12/24/17

For the first time in several months I had a moment of frustration. I’ve been on a really amazing run of peace in all my circumstances, joy and hope about my future, and excitement for the opportunities God has been providing for me. But this evening, an unfortunate consequence of a poor decision I made a few years ago seemed to be haunting me again, bringing fear back into my mind. I worried that if this situation wasn’t handled the way I thought it logically should, that I would have to bear the weight of this inconvenience for a while longer. That feeling of frustration started boiling within me and as it was coming to the surface I could almost feel a spring of hot tears burning behind my eyes.

I knew that if I let myself go down that spiral, it would ruin my Christmas Eve night with my family, and would put me in a mood that might even carry into tomorrow. Recognizing this, I went for a moment alone. I needed something positive to fill my mind with, that would replace these negative thoughts and redirect my perspective.

I turned to Matthew 5 and 6 where Jesus talks about dealing with anger and loving your enemies. While I don’t necessarily have enemies, the principle was valuable. In these chapters he talks about not even thinking of someone else as a fool, and not allowing anger to grow in your heart towards another person. It also says we shouldn’t repay anyone evil, if they do unkind or evil things to us.

These ways of dealing with conflict don’t come naturally. Evidently, they tend to go against our nature, as our first instinct is usually to put up our dukes and defend ourselves. But we never find peace dealing with conflict that way, and I want peace. So, I let those words of wisdom sink in and began to pray. I prayed that I would find peace in my circumstances, that God would help me deal with whatever the consequences would be, and guide me through it so that everything would be okay. And I also asked Him to shape my attitude to make me full of grace, forgiving, patient, and free, so that this situation wouldn’t frustrate me or make me anxious anymore.

It was like the weight immediately lifted off my chest.

Sometimes we are faced with challenging and frustrating situations that we cannot control. In these times, our mental and emotional peace can turn into uncertainty and pain. Although we may not be able to escape our consequences, we can always change the way we perceive them. Sometimes that means seeking wisdom, so we have a light to guide us back to positivity and peace. Prayer is a helpful tool that can help us to release those negative feelings, and get us to a state of serenity. To me, that’s incredible, because although nothing changed from the moment that got me frustrated until now, my perspective did.

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How My Life Got Better When I Let Go and Let God

Why do we feel like we always need to be in control? What do we get out of making sure things always go our way? I used to want control to the point where I would get anxiety about the future. I would worry that if things didn’t work out the way I planned, that my whole life would fall apart. I’ve learned an important lesson lately, about why this kind of thinking is both unhealthy and impractical, and why surrendering control is the most liberating feeling one can have.

Control Is an Illusion

“… yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) The truth is, we don’t have control. We can control our actions, and guide our thoughts, but we cannot make our own futures. Sometimes things happen that we do not expect or plan for, and if we hold onto the desire to control, we won’t be able to solve those problems, or handle the disappointments. Surrendering was a scary thing to do, but it brought me a feeling of acceptance at peace, that quickly led to more deep joy than I could’ve ever tried to attain on my own.

God’s Will Is Better than Ours

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) For years, I took matters into my own hands, trying to grasp the things I wanted and thought I needed. I even framed my prayers in a way that essentially asked God to make my will His own. It’s taken me a while but I’ve finally reached this huge milestone in my spiritual life. I realized and accepted that I do not have control over my life, and that’s okay, because God’s plan is better than mine. It will produce more growth in me, grant me wisdom through the challenges I face, and shape me into a person who reflects God’s love. It’s also helped me shed some of my selfishness, which was getting in the way of me serving others.

Loving God Leads to Contentment

“But godliness with contentment is great gain,” (1 Timothy 6:6) Through surrender, God has granted me the desires of my heart in such a short period of time. I cannot even express how perfectly everything I prayed for the last few months are lining up. One thing, after the next.

It didn’t feel this way at first. The first feeling after letting go was an overwhelming hollowness. All the things I tried to gather up and focus my life on, I let go of. And in the place of all of that was emptiness, and my own inadequacy to fulfill myself. All my plans vanished. All the visions of my future became blurry. It felt like there was nothing ahead for me to grasp on that I could be sure of. I willingly have up my will so that I could be led by God, but was still scared about my future.

But sure enough, God broke through that vision and redirected me to a different path for my life. He provided opportunity after opportunity, and allowed me to have many of the things I had been desiring in my heart: stability, adventure, a clean slate, forgiveness, peace with the past, hope for the future, love, security, encouragement…

God Will Give You a New Way to Use Your Gifts

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” (1 Peter 4:10) All through my life I’ve wanted to love people. Sometimes I feel like that’s my purpose and calling in life: to encourage, help, support, love, sacrifice, and give to someone else. Changing my approach to certain things in my personal life also took away some of that “work” I was doing. I felt useless, purposeless, and hollow. I didn’t like being by myself. I wanted someone or something to devote my attention, love, and efforts to. So, I went to the only places that I knew would give me that opportunity in a safe way, where my efforts would grow in someone else’s heart.

I spent a lot of time alone, meditating, praying, refocusing. Shedding my old ways of thinking and spending quality time with God. I started thinking of ways I could serve the church and really dug into the problems with myself that I had to grow out of. So, in that seemingly empty space, I began to see God create a new plan for me that would still allow me to use my gifts. He directed my attention to people who needed love, so I could keep serving. He filled me with a renewed hope for my future, peace in my present circumstances, and more genuine love began to grow within my heart. Selfless love. I wanted to give love even if I got nothing in return. And then my prayers started to be answered.

God Reveals Himself if You Take the Time to Look

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Some people say, “You can’t know that God exists because you can’t see Him.” I may not be able to see Him physically with my eyes but I can clearly see His work in my life. Looking at where I am now is absolutely mind-blowing, considering where I was mentally, and emotionally a few months ago. There is no way I could’ve ever reached this point through my own efforts. I’ll be the first to admit that. I’m not wise enough, strong enough, or insightful enough to do this alone.

Surrendering Seems Reckless, but Actually Brings You Peace

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Surrendering to God and waiting for Him to move gave me the peace I needed to fully trust Him with the direction of my life and my future. That actually healed me of my anxiety. It’s surreal. Secondly, surrendering to God taught me patience. Yes, I’m excited about my future. Yes, I don’t want to sit around and waste any time. Yes, I wanna DO things with my life, go on adventures, make a positive impact, and give with all my heart. But I’m learning how to wait for the right way, time, people, and places, with every decision. I’m learning to go through every decision with prayer at the beginning, through the middle, and at the end in gratitude for whatever the outcome.

While We Wait, God Works

“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides You, who acts for those who wait for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4) I believe that while we wait, God works behind the scenes, carefully moving and setting things into motion that we cannot imagine or see. I wish I could shout from the mountaintops in gratitude for how God has always had my back despite all my poor decisions and disobedience. I have experienced that God is real, that He loves us and watches over us, and if we take the time and effort to devote our lives to Him, and ask, seek, and knock, wisdom will come to us. Everything in our lives is going to be so much better than anything we could’ve tried to make happen on our own, when we trust and follow Him.

“Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honour.”

Proverbs 21:21

Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?

 

This is a question that people have been asking since the beginning. Why does God allow evil and suffering? While I believe no one can fully understand or know God’s reasons, the scriptures give a lot of insight into the purpose of evil and suffering in the world. As I studied and went through some key passages, a few thoughts came to mind. My intention for this post is not to offend or belittle the grief or pain in anyone’s life, but to provide what I believe are reasonable explanations for the imperfection of our human lives. I hope this brings clarity and understanding to some of you, or challenges you to think outside the box. To anyone who has suffered loss or who is going through a tough time, you have my deepest sympathies and I hope you can find healing.

 

1. God is not the creator of evil and suffering, but allows the potential for it.

“God saw all He made and that it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Moral and natural evil came from our abuse of that free will, to go against God since the very beginning; therefore “we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22) But we can’t blame Adam and Eve because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) People do evil things (moral) and nature is in revolt (natural) as it longs for redemption and for things to be set right. Disorder and chaos stem from that.

 

2. Death and illness remind us that this life is temporary and refocuses us on our role on earth before we go to the eternal realm.

We are in a stage of preparation. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) God created us as physical and spiritual beings – hardships make us uncomfortable in our life here. Heaven will be free of all suffering and that is what we wait for. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3, 4)

Notice how many people with wealth and comfort do not consider death (ex. some Hollywood celebrities), but those who live in war torn or impoverished countries do. Danger, sickness and death awaken us to our need for God and those with faith and hope can find comfort that this life is not all there is. “No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Consider the author C.S. Lewis (creator of The Chronicles of Narnia series): He is considered to be one of the most faith-filled Christians, yet he lost his wife to a harsh battle with cancer. We get to choose whether in suffering we turn to God for comfort, or if we turn away from Him in blame. Also consider Jesus and his friend Lazarus as told in John 11. When Jesus found out Lazarus died and saw the grief of his friends, he wept. God grieves with us in our suffering. He may allow it but He has a bigger purpose than what we can see. But, we have hope because He has a plan to relieve us of it and this is unfolding day by day, until the final day when he will banish all evil (natural and moral) from existence.

 

3. God is our protector and comforter and His plan is to reunite us with Himself.

Over and over the Bible shows how God has rescued His people – His aim is not to rescue us from the tragedies of this life but to perfect our minds and hearts for the life to come. “In this world you will have suffering, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) He also gives us what we need to be comforted through struggle: His promises, family, friends, nurses, comfort, perspective, hope, etc.

 

4. We do not have the eyes or mind of God.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8) Almost everything in this life is foggy and confusing when we try to line it up with God’s perfect knowledge – it’s unfathomable. There are many mysteries and questions, but God gives the wisdom we need, “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;” (Proverbs 2:6) One day we will know everything, just not right now. “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17)

 

5. The unknowns of life are meant to draw us to God for wisdom (see point 4) and to teach us how to have more faith.

“Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

 

Closing Thoughts

If humanity believed that if they did good things they would be instantly rewarded or have an easy life, the temptation to do this out of a selfish, impure heart would be much greater. Doing good for the main goal of receiving blessings is not genuine. God knows our hearts and He knows how we think.

Some would say Christianity is an excuse to escape the harshness of life. Well, we have the same question to ask about Atheists: it could equally be argued that they are finding excuses to escape the harshness of judgment, through their denial of the Creator. Only God has all wisdom, and He loves those who, although have questions and challenge the things they hear, still choose to seek, love and trust Him.

 

“Now we see things imperfectly — like puzzling reflections in a mirror — but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)