Childlike Faith – Living and Loving Your Life With God's Perspective

Category - valley

When Bad Things Happen In Your Life

when you fall apart
I was thinking yesterday about the occurrence of crappy things in our lives. Like, how sometimes it feels so random and arbitrary when they come along. Everything is going along pretty swimmingly, your heart and relationships and walk with God feel like it’s in a good place, and then BAM! Something awful happens. And it throws you for a loop not just because it was unexpected, but also because it just felt like you were back on track with life, and things were moving in the right direction.

And now you’re derailed again.

When I was a teen and this happened, I would get so bent out of shape. And I would actually use it to reinforce the worldview I held about life being irretrievably broken and painfully miserable, and how I shouldn’t get my hopes too high because the bottom would fall out if I just waited long enough.

But even though this helped me to come to terms with the question of “why bad things happen to good people” this was a very unhealthy mentality. It caused me to be down on God, down on myself, and down on pretty much everything. Life isn’t always sunshine and unicorns, but it’s also not always daggers and banana peels. I really needed to find a better perspective.

Everything is going along pretty swimmingly, your heart and relationships and walk with God feel like it’s in a good place, and then BAM! Something awful happens.

About a decade ago, God showed me something really cool, which has helped me to be much more thankful – on a daily basis – about the things in my life. It made so much sense to me, and I honestly think about it every day because, to be honest, I never have a day where absolutely every little thing goes perfectly. And so it allows me to more readily shrug off the crappy things that happen, and reminds me that on the whole, in the big picture, life is actually good.

Really good.

And so is God.

And I need to give both a lot more credit.

You may recall the story of Job, and how things were pretty dang awesome in his life before all of a sudden everything fell apart. And I mean everything. He lost his family, his property, and his health all in one day. Just POOF, disaster struck and it was all gone. Right after he contracted a very painful skin disease, and in the wake of all of these devastating losses, Job’s well-meaning wife wanted to just give up. She didn’t really know how else to reconcile all that had happened, and she didn’t feel like there was anything left to live for, or even hope for. Job was still trying to hold it together and believe that things could and would get better one day even in the midst of such calamity and heartbreak, but his wife was just done, and said to him, ““Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

I’ve cried out to Him, I’ve given Him the silent treatment, I’ve yelled at Him, and I’ve asked him so many “WHY???!!!” questions in fits of rage and sadness and hopelessness.

I have wanted to do that some days. I know that sounds melodramatic, but some days have been really, really bad, and there honestly didn’t just feel like there was any reason to keep believing, and to keep holding onto God. I’ve cried out to Him, I’ve given Him the silent treatment, I’ve yelled at Him, and I’ve asked him so many “WHY???!!!” questions in fits of rage and sadness and hopelessness. Perhaps you can relate.

But Job’s response to His wife has been burned indelibly in my mind, and when crappy things happen it helps me to have a balanced, mature perspective about them. He said, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Whoa. The question cuts deep and reveals the childishness and truculence of our heart: Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?

I don’t want trouble.

I want pretty much everything to go my way.

bad things happen

I mean, I’m always doing all of these difficult things, and sucking it up, and gutting it out, and life is just so hard and I’m doing my best and that should matter.

Shouldn’t that matter?!

<deep breath>

But I know that’s such an immature view. Even though we might not be stomping our feet and crying and whining and overtly throwing a tantrum, we are still prone to act like a petulant child in our relationship with God. But He is in charge, not us. And He knows what He is doing when He allows bad things in our life, just as He knows what He is doing when He allows good things in our life. It’s not random. It’s not arbitrary.

He knows what He is doing when He allows bad things in our life, just as He knows what He is doing when He allows good things in our life. It’s not random.

We know that everything that happens to us passes through God’s fingers, and we also know that His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. It’s perfectly arrogant for me to say that I know what is best for me.

I don’t.

I really just do not.

Heck, the track record of some of my choices clearly illustrates that. I’ve given my life over to Him, and I just need to fully trust what He allows and disallows in my life, knowing that ultimately it’s for my good.

Not only is it immature, but it is unreasonable to pitch a fit when bad things happen because we must remember that our lives here aren’t supposed to be perfect. We live in a messed up world, and we are all messed up people, and like Job said, we are foolish if we can’t understand that life will beat us up sometimes. We’re going to win some, and we’re going to lose some.

We live in a messed up world, and we are all messed up people, and we are foolish if we can’t understand that life will beat us up sometimes.

That has to be okay, because that is normal, and that is everyone’s story. No one is perfectly protected from hardship, and no one has a pain-free life.

No one.

Shall I accept good and not trouble? No, I shall accept both. Gladly. Because He knows what He’s doing, always and forever. Because He loves me and has the best for me. Because it’s not random or arbitrary, despite how it seems.

There is a reason, and even if I never understand it, it is for my good.


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When Nothing You Do Is Working

futility-sign
I  am in a deep, dark valley. I know that sounds really dramatic, but that is my reality. The current season of my life has been marked by incredible futility. Pretty much everything I am trying to do right now is met with failure.

As an example, I’ve been wanting to find a mentor – praying about it, reaching out to people, seeking out connections, making sure it’s not contrived or forced – and nothing is working out. I have been trying to do the things I love – reading, fitness, guitar – but I’m so uninspired and when I try to do those things it feels empty, useless, and pointless. I’ve been tackling some home improvement projects and there always seems to be some problem I can’t sort out. And when I reach out for help, help doesn’t come. Even the date nights and sweet things I attempt for Rachel are falling way short (for example, the food was not good at all, or the gift I got didn’t really work out)). Plus, I can’t seem to get physically well from sinus infections no matter what I try, I can’t seem to protect my extended family from preventable hardships, and I can’t seem to get traction on any attempts to make new friends.  I’m so tired of constantly striking out.

The current season of my life has been marked by incredible futility. Pretty much everything I am trying to do right now is met with failure.

I’ve been here before. Multiple times. If I look back on the trajectory of my life, there are regular cycles of a couple good years followed by a couple of bad years. And I also remember that my past has been marked by intense periods of failure and futility.

One embarrassing example comes to mind: between my first love and my last love, I remember trying so much to connect with a girl (seriously, any girl that I thought had potential), and every effort was a flop. A complete fail. I even wrote out of a list of all of the girls, and all of my attempts (I’m going to be incredibly vulnerable here and tell you that it was over 20 girls – hey, at least I was doing my part!). It was just comical – not because of the way I approached them (I was cool and normal and not creepy about it at all, I promise) – but because it was so very clear that God was thwarting me. I knew He was behind this. Because logically and statistically – one of those attempts should have worked out. For at least a little. For at least a minute, or an hour. For at least one quick coffee date, or even an extended conversation.

journal-pen

But they didn’t. Not a single one. Not even a little bit, not even an iota of possible interest. Why? Because I am absolutely repulsive to the opposite sex, and have zero redeeming qualities? Nope, that is not it.

Because God is on the throne, and He loves me, and He had a different plan. A perfect plan, where He wanted to take care of things and where it wasn’t all up to me.

In retrospect, I am super thankful not one of those attempts or advances worked out because it protected my heart, mind, and emotions before Rachel came around. However, it was absolutely brutal to live in such a state of perpetual disappointment while trying to make something happen with the best and purest of intentions.

During that time, I just shook my head, shrugged my shoulders, and resigned myself to the fact that nothing I could do would bring about any change unless He was behind it. And only after He decided to move, and after His plan came to fruition, was I able to see why I was mired in futility for so long. SO LONG.

It was absolutely brutal to live in such a state of perpetual disappointment while trying to make something happen with the best and purest of intentions.

And now, it’s happening again. I’m attempting anything and everything with the best and purest of intentions, inevitably failing, and returning with a sigh to that familiar place of painful resignation because nothing makes sense right now. Logically and statistically, something I attempt should work out. At least one thing!

As you might imagine, I’m trying to reconcile all of this just so I can figure out what to do (or not to do). In my devotional this morning I read over Ephesians 4, where it talks about futility.

To paraphrase, it basically says that I can’t live life as many others do – in the futility of their minds, who are darkened in their understanding and alienated from God’s way of doing things simply because of ignorance and also due to hardness in their heart.

That feels pretty spot on. One of my favorite pastors and speakers (Tony Evans) once said that if we are living life to the fullest, we should regularly experience spiritual realities (His power, presence, peace, guidance, wisdom, and joy) in our life. Even though I have in the past, I am not right now. In fact, He feels very far from me, even though He doesn’t move away (ever) – I do.

I do feel caught up in the futility of my mind. As I am not single anymore, building and taking care of a family has become my priority, and everything about that takes up a lot of space in my brain. I guess it’s a good thing because I do want to feel the weight of such a noble responsibility, but it is also a bad thing because I constantly catch myself leaning on my own smarts and wit and ambitions and ideas and abilities and efforts. Not His. And I don’t want that.

sisyphus street sign

Everything in this world tells you to lean on yourself to make things happen. But I know me. I’m not God – not even close. I can’t and don’t want to live under the pressure that everything is up to me. That’s why I’m so thankful God is God, and He is in charge – not me.

There’s this great verse in 1 Corinthians 3 which says “for the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.” And that “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.”  Most days, if I were to be totally objective, I really do think I am wise and clever in what I tackle and try to knock out for the good of my life. But I recognize that it’s not totally guided by Him, but instead by what the world is telling me I should do. Honestly, I do feel trapped in the snare of my own cleverness. But it’s my own fault, not His.

The very next verse says “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.”  It’s like He’s just waiting for me to STOP. “Just STOP already!” I hear Him say to my heart. But I can’t stop, it seems. I am a hot mess right now.

Everything in this world tells you to lean on yourself to make things happen. But I know me. I’m not God – not even close. I can’t and don’t want to live under the pressure that everything is up to me.

As I keep trying, and failing, I can sense that my heart is getting hardened. I can really feel it. I’m starting to think things, and say things under my breath and out loud that betray this sad reality. And it’s awful. I don’t want to be like this, I don’t want to move in this direction even slightly. It’s just like the verse from Ephesians 4 says:  the futility of my mind’s thoughts is increasingly darkening my understanding (about Him and the way life works when led by Him). And it’s causing me to be alienated from God, my one and only true source. This is the worst possible thing that could ever happen to me.

I need a way out. Badly. Nothing I am doing is working, and I am convinced He is thwarting me for my own good. I hate how I currently feel, but I’m glad He doesn’t want me drifting away, and clearly is fighting for my heart. Because He loves me.

I’m fighting for my heart too.

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How Are You Getting Through Life?

Earlier this semester. my friend Lucas recently twisted his ankle badly while we were playing ultimate frisbee at school. I was pretty close to him when it happened, and we heard a loud pop and so we thought he had completely broken it. Thankfully, though, a visit to the ER revealed that he had a severe strain and would need to stay off of it for a few weeks. So, he was hobbling to and fro on crutches, and it got me thinking about the last time I was on crutches. I had also twisted my ankle playing basketball at school (our games get pretty intense, I guess!), and I thought it was going to be jacked up for months and months, but God healed it up relatively quickly. But while it was healing, I couldn’t do much of anything. And I couldn’t go anywhere without the crutches. Heck, I couldn’t even make it into the next room without them, unless I wanted to get down on all fours and attempt to crawl on the carpet while holding my injured foot high in the air. It was pretty crappy, and I lost any ability to be self-sufficient, but that was just how it was, and how it was going to be for a while until I healed. Until the situation got better. I just had to wait it out, and I had to rely on my crutches to keep going.

I am getting a lot of silence. Well, honestly, I’m not getting a lot of silence, I’m getting a lot of “Do you trust Me?” and “WAIT!”. But to me, if it’s not a “Yes,” it basically feels like silence.

Well, all of that got me reflecting on how I am definitely in a rough emotional season where I am crying out to God all the time to come through. In various ways, in pretty much every area (physical, professional, familial, social). To help me. To answer some life-changing prayers. To rescue me. To show up powerfully. And I am claiming verses like “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless toward Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9). And just believing with my entire heart that He will respond. But I am getting a lot of silence. Well, honestly, I’m not getting a lot of silence, I’m getting a lot of “Do you trust Me?” and “WAIT!”. But to me, if it’s not a “Yes,” it basically feels like silence.

Anyway. You’ve been there. Maybe you are there right now. It pretty much sucks. It’s not a fun place. Rather, it’s a very lonely place filled with miserable nights and sad songs and that deep ache down in the core of you that just comes up out of nowhere, and it happens so often that you’ve begun to become used to it. And it kind of helps to physiologically confirm your fears and doubts, and allows you to cope by embracing resignation for a while, because to keep on hoping right now is just too painful.

It’s a very lonely place filled with miserable nights and sad songs and that deep ache down in the core of you that just comes up out of nowhere, and it happens so often that you’ve begun to become used to it.

While we wait on God and our hopes and dreams and His promises to be fulfilled, we are told to not really rely on any “crutches” to get us through life. You know, stuff we lean on to keep moving forward. We are told (and sometimes scolded) that God is to be our everything, and we shouldn’t need alcohol or drugs or sex or makeout sessions or raves or Internet pornography or video games or an excess of anything just to get us through. And maybe you don’t *need* any of those things. I mean, I don’t. Not that I don’t *want* to mess up sometimes. I do.

But I have been thinking a lot about this – I definitely still have “crutches” which I lean on in these long periods of silence and waiting. And we can talk for hours about how the Joy of the Lord is to be our strength, and we can point our eyes towards Eternity, and we can remind ourselves to buffet our body like Paul, and pummel our flesh, and deny our desires, and live sacrificially and selflessly, pouring ourselves out for others like Jesus did. Completely and utterly. But if I were honest with myself, I would say that I can’t do that. And then someone might say, well, you need to get out of the way, and let the Lord live through you – and then you can! And I would say in return, I am doing my best, but I am not Jesus, and I am not Paul. And they would say, but the same power that conquers the grave lives in you! And then I would just walk away. Because they just don’t get it. And I then I would go find someone else around who I can be real.

So I was thinking, what am I currently “using” just to get through – and are these things healthy? But, if they are not God and God alone, is anything healthy? And who decides and defines “healthy” anyway? Shouldn’t these sorts of things be between you and Him anyway, and no one else? Okay. I keep going on and on, so let’s focus and get back to my current “crutches.” The things I am definitely leaning on, to cope during this season of silence. While I am waiting on Him, and crying out to Him to please answer my prayers, I have been:

doing yoga
learning guitar and practicing a LOT
reading a TON of books
doing a 18-month intensive biblical leadership course
going to boot camp and working on my fitness
playing sports with my amazing FAU friends
mentoring a high schooler
mentoring some guys at school
talking to my own mentors
writing a book
trying to impact many, many lives nationwide through my professional work
helping out my family with stuff
praying for the hopes and dreams of loved ones
being available for others

That’s pretty much it. The point in sharing that is not to get high-fives and “way to go’s” but to tell you that I have packed my days and nights to the brim so that it cuts down on the time I have to feel sad and bad about myself and my current situation. I lean on these activities to help me through life. I am completely and shamelessly using them to fill up the hours of my days so I am not bummed out all the time because of God’s current decision to hold back from me (which I know is ultimately for my good, but which – as I mentioned – is not fun at all). I am pretty sure that I do it to numb myself, to medicate myself, to anesthetize myself, to inure myself to the silence I am hearing and experiencing from God (and, honestly, from others which I’m sure is part of His plan).

I am pretty sure that I do it to numb myself, to medicate myself, to anesthetize myself, to inure myself to the silence I am hearing and experiencing from God.

Now, while doing all of those things on a weekly basis to just get through this current season of life, I am still spending time with Him in a variety of typical and nontypical ways. He is still my first priority, He has my heart, I love Him with all that I am, and I am honestly desperately seeking His face and His will for my life, and pursuing right living, and wanting to honor Him every moment of my life. I don’t have to prove my devotion to anyone around me. I know my heart, and He knows my heart.

That said, though, I know I am not currently experiencing the joy of my salvation. And I don’t really feel like I am living victoriously above my circumstances, at least emotionally. I’m doing all I should be doing, all I want to be doing, but if I can be real, I am in a deep valley, and I am struggling. And I want that to be okay. I often think of Job, and in his personal nightmare – when his entire world fell apart – God didn’t expect him to do anything to pull himself out of it. God didn’t ask him to pray more, or try to trust more, or read more Scripture, or die to his own desires more. Job was hanging on by a thread. But He was hanging on. And I think that’s all God wanted Him to do and needed Him to do. Sometimes, life gets just that hard, for absolutely everyone. And when that happens, all you can really do is lean on other things, and just hang on tight somehow to your faith in Him. And I want that to be enough.

I need these “crutches.” I do. I just do. And I don’t know how to make Him my everything any better or any more than I already am. And it just cannot be about me performing to a certain standard. Or being a certain way. It is not. I know that. I’ve been through enough to realize that nothing I do or not do can flip a switch to cause Him to move on my behalf. It just doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t work that way. Realizing that was so very liberating from my performance-based past, and now I realize He just wants me to do or not do because of my love for Him. That’s it. Nothing should motivate me apart from my desire to demonstrate my love for Him.

I’ve been through enough to realize that nothing I do or not do can flip a switch to cause Him to move on my behalf. It just doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t work that way.

So, the bottom line is and the truth is that I’m basically just enduring right now. I am basically just surviving life, and leaning on my crutches to keep me going forward. But I am trying to remind myself that the only thing that matters is that I keep hanging on, and keep doing it out of love. And that somehow, it is enough.

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