One of my most favorite quotes I’ve ever heard was born out of everything that should not make sense, but until you live out the power of words, they will just fall on ears not ready to hear. Live them, and the words suddenly define your life, and add another line to your story.
“It is doubtful that God can bless (use) a man greatly until until He has hurt him deeply.” A.W. Tozer
No one ever sets out to be hurt. Most of my life, I flew so far under the radar that I evaded hurt just by keeping entirely to myself. You’ll find if you stay out of everyone’s way, do what you’re supposed to do, you’ll generally avoid too much trouble. Be invisible and you don’t get in the way of anyone. No one can stay invisible forever, though, and really…we wouldn’t want to stay that way.
These days, on the whole, it seems near to impossible to avoid hurt in a sea of opinions. We’ve become people more known for what we are against than what we are for. Make yourself visible in any way, be it standing out for a worthy job performance, confident in any way, how you dress, posting your opinion, and on and on…well, you’re probably going to be the object of criticism. We’re in a world looking for the wrong, bent on disrespect, and we (me, myself and I) are the smartest people we know. I remember hearing the saying growing up, “We can’t win for losing.” No truer words could capture what it’s like to just try and live these days.
Ever feel like you are living a “headed for failure” life? Can’t do anything right, every turn is a dead end, and your neighbor seems to be headed everywhere BUT the wrong way? I can easily feel that way when my eyes focus on what everyone else “thinks” I ought to be doing. Whether said or unsaid, expectations of others rarely land us in the “winner” lane. In a dog eat dog culture, expectations do not often take on the appearance of others dreaming big dreams for us. Expectations often take on a negative spin, believing the absolute worst in people, rather than the best.
When the expectations others put upon us are greater than the ones they put on themselves, there are no winners.
Having great expectations for ourselves is a great thing. It’s sets a goal before us for which we can aim. We can even set healthy expectations for others, and do so when we parent children, set a tone for school and the workplace, and even as a church. Expectation leads to anticipation of what’s to come. When in the context of the goal being to move forward, expectation is a pretty awesome thing! When expectations are unhealthy, the impossible is demanded out of people that are not perfect, mind-reading skills are required, and the focus on what others aren’t doing is more important than looking in the mirror to realize what we are not doing. Suddenly our environment is defined by things like “You don’t do this right,” or “You walked right past me and didn’t speak,” and a “Your sin is greater than mine” mentality. We would never admit that the last part of that sentence is something we would actually say, but our actions would definitely show that we expect people are so much worse than we are that, of course, their sin is, too. See why we can’t win for losing? Winning will only happen when we shift the expectations we have squarely back on ourselves. Expect as much out of ourselves as we do anyone else, there will be no time to focus on what others should be doing that they are not. Expect as much out of ourselves with a heart and life living for an audience of One, we’ll live lives that expect what He expects, and that is never the worst of anyone or anything. He is for me. He is for you. His only expectation is that we live holy lives, worthy of the calling He has placed on us – to become what He’s created us to be.
Expectations that find their beginning in love will result in lives that can’t lose for winning!
Do you find yourself believing the absolute worst of people? I have, if I’m honest. When trust in others is at stake it’s oddly easier to believe the worst because the hurt may be less. It sets a low bar with low expectation. How much life are we sucking out of those around us when we expect the very worst of them because we’ve bought into the lie that they probably believe the worst of us? It’s a vicious cycle that only ends when someone decides to be a cycle breaker! Is it worth it to stop and think that maybe no one is out to get you at all, that expectations don’t have to take on the appearance of their synonym “assumption”? That’s right. Look it up. Expectation will assume! I’ve written more blogs and articles about the harm of assumption than probably anything because I daily witness the damage it always does. I’ve done it and I’ve been a victim of it, and either way I’ve not one time felt good about myself in any way!
Today, can we expect the best and see where that takes us? Can we make amends with those we’ve unfairly controlled with our lofty expectations? Let’s plant our expectations in a soil that produces fruit and not weeds. Be for your life reflecting His glory. Be a life that is FOR His glory to shine on another. Why would you want to expect anything less?
I stared at the screen in disbelief. Surely this was some sort of junk email that somehow made it’s way into my inbox. The words described someone else. They didn’t sound at all like me, but I looked again, and indeed it had my name and email address on the header. None of what I read was truth, and I certainly didn’t remember the step where the writer asked me if it was true before they wrote it. That part seemed to be completely passed over and now we were in a land of assumption and meanness. I probably will never be quite sure what prompted such things to be said over me and about me, but this wasn’t my first rodeo with being the brunt of someone’s hurt, so I decided to count to ten before I, in turn, said things I could never take back, and remembered that in my darkest, most hurtful, and lonely times, I, too, have said things that pierced to the core of the receiver. I’ve used innocent people as punching bags with my words, so I decided to start working through all of this from that place. I’ve yet to meet a person that ever loves it when the worst is assumed over them. It never feels very good, but more and more it seems the common thing to do. We question if that text really meant what it sounded like it meant. We assume someone is mad at us if they pass us without speaking. We assume that we didn’t get invited to the party because they just don’t like us. We assume a lot of things because it almost seems easier. Lysa TerKeurst once wrote, “Truth is the only healthy place from which to speak. Assumption is the birthplace of Godless chatter.” What I know as truth that day long ago was that the words gave no semblance of being God-breathed, despite coming from God’s child. What I didn’t anticipate was just how God would use that moment to break me free from a wrong way street I’d been walking down.
The events of that day long ago led me to an even longer awaited breaking point just this past summer. Our family was given a six week sabbatical from the church where we serve, and going in I had some very intentional goals to be purposeful in spending time with family and friends, to pour my heart into making our home a place of rest, and to read as many books and spend as much time in God’s word as possible. My days began to take on the shape of blocked off time reading, and soon it became grabbing every free moment to just be in God’s word, so much so that I found myself craving it. Loving His word is not something I’ve ever taken for granted, but it was the rest my soul had been craving. Just days before our time off started, our church began singing a song called, “Holy Ground” by Passion. Immediately the words caused me to cry. I felt a stirring in me that I didn’t understand. I knew I went into this time somewhat broken by these words long ago spoken over me and about me, that I was not experiencing an abundant life, that to some regard, I just couldn’t trust people or God completely. It was as if I woke up each day on the brink, but on the brink of what? I began to listen to the song everyday, sometimes multiple times. Each time the same lyrics pierced my heart. “Chains fall, fear bow” and “In wonder and surrender we fall down” particularly moved me. I’ve always found music a powerful influence on me, and this was no exception. I was in the mode of read Bible, listen to the song, read books about God, listen to song, repeat, and each time chunks of a wall around my heart were knocked down.
It was during this time that God began to reveal some powerful truths to me. Just as I’ve always struggled to trust people, I became painfully aware that I could trust Him only so far. I felt He was specifically calling me to completely surrender my health to Him – all of the questions I’ve had for 14 years of wondering why I get so sick, of the actual pain I lived in, of being okay to not have a diagnosis, and even to stop caring that when most people look at me they don’t see a sick person because I won’t let people see that part of me completely. He moved me to the wonder and surrender part to fall down and let it go. I believed -REALLY believed- for the first time that He will heal me. I have never had that kind of peace regarding my health. I found that surrender feels good, and that doesn’t make sense to me because it requires letting go of all control. I had to let go of how I had allowed people to affect me, again knowing I can’t control words spoken over me, or thoughts assumed about me. I could only be the best me He was asking me to be. It’s hard to explain the work of God on our lives sometimes because it is so personal and unique to us. I see everyday that it is not always understood, and even when others take notice of the Holy Spirit changing our lives, they are also looking for every reason to call us out when we fall…and we will fall because…flesh!
Since I’ve been back in my everyday, not one week has passed that I haven’t been tempted to question what God spoke to me. I’ve been sick every single week worse than I have in a very long time. I have been tempted to allow people to control how I really see myself. I’ve wanted to put many things above spending time with God. I cannot, however, give in to any of my temptations and doubts without Him and His power. You see, the work of God may manifest itself in specific ways, like in the things He specifically spoke to me regarding my health and trust, but the real work is what He has revealed to me since.
In our church we’ve just concluded a series of month long revival services. I can’t remember a time in my life that I’ve seen God move more in the hearts of men and women. The life change I’ve witnessed can only be explained as GOD. Despite every effort by the enemy to distract, destroy, bring division, and minimize what God can do, I’ve been keenly aware that corporate revival will only be a big deal to you if you have experienced personal revival. Those moments that no one is around and your are on your knees listening more than you are talking to Him. Those days you cling to His word to sustain you and change you. Those hard situations that should never display peace to what the world would call peace, but you know Who is really in control. I’ve lived that. I know that. I do not write these words as a way to brag, but they come from a place of shame that I’ve lived so many more opportunities for revival with me as the center of my world. Back in May I spoke at our church about taking an overwhelmed life and exchanging it for an abundant one. I thank God that He had to speak that to me before I could ever speak it to others. That day seems like a prepping for the work He would do in my heart weeks later. Because I’m human, I know that moments may come that my eyes veer to the left or right of me, my gaze no longer on His face. The grief that brings me feels sickening. I don’t want old Amy. I want to keep tasting the full life.
When revival is personal to you, when you look at your life and the changes are explained as ONLY GOD could do that, it will blow your mind to have your eyes opened to just all He is doing around you in others’ lives. It’s beautiful. Revival could only happen in me because of repentance. It wasn’t because of all of the spiritual activity I filled my days doing. They positioned me in a right posture, but it is what I did with the power of the words I read in the scripture that led me to true repentance and surrender. I confessed my lack of trust in the One whom my soul trusted many years ago as her Savior. I confessed my bitterness and anger that God had not healed my physical body. I confessed the way I had hurt others with my own words because of my own hurt. Walls finally began to fall that had taken years to build. I no longer feel the same. In these days when physical sickness seems to pervade my every thought and take my very strength, it’s an unfamiliar and steadfast peace in the very core of my soul that seems to now scream louder than my doubts ever did when those moments came in the past.
I will carry it, Lord, if it brings people closer to you. I will carry it if it brings you more glory. When I have no control over my health, the words spoken over me by others, the unexpected trials that come my way, I can control my choice everyday to be filled by You.
Wake up everyday, choose Him, allow His word to be the heart changer, and you will see chains fall, fear bow, because at the end of that song that spoke so much truth to me, it’s these words that cover it all and are the only power we will ever need…it’s because
“Jesus changes everything.”
How personal has He become to you? Personal revival always precedes a corporate one. Let Him revive what has become dead in you. A step toward surrender is the best step you will ever take.
There were worry marks across her face. I could see her thoughts consuming her, so I asked my youngest daughter, “What’s wrong?” Not uncommon to hear this time of year within our house, she voiced the worry of a lot of returning students, “I am worried about who my teacher will be…and I also can’t stop worrying that my best friend and I will be separated.” I knew her first worry was pretty standard because all of my children have always had a worry that they would be just the right fit for their teacher, and vice versa, but I knew the second worry was even a bigger deal for her, because last year we had specifically prayed that God would send her a best friend that loved her for who she was, and God more than answered that prayer through this sweet friend in so many ways. And, because I remember being 10, specifically a 10 year old girl, I remembered that our friendships were everything to us at that age, I suggested we’d pray about both things troubling her. I challenged her to pray everyday leading up to the day we would go meet her teacher, and even if God answered differently that we would ask Him to give us peace. Seems reasonable, right?
This week I saw a smile bigger than any I’d ever seen on the face of that 10 year old when she read the name on the paper, the name she had specifically prayed would be her teacher. What a really cool thing to see God answer prayer, no matter how old we are! As fast as I saw that big ole smile, I could see she was ready to see if He had answered her second prayer that she would be in class with her best friend. After meeting her sweet new teacher, her teacher offered to let her see if she knew any friends on her class roll. As we scanned the list we knew almost immediately that her prayer for her friend to be with her had not been answered like she had hoped. Can I tell you that I would rather my own prayers not be answered like I want, than watch the sheer disappointment that clouded over my sweet girl’s face. She waited until we got inside her classroom, where no one else was present, to allow her lip to tremble and her eyes to fill with tears, and while she never cried, she voiced her sadness of going through a year of being separated from her friend.
As parents, I often get a truer sense of how God must ache when we hurt, yet He often allows us to hurt so we can know Him to the fullest. My husband said this statement to our staff at church yesterday, “Pain is your friend.” I can attest to many times in my life I have found this to be so true, as walking through it brought me closer to God than had I resisted going through it with Him. As a 43 year old women, I get it. To convey it to your children is often much harder. While their pain is often only scratching the surface of what pain we experience the older we get, it is still a shaping of who they are, and who they become in Christ. I wanted to manipulate the situation that she would not have to go all year without her friend. I wanted to rescue her. I probably could have, but our goal as parents must be to help guide their character and lead them to depend on God for themselves, so we chose to not rescue her. Is it a big deal in the grand scheme of life that she is not with her friend? Probably not, because their friendship doesn’t just exist inside the walls of a school, but is it a big deal to take even these moments of not always getting what we asked for and make them a moment to challenge them that they can still trust God… even when He doesn’t always answer their prayers like they want? It is absolutely a big deal! As I read these words a day after watching her little heart break, I know that the lessons I can allow her to learn with God, and about God, are shaping a woman of God that I hope will change the lives of others one day…
“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
While I may have a goal to develop character in my children that we are not entitled to anything, the world is rapidly telling them they are entitled to whatever their heart desires. It would be the easy thing to do to hand them whatever they desire on a silver platter, but if our ultimate goal is that they know Christ to the fullest, then we as parents have to determine to foster their trust in Him to establish their steps…to declare He has a plan for their lives. I want each of my girls to understand the reward for trusting God to steer the course of their lives, whether it be in the big or little things of life.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy: at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
What an awesome heritage we give to our children when we show them that a life on the path that God sets before them is ALWAYS leading them more and more into the fullness of joy! Parents, we are living in a day where the days are filled with busyness that is ultimately temporary, but the priorities that are set in place today are the priorities our kids will establish for their tomorrow. Are you placing the path of the Lord as your top priority? Are your children seeing that the things of God and the ministry He’s given each of us to share the Gospel are the MOST important things, or are you pushing other things to the top of your life that are not leading to the fullness of joy? Our children are watching for us to lead them. Before they were ever born, you were already a family…just you and your husband, or even you as a single parent. Your children were born into your lives, and not the other way around. God has given you responsibility to guide them, to teach them how to love, to trust God all the days of their lives. They don’t learn this if you are not leading them to learn to hear God’s voice in every single thing they face in life. New seasons always bring new opportunity! Let this new season of a new school year bring you greater opportunity to show Jesus to your children unlike ever before!
If you heard me speak at my church recently, you heard me say that I found myself in a counselor’s office a couple of years ago. What led me there was basically being sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was at the end of myself and living pretty much in a constant state of anxiety. As I shared with the counselor how I was feeling, she said these words to me regarding different situations in my life…”Is it a crisis, or does it make you uncomfortable?” She directed me to these words as a tool to evaluate and gauge if what was going on in my life was really all major, life-altering obstacles to living my best life or really just pauses to overcome. Truth is, I’d allowed many, many petty things to become crises in my life.
I find living in crisis mode is almost “a thing” these days. Our permanent setting seems to be up in arms about literally everything and taking ten seconds to get a deep breath is nonexistent. Crisis most always mimics hopelessness. Crisis is generally ugly and hurtful. I’ve seen it everywhere I turn and obviously exemplified it as I sat in my counselor’s office that day. As I sat there sure of the woman I desired to be – one who chases hard after God, a motivator to others to do the same, a woman who encourages and knows where her answers are found – I realized I’d become a woman living in crisis mode instead of grasping hard onto the hope I’d been given. As God’s child, my hope is in Him, yet my living was caught up in my trials, failures and dependent on others to fulfill in me. His word says He is “an ever present help in trouble”. I had forgotten that. I had forgotten that 1 Corinthians 10:13 promised me that God was faithful to keep me from being tempted beyond my ability to walk through it. His promises were, and are, that He is always with me. In a world that seems to hinge its behavior on being against everything AND each other, my resolve to be deeply rooted in who He is – FOR me and ENOUGH- has to become my constant. Life feel like one crisis after another for you? Truth is, sometimes it actually is a crisis, but whether life has us uncomfortable or in crisis, know today hope can remain the same because HE IS THE SAME.
For the past three weeks, I have spent every Wednesday with 50 or so ladies studying how we can tackle rejection, loneliness, hurts and losing our way. I stand up before them each week hoping in some small way to encourage them, point them to God’s word and build a relationship with them. Instead, I walk away each week more humbled by the gift they are giving me, a gift they may be completely unaware they are giving.
Ever feel like you’ve lost your way? In the midst of even goodness in our lives, life often sucks us in and we just get lost in the day to day. We have words spoken over us and they change the way we see ourselves. We have assumptions made about us and we begin to make our own assumptions in return. Relationships change. Circumstances change. Work environment changes. Chaos even happens at home. It is really all of the makings for losing ourselves. It is where I’ve found myself for quite a long time now. To admit relationships have become toxic and I have played a part in not bringing grace and Christ into them have characterized my life. I can rest in a waiting pattern for someone else to bring those things to my life, to wait for someone to find value in me, so much so that my waiting turns into solely finding significance in the people around me. It’s then the words come rushing at me, “People will be people”. Yes, it’s true. They are. I am. Buried under layers of the loud voices in my head I begin to hear the quiet whisper, “Who do I say you are?” I know the voice. I know it because it even in the quietness of it, the power of peace comes with it. I have forgotten who I am. I’ve waited on everyone else, but Him, to remind me. But being the God He is, full of love and mercy, full of grace to never leave us as we are, He reminds us even through yes, people.
So, I stand before a group of women each week, and I hear the words spoken I have so longed to hear. They are not words directed toward me, but they are words that reposition my gaze on Him. I have lived a life that has taught me right answers about what I am supposed to do to overcome, but now, surrounded by women pursuing after Him, I am hearing and seeing them take actual steps to do just that. They are Christ lived out in front of me. In my search to find me again – better version of me – God has given me this gift to pour my heart into these lives, to visibly show me that purpose again that PEOPLE are the ministry. Overflowing my life into a life gives LIFE! How sweet is is to pursue God with another! To walk away from an hour and a half of cheering each other on will change a heart. It has changed mine. It has reminded me that when we chase our passion – for me, to see women’s lives changed – we truly do find who it is God created us, and is creating us, to be. I wish I could bottle up the love I feel in that room, one for another, but instead I will pass it on…to the one lost, the one who feels rejected today, to the lonely…I see you. I am you. I know One who will never speak those things over you. I need change in my life…richer friendships where Jesus is our talk, love is our mission, where getting to minister to people is the passion of our hearts because I know when this heartbeat drives us all, it lights a world on fire. As I told my class recently, “Together let’s grasp the absolute power of who Christ is and what He can do, and TOGETHER move forward to be women who can change the world.”
Which times in your life have you been reminded of who it is God is creating, and has created you, to be?