God is Present Through It All

Success doesn’t equal God’s approval; failure doesn’t denote His absence and most importantly disappointment doesn’t mean He doesn’t care.

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2016 was a rough year for me. Not quite as rough as 2015 had been– the year where I entered the work force; had 0 church community and started to struggle with depression, insecurities and negative over analyzing . 2015 was one of the worst years of my life thus far and 2016 followed quite closely.

In 2016, I became more self aware of my struggles and I gradually started to take steps to come closer to God to change them. It was an arduous process. My mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical state really were at rock bottom. Depression hit me hard at times; I was overwhelmed with insecurities, jealousy and a comparative spirit. Even my physical appearance started to reflect what was going  on inside (weight gain, minimal hair growth/hair breakage and acne breakouts). I’ve provided links to some in depth blogs I’ve written about some of those struggles so I won’t go into greater detail about them, but I will say that they all pointed to the fact that I needed help.

So that’s what I constantly sought from literally anyone that would listen. Any chance I got I would send ranting essay text messages to friends complaining about my insecurities, my jealousy, my heartache, my over analyzing, and etc. One friend eventually called me out for it, rightfully so.

I was spending so much time complaining to humans when I should’ve been intentionally, wholeheartedly running to Jesus to get me through the rough season. Sometimes I would, but sometimes I would wait. I would wallow in my self-pity and allow myself to be consumed by every negative thought, feeling and emotion that was entering my mind. It sounds crazy, but there’s something satisfying about indulging in your sadness and your anger. Maybe it has to do with the sin nature and a God complex; when I analyze a situation and perceive it the way I want to then I am in control of the outcome and it feels dangerously good to be in control. Until you realize that that control is robbing your ability to connect to God and to see the truth in an area of your life that He wants to help you through and take hold of. Moving on….

So what does any of this have to do with success or failure? Well if you’re connected to me on any social media site then you know what else I accomplished in 2016: I wrote, directed, produced and funded two short films that cost me thousands of dollars and that took a lot of time, creativity and energy. And as previously noted in this blog post, I wasn’t in the best place mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, yet I was still able to create two films that I’m incredibly proud of.

I’ll say it again: Success doesn’t equal God’s approval; failure doesn’t denote His absence and most importantly disappointment doesn’t mean, He doesn’t care.

When I look at those films, I think to myself 2016 was a successful year. God blesses us with success, right? Wrong. God blesses us out of His grace and mercy, but that doesn’t always mean we’re doing the right thing. I disobeyed God and chose the world over Him, more times than I’d like to admit (and I’m sure I will still do both of those things). Just like any Father, while I know He loved me through it all, I don’t believe He was pleased with my actions and my thought life. Yet, in His grace and mercy, He provided for me and enabled me to complete those films.

I was reading John 11 yesterday and verses 21 & 22 struck a chord with me:

“Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”

To provide context, Mary & Martha’s brother Lazarus has just died. Jesus had received word that Lazarus was sick a few days prior; rather than running to heal him, Jesus “abode two days still in the same place” (verse 6). (SPOILER ALERT: Jesus raised him from the dead)…

Martha’s words are what got me thinking about success & failure and how we relate the two to God’s presence in our lives. In that moment when Martha goes to Jesus, I picture a woman whose disappointed, yes, but I also see a woman who hasn’t allowed that disappointment to change her faith and love for God. She still believes in Him. She still knows His character and she still knows that even in this dark hour, God can do something incredible.

I know I’m guilty of allowing disappointments and earthly circumstances shape my view of God’s presence in my life and also guilty of then questioning whether or not He will do something in that dark night of the soul. Logically, I know He’s sovereign, but logic goes out the door when a disappointment hits and when you’re at your lowest.

I was able to accomplish solid work in 2016, yet many other areas of my life were a mess. God was still there; I just wasn’t turning to Him enough. If I had failed to make my films, I would’ve been disappointed, but He still would’ve been there. If something “good” happens, it doesn’t mean He’s present (He’s present regardless of that outcome– not because of it) and if something “bad” happens it doesn’t mean He’s absent. It’s foolish to use earthly parameters to define God’s presence in our life. Yesterday, today, tomorrow, He’s still the same.

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Choosing

My day started off with some much needed God time. It was one of my usual mini fasts where I avoid food and social media, put my phone into “Do Not Disturb” and dig into God’s presence, giving all of myself to Him for a few hours. I felt compelled to do this today because as I mentioned in my previous blog post, I’ve been on an up and down spiritual roller coaster and my connection to God certainly hasn’t been what it should be. While I have had a few of these mini fasts since noticing my decaying spiritual condition, the one I had today was a little different…

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Sometimes when I listen to worship music, I like to meditate; to close my eyes and see if there are any dreams, visions or thoughts God wants to instill in me. More often than not, my mind races and jumps, making it impossible for me to be still and for Him to really reveal anything to me, and today was one of those days. Not only did my mind race, but it jumped. It jumped into my hole of pain that I’ve done all that I can to bury. I couldn’t even focus on God anymore because I was so focused on my own past and sins. I cried and asked God to bring healing into this area of my life.

It took me some time, but I eventually wiped my tears, crawled out of bed and picked up my bible, my promise box and my journal. The promise I picked brought me to Isaiah 58– the scripture about fasting. I find it funny; almost every time I’m fasting, I’m brought to this passage, but God’s word is amazing. I can read a scripture 20 times and learn something new/relate to it differently on the 21st time.

Isaiah 58:6 reads:

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?”

I’ve read this verse countless times, but it never impacted me the way it did today. I cried– not just tears– I cried out with my voice to God that this is who He is, and this is what He does for His children. Take my burdens Lord; remove my sins of overthinking, my fears of commitment, my complaining and bitter tongue and make me new again. This was the cry of my heart and as I declared it, that peace began to wash over me again.

Declaring these things verbally wasn’t enough. I opened my journal– something I haven’t done in months– to get these thoughts on paper. When I was done, I chose to reread some of my journal entries from two years ago just to see how things in my life have changed and what I still needed to work on. My heart broke and my regret sunk in because a lot of my journal entries pertained to the very sin of my past that had been weighing on me that morning. I saw the problem’s progression where I journaled about it in its earlier, slightly more innocent stages, asking God for help, only to see that the problem spiraled and got worse and worse.

Suddenly I realized why my meditation had been interrupted with the regrets of my past; it was God’s way of telling me that I can keep praying to Him about my current struggles, and He will give me peace and strength, but the only way a long lasting change can come, is if I actively choose to obey Him every. single. time I am faced with that sin. I had been guilty of choosing my flesh over His spirit too many times in the past in that area of my life and that is why the problem was never solved.

A lot of people negate the power of prayer, and I am in no way doing that, but I do believe that with prayer, must come action on our part; that is why throughout passages in the word, God tell us to “follow,” “obey,” “do.” Our walk with Him is an active one.

Put it this way: if I’m overweight and I go to a nutritionist and a fitness instructor for help, they will provide me with meal plans, workout routines, ways to break old habits and other helpful advice. When I talk to them, I’ll likely feel better and more motivated to change, but then I pass that bakery and I see that cake calling my name. I remember the advice I was given, but I want that cake… No. I cannot eat that cake. I walk by the store and pat myself on the back for resisting the temptation. The next day comes and there are free cake samples being handed out on the street…

“Just one bite won’t hurt… You’ll go to the gym tomorrow and burn it off… You deserve a cheat day…”

*NOTE: I am well aware that a piece of cake for someone on a diet isn’t the end of the world*

The point I’m getting at is that that cake represents the sin in your life. You may resist it once, twice, even three times, but Satan will always try harder to make you fall. He’ll make it more palatable, more accessible to you, and unless you make the active decision to choose God’s way and the strength He has given you, you will continue to fall, and you will eventually come to that place of shame and regret, questioning how you fell so far.

God is merciful and gracious. He does heal our wounds of the past, so I do know and believe that He can heal my old ones and any new ones, but two years from now, I don’t want to look back with regret and shame because rather than resisting temptation and allowing Him to really change me, I constantly chose sin. I want a long lasting victory. Two years from now I want to rejoice because the sins that once held me captive are gone. So today is day one on a new journey  of actively choosing His spirit over my flesh.

Day 7: Onto Biblical Fasting

So I haven’t blogged over the past two days because I’ve been switching up my fast time for some time with my mom and I didn’t really have much to blog about either of the two nights anyway so I figured I would put a halt to things. Now I am back with a brief reflection of what my time with God yielded for today.

Today was actually really different from the others in that I listened to a message on the internet from a church I used to attend. The message was about fear and for the few that don’t know, I have a massive spirit of fear so this word really hit home. As the days go by, I am becoming more and more fearful for what my future holds. Not shocking given the fact that I’ve chosen one of the most risky career paths. The message from the church was essentially about not succumbing to fear because when we do we miss out on God’s plans and promises. This message combined with a talk with my mom has made me realize that I need to connect to The Lord more deeply because I have absolutely been succumbing to my fear and I have still been quite up and down with my faith in God. This needs to stop and the only way I believe it will is if I dive into real biblical fasting from food for x amount of time while I dive deeply into the presence of God. That is where and when I’ll find The Lord opening my eyes to things I’ve been blind, fearful and frustrated about.

Until next time :).