We must delight in God. And only God can change our hearts so that we delight in God. We are thrown back on God utterly. The Christian life is all of grace.
When I Don’t Desire God
We must delight in God. And only God can change our hearts so that we delight in God. We are thrown back on God utterly. The Christian life is all of grace.
When I Don’t Desire God
I haven’t blogged in so long.
2017 was an interesting year. I don’t remember much of the year other than the ups and downs. I definitely struggled more this year than in other not-so-eventful years, but I’m grateful to God for His sustaining grace and that He has been gracious to help me turn things around, ending on a high note and excited for all He has in store.
I’d say the themes of this year were hope amidst darkness and God’s sustaining grace for all of us and for most of all me.
I struggled in life and in ministry. I struggled with the weight of comparison and coveting. I struggled with the magnitude of our ministry commitments (which is odd because just a few years ago I was struggling with not having much ministry at all). I struggled to heed God’s voice and obey.
I struggled relationally. I don’t think Kenny and I have ever disagreed as much as this year. I reevaluated friendships and struggled to give unconditional love. I struggled to truly love others, being unoffendable in spirit, and continued my struggle with people-pleasing and doing things not for the sake of God, but for the sake of appearance and performance and the affirmation of man.
For the first time, this year, I felt the impact of death. The deaths were not the closest in relational proximity, but I saw Christian leaders and little ones and friends be called home and to the full healing of Heaven by the Lord.
Yet in all these things, in the struggle, in the doing of “the stuff” as Carol Wimber called it (sadly, the only book I think I read this year… though if I was to only finish one book, I sure am glad it was this one— a real page turner it was as Renee Rector said!), I can see God’s grace and His hand extending to me, reaching out, meeting me where I am, sometimes in the muck, saying “Here I AM. I AM here. Believe in Me.”
So amidst pain and struggle and refining, I see light. I see that God is a God who is gentle, who meets us in our weakness, who loves to help those who need His mercy, those who are weak, weak like me.
“A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.”
One of my favorite verses of all time. And He proves it to me over and over and over again.
The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, so then being poor in spirit, the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to people like me. How good, how gracious, how wonderful is this great reversal? How beautiful the exchange God gives to a sinner turned Saint, like me?
Amidst the struggle and darkness this year, I found hope. The hope of His light, the hope of His goodness, the hope of His work still being done in me.
Amidst relational strife, I found healing and release from living a life bound by the fear of other people’s opinions of me. I found God willing to meet me in my weakness, giving me supernatural love and the ability to forgive when I cried out to Him, telling Him I could no longer brute force love, but needed Him to help me. I found greater intimacy and belonging in being able to better voice my feelings and desires to Kenny. I found our relationship growing healthier and healthier in light of conflict, or rather because of it. I found the power of the light and iron sharpening iron, as I opened myself up to deep heart-level accountability, taking a plunge that was truly frightening, exposing my deepest darkest sins and mentalities. What I found was that I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t the only one struggling, and that being so open and vulnerable about my need for Jesus started to stir a greater fire in all of us for righteousness, for light, for fervor, for healing. I found what I think are the beginnings of true fellowship and Christian community.
In the highs and lows of ministry, I found God’s faithfulness. In 2017, God called Erika, an 18-year-old, recent high school graduate, to become Seeds of Life’s first international short/medium-ish (is 6 months medium-ish?) term missionary. Kenny and I received a lot of praise. And though it is affirming and encouraging seeing Erika living so passionately for Jesus, it is humbling knowing that as much as we may have had something very small to do with it, we also had nothing to do with it at all as only God can stir up a fire for His name. And conversely in the struggles, in the feelings of “why are we doing this” and “are we really making an impact” and “does this even matter,” I can rest in Jesus. I can be at peace knowing that He does see us and He is faithful and He is at work behind the scenes, doing amazingly wonderful things we don’t dare ask or even dream.
Amidst death, I find that as this article puts it, death is a profound teacher. This verse is currently up on our whiteboard, our family verse for January:
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Teach us to number our days. Death truly has brought to light this truth to me.
Our lives are short whether they are 1 year or 10 or 100, life goes quickly. And to be honest it’s disheartening to see the faithful be called home to the Lord. I struggled this year asking why him, why her? Why is God calling home these people who seem to have so much life ahead and so much potential, who seem to be doing so much for the Lord? I don’t have answers, but what I’ve seen through death and life this year are men and women who were faithful. Men and women who ran hard not just in health, but in illness, in great pain.
One of the women who went home to be with the Lord this December was Debra Williams. Debra was a friend and co-worker at Door of Hope. Debra was a pastor, a mom, a woman of the Lord. She ran hard, harder than most of us could ever know. Her memorial service proved that as person after person got up to share how Debra impacted them personally and their community. We thought her ministry stopped at Door of Hope and her church and her family, but Debra’s impact extended far beyond these sectors. What I saw in Debra was someone who preached the Gospel and God’s goodness when she was in health, and who preached them all the more after she became sick. One story that I hope will forever impact me was told by her pastoral mentor, another gifted preacher who shared at her memorial. She said on the night Debra was to move back home for hospice, she sat up in her bed, frail, but determined to sing out to Jesus. As she sang at the top of her lungs, her mentor tried to discern the song she was signing. After a few verses, she realized this song was not one she had heard before and that Debra was sing-writing her own last worship song. In her song, she spoke of her weakness and frailty, but in her song she also sang of God’s strength asking Him to help her stay near and help her finish her race.
As Ms. Almaz exhorted me when we spoke about Debra’s passing (among other things) on New Year’s Day morning,
“God doesn’t need any more lukewarm Christians.”
Harsh words perhaps, but convicting. I don’t want to be lukewarm. I don’t want to be like the virgin whose lamp stand is not filled with oil. I don’t want to be on the sidelines. I don’t want to be disqualified from the race. Like Debra, I want to be found faithful. And I can only be found faithful by His grace.
2017 was a year of ups and downs. But 2017 was another year of God’s tremendous grace and God’s goodness. And I would be remiss to not end it by singing songs of praise.
As my darling Eva loved to sing this past year (among Frozen and Moana and Baby Shark and many other things),
Let the King of my heart be the mountain where I run
The fountain I drink from; oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life; oh He is my song
You are good, good oh
You are good, good oh
Let the King of my heart be the wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves; oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart be the fire inside my veins
The echo of my days; oh He is my song
You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down
When the night is holding onto me
God is holding on
God, You are good and in Your grace, You hold onto me. Help me grow in 2018. Continue to strike down my unbelief. Continue to stir up a great passion and all-consuming fire inside of me. I need Your goodness, I need Your mercy, I need Your grace. Oh, how You hold onto me. Help me to keep the faith. Help me to keep burning. I lean in. I am available. I want to love You, to know Your love, and to do Your will. Be glorified in me. Be glorified in our family. Be glorified in this world.
I never blog anymore. Blame it on the #momlife.
So I feel like, by the grace of God, I’ve been growing a lot lately.
It’s truly all God’s grace. I haven’t even been in the Word much lately.
But God is good. God is gracious.
I think I’m growing in my understanding of just how much grace He offers and affords me. That His desire is not to punish or shame. That His tenderness is extended just as much if not more than His wrath and judgment (theologians… is that correct thinking?? Or maybe it’s incorrect to think of these attributes in measurable amounts…).
I still struggle when considering God’s judgment vs. His long-suffering loving-kindness. Sometimes I still feel like His wrath is the “dirty little secret” of Christianity. But I’m understanding more that God MUST judge evil. And for Him to restore the world and humanity to its intended state, He MUST come in wrath. For Him to be good, He MUST hate everything that destroys, everything that separates us from Him. And His heart’s desire and full intent is to restore us completely to Himself for our great pleasure and His great glory. (Can you tell I’ve been listening to a lot of Piper? Lol.)
For the first time in a good while, I stayed in my seat during the closing set of worship. It felt so good to just receive and let the Lord minister to me.
I’ve been feeling stretched, and yes, as much as I hate the phrase due to all the overuse in college, perhaps a little close to burn out. Life is consumed with so much pouring out, so much ministry.
So as I stood at my seat during service, opening my hands to receive, I felt God encouraging me. I felt Him saying that in order to step into greater calling and greater ministry, I had to truly believe this one thing: that He is good and specifically that He is good TO ME.
Often I can feel His love and compassion and tenderness for other people, but I almost never feel it FOR ME. When it comes to God and how I feel He relates to me, often I see Him as a God who is just waiting to drop the axe (is that the expression?) and punish. As if He’s just waiting for me to mess up so He can discipline me. I see His grace as an obligation that comes out of Him being holy, rather than a loving expression He chooses because of the fact that He is so gracious and so kind that He loves me.
Every week during accountability, we answer this question: are you experiencing God’s love, grace, and forgiveness? And every week, my answer is somewhat. I don’t think there’s been a single week when I’ve answered yes.
Do I truly believe God is gracious to me? Do I truly believe He is for me?
If I examine my life, I can see so many small and large evidences of grace. All these times when I should have been shamed/revealed/disciplined, but God encountered me in tenderness and not wrath.
It reminds me of this article I read by Henry Cloud (it’s great, take a look!): Why You Shouldn’t Give Others What They Deserve
Not giving others what they deserve is a big part of not playing fair. To give them better than they deserve is grace. The word means “unmerited favor.” Sometimes, it means that we give someone loving limits and consequences if other things have not worked. But often, limits are not needed; only a little softness is.
God is so gracious to me. He is long-suffering. He is kind. I don’t always feel it. But faith isn’t always about feeling. It’s about believing. It’s about knowing. (As my dear husband in recapping Todd White, his fave, recently reminded me.) I must BELIEVE God is good and that He is good to me.
When we know and believe God’s character, when we behold Him and adore Him and see just how worthy He is, then we will have fuel and passion and drive in our ministry. When we truly treasure the One we are worshipping, then our worship is not a chore, it’s a delight, it’s a pleasure. Pointing others to Him is no longer a task, but a privilege, a joy, it’s something that cannot be contained.
I’m reminded of one of my all-time favorite verses, Isaiah 42:3:
A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness He will bring forth justice…
My Lord, my God is SO gracious to me. He is so kind, so tender, so loving. I owe Him everything, yet to receive His love He doesn’t even ask for anything (other than choosing to believe)! Even if I didn’t serve Him, He would still love me. Even if I didn’t grow in Him, He would still love me. Even if I spurned His gifts, cast them aside, lived life only for myself, He would still love me. Even if I followed every evil desire of my flesh, He would still love me.
As someone who struggles with self-/works-based righteousness, that is soooo difficult for me to fathom!!!
How could a perfect, holy, all-sufficient God LOVE me, without ever even asking anything of me?
I just cannot fathom it. I cannot fathom this love He has for me. Yet here I am, exercising my faith, choosing to believe it and letting my inability to comprehend His love point me even more to how great, how loving, how immeasurably precious my God is!
Every image of judgment should remind us of grace through Jesus Christ.
As terrible as the bowls of God’s wrath are… they do not match the judgment Jesus willingly bore for His people’s salvation.
God’s judgments are always rooted in His righteousness and never stem from empty fury.
God is eternally fair, just, and completely holy. He does not violate any one of His attributes in exercising another. He is eternal and does not change. He rules the world. He exercised judgment with perfect morality and authority.
How am I feeling?
The last few days I’ve been really struggling with acid reflux/heartburn. After a particularly bad bout, I swore off the following last night: chocolate, Cheetos, popcorn, and salsa. (And yes, this means I ate all of those things last night… in what I thought were very tiny quantities though!) How long did my resolve last for? Until this morning when I popped some M&M’s haha. But definitely going to keep my late night snacking to a minimum after last night’s misery. Also, online research suggests eating very small acid-free meals and not drinking liquids with meals will help the discomfort.
Kenny pointed out to me too that I’ve been carrying small, and our Lamaze teacher said that’s often worse because that means the baby is squished back into you and your organs are impacted even more. Given that Baby Yee is averaged sized according to the OBGYN, this definitely seems like a possibility.
In terms of other woes, I know it’s TMI, but I also have a mild yeast infection. Yay. Haha. Supposedly they’re very common during pregnancy due to hormone changes?
Sleep-wise I’ve actually been doing better! I’ve been sleeping through the night more regularly and not waking up as much.
Baby Yee continues to be active. Last night when I was sitting up quite late due to my acid reflux troubles, I was getting sleepy and slouched over to the side. Baby promptly kicked me with such aggression that it forced me into an upright position. It was as if she was saying, “hey man, you’re squishing me in here!”
Cravings-wise, I’ve noticed my cravings have morphed again. My new chocolate obsession is anything caramel-y, mostly Twix. Also after months and months of eating 5-6 Cuties a day (and I would’ve eaten more if 6+ didn’t give me gastro problems!), I’ve dropped the tangerine fixation and have been really into unsweetened apple sauce. Still really into fries too, but trying very hard to resist.
Thanks so much to Deb Han for throwing my family/Lifesong friends shower this weekend!! Had such a wonderful time with family and especially catching up with old Lifesong friends. I was reminded too of how good God was in using the Lifesong community to heal me back when I was really struggling (more on suffering/trials in the next section). As I’ve said many times, on the outside, attending Lifesong after college seemed to make very little sense, but God absolutely did use that redemptive community to simply love and heal me. So very, very grateful to Him.
Also, had the pleasure of hosting Miss Steph this weekend! Like fools, we stayed up until 2am? 3am? Friday night trying to relive our college days, and I think I’m STILL paying for it haha.
At Flame Broiler. This is the happiest I saw her all weekend.
What is God saying?
So as I mentioned in my last post, I had an especially hard time spending time with God last week. This week, it wasn’t as difficult, though Kenny and I did notice what seemed to be an increase in warfare around last night’s BSF, which was centered on the topic of suffering.
Suffering. Thankfully in this season, the worst I’ve had to “suffer” would be my symptoms of pregnancy, but as we reflected this past week on suffering, it was, well, informative? Interesting? Not sure how to describe it.
Last Wednesday, I really did not want to do my devo, but I kind of just resolved to do it and started the week’s BSF lesson on suffering. Amazingly, as God would have it, the things I reflected on that night came up the very next day as I met up with one of our youth kids. At the end of the night, both she and I marveled at how similar our lives were and how so many of the things I had gone through were paralleled in her life. I’m convinced that this is why God had me reflect on times of suffering the night before. In His sovereignty, He was helping me prepare to share with her. And I’m sure I could have shared with her even without the preparation, but I think because I had spent time considering the past the night before, I was better equipped to empathize and give her wise counsel.
Even now, years later and in a “good” season of life, it still is hard to look back at times of struggle and trial. Let’s face it. No one likes suffering, but it is a byproduct of a fallen world.
Every person who lives on this earth will eventually experience some type of suffering. Yes, some seem to have it worse than others, but there is not a single person who will not be touched at some point in their life by trials.
As Gina shared in lecture last night, how we react in times of trial reveals our hearts and what our relationship with God is like. If we are fully honest, there is not a person who would not cry out against God and question when suffering is thrust in our face. But it’s where we go from there that matters. Will we reject God? Will we press into Him? Will we still choose to trust Him even amidst pain?
As I shared with my young friend last Thursday, I’ve responded to pain in my life in different ways. Sometimes I did turn to God. Sometimes I turned to sin. Sometimes I chose to cry out to God and pray. Other times, I chose to masochistically dwell and stay in pain. I’ve tried stuffing pain, as Gina also covered yesterday. Stuffing it all down and pretending it’s not there.
Essentially, there are times when I handled trials well, allowing them the draw me closer into Jesus, and times when I did not handle them well, allowing them to pull me further away.
Looking back, I see two things:
1) I never regret the times that I turned to Jesus. Reflecting to just after senior year (and of course I didn’t handle that season perfectly), I am so grateful that I did turn to Jesus. I remember telling Him, “now what!? You’ve taken almost everything I care about away! What more could You take?” And yet, by His grace, though again I did waver at times, I tried my best to remain in Him.
2) There is grace. TREMENDOUS grace. Even in the times when I did not turn to Jesus and instead turned away from Him or even very blatantly turned to sin, I can see that there was/is so much grace for me.
A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness He will bring forth justice.
We can always turn back to Him. God is so full of love and grace and mercy for us. He is that father of the prodigal son, just pacing and looking and waiting for us to turn back to Him.
Even when we do let the worries and cares of this world or the heartaches and sufferings carry us away, God is still filled with love and grace. He understands. He knows. He empathizes with us. He realizes it is difficult when we endure hardship and don’t know why He would allow such pain.
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.
Suffering ultimately produces hope.
What is the hope in suffering? The hope is that one day we will no longer suffer. God is so concerned with our suffering and with our pain, that He sent His Son to walk among us, to be the “man of sorrows,” to suffer so that our suffering would have an end, and we can one day live in a reality that is free of pain.
The hope of suffering is that it also allows us to press into God through our pain in ways I don’t think we can any other way. Looking back on the little I have suffered, I realize that I wouldn’t trade those times of heartache and pain for anything.
Suffering allowed me to know God better, to see His all-sufficiency. Suffering refined me and rid me of relationship idolatry which was poisoning my relationships/me. Suffering filled me with a hatred for and vigilance over sexual sin. And though I’m still a work in progress in that area, I’ve experienced more and more freedom because of it. Suffering has helped me know Jesus better, understand Him more, and know the peace He promises even when it makes no sense. And suffering has helped me grow in how I love, understand, and empathize with others.
There is tremendous hope in suffering. And though at least in this season, I have not had to suffer much, my hope is that when suffering does touch me again, by God’s grace I will be able to suffer well and use it to press further into Him.
Sorry for those of you who got excited, but no relationship post here haha.
I’m thankful for late nights. Though they tire me out for the next day, I really do focus and am convicted best in the wee hours when all is quiet and God’s voice steadily becomes more clear.
Reminded once again tonight that God goes after the one.
Does it make sense? Of course not.
We are all about masses, and big numbers, and efficiency… but His plan for the world is backwards and humble. His Kingdom is built on disciple-making: tightknit, often painful, life-on-life, very costly relationships that sometimes don’t make sense and are much easier to abandon than continue to carry.
God cares about the one. Not just any one. The lost one. The broken one. The difficult one. The one the rest of the sheep shun. The one no one can relate to nor understand. Yes, He cares unconditionally about the other sheep, but He has a special love in His heart for the wayward son. Such a special love in fact that He will leave all others to pursue the prodigal to bring him back home.
This is God’s mission, thus this is my mission.
Because I was the one. The awkward one. The not cool one, not esteemed by peers in school and church alike. The unrelatable one. The prideful one. The one whose walls grew thicker and thicker that they became near impossible for mere man to penetrate. The one who pushed others away. The one who forgot God and the flock while pursuing other loves that would not fulfill and would eventually fade.
I am the one and God pursued me.
Thus how can I not pursue others? How can I be so quick to abandon and settle only for relationships that are easy and comfortable, where I know I am accepted and face no condemnation, and minimal chances of personal injury, when Christ came to pursue me, knowing fully how I would turn my back on Him so easily?
I am reminded tonight of my call. I am called to costly relationships. I am called to selflessness. I am called to humility. I am called to what is difficult and even painful to do.
Why? Because God did the same for me. And now His desire is to move through me in the same way, in the same type of ministry, to pursue the lost, the lonely, the broken, the shunned, the ashamed, but most importantly the beloved sheep.
Will it cost me? Yes. Time, pain, pride, comfort, reputation even are a few things that come to mind.
Will it be worth it? Most definitely. For when I am in His will, with His heart, I will find the true meaning of life. And as I pursue the one, God continues to pursue and change and love me.
Interestingly enough it also seems to be the most difficult relationships, bought through years of learning to love and mutual grace and understanding, that often become the most satisfying in life all in His time.
So the conclusion is this: I pursue the one because God pursued me. This is the call on my life. Lord, help me.
His grace exceeds how far you have fallen and how fast you have run away.