You have a Friend in the Valley

The other day, I saw a text graphic on Facebook that contained these words: “Fear has no place in the life of a believer.” The caption explained that if we truly know we are eternally loved, fear should not be part of our lives. A pastor posted this. Another time, in a Bible study setting, I heard a pastor’s wife talk about doing a shooter drill at her children’s school (also her place of employment) and how as a believer she was full of peace, but her unbelieving co-worker was wrought with fear. Her comment after sharing the story was similar to the text graphic: she didn’t have any fear about the situation, because she was a believer.

Scripture Acknowledges Our Fear

These two examples show that, especially in the Church, fear and anxiety are still stigmatized. Yes, all over Scripture we hear, “do not fear,” but it’s said with the expectation that we will fear (Ps. 56:3). It’s a natural human experience. God knows this, and Jesus was familiar with it. When Jesus calmed the storm for His disciples, He did tell them they had small faith, but He also never denied the severity and danger of the storm. Peter had “little faith” because he believed the danger of the storm was stronger than the power of Jesus. And we can’t forget the overall context of this scenario: Jesus was always using these situations (signs and miracles) to point to His even greater spiritual power over the curse of sin and death. He was always pointing to His death and resurrection.

In fact, I believe it can be argued that Jesus Himself experienced fear and anxiety (yet without any taint of sin) in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39–46). He sweat blood and tears. He had to have been anxious and in great turmoil on the night before He died, knowing what was ahead of Him. And yet, we see in the midst of His anxiety, Jesus shows us that we must pray as He did.

There is much to fear in this life. The Bible never negates this but always assumes it. I believe fear will always be a part of a believer’s life (though some will battle it worse than others). This is because of the curse and because we are made of dust (Ps. 103:14). Jesus is fully capable of delivering us from our fear and anxiety, and many of us might have a testimony of Him doing that, but the only full victory that Jesus promises us in this life is victory over the consequences and power of our sin through the gospel. There is no “name it and claim it” in Scripture for complete deliverance from fear and anxiety in this life; that is a promise we can only claim for the life to come.

A Valley Path to Growth in Our Fear

Read the rest here >>

The Bible’s Hope for your Anxiety: How Scripture trains us to respond to fear

Anxiety is close to home for me. In fact, it’s right under my roof. Though I’m not typically an anxious person, I’ve had my own dark season of anxiety. And my husband has struggled with it on a sometimes daily basis—even to the point where it has affected our home and marriage. Like his dad, my firstborn son struggles with anxiety. I began to notice strange behavior from him even as a toddler and preschooler. My son’s anxiety affected me. It limited me. At the time, I didn’t realize that not all moms have to work through these types of behaviors with their children. Though I’ve seen tremendous growth in him for the past eight months, anxiety can still lurk on the edges of his life.

There are many ways to handle anxiety. Different methods work for different people. Some need medication, some find counseling or therapy helpful, and some get help through other types of managing techniques. While all of these options are helpful, and necessary for some people, there is a spiritual foundation that must be in place (even while seeking professional help). The anxious heart and mind must be anchored in the rock of God’s Word. No matter what our circumstances, the Bible offers hope for us in our anxiety.

Read the rest here >>

Process and Pray Through the Arts

“Know thyself.” The ancient Greek maxim holds some truth to it. Though there is such a thing as morbid introspection, knowing ourselves can be crucial for the believer in Christ. We mainly find out about ourselves through reading Scripture, which acquaints us with our sinful nature and helps us get to know the character of God, but we can also get to know ourselves by taking time to process our thoughts and feelings. There is such a thing as healthy self-reflection and assessment in light of the grace found in Christ. If self-reflection and assessment leads to increased knowledge of God, and if it leads to a deeper love for and a closer relationship with Christ, then it’s healthy.

Leave Room for Silence and Reflection

Our culture, in general, is busy and fast-paced. We tend to overschedule and pack in as much as we can in our lives for various reasons—success, money, fame, anxiety, etc. We don’t leave enough room for silence, for the stillness and quiet to invade us and show us ourselves and the Word of God applied to our lives. God can still work in our lives during busyness, but we must fight against intentionally crowding him out due to idols of the heart. One way we can stop the madness and invite the stillness is through the arts: stopping to do something with our hands; laboring to make something beautiful—whether a loaf of bread, a painting, or a knit hat; taking a walk with a camera in hand; or carving out time to sit down and write, whether that be formal writing on a laptop or informal writing in a personal journal.

God created us to process. And we do a disservice to ourselves when we zoom past that and ignore or bury our feelings instead of acknowledging them and working through them. Our emotions are a gift from God and designed by Him as a signpost for us. We don’t need to be scared of emotions or automatically assume they are all sinful. But we do need to make sure that the Word of Truth is always our foundation and use it to test our thoughts and feelings. The end goal of acknowledging and processing our thoughts and feelings is always to love God and neighbor more. It’s not ultimately about our self-fulfillment or self-actualization, and it’s not at all about self-glorification. We process in order to understand and help ourselves, so we can then love others better. The end result must always be doing the right thing in accordance with Scripture; the end fruit is always virtue. And spiritual rest is another added bonus.

Follow the Psalmists’ Example

The arts can be one vehicle of providing rest through helping us process life, emotions, human experience, and even the truths of Scripture. We see a prime example of this from King David.

Read the rest at Revive our Hearts >>

Can the Bible Help you be a Good Mom? The Best Parenting Advice on the Market

As I scroll through Facebook, I see blog posts for potty training your toddler over the weekend, how to get your kids to listen, and how to get your kids to eat right. I read one post that tells moms to cloth diaper their babies and feed them homemade pureed food, then I click over to another blog telling me to manage my kids’ screen time and get them to eat their veggies.

Moms are inundated with advice and opinions (some unsolicited) in real life and on the internet. There is no shortage of mommy blogs and parenting books. But what if I told you none of that matter as much as one thing? The Word of God. A steady diet of Scripture will change how we mother, while simultaneously being the foundation for our mothering. The Word of God trains mother and child alike.

Read the rest here >>

The Hope of Daybreak: An Easter Meditation

Darkness came with a bite of fruit. It traveled on to the murder of a brother, the stealing of a brother’s birthright, and the selling of a brother as a slave. The darkness was there when a king, a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery and murder. It’s always been there hovering over our heads, staining our hands, and nipping at our heels. It’s the shadow that follows us when we do good and bad.

It’s fitting then that the Light of the World had to experience the full breadth of darkness. The darkness of misunderstanding, of mocking, of sickness and fatigue. The darkness of manipulation, betrayal, and abuse. The darkness of abandonment and denial. And finally, “when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:33-34). Jesus experienced a darkness we never have: the full wrath of God for the sins of the world.

As his body lay limp and lifeless, Jesus was then laid in a tomb. He experienced the darkness of the grave. The cold, the damp, closed up, shut in, and trapped in the void. Jesus can feel our pain, he can feel our darkness. He knows our sadness, our burdens, our wounds. Until we’ve walked through the depth of night, we can’t understand how glorious it is to be bathed in the white light of day.

A wind came up out of the sea,

And said, “O mists, make room for me.”

It hailed the ships, and cried, “Sail on,

Ye mariners, the night is gone.”

And hurried landward far away,

Crying, “Awake! it is the day.”

When the sun rose on that third day after Jesus’ death, it ushered in the hope of resurrection. The light of life could not stay in darkness; he vanquished it. It was like every other day, but so unlike every other day. Every sunrise gives us new hope and mercies for each day–a new start, a new beginning. The rays piercing through the horizon are a sign of victory: darkness is not permanent; the light of the sun has not left us forever. This was like the sunrise of the first Easter Sunday, and yet, it was more. The sunrise on this day was a testament of the divinity of Jesus and his power over eternal death.

It said unto the forest, “Shout!

Hang all your leafy banners out!”

It touched the wood-bird’s folded wing,

And said, “O bird, awake and sing.”

And o’er the farms, “O chanticleer,

Your clarion blow; the day is near.”

It whispered to the fields of corn,

“Bow down, and hail the coming morn.”

The physical reality of the hope in a sunrise is now a spiritual reality in the person of Jesus Christ. We know for sure that God has power over darkness. No pit is too deep, no grave too wide, no night too dark. Like David said, “If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Ps.139:8b) And he continues, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Ps.139:11-12).

It shouted through the belfry-tower,

“Awake, O bell! proclaim the hour.”

It crossed the churchyard with a sigh,

And said, “Not yet! in quiet lie.”

Daybreak, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

And yet we wait. We wait to see the full revelation of these resurrection truths. Though our souls will be with him, our bodies have yet to be raised as his. But at that final daybreak, that last sunrise of hope, our bodies will escape the cold, damp darkness of earth forever and be raised to life and power. Not yet. But Christ’s resurrection tells us the sun will come back. Of this, we can be certain.


Seeing God First in Scripture

Where we start matters. We don’t read a book from end to beginning. We don’t make our bed after we get into it, but once we get out of it. We don’t put on our socks over our shoes. Almost everything we do without thinking has a logical order to it. Some things don’t work as well when done backwards. Likewise, how we view the Bible matters. We can tend to have a backwards perspective when we approach the Word of God. So, where we start in our approach towards Scripture reading affects us.

So, where do we begin? The same place the Bible begins: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). In the beginning God. Everything began with him. Many of us don’t think of the Bible as a book primarily about God. We think of it only as a book for us, like a how-to manual for life, a handbook of rules, or a self-help guide to personal growth. In fact, there are many of those elements found in the Bible and, yes, the Bible is for us. But when our primary perspective of the Bible is about us, and our personal felt needs, then we underestimate its power to change us.

Our view of Scripture can sometimes be like Moses at the burning bush. After God reveals himself to Moses in such a spectacular way, Moses replies, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11). God tells Moses that he will be with him, but Moses still brings the attention back to himself, “Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’ ” (Ex. 3:13). God then tells Moses who he is, what he has done, and what he will do (Ex. 3:14-22).

In her book, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds, Jen Wilkin comments on this portion of Scripture, saying that Moses is asking the wrong questions: Who am I? What should I do? But instead, says Wilkin, God responds by completely removing Moses out of the discussion and placing himself at the center. Wilkin says,

We are like Moses. The Bible is our burning bush–a faithful declaration of the presence and holiness of God. We ask it to tell us about ourselves, and all the while it is telling us about ‘I AM’.

All of Scripture is a revelation of God, and his revelation of himself is exactly what we need for all of life. Our how-to is God, our rulebook is God, and our self-help guide is God. When we see God rightly, we’ll see ourselves rightly. Our knowledge of God should lead to a better knowledge of self. He is our starting place. He is the lens we look through at our own lives and hearts. Beholding God first changes our view of ourselves, it then humbles us to the point of change.

Asking the right question first is key in our approach to the Bible. Wilkin suggests first asking, “What does this passage teach me about God? before we ask it to teach us anything about ourselves.” Approaching Scripture as a book primarily about God’s revelation of himself puts me in a better place to see myself accurately and respond appropriately. For instance, when I struggle to love and forgive someone who has wronged me, I can read about how God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Ps. 145:8), I can read about how Jesus tells us to love those who hurt us (Matt. 5:39-44) and see in Scripture how Jesus lived this truth out himself (Luke 23:24). Reading those truths about who God is helps me see how short I fall from his holy attributes, which places me in a humble position to repent of my sin, ask for his help, and seek to love when it’s hard.

Seeking to see God first in Scripture also trains us to be better recipients of his grace. Because looking first to the one who is the source of our power and strength gives us hope for change. When we put ourselves first in reading Scripture, we tend to make ourselves the source for change in our lives, and this could lead to either condemnation or a works-based approach to righteousness. Seeing God first in Scripture makes all the difference in effecting change in our lives. Starting with ourselves can leave us hopeless, but putting God first in our view of Scripture makes us hopeful. Because with him there is forgiveness, that he may be feared (Ps. 130:4). With him there is peace, joy, and love, and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). He is great and greatly to be praised (Ps. 96:4).

Why would we be like Moses and look at ourselves when we’re seeing a miracle? Instead, the revelations of God should make us look upwards first, then we can have the grace to look inward. Knowing who God is is the best place to start, and it makes all the difference.


This originally appeared on Morning by Morning.

Showered with the Grace of God in Christ

I was able to contribute to a series on the book of Ephesians for Servants of Grace. I covered Ephesians 3:1-2:

Would we go to prison for someone else? The Apostle Paul did. He opens Ephesians chapter three by referring to himself as a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of the Gentiles. This type of sacrifice seems almost unreasonable in our day and age. With mantras like, “you do you” and “speak your truth,” hearing of somebody laying down their own desires and ambitions for someone else is radical. But this is the way of the cross. When Jesus first appeared to Paul (then Saul), this was the road Jesus was calling Paul to walk down, and it’s the same road we must follow as well.

Read the rest there >>

The Limited Joy of Tidying Up

They were a tired, run-down couple. They were frustrated—with each other and with the house. Closets were overflowing, tupperware was spilling out of drawers, and they had two small children adding their own daily messes. Their life needed an intervention, so a Japanese woman was called in to help. Marie Kondo is her name, and in her new Netflix original series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, she enters the homes of families like this to bring peace, stability, and her trademark staple: joy.

First, the problem is identified. The young married couple starts the episode talking about their personal issues with one another and their home life in general. The stay-at-home wife can’t stay on top of all the laundry and has to hire help. Her working husband expresses frustration with this. They both talk about feeling tension and anxiety and the effects on their relationship.

Kondo’s method, known as #KonMarie and first presented in her 2014 book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is to begin with a long moment of silence and then a good house purging. Her decluttering method is based on categories, so the couple begins with dumping all their clothes out in one large pile and sorting. The wife picks up an old t-shirt she doesn’t even remember owning, then she literally thanks it and puts it in the discard pile. When she picks up the next item a big smile brims on her face. This article of clothing brings her joy, so she puts it in the pile of clothes she’ll keep. This process repeats itself with the next couple tiers of categories that Kondo has devised.

Throughout the process of dumping, sorting, and organizing, the cameras are always attuned to sentimentality, as when a wedding video is found. Both spouses can be seen talking to the cameras about any good changes happening, not just with the house, but within themselves or in their marriage. The end result? A tidy home and tidy hearts. Marie Kondo wants to help people find joy in their relationships and in their homes. She helps people get rid of material possessions, but also spiritual baggage. At the end of the episode Kondo says, “Couples can deepen their ties through tidying.”

Time for a confession: I love decluttering and organizing. Like Kondo, tidying up gives me joy. I feel alive when I can throw together bags for donations or toss something in the trash. I love seeing a well-organized and clean room, cabinet, or drawer. For me, everything has a place to go, and if it doesn’t, I’ll find one. My problem is the opposite of many on the show. I have trouble being at peace with “stuff.” I’ve had to learn to overlook, at times, the clutter my husband and children leave behind. I’ve had to learn patience and forbearance with my family. Having children means more things in the house than I would personally like to have. Being a homeschooling mom also doubles this “stuff problem.”

But Marie Kondo points out that not all stuff is a problem. She never advocates to get rid of all our sentimental items. She even points out how a lot of material things can carry deep meaning for our lives and our relationships. Kondo has helped confirm to me that material possessions are not inherently evil, but they can be a distraction from more important things. Kondo is trying to solve a spiritual problem: excess. The vice of materialism and consumerism has many of us in its grip.

This should resonate with Christians, as the Bible calls us to be wary of consumerism. We are told to “store up … treasures in heaven,” not on earth. We are also reminded that this world is not our home. God does not want us to find our identity in material possessions, like the rich young rulerwho couldn’t leave behind his earthly wealth to follow Christ. What’s more, Kondo’s message of valuing people and relationships is another reminder to love our neighborTidying Up helps us see that we are too easily fixated on the material things of this world. The show leads us to a deeper, unseen realm of spirituality. We are more than material. We have a soul as well as a body.

Kondo’s spirituality seems to be rooted in her idea of joy. Here, however, her thinking falls short of the Bible’s standard.

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

When I Can’t Go On, Show Me Your Glory

I was in the shower, shedding tears of desperation. As the water poured over me, I cried out to God to give me a special kind of love for my husband that I couldn’t produce on my own. “God, please help me. I can’t do this. I can’t. Give me the love I don’t have.” At the time, my husband and I were going through the darkest season of our marriage. I was deeply wounded. And in my hurt I was laid low. I saw my need. I saw the depravity of my human impulses, which was to hate the one who caused my pain. My impulses were not like Christ’s, and this was good for me to acknowledge.

I spent a lot of time during that season letting myself grieve and feel the emotional pain, but I knew in order to not grow bitter and be able to move on I would need more than inner strength—I had none. I needed God’s presence to go on. I needed the power of Christ. His love. His strength. I found much consolation in the Word and prayer.

God met me and was with me. He touched me with the power of His Word and His Spirit. I couldn’t go on without Him, just like Moses knew he and God’s people could not continue their journey without the presence of God. During that dark night of my soul, I would repeat to myself what Moses said in Exodus 33:18: “Show me your glory.” I needed to see His glory in order to have hope for the future.

Read the rest at Revive Our Hearts >>

Looking for Jesus: How to Find Christ in the Old Testament

When I was a kid, I looked for Waldo. That guy with the red hat, red-striped shirt, and hipster looking glasses. He was elusive, but I was Sherlock. I would scan the overcrowded picture from top to bottom, left to right, and look for anything that was red. Some pages in the Where’s Waldo? books were easy, but some were difficult. Yet every time I would come back after giving up, I’d find his eyes, with those large black glasses, staring back at me. Even when I couldn’t find him, he was always there and (creepy enough) he was always staring right at me.

In the same way that Waldo is not likely to be discovered without effort and focus, so too we must search for Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Like Where’s Waldo?, there are techniques and strategies that can help us see Christ in the Old Testament. There are clues left behind like a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow. We tend to think of Jesus only showing up in the New Testament. But he is there, like Waldo, in the Old as well.

Read the rest here >>

Be Mine, Neighbor

It was an unplanned stop at The Dollar Tree. I was waiting for my oldest son to be done with his homeschool co-op classes, while I entertained my two youngest. I let my one year old exercise her little legs around the store, while my four year old grabbed some boxed character themed valentines. The front of the store was drowning in red and pink hearts, candy, and cupids. All the things we associate with a commercial holiday.

The books I’ve read to my children about St. Valentine and the origins of this holiday, make me wonder even more why we bother to celebrate it. My cynical side says it’s just another opportunity for the big candy businesses, card companies, and retail stores to get our money again; for us to consume more stuff. My mommy side likes the cutesy crafts, gifts, cards, and valentine exchanges. I want my kids to have fun and enjoy themselves too. But then real life situations hit me with something deeper, like what happened at the dollar store.

By the time I was done at the store, I was feeling a bit frazzled from my children. With two bags in hand, and my littlest one on my hip, we all headed out the door. But then I was stopped by a man sitting in front of the store (who I immediately assumed wanted help), and I was ready with my typical response, “Sorry, I don’t have any cash,” when he said, “I’m not asking for any money, honestly. I just want some breakfast for my family. I’ll take anything from inside.”

I was stunned. I told him I’d help him, but I needed to at least put my bags in the car and get my baby secured in either her car seat or stroller. Still feeling frazzled, and now inconvenienced as a mom of little ones, the thought crossed my mind that I should probably just drive away. This is too hard with my kids right now. More thoughts ran at me as I thought about what I was about to do. Maybe he’s lying? Maybe this is just a scam? (Highly plausible thoughts in the city of Philadelphia.) Maybe I would be enabling some type of bad behavior? Maybe I’m being taken advantage of? I pushed aside the flood of thoughts and just went back inside with him, my children in tow. He had a basket full of breakfast cereal, then he asked me if he could grab a PowerAde. “Sure,” I said. And I placed my chip card in the reader.

As I drove away, I felt glad about what I did, but also still wondered if I was taken advantage of. I’ll never know. I don’t know that man’s life, and if his story was true. But I know a week before Valentine’s Day, I chose to love my neighbor. And I was reminded of the story Jesus told about The Good Samaritan.

In Luke 10:25-37, a lawyer puts Jesus to the test in order to justify himself when he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” In reply, Jesus tells a story of a Jewish man who is robbed, and left for dead, on the road to Jericho. All the typical “holy” Jewish leaders come by, like a priest and a Levite, but they don’t even mind him. Instead a Samaritan, a man who is hated and scorned by the Jews, and has no ethnic heritage or shared nationality with the mistreated man, goes above and beyond in his care of him. Jesus was showing this lawyer that he falls much shorter from the law than he thinks. Yes, it’s easy to love your neighbor at times, but not easy when they are different from you or have mistreated you. Jesus takes it up a notch when he tells us to love our enemies (Matt 5:43-48). Jews and Samaritans were practically enemies. The question the lawyer should have asked was, “How should I love my neighbor?” not, “Who is my neighbor?”

Everyone is our neighbor, those close and those far, those like us and those unlike us, those related to us and those unrelated, strangers and friends, and those who are nice to us or mean to us. That man at the dollar store was my neighbor, even if he was taking advantage of me. Sometimes, loving our neighbor means being taking advantage of or inconvenienced. Don’t get me wrong, in certain circumstances, it’s good to draw healthy boundaries for ourselves and others, but at the same time, we are all called by Christ to be at peace with a certain level of mistreatment and still love our neighbor. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, and if someone wants to sue us (or take something from us), we just give them more (Matt 5:38-42). This is a hard call, but Jesus didn’t tell us to take up our cross for nothing.

None of us are perfect at this kind of neighborly love. Many of my thoughts at the dollar store were more akin to the priest and Levite than the good samaritan. But thanks be to God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that our Savior has loved all his neighbors perfectly. He loved his neighbor to the point of death (Phil 2:8). He picked up a cross for us, and he commands us to pick up our cross for others (Luke 9:23). For our neighbor. For a man asking for food the week before Valentine’s Day. We are called to love, not just on the “love” holiday, but every day for the rest of our lives. And the love bar is set much higher than anything Cupid’s arrows could pierce. Only the love of God, in Christ Jesus, could fly that high.


This originally appeared on Morning by Morning. 

Why You Should Number Your Days this New Year

A new year always comes at the heels of Christmas. In the words of John Lennon and Yoko Ono:

“And so this is Christmas and what have we done
Another year over, a new one just begun.”

The end of a year brings reflection and remembrance, and a new year ushers in fresh hope and purpose. What have we done? What will we do now? All of these ideas center around one central hub: the passing of time.

Though we always want to look back, we move ever forward in time’s current, year after year. This year, we can spend some of our time to stop and think. How can we make the most of our time when all it seems to do is sprout wings and fly?

Read the rest here >>

I Can’t Make Time Stand Still

With every new baby, I’ve tried to soak up the moments. I’ve tried to slow down time in my head and enjoy the precious human in front of me – absorb every scent, texture, movement, and memory. But my attempts at holding back the passing of time are sand sifting through my fingers. Everything goes by so fast. I can only hold it so long. One moment, my baby enters this world and is placed on my belly, the next, she is posing for a picture holding a college degree. What they say is true: “It all goes by so fast.” And there’s nothing I can do about it.

I’m nowhere near the college picture pose with my children, but even in my six short years of being a mom, I feel the fleeting nature of time. I feel it as I clean out old baby clothes in the basement for donations. I feel it as life gets fuller with more children and therefore busier. I feel it as I look at old pictures on my phone or past memories on Facebook. I’m struggling with my children growing up and myself getting older. Ultimately, I’m wrestling with my mortality. King Solomon knew that “A generation goes, and a generation comes. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises” (Eccl 1:4-5),for “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” (Ps 144:4). These are not meant to be depressing truths, but truths meant to elevate our eyes to see our great God.

In Isaiah 38, King Hezekiah receives devastating news from the prophet Isaiah: the King will soon die and will not recover. “Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (Isa 38:2-3). In turn, God tells Hezekiah that “he has heard his prayer and seen his tears.” He promises to add fifteen years to his life and give him a sign of this promise. In verse 8, God says, “Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” The Hebrew meaning of this verse is uncertain, but we can see that God is in control over the shadow cast by the setting sun. We serve a God who can turn back time and add years to a death sentence.

In Joshua 10, we see a God who can make time stand still. Joshua and his army were up against the Amorites, and before entering battle, the Lord told Joshua that he would fight for him (Josh 10:8). After throwing the enemy army into a panic and hurling giant hailstones down at them, God answered the prayers of Joshua by holding the sun and moon in balance (Josh 10:12-13). “The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel” (Josh 10:13-14).

We want to be like God, don’t we? We want to turn back time, get more time, and even make time stop. But instead, we’re forced forward, pushed along by clocks and calendars. We can’t master time or gain control over the passing moments. For we ourselves are but a mere passing breath.

I’ve never felt more helpless as I do when I see my children grow and change, with every inch gained and recorded every year. But it’s good for me.

It’s good for me to cry out with the Psalmist and say,

“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (Ps 39:4-5)

It’s good to wrestle with my own mortality, and then accept that I’m not God. Owning this truth puts me in my rightful place as a created being, where I belong, and when I’m where God designed me to be, then I have peace and joy. Seeing myself rightly, and God rightly, helps me grow in holiness. And as I continue to wrestle with and accept this truth that he is God and I am not, peace comes into my heart more and more, and my awe of God grows, which in turn causes my holiness to grow.

Ican’t go back to my Facebook memory from five years ago. I only have so much time, and then it keeps moving on. I’m constrained and constricted. But God is not. He’s outside of time and ruling over it.

But, as C.S. Lewis says, “It is really, I suggest, a timeless truth about God that human nature, and the human experience of weakness and sleep and ignorance, are somehow included in his whole divine life.”

The God, who rules and reigns over time, entered into time and experienced the same frustrations with time as his own people. He knows we are but dust (Ps 103:14-16). He just wants us to know it too.


This originally appeared on Morning by Morning >>

No One I Loved Had Ever Wounded Me So Deeply: grieving the reality of a marriage

Before my husband and I were married people told us, “Marriage is hard.” Along with these people, another camp kept telling us about how wonderful it was too. So, which was it? We got along so well, had so many common interests and tastes, and we wanted to be together all the time. We were in love. But reality slowly brought the darkness. A few days before our wedding, my soon-to-be husband began displaying a level of anger I had never witnessed before. I stayed quiet, though, taking comfort in the fact that I at least was not the object of wrath. But on the way to our honeymoon destination, I forgot an important item of ours on the plane only to realize I’d left it behind when we arrived at the honeymoon suite.

A slow subtle stream of passive-aggressive anger began to invade my husband and permeate the air. As I sensed the anger in the heavy silence I felt afraid and confused. I sat on the bed crying as he silently sunk deeper into the bubble bath across the room from me. Later he came over and held me, but there was no explanation or resolution to the incident. Even after a month of being back home, there was no resolution when I asked him what happened. I felt deep shame and kept the incident a secret. I didn’t want anyone to know the real man I married. I didn’t want anyone to think badly of him. So I buried it.

I expected my past to be my future.

At that point in my life, no one I loved had ever wounded me so deeply. I grew up with a father who never hurt me or disappointed me. He rarely showed any form of anger to me, and even at the slightest bit of discord he would confess his sin and ask my forgiveness. My mom and dad had a generally healthy relationship. I would hear the occasional argument from my room, but none threatened the unity of their marriage.

I grew up in the church and my dad led me to the Lord at the age of twelve. I had times of rebellion, but my life never seemed to spiral out of control too much. I stayed in the church and remained strong in my faith. My family valued our relationship with one another and honest communication. My parents were not just physically present, but spiritually and emotionally involved with me as well. My family roots were strong and stable, and this formed my expectations for my husband and our marriage.

I expected my husband to talk with me, share his struggles, and even confess his sins. I expected my past family experience to be our foundation at the outset, instead of it being a process we worked towards together. But I was naive. I didn’t know about how my husband’s background and family experience would affect our marriage. I didn’t take his past baggage into account as we started our life together. And it left me confused.

Read the rest at Fathom Mag >>

Discernment in Marriage

We met Bob on our family vacation living next door to our house rental. We invited him over for coffee one morning, and he told us about his sixty years of life before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He mentioned how his wife left him after five years of marriage because he wouldn’t change. As he retold the succession of women that came after her, he said, “Yea, they all tried to change me, but I would never let them.”

And here we have the age-old paradigm of a spouse not wanting to change, and the other partner trying desperately to change them. Listening to Bob’s life story helped me reflect on the two most important factors that both spouses need to keep in tension: change and acceptance. Typically, we see these two camps divided. Either we must unconditionally accept everything about the other person, or we can’t accept anything about them and it becomes our mission to conform them to our own image. But really, neither has to be exclusively true. In my own marriage, I’ve learned it’s best to keep these two sides running parallel to each other and asking God for discernment and wisdom to know when to employ each one.

Bob had his heels dug into the ground and wouldn’t move. He was not letting marriage change him. But we must go into marriage expecting and desiring to be changed. God uses it as a means for holiness in our lives. Both husband and wife must listen to each other and always consider (even seek out) the other’s viewpoint and advice. When we seek ways to grow and change for the glory of God and the good of another, our marriage will prosper.

Read the rest at For the Church >>