Is It Worth It?

In Sunday School we’re learning about Gentiles in a Jewish Timeline –like, what God’s been doing in Gentiles throughout history. One of the first points made was one that I’m always glad to be reminded of.

God’s work in the Israelites displayed His power to the rest of the world. God always wanted the whole world to know Him and to come to Him. He still does.

I don’t think that necessarily made the Israelites happy while the seven plagues were tearing apart the world they knew. Imagine their response to some challenges being drawn out so that the Egyptians would witness God’s glory: “the Egyptians?? But this is about our story, our freedom!”

We know Jonah wasn’t all that thrilled with God’s love and concern for others. He especially wasn’t pleased with his own role in sharing God’s love (i.e. Ninevah). Were his trials worth it to share the Gospel with those undeserving people? Frankly, Jonah didn’t really think so. He wished he was dead. He was angry. His story wasn’t just about him.

That’s a natural part of our sin nature.

Like Jonah, we know that God is a:

gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

-Jonah 4:2

When His grace and compassion on others (especially those we don’t value) is played out through us, our struggles hardly seem so worthwhile.

Our selfishness tells us that everything that happens in our own lives, good or bad, is to be about us in some way. When we take on trials of faith, the question we ask is “Lord, what are you doing?” What we mean is “Lord, what are you doing for me in this?”

We’re so egoistic that even in our humility, accepting difficulties with faith, the “purposes” we look for in the challenges must in some way be about God improving our own stories.

Poor health is acceptable if it teaches us dependency. Challenging job situations are from the Lord, we suppose, so that He can grow us in certain ways.

None of this is necessarily incorrect. God does use our trials to grow us and teach us about Him. The trouble is simply how “me-focused” we are even in our value judgments about the life of faith.

The truth is that our trials aren’t just about our own spiritual growth- they are about God’s power being displayed to others, too. Our situations might not be resolved in the way we’d prefer (see the Israelites again) because God is instead going to:

“show (His) power that (His) name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

 –Exodus 9:16

The Gospel isn’t just for you or I. Our stories, as a part of God’s story, aren’t written just for us.

The Bible characters we look to as examples knew this: their stories, messy and neat, were lived out for the glory of God –the glory of God that God wants everyone to witness.

Our challenges and our joys are gifts the Lord gives to us. But they are also gifts He uses to give others an opportunity to be drawn to Him. That –that eternal investment- is always worth it.

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

What Hope Can a Broken Heart offer?

How can our brokenness be useful to others? Offering our broken hearts to the Lord as a sacrifice and a praise is one thing. But, giving ourselves to others when we’re messy and vulnerable is another.

Though we shouldn’t recklessly hand over the reins to our heart or carelessly welcome anyone’s influence into to our hurts, there is a place for being broken among people. Scripture allows for this, explicitly and implicitly:

“Mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” –Romans 12:15-16

We are to share in other’s sufferings and grief. At the same time, sharing even in Christ’s sufferings, we are to be those who mourn and who need others to mourn alongside us. That’s part of living in harmony. According to Christ, it’s part of living in this world:

“In this world you will have trouble.”John 16:33

Recognizing that fact and admitting to broken-heartedness is part of witnessing to others, Christian and unbelieving alike.

Unfortunately, there are two lies we believe that stop us from living and proclaiming Him to others even when we’re a mess.

The lies?

  1. To make anyone want the Gospel, we have to make it attractive by having it all together.
  2. No one else will understand anyway. Our comfort isn’t in this world.

Half-truths are deceptive lies, aren’t they? That anyone understands, and cares, and has been messy and broken and vulnerable –that’s what we need to hear. That’s what the unsaved and the struggling believer needs to know before they can live the end of John 16:33:

But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Living as those who know that He has overcome the world, our brokenness is a testimony to the Lord and to the realities of this world that many people deny. It means that in our brokenness, we still have hope to offer because:

  • We can be broken but not destroyed.
  • Our brokenness does not cause us to be useless and abandoned, but loved and sufficient in weakness because our strength is in Him.
  • The stream of living water in you and me doesn’t cease to flow when our persons of clay pottery shatter. It flows all the more freely.
  • Defenses down, hearts exposed, the honesty of being broken is something this world doesn’t admit or acknowledge -not with any hope.

BUT in our brokenness, we continue. We fix our eyes. We smile. We pray. We offer ourselves to others anyway, because our worth isn’t found in the all-together we have to give. Our worth, to others and in our innermost being, is bound up in the one who was broken for us.

That’s why our brokenness offers hope. His body and Spirit were broken, separated from God Himself, rejected. Offered as a sacrifice, as our broken hearts are to be. God uses that sacrifice, raw and messy in our lives and others’ to help restore life, revert perspective, and bring us into a more intimate reliance on Him.

Imagine- when your broken heart is sacrificed to the Lord, He uses the mess to let others know the truth, His presence, and the hope He has to offer all of us. The hope we need. The hope even we as believers ignore when we pretend that brokenness doesn’t come before redemption.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.

When Communicating Seems Impossible

Photo from: stevemehta.com

Marriage is a place in which we learn just how difficult the basics of communication really are.

I’ve learned in my marriage that what means one thing to him doesn’t mean the same to me. His use of words is often full of hyperbole and expression, I’m often literal. He says what he thinks, I think about all the different things I say. It’s hard to figure out at times which thing that was said was a decision, and which was just talking. Our lines get crossed.

This isn’t just my marriage.

There are stories of marriages that fall apart because a wife works day and night to make the home perfect and spotless, and, never receiving thanks or compliments, wears herself thin trying to improve it further. Meanwhile, her husband is pleased, but he never expresses it. His displeasure grows, however, as she seems less and less interested in him and more obsessed with the home. They end up in counseling because she feels overworked and underappreciated, and he feels like she doesn’t care about him.

The resulting phrases are familiar to us:

  • “How can you possibly say that? Or think that?”
  • “Haven’t you paid any attention?”
  • “Why didn’t you say so?!”
  • “What do you think I’m doing all this for??”
  • “If you had just…”
  • “That’s not enough. Don’t you know how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes?”

When words like these start flying, it’s time to bring in a third party. Or rather, the first party: the Lord.

Ever considered that just like God made you (and the whole world, including your spouse,) He also made language? He made communication in every form. Nonverbal, demonstrative, literal, actual words, in written form. All by His design.

He also designed marriage, with all of its cracks, potholes, and gaping gulfs of “we just aren’t able to connect.” Let Him span all of that. Let Him unite the two of you in such a way that at long last, those impossible communication gaps are bridged.

All others things that we unite in in marriage won’t last. Causes, personality traits, commitments, passions, and hopes will change over time. The Lord will not. All of those little things that get lost between two people as they try to work together are known to the Lord.

Unite in Him.

I’ll say it again, in this rambling, poorly communicated post: unite in Him.

If your words to each other aren’t working: pray. Together. You’ll find that there is more grace, more possibility, and more opportunity to be one when the One who matters gets to speak first.

Gratefully linking up with:  Woman to Woman WednesdayWomen with Intention, TellHisStory,Thought-Provoking Thursday, Missional Women, and DancewithJesus