When covid first hit, we all had a choice to make; where would we put our hope for protection? Would it be in what we could do to protect ourselves? Or would God be the foundation of our hope? My husband and I made a conscious decision to put our trust in God, not in social distancing or masks or hand sanitizers or medicine or doctors or in a vaccine. While we recognized that God can and does use these things at times to protect or bring healing, God Himself was where we put our trust. I memorized a passage from Psalm 91:
“If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.” Peace settled over our home as we trusted in God.
Then in 2021 we got covid.
What. Just. Happened?!?!
What about God’s promise? Did I not trust Him enough? Did I let down my shield of faith? Did God forget His promise?
This morning I found myself in Psalm 91 again. To be honest, it sort of stung. This same passage that used to bring me comfort now left me with some questions for God. I haven’t really wanted to face this gnawing question. Yet I didn’t want it to rise up later during a crisis either.
Sometimes when I have questions for God, I journal my time with Him. This morning, I sensed the Holy Spirit urging me to process Psalm 91 with Him in my journal. I was honest with Him, confessing that I was battling fear of writing it down. Fear that writing it down would give the questioning the power to take me out. I asked God to confirm it if this was really Him leading me to journal this. Even as I did, Habakkuk 2:2 came to mind:
“Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets…”
I thought that if God really wanted me to journal these questions I had for Him, that scripture would be it. There are over 2,000 pages in my Bible, and where do you think I opened my Bible to this morning? You guessed it.
As I read through Habakkuk, I could see that he had some questions for God too:
“How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?”
“Why do you make me look at injustice?”
“Why do you tolerate the treacherous?”
“Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”
Habakkuk is someone I can relate to. He struggled at times to understand God. He admitted that there were times he didn’t understand why God didn’t DO SOMETHING! Why? Why? Why?
Habakkuk knew God, trusted God. Yet he had some questions for Him. Maybe you do too.
What was God’s response to Habakkuk’s questions?
First of all, God said, “Wait.” The revelation God had given Habakkuk would not prove false. There was an appointed time for it to be fulfilled.
Secondly, God reminded Habakkuk that, “The righteous will live by his faith.” God was asking Habakkuk to trust Him when his perception told him that God wasn’t coming through for him.
God also told Habakkuk that there is a day of reckoning coming. It might not be today. It might not be tomorrow. Be assured, though, it will come.
What was Habakkuk’s response? What was his heart set when he walked away from this brutally honest time of intimacy with God?
“I will wait patiently.” He decided to trust that one day God would give His people justice. He would deliver them from their enemies.
Habakkuk also resolved to joyfully trust God. He made the decision to trust God before deliverance and provision came. Not only would he trust while he waited, but he would do it with a joyful heart. We wasn’t going to mope around until God fulfilled His promise. He chose joy in the midst of the storm. He declared,
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
He decided to trust in the midst of a severe trial. He chose not to allow offense toward God to take him out. It’s easy to gloss over the severity of Habakkuk’s trial. His wealth? Gone. Food? Gone. A brutal enemy? Not gone. They were right there, in his neighborhood. Habakkuk found his faith being severely tested, and it was found to be genuine.
So…what about God’s promises? When we look back on a time when it looks like God didn’t keep a promise? How do we trust Him to keep other promises? For me, it’s a decision. It’s where I’ve put my stake in the ground. This is where I stand, even when I don’t understand. Even when my perceptions or feelings tell me that God’s word has failed. I choose to trust God’s word because He is not like us; He cannot lie.
I’m inspired by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. (Daniel chapter 3.) When faced with the choice of bowing down to an idol or being burned alive, they said,
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us…but even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods…”
They trusted God. They also acknowledged that He is Sovereign. They resolved to serve Him even if He didn’t act the way they thought He would.
Maybe you can relate to me. Maybe there’s an area where you find it difficult to trust God with something that happened to you. If so, know that we’re in good company. Many of God’s people in the Bible had their faith tested. I pray that you will trust even when you don’t understand why God acts or doesn’t act the way you expect Him to. May you take up the shield of faith and wait patiently for Him. Those who hope in Him will not be disappointed. (Isaiah 49:23)
“For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a dayof clouds and darkness.” Ezekiel 34:11-12
To say that this has been a trying time for the remnant Bride of Christ would be an understatement. Many have felt lost and isolated, not even sure where the goal line is anymore. It’s been a time when many have felt like their hopes have been deferred time after time. Maybe you’re in that place, grappling with feelings of disappointment. Life just isn’t playing out the way you expected.
This is what I believe God is doing in this season: He’s removing all the props from our lives. Those things that may have even been good things. But they were never meant to be the foundation of our hope. Only God alone is our One True Foundation. God is transferring our hope and expectancy off of everything else and putting it onto Himself. In this hallway of transition in our lives, He Himself is with us in these isolated places where we find ourselves. When every door of opportunity seems locked, He is there with us.
I’ve found myself in this hallway for a couple of years now. Knowing there’s something He’s calling me to. Not totally sure what that even looks like. Just compelled to go to that unknown place with Him. Like Abraham, called out before I knew where He was calling me. Just knowing that I couldn’t stay where I was. I expected that when I set out for the unknown, I’d take one step after another until I was in the new place, wherever that was. But no, He’s asking me to wait. Stand still. Aaaargh! I hate waiting! Especially waiting in a place where community feels scarce.
As I look at the fruit of this maddening season of “not yet,” this is what I see: a growing dependence on Him alone to sustain me. My Faithful Good Shepherd. In what feels like a desolate place, He’s given me water from the rock. When I’m hungry for more, he feeds me with manna from heaven. Like the children of Israel in the desert, I’m so often tempted to whine for more. He says,
“Focus on provision, not lack. Be content with what I’ve provided. It’s enough. Choose gratitude. Those who wait for Me will not be disappointed.”
If you find yourself in a similar season as I’m experiencing, this is how My Good Shepherd and I are navigating it:
I lean in. I come to Him when I need a drink to sustain me. When my emotions are filled with pain, I seek Him in His word and in prayer. How timely and personal I’ve found time with Him to be.
Another way He’s sustained me in this season is by remembering that He knows exactly where I am. When I feel lost at sea with no sense of where the shore is, I remember Psalm 139:
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
Another way that I believe God wants to sustain us in the halls of transition is this: remember that we can experience the fruits of the Spirit here. Yes, it takes intentionally to choose joy in this place, but we can do it! The fruits of the Spirit are the abundant life Jesus came to give us. But we have to choose to take hold of them. It’s so easy in the hallway of transition to go back and forth between anger and crying. But there’s another option. I saw this so clearly when God gave me an object lesson in it. My husband and I were visiting our daughter and her family. Our son-in-law and grandchildren were laughing and playing. Our grandchildren would jump into their daddy’s lap, laughing and giggling as he tickled them. Then they’d take off running down the hallway, just to turn around and come back for more. In that moment, it was like the Lord showed me that transition times don’t have to be filled with frustration and anger. We can enjoy our Father’s presence. We can even find joy in this hallway if we choose it.
Another thing that sustains me in this season is to remember the Faithfulness of our Good Shepherd. Even if others have failed us, He never will. Maybe you’ve felt disappointed by someone. Maybe it was a spouse, an employer, or even the Church. If we will make our Good Shepherd the foundation for our hope, we can have stable emotions even during difficult seasons.
It helps me to remember that God is the One Who changes times and seasons. When God has accomplished in us what He determined, He will bring us into something new. And hold onto your hat when He does, because the shift can happen in a moment!
Have no doubt, God is totally capable and willing to fulfill His purposes for your life. The Bible tells us that, “His purposes will stand and He will do all that He pleases.”
May you trust Your Good Shepherd completely as you wait for Him,
The words were barely out of my mouth when shame hit me like a tidal wave. It swept over me in an instant, leaving me feeling desperate for a hole to crawl into. I just wanted to run for cover. Make my escape from the eyes of anyone seeing or judging my perceived failure. Maybe you’ve been there. My story may spark a memory of a time when you felt the same way. Or maybe shame just feels like an unwelcome companion that’s always with you. If you’re like me, you may have a vague perception of what shame even is. If so, let’s unpack shame’s definition:
What is shame?
Shame is a painful emotion or condition. It’s caused by a sense of being embarrassed, guilty, or a disappointment. It makes us feel unworthy or dishonored. It causes us to blush with feelings of humiliation. In a document entitled, “The Journey Begins, Open Hearts Ministry defines shame this way:
What gives shame its’ power?
Fear. This fear can attach to a number of things. For one it might be fear of disappointing people whose opinions matter deeply. To another it might be fear of criticism or judgment. It might be fear of facing an emotionally upsetting conversation. Sometimes we just like to stay in shallow waters where we feel comfortable. Sometimes fear of exposure is what gives shame its’ power. We may feel that if others see us for who we are they’ll reject or abandon us.
Secrecy and silence empower shame. Sometimes we believe that what others don’t know won’t hurt them. Or us. So we isolate emotionally or physically, thinking it’s a safe refuge. Break the silence, and you’re halfway to freedom.
Shame is also empowered by hiding. Sometimes others can’t help us because they can’t see where we are emotionally or spiritually. That may be because we choose to be invisible. Invulnerable. Covered from their eyes. Another way that we may choose to hide is by presenting an image to others that isn’t true. It’s like we’re wearing a mask. Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” We just weren’t wired to life life alone. Author Jimmy Evans in his book entitled, When Life Hurts says, “What’s the first thing you and I do when we sin? We try to cover up what we’ve done. We cower in shame, because anytime we fall for Satan’s lies, shame is the response he’s after. He shames us into sin, and then shames us for sinning…It isn’t our nakedness that drives us away from God; it’s our hiding. It isn’t sin that keeps us distant; it’s how we respond on the heels of sin. It isn’t God’s voice speaking shame into our hearts; it the voice of the enemy…God’s voice brings only forgiveness and restoration. God seeks us out when we hide. He pursues us in the midst of our sin, and he says to us, “Who told you that you were worthless? Who told you I couldn’t use you? Who told you I wouldn’t forgive you? Who told you I couldn’t love you?…God says to us, “Don’t hide from me. Don’t distance yourself from my love. Let’s deal with your sin and move forward.”” Pages 75-77
Shame is empowered by lies.
The lie that shame is an adequate covering.
The lie that we didn’t just do something wrong, but we ourselves are wrong.
The lie that there’s no solution to the shame we feel
The lie that a person only feels shame when they’ve sinned. Shame is often rooted in lies of accusation against God’s people.
How to overcome shame:
Take an inventory of what’s in your heart. If we’re going to overcome shame, it begins with honesty. The mask needs to come off. We need to own who we really are. In order to do this, we need to see ourselves accurately. The problem is, sometimes we don’t always see the condition of our own hearts through the lens of truth. We need God’s help. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” God knows the truth about what’s in our hearts. We don’t, and others certainly don’t. We can’t present the truth about ourselves to others if we don’t know what the truth is. When, we come up with an accurate inventory, we might discover that we agreed with shame because we believed lies.
Recognize the difference between shame and conviction. Conviction from God is redemptive; it leads us to repentance. It’s specific and offers us a solution. It offers forgiveness when we repent. Shame, on the other hand, is vague. It keeps believers trapped in feelings that say, “I am wrong,” not “I did something wrong.” Shame attaches to our identity, so anyone who challenges our behavior is seen as rejecting who I am as a person. Shame offers us no solution.
Take cover. If we see that there’s sin in our hearts, we need something to cover us. We see this played out in the lives of Adam and Eve. After eating of the forbidden fruit, they felt shame. They attempted to cover their shame with fig leaves. The problem is, shame doesn’t have the power to set us free from the fear of exposure, humiliation or judgment. The good news is that God has provided a perfect covering for our sin. He has, in His word, given us His law. He has clearly defined what is sinful; and though we as human beings will never in our own efforts be able to fully obey His laws, He has made a way for us to be seen as righteous in His eyes. When we as His children stand before God as our judge, we have an advocate in Jesus. He stands beside us to defend us from accusations. When our sins have been washed away through repentance, our accusers now don’t just point their fingers at us, they point them at our Savior. Those fingers accuse our Savior of inadequacy to cleanse; but our Savior’s blood is more than sufficient to cleanse us from all unrighteousness! The word of God tells us that “we will refute every tongue that accuses us.” This is our heritage given to us by God Himself. When we need a covering that will protect us from shame, we have 2 choices. Picture 2 coats hanging on a coatrack. One is black, representing shame. One is red, representing the blood of Jesus. To put our hope in one is to reject the other. To put our hope in the blood of Jesus to cover us means to turn our back on shame.
Be honest. This means we turn away from hypocrisy. Jesus addressed this when speaking to the Pharisees in Luke chapter 11: “…you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.” When we put our hope in the blood of Jesus to cleanse our hearts of sin, we “wash the inside of the cup.” Then we can present ourselves to others in an authentic way that we aren’t ashamed of. Then Colossians1:22-23 will be our reality: “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” Choosing honesty with God will sometimes leads us to confess our sins to those impacted. While this can feel scary and humbling, it is also the key that sets us free from the prison of shame. When we’re honest with one another, shame no longer has anything to hold us hostage with. Fear of exposure is broken. Fear of humiliation…gone. It takes a lot of courage to confess sin, but in my life, I’ve found that when I do, I’m usually met with grace. Proverbs 28:18 says, “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” Others still have the choice to forgive or not, but we will be free either way.
Don’t yield to shame over someone else’s wrong judgments and accusations. Sometimes others can be downright malicious, spreading blatant lies about our character. I know of one person who lived with a cloak of shame over something they were accused of, knowing it wasn’t true. Resisting shame in this situation still takes forcefully resisting shame. Sometimes it takes verbally speaking truth. (even if we’re just talking to ourselves)
Turn away from shame over what others have done to you. Author Edward T. Welch said, “When you are guilty you feel dirty because of what you did; but with shame you feel dirty because of what somebody did to you. Forgiveness for your sins is not the answer here because you are not the one who was wrong. But the cross of Christ is still the answer. Jesus’ blood not only washes us clean from the guilt of our own sins, but also washes away the shame we experience when others sin against us.” The first step in breaking free when others have done something that left us feeling shame is forgiveness.
Sometimes overcoming shame means submitting to the loving discipline of our Father. He calls us out into the light. This means turning away from sin that opened the door to shame. Proverbs 13:18 says, “He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.” The good news is that, “the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.” (Isaiah 30:18)
May you look to the One who is able to free you from shame,
In 2020 we saw a surge of God’s people coming together in corporate prayer meetings. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 was often quoted:
“…If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send a plague among My people, and if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
Soooo, has God healed our land? One only needs to listen to the daily news to know that that hasn’t happened. So what’s the deal? Did God fail to keep His promise? Is it even possible for God to break a promise? Absolutely not! Numbers 23:19 says,
“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
So what’s the deal? If God cannot lie, what are we to think? 2 Chronicles is one of many “If,” “Then” promises in the Bible. The fulfillment of the promise is conditional. If the conditions are not met, we can declare that we’ll receive the promise all day long, but it will be in vain. No amount of crying or praying will force God’s hand.
When we look across this great land and see storm clouds billowing, we’re wise to take heed. It seems that the very foundations of this nation are up for grabs these days. Beloved, this is no time for apathy or passivity!
Over and over as I spend time with the Lord, He seems to be compelling me to sound the alarm. Speak to His people. Warn the body of Christ that we need to fulfill our part of 2 Chronicles 7. If we choose not to, God will continue to judge this nation. Each wave of judgment will continue to grow larger until we yield to Him. What does judgment look like? It can be many things; plagues, war, famine, slavery suffering. All these things are God’s way of drawing us back to Himself. He loves us too much to let us dwell in sin.
What’s the solution?
How do we do our part to avert God’s discipline of this nation? Let’s go back to 2 Chronicles 7. What is God asking us to do?
The first thing is to humble ourselves before Him. Humility is vital, because without it, we’re unlikely to meet the other conditions of 2 Chronicles 7. To humble ourselves means to be brought under subjection. It’s the opposite of rebellion. If we refuse to yield to God’s authority and law, we’re walking in pride. The solution is to surrender our will to Him. There’s no neutral ground here. We either yield to God to to Satan. There’s no such thing as an autonomous person.
The next condition of 2 Chronicles 7 is that God’s people pray. Look around in the churches you’re familiar with. Are you seeing on-going corporate prayer meetings? Do you see Christians flocking to the alter, desperate for God? Or do you see a few people trickle to the alter while the rest of the church stares on, unresponsive? We all talk about the multitude of problems we’re facing globally, but does do our prayer lives reflect the enormity of our need?
The third condition we as a church must meet if we expect God to heal our land is to seek God’s face. This is about seeking God Himself, not what He can do for us. Do we really want an intimate relationship with God, or do we just want Him to make all our troubles disappear so we can go on doing what we want?
The final condition that God requires if we want Him to heal our land is to turn from sin. Repentance is about more than simply saying we’re sorry. True repentance means that we were going in one direction, and now we’ve done a 180 and are going in the opposite direction. This calls for each one of us to be open to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. What might God be convicting you of? Is there anything that He has been asking you to obey Him in? Is there any area where you’ve given in to compromise? Any area where obedience means not tolerating evil? Any area where God is asking you to speak truth, even if it means persecution? Perhaps He’s asking some of us to resist the mentality that says that we’re already defeated, so why try. Maybe there’s an idol in our lives that needs to be cast down. An idol is anything we choose instead of obeying God. If we’ve elevated anything above God, we’re settling. Let’s make sure we’re not “trading our birthright for a bowl of porridge.”
Maybe as you examine your life, there’s nothing that you haven’t surrendered to God. Maybe you’ve already met all the conditions of 2 Chronicles 7. If that’s you, then I invite you to beseech God to soften the hearts of His people. Ask Him to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Stand in the gap for your fellow countrymen. Repent with me on behalf of our nation.
It is my prayer that we, the body of Christ, will resist any temptation we may face to finger point, blaming politicians, judges, or leaders for the troubles we’ve seen as a nation. Let’s lay down all the strong opinions and judgments and seek God before we do anything else.
In His service,
“So I went down to the potter’s house and saw him working at the wheel. But the vessel that he was shaping from the clay became flawed in his hand; so he formed it into another vessel, as it seemed best for him to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “O house of Israel, declares the LORD, can I not treat you as this potter treats his clay? Just like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. At any time I might announce that a nation or kingdom will be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed. But if that nation I warned turns from its evil, then I will relent of the disaster I had planned to bring. And if at another time I announce that I will build up and establish a nation or kingdom, and if it does evil in My sight and does not listen to My voice, then I will relent of the good I had intended for it. Now therefore, tell the men of Judah and the residents of Jerusalem that this is what the LORD says: ‘Behold, I am planning a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways, and correct your ways and deeds.’” Jeremiah 18:5-11
“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” Isaiah 30:18
One thing you won’t hear me say in this post is the word easy. Hope, yes! A solution, absolutely! But not easy. In fact, many attempting to break free will turn back. The road can be long and hard. So, where do we start? For me, my journey to freedom was rooted in God’s word. If we’re ever going to walk victorious over overwhelmingly painful emotions, we need to know something. The fruits of the Spirit are our inheritance. (love, joy, peace, etc. ) They are within our reach THIS SIDE OF ETERNITY. Psalm 25:12-13 says,
“Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose. His soul will abide in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land.”
So, what does it mean for our emotions to abide in prosperity? It means our feelings will dwell at ease. It also means cheerful, or happy. Now, does this mean that if we take hold of God’s promises that we’ll never experience painful emotions? No, it doesn’t. There’s a big difference between temporarily experiencing painful emotions and DWELLING in painful emotions. It doesn’t matter how spiritually mature we become. Life is still going to happen. Sometimes life can throw us some zingers. It’s what we do with those painful life events that matters. Maturity leads us to process the pain as it happens. In Christ, we’re given the tools to treat painful emotions like a hot potato. In order to do this, we need to have faith to believe that it’s possible. That faith comes as we stand on the promises in God’s word. For example, Luke 21:19 says,
“By your patience possess your souls.”
To possess means to win mastery over. Instead of our emotions mastering us, we master our emotions. It’s been said that emotions are like children. You can’t stuff them in the trunk, but you shouldn’t let them drive the car either. Think of your emotions like a purse full of things. For this illustration, think of the purse as our mind and the things in the purse as our emotions. Let’s picture dumping what’s inside our purse on the table. Now, we get to decide which emotions we want to put back in our bag. If we’re going to do this with confidence, we need to really believe that God has given us the ability to choose our emotions. God wouldn’t command us to get rid of certain emotions if we had no ability to obey, right? Let’s look at some examples.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…” Ephesians 4:31
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.” Isaiah 41:10
“Do not be anxious about anything.” Philippians 4:6
On the flip side, we’re commanded to choose certain feelings, i.e…
“Be strong and courageous…” Deut. 31:6
“Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy.” Psalm 100:2
Here’s the deal…we can take this as bad news or good news. We may look at God’s command as bad news if we get stuck on a mindset that says we’re just not good enough. Shame and feelings of inadequacy can keep up from taking hold of the freedom God offers us. The truth that we have the ability to choose our emotions IS GOOD NEWS!!! It means there’s a solution! God has made a way for us to live prosperous emotionally! We should be dancing in the streets!
If you have been living under the weight of overwhelming and painful emotions, I want to encourage you to try again. This time, invite God into the process. Ask Him to give you understanding. Ask Him to give you the tools you need in order to prosper emotionally. He delights to partner with His children. It pleases Him to help us! He is compassionate regarding our pain. He hurts with our hurts.
May you walk in the victory that is already yours,
The anger erupted out of me like a volcano. I screamed at God as I threw the cards in my hand across the room. The frustration was no longer contained. In a moment of unfiltered honesty, I told God how angry I was at Him. What was it all about? What it boiled down to was failed expectations. I expected God to act in a certain way, and in my mind, He’d failed to deliver.
You might be thinking that the way I acted was dishonoring to God, and I agree. Relationships can be messy, and we don’t always handle things the way we should. Our relationship with God is no different. On the other hand, it’s a lie to believe that it’s more God honoring to abide in a place of silent offense towards Him. God already knows what’s in our hearts, so He wasn’t shocked by my behavior. And yes, repentance was called for, and I needed to walk through that process.
It’s easy to do this, because deep down we tend to believe that “good” Christians would never be angry with Him. This often leads to emotional stuffing. We take those ugly feelings and place them in lockdown. Over time, those feelings of offense turn into bitterness. Left untended long enough, the relationship grows cold and broken.
So what do we do if we recognize that we’re offended by God? How do we move forward so we can connect emotionally with Him again?
Accept that God is Sovereign. His house, His rules. While His Sovereignty can be comforting, it can also feel crushing at times. We can either submit to Him, or resist Him. It isn’t always easy. Yet in the end, we need Him to stay on His throne. What a mess heaven would be if He yielded to our desires every time. His judgments are ALWAYS just, true and good. They just don’t always look that way to us. We don’t always know what love looks like. Or justice. Or goodness. The good news is that He does. We can trust Him.
We can either accept His judments or despise them. Sometimes we just need to get off the judment seat and yield to Him. His ways are higher than our ways. We don’t always see the big picture. We either choose to trust Him or not. We cannot depend on our feelings or perceptions to tell us what is true about God. The Bible is our plumb-line. Every opinion we have of God needs to be measured against it.
The second step toward reconnecting with God is to be honest with Him. Tell Him how you feel, even if your feelings aren’t pretty. Express the disappointment you feel toward Him. Tell Him if you’re angry with Him. Be honest if you’re struggling to accept His verdict in a situation.
The 3rd step is to ask yourself if your expectations of God were rooted in truth. Did God promise that He would do what you were expecting of Him? If not, He wasn’t obligated to fulfill those expectations. Sometimes we can run ahead of God and assume that what we desire or expect is from Him. Sometimes we just need to back up the bus and ask for His perspective.
Something that I believe needs addressing in our day is prophetic words. It seems like prophets were coming out of the woodwork this past year. I wasn’t familiar with most of the people putting out these words, so I began to just watch and listen. I’ll be honest, in the moment these words seemed to encourage me. Most of the words I was seeing were filled with promise of breakthrough, prosperity, and everything we would hope for. Many of these words promised that NOW is when they were being fulfilled. Then the NOW came and went, and things remained the same. (or got worse) Big picture, these words began to stir up feelings of disillusionment and disappointment. I do believe that there are prophets in our day that are speaking for the LORD. However, we need to test every prophetic word. We’re wise to examine the fruit of these words. We examine them against the word of God. We consider whether or not these words come to pass. We consider whether or not these words resonate as true or false. If we get a check in our spirit, it’s a red flag.
The last step toward reconnecting with God is to reaffirm our trust in Him. Without this last vital step, all we’ve done is gripe. This is where our honor of God is reestablished. This is where we trust even though we don’t understand. It’s also where we submit even though it feels like doing so might break our heart. Brothers and sisters, He is trustworthy. Psalm 36 reassures us:
Beloved, let’s lay aside any offense, disappointment or critical judment of God. He deserves our trust. May your hearts find rest in His faithfulness,
Does victory look like getting what we want? Perhaps seeing the sick healed or the peson we voted for getting into office? Or maybe it looks like prosperity? Or favor? Well, sometimes it does. But what about the times when victory doesn’t look like victory? What about the times when you’ve done all that you were supposed to do, but the outcome looks disappointing? What about then? It’s so tempted in those moments to ask ourselves if God came through for us. He says He’s the Rescuer. Did He rescue? He says He’s the Healer. Did He heal? He says He’s our Deliverer. Did He deliver? Our faith can be severely tested sometimes. When everything is going our way, it’s easy to believe that God is Who He says He is. It’s when our faith is tested, however, that we find out whether it’s genuine or not. It’s during times of disappointment that we have a choice to make: will we trust God even if our PERCEPTIONS tell us that He failed us? Will we trust our feelings, or God’s word?
Again I ask, What does victory look like for a believer? What’s the litmust test for victory? Perhaps we could look to those God commended to get His perspective of a victorious life. Hebrews 11 is a good place to find examples of believers who saw great victories. We see King David who conquered Kingdoms, Enoch who escaped death, Samson who was victorious in battle. We see people who recieved their loved ones back from the grave and others who overcame infertility. Some administered justice, shut the mouths of lions and escaped the edge of the sword. Wow. Pretty impressive. Looks like victory to me. But wait a minute…
Hebrews 11 also commends those who were victorious in another way. It also commends those who held onto their faith even when they didn’t get what they wanted. Verse 35 says,
“Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some face jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned, they were sawed in two; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in desserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. They were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. For God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
Walking in victory means we hold onto our faith no matter what comes. It means that we choose to believe God whether we’re conquering kingdoms or not. Winning an election or losing one. In prison or in the palace. Rich or poor. Receiving our loved ones back from the dead or lowering their casket into the ground. Favored or rejected. Prospering financially or destitute, persecuted and mistreated. Healed or sick. There’s an old hymn that says, “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.” 1 John 5:4 says,
“Everyone born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that have overcome the world: our faith. Who then overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.…”
What do we do if we’ve come through a disappointing life experience that leaves us doubting God’s word? I went through this recently. I’d been diligent in asking God for something that I thought would be a good thing. I believed that God thought it would be a good thing too. But when things didn’t play out in a way that looked like victory, I was tempted to believe that God hadn’t come through for me. I found myself struggling with unbelief. Here’s what’s helping me get through it:
Recognize that the land of disappointment is a dangerous place to dwell. In his book, This Day We Fight, author Francis Frangipane writes,
“Disappointment is not just a sad, emotional state of mind; it actually can sever our hearts from faith. It is the enemy’s work. Demonically manipulated disappointment can actually “dis-appoint” a person from God’s destiny for their lives. I have known many who were doing well, moving forward toward their appointed destiny. The future God had for them seemed almost close enough to taste. Then they became disappointed in someone or something. By accepting disappointment into their spirits, a bitter cold winter took over their souls, and their faith turned dormant…Often, it is not blatant rebellion against God that causes backsliding; it is the acceptance of dis-appointment into our hearts.” Page 90-91
I look at disappointment like a warning light on the dashboard of my car. Disappointment says, there’s trouble in my heart. It needs addressing, and quickly.
The next step to overcoming disappointment is being honest with God about how we feel. Let’s face it, the natural inclination of our flesh is to talk to everybody BUT God about our disappointment. Venting to others only adds fuel to the fire. Some feel like it dishonors God to say, “Lord, I’m angry with you right now.” The truth is, He already knows anyway. We can either process those strong emotions with Him, be healed and move on, or we can stuff our emotions and still be carrying them around 20 years from now. Ignoring our feelings won’t make them go away. We’re deceiving ourselves if we think it will.
The next step to getting through disappointment is to identify and confront areas of unbelief. I had to face the lies that God didn’t rescue, didn’t defend, didn’t help. I acknowledged to God that this is how it LOOKED to me. I confessed my unbelief and repented of it. It’s a mistake to believe that once we’re saved we no longer struggle with unbelief. The danger with this lie is that we get blindsided when our faith is severely tested. It’s normal for believers to be tempted with the sin of unbelief. It happens to all of us at one time or another. As believers, we are no longer slaves to sin. We don’t need to yield to unbelief. We have a choice!
The last step in overcoming disappointment is to reaffirm our faith in God. This is where we make a choice. Will we trust our feelings and perceptions, or will we trust God’s word to tell us what’s true? This is the most important step in getting through a crisis of faith…this is where we put our stake in the ground once again and declare, “I believe God.” It’s where we say, “I reject all lies about God and I CHOOSE to trust that He does not lie. He does not change. He is trustworthy. Even if I don’t receive in my lifetime what I’d hoped for, I trust Him.”
These steps have helped me to quickly move past disappointment and unbelief. My hope is that they’ll do the same for you if you find yourself in that place.
” …Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-44-45
Christianity was never meant to be a spectator sport. Many view church leaders as the only ones responsible to carry out the ministry of the Church. This mindset often leads to passivity and critical attitudes. Theodore Roosevelt said it well:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done it better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Up in the stands, it’s easy to spot what’s wrong with the church. It’s up in this perch that we clearly see how things could be done better. What should be done, but isn’t. The ways the Church should be serving, but isn’t. I believe the message that the LORD has for His Church today is that it’s time to engage in serving. It’s time to set our popcorn down, get suited up and take our place as servants in the arena. Before we can do that, we may need to address the reason why we haven’t been serving. Let’s take a look at a few of those reasons:
Having a consumer mindset. The person with this mindset looks for the church that will meet their needs. Instead of going to church to serve, this person attends church to have their own needs met. This often leads to disappointment and hurt. The solution is to keep our eyes outward, not on ourselves. Be more concerned with loving those we encounter rather than being loved. The ironic thing is, when we keep our eyes off of our own needs, they are more likely to be met. Luke 6 says,
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Fear of inadequacy. If we’re going to get up out of the stands and engage in the work of God’s kingdom, it takes courage. It means facing our fear that those still in the stands will judge us when we stumble. Proverbs 29:25 says,
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”
People may criticise us, but that doesn’t make them right. We’re safe when we put our hope in God for adequacy. Fear has the potential to keep us from our destinies. The good news is that God has not given us a spirit of fear! We don’t have to allow fear to dictate our actions. Fear of criticism loses it’s strength as we push past it and engage in the arena. This means doing the hard thing even if we’re afraid.
Emotional pain can also keep us from serving. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. If we wait until our hearts are completely whole before we serve, we never will. A story is told of soldiers who had just been through a fierce battle. The officer in charge told one of his men to get in the truck and drive. The soldier responded, “But sir, I’m bleeding.” The officer replied, “We’re all bleeding. Get in the truck and drive.” Serving in God’s kingdom can feel that way. We get battered and bruised. Sometimes we feel like we’ve endured so much that we just want to stop. There’s a time to persevere even when serving is hard. It’s in this place that we are wholely dependant on God to give us the strength to keep going. It’s easy to overlook, but we need to ask for His help. This is so obvious, yet easy to overlook.
Having said all this, there is also a time when emotional pain does call for a break from serving. There’s a time for everything; a time to persevere through the pain, and a time to take an extended break from serving. I remember one time when my husband and I had been through such a devastating life event that serving needed to be suspended. For about 2 years we attended a different church specifically with the intention of healing in mind. We allowed the body of Christ to minister to us. We took the time to process the pain.
You may be in a place like this. Perhaps you’re grieving, or suffering the aftermath of abuse or suffering from a long term illness. Whatever the life altering event, your right now your “job” is to take time to heal. This might look like rest, forgiving, seeking wise counsel or allowing yourself time to grieve. The important thing is to say connected to the LORD. Invite Him into your healing process.
Distraction is another reason that some don’t serve. This might not sound like a big deal, but distraction can have serious consequences. Those who achieve great goals have learned the need for sustained focus. They resist the urge to chase every squirrel that runs by. If we allow distraction to steal our focus, we’ll be settling for lesser things. Sustained focus takes sacrifice. Sometimes it means letting opportunities pass us by. It can also mean that we won’t be able to meet everyone else’s expectations. Sustained focus also means pushing through and finishing a job even when we don’t feel like it.
This morning, I got up with the intention of finishing this blog post. I’m just going to be honest. I didn’t feel like doing it. It wasn’t even that there was some super tempting distraction luring me away from writing. It was just insignificant distractions that I felt pulling me in another direction. I’m so thankful that I pressed on past that lure. Once I started writing, I was reminded that I really do love what I do.
Getting caught up in civilian life is another way we can become distracted. This could mean over emphasis on things that matter, but don’t require as much focus as we’re giving it. The story of Mary and Martha is a good example of this. Instead of keeping the meal simple so she could focus on what was important, Martha put more into a meal than was needed. Her distraction cost her a precious gift. God Himself sat in her livingroom, yet she missed it.
Lack of understanding where we fit in the body of Christ can also keep us from serving. We may have preconceived ideas of what it looks like for us to serve that simply aren’t true. Serving may stir images of working in the nursery or vacuming the sanctuary. Although some are called to these tasks, they aren’t for everyone. The good news is that God knows how He wired us. He knows those areas of serving that will satisfy our souls. He leads us into areas of service that are well suited for us…areas that will actually energize us!
A good place to start is taking a spiritual gifts assessment. Investigate how God wired you to serve. Then seek to get plugged in where your spiritual gifts will be used. If you’re a gifted evangelist, then serve God through sharing the gospel. If you’re wired to express yourself artisticly, then serve the kingdom of God with your art. If you’re a teacher, serve through teaching. If you’re wired as a connector, then serve in the Church by connecting people with one another, etc.
Pride is another thing that can keep us from serving. Joy is a reward we recieve when we serve God. Pride is a thief. If we allow it to, pride can steal that joy.
Humility says, “I’ll serve wherever you ask me to, Lord.” Pride says, “You want me to do what??? Do you know who I am?” Jesus Himself demonstrated humility when He washed His disiples’ feet. If Jesus isn’t above taking the position of a lowly servant, who are we to say we’re above it?
Another thing that can keep us from serving is lazyness. Proverbs 21:25 says,
“Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work.”
The diligent aren’t diligent because they feel like it. They press past the temptation to chill out when there’s work to be done. If we’ve been given to lazyiness, repentance is called for.
“A curse on anyone who is lax in doing the LORD’s work!
Sobering, isn’t it? If we’re lax in doing the LORD’s work, we’ll experience the opposite of blessing on our lives. Why would God allow a curse to fall upon those who are lax in their work? It’s because there are eternal issues at stake. There are lost to be reached. I’m so glad that the man who shared the gospel message with my family didn’t decide to chill that day.
So, what’s the big deal? Why is it so important that we serve? We’ve each been given gifts/talents by God. Jesus tells a parable about the different ways people steward their gifts in Matthew 25. To those who were faithful to put their talents to work, Jesus commended them. He invited them to share in His happiness. As a reward for faithfully stewarding their gifts, they were given more to steward.
The one who didn’t use their talent to bring increase to God’s kingdom was reprimanded:
“You wicked and lazy servant!…Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Strong words, I know. Yet if this is what Jesus warns us will happen if we choose not to serve with our gifts, wouldn’t we want to be warned?
The good news is that today, we get to choose. Will we serve God? Will we use the gifts/talents that He’s given us to build His kingdom? If we do, we’ll enter into our Master’s happiness. What a precious promise!
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” Matthew 12:25
The news had just broke. Our nation’s capital had just been breached. The country was in chaos once again. The division that was thick in our nation seemed to be seeping into the walls of our home. Our normally unified marriage seemed to be pulling apart at the seams. Strong opinions flared. It was almost like I could feel Satan’s pleasure in our quarreling. What in the world was going on??? What is needed here? I believe it can be summed up in one word:
How do we as believers choose unity when we’re floating down a raging river of division? Here’s a few things that I had to remind myself of:
Do a self-check: Which leader have I put my hope in? Is it a political leader? A political party? A particular form of government? If so, I’m vulnerable to division. Psalm 146 says,
“Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,…the LORD, who remains faithful forever.”
We see in 1 Corinthians 1 how putting our hope in human leaders is a door-opener to division when it says,
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.”
Another thing I needed to remind myself of in order to choose unity is that God is in control, not me. It’s Soooo tempting to think that if we can just be the one in control, we can protect others. When this happens, it’s easy to start scrambling to seize power. Even if it’s just by sitting on our couches pointing fingers and spouting our strong opinions.
Instead, we can choose unity by acting as if we actually believe that God is Sovereign. He rules. He has not gotten off of His throne, and He never will. Daniel 6:26 assures us,
“For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.”
Another thing I needed to remember in order to choose unity is that people are not the enemy. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
It’s so tempting to think we have to fight our battles in the physical realm. The truth is, the solution to the problems we face is found on our knees. There’s a time to try to persuade others in the physical realm. But first, let’s go to our knees. Let’s reopen the alters for corporate prayer. We are stronger when we come before the throne of God together.
Another thing I needed to remind myself of was to submit to God’s answer to my prayers. Many have been praying for the outcome of this election for a long time. There are different opinions within the Church about who would make the best President. Some have prayed one way, others another way. When we go to prayer, we often just want what we want. If we don’t get it, the temptation can come to yield to disappointment and disillusionment. We may begin to question whether our prayers have any power at all; yet even Jesus didn’t always get a “yes” when he prayed. Hebrews 5:7-9 says,
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…”
I’m guessing that after Jesus cried out to the Father asking that the cup of suffering would pass by Him if possible, it might not have LOOKED like He’d been heard. When He was flogged, He couldn’t depend on His feelings. When the soldiers pressed the crown of thorns on His head, He couldn’t depend on how things looked. When He was nailed to the cross, He had to depend on the faithfulness of the Father. This passage from Hebrews teaches us some things we can hold onto:
God listens to the prayers of His people. Hebrews tells us that Jesus “was heard because of his reverent submission. In the original language, “was heard” means that the Father not only listened, but that Jesus was deeply heard. The Father listened intently. It also means that Jesus’ request was granted. You might ask, but how can that be? Jesus still had to suffer. He still died. It is only when we look at the outcome from heaven’s vantage point that we can see that our prayers and the Father’s will are both able to be satisfied. It is this eternal perspective that the Father did indeed save Jesus from death. It was through Jesus’ resurrection that death no longer had power over Him.
The Father does the same for us. He listens intently when we pray. We are deeply heard. We have His attention. God responds to our prayers. He makes a way even when there is no way. When our prayers collide with His Sovereign will, He makes a way so that His will is satisfied and our prayers are answered. It just doesn’t always look that way this side of eternity.
So, how should we respond if our prayers don’t appear to be answered the way we hoped they would? We do the same thing Jesus did: we submit to God. We yield to His Sovereign will. We say, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” We resist lies of unbelief that say, “God didn’t hear me,” or “It doesn’t do any good to pray.” We agree with the word when it says,
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
“The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17
“The judgments of the LORD are true, being altogether righteous.” Psalm 19:9
“His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are counted as nothing, and He does as He pleases with the army of heaven and the peoples of the earth. There is no one who can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?” Daniel 4:34-35
“There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1
Scripture reassures us that God is the One Who puts people in positions of authority. We can rest in this. Now, is there ever a time to take action? Yes! The key is that we don’t just go rogue. We are protected when we get our marching orders from our heavenly commander-in-chief.
God has a plan for this nation, and it’s good. He is for us! He never ceases to be our rescuer! He never stops acting as our Protector. We can trust His leadership fully. So let’s lay down our walls of fear. Let’s turn away from division, finger-pointing and making political leaders the foundation of our hope. We will not be disappointed if we put our hope in God.
How To Avoid The Ditches of Interpersonal Conflict
Ephesians 6:12 says, “We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Sometimes it sure looks like our struggle is with people though, doesn’t it? You may find yourself in a situation where the words are coming out of a person’s mouth. The conflict is real. Maybe you feel intimidated, dominated or threatened. Maybe you feel like someone is shoving their way into your lane. Or maybe you’re feeling like someone is trying to manipulate you through intimidation or neediness. If you’re a leader, maybe someone is pressuring you to abdicate your God-given authority and do things their way. Or maybe you feel the threat of humiliation if you don’t yield. It may be that someone is blowing right past the healthy boundaries you’ve expressed.
How do we respond in a God honoring way to the conflict we find yourselves in? Picture a road, with a ditch on either side. The healthy, God honoring response is the “high road.” People with an Elijah mindset walk on this road. They don’t put up with the spirit of jezebel in their relationships. The ditches are the places we need to avoid. Those who yield to the spirit of jezebel hang out in the ditches. Why two ditches? Because jezebel has two faces. One face looks fierce and intimidating, the other needy and rejected. Our flesh can be slippery, tending to veer toward one ditch or another. It takes a great deal of courage and intentionality to stay out of the ditches. The two ditches:
The first ditch is where the sheepish and self-deprecating hang out. This is the picture of someone who shrinks beneath others when facing conflict. The person who does this agrees with the lie that he/she is inadequate to face the situation they are in. This person tends to yield to unholy domination by others. In order to avoid conflict, this person tends to abdicate their God-given position. If this person is a leader in the church, they veer toward abdicating authority to those who pressure them to do what they want. This could also be the housewife that allows someone to displace them in their own home. It might be the volunteer in the church who resigns their position when someone gets in their lane. It could also be the parent to allows someone to displace them in the disciplining of their child. It might be the husband who allows his wife to usurp his authority in the home. The person in this ditch tends to deal with their anger by stuffing it. This ditch is for those who either lack healthy boundaries or fail to enforce their boundaries when someone tromps on them. This person tends to struggle with feelings of insecurity, self-rejection and shame. Fear of man keeps the person in this ditch from rising up and doing the right thing. This person will often flee to isolated places in order to protect themselves or others. Those in this ditch tend toward having a “never enough” poverty mindset. This person needs to reestablish trust that God will protect and help them to stand against opposition.
This is the ditch that I tend to veer into. Where others appear brimming with confidence, I have to fight for it. In an attempt to choose humility, I have to be aware that I don’t end up agreeing with inadequacy. I have to be intentional about agreeing with the truth that whatever God calls me to do, He will enable me to do.
The second ditch is to Get bigger and bully. This person may have just transferred out of the sheepish and self-deprecating ditch. Exasperated with feeling under the domination of others, this person decides, “NEVER AGAIN!!!” In an instant, this person may jump in the opposite ditch and get “bigger” than the person they’re in conflict with. This person finds refuge in intimidating others. Their anger, once suppressed, either erupts like a volcano or leaks out sideways. He or she may act out their anger in passive aggressive, contempt filled ways. Instead of being kind and clear, the person in this ditch acts rejecting (outward or inward) and rude. Mean and muddy. This person is willing to get louder than their intimidator in order to be heard. This person will often be the source of friendly fire in the church. They will get in others’ lanes, often in an attempt to protect things from being done wrong. This person also struggles with fear of man, but it looks different than the person in the sheepish ditch. This person tends to come across prideful, domineering and threatening. This person may seek to manipulate through threat of punishment.
Climbing out of the ditch and taking the high road:
If we are going to stop yielding to the spirit of jezebel, we need to get out of the ditches and do this God’s way. So…what does that look like? If there was just one scripture that would show us how to do this, it would be Ephesians 4:15:
“…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head.”
Sounds simple enough in theory. It takes a lot of courage to live out. Two mistakes we’ve made as believers are:
1.) Thinking we can do just fine without being honest with one another. This mindset says, “I know better than God. I can have healthy relationships without truth.”
2.) The second mistake we make is delivering the truth in a mean package.
When we speak truth, it’s gonna go sideways if our motive is to vent our anger! This means that we need to forgive BEFORE we speak difficult truth to others. If we don’t, we’re likely to use truth as a hammer to beat others up with.
In our culture, we’ve been taught that it’s not ok to speak truth if it’s uncomfortable or might offend. But this is NOT God’s way. He loves us enough to tell us the truth. Leviticus 19:17-18 says,
“You must not harbor hatred against your brother in your heart. Directly rebuke your neighbor, so that you will not incur guilt on account of him.” Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.…”
Brothers and sisters, it takes courage to live like this. It is not our social norm. But we can do this! Let’s talk a little bit more about what it looks like to take the high road.
How do we go about getting out of the ditch and onto the high road?
Confront fear of man head on. Don’t let fear of critical judgment by others dictate your actions. If we’re going to get out of the ditches, we can’t let fear of disapproval or wounding stop us. This means doing the right thing even if we’re afraid others will blow up at us or feel rejected. Proverbs 29:25 says,
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”
When I was beginning to break free from fear of man, the Lord led me to take on a project at a church. The current leader was being pushed out of her position of authority by people who held no legitimate authority in the church. They postured authority in this department that they didn’t have. When someone did something they didn’t like, they attempted to control through disapproval and intimidation. The thing was, I didn’t hold any position of authority in this area either. So I went to the person in charge of this ministry and asked for her permission. She gave it, but recommended that I speak to the elders as well. I did that, and again, was given permission to take on the project. As I carried it out, fear of man came against me with a vengeance. I literally shook as I carried out the work God had asked me to do. I did it afraid, but I did it. Even as I worked, I could feel the grip of fear losing its power over me. There was backlash, criticism toward me and anger. Those posturing authority made it clear that they weren’t happy with me. It wasn’t fun, but I survived! The next time I had to face fear of man, it was a little easier. And the next time, easier still.
Another way that we climb out of the ditch and onto the high road is by Speaking the truth in love. This takes vulnerability. Some have described vulnerability as, “into-me-you-see.” It’s also “I-See-You.” We live this out as we call it as we see it. Honest, kind and frank. The more we care about the relationship, the more difficult this is to do. It can feel really risky. If we’re going to take the high road, it means we have to value pleasing God above pleasing even those we love most.
Dealing with anger in a Biblical way is another way we climb out of the ditch. Ephesians 4:25-27 says,
“…having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
Notice that anger in itself isn’t a sin? It’s what we do with it. It is possible to be angry and still do the right thing.
We take the high road when we act within proper chains of authority. There is covering and protection when we stay under LEGITIMATE authority. This means that when others posture authority that they don’t actually have, we don’t yield to them. If we’re going to operate within legitimate chains of authority, we need to know what they are. If you’re working in a church or organization, it’s wise to know who your up-line is, and who your subordinates are. It’s wise before taking on responsibility to ask, “Who’s in charge?” Once we know who our authority is, acting in honor toward them is how we stay out of the ditch.
We take the high road when we resist the temptation to quit or to flee from conflict. This means standing firm, even when we feel afraid or intimidated. 1 Peter 3:14 says,
“…Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED.”
Choose refuge in God rather than walls of fear. We all need a refuge when we feel threatened. God promises to be this for us! We are safe when we put our hope in Him to protect, not in ourselves. Psalm 91 says,
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, I will rescue him. I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”
Establish and enforce healthy boundaries. We can’t expect others to know what boundaries we need if we don’t express them. Once we do that, we need to stand firm. Those that choose to overstep our boundaries need to be reminded. If they persist, we need to stand firm.
We climb out of the ditches when we see ourselves and others through the lens of God’s word, not our feelings or perceptions. This means we don’t agree with puffed up images of ourselves (pride) or with self-deprecating images of ourselves. (another face of pride, as self is still the focus). Rather, we see ourselves as adequate and competent because God makes us so. It also means that we don’t see intimidating people as being bigger than they are. Isaiah 51 says,
“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Why should you be afraid of mortal man, of a son of man who withers like grass? But you have forgotten the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. You live in terror all day long because of the fury of the oppressor who is bent on destruction. But where is the fury of the oppressor?…”
God is bigger than anyone we may have conflict with. He is our Defender, our Shield, our Help in times of trouble. We are safe in His very capable hands.
May you have the courage to face all of your relationships with truth and love,