Tag Archives: sovereignty

God IS

Sometimes life is hard.

Sometimes life is unspeakably beautiful.

I AM WHO I AM

Most of the time, the categories and seasons of this life aren’t so mutually exclusive. And somewhere in the middle, in the midst of the everyday that refuses to be so easily defined, I often feel like a hot mess of back-and-forth, up-and-down, I-don’t-know-which-way-is-up.

The inner tension and turmoil can become unbearable as I try to process and make sense of and unpack this life as it changes and unfolds.

There is so much that I just plain don’t know or understand.

The more I flesh out questions that don’t have easy answers, the more I try to make sense of how my life intertwines with others, the more I try to understand God’s plan, the more I realize how little I actually DO know and how far I have to go.

And it’s in those moments that I come closest to understanding the reality that I’ll never actually get there.

At least not this side of my eternal reality.

Because the “there” that I seem to be aiming for, that seems to exist only within the confines of my own brain, that demands nothing short of near-perfection and getting every little thing right all the time, doesn’t actually exist.

It’s a twisted perception that assumes if I just had this or were just better at this or could just improve this, life would suddenly be as it should be.

But that’s just not right at all.

And the weight of the error in that sort of thinking is downright crippling.

But on the other side, there is relief and release when I can come to grips with even a dim understanding that I’m not supposed to have answers to everything and that I’m more-or-less supposed to feel helpless and out of control.

Because the hard and unpleasant and I’m-not-even-sure-how-to-live-with-it truth is I am helpless and out of control.

I don’t call the shots.

I don’t control this life.

No amount of over-analyzing or self-evaluating or hyper-spiritualizing will EVER change that.

Yes, if I identify areas in this life that need work, by the grace of God and by the power of His Holy spirit within me, I can be changed. He can and will continue to sanctify me, to make me holy, to conform me to His image.

But I can’t get there by a sheer force of will or by maintaining the ideal schedule.

As I consider the future … having dreams and setting goals and making plans … it’s easy to become so task oriented and short sighted that I fall into the trap of thinking if I just make the plan and do the work, I’ll achieve success. Or conversely, that if I want something and don’t do anything about it, I’m just not driven or ambitious enough, and might as well accept failure.

But interruptions and inconsistencies and inconveniences are just part of life. That’s where God so often chooses to work. And the more I try to do all the right things or to have all the right answers, the more my focus ends up back on myself and my gaze slips from HIM.

This life still isn’t and never will be about me.

And when my eyes are rightly fixed on the Lord, when I’m seeking Him first, while I don’t have all the answers and I certainly still lack understanding, somehow perspective is restored and I can rest in the reality that I don’t make my own path straight. I can dream within the context of desiring more of Him (for myself and for others), but I don’t control how that plays out in this life nearly as much as I think I do.

So this is where I once again admit that I just don’t have many answers at all.

That this life is most right when my eyes are steadily and assuredly fixed on Christ.

That this life is more about seeking His presence than seeking all the right answers.

That this life is so much better when I trust the details and directions to His plan and His way.

That this life is not for me to make sense of because I’m not in control of it.

But in the midst of the unknown of this life, the one thing that I do know, that I can say with absolute assurance, that is beyond comforting is this:

God IS.

In all of His sovereignty, goodness, and holiness.

He’s the Great I AM, in control of this life and this world from beginning to end.

God IS.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”
Exodus 3:14 (ESV)

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His Presence, His Arms, His Love

Some things really rock your world. Losing my little brother as a teenager was one of those things.

I always knew he had a heart problem. And I knew open heart surgery was a big deal. But I was young and never fully understood (or cared enough to recognize) the seriousness of his condition, so his death seemingly came out of nowhere.

Life as I knew it was interrupted and in many ways ceased to exist altogether. Normal was no longer a word with any meaning. Family was a term that needed redefining.

Everything needed redefining.

But eventually, I settled into a new rhythm. It took a long time to label it anything closely resembling normal, but the acuteness of the initial grief faded. Things that became different overnight eventually became less different. The deep ache that made it hard to move let up every once in a while, and then more often. And then quietly intertwining and invading without any fanfare, a new normal began to seep into the everyday.

It’s now been years since I’ve lived under the weight of just-get-through-one-moment-at-a-time fresh grief.

But some days…

His presence, His arms, His love

I didn’t expect simple things of no consequence to trigger such deep emotions. Grief can be so unexpected and beyond all rational explanation.

Ten years later, it can still break in with a vengeance and then fade just as soon as it swells.

Often completely unprepared for it, all I know to do is ride the wave of overwhelming emotions so deeply felt that I’m sometimes left knocked down and gasping for air. So I ride. I let it happen. I sit with the grief and allow myself to just be in that moment. To let the wave hit and break and crash and drift away. To experience the torrents of emotions as they come and then ease.

Yet even though it’s uncomfortable, even though it’s painful, there are few moments such as these where I sense a more immediate need and know a more intense desire to just sit with my Heavenly Father … in His presence, in His arms, in His love … allowing Him to speak truth over me and listening with a ready ear as my mind goes back there. To that night, to that hospital, to that hallway, to that room.

But at the end of the hallway, there’s the embrace I’ll never forget. The arms of strength that still give me permission to fearlessly collapse and release. The words that still echo in my heart. Not of empty promises or meaningless platitudes, but quiet whispers of love and grace and a sure promise of His presence.

Arms that weren’t letting go. Love that wasn’t going anywhere.

And in the arms of this Abba Father who so intricately orchestrates every detail of this life for His glory, who loves this child unconditionally, who sees the worthiness and righteousness of His perfect and blameless Son when He looks at this face, there is peace. there is calm. there is freedom.

Because even in the midst of the tears and ever confusing grief that ebbs and flows, His presence is strong, His arms are solid, His love is fierce, His embrace is secure.

Because in these moments He’s as close to tangible as I sometimes suspect He’ll ever be in this life.

Because I know this ever present Holy One knows, sees, and understands the deepest parts of my grief.

As I sit with Him, as He draws me near, as He holds me close, He grieves with me. We cry together. He is faithful to His promise. He is the God of all comfort and He is close to the brokenhearted.

And though it doesn’t make it easy, though the grief still runs deep and the loss will not simply be written off, there is hope in the midst. This world is not the end, this life is not all there is, and this earth is not my home. Because in the arms of this Father, through the sacrifice of His Son, there is the assurance of eternity in His presence without the earthly pain and grief. An eternal reality that far surpasses this momentary one.

I still find rest in His sovereignty and His goodness.

Grief doesn’t change that.

Yes, grief is hard and makes my humanity painfully obvious. But the Father’s promise to be close, to bear the load with me and for me is unchanging.

And in the sitting with Him through it, as He draws me near and holds me close, in the wake and the aftermath of the moments of poignant grief, the release and collapse into His presence, His arms, His love is strangely sweet.

“…and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)

“With Me”

with me

I don’t know when it happened. Or how it happened.

It certainly wasn’t intentional. I barely noticed it.

But somewhere along the way, as the future became less clear, as everyday life became a battle to survive, as my own selfishness became too prominent, I began holding the Lord at arm’s length – at a perceived safe distance. There, but not present. Close, but not intimate.

And in the moment when I realized it, as my heart sank and the tears flowed, all I could think was, “I know better.”

But that was just it.

The “know better” part of me gets caught up in thinking I can somehow do this on my own. That I can get close to God, do all the right things, build this relationship, and somehow win His favor, His grace, and His love.

And yes, my heart’s desire is to please Him, and that’s a really good thing, but when it’s born out of trying harder and doing better and achieving more, it’s all wrong.

I can’t do any of this on my own apart from Him. I am nothing and have nothing apart from Him.

And I don’t have to do anything to win His favor. I already have it.

The grace and love that I too often try so hard to earn is already mine to rest in and enjoy.

Yet I still somehow had been approaching God as if He was like me, as if because I had been holding Him at a safe distance, He had been holding me there, too.

But for the record, He is nothing like me.

He is not made in my image. He is not made at all.

He holds all things together, this Sovereign Creator, and He doesn’t put me in a corner when I mess up or stray or fail.

Yes, He disciplines like a loving Father to teach me, to prune me, to sanctify me, but He doesn’t leave me in the process.

Even when I leave Him.

So this holding Him at a safe distance?

It’s wrong. It’s self-centered and self-serving. It’s lacking in trust and honesty and brokenness and humility. It’s hiding. It’s prideful.

None of which works with Him at all.

God never intended for me to view Him in my image. He never intended for me to project onto His character the human elements of my own.

He is not bound by my rules. He does not regard me the way I far too often regard Him.

He IS better, higher, greater.

He is God.

He IS.

But in the words of Chris Tomlin, “The God of angel armies is always by my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine…”

And yes, that’s said with a healthy dose of reverence, fear, and adoration. It’s said with the recognition of His righteousness, His holiness, His sovereignty, and His greatness.

But He’s so close – He’s here – before me, beside me, behind me.

He’s not a God who will allow me to keep Him at a distance.

And in that very moment of recognition when I stripped it all down bare – when I removed all of the complicated layers, the circular logic, the selfish needs and desires – and prayed, the purest question on my heart was simply:

“God, where do you want me?”

His answer wasn’t a particular job or a physical location or a ministry direction. It was just this:

 “With Me.”

And with that, all I wanted was to collapse into His everlasting arms, completely exhausted from all of the trying, to rest in His presence with the renewed realization that this life is so much less about what I do for Him and so much more about simply knowing Him and trusting Him through all of the unknown details, to allow Him to spill over into every area of my being.

He’s not lost on this journey and He hasn’t lost me. He sees the whole, while I only see a small part. And He’s already written the ending.

And no, complacency is not okay, but maybe contentment is somehow settling into the details that He’s already written and just walking with Him along the way.

Yes, He’s the great God of angel armies, but He’s also the ever present, never leaving or forsaking, God with me.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV)

Photo of the Week: Forty Four

It’s November, Thanksgiving is just a few short days away, and life is too precious to not be just plain grateful, so today I’m thankful for:

leftover Greek-style chicken,

coffee with whipped cream,

gingerbread men with sprinkles,

adorable conversations with two-year-olds (who says you can only read one book at a time?),

the privilege to enjoy the little things,

and the freedom to worship a loving and righteous God who is sovereign over it all.

How about you . . . what are you thankful for today?

{Day 26} A Formal Close

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Psalm 43:5 (ESV)

After settling into the realization that the type of position I had been working towards was pretty much off the table and that the chances of a similar position becoming available in the near future were slim to none, I honestly wasn’t sure if I would hear from the missions organization again.

The end of the month was fast approaching, and it was my understanding that if I hadn’t heard anything by then, I wouldn’t be receiving an invitation to attend the required orientation the next month.

However, a short time later, I did receive an invitation, but because there still wasn’t a likely opportunity for placement, I turned it down … ultimately withdrawing my application from “active” status and bringing this process to a formal close.

I was disappointed, yes, though honestly not to the extent I would have expected.

And while it was tempting to view this almost-six-month process as wasted time … or even failure … I choose to trust that the Lord had and/or has a purpose even for that.

I choose to trust that if this wasn’t where He was leading, He will faithfully guide to the right thing, and if serving in vocational missions is still the right direction, then He’ll provide a different way.

Because I knew (and know) that God was (and IS) the same. Still sovereign. Still good. Still in control.

{Day 17} The Interview

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Psalm 18:2 (ESV)

So after most of the initial paperwork was handed-in to the missions organization, although several requirements were still pending, I had a scheduled phone interview with a coordinator in the placement office to begin discussing actual in-the-field opportunities.

As soon as I hung up the phone, to say I didn’t think it went very well would be a serious understatement.

Without going into details of the conversation, which in and of itself was fine, I was left with so many questions, doubts, uncertainties, and unknowns that I didn’t know which way was up. This process that had been difficult and challenging, but also exciting and full of potential and opportunity to go serve somewhere, all of a sudden felt like it may not be such a sure thing after all.

What if this wasn’t right?
What if I had misheard God?
What if this process ended without placement?

Then what?

Did that mean I had failed?
Did that mean I didn’t know God’s voice or that I had somehow manipulated circumstances to my own choosing?
Did that simply mean I was being brought to a place of surrender, dependence, and all out trust?

I didn’t want to ask these questions out of fear … of going, of change, of unknown.

And I didn’t want to question my motives unnecessarily.

But I did want to honestly evaluate where I was and where I was headed to ensure that at each turn, I was following the Lord.

This process, each unknown step, was grounded in the Lord … my rock and my stronghold.

If not being placed (which at that moment I perceived as complete failure) was the worst that happened, God would still be God. Still good. Still sovereign.

And with that perspective, there was nothing left to fear.

I could trust. I could rest.

Because He’s got this.

Photo of the Week: Thirty Four

“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors,

remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,

declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”

Isaiah 46:8-11 (ESV)