Facing the Big “What If”

I recently had the privilege of sharing a brief devotion with a bunch of teenage girls. Weeks in advance, when I asked the Lord what He might have me say, His answer was clear: “tell them they can pour it all out to me, they can always come to me.”

The Lord never gives you a lesson to share He isn’t also going to teach you through.

I kinda forgot that.

See, I talk to God all the time. But I don’t always talk to Him like He is who He says He is.

A few hours before I shared with the girls, He got my attention. Listening to those same girls, I began listening to the Lord about what I know goes on in their lives…and what I know will go on because they are humans living in the same fallen world I am.

They (and we) are going to face a lot of “what ifs” that plunder their prayers:

What if God never has me get married?

What if God never gives me or shows me my dream job?

What if God never makes me healthy again when I get sick?

What if God never heals the broken relationships I can’t fix myself?

What if I fail?

These are valid questions, and it’s alright to ask them. There is wisdom in preparing for many “what ifs.”

But the question of “what if” can also be a positive one.

What if God actually has plans for my life?

What if God is waiting to comfort me in my struggle?

What if God loves me more than the people in my life can and wants time with me too?

What if God is a confidant and an advisor?

What if God can lean in, listen, and embolden me like (or more than!) my best friends?

 What if we believe, when we speak to God, He is listening as lovingly, patiently, kindly, perfectly, gently, and honestly as He says is in His Word?

What if we believe

In Ephesians 6, Paul encourages believers to put on the armor of God. Then He goes on to say “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

Prayer is included right there in the battle plan. But notice it fits in, bound to, other pieces of armor like salvation, righteousness, and faith. Notice how God speaks elsewhere about praying with a right heart, not for our own selfish ambitions (James 4:3.)

In other passages, God tells us we must ask and believe (Matt 21:22.)

What I’ve been convicted of is this: our prayers are plundered when we don’t believe or don’t recognize exactly who it is we’re talking to.

The best place for “what if” in prayer is “what if God is really listening, really cares, and has a perfect plan?” Because He is, and it changes things when we believe Him.

At very least, praying while believing God is who He is changes our perspective from desperately attempting to persuade God to resting in the blessed assurance of Christ.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

He Must Increase- The Word Works Series!

Formerly a journalist, Lois approaches her blog, Waxing Gibbous, with facts. Facts about life, the facts of a story she is living, and the facts of who our Lord is and how He is working right now. She lives and writes truth, and I’m blessed to share this space with her today.
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When I was in my early 30s, I wrote a book about infertility. I worked on it during the long months after my husband and I ended our three-year effort to conceive and before we adopted our first daughter from China.

I believed then—as I still believe now—God’s promise to work all things for the good of those who love him, those who are called according to his purpose. So every chapter, which mostly focused on the spiritual and emotional aspects of infertility, flowed out of my desire not to let our struggles go to waste.

My book was published by a traditional Christian publisher in 2003. The business was different back then; huge numbers of social media followers were not necessary to secure a book contract because social media barely even existed.

I had no blog, no platform, no speaking career. I was simply a former journalist, wife and mom-to-be with some deeply held beliefs about how God uses our pain for his glory.

In the months after the book’s release, the publisher arranged for me to promote it on several national Christian television and radio programs. I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this process—it was fun to be on the other side of the interview after so many years of working as a reporter.

After about a year, though, I received the phone call no author ever wants to receive.

The editor was very sorry, but the book hadn’t lived up to sales projections. As a result, the company was going to sell off the remaining inventory at a deeply discounted price and put the book out of print.

I was angry and embarrassed, but what I felt most at the time was bitter disappointment. I couldn’t believe that the project I had poured my heart and soul into would be snuffed out so soon.

For a while, I held on to an irrational hope that the editor would call me back and say the company had made a mistake—that the decision makers had changed their minds about putting my book out of print.

That call never came.

What did come, though, was a message from the Holy Spirit. A familiar scripture that made a new impression on me—shared as part of a Bible study I started on the very day the publisher called.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

(John 3:30)

These seven words were spoken by John the Baptist near the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, but in my heart, I knew they also were what one of my mentors would call a “right now word from God.”

In those disappointing days after my book went out of print, I sensed that my current season of influence—however small and short-lived it might have been—was over.

God wasn’t just ushering me off the stage,

He was guiding me out of the building completely.

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And somehow, John 3:30 helped me be OK with that.

I had no way of knowing that, in the years ahead, I would decrease so much I almost disappeared completely.

Soon thereafter, we moved to a new state where nobody knew about my writing background. Life was good in many ways, but the wilderness stretched long ahead of me. For several years, my words simply went away.

Years later, once the fog dissipated and the desert was mostly a memory, I started writing again. I took it slowly at first—with an article here and there, then a blog. Another book is in the works, but my past disappointment often hangs like a dark cloud over my current efforts.

One morning not too long ago, I read an article by a literary agent about the kind of platform that publishers require these days. It was discouraging, to say the least.

Forget being in the ballpark. I’m not even in the same universe.

Later that day, as I was thinking about what to write for this series, John 3:30 came to mind again.

He must increase, but I must decrease.

In God’s economy, it’s not about numbers, platform or audience.

It’s not about the logical, most obvious way that God can use our trials for his glory.

It’s not about us at all.

Is there a message in there for you today? There is for me, though I confess it doesn’t make much sense right now.

fulfill purpose

As I look to the future—to what I sense God is calling me to do, writing wise—the way forward is a bit murky. How it all fits in with God increasing and me decreasing, I’m not sure.

One thing is certain: While I need to do my part—even in the face of near-insurmountable odds—God will be the one who gives the increase.

At this point, only He knows what that might look like. But I do know it won’t happen unless I get to work.

So a promise and a prayer from scripture that I ran across several months after my editor called is giving me faith to take the next step, even when the next step is just to write another sentence.

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.

Lord, Your love is eternal;

do not abandon the work of your hands.”

(Psalm 138:8)

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

HE is More Than [Fill In the Blank]

Photo from: Piaxbay

We need to “love the Lord, not just the idea of the Lord” said my dear friend (SkillzUSA).

AKA: Don’t reduce God to some idea you have about Him and miss out on His whole person as a result.

Our ideas tend to address issues in reactionary ways, focusing on what isn’t and instead of what is. We come up with ideas to solve whatever’s bugging us. Ideas are tools. They are created, manipulated, and guided by the things we face. Ideas are dependent on people, and they revolve around people. They aren’t about what is, they are about what can be (and are usually in our favor).

More than that, ideas aren’t alive. They don’t interact with us. Ideas have no will apart from ours, no abilities that we haven’t fathomed.

When God is diminished to an idea -like a method for comfort when someone dies- we act as if God’s character depends on us. And what we want. And what we’re dealing with. We never get to what matters, we never open ourselves to a Lord that can surprise us and reach us even when we’ve forgotten He exists.

He is I AM. Done. Boom. From before time began. He is a living being who is more than anything you can fill in the blank with. Good news!

God doesn’t depend on you or I. He isn’t an idea. All those cautionary words and metaphors pointing out that God “isn’t just…” are pointing towards a complete truth that confronts the nature of man and brings us into a redemptive relationship with the one who IS.

In our attempts to be like God, we reduce God to something we feel we can control, alter, and direct. Just as in the garden the first people were tempted to become like God…by reducing God into something attainable, someone who can merely recognize good and evil.

The Lord, however, DEFINES good and evil. We can’t do that.

The Lord knows this is our tendency. He knows that we’d like Him to be an idea rather than active and outside of our control.

He protects us from a resulting sin, saying Exodus 20:4-5 the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…

When my friend differentiated between enjoying the idea of God (and our ideas about Him) rather than loving Him as He is, a question came to mind:

What ideas do we have about the Lord that we hold in higher esteem than the person of Christ?

Which ideas about the Lord do we use to justify our sins?

Is it the idea that He’ll always be there that we cherish more than His presence right now? What about instances in which the idea that He is so loving causes discipline and hardship to challenge our belief in His love?

What ideas do we have about God that our circumstances can shake? Those ideas aren’t who He is. Because He is more than (Yes. Whatever idea you come up with).