You know that feeling of fear when you sense yourself falling into a downward spiral? A cycle where you’ve been before?
Regardless of what triggers it and regardless of what type of cycle it is—grief, sadness, frustration, rejection, overthinking, or any other type of pain—if you’ve been there before, you feel hopeless. Stuck. As if change is out of your control. There’s this sense of fear that I’ve been here before and hate the ride.
But what if…
What if that spiral doesn’t have to end the way you anticipate?
What if it’s not a downward spiral, but a forward cycle?
What if the pull down comes from misunderstanding how God designed the path to work?
What if instead of being a vortex of defeat it could be a cycle of hope? Continue reading
There’s something about seeing David Brainerd quotes posted online that makes me smile. Not a discrediting smile (I love his quotes!), but a sympathetic smile.
Brainerd’s journals have moved me profoundly. In fact, The Life and Diary of David Brainerd is the only autobiography I remember setting down mid-reading—not just once or twice, but almost every time I pick it up—moved to fervent prayer. His heart for God freely (and rawly) expressed in those pages, which he believed no one would read as he penned them, is that real and that convicting.
I smile, however, when I see his quotes because his journal was often so contradictory. Like some of us, he encountered extreme highs and lows. But the posted quotes rarely even hint of the contradictions Brainerd lived with.
Take for instance, this quote: Continue reading
Is it just me, or do you sometimes have an “off day” too?
As much as I want to wake up every day ready to take the world on and, by the end of the day, have a completed to-do list, all with actions that truly made a difference for eternity, no less; that’s just not the way it always happens.
Years ago, I read a quote by Jim Elliot about not doing life by half measures: “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
That quote resonated with me, as does Colossians 3:23: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”
I don’t want to live by half-measures. I don’t want to just go through motions. I want to give my all from my soul. Continue reading
For years, I’ve read through the book of Psalms every month. It got so that the day of the month became synonymous with me for the first few words of, or a verse from, a corresponding Psalm.
But this year, wanting to mix up my reading a bit, I took a break from Psalms for a few months. It’s hard, though, to leave such a well of worship, so I’m back to reading through Psalms monthly. (I’ve include the schedule I use at the bottom of this post.)
As I reentered the daily intake of Psalms, what surprised me anew was the intensity of David’s emotions. Whether it was in his longings for God, adoration of God, cries of fear, resolve to praise, or any other expression of his heart, he articulated them with acute intensity. Continue reading
You and I both know that faith is more than a feeling. It’s action. Steps. Moving forward. Progress.
Wait…is it all that?
And are all of those so easily defined without feelings? After all, how do you know if you’re making progress? And what if it takes more faith to wait than to act?
I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit that faith and feelings get pretty tangled in our hearts. And that sometimes we don’t really do faith at all; we are content to simply feel faith without changing our actions.
So what does doing faith look like, with or without feelings?
Think of the great faith heroes of the Bible and history. I’m pretty sure Abraham wasn’t “feeling faith” as he climbed Mount Moriah with Isaac. And I’m going to guess that Gladys Aylward wasn’t “feeling faith” as she led one hundred children across Communist territory while she was burning with fever.
Not only is faith more than a feeling, but it isn’t defined by feelings. Will you read that sentence again?
Faith isn’t defined by feelings, and they aren’t required for it to be faith.
So if faith isn’t a feeling, what is it? Or more specifically, what does it do? Continue reading
Sometimes I imagine a conversation between an Israelite woman and a foreign guest in the Promised Land. The Israelite woman (whom we’ll call Sarah) was among those who spent four decades in the wilderness, and her new companion (we’ll call her Fatima) has recently trekked the same territory. They are eager to swap stories and compare experiences:
Sarah: Remember the sandstorms?
Fatima: Yeah, there’s nothing like being sand-blasted by hot, wind-driven sand. We had some days we couldn’t journey at all until the wind died down.
Sarah: Exactly. We had to watch for when the cloud or the pillar of fire moved from over the tabernacle.
Fatima: What? (She gives a suspicious glance and wonders if Sarah is okay.) We didn’t have a tabernacle. And we definitely didn’t have pillar of fire with us.
Sarah: That’s too bad. I mean, there were days I wanted to go forward when we couldn’t and days I wanted to stay when we had to move, but all in all, I was thankful for God’s presence with us.
Fatima: And you say this…this presence was in a pillar of fire? Continue reading
It was Hudson Taylor who famously said, “God is not looking for men of great faith, only some common souls like you or me…willing to trust in His great faithfulness.”
If you want a front-row seat to a modern-day example of that quote, you need to pick up the newly-released autobiography by Dr. Edgar Feghaly, Forward in the Face of Fear: My Life for Christ in the Muslim World.
I first read this during the pre-publication editorial process, but only after two of my coworkers had already read it. They described stories to me that were over-the-top unbelievable. When they told me they had barely scratched the surface in what they had relayed and that the book was full of such stories, I held private doubts. Continue reading
I almost drowned once. It was at a friend’s birthday party, of all places. I think I was six. Thankfully, I was rescued, but I still remember that sense of helplessness as I was engulfed in the water and knew I couldn’t swim.
(Days later, I remember telling my sister, “I should have just gone down to the bottom and walked back to the shallow end of the pool.” Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy when you’re drowning.)
Do you know what it feels like to drown?
I’m guessing you do. Maybe you didn’t slip into the deep end of a pool, but you’re over your head in responsibilities. In grief. In fear. In need.
How do you even pray then? Continue reading
Do you ever feel that God has hidden His face from you?
Probably not. I don’t either, of course. (I don’t think respectable Christians feel that way.)
But sometimes the psalmists felt it. Their words describe it as an experience with a pain scale ranging from desperate to terrifying: Continue reading
One of the most shocking biographies I remember reading was that of William Cowper.
Even if you don’t recognize his name, you’ve probably sung his hymns (including “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”) or used the phrase he coined, “God moves in a mysterious way.”
It’s been years since I read his biography, but in recent research, I came across his name and reflected for a few minutes on some of the most extraordinary and meaningful aspects of his life.
Cowper’s salvation testimony is remarkable because he was saved as a direct result of admittance to a mental asylum after failed suicide attempts. The doctor who treated Cowper was a born again Christian who shared the gospel with him. The night and day difference in Cowper’s life after his salvation is undeniable.
Most of us would be very comfortable with Cowper’s testimony if it ended there. But it didn’t. Although he didn’t struggle mentally to the same degree after his salvation as he had before, he did battle mental illness (including severe depression and two more mental breakdowns) for the rest of his life. Continue reading