I was 27 and didn’t know how to cope. I thought my life should revolve around pleasing others, but I was never good enough. I could never be enough. Finally I had a breakdown. Sure, I acknowledged that God was all-loving. I agreed that he had created me unique and beautiful, but I didn’t know how to live it.
All pretending stopped as I lay there shivering on my bed. I could no longer be strong, brave, or even good. It was just me and God, and to my astonishment, he still loved me. And he came to me, just as he has come to millions of others, “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 63:1). I would live again.
Six months later I went back to work, and it took another three years to recover, but, I finally knew who I was – BELOVED.
We instinctively respond to someone in distress. It is natural. But what if it’s someone with a demand or an unmet expectation, and they want us to fulfil it?
On occasion people have cried, “I want this and that, and you have to do it.” And because of their insistence, I forgot about God’s voice in my life. Through unthinking compassion, I lost my way.
I have learned the hard way that blind compassion hinders them and me. It’s my responsibility to not instantly respond. Three times the Bible says, “Do not be hasty…”* And even though it might be hard to stand still in the face of another’s strong emotions, we owe it to ourselves and God to pause and think. There might be another way.
*1 Timothy 5:22; Ecclesiastes 5:2; Proverbs 19:2
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I still can’t quite grasp the enormity of how unprecedented each one of us is. No one out there is like you or me. And each of us is unparalleled. No one has ever spoken with my voice. No one else has my heart and mind.
Yet, it is a fragile fact and evaded my grasp for years, because I had concluded that I didn’t matter, that my voice had little worth. But, in the silence of this past year, our individual uncommonness, our unrivalled uniqueness is hitting home.
The Bible puts it so well. “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!” (Psalm 139:14)
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I chose a life verse in my mid-twenties. It was a statement. For years I had compared myself to society and felt I had REALLY missed out. But then I read Matthew 6:33, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” It comforted me. It held me together. It promised me that if I kept God first, I would never miss out. In fact, everything God intended would be mine.
And as the years tick on, this verse still holds true, even though my circumstances have totally changed. I still seek him first and he still gives all things. Strength to step out. Courage to speak. The spark to imagine.
He is so good.
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It might not be what I want, but it is just as valid and good. Because with God, not every closed road is a bad thing in life. It means that God has something else in mind, something I could never have imagined possible. For with him, this adventure is his plan.
He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” when we feel alone.
He says, “My word is a lamp to your feet,” when we get confused.
He says, “Do not be afraid,” when life overwhelms.
Because, in every problem, God will ALWAYS fulfill his promise.
Not long ago, in a certain situation, I thought I was right. I couldn’t even listen to a challenge from a friend. But later I read a verse, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you…” (Matthew 18:15) Sigh! This verse was about me…
A lady once told me, “Because I live alone, no one ever disagrees with me. So, in my eyes I am always right. But I need people to challenge me, no matter how distasteful.”
Now, it is true that not every challenge comes from a good heart. But whatever comments come our way, it is good to lift each one up and take an honest look.
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As I watched the river break its banks, a verse came to mind: “His voice was like the roar of rushing waters.” (Ezekiel 43:2) God was speaking. Was I listening?
This is what I heard… Just as this river overflowed its banks, so God breaks free from the banks we build around him. He won’t be controlled or hemmed in by our standards, but often he lives within them, just because he know how easily we scare. But then comes the moment where he shows who he is. His awesome power. His purpose and direction. His majesty.
He gives us a glimpse so that we can live the same way. A torrent of his love.
It seems like our lives are being other-directed. We are told how to live it and what to pursue. And those others also come across as unfathomably wise, assuring us that they can sort all our problems. But what about God?
If we stopped to think about it, if God made our ears, that means he can hear us. If he made our eyes, he sees us. He knows what is happening in our world – Covid 19 – and he isn’t standing by idle. He keeps trying to get our attention, saying, “Nothing happens by mistake. Someone’s greed precipitated this pandemic, someone’s disregard for creation and humanity.”
But the experts tell us, “WE’VE got this under control. Just be patient. That vaccine is coming. WE will save the world.”
God responds: “That plan is laughable. Greed will cause yet another tragedy. Greed will keep causing harm. Your human hearts are bent that way. Sure, take the vaccine, but remember that it can’t save your heart from greed – only I can… Please, come close and listen. Grasp my Son’s hand. Then you too can own your choice to treat creation and humanity with respect.”
From Psalm 94:8-11. (Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash)
Yesterday I took someone on a hike through a wood. We strode down paths that twisted and crossed. She asked, “Do you ever walk here alone?” I shook my head, “No, these woods are safe, but I would feel unsafe if I went by myself. Two of us together is fine.”
She agreed – the woods were fine- but then she asked that question again, “Do you ever walk here alone?” It surprised me and I answered the exact same way. But then I understood. She wanted to know if I knew where I was going, if I knew the way. She wanted to know if she was safe with ME.
This is a scary question, full stop. Do people feel safe when they interact with me? Thankfully, my friend finally did.