I like to think I'm tough.
Not tough as super strong and fit, but tough as in I can handle whatever God brings me to without complaints, discouragement, or fear.
But.. I'm not. My flesh is weak.
We live in a culture where we feel like we can't be raw and real or show too much emotion without being "weird."
We want to be invincible.
We want to care, but not care enough that we could possibly get hurt.
We want to have hope, but only to the extent that if the plans fall through, we won't even care or be too bummed about it.
We want to love, but only if we know the love will be reciprocated.
We want to take chances, but only if we know for certain that what we're stepping out in will result in exactly what we anticipate.
We like security, comfort, reciprocation, reassurance, encouragement.
We like for it to look like we have it all together, even if we don't.
We like to be tough.
We put a smile on our face, a wall around our hearts so it couldn't possibly get broken, and convince ourselves and everyone else that everything is just fine. We go through the motions of living under a mask- broken and hurting, but acting as if everything were a-okay.
When in reality.. we feel, and we feel deeply.
All terms i'm sure each and every one of you can relate to on some level, but how many of us truly admit if we feel even one of them?
Looking back at the first half of 2018, there's not just one of those, but a handful of those words I could easily use to describe the first half of my year. I could probably even give you a few examples for some of those words.
It's certainly been one of the most challenging seasons to date- there have been many moments when my faith has felt as small as a mustard seed, it's brought me to my knees in prayer, it's brought me to tears more times for longer periods of time than I'd like to admit. It could have broken me down and rocked me around and left me in a pit, but can I tell you something that's prevailed through all of the struggles, trials, and messiness?
The peace through every moment, every instance where I thought things couldn't possibly be any worse and then they were, the times when I had high hopes only to have them crushed- there was a peace that was instilled in my heart that never left, not for one second.
I couldn't explain it if I tried, but in each moment I knew in my heart and felt complete and total peace that everything would be okay, that God had control and He would work it all for His good.
Sure, there were many times when I had to continue to say it and repeat it through my tears and fear. Even if it wasn't true, when it was far from good in that moment, I knew that sooner or later it would be. And guess what? It was.
And though there are still things that I'm believing that for, I know it will be, because our God is faithful and is working everything in each of our lives for our good, even if that good is sometimes completely different than anything we hoped or anticipated. But guess what? It'll be better than what we had dreamed up. He never lets us down. Not once, not ever.
Not only have the challenging moments brought peace, but also a joy that is unlike anything in this world, because I know it's not from this world. I LOVE the lyrics in the song Zeal- feet on this earth, heart full of heaven. It's the only way to explain the peace and joy that this season has brought.
When we try to find our joy in people, in material things, in feelings or emotions, we're bound to get hurt. When we depend on someone else for our happiness, our sense of validation, security, and comfort, we're likely to be disappointed.
People and things can be fleeting. People can walk out of your life without any rhyme or reason, people you thought never would. Things can disappear, get broken, or lost. When we find our joy in these temporary things and then they're gone, we feel completely lost and confused. That's why it's so important to find joy and strength from the One who gives us breath in our lungs because He is constant and His love is never-ending.
I've struggled with anxiety for quite awhile. At the beginning of the year, I could barely sit in church or Bible study without having to get up and walk out for a bit because my anxiety would take hold of me. There'd be moments when I was driving when I'd start to panic out of nowhere. It wouldn't happen in many other instances, but I know that those moments are the ones when the enemy wants me to get up and leave because he knows that I'm where I need to be- where I'm finding my strength, hope, peace and joy from the true source of life.
Over the past 7 months, it's improved to become nearly nonexistent. Yes, there are still moments when it does affect me, but that's exactly the moment I whisper Jesus name and let Him take control because His peace is unlike any other and I know He's bigger than any emotion I'll ever feel. This joy He replaces it with, it's not just a oh I'm smiling because I'm kind of happy joy.. it's like my heart beats fast, I just wanna smile, dance in my car listening to Let Go (Hillsong if you haven't heard it it's amazing and it's on repeat on my playlist) and love people, and tell them how stinkin' loved they are.
And so are you.
And I want you to know that. And I want you to know, that whatever you're going through tonight, whatever storms are causing you fear, stress, anxiety, depression, discouragement, whatever it is, it's okay to have emotions, you don't have to hide it and pretend like you've got it all together, because honestly, none of us do.
It's okay to be confused at what God is doing, to get angry, to tell Him how you're really feeling, because He wants you to do that. He wants to hear from you. He wants you to be open and transparent with Him, and no matter what you say or think, He's going to love you through it. We want His promises, but we have to go through the processes He has for us to get to them, and sometimes, those processes aren't going to be easy at all, BUT He will be everything you need- the people, the opportunities, whatever you're needing to get through it.
One thing I've learned is no matter what I'm going through, God is bigger than it all and if something doesn't turnout how I'd hoped, if I get hurt, if things happen that I don't understand, if I get another rejection email for a job, if someone does something hurtful to someone I care about... that it was for the perfect reason and God will bring me through it. And it will be for a reason that is better than I could even dream up.
So no, we don't have to have it all together, have it all figured out or even appear to have it together. At our lowest point, God loves us just the same as we are at our "best."
Times might be disappointing, we might feel like the bad is not lifting from our lives, things might hurt for awhile, but man, when we truly realize that He wants what is best for us, He'll blow our minds at how good He is. And He doesn't just want that for some of us, He wants the best for each and every one of us.
We don't gotta be tough, we just gotta rest in His peace and love and that will ALWAYS be enough.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
What do you think of yourself when you wake up, when you see your reflection, when you walk into a crowd full of people?
We have our titles.
Wife. Girlfriend. Fiance. Husband. Boyfriend. Employee. Friend. Coworker. Daughter. Son. Mother. Father. Grandmother. Grandfather. Sister. Brother. Aunt. Uncle. Student.
And then we have our labels.
Successful. Failure. Happy. Broken. Depressed. Content. Anxious. Good enough. Unworthy. Capable. Unqualified. Not as far along. Ahead of that person. Knowledgable. Strong.
We can feel big and confident in one situation, and a few moments later we can feel as small as the fly on the wall. Circumstances, our surroundings, and the people around us can directly affect how we feel from one moment to the next.
You see, we're all broken people. Since Adam and Even, that's how it's been. We all need grace, love, forgiveness, strength, peace, joy, comfort, reassurance, and hope to get through the days.
That doesn't mean we're failures, or don't deserve good things, or won't ever "measure up," whatever that means.
It's easy to be hard on ourselves and to convince ourselves of things society tries to label us with based on its standards. It's easy to get in our heads and convinces ourselves that we don't even deserve to feel this unconditional love, this grace, this peace that He provides. I'm right there with you- I'll be the first to admit that there have been plenty of moments when I feel unworthy of it.
Maybe no one has ever told you this, maybe you won't believe me when I tell you, or you'll think you don't deserve it or can't accept it. That's fine, but I'm still going to share it with you and I hope and pray that you will believe it-- if not today, then one day.
I know it's easy to rush out the door and get caught up in labels and titles, but this week, try resting in the truth of who you truly are in God's eyes.
~You are loved- unconditionally, forever, and more in a moment than any other love will love you in a lifetime.
~There is nothing that you've done that could make Him love you any less. Absolutely nothing.
~You are valuable.
~You are chosen.
~You are forgiven.
~You are never alone.
~You are never too far gone.
~You are precious.
~While we were slaves to sin, He died for us.
~You are made whole.
~You are heard. He always listens.
~Jesus is for you, not against you.
~You are a child of God.
~ You are loved.
Yes, I know I already said that. But for real. Jesus knew we were going to fail Him. He carried our sin on His back and died on the cross for us when He KNEW what we were going to do. He sees us at our best, but He also sees us at our darkest, in the moments when we lose hope, cave, veer off track. But do you know what He does? He leaves the 99 for the 1. He pursues us, He doesn't give up on us. He loves us the same and wants us to feel and know that love. He's relentless, now, yesterday, and everyday.
So as you step foot out the door to begin your week, just remember.. the world will stick a label on you regardless, but what you choose to believe is under your control. You are a child of God and you are so so loved.
Happy almost middle of July, friends! (WHAT?!)
If you're looking for a great song to remind you of this-- this is the one!