Dealing with Disappointment and Feelings of Inadequacy

So, the past few weeks I have not been in the best mood. Grumpy is the word I like to use. When I am grumpy, it is never good for those around me. Fortunately, I have not been around many people recently, and when I have been I have tried to not let my attitude affect them. But, of course, I am a sinner and have failed a few times miserably trying to be gentle and kind. I have really been praying for a change in attitude and have been seeking the Lord daily on this issue and my feelings.

Lately, I have really had an overwhelming sense of feeling inadequate and unimportant. I’m 26, single, unemployed, and living with my parents. All things that don’t really make ya feel so awesome and warm inside. But, this is not some recent emotion I have encountered. Most of my life I have struggled with this issue, but recent circumstances have brought all of these old feelings and emotions to the surface and in a big way. I have always known in my heart that I am important and loved by God, and I truly believe that. But, when it comes to people, I have seldom felt really important or loved. I have never been a priority to anyone (underneath God, of course). I have been let down so many times in friendships and relationships and, let me tell ya, that is never a confidence or self-esteem booster. Of course, I don’t want to gauge my self-importance on what others do and say, but it still is not the best to feel that you aren’t really that important to others.

So, you may be thinking, “what about your family?” Yes, I was blessed with an amazing family. They have all shown love to me and made me feel important, most of the time (especially my mom). I praise the Lord for that, because I know that is not the case for many people. I do not want to make the mistake of sounding like I am ungrateful for the blessings the Lord has given me. He has blessed me beyond what I deserve, and I understand that. But, even those of us with blessed backgrounds struggle with various things, and mine just happens to be feelings of inadequacy.

Ok. So, I do, sometimes—ok, ok—all the time, set my self up for disappointment. It’s like my thing or something. I always try to guard against it, but it never fails. Something good will come along, and my mind starts going crazy—dreaming and planning of great things to come. Of course, give it some time and *burst!* my plans and dreams are blown up into a million pieces. Sometimes I see it coming and sometimes it comes out of no where. But, every time, it brings such big disappointment.

Some people say, “you are just expecting too much out of people and situations.” And, maybe there is some truth in that. But, goodness, shouldn’t I have some expectations? Yes, people let you down. I have much experience in that area. And, almost all of those that have disappointed me in the past are Christians. Yes, I realize even Christians are sinners and make mistakes. But, I don’t want to just always have to default to that. “Oh, well, they are just human, it’s ok that they let me down.” I don’t think we should just expect everyone to fail all of the time, letting people off the hook and giving them a pass to act less respectable than they should.

(Side note- I am a sinner and fail a lot. I know I have let people down in the past and have hurt some feelings. I am not trying to sound like a Saint here, because I know I need some booty-yes, i said booty- kicking just as much as others.)

Yes, I think there is a danger in having too high of expectations. But, I think there is equally high danger in not having expectations at all. We should expect much out of Christians. I should expect much out of myself, knowing that sin will occur. Mistakes will be made. People will be hurt by other people. But, as Christians, we should strive to be Christ-like. We should strive for godliness. And, we should hold each other accountable to that. Standing side by side with each other, pushing each other to excellence, and picking each other up when failure occurs.

I think about my feelings of unimportance, remembering all the times I have been let down. Remembering the hurt I felt at that time, and the hurt I still feel about it. Thinking that I don’t really matter that much, that somehow I just don’t measure up. But, then I think: What am I doing about it? Am I just going to sit here and sulk or am I going to take action against it? Am I guarding myself against letting others down? Am I letting people know their importance to me? Am I seeking out God’s love, receiving it and pouring it out? Am I encouraging my brothers and sisters to do the same?

I still feel the sting of past hurts, some greater than others. But, instead of using that hurt to throw a pity party for myself, I am going to use the hurt to make me stronger. I am going to use it to fuel my passion and desire for God’s love. I am going to use it to make sure I am not hurting others.

Yes, I will fail at times. And, I know I will still experience let down in the future. But, thankfully, I serve a loving God that never fails. He will forgive me when I make mistakes, and will comfort me when I am disappointed.

Lord, may I continually praise you for your unfailing ways, glorifying you in all I do!

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!

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!

Flame – "Tonight"

Oh, I just wanna be, I just wanna be
Closer to Your heart, You will find me there
Everything I am, it’s because of You
It’s because of You, and now, we sing
Tonight, I’m giving You all of me
Tonight, I let go of everything
Tonight, I’m giving You all of me
Tonight, tonight, tonight
I give You all of me

Let’s pray
Dear Father in the name, of Your holy Son
I desire like Jesus, prayed for us to be one
I desire to give, I desire to serve
I desire to love, others with more than my words
Bless me to be humble, bless me to be meek
I want to be a joy, when people come around me
Give me a gentle spirit, bless me to be content
Please keep me from my sin, let me quickly repent
Please give me discipline, give me self-control
To know when to stop, and when to say no
Make me a bold witness, please remove fear
Replace it with faith, pour out Your spirit here
Fill me up Lord, let me overflow
Let me overdose, make me holy, keep me close
I want to give it all, until there’s none left
But I can’t be too given, look at Your Son’s death

Oh, I just wanna be, I just wanna be
Closer to Your heart, You will find me there
Everything I am, it’s because of You
It’s because of You, and now, we sing
Tonight, I’m giving You all of me
Tonight, I let go of everything
Tonight, I’m giving You all of me
Tonight, tonight, tonight
I give You all of me

I can see You talking to high priest, Peter just denied You
For the second time, one more time he will deny You
One of the officers smacked You in the face,
But he didn’t understand that You were actually grace
But the people would rather see the release of a thief,
Than to know forgiveness and be with the Prince of Peace
And as they screamed for Pilate to crucify You,
I hear my own voice because every day I deny You
But yet You still bore the cross on Your vertebrae, walking to Golgotha
What a display of grace
I see Your weakened body beaten, can’t keep me from crying
Your cross was very heavy, they gave it to Simon
Then You were crucified, they divided Your clothes
Like the Scriptures prophesied, You died and You rose
Two thousand years ago, slaughtered on the tree
You gave all of You, I’m giving all of me

Oh, I just wanna be, I just wanna be
Closer to Your heart, You will find me there
Everything I am, it’s because of You
It’s because of You, and now, we sing
Tonight, I’m giving You all of me
Tonight, I let go of everything
Tonight, I’m giving You all of me
Tonight, tonight, tonight
I give You all of me

This I pray Lord, to be like Abraham
Ready to give it all, my only son as the lamb
Ready to sacrifice, everything if You ask
Because nothing is mine, not this life that I have
Everything I own, oh Lord is a gift
So who am I, to hold it with a firm grip
I give You my talent, I give You my time
I give You my eyes, I give You my mind

Oh, I just wanna be, I just wanna be
Closer to Your heart, You will find me there
Everything I am, it’s because of You
It’s because of You, and now, we sing
Tonight, I’m giving You all of me
Tonight, I let go of everything
Tonight, I’m giving You all of me
Tonight, tonight, tonight
I give You all of me

Finding Confidence in God’s Plan

For almost a year now, I have been in the ‘in between’ phase in life. I am not a student any longer, but I still haven’t made it into the working world. During the first several months I thought I had everything figured out. I thought I knew where my life was headed and had all these plans and dreams in my head. Of course, God reminded me that MY plans and MY dreams were just that, MINE. I had failed to recognize that I am not master of my life. Yes, I claimed the Lord was Master, but my focus was not really on HIS will. I was not really concerned with HIS plan for my life. So, when my plans and dreams were no longer plausible, my life turned upside down. As a result, my life was filled with uncertainty and no clear direction. This is not really my favorite position to be in. I don’t need specific details of everything, but I like to at least have some sort of idea where my life is headed. But, God decided to leave me clueless, knowing I had much to learn about His perfect plan. For the past few months, (along with so many other things!) He has taught me a lot about this.

First, God’s plan is for our good. In Romans 8:28, we are told God works everything out for our good. Does that mean everything is going to be peaches and butterflies?? Of course not. Look specifically at what it says, “…God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” ALL things. There are going to be tough, dark, lonely, sad times in life, but I can be confident that ALL of that is in accordance with God’s will and ALL of that will ultimately be for my good. Jeremiah 29:11 says that God knows His plans for our lives and those plans will be for our good, not for our harm. I can rest assured that God’s plans for my life really are best because Scripture testifies that fact. God’s will really is for my good, and so much better than anything I could come up with myself.

Second, God’s plan has already been set. God already knows what is going to happen and has already planned every little detail of our lives. In Isaiah 49:1, Isaiah said that God called him from the womb. Likewise, Paul said in Galatians 1:15 that God set him apart, “even from my mother’s womb.” And, don’t forget Psalm 139:16, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not even one of them.” Think about that for a minute. God knew all of our days, every little detail, even before we were born! Wow. Doesn’t that just blow your mind?! Nothing escapes Him. He knows EVERYTHING, and has since before we even existed! Why can I have confidence in God’s plan for my life? Because, He knows everything that will take place. He already has everything planned out. I can find comfort in the fact that He will lead me in the right direction because He knows what is coming.

Third, God’s plan cannot be thwarted. Sometimes I think if I just pray hard enough or live my life in a certain way God will eventually change His mind and redirect His plan to fit in with my ideas. But, there is no use in trying to go against His plan. No matter what I try to do, God will not turn back His hand. He will not change what His will is for my life. I was reading Isaiah 14 today and was a bit punched in the face with verse 27, “For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” Upon more research, I came across many verses with this same truth. Job 42:2 says that God can do all things, and nothing can change His plan. Proverbs 21:30 says that nothing can succeed against the Lord. Daniel 4:35 says that God does what He pleases with people and no one is able to hold back His hand. Psalm 33:11 says that God’s plans stand forever. I could go on, but I think the point is made clear. Nothing can stand against God’s plans. Nothing I do will change what He has already planned to do. In fact, it is quite the opposite. God changes our plans (Job 5:12, Ps. 33:10, Prov. 19:21, Is. 8:10).

God is all-powerful and all-sovereign. Nothing can stand against Him. Nothing can turn back His hand. He is also a loving God who has the best in mind for His people. Because of this, we can be confident in His plan for our lives. We can completely put our trust in Him and completely give our lives to Him, because He already knows what is in store for us, something far beyond anything we could plan ourselves. We can live our lives in great hope, free from anxiety, knowing that He who created us will take care of us and will lead us in the right direction (Matt. 6:25-34).

As I look over the past year, and specifically the last six months, I cannot help but be so grateful God’s plan prevailed. I see now how every little detail worked according to His perfect plan. He has orchestrated every event to bring about His will. And, boy, is it so much better than anything I had planned! Yes, these last months have been very difficult, full of darkness and loneliness and sadness. But, through all of this I have also experienced overwhelming joy and satisfaction in God and have grown so much closer to Him! I have also grown more than ever in maturity and wisdom (still have a long way to go!) and I am confident I never would have had my own plans taken place. Praise the Lord for His sovereignty and perfect will, saving us from our ill-conceived and mediocre plans! How amazing and fulfilling our lives become when we are seeking and living for His will and not our own! Thank you, sovereign Lord!

May God be glorified in ALL that we do!

Life Enjoyment and Kingdom Expansion

So, I have joined the blogging world. Not something I would have ever seen myself doing. I am not one of many words. Just ask any of my family members the last time they received a hand written note from me. It just doesn’t happen. However, lately I have been overwhelmed with the desire to write and share things the Lord has been teaching me. I guess this is just one of the many ways He has changed me over the past 6 months or so. The girl that used to express things in as few words as possible is now overcome with eagerness to write, write, write. (Do not be confused. I have always liked to talked. The Van Dyke women have never had a problem in that area. But, I failed when it came to expressing thoughts in writing.) Now, I have the desire to write and figured, “why not start a blog and share my thoughts with others?” God teaches all of us so many things and I believe He wants us to share those things with others. A way to encourage those who are going through similar things. And, a way for others to hold us accountable and correct us when we may not be on target with His will. So, here I am. Sharing my thoughts with those who will listen. Grateful for the opportunity to be used by God, even in a small way.

I just finished reading through Ecclesiastes and the 24th verse of ch. 2 really got me thinking. “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.” Within the past few months, I have really had a desire to not waste my life. I have tried to make sure I am living all for Christ, and not for myself. In our culture, we are constantly seeing people live out the idea that life is for our enjoyment. Everything I do is about me. If I am not happy, I must change my life in order to be happy, even if that means to live selfishly. How contrary to the gospel this is! My life should first, and foremost, be lived for Christ and then for those around me.

But, I have been so concerned about not living for myself, that I sometimes forget what Ecc. 2:24 says. God has given gifts of enjoyment, so it is o.k. for me to do things I enjoy doing. However, I must guard myself against getting too comfortable in that kind of lifestyle. Is it alright for me to do things I enjoy doing? Of course! God gives us gifts for our enjoyment and we are to be thankful for them. However, it is sinful when those things become priority and cause us to neglect God and neglect people. So, when reading Ecc. 2:24 (and the rest of the Scripture) I must do so in the context of the gospel. How do I enjoy God’s gifts in a way that Christ and His Kingdom remain priority?

Jesus and Paul both speak about this concept (Luke 12:16-21, 1 Timothy 6:17-19). God has richly blessed us and has given us such a great opportunity! From His hand come many great gifts for our enjoyment. What better way is there to really enjoy His gifts than by sharing them with others?! Using God’s gifts for our own personal enjoyment has no great purpose. Our lives should be lived in a way that is expanding the Kingdom and we cannot do that if we are only concerned with having fun and enjoying our God given gifts. By sharing our blessings with those around us, we are going beyond just enjoyment. We are spreading God’s love and, ultimately, expanding His Kingdom. Now, THAT has great purpose! I am so thankful for the Lord’s great blessings and pray that I am not only able to enjoy them myself, but share them with those around me with the hope that His Kingdom may be expanded through it.

May God be glorified in ALL that we do!