Living in Him Alone

pb&j

Prelude

For months, I have sat. I have stared at the blank page on my computer, illuminated with the beaming white light.

The sight that once filled me with joy, excitement, and purpose now fills me with anxiety; it fills me with dread, frustration, and confusion.

I cannot fathom how something I loved so much could quickly become something I dreaded more than anything.

I sat and sat, waiting for the words to come. I sat waiting for the Lord to show me something worth writing about. I thought about it all the time. I told myself, “you have to do this, because you’re ignoring God’s calling for your life. And you’re letting people down if you don’t write, so you better get back into it.” I asked myself, “what are you doing with yourself and with your time? Why do you have nothing decent to say? Why are you not seeing what the Lord desires you to share? Why do you have no understanding of where the Lord is trying to lead you?” I said, “this week is going to be different. You’re going to sit behind your computer until you come up with something to share. You’re going to pray until you have something to write about.”

I would sit some more: in the car, in my room, at my desk, with my journal, in prayer, and in worship.

I would get outside: around Berry, with my dogs, hiking, biking, and walking around my neighborhood.

All the while, I would think, and wait some more.

My fingers would inch towards the keys, but my heart was not inching any nearer to the truths that the Lord deeply desired for me to understand. My head was not in the right place; I was not growing any fonder of this blank screen; instead I was beginning to loathe the white glow of my computer screen as it illuminated the failure of my writing, my inability to hear God’s voice. I hated that feeling of lousiness that loomed because I couldn’t write cohesive, enlightening, or comforting words down on any of the Google Docs I’ve opened over the past several months. I didn’t see how it had become so hard for me; I didn’t understand how something that provided me joy and spiritual purpose began to fill me with anxiety and lies.

This whole process became forceful, it became dreadful, and it became unhealthy for me as a woman trying to pursue God’s heart. This, among a few other things, were robbing my joy, belief, and peace, over the past few months.

I am very sick and tired of these blank pages.

I am very sick and tired of believing that my words aren’t good enough, that the Lord cannot speak through me.

I am very sick and tired of placing myself in a box, but most importantly placing God in a box.

I am very sick and tired of this complacency and this dread.

I want my joy back; I want my belief back.

And I want my peace back.

I want my fear to surrender at the power of our Creator, because it is crippling, demanding, exhausting, and robbing.

The only way I see to overcome my fear is to well, face it.

I have to write again.

I have to take back my pb&j.

Peace, belief, and joy.

Peace: being content through uncertainty and the absolute unknown, knowing that despite my circumstances, the Lord covers me.

Belief: trusting that the Lord is sovereign over the unknown, that the Lord is Emmanuel, that the Lord has a plan, that He knows what He's doing and He's going to keep on doing it.

Joy: being deeply content no matter how bleak or dark things may seem in my life or the world around me. I know that my hope is in something greater, Jesus.

I have to shout a loud “no!” to fear and instead, I have to shout an even louder “YES!” to Jesus.

YES to peace. YES to belief. And YES, I’ll take that joy, too.

Post

Saying “yes” in the midst of anxiety and fear is one of the hardest things I think we can do as humans. I mean “no” is almost too easy; “no” comes so naturally to us. Since we are free people able to make our own decisions, “no” is easy to say, it’s an accessible word. Since we are wired to have differing ideas and opinions, it’s instinctual to say “no” when we disagree with someone else; since we desire things for ourselves like that promotion or that relationship, and we have plans for our lives, saying “no” is what we do when something else interferes; we don’t always put others first when we are asked to. All of these traits are a natural part of who we are as humans, I feel, but when we are a followers of Jesus Christ, it gets even trickier. "No" has more layers, there it a lot more at risk to saying "no" when it comes to our relationships with the Lord.

Think.

Have you ever been in a situation where the Lord is asking you to do something completely against the status quo? Something outside of your typical routine? Something you thought you'd never do in a million years? Something that could change the plans you have for your life? Something that gives more time to the Lord and less time for yourself?

I know I have many a times.

Sometimes I'll say, "Yes, God! I'll follow where you're leading me. I'll take a leap of faith and trust Your holy name, because You, Lord, are sovereign over every single step I take."

But it's seldom that easy, don't you think?

We take steps closer to the Lord, praying "take me deeper than my feet could ever wander." We desire deeply to say "yes" to where He is calling us to go, don't we? But when He actually goes and calls us deeper, our feet stop wandering. We take a few steps back and say "woah, woah, woah. Wait a second, Jesus. This isn't what I wanted! I thought you were going to do this instead; this isn't what I had in mind for you 'calling me deeper.' Where are you trying to lead me?"

We get so caught up in the details and we forget the bigger picture. We get wrapped up in so many factors and "no's" that they inhibit us greatly.

Instead of saying "yes" with a childlike faith, we tend to say many other things.

"Nah, Jesus. It's all good. I take back what I said about you calling me anywhere outside of my routine, cause I'm comfortable where I am right now. I like this familiarity."

"On second thought, it's okay. If I take this step and trust you, some people I know are gonna be upset I'm changing, and you know I just need these friends to accept me. I need my family to still believe I'm making sound decisions."

"You know, Jesus. I hear you calling me, but it's going to have to be a no from me. I'm busy with all these other things right now and I just can't dedicate the time necessary. I will wait until next time you call me and see what I'm able to do then."

"Lord, you know I am wrapped up in all this fear. And I just don't think I have the courage right now to follow you with full abandon. I don't know what the future holds and I just can't take this step."

Do any of these dialogues sound familiar to you?

They're all too familiar to me and it isn't because I wrote them.

Over the past few months, I have been internally frustrated by this, thinking to myself, “why?! Why does this happen to us?"

So, over the past few months, my main focus has been on one question.

What makes it so hard for to trade our “no’s” for “yes’s” when God asks us to take a step in His direction?

And with the help of those close to me, I think I am beginning to understand what culprits are continually inhibiting us.

1. Comfort

In asking those close to me, I discovered that comfort is a large reason why we are hesitant to say “yes” when the Lord is asking us to take a step: to make a change, make a sacrifice, trust Him, pursue His heart or will, etc. It becomes difficult when we get used to being in the known of our lives. Familiarity can too easily worm its way onto our best friends list, until we are left with this friend that only receives, and doesn’t give. Comfort is a good thing when it’s your favorite pair of pants, or that special spot on the couch that is reserved for just you, but when it comes to our relationship with Jesus, comfortable is the last thing we need.

We are not called to be comfortable when it comes to our walk with Jesus, because it isn’t glamorous and it isn’t a walk in the park.

In Matthew 16:24, “Jesus said to his disciples ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’” I do not think that denying ourselves and taking up our own cross, just as Jesus did, and denying ourselves is a comfortable series of events, but He never called the disciples to live a comfortable life, and He doesn’t treat us any differently hundreds of years later. Instead, He calls us out beyond our comfort zone, asking us to serve Him regardless of all other feelings, events, or desires. I’m not saying that every action we take as Christians should be uncomfortable, but I’m saying we shouldn’t get too comfortable. Routine and familiarity are hazardous to growth, especially in faith.

We are not those who shrink back (Hebrews 10:39) from a chance to serve the Lord, because it is outside of our “routine” or “comfort zone.” Instead, we should have faith. We should trust that the Lord has intentions for the changes He’s asking us to make and for us feeling uncomfortable. It is not easy to step out of the familiar when I know I will experience discomfort. I will be the first to admit that, but we must take small steps to begin growing past familiarity and moving on outside of our comfort zones.

2. Rejection

Rejection is another reason, I found, we have trouble trading our "no" for "yes" when it comes to following Jesus.

Rejection may be the reason you were hesitant to allow Jesus into your life in the first place, or why you still haven’t yet. We commonly care too much what other people think of us or our decisions. We think, "is this decision to follow where Jesus is leading going to cost me? Are people still going to be my friend after this? Do you feel the need to please others in your life, prioritizing "people pleasing" over "Jesus pleasing?" This could be detrimental to your relationship with Jesus, as the approval of God should be our first priority.

We can get caught assessing our value in the acceptance of those around us, instead of what Jesus says about us. What Jesus says about us has profound importance, since we find value in what Jesus says and teaches. We as a church body do really care what others think about Jesus and their impression of His character. Their salvation relies on the impression of Christ they create and feelings they associate with Him.

So, we should care about what other's think of us as we represent Christ, but we should not wrap our identity up in the approval of others.

And we most definitely should not let rejection and approval of others keep us from saying "yes" when Jesus asks us to move.

It's hard to think that a decision you make in your faith could lead to the rejection of friends, family, employers, and neighbors. It's hard to think that following Jesus with full abandon could cost you a reputation you're trying to uphold, but we are called to follow Jesus. They don't call it following for nothing, for all of us to just stand around, hesitant to make a move in Jesus' direction. If we have a job to do on being representatives of Christ, don't we feel like that is more important than what you may lose as you say a loud "yes!" to Jesus?

3. Priority

Do you ever ask yourself in the morning, "what are the priorities for today?" How frequently do you assess what's most valuable to you and how you should be spending your time? I have found in prayer and continuing to talk to those around me that priority is another "known culprit." Sometimes, we really stink at having our priorities straight. We say so many things. "I'm really good at time management, Lord. I'll get that quiet time in at the end of the day. Not to worry."

"I'm really tired. Can I go to bed now instead of having ten minutes of quiet time?"

"I want to have time for myself to watch Netflix, so instead of going to Bible study I'll just stay home."

"I'll respond to your calling later, when it's more convenient for me. I can't stop what I'm doing right now."

"I'm just so busy and if I spend time with the Lord now, I'll be missing out on so many other things."

It's too easy every now and again to think to yourself, "why would I be saying 'yes' to Jesus now when I could be doing so many other things instead?"

We can talk ourselves into anything some days, making ourselves think that Jesus' plans for our lives are significantly less important than our own.

I think this is why we make decisions that put our own desires and plans before His.

We are warned that the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16) and if we don't pay attention to how we are prioritizing our time, we could miss Jesus leading us in the direction He has planned.

4. Fear

After doing some soul searching the past few months, I discovered what mostly inhibits me from yelling a loud “yes” to Jesus when He asks me to take a step in His direction. Fear inhibits me in my daily life, predominantly in my faith, and I am very tired of it. I have always been told that fear is lack of trust in the Lord and thought to myself, "well, that's a no brainer. And I don't have to worry about that because I trust the Lord with full abandon."

It was very easy for me to convince myself that I really trusted the Lord and I didn't fear the unknown, but when it came right down to it, I'm not sure I truly understood. It's too easy to say you trust the Lord and then He throws one of those situations in your face where you just want to say "no, God. I don't want to do this. I don't know what comes next."

We fear simply because we do not know.

We do not know where He's trying to lead us, because the Lord only works one step at a time. When He has revealed one step, He typically hasn't shown the next one yet. In this unknown, we fear. We fear what could happen if we take the first step He's asking us to take. We fear what will happen after we take that first step.

I'm going to be honest with y'all, I have had so much fear in the process of writing this post. I have spent so many hours thinking about this post and trying to plan this post. I have thought so many negative things like "you can't do this. You're gonna let some people down if you don't finish this thing. Maybe your writing isn't up to par. Cass, I'm not even sure if you're making any points here. Are you even writing cohesively?" And so on.

It has been so difficult to push myself to this point in the post, to sit myself down, and to believe that the power of the Holy Spirit can utilize me, utilize my spiritual gift. I sit here and I fear all that could happen as a result of me writing this post or what will happen if I don't. I am not usually one to stray away from adventure and challenges. I love them, but in my faith, I am always very careful. It is much harder for me to say, "okay! Let's do it." I was so hesitant to turn back to writing for months on end. And I fear because I do not know where the Lord is going to take me.

And I know the unknown will always be scary, but we have the known: Jesus Christ is completely in control, so we should let go of saying "no!"

We do not have to fear about where the Lord is leading us or that we aren't in control. He's the captain of this ship. 110% for all of my days. He invites us to not be afraid through all circumstances (John 14:27) and to live fearlessly before Him. We do not have to fear what will happen next when the Lord is asking us to take a step, because He is always good. He is always good and cheering you on though every single step you take, even before you've said "yes" to Him.

So, what?

As I have been reflecting on these reasons why people close to me say "no" to Jesus, I have found a common thread.

The Lord can lead us through each "no" and help us begin to trade it for a "yes." We can do this through intentional prayer.

There is a podcast Steven and I really like listening to called Exploring My Strange Bible. Tim Mackie is a pastor at a church in Portland, Oregon, who recently decided to convert his sermons over to a podcast. He is truthfully a genius, in my opinion. Anyway, that's beside the point.

He has a three part series about praying through fear, pain, and doubt, in which he utilizes important individuals from the Bible and explains how we do not have to be inhibited by such things. It's excellent and 10/10 would recommend.

So, with that being said, for the next three posts, I am going to be discussing how we can pray through our fear, pain, and doubt, so that we can graduate on from saying “no” to "yes" when Jesus asks us to take a step.

I will reference back to this post as we explore fear, pain, and doubt the next few weeks.

So, in the meantime... it's time to do some personal soul searching.

What makes you say "no" to Jesus when you really should be saying "yes?" Why are you hesitant? I ask that you pray over this for the next little while and truly discover what's stopping you. Spend some quiet time with the Lord and ask him to reveal to you the truth.

Let's work to make some changes.

"Yes, Jesus! Let's do this! Familiarity is not my friend and I am ready for you to take me out of what is safe. Call me outside of my routine and shake up my heart. I am tired of familiarity."

"If I take this step and trust you, some people I know are gonna be upset I'm changing, and my family may have trouble with it at first, but You are my first priority, Lord. Help me through these changes and help me to yell a loud "yes!" to you.

"Jesus. I hear you calling me and I'm ready to do what you're asking of me. I'm busy with all these other things right now but the days are evil, and I will work to make you a priority. I will wait answer your call."

"Lord, you know I am wrapped up in all this fear. And I just don't think I have the courage right now to follow you with full abandon, but I know you can provide for me. I don't know what the future holds, but you are sovereign over every single step. I do not have to be afraid."

Do any of those dialogues sound familiar to you?

Let's do the unfamiliar.

Let's work for that pb&j.

Further Reading...

A Spirit of Power

We are all elements of something, but while you may feel like you are just a student, or just a parent, we find that our Heavenly Father calls us to take up a new name once we decide to follow Him and believe it or not, there is power in this new name.

Point

In your daily life, what gets most of your attention? Where are you pointing; what are you pointing to? Better asked: who are you pointing to? Are you pointing to Him?