A Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Today I’m tackling a difficult and uncomfortable topic- one that my mostly amiable personality would rather push to the side. Even so, I’m compelled to address it because it’s stolen so much from us, keeping us from the peace we so desperately want in our lives. This issue causes God Himself to oppose us. It deceives. It causes dissension. It seeks to destroy.

What is this dilemma wreaking so much havoc? Pride.

Please know, I do not believe that pride is behind every problem we face. Hardly. There are many who have walked each step as faithfully as they knew how, yet because of another person’s wrong choices or just life in a broken world, they found themselves in a very difficult place.

That said, though, I am convinced from my own life experience and from what I read in the Word that a good bit of our grief could be bypassed with one easy step.

Let me explain. For years, I was in a relationship that was insanely difficult. It caused tons of emotional turmoil, frustration, and sadness. I can’t count the number of blubbering conversations I had with my best friend over the whole ordeal- it’s a shock she didn’t bail with all the drama she braved. I was even a believer at the time, but there was one problem: I wasn’t actually obeying God’s Word.

Oh, I would’ve never admitted or even seen it at the time. But looking back it is obvious that my pride had convinced me that I knew better than God. All the time that God was gently guiding me in His way, I was arguing why certain scriptures wouldn’t work in my situation, why His truths were outdated, or why I was justified to fight for my rights. In short, I was allowing pride in my own understanding to trump God’s Word. And I paid the price with years of unnecessary hardship.

The turning point came during a weekend trip where I had plenty of time to think and pray. I was reading the book of James and came to these verses:

1:21 “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you”. (That word “save” here literally means to make whole, to heal, and/or to rescue from danger or destruction.)

1:25 “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it–not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it–they will be blessed in what they do.”

I can’t adequately explain what happened in that moment of reading other than to tell you that the heaviest conviction I had ever experienced fell on me. It was a time of sorrowfully agreeing with God that I had allowed my own reasoning to keep me in bondage. A veil was lifted from my eyes, and I clearly saw His promise: my obedience would bring restoration and blessing.

I’m so thankful to say that I’ve seen Him make good on this promise- changes in hearts and minds that only God could’ve accomplished have come since I made the decision to depend on God’s Word instead of my own understanding.

“If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways, how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!” Psalm 81:13-14

So here’s the easy step that will take 10 seconds of your time: Ask God to show you anywhere you’re not humbly accepting His Word in your life.

Restoration, wholeness, and blessing may be hanging in the balance.

The Gift of Failure

One of the greatest gifts God has ever given me is failure. Sounds crazy, I know, so let me explain. During my adolescence and early adulthood, I had most anything I could want: a stable family, strong and supportive friendships, a long-term boyfriend, good grades in a safe school, the respect of my peers, a nice car… you get the picture. There was not much that I wanted that I didn’t have. And the success brought about an unreal amount of arrogance.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus addresses an entire church of people like this: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing.’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” (Rev. 3:17) I was spiritually bankrupt.

Fast forward to my first two years of college. There I was, a small fish in a very big pond. I was several hours away from home with no close friends nearby. My relationship was over, and no matter how much I filled my calendar to stay busy and feel important, I couldn’t shake a completely debilitating anxiety. It was a sense of dread and intense worry that wouldn’t let up. I hope and pray that someone reading this post can relate and be encouraged today with this: Hold on, friend. God humbles us by showing us our need and then giving us a far better and more lasting way to fill it. This is exactly what He did for me, and it’s what He has done throughout time for His children.

Deuteronomy 8 summarizes how this worked with the Israelites. Although Egypt was no cake walk for God’s people, they at least had shelter and their fill of food and drink. But when God rescued them from slavery there, he led them in the desert for forty years.

News flash: Deserts ain’t the Hilton. Water is hard to find, food is scarce, and the heat is scorching. And I’m still puzzled as to how reliable their shelter could’ve been given their wandering. To say they felt their need is an understatement. Exodus 16:3 records their dramatic complaint against God’s chosen leaders, Moses and Aaron: “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Although I’d bet the majority of those reading this blog have never felt a physical hunger they couldn’t satisfy, most everyone has felt a chronic heart hunger.

So this begs the question: Why in the world would God rescue His people from slavery only to put them in a seemingly worse condition than before? And why would He allow them to experience a trial in which they despaired even of life (see 2 Corinthians 1:8-9)? I believe the answer lies in Deuteronomy 8:3.

“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

There it is. He causes us to hunger so that we can be filled by what He alone provides. Manna was food from heaven. The Israelites could do absolutely nothing to produce it. They had to depend on God alone. The same is true of our trials. They teach us a dependence on God and His Word that we would never learn otherwise. And why is God so set on us knowing and living by His Word? Well, you’ll have to wait on my next blog post for that. There are too many encouraging truths to limit it to the very few words I have left!

Please share! How has God taught you a deeper dependence on Him and His Word through your hardships?

For the Broken

A despised woman, broken and ashamed, trudged down the long path to the home where Jesus was staying for the evening. Years of poor decisions had left her with a profoundly grieved countenance; her lack of dignity had even weighed down her posture, leaving her eyes downcast and her shoulders slumped towards the ground. She didn’t know much, but of one thing she was sure: her own sin had brought her to this place in life, and for that, she was deeply sorry.

She arrived at the door. Knocking hesitantly, she opened it as her eyes welled up with tears. She was desperately clinging to a glimmer of hope that this man, this precious Jesus, could make her whole again. She’d heard of him giving sight to the blind, raising the dead, and healing the sick. Could he restore a broken spirit? Could he forgive a crimson-stained heart?

She spotted him at the dining room table; he was surrounded by a sea of intimidating, distinguished men. In a swift rush of desperation, she hurried to where he was sitting and collapsed before him. She knelt there, weeping. As her kisses and warm tears covered his feet, she took her hair and began wiping away the filth that had built up from a long day of walking the dusty roads.

She had no righteous deeds to show, no beautiful clothes to adorn herself. And though she had nothing but her tears to give, still she came. A sacrifice of a humble and repentant heart she laid at his feet. And it was enough.

Jesus looked up from where she was kneeling. He surveyed the room full of dignified men. “Do you see this woman?” he asked. “I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet” (Luke 7:44-45).

Though the others despised her, Jesus highly esteemed her, for she had come to him broken. Looking down at her with deep admiration and love, he held out his hand to lift her up. “Your sins are forgiven,” he said. “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:48,50). Gratitude and awe overwhelmed her as she took his hand. Just as she wiped away the filth from his feet, so he wiped away the filth from her heart.

She came in sorrow; she left in peace. As only Jesus can, he revived her soul.

Psalm 102:17 “He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.”

I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Isaiah 66:2 “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”

Isaiah 57:15 “For this is what the high and lofty One says- he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’”

Other Scripture References: Luke 7:36-50, 1:53; Psalm 51:16-17; Matthew 5:3; Proverbs 18:23; Revelation 3:17