Becoming Like Jesus Isn’t for Sissies

Tears rolled down my cheeks when I received the sad news. My stomach burned like I’d been kicked in the gut. The age-old question taunted me, “Why, Lord?

Even so, I took a deep breath and told myself, every circumstance is an opportunity for me to become more like Christ. But what does that mean? More patient? More compassionate? More … what?

Heartache colored everything grey. What was I supposed to learn from this sorrow? Was the lesson worth the cost?

And yet, if I believed God could use my sorrow to make me more like His Son, Jesus, then I had to unclench my fist. If nothing else, I could respond like Jesus on the night just before He was arrested.

“My heart is so full of sadness that I could die,” Jesus said. Then He fell on His face and prayed, “Father, not what I want, but what you want!” (Matthew 26:38,39)

Becoming like Jesus isn’t for sissies. Sometimes, the idea of being Christ-like seems downright impossible. Thankfully, the Spirit of God does the work of conforming people into Christ’s image.

The process begins when a person is born again. Jesus told Nicodemus “unless a person is born again from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”(John 3:3)

Like any birth, growth follows.

I wish I could take a daily hallelujah pill and have my thoughts, words, and actions be the same as Christ. But the Bible says I won’t fully be like Jesus until I see Him face to face. Meanwhile, some days I feel less like Jesus than the day I trusted Him to be my Lord and Savior. On a good day, I feel as though I’ve had a spiritual growth spurt and hope others see Christ in me.

But, how I “feel” has nothing to do with reality.

Romans 8:29 says God predestined His people to be conformed to His Son’s image. (Predestined means to determine in advance.) Only, nobody ever said the process would be painless.

When I was a kid, my long dirty-blond hair easily tangled at the nape of my neck. The fine hairs would bunch up into a tight-fisted ball until it resembled a rat’s nest. I’d go to my mom with a comb and try to sit still as she pried the hairs apart. However, it was impossible to straighten my hair without pulling at the tender roots. I’d complain and wiggle which only made the process worse.

I haven’t changed. When my rat-race of a life becomes a hairy mess, I run to God with my circumstances. Cry for help. Beg for relief. Only, I’m too busy wiggling and complaining.

“It hurts, Lord. Make it go away. I can’t deal with this!”

And yet, for every emotional tantrum, I’ve also had victorious moments. Last month, life hit me below the belt through no fault of my own, I felt the pinch, the pain. I agonized over my powerlessness to change things. Only this time, I sat still in God’s presence and allowed Him to dry my tears. God didn’t explain why He allowed the sorrow. He didn’t tell me how He’d use it for my good.

However, if my ultimate good is becoming more like Christ, then I can trust God to work everything together towards that end.

So, what’s a believer’s role in this process?

Get to know Jesus. Study the Bible’s four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) that are in the New Testament. Who is Jesus? What does He say about Himself? What do His actions reveal about His character? What does Jesus expect from His followers?

—Pray for a transformed heart. Our human tendency is to avoid pain and want our own way. Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” But we can pray that our heart’s desire would be a deeper relationship with Jesus, and the desire to become like Him. Willing to follow Him even if it means getting a taste of the Garden of Gethsemane.

—Change perspective. View every circumstance as an opportunity and the means to be like Christ. Having an eternal perspective affects our attitude towards hardship. It also enables us to respond like Christ and accept God’s will.

Even now, when my heartache lingers, I know God is good. His eternal purposes for my life includes making me more like Christ.

Who is this Jesus, the Christ? He’s the Alpha and the Omega. The Lion and the Lamb. Lord of Lords. King of Kings. And He made a promise just before He ascended to heaven: “And remember! I will be with you always.”

Jesus. Always with us.

Even in this … hard place.

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Are You Sitting in Ashes?

Being depressed is like having a bloodsucking leech embedded in my flesh. Drains me physically. Muddles my mind. Squashes spiritual zeal. I can’t seem to detach the ugly thing. Ever been there?
images-6If you want to get technical, the dictionary defines depression as a psychotic state of mind that entails sadness, despondency, hopelessness, inability to think or concentrate, inactivity, and the desire to sleep. The verb, depress, means to lower.

During the winter months, I often feel like I’ve been lowered into a dark hole. A lack of sun and exercise. Rainy days and long nights. Head colds and flu. These all contribute to a seasonal melancholy state of mind. But experience tells me this too shall pass. I know the Lord will lift me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He’ll set my feet on solid ground and steady me as I walk. (Psalm 40:2)

But oh, how I wish the Lord would rush to the rescue sooner, particularly for those I love. Because my ‘depressed spirit’ also resulted from concern and empathizing with so many family members and friends who are suffering far worse than me.

If they were mentioned among the heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11, their woes would be listed as such: experienced the death of a child, unemployment, loss of a home, financial devastation, divorce, major surgery, lack of health insurance, life-threatening illness, agonizing chronic pain.

Some of them remind me of Job. Sitting in a heap of ashes.

Begging for mercy. Pleading for answers. Waiting for the storm to pass. Trusting the Lord when everything shouts, “Give up!”

My spiritual mentor and friend, Loretta, once told me, “Trusting God is the most important ingredient in a believer’s life. Because there will be days when we’re in the desert and God appears silent. That’s when we have to trust who God is. And His promises.”

Loretta learned to trust God’s sovereignty early in her marriage. Trusting God—no matter what—proved invaluable and enabled Loretta to cope when her husband died in a plane crash. Instead of becoming a missionary with her husband, as planned, Loretta became the sole breadwinner and single mom of three young kids. Over the next twelve months, three other beloved family members died. Can you imagine the pain?

That living nightmare happened decades ago, and yet, from those ashes, grew a deeper trust in God. Here’s what she said:

“We have the opportunity to choose how we respond during adversity. We either bend and let God work in our lives in order to mold us. Or we resist and lose out on His lessons. Life is full of difficult circumstances. If we believe our circumstances are allowed by God, and that He withholds no good thing from us, then our trust grows and we’re better prepared for the next hard thing. Trust becomes—or can be—a way of life.”

Today, as I emerged from my lethargic fog, I thought about Loretta’s words when I saw the yellow daffodils preening in my yard beneath a blue sky.1929165_79192745912_7011292_nLast week, these flowers were bent. Beaten down by the cold, pummeling rain. Now, the daffodils stand tall. Their stems stretch heavenward as they soak up the sun. If I close my eyes, I can almost hear them sing. Heralding the coming Spring.

And a small voice whispers in the cool breeze. Trust God even in this…. 

 

 

 

Are You Overwhelmed?

Are you overwhelmed by the news or personal issues in your life? My friend, Susan, has written a thought-provoking blog that I’d like to share. I pray her words encourage your heart. You can find more of her posts on http://Susansage.com

I have been over the last week

Overwhelmed

Discouraged

Sad

Angry at times

Never wanting my husband to put on a uniform again

But, right above my desk hangs a sign a friend painted for me. 

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Question is—do I?

Do I trust Him when pain rips through my body?

Do I trust God’s sovereignty when there is increased violence?

Do I trust He’s got this when another friend succumbs to illness?

Do I really believe He’s in control when an ambush occurs on those who were trying to protect others?

Do rely on Him fully when politics just doesn’t make sense?

Do I hold fast to faith in Him when things and people I thought were unwavering, are not?

What could you add to this list?

Truth is, pain did rip through my body under the stress of all the violence last week. Honestly, I don’t ever want my husband to put his uniform on again and go defend others. And, discouragement began to send tentacles of fear into my heart over the violence and craziness around us.

But, as God often does, He used a small phrase in a big account in the Bible. Remember in the book of Daniel when he asked not to be fed the choice foods but rather the vegetables and water. In the passage in Daniel 1:8Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), it says (depending on your translation) Daniel “resolved” or “made up his mind.”

I was teaching a class at church and that phrase hit me.

Daniel resolved . . .

Have I?

Have you?

If God is really sovereign, then He is trustworthy.

I must resolve each day to trust, just as the sign says. It’s a day by day decision, sometimes it’s moment by moment.

Either I believe He’s sovereign and trustworthy or I don’t.

What does it look like if I don’t? I’ll worry, toil over it, succumb to fear and panic, and keep allowing my thoughts to remain on the issues.

What will it look like if I do? I’ll take God’s advice. There are so many verses in the Bible that remind me what to do when I’m fearful and overwhelmed like Psalm 56:3, or Philippians 4:8, or Colossians 3:2 among many more.

Every day we have to make the decision whether we will allow the crises surrounding us to keep our focus or whether we’ll live as we, as believers, say we believe-trusting God.

By the way, just because we believe that God is sovereign and so in control, doesn’t mean difficult issues will not touch us. But, if He is sovereign, and I believe He is, then often throughout the day I must resolve to stay in that reality, not allowing the difficulties, whatever they are, to keep me weighted in fear.

As my eyes are on Him, I also need to make up my mind how I will react to these troubles. Will I act out in frustration by showing hate and negativity to others or will I allow God’s love and light to work in and through me towards others?

If you want another perspective on dealing with fear and worry, jump over to my friend, Kris Lindsey’s blog. You’ll find her http://krislindsey.com

Do I trust God’s sovereignty when there is increased violence?

Either I believe God is sovereign and trustworthy or I don’t.

Sign painted by Allie Billat at Mad Hatter Salvage Creations

Are You Unraveling?

IMG_4102A single piece of thread dangles from my scarf. I tuck the lonely strand back into place. Try to hide it.

For I know if I yank the thread too hard, the scarf will bunch up. Keep pulling it and the scarf might unravel.

Ever feel that way?

 

Read my guest post on this fellow author’s website:http://www.joyawilliams.com/are-you-unraveling/

 

 

Sound Like a Broken Record?

I have an ongoing prayer request that makes me sound like a broken record.

Ever heard a vinyl record with a deep scratch? The phonograph needle gets stuck in the crack so the same lyric or tune gets repeated over and over and over.

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That’s me.

I’m a weary prayer warrior…losing patience…losing hope…for the people I’ve been praying for all these years.

O ye, woman, of little faith.

That’s how I feel sometimes when I open my dog-eared prayer journal, write the same prayer requests down, and remind God that according to His Word:

“He is more than able.”
“Nothing is impossible for Him.

I KNOW God loves the people I’m praying for, and can use all things for good; to draw them to Christ and mold them into His likeness.

I KNOW the Lord can restore broken lives. For I’ve heard the testimony of Christians whose chains were broken and they were set free from sin, shame, bad habits, and despair.

I KNOW, but do I BELIEVE.

Or maybe, if I was a squeakier wheel, I’d get the grease.

I need to keep knocking like that old woman in the Bible who kept pestering the judge till he got out of bed and opened the door.

Only, I’ve been pestering God for a decade—pounding my fist, down on my knees begging Him—to no avail.

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Ever been there?

Been so discouraged by what you see in people’s lives, that you don’t know how to pray? Or maybe you’ve given up prayer.

After I watched the movie The War Room, I vowed to pray more, pray harder,and claim God’s promises for someone. A month went by and nada!

Things got worse.

I thought the power of my prayers would persuade the Lord to make everything alright, overnight. After all, it worked in that movie.

LIfting their problems to the Lord, trusting Him to act, submitting to the consequences of their actions. I won’t spoil the story ( I’d encourage you to watch it) but hey, I’m still waiting for my happy ending.

I’m waiting and weary, but I won’t stop praying because C.S. Lewis was right when he said,

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

Prayer changes me because…

  • Even though God doesn’t answer my prayers according to my expectations, I know there’s a bigger, eternal picture that I can’t see.
  • Even though, there’s a lack of evidence that God is working in someone’s life, I know He will complete the work He began in them, and me.
  • Even though I’m bewildered, I know God loves His children with an everlasting love. He’s called us to pray for one another. Not become their god.

Therefore, I can praise God and trust Him….

Even in this—seemingly endless prayer request.

 

Photos by: Pixabay