Knowing God can be quite uncomfortable, and it’s not totally safe. He reveals himself to us, but he also asks us to be honest with him. A few days ago, I read something that reminded me of this truth:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13
Typically, we don’t like to be fully seen. Fully known. When people ask us questions that go beyond the surface, we hesitate. We try to keep our image safe.
And I think that’s why these verses feel so threatening. Our defenses that work with other people don’t work with God. He sees it all: the thoughts we don’t tell anyone about, the attitudes we mask with our pretty words and smiles, and the motivations that lie under our kind actions. It’s all uncovered before his eyes.
When we read his Word, something happens in us, too. The Bible is living and active: it convicts, teaches, changes, and pierces. It points out harmful things that need to be changed, and insists that we take action.
“It [the Word of God] makes a soul that has long been proud, to be humble; and a perverse spirit, to be meek and obedient. Sinful habits, that are become as it were natural to the soul, and rooted deeply in it, are separated and cut off by this sword. . .The word will show the sinner all that is in his heart.” -Matthew Henry
Here we arrive at our first need: To be fully known for what we truly are.
Although conviction and change for the better is a good thing, I’m glad the passage doesn’t end there. That would leave all the will and power to change in my hands: which never works well. There is so much more to the picture!
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:14-15
Do you see that? Our God is not cold and accusatory, holding us to unfair standards. He’s quite the opposite! He became one of us, and experienced the very temptations, emotions, and hardships we experience. Jesus can empathize with our weaknesses without being puzzled or repulsed by them, because he gets it! This empathy fulfills our second need: To be precisely understood. In the very same moments that God sees the sin in our hearts, his heart goes out to us. He’s experienced it all.
Yet he did not sin. Jesus remained steady and holy throughout the pressures of this life, which means that we can look to him for help as well as empathy. Crying with a friend who empathizes with your struggles feels good, but talking to a friend who has victoriously come through those same struggles is helpful for moving on. And God fulfills this third need: To be saved from and carried through our struggles.
Only a God who knows the ins and outs of our hearts, empathizes with our struggles, and has a way to save us from them could fulfill our every need. And you know what? That’s exactly who our Savior is!
But how do we embrace this? How do we claim it? How can we step out of the shame of what we are not, and embrace the God who offers all that we need? Let’s look at the last verse in this chapter:
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Approach. All the grace and mercy we need for this life is found in Jesus alone, and he invites us to approach him confidently and ask for it! He is glad to give.
He sees. He understands, He saves.
I am weak. There’s evidence in every area of my life. I know I wrote about weakness recently, but what can I say? It’s a recurring theme in my life. . . and I’m sure you can relate. (Here’s the other post: Blindsided by Weakness)
My imperfections get to me every day. Ready for some real-life examples? I struggle to understand what’s going on in a class. I fail to help one of the grade school kids I work with, instead confusing them. I worry about keeping up with the students in my major. I ignore an opportunity to glorify God, choosing the easy way out. I know I should work out but never (ever) do. These little things happen every day, and they weigh on me. So yes. I am weak.
But instead of believing it, I get mad. I get annoyed with others who seem to have it together, silently blaming them for my discomfort with the ways I fall short. I complain about how demanding my commitments are. Basically, I search for any detail or justification that will let me off the hook.
Have you ever noticed that God and satan are constantly battling to determine our perspectives on situations? It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be a bad day or a good day, an awkward encounter or a relaxing evening. Literally anything can be used to draw us closer to God or pull us from him.
This is exactly what I’ve observed in my weakness. God would have me see my failures as invitations to depend on him for every good thing in my life. He wants me to be humbled by them and come to him because of them.
But satan also has a plan: one that seems more natural and attractive in the moments I’m down. He wants my weakness to discourage me into shame, enflame unreasonable anger at others, and feed the overwhelming desire to give up: all this while I cast blame, evading the real problem.
But through this struggle, I think I’ve realized the way out: First, I can only find freedom from my weaknesses by fully accepting them. I need to look the problem in the weary face and say, “yep. It’s true. You are a reality in my life.” I need to accept that I am not fit for perfection in my job, classes, friendships, prayers, writing, relationship, appearance, or schedule: nothing!
And second, the only source of perfect power that exists is our great God and his Word. That’s it.
To all perfection I see a limit,
but your commands are boundless.
Honestly, I’m not that great at remembering God’s power and perfection in my weak moments. I spend time with Him in the mornings, talking to him and reading Truth, but the effects wear off frighteningly quickly.
That’s why we are called to walk by the Spirit, to abide in Christ! A single dose of him in the morning doesn’t stand a chance at lasting through the day. We need to call on him continuously: in both weak moments and successes.
The following verses have pointed me in the right direction in my weaknesses. Instead of letting me sink inward into negativity, they direct me straight to humble dependence on God. They remind me that I am loved and supported by my Father.
I challenge you to read through these verses and choose one to speak over and throughout your upcoming week. Write it on a sticky note, memorize it, and bring it to mind when you feel that you’ve failed. I’ll be doing the same! Let’s experience the power of a Godly, dependent state of mind.
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” John 15:4
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
In my last post about weakness, I wrote a short letter to anyone who struggles with it like I do. Maybe it's what you need to hear right now:
The runaway slaves have no idea where they’re going. Their memories fresh with the stench of a bloody river and the crawling of frogs and locusts- they’re heading out blindly into a desert. Four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. The number pounds through their minds in a mix of anger and fear. Slavery is all they’ve ever known, but now they’ve been liberated and freed to. . . go.
The walking isn’t easy. It’s a rocky and dry country, oppressively hot. Kids whine about being tired. Mothers shield their babies from the sun with scraps of clothing, willing their numb arms to hold them steady. Fathers heft along bundled-up possessions.
Their only comfort is the strange pillar of cloud in front of them. It stands out loudly against an empty blue sky. Yes, God is with them. This cloud is his promised Presence and guiding, moving along day by day as they follow.
Surely this leading is supernatural, so it’s somewhat obvious that the Israelites would follow it. . . but I wonder if they ever felt hesitant. All they knew, all they could do anything about, was to take the steps shown for the day. Escaping from violent slave masters, traveling in the eerie unknown of a desert: I can imagine they wanted to get where they were going! Pure panic would be my motivator.
Still, God asked them to follow him steadily and trustingly. He was the only one who knew the way to the land he promised. The cloud was never skittish or mixed-up. It was a pillar: steady, sure, authoritative. There’s not an ounce of uncertainty in God. Thank goodness for that!
Even when the cloud led the Israelites directly onto the banks of a great sea, with the now-fuming Egyptian army approaching them from behind, even then, God asked them to remain calm and steady.
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14
“Seriously? I’m about to either drown or get murdered, maybe even both at the same time! And your advice is to be still?!” If you can’t tell, that would be my natural thought process. However, once again, God takes the situation completely into his hands. The only instruction? “Stay still, keep steady, don’t be afraid: just watch this!”
If the Israelites thought they could do something, I don’t know what they’d have tried: swimming or fighting. But this command to be still, found all throughout the Bible, had the purpose of reminding them of their dependency on God. Every step of their journey so far, no matter how uncertain in their minds, has led them up to this point: and God isn’t about to abandon them.
By following a seemingly arbitrary instruction from God, Moses drives back the waters of the sea, creating dry ground for the escaped slaves to walk through on. Once everyone rushes across, the great army of Egypt eagerly follows: only to be crushed on both sides by the collapsing walls of water.
In the moments that the Israelites were most hopeless, they saw their need for God most vividly. It was in those moments, too, that he showed up most mightily. If you’re going through a time of uncertainty right now, seeing with new eyes how hopeless you are on your own, God’s message to you is the same as it was those thousands of years ago: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
I’m a dreamer and a planner, and often an idealizer. I can get so wrapped up in the future that the present fades away. Especially for me, being 19, there’s so much to look forward to. Getting married, finding a career I love, having kids, decorating a house. . .
And of course, dream-futures don’t have bills or arguments or sink-fuls of dirty dishes at 10 pm. They don’t have the heavier heartaches of life, either. They’re all sunshine and butterflies.
So then, I come back to reality and get frustrated easily. My daydreaming can make the present seem dull and broken. Do you ever notice that? Forward thinking isn’t always the best thing for gratitude. We are called to a joyful hope, but it shouldn't breed discontentment.
This discontentment is easy to come by, because we do live in a broken world. I know that phrase sounds quite Christian-ese, but it’s true. Things aren’t as they should be. Relationships and mindsets are fractured, shifted off-balance from what they were created to be. Twisted. I can feel it in myself and see it in my family and friends. Some things are just wrong.
And I can’t fix them.
So, I talk to God. I tell him I’d finally be content if he would just change this situation, heal that relationship, or get me to the next stage of life. Move things along, already!
Beth Moore explains this tendency well: “’If only . . ., then I could be happy’ are words that often invade our thoughts. Attaining all of our “if onlys” simply gives birth to a new set. Just as we get what we thought we had to have, all of the rules seem to change.”
The good news is, God knows. He’s not deceived by this the way I am. So, when I come complaining to him, He calls my heart beyond my circumstances: both present and future. He protects me from finding my comfort in this world, and beckons me to gaze upon his face alone. It wouldn't be right if this physical life was filling me to the brim with joy, contentment, and purpose. God wants me to find all that I need in him: that way, it’s fireproof. Untouchable. Unshakable by the enemy and this life.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
You know what I see in these verses? God alone can fill every single void in our lives. Everything that’s fractured, shifted, and not quite right? He doesn’t guarantee that those things will change, but he does promise that he will be to us what even an easy life couldn’t be. He will fill every lacking area in our lives with himself. We can find, at last, peace, contentment, and joy when we stop letting those voids determine things, and turn to the eternal One.
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!