Present Struggles and Future Hope

I have been thinking a lot about something the pastor said Sunday during church. He was preaching on Matthew 23 where Jesus exposed the Pharisees for what they were. There was one question asked that I can’t seem to shake: are my actions based on blessings I receive or based on my love for God? In other words, do I do certain things with the hope of a reward or because I really love the Lord and want my life to be a reflection of that? I would like to think that I really do love God and that that love is manifested in the way I live my life. But, when I really think about it sometimes my motives are much more selfish. I do love God and I so desire for that love to be pure and for my actions to be righteous. However, sometimes I really expect some great blessing or want to be fulfilled simply by doing something good.

The opposite is also true. When I sin, I automatically think, “Well, now I’m probably not going to get that thing I’ve been praying for.” It seems as if I see my Christian walk as a series of rewards and punishments based on my actions. Yes, sometimes that is how the Lord works. Blessing the faithful and punishing the wicked. But, I should not live my life with that thought. I should not live for the Lord merely to get something I’ve been wanting for a while. I should live for the Lord because I love Him and because I want my life to be a reflection of Him.

Living for the Lord with pure motives and righteous thoughts is so much more fulfilling. Instead of constantly being concerned of what I can get out of it, my thoughts should be completely on God and glorifying Him for all He is. I do not deserve any blessings. I do not deserve anything good from the hand of God. I should be astounded by the fact that He lavishes His love and grace and mercy and blessings on me when He would be totally in the right not to. I should be overwhelmed by His goodness, not able to contain my praise and gratitude towards Him.¬†But, instead I’m mostly thinking in the back of my mind what I may get out of it. Oh, how I long for it not to be so. Oh, how I long to love the Lord with a pure heart. Oh, how I long to really live my life completely for Him, free from selfishness.

I begin to get really discouraged when I realize I will never be able to truly fulfill that. I am covered by the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and praise be to Him for that! But, I still live on this side of eternity. I still am affected by sin. I still struggle with evil thoughts, and sometimes act on them. I will continue to make mistakes, even when it is my greatest desire to live in righteousness. I will continue to have selfish motives, even when I truly desire for my love to be pure. Focusing too much on this, I begin to lose my hope.

Then, I remember that my hope does not lie in the here and now. My hope lies in the future. My hope lies in promise of God of eternal life for all who believe (Titus 1:2, 3:5-7). My hope lies in the fact that in the future I will be able to live completely free of sin. There is coming a day when my motives are going to be pure and righteous. I will finally live in glory with the One in whose glory I live for now (Romans 8:18-25). This hope for what is to come helps me live my life with greater purpose. I must endure this life and all it brings for now. But, it will only last a short while.

Soon, all of my true longings and desires will be fulfilled. Soon, everything I hope and dream for will take place. I will see Jesus face to face and experience the full glory and light of God. I will be surrounded only by those who love the Lord and we will praise and glorify Him for the rest of eternity. Free from anguish. Free from selfishness. Free from the pains and tears of this life. Free from the frustration of living in sin and making mistakes. Free from every single thing that separates me from God right now. What a glorious day that will be! So, I must keep my mind on this hope in the future. It makes today worth living.

Thank you, Lord, for this future hope and may You be glorified in what I do today!

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Experiencing Sorrow While Living In Faith

Next month will be the year marker of moving back home. In some ways it feels just like yesterday that I graduated Seminary and headed back home. But, some days it also feels like it’s been an eternity and I so long for the next stage in life. I have been looking for a job, but still have not found anything. (Let me note here that I did not search at all the first 5 months or so, which I now see was not the best plan. Thankfully, the Lord is not affected by my unwise choices.) I have shared a lot about God’s overwhelming faithfulness and sovereignty and the confidence I have in that. However, I still definitely deal with sadness and confusion and frustration. Lately, that is exactly where I have been. I see the hand of God in everything that has happened the past year leading up to this point. But, I still feel sadness over certain things and confusion on why certain things happened the way they did. I know God has great plans for my life, but I get discouraged waiting for His great plan to take place. So, that’s what has been weighing on my heart lately. Is it possible to experience sorrow while still living in faith?

I think the answer to that is, ‘Yes!’ God has given us so many emotions. Positive ones like happiness and excitement and negative ones like anger and sadness. There is a righteous way in expressing them all. I used to struggle with this idea and always felt like I was being bad if I felt sadness or anger towards God. I felt like I must not really love Him or trust Him if I felt anything other than great joy and happiness. I think Scripture clearly speaks differently on the issue. Take the Psalms, for example. Constantly, the psalmists expressed sadness and anger. They were completely open and honest with God. They shared their fears and their anxieties with Him, and He listened. Look at Jesus. When He prayed to His Father, He expressed great sorrow about the task He was about to complete (Matt. 26:38-39, Mark 14:33-36, Luke 22:41-44). Did this mean He lacked faith? Absolutely not! He is the Christ! He does no wrong. So, if He was able to rightly express sorrow, then I should be confident that I also am able to rightly express sorrow.

Recently, I have been able to see this played out first hand. One of my dearest friends, Courtney Reissig, and her husband, Daniel, have gone through a very trying time and have experienced great sorrow. (You can learn more at Courtney’s blog, here.)¬†Courtney experienced a miscarriage this past year and just this past week was her expected due date. There have been many days of overwhelming sadness and confusion and anger and tears for Courtney and Daniel, but through all of that I have also seen great faith and confidence in the Lord. They have shared their loss and hurt with so many people and have been such an encouragement and example. They have been able to stand up and say that they still completely trust the Lord and live out their lives in faith. Does this mean they have no sorrow? Of course not! Does this mean their days always end with no tears? On the contrary. But, it also does not mean they have not experienced the great hand of God in all of this. I know Courtney would say that this time has not only brought some of the hardest days for her, but it has also brought some of the sweetest and most meaningful moments between her, Daniel, and God. The Lord has brought them great comfort and has also used them as a great comfort to those around them. I have so been encouraged by their faithfulness and through them I have become more confident in the fact that sorrow and faith can go together. (Thank you Courtney for allowing me to share your story! I am so blessed by you and Daniel!)

So, that is where I am now. Feeling a longing beyond words for something new. Ready for a job. Ready to move out of the parents’ house. Ready to start a new phase in life. It has been extremely difficult seeing people experience what I so long for. I have been overwhelmed with sadness and confusion, wondering what exactly the Lord is doing. Wondering when exactly these things are going to take place. Wondering why things happened the way they did, even though I know they were meant to. And, I am confident it is completely ok for me to feel this way. Have I lost my faith? No! If anything, my faith has grown through this. I have become more confidence now than ever in God’s sovereignty. I know He has not forsaken me. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I still feel sadness and loneliness and confusion. And, lately, there have been days that I have done nothing but pour out my soul to my God, complete with tears and an aching heart. Saying to Him that I am overwhelmed with confusion and sorrow. I am overwhelmed with a longing heart. But, also saying that I know He is God. He is Creator. He is Sovereign. He is Truth. He is Love. And, He will make all things new.

May YOU be glorified in all I do, Lord! (even in my sorrow and confusion.)

I Am Not Who I Was

Today, I heard the song “I’m Not Who I Was” by Brandon Heath and was hit by how important and deep that phrase is. I’ve heard the song plenty of times, but for some reason, today, those words overwhelmed me. I began to think of the different ways this statement is true in my life.

There is the obvious (and most important) meaning: I am not longer an orphan. I have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8). My status has gone from orphan to child of God, a fellow heir with Christ (Rom. 8:12-17, Eph. 1:3-14). When I truly think about what that means, I am completely blown away! I am a CHILD of GOD! A fellow HEIR with CHRIST! The amount of gratitude I have for this cannot even be expressed. I was once a sinner, living in my depravity, completely separated from God, but because of Christ’s sacrifice and faith (and only faith) in Him (and only Him) I have been saved and have become reconciled to God (Eph. 2:1-10).

I am no longer an orphan.

I am no longer dead.

I am not who I was.

There is another truth this statement holds for me. Through the process of sanctification, I am constantly changing. God is constantly working in my life, helping me to complete His will (Heb. 13:20-21). I have been called to live a life of holiness, continually growing in the Spirit (I Peter 1). Of course, I am still a sinner. So, I will continue to mess up and make mistakes. However, if I am ultimately keeping my focus on God and seeking His will I am able to continue to grow and become who He has intended me to be.

I see the most change in my life has taken place within the last year. I have been a Christian for many years, but this past year has really been a whirlwind of change for me. God has really opened up my heart and caused me such a passion for Him that I cannot help but be transformed. I have grown in maturity. I have grown in selflessness. I finally know what it means to have complete joy and satisfaction in Christ, something I never really grasped (and, something I still lack at times). I realize this is still a process. I realize there are still so many things I must learn and so many ways in which I must change. But, looking back at myself even a year ago, I can honestly say with great confidence and overwhelming gratitude: “I am not who I was!”

Praise You, Father, for changing who I am.

May YOU be glorified in ALL that I do!