So she named the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are El-roi,’ for she said, ‘In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?’
How is life, friend? Is it good? Is it rough? Are you confused? Scared? Alone?
Are you joyous? Celebratory? Excited about things to come?
I don’t know how life is for you in this season. I don’t have to know either. But I do know that life can be frustrating at times. Maybe we find ourselves in a mess of our own making. Maybe in a mess of another’s making. Whatever the case, I want to write to you who are confused. Scared. Alone. In a rough season of life.
I know your pain. I know the frustration and fear. The anxiety and confusion. I know what it’s like. Albeit I don’t know what it's exactly like for you, but I do know how it has been for me and so I empathize and sympathize.
More importantly, God knows what it’s like. Jesus was the suffering servant who experienced rejection, loneliness, hate, and more (Is. 53). Not only does he know what it’s like, he also sees us in our distress. And this reality is why I love the story of Hagar.
She was an Egyptian slave girl with a sketchy past and a tough situation. She ran from her problems and more than likely experienced loneliness, fear, rejection, and confusion. Her only gameplan was to run. And yet, the Almighty saw her and met her in her distress.
Hagar’s story was messy and we would, regrettably, likely shy away from someone who has a similar story today. However, God was not surprised or embarrassed by Hagar’s story; neither is he surprised or embarrassed by your story or current situation.
On the contrary, dear friend, he knows where you are. He knows your pains and frustrations. He knows your emotions; he knows your fears. Wherever you find yourself today, take heart! Your God is the God who sees! There is no darkness so dark that he cannot see you. There is no window so foggy that he cannot see through. There is no situation so messy that he won’t touch.
He sees you in this moment with the tear in your eye as you ask if he has forgotten you (Ps. 22.1). He takes note of your fears and concerns and notices every tear you cry (Ps. 56.8).
If you feel he has lost sight of you, cry out and speak to the God who sees. He will speak in the proper time. His silence does not mean he is ignoring you or that he is unconcerned. Rather, he is always at work, revealing to you your need for him.
Know that he sees you and stay the course, dear friend.
On the Journey,
Read Genesis 16.
Pray and thank God that he sees you even when you can’t see him.
Calvary: Earth's greatest tragedy! Heaven's greatest triumph! --Adrian Rogers
It seems to me that there has been an increase in the highlighting of Christ’s physical suffering at Calvary. This is not a bad thing—after all, the Gospel writers devoted attention to the physical nature of what happened. For both the original audience and us, we are reminded that the Crucifixion is a historical event and that a real Jesus died on the Cross, rose from the dead, and ascended to the Heaven (Luke 22-24; Acts 1).
I fear, however, that in speaking so much of the physical aspect of what transpired on that Hill so long ago we lose sight of the spiritual truths at play. That’s what I want to focus on: 1) What happened at Calvary? 2) Why it still has bearing on our lives today.
In the interest of transparency, I’ve given a great deal of thought this year to what happened at Calvary and why it’s important today. As I have pondered these things, I am amazed that a tragedy-triumph can have so much bearing on us all these years removed—and that’s part of the beauty.
So, what happened at Calvary? In broad-brush strokes, Judgement, Forgiveness, and Redemption.
It was late December in the Smokies. I had taken a handful of College Students on a Winter Trip for the sake of a Winter Trip. The weather was unique—at times it was warm and humid and at others it was cold and wet. I packed for each option but did not fully understand the weather tendencies in Tennessee. On that trip, we hiked a trail in the National Park in Gatlinburg. My Pastor led this expedition, and I was excited (at first). However, as we hiked and the elevation increased, I realized just how unprepared I was. It was hot and humid. I was drenched in sweat. I could not breathe well. Yet, we kept going, and with each step, I grew more weary.
Eventually, we finished the hike, but not without me being totally exhausted. In a similar vein, the disciple’s journey can become weary. When it does, we are often tempted to throw in the towel and quit, or just stop trying all together and go through the motions. If that’s you, weary disciple, keep reading and be encouraged.
When you find yourself wearied by the journey, remember these things…
Your help comes from the Lord (Psalm 121).
The Psalmist begins by writing, “I lift my eyes toward the mountains,” and asking, “where will my help come from?” This is a statement of humility, dependency, weariness, and of finiteness. Yet, he also answers the question. His help “comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” The psalmist declares that God is our sustainer and protector (v. 3), our shelter (v. 5), our source of life (v. 7), and our guide (v. 8). And how long is God these things? Well, “both now and forever” (v. 8).
When you are weary from the journey, remember your help comes from the Lord and his power knows no end.
Your strength is found in the Lord (Eph. 6.10).
Paul begins his exhortation on Christian warfare by telling the Ephesians to “be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength” (Eph. 6.10). Now, in the immediate context, we know that we are empowered by God the Holy Spirit to kit up and put on the armor of God, but the application does go deeper. Notice that Paul says God’s strength is “vast” and that he strengthens us. When we are tired from the journey, we must remember that we have never been called to follow Jesus in our strength. At no point has God ever said to us that we are to follow in our own abilities and power. Rather, he said we are to trust him (Prov. 3.5-6).
Here’s the reality: We do not have the power in and of ourselves to follow Jesus. We must be empowered by God the Holy Spirit to do so, and for those who are in Christ, the empowering never ends.
Your weakness is no obstacle for the Lord (2 Cor. 12.9).
Some attempt to belittle Christians as weaklings, who simply use religion as a crutch. Well, the truth of the matter is that Christians are people who realize they are weak and must rely on the one who is not weak. Yes, it is a humbling thing to admit your weakness to God. But he already knows our weaknesses. Yet, he invites us to come and be honest with him (more on that next). Understand this: Your weakness is no obstacle for God.
When Paul wrestles with this idea, he finally settled on the reality that God’s “power is perfected in weakness.” He did not conjure this up himself. No, rather God the Holy Spirit led him to this conclusion. Your weaknesses and my weaknesses drive us to a greater dependency upon the Lord. Paul knew this. So, he boasted even more, knowing that in his weaknesses, Christ’s power resided in him.
Friend, embrace your weaknesses and know that God will never waste your pain.
The truth is no shock to the Lord (Ps. 51.6, 139.2).
God knows and understands our “thoughts from far away” (Ps. 139.2) and desires us to be honest with ourselves and with him (Ps. 51.6). You cannot be honest with the Lord until you are honest with yourself. Are you weary? Frustrated? Angry? Confused? Hurt? What are you and why? Do you not know what you feel and why you feel? That’s okay. Tell the Lord either way. Your thoughts and emotions will never shock God. Know that. Embrace it. Live it. There are countless times that I have said to the Lord: “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I feel, but I do feel some type of way.”
Be honest with the Lord. Yes, he already knows. However, we must tell him so that we can be healed. Emotions are not always right, but they are real. When we keep silent about them, our body grows weak (Ps. 32.3-5*).
You are cared for by the Lord (1 Kings 19; Mt. 6.25-34).
How many Saints have been ready to throw in the towel? Elijah wanted to die (1 Kings 19). Yet, the Lord cared for him. He told him to take nap and to eat and drink. God did this two times before telling him to get up and continue the journey.
God knows when we’re weary and how to meet us in our weariness. Know this: You are cared for by your Heavenly Father.
If you’re weary, keep going. If you’re ready to quit, don’t. If you’re weary, do rest in the Lord. Keep your head up and keep your eyes fixed on the mountains, knowing that your help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
On the journey,
P.S. Are you weary and need prayer? If you’d like me to pray for you, fill out the “Get In Touch” form. If you submit a prayer request and want to remain anonymous, simply put "John Doe" as the name and "NA@na.com" in the email line.
*While Psalm 32 is written after Psalm 51, the principle is the same. David’s unconfessed sin (and the emotions that came with it) took a toll on his body. When we remain quiet about what we feel, our body does tell truth, even if we won’t admit it.
I had several hurricane experiences growing up in Louisiana. Of the many, Hurricane Katrina was by far the worst and most memorable. Recently, Hurricane Ida came through and made landfall the same day Katrina did 16 years ago. Surprisingly, while the models were exceptionally accurate for Ida, that is not always the case.
The reality of any weather prediction is this: We can only predict. We cannot direct. We cannot force weather systems to do our bidding—to come or go, or to increase or decrease in intensity. We cannot direct it to do anything.
In fact, leading up to Ida, my neighbor (who is also from Louisiana) and I made predictions about the damage to come in the neighborhood. Our predictions were wrong and much worse than reality. We can predict, but we cannot direct.
In the same way, we cannot direct the events in our lives. We can predict what might happen, but we cannot force events. Granted, we can attempt to manipulate situations and circumstances, but we cannot direct them. Any attempt to direct (or manipulate) is folly.
Hurricane season is a simple reminder that we do not control as much as we’d like to think. However, while we cannot control events, we can control our response. So, what must our response be when faced with situations and circumstances that are out of our control?
We lean into God even more. We rest in him, knowing that he has all things under control. The one who is infinite can care for the one who is finite, but not the other way around. The one who calms the winds and waves is the one who calms the anxious mind and heart.
As followers of Jesus, we are often reminded that we are not in control. I look back on my journey with Jesus and see areas of my life that I believed I controlled, and I found myself in an absolute mess. My pastor has often said that we try to sit on a throne that is way too big for us and wear a crown that doesn’t belong to us. When we do this, we take “control” and make a mess of things.
Friend, what area of your life are you trying to control? Why not lay it down at the feet of Jesus? He never told us to sort it out, but rather to trust him. You cannot live a victorious, crucified life when you seek to call the plays.
On the journey,
A person’s own foolishness (folly) leads him astray, yet his heart rages against the LORD. -Proverbs 19.3 (CSB)
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. -Isaiah 26.3
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you. -1 Peter 5.6-7
When I am filled with cares, your comfort brings me joy. -Psalm 94.19
When I’m not at the office, I like to spend my time building things. Currently, I have multiple building projects going on and each one is vastly different. I enjoy each project and I get excited when I begin to enter the final stages of a project because I’m able to admire the work and move on to the next job.
While I get to enjoy this luxury [finishing projects] in my workshop, I do not enjoy this luxury in my walk with Jesus—and neither do you. I often find myself annoyed that I am not yet perfect. Now, I am not talking about perfectionism. No, no. Rather, I am talking about the struggle with sin. It is a continual battle that hardly ever relents! I walk with Jesus and yet I still sin. I walk with Jesus and yet still say and do dumb things. I seek to walk in humility and then stumble into pride without noticing. And my list (and yours) goes on.
As I have thought about this, I have realized a few things, and a few things that I hope will be an encouragement:
I am not who I was.
In 1 Cor. 6.9b-11, Paul wrote this: “Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or males who have sex with males, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Notice what Paul said: “Some of you used to be like this [drunkards, adulterers, sexually immoral, etc.]” But, for some of his readers, his preceding list of unrighteous people no longer applied to them. Why? Simply put: Jesus. They surrendered to Jesus and were changed. No longer were they enslaved to sin but were now at war with sin. Understand this: Sinners do not war with sin—only Saints do (Col. 3.1-17).
When I look at my life and my ongoing sanctification process, I often get annoyed and discouraged. However, by God’s grace, I am reminded that I am not who I was and that I am a new creation in Christ.
I am a new creation in Christ.
Talking about the new life in Christ, Paul wrote “the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5.17). In Christ, I am new and I am free. I am free to do that which I ought to do and am no longer captive to sin and darkness. What does this look like? Well, for starters, I also have a new mind—the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16). I can understand spiritual things and I can know God and be known by God (Gal. 4.9). I also have an eternal hope because Jesus is hope and is eternal (John 1.1; 1 Pt. 1.3). Therefore, I can walk the disciple’s journey regardless of how difficult it may become because he is the one who leads (Ps. 23).
I am not who I will be.
And this is the reminder I often give myself when I’m discouraged by the battle: I am not who I will be. Yes, I am a new creation in Christ, and nothing can ever change that. However, I have yet to fully realize the extent to which I am a new creation—that will come in the next life. Even so, here’s the hope: Because I have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the spirit of our God (2 Cor. 6.11), and am a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5.17), with the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16), I am now, “with [an] unveiled face, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and am being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3.18). And in the words of John: “Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when he appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is” (1 John 3.2).
Maturing in Christ is a process you and it will be in until we die or the Lord comes back. May we look to him to find our strength for today and the power to keep pursuing him. May we all commit to the pursuit of God and make it our life’s mission to “know him and the power of his resurrection from among the dead” (Phil. 3.11).
On the journey,