Tuesday, November 28, 2017

I can do it myself...

I've spent most of my life determined to prove myself. I can't tell you when that started, but my mom has told me many times that "I can do it myself!" was a very common thing to hear me say when I was little. That hasn't changed much in the 33 years I've had on this earth.

Sometimes, that mantra is a good thing. Sometimes, my stubborn determination is what keeps me pushing through when times get hard. It's what got my backhandspring when I was doing gymnastics when I was little. It's what got my best friend and I to grit our teeth and push through basing an extension in cheerleading when we were told it was too hard for us. It's what got me through the initial shock of my brother's death. It's what got me through homework assignments that made my crazy and 2 physics degrees I never imagined getting.

The problem is, faith in my own abilities won't get me very far. Because, you see, knowing my strengths also gives me a really good view of something else--my weaknesses. And believe me, I know those all too well. I see them on a daily basis. I could go down the list of what I'm not good at and all the ways I've failed to live up to expectations (I have that list running through my head on a pretty regular basis).

When you're always trying to prove yourself and you have a front row seat to watch all the ways you mess it up, it's easy to start tying your worth to what you do. Or to be blatantly honest about myself, I seem to tie my worth to my failures.

I want my life to matter, to have some sort of significance. That desire has always been there, but I think it was magnified by my brother's death. Actually, that's not quite right. It was magnified by his life, but maybe brought to my attention by his death. I've gotten the chance to see just a hint of all the lives his touched, of the impact he made in his short 23 years, and it's made me examine my own life time and time again.

That, coupled with a youth that focused on learning about missionaries and a heart that breaks when I read stories of God's people around the world, makes me ask all the time if I'm doing enough for God. I'm so desperate for Him to use me, desperate to figure out where I fit in His plan and what it is He wants me to do for His Kingdom. I've had great men and women of God whisper in my ear, "God's got big plans for you," but so far I've just found myself lost...

But here's the thing--God's "big plans" probably don't have the same definition as mine. And besides, God doesn't actually need my help. He is full capable of accomplishing His will without me--He spoke all of creation into existence, so what would stop Him from simply speaking His will to happen?

So instead of focusing on what God wants me to do, I need to start focusing on who He wants me to be. Like the psalmist, I need to learn to say,

"My soul quietly waits for the True God alone
because I hope only in Him.
He alone is my rock and deliverance,
my citadel high on a hill;
I will not be shaken.
My salvation & my significance depend ultimately on God;
the core of my strength,
my shelter,
is in the True God."
~Psalm 62:5-7

Saturday, November 4, 2017

when it seems the bad outweighs the good

"Despite what you may think,
these ruling spirits are losing their grip on this world."
1 Corinthians 2:6b, The Voice
When you look around at this world, it's easy to see the bad. After all, that's what everyone is pointing out to us. The news is full of stories of evil and heartbreak. We see people hurting all around the world, often watching their loved ones get ripped away from them. There are threats of war, terrorist attacks, attacks on every value and ideal that used to be held dear.

And then there are the personal attacks, the bad things happening in our own lives that may not be evident to those on the outside. There are marriage issues, financial troubles, illnesses, and decisions that are simply the lesser of two evils.

Here on the new farm, there is sickness and injury and death and heartbreak right now. We are in a bit of a tricky situation, where we need the farm to succeed in order for us to afford to be home on the farm, but we need to be home on the farm in order for it to succeed. On Wednesday, we came home from a rough day at school to 4 dead goats. Then Thursday, we found another 5 bodies when we got home. We talked to the vet yesterday and went (again, after school) to pick up the vaccines and antibiotics he had suggested, then came home to 3 more goats dead, and multiple goats that were injured due to a dog attack--by our own family pet. That was after what, for me, had been one of my roughest days at school so far.

Sometimes it feels like the bad outweighs the good. It feels like Satan and his minions are winning the battle that is raging around us, and that we're just the casualties of war. It feels like God has turned away from us and is just letting the enemy do what it will. We feel forsaken.

Remember, though, you aren't alone in that thought. While Jesus hung on the cross, He cried out, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani—My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). And those weren't just His words--in His agony, Jesus was repeating the words of David:

"My God, my God, why have You turned Your back on me?
    Your ears are deaf to my groans.  
O my God, I cry all day and You are silent;
    my tears in the night bring no relief."
(Psalm 22:1-2)

But what if just maybe, Satan is clawing like crazy for every small victory he can find because he knows he's losing the war? What if he sees the end getting closer, and that's why he is struggling so desperately against us?

Despite how this world looks, the war is drawing to an end. The victory has already been won, and the enemy is trying to get in a few final hits before they are vanquished for good.

While Jesus hung on the cross, I imagine it broke the Father's heart. I don't think God wanted to watch His Son suffer, and I don't think He wants to watch us suffer. But sometimes, I think He lets us go through the bad stuff because He knows that what's waiting for us on the other side is something better than we could have ever imagined.

Without the cross, there wouldn't be the glory of the resurrection.

Without the bad, there wouldn't be the beauty of the good.

In the midst of the bad times, may we be able to say like David did:
"Still, You are holy"
Psalm 22:3a

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