The Struggle is Real

I have something to confess to you all.

And the struggle is real. It’s something I struggle with more than I would like to even admit. It’s something that is not really talked about, but it is so real in my life.

I struggle with d o u b t.

I doubt that God has my best interest at heart. I doubt God’s ability to provide for me. I doubt God’s love for me. I doubt His promises are true. I doubt the very words God has spoken to me.

I doubt.

The list could go on, but hopefully you get the idea that I doubt God.

God and I have so many different conversations about my doubt (notice that this is a present situation because I am still working through it).

Earlier this week, I felt this doubt creeping into my life. I felt the doubt starting to take over. At first I just wanted to ignore its existence there, but by ignoring the doubt, it grew bigger. I could feel it starting to take up space in my heart. I knew I needed to bring the doubt before the Lord and have Him do a work in me.

I laid my doubt before Him.

The conversation started by me just talking to God about my current circumstances. It’s often my circumstances that produce the doubt because all I can see in these moments is the life that is unfolding right before my eyes. As God and I talked through these different life events, I told Him how these situations made me feel. It went something like: I’m tired. I feel completely drained. I feel like You have forgotten me. I feel like what You have told me could never happen. I feel completely alone. In this case, those statements of feelings quickly turned into questions: God, where are You? God, will You fulfill Your promises? God, You say You are good, where is the goodness?

This was my heart’s cry (and unfortunately because of my sinful nature this has happened before). When doubt creeps in, these are genuine questions I struggle with even though I know the answers; but it’s a constant battle in my heart to remember God’s simple truths, and I was doubting again.

I also knew that if I let the conversation stop here with my questions, then I’m the only one doing the talking and that’s not a conversation.

My heart desperately desired to hear from the Lord.

It was at this point, no matter how tired I felt or even how sad (or angry, alone, empty) I felt, I opened God’s word. I wanted to hear from Him. I needed to hear from Him.

It was in this slow moment after I cried out to God, I opened my Bible to the next section of reading–and if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t think God would talk at all. I believed this lie that God didn’t care enough about me to speak to me.

I read through the different verses of God’s word, and then I got to verse thirty-five. It was in that very moment, God revealed the answers to all my doubts. It was in that very moment God did care about me. It was in that very moment that God cared enough about me to speak to me by sweetly whispering: Rachel, my Scripture cannot be broken.

His Word is very much alive and very much active. It has the very ability to speak into my (your) life. It’s only because Christ Himself is the very Word of God that I (we) can even hear from Him.

That phase “Scripture cannot be broken” was not something I had to go and find. I didn’t open to the back of my Bible and look for “doubt.” But I did open up God’s Word to what I was already studying. And God showed up. He was replacing the lie that I believed with His undeniable truth.

Right in the midst of my darkness, God breathed life into my heart.

When I laid my doubts before Him, He spoke truth.

What I heard God say in that moment was: My Word is true and nothing this world tries to get you to believe will ever break those truths. 

Immediately, I found myself with a sense of rest. I found my eyes fixed on God. I found that my doubts were slowly fading away. I found my answer to doubt is always God despite how I feel.

Our conversation didn’t stop there though, even though I fell asleep for the night, it continued on into the next day. God reminded me through worship, friends, His Word (again), that God is T H E  O N L Y one to be faithful even in my doubts. Not that God needed to prove this about Himself because of all that He has already done in my life, but He did it anyway. God reminded me of all He has done:

You want to know where I am? Look around. I am everywhere. I see what you’re walking through. I hear your cries. I know all the suffering going on in and around you. Why do you think I sent my Son? I sent Him so that I could be with you. 

You want to know if I will fulfill my promises? Look at Abraham. I gave Him a promise, and he was faithful to trust my word despite him waiting. I gave Him a son just like I said I would. My word is true and it will not be broken. Look to Moses and the Israelites. I told Moses I would set my people free, but they had to endure Pharaoh’s hardened heart so that my name would be gloried. I cannot lie. Just like I said, I freed the Israelites and led them into the Promised Land. 

Trust My Word. Believe My Word. Cling to My Word.

Trust Me. Believe Me. Cling to Me. 

You want to know if I am good? Look to the cross. It was a terrible situation. Pain, suffering, and sadness (some of the very emotions you feel sometimes) were only some of the different emotions My Son felt on that cross. He suffered temporarily so that later my name could be F O R E V E R glorified. That terrible situation had to happen so that I could give you–give others–life. 

Your situation may be full of waiting and at times full of pain, suffering, and sadness; but I am with you through it all–you are not alone. I make all these situations turn out good. Abraham waiting was for good. I made him faithful to me. The Israelites enduring Pharaoh’s hardened heart was for good. I made them trust me and to know that I will protect them. The cross was for good. It was my very power that brought Christ to life–to give you life. The things that I bring you to, I will bring you through for your good. I am with you, just as I was with Abraham, the Israelites, and My Son. 

The words I have spoken years ago, I speak to you now: my Scripture cannot be broken. 

Remembering these words that God has so gently spoken to me are the very words I must cling to even in the midst of my doubt.

Whatever it is you are facing, it is my prayer that you will remember God’s Word cannot be broken.

It is my prayer that you remember God will speak directly into your circumstances–He is a God who will be there for you no matter what.

It is my prayer that you look to the cross and remember all that God has already done.

It is my prayer that you see He is faithful even when the struggle is real.

 

Picky Eaters

The other night I was reading in John 6, this is the chapter where Jesus feeds 5000 men. It’s also the story I’ve been able to recite since pre-school. My Sunday school teacher would pass out these little felt characters and as she got to a certain point in the story, each kid would place their character–Jesus, the 12 disciples, the crowd of people, and the little boy with the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish–up on a felt board. It’s a story I’ve heard so many times (and I hate to say this, but it’s the sinful bent of my heart); it has become mundane.

Pretty sure God is teaching me there is beauty in the mundane, rehearsed stories because just as God usually does, He pointed out something new.

Check out what John 6:1-14 says and just try and S L O W down as you read this. Picture the felt Sunday school board with all the little characters, but don’t stop there. These are real people who have a R E A L hunger.

1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

Pretty cool, right?

Here’s where God showed me something new: verse eleven talks about how Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, passed them out, took the fish, gave thanks again, and passed it out. But look at that last part, as much as they wanted.

I laugh a little when I think about this story because I often go over to a family’s house after church on Sunday. Usually, my Sunday breakfast is coffee (that’s not really food). So by the time 12:30 or 1 or 1:30 rolls around, I’m pretty hungry. According to them though, I go through these phases of hunger that leads to “hangry” (hunger that turns into anger). Although I like to think I’m not angry, apparently the sass does start to roll out.

And I often wonder if this is like the crowd following Jesus. This crowd had been following Him while He was performing all these signs and wonders, and they got hungry–maybe even “hangry.”

But regardless, Jesus provided.

He didn’t just provide enough food though, He provided as much as they wanted.

That’s crazy to me.

People are people, so I’m guessing even though this story happened thousands of years ago there were still those three main types of people:

  1. The Belt Looseners: The people who went into this feast probably like we eat at Thanksgiving. They ate so much that the only option was to loosen the belt leaving them in the state of not wanting to eat for the next few days.
  2. The “Just Right”: This would be the people who saw the abundance of food and ate until they were satisfied. They weren’t overflowing, but they were probably going to be hungry as usual in the next few hours.
  3. The Picky Eaters: These would be the people who looked at the feast and decided that wasn’t their type of bread or they prefer a different type of fish so they chose not to eat, even though they were probably hungry.

I can only imagine what Jesus, our host of this impromptu dinner party, was thinking when He saw those belt looseners chowing down on the food He provided and told them to have as much as you want. OR when He looks over to those who are just right. I’m sure He was smiling like any proud host of a dinner party, when you see your guests satisfied in what you’ve prepared for them.

But then He turns and He sees the picky eaters making the choice not to partake in the dinner because they would rather have something else (probably not as fulfilling) leaving them empty, unsatisfied, and “hangry”. I can imagine He felt some sadness when they opted not to eat, when He could see so clearly they were hungry. Jesus had provided the food to take away their hungry and yet they chose not to eat.

Is this not us today?

We’ve been given Jesus and He’s giving us as much as we want, but He leaves us with the choice to partake.

How much Jesus will you take?

He’s giving us all we want to the point where there will always be leftovers (or more of Him to have), yet some of us–including myself–are choosing a different brand of Jesus, a false god in essence, to satisfy our deep hunger.

Choosing the false god only leaves us empty and unsatisfied.

When I came to this story, I didn’t really expect God to reveal anything new to me because like I said I knew it (or at least thought I did), but little did I know that God really just wanted to ask me a question: I am here offering you as much of me as you want, but will you choose to be satisfied?

We have a choice.

We can be a “belt loosener” and completely satisfy our soul’s hunger in Christ–enjoying every minute of experiencing Him to the absolute fullest, to the point that it spills out of us into others.

We can be “just right”and be safe and take a little bit of what Christ has to offer, but possibly miss out on the greater joy of the overflowing fullness in Christ.

Or we can be “picky eaters” and believe that something else will satisfy our hunger when in reality that something else leaves us even more empty and unsatisfied than what we started out.

Don’t be a picky eater.

Your hunger will not be fulfilled by binge watching Netflix, working yourself to exhaustion, or busying yourself with other things.

Instead, indulged in the fullness of Jesus.

He’s offering you as much as you want.

Dream Guide 2017

To start off this New Year, I thought I would share with you Jennie Allen’s Dream Guide 2017. Just by clicking on that link, it should automatically download for you to start dreaming for yourself, but I wanted to share with you my own dream guide for 2017.

I am so excited it’s a new year. There’s just something refreshing about a new beginning that is exciting. I’m usually terrified of the unknown, but right now (at least in this moment) I’m definitely expectant at what God is going to do in 2017.


Spiritual

Alone Time/Connect With God

I A L W A Y S struggled to find time with God. Setting time away for just God and myself to be together was difficult. 2016 was the first year I have had a solid quiet time for 365 days. That was only possible through God giving me a deep desperation to spend time with Him. With everything, there is room for improvement, so this year I really want to focus on slowing down. Looking back on last year, the times where I genuinely felt the Holy Spirit, I was slowing down to just be. That’s what I want more of this year–more of just being still and knowing He is God.

Church/Serve/Tithe

I was reminded the other day of 3 John 4 which says,”I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” This verse is one that I want more of in 2017. I’ve seen God do some remarkable things in 2016. For example, over the summer I was working a Crossings camp with my church and I got a text message from one of the students I disciple. She wanted me to know she met with another student who didn’t know Christ, and she wanted me to be praying for the girl she met with. In that moment, I was so overwhelmed with J O Y because that text meant all that time, energy, and money was well spent. It was the multiplication process–when a new disciple wants to go and make more disciples. In 2017, I want to be with God so He can lead me to His church to serve alongside and to give where more multiplication will happen to experience the great joy of seeing others walking in the truth!

Outreach/Ministry

I get to teach 8th graders every day. There are days where they are the sweetest kids that bring me chocolates when they know I’ve had a rough week, and then there are the days where they are what makes my week rough. BUT they are my ministry. God has placed me in this position to be a light to these kids. The last part of 2016, it was really easy to forget teaching is a ministry. I want 2017 to be different. I want to be reaching out to these kids and ministering to them in a way that screams Jesus. I obviously have to be careful with that, but in the past when I prayed asking God to open a door to minister to these kids, God always opened one. I need to pray that prayer more: God, open a door so I can minister to those around me.

Discipleship/Mentorship

Consistent. This is the 2017 goal here. I get to meet with some pretty awesome girls from my church every week, and because of school and extracurricular activities it can be easier to just say “we can meet next week”, but in reality consistency is KEY. It creates accountability. I want to be consistent with the girls I disciple, but also I personally want intentional mentorship. I have some extraordinary women in my life who listen so well to all of life’s ups and downs, but most of our time together is unintentional mentorship. It’s great when it happens, but I am dreaming BIG here (and expectant) so I would love to have the intentional mentorship!


Relational

Friendships/Friends I Need/Friends Who Need Me

2016 surprised me a lot in the area of friendships. The biggest blessing was walking into a coffee shop, asking the barista for an Americano, and buying one cup of coffee turned into a friendship. Sadly (but very exciting), she is leaving for California and a little less than a month. Then an old friendship sparked when we both chaperoned Crossings Camp together. God showed me through this old friend what deep faith looks like and it has strengthened and challenged my own friendship. I even have those out-of-town friends that I got to see and each time it was encouraging. If there is one thing I’m praying for is more friends in close proximity to me. Friends that are passionate about Jesus, digging into His word, and a desire to see others come to know Christ. Right now it seems like everyone is at least two hours away, and the ones from the coffee shop are about to be 2 days away. Regardless, I’m expectant at who God will bring.

Extended Family/Neighbors/Co-Workers

I have the opportunity to live with a family from my church. It’s the biggest financial blessing from 2016 hands down, but I would love for God to give me opportunities to serve them. This family has opened up their home to me, and the other night I sat with some of their kids working on a puzzle just doing life together. It’s those moments of just being present that I’m excited to see what else God does. With my co-workers, I’ve been praying about getting a group together to do some sort of bible study. Time is holding me (possibly all of the ladies back) simply because morning/afternoon duty and meetings can be a challenge to juggle, but I would love for that to be a way that I can connect with them more! I have the best faculty/staff anyone could ask for, I’m not even kidding. They demonstrate such selflessness on the daily.


Personal

Food/Exercise/Health

Alright, I am not one to work out at all. It’s the sweating. I don’t like it. I don’t glisten, I legit sweat. It’s ugly. But I have decided it’s time. It’s time to hit the gym (or really turn on a work out video because gyms literally intimidate me–anyone else???). I’m also turning 25 in April and thought that losing 25 pounds wouldn’t be a bad thing either, hopefully by the time I turn 25.

Books to Read

Over the last two years I have become quite the reader, but I don’t like to read fiction. I really only enjoy reading books about the Lord or books that challenge and shape my faith. I have 3 shelves that are full of books that I have read over the past few years, but have about a half a shelf of books that NEED TO BE READ. My favorite two books from 2016 that I read were Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. The two current books I’m reading now are Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen and And He Dwelt Amont Us by A. W. Tozer. Hopefully the future reads of 2017 will be The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp and Wait and See by Wendy Pope. Click on any of those links to get the book!

Dreams/Memories to Make

Around April or May of 2016, I read through the book of Daniel and through chapters 2 and 3, God revealed this great ambition to write a book. I really want to do it, but there’s a huge part of me that is a perfectionist and writing a book means a lot of perfection, which creates a little anxiety. That alone is intimidating, but I know if God wants it, He will make it happen. So it’s a dream to write a book. One of my fondest memories is from college, but it was having people over. I miss that. I would love for 2017 to be full of people coming over and hanging out.

Travel

I have friends that live all over the country. This past year I drove to Lexington for the first time to visit some friends in the hospital. I also went to Louisville (multiple times) and had a fun day with one my friends from college. I also have a friend living in Chicago and soon my friends from the coffee shop will be in California. Maybe that means a trip to California or to Chicago. But if money wasn’t an issue, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to go to Europe or really a beach. Big difference, I know, but that’s what I’m thinking! Really I would just love to have a legit vacation. That would be nice.


Work

Finacnes

God has definitely blessed me with finances, but I know that I can still be better. There are things I spend money on that I don’t need to spend money on. Then there are things like a new MacBook and a potential Masters degree that I know I need to be saving for, not to mention my future. Saving is the goal. Lots of saving. Less spending (and I just dreamed about a vacation, dreaming is nicer than reality sometimes).

Personal Growth/Education

I would love to personally grow in the area of being a better cook. I want to try new recipes and branch out on what I can make. Pinterest has helped a lot, but there can be more! I also am looking into a Masters Degree, not 100% what in yet, but I’m definitely thinking about it. There’s this whole blogging thing that I want to be consistent with. Every time I sit down to blog, the Lord shapes my heart in a whole new way; it’s another opportunity to grow deeper with Him.

Projects

I have this huge list in my phone of all the things that didn’t get done in 2016. But I have found that I love painting. I painted a mug and multiple canvases for my apartment. I recently did a New York skyline for a backdrop for a birthday party. It’s relaxing. For 2017 though, I want to embrace my inner scrapbooker and create a Remembrance Board (I need a better name) of all the things God has done for me. It will be full of the big moments, the ones I want my kids to know so they can see how God is real in a tangible way. It would also be a conversation starter for guests to ask what something means and then they get to know how God has provided for me. I want to make a recipe book of the ones I actually like! I also have a folder right now of all the letters my students or friends have given me over the past few years and would love for that not to be in a folder, something nicer–scrapbook or binder.


Expectant

As I filled out the Dream Guide, expectant was the word that kept popping up. It’s the word of the year for me. I want to be expecting what God can do because I know it will be immeasurably more than I could ever imagine.