Being Content with Where You Are in Life

Do you love where you are in life? Do you love the job, house, family and life you have?

Would you change anything?

If we’re honest, most of us would change some things. But is that right? Should we be content with what we have, with where we are?

If we were sitting together at Starbucks, you would ask me if that is simply settling.

It can be, but my guess is it isn’t.

It is learning to be content.

If you are anything like me, you struggle with being content.

I always want more. Not in a prideful way, although that sometimes happens, but in a, “I know I could have more, I know I could be more” way.

In your 20’s this is simply growing and trying to move into adulthood. Once you start to move past 40 and into your 50’s, if you aren’t careful this can lead to burnout and disillusionment, because the goals you had never panned out. The dreams you were so sure you’d hit have fallen by the wayside.

Let me ask you something.

At first you will disagree with what I’m going to say, but hear me out.

What if the life you have right now (the house, the family, the career, the finances) is exactly the place God has you?

Depending on your perspective, that might be kind of depressing, but it isn’t meant to be.

You see, one of the reasons we aren’t able to move forward or move on to something is because we haven’t learned all that God has for us where we are. We become so consumed with what’s next, we don’t live in what we have. We don’t learn all we can where we are. We aren’t faithful with what we have, we always want the next thing.

But the reason we often get stuck is because we are so focused on what we don’t have that we miss what we do have.

The people who live life to the fullest are the ones who are filled with the most joy.

Do you know where that joy comes from?

Yes, the answer is Jesus.

But to give that more of a specific answer, it is contentment.

Paul says this in Philippians 4:

I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.

It is the key to joy.

What would being content with where you are mean for you? What would being content, enjoying the life stage you are in, mean? Not longing for the next thing or looking back at what you had, but being content. Here. Now.

 

How to Share your Faith

Inviting someone to church or sharing your faith about Jesus can be awkward. It is nerve wracking, scary and often times not what many followers of Jesus want to do.

Yet, the reality is if you are a follower of Jesus, you are to be a witness of Jesus. (Acts 1:8) That is a key and crucial piece of your new identity in Christ.

It is not optional.

Yes, some people are better at it than others, but all followers of Jesus are called to pray for people who don’t know Jesus and share their faith with them.

But how?

How do you know when you should share your faith or invite someone to your church?

There are clues to listen to when you talk to someone. Andy Stanley calls these “the not cues.” When you hear a person say something like, “Things are not going well.” Or, “I’m not prepared for…” Or, “I am not from here; we just moved to the area.”

When you hear any of these, you know it is worth the risk. Often the person who says these things is searching for something. They may not think it is Jesus, but it is.

Something crucial to not miss.

Recently, a friend told me this: If you meet someone who isn’t a Christian, you should assume that God wants to use you to help them become a follower of Jesus.

That stopped me in my tracks.

Let me say something to the Christians who are always asking for deeper preaching or a deeper Bible study or say, “I want to grow.” The best way for you to grow, to go deeper in your faith, is to share your faith. To be asked questions you don’t know the answer to and you’ll have to study. To have to stand there in a conversation and ask the Holy Spirit to tell you what to say. Those will grow you in ways that a class won’t.

So, how do you live more proactively on mission?

Here are some ideas:

  • Go to the same restaurants, coffee shops and the same classes at the gym. Frequency gives you the chance to build a relationship to share Jesus.
  • You can’t be a disciple without knowing people who don’t know Jesus.
  • Have people who don’t know Jesus into your house. People are longing for community and connection.
  • Keep your kids on the same team and in the same groups to make those connections. But what about changing teams and groups so they can get a scholarship? They won’t do that. Your job is to keep your family on mission.
  • Hand out the best candy on Halloween.
  • If you get invited to a party or BBQ by non-Christians, go. And take the best food and drink.
  • Talk to the person who cuts your hair, and if a Christian cuts your hair, switch and find a non-Christian.
  • Pray that God would move you into a neighborhood, get you a job or send you to a gym or to a school with people who need Jesus.

Why we Run and Hide from God (Jonah 1)

We run and hide for all sorts of reasons in our lives and relationships.

We are afraid of love or of loving someone else and opening ourselves up to hurt. We are afraid of being loved and opening ourselves up to be left.

We do the same things with God.

We run one way when He tells us to run another way. We try to take his role as God in our lives because we have a better strategy, a plan this time that will make everything work.

We hide from God because we aren’t sure how to be known, how to be in a relationship. We aren’t sure if God is safe because the family we grew up in wasn’t safe.

All of this leaves us in a miserable spot. It leaves us alone and afraid many times.

There’s a book of the Bible that is so familiar, and the reason it is so familiar is because we so easily see ourselves in it.

Jonah.

In Jonah we see someone that is very much like us.

A man who is scared, who doesn’t want to do what God calls him to do (in fact, it’s the last thing he wants to do), and so he runs.

He doesn’t just run, he buys a boat and a crew and sails in the opposite direction.

I always thought that Jonah ran because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh, which is partly true, but not for the reason I always believed.

Jonah went to Tarshish, an exotic port city. A place with pools, beaches, hip restaurants, while relaxing with umbrellas in your drink kind of place. He went after the life he wanted. He went after the life he felt he deserved.

This to me is one of the main reasons we get angry at God, one of the main reasons we run from God: someone else got our life. That person got my marriage, my family, my career. My life was supposed to go that way, but it didn’t. My family picture was supposed to have three kids in it, but it has none. My bank account was supposed to have another zero or two, but it doesn’t.

So we run. We hide. We get mad.

The other reason we run from God is we aren’t sure God will chase us.

Many of us have feelings of unworthiness and abandonment. We wonder if anyone cares, if anyone loves us. So we run.

We hide our sin, our desire, our pain, because we don’t know if God will care. We despise what God tells us to do because we know better. We run from God because we don’t want to go to Nineveh, what seems dull, boring or difficult in our life. We want Tarshish. We want the beach and drinks with umbrellas in them while we prop up our feet. We want to run from our marriage instead of doing the hard work. We want to bail on integrity because sin is more fun. We want to spend more money than we make because we deserve it.

We want Tarshish because we deserve Tarshish. That is my life, and God, you won’t take it from me.

But here’s what we see in Jonah 1:

You can’t out run the face of God, the presence of God. This sounds like a threat, but it isn’t. It is God’s grace to us. We need his face, his presence. We long for it, but we also fear it because in God’s presence we are known. We also see that the further we run, as far as our sin goes, God’s grace and his presence always find us there. His grace always goes one step further than our sin.

In the storm, God spared no expense to show his mercy to Jonah. He didn’t leave Jonah or let Jonah go. He went after Jonah to show his grace.

Let me say this to you if you find yourself in a storm or you see one coming. I don’t know if God allowed your storm to come or sent your storm, but your storm is an invitation of God’s grace to stop running from him. To stop hiding from him. To rest in him. To fall into him.

God will use whatever means necessary to grab our hearts. God will use health issues, marital issues, relational wounds, financial troubles, troubled kids and teenagers, friends who leave us. He will use it all to get a hold of our hearts, to get our allegiance.

God uses all situations for his glory and redemption. Verse 16 is incredible. All the men feared the Lord and offered a sacrifice to the Lord. All the men began following God because of Jonah’s stupidity, selfishness and the power and grace of God.

Nothing and no one is out of the reach of God’s grace.

Os Guiness said, We cannot find God without God. We cannot reach God without God. We cannot satisfy God without God – which is another way of saying that all our seeking will fall short unless God starts and finishes the search. The decisive part of our seeking is not our human ascent to God, but his descent to us. Without God’s descent there is no human ascent. The secret of the quest lies not in our brilliance but in his grace.

So, why are you running from God? What is it that God has called you to? What things in your life are you doing that you know God has so much more for you?

Why are you hiding from God? What thing or person are you trying to keep from God?

Here’s a good way to test this. What is your prayer life like?

The reason I ask is, often when we are running and hiding we want nothing to do with praying. It is our way of trying to take hold, take control of the situation.

How to Grow in Holiness

Holiness.

If you attend church, you have heard this word. You have heard that you are supposed to be holy as God is holy. (1 Peter 1:16)

But why? Does anyone want that?

Two reasons. One, we are called to it as followers of Jesus. All over the Bible we are told to be like God.

The second reason is because it is the path to life and freedom.

Everyone is attracted to Jesus, and in Jesus we see the person who lived the freest and fullest life and did so without sin.

How do we grow in holiness, though?

Once we determine we want holiness and see that as the path to freedom and life, Peter gives some crucial steps in 1 Peter 1.

1. Live out of your identity as a child of God. The New Testament letters contain a lot of commands about how a follower of Jesus is supposed to live. All of those come after the promises and assurances of God’s grace towards us. It happens in the Old Testament, too. Take the 10 commandments. Before giving them, God reminds them that He rescued the nation of Israel and set them free. Then He tells them how to live in that freedom.

Peter does this in chapter 1. He spends the first 12 verses laying out the truth of God’s grace towards us and our redemption found only in Jesus. Then in verse 13 he says, “Therefore.” Because of this, in light of this, be holy.

Live out the truth of your new identity.

Sinclair Ferguson said, “Holiness is a way of describing love. To say ‘God is love’ and that ‘God is holy’ ultimately is to point to the same reality. Holiness is the intensity of the love that flows within the very being of God.”

2. Prepare for it. Holiness does not just happen. In fact, very little “just happens” in our lives. Holiness takes intentionality. So does sinning. You plan for sinning simply by not choosing not to sin. You put yourself in situations that make sinning a possibility or easier to fall into.

To be holy you must prepare for it, choose it and pursue it. This term is a military, athletic term. Training for a sport, a marathon or a long hike does not just happen. You have to plan your training, when it will happen and how it will happen. You schedule your nutrition and your sleep. All those preparations go into it. The same is true for holiness.

And this is where most of us fall off track. It is easier to prepare for sin than holiness. Sin is easier to fall into than holiness.

3. Focus on Jesus and His return. Throughout the New Testament, when endurance or obedience is commanded, we are told to fix our eyes on Jesus, to look toward eternity and the promises of God we have in Jesus. Jesus is our only hope in life and death, and we must through the power of the Holy Spirit and the promises found in Scripture, keep our eyes focused on Him. Peter uses the word “fully” or “completely.”

This means identifying the things that will take our focus away from Jesus. What idols, desires or loves will put our eyes and heart from Jesus? We must know what those things are and continually battle those to keep our eyes on Jesus.

4. Be conformed by obedience, not by your past life. Following Jesus is a constant battle of moving forward. It is easy to fall backwards, to look back. Our past is what we know. It is comfortable, like an old shirt. We know those places and those people and can easily slip back.

Don’t.

Holiness says freedom and life aren’t found there.

Conformed in 1 Peter 1:14 is a shaping word. We are shaped by our passions, by our loves. They determine who we are, who we become and ultimately where our lives end up. Sinclair Ferguson said, “Knowing whose you are, who you are, and what you are for, settles basic issues about how you live.” That is what Peter is talking about here.

If our former passions shape us, they determine where our lives end up. If the holiness of God, the way we are called to live, shapes us, that determines what we love and where we end up.

Praying to a God who Knows You (Psalm 139)

It’s hard to be known. It’s hard to let people in. If we’re honest, when it comes to life and relationships, it’s easier to hide. It’s safer to hide.

Many of us in relationships hide. We are afraid. We keep things to ourselves. Some of this is out of fear. We are afraid of what people would think if they knew everything about us.

We don’t want to disappoint people. We want to be liked, to be known, to be seen as having certain abilities.

Some of us jump into relationships and become dependent on the other person. We need to be needed, we need them to validate us.

Sometimes as we hide, we manipulate people to get what we want, to get them to think certain things about us.

Sometimes to be known, we’ll isolate ourselves so that someone will chase us. This tells us we are worth it. We’ll become detached in relationships so someone will say, “I need you.”

Sometimes to protect ourselves from being known and to feel safe, we’ll jump from relationship to relationship. We’ll change gyms, small groups, where we get coffee, we’ll change social groups, all in an effort to hide. I have a friend who the moment they get too close to people, they pull back.

Where does this come from?

From our earliest moments as a baby, we have a desire to be loved, to be known.

We also have a deep desire to be safe.

These desires travel with us into being adults. To the point (and often rightfully so) that we will do whatever it takes to be safe in relationships.

Ironically, for many of us the destructive patterns of isolation, hiding, manipulation and living out of fear or co-dependency are how we’ve learned to be safe.

We then take this to God and think, “This is what worked with my mom, my dad, my teacher, my boss, my spouse, and this must be how I relate to God.”

What if bearing ourselves to God is the only way to be safe? What if sharing our deepest hurt is the only way to move forward in our relationship with God and ourselves?

As one of my mentors says, “Whatever we don’t own, owns us.”

So how do you own your past? How do you own what has been done to you? How do you own your anger? Bitterness? Loneliness? How do you move forward in a way that brings about freedom instead of keeping you stuck?

The answer is prayer.

Philip Yancey said, “An important purpose of prayer is to let our true selves be loved by God.”

Prayer is a window into God’s love and God’s heart for us. It is a chance to give our heart and hurt to Him. It is a place to remove our fears, doubts and hurt.

Psalm 139 tells us that not only does God know us, but God is everywhere and is not scared of what He knows about us. God will not leave us.

What a promise.

What a reminder that freedom comes from no longer hiding.

How does this work in prayer?

Bring to God your hurts. Say out loud or in your head, “God, this is my fear. This is my pain. These are my doubts.” Name them. Naming things often takes away their power.

Invite, like the psalmist in Psalm 139 does, for God to know you. In fact, using Psalm 139 and simply praying that to God might be a great next step for you as you name things and invite God into this place (even though He’s already there).

I often find that thanking God for knowing me and not leaving me is a powerful prayer moment. It is an amazing reminder.

Family Devotions, Train Wrecks, Praying as a Couple & the Grace to Move Forward

If you’re a man and attend church, you’ve heard a pastor say, “You need to be leading your family spiritually.” Yet many men struggle with this. I know I do.

On a regular basis I’ll sit with a man and he’ll ask me, “How do I lead my wife spiritually? When I’ve tried, I’ve been terrible at it. How do I start?”

Family devotions sound incredibly intimidating and scary for many men. Most men look at their spiritual lives and that of their wife and think, “She’s more spiritual than I am. She’s smarter than I am. She’s more mature spiritually than I am.” There’s a good chance that if you are like most couples, she is.

Now, before giving some ideas, let me say up front that this is hard. Devotions for many couples and families are train wrecks. Kids don’t sit still, they go on tangents, it feels stale or simply feels like you aren’t moving forward at all. The picture of the couple who rises at 5am, drinks coffee and reads their Bibles together while holding hands is not reality for many people. Kids who sit still and listen is also not a reality. (I have four boys, and keeping them in their seats for anything can be monumental.)

Here are a few ideas:

1. Do something. Most couples and families suffer because they don’t do anything. Just do something. You’ll see in a minute that trying different ideas might be a good idea, but simply do something. Even if it is asking, “What is God teaching you right now? Where have you seen God at work recently?”

2. Find what works for you. What works for one family and couple may or may not work for you.

When Katie and I got married, we probably got at least 10 couple’s devotionals for our wedding. We read through many of them, laughed at many of the ridiculous questions they asked and then handed them off to another couple (sorry if you got one). They just didn’t work for us. Neither did rising at 5am to drink coffee and read together. These work for many couples, and that’s great.

Whatever you do, find what works for you as a couple.

For Katie and me, we don’t do couple’s devotions. We often don’t read the same parts of the Bible at the same time or even the same books. We sometimes do, but we often talk about what God is teaching us. We’ll listen to a podcast together, or I’ll find things she should listen to or books she should read.

For us, our spiritual journey together is often debriefing. This keeps us on the same page and keeps us growing together.

3. Decide doing something consistently (even if mediocre) is better than doing something inconsistently that is incredible. More than likely, especially when it comes to family devotions, it will feel mediocre at best and a train wreck at worst. Don’t quit.

Have the long view on this.

Also, and don’t miss this, kids catch more than you think. I am continually surprised at what my kids catch, pick up and remember. That conversation you think they slept through (and if you have teenagers they may have slept through it), they may have picked up 30% of it.

So, build on that.

4. Give some grace. Regardless, give yourself, your kids and your spouse some grace.

One of the things Katie will often encourage women when it comes to this topic is to be okay with your husband fumbling his way through this. Most husbands (even pastors) are not very good at leading their families spiritually. They have a picture in their mind of what it should look like (but it rarely gets there). They feel like they are failing their wife, boring their kids and failing God. They also feel guilt because they should be doing this and doing it better than they are.

So give grace. Celebrate doing something. When it was a train wreck, say it was a nice train wreck. We survived. Our kids heard the gospel and we tried. And we’ll try again tomorrow.

How to Ask God for Help (Psalm 121)

For most of us, prayer bounces between a plea for help, a running conversation or to-do list with God, a reassurance of God’s power and presence in our lives, a wishlist or a shouting match with God, down to wondering if God has forgotten us.

One of the most common ways we pray is a prayer for help.

Eugene Peterson said, “Trouble is what gets prayer started.”

And that’s true.

We pray out of desperation. We pray because we aren’t sure what else to do. We rend the heavens in hopes that God will hear, that God will move. We pray through tears, mumbling and bumbling from a place of helplessness.

We pray for health, for healing, for relationships to be mended, for kids and parents and spouses to be saved, to be changed. We pray for jobs, for finances. We pray for those close to us who are destroying their lives. We pray for wisdom in decisions.

And in all this, we are often very helpless to bring about an answer.

So, how do you ask God for help? How does He hear?

Psalm 121 gives us the answer:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Here are four things we learn from this Psalm about asking God for help:

1. Admit your need for help. This seems obvious, but to ask God for help means we are admitting our need for help. We don’t do this naturally. We are naturally self-sufficient, self-assured people. We are raised to handle it, to get it done, to be fine, to not depend on anyone.

The writer of this Psalm is helpless and they know it. They need help.

2. Believe God can and will help. Know where your help comes from.

For many of us, once we exhaust our ability to fix something, we still don’t go to prayer. Maybe there is a book, a sermon, a financial move, a google search I can do, a person I can get advice from. Prayer for too many of us is a last resort.

When we get there, we say, “God, I don’t know if you can help. I don’t know if you care to help. So I’ll look around.”

3. Be patient. The writer of Psalm 121 reminds us to go to sleep. This communicates that sometimes our prayers will take longer than we think but that God will fight for us and work on things, while we sleep.

Sleep is one of the greatest pictures of faith in our lives.

Why?

The time that we worry, are anxious and replay conversations over and over in our minds is at night. We lie there, staring at the clock, thinking about our bank account, our job, our marriage, our kids, our parents. The problems we experience in relationships, worrying about college, bills, health, the list goes on and on. Yet, in that moment there is almost nothing we can do.

The people we are worried about are asleep, the people we would call for help and advice are asleep. The writer of Psalm 121 says, “Go to sleep.”

4. God is over all things. Why can we be patient and go to sleep? Not only because God is our help and never sleeps, but because verses 7 and 8 tell us that God is over all things.

He watches all things. He is not surprised by anything. Nothing catches him off guard.

It ends with a crucial word, forevermore.

Forever is a long time, and yet that is the scope of our God.

Psalm 121 is a prayer to give us confidence to ask God for help and confidence as we wait for that help to come.

How to Pray to a God who is Close (Psalm 23)

When it comes to what we think of God and how close or far He is, I think we too often think of Him as “out there” somewhere. We aren’t sure where, but He often feels further away than close by. This has an enormous effect on our prayer life.

Over and over throughout Scripture, we are told that God is close. That God never leaves us. That God watches over us. That God cares for us.

That God is close.

Psalm 23 is a great example of this.

Often seen as a psalm for funerals or dying, it is a psalm about living. Life is hard. Life hurts. Life is often more down than up, and David tells us from his experience how to experience God in the depths of darkness as well as the heights of celebration.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

David describes an incredibly close God.

A shepherd is with his sheep. He is not off somewhere else but is with them. He knows them. He knows if they are sick, eating well, eating too little, if they are young or old.

A shepherd knows what the sheep need so that they do not live in want.

A shepherd leads and the sheep follow. The sheep do not arrive anywhere the shepherd does not want them to.

When the shepherd leads, the sheep find food, water and rest. In the shepherd is found life and rest. Many of us find ourselves tired, rundown, barely hanging on instead of living, and yet God invites us to follow Him to rest and life.

How?

David tells us in verse 3 that God restores us. God picks us up. God cleans us off. For the person who feels unloved, who feels dirty, abandoned, not worth anything, this verse is a beautiful picture of God’s grace towards us.

Why does God do this?

To get our lives on the right paths, His paths.

As if that weren’t enough, God does not leave us. God walks with us.

We walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

We don’t stay there. We don’t walk into it, we walk through it. With God. Through the power of God.

There is an ebb and flow to prayer and the Christian life. David starts with comfort and God’s provision, things that help us see the character of God as we walk in new ways of His grace. That grace is just as real, and that grace is the same when we walk through the dark valleys. For many of us, we need the grace of the first few verses to believe the grace that God has for us when the storms roll in.

The rod and staff of a shepherd were used for protection of the sheep, warding off predators, but they were also used to keep the sheep together, in line and to discipline the sheep if necessary. In all this, God’s protection and discipline are a comfort.

How can David say this?

Because they keep me on the path that God has for me. They get me to where God wants me.

David ends with a powerful statement: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

If we don’t understand David’s life, we miss the power of this statement. For David, life was not good. Many times King Saul tried to kill him. The whole Philistine army (the most powerful army of the day) chased him to kill him. They killed his best friend, Jonathan. He lost a baby with Bathsheba. His favorite son Absalom stole his throne, and David was overthrown and had to flee for his life. Then Absalom was killed. For David, life was hard, painful, difficult and full of loss.

Yet because God was close, because God walked with him, he was able to face life and pray to his God.

Here’s my challenge for you this week. Use Psalm 23 as a prayer guide:

  • Simply read through the Psalm several times in one sitting.
  • Whatever word or phrase that jumps out to you, ask God why that stood out. Is there something happening in your life that God wants you to think about or draw your attention to? Is there something about yourself or God that the Holy Spirit wants to make you aware of?
  • Throughout your day (when you’re standing in line, waiting for a meeting, etc.), ask God to remind you of His closeness to you.

The Silence of God (Psalm 13)

Oswald Chambers said, “Has God trusted you with His silence— a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking Him for a visible answer?”

While we often think God’s silence means He has abandoned us or left us, that is not true. God’s silence does not equal God’s absence.

But what do we do in those moments?

God is inviting us into something through His silence, just like He does through His leadings, promptings and moves in our lives.

Philip Yancey in his book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? gives some helpful steps on how to handle the silence of God or what seems like unanswered prayer:

1. Do I have any sins to confess? Many times our distance with God is because of unconfessed sin. When we struggle to move forward in relationships, when we struggle to hear God, to find freedom in our lives, it is because of our sin that we are carrying around; bitterness we haven’t let go of, people we still blame, situations we replay in our minds, and secrets we keep hidden.

2. What are my motives for prayer? Many times we pray to get something, to become rich or to have an easier life. We want God on our terms, and when this happens we miss God. This is why God feels distant. We aren’t looking for God, we are looking for a version of God we’ve created.

In this, are you listening to God or just talking to God? Too often our prayer life is one way, me just telling God what I want, what I need, what He can do. I’m not asking Him questions, I’m not listening to Him.

Another one I’ll have people say is, “I asked God about ______ (and in the blank is always something God has already told us the answer to in the Bible), but He didn’t answer.” Of course not; He’s already given you an answer. Why does He need to tell you again?

3. Am I pursuing results rather than closeness with God? I said earlier that the writers of Scripture spend little time answering why suffering happens and more time on what suffering, pain and silence produce in us. It produces perseverance, character, patience, hope, joy and so on.

4. Is God preparing me for something? Often God is using our spiritual dryness for something in the future. I read once that a vintner refuses to irrigate his vines because the stress caused by occasional drought produces the best, most tasty grapes. Seasons of dryness make the roots run deep, strengthening the vine for whatever the future holds.

5. Pray with others. This is the power of community, praying together and sharing evidences of God’s grace. When you sit with your RC and share how you have seen God work in your life, and you can’t think of any, but the person next to you shares several, yes, you will get mad at first. Why isn’t God moving in my life like He is yours? Why isn’t God answering my prayers? But you will also start to see that even when you can’t see God at work in your life, He is at work.

I saw this in my life about 18 months ago. Our church was growing, we were meeting on the east side in a school and things were going well. We were outgrowing our space, so we moved to a larger school, and in six months half our church had left. It hurt. People I was close to said everything had changed and left. It rocked my confidence, made me question my leadership. Should I quit Revolution? Did I make a wrong choice? Was I a bad leader? During this time, every pastor I met was leading a church that was growing. I was watching ours shrink.

I asked God why, and nothing.

Slowly I stopped asking why and I started asking God what He wanted to show me and what He wanted to invite me into. I began to see His invitation to know His love for me, which seemed like an odd answer because at the time it had very little to do with Revolution. And yet my relationship with God is deeper than ever before, my heart towards God and people is softer than ever before. Could that happen without losing my confidence? Maybe, but God saw that as the best way forward for me. Many times God’s perceived silence is to draw us deeper into Him. The dark place you are in might be God’s invitation to you to meet Him there. You will not walk out the same.

Henry Blackaby said, “You can respond to the silence of God in two ways. One response is for you to go into depression, a sense of guilt and self-condemnation. The other response is for you to have an expectation that God is about to bring you to a deeper knowledge of Himself. These responses are as different as night and day.”

James, the brother of Jesus, says in the New Testament, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James does not give us a time line on this promise, just that it is a promise.

Too often the reason we miss God is our rush for something to happen, for something to change.

Frequently God’s silence is an invitation for us to stop, to slow down, to meet God and do some hard heart work. This can be painful and is often why we try to skip out of it. Yet, just like we will miss out on God’s best if we don’t follow His leadings, we will miss out on His best for us if we don’t follow His silence.

God has not Forgotten You (Psalm 8)

Forgotten. Lost. Abandoned. Rejected. Left out. Passed over.

These words describe so many of the emotions that run through our lives. Parents who left us. A spouse who walked out on us. A parent who never said, “I love you.” A child who wants nothing to do with you. A boss who didn’t give you a promotion. A missed college opportunity. The feeling that you have no friends.

No matter how old we get, no matter how far we run or hide in relationships, we still find ourselves left out. At the very least, we find ourselves missing out.

These reasons and emotions draw us to pray. They pull us out of ourselves to seek God. This is one reason why the book of Psalms is so loved in people’s lives. It gives voice to the emotions we carry and the hurt we don’t know what to do with.

What has struck me so far in preaching through Psalms has been the number of psalms of lament, but also their placement with other psalms.

Psalms 3 – 7 and 9 – 13 are psalms of lament. Right in the middle is Psalm 8 where there is a celebration, as if a reminder that the sun does rise, the storm does end, the pain does not last forever. So in the midst of living in dark places and feeling alone, it does change. It is also a reminder for those who experience Psalm 8 and are celebrating and in the midst of joy that Psalm 9 is coming, and the sun will go down and life will happen in a way we did not expect or plan for.

What David does in Psalm 8 is important.

In verse 3 he recalls back to creation: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place.” He describes the intentionality of God’s creation, that it was not thrown together by his hands but done with the creativity and details of his fingers. He was involved and purposeful.

Then in verse 4 he lays out what is an incredible verse: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Many of us feel forgotten, lost, left out and not cared for, not only by those around us, but by God.

Imagine right now that the God of the universe thinks of you and cares for you.

But what does that mean?

If you think of someone, if you are mindful of them, you are in a relationship with them. You know their celebrations and joys as well as their low points and pains. You remember the last good cry you had with them and the last time you laughed so hard it hurt. You know what they are dealing with, dreaming about and hoping for.

That is God’s relationship to you.

Not only that, he cares for you. He not only knows what you are walking through but cares what you are walking through.

Never again forgotten.

This is the foundation of the Christian life, that you are loved by God.

The foundation of following Jesus is not what you bring to Jesus, what you do for Jesus, how much you know about Jesus, how many Bible tests you can ace, how often you read your Bible, how much you pray or anything you do. Those are responses to God’s love.

The beginning steps of following Jesus are, “I am a beloved child of God.”

I am loved by God.

While many people say they believe this and will quote a verse or two, from my own personal life and being a pastor for almost two decades, few people live like this is a reality.

We spend so much time trying to earn God’s love and proving Jesus right for dying for us.

The only thing we did for that to happen was be broken and sinful.

What David does in this Psalm, though, is incredible. He tells us how we will remember this.

It is easy to forget that God thinks of you and cares for you. It is easy to think that God does those things because we do something or we are more spiritual or something else moves the needle on that.

David says when you and I look at creation, we will be reminded of God’s love, care and thought of us.

When you look at the mountains, the sun, the moon, the stars, you will be reminded. He takes everyday things, things we see on a daily basis, knowing that we need a daily reminder of God’s love for us.

The next time you watch a beautiful sunrise or sunset, that is a reminder of God’s love, care and thought of you.

The next time you see mountains covered in snow or rise above the clouds, that is a reminder of God’s love, care and thought of you.

The next time you see the trees change colors, that is a reminder of God’s love, care and thought of you.

The next time you put your feet in sand and let the ocean rush over them, that is a reminder of God’s love, care and thought of you.

Daily things.

Why?

We forget. We run. We hide. We keep God at arm’s length. We try to be impressive. We are so used to living forgotten, invisible lives that David wants us to know we are invisible no more. We are unloved no more. We are forgotten no more.