Deep Calls to Deep: What I’ve Learned Through Grief and Despair

No matter where the arms of a clock may land, there is never an ideal time to receive bad news. No amount of sugarcoating makes being told that you’re losing your job, that you’re not going to be able to attend you’re dream college, that you’ve got an illness that has no cure, that your significant other is leaving you, that you have cancer, or that your loved one has passed away any more bearable. Even if you’re braced for it — you’re still blindsided. Shell-shocked. Left with a pit in your stomach, your heart in free fall, and ringing in your ears. Suddenly, the world seems to flip. What was up is now down. Left has become right. You’re tossed around by wave after wave after wave of emotional and spiritual distress. Darkness descends upon you as the storm of grief, an ugly tempest, unexpectedly arrives at your door. Where do you go when the darkness closes in? What do you do when you find yourself sitting among the broken pieces of your heart? What are you to do?

Honestly, I do not know what to write. I have tried time and time again to make something coherent of my restless thoughts. I find that this is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever attempted to write. Honestly, this is more than I am able to process. A burden far beyond my ability to carry. A path that I am not able to navigate. I am at the end of myself. I have nothing left in me. Frankly, I do not know why I am writing this in the first place… For the last two months, grief has been my constant companion. the most bitter of fruits, an unexpected quest who’s outstayed its welcome. This season, utterly unbearable and quite insufferable, has left my heart rend, cleaved in two, and ground to dust. I continue to lose the words to say, and in the quiet moments, with stinging tears streaming down my face, I find myself crying out to God, “Why?”

Why would you do this, God? Why? Why? Why? I don’t understand! Help me! Help me understand, because I don’t! In my distress, I’ve cried out to God in worship with songs that speak to my present sorrows and to remind my weary, defeated soul that God is still good. Never, not for a moment, have I doubted God’s goodness, but I don’t feel it. I know, from the depths of my soul, that God is working in this season, but I don’t see it. Day after day, I have to preach God’s word to myself. I have to remind myself, and my broken heart, that God remains faithful no matter what I feel. In spite of what I see, God remains true. Yet, I continue to find myself asking God, pleading really, did it really have to be this way?

As I’ve searched through the scriptures, seeking anything that would comfort my anxious heart, I’ve found myself repeatedly in the psalms. Here, among the songs of psalmists, I have found that grief and despair exist simultaneously with joy and peace. I have chewed, day after day, on the vivid imagery and deep meaningful expressions of the psalmist in Psalm 42:

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

-Psalm 42 (ESV)

Here, within the words of the psalm, the psalmist is despairing. His heart hurting beyond measure, weighed down with an a burden seemingly unable to be carried. Yet, in the midst of such anguish, the psalmist is reminding himself that God is bigger than his pain. Hope in God; for I shall again praise him. In the moment of despair, the psalmist looked toward God and the hope that would come again. The psalmist writes as though he does not feel as though God is near to him and that he cannot see God in the midst of this present struggle. Hope is hard to come by as his heart and soul are overcome with grief. As I reflect upon my present anguish, I cannot help but see my life echoed in this psalm. How long must I keep going before I’m no longer over taken by the waves of grief? How long until my heart finds solid footing in God once again? Why are you cast down, my soul?

I feel so weak, so weary. At times, I feel like a broken record skipping and repeating as wave after wave crashes over me. Suddenly up and then suddenly down. Every day, I seem to learn something new about God’s mercies and the deep wounds of grief. I’ve come to learn that I’m not alone in my suffering. Somewhere, through my sobbing, I heard, as if a whisper, God tell me that it wasn’t suppose to be this way.

Losing my beloved friend has been the single greatest struggle of my life. This affliction has been and continues to be insufferable, unbearable, and has wounded me deeply. Death is not part of the natural order of life, because death was not apart of God’s original design. You and I are not equipped to process death! We should not know what grief feels like, to know what it feels like to be dying, or to have somebody that we love pass away. Our flesh, our minds do not know how to respond to these things because they were never intended to experience these things. When God created all things, placed Adam and Even in the garden, and gave them dominion, death was not apart of the equation. Death is the side effect of sin, and when sin entered the world all of creation groaned out. Deep calls to deep. All of creation, with Heaven, with God cries out in anguish because it’s design has been corrupted! Death has tarnished that which God has created.

This world, broken by sin, cries out to its creator. Bemoaning it’s fallen state. It’s cries echoed back from Heaven in an deafening roar of God’s glory and majesty! The psalmist is (metaphorically) caught in a sea that is churned up by restless winds, thrown about by massive waves that leave him desperate to catch his breath, as he’s deafened by roaring cries of his brokenness. His words back to God are not of desolation and destitution, but of lament. Where has God gone? Why has God forgotten me here as I stand among my brokenness? The psalmist is not doubting God’s presence or reality, but rather lamenting the lacking of feeling! The great disparity of what the psalmist knows in his heart and what he’s presently perceiving. This disconnect is perhaps best illustrated through attempting to walk when your leg is completely numb. Your mind knows that your leg is there and how to operate it, but you can’t really feel it. Thus, you either stumble along with your hand on any surface to help steady you or you stand and wait until you’re no longer incapacitated. Grief hinders our connection to God with its stormy interference.

Heaven roars back into the deep, the maelstrom, in recognition of the disparity that lay between it and the rest of creation. As though creation, in it’s anguish, is reaching up to Heaven seeking deliverance. Heaven reaching down to bring creation back across the fold with compassion. Our grief extends beyond just the immediate causes in this life. Grief, as incomprehensible and ill-equipped as we are, is the manifestation of the separation we have from God! Sin separated us from God. Sin brought death. Sin brought grief. The overwhelming brokenness I am feeling is an echo the brokenness I feel because I am, presently though saved by grace, separated from God. Moreover than the inexplicable, excruciating anguish that is ravaging my heart and my soul — God is angry that I am experiencing this!

Make no mistake about it, God is not taking any pleasure in our suffering! Even though we cannot see God through the storm. When we cannot hear His voice through the raging torrent. God is present with us in the chaos. God is among our brokenness! God is feeling heartache, just as you and I are, because He knows the depths of our souls! God did not create death. Death is not apart of His design. Death is part of the opposition of God’s plans. Thus, when death entered the world, God did something radical. Something that would upheave the new, unnatural order of life. God used death to give life!

Jesus knew that it wasn’t suppose to be this way. Death should have never had a place in creation, yet Jesus found himself grieved after learning that his beloved friend Lazarus has died. John 11:33 tell us that Jesus was “deeply moved in his spirit and was greatly troubled.” Even knowing what he was about to do next, Jesus felt the weight of loss. John MacArthur notes that Jesus may have been angered because he was indignant at the pain and sorrow in death that sin brought into the human condition. Jesus then wept (Jn 11:35). Weeping for the unbelief of those grieving at the tomb. Weeping for the unfairness that death instituted in creation. Whatever cause for Jesus’ weeping, we see, abundantly, that Christ felt as we feel. Paul, later, would write to the church at Thessaloniki to remind them that for those whose hope is found in Christ do not grieve as if they have no hope. We do not mourn as if this is the final stop. We have hope in tomorrow because of Christ. Jesus would go on to resurrect Lazarus in demonstration of his divine authority over creation. Even though he was resurrected by Jesus, Lazarus would go on to die again. The inevitable was delayed, as God continued to prepare the way for something greater.

I want to let you know that you are loved! Not generally, but specifically loved! When death separated us from God bringing darkness and despair with it, God did not stand by to leave creation as it was. God immediately began to work against death. God made moves to create a way for you and I to be reunited with Him once again! He did this because He loves you! Yes, you! Specifically you! God defeated death by dying! How amazing is that? That God loved you so much that He defeated death so that He could reconcile the relationship with you! The creator of the universe, El Shaddai, wanted a relationship with you so greatly, that He faced death in order to reconnect to you! Nothing can stand against God’s love for you! No amount of fear, despair, brokenness — nothing — can stand against His mighty love for you!

Jesus knew his purpose. He knew, exactly and entirely, what his mission was as he walked the earth. He healed people’s illnesses, raised people from the dead, showed compassion to the least of the least, and he revealed his true purpose by meeting people’s spiritual needs. Jesus came to conquer the very thing which had changed the natural order. Jesus came to defeat sin. With it, defeating death. Everything Jesus taught pointed to the plan God had for redemption. Jesus’ life demonstrated everything you and I could ever need. Trust in the Lord, your God. With your heart, with your needs, with your life!

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

-Matthew 6:25-27 (ESV)

Far too often, we get so caught up in our immediate circumstances that we lose sight of the bigger picture. We lose sight of God’s plan. We work ourselves up into a frenzy as we try so desperately to control our situations by our own power. We must surrender the need for control. God isn’t seeking to see us get stronger by our own sheer will, but moreover by our reliance upon Him for our strength. As believers, we lean into God’s power through prayer, through seeking His will, by laying our selfish desires aside, and taking up God’s will for our lives. Jesus understood his purpose, and even he went before God to ask for strength and to surrender to His will.

Hours before he would be seized, Jesus entered into Gethsemane to pray and I, in this present season, resonate with Christ’s words as he separates from his disciples: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death… (Mt. 26:38).” Anguish was building within Jesus’ soul. He did not fear the physical torment that he was about to endure, but rather Jesus was sorrowful because of the bitter cup he was about to be given. There, Jesus fell to his face and cried out to God, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as your will.” The cup, a symbol of divine wrath against sin throughout the Old Testament, was about to be given to Jesus. Upon the cross, Jesus would bear the sins of you and I and of all creation as the divine wrath against sin would fall upon him. All the anguish, the pain, the suffering was bore on the cross by Jesus. Jesus cries out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” — “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus died upon that cross. His fulfilling cry out to God, at this moment, was Christ experiencing the abandonment and despair that resulted from the cup being poured out upon him. He, Jesus, was the sin-bearer for you! Jesus paid the atoning price so that you and I could be reconciled back to God. Jesus died to defeat death. To defeat sin! God changed everything when He sent Jesus to die on the cross! Where sin had corrupted God’s original design, God had turned death against itself! When we lay out faith in Jesus, something radical happens. We are covered by the blood of Christ, the ultimate sacrifice, which nullifies the punishment for sin in our lives. We are able to have a relationship with God once again!

In your time of grief, of despair, you are not alone. God knows and feels the depravity of what you’re experiencing. He does not delight in it, but He calls out to you because this is not the end. For those whose faith is found in Christ, there is hope for tomorrow. Hope in God’s awesome, mighty, sovereignty! Jesus felt every bit of the pain and sorrow that you are inundated with. Knowing that this was what he came to earth to do, Jesus submitted himself to God’s will. His prayer to God, “not as I will, but as you will,” reveals how Christ’s humanity voluntarily surrendered to the will of the Father in all things so that there would be no conflict between the divine will and his desires. Jesus submitted himself to the will of the Father so that we may not grieve as those who have no hope. Jesus died so that we may have hope that defies all logic and understanding. Jesus died so that we may be able to weather through the tempest of grief in our times of crisis.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus prepared the way in which we should follow. Exemplifying laying our trust and our faith in God, and living that out in every facet of his life. At times, his disciples were baffled by Christ’s words and actions and Jesus, giving the most poignant of responses told them, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand (Jn 13:7).” Grief can breed many different responses. Consistently, I have found that grief obscures our ability to see God at work in the midst of our lives. Only through purposeful reflection, somewhere down the road, are we, then, able to more clearly see how God had been preparing the way. In the moment, we have great difficulty seeing beyond the brambles of our present suffering. Looking back, we can see how God was working to clear away the path He set us upon. Does this make trails and tribulations more bearable? Perhaps not. However, we may be grateful that God was there with us, working through our lives, to assist us as we continue down the trail set before us. Time and time again, I find myself crying out to God seeking “why?” Why did it have to be this way? The only answer that I have found is that I do not understand now, but one day I will. This has not eased my pain or my sorrow or my suffering, but it has eased my anxiousness. I can keep taking steps forward, though small and tepid at the moment, deeper in faith. This path, while presently twisted and choked out with thorns and thistles, is mine to tread. I am not alone on this path, however. God is with me, feeling as I feel. Picking me back up when the burden becomes too great to bear. Wading through the raging sea of pain and grief with me.

I have shed so many tears as I’ve written this article. Tasting the bitterness of my brokenness, and having my heart rend because I’ve had to preach these things to myself over and over and over again. I have a burden far beyond my ability to carry, and even as I set it down at the feet of Christ, I feel as though I’m only given more. I find it unbearable. The honest truth is that God will allow us to experience things that are so wildly, unbelievably beyond our abilities to carry, to process, and to experience on our own. His purpose being that we’re not intended to carry these burdens apart from Him. I wish that I could say that things have gotten easier, but they haven’t. My heart is pierced repeatedly by the very things that had once been sources of hope and delight that are now, suddenly, daggers of sorrow. At times, I feel so selfish because I wish for nothing more than for things to have been different. Reconciling what I would have hoped for and what God’s will has been, has been my greatest trial. Here, as I sit among the broken pieces of my heart and my life, I know that God is with me. He is putting things back together in a way unlike anything else. This process is not easy or comfortable or quick. But as the storm continues to rage around me and the tempest only grows more turbulent, I hear God whispering through it all, ‘I’m not finished yet.’ I reply, ‘not my will, but your will.’

Uninvited

Pulling out of the driveway of a rented beach house on a beautiful Saturday evening, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of loneliness and separation. There, within the confines of my vehicle, I felt as though I were a million miles away from the rest of the world and from myself. In the heaviest of traffic, I was seized and wretched by this unseen force with tears dammed just beneath the surface ready to breech. In an instant, the bottom dropped out and my heart plummeted into a depths of the abyss. How could this be? Where did this come from? Why do I feel so numb to everything? My world was flipped in one instantaneous moment and has continued to linger since.

My weekend leading up to this moment had been one of the best experiences I’ve had with my friends in a long time. Thursday night we packed into a theater ready to experience all that was Avengers: End Game. The following day was met with one of my favorite pastimes, baseball. Myself and three of my most favorite friends loaded up my car to head to the stadium. We had the most lovely of times watching the game, sharing in laughs over the heckler sitting a row behind us, and the well orchestrated fireworks that followed the game! We truly did have a wonderful evening together. Saturday brought with it a crawfish boil where even more of my friends gathered together to share in fellowship and fun. Yet, just mere hours later, I was struck by the cold, numb feeling of loneliness.

Loneliness is defined as “being without company, cut off from others, not frequented by human beings, sad from being alone, and producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation” by Merriam-Webster. Britannica states that loneliness “occurs when a person’s social relationships are perceived by that person to be less in quantity, and especially in quality, than desired” and highlights the highly subjective nature of loneliness. One may be alone, but not feel lonely whereas one may be surrounded by others and feel lonely. At this time, I fall in the second camp as I’m surrounded by many incredible people who I have strong relationships with, but I feel lonely. Outwardly, I may not appear as though I am hurting but that couldn’t be further from reality. I am not putting up a front or trying to hide my pain, which is, perhaps, why being under this particular mood or temperament is so difficult for me.

Pain comes in many forms, but, unlike physical pain, loneliness hurts without anything inflicting a wound. Loneliness attacks the heart and it’s fragile brokenness is only exaggerated by the spotlight that is isolation. The best way I can describe it for myself is an overarching feeling as if I am just a bystander to other people’s lives and successes. An inconsequential, obscure blur as the world passes by like the trees on the side of the road as your stare out of the car window. The reality is that loneliness hurts unlike any other pain one experiences, and is difficult to describe beyond general abstractions like the definitions given above. In my case, I am not without company, or cut off from others. I am frequently around human beings, and I am not sad from being alone. I may be down, I may feel sad, but my sadness does not stem from being away from others.

Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston seats 41,168 people, which is incredible considering the stadium does not feel as though it is as large as it actually is. Then again that’s what good stadium design is suppose to do. All things considered, being one face in a massive crowd reveals one of the more frustrating aspects of loneliness — just because you’re around people does not mean that you’re not lonely. You may feel fine and know that you’re on good terms with your circle of friends, but you can still feel distant and cold. For myself, I become frustrated by this because I am waging war between what is real and how I currently feel. Bemoaning the difficult navigation that I must take in order to remain rooted during such times of intense loneliness. However, this too shall pass.

The mind is a curious thing, and is not impervious from the affects of sin. We must be graceful and cautious in our approach to addressing these matters. While we may be well-intentioned in our words and actions, we may inadvertently provide ill-informed advice and care to those who are hurting. As someone who has, off and on, experienced loneliness and depression, I can speak to the illogical thoughts and feelings that appear when experiencing such matters. While we may know that the thoughts of loneliness and sadness are not true or unfounded, we are burdened by the weight the circumstances we find ourselves in. Loneliness and depression can go hand-in-hand with one another, and oft times come in relationship to one another. For myself, loneliness came first and then the mild depression. As I write this now, both have passed and been removed from their residences in my life. As unwelcome of guests as they may be, I have had to reflect upon myself and the tendencies I have in how I respond to changes in my emotional and mental well-being.

I have, without a shadow of a doubt, been called into ministry. Looking back through life, I see the path and opportunities God placed before me to bring me to where I am today. He has sought my heart and obedience so that I may want His will over my will. However, as I’ve gone deeper and deeper into this process, I have learned from my peers and friends who are in ministry of the dangers of this calling. One fact that I have seen in my life and in others, is that those who are called into ministry are attacked through different means. One of the more quiet, less visible means by which they are attacked is loneliness. In leading others, in serving others, and in creating a space for people to flourish, the illusion may appear that ministers/pastors/leaders are without suffering. Do not be fooled! We can easily forget that we are all broken, because of the way in which people carry themselves. Not that people are putting up a front or trying to wear a mask, but we carry ourselves in a manner based on who God says that we are. Our hope and trust in God dictates how we conduct ourselves in spite of whatever trial we may be facing.

Having said all that I have, I recognize that I have some areas which may feed these uninvited guests. Firstly, I tend to put other’s needs above my own. I favor lifting others up over speaking up that I am hurting. Secondly, I can fall into the trap of belief that because others do not show the same level or awareness of compassion that I do, that must mean that others do not care. We are all gifted very different and have different skill sets suited for different tasks. I happen to be called to and gifted in counseling which has very specific methods of execution. Much of my expectations in being cared for stem from my own background, which is not how most people are going to operate. Finally, I carry/conduct myself very particularly and as a leader among my church family, the perception seems to be that I have life figured out and that life is easy. None of us, in reality, believe that anyone else’s lives are perfect or easy or without their struggle. We do, however, sometimes forget that reality for any number of reasons. I’m guilty of this too.

As I finish writing this post, these feeling have since subsided and been subdued. Loneliness and depression are uninvited guests who can linger for some time or pass quickly. Fortunately, both have moved on quickly in realization that I am not going to wallow in self-pity and self-doubt. I have a community that is focused on transparency and accountability who I can rely upon to walk with me through whatever season I find myself in. I wish to encourage you, whomever may be reading this, to seek out a community who will serve you, love you, and walk through every season with you! If you are hurting and in despair, lean in to those around you! Surround yourself with other who love you and care for you and be willing to speak up about the difficult parts of your life. Be willing to let go of the bondage of loneliness, depression, and sin and find hope, freedom, and mercy in the hands of God! Be brave, not matter the fear or doubt you may have, to speak up when you are hurting. Rely upon those God has placed in your life and trust in His purposeful placement of those around you!

Not My Way, but Your Way

I’m done. I tired of seeking my own end. Tired of trying to force my will upon Him. I’ve had enough! Who am I to put God in a box? Who am I to limit what God is capable of accomplishing? I am but a speck of dust, small and inconsequential compared to majesty and might of God! He is so much bigger than myself that I cannot even begin to comprehend the infinite vastness of His work! He is far better than I could ever be and He is working all things together for His good!

Last year while having a conversation with a friend about what God was doing in their life, they phrased something that has stuck with me ever since. They, in speaking of God, we’re feeling God drawing them out asking them to “doubt their doubts.” To let go of their hesitations and to run fully, freely into the calling God has placed upon their lives! The last year was just that, me slowly responding to God as he beckoned me out beyond my expectations and put into place things behind my wildest imagination!

I’ve been to three Passion Conferences, and each has been mightily impactful in nudging me into deeper faith and at chipping away at my heart. This year I did not sense that much was of what was shared was directed at me, but as I sit here now, I know that I’m wrong. Passion highlighted just how little I really do know… all the seminary classes, bible studies, and research I’ve done is moot… because God is better than I thought. Bigger than my intellect. Bigger than my understanding. Bigger than my doubt. I’ve been the skeptic. I’ve been the cynic. I’m done with trying to make sense of everything. I’m tired of trying to have everything boil down to something logical. I’m tired of the up and down.

God has made it quite apparent that His way is far better and stable than my own. I am going to cling to Him with all that I am! I’m committing myself to the path that He has laid and I’m going to be faithful to follow Him! Not my way, God, but your way! Not my will, but your will!


Y’all, I really don’t know what to say. For once in my life I am grasping at the words to express this feeling, this stirring in my heart and soul. Alas, I have not… any term or phrase which adequately describes where I am at in this moment.

I feel like a waterfall of emotions is cascading down around me; joy, peace, fear, doubt, love, praise, want, and so much more. This is not turmoil… but rather something stirring deep within my soul. If my suspicions are correct, this is God shaking me up and preparing me for something different. Revealing where I’ve resisted change, where I’ve let son take root, where I need to change. God is preparing me for something, and for the first time in a long time I feel something that only really appeared when I first took steps in faith.

I am not entirely sure where this started or how I got here. A sudden crash of emotions and overflowing of my heart, perhaps… I’m not even sure what I’m trying to communicate. I just know that God has been too good to me… and I have been so underserving… so unfaithful…

One Piece at a Time

Legos were one of my absolute most favorite toys growing up. The nearly infinite combinations and arrangements and assortments of the vastly varied pieces lent to great creativity. I, also, grew up during the resurgence of the Lego Company during a time in which they licensed popular entertainment properties to make in their now famous sets. When you buy a new Lego set, they come readily packaged in numbered plastic pouches and with a handy, but easily lost booklet of assembly instructions. A step-by-step guide to building a completed masterpiece and, sometimes, creative projects that can be made from the same parts found in the set. 

The fun of Legos are that you have a completed project to work on. I would spend countless hours assembling sets, staging epic battles, and getting lost into my imagination. However, Legos also take up a great deal of space while assembled and so they had to be torn apart for storage. Even now, I have boxes upon boxes of thousands upon thousands of Lego bricks just thrown together. What I no longer have is the instructions to reassemble all the parts of the sets that I have. With enough time and sorting I may be able to assemble most of what I had… granted that the vacuum has more than likely claimed more parts than it would like to admit. The fun of Lego comes in the construction and the inevitable destruction. Part of the fun was building massive towers out of all the assorted bricks until it would reach the point of no return. Hundreds of bricks go flying everywhere with a loud, plastic-y crash and I’m left with a gleeful smile! 

The thing about Legos was that I never had to think about how to put something together. I always had the instruction manual close at hand to help guide me through the process until I was left with the finished product. Unlike Legos, we are not given a step-by-step instruction manual for life. Life is not packaged in conveniently sorted packages for each stage we inhabit. We do not all share one path in which we progress through life. Life is more akin to the box of assorted bricks, a smorgasbord of randomly, colorfully mixed parts. We each have a foundation in which to work with, but the end products end up looking vastly different from one another.

God has created very purposefully and intentionally. He knows exactly how He wants to assemble us, but God didn’t give us an instruction manual which tells us how to get a job, how to be a husband, to be a productive adult. Why? Because God has set each of us down different paths. For some of us, we are walking down similar paths. but they’re not carbon copies of the others. Some of us walk a rather isolated path in which we rub shoulders with few headed the same way. God did not give us a step-by-step guide on how to walk through life, but rather a book on how we should live! The Bible tells us who God is, why He created us, why He works the way that He does, and how we should strive to conduct ourselves.

Life is full of unexpected changes. Challenges that seem unachievable. Times of great success and of great difficulty. Through this God is not looking for us to have a plan on how to get through it but that we would be faithful to lean on Him for direction and instruction. Proverbs 16:9 states, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” We are very much free to plan our way through life but many of us are rigidly locked into our own perspective toward life. We, very arrogantly, go through life in a mindset of doing things our way. What inevitably happens is that we go head strong in the direction our hearts yearn for, and we reach the tipping point… and have no idea what to do. We stand on the precipice after pursuing what our hearts wish for in fear. 

Why is this a problem? Because the heart wanders and yearns for many things. It is constantly distracted by the superfluous. The heart focuses on what the best of what it wants while minimizing the issues. What the verse above reveals about us, is that we’re terrible at knowing what we want. If you’re like me (single, late twenties, etc.) then you’ll understand how you start wanting something that you don’t have, especially as your close friends are seemingly getting into relationships, getting engaged, and eventually married and you ask yourself why its not happening to you. In your heart, you desire to be in a relationship, but you aren’t seeing the full picture… but God is. The other half of the verse reveals something to us about God. That He is the one working in us and around us, guiding our steps, providing opportunities to be faithful to Him while we are where we are at.

God is the one laying bricks, constructing each of our paths. He is actively working around us (I’m hesitant to mention the flashing orange lights, orange “construction zone” signs, and orange safety vest…) preparing us for life. God is not asking us to do anything more than to be faithful to go where He leads. God is not interested in our own works, even our best Lego creations are rubbish to His work, but rather our hearts. Our attitudes.

So often in life, when things do not go as we please or had hoped for, we question God in frustration and exasperation. We, very selfishly, tell God that if He loved us, He’d do as we wanted. But God has told us, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand (John 13:7).” In the moment, as we’re looking at the half assembled parts of our lives, we doubt God. We question God. We are not satisfied with where we are at. We do not have the full picture. Obviously, we do not understand in the moment. We look in the mirror and cannot fully grasp what God is doing in our lives, but God reminds us that we will know later. 

I know that I can reflect back on my life and see where I’ve been disappointed by my circumstances. Where in the moment I was not given support to attend the colleges that I wanted out of high school, that I was not getting the degree that I wanted, that I was did not have a community to be apart of, that I was not progressing further in life… But I now have the benefit of looking back and seeing how God was moving for me good. Afterward, I understood. When the state colleges could only offer me loans for school, God provided a scholarship to attend an accredited Biblical college getting a degree in something that I had little to no interest in which is now something that I am passionately in love with! Being apart of a ministry that is both my home and mission field! God has provided much more than I could imagine. He’s building something far more extraordinary! 

I would be would be in the wrong if I did not recognize just how blessed I have been by God. Where my sense of timing seems right, God has provided when it was most needed, when I could no longer rely on myself and my own ability but on Him and Him alone! God isn’t seeking a carbon copy, molded people. He did not design us in the same way that Ikea cranks out its furniture. God created us uniquely and has a unique path for our lives. God is more interested in the state of our heart, our souls, and our minds than the state of our assembly process. 

That is why God gave us scripture. To reveal to us, not, how to get by in life, but how we ought to approach life. T0change the attitude of our hearts to match that of God’s! As we pursue God fully, meaning that we’ve laid our lives down at His feet and been born again, covered in the blood of Christ, we have a greater preparation for the road ahead. Our perspective changes from our here and now to that of God. We look at life through the lens of God through Scripture and prepare our hearts to respond accordingly. Once again, I will quote C.S. Lewis who said “Nothing you have not given away will ever really be yours (Mere Christianity).” God does not want part of us… He doesn’t just want our sin, our good deed, our church attendance, our love, our ideas, our hearts, our money… No, God wants every part of our being! It is only when we’ve laid down and given over every part of our lives to God that we understand the process that we’re going through.

I look back and see that I am no longer who I once was. My life looks less like it once had, and looks more and more like Jesus. My life has been transformed by God! The self-destructive, angry, resentful, hateful path I was once upon changed forever when I found Christ again at the end of my freshman year of high school! I was surrounded by people, whom God intended, to pour into my life, to walk alongside me as the abrasive, rough scales fell away, and to teach me the heart of Christ. I am truly, as I live and breathe, no longer the person that I was. I have been made new!

“Do you understand what I have done to you (John 13:12),” asked Christ to His disciples after washing their feet. He had made clear what His intentions were, though the disciples did not understand fully. Christ was preparing to die on the cross, to be a living sacrifice for the sins of you and I. Christ did cleanse us from the bondage and death of sin when He died on that cross and when He rose triumphantly from the grave! 

So as I stand amidst the scattered pieces of my life, the Lego bricks, I know that I do not need to fret. I have no need to worry, because God has a place for me. I do not need to worry about what piece goes where next, because God has already shown me that I can trust that He will take care of that. I just have to be faithful to follow where He leads. God is, piece by piece, building my life into what it ought to be. Removing that which is not needed and shaping, molding my heart to be more like His. Better yet, when the table starts to shake and the tower of plastic bricks start to tremble, I know that I have a solid foundation on which God has built my life. There will be no tearing down that which had already needed to go. I stand solidly upon God’s love!

Choosing Joy, Peace, and Love

I have a strong distaste for pointless or meaningless small talk particularly with people whom I have a relatively founded relationship with. The dutiful exchange of ‘how are you?’ and ‘I’m good/fine/ok’ is done in such a way that it is apparent that nobody really cares and that they are performing their social obligation. The dull pleasantries that are exchanged in this manner do not yield fruit nor do they provide opportunity to further grow and develop the relationship. It is simply small talk that fades into the aether as soon as the moment passes. Thus I despise small talk. However, the question of ‘how are you’ does not have to be a pointless introductory question and there are some who are genuinely interested and concerned about how we are doing in life and are hoping for an honest answer.

I constantly ask the students in our youth group how their week has been, followed with how they are doing. Most of the time, you’ll get nearly identical answers from them (almost verbatim) which I find humorous because I already expect the ‘I’m fine’ answer. Using ‘I’m fine’ is typically the phrased used to save face or to hide what is actually going on. I do not pry, but you can tell that it’s not a honest response. However, I follow up with some variation of ‘What is one good thing God has provided you with this week’ or ‘Where has God given you joy this week.’ I am tickled because the question stumps them for a moment as they search through their recollection to find anything that matches the posed question. No matter what they had previously said or how their carried themselves, a smile breaks across their face as they remember something that brought them joy, happiness, or peace during the week. Some answers include but are not limited to ‘I took a nap’ or ‘I have Taco Bell’ or ‘my dog did this really funny thing.’ What I have observed is that we, myself included, are very much focused on what goes wrong during the week or what what did not go our way that we forget what good happened. Which what a testament is that to our fallen nature!

When God has done something incredible, miraculous scripture shows how easily mankind turns away forgetting what has just happened minutes, days, weeks before. For example, God empowered Moses to split the sea as the Israelites fled from Egypt and just days laters as Moses ascended Mount Sinai the Israelites decide to build a golden calf to worship as their god! After Christ performed many miracles and displayed his divinity to the Jewish people, they were given the choice of taking back Jesus or the murderer Barabbas and they choose Barabbas! The point being is that we are so prone to wander even when we’ve seen God move and do incredible things! For followers of Christ, we’ve seen firsthand how God has transformed our lives and we have experienced the peace and joy that is only found in God. So why do we still have such difficulty finding joy? Finding peace? Finding love? Why is our first instinct to hone in on negative things?

Choice. Who made the first decision in history? Who set all of life into motion? Who decide what would be and what would come? God did. Before time, matter, everything it was just God. God always was, always is, and always will be. God decided to create all thing. God chose to create the heavens and the earth. To populate the world with animals and the sky with stars. To separate the land with water. To create Mankind and to create women from the man. God decided. Thus God put into motion everything that we now know. God gave Adam the choice to name each of the animals, plants, and things. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and let them live as they were designed. They were capable of making their own decisions, able to move about freely, to do as they wished. However God gave them one warning, one command. Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil for they would surely die. Adam and Eve had one simple command to follow and even they chose… poorly.


tenor


Sure, the serpent tempted them but why would God give them the ability to choose whether or not disobey him? Because we’re not mindless, personality-less creatures. We were made with expression, with uniqueness, with purpose to worship God! Thus we had to be able to choose to worship God and we have the capability to disobey God. So this is where we ended up. Broken. Sinful. Separated from God. Yet God was not done working. God chose to make a way where there was no way. God chose to come to be a living sacrifice for the redemption of His creation. In doing so, God gave us even greater ability to choose. When Christ died on the cross for the sins of all of humanity He made a way where there was no possible way for man to choose between life and death. Just as God chose to be the ultimate example of selfless love, we can choose to die to ourselves and find joy, peace, and salvation in Christ!

We can choose to be joyful. We can choose to seek out the things that bring the heart of God joy in the midst of trials. We can find peace in the chaos. We can trust when we can so no possibility before us. We can choose to follow God when there’s temptation in front of us. There is freedom in Christ! There is freedom in the Cross! There is freedom in God! When we take on the heart of Christ, when we look through the lens of Heaven, then our outlook on Earth is completely different! Life is worth living! No matter how dark life may be, the light pierces through it! There is no power on Earth that can defeat God! So we can seek out positivity in our day to day lives. We can find things that God has put before us and celebrate that God is faithful, that God is good!

We are, of course, capable of conducting ourselves through life with a great deal of unwillingness. What I mean is that we can be grumpy and agitated by life as we walk through it. We can choose to be bothered by what God has done or by what God has withheld all while conducting ourselves in a begrudging manner. This is what I mean by an unwilling willingness. Frankly, I believe that a great many of us who call ourselves Christians (followers of Christ), have or are conducting ourselves in this manner. We have chosen to be resentful rather than joyful toward the life that God has placed us in. Thus we have the difficult choice of being intentional on what we set our focus on. All in all, we can choose to be of a despite myself mindset. We can chose to die to ourselves and rejoice in God’s plans. Let us not forget that we have hope because God created a way where there was not one. We can hope because we had no hope at one time. Choose joy, my friends as you go about your daily lives.


 

It is my sincerest hope that this website of benefit to you and that you might find hope, peace, and encouragement through these words. God is doing a great work in this world and He is moving ceaselessly! Take heart that God is faithful to love, faithful to provide for your every need! Rest in Him and be a source of life to those around you! Thank you for reading my blog!

-Terren-It-Up

Who You Say I Am

For as long as I can remember, I have relied solely upon my own intuition. My perspective has been centered on my wants, my desires, my willpower. I have wrestled with God for years over my life and His timing. I have tried to force my will into fruition to no avail and I have seen God work despite my shortcoming and stubborn refusal to wait. I lament that I am so incapable of letting go and fully surrendering my life to Him. I have been having what you might call an identity crisis and have had to step back from what I thought I knew. I wrestle with the shifting perspectives of my life. How I view my life and how God sees my life. Who am I? It is a question that I’ve asked myself on many occasions. Why am I the way that I am? Why am I where I am? Why has God withheld things from me? Who am I suppose to be? Why am I not there yet? Why am I here? What is my purpose? Who am I?

In the sake of honesty and transparency, I am terrible at relying on God. I hold onto my burdens and refuse to let them go. I rely on my own strength, my own mind, and my own abilities when God has asked me repeatedly to trust Him and to rest in who He is. I have known for many years now that my life was on a trajectory that was headed toward vocational ministry and God has recently provided the opportunity to step into that ministry. I am blown away and I am somewhat grieved because I have not believed that He would provide. Despite the numerous times that God has provided great things in my life I still doubt Him. I refuse to believe that God is good and that He has promised great things for me. Why am I so stubborn? Why am I such a failure? Honestly, I do not understand (though I do know and understand) why God is so good to me? I do not deserve anything. I am a mess and yet He still pursues me.

God views my life very differently than I have. I have not been able to glimpse what that is because I have refused to let go of what I have known. What am I to do? I am not lost, but I do not understand. At this time, I exist in a state of flux. I fight for what I want but then remember that I am not my own. I am convicted that I have become so attached to what expectations I have for my life that I have missed out on God’s blessings. I have had to ask God to tell me who I am.



You see, I am not done being molded. There are still areas of my life that need to disappear. I have habits that originate from a time when I was bullied, depressed, and hopeless. Typically they rear their head under the guise of self-deprecating humor but the truth hides within humor. I do not know why I do this or why it manifests in the way that it does. I guess that some pain and self-doubt is rooted in my life and that I doubt myself on nearly every occasion. I am thankful that a dear friend of mine has seen through this and that they are willing to call me out on it. Perhaps I am just scared to surrender. Scared to let people in. To let God in.

I am scared. I am uncertain. I see what God is doing in the lives of those around me and wish that I had what they do. I wish to have what God has not said not yet to. Why can I not be a more devoted follower? Why am I so scared to take risks? To put myself out there? Why am I scared to be used by God? I grieve for my inadequacies and that I am so unworthy of what God has done. As cliched as it may be, I’m letting go. I’m tired, y’all. Tired of fighting against God. Tired of the strive and struggle. I’m tired of resisting. It is so exhausting trying to make my will be done. That is not what God wishes for my life. Or your life for that matter. My identify is totally founded in God. He sent His Son to die on a tree of His own creation to be a sacrifice for my sins. He has invited you and I to join Him and has made a place for us to sit with Him. How amazing is that?

I must doubt my doubts and ask God to help my unbelief. He has done so much for my life and I am at fault for not recognizing it. God has invited me into His home and He calls me by name. What more could I ever need? What more could I ever know? God has told me who I am. I just need to be obedient. God has been so unbelievably good to me and I am grateful! Grateful for friends who call me out, who encourage me, who are hopeful for my future, who share in this time with me. I don’t deserve them, but God has surrounded me with them. He has a reason for our gathering. He has gathered us for a purpose. How can I not be grateful for that? So I take a step back and look at who God says that I am and seek His council. May I trust more fully and be devoted to Him greater.

Trust the Process

Living the dream. I just returned from a week of chaos, the Fourth of July, a friend’s surprise party, my first classes at Liberty University, and then leading at a student camp. I went into camp excited yet hesitant. I doubted my ability to leader, doubted God’s purpose for my being there, and what the future held for me. Through and through, I had reservations. The speaker for the week, took us on a study of Jospeh and how God used him in ways far beyond his expectations.  I was surprised, taken aback really, by how much this message impacted by our students and us, the leaders.


 

God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever

imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!

-Ephesians 3:20


 

I was shaken to my core by this camp and God made sure that I got the message loud and clear. This camp was pivotal in so many regards and it took me back to where I was over ten years ago as a freshman in high school. The first summer camp I attended after returning to the church was quite influential in my life that would set me down the path that I now walk. The focus of that camp was on being transformed. What would our lives look like if we embraced what we claimed to believe and sacrificed our lived to Christ? So this exploration of the life of Jospeh has presented itself as a springboard into this very topic once again. Now that I have an understanding and appreciation of the bigger and greater plans God has for my life. Recognizing that God’s plans are far better and bigger than our own, submitting ourselves to His work brings us to Romans 12.


 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

-Romans 12:1-2


 

When I was getting ready to graduate from high school I thought that I would be going into education to become a teacher. When that did not work out I had no idea what was going to do. Through my experience just after I graduated and began seeking out where God was taking me, I felt my heart being tugged toward ministry, specifically toward student ministry. At the time I had no idea what that would look like or what it entailed. When I began to study at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary this became more clear and I began to serve alongside the students at my local church. During this camp, God really reaffirmed my calling to the ministry and that my doubts were unfounded. I felt or heard, like a faint whisper, ‘trust the process.’

I was convicted because I was not trusting God with my life and kept trying to force my way into things that I am/was not prepared for. My plans were on a different timeline than that of God’s and I was full of discontentment because they did not align with my desires. Anything area that God pointed out to me is that I still have work to do on myself. To hone my abilities and to be flexible, bendable in how I approach leading students. To be loving and gracious in how I engage with my students. I want to learn and to grow so that I may be a better leader to these students. I am still rough around the edges and have need of seeking out guidance and teachers of my own.

I know my calling is in ministry and God has only made it more and more clear to me. Trust the process. Recognize that He has something far greater and better planned that I do and that His timing is perfect. So, if I can impart anything to y’all through my experience, is to trust the process. Trust God with your life.

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up