Loved

I was raised in a Christian home. My upbringing included Sunday School on Sunday mornings, Youth Group on Wednesday nights, and Small Group on Fridays. From an early age, God quickly became the most important person in my life.

I can remember the first time I raised my hands in worship during Sunday School. I would spend hours in prayer at church camp in the summer. My journals are filled with prayers and questions – looking to God for the answers.

Growing into adulthood, the godly women in my life encouraged me to spend intentional time alone with God, where you read your bible and pray. And I have done my best to make this a priority for the last 10 years. They’ve never been the perfect “hour every morning with a cup of coffee”, and they’ve never been perfectly consistent, but spending time in the Word and in prayer has continued to grow in importance the older I get.

I have had many seasons in life where I’ve felt alive in Christ. I’ve felt his love wash over me and my times with him have been fruitful and life giving. But this year, my times in solitude with the Lord started to get frustrating.  I was leaving each time upset and irritated. I couldn’t feel God. I couldn’t hear him. The logical solution was that I was doing something wrong. So, I would try getting up before work to start my day off right. I kept falling asleep, so I’d plan out exactly what I would read. When that didn’t work, I’d try spontaneity – just opening up anywhere in the bible and reading. I gave devotional reading a shot. I tried focusing on prayer alone. I gave reading a book by a Christian author. Nothing worked.

It wasn’t until just recently that I was able to finally voice the lie that had been planted in my heart. Luke and I were driving home from a dear friends funeral, and I don’t remember exactly how it came up or how the conversation wound its way there, but I remember telling Luke with tears in my eyes… I don’t think God loves me.

Just voicing this to Luke and identifying it caused blinders to off my eyes. I can see it now. I was trying to earn his love. I realized on that car ride home that I had been trying to earn his presence by getting up early each morning. I was trying to be good enough for him to speak to me by doing all the right things. I was trying to come up with ways to manipulate him into speaking to me.

But as I remembered the overarching story of the Bible, the truth became so clear: I cannot, under any circumstances, earn his love. 

Romans 5:6-11 says,

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

God chased after us, even while we rejected him. God extended his love to us, even when we failed, yet again. God sealed the deal, even while we sat covered in our sin – paralyzed by our inability to measure up.

Psalm 23:6 says,
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

He pursues us.

I hope you can begin to walk in this freedom today, too. I encourage you to spend time with the Lord, knowing, believing, and declaring that he loves you.  Let this truth wash over you:

You are loved. You are his.

Peace of Mind

It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Psalm 127:2

Rest: Peace of mind or spirit. Freedom from activity or labor.

Food to eat is the most baseline need aside from water. But God doesn’t want us anxiously working for food to eat, working from dawn passed dusk. To his loved ones he gives peace of mind and spirit.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:25-27: That is why I tell you not to worry about every day life – whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?

So do your work, of course. Work is a necessary and important part of life. Work is even a gift. It gives us responsibility, reward, purpose, opportunities, and builds our character (and hundreds of other benefits). But do so with peace reigning in your heart, knowing that God is with you and will provide for your needs. It’s not all resting on you.

This passage in Psalms 127 also give us freedom from activity and labor and even goes so far to say that working anxiously from early morning to late at night is useless. Ineffectual. Not producing the proper or intended effect. This sings of Gods love and perfect design. We weren’t created for work alone, but also for rest, dependence on Him, laughter, joy, relationships, health, and wholeness.

What does this mean for you today? Maybe it means you go about your work with a song in your heart. Maybe it means you stop at a reasonable hour and trust God for the rest. Maybe it means you trade earthly perfection for eternal significance.

Whatever it is, take it to heart. There’s a lot to be learned here. For God gives rest to his loved ones.

Even now. Even here.

The following is a declaration of faith – the start to a prayer you can pray when things are difficult. I have learned that even in the waiting, wishing, and hoping, and even in the pain, confusion, and chaos, the Lord is with us.

Even now. Even here.

I will abide, even now. I will trust you, even now. I will believe, even now. Because you are working. You never grow weak or weary.

I will pray and seek you, even now. I know that you are leading me by your Holy Spirit, and shedding light onto my path. At every turn, you are with me. In everything, you are right beside me. When the heights are higher than I can climb, you sustain me.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

So even here, I will praise you. Even here, I will bless your name. I trust that you will teach me and show me your best way. I can face my fears, because you are with me.

There is nothing you do not know, and nothing escapes your eye.

I will bless the Lord who guides me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
    I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
Psalm 16:7-9