True Contentment

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“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. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of the deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

We’re in a season of loss in my family. Nothing like the tragic losses that Habakkuk was lamenting, but we are grieving and wondering “what now?” and crying out to God. Each day that passes without relief or even relief in sight, the emotional burden is getting heavier.

How long, O Lord?

Contentment has become a hard word. I know I’m supposed to be content,

Yet true godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

But how can you be content when you are lacking things you need? When you have lost something or someone dear to you (or both)? And I have no interest in faking it.

How long O Lord?

I take comfort in David’s psalms of lament. Here was a man anointed by God to be king, yet he was being hunted down by the current king like an animal. Where was God? I wonder if David doubted God’s promise. Circumstances weren’t confirming the call he’d been given.

Yet, no – when you read David’s story you see a man who trusted and waited for the Lord. Who praised His goodness in the face of loss and danger. A man who delighted in God no matter what.

And that is the secret, I’ve learned in these hard days, to contentment.

It’s not about your earthly circumstances. It’s not a cup of coffee in your favorite cafe with your favorite book in hand. This contentment is in knowing that God is good and faithful and wonderful therefore in Him you have enough. In knowing that He promised never to leave you, and He never will.

I woke up this morning with the same heaviness and anger I’ve had for awhile now. But as I began to pray and thank God for what He has provided and for His goodness and presence with me throughout my life, as I worshipped Him and accepted that life won’t always feel good but He will never forsake me, I experienced peace. He is enough. Therefore I can be content no matter the temporary losses of this life.

I am His and He is mine forever, and therefore though I am weak, yet I am strong.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have learned the secret to being content whatever my circumstances: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13

In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Are you in a season of loss or uncertainty? Take a few minutes to reflect on God’s promises to you, on how He has met you in the past, and thank Him. Praise Him as an act of faith and trust that He will never leave nor forsake you!

Brutal Honesty that Frees

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Our relationship with God isn’t like the ones we have with most people. We hold back from others, rarely showing all we really think or feel. And that’s probably a good thing. But what happens when we hide from ourselves too, and from God?

What if what we’re feeling and wanting or have committed is too dark, too ugly even for us to face?

We hide, like Adam and Eve did. When confronted, Adam still couldn’t face what he had done and blamed it on Eve. It was too scary to be honest with God or himself! I get that. But what can we learn from that story?

Remember when Eve talked to the snake, how the devil planted the idea in her mind that God was actually holding out on them? That God knew that if they ate from the forbidden tree they’d become like Him, so that’s why He forbade it? Stingy God he whispered to her heart. She believed the snake. And instantly a rift grew between the human and her Maker.

But what if Eve had run to the Lord instead? What if she had shared what she was feeling and asked God for His perspective?

I’ve often been in this kind of situation, believing lies about God or about my friends, family, or self. And what I wanted or did as a result of believing those lies was usually pretty ugly and definitely not something I was going to be honest about with God or myself. Hiding was much easier.

But one day some years ago I read a book about the Psalms and my eyes were opened to how brutally honest David was with God. He wanted death and misery for his enemies, or even his own death and he didn’t mince words. Whoa there dude – that’s God you’re talking to! But then you see how David ended up worshipping God every time. Surrendering his needs or fears to God. The honesty was freeing and an act of worship!

I tried it one day when I was struggling too much to hide anymore. I knew I was going to fall into sin without God’s help. So I went to Him in prayer and told Him in graphic detail what I was feeling and wanting, as an act of surrender. Help me want what You want. Give me your heart in place of this ugliness. Redeem this mess, Lord.

And in flooded wisdom, a fresh perspective, true love for the others I would have hurt. Truth grew and lies suddenly dissipated like a formless mist! It’s amazing how, like Eve, we’ll believe ugly things without ever going to the Source of truth or questioning them. But God took every ugly bit from me and redeemed it, transformed my heart and mind. All I had to do was be honest and hand it over.

Not my ugly will be done, but Your excellent and good will.

Now I’ve learned to share boldly and bluntly with God what I’m thinking and feeling and desiring as an act of trust and worship. I come to Him quickly when I’ve done wrong because I know that all things committed into His hands become beautiful even when I thought they were irredeemable, even when I thought I was irredeemable. Hiding is useless and prolongs the life and effect of the ugly. He heals all things.

What are you feeling today? Take some time being deeply, brutally honest with the Lord and approach Him not as though He’s someone stingy or who will destroy or tsk tsk you – but as a loving Father, full of grace toward you, who delights to fix what is broken and point you toward true wisdom and deeper, richer relationship with Him! Being honest feels bad at first; it wounds the pride. But that broken up ground in your heart is the place where new, good, healing things can grow by His hand.

The God Who Sees Hagar, and Me

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I have a son on the autism spectrum. In the early years of his life, when he was newly diagnosed and I was reeling from the fear and strain of it, it called into question the goodness of God for me.

God if you love me and my son, why at 4, can he barely talk?

Why can’t I go to church because my son gets too scared and overstimulated in Sunday school? Don’t You want me in church?

Why does he attack me?

Where are You in all this?

Help my little man. Help us.

It reminds me of the story of Ishmael and Hagar in Genesis 16. She too was in an impossible situation. She too cried out. And God heard.

An angel appeared to her, encouraging her that God had heard her crying, and that He would bless her and her son.

“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are the God who sees me.'” Genesis 16:13

Many times I prayed and cried to the Lord for help, too and He answered. He sent a new friend who “happened” to work with kids on the spectrum. She taught me how to teach my son and walked with me through the therapies. She saw my little man as a person, not a diagnosis, and she was Jesus’ hands and voice to me many times.

The Lord had foreseen it all and the school district where we lived had an amazing special ed department. I felt the love of God for me and my son through the people there. As I prayed He continued to show up in the form of loving souls, including the church we started attending (expecting it not to work out), where still more people saw my son as a person and during the service would walk with him in the lobby or draw with him so I could go worship and he could be seen and loved.

Or the times I prayed for his speech or social delays and every time after I prayed he would suddenly make a leap forward in his abilities.

Friends I could go on and on, literally. God doesn’t take away the hard things, but in His great love He sees us. He walks with us. He meets our needs. Hard circumstances don’t alter His goodness – they are where He meets us and we see His love and goodness in action. They are where our faith forms and refines. And they, therefore, are blessings in the end.

My son is doing so well, and every new challenge we bring to the Lord because He is the answer. Because He is good and generous.

Where do you need to know God’s goodness this week? Cry out to Him, the God who sees you, too.

La La La I’m Not Listening

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I’m not proud of this, but this week I hid from God.

Every winter our church takes shifts helping at a local homeless shelter and they’ve been asking for us to sign up all month.

Scary.

Every time it came up in service I’d find something in the bulletin that suddenly looked really interesting or realize how good a tea refill sounded or gosh I need to run to the restroom…

It was a bit harder to run from the Spirit’s tugging on my heart during the weekdays but I’m nothing if not stubborn and inventive. Look at this dusty vase! That can’t go undusted another 9 months!

But then last Wednesday I got a text from a friend, a friend who had admitted to me before that homeless ministry makes her anxiety go through the roof. Yet this friend had just seen that no one was signed up for Friday, so she’d signed up alone, taking on the work of 8 if need be.

Because that’s what real love does – it jumps in regardless of personal cost. Her heart was bigger than her fear.

I saw my own fear and avoidance (and heart 3-sizes-too-small) plainly in that moment. I knew the Lord had been pointing me all week to sign up for Friday, and to try to recruit others, but I’d plugged my ears, closed my heart. Embarrassed, I jumped in to help her recruit others and get food together. I spent the next three days praying for the courage and willingness to show up at the shelter.

Friday night I pushed passed the anxiety in my heart and headed with my family to the shelter. But as I entered the dining room, fear melted away. I felt God’s loving presence in that space, reaching out to hungry hearts. I watched my friend serving food and sharing from her heart. She shone. It was amazing to see God’s love pouring out of her and she seemed at ease. I walked out to serve hot drinks and awkwardly struck up a conversation with an elderly man. We talked for half an hour about musicals and art and books and the craziness of living in Los Angeles. God gave me His heart, His eyes and allowed me to see the people in front of me. People He died for. People I might never have had the joy of meeting if I’d kept running from the Lord.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

What is God calling you to do this week?

5 Prayers I’m Glad God said “No” To

Sometimes another person’s journey with God speaks into your own, reminding you that no, you are not crazy, or alone: that God, the same One who’s been guiding and blessing your life, is also at work in those around you. My friend Courtney is one such person in my life. It’s amazing and wonderful to hear her God stories because they not only reflect my own but speak into my life too. She also happens to be a pastor and an author (the kind whose work you WANT to read because it’s fun and filled with meaning and poignancy hiding just below the humorous surface).

Today’s devotion is from her. And can I just add my Amen to her post?

P.S. And today, happy day, her book Uncluttered is out on Amazon! I’ve been so blessed by that book. I’ve mentioned it in a previous post and you’ll be hearing about it again. Please check it out and support her. ☺️

5 Prayers I’m Glad God said “No” To

By Courtney Ellis

1. Please fix this immediately

We’ve all prayed this one, haven’t we? The job loss, the colicky baby, the years of singleness, the financial strain.

Yet the lessons learned in the waiting often cannot be learned any other way.

Continue reading…