Hot chocolate on a cold day, being surrounded by books and overwhelmed with time to study and research, and knowing that God hasn’t changed His mind about me over night are all elements that make for one wonderful afternoon.
There are times when I’m just tired of struggling…I just don’t want to fight in my own head and heart anymore. I just want it to stop. I want to not have to be on my toes or mentally focused for just a moment, just a second. I don’t want to have to be constantly aware of what’s going on around me, aware of the lies Satan constantly throws my way and then muster the strength and endurance to fight them, only to fail or retreat because I tried to do it on my own.
And as I read my classmates’ writing, as I listen to their talking about the hopelessness of the world, about the things they don’t understand, as I read the stories assigned to us in class, my heart just aches. It aches, because it just feels like they’re reaching for something, anything, that’s real and tells them there’s something more than what’s going on right now. And I sit, with my Bible open, wondering if Christ can really heal their hearts and if He’s really the answer…He healed my heart. He was the answer for me, the only answer. If you put the girl I was when I was fourteen next to the person I am now, you would wonder if they were the same person, or at least I would. I recall too often how worthless and broken and shattered I felt, how just-not-good-enough I felt at the hands of a person I allowed to be a pathetic god, at the hands of my own fear and desires.
And yet He healed my heart. So why, if Christ could change me, if Christ could love me so completely, if His word has proven true in my life and He continues to change me, challenge me, strengthen me every day, would I for one second think He was incapable of doing that for my classmates? Why do I doubt that, yes, His word has power, and, yes, my testimony of His awesomeness is legitimate? Didn’t Christ use the testimony of the Samaritan to save an entire village (John 4:1-42)? Didn’t He use the man possessed by an entire legion of demons to show others who He is (Luke 8:26-39)? Didn’t He use Paul’s testimony in the book of Acts to bring thousands of disciples into His family and then send them out to tell their testimonies as well, strengthening the churches (Acts 15, 16:25-34, 17:22-34)? Didn’t He use Peter’s testimony and John’s testimony and Mary Magdalene’s testimony to bring innumerable amounts of people to Him throughout the entire course of history and still farther into the future? So why on earth do I think that I, as someone lost saved by His grace and His Gospel and His truth, am any different? Can’t He use me just as He’s used Christians from the beginning of creation all the way up to the moment in which I sit now? I am no special case.
I’m learning an odd sort of thing. So, the Bible talks about unity among Christians, about stirring one another to love and good works, and to support one another.
Well, when I invited Alex and Kat and Bree and company to have this “religious talk” today, I almost felt guilty afterwards because I’d done it simply because another Christian had stirred up the desire and the courage within me to test God’s word and see if the harvest really was as plentiful as He says it is. Why did I feel guilty? The mindset really goes back to Psalm 127:1, which says “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” I always thought I needed to wait for just the right opportunity, the perfect conversation, the right person to talk to. But as I looked at this more closely, and as I confessed my confusion and discomfort concerning all of this to God when spending time with Him, I realized I was seeing things the wrong way.
So, I started out wondering if I’d done something wrong by impulsively asking my classmates if they wanted to do this. But at the same time, isn’t it my responsibility, as a Christian, as a laborer in the vineyard of the world, to tell them about God’s word and to talk to them about His truth? Shouldn’t I be moving even if my feelings about the situation are off? Shouldn’t I be talking about His truth anyway? Is it really a bad thing if it was because of a fellow Christian that I had the courage to even ask my classmates?
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as the day draws near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
God’s word says nothing that I know of against being inspired by the work of another Christian and acting on that inspiration to test His word and to do what it says. There’s a verse that’s been stuck in my head for what feels like forever: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37-38). If He really means that the harvest is plentiful, then I, as a laborer, should be able to go out and pick the fruit and harvest the grain without lacking things to harvest.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, emphasis mine)
If it’s my labor in the Lord, then that makes me a laborer. But God also says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
So it’s not like He’s saying that because I’m talking to people about Him and “doing His work” this means I’m no longer in a relationship with Him, but just the opposite. According to His word in Matthew, He’s inviting me to both rest in, lean on, and be loved by Him, but also to come alongside Him in that love to learn from Him as His daughter, His soldier, His disciple.
I’ve just seen too often the work of the Lord (growing in Him, challenging others, even witnessing) being done coldly and monotonously, as if it’s a check list to be completed by the end of the day, the sharing of the gospel being without excitement or desire or love for the One who is love. Doing His work, however, isn’t supposed to be cold or monotonous. Again, just the opposite. Just because it was because of another Christian’s walk with God and their inspiring me to have the courage to go forth in Him, this doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong, in fact, something tells me this is how it’s supposed to be. When Christians come together, they’re both still following God and leaning on Him and in a personal relationship with Him, but both of them are encouraging one another to pursue Him more completely and to depend on Him in everything and to follow His word by not only hearing it, but also by doing it.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:22-25)
If God’s word is true, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with how I approached my classmates, with the intentions of my heart, or even with how things are going to happen, because the doer who acts on His word (James 1:25, Matt. 9:37-38) will be blessed in his/her doing, so, again, realistically, no bad can come from any of this.
So there. I often feel guilty about things I do, even though I’ve done nothing wrong, even though my intentions are good and the actions are innocent. I know why this happens. I know that it’s because of what happened in my B.C. time (pre-salvation). I know it’s because I got used to being guilt-tripped, because I got used to being beat down and denied and deceived and hurt. I know it’s because I got used to feeling like everything I did wasn’t good enough or it was wrong or shameful.
But I’m not that girl anymore. Satan has no claim on me. And I’ve had to remind myself of that a lot lately, because I too often forget that I am not a victim or a slave to sin. I’m under the grace and power of Christ and no one else. The truth is that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), and that “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,” (2 Corinthians 5:17). My slate has been wiped clean, my heart changed, my life spun on its axle, my world flipped upside down. Period.
As far as being tired of struggling is concerned, this battle won’t end until God calls me home, though it might get easier to face and I might grow to fight it with more weakness for Christ. I will always be fighting this and I will always have to deal with it. God tells me that His grace is sufficient for me, because His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). So, if this struggle is what it takes for Him to be glorified, and if it’s what it takes to drive me to my knees and to knock me into shape and bring me closer to Him, though it frustrates the snot out of me and I hate it, then I’ll endure it, and I’ll strive to boast in such a struggle, in this weakness. I don’t know why God allowed all of what happened to me to happen. I don’t understand how this helps anyone, especially not me, even though the awesomeness might be seen by others on the outside looking in, but I have to trust that He’s good and that He knows better than I do. I don’t care if you call it blind faith. I don’t care if you think I’m being ignorant or crazy. Yeah, I’m in a lot of pain, and I’m frustrated, and it’s hard, and none of it makes any sense, and I don’t want to do it anymore. But I will not give up, can’t give up; it’s not in me. God dished that out a long time ago. And He’s given me hope that it will end someday, even if it’s not in this life. And that’s enough.