Tag Archives: depend on God

Grasping Christ Among the Tangles

Hey Guys!  Meagan’s back with a follow-up from last week!  YAY!!!!!

Hiya! Have I said what a privilege it is to get to share my thoughts and meditations with you? It’s a huge privilege and I hope it will be encouraging.

So last week we were talking about how easy it is to compare yourself to everyone around you and feel inadequate. I caught myself doing this *again* this very past week at work, even though I make a good salary and have a “real career.”

Here’s why I was moping: I work for scientists. Not just any scientists, but the kind who get interviewed on CNN, have their research featured in Science Magazine, and are changing the world by inventing vaccines to stop disease in Africa, engineering working human body parts, and targeting cancer cures. My boss is a Nobel Laureate. Every day, I come into my building and am surrounded by engineers, bioscientists, and every other kind of over-achieving Ph.D. you can think of.

Then there’s me: I got my B.S. (B.arely S.craped by) in Journalism, got laid off when the newspaper industry died, and was slowly sucked into research accounting, where I have now been stuck for 5 years. I don’t race in triathlons or volunteer to help Haitian refugees. I don’t have any particular skills or accomplishments to put on my life resume.

I wanted to write for the New York Times— to write stories about gorillas in the mist, and doctors helping people in the slums of India.

Instead, like some of you, I’ve been thinking about my life, going “how did I land here?” Some of us never merge into the Ph.D. track to ultra-life success. And not because we didn’t try.

Walking to my intimidatingly-large bioscience building Monday morning, I was overwhelmed, unmotivated and uninspired. Trudging into my drab, windowless office, I felt unappreciated and largely ignored by the scientists I support (unless, of course, they need something that involves money). Sorry for whining at you.

The point is that I started concentrating on wanting to feel significant. To do things that I believe are significant like influencing and inspiring others, taking care of the poor, giving of myself. Hear me: Those desires aren’t wrong. My focus was wrong.

God reminded me on the walk to work–

“Where do you get your value? From them? Or from me and what I say is true about you?”

“From you, O Lord.”

“What is more precious to you—their evaluation of you, or mine?”

“Yours, O Lord.”

Alright, but do I really believe that? Do my actions and thoughts consistently reflect the things I say to God? It’s easy to say in the moment, but not so easy to practice, is it?

Yeah, I feel ya. I cry out to him in my self-inflicted pain: “I know you say you’re there, God, but how do I find you in this mess?! How in the world do I even start?”

Some pastors, well-meaning but shallow Christians, and devotional writers will preach: Just put your eyes on Jesus. Just. As if it’s that easy. Well, instead of condescending to you, I’m going to give you an actual, practicable answer. Ready?

How you find life purpose and peace through Jesus:

The ugly answer, as in all things that are life-changing, is (and sorry for this):

It takes brokenness.

Then desperation.

And then it takes practice.

Not simple. Definitely not pretty.

Why these three things?

  • Brokenness: Your grand life plans = Epic Fail. All kinds of things break people: discovering a cancerous tumor, the death of a child, spouse or sibling, losing a job or a home, addiction and mental illness, being the victim of a crime or natural disaster. Sometimes it’s bad choices you make. Sometimes it’s bad choices others perpetrate on you. Sometimes, it seems like the universe just singled you out.
  • Desperation: You realize you aren’t actually the master of your destiny. Loneliness and fear descend upon you like a shroud. You cry out for help into the empty air. Times of desperation are when you are most likely to be open to change – to finding a better way that can sustain you in the long-term.

(Before number three, there is a wall that some people are unable to break through. That is a discussion about suicide, for another post.)

  • Practice: You emerge from the shattered glass that once mirrored your life, and grasp on to something. Let’s hope the something is not a radical new diet or extreme-makeover fitness program. Let’s hope it is Christ. You may not be the master of your own destiny, but you are the master of how you respond to it.

You don’t just magically change from your old, bad habits though. You constantly revert back to them like a baby blanket that you believe has protected you from harm, but really has no power at all.

To change, to really hold on to what you have found and fully transform, you have to practice. Like any athlete who sustains herself through the finish line.

Well, crap. How do I “practice” grasping on to this invisible, elusive Christ?

Don’t be discouraged! There are some tools to help you start. And unlike a trendy fad diet, the results are lasting– because they are backed by a King who wants to know you, who wants you to succeed in the life He gave you, and who will help you along the way…

We’ll get to some practice exercises next week. This week, meditate on what brokenness looks like for you. Consider what it feels like to be desperate.

Um… Amy Leigh… can I hijack your blog for a Part III?

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More than you can handle

I have heard more than once recently that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”

For the record, yeah, that’s not true.  It’s definitely not scriptural.  In fact, I bet if you could talk to Job, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Peter, that they would all say at one point or another that God gave them more than they could handle.  Even Jesus, that night in Gethsemane, asked God if he could get out of the next couple coming days, and he sweat drops of blood (this happens when a person is under a great deal of stress).

The closest scripture I could find to this saying is 1 Corinthians 10:13, which states in the ESV, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

But temptation is different than life struggles.  Your dad having cancer is a life struggle, not a temptation.  Your friends betraying you is a life struggle, not a temptation.  I mean, sure, within the life struggle you will find the temptation to reject God, or reject parts of Him you know to be true.  And that was Satan’s goal in taking everything away from him – to get him to curse God.  But life struggles happen, and aren’t temptations in and of themselves.

But I bet, as the messengers came running to Job about his children dying, and his cattle, sheep and other sources of his wealth, Job would have said that this was too much, that God had given him more than he could handle.  But mostly he just asked “why”.

Talk to the people in Africa, who are now orphans because both of their parents died of AIDS and are now starving.  Or to any of the refugees anywhere on the planet.  I bet they would all say “it’s too much”.

And it is.  Why wouldn’t it be?  Life is hard, and often it is more than a person can handle on their own.   I don’t care if your life is cushy or if your life is super-hard, it’s more than you can handle.  Something will come up that will send you over the edge.  Which is why God calls us to community and to be in constant communion with Him.  Because life IS more than we can handle on our own.  But with Christ and with the community He has given us, we never have to do it on our own.

Even Job didn’t have to go through his trials alone.  I mean, sure, his friends could have been a bit more supportive and trusting, but at least they sat down with him, and sat through the pain with him.  Now, I’m sure at times he would have preferred they leave, their advice was that poisonous, but even their horrible advice seems to have pushed Job that much more to not curse God.

So yeah, the saying “God doesn’t give you more than you handle” is pretty much a lie.  He allows stuff all the time to happen that is more than we can handle.  But through that stuff, God is there and if you are dependent on Him, you will get through.  And one of the ways He reaches out to you is through the community you and He have gathered around you.  Life is not meant to be lived alone.  You can’t do it on your own (even people who think they can find ways to get around the pain – whether they watch too much TV, are super-focused on their body, or drink, or whatever it is they can find to escape).

God WILL give you more than you can handle.  On your own you will shut down emotionally.  You will curse Him.  You will no longer see a reason to live, or how you possibly could live through this.  You might mentally snap.

But God will never give you more than you and He and your community can handle.  There isn’t one example in scripture of God doing that.  He’s not an evil, malicious God.  He is just, and righteous, and loving.  He takes care of His kids.  It might be hard, but if you are at His side, He’ll guide you through.

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Sugar and Noise

I did not grow up with Lent.  In fact, I’m not sure I even knew what “giving something up for Lent” meant until I read the story of the Von Trapp Family Singers (the family Sound of Music was based on).  Maria gave up sweets, or maybe it was just chocolate, for Lent.  And I read that book sometime in early high school I think.
Lent was something “those Catholics” did.  Not something us enlightened and freed from the law Protestants participated in.  I had a lot to learn.
In college I heard a lot about different takes on Lent – all from Protestant Christian types.  They talked about using the Lenten season to re-connect with God, to re-focus.  And so they suggested ADDING something to our lives.  Like focusing on a sense of gratitude during Lent, or taking 30 minutes out of our day to spend quietly before the Lord, and many other cool ideas.
At that time, I didn’t care enough.  The first time I can remember giving something up for Lent was when I was in Bahrain.  The girls I taught with and I gave up chocolate….sorta…kinda…maybe.  I tried anyway.  About three years ago I wanted to participate in this season, but knew I needed to keep it do-able.  So, I turned off the radio in my car and didn’t turn it back on until after Easter.  I tried to use the time to pray, but often became convicted of how easily my thoughts wander.  But somehow, the quiet is good for me, even if my thoughts don’t stay focused in prayer.  So it’s become a tradition during Lent.
This year is interesting, because while I’ve always driven a lot, I am driving like three or four times the distance than I have been, due to how far away the Seminary is from my home.  And so I live in silence for at least an hour a day…or relative, busy-road silence anyway.  And I cannot tell you how good that has been for my soul!
Noise adds so much clutter to our lives.  It often does an amazing job of cancelling out God’s voice in our lives.  And I haven’t done any studies on the subject, but I bet minds that have quiet as part of their daily routine are incredibly healthier than those that are constantly bombarded by music and noise.
But I also added something this year, mostly because the idea that the idea that my body is God’s temple, and so I need to take care of it as such, has been niggling at the back of my mind for months now.   Not that I have been abusing my body, per se.  At least, not anymore than the normal American.  But I do eat way more sugar than my body needs, and, indeed, over the last four months or so, I’ve come to notice how dependent I am on it.  Whenever I’d get stressed or tired or wanted to write or stay awake during class, I suddenly craved chocolate, or doughnuts or a mocha, or maybe ice cream.  If I was hungry for a snack, I’d grab something sweet.
A desire for dependency on God and not myself or things in my life has been growing.   So, with that two-fold goal of treating my body with better respect and with wanting to be more dependent on God during my times of stress and tiredness, I decided to give up sugar – to the best of my abilities.  I’m pretty sure to completely go off of refined sugar I’d have to only eat meat, veggies and fruits.  And I’m not going that extreme.  But I’m giving up everything that I can that I know has sugar in it.  AND IT’S CRAZY HOW MUCH DDOES!!!!
And while I do have sugar cravings every now and then (and fully expect them to get worse), it’s good.  I can’t say I’ve noticed any major difference in my body, but I no longer beat myself up for eating sugar.  And really, at least for now, that’s not the point.
But the coolest part of giving up sugar, is how present God is in my thoughts these days.  When I choose to eat a certain way that is radically different than how I was eating, then everything I put in my mouth is suddenly a very conscious choice…which reminds me of God, of His love, and who He is.   And what He’s done for me.  Which is the point of this season.
And that is worth it.
So, take some time this Lenten season (so, from now until Easter, April 20th) to remember God.  To be silent and listen.   And maybe, if you’re brave, ask yourself what you’re depending on instead of Christ.

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