I am going to brag on God for a moment!
But to preface:
Sometimes I have mixed feelings about when people share amazing stories about what God has done for them. This is embarrassing honesty. Sometimes when I hear stories about an amazing thing God has done for somebody I find myself thinking “hm. why doesn’t God ever do that for me?” or “hm. maybe I am less loved than her”. Or worst of all, “hm. maybe God only does that for the REALLY faithful people. I’m pretty normal and unradical so maybe God’s just bummed by me. Maybe I just need to be more faithful.”
The problem is that all these responses are focused on me, and not at all on the power of God. What I deserve. How I perform. It all stems from a false belief that the amount of blessing God pours out on me is equivalent to my performance level. Certainly I believe that work accompanies faith, James 2:17 says that “faith without works is dead”, but I often find myself trying to perform for him so that He’ll notice me. That kind of work isn’t faith driven, that’s fear driven.
Does that make sense? I believe there is a healthy movement that results from faith in Christ as our Savior. If we truly have faith in something, our actions align with the thing we have faith in. If I have faith this chair will hold me (faith), I will sit down (action). If I have faith that God’s commandments are true (faith), I will try to align my life to follow them (action). Faith and works, voila!
But then there’s fear. I fear God doesn’t notice me, so I try to perform better. I fear God is holding out on me, so I compare myself to others and strive to make it on my own. I fear God is disappointed in me, so I continue to shame myself for not measuring up. Or in the case above, I fear God won’t come through for me like He did for the person with the amazing story, so I refuse to celebrate His goodness in others lives, and I refuse to believe the same could happen for me.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in his love” (1 John 4:18)
We are made perfect in God’s love, but fear halts that process. Probably because fear drives ME to want to take control, and I have no power to perfect anything. Only God’s perfect love casts out fear, little by little, day by day. It’s a process. God is coaxing us to Himself. He loves the process; He loves the walk. I believe He really does want to show us how much he love us, in the little things every single day.
God loves me with the same amount of love that He loves Jesus Christ. Doesn’t that sound scandalous? He loves me and you with the same amount of love that he loves Jesus with.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
And this has nothing to do with my efforts!!! He GAVE me my faith, which made me alive when I was dead in my sin. Dead people don’t have control, they are dead! He did it because he loves me.
God’s love for me is just as deep as God’s love for you. And, not only is that love intensely deep for each of us, it is also intensely personalized. That’s because it’s perfect. Psalm 139 says he knows our inward parts, he knit us together in our mother’s wombs… He knows how we best receive love! He knows when to surprise me, and when to make me wait. He knows when to take something away if it’s hurting me. He knows what kind of discipline I need to become more like Him. Sometimes I feel like I’m praying for something over and over again without getting an answer- God knows when my perseverance needs sharpening. Nothing is wasted with our God who loves us perfectly.
The past few months have been a roller coaster of learning to trust his perfect love. My husband and I have been trying to move from Jacksonville Beach to St. Augustine, and it has been a longer process than we expected. My husband’s job is in St. Augustine, and the hour to hour and a half commute is really wearing on him. Also, honestly, we’ve had a pretty hard time here in Jacksonville. Were both from small towns, and Jacksonville feels like it’s swallowed us.
A few months ago, we found the most perfect apartment in St. Augustine. It seemed perfect- big bright windows, a huge covered porch, 2 bedrooms (one for a home office!), and it was even below our budget! We had someone lined up to take over our lease in Jacksonville, and we were ready to move. In a matter of about 2 days, the whole thing fell through. Long story short, the apartment was no longer going to be available for rent, and the people who wanted our apartment changed their minds.
Things were pretty stagnant for the next month or so. Being the control freak that I am, I reposted our apartment listing on craigslist pretty much every day, checked my email I’d say about 12 times every 5 minutes, and constantly tried to get in contact with other apartments in St. Augustine. I cannot tell you how many emails I sent, most going unanswered. Embarrassingly enough, I even put in my two weeks notice at my part time job in Jacksonville, almost as a threat to God. “I am quitting my job Lord, BECAUSE WE ARE MOVING!” All I got was silence.
I began feeling frustrated because I felt like God had tricked me. I thought we were moving! Everything would be better if we could just get to St. Augustine! My husband wouldn’t be so stressed and we could save money and time and it’s closer to his family and maybe we would have more friends and GOD DON’T YOU HEAR ME??
I took God’s silence as a “no” for now, and slowly backed off the craigslist mania. Maybe God wanted us here. It was sweet because in my acceptance of my inability to control, it was as if a blindfold had been taken off my eyes, and I was finally able to see the way God IS working here. My angry heart is softening as he continues to show me the ways he is providing for all my needs. I feel loved in this hidden life in Jacksonville. It’s a big city, but in the comfort of our little home, I have a safe place with God. I am growing in appreciation for the little moments with him- and for the big moments too. A recent blessing is that I finally have a friend here in Jacksonville. A real friend, one with whom I can share my heart and seek the Lord beside. Another blessing has been the intimacy of my relationship with my husband. Without a lot of friends here, the Lord has set the stage for my husband and I to deepen our friendship with each other. Even just the little every day blessings like a pink sunset on the beach or enjoying a good book have become so much more precious to me. His perfect love drives out fear.
Honestly, I’m not sure why God decided to be silent for so long. Sometimes we don’t get answers. This week, out of nowhere, an apartment came available in St. Augustine. We loved and it and yesterday we signed the lease. Today three different people have contacted me about wanting our apartment in Jacksonville. I don’t understand God’s timing or why he chose this week. I feel small and humbled, still weak from the month-long fight. I love moments where God waits and shows me abundantly more. He was in control all along. He knows the best way to love me. I don’t claim to know why he made us wait, but I do believe he has done work in my heart during the waiting. His perfect love has cast out another shade of fear, and further built my trust in Him. He is a good Father. As Steffany Gretzinger sings, “[He’s] been a Father for a long time” He knows the best way to love me. And he knows the best way to love you too. His perfect love drives out fear.
How wonderful to think that moments like today are only glimpses of His “incomparable riches” and “His glorious grace”.
Lord, you continually humble me and amaze me by your love. Your ways are absolutely perfect, even though I don’t always understand them. Thank you that I can trust you completely, and that you will always act to love and protect me. Please forgive me for the selfishness of my mind, and help me to trust your wisdom. To you be the power and the honor and the glory forever! Amen
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” Isaiah 55:8
“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations” Psalm 33:11