For the Love of God

Vile. Disgusting. Evil. Anti-Christian. These are just some of the words Nathan and I have used this past week while discussing the horrific events and mindsets on display in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is unconscionable that in this day and age people still have so much hatred toward another person simply because of the color of his/her skin. It is truly shocking. The part that messes me up the most, though, is that there’s an incredibly likely chance that at least one of those torch-wielding venom-spewers is a church-goer who calls himself/herself a Christian. Utterly mind-blowing. Let’s not spend time beating around the bush: hatred is in DIRECT OPPOSITION to all that is godly and all that involves Jesus. How do I know? Because I spent some time this past week researching what the Bible says to us, as people made in the image of Jesus, about our responsibility toward and capacity for sharing the love of God with others. And it doesn’t require that we be waving a Nazi flag at a rally to be in need of a reminder about our job as Christians, especially during trying times such as these.

First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that there are so very many scriptures throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament, that discuss the love of God and the ways in which we are expected to share that love that I could never fit them all into this post. I found verse after verse describing how GREAT and unfailing the love of our Father is, and how it supersedes anything we could ever do or say, no matter how awful we allow ourselves to become. One thing we’d be remiss to overlook is God’s purposeful repetition of this topic. Why so many repeated instructions to His children about loving each other? Because, by nature, we are haters. We point fingers, we judge, we tear down, we shun, we hate. But for those who are TRUE Christians, who believe in our hearts that Jesus is the Son of God, who was crucified, only to be resurrected three days later, the following scriptures should be our daily manual for how to live our lives, no matter our circumstances or the beliefs and attitudes of those around us.

“If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. If I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food…but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing. Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited; it is not rude and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person…it endures everything without weakening…And so faith, hope, love abide…but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13: 1-7, 13).

“For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us…And He died for all…” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).

“This is My commandment: that you love one another [just] as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

If anyone says, I love God, and hates (detests, abominates) his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, Whom he has not seen. He who loves God shall love his brother also” (1 John 4:20, 21).

Y’all, I could list out the scriptures for you for at least another page or so. The bottom line is this: “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and anything that’s not exemplary of love is not exemplary of God. If you and I declare to be Christians, if we parade through life conveniently tossing about that title, then we must understand something: we are telling others that our hearts are full of Jesus. Jesus was and is love. Pure and simple. If what we put out there isn’t love–ACTIVELY loving our neighbors, no matter what they look like or sound like–we aren’t Christians. We don’t deserve and haven’t earned that title. In the above verses, God does not mince words. It’s clear that He feels very strongly about those of us using His name while displaying oppositional behavior. Take time to notice what He says: Are you so outwardly religious/spiritual that you can speak in tongue, yet you don’t have the love of God within you? God calls you a noisy gong or clanging symbol, two things that irritate others, grate on others’ nerves, and cause people to turn quickly from you. Nothing you say is of value; you simply make noise. Are you full of faith but without the love of God within you? God calls you a useless nobody. Despite all that faith, because you’re missing the crucial element of God (hint: it’s LOVE!) you cannot be used to further His kingdom. Do you give your money and possessions to the poor, but you do so without the love of God within you? You will gain nothing…no blessings, no heavenly rewards. Your deeds are without merit. And lastly, do you claim to love God while simultaneously speaking (or feeling) hatred toward someone else (for any reason)? God Himself calls you a liar. God Himself has deemed your declared love for Him a complete and total lie. While you hopefully don’t need it, let me sum this up for you: NO MATTER WHAT YOU CLAIM OR DO OR GIVE IN THE NAME OF GOD, IF YOU ARE WITHOUT HIS LOVE IN YOUR HEART, YOU CANNOT BE BLESSED BY OR USED BY GOD.

And maybe the scariest part of the whole thing is that our children are watching. They’re watching and they’re waiting for our reactions and our guidance. Silence is acceptance in many ways, so let your kids hear you tell them that while you can’t control everybody, your household serves the Lord. Your household embodies His love and believes in its purpose to share that love and not Satan’s hate. Choose to make your Christian stance on the hatred being displayed around our country very clear to your children. But you know what? They didn’t just start watching. They’ve been watching us. They watch us closely every single day: at restaurants, inside grocery stores, at the movies, etc. They’re listening to how we talk about others, especially those people who are different, in any way, than we are. Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, let’s all agree today to stop giving the kids in our lives “Biblical lip-service.” Let’s put those scriptures we so love to quote and share on social media into actual action. Let’s show our sweet babies what Jesus really looks like.

And before closing, I want to be clear: this is not a political post. This is a post (I hope) to remind us of our responsibilities as REAL Christians in the world today. It’s a post to remind us of what it means to serve a God who also goes by the name of Healer and Father, and, most importantly, Love. Look back at those scriptures. Our Father has made abundantly clear what He expects of His children, especially with regard to how we treat all our “siblings.” Those frequently communicated expectations aren’t just for times when it’s not too much trouble to show love, or when we’re dealing with the people most like us. The truth is this: we are all alike. We were all created by the same God who made us ALL in His image. We are all sinners in desperate need of the free-for-everyone saving power of Jesus Christ. Racism, sexism, ageism–all the negative -isms– have ZERO room in a heart that’s supposedly inhabited by Jesus. Our hearts should be so filled with the Holy Spirit that there’s simply no room for anything else. So, friends, for the literal love of God, let’s start doing a better job of exemplifying Jesus in this hate-infested world. Let’s use this divisive time to better ourselves and our families. The Bible tells us that God can use all things to our good, so let Him. It might be uncomfortable; it might even hurt a little. But I encourage you to pray the following prayer with me so that God can mature our walks with Him in a way that glorifies Him daily, showing others just how loving He truly is and what it really means to be honored with that title of Christian.

Dear Lord, thank you so much for sending your Son to this world in order to save me from the hate and sin that threaten my very life. Father, I know that I am a sinner, and I know that without Your help and guidance I will never rid my life of prejudice and hate. I ask, Lord, that you please gently show me these ugly areas so that I can work with You–through prayer and reading my Bible–to eradicate them from my spirit. I love you, Lord, and I want others to feel Your love for them through me. Help me to be the best example of what it means to be a Christian. Thank you for hearing me and for the honor of calling myself Your child. I want to treat all of Your children exactly as You would. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

 

 

 

The Joy of the Lord

You ever been in one of those situations, be it big or small, where you have plans solidly in place, only for God to speak up and tell you to do something else or go in a different direction? Well, that’s what happened with this post. I had something else completely in mind, until I read a devotional a few days ago and felt God press on me a need to share and discuss a couple of verses in Nehemiah. But before we jump straight in, let’s take a moment to consider the time of the year in which we currently find ourselves . Trust me, it’s important.

For those of you who are teachers or parents of school-aged children (or both–bless them!), this time of the year is most likely consumed with back to school. Whether it’s prepping a classroom or prepping your kids (um, where’s the app that weans children off summer schedules and back onto school schedules? Hop to it, Mark Zuckerberg!), there’s a good chance that the upcoming school year and all the chaos it brings with it is foremost in your mind these days. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but as a former teacher, I’m all too aware that this back-to-school season is its own thing. It’s not the freedom of summer, it’s not the coolness of fall, but it’s definitely something that warrants its own title. If you’re anything like me, this back-to-school season served as a very clear-cut line in the sand (oh, sand. A moment of silent for the beach memories, please……..thank you. You may continue.) between a more weightless, easy-going time period and a more chaotic, stressful, hectic period. When I was teaching, with the onset of these first few days of August, I could feel an internal bracing for the stress that I was anticipating with the rapidly approaching school season. Even five years of stay-at-home-mommery later, and I can still feel it; things are about to be a-changing, and my spirit knows it.

With this feeling in mind, and with my teacher friends in the forefront of my mind, I read Nehemiah 8:10-11 very differently this time around. In these verses, Ezra and the Levites are speaking to the Israelites, and Ezra says to them: “Go your way…for this day is holy to our Lord. And be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold (vs 10). So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, Be still, for the day is holy. And do not be grieved and sad (vs 11).” Y’all, this back to school business is no joke. It is hard and it is tiring and it is stressful and it is draining. And it feels that way to parents and kids alike. But you know what? God’s joy is just as available to us in the midst of all this new schedule mumbo-jumbo as it was when we were lying blissfully relaxed on the beach in late June. Here’s the kicker, though: this time of the year, we are going to have to get REAL intentional about choosing it.

In those verses above, it takes Ezra AND the Levites to calm the people because they are so bothered. They were so attuned to their upset that joy was nowhere to be found. I don’t know about you, but when I’m upset, I don’t tend to do a great job at taking that exact moment to actively seek the joy of the Lord. But look at what Ezra tells the “Lindseys” of the Bible: be not grieved  and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold. Praise the Lord! It doesn’t even have to be my joy–which is great news, because stress and joy are NOT buddies in this girl’s world. They do not ever seem to coexist. But Ezra tells me that I can stop my upset. I can stop feeling overwhelmed and stressed and irritated and bothered and whatever other negative emotion tends to rear their ugly heads when I feel chaos like what occurs during this back-to-school season. But I have to CHOOSE JOY ON PURPOSE. It will not manifest accidentally in the midst of school strife. It will not manifest itself without your choosing it when it’s 5:30, no one’s adjusted yet to the newness of the school feeding schedules (WHERE ARE THE SNACKS?!), and you’ve been so wrapped up in making sure everyone got dropped off and picked up that you’ve forgotten they have to be fed tonight. In those moments, joy will not abound (shocker, I know!). But. It. Can. God has the power to settle our hearts and minds and replace that hectivity (that’s hectic activity, FYI. I just made it up, I like it, and I will use it again.) with HIS joy. The six-million dollar question: how do I get that joy?

I think we have to look at not only what Ezra says–which we just did–but what the Levites reiterate and instruct. They, too, tell the people not to be bothered and upset; in fact, in the NLT translation, the Levites literally tell the people to Hush! Then they continue with how to go about calming themselves and easing their minds in the midst of their upset: Be still… While there is a chance they meant for them to still their bodies, I think it’s far more likely that the people were being instructed to still their minds. To take a deep breath and regroup. To really focus on what they were allowing themselves to feel and how they were allowing themselves to behave. I think this is God’s direction for us in the middle of these hectic afternoons when no one has yet adjusted to this new back-to-school season: Be Still. And moms, here’s the honest truth: this is not something we can expect our tired, immature kids to do. This is something WE must do, something we must model for them so that they see how they, too, can gather their emotions up and choose to be happy and thankful in the middle of feeling everything but.

If you are a teacher, you know the necessity of being prepared. If you are a mom (or a parent at all), you know the necessity of being prepared. It doesn’t do you any good–in fact, it increases your stress–if you wait until “the moment of” before you begin to prepare for something. Y’all, adopting the mindset of choosing joy is no different. I encourage you (and am working on this myself) not to wait until you’re frustrated and flustered and overwhelmed to change your thinking. Honestly, I don’t think that really works…or at least not well, anyway. Instead, do what you do with all the other things in your life: prepare. Take some time before that school day gets started or before you pick those kids up from their first days, and spend some time with God PREPARING yourself so that when those tough moments come, you’re ready. So that in those tough moments, you’re able to tap into that spirit that you’ve already {spiritually} fed and grab hold of that joy. The joy of the Lord will be your strength. Imagine what your afternoons and evenings can look like if you don’t let Satan wear down your spirit. If you refuse to exhibit those same emotions that your tired kid does, but instead, you get still, taking a moment to breathe and ask God to give you His joy. Will it be easy? Nope. It never is. But then again, if that was a easy thing, we wouldn’t need God’s joy, now would we?

And for those of you who aren’t parents of school-aged kids, those of you not impacted one bit by this back-to-school season (aside from the traffic and explosion of school-supply displays inside Walmart and Target), this works for you as well. I’d be willing to bet that there’s a season of life that you’re in right now that has real potential to be overwhelming and upsetting and stressful and bothersome. Whatever it is that you find increases your blood pressure when you think about it, apply that joy of the Lord to it, too. It doesn’t have to be an outward chaos; inward chaos needs that stillness and joy just as much. And you know what, preparing yourself for it works just as well as preparing for those hectic schedules and “hangry” schoolchildren.

Psalm 94:13 says, “That You would give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity…” and there is so much adversity awaiting the person who’s traded his/her joy for those emotions the enemy tells us are normal, and fine, and warranted. But we can do this. We can recognize what’s happening in the midst of it, take that deep breath that stills our spirit and mind and emotions, and offer up a quick call for help so that we can strengthen ourselves with the joy of the Lord.

And you know what, sometimes we are going to royally blow it. We are going to raise our voices and fuss and cry and absolutely lose our religion right there in the middle of our kitchen. (Why, hello there, personal experience.) Jesus gets that. He knows what we’re going through, and He’s got enough grace to help us through this current situation, to restore our spirits, and to help us avoid that pothole the next time. He’s been there; He, too, has felt the desire to lose His cool. “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning” (Hebrews 4:15). So this school season (or in whatever distressing season you find yourself), when we feel that urge to give in to those negative emotions and further the upset and strife in our homes/lives, let’s do what Ezra and the Levites instructed. Let’s turn to the joy of the Lord. Let’s get ourselves still so that we can push past those emotions and reclaim what Satan is so excited about taking from us. Let’s deep-breathe and cut ourselves some slack when we don’t do such a good job. God knows we need His help. God knows we can’t do this alone. Prepare yourself beforehand, and when things go awry, call on Him as instructed in Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then fearlessly draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it]” (AMP). Come on, y’all. We’ve got this.

Dear Lord, thank you so much for the joy that you offer to me any time I can’t find some of my own. I know, God, that with this changing of seasons and schedules I will need your help to stay calm and still and focused on You instead of the chaos that can sometimes ensue. Lord, I ask that you please speak to my spirit during these moments of upset and stress so that I can actively attend to my attitude and choose joy over the negative emotions that rise to the surface. I ask that you please help everyone to have a wonderful school year full of blessings and deep breaths. And I ask that you bless those and comfort those whose current season of life requires a very purposeful attitude of joy and thanksgiving. Lord, you are so kind and so merciful, and I am so grateful. Thank you for having your favor and your hand over all of us, and thank you for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

 

“The grammar isn’t important; it’s the message that matters. Don’t be a judgey-pants.” –Lindsey 1:1

Not Today, Satan!

As I write this post, the noise level right outside the wall of this room is insane. We are having some home repairs done outside, and it apparently involves jet planes landing ON MY HOUSE and drilling through incredibly thick steel. I’m pretty certain that at any given minute this outer wall is going to cease to exist. Lord, help!

Despite all the noise distractions, let me start by being totally honest: this post isn’t actually for you. This topic isn’t actually for the purpose of public consumption. It’s 110% for me personally. God has really been working on me lately regarding the amount of security I place on the money in our savings account. I know that the Bible teaches us that God wants our all. He wants us to believe in Him, to trust in Him, and to rely on Him first and foremost and above all other things. In some ways, I do this; I get it right. However, where money is concerned, I absolutely do not. More often than not, my comfort and my security come straight from the dollars accumulated in my account. My tension eases any time that number increases. (Or at least I assume it would. That number never increases, so technically, I don’t know for sure.) What I do know is that when I stopped working five years ago, our savings account looked WAY healthier than it does now. And this latest hit to it, this home repair project that we’re currently undertaking, has got me feeling every single thing but joy and peace. I so desperately want that to change, and so today’s post is my attempt to remind myself of God’s promises and His plan, of His power and His presence, and to maybe help anyone else who finds himself/herself overwhelmed by the stresses of this world.

Just to give you some idea of how much God has been working on me about this, let me tell you what all we’ve had to have done to and around our house since we cut our income in half (literally) and went to one income:

  • new hot water heater
  • new thingamajig for the new hot water heater that helps it work better and brings it up to code (isn’t my knowledge remarkable?!)
  • new dishwasher
  • new roof
  • new garage door
  • new garage door opener/motor
  • replacement of various parts/plugs in the Trailblazer and truck, along with multiple sets of new tires
  • large medical bills, mostly from our sweet girl’s early years, including our two-night, multiple-tests-inclusive stay at Arkansas Children’s Hospital a couple of years ago

And this latest project involves siding removal and replacement, gutter removal and replacement, fascia board replacement and repair (don’t worry, you don’t need to know what this is. It’s expensive and labor intensive; that’s the gist of this story), new gutter downspouts (FIVE of those suckers!), and within the first hour and a half, 500 additional dollars were added to our overall cost because the problem was bigger than they initially thought, reaching all the way to the framing boards. What in the actual world?! Needless to say, the stress dreams, tension headaches, and stomach pains have arrived as expected.

Because I have felt my peace and sense of security evaporate over all this mess, I have spent some time trying to remind myself what God promises in His Word, about taking care of us and providing for us. I know, deep down, that I will NEVER feel at peace financially if my security comes from dollars, because life is really dadgum expensive. There will be continual bills and unexpected costs for as long as I live. I also understand that if I place my trust in things other than God, I will forever be disappointed and left with this aching stomach and clinched jaw. I don’t want to live in the “I’ll be happy as soon as we make _______ amount per year,” because as soon as we make that, we’ll find a need for just a little bit more. Life involves living, and as it turns out, living costs money. Scam!

It’s become clear to me over the last few years, thanks to the guidance and clarity of the Holy Spirit, that God has allowed these expenses in our lives because I must give up my grasp on the almighty dollar. If you know me, you likely know that I am a very, very frugal person. Large costs mess me up, especially now, when we’re all living on one income. But God has shown me that as soon as we add a second income, we’ll also have a kid who is older, who’s involved in costly activities, wearing costly clothes, and who will apparently expect to drive her own vehicle one day and attend that wallet-emptier called college. No matter where we are in life financially, if that bank account is where I turn for my peace and my security, IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN because there will ALWAYS be costs we can’t anticipate and plan for. And guess what else I’ve learned…Satan knows this! He is such a complete jerk that he knows and exploits just how much peace I derive from knowing my account is cushy. He sneaks around and as soon as we happen upon another repair or expense, he’s there whispering in my ear about how much this costs, how draining this will be on our savings. But he seldom stops there, deciding to up the fear factor by encouraging me to catalog every single thing around this house that might go wrong or that might stop working.

I don’t know about you, but I do NOT want to live like this. I am an adult. I own a home, some vehicles, and I have a child. There will NEVER EVER be a time that something isn’t costing me money. That’s literally all there is to it. I refuse to live in this up-and-down peace that fluctuates to the point of disappearing any time I have to pay money for something. Remember that phrase that Abraham and Sarah used to refer to God: Jehovah-jireh. It means “the Lord who provides,” and my Bible tells me that the same God who provided then is the same God who WILL provide for me now. But because I’m a headcase, I need to see those scriptures; I need to read those promises straight from God’s Word. I need to be able to yell, “NOT TODAY, SATAN!!” when he tries to steal my peace and joy via money, and be able to back it up with scripture that proves why I don’t have to stress and worry about a thing.

I found many verses in the Bible regarding what God promises about our prosperity and/or finances. There were several that helped me see just how involved in my monetary life God is. I couldn’t find room to embed them all in the post, but I thought that those of you struggling with something similar might appreciate seeing several of those promises for yourself. I encourage you to read them out loud. Read them multiple times even. Take a quiet minute to do this, and I know that you’ll feel God speaking to your stresses, just like I felt Him speaking to mine.

Deuteronomy 8:18–But you shall [earnestly] remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…

Deuteronomy 28:8–The Lord shall command the blessing upon you in your storehouse and all that you undertake. And He will bless you…

Deuteronomy 28:11–And the Lord shall make you have a surplus of prosperity

Psalm 34:10–…they who seek [inquire of and require] the Lord, none of them shall lack any beneficial thing

Luke 6:38–Give, and [gifts] will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over…

2 Corinthians 9:6–He who sows generously will also reap generously and with blessings.

Philippians 4:18-19–I have everything I need and am amply supplied…And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

All of the aforementioned scriptures certainly got the message across, but it wasn’t until I read Matthew 6:25-27 again, in the midst of my stress and angst over money worries, that I really felt myself letting go of at least a little bit of my desire to control my money and my life. These words are straight out of the mouth of our Savior, so read them carefully: “Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure to his stature or to the span of his life? (AMP). You know what? I am more important to God than a bird. You know what? I have never had to go without because God has always provided. You know what? God promises not to neglect us at any time in any way, and He is a promise keeper. You know what? Worry is a sin, and it cripples my faith. Worry doesn’t grow money; it doesn’t eliminate those unexpected costs and expenses; it doesn’t ease my mind. It is a deterrent, keeping me focused on my problems and the situations I’m facing instead of on God and His powers to provide exactly what I need when I need it.

In speaking with a friend about her own money worries recently, I told her to pray about it and let God have it. Needless to say, I also told her to do as I say and not as I do when it comes to this lesson. I encouraged her and her husband to do four things: 1– to pray specifically about their finances, 2–to tithe, 3– to spend their money wisely, and 4–to let God take care of the rest because HE WILL. Now, if I can just get this lesson into my own stubborn brain, I’ll be in much better shape for the rest of my life.

Dear Lord, thank you so very much for all that you continually do for me and all that you continually provide for me and my family. I am so grateful that you are a Provider and that I don’t have to worry about finances because you will lead me and safeguard me. Lord, I ask that you please help me to set aside my worries in all areas but especially right now regarding my finances, and I ask that you help me to focus on you and your promises instead of my anxieties and the lies of the enemy. I will not go without, God, and I know this because you have promised it. Also, Lord, I want a pure heart whose focus is You, not money. In Matthew 6:21 you tell me that wherever my treasure is, there my heart will be also. You, God. You are my treasure. You are my safety and security, and I ask you to please help me recognize this truth and live this truth more and more. You are kind and loving and a giving God, and I am so grateful to be Your child. Thank you for hearing me, for loving me, and providing for my every need. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

 

Busyness Business

Before we begin, I need to ask you a question, one that no one has probably ever asked you. How much do you like your toes? Yes, you read that right–there is no typo there. I’m asking you about those nasty little digits attached to your foot. You know, the ones that are beyond gross on like 90% of people? Your toes. Now that we’re clear, let me repeat my question: how much do you like your toes? If you REALLY love your toes and are rather sensitive in temperament, I’m going to tell you straight: you might want to find something else to read. The topic that I feel God has really laid on my heart lately is one that I can guarantee will stomp on several sets of toes. For some of you, I’m likely to step on only one or two toes (you’ll be fine. You have several others…probably.). For some others of you, though, there’s a chance I’m about to step–maybe even painfully–on nine or ten of those suckers. While I certainly don’t ever aim to upset anyone, I trust that what God says in the Bible is Truth. That means that I believe that all the lessons taught to us in the Bible are the ones we should follow, not this pick-and-choose-to-suit-yourself-and-what-you-want mess that we so often do. If you feel sore in the toes (or spirit) after reading this, I highly recommend that you spend some time with God, asking Him why, because I’d be willing to bet there’s something in this that He’d like to discuss with you. And better Him than me, am I right?

If you aren’t familiar with the story of Mary and Martha found in the book of Luke, I highly encourage you to check it out. It’s literally only five verses (Luke 10: 38-42), but there’s so much wisdom and guidance in it, especially for a world like the one we face today. I’ll give you a quick summary, but it’s only five verses to begin with. Come on, people, you can handle that!

While traveling with his disciples, Jesus came upon the village in which Martha and Mary lived. Martha welcomed him and his fellow travelers back to her home for a meal. At her home, Jesus meets Mary, Martha’s sister. While Martha hustles into the kitchen, focused on the task in front of her, Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’s feet in order to focus on Him and His teachings. So to clarify, Martha’s goal was to do; Mary’s goal was to listen and learn. (This is highly important. You’ll want to remember it for later.)

The Bible tells us, though, that things went wrong quickly. Martha, bothered and frustrated and stressed, essentially asks Jesus to scold her sister for choosing to sit instead of helping her in the kitchen. Verse 40 finds Martha approaching Jesus and saying, “Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me!” Oh the variety of times I’ve thought this in my life…times when I thought Nathan wasn’t doing as much as I was around here, and I wanted my “greater contribution” recognized. Times that I thought other moms didn’t have kids as needy and high-maintenance as mine, and I wanted someone to recognize just how much work I was doing. Times at work when I thought other teachers were being recognized for hard work but whom I felt had much easier students than I did. And this list could go on and on, I’m sure.

Before we go forward and see Jesus’s reply to Martha’s demand, let’s take a minute to pay careful attention to Martha’s behavior. We know Martha was upset with her sister. We know Martha felt she was left doing all the work while Mary relaxed and enjoyed leisure time with Jesus. But let’s read between the lines for a moment, really look closely at our friend Martha. First, I feel it bears noting that this whole “come over and eat…I’ll cook for you and all your friends” idea was actually Martha’s. The Bible specifically tells us it was Martha who brought Jesus and his disciples into her home. Mary is never even mentioned until after Martha returns home with Jesus. Second, Martha gets upset with her sister for not helping her serve the food to their guests. Anybody been there before? Anybody ever gotten mad at someone for not doing something you never asked them to do, something you just sort felt they should intuitively know you wanted them to do? Hands up, wives! (Why are women so bad about expecting their men to just read their minds??) We’ve all been where Martha is, regardless of gender. We’ve all expected someone to help us without ever being straight-forward about our need. Let’s not stop at this little mini-lesson, however. Let’s look a tiny bit closer.

The true motivation behind Martha’s upset is unclear. Maybe she was very, very set on impressing Jesus (haven’t we all fallen into this trap?) and was distraught at the thought of trying to handle that task without her sister’s help. But maybe it was a true goodness that caused Martha’s upset. She knew about Jesus. She knew He was the Messiah, and I feel pretty safe assuming she was beyond honored to have Him in her house. Maybe, just maybe, the reason she was so upset with Mary was because she was jealous of that time Mary was getting with the Savior while she slaved away in the kitchen. While Martha’s behavior in this story isn’t the kind for us to emulate, I can certainly understand and admire her desire to be so near Jesus and to hear His teachings and His words that she’s irritated by the other demands on her time. So maybe a sincere desire for Jesus, when it’s not accompanied by judgment of or anger and bitterness toward someone else, isn’t such a bad things after all? You mull that one over, and we’ll continue on with our Bible story.

After Martha asks Jesus to scold Mary, we get a chance to see His reply to her. In verse 41 it says, “But the Lord replied to her by saying, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” HOLD THE PHONE!!! I AM MARTHA! You take out Martha’s name and insert mine, and this exact statement of Jesus’s would apply to me and my life more than daily. You are anxious and troubled about many things. Wow. I feel certain that if I could take a poll and ask those of you who feel this description fits your life right this second, all the hands would raise. “Lindsey, Lindsey, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” Yep, no doubt Jesus has spoken exactly this so many times. Look closely at that response from our Lord, at the tender way He says her name twice before getting to the real issue: Martha, Martha. When I picture this exchange I see Martha red-faced, sweating, hair askew from all of her frazzled preparations in the hot kitchen. I see her, hands on hips, standing in front of Jesus with that accusatory index finger aimed straight for her lazy, unhelpful sister. And then I see Jesus. I see Him reach for her, taking her hot, damp hands in His while calmly saying, in an almost whisper, “Martha, Martha.” But Jesus doesn’t stop there, He explains to further help Martha see the error of her ways: “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (vs. 42). The teachings of Jesus: the one thing worth being concerned about. Boy, do I get this one wrong so very often.

I don’t believe that Mary had nothing to do but sit there. I don’t believe that Mary was oblivious that her decision was one that irked her sister. I do believe, however, that Mary chose quality over quantity. I believe that she weighed it all out and determined that no matter what was expected of her socially, her first and foremost priority was Jesus Christ.

(PSA: Hide those toes…here we go!) Y’all, we are messing this up BIG TIME. This busyness business that we all have going has got to stop! We are all Marthas. We are all overstressed and overworked and overscheduled and overdrawn and over it. Why are we constantly doing this? What are we giving up so that we can put our kids in 17 different sports each season WHEN THEY’RE FOUR?! What are we giving up so that we can checklist to our friends and post pictures on social media of all the things we do with our kids throughout the year? What are we giving up when we say yes to every single offer made on our time? I’ll answer these questions for you because they all share the same answer: Jesus. People, we are literally giving up Jesus–the presence of Jesus, the Spirit of Jesus, the peace of Jesus, the Word of Jesus–so that we can put more of NOTHING eternal on our plates. This busyness that we so idolize, these full-to-bursting schedules that have us eating out every night and exhausting ourselves, our kids, and our marriages, these things are NOT the things of Jesus. Being still, listening, resting in the presence of God…these are the things of Jesus. Don’t believe me? Do that thing you never have time to do anymore because you have no free time: read your Bible. You’ll be surprised at what you find in there that instructs us to settle ourselves so that we don’t miss God moving and speaking in our lives. Maybe you can’t give 30 minutes or an hour a day to reading your Bible right now, and you know what, that’s okay. God can speak to you in less time than that. BUT. It’s important that we get really honest about our time and our priorities before determining what we can and can’t do. Isn’t 5 or 10 minutes spent with God far better and infinitely more beneficial to you and your family than those 5 or 10 minutes you spend on social media? (And let’s not pretend you’re only spending 5-10 minutes on social media daily.)

Be a Mary, not a Martha. Don’t give Jesus reason to say your name over and over again, concerned because you are so stressed, so distracted, so distant from Him and such a stranger to His Word. I know I haven’t been a parent for very long, but I can promise you this anyway: nothing you enroll your kids in, nothing you haul them all over creation to participate in, nothing that you yourself volunteer your time for will impact them and the rest of their lives like watching their mom and dad carve out precious, necessary time with Jesus. Be a Mary. Stop the hustle and the excess of everything, and decide daily to sit at the feet of Jesus. You won’t miss out on anything. I promise.

Dear Lord, thank you so much that you give of yourself so that I can spend time in your peace, your presence, your Word, and your wisdom. Help me, please, Lord, to re-prioritize my busy life so that instead of an afterthought, you are my main priority. I want to spend time with You and then fit other things into my schedule when/if time allows. This is not easy for me, God. Please help me to heed the Holy Spirit’s guiding so that I can rearrange my life and become more like Mary. Thank you, Lord, for helping me and for hearing me. When it’s all said and done, Lord, I want to desire you and time with you more than anything else. Help me to slow down. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

 

 

Philippians 2:3–Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.

Jehovah-jireh

I admitted it openly with my first post, and I’m continuing to admit it now: I have NO IDEA what I’m doing with this blog. My formula for deciding what to write about each week is uncomplicated to say the least. I consider all of the various aspects that a relationship with God entails, I pay attention to the struggles in my own life in those areas, and I pray (alone and with Nathan), asking God to guide me not only to the topic He’d most like me to address, but also that He’d speak through me. After a day or two, I usually find myself clearly directed to a new topic. This past week, however, has been very different. While the reception of that last post, “Aggressively Patient,” was luke-warm, I felt like God never really moved me past the topic it discussed: patience and faithful expectation while praying for something long-term. I did feel, however, that maybe God was suggesting I add on to what we’d already discussed. In praying about His plan, I kept coming back to the story of Abraham and Sarah. Theirs is a story that’s been so precious to me for many years, and it’s one that’s served to teach me a multitude of lessons. Hopefully it’s one that for you, does exactly the same.

In October of 2006, Nathan and I decided that it was time to start our family. We’d been praying about it, and we felt like God had helped us get our marriage back on track (see  my post “This Means War” for details on that), and now it was time for us to go forth and multiply. Fast forward to October 1, 2012, the day our sweet baby girl was born, and we saw God’s promise fulfilled to us. Hopefully you caught those date discrepancies. The date that Mission: Make A Baby began–October 2006. The date that Mission: Make A Baby completed: October 2012. Um, hello. That’s SIX YEARS. And you don’t even need your cell phone calculator for that math. So what happened during those six years? A nasty little word that far too many people are experiencing for themselves: infertility.

To put it in a nutshell, our infertility struggle consisted of the following: more doctor’s appointments than we could even begin to count, lots of ultrasounds, lots of tests, a doctor change, lots of medicines, additional doctors added to the “team,” one surgery after an endometriosis diagnosis, lots of confusion, more new doctors, a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility,” lots of shots, LOTS of prayer from us (years!), LOTS of prayer from our families and friends (years!), three unsuccessful IUI procedures, and finally one successful IUI on our fourth–and final–attempt. So that, that’s what we were doing during those six years while we waited on God to fulfill His promise.

I can’t speak for Nathan, but I spent some time during those six years doing some other things, too: doubting, questioning, hurting, believing, doubting again, listening to Satan’s lies, deafening myself to Satan’s lies, worrying…I think you get the picture. Shortly into our infertility process, I came across the story of Abraham and Sarah again. It was a story I’d read before, but reading it as someone praying for a child, as someone who’d been praying long-term without seeing God move, it changed my relationship with God. It changed how I saw God and the power He held to bring about what I was beginning to think was an impossibility.

Before we go forward, I want you to take just a second (play along, friends!) and call to mind that one thing you’ve been praying for and wishing for for the longest. Think about that one request that you’ve found yourself making over and over and over. Keep that long-running prayer in the forefront of your mind; focus on it while we discuss Abraham and Sarah so that you can learn from their mistakes and their example, and apply it to your own attitude toward this seemingly unheard prayer.

We begin learning about these two Biblical giants when their names are still Abram and Sarai. At this time, Abram has been visited by God, who promised him an heir via his wife, Sarai. Despite their advanced age, we see Abram and Sarai fully believing in and trusting God, maybe even to the point of readying their home for the baby that God promised them. Unfortunately, though, this was not quick promise fulfillment. In fact, ten years later, God still has not given them a baby. So, Sarai does what you and I have likely done several times ourselves: she takes matters into her own hands. You see, Sarai’s faith had started to wane. She began to feel doubtful that God would ever do what He’d said He would. She decided that He probably needed her help. How many times have you and I decided that God just really can’t do whatever it is we need Him to do, so we’ll need to step in and do it ourselves? Exactly how well has this gone for you, because for me, it’s NEVER worked out well. No plot twist here–it didn’t go well for Sarai either.

Sarai decided that no matter what, there WOULD be a baby, so she convinced Abram to impregnate her handmaid, Hagar. Her plan worked. Abram became a father, Hagar became a mother, and Sarai became a jealous, bitter woman. Think back to that prayer request you’re still praying over. Have you considered going down a road that God didn’t direct you toward, just because you, too, are feeling uncertain that God can/will show up? Are you currently mid self-fix? Look closely at this part of the story–read it for yourself. Do whatever you have to to remind yourself that God’s solution is the only one that doesn’t result in negative consequences for you, with more problems afterward than those you had when you began. Instead of that baby that Sarai so longed for, she birthed resentment, bitterness, jealousy and heartache. That’s NOT what you’ve been praying for, I feel certain.

{Side note: But you know our God and how He works. He doesn’t get angry with Sarai and snatch away the blessing of a promised child. He doesn’t blame her and condemn her. He loves her, He has mercy on her. So if you’re all too familiar with finding your own solutions instead of waiting on the hand of God, know that you, too, are offered grace from a loving Father who is still very anxious to bless you and answer your prayer request.}

God fully intended to keep His promise to Abram and Sarai, so 25 years after making his first promise to them, He shows up yet again to reaffirm to both Sarai and Abram His promise of an heir. Let me repeat that just in case you missed it–TWENTY-FIVE DADGUM YEARS LATER THEIR PRAYER STILL HASN’T BEEN ANSWERED!!! I don’t know about your timeline, but I felt very impatient and very uncertain after only 6 years! Although their years of waiting weren’t perfect, Abram and Sarai should be commended for simply maintaining their determination as they grew very old waiting on God’s promise to come to fruition.

And that’s what God did…He commended them. Twenty-five years later after initially promising them a child, God not only reaffirms it, but He blesses them both with new names, names that will usher them into their season of receiving and answered prayer. For their continued faith, Abram became Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude,” and Sarai, the very old barren woman became Sarah, “mother of nations.” If you’re unfamiliar with this story, I’m sure its ending won’t surprise you: after 25 years of waiting, Abraham (age 99!) and Sarah (only slightly younger) became parents to that long-awaited heir, Isaac.

So let’s go back to that prayer you’ve been praying for a long time now. Let’s think about what this Biblical story teaches us regarding those hard seasons of waiting.

  1. Nothing is impossible for God. Nothing. Abraham was almost 100 year old. Sarah, who would be expected to carry a child, breastfeed a child, was not much younger. It’s safe to assume that their reproductive systems were long past ripe. But what difference does that make for the One who created those bodies in the first place? Whatever you think is supposedly making your request impossible, whatever you see as the largest roadblock to your answered prayer, remind it who’s boss. Nothing in this world, nothing at all, is too big for its Creator to overcome.
  2. God doesn’t work on our timeline. Second Peter 3:8-9 explains to us that “With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness” (MSG). This is SUCH a hard concept for us to grasp because we work on such a limited, human time-table. Those six years I waited for God to bless me with a baby were mere moments to Him. He wasn’t late with His response–He was right on time. Right on His time. And His answer to your prayer will be perfectly timed as well.
  3. God will provide. Not God might provide or God could provide. God WILL provide. During their incredibly long season of waiting, after Sarah had attempted to end their waiting of her own accord, Abraham and Sarah renewed their faith. They began to refer to God as “Jehovah-jireh,” a name that means “the Lord who provides.” That same Lord who provided for them exactly what they needed when they needed it is the Lord you’re praying to today. The Lord who showed up so HUGE for Abraham and Sarah–and throughout the many, many stories of the Bible–is the EXACT. SAME. LORD who is soon going to show up big for you, too. Your Lord is Jehovah-jireh; your Lord WILL provide.

The chances that you’re in the midst of a similar infertility battle as what I faced, what Sarai faced, is pretty slim. But this story isn’t really about infertility–don’t get caught up in that. This story is a warning. It’s a warning about what consequences you can inadvertently bring on yourself and others by choosing to answer your own prayers. That’s not your job. Our job is taking those prayer requests to God, praying sincere, scripture-based prayers, and laying our needs at the feet of a Lord who WILL provide. That’s what this story is about. No, it might not be tomorrow. And, no, it might not be next year. But God is not late. He has an enormous blessing for you, and I promise you, it will be RIGHT ON TIME.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

“We are waiting for something we do not have yet, and we are waiting for it patiently” (Romans 8:25).

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Lord, thank you so very much for all of the prayers you’ve answered for me. Thank you for all of the blessings you’ve given. I ask, Lord, that you help me to be patient and faithful during this season of waiting. I believe, God, that you ARE working and that although I can’t see the results just yet, they are coming. Help me, please, to keep my mind stayed on you so that I can rest in your peace while I await my answer from you. You are faithful, Lord. You are good, and I am so grateful for what all you’re doing in my life. You are my God, and because of that, I expect good things. In Jesus’s Name–Amen.

 

Aggressively Patient

I am going to go ahead and say this, despite the frowns I know it’s bound to elicit from some of you: there are times when I get very frustrated with and by the Word and its instructions. I just have so many questions! Do I only need a little faith (like a mustard seed), or must I believe anything is possible? Do I pray about something once, trusting God to handle it, or do I pray about my need(s) without ceasing? Do I go boldly before the throne with high expectation, or do I humble myself, acknowledging that I have no power in and of myself? And don’t even get me started about the confusion that frequently swirls around praying for something that hasn’t yet come to pass. Did God say no? Do I need to just keep praying? Do I need to pray about it in a different way? Is my faith not strong enough to get me that “yes” I keep asking for? Should I pray about it with someone else or keep it between me and God? HEEEELLLLLPP!!!

Before we get started, let me ask you this: have you prayed about your confusion? God isn’t bothered by our confusion, by our questions, by our struggles to fully understand. He knows we are human and that we have limitations. He is bothered, however, by our reluctance or even flat-out refusal to take our confusions and questions to Him. Proverbs 2:6 tells us very clearly that God gives wisdom to those who ask for it. So, ask for it. It’s that simple. When I found myself very confused about praying, specifically prayers that weren’t answered clearly or quickly, I asked God to help me understand.  He soon began to shed light on my questions, helping me to understand more about my relationship with Him where fruitful, patient, expectant prayer was concerned.

We’ve all heard that age-old saying, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Sometimes, I’m downright shocked at how God can use everyday life situations to impart His wisdom to me. I kid you not, He literally used NASCAR (do what?!) to help me once (and Nathan has never been more delighted).

If you know my husband, you likely know his love of all things NASCAR. Old NASCAR? Yep. New NASCAR? Of course. Do you ever find yourself wondering, hmmm, I wonder who won the NASCAR race at Richmond in the spring of 1997? If so, my husband could answer this question for you faster than Google. Truly, NASCAR is his love language. And it’s not just NASCAR races he loves. He”ll watch just about any NASCAR show available, especially those broadcast specials where they take a trip down memory lane and feature every single minute detail about some racer’s first win at a popular track. It was while we were watching just such a show about Jeff Gordon’s first win at Daytona that God helped me understand His instructions regarding praying while being patient and expectant. (Does this not sound totally nuts??)

While discussing that first win and the final laps leading up to it, Jeff Gordon was being interviewed about what he was thinking while trying to keep his car in first place. He talked about not allowing himself to get too nervous or too excited prematurely. The interviewer asked him if he was just being patient, and Gordon laughed and said, “Yeah, kind of aggressively patient.” It was at that moment, when I heard that phrase “aggressively patient” that God whispered to me, That right there is how I want you to be in your long-running prayers. Aggressively patient. Seems oxymoronic, doesn’t it? I felt that way, too, but the more I thought about it, especially applying it to what the Bible says about our attitudes during prayer and waiting, I saw its accuracy, its value and its truth. (Would you look at that…God was right!)

Before we get into the scriptural truths that God showed me regarding our topic, let’s first do something very old-school and archaic; let’s actually look up the definitions of these two seemingly opposing concepts.

Aggressive: making an all-out effort; being boldly assertive

Patient: bearing delay with fortitude and calm and without complaint or anger; quietly and steadily persevering; showing the capacity for endurance.

Not quite as opposing after all, actually. Being “aggressively patient” is actually possible, as long as we stay focused, keeping our heads down and our attitudes positive. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s actually scripture that supports this…like God knew ahead of time that we’d need some help with our prayer lives!

While there are many, many scriptures regarding prayer and patience and waiting, Psalm 31:24 wraps it all into one and instructs us on how to proceed when the prayers we’re praying seemly go unanswered. The Amplified version states, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!” So when you’re praying about something so important to you, only to be met with what seems like radio silence, there are three things we must do.

1.Wait for the Lord. We all know that God’s timing is not our own, and in today’s world where instant gratification reigns supreme, we’re going to have to work even harder, dig even deeper within ourselves to ensure that we’re allowing God’s timing in our lives. Nothing worthwhile ever happens instantly, and God’s more interested in creating long-term change within our lives than immediately giving us whatever our greedy little hearts desire. Throughout the Bible we’re reminded just how crucial it is that we wait (patiently) for the Lord, for His movement, for His timing, for His guidance. James 5:7 tells us to be patient while we wait; Psalm 38:15 says, “For I am waiting for you, O Lord…” We must do the same. But. We must do the same while keeping a good attitude. Look back at that dictionary definition of patience. We must offer our prayers to God, we must decide to wait on His timing, and we must keep a good attitude (a good heart-itude, as Joyce Meyer puts it), free of anger and complaint, while waiting.

2.We must also keep hold of hope while we wait and continue to pray about our as yet unanswered request(s). Remember, just because it hasn’t come to pass yet, it doesn’t mean it won’t. In fact, scriptures throughout the Word give us instructions about exactly this type of concern. So what do we do when we pray and pray, praying maybe even for YEARS, without seeing God move? According to Luke 18:1, we “…pray and [don’t] turn coward ([grow] faint, lose heart, and give up).” John 16:24 expounds on that even further by telling us to “…ask and keep on asking,” but it doesn’t stop there. What happens when we stay faithful and hopeful in our prayers? “…Ask and keep on asking and YOU WILL RECEIVE”! Praise the Lord for his faithfulness! He doesn’t guarantee it’ll be immediately. He doesn’t guarantee a time frame at all. God does, however, guarantee that He’ll show up, as long as we’re patient and remain hopeful.

3.And last but certainly not least, we must remain expectant. Whether you approach your prayer with faith that’s confident or whether you approach it with just that tiny grain of mustard seed sized faith, you must expect God to show up. We must keep our eyes and hearts attuned to the lies that the devil will try to tell us in those days or months or even years while we pray and wait expectantly for God. He’ll try to convince us that God’s not listening, that our prayers are falling on deaf ears, but we must not agree. He might even move on and try to convince us that while all of these other people are getting their blessings and their prayers answered, we must be doing something wrong because our wishes aren’t being granted. We must not listen to those lies either. God isn’t a genie. He doesn’t show up and grant us a wish or two here or there. He LOVES us. He wants ONLY GOOD for us. And you know what? Sometimes those things we think we want or need, they’re just not right for us…or they’re not right for us and where our lives or hearts are right this minute. And Satan knows that. But instead of seeing that as God caring for us and parenting us in the most loving way, Satan tells us that maybe it’s our fault our prayer didn’t get answered. Maybe it’s because God isn’t really even able to grant what we’re asking. But we know the TRUTH. We know that NOTHING is impossible with God. No prayer request gets a no because God can’t make it happen. Maybe God actually is saying no to your request. That does happen. But because God is good and because He loves us so much and literally seeks to bless us abundantly, God doesn’t just say no; He says no because He has something so much better in store for us.

Be bold in your prayers, no matter how long they take to be answered. “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16 NLT) Come boldly…find God. And in the meantime, wait on Him, hope in Him, and expect Him at every turn. Desire God’s timing, God’s hand, and God’s plan over your own. Trust in Him. Have faith (even tiny baby faith), and watch God work in your life in BIG ways that bring glory to Him and His kingdom. Isn’t that our purpose? More than getting what we want, when we want it, and how we want it, let’s decide to be aggressively patient with our praying…keeping an expectant, joyful attitude in the midst of our waiting.

Dear Lord, thank you so much that I can come to you with my prayer requests and KNOW that you hear me. Help me, God, to trust your plan and your hand instead of getting impatient or bitter. I pray that you would help me to stay calm and patient, especially while praying for important things that take time. Help me, Lord, to sense Your Presence even when the answers haven’t come yet. I know that you love me. I know that you care about me. I know that you hear me, and I am so very grateful. Thank you for Your Word, which strengthens my resolve while I wait patiently and expectantly on you. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Philippians 2:3–Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.

 

The Disease of Comparison

We’ve all been there. We’re bored, we have extra time, we’re trapped in a germ-coated waiting room, so we click that social media app. Sometimes what we get is the greatest of all the Internet gifts: baby goats in pajamas. (Google this IMMEDIATELY if you’ve never seen it. It will make your whole life!) Other times, however, by the time we close out of Instagram or Facebook (or whatever app we’re currently trying to learn because the young folks think it’s cool), we’re left with a different feeling.

Given I use it to {shamelessly} promote this blog, it might surprise you to learn that I have a love-hate relationship with social media. While I LOVE being able to keep up with current events, friends, favorite Christian speakers, and especially former students, I frequently experience that feeling I mentioned above. You see, I have a disease that is fed by social media. What disease you ask? The disease of comparison.

Right or wrong, good or bad, I compare pretty much every aspect of my life to others’. Before social media (that existed right? A time when our whole lives weren’t shared and monitored by others. Did I dream that?), my ability to compare was limited. I could compare myself and my life to my friends and their lives, but only if they told me what was going on with them. Now, however, the game has totally changed, and for me personally, not for the better.

I told you guys from the start that I’d be totally honest with each blog post. Hopefully, if you read the last one, you realized that I wasn’t exaggerating. In keeping with that, I want to be very upfront with this topic: I am not posting from a “healed” perspective with this one. I am right in the midst of the struggle, trying to make sure that it’s God’s glory I seek and obtain, instead of worldly glorification.

Now that it’s summer and everyone’s off on their cruises and beach trips and glorious, argument-free family vacations (because isn’t this the image we try to project with our posts?), I find myself struggling more with this comparison disease. I watch my friends take their kids to fun water park after fun water park, beach after beach, day outing after day outing, and I compare. I compare myself as a mom: why am I not as much fun as they are? Are my priorities out of whack? Am I putting my child at a disadvantage because she’s not constantly being given new experiences? Could I possibly be teaching her an okay lesson by requiring that she find her own entertainment, or is that too old-school a style of parenting?

I also begin comparing lifestyles, especially financial lifestyles. I suddenly feel very impoverished compared to all of my friends, even some strangers whose lives I witness online. Suddenly I lose sight of the food in my fridge, my over-filled pantry, my ability to go to the store when a need arises, our air-conditioned house, our healthy family. I have perspective, I really do, but sometimes I see others doing what I wish to do, and it stings. I have even seen others doing what I have NO DESIRE TO DO, and I’ve still compared my life to theirs and felt lacking.

There’s a flip-side to comparison, too, and it’s just as dangerous. It’s called pride. Comparison can cause us to become judgmental as well. How many times have we seen a post, and regardless of what we’re feeling (jealousy mainly), we suddenly find ourselves comparing in a way that has us coming out on top. Maybe it’s regarding someone’s parenting. Or someone’s choices about how to spend their money. Or someone’s looks. I’ve done it. I’d be willing to bet you’ve done it.

I noticed my disease, my comparison disease, becoming much stronger once I became a parent and the more involved with social media I became. I wanted to share my life, especially my sweet girl, with my family and friends online, so I knew that I had to get my head and heart right. I knew that Satan had identified a serious weakness in my armor and was using it to his scheming advantage. I also knew, however, that I alone wouldn’t be able to win this battle. I began to pray specifically about my problem with comparison, and as God promised in His Word, He brought me insight and knowledge about this issue.

First of all, God showed me that this wasn’t something I was dealing with alone. Not only is it something that we all deal with (more often than we’d readily admit), but it’s something He knew we’d struggle with, hence this warning scripture from 2 Corinthians 10:12: “…when they measure themselves with themselves and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding and behave unwisely.” I’ll be honest, when I first saw this scripture I was shocked; as it’s done many times before, God’s relevancy just blew me away. It further proved that comparison and its negative side-effects need ridding from our lives.

God also showed me how much like a disease comparison truly can be when left untreated. It can show up at any time, and it attacks anyone, regardless of age, social status, marital status, race, gender, etc. No one is immune, and sadly, there’s no vaccine. Like any illness, comparison has symptoms. It wasn’t until I began to notice these symptoms in my own life/mind that I began to be able to put comparison in its place. Let’s see if you currently have any, or have ever exhibited any, symptoms of comparison.

  • Blurred vision with the possibility of blindness
  • Partial hearing loss with the possibility of total deafness
  • Depression, a feeling of defeat, and/or a lack of gratitude
  • In some rare but dangerous cases, death

Blurred vision/blindness: God is so good to us, and He gives each one of us a vision for our lives. But if we’re so busy watching everyone else’s lives, we will miss our own. In that same respect, focusing so much on what everyone else has, what everyone else is getting that you’re not, what everyone else is experiencing that you’re not, you become completely blind to God moving in your own life. We are each touched DAILY by the favor and hand of God, but how often do we notice? We might see it in someone else’s life, but when we’re so busy looking outward, we just become blind. We don’t see God, we don’t see His hand or His favor, and suddenly we become blind to anything else God might try to show us: others who we can help, others whose pain we can ease, others who need to hear about all the blessings God’s gifting us…all those blessings we’re no longer seeing because we’re so focused on how we don’t measure up when compared to someone else.

Loss of hearing/deafness: It’s no secret that when we pray to God, when we develop our relationship with Him, He responds to us. Some people even hear His literal voice (this has never happened to me, just FYI). But when we spend our time comparing ourselves to others, our heads fill up with noise, drowning out our ability to hear God direct our lives. Instead of hearing God’s direction or guidance for our lives, we hear the chatter of insecurity: why don’t I have a new house? Why do they get a new car and I drive this old one that breaks down constantly? How can they afford that vacation? Why am I not as good of a mom? Why aren’t my kids as smart/well-behaved/easy-going? Why does God constantly bless them while I’m over here riding the struggle-bus every day? The Bible tells us that God speaks in a still, quiet voice. Because He needs us to draw near to Him, because He wants us to quiet our internal noise in order to focus on Him, comparison robs us of our ability to hear God in many circumstances, often deafening us to His voice completely.

Depression/feelings of defeat/a lack of gratitude: It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if you spend your time comparing yourself to others in every way and continually coming up empty, you’re not going to feel good about yourself, your life, your relationships, your past, your present, or your future. What you will feel, however, is defeated, depressed, and dejected. Who wants that? It seems like a simple enough question, but you and I both know you wouldn’t have made it this far into this blog post if you could just reason your way out of using comparison against yourself.  Those of you who are parents or aunt and uncles, imagine giving your child/niece/nephew gift after gift, only to have him/her constantly pointing at what another kid has, wanting something different, something you know isn’t even necessarily right for him/her. Isn’t this what we do to God, though? When we compare, we become instantly disenchanted with all of the many, many blessings God gives us (daily!), and instead, we stand there with our chubby little toddler fingers pointing at all those things the next person has that we don’t. Each time I find myself wishing or wanting because of something I see someone else getting, I try my best to turn that into gratitude for even the smallest blessings (a green light when I so desperately needed it) in MY life. I desire to be grateful, and the disease of comparison makes that impossible.

Possible death: We’ve all seen it happen: someone convinces him/herself that the grass is greener on the other side, and before most of us know what’s happening, a family is broken. My friends, no one can withstand constant comparison. If you find yourself constantly comparing your spouse to someone else’s, or just other spouses in general, please stop. He/she doesn’t deserve that. If you are one to frequently compare your child (speaking to myself here!!) to others, please stop. He/she doesn’t deserve that. Comparison might begin small and simple, but it doesn’t stay that way. It opens a door into which Satan can often slip undetected. If comparison is left untreated for long enough, it festers, rotting out marriages, relationships, joy, peace, contentment, even dreams for our futures.

As I stated at the beginning, I don’t have the answer on how to completely rid your life of comparison. I have asked God “what do I do?” several times, and so all I can do is share with you what medicine, if you will, that God has provided for me. Two scriptures have helped me gain and keep a little bit of perspective so that I am better prepared to win the war against comparison when it rears its ugly head. In 2 Timothy 2:22, God details a list of those things which we should aim for and actively pursue. They are faith, love, peace, fellowship with others, and a pure heart. Since all of these qualities can’t exist inside a heart filled with jealousy, something has to go. I choose jealousy. On the opposite side, since these qualities can’t exist inside a heart filled with pride, something has to go. I choose pride. When in the midst of a strong bout of comparison, I remove myself (i.e. turn off my silly phone), remind myself of all that God has given me, and I meditate on the scripture of 2 Timothy 2:20, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also [utensils] of wood and earthenware, and some for honorable and noble [use] and some for menial and ignoble [use].” We are all different; we are all special; we are all created by God on purpose and for a purpose. No one else has your purpose; therefore, no one else has your life, your circumstances, your challenges, or your victories.

I don’t know about you, but I want MY blessings…not someone else’s. I want MY life and MY husband and MY sweet baby girl…not someone else’s. I can’t tell you how to eliminate comparison, but I can tell you that it takes determination and intentional thinking and living. I have a unique and valuable daughter. I refuse for her to see me and hear me, and one day catch my disease of comparison.

Dear Lord, I am so incredibly grateful for every single blessing you’ve supplied in my life, be it big or small. God, I am determined to live my life, to accept my circumstances, and to be more aware of the beauty present in my day-to-day. Help me, Lord, to rid my heart and mind of comparison and its nasty side-effects. Help me to focus on my life and my relationship with you, and help me to know exactly what I need to do in order to stop Satan from being able to use this “disease” against me. Father, I ask that you heal me from it, and I ask that you open my eyes to MY life. You are so loving and so gracious and so kind, and I don’t want to miss a minute of all you’re doing in my world. Thank you for hearing me and for helping me. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Philippians 2:3–Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.