This article was first published in the GATHER issue of The Joyful Life Magazine.
I opened the glossy conference brochure and flicked straight to the timetable, my eyes searching out the elective options. One of them was a panel discussion centered around finding the balance between life, motherhood, and faith. For this tired, empty, first-time mom who was struggling to adjust to the inevitable changes that becoming a parent brings about, this description felt like I was being offered a cool glass of refreshing water.
My girlfriend and I headed off to the elective, hopeful that these women, farther along the path of life than us, would offer us their wisdom. We were thirsty to glean from their lives some valuable truths that would enable us to experience a vibrant faith during a season where the demands on us felt overwhelming (and naps would have been a welcome reprieve).
Instead, we left that elective feeling more discouraged than when we walked in. When asked how they made time in their lives for God’s Word, every single woman on the panel had confessed that they just didn’t have time for it to be a daily priority. Between work, ferrying children to various activities, grocery shopping, meal prep, and volunteering in their churches and communities, not only days but sometimes weeks or months could go by without opening their Bibles.
Our hearts were longing for wisdom on how to carve out consistent time to be with God when so many other things required our attention. Yet, we left the conference that year wondering if we were asking an impossible question.
Fast forward nearly 13 years, additional children, and ever-increasing responsibilities both in and outside of the home, and I no longer think it’s an impossible question or a starry-eyed desire. Jeremiah’s words are my testimony: “Your words were found and I ate them. And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart…” Jeremiah 15:16 (NASB).
We expected to find nourishment from the wisdom and guidance of the older women on that panel, yet we were craving what only God could offer. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that we are too busy to be in the Word, but it’s the one thing we can’t afford to neglect. The wisdom we need to build our homes well; the joy our hearts long for; the strength we need to weather life’s storms; the truth, counsel, and comfort we’re looking for are all found within its pages. As we engage with the written Word of God, we ultimately encounter the Living Word. We find Jesus in every line.
And when we find Him, He becomes the joy and delight that fills and fully satisfies our hearts.
FROM INCONVENIENCE TO INVITATION
I don’t know about you, but the last thing I need is yet another thing added to my to-do list. I don’t need anything else to burden my time or weigh me down with guilt or feelings of inadequacy and failure. Sadly, this is how we often feel about our ‘quiet times,’ and it’s a feeling that the enemy seeks to reinforce with his lies. He lies that the Bible is too difficult to understand and that it’s outdated and no longer relevant to our lives, and he seeks to distract us with momentary pleasures that can never truly satisfy us.
God never intended His Word to be a burden on us, but rather an invitation. An invitation to gather around the table that He has lovingly prepared and to find the sustenance and nourishment that we need and long for as we feast on His goodness. He intended His Word to be a sweet blessing in a world that often leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” Psalm 119:103 (NIV).
When we shift our perspective and cease to see His Word as yet another task and instead recognize it for the feast and treasure that it is, we begin to position ourselves to discover its riches.
DISCOVERING HIS WORDS
“When I discovered your words, I devoured them…” Jeremiah 15:16a (NLT).
My dad once wisely said, “We must steward our desires with discipline. Desire without discipline is fantasy.” Every invitation requires a response, and discovering God’s Word—unearthing its treasures—requires intentionality on our part. We need to deliberately create an environment for our hearts that cultivates a Word-rich lifestyle. Rather than relegating it to a single moment, we need to weave it into the rhythms of our everyday lives. Which means not waiting for the world to stop before we start!
The very term ‘quiet time’ can be a deterrent, causing us to think we need a perfect moment and environment to spend time with God in the Word. Nothing could be further from the truth. We simply need to make ourselves available. Many of my own ‘quiet times’ have involved children crawling over me or a Barney episode blaring in the background. They have simply been moments that I have chosen to stop and still myself—to cultivate what I call ‘quietness on the inside.’
Setting myself up for success has been key to the effectiveness of my time in the Word. This means being realistic about when I spend time in the Word and making it easier for me to do so by being prepared in advance.
It is important to recognize the season you’re in and to discern when is the optimum time for you to be in the Word each day, otherwise, you may find yourself becoming discouraged and giving up before you’ve even begun. In seasons that have seen me up and down tending to children throughout the night, I have found it’s not a good idea to set the alarm clock— King David may have gotten up early in the morning to lay his requests before God, but the best thing I can do in such seasons is to maximize the sleep I can get!
Over the years, my ‘when’ has varied from bright and early, to during my lunch breaks, to while the children napped, to the end of the day before I turn out the lights. The common thread throughout though has been the prioritizing and carving out of this time. However, like most of us, there have been seasons where my rhythms have been disrupted for one reason or another, and I have not been as consistent in setting aside this time as I would have liked. We need to receive grace for when life doesn’t go as planned but we also need to be careful that seasons don’t become lifestyles.
Once you have determined your ‘when,’ you may want to think about ‘where’ you will spend your time in the Word and what you need to have ready to help maximize this time.
On my bedside, I keep a quiet time basket. In it I keep my Bible, an assortment of notebooks and journals and any other resources I am currently using, as well as pens and coloring pencils—because honestly, if I have to go on a hunt for a pen, I will end up distracted by any number of things!
While I do have a restful study nook in our bedroom, my youngest is what I like to call my ‘Velcro baby’ and so, more often than not, my quiet time has to be wherever he is. The beauty of having this basket is that I can take it anywhere in the house and know that I have what I need to not only keep focused but also to enjoy my time with God. Keeping a range of resources on hand gives me flexibility and allows me to weave Spirit-led spontaneity into my rhythms and routines in the Word.
FEASTING ON HIS WORD
“…I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty” Jeremiah 15:16 (NIV).
Now, you need to know this about me: I am not the kind of girl you need to remind to eat. In fact, you’re more likely to find me daydreaming about what I should eat next. I enjoy good food and like most, my body is fueled daily by a mix of snacks and meals that invite you to sit down at the table and take your time.
We are incredibly blessed to live in an age where there are countless materials available to help us stay connected to the Word: calendars, daily reading apps, audio Bibles, podcasts, online sermons, blogs, Instagram feeds, homewares emblazoned with the Scriptures, and the list could go on.
We could snack all day every day on this wide array of resources—and snacks are great! They keep us going when we’re on the run. But alone, they are not enough to sustain us and keep us growing. We also need to sit down and eat a proper meal—to take our time and savor the taste, the company, and the ensuing conversations.
Hebrews 5 tells us that the immature in Christ can only drink milk, but the mature are those who have learned to eat the meat through constantly being in the Word. Both are fed from God’s Word, but the infant only feeds on what other people have feasted on, never maturing enough to chew things for themselves. Because of this, they lack the ability to discern what is truly good and what is evil.
A girlfriend recently shared this analogy with me: You’re standing at the mouth of a goldmine, and the people down in the mine are passing you the nuggets they have found. As you take these nuggets you become very wealthy, but if you would go down into the mine and learn to dig for them yourself, not only would you become wealthy, you would also become strong.
God’s heart for us as His daughters is not only for us to be blessed, but for us to be strong. In His Word, He has prepared for us a feast of truth and revelation, of wisdom and comfort, of love and affirmation, of correction and instruction. As we learn to mine His Word for these nuggets—as we learn to chew it over and to eat from it for ourselves—our lives will be filled with His beauty and His strength.
Don’t be tempted to skip meals. Don’t be deterred if it takes time for your taste buds to adjust from milk to meat. As Moses reminded the Israelites at the end of his life, God’s Words are not just idle words, they are our life (Deuteronomy 32:47). They sustain us and breathe life into all that we are and all that we do as they continually point us to Jesus. But for their power to be realized in our lives, we need to pull up a chair and eat them, savoring every bite.
Throughout my life, the meals I have eaten at the family table have not only sustained me, they have also shaped my identity and given me a sense of belonging. As we learn to gather at God's table and to eat what He has prepared for us, our identity as His daughters—as ones who bear His name—becomes indelibly stamped upon our hearts. It is my prayer that as you discover His Word for yourself and feast from it daily, that it would become a source of joy and delight, as well as a continual reminder of Who you belong to.
'But'. It's a word that gets used on a daily basis in my household:
"But you said..."
"But that's not fair..."
"I don't want to hear any 'buts,' just do it..."
And on it goes. This little yet powerful word gets thrown around throughout the day—throughout our lives—and depending on the context, it will remind us of the obstacles, the limitations and perhaps even injustices that we might find ourselves facing, or it can open up another perspective. 'But' has the potential to unlock a new way of thinking; to cause us to focus less on the impossibilities and more on the possibilities.
I've been offering plenty of my own 'buts' up to God of late; dampening the desires and the dreams that I know He has placed within me with a narrative of impossibility.
But I don't have enough [I could write a shopping list for you here!]...
But I just want a break...
But I'm tired of waiting...
But it's just too hard - impossible even...
Scripture shows us a pattern of such impossibilities encountering a 'but God' truth--however, if you're anything like me, you've probably been guilty more than once of switching it round. Of derailing what God wants to do with 'but impossibility.' We allow our obstacles and inadequacies to become bigger than who God is.
I love what Paul Manwaring writes:
This is where the real battle of faith is, the battle of trusting an unseen, eternal reality and letting it transform the way we negotiate visible, temporal reality.
'But God' is not a denial or whitewashing of what we face; rather it is allowing the reality of who He is, of eternity, to reshape how we see our lives and our circumstances.
David models this for us throughout the psalms:
When he had to flee from his son Absalom and his foes were many and people were telling him that God would not deliver him, he said, "But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head" (Psalm 3).
When he felt forgotten and he wrestled with his thoughts--his heart heavy with sorrow--he declared, "But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.. I will sing to the Lord for He has been good to me" (Psalm 13).
When he considered God's holiness, that the wicked could not dwell in His presence, he was aware of the grace that enabled him to draw near saying, "But, I, by Your great mercy, will come into Your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple" (Psalm 5).
David allowed himself to express his worries and his fears; he acknowledged the obstacles he faced and the enemies who opposed him; he accepted his own inadequacies and failings but he didn't allow his thoughts to stop there. Time and time again the Psalms show us how David lived not in light of his impossibilities but by the truth of 'but God.'
It is not a sin to see the obstacles we face or to give voice to our fears and our anguish but we mustn't allow them to stop us from encountering God or pursuing His plans for our lives. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul writes:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
I don't know about you, but when I continually interrupt God with a narrative of 'but this,' or 'but that,' the truth gets distorted, and I become susceptible to believing lies; to elevating my problems above the wonder of who God is. And when I do this, I am robbed of truly knowing God and experiencing the fullness that He has for me.
We need to recognise that our minds are a battlefield—that the enemy would love us to think in a way that keeps us distracted from seeing God's goodness. We must learn like David to process our reality and to then submit it to the powerful truth of 'but God.'
And when we allow 'but' to become an invitation to a new way of thinking—to God's perspective—then we will be positioned to see and experience His goodness in each and every season of our lives.
Where do you need to say, 'but God' today?
Meet my friend lack. Lack and I have been friends for longer than I care to admit. And while this relationship frustrates me with its constant reminders of my inadequacies and insufficiencies; and its tendency to hem me in and roadblock my plans for progress, recent events have also made me realise that I have put my friend lack on a bit of a pedestal. Perhaps even made an idol of him.
That might seem like a strange statement to make. But our journey of looking for a new home has made me realise that deep down I thought it was more spiritual to be in want; to be in need because then I was truly dependent on God. So, when we ended up with a house that was above and beyond what I had ever anticipated or dreamed would be possible in this season of our lives, I struggled to receive it.
While on one hand the woman of faith in me could see the hand of God upon us; see His hand in every detail and His favour in the process, the woman who had made friends with lack wanted to refuse this gift. I felt unworthy—guilty even—of having such a lovely and spacious home. And this new home, with its somewhat empty rooms waiting to be filled, has been challenging me as to whether I am ready to break it off with my friend lack in order to pursue true dependency on Christ.
Paul's words in Philippians 4 have been echoing in my head. You know the often quoted, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” They are words that I have often leaned on over the years as lack and I have journeyed together, knowing that it's okay that I don't have enough because He does; knowing that it's okay that I don't feel enough for this calling, because He is.
But here's the thing: I've only applied this dependency on Christ's sufficiency to some things. To the living in want things. And His invitation to be dependent upon His riches and grace is for ALL things.
...for I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of facing either poverty or plenty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me.
Christ's invitation, is to a life of dependency upon His strength and His power even when I feel like it's something that I've got under control. It's for the places that I think “I've got this”—for the places where resources and talents abound—as much as it is for the places that I wrestle and struggle in.
And when I receive this offer of grace for all instead of just some things, my places of lack are not more holy than my places of abundance. They are each simply an opportunity to lean on Him in a different way.
Because the friend that I need is neither lack nor abundance, it is Jesus.
It is Jesus in every strength and in every weakness
It is Jesus in every triumph and in every failure
It is Jesus in every season and in every chapter
It's His hand that I want to hold and His embrace that I need at the end of a long day. It is His truth, and His wisdom, and His love that feeds the ache in my soul. That's the only truly holy thing in all of this: wholeheartedly pursuing and surrendering myself to Jesus. Allowing myself to be fully reliant upon all that He is and all that He offers me; abiding so deeply in His presence that He becomes as necessary to me as the air that I breathe.
So I'm ending this thing I've had going on with lack and taking him off the pedestal that I've wrongly put him on. Do I expect to never be in want again? No, but I want to shift the focus. Instead of glorifying my circumstances I want to glorify Him. To look for how my season invites me to know Him more and to lean more deeply on His grace.
Which is why as I clean my house this weekend, I will be choosing gratitude for this unexpected blessing of a home instead of guilt. I'll be looking at the empty spaces and instead of feeling frustrated about what I don't have, I'll be choosing to see a space that God has created to be filled by Him. Just like my life.
How is Jesus inviting you to rely on Him for ALL things today?
A card arrived in my letterbox today. Filled with words that overflowed from a generous heart, it touched me deeply. I felt seen. I felt known. I felt appreciated and I knew that I held in my hands a precious gift...
These are the words God impressed upon my heart when I asked Him recently what it looked like for me to live in light of His everlasting and indestructible Kingdom. And they've continued to reverberate in my heart on a daily basis ever since.
I am, by both nature and nurture, a generous person. Growing up with parents who despite their own lack, continually had open hands and open hearts, I learned from a young age the beauty of cultivating a generous spirit. Yet, it's an attribute that I have struggled to give full expression to at various points in my journey.
We have never been materially wealthy. A combination of some unwise decisions in our youth, coupled with our obedience to pursue a call to ministry, has meant that the budget has seldom balanced, and we have had to daily trust God for what we need. For whatever reason, God has also chosen to position us in some of the more affluent parts of our city, and consequently, I have found myself continually confronted by what others have the ability to do and to give. In the face of their apparent abundance, I have often allowed lack and my perfectionist tendencies to close my hands and my heart, believing the lie that I have nothing of value to give.
Christmas--the time of giving and receiving--can amplify these lies and the accompanying anxiety that I do not have enough to offer.
But here's the thing that God keeps graciously and repeatedly reminding me of: radical generosity, kingdom generosity, is not based on what we do or don't have, but on what He has. It lives rooted in the truth of His abundance and His goodness.
Every single one of us faces poverty in some area of our lives. Whether external or internal, we all experience the frustration of our own limitations. But radical generosity is not hindered by such lack. It takes what we do have and sees it as a seed to sow--a seed that when we release in partnership with Him, will be multiplied beyond our wildest dreams.
He multiplies the seed as you sow it, so that the harvest of your generosity will grow.
Fear would try to tell us that if we release the little we do have, we will not have enough. It tries to scare us into clutching at our time and possessions, into closing off our hearts. But God's Kingdom doesn't work that way--it knows nothing of lack. When we release what He has given us, he simply expands and multiplies it.
I've discovered that we don't have to wait until we feel like we have accumulated or accomplished enough to be generous. We can start right where we are, trusting in the goodness of the One who always has enough.
Scripture is full of acts of generosity. Some of them carried extravagant price tags like the perfume that Mary poured out upon the feet of Jesus or the thousand burnt offerings that Solomon sacrificed to God, while others could have easily been overlooked and seen as insignificant--like the few coins that the widow popped in the offering box or the young boy's lunch of bread and fish. What they all have in common is that God commended the heart with which they gave to Him.
You can't attach a price tag to true acts of generosity. Their worth has nothing to do with their monetary value. They are defined by the heart of the giver to minister to and bless the recipient.
In writing this, I have found myself reflecting on the generosity that I myself have been a recipient of recently. Generosity that has sprung up in spite of lack and limitation in the giver's own life.
Like the friend who gave me money to buy something to wear to an event I was running when I knew she needed new clothes herself.
Or the friend who often texts me about what she has been praying for for my children when I know that she is currently knee-deep in a crazy mothering season.
Or the friend who faithfully sows $5 out of every paycheck into this ministry when I know she is still waiting for her own financial breakthrough.
Or the woman who became a friend after reaching out to me when she heard I was writing a book and she didn't want me to feel alone in the process like she had.
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
Each of these gifts have given me an even greater gift--the gift of presence. Their acts of generosity towards me have been a statement that they see me and desire to identify with my need, with my season, with my heart.
Presence is the gift Christ offers you and I each and every day. It's the gift that we remember as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. The gift of Him dwelling among us and within us. The gift of Emmanuel, God with us.
And it's the gift that we also get to give if we will choose to push past the lies and limitations of our circumstances and simply open our hands and hearts to those around us.
Radical generosity is a spirit. It is the fruit of living according to the reality of heaven and not the reality of our circumstances. It is a pouring out of ourselves knowing that He will pour back into us all that we need because He never runs out. He never runs out of resources and He never runs out on us.
This Christmas, let's give the gift of presence. It costs nothing and yet everything.
What does radical generosity look like for you today?
I mindlessly scroll through Instagram feeling a growing wave of discontent building within me.
I see the catalogue worthy homes and I wonder if it's just me whose furniture needs replacing; just me whose children seem to litter every room with evidence of their messy existence.
I see their beautiful workspaces and I think of how I write with children climbing over me and nestled against me on the couch. The luxury of defined work hours seems a distant memory and part of me longs to go back to their comfortable routine but instead, I'm stealing time whenever I can to get my words out of my head and onto a screen.
I see their impressive number of followers and platforms and I wonder what it took to get there--what will it take for me to get there? When will I get to get there?
And as this wave of aching discontent washes over me, I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, "What is that to you, Aimee?" What is that to you if I've blessed them with a beautiful home? What is it to you if I've wired them to be like Martha Stewart? What is it to you if I've called them to the marketplace and you to be at home? What is it to you if now is the proper time in their lives for promotion and platforms? What is it to you?
My Dad calls it the W.I.T.T.Y principle. In John 21, following the resurrection, Jesus is ministering to Peter. Mirroring and restoring him from his earlier denial of Christ, Peter has confessed three times his love for Jesus, and Jesus now gives Peter a glimpse of what is in store for him--it’s not a pretty picture!
“I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go …. Follow Me!”
Jesus was telling Peter that he too would one day suffer death by crucifixion, He was laying out the cost of loving Him, making Peter pause and determine, did he really want to follow Jesus?
I can’t really blame Peter for what he did next--I think I would have too! Peter turns and looks back and he sees John, also known as the disciple whom Jesus loved, and he asks, “What about him?” He wants to know, does John get the same deal! Jesus replies saying:
If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me.”
The W.I.T.T.Y principle: What Is That To You?
How much trouble we get ourselves in; how distracted, resentful and frustrated we become when we concern ourselves with how God is working out another’s life; when we compare or wish for another’s journey. The crumbs of comparison take our eyes off the prize--off of Jesus--and leave us feeling empty. They hinder us from becoming like Him, from fulfilling His call on our lives.
Peter chose Jesus. Peter determined that whatever it cost he would follow where Jesus led.
And I want to too. Because I know that when I take my eyes off of everybody else's calling; off of everybody else's lives and just look at mine, keeping my focus on what God is saying to me, the discontent dissipates. When I keep choosing Jesus, I am freed to run with perseverance the race that He has marked out for me.
When I stay in my lane; when I run my race, not only does the discontent dissipate, but I am also deeply satisfied. In John 4:34, Jesus said this:
"My nourishment comes from doing the will of God who sent me, and from finishing His work."
Jesus had been resting by a well, ministering to a Samaritan woman as He waited for the disciples to return with food and provisions. But when they do, He tells them that He already has food to eat--they're confused, and ask themselves if somebody else could have brought Him food? Jesus responds by telling them that His food, the nourishment for His soul, comes from doing what God has asked Him to do.
We were never designed or intended to live lives that look like clones of one another. You are one of a kind and so am I--each of us fearfully and wonderfully fashioned by God Himself. And in His wisdom, He plants dreams and desires within us; opens doors and leads us in ways that fit with our unique design. We will be satisfied--nourished--not when we are wanting someone else's life, but when we are living out His will for our life.
Where do you need to refocus on Jesus? Follow where He's leading you knowing that only His path can truly satisfy your soul.
We sat together on the couch, her head buried into my shoulder as she wept for the things, the people that she was missing. And my heart ached for my daughter as she tried to figure out how to navigate her current season.
Change is hard. Being brave and willing to give new things a go and walk down yet unknown paths can be overwhelming.
As winter has given way to spring in our part of the world, something deep within us rejoices and celebrates the signs of new life. We have ached for something to come and replace the barreness. But new beginnings aren't always looked for or even necessarily wanted; they aren't solely the territory of the dead and barren places. Sometimes, God asks us to allow Him to prune the fruitful things--the things that are in full bloom--in our lives so that we can be even more fruitful (John 15:2).
Over the last two years, God has been bringing restoration and life to areas in my heart and story that I have longed for Him to, but He's simultaneously been asking me to let Him bring about new beginnings--to be pruned--in places where I wasn't looking for change.
He has asked me to resign my position and my ministry credentials
He has called us out of the Church we helped plant to start over after some 18 years of community
He has led us to homeschool when I never even wanted to be a stay at home mum (He sure has a sense of humour!)
And each of these changes has asked a question of me--do I really trust Him in the place of exchange? In the place where I don't yet know what my hands will hold and all I can see is what I'm letting go of?
Pruning seasons can be a unique type of change because we don't always know exactly what it is that God is making room for in our lives. We often only see the gaping whole left that was once fruitful and flourishing. Pruning inevitably ushers us into an in-between time--a time of uncertainty and waiting--just like in the natural, it takes time for the new growth to become visible.
In my own life, the place of exchange has tested whether I really believe that He is who He says He is. Whether I trust His heart towards me and the plans that He has for me. The place of exchange has revealed whether the Scriptures I quote are merely platitudes and bumper stickers or the foundation of truth that I've built my life upon because the place of exchange requires us to live with a deep assurance of His goodness and His love for us.
Jesus makes the Father's heart in pruning us abundantly clear--it is not to diminish us in any way but to increase us. To make us more fruitful. Pruning is not about judgment but preparation. And while it can be easy to entertain the voice of condemnation when we feel like we're being cut back, Jesus offers us this assurance:
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Jesus is telling us, You are mine, I have washed you. Don't let the enemy tell you that you don't belong, that you're not valuable because you're being stripped back. Don't isolate yourself from Me; don't try and make things happen in your own strength, Trust that my heart is to cause you to flourish and be fruitful. Come, tarry a moment with Me. Apart from Me you can do nothing, but with Me, you can trust that greater fruitfulness is coming.
The word for 'remain' or 'abide' meant to remain, abide; to sojourn or tarry; to continue to be present; to be held, kept continually. It paints a picture for us of lingering in and savouring the presence of God with us. For me personally, I've found this 'abiding' to be both the challenge and the invitation of the place of exchange. My grief, my disappointment, my frustrations and impatience, the uncertainty can either build a wall between me and God or they can become a bridge to greater dependency, greater trust in His wisdom and goodness and in His time, greater fruitfulness.
If I want them to be a bridge, I must settle the question of trust. Will I trust His heart to lead me and yes, even to prune me?
I've decided yes. What about you?
I've often thought of myself as someone who colours inside the lines. You know, a good girl who gets on with what's expected of her and keeps the rules. But the more I journey with God, the more I can see that I've learnt to colour outside the lines; to go against the grain and walk with Him by faith.
Isaiah 55 tells us that God's ways are not our ways--they often sit outside of our logic and reasoning and because of this, faith often calls us to a path that feels counter-intuitive.
Sometimes faith says pull back when we would think rush in
Sometimes faith says give when we would like to hold back
Sometimes faith says go when we would prefer to stay
This has been the pattern all throughout Scripture:
God asked Noah to build an ark when he'd never even seen rain
He sent Abraham on a journey to an undisclosed location - asking him to pack up all his belongings and leave everything he had ever known
He asked a destitute widow to share the last of her provisions when she had no means to replenish them
He sent the disciples out in pairs to do ministry and wouldn't allow them to take any provisions with them, asking them to rely on those they ministered to for sustenance
All things that fly in the face of conventional wisdom--that go against the grain of forming a plan, of making provision, of having a safety net. Yes, while faith isn't about being reckless, sometimes it will sure look that way!
In my own journey, I've come to realise that my ability to walk by faith--to be obedient to what God is asking of me--is tied to my priorities and my affections. Hebrews 11 tells us that the men and women we so often refer to as the 'heroes of faith' were able to live as they did because they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth (v. 13). The Passion Translation challenges me with this rendering:
For clearly those who live this way are longing for the appearing of a heavenly city. And if their hearts were still remembering what they left behind, they would have found an opportunity to go back. But they couldn't turn back for their hearts were fixed on what was far greater, that is, the heavenly realm.
These heroes of faith both endured and achieved much for the Kingdom of God because they had determined where their treasure lay. They had fixed their heart to His.
When this world and all of its comforts has more of a hold on my heart than He does, my capacity to embrace His wisdom and to walk in faith is diminished. When He is no longer enough for me, then I hesitate to walk in surrendered obedience and even my frail human logic seems safer than the path that He has set before me.
Yes, this life of faith requires on my part a constant checking of my heart and my pursuits.
Am I distracted by what is temporal instead of engaged with what is eternal?
Am I self-reliant or God-reliant?
Am I craving the approval of the world or anchored by His love?
The current landscape of my own life is both exhilarating and terrifying. And truthfully, I find myself having to continually determine and redetermine to walk by faith. It's not a one off decision but a day by day, sometimes moment by moment, process of choosing to trust and obey. To keep my heart fixed to His.
The last two years have reminded me afresh that not only are God's ways not our ways, they are higher.
My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
And because they are higher than ours, we find rest and strength in them, provision for the journey He has sent us on. The path of faith might be uncomfortable, but because it is marked out by His presence we can expect to experience His comfort along the way.
However much sacrifice walking by faith invites, the rewards are far greater.
How is He inviting you to fix your heart to His today?
I've chosen some of my favourite pieces from my blogging years and collated them here. These nuggets of wisdom were gleaned from that beautiful chaos I keep telling you about—I pray they encourage you to see the beauty God has waiting for you to discover in your own life.