God is really good with writing stories that just shouldn’t happen and don’t make sense. I mean, really, really good.
And He’s also really, really good with answering prayer, whether it be a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. He’s especially good at executing the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’. Usually when He answers my prayers, it in some way involves my being in a VERY uncomfortable situation where I have no power or control whatsoever and I’m forced to be completely dependent on Him. This is both frightening and oddly reassuring.
Lately, in reference to reading God’s word, I’ve heard a lot of phrases like “It makes me feel so reassured,” “I can really feel God’s presence,” “I feel so in touch with Christ, and that’s how I know this is real.” Coinciding with these statements has come a situation that I’ve experienced before and advised against before and tried to maneuver around and it still happens and the person still keeps doing it and it drives me absolutely nuts, not because I’m being hurt or offended in any way, but because I genuinely care about the person and it hurts me to see them making unwise decisions.
But again, I have to remember that it’s not about me.
Today after taking my German final I walked into the dorm and after being met by the situation and then left by the same situation, I scrambled to contact my mom, because I needed someone to talk to, someone to vent to, someone to listen. When she didn’t answer, I grew frustrated. That’s when I remember that God is listening, and He, though my mom is awesome and wonderful, is the only One who can give me clear direction as to where to go, what to do, how to act. He’s the One who knows exactly what’s going on, exactly how I feel, and exactly what I need.
So I cried to God and vented to Him for a good thirty minutes about everything I was thinking and feeling and by the time this was all over I was on the floor, looking up, praying and saying, “I’m so tired.”
Sleep-deprivation and too much coffee on an empty stomach really affects your emotions, and I forgot. And I realized that, despite all of the finals nonsense, not sleeping and drinking coffee was not the wisest decision I’d ever made in my life.
This was just another moment when I had to remember that even though I felt like things were falling apart and even though I was struck with how many difficulties have suddenly come up and even though I felt nearly overwhelmed by what seemed to be the impossibility of it all, God is no less God in this situation than He was before the beginning of time. I’m covered and I’m safe and I’m secure, whether I feel that way or not.
Now, for the longest time I depended on how I felt towards God and His word to verify my faith and to solidify my relationship with Him. Then, however, when things began to crumble and I suddenly didn’t feel God there, I suddenly felt alone and frightened and unprotected, and I accused God of abandoning me and of lying to me about who He is.
But this is a lie.
How many times in the Bible does God talk about how deceitful the heart is? A lot (1 King 11:4, Psalm 12:2, Proverbs 4:23, 16:1, 16:9, Jeremiah 17:9, etc.). Enough for us to obviously see that nothing can be based off of feelings alone, because feelings falter, change, move, lie, make obstacles seem much bigger than they actually are, make assumptions about the characters of other people that aren’t even close to the truth, and drive us to depend on how other people see us rather than pushing us to lean on how God sees us.
Your relationship with Christ cannot be based off of your feelings.
I’m relearning this lesson every single day of this week, because right now a series of tests (yes, just a series of tests) is going down and several temporary projects are due all in the course of five days, but the feelings that come from whatever nonsensical stress I might feel or pressure I might conjure up from fear or anxiety has absolutely no bearing on who God is and what He does, has done, and will do with me and my life. He is not limited by my shortfalls or by my feelings. I know I say this all the time, but especially as a woman (we tend to be more emotionally wired, or more apt to communicate through how we feel) I need to know this fact inside and out and be secure in it or else my relationship with Christ will falter and I will be torn apart by my own fear.
It sounds intense, but it’s true.
In the weeks leading up to this and the week itself I’ve seen and talked to so many people who are absolutely paralyzed with fear. I am not the only one who struggles with this.
When Christ said, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20), He meant always, as in whether I believe or feel He is or not. When Christ said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34), He meant my tomorrow as well as the tomorrow He experienced in the New Testament, as well as the rest of the tomorrows to come in the span of the future, which He created and ordained before I was born. And when Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6) He meant He is the way, the truth, and the light, whether I feel like He is at the moment or not.
Feelings make me think for a second that I know something, that something is certain. But 2 Corinthians 5:7 says “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” I don’t know about you, but when I can see things, I feel very in control and very confident. When the lights are out, however, my security is gone, and I have to depend on someone else to turn them back on. Christ asks me to walk by faith, meaning I’m walking without being able to see and trusting that He’s leading me in the right direction. I’m not walking forward based on whether or not I feel like I’m going in the right direction, or I’m particularly in touch with God, or I can very thoroughly feel the Holy Spirit moving. Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious that God wants me to go somewhere or do something. Sometimes, yeah, it’s the Holy Spirit’s leading. But most times it’s going back to the immutable character of God and the truth about who He is, magnified and manifest in His love letter to me, the Bible.
Now, the situation that happened, that I witnessed, isn’t explicit or bad or anything. But it has a lot to do with the question, “What is the wise thing to do?” Last year, beginning of the first semester, I read The Best Question Ever by Andy Stanley, where the question “what is the wise thing to do?” came up continually. Sorry, spoilers. That then led me to figure out exactly what exercising wisdom entails. According to God’s word, wisdom comes from God and can be asked for (James 1:5) and from the fear of the Lord (Psalm 111:10). So, you can’t exercise true wisdom without experience with God, and you can’t have experience with God without a relationship with Him.
Asking the question “what is the wise thing to do?” is the first wise thing to do. For example. Ladies, if you’re in a situation where you’re candidly alone with a guy for an extended period of time in a very private place, please leave the situation. I’m not saying that anything bad would happen, or even that the guy is dishonorable or ungentlemanly, but I am saying that the wise thing to do, to avoid giving him the wrong impression, to avoid even setting grounds for something uncomfortable, unnecessary, and regretful happening, is to leave the situation. Hopefully the guy involved will leave first, seeing that the situation could harbor compromise, but in this situation you can’t depend on the actions of others. You have to move first.
Why do I use this illustration? Despite the fact that this is part of a much larger, much deeper problem rooted in the perspective of relationships between men and women, I used this illustration because it’s where the most compromise seems to happen, where I’ve seen and experienced it the most. Other illustrations might be: If you have a problem with budgeting and can’t resist buying something the moment you see it, what would be the wise thing to do? Take someone with you. Don’t bring any money if you’re only window shopping. Bring the exact amount you need to buy what you need. It’s just taking the time to prepare and to be wise and consider, “Wow, maybe this might not be the best idea,” or “Maybe the other people involved with this situation might get hurt or be affected negatively,” or “Maybe this might possibly have repercussions down the road.” Just a thought.
And I’m not saying I always do the right thing. I just told you about my idiotic decision to drink too much coffee and get too little sleep, and while the result was a much needed talk with God, which ultimately drew me closer to Him, it still was painful to get there, though it seems small. Some things just aren’t a good idea. I’m not saying join a convent or never go out on a date. I’m not saying never go out shopping, or eat too much chocolate, or splurge on time. I’m not saying you can’t have fun and you have to constantly be paranoid about how everything is going to click together in the future. But I AM saying that exercising wisdom and self-control (which is another one of those rather important things you can’t effectively do in a relatively consistent manner without Christ) will make things much more pleasant, to say the least.
The phrase “in order to be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid,” keeps cycling through my head, and it’s always a reminder that, though sometimes I fall into thinking this way, I don’t know everything, and I need Christ to fill in for the things I don’t know…which, comparing how much I know to how much He knows, is pretty much everything. But I don’t mind it when Christ’s proves me wrong, when I want to do something and He says “wait,” or when I think I’m making the right decision and He says “no, do this,” or when His word claims one thing and I think it would make more sense to do another, because whenever He proves me wrong, not only is it an opportunity to grow more dependent on Him and less dependent on the plans and opinions and pressures of the world, but it’s also an opportunity for me to see how awesome His plan is, and I get to take part in it as a daughter of the High King.
And that’s amazing 🙂
“I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth,” —Isaiah 51:12-13a, ESV