And the Wind Died Down

Only when we come to recognize and embrace the sweetness of Christ’s grace in the hard times are we able to rejoice in the richness and depth of His grace in the good times.

As the title of my website might suggest, the story of Peter walking on water in Matthew 14 is my favorite story in the Bible. I have realized over the last couple of years how rich this story is with meaning; with truths of grace and mercy and hope in every word.

We can read a story such as this so many times, year after year, and yet, in a single moment, we can read it again and find new meaning and new significance.

When I first started writing, it was like my ‘walking on water’ moment; the moment I knew God was telling me to step out of my comfort zone and walk in faith; to trust Him with the story that He had given me and surrender all that I had gone through and was learning to the purposes of His good and perfect will.

For it is in Him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

Unfortunately, as we human beings often do, I got distracted. I started writing for my own purposes; desiring the approval of those around me more than God’s approval, seeking to write and encourage in ways that I saw best, and following the advice of others rather than trusting in God’s perfect wisdom.

This wandering was not just in my writing though, but in my relationships with others, my walk with the Lord, and in my pursuit of joy and peace.

The words of Robert Robinson’s hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing rang so true in my life at that time – prone to wander, Lord I feel it // prone to leave the God I love.

So with eyes averted and devotion divided, when the wind and waves came, I became afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30)

grace upon grace

In perfect wisdom and love, God used Peter’s failure and mine alike to loudly proclaim His infinite grace. As author C.S. Lewis puts it –

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

And so it was in those moments when I felt way in over my head; drowning in a storm of my own making filled with lies of disappointment, fear, and failure that God spoke the loudest; where grace became the only solid ground on which I could stand.

I cherish those seasons of pain and uncertainty in my life the most though because it is in those moments that leave us stunned and without words that the Lord speaks the loudest.

It is in the moments when we have no where left to turn that His open arms become a sweet refuge.

It is when we are broken that He mends us and makes us whole.

It is when we are empty that He fills us.

And it is only after we have been through a storm that we are able to look back and recognize His saving grace.

and the wind died down

As I look back on 2018, I see beautiful moments of friendship, growth, joy, and hope, as well as tough seasons of anxiety, fear, and doubt. However, more than all of these, I see the unparalleled grace, mercy, and patience of the Lord.

I see my Savior; my Redeemer; the Rescuer of my soul, who despite my moments of resentment and unfaithfulness, never left my side.

When I was broken, He made me whole again.

When I was empty, He fulfilled my every need.

When I felt alone, He comforted me.

When the silence seemed overwhelming, His voice rang loud and clear.

And now, as I look back on the good and bad of 2018 and embrace the Lord’s goodness in the toil and joys alike, I feel the wind dying down around me and grace and peace in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus my Lord (2 Peter 1:2).

It is important though to remember that these seasons of turmoil and rest; of raging storms and quiet waters, all point to a greater reality.

In the storms of life, God loudly proclaims to our bruised and broken spirits that this is not all that there is; that though these sorrows may be painful, they are light and momentary nonetheless.

Storms remind us that we have the hope of eternal and perfect peace in Christ Jesus still waiting for us.

And in the same way, when we are granted seasons of rest and the storms of life die down around us, we are reminded that the good things in this world are but murmurs of the greater weight of glory that is yet to come.

And it is when we recognize this and embrace it in every season of life that we are truly able to rejoice in Christ Jesus; thanking Him with joy and thanksgiving for His good and perfect gifts and sitting back, beaten and bruised by the storms of life to worship Him still.

One of my favorite quotes by John Owen says that ‘beholding the glory of Christ in this life is preparation—small “dawnings of eternal glory”—for the joys of heaven, where we will see Christ in His glory fully.’

This life will be filled with good and bad; with joys and toil, happiness and sorrow. This is simply the reality of our human condition. However, as we learn to recognize and embrace the sweetness of God’s grace in our joys and sorrows on earth, we are preparing our hearts for the day of rejoicing when we will fully behold His glory; when the dawning turns to day, the storm [sin] is silenced forever, and we enter into ‘the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. We will come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. We will come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel’ (Hebrews 12:22-24).

We will be Home, where joys abound and the wind is no more.

Because You’re Mine

It was ‘Bob Ross’ night as we liked to call it and the four of us had our canvases and paints all ready to go.

The beginning steps weren’t too difficult. We were simply instructed to lay the base colors; the light blues of the sky and the deep greens and browns of the rich earth below.

I was practically Michelangelo at this point.

Then we started adding depth, definition, and contrast.

By the time we got to the mountain range and ‘happy trees,’ I was no better than a 2nd grader with her finger paints.

My final product was anything but perfect. All my hopes and dreams of ever becoming an artist had been swiftly whisked away. But I still loved it.

I thought it was a beautiful painting; worthy of being prominently displayed on my wall where everyone could see it.

Sure it wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t care.

It was mine.

This reminded me of one of my favorite children’s books by Max Lucado, You Are Special.

In this adorable, yet incredibly relevant book; applicable even to the wisest of theologians, our young puppet named Punchinello inquires of his creator, the wood worker named Eli…

“What do I matter to you?”

Eli looked at Punchinello, put his hands on those small wooden shoulders, and spoke very slowly. “Because you’re mine. That’s why you matter to me.”

I absolutely love this part of the story because it is in this moment that the lie every adult knows is confronted … ‘my value lies in what I can or cannot do.’

What a debilitating lie this is.

Our confessional theology; the theology we proclaim to believe in, tells us and the world that our value comes from the One who made us. However, our practical theology; the theology that we actually live by, more often than not tells us and the world that we don’t really believe in what we proclaim.

If we did, there would be no such thing as comparison or pride in our small groups, anxiety when answering a question in Sunday School, or broken friendships among believers.

Rather, our lives tell a story of vain striving; of people who look within rather than above for assurance and value, believing that either…

  1. I’ve got this; or
  2. I suck.

The ‘I’ve got this’ lie suggests to the world that we believe God loves us because of all the good we do while the ‘I suck’ lie implies that we believe that God’s love is conditional; apt to change; to increase or decreased based on our actions or lack thereof.

Both are essentially the same lie – ‘my value lies in what I can or cannot do.’ One is through the lens of pride and the other is through the lens of self-loathing.

Both are equally destructive to the believer’s life.

As I’ve searched deeper into the precious Word of God and developed a greater, more personal understanding of this faith that I claim, I’ve also become more acquainted with the depth of my depravity; of all the ways that I’ve thought wrongly about God and conducted myself accordingly.

This is one of those areas.

I’m only now realizing how much of my life has been driven by this deceptive belief that I had and still have some part to play in determining my value as a Christian.

In some regard this may seem fairly innocent; common even and often masked with sympathetic words such as ‘insecure’ or ‘low-self esteem.’ We might even try to mask this lie with empowering words; words that tell me that I’m ‘self-aware’ or ‘introspective.’

To some degree it’s good to be introspective and aware of one’s motives and actions, but when that turns into a means by which we try to gain favor in God’s eyes, this seemingly innocent misconception suddenly becomes insurmountable.

This lie that I had some part to play in determining my value and worth as a Christian suddenly, when under attack from the enemy, morphed into the lie that I now have a part to play in guaranteeing my salvation.

Yikes! That escalated really quickly!

But do you see how different those two lies are yet how closely they can be related?  Even the slightest fallacy in our beliefs regarding the Gospel is enough for Satan to plunge his dagger of deceit into and twist until we are unraveled by pain, illegitimate guilt, and confusion.

I realized that nearly the entirety of my faith had fed into this lie that I had some part to play in how much (or how little) I was valued by God.

I had a ‘good day, bad day’ faith and once faced with some serious life circumstances, immense fears, and relentless lies from the devil, it quickly stole my focus from that of Jesus Christ standing firm on the water to the fact that I was merely human and could not, within myself, walk on water.

Because I saw myself as part of my own front line defense against Satan rather than the truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and Word of God that makes up the impenetrable armor of God (Eph. 6), I presented the enemy with the perfect opportunity to strike at the weakest point in my defense…me!

And I am no match against the powers of hell or the urges of sin, fear, and temptation.

Like Helm’s Deep in the Lord of the Rings – just one, extremely small area of weakness, when targeted by the enemy, was enough to bring down the steadfast walls that protected what was most sacred to the people of Rohan.

Just one, extremely small area of weakness in a believer’s theology and belief in the Gospel is enough to seriously disrupt and derail the security that protects what is most sacred to the Christian’s faith – salvation only by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And since the Word of God alone is secure and infallible, it is only when we, fragile, limited human beings assume some degree of God’s limitless nature as our own that we erode our defenses against the flaming arrows of the enemy.

One might say that I had lost a sense of who I was; of my value as a child of God; of how much I was cherished, loved, and accepted.

However, I didn’t necessarily lose a sense of who I was. In fact, I elevated my sense of who I was and lost a sense and recognition of who God is.

My painting may have had some disproportionate trees, weirdly colored meadows and fields, and shadows that faced the wrong direction, but none of that equated to its value.

The finest works of art do not possess their intrinsic value on their own. They don’t even help in the process. They possess their value because their Artist is intrinsically valuable, making wonderful things because HE is wonderful; imputing HIS glory onto the works of HIS hands despite their inconsistencies and irregularities.

Because we are His, we are special.

Because we are His, we are valuable.

Because we are His, we are saved.

Worst Case Scenario

If you’ve read any of my past blog posts or have had a conversation lasting longer than 5 minutes with me, you probably know that I am really fascinated by natural disasters and the entire crisis cycle, from mitigation to preparedness to response and recovery.

Unfortunately, along with this fascination comes an increased sense of anxiety.

When studying something as violently unpredictable as natural disasters, you get a real sense of how little you actually control, and with that comes what I like to call the worst case scenario syndrome.

I live in a worst case scenario world.

That’s just how my brain works.

We can only do so much to prepare for the next F5 tornado. The rest is an act of God.

So what do we do? We try to develop a plan that will best prepare us for the absolute worst case scenario so that anything less than that will be easy peasy lemon squeazy – right?

We do this a lot in our relationships with others and with God too though, don’t we?

We formulate and then fixate on these ideas of what is to come and all that could go wrong so that we’re not caught off guard and hurt any more than we already are.

If this is you, take hope. You’re not alone.

Peter had a pretty bad case of worst case scenario syndrome.

In Matthew 14:30 we get a glimpse at what’s going on in Peter’s head as he feels the water hold his weight beneath is bare feet.

Up until this point, Peter had displayed an incredible amount of faith – being the first to interact with Jesus (vs. 28), whom they all thought was a ghost and of course, being the first to actually take a step out of his boat and onto the water (vs. 29).

Kudos to Peter!

After stepping out of the boat and taking his first wobbly steps on the water towards Jesus, Peter let his guard down and allowed his thoughts to run wild.

…when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matt. 14:30).

This verse always confused me because seriously, how on earth does someone “see the wind?”

It’s wind! It’s an invisible yet very powerful force.

It causes tremendous damage and leaves destruction in its wake, but it is still obscure.

We can always see the aftermath of wind, but never the wind itself.

Worst case scenario syndrome is a lot like the wind.

When we indulge our thoughts in worst case scenarios, we are fabricating and then fixating on one of two things:

  1. The future; or
  2. The motives and/or thoughts of another.

Just like the wind, neither of these things are actually viable for us to see or understand. We try fixating on the future to determine the best and safest course of action to avoid this worst case scenario that we’ve developed in our minds with no real understanding of what the future actually holds.

We begin developing these scenarios of how we’ll handle our friends and family when they act this way or that and get ourselves caught up in a frenzy of anxiety over made up assumptions about how they feel, their motives, and their thoughts.

And before we know it, we begin to sink in the worry and anxiety caused by nothing more than our own imaginations.

We catch glimpses of “the wind” and worry ourselves to the depths of a sea of our own making.

If any of you have seen The Shack, there is a scene that captures this perfectly and I encourage you to take a look:

Imagine yourself in Mack’s shoes.

For once, everything is fine and you find yourself in a moment where you feel safe enough to simply close your eyes and breathe in life.

Jesus told Mack to meet him on the lake; he told him to go out on that boat. This was obviously exactly where Mack needed to be.

Jesus told Peter to step out of his boat. He took that step of obedience and experienced a divine intervention. For a moment, Peter felt the confidence of being exactly where Jesus wanted him to be – walking on water.

But then Mack lets his imagination run wild. He sees visions of his past and the pain that had become a familiar friend.

Panic ensued and before he knew it, Mack was sinking.

Same thing happened to Peter. A moment of weakness allowed the fear of an unknown future – a glimpse of that which was invisible – to seep into his thoughts and plant doubt.

He began to sink.

Notice that the first thing Mack says when Jesus arrives is “why are you doing this to me?”

Jesus replied by explaining that what Mack was experiencing was not from him, but that Mack was doing it to himself; that it was happening inside of him.

“You’re letting it consume you and you don’t have to. Just take a deep breath and listen to my voice.”

We often let these worst case scenarios and assumptions consume us when we don’t have to. I have found that I am most prone to this type of thinking in the mornings.

I’m tired, groggy, and my mind is not sharp enough to ward off the attacks of the devil. As I’m getting ready in the morning, my mind has a tendency to dwell on the unknown and fixate on worst case scenarios. I allow it to consume me, altering my mood and outlook on a new day and on the people I care about most.

So I look to Jesus.

I take a deep breath and flip on KLove radio, listening to the voice of God through music and worship.

Once Mack locked eyes on Jesus, his boat continued to sink but he was never consumed.

When we set our eyes on the Son, our problems may not immediately dissipate. We may still have to deal with the repercussions of the wind and waves of this present storm, but we don’t have to let it consume us.

As we allow ourselves to be overtaken by worst case scenario syndrome, we allow ourselves to imagine a future without Jesus Christ in it, and guess what – that future does not exist.

There is no worst case scenario because what was intended to harm us, God has intended for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:19-20) through your influence, your testimony, and your example.

Worst case scenario syndrome is a silent, quiet, and very quick killer of the soul. We don’t realize it’s vice grip until it’s almost too late; until we find ourselves gasping for a breath of truth.

In all honesty, it’s a daily battle for me still.

I’ve had to take very deliberate steps specifically to ward off my tendencies to dwell on assumed scenarios, and believe me when I say it is not easy.

But we have hope!

Every morning when I wake up, I can choose to dwell on Jesus through music, worship, podcasts, and Scripture, setting the tone for my day rather than allowing the silence of my one bedroom apartment to whisper lies of made up realities and false truths.

Think about the times when you are most susceptible to worst case scenario syndrome.

Now that you know when your mind is most prone to wonder to those thoughts, take intentional steps to fill that brain space with truth; with visions of a future gently held in the hands of God.

Finally friends, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things (Philippians 4:8).

– Kristin

 

Stop Drinking the Salt Water

Science has shown that the effects of drinking excessive amounts of salt water can be very serious. In order for the body to rid itself of all the excess salt taken in by drinking salt water, one would have to dispose of more water than consumed, eventually causing dehydration as the body becomes thirstier with every swallow.

When Peter stepped out of his boat and walked on water in Matthew 14:29, he sank only when he was distracted by the wind and waves around him.

Every day brings with it a whole new set of distractions; some old that continually bombard us and some new that take us by surprise, and sometimes they even take on the appearance of life-giving water.

These are what I like to call the ‘satisfiers’ of this world.

Satisfiers have many different characteristics, but they all have one thing in common:

They promise fulfillment but only dehydrate our bodies as we thirst for more.

Relationships, success, that ‘dream job,’ wealth, even experiences – these are all satisfiers that vie for our attention, sucking the life out of us as we immerse ourselves in the gratification of their empty promises.

Anything that draws our attention away from Christ will cause us to sink; it will bring death.

It was only when Peter took his eyes off Christ that he started sinking and it was only when he cried out to the Lord again that he was rescued.

The thing about these satisfiers though is that they look good, don’t they? All we see are the benefits we might reap if we only submit ourselves to their pleasure.

The salt in salt water is absent to the naked eye.

We don’t see it.

All we see is something that resembles the fulfilling, life-giving water of Christ that will refresh us and nourish our souls.

The salt is an invisible killer just as satisfiers are invisible, silent killers.

They promise fulfillment and even take on an outer resemblance to the One who can truly satisfy, offering us the hollow promises of love, fulfillment, purpose, peace, and happiness.

Diluted into the satisfaction we might gain from these worldly pursuits is the salt; the drawbacks and the consequences of our narrowly, presently preoccupied focus.

Satisfiers can be good things though. These ‘holy pursuits’ such as healthy relationships, success, achievements, positive experiences, etc. – these are good things; they are good priorities, but are easily mismanaged.

One ‘holy pursuit’ in particular that I have found to be severely dehydrating to the soul is loving others and putting others before oneself.

Now, don’t freak out and please don’t unsubscribe!

Allow me to explain.

Putting others before yourself and loving others more than yourself is good! It is, after all the second greatest commandment.

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matt. 22:39).

However, in order for there to be a second, there must first be a first.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment’ (Matt. 22:37).

Anything, and I mean anything that replaces the first and greatest commandment, even the second greatest commandment, will dehydrate you.

So yes, I stand by my original statement. Loving others more than ourselves is a ‘satisfier’ because done without first loving Christ is done solely for our glory instead of His.

There’s a reason loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind is the first and greatest commandment –

In order to do all else we must first find life in Him.

John 10:10 explains that Jesus came that we might have life and have it in full. Through Him who fills everything in every way (Eph. 1:23), we have life.

It is when we go about this backwards that we find ourselves dehydrated, gasping for a sip of life-giving water but only sucking in more salt water in hopes of quenching our thirst.

It’s funny how drinking the wrong thing only makes you thirstier.  -Jennie Allen

These things in and of themselves might not be bad, but when mismanaged and placed at higher value than knowing and loving Jesus Christ is when we start to sink.

When we drink the salt water this world entices us with, we will without a doubt always remain thirsty. But this does not mean we have to live a life forever in thirst. We have this hope in John 4:13-14 –

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I [Jesus] give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Not only is the water that Jesus offers to us life-giving, but it wells up to eternal life!

Our God is such a BIG God.

He promises to sustain us, provide for us, and give us abundant life.

Drink in; better yet, inhale the life-giving water God is offering you. He is so much more than anything we can obtain here on earth.

Don’t let the water around you fool you; don’t pursue in vain these satisfiers that vie for your attention.

Remain fixated on Christ and walk on water.

Stay Gold Ponyboy

Nature’s first green is gold

Her hardest hue to hold

Her early leaf’s a flower

But only so an hour

Then leaf subsides to leaf

So Eden sank to grief

So dawn goes down to day

Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was my favorite book in High School and still has a place in my ‘top five’ list today. I read it several times; over and over again, willing the story between the two worn covers to never end. I fell in love with the honesty expressed by Ponyboy as he retold his story and how it coalesced with the stories of Sheri Valance, the Socs, the rest of the Greaser gang, and of course with Johnny Cade.

I related to Ponyboy at that time in my life, and even still do now because he stood apart from the average hoodlum that he was commonly associated with. He saw deeper, he allowed himself to feel stronger, and he loved longer and harder than any of his counterparts.

I admired Ponyboy.

I wanted to see beauty even when life got ugly. I suppose that’s why the scene in Chapter 5 was always my favorite when Ponyboy recited the poem by Robert Frost as shown above.

He was in the deepest, darkest time of his life; having simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time and was now paying for it. Yet, what does Ponyboy do?

He watches the sunrise.

The whole point of Robert Frost’s poem titled Nothing Gold Can Stay is one about the fleeting essence of this world.

Life is fleeting.

Good is fleeting.

Nothing good can stay.

Johnny remarks that the mist of the morning sunrise was the prettiest part; how it gleamed golden and silver hues.

Mist is fleeting. It doesn’t stay. In fact, it fades as quickly as it comes, gracing the watchful eye with its beauty for a few precious moments.

Later on, as Johnny is lying on his deathbed, he pulls Ponyboy close and whispers the iconic saying,

Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold.

Johnny knew that Ponyboy was unique; that he stood apart from the rest of the gang. He knew that Ponyboy saw things differently than the others.

He was innocent.

He was like a child with uninhibited and untarnished faith in all that was good in the world.

He was golden like the mist of an early morning sunrise. Though his innocence, like the mist threatened to vanish at any moment with the coming of day; the coming of judgment.

The coming of a life hardened by the harsh realities of their world.

Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold.

Hold onto the good.

Romans 12:2 tells us to not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Though our lives here on earth are fleeting, our spirit and our faith is not. We can stay gold. With the renewal of our minds, our hearts and our hope for greater things can remain untarnished by the dark and evil of this world.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Our hearts and minds are renewed when we set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). When we set our minds on things above; when we look deeper, allow ourselves to feel stronger, and love longer and harder, we will be graced with the knowledge of a love that surpasses all knowledge.

We will be able to know that which is unknowable.

We will be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God.

This truth; this very reality that is ours for the taking is what sets us apart. It is what allows us to walk on water; to have a faith that is completely uninhibited and untarnished, even by the deepest of depths and the darkest of times.

Nothing gold can stay?

I beg to differ Mr. Frost.

While this world around us is fleeting, and yes indeed, even the good in the world is brief all the same, there is eternal good that will never fade.

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you…(1 Peter 1:4).

We have this living, everlasting hope that not all that’s good will fade. We have a goodness in us that is eternal and unending.

We have a King whose love for us will never fail.

We have a Home that will never perish.

We have a faith that can never be spoiled.

Hold onto all that’s good. Remember to watch for the golden hues that the Lord graces us with, reminding us of all the good that is yet to come.

Don’t stop looking deeper into the hearts of others, feeling the strength of the Holy Spirit within you, and loving the Lord your God and those around you longer and harder.

Stay gold my friend. Stay gold.

New Beginnings

I pulled into the parking lot and took one last breath before stepping into this new unknown that was before me.

The day was Thursday, May 19, 2016.

One year ago today.

I had graduated college five days prior to this moment and moved into my new apartment only two days ago. I had just celebrated by 22nd birthday the day before and now found myself in the parking lot of my new office building.

This was my chance at a new beginning.

The thought of having my own apartment and living entirely on my own sounded wonderful, yet only a few months later I found myself independent like I had wanted, but lonely; working a great job, but also aimless.

The life I had once kept at a very brisk pace suddenly came to a halt.

After years of striving towards something; striving toward High School graduation, toward college, toward college graduation, and ultimately toward the life I was now living…after years of this, I was finally here and it was an absolute, utter wasteland.

This was it.

That’s when I picked up what is now my favorite book by Logan Wolfram titled Curious Faith. Within the pages of this book there is an analogy that has stuck with me ever since I opened it up for the first time.

In seasons where life seems stripped down and barren, we can do more than just survive. We can receive abundance.

One gift of the wilderness is the clarity we gain when all else is stripped away. When life feels bare, it’s easier to see what is truly important. Priorities align, distractions fade away, and we find ourselves in an environment where we can dig deeper into our faith (Curious Faith by: Logan Wolfram).

My life, my goals, my sole desire for achievements and acceptance had been stripped away. Where I was once ambitious and a go-getter, I now found myself sitting alone on the couch every night watching Netflix for lack of anything better to do.

However, as I look back on it now a year later, I can see that it was in those empty spaces and isolated moments that I truly found Jesus.

I grew up in a Christian home and always considered myself ‘well-versed’ in the art of Christianity, though it wasn’t until this particular wasteland that I realized that that was all He was to me – something to achieve and perfect.

That is not what our God is.

Several months after starting on this journey, I stood alone in church one Sunday morning as the words of Bethel’s song You Make Me Brave washed over me, wave after wave, and I finally understood.

Christ had been serving a purpose in my life. He just wasn’t thee purpose.

I realized that while I was using God to achieve this ‘Proverbs 31 woman’ ideology, I forgot the real purpose for which I should be pursuing Him.

Him.

Instead of praying that my hopes and dreams for this new beginning would align with His, I was imploring God to grant what I wanted; to align with my expectations for the way I thought my life should go. Logan Wolfram explains perfectly that often it is these expectations that become preconceived resentments (Curious Faith by: Logan Wolfram).

I resented God. I harbored bitterness towards Him because I had yet to receive what I thought was a ‘good’ dream; what I had been in ‘holy pursuit’ of for so long.

It wasn’t until my time in the wilderness; my time in isolation and solitude that I recognized my shortcoming. I had been pursuing all of these spinoffs and results of a Christ-centered, Christ-motivated lifestyle and forgot to actually pursue the heart of it all.

I forgot to pursue Christ; to know Christ not for what He could grant me, but to know Him for Him. I was living a presently preoccupied lifestyle rather than an eternally focused one. I was seeking that which would make me look and feel like a good Christian in the here and now rather than seeking Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, the only One who could actually change my heart and give me joy when all else falls apart.

Wildernesses are tough though.

This isn’t going to be a blog that sugarcoats the realities of what wildernesses truly feel like. They are hard, they make us want to give up, but most of all, they plant in our hearts a destructive lie.

Wildernesses have the potential to make us believe that our future is hopeless.

It is a sinking feeling when you realize each night that the next day would only be the same as the day you had just finished. There were plenty of nights like this for me over the last year, and nothing built up feelings of hopelessness in my heart quicker than the belief that the next day wasn’t going to be a new beginning, but only a broken record repeating yesterday and the day before.

But…

Praise God that He never leaves us there in our hopelessness.

As someone who can speak from the other side of a wilderness, I promise you that there is hope.

Life is full of new beginnings my friend, you just have to look for them.

It could be in the sunrise, a thunderstorm, meeting a new friend, or reaching out to someone who is hurting. It could even be in the simple prayer when prayer seems impossible.

Simply saying the name ‘Jesus’ amidst the most terrifying storms of our life is the best ‘new beginning’ you could ever embark on!

I’ve seen over the course of a year (one of the hardest years of my life thus far, yet also one of the most joyful) how a wilderness can change someone.

How the solitude can create abundance in one’s heart.

How the isolation can be filled with an all-knowing presence that satisfies to the fullest.

He is doing a new thing! He is making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:18-19).

My friend, He is making all things new; He is renewing you!

There is only one hope when all else feels hopeless and that is Jesus and it is found in a relentless pursuit to know Him and to know His heart for you. That is our hope; that is our lifeline when faced with the wind and the waves of this world.

When Peter stepped out of his boat in Matthew 14:29, he deliberately disregarded the hopelessness and fear that was roaring all around him. He set his eyes on the only One he knew could save him and he walked on the water.

The whole concept of walking on water is one based on 2 Peter 1:4 – …He has given us his very great and precious promises so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

When we look to God not in hopes of receiving what we want from Him for our lives here on earth (success, acceptance, relationships, etc.) but rather in expectation of meeting with the Great I Am, we are able to walk over the strivings and vain pursuits of this world and step out onto the waters and walk toward Jesus as Peter did.

We have that very ability within us through Him!

When there is nothing to see in our future, it makes seeing Him a whole lot easier. When there is no hope in this world, it makes holding onto the hope we have in Him that much more fulfilling.

When He is all we have, we lack in nothing.

When the wilderness has you feeling hopeless, remember that our God is a God of new beginnings and that pursuing Him to know Him is worth it all.

He is doing a new thing in you my friend, and He promises that what good works He has begun in you, He will see to completion. Sometimes that might entail time spent in the wilderness, but we have this hope – that Christ goes before us and promises to never leave us nor forsake us.