Keep trusting even if you have to keep letting go

When I give my worries and problems to God, I struggle with leaving them there. How about you? That’s one of those Christian metaphors we like to talk about–casting our cares on God, laying our burdens down, etc. Practically speaking, it means you do what you can according to God’s rules and then you let God work it out. You don’t spend time worrying or speculating about what could go wrong. You don’t invest emotional energy in fretting anxiously.

Has anyone mastered this concept? I haven’t.

Every time I entrust my fears and failures to the Lord, within moments I’m taking it back. And then I have to go through the whole process of letting go all over again. I get so angry at myself. I get so irritated. But I realized something the other day.

I don’t know anybody who’s mastered the art of trusting God completely. We all fail at this. We all try to carry our own burdens without His help. So instead of beating ourselves up about how often we take our troubles back from God, maybe we should focus on how many times we’re willing to let go of them.

pexels-photo (1)Today’s verses are Luke 11:9-10.

And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

God wants to hear from us. He wants us to pray and talk to Him. He wants us to hand over our burdens because they’re all too heavy for us to carry on our own. But what if we have to ask Him over and over again? What if we have to turn over the same problems again and again?

I don’t like to pester people. I don’t like asking the same questions over and over again. I don’t like being asked the same questions over and over again (this is one of the reasons I would never make it as a journalist). But sometimes you have to. Sometimes you’re not asking the right question. Sometimes you’re asking the right question at the wrong time.

God will always answer. He is unfailingly patient with us, and He doesn’t get upset or unhappy if we pester Him.

Granted, if we know the answer is No, we shouldn’t keep asking. That might bother Him. But if you honestly don’t know what to do or to believe, ask Him. And don’t just ask Him once, ask Him over and over again until you get an answer. And I believe it’s the same with our troubles.

God remembers that we’re not perfect. He knows us inside and out. He knows our control-freak tendencies, and He isn’t angry at us when we try to take things back from Him. But He grieves when you try to keep it.

Don’t keep your troubles because you’re afraid to give them back again. Don’t beat yourself up or assume a negative perspective because you lose patience with God’s timetable. Everybody does. We’re all in the same boat.

It takes a lot of faith to trust your worries and your fears and your problems to God. It takes even more faith to keep giving them to Him, even after you take them back.

Just keeping turning your problems over to God. There’s not a time limit or a transaction limit, like at a bank. It’s better if you don’t take things back from God after you turn them over, but if you do, you can always give them back again.

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I’m like a little child who doesn’t know the way

I have to be creative when I work. It’s in my job description. Part of being a writer (some people would call it being an artist) is making stuff up. You have to be really good at creating imaginary scenarios with imaginary people, which is all just in your head but real enough that others would believe it’s true if you told them.

The downside at being really good at making stuff up is that sometimes people think you really know what you’re doing. And to a certain extent, it’s true. You use experiences you’ve learned from other people and other situations, and you apply it to your current circumstance. It’s not rocket science. But what happens when you run into a situation that you can’t fabricate an answer for? What happens when you barrel headlong into something you don’t know how to get out of? What happens when you’re so buried in life’s troubles that you can’t even pretend you know what to do anymore?

It can be nice to be the person in the room with the answers, sure. But there’s a certain amount of freedom in being able to admit that you haven’t got a clue.

C52A64EA10_1505x1004Today’s verses are 1 Kings 3:7-9.

Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?

Solomon, the son of David, is one of the best-known kings of Israel. Israel experienced an unprecedented time of wealth and prosperity during Solomon’s reign. But that didn’t happen because Solomon was a great businessman. No, early on in his kingship, Solomon and God had a chat, and God gave Solomon the choice between material possessions and wisdom. And this was Solomon’s response.

We lose something from the original language. There’s always something lost in translation. That phrase, “I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around” is what I want to key into this morning.

This was Solomon. The King of Israel. The Son of David. He was rich and powerful and successful, yet in speaking to God, Solomon had no problem admitting he didn’t know jack. That’s what that means, you understand. Solomon was calling himself a baby. In some translations, it says Solomon compared himself to an infant that didn’t even know how to enter a room.

Compared to God, Solomon knew he knew nothing. And by demonstrating this kind of humility, God blessed him immeasurably.

When life get tough and surrounds me with trouble, my first response is to shake it off. I don’t want people worrying about me or fussing over me. I usually just want to be left alone so that I can puzzle through the situation on my own. I’ve heard enough stories, I know enough Scripture, and I’ve had enough wise council in my life to get me through just about anything–or so I thought.

God likes to keep me humble. So He’ll let things come at me that I have no idea how to handle. And I flail around ridiculously for a while until I finally break down and ask for help, like I should have done first. But I don’t like admitting I have no answers. I don’t like being the person who stares blankly at a hurting friend’s face and has nothing helpful to say. I may not like it, but it’s the truth. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t always know what to say.

You’d think that by now, after all these years following the Lord, I wouldn’t need Him as much. You’d think I could stand on my own by now. But that’s not the case. I need Him more now than I did as a child, because I’ve come to understand just how big the world is and just how little I really know about any of it.

Are you feeling lost today, trapped in a situation you can’t find answers for? Are you flailing around trying to fix an impossible circumstance, doing the best you can with what you have and utterly failing? Have you hurt someone else? Have you screwed up big time? Join the club.

Just know you aren’t supposed to have all the answers. That’s God’s job. Your job is to ask God for help, to listen to His answers, and put them into practice.

You don’t have to know everything. Isn’t that a relief? Isn’t that a weight off your shoulders? You simply can’t have the answers to all of life’s problems. It’s too big for you. But it’s not too big for God, and if you believe in Jesus, you have free access to God’s ear, to God’s wisdom, and to God’s strength.

Momma red panda at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Say thanks before the joy fades

When you talk to God and ask Him for things, do you ever really expect a response? I mean, seriously, do you honestly expect Him to reply to you? Maybe not in an audible voice but in some way that you can’t deny it’s Him?

Momma red panda at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Momma red panda at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 28:7.

The Lord is my strength and shield.
    I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
    I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

When God has answered prayers for me recently, He’s done it in a specific way that tells me and shows me exactly who He is. And in the last month, even though it’s been difficult, I can tell you that I have greater trust in Him than I ever have.

And I can identify with David in this when he wrote, “He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.”

Has that ever happened to you?

It’s like a camera flash when you realize exactly what’s happening, when exactly what you asked for occurs. Warm and blinding but then kind of leaves you with a tingly feeling. Maybe that’s just me. For me, it takes a few moments to get over the actual shock of it but then, I can’t stop grinning. Or crying. Or both. Because knowing that God hears you and understanding that God hears you are two very separate concepts.

God, the inventor of the sunrise, the shaper of the universe, the genius behind the duck-billed platypus, listens to our requests and many times answers. And He doesn’t just answer; many times, He answers personally. It’s like getting the perfect Christmas gift from someone who knows you better than you know yourself.

I’ve got the joy part down. What I sometimes forget is the thanksgiving part. Sometimes it’s hard for me to move past the shock that He actually answered. Other times, I move on from the shock straight into action, like the nine lepers Christ healed who didn’t come back to say thank you (Luke 17:11-19). And I need to be like the one who came back and thanked Him.

Joy is great. And understanding the concept of Someone like God paying attention to our requests is beyond awesome. But let’s not take it for granted. We need to make sure He knows that we’re thankful.

So tell Him. Like you’re talking to a friend on the phone. My new car God provided me with has integrated Bluetooth so I can talk on the car’s connection, but I’m sure it looks like I’m nuts. But that’s sort of what it’s like, talking to God (not that you’re nuts; but that you’re just talking).

Tell Him what you’re thankful for. He wants to hear. Yes, He knows if you’re thankful, but something happens when you tell people you’re thankful. It’s a humility thing. It deepens your relationship because you’re admitting that someone else did something for you that you might not have done for yourself.

So tell Him. He’s waiting to hear from you. Don’t let that joy you felt when you realized the answer came from Him fade away. Do it now.

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Answers

God isn’t required to answer our prayers. You realize that, right? He’s God, and He can do whatever He wants with what is His. That’s what being Sovereign means. And since everything belongs to Him, He can do anything He wants. He can squash us, or He can save us. He can listen to us, or He can ignore us. It’s up to Him.

If it were me, I’d write us all off. Our entire species. Our entire world. We’re just broken, idolatrous people who have every reason to know the truth but still deny it because we want to live the way that “makes us happy” in spite of what it will do to us. But God doesn’t do that. He doesn’t write us off, and He never gives up on us. And that shocks me.

He says He answers prayer. He does. It’s all over the Bible. But when He actually does — and does in a big way — I never know what to say.

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 3:4.

I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain.

This is just one of many many examples in Scripture where God demonstrates that He hears us and that He listens and that He acts on what we request. Which is nuts. For God to act because we ask Him to? Seriously?

Granted, there are many times when what we ask for isn’t truly in our best interests. It’s those requests that He doesn’t answer. Unfortunately, it’s those requests that we set our hearts on so intently that when He doesn’t answer (the way we want) we give up on Him.

But there is a right time and a wrong time for every event in our lives. If we rush ahead of God and try to make our request happen on our own, it might be the wrong time for it to happen. And what’s even scarier, God may let it. He may not stop the wheels you put in motion. And it’s not that you’ll be on your own facing the consequences, but it will be a lot more of a struggle to make it through than it would have been if you let God work for you.

When God’s time is right, when your request mirrors His heart, He will answer. So don’t let it shock you. Because He really does answer. He really does listen. I’ve posted many times before about how we need to expect God’s answers to our prayers, but maybe I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. Because He answered about five really huge requests just in the last week … so huge that it left me speechless.

Not in surprise that He can do it. He’s God. He can do anything. But in shock that He really does listen and that He really will answer specifically in the way you ask.

So if you need something from God today, ask Him for it. Because He answers. The only reason He wouldn’t answer is if your request is self-serving or if the time just isn’t right yet. So if your motivation is sound, just keep asking, and He’ll answer when the time is right. Because He’s God and He knows what’s good for us and He answers prayer.

The Bible is a road map . . . and it’s not nearly as confusing as MapQuest.

Where do you go when you need answers? Do you ask your friends? Do you ask your parents? Do you Google your question and see what the internet forums have to say? Do you look to see if Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil or Oprah has a new book out that will explain the meaning of life?

As Christians, there’s only one place we need to go to get the answers we need to live life.

Today’s verse is 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

From a young age, I learned how important than verse is. No other “religious” texts claim anything like this. This verse identifies all Scripture as being breathed to live by God Himself, though the writers He chose, and it specifies where we are supposed to look for direction when we’re feeling lost.

The Bible has often been compared to a road map. It contains all the information we need to get through each day. The difficulty is, you have to read it before it will make a difference. And for some reason, so many Christians have bought into the lie that the Bible is confusing.

Kind of like people bought into the lie that the Constitution is confusing. It’s not. Granted, the language the Constitution was written in is old but if you care enough about it, you can understand it.

The Bible is exceedingly more important than the Constitution and it’s even been translated into modern languages like the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT) . . . and if those aren’t simple enough, there are even fantastic paraphrases like The Message. And though paraphrases aren’t good for intense Bible study, they’re great if you’re looking to understand the main concept behind a passage.

For example, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 in The Message begins in verse 14 because that’s where the main concept of the passage begins:

14-17But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers—why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother’s milk! There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

It’s not hard to understand. And it’s not difficult to read.

But it is painful sometimes.

The only difficult part about reading Scripture is having our mistakes and our sins exposed to us. But we need to remember that everyone who reads Scripture will feel the same way and that’s the reason God gave it to us. Read today’s verse again!

 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

That is why we have Scripture. It not only points us in the right direction and warns us about pitfalls and dangers in our path, it also shows us the errors and the rebellion and the mistakes we’ve made and demonstrates what it means to live a godly life.

And on top of all that, Scripture explains why we don’t have to worry. We don’t have to pay for our sins, remember? We do need to turn from them and recognize that they aren’t helpnig us. But once we get to that point and believe that Christ paid the penalty for us and accept that free gift of salvation, we don’t ever have to be afraid of judgment.

John 3:16 is probably the most famous verse in the Bible but usually people stop there, but read all the way to verse 21. Here it is in the Message:

16-18“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

 19-21“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”

God intended for us to be alive today, in this very moment, becuase He has a purpose for us. And even though life is hard sometimes and confusing and twisted up and painful, there’s only one place we need to go when we need answers. It’s not our friends or our family or the talking heads on television. It’s the Bible.

It’s not hard to understand. God gave it to us so that we could know for sure what we needed to do every day of our lives. We just have to be humble enough to accept what Scripture says and apply it to our actions. Otherwise, what’s the point?