Shaken Expectation

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I expected my friend’s marriage of twenty-five years to last another twenty-five instead of ending in divorce.

I expected our house to sell after God cleared a path to move that was so obviously His call for us.

I expected a reconciled relationship when instead a shaming occurred.

I expected a Bible study would draw friends closer to God, not cause them to run.

I expected…

When it comes to life situations that leave me shaken emotionally, physically, spiritually or some combination there seems to be a common theme in that I had a different expectation surrounding the scenario.  In the Book of Job Chapters 3-31 reveal a conversation Job’s friends have with him in which we learn they have decided that all of the terrible things that are happening to Job (family murdered, crops destroyed, boils and much more) are occurring because of a terrible sin Job must have committed.

Job 30:20-28 (NASB)

20 “I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me;
I stand up, and You turn Your attention against me.
21 “You have become cruel to me;
With the might of Your hand You persecute me.
22 “You lift me up to the wind and cause me to ride;
And You dissolve me in a storm.
23 “For I know that You will bring me to death
And to the house of meeting for all living.

24 “Yet does not one in a heap of ruins stretch out his hand,
Or in his disaster therefore cry out for help?
25 “Have I not wept for the one whose life is hard?
Was not my soul grieved for the needy?
26 “When I expected good, then evil came;
When I waited for light, then darkness came.
27 “I am seething within and cannot relax;
Days of affliction confront me.
28 “I go about mourning without comfort;
I stand up in the assembly and cry out for help.

Job had the expectation that because he lived his life to honor the Lord that things would his way.  Verses 30:27-28 to me reveal the depths of a man who is shaken.

Job 32 brings a new person into the discussion.  Elihu, who describes himself as young says that he has been quite because of his youth, but can no longer keep his mouth shut. (32:1-22) The Life Application Bible summary is so great here.  “Elihu said Job’s suffering would not go away until he realized his present sin. He maintained that Job wasn’t suffering because of sin, he was sinning because he was suffering.  Elihu pointed out that Job’s attitude had become arrogant as he tried to defend his innocence.  Elihu also said that suffering is not meant to punish us as much as it is meant to correct and restore us…”

Job 38:1-7  (NIV)

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

“Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

I can’t ignore that in verse 1 here of Job 38 we learn that God answers Job “out of the storm”.  The storm of Job’s life situation that has left him crying out for God without answer, the storm of expectations broken leaving Job shaken, the physical storm the NASB version says “whirlwind” where the NIV says storm.

In chapter 42 of Job we yet another version of being left shaken in dear Job’s life:

Job 42:1-6 (NIV)

Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

Again Job’s expectation was shaken.  He cried out to hear God’s voice and in addition to that Job’s eyes were opened to the glory of God all around him.  His response was immediate repentance, repentance birthed out of expectation shaken deeply by God Himself.

In my weakness I find my response to hard things in life still leaves me shaken even though life experience has taught me repeatedly God always has a better plan than I can imagine.  I don’t think it is wrong to be sad when hard things happen.  Similarly to Job, when my perspective becomes tilted and I forget that God is in control even when I can’t see Him moving I need to shake off the fear and disappointment and instead trust my God who was present when the earth’s foundations were created.

I’m linking up with Suzie Eller for #LiveFreeThursday prompt:shaken

On Fight vs. Flight

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I’ve never really liked scary movies. To me, they are frustrating to watch.  It never fails at some point there is a bad person chasing a good person, and it lasts forever!  Over the years I’ve watched scary movies less often, but when I do happen upon one I find myself thinking the same thing each time I watch that chase scene…Just GIVE UP!

I know that must sound crazy.  My husband says my fight or flight instinct is messed up.  Maybe that is the case, but I see things differently. My instinct to give up comes from the fact that somewhere along the way I simply learned to accept that the outcome of all that running will be the same regardless of how long the chase scene goes on and it’s not worth the fight.

Not worth the fight?  Yep.  All the running, screaming, holding the door shut while the bad guy bangs on it, it’s predictable and so is the outcome. The bad guy gets the supporting character 99% of the time. Interestingly, somewhere along the way I adopted this attitude in real life as well.  I began to see myself as a supporting character in life, so my response became one of a supporting role character.  That conflict at work?  Better find a new job because it’s not going to get any better.  Friend upset with you?  Apologize and move on because she isn’t going to see your side of the issue.  Prayer not being answered?  Well it must be a no, so stop praying for your heart’s desire God obviously doesn’t care.

When I’m being honest I’ll admit that part of my “flight instinct” likely comes from that fact that I’m weak. Some days it takes all my strength just to get out of bed.  Hypothyroidism related exhaustion and muscle fatigue has left me physically weak, and somewhere along the way that translated to mental weakness as well.

I can’t pin point when I convinced myself that my life circumstances weren’t worth fighting for.  I also can’t nail down when I convinced myself I was a supporting character in my own life.  The most surprising thing I realized is that somewhere along the way I convinced myself that my choice to give up in a situation meant that God would also walk away.  It seems silly if you think about it.  My impatience, lack of self-worth or fear took over at some point and I gave God the human characteristic of apathy.   The lies Satan whispered in my ear became truth and my perspective got skewed.  Thankfully, scripture reminds us that God has a different fight or flight instinct that I do.

Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”

Deuteronomy 1:30 “The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes.”

Deuteronomy 3:22 “Do not fear them, for the Lord your God is the one fighting for you.”

In the last year I’ve focused on changing my view of God. I’ve been reminded that scripture doesn’t lie and it can always be used as a map to stay of the right path. I’ve seen firsthand 2 Corinthians 12:9 hold true.  “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” My hunger for my instinct in life circumstances to change from thinking “Just give up” to “Just pray, God is fighting for me”.  My view of my personal situations is changing, and I know fight the lie that I am a supporting character. God sees all his children as stars and I am not an acceptation to that gift!   I have to admit though, I still don’t like scary movies…all that running seems like a whole lot of unnecessary exercise. 😉

I’m linking up with #LiveFreeThursday!  Head over to read what others are saying about giving up!

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on validation and delight

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Appropriate validation in the context of ministry can be a challenging road to walk.  Ultimately our only necessary validator is God, and yet with an elder board or advisory board holding a leader accountable, vocational ministry can require justification or measurement.

When is comes to personal spiritual growth I’ve learned to seek out a variety of voices.  Whether my education comes from books, sermons via online streaming, attending conferences or attending church one thing links these teachers together, my desire to learn about God from them.  One of the things that draws me to them is the amount of other people learning from them in addition to me.  I like to think that in this “chicken and egg” scenario the reason so many people are listening to certain preachers or reading certain authors is because their words are so true and Spirit filled.  I like to think I’ve chosen to listen to certain theologians based on their beliefs and teaching, not their social media following…but it is hard to ignore the fact that somewhere along the lines our society decided a large following validated someone’s words.

For me accepting a speaker’s words or an author’s presentation is not limited to the opinion of the masses, but at the same time those with large crowds are more likely to get my attention first.  It is because of this trend  of response in my own life that the measure for valid ministry has unfortunately had attendance attached to it.

On the practical side, numbers are necessary to know how much food to buy for a meeting, how many retreat spots to reserve, and how many resources to purchase. There is buying power in numbers with discounts for groups.  Still, human practicality only carries us so far.  God calls us to the least of these, He calls us to do what no one else is eager to do and because of that, validity cannot always be found in numbers.

Several months ago the Lord seized ahold of my heart in a new way.  While reading Hosea these verses stirred my emotions in an unexpected way.

Hosea 8:12-14

12 Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law,
They are regarded as a strange thing.
13 As for My sacrificial gifts,
They sacrifice the flesh and eat it,
But the Lord has taken no delight in them.
Now He will remember their iniquity,
And punish them for their sins;
They will return to Egypt.
14 For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces;
And Judah has multiplied fortified cities,
But I will send a fire on its cities that it may consume its palatial dwellings.  

As I reflected on Hosea I realized there were large areas of sacrifice in my life God was not taking delight in and by extension, I was not delighting my Lord. My perspective on ministry had become twisted and was in danger of taking me down a path very different from the leadership path God had called me to.  I was reminded that God calls us to sacrifice our best to Him, he delights in our obedience, not our earthly measured success.

1 Samuel 15:21-23

21 But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”22 Samuel said,

“Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He has also rejected you from being king.”

The more I reflected on what God delights in, the more I realized that for me, validation truly comes when God delights in me.  When I remember that delight comes in our obedience to God’s call, my concern for larger attendance ceases to exist.  When I surrender my hunger for human validation, instead seeking the delight of my creator, peace and joy surround ministry regardless of attendance.