The one thing that makes you most useless to God

I doubt there is any sin more prevalent in the hearts of fallen humanity, nor one so destructive than that of pride.
In fact, the other day, I began to wonder whether there was any person more useless to God than the one whose heart is consumed with pride.crumpled-up-paper_2540467

I doubt there is.

I know for myself that when I am focused on my own importance, on building my own kingdom in which I reign supremely as queen, I am about as useless to God and His Kingdom as I can be.

For the Christian who is genuinely focused ahead on the glory of heaven, one thing that should be most frightening is that we may get there, only to look back and discover that we spent our lives being largely useless to God.

As I reflected on this, I began to see, with joy, that God is in the business of destroying pride. In fact, as I look back on the greatest trials I have faced, I can see that God was using them to slowly chip away at this barrier that stands in the way of me being used for noble purposes.

It has made me realize that I should rejoice in any situation that causes my pride to be crucified. For it is in those moments of humility before the Lord, that He can use me for greater glories than I would ever be able to achieve on my own.

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When the ocean tosses you around like a rag doll

Water_size480I went surfing on the weekend. I am by no means a surfer, but I thought it would be fun to learn.

It’s probably not the best time to start. Australia is being plunged into winter and the winds that blow in off Antarctica make for a cold and rough swell, but a couple of friends and I braved the chill in our wetsuits and had a good day.

One thing that’s struck me about being an amateur surfer is how much you have to fight the ocean. Sure it’s fun when you catch a wave, but the rest of the time is spent paddling out, or, in my case, being tossed around and rolled under the water like a rag doll.

That’s a bit how life can feel sometimes; being tossed like a rag doll in the ocean; battered by the waves. No sooner have I gasped a breath of air, than I am down, under the water again. Why? For what purpose?

I asked God about it, and he reminded me of this: That I cannot see myself, but He can. And He knows that finally, when I have been removed from the water, I will have been refined into a pearl far more brilliant than anything that could have been attained on the shore.

And therein lies the peace: it is worth it, and suddenly the waves hold less fury, because at the end of the day, they’re working for me.

Your Body Can Handle More Than You Think

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I recently watched a TED talk about stress by Kelly McGonigal. (you can watch it here.)

Being a self confessed ‘stresser,’ I was fascinated by McGonigal’s premise that stress in itself is nowhere near as damaging to our health and wellbeing as we have been inclined to think. Rather, she claims, it is the mere belief that stress is harmful to our health, which causes such drastic ill effects.

As I watched the talk, I found myself reflecting on something that has always astounded me. The human body has a phenomenal capacity to endure suffering. We can handle far more than we can even imagine, it’s just that, most of the time, our body doesn’t let on to this fact. Our panic and fear-of-impending-doom responses often kick in early, as they are well designed to do, but sometimes that leaves us with the feeling that something that will cause us no harm at all, is an imminent threat.

I could immediately see connections to my faith. God has not promised us an easy ride, in fact, Christians have almost been guaranteed hardship, and yet we have also been promised that we will be able to endure. How often do we fall into harm’s way, not because we have been given more than we can bear, but because we have given into the temptation of worry and anxiety?

Perhaps taking our anxieties first to the Throne of Grace will give us greater protection from harm, than avoiding challenging situations.

How can I trust God when He gives no guarantee things will get easier?

cliff-drop-warning-sign--information_19-133742Anyone who has come face to face with the call to trust God in the midst of suffering will understand these feelings of trepidation.

The Christian, never having been promised an easy life, is still supposed to trust God, knowing that He may lead us into hardships. Sometimes it feels like you’re standing at the top of a cliff, fearfully putting your trust in someone who may well push you off, against your wishes and with no warning.

I remember wrestling with this during one of my most unwell times. ‘How can I trust someone who may allow me to go even deeper into this pit of suffering?’ It’s a very real question. If I can’t trust a God who loves me to protect me from what I fear most, then what can I trust Him for?

Sometimes I think we forget what it means to be a Christian. It means that we’ve been crucified with Christ. Crucified! We have given up all of our earthly rights in the hope that we can be restored to relationship with God; that we have a home in heaven; and that all things will, ultimately, work together for our good.

We do not chiefly trust in God to make our lives easier. We surrender our lives, to share in His sufferings, because we believe it is the greatest possible trade we could make. Our trust is in God, not for earthly pleasures, but for the glory that will one day be revealed.

The Precious Gift of Having Suffered

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The other week, I had a chance to talk to a group of students about of my journey with Chronic Fatigue. I talked about the darkness, the grief and the sometimes overwhelming feelings of despair, but I also talked about the hope and joy I have found through my relationship with Jesus.

At the end of the lesson, I was surprised when one of the students stayed behind.

“I just wanted to talk to you” he said, “because you’ve been through the same thing that I’m going through now.”

He then went on to tell me about what was going on in his life. Indirectly, he was dealing with issues of death and divorce, sexual abuse, neglect, overwork and worry. His circumstances were overwhelming, and poles apart from anything I had ever experienced.

I couldn’t understand why he was talking to me as though I’d been there too. Suddenly I realized: for perhaps the first time, an adult had opened up about being in dark places and finding a way through. My comparatively small affliction had given me credibility in a world of suffering and pain.

My illness has tattooed into me the exclusive pass code to a world where hurting people need hope. People come to me, and listen to me, because they see in me someone who has been there and survived. It is a privileged position to be in.

May God grant me the grace to see the blessings of suffering shine more brightly than the pain.

What if David knew?

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I’ve had a note scrawled in my Bible for years now. I can’t even remember the circumstances surrounding me writing it, but it’s struck me a few times since:

Imagine if David knew, while he was in the cave, singing alone to God, that people would find comfort in his songs 3,000 years later; that the book that contained his songs would be directly from God; that it would be the best-selling book of all time.

I can be fairly sure that David had no clue, but I can’t help wondering, whether if he did, it suddenly would have all seemed worth it. Like us, David had times when he was alone, cold and despairing. He was in danger, overcome with fear and felt helpless. In the midst of the storm, he cried out to His God, with no comprehension of its significance in God’s big picture plan.

Our words may not be written down in scripture for millions of people to read over thousands of years, but like David, we often cannot see the way that God can and will use our own legacy.

As you go through the storms of life, remember that your time here is short, but that the beauty and influence that can be worked in you through the hands of the Potter do not fade away.

One day, I have no doubt, it will all be worth it.

You Couldn’t Handle the Guilt.

Photo Credit: Mare-of-Night

Painting Credit: Mare-of-Night

Growing up in a Christian home meant that while I always knew I was a sinner, my ‘good little Christian girl’ behavior often made it hard for me to really see myself that way.

As I grew older, and my understanding of both myself and the gospel deepened, I came to understand that while I was good at avoiding the obvious, visible sins, in my heart, I was no better than anyone else. I understood this, but I often struggled to really feel it; instead of wrestling with guilt, I’ve wrestled with not feeling guilty enough.

I’ve prayed through this many times, grappling with the paradoxical desire to fully comprehend my sinfulness (which would hopefully enable me to more completely experience God’s graciousness) while at the same time recognizing that the cross has done away with my sin and I am clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

I was struggling with this once again on the weekend; struggling with my lack of guilt and my apathy towards my sinfulness, when I sensed the voice of God say to me ‘Sarah, you couldn’t handle the guilt.’

I know that I’m a sinner, and I know that I’ve trusted Jesus with my sin, so instead of wrestling with not feeling it enough, I need to rejoice in God’s grace. He knows that I could not stand under the weight of my own guilt, and He has not asked me to. Jesus paid for that too.

If God is good, why doesn’t he stop human suffering?

Photo Credit: benreed.net

I know there is great risk of sounding trite in attempting a short answer to such a complex question, but I recently received an insight that I found quite profound.

We live in a world damaged by sin. As long as Satan is the god of this world there will be suffering. Most Christians accept this truth, but it is difficult knowing that God could stop it.

So, what would an end to sin and suffering look like? We would have a gloriously perfect world! A world, in fact, exactly like the one God has promised will come one day. The question, therefore, is not, ‘why won’t God end suffering,’ but rather, ‘why won’t God end suffering now?’

I recently heard Dr. Les Crawford, from the Adelaide College of Ministries, make this comment: ‘If God brought in the new heaven and the new earth now – that would be the end of redemption.’

It really hit me. To end suffering would mean to destroy all that is corrupted by sin. And God’s glorious agenda is to bepatient…not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Some people face horrific suffering in this life, and I don’t want to trivialise that, but we must not judge God to be unkind for not yet transforming the world. He does it out of a heart of amazing grace, because He knows that while we are here, our suffering is temporary, but once the doors close on redemption, it is eternal.