Is God Good?

I was telling a friend yesterday that I’m in a fragile place right now in my walk.  I feel like if someone were to touch me I would shatter into a million pieces on the floor. I’m in a sweet place with the Lord but also such a hard place, both humbling and humiliating, and also kind of annoying.

Prompted from a pastor I admire I prayed the prayer that David lays out in Psalm 139:23-24

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

I sat on my couch afraid to pray those words.  I was afraid of disappointing God, which is ridiculous because he already knows what is grievous in me.  I can’t surprise him. Once I finally gathered the courage to ask I felt him immediately answer.

You have so much pride.

Pride is the worst. It is the root of all sin.  It always insists on its own way and it always keeps score. Pride says, “I’m always right and you are wrong”. Pride is so scary and so destructive and I hate it.

When I think about pride and its cause I always come back to Genesis, the beginning where Satan tempts Adam and Eve with the fruit.  I’m convinced that the fruit is pure pride. “God is holding out on you, There is something better, You could be as great as God.”
In my heart of hearts I know that my pride stems from not trusting the heart of God. I’m not trusting that God’s heart is ultimately good. I’m afraid of him, but not in a reverent way.  I’m afraid of the suffering and the pain and the uncomfortableness of being his follower.
There is a quote from C.S. Lewis that I come back to a lot:

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

So along with this pride, I’m wrestling with the goodness of God.  I’m wrestling with admitting that my imperfect human perspective limits my ability to discern between “good” and “bad”.

My friend Bethany wrote a blog recently that challenged my thoughts about God. She tilted it “Give God a Break”.

Today we are so afraid to claim any suffering and pain as coming from the Lord,” she wrote.  “Because if it were he that caused pain, we judge that he would not be a loving God. We don’t want to deny that God is loving, so we come up with theology that separates God from all suffering and pain in our lives; he is only connected to blessing and favor. Something about that doesn’t seem to line up with the way ancient Israel interacted with their deity. It doesn’t correspond with Paul’s exhortations from prison to the persecuted church. I realized that whether it is because of my circumstances, the injustice I see around me, or the Bible stories of God wiping out entire nations and races…I do not give God the benefit of the doubt.”

Honestly, I have been struggling with this idea since coming home from the race (It’s been almost 3 years, so a long time.) I’ve seen so many things that contradict some of the messages I hear in church, things people have said to me about God, and how if we just have faith the Lord will bless our bank accounts.  Which, please don’t hear me wrong, the Lord will do and has done that for us.  BUT I think it’s dangerous to believe that because it represents a belief that God is here for us, that he is our little genie that will just grant all our wishes and wants if we just ask him.  

I’ve been in more third world countries than a lot of people, I’ve seen what I believe to be real faith and they don’t have an overflowing bank account or a nice car or a beautiful house that’s paid off.  They have just enough.  Sometimes, less than enough.  They believe that God is better than their stuff and I think that’s where we fall short.  We want stuff.  We want new clothes and that new watch that costs $2,000 far more than we want an authentic, uncomfortable relationship with the Lord.

Never once does Jesus say that we will live an easy life here on earth.  He always prepares us for suffering and to be hated.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”
Philippians 3:8-10

Are we able to say that we would lose everything and count it as a loss? We gloss over the book of Job like it never happened. God let satan take everything from Job– EVERYTHING. God never even tells him why but basically just says, “I’m God.”

Do these things mean that God is not good? No.  Jennie Allen the author of the book Anything and the creator of IF: gatherings said this;

“You have to thank God for the seemingly good and the seemingly bad because really, you don’t know the difference.”

The times where I have had the most suffering, the hardest conversations, the scariest moments, those were the times I was closest to God.  Those were the times where my relationship with him flourished. I only had Him to rely on, not my things or my own wisdom and understanding.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28

When we read that verse I think in our human understanding we believe that God will stop all bad things in our lives, which we all know isn’t true.
Two of my dear friends have been sexually assaulted in their lives.
Another friend has had abortion.
Two others have parents that have chosen addiction over them.

This life is messy and in our human wisdom we say that all those things are bad.  We say that God could never be in those things.  But what if he is?  What if God is seen most in suffering because those moments, those life circumstances, throw us right into His arms.
What if the hardest things are the best things because they make us trust him most.

I just can’t shake this idea that as Americans, we have put God in a little box of our own selfishness. Is it our glory that we are seeking or are we letting the glory of God be seen through us? I don’t want to put God in a box. I don’t want to serve this fake God that is made in my own image that makes me feel good about myself and will never tell me anything’s wrong with me.  I want the real God, I want my heart to know the difference between the gospel of Chelsea and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

 

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Second Best

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I stood crying in the kitchen with my open wound and hers just beginning to be revealed.  

“I just want to be someone’s number one,” she said, her eyes full of pain and unmet expectations of what this world would be. Her words were an echo of my own just weeks before.
“You need to understand though, that isn’t part of your future husbands job,” I said.

I had only recently realized this same thing, and now I was having to rip open my heart and share it.

 All of my life I have felt second best. The who and the why are too personal and too raw to share at this moment in time. I have had this irrational fear that my husband would cheat on me. I fought the lie that he would choose to marry me and then one day find someone better than me in every way and leave me. I believed I was not worth staying for, not worth the final choice. I believed I was not enough, and never would be.

The enemy has done a very good job at deceiving my heart. My thoughts are not prone to believe good things about myself. It is hard to believe that I’m beautiful and it’s very hard for me to accept compliments that are genuine. The enemy has taught me to hate myself. He has taught me to believe the lie of my heart that I am second best.  He has taught me that even though I’ve already been chosen by both Jesus, my Redeemer, and by my earthly husband, that it is somehow a trick, somehow not true.

I have a memory from high school when a junior guy I liked somehow liked me back. My best friend called me, as it was her boyfriend’s best friend, and it was like the coolest thing that ever happened to me.

Then they revealed to me that it was joke, that he in fact did not like me.

I was a joke.

That lie was etched into my heart. I was so ugly it was funny that someone would find me attractive.

As I grew up I started to believe that once I was married I would feel beautiful and loved because, well, I was married. Wasn’t that the ultimate goal, anyway?
I would be someone’s first choice, finally.

I stand here today, married a year, to tell you that is a lie. If you feel like you’re not enough now, you will feel like you’re not enough in your marriage. You will constantly feel insecure or that you have to earn the love of your husband so you don’t lose it.

Feeling second best, not enough, ugly, gross, insecure– all of it is a heart problem. It is an issue of the heart that only Jesus can mend and fix and fill to the brim. Only the truth of the gospel can bring the lies to the light and oh, you must purge those lies that have become truth to you.

God’s love is not a fragmented love that can be easily displaced or moved. His love cannot be moved. He cannot be moved.

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

Your husband, your boyfriend, or your best friend, will never be able to make you feel like enough. You can try and try and try but you are going to get tired of always coming up short. Run to the Father and tell him how hurt you have been. Tell him the lies and let him reveal his truth to you. He wants so desperately for you to know what he thinks about you.

 

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.
Psalm 139:17-18

His thoughts of you are more than your thoughts of yourself. All the bad thoughts and the good– His thoughts outnumber them all.

Just be better.

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I have been in this mindset lately of “doing better”.  My heart has been restless because if I could just be better, do better than I could have peace.  I have been scratching desperate prayers into my journal so that God will change me.  If I just learn to control my emotions I could be perfect.  If I can stop eating sugar I could be perfect. If I could stop hurting my husband by my constant selfishness I could be perfect, and then I will finally be a woman who has it all together.  I will have it all together and I will be worthy of love, I won’t have to keep saying sorry; I won’t have to keep asking for forgiveness.

My sweet Savior listens to my desperate prayers and directs me to words he spoke to the same striving disciples almost 2,000 years ago. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. His gentle voice beckons my weary soul; come, my beloved, you are striving for love you already have.  You are striving for perfection that only I can claim.

My own brokenness laid out, my need to control left at the feet of the one who pulls me close and tells me who I am.  No matter how hard I strive to have it all together, I will not get there.  I am not meant to be there. I am meant to lean in to the whisper.

“I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have. In my head, I was always one step away.” Shuana Niequist

Jesus didn’t come for me to be perfect; he didn’t come so that I would strive to be perfect.  He came so I could see that I wasn’t perfect and that I desperately needed him to save me.  He waits and listens to my prayers and my mixed up heart and still loves me.  He is perfect, he has the control and he knows my name.  That is all I need, to know he hears and he knows.

Orphans and Widows

“Religion that god our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans
and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
//James 1:27

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I think a lot of times we don’t think we are doing ministry. I mean, we’re not in Africa holding orphaned babies or visiting widows at their homes. Most of the time if we aren’t doing ministry that looks like ministry to other people, we don’t really believe we are doing anything significant for the Kingdom because it isn’t obvious.
Now let me present an idea to you; it’s an idea that I had while driving to work and it flipped this whole verse upside down for me. What if orphan means outside the family of God? That means your co-worker, your neighbor, or your dad. Every single person that does not call God Father is an orphan. What if widow means that they have lost the love of their life, or they have never met him? Jesus is our groom; he is the one who romances us into salvation. What if loving orphans and widows simply means, “Love your neighbor as yourself”? What if we don’t’ have to go to Africa if God truly isn’t calling us there? What if we stopped putting more importance on certain people groups and remember that Jesus desires every person to be saved. He desires your circle of influence to know the good news that Jesus has saved them.
I have been oversees and I’m not saying you should not go to the literal orphans and widows because they are also our neighbor; I just want to challenge you to stop romanticizing people groups. Every single person needs to know Jesus and that includes people in America, which includes your family and my family. Every person I met in Africa or Thailand or Europe had the same exact need and desire as my unsaved co-worker. I think there is a stigma that all people in America have heard the gospel and I’d like to say that is wrong. There are so many people here that have never heard about Jesus and what he has done for them. Please, please, pray and think about what I’m saying. Loving people around you is so much harder than loving someone overseas that you don’t know or have no connection to. I can tell you from experience that doing missions overseas is easier than loving your unsaved cousin who is heated towards the gospel. Going overseas provides you the option to escape. You have the option to share the gospel and leave to come back to your comfortable home. Preaching the gospel to your family at Thanksgiving gives you no option to escape, you have to live life with them.

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Also understand that I am not trying to discourage overseas missions because as you can tell from this post I have done overseas missions and I have seen great benefits from it. I support multiple overseas organizations and so many of my friends have desires and callings to go and stay. I am just trying to challenge thinking and prompt a better vision for our nation and our church.
So many of my friends have been burned by their local church and I’m not just saying they were offended by what the church said. I’m saying they have been seriously manipulated and painfully embarrassed by them. I want Christ followers to understand that just because you are not overseas does not mean you do not have a mission here. It does not mean you are excused from the ministry that is right in front of you- to love the orphaned heart and widowed souls that are in your work place and your home or your row at church.
This has been on my heart for many days now and I have finally found the words to write it down. I hope you see my heart in these words, I hope you see that I just want to grow into a better Christ follower and I’d like to invite you on that journey with me. I hope you join me.

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Grace in the midst of lies.

VFC
property of VFC church

During worship today at church we sang “Good, Good Father”, this song is most commonly known for making me bawl my eyes out.  It’s so simple but the truths in it sink deep down into my being.  They sink down and they rip out the lies I believe.

You’re a good good father
It’s who you are, It’s who you are
Its who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, It’s who I am
It’s who I am

Because you are perfect in all of you ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your way to us

Oh it’s love so undeniable

I, I can hardly think as you call me
Deeper still, as you call me
Deeper still, as you call me
Deeper still, into love love love

You’re a good good father
It’s who you are, It’s who you are
Its who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, It’s who I am
It’s who I am

Because you are perfect in all of you ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your way to us

The night before as Trevor and I were praying before we went to sleep I realized that I hadn’t really recognized God all day.  I felt shameful and broken.  “Lord, thank you for the grace you give us when you don’t even cross our minds throughout the day.” After I prayed that I could feel the lies creeping in.  “You are a horrible Christian.  How do you even call yourself that without feeling ridiculous?” Then, something happened, my heart stirred and I knew truth.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
-Matthew 7:11

property of VFC church
property of VFC church

My own dad doesn’t get mad at me if I don’t communicate with him every single day.  I’m sure he wishes I did because he loves to talk to me, but does he hate me because I forgot to call him? No he doesn’t.  I think I do this with more than just simple things with God.  I am convinced if I do one thing wrong, or make one mistake, grace does not flow for me.  I have disappointed God and now I have to earn my good standing back. That doesn’t happen with anyone in my life, so why would that happen with God?  God knows my heart, he knows my desire for him and for his word. Yes, I should be striving to be in communion with God every single moment, but you know what? I’m human and God knows that.  He made me- and he has grace for me every single moment I mess up.  I asked for forgiveness that night and I still believed that I needed to earn back trust.  That is SUCH a lie- and a lie the enemy uses with everything.  He is ready to pounce on you any moment you trip, any moment you allow yourself to see your sin, he’s ready to tell you how bad you really are.  Most of the time we hear his voice, yelling at us to believe him.  If for a moment we would be silent and be still and try to listen for our whisper we would hear the grace filled voice of our savior.  The one who said “it is finished.” The one who says “you are forgiven and loved.”  He speaks grace and truth together.

“The marker of those who understand the gospel of Jesus Christ is that, when they stumble and fall, when they screw up, they run to God and not from him, because they clearly understand that their acceptance before God is not predicated upon their behavior but on the righteous life of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death.”
-Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

property of VFC church
property of VFC church

So, when I sang those words this morning my heart resonated with those truths.  I realized that no matter what, I serve a good, good Father and who I am is loved.  I am nothing more than loved and accepted by God.  The enemy can come and try to convince me otherwise, but I will always come back to the truth that is Jesus.  The truth that sets me free.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore,
and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”
-Galatians 5:1

Craving honesty

You know what’s hard? Friendships. You know what shouldn’t be hard? Friendships. Since moving to Kalamazoo it has been so hard for my husband Trevor and I to find real community. I have learned what kind of community I desire while being on the race. The six people on my team have changed me and the way I look at friendships. My whole squad has. Those fifty-five people have loved me in a way rarely found in this world.
We are so concerned with saving face, with making sure the people around us think we are cool, or smart, or good enough. We are so obsessed with what the people around us are thinking we never go deeper into the relationships we have. We don’t want to be “found out.”
Trevor and I have just finished Scary Close by Donald Miller. We read it with open hearts and pen in hand. We’ve underlined multiple paragraphs and our hearts are better because of this book. I was crying ten pages in because Donald was speaking so close to home. I have lived my life trying to impress the people around me. This is why I get so exhausted being around a large amount of people for a long period of time. I’m exhausted from acting.

“Human love isn’t conditional. No love is conditional.
If love is conditional, it’s just some sort of manipulation masquerading as love.”

I want to be honest with the people around me. I want to be very bad at small talk because I want to know the people I’m talking to. Donald brings up so many personal things that echo my own inner self. He is vulnerable and because he is vulnerable, he allows his readers the same freedom. I’m confident Donald’s book will change something in this world. It’s changed me, and it’s changed my husband.

“If Honesty is the key to intimacy, it means we don’t have to be perfect and,
moreover, we don’t have to pretend to be perfect.”

We concern ourselves with thinking people around us are going to find out we don’t have it all together. We can never let anyone know we don’t always have quiet time in the morning. We can never let anyone know we’ve messed up with our boyfriend once or twice. We can never be honest about anything, because then, somehow, we will be less loveable. These are lies. Lies I’ve believed for some time now.
I’m thankful though, for people like Donald and a select few of my friends—for Trevor, who want honesty and who crave it. I’m thankful for people who will not let me leave without really knowing how I’m doing. I’m thankful I know people who are fighting the lie: the instinct to hide. I don’t want to hide anymore. I want to be known and I want to risk my heart on people who matter and who challenge me.

Do you crave the same thing? Look around you and ask yourself if the people in your life make you a better person. If they don’t, you should branch out and look for people who are not necessarily comfortable but ask you hard questions, and allow your heart to be honest. This world is in need of some breathing room. It’s in need of people being themselves and being themselves unapologetically. You are meant to live this life free from the pressure to be perfect.

The light shines.

“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”
//John 1:5

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I had a whole different blog written out. It was full of hurt and the lies I have believing and yes, some of that will spill out onto this page but I’m starting over. I’m starting over because the light who is Jesus himself shines in the darkness and guess what? The darkness flees, it cannot overcome it, and it cannot overcome the Christ, the God-man who defeated it forever.
For a second (which has been a couple months) I have been living like the darkness had a lot of power, like the light wasn’t enough to help, to free me.

I’m not quite sure how to put into words what exactly has been happening inside of me but it has been bloody. The enemy has been attacking me for so long I almost gave up. Every moment was a moment of weakness. I was never good enough. Every single thing I did was just another opportunity for him to tell me I wasn’t worth anything. He was trying to pick me off. He wanted me to become so apathetic I stopped fighting. That is ultimately the enemy’s goal. Anyone that is doing anything for the glorification of Jesus he will try to pick off. He will try to make you believe anything so you become so inverted and consumed with your own hurt that you forget about the goal.
I forgot about the goal. I was licking my wounds and feeling sorry for myself because I was living like I wasn’t worth anything.

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Last Sunday at church we started a new series about what kind of story you want to tell. We were asked what kind of story we wanted our life to be telling. The kind of life you live when you believe the lies isn’t a life and it wasn’t the story that I wanted to be telling.  I want my story to be an adventure filled with courageous deeds and bold statements. I want my story to ask hard questions and to challenge the ideas of culture. To be in that kind of story, the kind that comforts and moves and changes, you have to be secure and confidant in who the writer is. Who is the writer? The writer is the same one who beautifully and awesomely created this world. The same writer who told the ancient couple Abraham, and Sarah that they would birth Isaac and that Abraham would be the father of many nations. He is the same writer who called little tiny David to defeat the monstrous goliath.   The bible is the most exciting adventure, and Jesus was the most courageous man. I want my life to look like that. How do I make that happen? I trust God, the one who created me, who knitted, molded, and breathed me into existence.

 “Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure.
It’s not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us.
God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention,
what feeds that indescribable need of our souls to
experience the richness of the world He made.
And then, leaning over us,
He whispers, “Let’s go do that together.”
//Bob Goff, Love Does

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Our whole life is a battle and we have been warned of this, even given armor. (Eph 6:10-20) We should never be surprised, but ready when those attacks come. We are children of the great I AM. No story is complete without a little friction. We like to see the hero overcome obstacles; we want to see the hero win the battle. Are you the hero of your story? Are you going to fight for your story? Are you going be courageous and bold? Let’s live in the confidence of the light that cannot be overcome by the darkness.