seeing Your goodness in the land of the living.

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“How do you reconcile the two? The goodness of God with the pain and brokenness of life. How do you make sense of it all?”

 

It’s after midnight, and the three of us are sitting around on the floor of our room, Bibles in our laps, honesty hour for each of us. After a long day of travel and unexpected experiences, we’re exhausted and cutting right to the heart of what we’ve all been walking through.

 

“I guess…I don’t know exactly. I think I often tend to believe that God doesn’t have to be good to me to still be good.”

 

I pause for a moment, and gather my thoughts.

 

“Almost this: I know I don’t deserve His love, so I see the love He does give me as a beautiful, wonderful gift, and everything else as extra. I don’t think that’s right or healthy, but that’s how I tend to reconcile it. He doesn’t have to be good to me in my mind for me to still believe He’s good.”

 

*

 

This has been a season of wrestling with truth, and wrestling with God.

 

A season of living – a season of seeing if what I believe holds any weight. Seeing if I believe that grace is really for me when I fall short, that I am loved in my weakness, that God is enough when I know nothing else is.

 

And it has been a season where I’ve had to decide if what I believe about God is accurate, or if I’ve been seeing Him through a broken lens this whole time.

 

As we sat on that bedroom floor, I verbalized for the first time the script that had been playing in my head and my heart, and thought about the way I had been viewing God for so long. For a good amount of time, I’d convinced myself that expecting anything from Him was selfish, and I was setting myself up for disappointment if I believed on Him for anything more than salvation.

 

That script works, until it doesn’t. It masquerades as a holy, selfless view of God, but when put into practice, is often the manifestation of doubt and fear.

 

I doubt that God will do good things for me because I am afraid of being disappointed.

I am afraid that my life will not turn out the way I want it to, so I doubt that God will be faithful to me specifically.

 

*

 

A few months back, I started incorporating “self-counseling sessions” into my journaling practice. I start with asking all the deep, hard questions of myself, slowly getting everything out in the open that I know has been going on in my head. I consider the questions slowly, and do my best to answer them as honestly as I can – and let myself be okay with not having answers for a while, if that’s the case.

 

And so, some of these self-counseling sessions go a little bit like this.

 

Do I believe God is all-good?

Yes – but do I believe that God is good to me, personally?

 

Do I believe God is all-powerful?

Yes – but do I truly have faith that He can do all things and will intervene in my life when He so chooses?

 

Do I believe God is all-loving?

Yes – but do I believe that He loves me in all of my mess and my weaknesses, that my shortfalls do not diminish His love for me, and that He would not have created me if He did not love me unconditionally?

 

Do I believe that I can trust Him with my life?

I don’t know. Do I?

 

*

 

There is a vast space between what we say is true, and how we live because of what we subconsciously believe. Deep belief cannot help but influence our actions, so we must get to the heart of the ideas we have incorporated into our mindsets.

 

The key belief that’s wrong here is that I fall into thinking that God’s goodness concluded with Jesus two thousand years ago – and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The grace and the faithfulness of God did not stay on the cross.

 

The idea that “God doesn’t have to be good to me to still be good” runs counter to His character. If God is good, He will be good to me. If He promises that He is trustworthy, He is worthy of all of my trust. If He is faithful, He will be faithful to me.

 

It sounds so simple, so trite. Of course He’s good. Of course He’s trustworthy. Of course He’s faithful. Yet, what keeps us from believing it with everything? What keeps us from trusting Him for all the things we know we cannot control? What keeps us in fear when we know His character so deeply? What keeps us from internalizing what we know to be true and letting Him be God?

 

We do not trust Him fully because we are afraid of life turning out in a way that we do not want, and it makes us uncomfortable to think that His goodness and our comfort may not overlap.

 

*

 

One of my favorite verses in the world is Psalm 27:13 –  I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

 

Here on earth, we will see the goodness of God. Tangibly, truly, deeply – we will unquestionably see His goodness.

 

And again – that doesn’t mean He always fixes our messes. It doesn’t mean we’ll avoid suffering the effects of living in a broken world. It doesn’t mean that we won’t still struggle or that somehow we’re not human anymore.

 

But it does mean that He’s with us in the mess. It means He loves us in spite of all our failure and fear and brokenness and calls us holy in His sight. It means He cares about each of us individually and personally, and delights in giving us good gifts.

 

He was good to us when He sent Christ on the Cross, and that alone should fill our lives with joy and hope in the grace that sets us free from sin and death. And even beyond that, He’s good to us, right here, right now, today. There’s nothing we can do to lose His love and faithfulness toward us. Absolutely nothing.

 

He wants us. This God, this Creator of the vastest of galaxies and oceans and mountains wants us – our small, fragile, imperfect human souls. He’s good. And if He is good, then He is good to us. And we will see that goodness here, in the land of the living.

 

aj 2

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What We’re Getting Wrong About Holiness

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Holiness is not and can never be ankle-length skirts, purity rings, or immersion in Christian media to try to fight against the world. Holiness is so much more than that, and we’ve taught ourselves to settle for the symbols instead of the real thing.

 

I think it’s time we change that.

Continue reading “What We’re Getting Wrong About Holiness”

my story isn’t over yet.

 

My Story Isn't Over Yet.

My story isn’t over yet.

 

I gently ink these words onto my left forearm, pen gliding along my skin, the letters coming out with lines and loops.

 

The words echo in my head, bringing me peace and hope that wasn’t there before.

 

It isn’t over for me –

 

I mark a semicolon on the edge of my wrist.

 

I know the One who holds the pen to my story.

 

** Continue reading “my story isn’t over yet.”

Trusting God Through the Journey (+ giveaway winners!)

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Every good story involves some kind of journey.

 

I’ve been thinking about my journey a lot, lately. Thinking about how in five years I’m gonna look back on this moment and remember the things I felt, the things I thought, what I did and who I spent my time with and how I lived my life, and I’ll be so far removed from those things then.

 

I’m looking ahead to the day I’ll look back and see how things have changed.

 

How I’ve changed.

 

How those around me have changed.

 

Because even now, I look back, and I’ve learned, and grown, and changed so much. Even the very way I approach life now is so different. I have different perspectives, different struggles, different voices in my life I listen to.

Continue reading “Trusting God Through the Journey (+ giveaway winners!)”

Christmas is Here (& a little break too)

Hi there, friends.

 

It’s crazy how fast time flies – here we are again, and it’s Christmastime once more.

 

Just wanted to post a quick note to say that you probably won’t see any posts until January. We all need a break every now and then, and one especially to keep our focus on Christ as things become busy and stressful.

 

I hope you all get a chance to truly feel the love of Christ this Christmas. We’re so often fixated on the packages, the food, the company, the hustle and bustle – and yet, there is One who is far more significant than these trivial things we fill the season with. There is a peace, a love, a goodness, and a joy that far outweighs the cheap thrills we get from our society’s hightly commericalized Christmas.

Continue reading “Christmas is Here (& a little break too)”

When God Feels So Far Away

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What do you do when God feels so far away? When there seems to be no feeling at all, no Voice, no overwhelming peace? Just the absence of anything deeper?

 

That isn’t how I wanted to start this post. I wanted it to sound beautiful, inspiring, but though it’s laced with desperation, it’s imperatively honest. Because for this past week, and maybe even for this past month, I’ve been there.

 

It took me a while to come to that conclusion – to be truthful with myself – to let myself admit that I haven’t been feeling my faith recently.

 

At first thought, I was horrified that it would even cross my mind that perhaps God wasn’t speaking to me as I clearly remember Him doing. It terrified me that maybe…I’ve been relying on myself so much, that life’s been so good, so easy lately, that I’ve forgotten my need to rely upon Him.

Continue reading “When God Feels So Far Away”

My Ink-Stained, Remembrance-Filled Practice

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Hey, can I let you in on a little secret?

 

Yes, you. Right here, right now.

 

I have a pretty good memory, for the most part. I can recall so many details from conversations and places and events that happened ten years ago. I can remember sights, smells, tastes, emotions, all so vividly.

 

But there is one thing that I can so easily forget…and that’s goodness.

 

Not goodness in the world, I don’t mean that. Look up random acts of kindness on Tumblr and they’re right there. Goodness isn’t too difficult to find in people’s actions, even when this sinful world’s in chaos.

 

But sometimes…I forget those simple truths I’ve known for years. Sometimes, I forget the goodness of God.

Continue reading “My Ink-Stained, Remembrance-Filled Practice”

The Difference Between Santa and Jesus

The Difference Between Santa and Jesus 

This is part 4 (the final part) in my Christmas series. See the first three parts also: Peace on Earth, Christmas is Love, and Are We Happy Yet?.

 

Just to let you guys know, this is my last post of the year before I take a little break. I’m planning on coming back January 5th after a recharge and refresh, and sharing some new surprises with you all. Feel free to peruse the tag list to find posts on certain topics, or go and leave comments on any post you’d like, because I’ll still get notifications and will be responding.

Onto the post ahead!

 

Ah, we’ve come down to the inevitable. A Christmas-y term that most of us have heard a thousand times. Good will toward men. And, before you ask, no, I’m not talking about the thrift store. (Though Goodwill is pretty cool.)

 

A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation discussing the true meaning of Christmas and what attributes we associate with it. We went through the general “peace, love, joy, happiness, kindness, goodness, giving, good will toward men” list. And I started thinking, “What really is ‘good will?’”

 

So many people put an emphasis on goodness at Christmas. For crying out loud, don’t disappoint the Elf on the Shelf (and therefore forfeit your gifts by being naughty), make sure to be respectful to your parents while the relatives are around, and by all means be civil and nice, and open the door for the lady with a hundred overfull Christmas packages.

 

Because being good is…good? I think?

 

Nobody says this of course, but being good brings us good things too, and who wants to pass them up?

 

At the heart of Christmas, we need to see our motives. Why exactly are we emphasizing goodness now?

 

For children, I can attest that in the average home, they are well-behaved for the gifts. With the threat of getting coal in their stockings (and what about those kids with gas or electric fireplaces?), everyone will be good. “We should be kind around ‘the holidays,’” they all say.

 

My question still stands. WHY?

 

By teaching kids from a young age that good behavior gets good rewards, we do not instill the value of true goodness. We teach good ol’ bribery.

 

If you obey, you get good things. OBEY, YOU HEAR ME?

 

The problem with this mindset is that God does not operate on Santa’s terms. And to instill into human beings the need to be good in order to earn rewards, we completely contradict the whole message of Christmas.

 

Here is the Santa Christmas message.

 

Be naughty. >> Be threatened into being nice. >> Be nice in order to secure your rewards. >> Receive rewards.

 

The whole Santa story revolves around insecurity propelling us toward goodness, not grace propelling us.

 

Let me elaborate a little more.

 

The message we were introduced to at Christmas is the message of grace.

To borrow Christmas terms, this is how our lives work according to the Gospel of grace.

 

Be naughty. >> Be offered grace and forgiveness from God. >> Receive that grace. >> Live a life in light of that grace. Be good – a good that stems from understanding what that grace is.

 

There is no reward system to earn salvation, grace, or forgiveness. It’s free. And that’s what divides Santa from Jesus.

 

That’s what divides between being good to earn something, and being good because you know you could NEVER earn something that was freely given you.

 

Goodness is good at Christmastime. Honestly, I think it is absolutely pleasant and wonderful when people pay attention to how they’re acting and make an effort to help others. It makes the world a sweeter place to be in, when everything crazy is going on around us.

 

But the question we should all ask ourselves when we are stressing “Good will toward men!” should be this: “Why good will? Why kindness? Why all this?”

 

The answer?

 

Grace.

 

Grace is what brought us to the place we are at. Grace is the meaning of Christmas. Grace is love and forgiveness to us at the darkest and most sinful point of our being.

We are to live and love propelled by grace, for without the grace of God, we would not be in the place we are at.

 

Salvation is not earned. Salvation is given to us and then received.

 

Let us fix our eyes on this truth as we approach Christmas. Good will toward men because we are loved, forgiven, and made new.

Thank you all so much for your readership this year, it means so much to me. Have a wonderful Christmas, and I’ll see you next year!

 

*aj