Keep Hoping

I read an article a few months ago by a woman who said the struggle of undesired singleness prepared her for the future struggle she would have with infertility. Sharing her story was a profound encouragement for single and married women to minister to each other by drawing parallels between their experiences. To both hope and struggle together.

Reading her words was a raw and tender moment. I had never heard anyone make that comparison before, even though I wondered why people seemed to always tell couples desiring children it’s okay to grieve and keep holding onto hope, but then point out to singles that they may never get married – as if squelching the unmet longing is the only way they can serve God and be obedient in singleness. Singles are usually told to love their single life while they have it, like they’re supposed to attach themselves to it out of some kind of fear of missing out. No one ever said it’s okay to feel that unmet longing, much less acknowledge the struggle of being held in this tension between what we hope for and what actually may or may not happen.

A few too many, “You don’t need to worry about marriage because it may never happen,” taught me not to talk about those unmet longings. I decided it must be foolish to hope for something that might not ever be and I didn’t want to blindly walk into inevitable disappointment. But the last several years have shifted my perspective. I’ve been learning what it looks like to hold in my hands hope, reality, and assurance of the eternal future.

Hope for future marriage, reality of present singleness, and assurance that neither will be part of my eternal future.

It’s this last promise that enables me to be comfortable with the other two.

God longs to give us good gifts. Even though I don’t always understand, He also promises that all things work together for our ultimate good. That is the gift. Singleness is working together for our ultimate good. Hope for future marriage is working together for our ultimate good. Living in the middle of the unknown is working together for our ultimate good. Constantly reconciling the surrender of those dreams is working together for our ultimate good. Holding onto hope is working together for our ultimate good.

And hope will not put us to shame.

That’s because our ultimate hope is in Christ. If this hope is primary, it opens the door for secondary hope to exist, because we know that whether it becomes reality or stays unfulfilled, it does not have the power to bring us disgrace. Even if we experience disappointment on this earth because secondary hope only ever remains unrealized, we know we will not be disappointed in the end. Whatever happens, we still receive His best.

Christ gives us the freedom to continue desiring good things, and God-honoring marriage is certainly on that list. This hope – even this unmet longing – is all part of His plan to work in us and prepare us for what’s next; the immediate and eternal future.

I’m not going to tell you to go after contentment in singleness as you wade through another awkward and lonely Valentine’s Day this year, because there is no such thing.

I don’t want to be the voice that tells you to prepare for unfulfilled hope out of fear of disappointment, and I don’t want to make you think a deep and relentless desire for a good thing prevents you from serving the Lord and living the life He has called you to today. It doesn’t. This place between hoping and receiving is where He has you today and it is a safe place to acknowledge and wrestle with it. All of this is working together for good.

But I also know I can’t be the voice that tells you it’ll happen someday, just wait, because I don’t have that authority and the Bible clearly shows us there’s no guarantee. So there has to be another option.

Singleness won’t make you content. Marriage won’t make you content. Paul said Christ’s strength working in him is what enabled him to be content in any situation – with unmet longing or the fulfillment of it. That’s what we always seem to miss. When Christ is at the center and we allow Him to be the source of our strength, the weight of the unknown becomes a lot lighter. We can be enabled to pursue and live out marriage or singleness when Christ is our anchor keeping us grounded in what is true.

From this place, we’re also equipped to keep hope in the right perspective. We can hope for it while also keeping our eyes on its temporary status. Unfulfilled longings won’t be met with the accomplishment of that thing. We’ll just move on to the next unfulfilled longing, however good it may be. That’s why I won’t pursue being content in singleness. It doesn’t work. Christ’s strength and His grace is the only way to live and embrace the life you hoped wouldn’t still be reality by now. The only true and lasting fulfillment of longing will be realized when He returns.

If we really believe this is true, we should be comfortable allowing the hope for something more or different to sit in the room as we continue still to seek what He wants for us today. It’s beside us, but it doesn’t control us. It’s held, but held in context of the reality that longing is both a part of this world in some form and promised to end. It whispers our precious desires, but also our precious hope that even this season is working together for our ultimate good.

So when the weight of singleness and the unknown of how long the season will last is overwhelming – pursue the contentment found in Christ’s strength.

When you think you cannot last another day if something doesn’t change – pursue the contentment found in Christ’s strength.

When well-meaning married voices tell you to stop waiting and the fear starts to creep in – pursue the contentment found in Christ’s strength.

When disappointment steals your joy and you begin to wonder if it could ever happen – pursue the contentment found in Christ’s strength.

When shame threatens to invade as you continue to desire the fulfillment of these unmet longings – pursue the contentment found in Christ’s strength.

Then keep hoping.

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God Is with You, Mighty Warrior

Fight.

I feel like I’m not a very good fighter. I’m more the kind of person to wait and watch to see how God will accomplish it for me, without me, than step in to fight with Him.

Yet, that’s often what He calls us to do.

So when more than one friend sends you the same passage, with the same encouragement – that we are chosen and commissioned for the work, the fight, to move toward the plan God has set in motion – you stop and listen.

Even if you’re not quite sure what you’re supposed to be fighting for.

A few days ago I read the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel and the picture began to come together. My mind immediately went back to things that have stayed with me as I’ve transitioned from end to new.

Invite God into this space.
Let Him work in your circumstances.
Trust He has the power to accomplish anything.

I paused mid-passage, struck by the example of Hannah’s aching heart that drove her to prayers so honest they made everyone think she was crazy. I knew that’s who I wanted to be. As the bottled up words began to slip past my heart, I remembered.

I remembered why I had stopped asking.

Should you really be asking for this?
Remember, disappointment is exhausting. And embarrassing.
You wouldn’t feel so eager if you knew He was going to give you the exact opposite of what you ask.
Why are you so unwilling to accept this is never going to happen?
It’s all just the long way around to get you to agree to do what you don’t want to do.

I defaulted to my typical response that always kept me quiet: fear disguised as disappointment. That sinking feeling, making me regret I had ever asked. Is this feeling confirmation of an answer?

I usually convinced myself it was.

Or an opportunity to fight?

Then I remembered.

Perfect love drives out fear.

Maybe I had already started fighting.

I envied Hannah. All I wanted was to be able to pray like her. No shame, no fear – no doubt He could grant her request, daring to hope He would before she ever had the assurance.

And she didn’t let go. Even when those who watched didn’t understand, she wrestled with God and trusted He heard her cry. Her understanding of God’s greatness and power was so much bigger than her sorrow and she knew what to do in the face of it.

She prayed.

She fought for the child she longed for in prayer and surrender.

If I was going to fight, even if I wasn’t sure what for, I at least needed to know how.

With weapons not of the flesh, but of divine power, to destroy strongholds, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Every thought. God desires obedience not just from our hands and our heart, but our very thoughts. Their tendency is to run wild, and we must capture them and teach them – fight for them – to obey.

When our thoughts wander from whatever is true, whatever is noble and lovely, fear invades because we stop focusing on what Love has done. Each fear derives from a false belief that we have been or will be punished. We justify them, giving it names we can accept, failing to remember there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. We can approach Him without shame.

So we must teach those thoughts to obey the same way we were taught: with His Word.

Extracting from our mind what is designed to do us harm and planting what will do us good and make us flourish.

We arm ourselves with Truth, knowing nothing else has the power or authority to redeem what seeks to destroy. Nothing else has the ability to take all things, even broken things, and allow them to be used for good.

This, not even this, will overcome you.

It may come after you, but you’ve been called and equipped. You’ve been commissioned to fight.

And when it feels like the strongholds are so strong you can’t even whisper the words your heart so desperately longs to say, longs to ask for from the One who hears and sees and works and is fighting with you – know this:

Nothing can keep you from Him.

Because of Christ, we have access to the creator of all, who faithfully and patiently listens. Even to the thoughts and requests we didn’t know we had and didn’t know we needed to ask. We have Someone advocating on our behalf.

But we still have to fight. Not so that He can hear us, but so we can hear Him.

So that we can hear His voice drown out the others; those voices designed to make you question and fear and doubt.

He speaks Truth over us as we read it off the page, undoing what we now know is wrong and making clear what had been distorted. It’s living and active, and sharper than the sword.

It’s the weapon, and it’s what you need to fight.

It’s what you need to let go of what was old and step forward to what is new.

You are a mighty warrior. And God is with you.

So let’s fight.

New Seasons and New Beginnings

Whenever I’ve had a chance to talk to someone about their year in 2017, the consensus was clear. The past year was difficult for many, much of it full of loss and overwhelming challenges. I, among many others, was ready for it to end.

The upcoming year surely would be better than the last. It had to be time for something new.

I’ve been journaling now for 7 years. When I started in January of 2011, it was my goal to write for 7 years and then take a step back to see what God had done and see where He was pointing me next. With a naive and eager heart, I felt the whisper of His voice in my heart that He was going to do something important in these 7 years if I would trust Him and walk closely behind Him as He led me down the path.

It was a day exactly like this, 3 years ago, that I sat in my room, looking out the window at the snow gently falling to the ground, that I made a transition in the way and what I journaled.

Before, I had been writing with the thought in the back of my mind that I’d glean material for articles or book ideas, hoping somewhere, someday, someone would read it. I had concluded that in order for it to be important and impactful, it was a journey that was more meant for me being enabled to minister to others than the simple fact that God was ministering to me.

The seasons of my life were drastically changing from what they were before, and the Lord was taking me so much deeper, beyond the limits I didn’t even know I had, and starting something greater than I imagined. So my journal entries became prayers – raw honesty about the joys and frustration, the losses and hopes, the tears that always seemed to pour out when I sat down to write because I didn’t understand and I couldn’t see, and I wanted clarity. I forced the clarity in my feeble attempts to piece together the circumstances and tell myself I knew what they meant. But I didn’t.

Instead, going into each season, the Lord would put a word on my heart, keeping my eyes wide open to see what He would do. Sometimes those seasons lasted over a year. Sometimes they lasted a few months. Despite the specific events that occurred and whether they were what I anticipated or not, the theme given to that season always fit in a profoundly beautiful way I didn’t expect.

In-between. Rest. Willingness. End. Jubilee.

When the hope of a season of jubilee coming up ahead was planted, I inserted ideas of resurrection. I began thinking about how God might go back and undo all the hard things that felt wrong to me, to actually unveil the plan I had been hoping for all along. Delayed, but exactly what I thought. Or, at least – if not – He would reconstruct my heart to feel differently about those 7 years so maybe they wouldn’t be such tender memories.

That’s not what He did and it’s not what I think He will do.

I’ve been studying about jubilee these last few months. According to Leviticus, a year of jubilee happened for Israel after 7 cycles of 7 years, providing freedom and rest to the people and the land. It was a time of enjoying the work from the years before. But it was also a beginning. A new year, a new cycle, was coming.

There was restoration – but it didn’t mean undoing what had happened throughout the years before. It meant forgiveness and reconciliation, giving a clean slate to begin again. It was about moving forward, not just moving on. Not erasing the past but preparing the way for the future. Seeing the abundance in what He provided and experiencing the joy of it despite the pain it took to get there.

New.

Something new was on its way.

It’s a beautiful celebration and transition – the past propelling them forward, being commissioned for new tasks and challenges that were still ahead. Every hard and horrible thing was now a reminder of what had brought them there; they weren’t just battle wounds, but marks of His work in the deepest part of the soul.

The sharp objects driven into the ground to break it up and prepare the soil tore our hands and bruised our heart. It was risky, but we told ourselves it would be worth it. In faith and with a heart aching in anticipation we planted seeds in the ground, tended to them, and waited to see what would happen next. Sometimes we cried out with joy at the sight of the green life sprouting from the dirt. But sometimes we cried out in agonizing pain of disappointment, knowing the hope of our dreams was buried deep in the ground and would never surface again. We had to dig it up, yelling and sobbing at the sight of our nothing-but-dirt-filled hands, bleeding and cowering with pain.

And then something miraculous happened.

It was enough.

When the 7 cycles of 7 years finally passed, what was left was just enough, even if it didn’t look like anything at all. Our neighbors carried our burdens, our debts were paid off, and those around us shared in the abundance of His grace. He brought us home.

We experienced a season of loss and frustration, but He provided. He provided when it looked like we didn’t have anything. He provided through the people who have been commissioned to love us well. He provided in ways we couldn’t always see, but gratefully received. And we were sustained – through the 7 years, and still as we’re commanded to rest and let Him continue the work while we sleep and enjoy His presence.

It’s the end and the beginning. It’s restoration and creation. It’s rest and being made ready to embark on the next season of the journey.

Even though we cannot fully see what He is doing through these seasons and cycles, or when we enter into a transition getting us ready for the next, He is faithfully unfolding His plan right before our eyes.

Don’t look back. Look forward. See what He’s doing.

What He’s doing in me, He’s doing in you. In different ways and with different means, but with purpose and power, and a promise that He will not stop until the work is complete.

Rest in Him. Let Him provide. Remind yourself of what He has done before, but keep your eyes on Him, and embrace the command to not look down. You need only to be still. The pieces are coming together. Something new is on its way.

If You’re Just Surviving This Christmas – Jubilee Is Coming [end of the year 2017]

Survival.

That’s what the last few months have felt like.

Everything’s different and each day is filled with struggling to make it as much like the past as possible, while realizing those days are not coming back.

I learned in one of my counseling classes a few years ago that each new season carries with it an equal amount of grief and joy. In order to move on, even to good and desired things, we have to let go. If you want things to change, you have to learn how to grieve the present fading into the past. Welcomed transitions still bring a season of learning and changing, knowing that whatever life was like before will become something that moves you forward from the background instead of perpetually being in the forefront.

But sometimes unwelcomed changes bring the grief first and you have to fight for – wait for – the joy. You have to hope and believe. He doesn’t let anything happen unless it will somehow be for our ultimate and eternal good.

Loss and brokenness; it is not good, but it can be used to accomplish what we never thought could be possible.

~

My theme for this year was to remember that whatever God had given, it would be enough. But I fought for mere survival because I began to believe that’s all that was there. For me, at least.

I’ve been living with this obnoxious pain in my foot off and on for years. Each time it has surfaced, I go through the motions of home remedies, give my foot a short break, and eventually it’d go away. But it started coming back more quickly. More often. And for days at a time I’d limp around, trying to convince myself nothing was wrong.

After a few months, I finally went to the doctor. As I somewhat expected, he didn’t give me much hope for improvement – suggested to do this or that, but concluded my pain was likely due to inevitable deterioration of health. Another casualty to add to the list.

It was when I was walking back to the car that it hit me. Somehow I just knew this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

Soon afterward, I found myself at another appointment I had to fight for; had to delay because of complications; had to show up for and be turned away because of a mistake out of my control; had to fight for again to be seen.

Then, success. A glimmer of hope.

Physical therapy would come next. And the pain. And the frustration. And the work.

From a day to day perspective, I couldn’t tell there was any significant problem. The pain only surfaced occasionally. The rest of the time I felt fine. But my hands, my feet – all of me – told the story. It was evident my body was weak. I had just learned to manage. I would continually accept it, deal with it, and find a way. But survival doesn’t tell the whole story. It can’t. It’s incomplete.

The physical therapist examined my foot and pressed on all sides to find where it hurt. Pain began ringing from places I hadn’t even realized were involved.

I briefly wondered if those sore and screaming muscles had a direct line to my heart. There were placed there I didn’t realize hurt, too.

I didn’t realize because I was too tired. I was treading water – surviving – and losing all my energy in the process.

But here’s the healing we all forget in the midst of this kind of chaos: You only need to tread when you’re sinking, and you only begin to sink when you choose sight over faith.

We choose treading over walking on water because we prefer the illusion of control.

And then we settle for surviving.

Instead of the miraculous.

But it’s easier to say we know this rather than to live like we do.

~

As I mindlessly focused my eyes on the glow of the words crawling across the screen, story after story of people just trying to survive amid the brokenness, I was distracted by my own cracked and bleeding circumstances.

Stop the bleeding the best you can. Try to remember it will be enough. Be a good steward of what’s in front of you and it will.

I leaned into the pain while the stretches awoke the angry muscles, voicing their complaints. It meant tomorrow it’d probably hurt to walk. I was too tired to protest.

When most days I’m reminded both time and money run short, it feels like being told not to live in survival mode is futile. I can’t create more space. I can’t clear my schedule. I can’t do anything different until something changes.

But I’ve also realized sometimes the treading is the storm before the calm. Sometimes it’s hope rendering, brilliantly being woven together for what comes next.

~

Christmas feels different this year because the celebration is different. My life is different, and this time celebration doesn’t look like lights and trees or packages and bows. But Christ hasn’t changed. And that’s what changes everything.

It’s one of my favorite verses: Blessed is she who has believed the Lord would fulfill His promises to her. (Luke 1:45)

And yet the believing – the receiving – came with a struggle; the temptation to fear; waiting for something to be different, also realizing the identity of this baby is the change the heart was so desperately waiting for.

Mary knew. She believed. She had faith. Still, there had to be some twinge of feeling like she was treading and surviving, even after He had arrived. After all, she had to run. They had to run for their lives.

But she wasn’t running merely to protect life – death had no power over the One who had entered the world as both Son of God and Son of man.

She was running in faith that the Lord would continue to do what He said; running to embrace the role given to her by Him.

Literally carrying in her arms the weight of what that meant.

Laying down the false hope of surviving; picking up the promise of new life.

From the beginning, she had to fight for it. She had to lean into the pain and feel every bit of it. She had to struggle and cry out and bleed and keep her sight focused on what she knew He would do.

He didn’t leave her to wither in pain or hide from danger without the hope of what was on the other side of it; the reason. True healing. Not a change in circumstance but a change in identity. Not a temporary fix but an eternal home.

And then – the cry of pain faded into the cry of hope. A cry that echoed in every corner of the world, summoning everyone to come and see, come and believe.

The thunder now a lion’s roar. The deep waters now standing firm beneath our feet. The bleeding now covered with Divine blood, washing it and redeeming it to a state we never deserved, given freely because of Love.

~

Rest has been at the forefront of my heart lately. I have to give myself permission not to do everything and be everything so that I can be who He desires I be, even if that role doesn’t always look how I want it to.

More than one friend has given this to me as encouragement through the months of frustration and heartache – jubilee is coming. Rest is coming.

I don’t know when exactly. I don’t know how. I don’t know in what way. But I know. The prerequisite may be work and struggle and pain and the temptation to fear. But the circumstances just prepare the way. They don’t define the outcome.

This is what I will focus on in 2018.

Waiting and getting ready. Hoping and choosing faith. Not expecting disappointment, but expecting rest and newness.

Expecting something greater than what I can see. And knowing the cry that changed everything has changed me.

The Pieces Will Fit Together

I’m both in awe that the Lord’s prompting of my heart indicating He was about to lead me somewhere new proved true and overwhelmed by where that has taken me.

If you missed the post about ending the wait and preparing to get ready, a few months ago the mundaneness of everyday slowly faded into restlessness, and I knew He was about to do something.

I just didn’t know what that would look like.

As the weeks went by, fear invaded like it does when I’m brought to a place between hoping and receiving, having no idea what would be placed in my hands – if anything at all.

I was struggling. I prayed for new understanding of His goodness. I waited to see how He would answer, knowing without a doubt that when we pray to see and know more of Him, He will always give with abundance.

Because when we make Him our highest desire, so that we can take more delight in Him, He will fulfill the longings of our heart. If you seek Him, you will find Him.

But how He answers the request – that’s what I don’t typically understand.

The what is known.

Himself. Everything we’re commanded to pray for is grounded in the foundation of requesting more of Him – that our heart, thoughts, actions, provision, hope, and the world around us would align with His will.

The how is unknown.

And it’s scary. We do not understand His ways, even when we know the circumstances will somehow be used to accomplish the ultimate purpose.

To draw every element of who we are to Himself.

Right now, my how looks like the pieces of my life torn and scattered on the ground with an audacious command not to look down, but to keep my eyes fixed on His.

Don’t look at what is broken. Wait to see how it will be made whole.

Keep waiting even if wholeness only remains a promise of eternity and the hint is too hard to see in this temporary life.

He asked me to leave the pieces on the altar.

These things can only be given from the altar, is what He whispered as the glow from the pages of His Word lit up the literal darkness in the middle of the night. I assumed that meant a surrendered state of the heart and a thought in the back of my mind that I could live without these things, if I really had to. Hoping I never would.

But it meant sacrificing – maybe for a moment, maybe for a lifetime – and choosing to ask for more of Him instead of asking for them back.

And not knowing what will happen next.

Yet knowing still this is the pathway to what He has ordained. To answer the ultimate cry of the heart to know, experience, and see. Fulfilling the foundational reality of each prayer on our lips.

Faith means trusting the pathway is good; the outcome is good; the goodness is good even if it does not fit within my definition. It means setting aside the worry, putting hands to work, and reorienting life not around what is assumed but what is assured.

We assume life gets better and knowing God is in control means the hurt will give way to comfort before the end of our days.

Assurance knows the trials end, yet rarely in our timeframe and not typically, not wholly, while the world is still bound by sin. Still, the flickering remains. Hope burns brightest in the darkness.

The glow fills our eyes of a holy blinding to the pieces on the ground we aren’t meant to grab. You don’t need to look. The mending process is not ours.

And assurance promises the pieces will fit together. No matter what pieces are taken away; no matter what pieces are added; no matter how they are rearranged; they will fit. You don’t have to force it or fix it. They will be restored and something new will be made.

Something for our good.

It’s time to put away the old – the comfortable and complacent – and not try to protect and withhold.

He has not withheld Himself. He has not denied us the ultimate good in the promise of eternity. He will provide.

He will keep our sight on Him, pick up the pieces, and miraculously put them together to create something more beautiful than you could ever imagine.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring. – Hosea 6:1-3

Life Is Fragile, But God Is Faithful

When I was fifteen, I almost died.

The morning before it happened, I walked into my cardiologist’s office for a routine check-up. The annual appointment often felt more like a formality, since the final report always indicated no change in the minor heart condition that I’ve had since I was little. This time, however, my doctor decided to do one more test — mostly out of curiosity, rather than an inclination something was wrong. I would wear a heart monitor for 24 hours, just so there would be no doubt everything was stable.

Several days later, I was asked to come back to the hospital right away. When I saw the doctor, he unfolded several pieces of paper in front of me, each containing a long sequence of squiggly lines. He pointed out one particular area where the lines differed from the rest. As he began to explain what they meant, the only thing I heard was, “You almost died that night.”

It happened while I was sleeping. No warning. No symptoms. I was totally unaware. For one split second, my heart did not beat correctly. If it had lasted a few moments longer, I would not have woken up the next morning.

That one episode sent me into a spiral of tests and appointments. A team of doctors worked to explain why it happened and if it might happen again. No cause was found and no explanation could be given. We hoped and assumed it would not happen again.

Holding onto the Temporal

During this time, I remember sitting in my hospital room and having fear and anxiety overtake me. Chronic illness has been part of my life since the beginning, but the burden suddenly felt too heavy for me. What if it did happen again? What if it turned out differently? There was nothing I could do to stop it.

In those moments, I became more aware than ever that life is fragile. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Everything we have in this world could be taken away in an instant. Still, we often believe we have some amount of control over our lives. Overwhelming fear invades when reality confronts us, leaving us frantically grasping for control we do not have. The harder we work to hold it together, the more fear threatens to enslave us.

We tightly wrap our hands around things that will inevitably fade into dust (Ecclesiastes 3:19–20), forgetting that our lives belong to the Lord, to begin and end as he ordains (Job 1:21). He will be faithful to accomplish the plan he has for us (Psalm 138:8). It cannot be cut short before he allows. Although it may be hard to relinquish the illusion of control, once we do, we can begin to understand the reality of his protection.

Battles We Cannot See

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, it was no easy process. Once they left, Pharaoh came after them, intending to take their lives. As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites were trapped up against a body of water.

The miracle that God preformed in parting the Red Sea was something Israel could see unfold right in front of them. His protection was immediately evident and tangible. God’s protection over our lives may not appear in the same way today, but he has not stopped parting the Red Seas in our lives.

Whether the Israelites lived or died, it was all within God’s control. But when fear overwhelmed them and they began to desire their enslavement over rallying the faith it would require to walk the journey toward the freedom God had promised, Moses reminded them, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14). I do not think it’s a coincidence that as Psalm 46 reminds us of God’s great power and sovereignty, we are compelled to be still and know that he is God (Psalm 46:10). In the stillness of reflecting on what God has done and what he can do, he assures that he is fighting for us.

A war between life and death ensued in my heart that night while I slept. But God not only protected my life, he graciously protected me from the fight. The battle was not mine. There was nothing I could do to guard myself. And while I rested in the safety of his hands, he fought for me.

The Victory Won

Death and illness are part of this world, but they are not the end of our story. Because of Christ, these things have no lasting power. It may seem like they continually win the battle with our physical lives, but the victory of the war belongs to the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:55–57). Because of this, our burdens have been lifted. The illusion of control is broken down. Fear fades into confidence in his strength. We are reminded that nothing can ever happen outside of God’s plan (Job 12:10). His plan is unfolding, and he fights against anything that tries to interfere. The world will not win. It cannot steal you from God’s hand.

No matter what his plan entails, he is walking alongside us through the deep waters — through the halls of hospitals — toward his promises. He is guiding and protecting us each step of the way. Fear may threaten to take over as we wait to see where he leads us next, but we can be assured we will receive the ultimate promise of life given to every believer (Romans 8:38–39). One day, we will be free from this world. Death and suffering will be no more (Revelation 21:4). We will look back on all the battles he fought on our behalf and praise his eternal victory.

This article first appeared on Desiring God.

Is It a Sin to Be Unhappy?

Let me start off this post by saying, no, I don’t think it’s a sin to be unhappy…necessarily.

But that just barely scratches the surface of what I wanted to share with you.

You see, we’ve been trekking through a lot of thoughts and ideas about fear and disappointment on this blog. And we’ve had good reason, because this life is sometimes really hard and uncomfortable. But I know there is more to this life than living in disappointment and fear.

Still, that’s the place I’ve been living in for a while. Fear of being disappointed. Being disappointed because of fear. Mostly just wishing things could be different when I encounter something I don’t like, and waiting for things to one day magically change.

What if they don’t? What if they never change?

It’s a looming thought we’ve probably all entertained.

What if?

Or…

Why can’t God be enough?

I’ve asked myself this question specifically off and on these past few years. I want God to be enough. I want to receive what He’s given me and not perpetually live in a state demanding more.

Yet I always end up back in a place where it feels like even if I can find joy in this moment, in the future, I won’t ever be happy unless things change.

I can’t be happy if God doesn’t take away the pain.
I can’t be happy if God will not heal.
I can’t be happy if God doesn’t change my circumstances.
I can’t be happy if God doesn’t fix my problems.
I can’t be happy if God doesn’t let me accomplish all my dreams and goals.
I can’t be happy if God never allows me to do any of the things I hope to do in my life.

When I say I can’t be happy, or believe disappointment will always ever plague me if I don’t get these things, what I’m really saying is that I don’t believe He will be enough unless I have these things, too.

God + worldly things = everything I need.

And that’s not how it works. That is not how we are wired. That’s not what God has told us is true in His Word. That is not the pathway to LIFE or joy or hope.

It’s easy to say He’s enough when we have everything in addition to Him. It’s a lot harder when we’re still waiting and wondering what’s coming down the road, or wondering what it will look and feel like to nurse the wounds of one closed door after another for an indefinite number of years.

He is all we need – we sing it in our hymns and talk about it in our churches. But do we really believe it? If we had nothing? If everything we did have was taken away? If we’re never given the things we truly desire?

Is He enough? Do we trust He will bring us joy and even help us dare to feel a glimmer of happiness in the life He has placed us in? Will we trust He will provide everything we need in order to love that life?

The world would balk at the idea. How can we love what we never wanted?

Through grace.

And a whole lot of patience and step-by-step direction from the Lord.

I’m still learning what that means, to love what I have even if it’s not what I wanted, much less figuring out what it looks like.

Maybe it’s not a sin to feel pain and discontentment, or struggle to reconcile the losses. It’s not a sin to feel the weight of disappointment or carry grief with us from the wounds we’ve experienced. Hurt is not wrong.

But I think it is wrong to believe His plans for us are made of disappointment and nothing more. It’s wrong to believe we can never understand joy without also fulfilling temporary longings. It’s wrong to reconstruct our perspective through the lens of thoughts and fears which echo from our heart that says, I don’t believe You’re enough, instead of calling out the lie.

What we feel doesn’t define what is true.

So I’m leaning to be honest, and I’m learning to confront and repent from those raw feelings. We’re not guaranteed anything on this earth except that He WILL be enough, even if we can’t see or feel it in the moment. He’ll be enough even when we don’t realize He is. He’ll be enough even when we think there’s no hope.