Shared Emotions

Happy Easter, my friends! I pray this finds you healthy and well and rejoicing in the risen King. No greater gift has ever been given and no greater victory has ever been had!

Throughout this week, while reading the story of Jesus during his final earthly days, I found myself identifying more this year than ever before with the emotions the disciples must have been feeling. I don’t know about you, but emotions have been really abundant for me lately, and I’ve ridden the roller coaster from “We got this!” to “This is horrible!” more than once. Sometimes more than once a day. After reading the Easter story this year again and comparing their experiences to the strange circumstances in which we find ourselves, I truly believe that the disciples were no strangers to this emotional roller coaster.

Over the past few weeks, I have felt all of these at one time or another (or all at once), and I believe the disciples felt them, too. I’m betting that you, too, might recognize a few of these shared emotions yourself.

Disappointment–Can you imagine being full of expectations, excitedly planning a big event or championing a cause you felt very passionate about, only to have it erased from the calendar because of something outside your control? The disciples can, and I bet if you know a kid planning a spring birthday party or looking forward to the end-of-the-year celebrations at a school, a senior planning prom and graduation celebrations, or a person expecting to celebrate an upcoming birthday at a favorite restaurant, you can too. So many of us have experienced great disappointment during this quarantine. I’ve talked to parents of kids who were planning exciting things that have been stolen away, and my heart breaks for them. If we were to ask Peter or Mary or John how they felt when, suddenly, death stole from them their expectations and plans, they’d most certainly list disappointment (to the point of heartbreak) among the emotions they experienced.

Confusion–Please raise your hand if at any point since the middle of March (which was seventeen years ago by my calculations) you’ve thought, What in the whole wide world is happening? You know the disciples had to have been so confused, too. No way some of them weren’t asking the exact same question. How many of us have wondered, Where did you go, Jesus? What are You doing? How are death and confusion part of Your plan? The disciples might not have been confused about how to get toilet paper and hand soap, but unanswered questions and jumbled, unsettled minds are something we no doubt share.

Fear–I think of all the emotions, this one I’ve had to battle the most. I have found many things to be afraid of during this pandemic (anyone else hate this word?), and it’s taken A LOT of mental energy some days to shut it down. I bet the disciples get this, too. In fact, I know they did because I read Luke. Sometimes Jesus’s friends were terrified by what they saw outside His tomb. Other times, they felt afraid for their own safety, their own well-being. Same, disciple friends. Same. What happens next feels very up in the air right now, and after the death of Jesus, I’d guess it did for them, too.

Sadness— No one can argue the disciples’ love for Jesus. Sure they weren’t perfect, but love isn’t borne through perfection. Their hearts were good, and their hearts were full for Jesus Christ. And then He died and seemed to leave them alone and brokenhearted. No doubt they were sad because they felt the rug had been ripped right out from underneath them. Surely they also felt saddened by the betrayal of Judas, because even though Jesus paid the price, Judas betrayed his brothers in Christ as well. Through all of this, I, too, have felt such sadness. Sadness over those who are sick or who have lost loved ones. Sadness over those in assisted living facilities and nursing homes whose visits from family and friends have been cut off. Sadness over the kids trapped at home, kids for whom school was an escape and a few hours of safety. Sadness over families who can’t feed their kids without the help of free school lunches. Sadness because we can’t worship at our church or hang out with our family. Sadness because there’s just a lot of darkness right now. And can you imagine a darker time than the day Jesus died and remained entombed? So. Much. Sadness.

Inadequacy–I won’t ask for a show of hands, but how many of you have been gripped by feelings of inadequacy while trying to homeschool your kids and work from home and feed everybody and make sure you are on time for every Zoom meeting and do laundry and feed everybody and feed everybody and feed everybody? Y’all, the disciples felt this too. Even though they jawed back and forth about which of them was the greatest and trash-talked each other, there was ZERO question that Jesus was the leader among them. He was the decision-maker, the guide, the glue. And then one day, He was no longer there. The disciples had no resources. I mean, hello! They weren’t sons of God like Jesus was. What exactly where they supposed to do now?! For crying out loud, you’re not a teacher! What are you supposed to do now?! Yep, this, too, was an emotion we have in common with the disciples.

But as you know, as every meme has reminded us these last two days, Sunday was coming. Victory was about to show up and show out in a MIGHTY way, and the emotions those disciples were about to experience were far from those listed above. Now, friends, we’re not quite there yet. We are still in the midst of that time of waiting, where the darkness and the loneliness and the sadness and fear still fill our hearts. But we can hold strong to what happens next in Luke because it shows us exactly which emotions we are about to have in common with the disciples, and boy, do these sound WAY better!

Hopefulness–Rejoice, friends, because we already know what the disciples were just learning: Jesus won! Jesus always wins! Those guys (and gals) had to learn as they went, but we have seen the way that story ends. We don’t have to wait to see how this virus mess ends to have hope. Today more than any day we can declare loudly and fiercely: HOPE IS ALIVE AND HIS NAME IS JESUS! We might have to wait a little longer, we might have to work harder at pushing out the lies fear whispers about our current circumstances, but we have full hope because of Jesus Christ. I think it’s beautiful to imagine what it must have felt like for those disciples to go from being so dejected and achy to being swollen full of hope and restoration.

LOVE–“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). You are Jesus’s friend. It was for you that He gave His life. To be totally honest, those disciples were a bit of train wreck sometimes…both collectively and individually. Aren’t we all? There are times when I’ll try my very, very best and still blow it. And when I do, God says, “I love you. It’s okay.”

I simply cannot imagine what it must have been like to witness the sacrifice Jesus made, to have heard His cries as those nails were being pounded into his actual body. My stomach knots just typing that. I would never want to personally witness that horror. But I love to imagine what it must have felt like for Jesus’s disciples to come to the recognition that THEY were why He did it. “But God demonstrates His own for love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God hasn’t once taken His eyes from us during this scary, unprecedented time. He’s not forgotten what He promised, and He’s not walked away. Yes, we may be suffering disappointments of varying degrees. And we may be fearful and struggling to feel adequate in the midst of a brand-new (not our choice!) normal. But just like when God was hard at work on the behalf of the disciples even though they couldn’t see it, He’s hard at work on our behalf, ON YOUR BEHALF, too. You, friend, are in the palm of His hand. Choose hope. See His love. Know that abundant goodness is yours for the taking through a personal relationship with Him. God hadn’t disappeared when Jesus was lying dead in that tomb; He was preparing. I am convinced, y’all, that this is exactly what’s happening now, too. I love you all tremendously, and I wish you the happiest of Easters. If it gets dark today, or in the coming days, just do what my BFF Lauren Daigle says to do and look up, child. Please pray with me.

Dear Lord, thank You for Easter. Thank You that when things looked bleak and dark and hopeless, You were preparing SALVATION for me. I trust You, Lord, and I know that You haven’t deserted me. I know that I can seek You and You will comfort me. I admit, Father, I frequently visit those more negative emotions, especially lately. I don’t want to listen to the lies fear whispers, so I ask You, Lord, to please give me Your peace, Your comfort, and the hope that can only be found in being Your child. I KNOW good things are coming because You are a good God. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for His resurrection. Thank You for loving me and saving me well before I got myself together. You are worthy of every and all praise, Lord. I love you. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

 

Praise The LORD For Your Soul

Recently, for another blog post, I began researching the multitude of questions Jesus asks throughout His time in the New Testament. While so many are poignant (because that’s how Jesus rolls…loaded questions were His jam!), one really caused me to stop and seriously ponder what a truthful, heart-based, personal answer would sound like. I want to share this same question with you, and I ask that you genuinely pause and reflect upon your response as well. The question from Jesus comes from Matthew 16:15 (the emphasis is mine).

But who do you say that I am?

To me, not much else arrows straight to the root of our personal relationships with Jesus like this direct (and loaded!) question. And given the season that is upon us, the incredible celebration of Easter, I feel that it’s of utmost value (of necessity even!) that we truthfully, authentically, prayerfully answer this question for ourselves. Not to steal Christian comedian John Crist’s catchphrase, but let this question prompt us to check our hearts (and our lives and our thoughts and our words and our actions), to reorder our schedules /priorities/lives so that when our sacrificial Savior asks “But who do you say that I am?” we don’t have to answer back to Him things like “an obligation,” “unimportant,” “not worth my time,” or “someone I don’t ever talk about.”

I’d like to go ahead and warn you upfront (although maybe warn is a bit too strong) that for most of you, this particular post might not be for you. In fact, it might not apply to you much at all, especially if your relationship with Jesus is flourishing and mature. To be honest, it’s that fact that’s kept me from writing this post for several months now. Have y’all ever been there before? Have y’all ever sensed God lead you to do a certain thing, one about which your incredibly wise human brain said, “I don’t think that’s really all that necessary”? Yeah, well. That’s pretty much how I’ve reacted when God’s placed this blog post on my heart: Ya sure about that, God? I mean, like, fully certain? I’m sure You aren’t so I’ll just circle on back around some other time if that’s swell with You. The Holy Spirit did lead me in other (hopefully useful) directions with my writings, but this nudge never went away completely. And I don’t if it’s because God needs to use it right now or if it’s because it’s Easter or what, but apparently ’tis time.

You see, I pushed this idea to the side because I felt like it wouldn’t apply to many of you, as I mentioned before. However, after careful consideration of that biblical question from Jesus, I felt that it was too important to pass up. Besides, God works in ways that I can’t (hallelujah!), so I know that if only one person reads this post today, or in the coming days/weeks, and it touches his/her heart, it was so very worth the rest of us reading a message that may not apply to us.

Friends, while it’s my goal through this blog site to share Jesus in a real-world, relatable way, it’s all pointless if you don’t know Jesus on a personal level, as your very personal Savior. So let me very gently and in a very non-judgmental way ask you a critical question to go along with Jesus’s: Are you saved? Have you declared to God through your words that you believe Jesus is the Son of God, that He came to earth to save us from ourselves and our sinfulness and death by taking our shame and punishment up on that cross? Have you verbally declared that you believe Jesus died on the cross, was placed in the tomb only to defeat death (for good!) by raising from the dead three days later, eventually rising back up into Heaven to stay until He comes back for us one day? If not, if you’ve never made this life-changing declaration, how about today? Dear Beloved by God, how about right now?

Romans 10:9 promises this: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

John 10:9 says it this way, from the very mouth of Jesus: Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.

Acts 4:12 uses these words: There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.

And Ephesians 2:9 helps us understand that, Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done…[God] has created us anew in Christ Jesus.

So what’s the commonality here? Jesus Christ. We make it legalistic and complicated, but it’s really very simple. Do you believe Jesus is who He says He is, who the Bible says He is? If so and you feel led to follow the biblical guidelines to salvation, I ask that you just pray this prayer with me (out loud if you are comfortable with that).

Father God, thank You for Your Son–for Jesus Christ. Thank You for His death on the cross and His resurrection three days later. Thank You, Lord, for Your Word which I believe with my whole heart. I accept Jesus as my Savior, Father, and I thank You that all the goodness of Jesus and the guiding force of the Holy Spirit now reside within me. In Jesus’s holy name I prayer this prayer for salvation. Amen.

CONGRATULATIONS! Don’t you feel lighter already? You just signed a covenant with the Maker of the ENTIRE Universe, who loves you, desires you, and is so proud of you! (Be sure and check the bottom of this post for the “Now What?!” section to help you know where to go from here with your newly-accepted salvation.)

While I’m beyond excited and happy to potentially help someone make such an important, life-changing decision, I don’t want to skip past those of us who might be caught up somewhere in the middle. Maybe you prayed a similar prayer for salvation once upon a time and followed it with a relationship with Jesus. But maybe life has happened since then–maybe A LOT of life–and in an effort to keep your other relationships afloat, you’ve let yours with Jesus dissipate. First, before anything else, let me say this very seriously and sternly: GOD IS NOT MAD AT YOU. Zero upset on His part. He misses you. He loves you, and He anxiously awaits a renewing of that dedication to Him and a life full of Him that you once had. All it takes is for you to get tired enough of feeling Satan yank you around, speaking lies, that you change your course. My friend, you cannot do this on your own. It takes you in partnership with God, with Him at the reigns. How do you get there? The same way you get anywhere and everywhere: prayer. And I invite you to say this prayer with me to re-solidify your relationship with your Heavenly Father (again, out loud if you’re comfortable with that):

Dear Lord, I miss You, and I recognize that the distance between us isn’t because You moved away from me. Father, I recognize that I am not meant to do life without You, and I ask for Your help in returning to a right relationship with You. I desire for You to be at the forefront of my life, Lord, but I’m not even sure where to start. I ask today that You please move in my life; forgive me, please, for my choices and my distance. Help me to return to You. I rededicate my life to You, Father God, and I’m so grateful for the open arms with which You greet me today. Thank You for Your Son Jesus, whose death and resurrection make this possible. In His name I pray. Amen.

I trust that within at least one heart a small opening was created, one in which God has shown Himself. I pray that regardless of where your maturity falls with regard to your relationship with Jesus that you spend some intentional, prioritized time this Easter to study the precious Word of God for yourself, instead of letting someone spoon-feed it to you. I pray that during this time, you’ll be reminded of the incredible, unmatched love that He has for you. What a mighty God we serve indeed! Happy Easter, my friends! May you fully encounter Jesus this holiday weekend.

So…..now what?!

If you prayed that prayer with me earlier and accepted Jesus into your heart, you’re probably wondering where to go from here. Biblically, our acceptance of Jesus, our being saved, is a 2-parter. Part one, we have to pray and ask Him into our hearts…so check mark on that! Part one can be done publicly or privately; it counts no matter what. But part two is definitely for public consumption; part two is baptism. If you’ll reach out to a local church or a friend with a home church (or come go to church with me!), you’ll find it’s filled with fellow believers anxious to help you celebrate the private decision you made with public baptism. Trust me.

Afterward–or in the waiting while you’re building up your courage to get your face wet in public–get yourself a Bible, a highlighter, a notebook, and a pen. Set aside time on a DAILY basis to talk to God, to listen to God, and to read His Word. He’ll do the rest. I mean it–He will do ALL of the heavy lifting.

If at any point I can help you, pray for you, or encourage you, you can find me at lindseydt@gmail.com. Please reach out.

I mean, I am so excited! I hope you are, too. Praise the Lord for your soul; it is of UTMOST importance to Him. Now go celebrate Easter like never before. 🙂