This sunny, warm weather has been AMAZING. I feel like I’m coming alive from the dead! Spring is transforming everything, slowly and surely. The snow is shrinking, and more people are out and about. The windows are open in my apartment. I stashed my winter coat in the closet, to be replaced by one half the weight. The roads are finally ice and snow-free. Even feeling the warmth of the sun on my back is a welcome surprise!
I love that God gives us seasons here, that there is always a new thing coming. It’s crazy how long we can bear the nasty cold and snow, but the moment we get a breath of spring, it’s all over. We relish the sun, we ache for newness!
I’m feeling the same ache in my spiritual life too. When I sat down to write this blog post, I paged through my journal to see what God’s been teaching me. That’s usually how I approach picking a topic and writing. But honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot there. Even though I’ve been spending time in the Bible, my journal was mostly a jumble of me summarizing passages I’d read. Not much evidence of life change or pondering big lessons from God.
And while it’s sad, I realize that it’s okay. It’s normal to sometimes feel close to God, like you’re learning and changing every day, and sometimes feel duller: even plateaued in growth. It’s not a reason to panic! God’s love for us never changes based on our moods, thoughts, or growth.
But, I also know that we can ask him for change! I can watch the world blossom into Spring and ask God to bring new sun and growth to my spiritual life, too.
It’s a gift to live in this beautiful world and know our gracious and patient God!
I hate driving on snowy and icy roads. That’s the popular opinion, I know, but I think I hate it more than the average Minnesotan.
Last week, I was confronted head on by this fear.
A giant snowstorm was predicted to hit the Midwest in the days after Christmas. Estimates of snowfall ranged between 12 and 17 inches, and, as you may know, the foreboding rumors only build on each other. The storm was expected to start on Wednesday and go through Friday morning. The kicker is, my boyfriend Brian was planning to take a rental car on an eleven-hour drive to my college town on Friday. I would then drive there, pick him up, and bring him to my house.
When I first heard about the storm, I knew I had to pray and try not to worry. I knew God was giving me a lesson in trust, no matter how much I didn’t want it. So I prayed, a lot. But I was still anxious: even in the days before the storm hit. While I usually would have loved to curl up with a book while it snowed, the fear of all this dangerous driving was driving me mad!
When the storm came on Wednesday, I realized the predictions were spot-on. All I could see out the window was whirling, blowing, falling snow, and the trees closest to the house. It felt like my house was trapped in a snow globe. . .It was actually really pretty. I tried not to worry.
Early on Friday morning, Brian started his drive. He had shared his location with me on Google maps, so I checked it many times throughout the day, along with the weather and road conditions. I was not having much fun waiting. I dreaded my little hour-long drive, too. I literally worried myself sick.
In the end, Brian claims there was only a short stretch of icy road on his drive, and my drive to pick him up was safe as well. I fell asleep at home that night exhausted and incredibly thankful. God was so gracious to keep us both safe. The whole thing got me thinking, though.
Why it all matters
The day before I found out about the snowstorm, I had journaled about how I wanted to trust God in 2019. This new year holds a lot of exciting changes: things like Brian moving cross-country to live in the same city as me for the first time ever, getting engaged, finding a summer job, and applying to a tough graduate school program.
These changes are all giant blessings that I’m thankful for, but they also require a lot of trust. My attitude towards life too often resembles white-knuckled driving in the snow, and I want that to change. In writing that journal entry, I tried to prepare to trust God in finances, relationships, my future schooling, friendships, and my career.
And the very next day, this storm gave me the perfect practice opportunity. It’s like God was saying, “you’re not going to wait until 2019 to put this into action.” Isn’t he great?!
Helping each other
Something I really love about Brian is that he’s awesome at trusting God and refusing worry. He simply looks at the facts, prays, and makes decisions. While I was brooding about the snow, he was carefully driving through it, actively depending on God. I’m not demeaning myself or saying that I don’t trust God at all, but Brian is a strong example in my life of how to do it better every day.
It’s great to have people in our lives who can encourage us and build us up! This is a huge part of God’s purpose in believers growing close (1 Thess. 5:11). I’d encourage you to look for inspiring qualities in your friends, and look for ways you can spur them on, too!
Trust: a recurring topic
So, this post is really just a reminder to trust God, from a girl who has a lot of trouble doing it. I was recently skimming through all my old posts and realized that I’ve written quite a few with the theme of trust. I guess it’s something God is constantly trying to teach me, and I hope it’s nudging you to the same end as well!
This year I’m planning to simply write about whatever he is teaching me through my life. Our God is bigger than any situation, worry, or plan, and he is always faithful. I’m going to try and trust him with it all.
Last week, I had a breakdown in confidence. I was going through the motions my days, with meetings, classes, and work, but everything felt ‘off.’ Suddenly I was worried about how I looked. I was comparing myself to the people around me. Even when I was with people, all I could think about was me. There was a voice inside my head that mocked, “You’re not enough. You’re not doing enough. You’re not being enough.”
The result was a sad sight. I withdrew from people. I stayed holed up in my apartment as much as I could. I was not living life to the full as God wants us to. It was frustrating! I thought I had ‘gotten over’ self-image stuff since high school, but just like that I was plunged back in.
With prayer and God’s grace, I think I’ve come back to my normal self: and I am so thankful! We should never let satan’s lies and schemes against us prevail.
But it has me thinking. . . life will never feel 100% ‘right.’ Just when I think I’ve gotten back on top and have all my chicks in a row, a new obstacle will surface. Maybe I’ll struggle with control, or there will be tension in a friendship, or I’ll fail at something. I’m always going to feel a little misplaced in this world.
And somehow, that’s okay.
We live in a fallen world. Of course, there will be frustrations and feelings of inadequacy and mistakes. The thing that really upsets me is when I assume everything should go great, and it doesn’t. I shouldn’t be surprised when I see that stuff in myself, and you shouldn’t either.
What matters is what we do with it. Instead of getting frustrated and trying to cope on our own, we need to lean into God’s grace and ask him what his purpose is. The hardest thing to do is also the most necessary: to hand it over in prayer. God is extending an invitation. Will we let our hardships teach us and increase our dependence on him?
The things of this world are never going to fulfil us: only Jesus can. Maybe we should take the upsets and hardships as reminders of just that.
Do you know a control freak? Maybe it’s someone who plans every second of every day. Maybe it’s someone who demands to always know where their girlfriend is. Maybe it’s someone who freaks out if they sense that they’re losing authority.
Maybe it’s me.
A story in Luke has quite a bit to say about our tendency to demand control. In chapter 8, satan’s demons meet Jesus face to face. This story also speaks about their opposing natures, and has some uncomfortable but exciting implications for us. We start with Jesus and his disciples sailing across the Sea of Galilee.
The demon possessed man
They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town.
For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. . . Many times it [the impure spirit] had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. (Luke 8:27, 29-31)
Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. (Mark 5:5)
Satan steals dignity
My heart breaks for this man. He was completely taken over by the demons that had entered him. And he’d lived this dreadful life alone in the tombs for “a long time!” Here is a crystal-clear picture of satan stealing human dignity. He gleefully caused much violence, pain, isolation, and unrest in this man’s life. Satan imposes as much of his disorder and insanity on us as possible. Further, this man was named after his many demons! He claimed the identity that darkness had given him.
I’ve been like this man at times. I’ve listened willingly to satan’s lies, accepting the identity of sin, mistakes, and darkness. I’ve let him “drive me to a solitary place.” When we’re isolated, we don’t have the help of other believers to help us refute satan.
So picture this man on the beach: naked, covered in wounds and scars. He’s satan’s puppet. Everything he does and says is coming straight from the demons.
But then Jesus steps ashore.
The playdate is over
When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. . . And they [the demons] begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. Luke 8:28-29, 31
“What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” Matthew 8:29
I absolutely love this. When left alone, the demons had a heyday with this man. They had control. But the second Jesus steps foot on their turf, the playdate is over. Full authority is His, and they know it. They throw themselves down at Jesus’ feet, pleading for their lives. Matthew adds an important detail: the demons know that their torturous end is prearranged. Oh, how I anticipate that day of victory!
A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. Luke 8:32-33
At Jesus’ command to leave, the demons obey. They even go where he says. I take rest in the authority of Jesus. Even the darkest, most astounding and long-standing evil is dislodged at once by his word. There’s no competition.
Jesus restores dignity
When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind. Luke 8:34-35
Every ounce of dignity that satan had stolen, Jesus restored. Picture it with me. This was a real man. He had been the town’s freak, a spectacle. People might have assumed he was dead, long gone.
But there he was at Jesus’ feet: clothed, sitting peacefully, and in his right mind. The townspeople couldn’t have predicted or even comprehended this. Dignified. Thoroughly, irrefutably changed.
Listen: Jesus specializes in defeating satan. He delights in unraveling satan’s schemes. He has a history of victory over satan.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 1 John 3:8b
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Romans 16:20
I love it! Those verses are so reassuring. Back to the story now. The townspeople have just laid eyes on a complete miracle: the town freak restored. . . And their reaction totally disappoints me.
. . .and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. Luke 8:35-37
Preserving control, forfeiting power
Although I’d like to think I would react in a better way, I can’t totally blame these people. Experiencing God’s awesome power also means submitting to his sovereign will. It means giving up our control, and that's hard. These people are unwilling. They ask Jesus to leave.
So he got into the boat and left. The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:37-39
Jesus did not resist their request. He simply boarded his boat, said a few words to the cured man, and left. . . although the man surely carried on the legacy of Jesus’ work in that place!
Here’s the thing: Jesus won’t force his work into the lives of those who won’t receive him. Just think of everything these people missed out on because of their fear! Jesus could have stayed and brought so much healing to them: physical, mental, and spiritual. But they sent Jesus away: preserving their control over their lives but forfeiting the experience of his power.
I hate to say it, but I’ve done the same exact thing. Jesus’ authority is exciting and awe-inspiring, but when it starts to interfere with my control, desires, or plans, I’d rather go without it. In lowly moments, I’d rather sin, stay indifferent to Jesus, make my own decisions, and accept the pending disorder satan is heaving upon me. How gracious my God is to faithfully draw my wandering heart back to himself, clothe me in dignity and wisdom, and turn my face upon his glory.
An unshakable identity
So take heart, child of God! If you’ve accepted Christ’s cover for your sins and committed to walking with him, you’ve been given a new identity that is unshakable. You are steadily seen in the same way by your Father: chosen and adopted by him, given righteousness, dignity, and purity, known and made one with him, and part of the body of Christ. Satan may drive us to solitary places. He may mar our consciences. He may try to drive us insane. But he cannot get a finger on our true identities and eternal destinies in Christ Jesus.
And the more control you relinquish to Christ, the more of his power you'll experience in your life.
September is my favorite month in many ways. The air is crisp. My college schedule is starting to settle into a comfortable routine. The trees gradually transition from lively greens to rich, warm hues. It’s brisk in the mornings and bright and lovely in the afternoons. It seems friendships are vibrant in this month too, lots of time spent laughing in the living room.
But to me, there’s always a bit of fear in the fragileness of the amber leaves dancing in the breeze. I know they’ll eventually detach and go floating through the air, down to the ground. I can’t stand the thought of all of them gone, the trees bare, and the air turning gusty and sharp with cold. I love autumn so dearly, but I dread what’s to come in winter. Just admiring the vibrant autumn shades for seconds can pull me quickly into this apprehension.
I’ve noticed a similar pattern in my thinking about seasons of life. Forgive me for the Christian-ese use of the word ‘seasons:’ but it does fit quite well. Our lives do not stay steadily the same. Rather, everything changes throughout time: the people we know, what we spend our time doing, our goals, routines, and places we frequent. . . For a young person like me it’s easy to see seasons; they change so quickly. From high school to college to engagement and marriage, then onward to a career and kids. Life is always changing. Even if you’ve already reached the ‘kids’ or ‘grandkids’ life markers, there is always much ahead: more changes, more life, more lessons, more people, more places.
The attitude that we have about the future is crucial to our sanity and happiness. Often I think of my life like I do the autumn leaves: changing far too quickly, slipping through my fingers. I see the joyful things in the present but bemoan the fact that they are passing. I look ahead with fear to unknowns, to stresses I haven’t yet considered, to the unavoidable yet unpredictable pains I so wish I could bypass.
Other times, though, the allure of the future pulls me away from the beauty of the present: to the effect that I drift through my days while dreaming of the idealized years ahead. This compromises all that’s around me! I miss so much when I live like this.
The solution to these problems isn’t exactly easy, but it is quite simple. We need to realize the brevity of life and acknowledge the goodness of the present day. Here’s a great starting point: make a list of the things you’re grateful for in your present season of life. Include the smallest and most profound things alike: anything you’ll miss when you realize you’ve moved on. It’s a great practice in gratitude as well. Here are a few things on my list currently:
*Learning things in class I’m excited about and amazed at
*Acting absolutely insane and immature with my roommates
*Being simply a plant mom
*The excitement of Skyping my boyfriend, and on normal days, calling him
*My little twin bed at the end of a long day
*Choosing one meal for the week from Pinterest, then shopping for it and making it
*And, of course, the swaying branches full of bright leaves outside my window
We all could get better at enjoying the present season instead of expectantly or sadly looking to the next. Just like seasons, life moves on unavoidably. Let’s soak up the joys of each day with a grateful, calm heart.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow.
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!