Thankful for Afflictions

There are times I am truly thankful for the challenges before me. I am grateful for the painful trial and the aches in my heart. It isn’t that I relish these seasons but I am thankful for them

I am thankful for such seasons as God has a creative way of using such pain to show me my frailty, weakness, blind spots, and most importantly my utter complete need of Him

Think with me for a bit. If God is Sovereign and All-sufficient then he must have known about such seasons before they come to be. Since He allowed it, it has to be that in his love and mercy, he has a purpose for it. It could be a singular purpose or a multi faceted one. It could be limited to you or to other parties.

If there was another, easier, way for God to continue to forge you into who he intends you to be, without the pain or ache, then love demands he takes that path. However if there is no other way, love compels him to take you through the valley of shadows

When I consider things the right way, I have this joyous hope (certain expectation not optimistic expectation), not in the end result that I desire, but in God, knowing that whatever He purposes for me, it will be good!

With such hope (certain expectation) I am better positioned to be fully dependent on Him. I can be more yielded because I have a certain expectation that good is coming out of this

Seasons of affliction aren’t easy (Heb 12:5-13). It usually is quite uncomfortable. There will sunlit and overcast days. Dependence on God becomes a life line not just for this season, but for the rest of life.

In some ways, I am beginning to see affliction as being a necessary part of our growth curve in God

Let me share certain outlooks that I have found helpful in my journey. As always, please do compare these ideas with the Word of God

1. In the midst of this painful time, do not rush out of the season. Do not be so quick to look for a way out. The journey is the goal for God, this is where you are are molded, bit by bit. It might take a while and sometimes it is downright uncomfortable but do not avoid the process. Stay with it. 

Let the pain drive you to God, to utter dependence on Him and stay in that place. Do all you can to stay in that place of dependence on him. Engage Him with that heart attitude that is associated with the poor in spirit 

2. Be open to follow God. Let go of all the deadlines and timelines you have. He exists outside of time and when he is leading, understand that he has taken all other things into consideration, even your hesitation to follow

Carve out time and space with God. Be faithful with this and churn on God’s words to you as much as possible. 

3. Do not let the pain or loneliness drive you to activities that dull your senses to the Holy One and what God has called you to do in this season. The activities do not have to be sinful. In my experience, the activities I run to usually make good sense but they are weights that are distracting

However by engaging in them, I am distrusting the One who called me and chose me from he end of the earth. By stepping out of the process, I am saying (through my actions) that I have a better way than the Almighty

Ruthlessly eliminate anything that subtly or directly stand against (or isn’t in complete alignment with) what God has said to you – even if that has to do with eliminating staples of your life like certain routines, friendships, harmless pleasure pursuits, etc.

4. Do not let “fun” cover up your “lack.” Rather let that “lack” humble you and drive you to God. Whatever the lack might be, let it spur you to cast yourself unto God. 

In this sense, your faith (which really is submission to God) or relationship with God should never be an accessory of something nice to have or something to engage when trouble stirs.

It should be to you, what air is to your lungs and physical health, what blood is to your internal physical system, what food is to your physical energy

5. Confess your sins often to God and trusted folks around you. Confession is not for God. It isn’t because God doesn’t know what you did. It also isn’t just an official statement so that you and God are on the same page.

Confession, as is with all of God’s directive, is primarily for your benefit. It is meant to help you see where you really are, to see your need of God, the necessity of his presence and to create godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Cor 7:9-10)

Confession for me has been powerful as it has been quite humbling. I do not see His rebuke (no matter how painful the realization) as condemnatory. Rather I see it as mercies that have a way of making me see my wretchedness. It also helps me mediate grace unto others because I see the extent of his love

Write down your confessions and revisit them so they serve to break your heart over and over again – leading to godly sorrow and repentance. 

There are times the enemy can leverage our inner critic to put us down and we must be careful here to ensure it is God doing the search and rescue (Ps 139:23-24)

6. Engage in disciplines/practices that open you up to God. For me a couple practices help:

  1. Worship reminds me of who He is and helps me look at things through His lenses. Worship heals my heart as I recall that I am His beloved! And yes so are the other millions of His children. His love is more than enough to go around lol
  2. Scripture Meditation (actively reviewing, repeating and/or thinking about scriptures to get different views) helps me get the truth of God into me such that it becomes second nature. It’s the same way how you respond to your name anytime because you have been called that all your life – your name has been actively repeated to you for so long it is second nature for you to respond to your name, sometimes even while you are asleep
  3. Reflection helps me stay aware with what God is doing in me; of what He is weaving in and through me. With reflection, I, potentially, connect dots that I would normally not connect. It is a wonderful thing  to see the trees that make up the forest and the forest itself. Seeing the synergies between both helps you to potentially distinguish between correlation and causation, to ultimately know God, to know myself and to see that man does not live by bread alone (Deut 8:2-3). Many times you see God admonishing us to “remember” who He is, to remember who we are, to recall His deeds, our history and the journey. Reflection helps me do this. Journaling helps me capture my reflections

This piece is not meant to glorify pain or encourage silly acts that leads to pain. This is also not meant to minimize anyone’s trials or make it seem like it is walk in the park. Not at all. Quite frankly, to come out refined you will have to truly rely on God. It is no mistake that apostles felt they were under the sentence of death in 2 Cor 1:8-9

While it is easy to think all the above applies to circumstances beyond your control. I believe it does also apply to situations you brought on yourself, where your mistakes have brought affliction on you

For those going through rough times, I leave you with the words  below for you to see and know you are in good company. May grace be multiplied to you for the sake of Christ:

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (Phil 1:29)

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:21-22)

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (1 Peter 4:12-16)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5:3-5)

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Thankful for Afflictions

Anxieties

A friend spoke to me recently of anxieties and being unsettled. I could relate a lot with what my friend told me and it got me thinking

I realize that there is active side to our walk with God. What I mean is that when I come across scriptures like “Fear Not”, in Isa 41:10 or “Do not be anxious for anything” in Phil 4:6, I think –  how I wish I could just stop being afraid in any situation where I am anxious

However from the scriptures, it looks like the onus is on me to not be afraid –  like I somehow have a choice to make to not be afraid.

I think we all know you cannot just effort yourself into being fearless

What has been helpful is for me is to, in the moment of fear, invite Christ into the situation and go through certain truths that I hold to. These can be scripture passages or remembering who God is to me or better still who He says I am. 

Going through these truths, do not stop my heart from pounding but as I replay them in my mind, I am not as panicked. I am better equipped to be strong and courageous to do his will, to hold true to his dictates and face whatever is before me.  I might face it with shaky feet but I am facing it lol

And often times, anxieties can be mercies in disguise – they can reveal the hard truth that by ourselves, we cannot make things happen and hopefully, that makes us more dependent on God. We might begin to see what is truly important, to see the limitation of friends, family, value systems, career, etc.

We might come to fully see that God is enough, and that becomes our reality not just a nice quote

I am sure you know several scriptures on fear so I’ll leave you with a modified quote from Ann Voskamp

All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends, And his love for you will NEVER end! 

It is impossible for His love for you to end, as that would mean He is no longer God (love).

All fear is but the notion that God will leave you hanging, the notion that you will be left to fend for yourself. But the truth is that God will never leave you nor forsake you

Even when things do not turn out the way, be rest assured that God is working it all out, in alignment to His will. Whether your fear comes from unrealized goals, uncertainties of the future, past mistakes, past and current hurts, etc., God is literally and figuratively for you

A while back, I came across Heb 13:5 in the amplified version and after reading that rendition, I had to go research the original text and I was blown away that the emphasis in the second part of verse 5 is actually true. Here’s the scripture:

Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]

Such level of repetition and emphasis gives me great comfort! even when my present circumstance is riddled with fear, I am encouraged to be at ease for God will never leave me

I am not by any means saying this is a one time thing or once you memorize and meditate on this scripture, you are good forever. I believe it is a process, and knowing it is a process helps us rely more on God. I actually believe we are meant to live this way – where life is a journey and a process, in which we daily depend on God

From the Lord’s prayer, we are shown how to pray and in that prayer, Jesus asked for daily bread, not weekly feeding or yearly allowance but daily bread. There is this necessity to daily depend on God, to have a disposition of waiting on the Sufficiency of All things

So yes, battling anxieties is a process and sometimes, maybe most times, the process is the goal for God, not the end itself

As you battle it though, and make your stand, things will get easier. Anxiety and uncertainties won’t trigger the same level of panic/worry. Maybe it’ll be gone completely, maybe not. But regardless, you will come to the place of knowing that God is with and for you, just as you know your name

May you always be with God as He is with you

Anxieties

Who am I…Who are you!

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good

For we are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit

Who am I…Who are you!

Freedom and Purpose

It is for freedom that you came – it is for freedom that you redeem us, that we might walk that path of true freedom, where we are fully submitted to you (Gal 5:1). It is for freedom that you died, that we will never be subject to the whims of the enemy but advance your kingdom, and live eternally from now on, through eternity and beyond

You came and died for us to stand with one another in the pain, in the uncertainty, in waiting, in what seems hopeless, so that as we stand and look to you, our hope is found in you. Hope is found in the person of Christ. We overcome because you came to stand with us! Emmanue, God is with us! And we forever stake that ground for you, for your loved ones, for your Kingdom – that the enemy might never again raise his head in that area, ever again!

It is for victory that you came, the victory that overcomes this world (1 John 5). Such victory enables us to completely wipe out counterfeit gods, destroying the altars of hopelessness, perfectionism and the deadly virus of comparison. Such victory gives us hope and courage to rest in you, to trust that you are safe, to trust that you have our good at heart.

So we come in that freedom and in that victory to cut the chains of deception, hurt, unforgiveness, condemnation, wrong perspectives, etc. We receive your conviction and we embrace it, knowing this is why you came, so that we will become all that you intend us to i.e. to be transformed into Christlikeness

You came that we will have a place to stand, to stand against the accusations of the enemy, and thrive as we advance your Kingdom. And so we stand with you. All we are is a platofrm for us to declare the goodness and greatness of the King Eternal. We stand upon the heights with secure footing and feet like that of the deer to advance the truth about the Almighty and eradicate the lies of the enemy. The lies about value, worth, and the future.

We will not be subject to the ways of the enemy and we will not be discouraged for the Almighty rejoices over us (Zeph 3:16-17)

In the midst of such freedom and victory, we can truly be fully submitted to you, and totally abandoned with you. After which comes this deep, full and overflowing satisfaction in you. Armed with such a way of life, we can fully partner with you to display your awesomeness as we enjoy you forever!

Freedom and Purpose

A discussion and a request

God Speaks (with warm eyes and a smile of utter confidence caresses His face):

  • To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One

I am dumbfounded as I cannot come up with anything. In defiance, I look to my present issues and I point to them in an effort to ask “Why?”

God smiles and knowingly shows me the vastness of His might and goodness – to stir up faith in me:

  • Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing

As these words echo in my head, my anger crumbles, faith’s fire is sparked but my present reality echoes these words to God and also to me:

Yes….Abba, you created the galaxies and the universe. Of what good are the galaxies and the universe to me when I am here, lost, and in pain, facing daunting challenges? How come you have looked the other way as I struggled? And somehow this is for my good? Of what good is any of that to me?

God smiles, and for a moment, his face becomes calm and I see grace in His eyes. For some reason, I press in, eager to hear the Almighty. God:

  • Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?

At this point, I instinctively know that all my questions will be answered. My thirst will be satiated. I also know that I have missed something crucial in my process, something that would have somehow made all of this make sense.

For the first time, I am calm and my mind is clear. I know that God will speak and when He does, all will be settled. It might not make sense but it will be settled.

Did I hear you ask why all will be settled? I did too and here was His response

  • Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures

So I press in with rapt attention, taking in all that the Almighty has said and what He is about to say. My focus is singularly on Him.

Abba, help me mold my days and moments so that I am always attentive and receptive to you. Help me sit at your feet and say, with a smile, speak Lord, for thy son hears thee

Abba, Help me become all you intend me to be, living a life that is worthy of you.

Help me, Abba

A discussion and a request

Owning your journey

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

God’s grace is not meant to make us passive; the grace of God will never let you take on a passive role in your journey of being transformed into Christ likeness

There is an “active” dimension to our relationship with God, whereby we must ACT! There is an intentionality that we must own if we are to become Christ-like. 

In the scripture above you are meant to carry out the command “do not fear” or “do not be dismayed.” You actively eliminate fear by feasting on God and believing in his goodness and greatness towards you. You do what you have to, to eliminate fear and press on towards the high call of God on your life

You see this same dimension when God repeatedly told Joshua to be Strong and Courageous. Joshua had to figure out how to be strong and courageous. His fears won’t just disappear. He had to feast on the word (Josh 1:7-8) and then BELIEVE it. 

After believing, when Joshua’s fears manifest, he knows they are lies and so he intentionally and actively shuts down the voice of the inner critic, the voice of the enemy and all other voices that stand against the words God gave him

Your choices matter!!! We are people of dominion!

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD is the one who goes before you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor forsake you – Deut 31:8

So when the enemy brings about discouragement, stand strong, the One who called you is faithful

I know it can be trying but He will help you and uphold you

Owning your journey

An Unhurried Existence

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

For me, this is one of the most refreshing promises of Christ. As a bone chilling cold drink is refreshing to a thirsty and tired laborer on a hot, dry and humid afternoon, so is this passage to my soul. For now, I want to highlight the phrase “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, if you are not experiencing a certain grace that makes the yoke of Christ – what God has called you to, including your family, career, habits, character, passions, desires, etc. – easy and light, maybe you need to slow down, and check your way of life. You might be walking a path named “adventures in missing the point”

Could it be that we are allowing the urgent to crowd out the important and by so doing we get caught in an endless cycle? We don’t attend to what is important today because the urgent commands our attention. And then in the future, what was important today becomes urgent, and that prevents us from paying attention to what is important.

If we really have too much to do, if we are always bugged down with heavy thoughts, then maybe there are some things on our list that God did not put there.  There are some battles we take on that God has not assigned to us. We are not to act solely based on our emotions. Your emotions or your heart do not define what is true, God does! Sometimes, we take on burdens that are not our own out of concern. However by taking on these issues, rather than resting it in the hands of God, we are passing a vote of no confidence on God’s ability to take care of it…scary, isn’t it.

It doesn’t matter whether you are doing the most righteous act or not, when it is outside the realm of God’s will for you, you are doing it to either impress others or make yourself. And your reward is the recognition you get from people. We cannot truly give what we do not own. We cannot give time when we are running on empty. We cannot truly give a service to God when we are emotionally drained and exhausted. David had to own the threshing floor before he offer a sacrifice to God on it – see 1 Chron 21:24

Review your way of living and your way of thinking. Examine the things you get drawn into. Evaluate which ones can take a back seat so that you can live an unhurried life for the sole purpose of being more sensitive and receptive to divine breathings from God. We do this for the sole purpose of living a life that is truly pleasing to God (Col 1:9-10). Develop a way of life that lends itself to you naturally leaning on God. It might mean waking up early, taking evening walks, leaving work at work, eliminating TV time, sleeping more, being more present with your family, especially in your thoughts. Maybe it means following a devotional, writing in a journal as God prompts you, hanging out with godly friends, more scripture reading and praying. Maybe it means regularly scheduling a family vacation, a retreat, or taking pottery classes or learning to paint.

Whatever it is, learn to carve out your own daily desert where you can go detox from the corrosive effects of your day. In this place, we learn to rest more in God. We learn what it means to lose our lives and we learn that we have a soul and an inner being to care for. We don’t do this to be lazy or to avoid responsibility. In fact, as you are more attentive to God, your life might get more complex, you might have more responsibilities and you can trust God to supply you with wisdom and grace to handle and enjoy those responsibilities

2 Cor 9:7 says “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” We give what we have, not what we think we ought to have or what others think we should have. As you rest more in God, you will be able to give more – and the world will then truly await your manifestation. As you rely on God, here is his promise to you

  • And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work – 2 Cor 9:8

 

An Unhurried Existence