in Him. For most of my life, I sought completion and value from other people. I thrived on their opinions of me. If they didn’t like me, I was crushed. I looked for my worth in boys, thinking that the only way to gain their approval or affection was to give them what they craved. I lived on the next “like” on social media, brainwashed into thinking that the number on the notifications screen determined how beautiful I was. God was always there, trying to erase the mean things I’d write about myself in journals, holding me when I cried myself to sleep, replacing all the bullies’ harsh language with His thoughts of me… Now, at 22, I finally hear Him. I see what He thinks of me, I know that I am worth so much more than the world told me. Beautiful. Beloved. Cherished. Valued. Wanted. Delightful. Mended. His. I was bought at a price and Jesus thought of me on that cross. I am worthy of love. He loves me with an everlasting love. To Him, I am priceless. No man will ever complete me, and only One man died for me. I am a daughter of the One True King and that makes me worthwhile. Not because of anything I’ve done but because of everything He has done!

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

– Luke 12:6-7

Right now, the season I am in isn’t glamorous or where I imagined I would be by August of 2016. I thought I’d be a senior in college by now, finishing up my BME at Northwest Missouri State University. I figured I’d be pretty darn close to marrying my first love. I never dreamed that I would be living with my parents and searching for a job that could end in a career. I never imagined that I would be afraid to go back to school. I definitely didn’t plan on being single.

There are a lot of uncertainties in my life presently. And you know what?

That’s okay.

God is preparing me for something far better than the things I planned for myself. He has me right where I am supposed to be, home to heal and serving at my church. He is on the move, closing various doors and setting things in motion for specific doors to open. I won’t try to predict His next move… but I will continue to trust in Him and live for Him while I wait.

Unexpected things have happened, and while some have been painful, I will not be shaken. There is a purpose for my wait, a meaning behind this season. I’m not just sitting around waiting for God to move, oh no. That’s not how it works. We have to be proactive in the wait. So right now, I’m proactively searching for jobs. I’m getting out of the house and joining the living. This weeked I’ll be enjoying a much-needed retreat with fellow ParadigmKC leaders. In a month I’ll be going on a Brave retreat with many other women from Abundant Life. I’m plugging in and serving God and others, as well as digging in to community and study groups. I will be finishing Discipleship 1 soon, and I will start D2 as soon as I can afterwards. I’ll be continuing counseling and begin training at a gym once I have the means to do so.

Life goes on, even during a time of waiting. Regardless of our relationship status, job situation or whether or not we’re going back to school, we have to keep going.

Keep fighting to discover your purpose. Don’t quit and give in to laziness and heartache just because life isn’t going the way you planned for it to. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, good or bad. It’s up to us to decide whether we’ll stay defeated by our circumstances or rise above it.

Have hope in your wait. Something is coming- God has not abandoned you. Don’t let the enemy talk you in to doubting God or yourself. Satan loves to keep us down and defeated! Take refuge in God’s sweet love. Let Him pour His comfort over you. Take the time to tell Him your fears and worries, looking to His Word for reassurance that He’s got this, and He’s got YOU. 

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place od undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know thay they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” – Romans 5:2-4

“We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)… And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good od those who love God and are calles according to his purpose for them.” – Romans 8:24-25; 28

 ♡

Embracing the Dreaded Change

“Change – n. the act or instance of making or becoming different.”

     I’ve never really been the type of girl who enjoys change. I distinctly remember drawing a very solemn Stitch on my whiteboard during the last few days as a freshman in college. Those who I considered to be my life-long brothers and sister were gathered in my dorm room for one last hurrah before summer break. In that moment, among various others, I could emotionally connect with Hermione when she asked the guys, “Everything’s going to change now, isn’t it?”

I didn’t want things to change. I was perfectly pleased being as we were, filled with anticipation for the coming years and still consumed by laughter with enough time for one another. No one felt neglected. There were no mixed emotions or awkward feelings between us. We were easily excitable; our future seemed so easily obtained that there were few worries between the five of us.

Everything changed, as things often do, and it took time for me to cope with it. There were rifts and emotional turmoil, as well as heaping doses of worry, stress, and reality thrown into the mix. Difficult lessons were learned, and through all of it somehow there was growth.

Now, three years later, I have a completely different outlook on change.

Despite the fear and worry that can come with it, we shouldn’t run away from change. Yes, it’s understandably intimidating! At the same time, it is fantastically interesting and absolutely necessary. To look back over one’s life and see the how behind the metamorphosis is riveting. The clarity we now have as we delve into our past gives us a better appreciation for what we have been through.

For example, when I began my freshman year of college, I had this… well, honestly this uncanny confidence in humanity. I genuinely believed that every person was good and had no ill intent towards me or anyone else. However, I was playing with fire concerning an older man who, I believe, had every intention to take advantage of me. He was kind and flirtatious when I complied to his tastes… yet the instant I showed signs of defiance or an inkling that I had my own voice or opinion? I suddenly became unfit of his attention or time. This lasted even after I withdrew from college! Granted, I gave him a few years of silence after receiving a threat from him. He made contact with me through Snapchat and I reluctantly agreed to see him. Needless to say, after attending a meeting with him one night and being humiliated and manipulated, it finally donned on me that I was merely a plaything to him. He did not respect me as a woman or as a human being, and thankfully I finally realized that I was worth more than how he made me feel.

Even though I would never wish that kind of experience on anyone, I am thankful for it. Oddly enough to some, I look back on my life and can’t think of any situation that I would erase or alter even the slightest detail in.

You see, I am no longer a naive young woman without a voice of her own. I used to have others handle my conflicts because I feared it so much. Even though I still dislike it, I am able to stand my ground and respectfully and lovingly handle conflicts. How is that possible? Growth. Change. What I’ve been through allowed me to learn, which lead to growth and maturity, ultimately changing a few aspects of who I am as an individual. This may seem obvious to some, but I know many who still hate the possibility of change in their lives, regardless of the positive effects.

I used to be one of them: “I like things just the way they are, thank you very much! Who needs change? Why would I want to lose what I have right here and now? The future couldn’t possibly offer me anything better than what today has given me! Tomorrow scares me. What if things change and can never go back to how they were? I can’t handle that.. I can’t risk that.”

I understand, trust me! I hope you understand that to stay in one place in time ultimately stunts your growth and the growth of those around you. “How can that be,” you ask? Well, think of it this way: A baby needs to be able to fall in order to learn how to stand back up and get going on her little wobbly way again. She also needs to learn how to go to sleep on her own, eat solid foods and go to the bathroom like a big-girl. Could you imagine a 22 year old woman who still needs to be picked up by someone else when she falls, tucked in and checked on every 10 minutes at bedtime, eats mashed peas and carrots and still wears diapers?

“Well that’s just ridiculous,” you say. Yes, it is. Don’t you realize that you’re stunting your own growth by trying to stifle necessary changes in your life? You could be potentially hurting those around you as well, like your children, family members, friends or even co-workers. I don’t know your exact situation but I can tell you from experience, change is essential for life to be lived.

I have certainly been through many changes, other than the obvious puberty and whatnot. I have lost quite a bit in life, and each loss taught me how to appreciate what and who is still with me. I have been hurt by many people, yet I still have hope in others and I have learned how to forgive as I have been forgiven by God. I have come close to death myself, and now I greatly value the life I have been given. I have lived selfishly and out of God’s will for my life, and now I can’t imagine going back to the misery and emptiness I once had. I have experienced what life is like while running away from God, and can rejoice in the beauty and JOY I have now that I spend each day running towards Him. I have lived silently, battling things on my own… now, I cannot imagine going through this life alone and without hope or help.

I am not who I once was. And I am perfectly pleased with who I have become and am anxious to see who I have yet to be.

Change doesn’t have to be gloomy or petrifying. Sieze the opportunity that change provides! It may open up a door for a better job, an adventure or two, romance, new life… the possibilities are endless.

Don’t let the fear of tomorrow keep you from living. You can do this. Just breathe, and take that next step. We’re all right there with you, trying out best to follow suit, one baby step at a time. We may fall down, but the best part is that we can get back up. Be thankful for what was, find joy in what is, and have hope for what may be.

Taking the Leap

Prayer Journal entry from Sunday, February 28, 2016:

God, I felt your Spirit.

I felt you in the wind as I spoke, and I know you helped me speak directly to his heart.

I felt my flesh fighting against you. I wanted so badly to leave things out and to just hold him… the pain in his eyes was enough…

Yet, the gift of the Holy Spirit within me kept me going. It urged me to go on. The inner turmoil was unlike anything I have yet to experience in my life.

Lord… you know our hearts. You see our souls. And you understand our pain. I pray that you help he and I lean on you and soak up your love and mercy like a sponge. Help us prepare for your will in our lives. Teach us. Feed us. Grow us. Lead us. Mold us and make us into the daughter and son you would have us be.

Help us to accept whatever happens. 

Help us mourn… help us heal.

Wrap your loving arms around us, Lord. Watch over us as we sleep…. Keep us grounded throughout the day. 

I will continue to give him to you daily. 

I’m letting go.

Have you ever had a gut feeling? One that repeatedly came upon you, causing you to either accept it or consciously ignore it until it became so persistent that you could no longer continue as you were?

I suppose the pull of the Holy Spirit is kind of like that. And usually, it is most wise to heed that “gut feeling”, or gentle (sometimes not so gentle) prodding.

This time, I definitely did not want to do as I was told.

I had been with a wonderful individual for three years, almost four this October. I still consider him to be one of the best things that had ever happened to me. Not only was he my best friend, but he was my confidant, counselor, and so much more.

You see, therein lies the problem: he was so much more to me than just my boyfriend. From the beginning of our relationship and throughout, I had put him on a pedestal. He was my everything. I even put him before God! I looked to him for my self worth, my beauty, a cure for my depression and anxiety… he was the one I ran to for everything. 

God was never at the center of our relationship. Instead of trusting in God and putting my faith in Him, I poured all of my issues into my boyfriend. And that, my dears, is too much pressure for one man to handle.

The only one who can fix me and restore me to my fullest potential is God. I am still very broken. And I need to be whole and steadfast in God’s love before I can pour my love into someone else. I relied on my boyfriend for my happiness and joy- things that are fleeting to humans. He could make me happy for a moment, but pure joy? That comes from God! Though he is a fantastical and marvelous human being, he is not the one who can make me whole. Another sinful human being cannot complete me. I need to find completeness in Papa God.

I didn’t realize any of this until about six months-in to attending this young-adults group called ParadigmKC. Through this group, God began speaking to me. He used various outlets to do so, whether it was a sermon, a song, community group or through a new and trusted friend, He slowly and surely got to me.

One Thursday night before community group Bible study, I had dinner with two wonderful ladies- my best friend and someone from our childhood that God brought back into our lives via ParadigmKC. We talked about many things, and eventually the subject changed to my relationship. At first it was fun gushing about the love of my life to them, until the childhood friend confidently voiced her concerns.

Here are a few of the hard questions she asked me:

Question: Does the person you’re with currently make you fall more in love with Jesus?

I know. That one is kind of a toughy. And it hurts to think about. Especially when you love this person so dearly. However, I urge you to think on it just as I had to. It is extremely important. 

Question: Do you see fruit in your significant other’s life?

This is also a difficult question. I have learned the hard way that it isn’t our place to judge others. My walk with God is my own, and so is yours. However, according to Galations 5:16-23, the Holy Spirit is supposed to guide our lives. Furthermore, you should be able to see the fruits of Christians. That being said, I do know of many believers that are definitely saved yet bear no fruit. A friend explained it to me as, “having one foot in the World and one foot in the Kingdom,” or “luke-warm Christianity,” which God does warn us about in Revelation 3:15-17.

Question: Is he a leader? 

Basically, she was asking me if he led me to Christ and wanted us to grow in God both together and individually. God calls the man in the relationship to be the leader (Ephesians 5:23-24)! If he is not leading you, something is amiss.

She also pointed out that even from the outside-looking-in, our relationship seemed to be unequally yoked. Whether he was saved or not, we weren’t on the same page, and that’s a very dangerous thing.

Dating, to me and to many other Christians, is for marriage. If I choose to date someone, I want it to be for the long haul. To be unequally yoked is a very scary thing if you’re considering marriage. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 tells us how dangerous it is to “team up” with a nonbeliever. It can cause MANY issues later on in marriage, and it can ultimately end in divorce.

Dating is also for edification and observation. You want to observe how they are in all situations, how they treat others and you of course, and how on fire they are for Jesus. You also want to edify one another; because if you should not work out in the end, both of you should be better for having been together (for example, baggage and insecurities are significantly less than when you first met). Basically, whomever is blessed enough to be paired with either of you will be extremely thankful to your past relationship for helping you to grow and work through things.

After that conversation, I spent over a week digging in to God’s Word and asking Him questions about my relationship and where to go next. I went without speaking to my boyfriend, mainly because I was afraid. I didn’t know what to tell him! I didn’t know what God wanted me to do, so I withdrew and spent some time with God to gather my thoughts before presenting whatever the plan was with my man.

There were sermons and messages that certainly hit home with me in that time of fasting, praying and delving into His Word. A few key points I discovered were:

1. You don’t need to get married to be loved- you already are! No one will ever love you better than Jesus! Until you are fully satisfied in the love of Christ, you can never be satisfied in the love of another.

2. Your mate is not meant to complete you- only compliment you! You are completed in Christ already!

3. Do NOT follow your heart! Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. TELL your heart where it should go! Treat it like a GPS- you need to input the destination manually. Don’t trust such a fickle thing!

4. Our way is usually the wrong way. Proverbs 14:12 says that there is a way that seems right to man, but that way ends in death. If you’re not doing it Jesus’ way, you’re doing it the wrong way!

5. Don’t worry! Philippians 4:6-7 tells us not to worry about anything! Matthew 6:25-34 says not to worry- if God takes care of even the smallest of creatures, don’t you think you’re much more valuable to Him and that He will take care of you?

6. We can rejoice even in the storms. The storms are not just hard times! They serve a purpose. Romans 5:3-5 shows us that these storms in our lives develop endurance and strength of character. In turn these things lead to our confident hope of salvation. We can praise God in hard times and good times, because it all works out for our good and His glory!

So, with all of this knowledge and hope, I prayed that the Lord would guide me. I did not want to break my boyfriend’s heart, nor did I wish to start a debate. Honestly, I wanted to find another way around what God was leading me to do.

My heart and my flesh were yearning for this pain to be over. The subject of being unequally yoked had been visited and revisited over and over and OVER again. And as I thought on it and looked back at past conversations, I realized something:

God had been trying to get my attention the entire time.

I had been holding on to my relationship and the fantasies of a future with this person so tightly that God couldn’t get a word in edgewise. My grip was so tight on my boyfriend, that my flesh was running the show rather than my Spirit.

I was so intent on having things go my way that God took a back seat in my life and relationship.

And that is where I failed.

I planned a meeting at a park with my boyfriend this past Sunday. My best friend was there for moral support, without which I’m not sure I would have made it afterwards. She prayed for us as she sat across the park from where we sat.

The conversation was an emotional and lengthy one. I felt the inner turmoil of my desires and God’s will fighting against one another as I spoke. The wind that day would calm and suddenly come in gusts as I said certain things.

I felt God with us that day.

He took over my speech. I cannot honestly recall everything I said to my boyfriend. I know now that it’s because God was speaking to him through me.

He wanted my boyfriend to know just how loved he was. That this “break” was not happening because of anything he had done- we were already forgiven for our mistakes and failures.

No, God wanted him back.

It was as if He was saying to both of us, “You have been away for far too long, my child. Take refuge in ME for a time. Find your worth and your joy in abundance in my presence! My love is sufficient for you! It’s time to let go.”

After a while, I picked up two leaves from the ground. I gently took his hand and walked him to where there were no obstacles to block our way.

“What are we going to do with these,” he asked as he held one leaf in his hand, “crush them?”

I smiled and shook my head. “No, honey,” I murmured gently as I held out my hand away from us. “It’s time to let go.”

His face twisted in pain and he looked away for a moment to compose himself. Then, he held my gaze.

“Okay,” he said with pain and understanding in his eyes.

“One…” He lifted his arm out to match mine.

“Two…” We steadied ourselves, breathing in deeply to prepare for what was next.

“Three…” The wind swelled around us immideately and took our leaves on their own individual journeys.

Obedience is hard. Whether it’s to your boss, your teacher, your parent or God asking you to do something. We want what we want. And we live in a world that is 100% okay with living life our way.

Though this was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through thus far in my life, I firmly believe that it was the right thing.

How can I be so sure?

Not only did I approach the situation with a desire for God’s will to be done in both of our lives, but I have found reassurance in His Word and in my community.

Most of all? I have His peace.

Yes, I am still aching, and my heart breaks to know that this person I had wanted to grow old with is in pain… however… God is blessing me with peace. Pure peace. He is guarding my heart and helping me through this, just as I asked Him to do.

It will not be easy to wait on the Lord. Yet I have confidence in His promise. And I’m learning that taking the leap of faith is worth it in the end, because good WILL come of it. His ways are always good! So I know that we will be okay.

I truly hope that my words and experiences can help someone through a hard time. Please don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions. As always, you are not alone in this. Together, we can make it. Because you can’t do life alone.

“If We’re Honest” – Francesca Battistelli

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