Pastor 📖 | Teacher 📚 | Writer | Severe Wx Enthusiast | Champion of the Underdog | Equipping youth & bivocational leaders to live as Christ.
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Lately, I’ve been thinking about dust. After all, I need a new Swiffer. Possibly another Dyson.
However, in this case, I’ve been contemplating not only my relationship with God, but my relationship to God.
For when in crisis, it’s hard not to consider the contrasts…
When chaos is great, God is greater.
If man is small, how much less are his problems?
If man can do good, how much more can God do likewise?
You get the drift.
Granted, it makes sense to embrace these dichotomies in seasons of trials; hence, why I’m writing this.
‘Cause truth is…
As the story of Jacob’s wrestling match (Genesis 32) tells us, there is a holy way to contend as we confront our failures and frailties.
The question is: How do we model this type of dependence?
For starters, I submit we perceive our smallness as a big deal. As the Scriptures stress, we are significant, yet small compared to the grandeur of the Almighty (Psalm 40:17, Isaiah 66:1-2, James 4:8-10); in fact, the Hebrew word for ‘wrestle’ literally translates to dust. Go figure!
As such, we can take joy knowing the freedom of living life to scale in the fullness of who God is.
For when we embrace our weakness at the feet of Jesus, we can accept how struggling with God in faith leads to peace, revelation, even blessings. This ties to the concept of divine wrestling being a grappling of our humanity and a tenacious acceptance into intimacy. Just as God relentlessly pursues us, so is there a renewing of life when we hold onto the vastness that is Him.
My encouragement to you, my friends, is this: If you’re, like me, feeling like dry bones, as if you’re going back and forth between, ‘All I can do is stand’ and ‘All I want to do is fight’, understand the reason you’re not alone is also the reason you’re more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37) with life to come back to.
While the ways to restoration are many, dare to see wrestling with God as a spectacular way to get there. Even if you feel too weak or too stuck, remember who you are in light of God and what you can do when you view perseverance as a way to discover Him. You’ll find as you abide in God’s sovereignty, the more capacity you’ll have to hope while receiving His strength in place of cheerful fatalisms.
A few thoughts coming off a quick coffee chat with dad…
No question, it’s been a crazy month – probably the most intense, unpredictable 2-3 week stretch I’ve ever endured. But somehow, someway, I’ve unlocked a few secrets on how to overcome anxiety while operating in stillness. While a second post will debut later this month, I figured I share a few breakthrough breadcrumbs for now:
1) Slow It Down – When we sense the target on our back, human nature is to panic and accelerate to resolution. Unfortunately, this is where many of us trip up. While prayerful proaction is ideal, when we’re striving for answers to stay ahead of the arrows, we tend to create more stress for ourselves. We beg God to know ‘why’ to justify the cry as if there’s no silver linings in persevering; however, when we surrender amidst the chaos and still ourselves in the face of uncertainty, only then can we truly embrace that James 1:2-4 joy.
In my case, there have been many problems of late. Yet, I’m grateful for them as they’ve helped me learn how living in slow motion can be a bridge to calmness. Granted, it’s a paradox to any cultural definition of pace. Then again, we’re called to run the race, not race the run. Given the latter doesn’t even make sense, I’d say all the more reason to stay cool when…
2) Defer Worry – When we feel stuck in a rut, like the cosmos is out to get us, the temptation to worry (and the emotions involved) is completely valid. I know for me when the break I crave seems far out of reach, I often cater to self-preservation as a means to sanity. Yet, as the Juby journey has taught me, when we acknowledge our weakness as an extension of worship, we find God’s perspective scaling our issues to the point deferring worry makes more sense than yielding to it.
To use a football analogy, the next time you feel sacked by negativity, invite God into the fear, press into His promises, and punt the worry away*. As Psalm 57:2 says, “[We] cry out to God who fulfills his purpose for [us]”. We may not understand the timing of them or the reasons for them; however, when we silence our ego, we enhance that still small voice reminding us how God’s faithfulness is far greater than our ability to see how it applies in any given situation. Put another way, our contentment and dependence does not have to be rooted in knowing how God works but rather knowing God, especially through the ups and downs of life.
Going back to Psalm 57:2, this makes perfect sense. Check out this context:
“Be good to me, God—and now! I’ve run to you for dear life. I’m hiding out under your wings until the hurricane blows over. I call out to High God, the God who holds me together. He sends orders from heaven and saves me, he humiliates those who kick me around. God delivers generous love, He makes good on his word.” ~Psalm 57:1-3 (MSG)
This tells me even though I don’t know what the future holds with Juby’s health, even though I don’t know if my car’s radiator will bust again, even though I don’t know how work and home life will balance out for the foreseeable future, I can count it all joy as I ride out the storm.
‘Cause frankly, I’m so weak right now, I have no margin to do otherwise.
*More specifically, as you rely on God, punt worry to the point it becomes obsolete the next time it makes sense
Not long ago, I was on the phone with an obstinate client.
A stubborn deer in the headlights, I made every attempt to lead him to clarity. Timelines, next steps, how to discern and provide relevant information…the works.
Yet, after 20 minutes of verbal tennis, our conversation had locked even at deuce, the writing on the wall now clear: No call to action or motivational strategy was going to move this client.
Partially defeated, I started to guide this call to a landing when I suddenly I heard the following: “Do you advise I do this?”
A necessary inquiry in this case but one rarely sprung so late in the game. With match point in sight, I summoned my best response in the moment. The lead off?
A few seconds later, I sensed a shift in momentum as if somehow this sentence had turned the tides. Finally, the silence was pierced.
“You’re right. While I had considered that, I just needed to hear it was possible.”
And before you knew it, we were on our way – 20 seconds of insane courage pressed against 20 minutes of desperation trying to get there.
Fast-forward to today and I’m still processing this happy ending and the clause that made it happen. Given the Scriptural implications, I’d like to piggyback off this story to help us understand Romans 12:18-19 in a fresh light and how we can serve customers of all types with zeal (Romans 12:11, Titus 2:14)…as far as it be with us.
Ready to jump in?
Let’s do it…
Scripture 1: “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.” ~ Romans 12:18 (MSG)
Scripture 2: “Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” ~ Romans 12:19(MSG)
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” ~ Romans 12:19 (NIV)
Observation 1: Let’s be honest. While God created good in everyone, we seldom see it in full display during our initial interactions. Perhaps the occasional flash or two. But generally nothing more due to limited exposure, the hustle of business, and the lack of physical engagement. In a marketplace context, this is especially true when dealing with difficult customers and colleagues. With the number of walls and veils in existence today, discovering the beauty in everyone can seem like blind faith; however, when we filter this verse through a vocational lens, we can find joy in blessing all people under our breath, if not through direct encouragement. Even when we encounter antagonism, we can promote harmony as peacemakers in the opposite spirit. As Paul later says in v. 21, we champion goodness, generosity, and joy not by what happens to us externally but the light we carry internally. Accordingly, if your goal is to be reactive, then you cannot be proactive in seeing the silver linings in challenging people and situations.
My thought is: When we go into work each day, why not center our hearts and make up our minds to get along with everyone? After all, we don’t commit to these calls because they’re easy but because we have the ingredients to season our settings with hope. All the more reason to say, ‘Thank you, Jesus‘ during the dial-ins and commutes of life.
Observation 2: In a fast-paced culture, timing and timeliness are everything. At least, that’s what culture wants us to think. And to be fair, in a client care context, this makes sense. Many times, the pathway to blessing a customer is to honor their time with a mixture of best practice and efficient decision-making. But what about when clients delay the help they crave through impatience, procrastination, even obduracy? What do we say, what do we do when colleagues or clients insist their way or the highway? Is there a holy solution to “good riddance”? Well, in a single word, yes. There is most certainly a way and Romans 12:19 hints at the answer:
Whenever we’re inflicted in a way worthy of judgment, we have an opportunity to let go and let God handle it.
Far too often in the heat of the moment, our offense disables compassion and grace; however, when we apply v.19, we make room not only for God’s wrath (i.e. His ministry of reconciliation and love manifest through justice) but for care to be centered on the person, not their grievance. Don’t waste time trying to make things right in your own strength; you’ll only burn out in frustration or overstep an unauthorized boundary. Instead, as far as it be with you, trust God to take care of the consequences as you passionately bear results through meekness. Put another way, don’t consume yourself with unassigned fire; rather pay it forward with humility and watch God win your adversary over.
Bottom Line 1: As you follow Christ’s example and live a life controlled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-21), inspire peace and mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19).
Bottom Line 2: As you trust God in trying situations, make room for His justice and reconciliation to prevail.
Prayer: “Father, we come before you now. We thank you for creating in us hearts that desire good and godliness, for upwelling thirsts for righteousness in our workplaces; however, we also confess we’re not always consistent in acknowledging your beauty, let alone the beauty you’ve cultivated in others within the mundanities of life. For those who may be struggling with offense, desiring retaliation in self-gratifying ways, refresh their hearts to know your wrath is pure and able to permeate the darkest chaos. Help them be still, to know your presence as they leave room for your wonder working power. As for the rest of us, center our desire for influence, excellence, and resolution in a supernatural satisfaction that only comes from abiding in your sovereignty. Regardless of where we’re at, what circumstances we’re facing, help us exchange our lust for control for a trust that surrenders. In all we commit our hands and feet to, may the fruit of our effort be blessed for your glory’s sake. Amen.”
Have you ever had a really, really, really bad day?
You know…the kind of day where absolutely nothing goes right…where the only musterable reaction is a masquerading laughter to hide behind?
Well, let’s just say I had one of those infamous episodes a few days ago…
…one that was not only terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad, but one that gave a new and literal meaning of what it’s like to have a ‘crappy day’…
It all started last Wednesday, when I returned home from a decent day at work ironically enough. I was on the phone with my wife, Lyssah, discussing our next day travels to Atlanta and prepping to take our new puppy, Selah, on a walk when I suddenly slammed into a brick wall disguised as a sinister stench.
The smell was downright unbearable…like fermented dung reeking from the decaying innards of an infested beast.
Okay, okay…maybe it wasn’t that bad, but clearly something was wrong.
After all, we had just finished decking the halls with cinnamon branches and autumn-wreath scented candles a few days prior. One would think the fragrance in the aftermath would be seasonal, not hinted with nuclear bowel explosions.
At any rate, while I could only pray the stench belonged to a deceased rodent, as I crept towards Selah’s crate, the writing on the wall became clear…and brown with streaks of splattered excrement. Like a chaotic scene from an abstract Jackson Pollock painting, my mission was now set:
I had to free Selah from her sharty prison…and the demonic oppression possessing her stool.
And so for the next hour-and-a-half, I devoted all energy to conquering Selah’s anal glands and my chemoreceptor triggers. After a thorough scrubdown, I then called Lys to discuss our Wednesday night gameplan in light of the situation. Initially, I was to meet her at church following my Selah break to pick her up from a Sunday service video shoot. From there, we’d return home, eat dinner, and head back out to church for our youth discipleship gathering; however now, due to changes in Selah’s health, Lys would forgo youth service and hitch a ride home to tend Selah leaving me to lead youth service alone.
An understandable predicament all things considered; unfortunately, since I’d lost 90 minutes cleaning fecal material and had to be at church one hour before service, I had no choice but to leave Selah unattended outside her crate. Granted, hindsight is 20/20, but at the time, I figured the risk was worth taking given what I had just cleaned on top of Lys having started her drive home. I mean, c’mon! What damage could Selah possibly accomplish in 10-15 minutes or less? Or so I thought…
Well, as it turned out, quite a bit actually.
Although I can’t vouch for every canine conundrum, at some point during that 10-15 minute window, Selah apparently snuck into the bedroom, located the sparkling spectacle that was my wife’s engagement ring, and devoured it.
Now, thankfully, I wasn’t aware of this prior to youth service; however, after returning home to a wife and dog pawing around the bedroom floor on all fours, it didn’t take long for the light bulb to ignite. A quick glance at my wife’s eyes told me everything.
Something valuable had gone missing…
…and something as valuable had contributed to it.
Needless to say, once I realized our furry companion had consumed Lys’s engagement ring, I couldn’t help but wonder what the crap was going on (pun intended). First, the fecal fiasco; now this!?! Sure, the day could have been a lot worse, but this was getting ridiculous. Something needed to give and fast.
Well, as it turned, I didn’t have to wait long or look far for motivation. For as I watched my wife morph into a modern day version of the woman looking for her lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), it hit me how our joy was being deliberately pursued.
Realizing the target on our backs, Lyssah and I stopped our ring hunt, prayed, packed our suitcases, watched a new episode of 30 Rock, then prayed some more. During the time, we were discouraged but hopeful God would shed light on the missing ring and cure Selah’s rectal dysfunction.
The next day, as we started our Georgia journey, we both sensed the same conviction: Although we did well in praying into the stress, we hadn’t taken every negative thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) to the obedience of Christ. Having recently preached on this with LEGACYouth, we knew full well what we needed to do.
First, given the small and big-picture anxieties, we recognized we’d been under assault from the enemy. So we acknowledged our authority in Christ and rebuked his schemes.
Secondly, we confessed we hadn’t been as immediate in our obedience to overcome. So we repented and asked God to forgive us and redeem any unsurrendered part of our hearts.
Thirdly, we renounced our fear and replaced it with godly belief and truth. And lastly, we expressed thanksgiving unto the Lord for all He had done for us.
Once we took these steps and laid our troubles at the feet of Jesus, I kid you not…the atmosphere in the car completely changed.
Suddenly, we felt secure in our circumstances knowing we’d been given everything we needed to be content in the Lord.
Suddenly we felt excited knowing there was nothing Satan could do to break our confidence in Christ.
Suddenly, we felt hopeful that God would meet our needs…and then some.
I mean…you talk about a weary car-ride transformed into a triumphant road-trip; no question, we had entered into a new peace as we crossed over into a new place both internally and locationally.
So why do I share all this?
Well, for starters, you may feel the emoji of your life right now is nothing more than a steamy pile of crap. You may feel burdened by adversity and think there’s nothing you can do when the devil comes after you. For others, you may feel indifferent or incapable of persevering through the obstacles in your midst.
Wherever you’re at, remember when your joy is being pursued, you can pursue joy in the Lord right back. Even when the bottom line feels like a loss, you can still choose to see endurance as victory and strength when you feel Satan is after your weakness. And if you feel powerless to do this, when in doubt, just pray…even if you don’t have the words or the energy. For it’s in these moments God wants to reveal His grace, power, and understanding to you…to encourage and remind you He’s not only present in the dark times…but all the times!
My encouragement to you, friends, is to be unwavering in your reliance especially when Satan seeks to rob you of the good you carry. Rather than feel helpless or assume you’ve done something wrong, dare to let Jesus answer the call. As Billy Graham once said, “He’s the best home security system there is“; therefore, we have nothing to fear and no grounds to worry. Whatever you’re walking through, the next time happy and crappy collide, consider the intersection a sweet spot where you can lean into Jesus and receive His love anew and afresh.