Perhaps you were born for such a time as this. Perhaps your life is meant to show God’s love in radical ways. Perhaps you were created to look out for the poor, the lonely and the oppressed, rather than the rich, the popular and the powerful. Perhaps you’ve been called to live out the Gospel in ways that challenge the status quo and make people uncomfortable. Perhaps you were created to change the business-as-usual practices in the world and in the church. Perhaps…
God doesn’t want your perfection, He wants your authenticity. God’s people don’t need image and branding right now, they need realness. The world desperately needs those who can expose their flaws, their hurts, deepest shame and secrets even when it’s uncomfortable and painful. They need those who can share their testimonies to set other’s free even if it means they’re not always popular or accepted because of it. They need those who are willing to preach the Gospel even when it means losing friends, connections, and money. He wants those who are truly willing to take up the cross for Him not just those who want to use religion for their own personal gain.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.