Last night, I drove home in the breezy dark of an August night. My windows were down, and as I draped my left arm out over the edge of the window opening on the car door, I felt the heaviness that has plagued me lift. It's like God's breath as the wind gently blew away the dust off that was weighing me, off into the night.
I'd been praying for deliverance, and in that moment, I knew that God was delivering. I opened my palms to feel the wind between my fingertips, and that simple act connected with my Spirit as an act of surrender; a symbol of my willingness to finally let go
I'd been dwelling on the past - holding on to things that are no longer good for me, serving toward others, or glorifying to the Lord. But in that moment, God reminded me of two things:
1. A fruit of the spirit is SELF-CONTROL.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23
Though sometimes it doesn't feel this way, with God who makes all things possible, we can learn to control the things upon which we think. It takes discipline, but we are capable of controlling our thoughts and deciding what we will and will not allow ourselves to dwell on.
This type of self control happens within the practice of taking each thought and making it obedient to Christ; otherwise, we risk ending up with obsessive thoughts that can easily build on one another and spiral into a negative mindset, which is like poison to our minds, hearts, and bodies, if we aren't careful.
The Bible tells us to teach our minds to dwell on 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).
2. If our fists are clinched, holding on to things of the past, then our hands aren't open to receive God's best for our present and future.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
If we want God's best for our lives, we have to be open to it, whatever that may be. If we are holding too tightly to whatever we THINK is best, we are closing off our hands and hearts to what God KNOWS is best for us (see Isaiah 55:8-9, Romans 8:28, Proverbs 3:5-6).
I was reminded of a blog post I wrote over a year ago, called "Loosening the Grip" :
We cannot receive from God when our hands and our hearts are still holding on to other things. We must let go and come to God with open palms, laying down before Him our lives and EVERYTHING that fills them, not just the things that are easy to let go of. It's only then that we can receive the fullness of blessing and goodness He has in store for us.
(click here to read more from the post.)
If we want to find freedom, we have to be willing to open our hands and hearts in complete surrender to God. We have to gently drop the things we've accumulated along the way, let them fall to the ground, and put our faith fully in God.
"My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to your word." Psalm 119:25
The past few weeks have been some of the hardest of my life, mentally and emotionally. I suppose that speaks to how privileged I’ve been, since I still have food to eat, a cozy home, loving family and friends, and many comforts that the rest of the world is lacking. But still. Heartache is universal. It stings. It races. It aches. It swirls. It pounds.
I think a lot of us, as Christians, do a really great job of hiding what’s going on inside. It isn’t that we’re trying to be deceiving to the rest of the world; we just feel obligated to appear strong and untempted, as part of our testimony. And I get that. But this is where I’m torn.
I’m a mother, a teacher, and I have a heart that hopes to represent God and the Bible in everything that I do (though I OFTEN fail). Because of all this though, I feel like I have a lot of (sweet, young) people in my circle of influence, so I tend to find myself putting on a smiling face in the midst of my struggles, as if it’s my sole responsibility to display God’s goodness to the world. I want to show that Jesus is enough… that no matter what we face, no matter the internal turmoil, no matter what we’re going through, our joy can be found in Christ.
This IS true… but sometimes, it isn’t that simple. Our joy CAN be found in Christ, but it doesn’t always happen instantaneously; we still struggle. Living out Christ's word in our lives is a lifelong process, a moment-by-moment discipline, a daily task. It takes time and commitment. And we WILL mess up.
Sometimes, we have to pray CONTINUALLY (1 Thessalonians 17) to find our joy, our patience, our hope, our grace, our strength. It’s not like we just become Christians and then suddenly we never experience regret, suffering, hurt, spiraling emotions, anger, jealousy, or pain.
Sometimes, clinging to God’s word looks more like fighting off attacks from all sides. It's wild and tiresome. Sometimes, seeking God looks more like lying down in the floor, after having spoken words from a quick-tongue of anger, than it does standing on a stage speaking words of truth. Sometimes, trusting God looks more like a face smooshed into the rug, a heart beating 120+ BMP, and reciting bits and pieces of scripture alone, praying HARD for God to pull you out of this internal turmoil, than it does an inspirational Insta-post.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we become immune to human impulses and emotions and desires; it means that we choose to fight the good fight, over and over again.
1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV) Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
I’m finally starting to recognize that my masking myself is more of a pride issue than anything else. It is through my weakness, not my strength, that God shines.
2 Corinthians 12:9-11 NKJV: And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
So here I am, peeling off the mask. Sometimes, trying to do the right thing, to be strong, and to simply carry on, is flipping hard. It’s work, and I'm tired.
Some days, I admit that it would be so much easier to just allow myself to sink into a bout of depression… to let the comfort of my own sorrows swallow me whole. It would be MUCH easier to numb the pain with a prescription or a drink, or to just distract myself with some other rush. I could suppress my aching heart by masking it with some other false love, something easy and worldly to build my ego back up.
It’s harder to just stay with the pain, and continue walking on the path that God has called me to. Sometimes I just want to trade it all in, and take the easier route. It’s hard to be patient and kind, prudent and diligent, when all I want is to lash out, or to sink and hide.
But this is what it means by our strength coming from Christ. His grace truly is sufficient; when I think I can’t go on, staying the course, He gives me just what I need each day to keep trusting, to wait on Him, keep choosing truth, and to just carry on- even when it just seems too hard.