Even if life turns upside-down

Ever been in one of those seasons in life where nothing feels stable? It’s like you’re trying to walk along the beach as the tide is rolling out, taking all the sand with it from under your feet. You aren’t sure where to stand because no ground is solid enough to support your weight. It’s an awkward dance, roaming the beach while the sand slides out from under you.

Welcome to my life

That’s sort of where life is for me right now. And it’s not just me. I know several people who are in similar predicaments. Life has thrown a curve ball they never expected. The job didn’t end up being a good fit. The job opportunity fell flat. People have passed away. New children have been born. New friendships are beginning, and some friendships are falling apart. New stories are starting, and others are ending.

Just about everyone I know is facing major transitions in their lives, and as I sit here this morning trying to knock out several thousand words on a novel, I’m tempted to despair. So much hurt and pain is happening right now. So many people are struggling with friendships and relationships and jobs and finances. People are scared and uncertain and feeling scattered. And I want to fix it. But I can’t. I can’t even fix my own problems. And some days it’s enough to make me want to give up.

I’m doing it wrong

That’s when I remember I’m doing this all wrong. In those moments I have to step back and remind myself who exactly is in charge here. It’s not me. And it’s not you either. None of us have the power to change much of anything in our lives, not without help. When we get to these points in life (and all of us do), we have to hold on to something. And the only anchor worth holding onto is God.

God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). He’s the same today as He was 10,000 years ago. He’ll be the same 10,000 years from now. Not like us. We change all the time, finding new and improved ways to identify ourselves or uncover value in ourselves. And because God doesn’t change, we can trust that He’ll always keep His promises (Numbers 23:19).

It’s okay to feel hurt

instagram upside-downSo life hasn’t turned out the way you thought it would. Join the club. Peoples’ lives rarely work out the way we expect them to. That’s not a reason to give up or stop believing that God can do something miraculous. That’s when God does His best work.

Maybe something you thought was certain fell apart, and you’re hurting. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to not be okay. Nobody is okay, not really. As long as the world is broken and people are broken, “okay” is just a word we say to cover up what we’re actually feeling inside. But just because we’re not okay doesn’t mean God isn’t able. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

It doesn’t always help to remember that God’s got everything under control. Sometimes you’re just so hurt and so frightened and so unsure that you just need to feel sad, and I get that. And that’s okay too. But don’t make the mistake of thinking God doesn’t hear you, because He does. And don’t confuse His patience or His perfect timing for tardiness (2 Peter 3:9).

Nothing in life stays the same. Everything changes. Our dreams, our preferences, our stories, our families, our friendships. God is the only stable ground. He’s the only rock we can stand on that we can trust will stay put. (Psalm 18:2)

Our only hope

Life may be upside down for you right now. Or maybe you can see the chaos coming toward you like a tidal wave that threatens to sweep away the life you’ve built for yourself. Don’t assume God doesn’t know. He does, and He cares. And He’s your only hope.

Hebrews 6:18Knowing that God doesn’t change, that He always keeps His promises, that He offers hope to the hopeless, and that He is always good—maybe it won’t fix your troubles today. But maybe it’ll give you a different perspective on them. (Hebrews 6:13-19) Because it’s possible for life to be hard and good at the same time, just like you can be hurting and full of joy at the same time.

It all comes down to how you choose to see the trouble in your life. Yes, it can feel overwhelming, unfair, undeserved, and even malicious at times, but if that’s how you choose to see it, you’re missing the point. And you’re choosing to see God as an enemy who wants to hurt you, and nothing is further from the truth. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Breathe. Step back. Shut your eyes and listen to what God is telling you.

He’s got this. He’s got you, and all the little things (or big things) that you’re worrying about, He’s already figured out. And maybe He won’t give you a magic lamp and grant you three wishes. He won’t snap His fingers or wiggle His nose and solve all your problems. But you can be sure that however He chooses to act, it’ll be good, even if it doesn’t feel like it right away.

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Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Dawdling

The English language fascinates me. It’s a melting pot, a strange concoction of so many different languages and influences. But I imagine it’s a nightmare to try to translate from and into. I’ve worked with enough people who speak different languages (Arabic, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, German, etc.) to grasp that. English, and especially American English, is broad and indolent and verbose; American English likes the sound of its own voice. But even so, it’s a fun language to learn about because the more you learn about English, the more you learn about other languages.

Granted, I’m a word nerd. But today’s verse made me think of a word that I really haven’t heard used much recently. The word I thought of is dawdle.

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Peter 3:9.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Did anyone else hear, “Don’t dawdle!” in this verse? Or was that just me? Maybe it was just me because, again, I’m thinking this word has fallen out of common usage.

I looked it up on dictionary.com, and the word actually started into common usage around 1775, probably based on the word “daddle” which started in 1656 and meant to walk unsteadily. The thought is that the daw bird influenced the word because of its reputation of being sluggish and silly. And that’s what dawdle means. To waste time. Being sluggish. Being idle. Lingering for no purpose other than to linger. It’s the kind of word I used to think only stiff and proper nannies used when telling unruly children to get busy.

The thing about dawdling is that it’s purposeless. It’s a waste.

And what I see in this verse today is that God isn’t dawdling. He’s waiting. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between waiting and wasting time, but the way you can tell is that one has a purpose and the other doesn’t. Waiting means there’s a plan in action and you’re just anticipating when it’s your turn to jump in; dawdling, wasting time, is knowing the plan but refusing to jump in even when it’s your turn.

God isn’t dawdling. He has a plan. He has a purpose. He’s waiting to come back for us because He wants to give everyone the opportunity to make a choice. He’s waiting because there are still some people who are dawdling.

By that same token, it’s a good idea to think your decision through, though. Don’t make snap judgments ever. I truly believe that many people decide to follow Christ on a whim. It’s easy to say; it’s much more difficult to live. And if that decision wasn’t truly a decision made with both heart and head in tandem, it’s not real. It has to be a commitment, not just a statement. Unfortunately, I think people who don’t believe are confused by those of us who do when we tout the Christian life as easy.

Yes, there are aspects of it that are easy, but it’s not an easy life. Not by a long shot. It’s a life full of joy and gratitude and contentment and wonder and awe at what God can do. But it’s a life of sorrow too because we are constantly surrounded by darkness and contempt and foolishness–and there are days when holding up “This Little Light of Mine” makes my arm really tired. And those are the days that we need to be honest with people about.

So it’s good to think about your choices. But dawdling over choices can get you in trouble. We are a culture of procrastinators, and that would be all right if we had all the time in the world. But we don’t. You need to make sure you understand what you’re changing your mind to, but don’t dawdle about it. Know your choices. Make your choice. Don’t waste time because it’s rapidly running out.

And that works the same in life. We can linger and loiter over choices all day long, but all you’re doing is wasting time. And if God doesn’t dawdle, we shouldn’t either.

So check your heart. Are you wasting time on a decision you need to make? Are you waiting for God to show you what you need to know to make that decision? If you are, that’s between you and Him. But if you already know what you’re supposed to do, do it. Don’t dawdle.

Cat in a field at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Turn back

Do you ever get stuck thinking that God has a great big hammer in His hand and He’s just waiting for an opportunity to whack you with it? I know life can make us feel that way sometimes, but it’s not true. The Bible is full of instances where God demonstrates just how merciful He is.

Ezekiel isn’t exactly the book I would first go to in looking for verses about God’s mercy. Ezekiel is pretty hard core, actually. So when I was looking for a verse about second chances, I was surprised to find this passage.

Cat in a field at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Cat in a field at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Ezekiel 18:30-32.

Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign Lord. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live!

Repent is one of those religious words that can be scary. But there’s really nothing religious about it. Repenting simply means that you change your mind. It means that you change your mind about the way you’re living, that you let go of your rebellion and live the way God wants.

God wants everyone to repent because everyone is freakin’ screwed up.

A little earlier in the same text, God says that He finds no pleasure when wicked people die. God doesn’t want anyone to die. I don’t know if we can wrap our heads around that, but that’s who He is.

This passage has so many applications, but the one I need this morning is that God is truly a God of second chances. He is a God who freely allows anyone to turn away from a lifestyle of rotten choices and turn to Him for salvation.

Anyone. Freely. And all we have to do is to accept His free gift — Christ’s sacrifice for us — and we don’t have to be judged on our actions. But if we don’t accept Christ as Lord, then all we have are our actions. But that’s a topic for another day.

Today, Election Day 2012, I needed to remember that God is merciful. And that He listens. And that He cares. And that He’s got everything under control, even when nothing seems like it’s going the way it should. By tonight, we should know who the president for the next four years will be, but whoever that is, I’m honestly not holding out a lot of hope.

No matter who wins, America is in very grave danger. Not from the economy. Not from our aging Baby Boomer generation. Not from our dependence on foreign oil. Not from terrorists. The greatest danger America faces today is America. We are slowly but surely destroying ourselves with double-mindedness, self-entitlement, and rebellion.

No matter who assumes the chair in the Oval Office in January 2013, he cannot fix our greatest problems, he cannot answer our greatest questions, he cannot give us what we need. And the plain and simple reason why? We already know how to fix our greatest problems. We already know the answer to our greatest questions. We already know what we need. And we have rejected all of it.

And if you think I’m talking to non-believers, Christians, think again.

Ezekiel was a prophet sent to Israel, the chosen people of God. God’s own people who had turned against Him. These weren’t heathen nations. These weren’t people who didn’t believe in God. These were the descendants of the ones God rescued from Egypt with His own hand.

So let Ezekiel’s message resonate with us today.

Let’s set our rebellion aside. Let’s do what we have been called to do, and that is to follow Christ. Let’s turn away from the choices we know contradict God’s Word. And let’s get down on our knees and our faces and beg God for another chance. He’s not done with us yet because we’re still here, but the time is coming when His patience is going to run out. And there are still so many people who haven’t heard the truth, who would accept it if they heard.

2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

God wants everyone to repent. He doesn’t want to lose one person. He’s giving everybody space and time to change, and He’s giving 21st Century American Christians the opportunity to get their heads on straight.

Obey Scripture. Do what’s right. And if you don’t know what’s right, look it up. And while you won’t be judged on your actions if you truly know Christ, when all is said and done you won’t be able to ignore Truth anymore.

What’s taking so long?

Do you ever wonder why God is taking so long to keep His last promise to us? It’s frustrating too because that last promise of His (the one where He says He’ll come back for us) is the one that makes us all sound like we’re one fry short of a Happy Meal. But it’s in the Bible. So I believe it. And I don’t subscribe to the crazies who have the day picked out (I think it’s October 21 now) because no one but God knows when He’s returning. Not even Jesus knows . . . and He is God . . . He’s just not God the Father (just try to wrap your brain around that one) . . . . so if Jesus doesn’t know, I guarantee nobody on Earth has a clue.

But do you ever wonder why God is taking His sweet time?

There are days when I get so tired of waiting on Him to come back. I am so weary of this world, of dealing with fake Christians, of struggling with this dark nature inside me that makes me want to do things I know are wrong. I want to go home where none of that will exist and where I’ll be able to hang with Jesus face to face every day, where we’ll be able to approach God and thank Him for all He’s done for us — no longer separated by this wall of fallen humanity I’m stuck in. And it’ll never be night. And time won’t matter. And we’ll be able to do the things we love to do every day without having to worry about paying bills or having something to eat or making people angry.

Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? =)

So what’s taking Him so long? People have been talking about God’s returning for us for thousands of years. There are days when I feel like Noah building the ark, and all my neighbors pass by laughing at me. If you haven’t ever listened to the Bill Cosby routines about Noah and the Neighbor, click on the video below.

But on those days when I start getting frustrated, I think about today’s verse, 2 Peter 3:9.

9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

We humans are always moving so fast. We never like to slow down, and it’s hard for us to remember that God is patient. He loves this world so much that He doesn’t want to just snatch everyone up and forget the rest. No! That would contradict everything God is.

And while most prophecy has been fulfilled, there is still one outstanding. And that is that every nation will have the opportunity to come to know Christ. And that hasn’t happened yet. There are still nations of people who haven’t heard the truth yet. Like that tribe of folks they just discovered in the Amazon.

Everyone in the world needs to have the chance to make a choice. That’s why World Missions are so important. Bringing the Gospel to peoples who’ve never heard it before is something we’re commanded to do. But on that same note, I’d like to hope that He’s being patient for the U.S. too. Because while the rest of the world seems to be coming to Christ by the truckload, the U.S. is stuck in a rut. But can a country that was founded with a Christian heritage (it was; do your research and go read all the monuments in DC and you’ll see) who has fallen away from their roots ever go back to them again? Everyone in the U.S. has heard the truth, and the vast majority of people have chosen to ignore it, opting either to follow their own hearts or to follow some man’s teaching.

I’m glad God is patient. Because if He can be patient with all the people who are left in the world who don’t know His name, that means He can be patient with me when I forget who He is. And while I don’t think His patience will ever end, there is a day when He will have to move. And while I selfishly look forward to the day I can go home, I hope when that day comes that everyone I know is ready.