I prayed. I believed. I trusted. I hoped. And in the end, I was disappointed. This December, like many before it, God's response to my prayers is no. No, your son will not be home by Christmas. No, that baby in your womb will not live. No, that marriage will not survive. Dashed hopes and unfulfilled longings are familiar companions to my holiday celebrations. I know I am not alone. For many, this month will be as full of heartache as it is of joy. Deferred hope feels like coal under the tree, a confirmation that God has passed over you to shower His blessings on someone else this Christmas. But disappointment in December may actually be due to God's kindness.
For as long as I’ve been in church, I’ve known that sexual sin is a guy's struggle. Lust, sexual fantasies, pornography, masturbation. These were all things common to man, not common to woman. So what was I to do when my mom's Victoria’s Secret catalog arrived, and I secretly ogled over the pictures wishing I looked like those women? Or when I replayed intimate and sexual scenes from Titanic in my head? Or when I discovered certain parts of my body felt great when touched in a certain way? A Christian girl ought not to deal with such things. But the truth is lust is a temptation common to humanity, not just men. Lust is a desire for something that isn't yours to have. And plenty of women, myself included, have lusted for the pursuit and intimacy of a husband way before it was ours to have.
Are we giving food too much glory? The Bible gives us the overarching concept that food is a symbol of a greater reality. Our need for daily sustenance, all the delightful flavors, the satisfaction of a full stomach after hunger are all pointing to Jesus, our Bread of Life, our Living Water, our New Wine, our fullness of joy and complete satisfaction.
There are two ways we can elevate the symbol above the Substance: celebrating the pleasure of food above Christ or celebrating the power of food above Christ. The former sees food as the ultimate satisfier and the latter sees food as the ultimate healer.
As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" John 9:1-2 Suffering produces an insatiable desire to blame. Surely there must be some reason why this poor man must suffer all his life without sight. We hunger and thirst for some impetus for it all.
Why are we so bent on finding fault? Partly because we hope to prevent future suffering by finding the cause. Just like you may avoid spicy food if it once gave you heartburn. Partly because if the sufferer is to blame, we can accept the hardship as a legitimate recompense to sin: "She deserved that," or "I had it coming." If someone else is to blame, we at least have someone to take our anger out on.
So how does Jesus answer the disciples inquiry about the cause of the blind man's life of suffering?
Jesus doesn't tell us of a world of needless suffering. There is a reason, but it is one that we have had no category for at all: suffering for the sake of the glory of God.
Grief is the recognition that something has been lost forever. It forces us into an awareness that we have no control to change or fix the situation. What is gone is gone and can never be regained, at least not fully. Grief is an emotion we don't gladle welcome. We keep it at arms length pretending it will go away if we wait long enough. And sometimes it does, but are we really better off for avoiding it?
Is God important enough to us that we'll do whatever it takes to hear Him? In 1 Kings 19, God revealed Himself to Elijah not in an earthquake or fire but in a "low whisper" (v. 12). How can we hear this gentle whisper of God unless we quiet the noise of our lives? To have a listening prayer life, we need to learn to wait in silence on God.
I can still feel the shame of being caught sneaking Oreos to my room as a kid. Though not the first time, it embarrassed me to know someone else had seen the grip food had on me. Over the years, I looked for ways to be alone in the kitchen to sneak more handfuls of goldfish or one more spoonful of Nutella. Gluttony became a familiar and unwelcome companion. I assumed I just had bad habits that needed to be reformed, but God made it clear that I was an idolater who needed forgiveness, a slave to sin who needed a Liberator.
"Will you disciple me?" Whether you've asked the question or received it, rightly defining this concept is important. Is a mentor someone who sins less than the mentee? Is discipleship showing someone how to be a better Christian? A better person? Is it formal, like a tutor sitting across the table from a student? Is it casual, like an apprentice working alongside someone more experienced?
While there is value in discussing the nuts and bolts of formalized meetings versus life-on-life rhythms, what topics to study, and what goals to set, that is not the approach I will take here. Instead, I want to present you with three metaphors to describe the role of a mentor in discipleship.
To choose a knowledge of food over a knowledge of the Word of God is a catastrophic mistake. It is tempting in a world full of the threat of cancer and new diseases or ailments to look to right eating choices to sustain us, but the Bible is very clear that is not the answer. God alone gives and sustains life. Knowing and obeying His word is far better for our health than the most researched, healthy and natural diet plan.
Whole Foods, a high end grocery store, printed this on their brown paper bags: "Buy Goods, Not Bads." A follow up design stated: "Feed your better nature." Whole Foods isn't the first company to jump on the concept of food morality, of good and bad foods. Plenty of people are seeking to eradicate the bad foods and produce more of the good. Here's the question: is the food bad or are we bad? Does bad food corrupt our bodies, or has our sin corrupt the food?
There are a lot of opinions from a lot of people on what we should eat, why we struggle with food, and how to fix it. While observing the trends in food issues, I started to ask myself the question: what does the Bible have to say about food. The answer I found: surprisingly a lot!
This post contains link to many other articles in this series.
Can you be thankful for your failures? Does it have any beneficial place in the life of the Christian? My self-love was like a film over the eyes of my heart. I could see God, but the glimpses of Him were somewhat cloudy. Failure is the solution disolving the residue of pride. With each removal of pride comes a crisper view of the glory of God.
"Will you marry me?" It's the moment many are waiting for. But however romantic the day of engagement, the time between "I will" and "I do" is often difficult. It's difficult because you know who you are going to marry, but you aren't married yet. It's a season of already and not yet. Very few people look back on engagement longing for it again. Being married is so much better than waiting to be married.
Similarly, Christians live in the already and not yet. We are the Bride of Christ. Our future is secure; our hope is certain. But it isn't yet. We do not see Christ face to face; we do not experience a life free from the sin Christ defeated. But yet it is certain that one day we will. We are the betrothed Bride of Christ, waiting for our wedding day. We live by faith, not by sight. And in faith, we wait.
Though I never had an outwardly needy friendship, the weeds of codependency were still popping up in my life, just in a different form. I needed her to be ok with me. I needed her approval and her acceptance. I needed her more than I loved her. This is the essence of codependency: driven by our own needs we become unable to truly love other people. My neediness was near impossible to see because it manifested by keeping her at arms-length. I perceived myself not to be needy, but to be perfectly content without her in my life.
As my life ebbs and flows, so does my definition of success.No longer trying to ace my college exam, I'm fighting to stay on top of laundry. No longer trying to be a good Christian (aware that I can't be good on my own), success equals dependency. But still, I live and die for success. But in the landscape of success and failure, Psalm 27 gives me a new frame of reference.
How can you know if you are using the Bible to avoid Jesus? When it becomes a self-help manual instead of a platform to showcase your Redeemer. When the Bible produces to-do lists and not worship. When your Bible reading is devoid of prayer. Proper Bible reading first exposes sin, then offers a Savior. The Bible is a witness to the need for a Savior and the presentation of Jesus as that Savior.
Faith is not a warm and fuzzy feeling. Rather it is a willful choice to believe in the reliability of God even when that belief is lacking in physical evidence. It's easy to believe the promise that God works things for my good when good things have come to fruition; it's easy to believe that God is near when He feels near. But when my feelings and experiences tell a different story than the Word of God, faith isn't so fun anymore.
The test of faith comes when my feelings veer off to the left and God's Word goes to the right. Here I must make a willful choice to place my faith in what I deem most reliable—my feelings or God's Word.
When I consider the last decade of my life, I see a series of deaths: Death of my pride through living in the shadow of my husband's giftedness. Death of my fear of conflict through divorces in my family and among friends. Death of my fear of confrontation through difficult friendships. Death of my desires through multiple miscarriages. Death of my fear of failure through situations where I could not win. Death of my hope in myself through seeing my exposed sin in high-definition focus.
Each season of dying has felt just like that—dying. The choking out of something I have loved, desired, and clung to for hope, peace, and safety. The choking out of things in me, writhing, gasping for breath and praying, "Does it have to be this way? Can't I follow You and also keep this with me? Does it really need to die?"
In God's kingdom, pruning is caring. Jesus is the true vine, His Father the vinedresser. Every branch in Jesus that bears fruit, the Father prunes that it may bear more fruit (John 15:1–2).
God's answer to my question is yes. Yes, it does need to die. It must be pruned. Without pruning, my life will become something even I don't want—an overgrown, thorny bush with no fruit to offer.