Being a Christian is Hard

Being a Christian is hard.

I grew up in the church. I’m the daughter of a pastor. I was baptized at the age of 3 or 4. But being in the church and being in a relationship with Christ can be very different things. There’s a big difference between practicing the religion of Christianity and embracing a life-long love with Christ, and it’s safe to say I’m learning that difference now at 23 years old. It wasn’t until the past year or so that I got serious about my relationship with Christ. I got to the point where I was tired of the occasional conversations with God that I had via prayer. I was fed up with living “good” Christian life in public, but living a different life behind closed doors. I was tired of carrying around the guilt of living a double life. A life full of fornication, alcohol abuse, profanity, gossiping, lying, disobedience and rebellion to God’s will for my life. I’d had enough and I was ready to give my all to Him. I finally wanted to live a life that was pleasing in His eyesight, both inside and outside of the church. I wanted to live a pure and righteous life, both in public and private.

So I started making changes. I went to a Christian counselor to help me with my unhealthy relationship with alcohol. I ended the relationship that was causing me to continually have pre-marital sex. I distanced myself from the friends, TV shows, music, or anything else that would influence me to turn away from God. I joined a prayer group of other young women with hearts for Christ. I started delving into the Word more and more and praying everyday. I even enrolled in seminary school so I could learn more and discern the call that God has for my life. When I did those things and started taking my relationship with Christ more seriously, I saw drastic changes in my life. I felt so much better. Much of the guilt and pressure that came with trying to live two lives at once was gone. My relationship with Christ felt so much deeper. I experienced His presence in ways that I never had before. But what I didn’t realize was that what I was feeling was the honeymoon phase.

Our relationship with Christ is a lot like a marriage. As a matter of fact, we are the bride and Christ is the bridesgroom. Unfortunately, many of us, have been cheating on Christ with the world. Granted we may go on dates with Him occasionally by going to church or praying when we need something, but as soon as we get what we need from Him, we’re back out in the world doing the very things that break His heart. That’s exactly what I had been doing for most of my life. I’d been locked in a cycle of getting my heart broken and shattered by the world, running to Christ to get Him to mend all the broken pieces, then running right back out the world only to get heart broken again. I had been using Christ. Exploiting His love for me and getting “closer” to Him just long enough for Him to patch me up, so I could go back out in the world and do what I wanted to do. Thankfully, He brought me to a point where I could see that the cycle of make-up and break-up with Him would not sustain me, and that what I was doing was breaking His heart. He showed me that He loved me so much. He loved me so much that He would heal my broken heart every time I came to Him hurting, even though He knew I would turn my back on Him as soon as I started feeling better. He loved me so much that He still wanted me no matter how many times I cheated on Him with the world. I finally saw that and wanted to commit my life to Him and stop cheating on Him with the world. I decided to finally be the bride of Christ and spend the rest of my life with Him and not the world.

This past year has been wonderful. I have grown a lot closer to Him. I received so many blessings from Him. I started feeling the joy and fulfillment in Him that I had been hopelessly searching for in the world. But now I feel like I’m coming to the place where the honeymoon is over and the very real work of marriage starts kicking in. Lately, the Lord has been showing me that while the initial things I gave up to be completely committed to Him were great, there still is more work to do. He’s showing me more and more that I have to die to my flesh every single day. I have to give my all to Him and serve Him every single day. Even on the days when I don’t feel as close to Him. Even on the days when I haven’t received tangible blessing from Him. Even on the days when I feel tired or sad. Just like a marriage isn’t always fun and filled with ecstasy, neither is our relationship with Christ. Just like a marriage can be hard, our relationship with Christ can be hard, too.

This phase of our relationship can be so tricky, because for many of us, we assume that because it doesn’t feel like it initially felt then something must be wrong. Maybe we’re just not cut out for this Christian life. Maybe life in the world wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe it’s okay to start compromising our faith just a little bit. Maybe we don’t need to pray or read our Bible today. It’s not like we’re getting the same feeling that we did before. I know I’ve struggled with thoughts like that. I’ve been tempted to go back to things in the world and have fallen into sin because I felt that maybe it wasn’t really a big deal like I thought it was. However, the Lord has been showing me the importance of this phase of our relationship. Being a Christian is about far more than being on a continual spiritual high. It’s about more than always being happy and always being blessed. Being a Christian is about loving Him with our all and having the endurance and discipline to stick with our relationship with Him even when it’s not easy. Hebrews 12: 1-11 lays this out perfectly. In our relationship with Him, we have to have discipline so that we can gain endurance and righteousness. Having to face discipline is hard. Gaining endurance is hard. Being righteous is hard. Being a Christian is hard, but it’s well worth it. Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself leaving the honeymoon phase of your relationship with Christ. Remember, this is where the work happens. This is where you will grow and become more and more of who God wants you to be. Don’t give up and don’t turn back. The hard work of your marriage to Christ starts here, but the crown you will receive from it one day will be well worth it.

Last Night I Took Off My Purity Ring

Such a beautiful reminder that marriage isn’t the end goal for us as Christians, our life-long relationship and love affair with Christ is.

Be Malleable

Last night-after 6 years- I took off my purity ring.
Not because I no longer desire to be pure but because of the little words engraved on the ring: “True Love Waits”. I don’t want this to sound cheesy or even condescending, but no. TRUE love doesn’t wait.

The reality is I have experienced the ultimate love of Jesus. Not JUST because he died on the cross for me-the ultimate act of love- but because he constantly romances me every single day with a love that never fails. No, he is not my “boyfriend” but he is true love. He is the love I’ve been waiting for. I’m not “waiting” around for something better, because there is no better love. If the Lord gives me the gift of marriage, then that’s soooo exciting. But life doesn’t start when you get married people. Its now. Its right in front of…

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Tried and Refined

Psalm 66: 10-12 says, “For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins. You made men ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.”

Every storm in life is not an attack of the enemy. Sometimes it’s God washing away the things that you can’t carry with you into your destiny. Sometimes He lets you go through the fire to burn away those bad habits and character flaws you never took the time to notice when things were going well. Sometimes your difficulties are just God’s way of purifying you before you reach the next level of life. Embrace the hard times and learn everything you can from them. If you’re going through it right now, it’s only because God is trying to prepare you for greater, but first He has to purge you of the things that are keeping you from receiving His full blessings.

A Case for Sadness

We live in a society obsessed with ridding itself of sadness. Countless books are published year in and year out describing how to think your way and believe your way to happiness. Dozens of sermons are preached Sunday after Sunday telling us that God desires nothing more than for us to be at our happiest, because it is the indicator that we are living our lives in the way that makes Him more pleased and garners His favor. However, we live in a culture plagued with depression. We see this deep sadness that so many of us bear, manifest itself through substance abuse, acting out in violence and anger, and even suicide. We’re a people running as hard as we can from sadness yet unable to outrun it. We suppress our sadness, ignore our sadness, trying to pretend our sadness doesn’t exist, attempt to positive think and pray and meditate our sadness away but it always finds itself circling back into our lives (or never really leaving in the first place). Why can’t we break free of the curse of sadness and depression into a utopian state of bliss and happiness that God intended for us? But wait. Did God really intend for us to constantly be happy?

When we look throughout the Bible we see examples of sadness throughout the Bible. Job’s testing caused him deep anguish and the book of Psalms is full of David’s cries to God during times of profound sadness. While these aren’t the only examples, the common thread that we see throughout the Bible is that sadness and pain was not an unusual occurrence, and it was actually something that was allowed in moderation. Sadness was openly expressed and acknowledged in the public. It was not something that was relegated to be dealt with behind closed doors. Expressing grief and anguish was an act that was acknowledged and respected by the entire community. And maybe that’s where we have it all wrong.

Sadness and pain are not a plague that should be avoided at all costs, as our culture has pushed us to believe. It is a natural and healthy part of the human experience. There are times in our lives that truly warrant sadness. When life deals us a blow, it is perfectly fine to feel the emotional, mental and spiritual pain that comes with hurtful experiences. It is okay to take a step back, not pretend that you are happy and deal with that sadness in healthy ways. When we have the space to openly express sadness AND have a community that embraces us and respects us as we are dealing with that sadness, it leads to full recovery and healing. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a culture that allows us to do that anymore. We don’t live in a society where we can literally and figuratively tear our clothes in anguish and adorn our head with ashes to express our grief. We’re often told to deal with our pain in private, move on quickly and show the outside world that we’re happy, even if we’re not.

Although I think that those who preach the message of always being happy mean well, I think the message has very negative consequences and does far more hurt than it does help. Constantly being told that we should always be happy, makes us feel guilty and ashamed when we’re not. We often are made to feel that something is terribly wrong with us for not having enough gratitude, or not having enough faith in God, or whatever. When in all actuality, sadness may be an indication that we’re on the right path.

Sadness is something that has to be worked through. There are no shortcuts. There are no easy ways out. Sadness brings us to the depths of our souls and allows us to find things there that we could never see at the heights of our happiness. Sadness teaches us lessons and transforms us in powerful ways that happiness simply cannot. That is not to glorify pain and suffering or to say that you should always be sad. Too much of anything is bad for you. However, sadness is a part of the natural ebb and flow of life. And in a world that seems to be in the constant pursuit of happiness, that can be a particularly tough pill to swallow. Happiness feels great, but in excess it breeds complacency and inertia. There’s no need to change and self-examine if we’re in a perpetual state of bliss. When we find ourselves in a state of happiness we often do our best to maintain that state. We often try our hardest to keep things exactly how they are so that we can continue feeling happy. However, our purpose in life is not to remain happy at all times, it is to become the person God created us to be and remain obedient to His will for our lives. Doing that means constantly growing and changing, and sometimes sadness is the only that will catapult that necessary growth.

So here’s my case for sadness. Maybe we should look back at and model King David and Job, and others who openly expressed their deep sadness and pain to God and to the community around them. Maybe we should make the effort to be more like the Israelite community that allowed people to express their grief and hurt without telling them to “just get over it,” or consider them to be weak. Maybe we should come to terms with the fact that God created us to have a life that is sometimes filled with unspeakable happiness but is also etched with unbearable pain. And maybe, just maybe when we do that, we will be able to truly heal from the pain that so many of us deal with, rather than just hiding it.

Words Like Honey

“How sweet are you words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”- Pslam 119:103

I’ve been reading the This Is The Bible devotional, which has been taking me through Psalm 119, as well as, related Bible verses (I LOVE the She Reads Truth app, btw. I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already). Psalm 119:103 was the verse to memorize. If you’re familiar with She Reads Truth, then you know there’s a comment section at the end of each devotional for readers to speak out on. One of the readers mentioned that she’s taken a culinary arts course and had to write a paper about honey. She was shocked to learn that honey is far more than a sweetener. It has many healing, rejuvenating and beautifying properties. It is used in hair products to restore moisture and luster to locks. It can be used as a facial masks to brighten and soften dry and tired skin. It can be put in tea to soothe a sore throat. Honey also never spoils. When archeologist found honey in Egyptian tombs, not only was the honey unspoiled but it was just as good as the day it was placed in the tomb. Even after being relegated to harsh temperatures for thousands of years, it still retained its potency.

What this young lady pointed out was so true. Just like honey is far more than a sweet treat, the Word is much more than a good read. As we take doses of the Word daily, we also benefit from all its healing properties. The Word restores our mind, it rejuvenates our weary and tired souls, it brings relief to our broken hearts and it is an antiseptic to infections from the outside world. And just like honey never spoils, neither does the Word. Its sweetness never wears away, its potency never fades and its ability to heal and restore never die even throughout the ages. It’s truth is just like honey. It endures even the harshest elements and lasts century after century. It never fails, never fades and never loses its flavor. The Word endures forever. It is just as sweet, powerful, and purifying as when God inspired it to be written over the years.

Because I Love Him

Over the past few months I’ve been led to stop using profanity and cut way back on secular music. I’ve been growing a lot in my relationship with Christ lately, and have been making a lot of changes in my life. However, these changes in particular, although small, have been very difficult doing. There have been several times where I have caved in and listened to music that wasn’t appropriate or cursed while stuck in rush hour traffic. I’ve often told myself that it wasn’t a big deal that I was backsliding because I don’t have to do these things to win God’s love and approval. He loves me and takes me just as I am, which is more than true. However, every time I’ve slipped up, I’ve ended up finding myself going back to dropping the profanity and secular music again.

But tonight it hit me and I came to a better understanding about why doing these things were on my heart. A song from one of my favorite secular artists, Kevin Gates, came to mind. I told myself that I could look up his song online and listen to it, but before I could reach for my phone or laptop, I changed my mind. Then I thought, “God you know I love you because you know how much I love me some Kevin Gates.” Then it dawned on me. I haven’t been drawn to give up these things in order to win God’s favor or to avoid His wrath. I’ve been drawn to give up these things simply because I love Him and want to please Him. It’s like when I get married one day. I know the man that God sends to marry me will love me. He’ll love me if I never wear makeup or put on perfume. He’ll love me if I wear sweatpants and a t-shirt everyday. He’ll love me simply because I’m me and I won’t have to do anything to win that love or prove my beauty to him. However, because I love him, I’ll take the time to put on makeup and wear a nice fragrance. And as much as I love my sweatpants, I’ll put them away most days and wear something a little nicer. Not because I think doing those things will make him love me more than he already does or that he’ll up and leave me if I don’t, but because I know doing the little things like that will please him. Those small things will bring him delight and put a smile on his face, and because of that I don’t mind doing that.

True love completely changes and transforms you. It causes you to think and act differently. It causes you to do things you don’t have to do, but just want to do. Like I said, I’ve been making a lot of changes in my life because of my relationship with Christ. His love for me is changing me and transforming me daily. I’m starting to think more of Him and less of me. I don’t mind doing things (or not doing things) for Him, not because I want anything from Him, but simply because I love Him. The love He has for me, is making me want to love Him (and show Him how much I love Him) more and more.

Do It Anyway

feel-the-fear

“For we are not given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.”- 2Timothy 1:7

Just Saying: Grace Over Hustle

Sometimes we’re so in love with our hustle that we forget to fall in love with our purpose and the grace that our purpose allows us to have. There’s nothing wrong with grinding and hustling because without hard work success is hard to come by. But hustling is NEVER a substitute for the grace God gives you when you fall in line with the divine purpose He has for your life. No matter how hard you hustle, no matter how much how much you’re married to the money, no matter how many times you’re on #teamnosleep, if you aren’t grinding for your God-given purpose it’s all in vain. When you align your hustle with your purpose you will be unstoppable. So if you’ve been grinding but seem to be getting nowhere despite how hard you’ve been trying, take some time and seek His face. Your hustle alone may yield results but they will never overflow until you follow His will.

Giving 2nd Chances

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Y’all better quit playing Russian roulette in these “relationships.” There’s nothing wrong with loving hard and being forgiving but don’t be foolish. Forgiveness does not automatically mean allowing people a 2nd chance. Everyone doesn’t deserve 2nd chances and if they didn’t see your value the 1st time around, they probably won’t see it the 2nd, 3rd or 15th time around.

Your Thoughts Run Your LIfe

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Proverbs 4:23. If you want to change your life, you first have to change your thoughts.