At the End of Myself

Woman ropeYesterday two friends told me, a few hours apart from each other, that they are at the end of themselves.  They are at the end of their ropes in their own particular circumstances.

I greatly admire and appreciate these friends.  If you knew either of these Christian women, you would say they have it all together.  They are strong, beautiful, and smart, and each have a super sense of humor.  Each of them would also be the first to tell you of her weaknesses.

Referring to parenting her son, one humbly said, “I am completely inadequate.”

About her finances and physical exhaustion, the other quietly cried, “I’m at the end of myself.”

These friends, who are truly Christ-followers, are being squeezed, and squeezed hard.  Their faith is being tested to a greater degree than they ever before imagined.

They could run away from their problems and ignore them.  They could put their “smarts” to work and manipulate solutions to their problems.  But, these women have tried these things before, and they are dead ends.

All they ask for now is God’s adequacy.

In II Corinthians 3:5 it says, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”  The ability to serve God does not come from our own strength or wisdom.  Our adequacy to do what He has called us to is not found in ourselves.

Our adequacy is FROM GOD.  We must depend upon Him.  What a Christian cliche!  Yes it is, so I’d like to break it down for a moment.  (Sometimes we make the Christian life way too complicated!)  What does it mean to “depend upon God” and find our adequacy in Him?

  1.  Know that God is at work in you.  If you are a born-again Christian, take comfort and confidence in knowing that He has given you a new heart to love and obey Him.  He has given you His Holy Spirit to lead you in truth and righteousness.  He has given you all you need in Christ to walk this path.
  2. Pray for God’s gracious help.  Pour out your concerns to Him.  Bring your requests before the Lord for your circumstances and for what’s going on inside of you.  He delights in answering your prayers and caring for you.
  3. Obey God’s Word.  Instead of leaning on your own understanding and coming up with your own solutions to your problems, do it God’s way.  Study the Scriptures to see how God would have you respond to Him, others, and your circumstances.  You want to see a woman who depends upon God and His adequacy in her life?  Then you will see a woman who obeys God’s Word no matter what.

When we are at the end of ourselves, we as Christians are at a place of significant spiritual growth.  Are you at the end of yourself?  How fortunate you really are.

Top Click of 2013 on Women Walking Wisely: “What Does Real Trust Look Like?”

woman with magnifying glassI want the real thing.  Nothing fake.  Nothing counterfeit.  Just the real thing.

Unfortunately, I rarely can afford the real thing . . .  I don’t wear designer clothes.  My wedding ring contains the only diamond I own.  My beauty regimen consists of cheap products from Target–no fancy name-brand cosmetics here.

There is one thing I cannot afford to have if it is counterfeit:  Trust.  Specifically, trust in God.  I can’t afford fake trust.

I have tried fake trust before.  It has looked like this:  I encounter a trial.  I say the appropriate Christian cliche to myself or others, “I trust the Lord.”  Then, I quickly fall into worry, anger, demands to get  my own way, hurtful responses towards those I love, and self-protecting solutions–all which compound my problems.  Sound familiar?  Probably.

The problem with this kind of trust is that it always fails.  My faith falters.  Peace eludes me.  I make sinful choices.  Why?  This trust fails because regardless of what I say, the object of the trust is ME, and I will fail me every time.  The object of my trust must be GOD, and GOD ALONE.  Apart from Him, I will never walk wisely and victoriously through suffering.

Throughout the Scriptures, we see that biblical trust is active reliance on the one true God.  Think of Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and Ruth.  Consider Samuel, David, Elijah, Daniel, and Esther.  Remember Mary, John the Baptist, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Stephen, and Paul.  These are just a few of those who have gone before us, walking wisely in this world by not trusting God merely with their WORDS, but with their ACTIONS.  Their trust was genuine.

Genuine biblical trust is a combination of knowledge, belief, attitude, and action:  Knowledge of the character of God, Belief in the truthfulness of who God is and what He is like, an Attitude of humble confidence in the Lord, and the Action of submitting to God’s care–“casting all your anxiety upon the Lord, because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7)

“So,” you may be asking, “HOW am I to ‘cast’ my cares on the Lord?  HOW am I to respond to a trustworthy God?  What does trusting God look like in every day life?” 

To answer these questions, I encourage you to read and print the following list, and then put it somewhere you will see it regularly.  When you find your mind wandering (or marching) down the path of worry and despair, turn around and follow this path of active trust as you “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”  (II Corinthians 10:5):

1.  Acknowledge and believe the truth about God’s character.  Recount the attributes of God.  Remember His deeds of faithfulness throughout the Scriptures, in your own life, and in the lives of people you know.  Literally list all the ways that He has been faithful.  In prayer, begin thanking Him for who He is and what He has done.  If in your distress you are unable to do this, pray the Psalms.  “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

2.  Confess your unbelief and lack of trust in Him.  Admit to the Lord your lack of trust.  Ask Him to forgive you for your unbelief, worry, fear, anger, etc.  Find rest and comfort in His promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)

3.  Cry out to God for help.  Ask your Heavenly Father for a steadfast heart that is loyal to Him despite your circumstances; “Unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)  Also, pray that He will move in your situation in very specific ways; “In everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)  

4.  Rely on the encouragement that comes from Scripture.  Read the Word.  Listen to it.  Memorize it.  Think on it.  You will be renewed as your mind is transformed by God’s Word.   His promises are the lifeblood for strengthening your faint heart.  If you are at the point at which you don’t know where to turn in the Bible, read any of the Psalms, stopping to think and pray through the verses that encourage you in your situation.  “My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to your Word.” (Psalm 119:32)

5.  Obey God’s revealed will in Scripture.  If God has given a command or a principle in Scripture that applies to your situation, then obey it.  Glorify the Lord in your life by doing what He commands.  Accept God’s wisdom, even if it is hard or doesn’t make sense to you.  Obey His Word, and leave the results to Him.  “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people, and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.” (Jeremiah 7: 23)

6.  Focus your attention on God and the eternal.  Focus . . . refocus . . . and focus again.  We are creatures of habit who often return to trusting ourselves and focusing on our troubles.  If that is where you find yourself, walk again through this path of trust that I have outlined.  Trusting God wholeheartedly takes practice!  Direct your attention to the unseen:  who God is, what He has done, His promises, His commands, His salvation, His glory that awaits you, and His very presence today.  ”Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2-3)

Fully trusting God in the midst of our troubles can seem like an impossibility, especially when our trials appear insurmountable and our own weaknesses seem over-powering.  But, God does not command us to do anything that He will not give the grace, strength, and ability to accomplish.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)   

Lean hard on Him.  He will not fail you.

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When Sparrows Fall

sparrow back in handThis past week one of my closest friends sent me a link to a sermon from Matthew 10:28-31, “When Sparrows Fall,” given several months ago by her pastor, Britt Merrick, at Reality Church in Carpenteria, California.  I listened to it alone one night, and then I shared it with my husband a couple days later.  It was such a needed and powerful encouragement to both of us that I want to share it with you, too.

After a leave of absence from the pulpit for ten months, Pastor Merrick shares with his congregation the lessons he learned as his eight-year-old daughter, Daisy, continued to battle cancer.  During his sabbatical from the ministry, Merrick learned that in his darkest hours, the question to ask was not “Why?”, but rather “Who?”  Speaking from experience, but even more importantly speaking from the Word of God, he genuinely and passionately offers the hope and encouragement that is only found in the presence of our heavenly Father. 

Are you in a dark hour?  Are your trials (in the family, work, ministry, or your own heart) so heavy and heartbreaking that you cannot seem to find your way? Remember what Jesus said: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. . . So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Please listen . . . and find Rest for your weary soul.

When God’s Answer is “No”

Three young men stood together before a king.  They had not been summoned to receive honors for mighty acts of valor.  They had not been summoned to receive praise for faithful service to the kingdom.  Rather, they had been called before the king to receive sentences of death.  The three men had no hope of escape, unless the king were to mercifully give them a second chance—or so the king thought.

The men had disobeyed the king, and rightfully so.  The arrogant monarch had decreed that all his subjects were to bow down to worship a golden statue that bore his image.  When the court musicians played, the people were commanded to kneel.  It was an awe-inspiring sight to see the rippling effect of hundreds, if not thousands, of  men and women falling to their knees and bowing their faces to the ground.  As the king looked over the humbled masses, pride filled his chest, and he lifted his chin a little higher.

Suddenly, his moment of glory was spoiled.  In the distance, were there really three men standing upright—tall, resolute, and steadfast?

Yes, there were.  Enraged, the king demanded that the three men be arrested.  As they were brought before him, the king was surprised to recognize them as three of his most trusted and loyal servants.  “What?  Why hadn’t they bowed down?  Didn’t they understand what I can do to them?” he wondered.  “Surely, they can be brought to their senses!”

Willing to give these men a second chance, the king declared, “Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound . . . of music, fall down and worship the image that I have made.  But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire, and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15)

At this point, the three men, named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, responded to the king with what I have personally found to be one of the most inspiring and strengthening declarations of God’s people in Scripture.  They replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).

“Even if He does not . . . “  I love that.  I love the resolve, steadfastness, and faith.  I love the confidence, conviction, and complete abandon to the will of God.  I love the looking at opposition in the face, and the knowing that there is Someone greater with Whom to reckon and in Whom to find refuge.  Imagine all the praying that Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego did that day!  They prayed expecting God to answer positively, and they were committed to serve and worship the one true and living God . . . even if His answer was “no” to their prayers for deliverance.

Years ago while in graduate school, I placed Daniel 3:16-18 on a card and taped it to my bathroom mirror.  My husband and I were praying for financial stability and a second child.  The answers were repeatedly, “No.”  The fear and discouragement were sometimes overwhelming for me.  But, the Lord used these verses to strengthen my faith in Him regardless of my circumstances.  Like the men in Daniel 3, I believed that God was able to deliver us and favorably answer our prayers.  But even if He did not, was I going to continue to trust and obey Him?

And now, here I am again with a request I have been repeatedly bringing before the Lord.  For some time, the answer has been “no.”  Maybe God’s answer is actually “wait,”  but I don’t know that for sure, do I?  For now, His answer appears to be simply “no.”

Have you received a “no” answer to a prayer?  You and I are not alone.  We find ourselves in the company of Job, a man who suffered much before God delivered Him, and for a long time he wondered where God was in his situation.  Nevertheless Job declared, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21), and “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15).

Is that your declaration?  I desire it to be mine.  Even when God’s answer is “no” to our prayers, by the enabling of God’s grace let us submit our desires to the Lord, praise and hope in our Savior, and be resolutely steadfast in our devotion to Him alone.