I have this little post-it note sitting on my standing desk beneath my monitor, mainly so that I can see it front and center. Right now, it’s about as close as I am going to get to God hand-writing a note to me… but lately it’s something I have needed to remind myself of more than I’d like to admit.
In case you can’t read it, it says “Who does your thinking for you?”
Have you ever had a season in life where maybe you were in a rough spot, you were working through things, and eventually you get to a place where you are feeling ok, and then something happens and your mind gets thrown out of whack?
Yeah.. I just caught myself in that place this past weekend. You see, I would like to think I am a pretty positive person, always looking on the bright side of things. Even when life gets hard. I dig in, trust God will get me through, and keep plugging. I guess you could say my default thinking kind of runs like this:
- Default: I’m doing well!
- Default + hard stuff = I’m doing ok, keeping my head up and believing for the best
- Default + hard stuff + outside voices = well maybe I shouldn’t be ok? Am I missing something here?
It’s this last part that I want to talk about today. Somehow I have this weird guilt feeling that I shouldn’t be doing so well when things get hard because everyone expects certain types of reactions from us when we hit hard things in life. Sure, sometimes we DO feel the “expected reaction” – like if you lose someone you love, you are going to go through some serious loss and grief that only others who have been there get the depth of. Or if you are betrayed by a friend, or you lose a job or house, or you are diagnosed with an illness of some kind. Anger, denial, numbness, hopelessness, disillusionment…. you name it, any of those would be considered “normal” in cases like this, right? So you work through them. You process with people, with counselors, with God.
Eventually you start to see rays of hope, pieces of joy that seemed just a bit too far at the start. Then maybe you start to feel better – like really better!
At some point, voices will surfaces that will lend their thoughts, wanted or unwanted: people who didn’t know what was going on, social media rants or blog posts, books or articles or songs that speak to whatever hard thing you are dealing with. Now, sometimes voices can sometimes be good and help you along – challenging you with hope, kindness, patience, forgiveness….. or they might give you permission to feel something you were afraid to feel.
Then there are the times that these voices might make you question how well you are doing. You sure you are ok? You’re not just hiding/avoiding/ignoring? (Which sometimes is totally ok, don’t get me wrong!)
The reality is that when you serve a living God, whose very breath fills your lungs and spirit lives inside of you… there is something that is net different as you walk through difficult seasons.
A few weeks ago I was reading again in Isaiah and ran across this verse, which I had not read in a while:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand….”. (Isa 41:10)
And I sat and thought about that for a minute. This doesn’t have a qualifier on it like “I’m with you only in the big stuff”, or “ I’m with you when you don’t know what to do”.
Iam with you, so do not fear, God says. Period.
What about God being with us should make us not afraid? The easy answer is that, well, he’s big and he’s God so … there. But the reality is that we have to dig pretty deep to be aware of that presence and let it change our experience, don’t we?
Just knowing this in our heads doesn’t necessarily crowd out the voices that tell us we should be afraid, or make us recall the past, or that what others think makes more sense, or even a zillion other things that our mind might concoct to instill fear….. because to just tell ourselves “don’t listen to that voice” is like saying don’t look at the elephant in the room. Sometimes it makes us think about it more!
We have to move beyond head knowledge alone to more of a deep knowledge in our soul, one that is born of His Spirit, reminding us of God’s actual presence and power with us to get us through.
As I have been studying the Old Testament, the very presence of God is one thing that we keep coming back to. Every battle, every hard thing – God always reminded them “I’ve got this”. It didn’t mean they didn’t have to fight or chase the enemy to keep or capture land. But God being with them was huge. His presence was the deciding factor on whether they won or lost the battle. For us today, our battles are different. Often we don’t know the outcome, and what we want isn’t always what happens – but God’s presence with us SHOULD change how we experience whatever we’re going through. It’s time to stop thinking just “yep, I know God’s with me BUT…. “
No. “God IS with ME”. Not just the world, not just everyone when they are together in church. Me. You. Personally. Right there as you walk through whatever you walk through.
Are we still going to go through seasons and have hard times? Of course. Jesus says we will have trouble, but that his peace is real for us in the midst (John 14:27) of whatever we face.
Dear ones, this active knowledge of God with us takes practice. We don’t always get it right, but we have to start somewhere. I challenge you today, to ask the Holy Spirit to make you more aware of the truth that God is with you, so that His presence changes how you experience what you are going through.
After all, if he can hold the world together, don’t you think he can hold you together too?