Only Jesus: Even When You’re Running

About a month ago, I randomly started listening to the Casting Crowns’ album “Only Jesus” and came across 4 songs that God used to speak to my heart. This is the first blog in what I’m calling my Only Jesus series. This blog is about the song “Even When You’re Running” which I have linked so you can listen. Here are the lyrics:

Do you feel Him in your heartbeat
Even when you're running?
You try to drown Him out
With your life but you still hear Him calling

With a voice you never heard
But it sounds like home
You try to shut it out
But you feel it in your bones
And won't leave you alone

His love isn't escapable
His presence isn't shakable
Right now you don't believe it's true
A better day is coming

And you don't need another place to hide
He'll find you in your darkest night
His love is holding on to you
Even when you're running
Even when you're running

As a kid you said your prayers
Now they're bouncing off the ceiling
But took your world away
When you trusted Him for healing

He's no stranger to your heartbreak
He knows how it feels to lose
From the garden to the cross
He's been chasing after you
He's chasing after you

His love is inescapable
His presence is unshakable
Right now you don't believe it's true
A better day is coming

And you don't need another place to hide
He'll find you in your darkest night
His love is holding on to you
Even when you're running
Even when you're running

Your fear isn't dark enough
Your pit isn't deep enough
Your lie isn't loud enough
To keep Him away from you

The Father made the way for you
The Son killed the grave for you
Let the spirit come alive in you
Are you tired of the running?

His love is inescapable
His presence is unshakable
Right now you don't believe it's true
A better day is coming

And you don't need another place to hide
He'll find you in your darkest night
His love is holding on to you
Even when you're running
Even when you're running

It's time to stop running now
You don't have to have it figured out
All you need to do is turn around
And the Father will come running

When I heard this song for the first time last month, I distinctly remember thinking to myself:

I am a runner. It’s what I’ve always done. Why do I do this?

I immediately started thinking about all the ways I’ve runaway in my life. Like the time I literally ran away when I was a teenager. Or when I dropped out of high school twice because I didn’t know how to cope with how overwhelmed I was with life. As an adult, it’s a little harder to run away or drop out but I can see how I’ve used isolation and mentally checking out as a coping mechanism.

When life is hard, it’s easier to just shut down and shut everyone out. Including my family and friends but also God.

This is something that He has been showing me about myself recently and as I listened to the words of this song, I felt God saying to me:

You’re worth being pursued.

But you don’t have to run.

You don’t have to shut Me out.

Stay.

Let’s work it out together.

I’ve been rolling these words over and over in my head lately. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been dealing with the flooded basement that I mentioned in my last post and I’ve found myself telling God, “I want to trust You. I want to stay. Help me stay. I don’t want to keep running. Help me to trust You.”

It feels so basic but it’s helping.

This week I’ve been feeling the weight of my health journey settling heavily onto my shoulders and into my heart. I keep hearing this thought in my mind:

It’s time you accept that you have a chronic illness that is going to be with you for now and maybe forever.

As I’m trying to process this, I can see how I’ve cycled through the 5 stages of grief over the last 10 months:

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

I keep going back to this song “Even When You’re Running” because when I think about how much I’ve struggled with this dizziness. How debilitating it’s been. How much it’s changed what my every day life looks like. How it’s exhausted me and worn me down…. I still don’t want to accept it.

I want to run away and shut down so badly but I keep hearing God say:

Stay. Let’s work it out together.

This feels unfair. I don’t want this to be what my life looks like right now. I didn’t ask for this.

Maybe you can relate? Maybe it’s not your health. It could be your marriage, an addiction (yours or someone else’s), the loss of a parent, the loss of a child. It could be anything. I know I’m not the only one struggling with something this big.

I’m trying to figure out how to stop being resentful and angry. To move onto learning how to accept this. To willingly allow God to use this thing in my life for whatever reason it’s been put here.

If I stay stuck in the unfairness of it, I think I’m going to miss whatever blessings and lessons might be found in this.

If I’m being honest, I don’t want to look for anything positive but the alternative is sucking the literal life out of me.

And maybe there’s someone out there struggling like I am that I could help just by not giving up and not giving in to all of the negative stuff that keeps overwhelming me.

The only way I know to move forward in this is Jesus. Only Jesus.

Only Jesus – even when I’m running.

Only Jesus – when I’m trying to stay.

Only Jesus – when I’m trying to trust, surrender, accept.

Only Jesus – when I feel invisible and forgotten.

Only Jesus – when I’m trying to find hope.

Only Jesus – when I feel like giving up.

Only Jesus.


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Slightly Soggy Thoughts

This week I’ve been wrestling with asking for and accepting help. Why is it so hard?

Last week, I briefly mentioned the flooding we’ve experienced in our home. We were in crisis mode and if we needed something, there was a plethora of people willing to step up. I had no problems asking for help last week.

This week we’re in whatever comes after crisis mode. Everyone has gone back to their regularly scheduled programming but we’re still in the thick of it. We’ve dried out, cleaned up and started working on repairs but there are still slightly soggy things to deal with.

We’re coordinating with all of the workers to finish the mitigation, work on the repairs and replace damaged equipment. We’re working with insurance adjusters to get our claims settled and trying not to worry about how much exactly they’re going to cover. We’re taking cold showers because we have no hot water. We’re navigating big feelings within ourselves and our kids. We’re struggling with how to move forward in a house that keeps sucking the life out of us. My dizziness has also flared up A LOT from all of the work we had to do last week along with the stress and not being able to sleep. So, not only emotionally and mentally exhausted but physically struggling as well.

We’re doing our best but we can’t do it alone. This is what my rational mind is telling me. The irrational part of my mind is saying not only can you do it alone but you SHOULD do it alone. You should be able to handle all of these things by yourself. You’re a weak-minded loser if you can’t. And if you do accept help, you better feel guilty about it.

I don’t want to be a burden on anyone or give anyone a reason to be upset with me. I don’t want to create problems for other people. I don’t want to be an inconvenience.

In my head, I’m hearing: stay small. Stay as small as possible. Take up as little space as you can.

I don’t want to need help. I don’t want to ask for help. I don’t want to appear helpless or weak. I don’t want anyone to see me struggling but I’m also upset when I think no one sees me struggling.

How would I expect anyone to know I’m struggling if I don’t let them see me struggling?

How do I get over wanting to be invisible and seen at the same time? Why does it matter so much that I appear to have everything figured out? Why do I think I’m less than if I need help?

And now we circle back to one of my big God struggles. Being self-reliant vs. God-reliant. This isn’t exactly the same but the same underlying issues are at play when I’d rather be self-reliant than ask for help just to keep from being vulnerable or transparent.

From what I’ve learned in therapy, I know this is a coping mechanism to protect myself and this has become part of my identity.

If I take on all the things, I’m valuable. If I’m reliable and strong, I’m important. If I’m super helpful to other people, I’m useful and necessary.

Needing to be needed.

But also needing to not need anyone else.

The house may be dried out but these slightly soggy thoughts just keep drip…drip…dripping.


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Slightly Stronger Roots

I wrote this blog post 2 weeks ago and scheduled it to post today (July 30). This was written prior to the massive amount of rain we received this week which caused our basement to be completely flooded again with over a foot of standing water. This is the 3rd flood in 8 years. I guess God really wants to give me every opportunity to apply what I’m learning.

I was listening to one of TobyMac’s newest songs “The Goodness” the other day and the first verse has stuck with me:

You made the rain, so when it falls on me
Should I complain, or feel You calling me?
It’s all on me to stay
And really catch what You’re showing
It’s my roots that You’re growing
‘Cause life is more than this moment

“It’s my roots that you’re growing” reminded me of this little visual (pictured below) that I drew in my journal last March.

I wanted to write a blog at the time about when you feel like you’re not making forward progress or you’re not growing at the pace you think you should be that it could be because God is working on strengthening your roots beneath the surface.

I’ve thought about that visual several times over the last year or so but was never able to come up with a blog.

But hearing that line in the TobyMac song brought it back around again. My recent struggle with depression that I shared here is an example of needing slightly stronger roots.

Would I have been able to survive that season and continue surviving without God strengthening and growing my roots in previous seasons of struggle?

Slightly stronger roots allow us to withstand wind storms.

Only God knows the storms that are coming and only He knows what we need today to prepare us for what’s waiting around the bend.

Looking back…

While I was focused on being in ANOTHER season of dizziness, God was growing a root of empathy for people with chronic illness.

While I was focused on being in ANOTHER season of depression, God was strengthening the roots of patience, love and gentleness towards myself.

While I was focused on ALL the things I was missing out on because of my physical limitations, God was growing a root of gratitude for ALL the good things in my life.

While I was focused on ALL the ways my life wasn’t going how I wanted it to, God was strengthening the root of surrender.

If I’m being honest, there has been an ongoing internal struggle surrounding the dizziness that I’m trying to resolve. At the heart of the struggle is my frustration and resentment towards God because He could fix this. He could take it away but He hasn’t.

I want to know why and what purpose this is serving. Does He just want me to be miserable? And for what?

While I’m grateful that the dizziness has decreased, I want it 100% gone and I don’t want it to keep coming back. As I’m writing this, I’m being reminded of God’s response to the 3 requests to remove the thorn in Paul’s side:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Whether or not I’m ever able to fully know why God has allowed me to walk through this, I’m grateful for this reminder.

His grace is sufficient when I’m weak.

When I’m dizzy.

When I’m depressed.

When nothing makes sense.

When I’m frustrated that God’s not doing what I want Him to do.

Even then. Especially then.

His grace is still sufficient.

Slightly stronger roots…


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A Slightly Gentler Approach

When depression seems to cling and joy is a long way off, a slightly gentler approach can be hard to find.

I randomly came across a TobyMac video recently that was posted last year. He was at a concert sharing how he has the hope of seeing his firstborn son again because God gave His firstborn Son for our salvation. Then he sang the song “21 years” that he wrote after his son died. I watched the video through twice and found myself crying SO many tears.

I’d previously seen the “21 Years” music video 2 years ago and cried so hard every time because what if that was me? What if I lost one of my kids? Would I be able to stand up on a stage and share the hope of God’s gift of salvation? I know he can only do that because of God’s unimaginable strength and mercy.

But immediately, the voice of shame started talking in my ear:

“You haven’t gone through anything as tragic as that and you can’t even pray or go to church. What’s your excuse? What reason do you have for freezing God out and always going numb? Why don’t you get up and get on with your life? Get off the couch and start doing something!”

Here’s what I love about the things I’ve learned in my recent journey to a healthier me. Instead of embracing the shame lecture going through my head…

I pictured God sitting down beside me on the couch.

A reminder that He always meets us where we’re at. He doesn’t push us to be more than we are until He knows we’re ready. He sits besides us and gives us the strength to get up when the time is right.

This 4 year journey I’ve been on of learning, unlearning and letting go has taught me there will ALWAYS be opportunities to choose between shame and a slightly gentler approach.

Especially when things don’t go as planned.

When life falls apart. When the picture in our head doesn’t match the reality we’re facing. When we feel like giving up.

When depression seems to cling and joy feels unattainable.

A slightly gentler approach can be hard to find.

But when I picture God sitting beside me on the couch, I feel loved.

I feel seen and understood.

I feel reassured that He’s not just a God who loves us while we were a long way off but He’s also a God who runs to us. Just to be with us.

I feel overwhelmed at the overflowing and unending amount of patience He has for me.

I feel the hope of a brighter tomorrow bubbling up inside of me. Drowning out the voice of shame.

I feel inclined to be more loving to myself. To be more understanding and patient with myself.

A slightly gentler approach…


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A Slightly Wild Faith

What if the wilderness was more than just a scary place to stumble through blindly?

I was reading a post on Facebook a couple weeks ago from an author that I follow. She was making an announcement about a new set of books she is starting to write for “those of us who wander in the wilderness of faith more than not” — this caught my attention.

The wilderness of faith? Isn’t faith supposed to get you out of the wilderness? How can faith be the wilderness?

I feel like my journey of faith has been me spending more time in the wilderness than out of it. So maybe that’s why this made me stop and think.

“The wilderness of faith” — just saying this gives me a mental image of a forest. Thousands of trees towering above. Light barely coming through. Wind rustling through the branches. Fallen twigs and leaves crunching under foot with each step.

These words come to mind… Dark. Alone. Isolated. Lost.

This idea of “the wilderness of faith” makes me think that maybe the wilderness could be so much more than I’ve been giving it credit for. The longer I pondered this idea, these questions popped into my head:

What if the wilderness was more than just a scary place to stumble through blindly?

What if it was a wilderness that taught me how to surrender? Or to trust God just a little bit more?

What if walking through the depths of the wilderness gave me the courage to finally accept that I’m not willing to settle for a mediocre faith?

What if I decided to let go of the tame expectations I have of God that make it easy for me to hold onto the comforting disillusionment of control?

What if the wilderness led me to a slightly wild faith?

A faith that doesn’t have to have all the answers.

A faith that lives outside the box.

A faith that dreams big dreams.

A faith that frees me from all of the preconceived notions I’ve carried with me for too long.

A faith that can breathe and hope and grow.

The wilderness of faith…


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A Slightly Open Door

Sometimes a slightly open door is enough to let just the right amount of light in.

Here I am again… Starting over again… The journey continues… Another new chapter…

I’m trying to figure out how to start this blog and those are all of the cliche things running through my mind. The reality is… this is just part of the bigger picture. Part of the story of who I was, who I am and who I am becoming.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve felt 100% centered and whole. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. In 2018-2019 I lost the most weight I’ve ever lost before (90 pounds) and felt the healthiest that I ever have been. I had started therapy for the first time since college and I joined Overeaters Anonymous. Both of those things led to huge breakthroughs in all areas of my life. I was literally living my best life until things started to unravel.

I’d like to blame COVID & the pandemic but I was already starting to derail mid 2019. The pandemic definitely didn’t help and maybe I would’ve been able to get everything back on track if the pandemic hadn’t happened but it did happen and I didn’t get back on track.

I spent the first half of 2020 trying to figure out life in a pandemic and the 2nd half of 2020 dealing with extremely debilitating dizziness caused by a vestibular disorder. And then we got COVID in December 2020. I went from dizzy and discouraged to being the sickest I’ve ever felt in my life. At that point getting back on track didn’t seem possible because the track was nowhere to be found in the middle of what felt like one of the most frustrating seasons of my life.

I was deeply depressed and decided to return to weekly therapy in March 2021 to see if I could find some way out of the darkness. The therapy helped me realize I wasn’t as far gone as I thought I was and also opened my eyes to some deep rooted issues in my relationship with God. I faced some hard truths about my need to be self-reliant vs God-reliant and was able to gain some momentum in getting back some of my emotional, mental and spiritual health.

At the same time that I was doing therapy sessions, I also discovered float therapy which completely relieved my dizziness caused by the vestibular disorder. That was a HUGE win for me physically.

2021 was a big milestone year for me. I turned 40 in September and celebrated my 20 year anniversary with my husband in Charleston, SC. I felt good about turning 40 and our anniversary trip was an AMAZING experience. Except that I found myself dealing with a new type of dizziness called disembarkment syndrome or MdDS (Mal de Debarquement Syndrome) which was triggered by our flights to and from Charleston as well as a boat ride we took while in Charleston.

The worst part was that the solution I’d found for the vestibular dizziness (float therapy) was making the MdDS dizziness worse. I came back from one of the best trips of my life and started making my way into another dark season. Probably the absolute worst depression I’ve experienced in a very long time.

In November 2021, I found a doctor that helped me eventually get relief from the worst of the dizziness but I’m still dealing with symptoms getting triggered on a daily basis. I’m at a loss to describe what the last 7 months have been like. Frustrated, discouraged and hopeless are the first words that come to mind but those don’t even feel like they really describe the depth of the struggle I’ve been in.

Last week I reached my breaking point.

I hated everything about anything and everything that I could think of but mostly I hated me. How depressed I was. How far I’d drifted from God again. How miserable I was feeling. How I’d let myself gain so much weight and how I didn’t have one ounce of motivation to do anything about any of it.

After having a complete meltdown, I went for a drive and was trying to find some clarity on where to go with all of these feelings. As I was driving, I started listening to a song called Jireh that my daughter had shared with me. These lyrics grabbed my attention immediately:

I’ll never be more loved than I am right now
Wasn’t holding You up
So there’s nothing I can do to let You down
It doesn’t take a trophy to make You proud
I’ll never be more loved than I am right now

Going through a storm but I won’t go down
I hear Your voice
Carried in the rhythm of the wind to call me out
You would cross an ocean so I wouldn’t drown
You’ve never been closer than You are right now

You are Jireh, You are enough
Jireh, You are enough
And I will be content in every circumstance
You are Jireh, You are enough

Jireh (Elevation Worship and Maverick City Music)

I felt the smallest bit of light start to break through the darkness. In my mind I pictured myself standing in front of a closed door. I could see light shining from underneath the door, around the sides and along the top. I knew if I walked towards the door and opened it, I’d see God standing on the other side. But I was frozen in place.

I felt guilty and ashamed that I’d chosen darkness and silence over the last 7 months. There was no part of me that had been content in every circumstance. I wasn’t trusting God. I wasn’t leaning on Him. I wasn’t waiting on Him. I didn’t see anything in my situation that was worth trying to feel content about.

In fact, what I had been feeling was angry and resentful at God. Yes, I know He’s faithful and He’s a good God. I know… I know… I know… but I was still pissed that He would allow me to face another season of debilitating dizziness. And yes, I know that God can handle our honest feelings but I didn’t want to talk to Him.

So I chose to be silent and distant. I chose to close the door.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that despite months of my silence and in the midst of my pity party, God was still at work.

“You would cross an ocean so I wouldn’t drown.” Even though I didn’t ask Him to. Even though I wasn’t even speaking to Him. Even though I was the angriest I’d ever been and had no plans to stop. Despite all of that, He was still at work.

I hadn’t voluntarily listened to a worship song in months and yet this random song (Jireh) that I’d literally only heard one time came to mind, at a moment that I needed it so desperately.

I know that wasn’t by accident. That was God crossing an ocean so I wouldn’t drown.

As I continued driving and listening to this song on repeat, the picture of me standing in front of the closed door changed to me walking towards the door and opening it just slightly. I was expecting to see God on the other side of the door with His arms crossed and a look of disappointment on His face. I was wrong.

His face radiated joy. His arms were open wide. He was smiling at me. He wasn’t disappointed. He was happy to see me.

I wish this was enough to make everything better. Like waving a magic wand to make me a completely different person. Wouldn’t that be nice?

But now, in my mind, I see myself standing in front of a slightly open door with just enough light to push back the shadows surrounding me.

I’m still struggling but I feel hope again. I feel the promise of God’s faithfulness. I feel a little less angry and a little more content. For now, that is enough.

“You are Jireh, You are enough. Jireh, You are enough.”


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Hymns of Healing

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth. Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.”

Earlier this week, I woke up with the first verse and chorus of “Great is Thy Faithfulness” playing through my brain:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning, new mercies I see
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

It caught me off guard because it’s been quite awhile since I’ve woken up with a song of worship at the tip of my tongue.

It felt like God was speaking right to the heart of where I’ve been struggling and said to me:

I am still faithful.
Even when you doubt.
When you're unsure
Or wavering,
There is no shadow of turning with Me.
I am unwavering and unchanging.
My compassion for you will not fail.
As I have always been,
I forever will be.

I am still faithful.
Morning by morning, new mercies I give.
All you have needed, My hand has provided.
Even in your struggle,
I am still faithful.

After writing out all my thoughts earlier this week in my blog Gospel of Guilt and questioning how to love Jesus without having to earn His love in return, this song in my heart and the words I felt God speaking over me felt like a balm to the soreness inside me.

It also made me grateful for growing up with the opportunity to learn so many hymns at home and at church. My Mom used to sit in the hallway at night between my brother’s room and the room I shared with my sister to sing to us at bedtime. At a time in our family when I know she was struggling, she gave us the gift of God’s peace in the words she sang over us.

We used to spend every summer break at my grandparents house where the love of hymns was also cultivated. I remember my Grandma sitting down in the middle of the day at the piano to play and sing some of her favorite hymns. I would sit next to her and let her words soak deep into my heart. If I listen hard enough I still hear her voice singing “Blessed Assurance” and “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

We also couldn’t start a meal at my grandparents house without my Grandpa leading us through one hymn (usually more). It annoyed me at the time but I’m grateful for a heritage of hymn singers. Even if it meant a meal started to get a little cold. These are memories of my Mom and my grandparents that I cherish and hold dear.

As I was pondering these memories, the thought came to me that with all of the unraveling I’ve been doing on the things from my younger years that did not serve me well, this area of hymns and worship music is one I’ve held tightly to my whole life.

After being prompted with the lines of “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” I went back and started listening to other hymns that have seen me through some of my darkest times.

The first hymn I went back to was 4 Him’s version of “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less/Solid Rock” which I distinctly remember hearing for the first time in 2004. My husband and I had moved from Missouri to Alaska and we’d been there for about 6 months. My parents had come to visit us and the morning they went back home I was having a much harder time saying goodbye than I anticipated. I missed them more than I thought I would and I could not stop crying.

I put the 4 Him CD on after we got home from taking them to the airport and when “The Solid Rock” came on, it was like hearing the words to this old hymn for the very first time. I had already been battling depression for several years at that point and these words gave me the peace I was needing:

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds with the veil

Just like the words God spoke to my heart earlier this week, I felt the same thing hearing “The Solid Rock” all those years ago:

I am the Solid Rock.
The Rock on which you stand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

Even when it is dark
And you can't see my face,
Nothing has changed about my grace.
When the storm blows hard
And everything feels obscure,
I am the anchor that holds secure.

I am the Solid Rock.
I am YOUR Solid Rock.

That was the exact comfort and reassurance I needed in that moment.

The other hymn I went back to earlier this week was “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and specifically the third verse:

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be;
Let thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above."

I view these words differently now in the place I’m at currently but in my previous moments of deepest depression I remember begging God to bind my wandering heart to Him. I could relate so well to feeling prone to wander and prone to leave the God I love. At the time, that seemed like the only obvious reason I struggled with depression.

I thought if I could just have God pick me up and strap me right to His chest, I’d have no choice but to stay close. That I wouldn’t struggle as much as I was. But our God is not One to force Himself on anyone. I had to choose to stay close because I wanted to be close.

Yet still I felt myself wandering. At least that’s how I viewed it back then. Knowing what I know now, wandering was how I defined my times of drifting when I’d get tired of trying to be perfect for God. When I’d give up on checking all the boxes because I was worn out with the To Do list.

I see now my times of wandering were really just exhaustion at the self-imposed weight I was making myself carry every day.

God’s reminder to me earlier this week of His faithfulness felt like a healing touch on my heart. Not just for today but for all of the yesterdays I’ve been wrestling with lately. To look back over my life and see God’s faithfulness in spite of all the ways I’ve struggled is a gift.

I’m grateful that even in my wandering and fumbling and darkness, God has never left my side.

Whether I could see Him or not, He was always there with His unchanging grace. My solid rock. My anchor. The unending fount of every blessing.

Great is His faithfulness, indeed.


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Gospel of Guilt

The gospel message of guilt that I’ve been preaching to myself is not what I want to follow anymore.

In my therapy sessions earlier this year, my performance based relationship with God was the focus of quite a few conversations with my therapist. As a result, she recommended that I read the book “The Discipline of Grace” by Jerry Bridges.

I bought the book back in July and have been slow to get very far in reading it. For some reason I can only read a few pages at a time with books like these. I’m still only in Chapter 1 even though there have been some really insightful nuggets so far such as this from the very first page:

“We try to change ourselves. We take what we think are the tools of spirtual transformation into our own hands and try to sculpt ourselves into robust Christlike specimens.”

And this, a little farther into Chapter 1 that just about jumped off the page and knocked me to the floor when I read it:

“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the REACH of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the NEED of God’s grace.”

This morning I picked up the book to read a couple of pages and this really stood out to me:

“The one word that describes what we must continue to hear is gospel. We need to continue to hear the gospel every day of our Christian lives. Only a continuous reminder of the gospel of God’s grace through Christ will keep us from falling into good-day-bad-day thinking, wherein we think our daily relationship with God is based on how good we’ve been. It is only the joy of hearing the gospel and being reminded that our sins are forgiven in Christ that will keep the demands of discipleship from becoming drudgery. It is only gratitude and love to God that comes from knowing that He no longer counts our sins against us (Romans 4:8) that provides the proper motive for responding to the claims of discipleship.”

My first thought after reading this was: “Did I get saved because of the gospel or out of guilt?”

I was only 8 when I accepted Jesus so the ability to grasp the depths of salvation was obviously limited but I don’t remember feeling joy.

I only remember guilt.

I felt desperate to be right with God because it was the right thing to do. And it’s what all the church kids were expected to do, right?

I’m sure that’s a pretty common experience for most kids growing up in the church. We were so saturated in the plan of salvation that it only made sense to team up with Jesus.

Somewhere along the way, I would’ve thought that the “gospel of guilt” message I picked up as an 8 year old might have been replaced with the joy of knowing Jesus but that has not been my experience.

I have had moments of joy sprinkled along the way but mostly I have been motivated by a perfectionist, performance driven mindset which only feeds the guilt. And in case you haven’t seen it in your own life, guilt has a way of infiltrating and infecting anything it touches.

Especially joy.

I’ve spent my whole life with guilt festering inside of me for all the ways I needed to be better or stronger, and all the things I needed to do more of that I kept doing not enough of, or the things I needed to do less of that I kept doing too much of. I started equating all of that to being not enough and too much all at the same time. And that must be how God views me since that’s how I see myself. So more guilt gets added in to keep the cycle spiraling out of control.

Is it just me who struggles with this vicious cycle or can anyone else relate?

How do I stop feeling guilty? How do I love Jesus without feeling like I have to earn His love in return? How do I spend time with God without feeling obligated to just check another thing off the daily To Do list?

Hopefully I’ll find an answer as I continue reading “The Discipline of Grace” because the gospel message of guilt that I’ve been preaching to myself is not what I want to follow anymore.

I need to hear the true gospel message full of grace and truth spoken in love every day. Not just that Jesus died on the cross for all the sins of the world but also the gospel that looks more like come to Me if you’re weary so I can give you rest. Instead of a gospel that says keep pushing yourself til you break under the weight of your own expectations.

I need the gospel that leads me back to the only One who can be my strong tower in the battle, protecting me and fighting for me.

The gospel that reminds me I can find shelter under the wings of a compassionate God who longs to carry me when the journey is hard. A gentle God who knows this isn’t a character flaw of weakness but an act of worship to trust and rest in His care.

This is the gospel message I need every day. A message of truth, protection and love. Filled with more joy and less guilt.


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Suspicious of God

Maybe my suspicion is more about my desire to hear God’s true voice and to have a genuine relationship with Him based on who He really is…

I read a post on Facebook earlier this week from Lysa TerKeurst that gave me something new to chew on:

I trust God. Until I don’t. That doesn’t feel like a very Christian thing to say. But if I don’t acknowledge this struggle, I can’t address it.

I don’t think I’m the only one.

So many of us raise our hands high as we proclaim that our God is a “good, good Father,” but then we find ourselves lying in our beds at night with tear-stained pillows, facing realities that don’t feel very good at all.

It’s hard not to feel suspicious of God when our circumstances don’t seem to line up with His promises. And it’s difficult not to doubt the light of His truth when everything around us looks dark.

Lysa TerKeurst, 10/1/21

She ends the post by encouraging strugglers to ask God to bring good out of the difficult places and to keep praising Him through the darkness.

Most of this post seemed like pretty typical Christian struggle encouragement but one word stood out to me as I was reading this:

SUSPICIOUS

It literally jumped off the screen and stopped me in my tracks.

I don’t feel like suspicious is a common word we use in the Christian vocabulary when speaking of God.

We have a lot of ways to say we’re struggling that might fall under the definition of suspicious (having or showing a cautious distrust of someone or something). We say we’re having a hard time trusting Him or we don’t see God at work. We don’t understand His plan or we don’t understand why He’s allowing something to happen or not happen.

But to actually be suspicious of God? This was a new thought to me.

The word suspicious to me implies I think someone is up to no good or as the kids are saying these days that someone/something is “sus” – it’s shady, unreliable and you’re just not sure about it.

My next thought was:

Is this how I feel about God right now? Am I suspicious of Him? Is the indifference/disconnect I’ve been feeling just that or is it suspicion?

These questions make me feel uncomfortable because what if I am suspicious of God? What does that say about me?

The good girl Christian training that’s been ingrained in me makes me feel guilty that I can’t put all my questions/struggles to the side and just go back to the push it down, don’t think about it, blind faith I had before.

But I don’t want that kind of faith anymore. I don’t know for sure but I don’t think God wants that for me either.

I feel like I’ve always had a fairly strong relationship with God but as I’ve shared previously, if it was based on feeling like I Had to earn His love or if it was based on a perception of God that was all wrong, then maybe it’s not really God that I’m suspicious of. Maybe I’m just suspicious of God in all the ways I’ve always known Him and viewed Him incorrectly.

The God who is standing over me with a running list of my faults and failures.

The God who is keeping a record of all the Christian to do boxes I fail to check each day.

Or the God who is disappointed because I can’t figure out how to stop being depressed.

And what about the God who says, “I loved you enough to send my Son to die for all your sins so why can’t you just get with the program?”

I realized a couple months ago that as illogical as this is, I have been allowing the voice of shame to replace the voice of God and didn’t even know it. And the voice of shame is very good at pretending to be God in my head.

So maybe my suspicion is more about my desire to hear His true voice and to have a genuine relationship with God based on who He really is.

To be able to trust that the things I want to be true about God actually are.

That He IS a good, good Father that loves us no matter how many questions we ask or how we struggle and that He’s a big enough God to handle all the baggage that we bring Him filled with our misconceptions and doubts.

That’s the God I want to know and trust.


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