Tuesday, January 9, 2018

inhabiting His delight

Every once in a while, you find someone whose mere presence makes you a better person. One such person in my life is a missionary friend and mentor I get to see a couple times a year. Though she is the first one to confess her imperfections, I always have the sense that she is with and aware of God so often and so intentionally that I hear from Him more when I’m with her, as though He has rubbed off on her. Of all the time I have spent with her over the past few years, my most consistent impression is that regardless of where she is on her spiritual journey, she talks to God and asks Him questions with the expectation that He will answer. I’m trying to practice moments asking a question and waiting to see if the Holy Spirit will speak, and I have loved discovering how readily He often answers.

I had the pleasure of attending a women’s retreat this past weekend. I led a session on goal setting, which was a first for me. The retreat center was close to home but felt surprisingly rural with beautiful woods and a tiny chapel on the property. We had a chunk of time when we could choose from among several activities, including going outside for quiet reflection. I kept thinking of a retreat I went to several years ago when I felt like God spoke to me through scripture I saw in a chapel, and I felt again the tug to go by myself into the chapel. I was so eager to get there that I practically ran out of the room as soon as our free time began, hoping I didn’t seem rude in my pursuit of solitude. 

I walked quickly on the gravel path, reminded of my dad as I always am when I hear the sound of shoes walking briskly through gravel. That sound and rhythm has been etched into my memory from childhood, when we used to visit my grammy in rural Pennsylvania and take family walks down to the creek to skip stones or to the local ice cream shop. For some reason, my dad’s steps are the ones my ears were always attuned to on these walks. 

My steps slowed as I approached the door, and I felt a little afraid. I had the strong sense that God had something to say to me in that chapel, and I wasn’t sure what it would be or if I would like it. I waited, fully aware of how ridiculous it was to be afraid of going into a building to hear from God when He is already outside of it with me. I thought of the first time my (now) husband asked me on a date after three years of friendship.  I was so nervous, I had had to tell myself, “It’s ok, it’s just Chris. It’s just your friend, Chris.” 

I used the same kind of self-talk again: “It’s ok, it’s God, the one who loves you dearly. No need to be afraid.” With that, I opened the door. I looked around, noting the few rows of pews, the light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, and the large narrow window at the back with the cross centered in it. I waited, remembering the other chapel I visited 3 years ago, when a framed scripture on the wall had stood out to me. 

“Words…words…I need words,” I thought desperately. I scanned the walls. No words in sight. I felt embarrassed by my need for things to be so obvious and literal, and I wished I could be more artistic and abstract, like so many people I admire. I felt a little ashamed, like I didn’t have enough faith to hear from God in some other, more sophisticated way. 

My eyes came to rest on the only words I could find, carved into the wood of a small altar in front of the window with the cross. They read, “THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.” I turned these words over in my mind, thinking of the last supper and of the importance of using memorials to remember what God has done. I wondered what He wanted me to remember at this moment, and then I thought about the words being on an altar. An altar. The words had brought my attention to the altar, a place to leave something, to make a sacrifice. 

I walked up to the altar to examine it more closely, running my hand over the ridges of the painted wood. 

“Let go of your fear and anxiety. Let go,” the whisper of a thought seemed to say. 

I’ve spent the past year learning about my true self and my false self and have found, particularly through the Enneagram, that my false self is wrapped up almost inextricably in anxiety. Romans 6:6-8 says,

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

For me, to die to myself and to the “sin which so easily ensnares” me (Hebrews 12:1) means to die to my old way of being--anxious and fearful. I prayed for God to help me leave my anxiety and fear on the altar. I waited a moment longer and sensed that that was the end of what I was supposed to hear. 

As I turned to leave, I took a few steps and then turned around to look back at the altar, as though Jesus Himself were standing there. In my mind, I asked, “Is that all?” I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss anything else I was supposed to hear. Through the silence, the words came into my mind, “I like words, too.”

I smiled. I like words, too. Jesus, the Word that became flesh. I realized that He made me a lover of words, just exactly as I am, because that is exactly how He wanted me to be. I basked in His pure delight in me, releasing the shame I had placed upon myself. I thought of the words of Anthony DeMello, quoted by Father Gregory Boyle: “Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.”

The next day at church, the sermon was about the baptism of Jesus, when the heavens opened up and the voice of God said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). The pastor encouraged us to pray and ask God what He wanted to tell us about Jesus. I prayed and waited, and the response came: 

“I am the One who delights in you.” 

I am learning to inhabit His delight in me. If we could learn to inhabit the Lord’s delight in us, I am confident the world would change radically. In Tattoos on the Heart, Gregory Boyle writes, “We breathe in the spirit that delights in our being—the fragrance of it. And it works on us. Then we exhale (for that breath has to go somewhere)—to breathe into the world this same spirit of delight, confident that this is God’s only agenda.” 

If I could wish one thing for you, it would be the same thing that I wish for myself, that we would learn to inhabit the Lord’s delight in us, and that in doing so, we would delight ourselves in Him.

Monday, November 20, 2017

the real problem with perfectionism

Perfectionism has become a bit like humble bragging...it's one of those qualities that would be an acceptable answer when we are asked to list one of our weaknesses during a job interview. It is not as beneficial as it pretends to be, though; it is an epidemic that is killing our emotional and spiritual growth. 

Perfectionism involves trying to be or to present ourselves as perfect or at least better than we actually are, and often this manifests as people pleasing. The Bible addresses the problem of people pleasing in many instances, both explicitly and implicitly as we see the consequences of actions born out of the fear of men rather than the fear of God. Proverbs 29:25 says, 

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

People pleasing is a trap, a snare, that is harmful to us and incongruent with trusting in the Lord. We are so desperate for connection with other people that the fear of losing that connection (i.e., shame) drives us to think and behave in ways that prevent us from living as our true selves. However, as stated in Proverbs 29:25, “whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” People pleasing leads to dishonesty about who we really are, inauthentic connection with others, and perfectionism. When we are more concerned with pleasing others than with pleasing God, we give too much power to human beings who are just as fallen as we are instead of anchoring ourselves in the only perfect love who casts out fear and never changes. Our growth is stunted when we are not willing to face our imperfections and receive the healing that we need in our broken places. We are also less approachable to others who are just as imperfect as we are and crave the same authentic connection that we do. 

As I sit in my in-laws' beautiful backyard in Phoenix, Arizona, I have been watching hummingbirds flit from flower to flower. They remind me of people pleasers, (myself among them)-- darting here and there, full of anxiety and hyper-focused on performance, unable to land anywhere for very long. Our internal compass from the Holy Spirit and the Word of God has been traded for the fickle whims of other fallen human beings. God never intended for us to live this way.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only one who is weary of it all—weary of living for others or for my own flawed view of what God wants from me, or even what I want from myself. We want adventure and we want to grow and learn and thrive, but first we want to be safe. I find that I have hesitated to go to the Lord because I have feared His reaction. Just as my shame causes me to fear the loss of connection with people, it also results in a fear of loss of connection with the Lord. Ironically but perhaps unsurprisingly, the fear of loss of connection is what causes the actual (or perceived) loss of connection. When I am afraid of the Lord’s anger or disappointment in me, I try to hide and fix things on my own. 

If we will know things by their fruit (Matthew 7:16-20), the fruit of this attitude surely points to flawed thinking. My shame never results in growth, change, or risk-taking; people who are acting out of fear either do not take healthy risks needed for growth and connection with others, or they take foolish risks that needlessly harm themselves and others. We can see many instances in history when fear was used in whole communities and societies as the motivation for appallingly inhumane behavior as well as the avoidance of taking a stand against others who were committing such heinous acts. Fear in its most primal sense is a survival tool, moving us away from danger, but God means for us to thrive, not just survive. Perhaps because he knew the horrific things humans would do when motivated by fear, as well as all the good things they would miss out on, He tells us over and over again, in hundreds of scriptures, not to be afraid.

And yet, “…whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 29:25). When we trust in His goodness and in the truth of His word, we are safe. Reverence for the Lord’s holiness is appropriate and wise, but fear that keeps us away from Him is misplaced.  While we are instructed to fear the Lord, to revere Him because He is holy, Jesus came so that even in our sinful state, we could have complete access to Him. The veil that separated us from God’s presence (Hebrews 9:1-9) was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:50-51), signifying that Jesus bridged the gap between us and God. In case His death on the cross is not enough to convince us that He wants us to be with Him, look at His prayer before the crucifixion. (In the following scripture, “they” refers to all believers. See John 17:20).

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
John 17:24

I don’t think any verse in the Bible makes my heart flutter like this one. Something about Jesus praying that we may be with Him where He is nearly takes my breath away. He wants to be with us, and His desire for us to come to Him is not out of a blissful ignorance of our sins. He knows the intimate details of our sin and weakness, our darkest thoughts and most selfish attitudes. He knows because He knows us and because He experienced the physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering that should have been ours. He knows all of these things, and still He desires desperately for us to be with Him where He is. 

When we hide from Him, we act as though we do not truly believe this about Jesus. I can only conclude that for much of my life, my understanding of God’s attitude towards me was flat out wrong—a lie that kept me from delighting in His delight in me. I’ve tried testing this theory and thinking about the instances when Jesus seemed angry, annoyed, or exasperated with people in the Bible. He was repeatedly critical of the religious leaders, and sometimes critical of His own disciples for their lack of faith, but otherwise, I can’t think of a time when He was angry with someone because of their sin. In Falling Upward, Richard Rohr says, “Jesus is never upset at sinners (check it out!); he is only upset with people who do not think they are sinners!” The woman at the well, Zaccheus the tax collector, and the adulterous woman come to mind as people who were living in sin but elicited Jesus’ compassion and presence. In Luke 11:46, Jesus says:

"Yes," said Jesus, "what sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden.

Many of us are crushing ourselves with “unbearable religious demands” in expecting perfection from ourselves before we are worthy of being in the Lord’s presence. We must ask Him to release us from these heavy burdens, whether they have been placed by ourselves or by others, that He might give us rest:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Perfectionism involves trying to please people as well as trying to meet impossibly high standards that we impose on ourselves and incorrectly assume that God imposes on us. The revolutionary truth of the Gospel--that an almighty, perfect God wants to be with His sinful, fallen creation--blessedly releases us from the burden of perfectionism and frees us to find rest and healing in His presence. When we believe in our belovedness, we can enjoy the freedom of living honestly before God, others, and ourselves. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

you belong.

I recently finished reading Brene Brown’s new book, Braving the Wilderness. Perhaps for that reason, I have been thinking a lot about belonging. I remember having a conversation with my brother, years ago, about how in any given group of people, I felt like an outsider in one way or another. I’ve wondered since then if that was unique to me or if, as I suspect, most other people feel the same way. 

I’ve been reading the book of Ruth this week, and the word “foreigner” stood out to me. As the Moabite widow of an Israelite, Ruth made the surprising decision to forego returning to her homeland after her husband’s death in order to remain with her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi. Together, they returned to Bethlehem once the famine there had ended. Soon after, Ruth met Naomi’s wealthy relative, Boaz. When Ruth first met Boaz, who offered Ruth food and protection, Ruth asked, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10). 

The land, people, and God of Israel were all foreign to Ruth, and her question seems to indicate that her identity as a foreigner was at the forefront of her mind, as something that should have disqualified her from Boaz’s favor. Ruth’s identity and situation made her vulnerable several times over—as a woman, a widow, and a foreigner. The Bible speaks over and over of the Lord’s directive for His followers to care for the most vulnerable people in society: the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner, among others. Jesus Christ, Himself, seemed to go out of His way to spend time and build relationships with women, children, sinners, tax collectors, outcasts, the sick, the poor, and the unclean. He loves all of His children, but I think it’s safe to say that He has a soft spot for the most vulnerable. 

Boaz’s acceptance, praise, and blessing of Ruth eventually turned to his willingness to redeem her through marriage. This meant that her first husband’s line would continue, and provision would be made for Ruth and Naomi. After Boaz praised Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi (Ruth 2:11-12), Ruth began to refer to herself as “your maidservant” (Ruth 2:13) instead of “a foreigner.” Through his kindness and acceptance, her identity shifted from a foreigner to one who belonged. The son they had together would be the grandfather of David, and ultimately, part of the lineage of Jesus. As I thought about this, Brene Brown’s phrase from Braving the Wilderness kept coming to mind: “No one belongs here more than you.”

We are all misfits in one way or another, caught up in our own messes, each with our own vulnerabilities. Some of us are vulnerable through our very identities — our age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, or physical or mental differences, among other things. Like Boaz, the rest of us have a responsibility as followers of Christ to really see these vulnerable ones and to do what we can to notice them, to build relationships with them, to show them kindness, to educate ourselves, to listen to them without judgement, and to learn from them how we can be truly helpful. Psalm 85:3-4 says, 

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

This takes active, intentional work on the part of the privileged. Boaz, privileged as a man and as a wealthy person, saw Ruth, noticed her, inquired about who she was, and initiated conversation with her. He honored and elevated her with his kindness. He helped her with his offer of food and protection, but he also listened when she communicated what she needed through what was basically her very bold proposal of marriage (Ruth 3).

I’m not sure what parts of your identity, past, experiences, shortcomings, failures, etc. make you feel vulnerable, but God sees these parts of you clearly, knows them intimately, and cares deeply. He is the Father to the fatherless, the defender of the weak (Psalm 68:5). I believe that an important step in helping others is to experience our own healing so that we have the courage and security we need to take the risks involved in loving others well. When we are coming from a place of security, we can see others more easily and show compassion more readily. We are freed up to move beyond our own pain and enter in to the pain of others. We can listen openly, without offering judgmental or defensive responses. 

To be human and alive is to be vulnerable and capable of being hurt. Whoever you are, whatever identities you hold, the same thing is true for each of us: in the words of Brene Brown, “No one belongs here more than you.” You are the reason Jesus came. If you have any doubts about how He feels about the vulnerable ones, be encouraged. He came to defend, heal, bless, save, protect, and restore you. This passage from Isaiah 61 mentions just some of the groups the Lord came to defend, as well as His glorious plans for them:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
    foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
    you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.
Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.
“For I, the Lord, love justice;
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”
10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations.

--Isaiah 61

Thursday, August 17, 2017

the big deal about encouragement

I often think of encouragement as a nice thing to do, a little something extra that people appreciate. Today as I read Deuteronomy 1:19-46, I was struck by how many times I saw words relating to "encouragement." Apparently, God thinks it is a big deal.

In this chapter, Moses is telling the story of the Israelites journeying through the wilderness toward the Promised Land. When Moses gave the command for the Israelites to go into and possess the land that God gave to them, he told them, "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged" (verse 21). The people responded by proposing a plan to send spies into the land in order to determine the route they should take. After spying out the land, the report brought back was basically, "The land God has given us is good, but it's too much work and we are too afraid to take possession of it," (my paraphrase of verses 25-28).

The Lord has a very good inheritance for His children,  but sometimes we are distracted by the obstacles that appear to stand in the way of His promises. When we focus on these instead of on the Lord's promises and faithfulness, our minds begin to believe the lie that we are not able to take hold of all that God means for us to possess. This leads to toxic unbelief that sabotages the original battle plan. Unbelief, a sin in itself, results in further disobedience. Ultimately, our disobedience keeps us from entering the Promised Land, the inheritance of abundant life that the Lord desires to give us.

Deuteronomy 1:26-28 says,
“Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; and you complained in your tents, and said, ‘Because the Lord hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven; moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.”’

Wrapped up in the Israelites' discouragement was rebellion, disobedience, complaining, unbelief, fear, and despair. They say that, "Our brethren have discouraged our hearts," (NKJ version), which is translated as, "Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear" in the NIV version. Discouragement is enmeshed with fear, and heavy doses of it can be debilitating, especially when it comes from those we love and respect the most (i.e., "our brothers"). 

Moses exhorts the people in verses 29-31, "Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.’"

I keep writing about and studying these verses because I seem to find no end to their depth and implications. Moses responds to the fear, discouragement, and outright lies ("Because the Lord hates us...") with powerful encouragement that I believe can serve as a model for how we can encourage one another and ourselves. We can remind others (and ourselves) to:

1. Calm down! What, that wasn't in your Bible? Seriously though, Moses begins by saying simply, "Do not be terrified." Sometimes the first step in helping someone (or ourselves) is to help them calm down. Stop the tailspin and breathe.

2. Shift your focus off of the problem and onto God. The second part of verse 29 says, "Do not be afraid of them." This doesn't mean we live in denial, but we need to quit idolizing our problems by making them bigger than God. `This is easier said than done, and sometimes we need someone who is outside of the problem to remind us that God is bigger.

3. Remember who God is. Verse 30 starts with, "The LORD your God..." "LORD" in all caps indicates the name "Yahweh," which is the name He used to reveal Himself to Moses when Moses first asked who He was at the burning bush, and it means, "I AM WHO I AM." God is "I AM," existing in His own right, independent of space and time, and He is also "your God" (if you are a believer). He is big, and our problems, no matter how great, are eclipsed by the Lord our God.

4. Remember that God is for us (see linked post for more on this). Moses tells the Israelites that God is going before them and will fight for them. When we are weary of fighting, He fights for us, undeserving as we are.

5. Remember what God did in the past (see linked post for more on this). We need people in our lives who remind us of the difficulties God brought us through in the past, and we need to be that person to others. Even when God doesn't "fix" a problem in an obvious way, we can ask Him to open our eyes to see His provision in times of adversity. The Old Testament is full of stories of ways that the Israelites were commanded to memorialize the good things that God had done for them. We forget His wonders quickly as they fade into the rearview mirror and a new set of struggles is looming in the distance.

6. Reflect on God's tenderness. My favorite part of this passage is when Moses says, "There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son..." The picture of a father carrying his son is a beautiful combination of tenderness and strength. Our Heavenly Father loves us and carries us tenderly and with strength when we are suffering.

7. Remember that God is long-suffering. The toughest problems are often long-term, drawn-out ordeals. Moses reminds the Israelites that God carried them "all the way you went until you reached this place." In His great compassion, God is with us and for us for the long haul.

Encouragement is not just made up of nice words that we say lightly to someone who is upset. Biblical encouragement involves speaking truth to confront the lies we hear from others, from culture, and from our own destructive self-talk. In a world where we prefer to prepare for the worst rather than hope for the best, encouragement is an invitation to vulnerability. Brene Brown, a researcher of shame and vulnerability and author of Daring Greatly, talks about the concept of "foreboding joy," which is the idea that when we are on the brink of experiencing joy, we often begin to imagine all the things that could threaten that joy. We try to protect ourselves by preparing for the worst. In her book Rising Strong, she says, "Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they're choosing to live disappointed."

When we are poised to take hold of the joy and the inheritance we are promised in Jesus Christ, we may find ourselves discouraged, afraid to hope for fear of what could go wrong, and tempted to believe the lies that contradict the truth of God's Word. In His wisdom, the Lord often calls us to places that require victory against impossible odds, but with Him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). 

Encouragement is an invitation to hope, to try, to believe, to lay down our coping mechanisms and the destructive things we do in our attempts at self-preservation. Encouragement is an invitation to pick up the three things which will always remain: faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Our minds are powerful and influence our behaviors, and when we align them with the truth, we can move forward with hope and courage.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”
-Deuteronomy 1:29-31

Different scripture passages stand out to me in different seasons of life. Lately, Deuteronomy 1:29-31 is one that keeps pulling me back in like a magnet. I cannot get over the tenderness of it.

I came back to these verses to share them with someone who is struggling with depression and was looking for encouragement. When I was in the thick of postpartum depression, I remember sitting in church while the worship music played. I felt like I was in a fog; I was so tired, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, that everything seemed hazy and I could not seem to pull myself out of it. God seemed far away, like I was at the bottom of a pit and though I knew He was up there somewhere, He seemed very, very high up in the distance. Then the band started playing this song by the Newsboys:

The idea of God living within my exhausted, numb heart, life and wholeness and power amongst the dust and the ruin within me, made me feel as though I had suddenly come to life. It felt like one of those dramatic deathbed scenes in a movie when the camera is showing things from the sick person's point of view, a blurred picture of doctors and nurses hovering and buzzing busily over the patient, who can't make out what the doctors' voices are saying. Too weak to fight for herself, the patient is completely dependent on others who are hard at work doing everything possible to bring her back to life.

The idea of God fighting for me is a powerful truth when I am too weak to fight for myself. When we are sprawled out on the battlefield, exhaustion taking over as our minds become confused and our vision becomes blurry, He rides up on His white horse and takes over. (After all, He has such a soft spot for the vulnerable.) 

Part of the beauty of the Lord fighting for me, beyond the fact that He is saving me, is that He believes that I am worth saving. Sometimes suffering is the result of external forces over which we have no control, and sometimes it is a direct or indirect result of our own sin. I tend to assume that my suffering is my own fault, which I'm sure is true much of the time. My old pattern, and the worn path I have to fight against going down out of habit, is to allow my shame to keep me from running to Him for help.


Even when we are experiencing adversity due to our own sin, even then He is compassionate. I had not noticed before the part of Deuteronomy 1:29-31 that says, "The Lord your God will fight for you, as He did for you in Egypt...and in the wilderness." When the Lord fought for the Israelites in Egypt, He heard their cries and freed them from their oppressors. In the wilderness, when the Israelites were wandering around due to their own unbelief, even then the Lord fought for them. He provided manna and water and direction. Even when they sinned again and did not trust in the Lord, He warned them not to proceed with battle against their enemy because He would not be with them and knew that they would be defeated.

When we are wandering around in the mess we have made because of our own sin, God is still for us. We often experience consequences for our sin, but He still pursues us. The sin of the Israelites, over and over, was their lack of trust in the Lord (Deuteronomy 1:29-33). I believe that the reason this was the sin that God seemed to focus on is that trust is directly tied to relationship. He is more interested in our trust, our relationship with Him, than He is in our perfection and good behavior.

When I am floundering, fighting my sinful flesh at every turn, my spirit willing but my flesh so frustratingly weak, He is for me. The enemy, the accuser, would have us run away in shame, but the Lord is ever for us, ready to clothe us with dignity and strength. Just as He responded to Adam and Eve's sin by creating clothing for them, so He clothes us when we run to Him instead of hiding. We are clothed with righteousness because we are clothed with the most righteous one of all: Jesus Christ, Himself:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 
Galatians 3:26-27

Oh, what a Savior! May we accept the grace extended to us because of who He is, not based on our own merit, that we may live the abundant lives He desires for us.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
John 10:10