Great Expectations and Greater Disappointment

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Disappointment. We’ve all been there. People and situations let us down.

In the past, I always thought the disappointment was directly connected to the person or situation that let me down. Their failure is what caused my disappointment.

However, a couple of years ago at a conference Matt Chandler said, ‘Disappointment is the result of unmet expectations.’

This simple statement caused me to completely rethink all of my disappointment. I had the misconception that all of these outside things were causing my disappointment when, in reality, it was my own expectations causing it. The Lord began working in me to re-evaulate my expectations. Are they realistic? Are they in step with his Word?

Every single one of us has unrealistic expectations. We have in mind that someone should act in a specific way or perfectly fulfill a desire. When they don’t, it’s easy to dismiss them. We think a situation is going to go exactly according to plan. When it doesn’t, we think it must be wrong and walk away from it.

We have so many hopes and dreams and expectations and when any of them go awry, we start the blame game. We have a hard time stepping back and seeing that it was actually our expectations that were wrong.

During the last few weeks, this has been on my mind. I have been dealing with a lot of disappointment and it has been easy for me to point the finger elsewhere. I don’t want to admit that maybe the problem lies within me.

But, as he often does, the Lord began working in my heart. He helped me realize how my expectations were not, and are not, as they should be. Instead of looking to his Word and trusting his plan, I had mapped out exactly how I thought my life, and everything in it, would turn out. When things didn’t go according to plan, I was only left feeling disappointed and frustrated. My expectations were too high and held too closely.

Now, I am not saying it is wrong to have certain hopes about someone or something. But, it is important to remember there isn’t anyone or anything that will perfectly fulfill our wants and needs. We have to give grace in those situations. In the same way, we need to know that we aren’t going to perfectly meet others’ expectations. And, hopefully, they will extend grace to us when we don’t.

We will never be able to live completely free of expectations. And the expectations we do have will never quite be what they should. We are fallen creatures in a fallen world, so everything is affected by that. However, we can be mindful of our expectations. We can choose to seek the Lord in all of our wants and desires. When things don’t quite go to plan, we can extend grace and trust there is a purpose for it.

The best news of all is there is Someone who will never let us down. In the midst of so many uncertain things, there is One who remains constant. Cling to him.

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The Prodigal Son’s Brother

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Waiting is hard.

We have all experienced waiting at some point in life. Waiting for a spouse. Waiting for a child. Waiting for that promotion at work. And, whenever we are waiting, the process can seem to last forever.

It is not easy to wait, especially when those around us receive the very things for which we long. You’ve been diligently working towards that promotion at work and, instead, it’s given to another colleague. You’ve been praying every day for years for a child but have to watch while yet another friend announces her pregnancy. It’s confusing. It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating.

Singles are no strangers to the waiting game, especially those of us who are well into adulthood. It is a regular occurrence for us to see friend after friend after friend get engaged. Then, after most of our friends are married off, we start seeing those we used to babysit get engaged. (True story.) To say it’s difficult is putting it lightly.

I love marriage. And I want to rejoice when I see two godly people enter into that sacred union. I want to root for them. I want to see their marriage display the gospel. I want to see them work together for the kingdom.

But, it is hard. As much as I want to see their marriage succeed, I also so long to experience it. Every time I see an engagement announcement, it’s just another reminder I am not anywhere near that. It’s another reminder that the thing I so desire has still been left unfulfilled.

How long, oh Lord?

I was recently reading through Luke and came to the passage on the prodigal son- a passage I’ve read and been taught probably 1,000 times over the years. A rebellious son squanders his inheritance, comes back home expecting, and wanting, to at least be treated as a servant, yet finds grace in his father and receives a celebration fit for a king.

We all read this and rejoice over grace that is found in the father. We relate to the prodigal son. No matter how much we’ve sinned, we find a heavenly Father who is waiting with open arms to extend us grace. But, how many times have we stopped here or skimmed over the rest of the story? As I was reading it this time, I came to the end of the story and realized something.

I am the prodigal son’s brother.

Instead of celebrating the fact that his brother has come home, he grows bitter and sulks feeling like he has somehow been gypped of his own fattened calf. “Look at these many years I have served you…yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends (Luke 15:29).”

The similarities in his attitude and mine are astounding. I see one more person get engaged and my reaction is the same. “How many years have I served you, Lord, and longed so much for a husband, and you still won’t provide one? Yet, you gave this person over here a spouse and they definitely haven’t been waiting as long or as hard as I have.” Like the prodigal son’s brother, I am unable to rejoice over something worth celebrating because of my own pride and selfishness.

But, look at the father’s gracious response. “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours (Luke 15:31).” The oldest son needed to be reminded of who he was and what he already had. He was so consumed with bitterness over his brother’s fattened calf, he had completely lost focus on what was already granted to him.

That’s me more than I’d like to admit. I see someone else get engaged and I grow bitter, not only missing out on celebrating with them, but also blinding myself to God’s exuberant blessings in my own life.  I’m too busy thinking I deserve what they have more.

The comparison game is real. And it’s ugly. It’s a tactic straight from Satan to make us lose sight of God and his abundant blessings. We must put that mindset to death.

I am not better than anyone else. I do not deserve anything more than anyone else. The Lord has already blessed me way beyond what I deserve. It’s so ridiculous to allow one thing in life to cloud everything else. This one desire for marriage often blinds me to all of the other amazing ways the Lord has provided for me. And, unfortunately, engagements can easily trigger it. Like the prodigal son’s brother, I feel gypped.

But, in these moments, my Father graciously reminds me of who I am and what he has given me. He encourages me to look beyond my desires and those things I think I deserve to see I have everything I will ever need. Instead of focusing on this one fattened calf, I realize I already have the whole kingdom.

The SBC, Idols, and Sin

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There has been a lot going on within the life of the SBC in recent weeks and months. Everyday there seem to be more allegations and stories of sexual abuse and cover-up attempts. I have been deeply heartbroken over truth that has been uncovered, yet deeply thankful that it is finally coming to light.

After following these stories and allegations pretty closely, there are a couple of questions that have been on my mind.

1: Have certain religious leaders become idols in our lives?

As soon as allegations against a renowned leader arise, the first instinct is to defend them. This completely makes sense. I understand the inclination to believe the best in those we highly respect. However, there are some who continue to defend leaders even when there is a lot of evidence to show wrongdoing.

I get it. It’s not easy to admit our heroes are flawed. It’s not easy to admit our heroes have made grave mistakes. But, when we continue to ignore the truth about someone, even when it’s staring us right in the face, it most likely means that person has become an idol in our lives.

It’s not wrong to respect or think highly of people. It’s not even wrong to hope for the best in people. However, we must always be careful to not view someone as another savior. There is a real danger of thinking too highly of someone and putting that person on a pedestal of perfection.

No one is safe from sin. No one is safe from making mistakes. When we refuse to believe someone is capable of massive failure, we have placed them into a position they were never meant to be.

The only perfect, blameless Savior we have is Christ. He does not share his position. He cannot share his position.

Which leads to my next question.

2: Do we have a wrong view of sin?

The shock and appall surrounding these stories has also been eye-opening to me. Now, to be sure, disappointment and heartbreak over the sin of others is completely normal. However, our intense shock over someone’s failure may be evidence that we have a wrong view of sin and its seriousness.

The constant reminders in scripture to fight against our flesh are not for kicks and giggles. They are not simply fillers in the many letters Paul wrote. They are there because sin is real. Sin is deceptive. Sin can be very easily fallen into when we are not careful. Satan is crafty. Even the most holy of us are no match for his schemes.

Any one of us can fall into deep sin. Any one of us can make grave mistakes that effect so many others. No one is immune to it.

Not even our most highly respected leaders in the faith.

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Everything that has taken place in recent weeks and months in the SBC has made me come face to face with my own life. Have I idolized anyone in the faith? Have I become too desensitized towards the seriousness of sin?

I can think of several people right now who I have a hard time believing would fall into serious sin. I have had to remind myself that they are human. They are still in the flesh. They haven’t gained some sort of extra protection against sin and corruption.

I pray with ever fiber of my being that the Lord protects them from falling into serious sin. I deeply hope they are seeking to live for Christ and his glory each and every day.

But, I also pray that my hope for them to remain faithful would not blind me to truth. No one is perfect. No one is free from the pull of sin.

Not me. Not you. Not even our heroes.

Embracing Truth: I Am Messed Up

Lately, my social media feeds have seemed to be stacked full of couples celebrating their 10, 15, 20 year anniversaries. I am so encouraged to see marriages that have stood the test of time. Marriages that have strengthened. Marriages that have glorified God. But, there is also a part of me that is left feeling sad and with a sense of great longing.

I am 33 and still single.

When I see all of these couples celebrating years of marriage, it’s not lost on me that they were married at a much younger age than I am now. I would love to be able to celebrate 10 or 20 years with someone. But, as the years keep ticking by, I wonder if that will ever be my story.

When you find yourself in your 30s and still single, you can’t help but think you just must not be marriage material. You may start analyzing past relationships and picking apart your every move. “Maybe if I had done this or said that or not acted like this or not said that.”

You may also have well-meaning people tell you there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. That you are great. That you will make an amazing spouse one day.

But, at the end of the day, you are still single. There is still no one there to do life with.

This has been my experience in years past and now. No matter what anyone says to me, no matter how hard I try to fight the feeling of worthlessness, it’s still there. There must be something utterly wrong with me.

And here’s the truth.

There is.

I am messed up. I am flawed. I am imperfect.

Christians often think the lie Satan is trying to make us believe is that we are not good enough. But, that is not a lie. Scripture is full of enough passages to show us we are not good enough. I think the real lie he is trying to get us believe is that we are somehow worse than others. Or that there is something we can do to make ourselves perfect. We are just failing to figure it out.

I have been plagued with the idea lately that if I was just better than I am maybe I would still not be single. But, I look around and see others with the same flaws as me happily married. I don’t think there’s some formula I have to get in order to be ready for marriage. I will never be good enough. I will never act exactly as I should. I will never fit into this ideal model of what a wife should be.

We have built up way too many expectations when it comes to love and marriage. We think things should go exactly a certain way, and if they don’t, it must mean it’s not right. I’ve had downright ridiculous expectations when it comes to my ideal match or relationship.

Now, to be sure, it’s not wrong for me to desire a godly husband with certain character traits. But, even if some of those traits exist, he will not always exemplify them. In fact, there will be plenty of times when the exact opposite will be present. I can’t expect perfection from someone else.

I also can’t expect perfection from myself. I have to give myself grace and realize I will often do things wrong. Utterly wrong. But, I think that’s a good thing. It’s a reminder that I do indeed need a Savior.

Christ became a sacrifice for us because we are messed up. Yes, his blood covers our imperfections. But, while on this earth, we will always have flaws. He has worked for our righteousness. But, our sanctification is not yet complete.

So, here I sit. Thinking of all my insecurities. And, instead of trying to pretend they are all lies, I will embrace the truth in them. I am not good enough. And that’s ok, because no one else is good enough, either.

I am messed up. And I hope to one day find someone else who is messed up. Someone who will strive for godliness with me. Someone who will fail with me. Someone who will fight through the messiness with me.

Yes, it will be an utterly flawed marriage. But, praise be to God, it will point us to the fact we need a flawless Savior.

A New Year, A Same Struggle (Again)

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Today, a post I wrote 2 years ago popped up in my memories. Other than a recent career change and a new age, my life looks pretty similar to what it did then. I always think ‘man, in a couple of years, I bet my life will look like -fill in the blank-.’ Fast forward a couple of years and usually things are not quite what I had expected. Yet, the Lord remains faithful. He’s constantly reminding me that He is good- that my life is exactly as it should be. Some days are still a downright struggle, but over and over again He shows that His plans are always best, even if not always easiest. Today, I am thankful for His reminders.

My original post is below. {Keep in mind I will now be turning 32. *gasp* ;-)}


 

Next month I will be leaving one decade behind and entering a new one. While I’m not really scared of turning 30, I have been very aware lately that my life has not at all turned out how I thought it would. I never dreamed I would reach my 30s as a single. The past year in particular has been a roller coaster of ups and downs in my desires and wants. In some instances, I have been completely content and satisfied with my singleness. I’ve even had moments where I solely desired and wanted to be single. But, I’ve also had the overwhelming moments of longing for a husband. Recently, that desire has only gotten stronger. I’ve grown in my understanding of what a godly marriage really is and it’s only made me desire it that much more. 

But, I’m still very single.
I do believe the Lord is sovereign. I know he is in control of all things and has a specific purpose and plan for my life. But, I have been battling confusion and doubt and wondering what his plan really is. The past couple of months have been particularly difficult. I know I can be extremely cynical and critical and negative and I have been fighting it daily. I want to trust. I want to be patient. I want to exhibit grace and understanding. But, it can be downright exhausting.
I was reminded today of a post I wrote for CBMW almost exactly a year ago. Often times our lives don’t go exactly how we plan or expect. In fact, life can turn out to be the exact opposite of what we originally wanted. I’ve had to learn the difference between my will and God’s will. I’ve had to learn how to trust God’s goodness and sovereignty even when I don’t understand it. He is good. He is faithful. Even when I may not believe it at every moment. Lately, I admit, I’ve been lacking in belief (while simultaneously fighting it). I know that He remains faithful even when I’m unsure of it. My feelings or circumstances do not change who he is and that is extremely encouraging to me.
So, I may still be single at 30 and I’m sure I’ll continue to have my struggles with this reality. But, I also choose to trust the Lord and his plan for my life. I choose to see my singleness as a blessing and as a gift. I am comforted in knowing he is able to use me in whatever age or stage I find myself. No matter where we are in life, he has a purpose. But, first, we must relinquish our control and surrender it to him.
Here is my original post for CBMW:

A Better Word to Singles Than ‘Just Get Married’

It’s no secret that singles are waiting longer and longer to get married. There are many factors that go into this trend. Prolonged adolescence. Career aspirations. Contentment in being alone. Distractions brought on by advanced technology. The list goes on and on and on. And this isn’t just the case in the culture around us. Singles within the church are not immune to this epidemic, either. Well-meaning people, even those I highly respect, seem to have the answer for this: grow up and get married. Christian singles are CONSTANTLY bombarded by this directive. And, while I appreciate the sentiment, I am not sure it’s the most helpful advice for us.

I see several issues with this push for singles to get married. First, singleness is not this sickness that needs to be cured. It is just as important and necessary to the kingdom as marriage. Paul speaks very highly of singleness in his first letter to the church at Corinth (ch 7). In fact, in some ways he shows how singleness can be more beneficial to the kingdom than marriage. We do not have distractions. We can devote our undivided attention to God and his will. We can do things for the kingdom that married couples cannot. There are singles right now doing amazing things for the kingdom that they might not otherwise be able to do if they were married.

Yet, this can be downplayed by the Christian culture. There is this huge tendency in the church to focus on marriage and family. It is the be-all, end-all. ‘Yeah, singleness is great for a time, but you can’t really start fulfilling God’s purpose for your life until you get married.’ I continually feel pressure to get married because the greatest roles I could ever fulfill in life are that of wife and mother. Somehow I am not as complete or as useful as a single. Or, at least, I feel that is what the church is telling me by her actions and words.

But, what if God’s plan for my life right now is to be single? What if I am fulfilling purposes that I would not be able to fulfill as a married? What if the church’s pressure for me to get married is actually drawing me away from God’s will for my life right now?

There is a real danger of pushing singles to get married. A lot of us really do desire to live according to God’s will for our lives. When we are told we should get married at every turn, we start to doubt that our singleness is being used for the kingdom. We start to wonder if we really are living selfishly in disobedience to God. But, what if we aren’t? What if this is his will for us? What if your incessant badgering for us to get married is actually leading us to walk away from his will?

Now, to be sure, many of us are called to get married. So, I do think it is good and healthy for singles to be taught about marriage and the beauty of the gospel that is found in it. However, pressure to get married a lot of times leads singles to jump into it prematurely. I have seen this happen numerous times. Young men and woman are told they need to hurry up and get married, so they do. Then, within a few years, they are either divorced or in miserable marriages.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Even if you jumped into marriage too quickly, Christ can redeem your situation. So, I am not at all saying divorce is the answer just because you got married too soon. Christ can restore you and your spouse and bring healing to your marriage. Don’t give up hope.

However, what if premature marriages could be prevented? What if singles were encouraged to wait on God’s timing for marriage?  We do not need to only be told to get married. We need to be encouraged in what healthy marriage really looks like and how to patiently and wisely move towards it.

Now, I know selfishness and disobedience are real issues in the lives of many singles. We should be confronted on these sins. If we aren’t getting married for reasons of the flesh, we need to be rebuked. However, I really don’t think the best solution for our selfishness is to get married, and I’m willing to bet the well-meaning advocates of marriage do not think so, either. It can really come across that way, though. ‘Oh, you aren’t married because you’re selfish? Well, you should grow up and get married to fix it!’

In fact, I am not even sure marriage should be the focus at all. Instead, what if singles were exhorted to live in godliness? What if we were challenged to completely surrender our lives to our Creator? What if we were told to repent of our selfishness, not because we are supposed to get married, but because we are living in rebellion to the living God? We need to get to the root of our sin. We don’t need the band-aid of marriage because somehow that will magically help us to grow up and become selfless. Otherwise, we would just be in selfish marriages.

If godly living was the focus of our lives, everything else would fall into place in accordance with God’s will. If we are seeking his wisdom and choosing to live everyday in surrender to him, those of us who should get married will be led to marriage and those of us who should remain single will remain single.

I think it’s high time the church needs to meet singles where they are. Get to know us. Invest in our lives. Encourage us to live our singleness totally and completely for the kingdom and God’s glory. Teach us what godly marriage is. Show us what it looks like. Then, allow the Lord to move in our lives in a way that only he knows how. Allow him to lead us to marriage if that is his will. Allow him to strengthen us in our singleness if that is his will. But, please, don’t tell us we really need to get married every chance you get. Your words, while well-meaning, may just be doing more harm than good.

‘Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.’ I Corinthians 7:6-7 [emphasis mine]

Welcome to counterthecurrent!

A new year. A new site.

Writing is one of the ways I feel I can best express myself. When I’m struggling. When I’m passionate about something. When I have a lot on my mind. Writing it all out brings such relief. There’s something therapeutic about reading the words in front of me. My words. Somehow I’m able to better process and think through things if I’m able to visually see it. Sometimes those words are just for me. Other times I love to share what I’ve written with others with the hope it will somehow be encouraging. Comforting. Challenging.

I started a blog years ago when I was struggling with different issues as a way to find relief. I didn’t keep up with it too much. A post here, a post there. Since then, I’ve had the great privilege of writing for other entities (CBMW, 9Marks, Gospel Taboo) and each time has been incredibly edifying. What an amazing opportunity to write out my thoughts about different issues, grappling with the gospel implications of those issues, and sharing it with others!

The more I write, the more I realize just how much I love it. It really is a deep passion of mine and I hope to do a lot more of it. That’s where this site comes in.

It’s no secret that living in today’s world can be extremely difficult. We are pulled in so many different directions on how to live and what to believe. It’s overwhelming. Sometimes we have others encouraging us in our journey. Sometimes we feel completely alone in it. Through this site, I want to share everything I am learning about different issues. Some of it will be more personal and some of it will be about current, cultural issues that we all are facing. Regardless, through all of it, I hope to provide a place where people can come for encouragement.

Maybe you’re here for answers. Maybe you’re here simply out of curiosity. Whatever the reason, I’m so glad you are and I hope you continue on this journey with me! I will be sharing a lot of new material and providing other resources I come across that I find encouraging. But, I kept some of my older content on here, as well.

Stay tuned for more!

When old struggles wage war

We all have different things we struggle with throughout life. Sometimes we think we’ve defeated our struggles only to have them spring to life again. It can be extremely discouraging to suddenly come face to face with an old battle you thought you’ve already won. Recently, I found myself in this situation. There are more things I struggle with than I care to admit, but there are two that always far surpass the rest- feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. 


My greatest struggle with them occurred in middle school and high school, so much so that those years were shrouded in depression and darkness. I started gaining control over them in college when I grew in my understanding of Christ and my identity that’s grounded in him. I still felt the sting of it from time to time, but, for the most part, I was able to bounce back pretty quickly with no real harm done. 

Over the past 6 months or so both of them started to creep their way back in, but I was able to mostly keep them at bay. Last week, they hit full force. I was face to face with them and there was nothing I could do but confront them head on. They were here to wage war. It was terrifying and extremely unpleasant. The Lord has been revealing a lot to me the past few months. He’s stretched me in ways I didn’t think was possible. None of it was very comfortable. However, this, by far, was the most painful. Here I was staring at old battles I thought were (almost) long gone. How in the world could this still be an issue? Haven’t I grown out of it by now? 

As with all struggles, there are always underlying issues. Everything we battle with day to day is a symptom of a much greater problem. When I came face to face with mine last week, immediately I knew there was something deeper going on. Why am I feeling inadequate? Why am I jealous? What’s the real issue here? After taking time to reflect, I discovered two things. 

First, I realized I am deeply lacking trust in the Lord. Really, most (if not all) of our issues boil down to the fact that we don’t really trust God. All throughout scripture he has revealed himself and has proven himself faithful to his word. He shows us he is God, he makes commandments and promises, yet we constantly turn away from him. Why? Because we don’t really trust him. Look at the fall. Right at the beginning of all things we see this play out. God revealed himself to Adam and Eve, he made commandments, he made promises. He had set up this perfect world for Adam and Eve to enjoy. But, look at what happens next. Satan, with all his cunning, comes on the scene- ‘Did God really say?’ In that instance, there was a questioning of God’s authority and character. There was a planting of the seed of distrust. God said those things, but maybe he didn’t really mean them. Maybe he isn’t faithful or good or trustworthy. 

Last week when everything came to a head, I realized my err and faulty thinking. All through scripture God has said and reminded us that we are created in his image- that our true worth and value and importance can only be found in him and the work of Christ on the cross. Yet, I found myself asking, ‘did God really say?’ I was questioning his authority and faithfulness. I was failing to really believe him. Not only was I failing to trust him, I was actually placing my trust in man. I was basing my value and importance on what man was telling me (or at least my perception of it) instead of what God has already made plain to me through his word.

Second, this situation has made me realize I have a real sense of entitlement. I believe I deserve certain things far more than I actually do. Truth be told, what I really deserve (as well as everyone else) is wrath and punishment. I don’t deserve any blessings or gifts. Because of my sin, I should receive God’s righteous judgement. Thankfully, God provided the payment for my sin through the precious blood of Christ. I have received salvation through his death and resurrection. However, shamefully, I sometimes feel this is not enough. As if this unimaginable gift is not already greatly undeserved, I have the nerve to think I should actually get more. I look around at what other people have and think,  ‘Wait a minute. I should have that. I deserve it way more than they do.’ I feel like I’ve paid my dues or l have lived a certain way in which God now owes me some reward. I have failed to truly understand and believe that even if I had NOTHING in terms of material/earthly things, I have far more than I ever deserve in Christ. God owes me nothing, least of all Christ. Yet, he offered him anyway. 

So, what is the solution when you come face to face with your struggles and heart issues? Honestly, I don’t have a cut and dry answer. It’s a messy process without any real steps. I do know it involves lots of tears. It involves stripping your heart bare before the Lord so he can cut it and shape it and make it what he will. It involves preaching the gospel to yourself everyday, reminding yourself of what Christ did for you on the cross. It involves pleading and begging God for restoration and genuine trust in him. It involves realizing this is not an overnight, quick fix. In fact, this side of eternity, we will never be completely free of our struggles and failures. We are still marred by sin. Sometimes, one of the best things we can do is tell ourselves we will continue to fail and succumb to our struggles this side of heaven. We must guard ourselves against the lie that somehow we, as followers of Christ, are supposed to have it all together and never endure the trials of this world. Yes, we have found victory in Christ and we have a future hope of the things to come, but  that does not change the fact we are still part of this fallen world. We will still stumble and fall. But, we will also grow and be refined in the process. We are constantly being sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit.

I’m still fighting the battle that hit full force last week. There has definitely been some progress, but there’s still more to be overcome. In everything the Lord has taken me through the last few months, I have gained a greater understand of who he is and who I am as his child. It’s had its ugly and painful moments. But, oh, the richness of his goodness and faithfulness that’s been revealed through it all. 

It’s not the end of the world

It’s no secret that it’s becoming harder and harder to hold to traditional biblical beliefs and values in our culture. There are so many political and legal things going on right now that point to this fact. I’ve seen a range of reactions from Christians about this. There are those that seem pretty indifferent to all of it and have more of the ‘it’s no big deal’ attitude. Then, more prevalently, there are those who are angry and anxious about it and seem to have lost all hope. Both reactions are problematic. 

First, we should definitely care what’s going on in our country in regards to this. Perhaps things do not appear so grim right now, but, make no mistake, these issues are a trajectory of where things are leading. We shouldn’t be flippant about it. We need to be aware that things are only going to get worse.

However, we shouldn’t be worried and full of despair, either. First of all, God is sovereign. Even if these things were out of the blue or sudden, he is in control and is not at all taken by surprise. Let’s stop acting like God is somehow losing his grip on his creation. He’s not. The truth of the matter is that we really shouldn’t be surprised by these things at all. I think we have become so comfortable with our freedom that we have forgotten we are not of this world. Scripture is very clear that Christians who stand for the truth of Christ will not be tolerated by the world and, in fact, will be hated because of it (Matt 10:22). Peter goes as far as to say we should never be surprised by our trials, but instead we should actually rejoice in them (1 Peter 4:12,13). Look at the early church in Acts. They were beaten (some killed) for the sake of the gospel, yet never despaired. Even after they were beaten for preaching the gospel, they not only rejoiced in it, but went back out and continued doing it (Acts 5:40-42)! (No, I am not saying what we are going through now can be compared to what they were going through then. I’m saying they had it MUCH worse than we did and still never lost hope.) In the rest of Acts we can even see a direct correlation between persecution and the furthering of the gospel. God, in his complete sovereignty, uses the world’s hate as a means to display his glory and further his kingdom.
Therefore, it is absolutely ridiculous for us to be overcome with anxiety or fear over the current state of our country. We should care, for sure. But, worrying is completely counter to how we should be reacting to it. Instead, we need to calm down and breathe. We need to pray for our country. We need to pray for strength. But, above all, we need to pray that the Lord will move and work in whatever way he will in order to bring himself the most glory. 
I know this comes as a complete shock to some, but life is not about us. It’s about God’s glory. We need to quit worrying so much about self-preservation and, instead, be focused on how we can further the kingdom. It’s really not the end of the world. But, even if it is, don’t forget who’s in control of it. (Hint: not us.) God is completely sovereign over all things. Our duty, as believers, is to trust him and be prepared to live out his truth in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. 
‘Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.’ I Peter 4:19

ISIS, Mourning, Judgement, and Grace

Tonight my heart is heavy and my eyes are filled with tears. I just read about the beheadings of 21 followers of Christ at the hand of ISIS in Libya. Looking at the photos of these 21 men, I can’t help but be absolutely heartbroken. Everyday, we hear more and more stories of the evil actions of ISIS. And, everyday, my heart fills with more and more anger towards them. “When will you judge them, Lord? When will you utterly destroy them for their evil actions against your sons and daughters?” It’s hard not to desire the judgement and wrath against such evil. And, I think we are right in abhorring evil and desiring God’s wrath against it. 
However, the Lord has recently started to change my heart towards those who exhibit such evil. I have always been a ‘no mercy’ kind of person. If someone does wrong, they should be punished for it. Evil people should be destroyed. When I used to look at ISIS, I only felt deep hatred for them. I wanted to see God squash them like the varmint that they are. I did not want them to receive any mercy. In a sense, that is still true. I do still desire God’s judgement and wrath against all that is evil. And I know that He will one day stamp out evil once and for all and set things right. But, when I look at ISIS, it’s so easy to just think, ‘I hope they are killed. They deserve hell.’ But, recently, the Lord has reminded me, ‘you deserve hell, too, Katie.’
Talk about a hard pill to swallow. But, it is truth. We have this misconceived notion that sin is somehow on a scale. We see our own sin (lies, lust, pride, jealousy, etc.) as being at the bottom of the scale. We see the sin of ISIS as being at the very top. However, that is not how God sees it. Scripture makes it very clear that ALL sin causes separation from our holy God (Romans 3:23). There is no degree of sin to him. Sure, in an earthly sense, some sin brings greater consequences than others. But, in a spiritual sense, all sin condemns. All sinners are deserving of hell.
But, praise be to God, that is not the end of the story. In the cross of Christ, redemption can be found. I am so very grateful to the Lord for saving me all those years ago. I am in Christ. I am a new creation. I have escaped the judgement and wrath of God through the sacrifice and payment of Christ. But, apart from Christ, I am nothing. Apart from Christ, I am ISIS. My sin before Christ was also deserving of God’s wrath and judgement. I deserved hell and eternal separation from our holy God. 
Through this, I have become even more aware of the scandal and beauty of the cross. I have become even more overwhelmed by God’s grace and love towards sinners. And I have become more compassionate towards ISIS. Do I think they deserve God’s judgement? Absolutely. But, I also can’t help but be heartbroken over their lostness. I can’t even imagine the evil and hatred that has overcome them. I am moved to tears even thinking about that. They need Christ. THEY NEED CHRIST. Only Christ can heal the brokenness. Only Christ can snuff out the evil and hatred. Only Christ can make all things new. 
So, my prayer has begun to take a different shape. I still pray for God’s judgement. I still pray for God’s justice. But, also, I pray for his glory to be known. I pray that ISIS will be overcome with conviction. I pray that they will bow in total submission to God through Christ. May their eyes be open to their wickedness. May they turn to Christ for salvation. Yes, they are deserving of hell. But, apart from Christ, so am I. 
May we mourn the slaughter of our brothers and sisters for their faith. May we pray for God’s protection of them. May we cry out for God’s justice and judgement over these evil acts. But, may we also mourn the lostness of ISIS. May we pray for their eyes to be open. May we cry out to God to save them from their enslavement to Satan and sin. 
“Who will deliver me from the body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24, 25