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
26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
Peter Denies Jesus
66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed.69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
It’s a hard scene to process.
Peter. The Rock. Cracking under pressure.
The Cross set before His Master, a sliver in the back of his mind.
Never would he fall astray; never would he run away. That was Peter. Or rather that was going to be Peter.
But before the Shepherd could be battered, the sheep of the flock would soon be scattered. And it’s here where despite our cringes, we must appreciate this sequence: The ultimate Shepherd grooming his undershepherd through a defining moment of weakness. A prophecy centuries in the making (Zechariah 7:13) now an emerging hallmark of humility for the early church to thrive on. The man in the middle?
The Rock. The epitome of moniker though something far greater. You see, ‘The Rock’ was not just a designated nickname but the proof of Christ’s identity realized. One could say the greatest insight received by man came in Mark 8:29 when Peter, the Rock, confessed Jesus as cornerstone – the Son of the Living God.
Still, as keen as this inspiration was, the symmetry of it could not have occurred without an epic fail. For before Peter could sleep on his call to keep active watch at Gethsemane, he had to first confront and fall to a fear of abandonment. Without this fear, Peter’s resolve could not have been tested – a paradox considering a less distracted Peter would have meant more fervent prayer during Jesus’ final hours.
Granted, that’s the beauty of Jesus’ perfect love in this passage. For Jesus knew a humbling of Peter ahead of His death was necessary to calibrate his boasting to the power he’d rightfully appropriated. No matter how much Peter confessed his devotion, he had to first wrestle with the fragility of his hope before he could shepherd a flock with a more mature version. How incredible it is to consider Jesus, the weight of the world on His shoulders, was working all this for good before the good could be known and shared.
As for us, no matter how long we’ve walked with God, we’ve all denied Jesus at one point or another. And while we have the Holy Spirit to act as our rooster in those times, let’s not take for granted the ministry of reconciliation in those instances. The sting of sin may prick our hearts but in a way that’s why Jesus came to die in the first place: To not only liberate us from captivity but awaken and sharpen us to higher faith.
Accordingly, as we enter into God’s gates with thanksgiving this Easter weekend, may our denials become trials intended for glory. You may feel discouraged about your shortcomings, but this doesn’t mean you have to bask in them. Rather repent, receive God’s grace afresh and anew, and feed His sheep. After all, Christ didn’t take the nails to deliver us from disappointment but to free us into intimacy through the growing pains of life.
At the end of a long day, sometimes the last thing we want to do is read the Bible. As we exchange fatigue for refreshment in labor’s wake, we often chill and defrag on our own terms…
…be it sunset walks. Exercise. Fireplace reads. Hot baths. Netflix. YouTube. I could go on…
Yet, while these options are appropriate at the proper times, per recent conviction, I’m concerned many of us have detached the Scriptures from this menu of items. And while I’m sure many of us understand the importance of meditation and prayer, as I’ll discuss in this post, we do our faith a disservice when we compartmentalize such sustenance from the rest we crave.
Accordingly, as a fellow bivocational hustler who’s regularly on the go, here are three ways we can engage quiet time with God in 2021.
1. Refresh Your Gameplan
In seasons of spiritual distancing, consistency in the Word can be a struggle. Knowing where to turn, where to start, where to continue…the lack of compass in general can be enough to deter a Scriptural encounter. Yet, while many resources will tell you how finding a quality Bible reading program will stabilize your faith, truth is: Life is less black and white and far more unpredictable than we think.
Dare I remind us: Overtime. Trainings. Meetings. Zoom calls. Traffic. Extracurricular small groups. Midweek church services. Educational endeavors. Benevolence/outreach opportunities. Family emergencies. Health issues.
No question each day is full of life as well as nuisance and troubleshooting. Still, within the snowflake tapestry of each day are rhythmic stretches where we can find silence and rest. They may not be long; heck, they may be fifteen minutes or less. Regardless of duration, dare to pray not only about the Bible reading plans God has for you, but also what tactical gameplans He wants to refresh as well.
As I learned last year, often God will refresh His intimacy with a new chapter as opposed to restarting it with a blank slate. Granted, it doesn’t have to be one or the other; sometimes a blank slate is a necessary predecessor to the ‘next’ God has for us. That said, don’t assume the answer to your quiet time strategy is something new and don’t strive for a Bible reading plan because it’s conventional. Rather seek the Lord and draw near. Inquire His plans and purposes concerning your engagement and understand God is after your heart more than your time. Remember while a sacrifice of praise is often a sacrifice of time for us, in God’s eyes, refreshing our gameplan can be the jumpstart we need to know we don’t have to carve out what He’s already gifted.
Bottom line: Before you prematurely dive into research, press into God’s heart and allow Him to reveal the pathways of discernment you’re to walk.
“For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.”
They say each day is a journey, a quest for orientation amidst a jungle of chaos. As we all know, the ride can be turbulent, testing, sometimes downright fierce.
But again, no matter no how busy the calendar, how intense the load, there’s always room for God. And while the world says you have no room, you have no time, consider the fact this is how Jesus entered our humanity.
As John 1:14 declares, Christ is the Word become flesh. He lived among us so we could experience His glory as God’s Son full of grace, truth, wisdom, and understanding.
This tells me two things:
Jesus not only came to save us as a one-time ticket to heaven but to continually draw us as ambassadors for heaven. As co-heirs with Christ, we were made for consistent fellowship with Him – a perpetual reality we should never take lightly.
Just as we were formed by God’s words, so are we fashioned by His daily Word. As sons with a promise, we were made to discover joy through justification (restoration) and sanctification (refinement); however, one must wonder if the process of the latter can mature without consistent quiet time with God.
Whatever the case, may we be a people united in fixing our minds on what is right, our hearts on what is godly, and our discipline on what is everlasting. While God’s instruction may seem repetitive, understand the application is always unique to your calling and situation. Even when the days are dull, there’s never a dull moment in God’s presence given His sovereignty and encouragement are endless and always near.
Consider this: If our aim is to become more like Jesus, we must value exposure to His promises and purposes. Since His ways are perfect and infinitely higher than our own, it makes no sense to reach in God’s direction if our desperation isn’t rooted in intentionality. As long as we approach the Lord with humility, we can rest assured He will provide the blueprints for sustained Spirit-filled and Spirit-controlled life (see Ephesians 5; more on this in a future post).
Bottom line: For Jesus to be our daily bread, the Word must also be daily read. All the more reason to bookend each day in the truth of who God is.
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” ~ Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
“I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” ~ Psalm 77:12 (ESV)
“The [Word] shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” ~ Joshua 1:8 (ESV)
3. Bookmark Your Inspiration
As simple as it sounds, one of the best ways to reference God is to set altars of gratitude at our places of influence. By altars I not only mean emblems with Scriptural citations but any physical prompt directing you to worship. For instance, you could have a picture frame, a poster, a small shelf of books at your desk…honestly the possibilities are endless. Whatever methods you employ, the point is not the system you facilitate but the heart of worship you propitiate.
Consider the reason you work:
Hence, why we should bookmark our inspiration and prepare our hearts to recall and call on God’s faithfulness as we effort for His glory. After all, who knows what kind of innovation and illumination awaits as we rely on Jesus who by His Spirit has given everything we need for goodness and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
Bottom line: To worship as you work is to anchor your devotion. Therefore, posture your heart and its surroundings to give pleasure to God.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
In seasons of sadness, processing emotions can be complicated. As we declutter the soul, we sometimes stumble upon excess baggage, unmet expectations, even hidden motives we didn’t know where there; however, I also think part of the struggle concerns how we compartmentalize grief from its holy accompaniments.
For instance, many published works will tell you there’s joy to be found after sorrow, godly remorse, death, you name it. But filtered through the Scriptures, we find a different picture. More specifically, we don’t grieve to find joy but grieve with joy to find God and what He’s saying.
On the surface, this can seem like a paradox: How can a heart be at peace and rest in the midst of great pain?
Well, it depends on how your faith intersects its prepositions. If you believe you persevere to something good, be it a better outcome, a finish line, etc., chances are you’ll rush, perhaps force the virtue through coping mechanisms. Conversely, if you believe you persevere through something good, be it courage, humility, thanksgiving, and joy, chances are you’ll discover and uncover profound wisdoms once foreign.
When the Psalmist says “you have turned my mourning into dancing“, he’s not implying a complete substitution but embracing the two as co-existent. Per his next line – “You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness” – the implication is not an eradication of suffering but a reorientation to the Spirit of God upon Him. Accordingly, the man once burdened by his surroundings can now take delight amidst a lifting load given his focus in more vertical than horizontal.
This tells me two things:
Finding joy in grief starts by experiencing God on the road to recalibration.
Finding joy in grief allows us to walk in freedom and share what God is doing simultaneously.
Can grief be turned into joy (John 16:20)? Absolutely! However, rather than itemizing the two, consider the bridge of comfort in between as a path to the glory that is His and the victory that is yours. From there, keep the oil of jubilation (Isaiah 61:1-3) handy and distribute as needed. After all, even in death and turmoil, there’s a favorable year of the Lord to proclaim. Might as well keep dancing.