Thursday, November 15, 2012

For when it feels hard to hold onto God




I have that syndrome where I start to think trying my best is how to stay connected to God.

A lot of people, books, church services, blog posts confirm that I just need to try harder. A bunch of those posts are my own, where I encourage us (myself included) to step up our game, spiritually. Memorize scripture. Open our ears and not just talk at God. Be prepared to share truth with those He puts in our lives. All good things.

But I start to think that's what it's all about. Like a spiritual Hokey Pokey. You do this, and you do that, and you shake it all about. That's how it works. I try really hard, therefore God and I get closer.

Church this past weekend had us evaluating where in our lives we need to be "relentless." Is it taking in God's word? Is it prayer? In other words, where in your life do you need to try harder?

And tonight, during a prayer time, God spoke to me about this. Yes, of course. Prayer, studying God's word, and teaching others are all good things that I should pursue with passion and intentionality. And I do. I try my best, but my version of relentless sort of stinks since I'm so annoyingly imperfect.

What I realized tonight is that God wins at relentless.

He is the one who relentlessly chases me. Not the other way around.

At church, we were talking about metaphorically being in the wilderness, those times where we find ourselves in trials, or just plain struggling to find our way. God sometimes places us in the wilderness. But I also considered the fact that we can run there, fleeing a problem in despair or panic, and it's not at all what God wants.

Yet even then, in His great kindness, He chases us.

He chased Hagar, who brought her son and herself to death's door by fleeing her trials and running to the wilderness. God said, "Hagar. WHAT are you doing? Go back. I'm with you." When she thought herself invisible, God said, "I see you." He tracks down even the best of runners. There is nowhere you can run to that God will not also go.

I fear we get so used to this notion of God being love that we forget He is also a hurricane. A lion. Has a voice like thunder and a will of steel. He is relentlessly in love with us, and His love is unstoppable.

He stalks the teenager who has fallen away from Him and thinks she can live life on her own.

He hunts down the brokenhearted. He finds even the best of hiders.

He burdens the overwhelmed mom until she opens her hands, surrenders control, and asks Him for help.

He disciplines the rebellious and the prideful, awaiting their return with open arms.

He allows trials to come in a seemingly unending series of waves, as he follows hard after us, wanting our whole hearts.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis, before the children meet Aslan (the Lion who represents Jesus in the story), they are wary of meeting a lion face to face. They ask a friend, "Is he safe?" The friend replies, "No, of course he's not safe. But he is good." 

Very well put, isn't it? Our God is anything but safe from our human point of view. He is unpredictable, counter-culture, radical, and relentless. Thankfully, He is also good and His goodness pervades all he does.

I suspect I start to think I'm in charge of my relationship with the Lord because of how I perceive it's origin; when giving my testimony, I talk about when I chose to invite Jesus into my heart, as if it were my clever idea that we get together in the first place. I forget that He invited me. The Bible says that we love because He first loved us.

We didn't choose Him. He chose us. The only thing I did was accept His invitation.

One of the most important things you can ever understand about God is that your love relationship was His idea, and that He will pursue you, chase after you, and stalk you with his invitation until you accept. Some people never do. I've heard it said that a person will either accept Jesus or stumble over Him his or her whole life. He is either your cornerstone or your stumbling stone. And saying "yes" only marks the beginning of experiencing His unstoppable love.

God's version of relentless makes my efforts at reaching Him seem so small and weak by comparison. But I also feel relief. I'm not the one holding us together. I can't accidentally ruin things between God and I. Frankly, I love that. Maybe because I feel like there is a whole lot of other stuff I can easily ruin.

But whenever I let go, He holds on.

Thank you, Lord.

Keep holding onto me, please. Tightly.

'Cause sometimes I'm not so great at relentless.


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12 comments:

  1. Leslie, thank you. Sunday, I came away from our service just devastated because it seemed like our pastor was telling us we weren't bringing good "sacrifices", that our worship was not acceptable, etc. "Try harder." Since Monday, God has given me this strange detachment from the church - but not from Him, thankfully. There is a barrier I sense about going back, and I'm asking God if He is telling me to leave or take a break and rest in another fellowship. This sounds nutty, probably. But you helped me clarify the barrier - that church is not a place to try harder. It's a place to "be" and operate in His power.

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    1. Yes I agree, Susan. Yet as someone who finds herself teaching a lot, I also understand the struggle it is to want to exhort and inspire others without burdening them. And that is not totally in my control. We are called to encourage each other to be our best versions of ourselves, and churches, books, etc. are great at that. Perhaps it's more on our shoulders as individuals to interpret how and when those callings apply to our lives and where God has us at the moment. It's taken me many years to figure out that not all good, spiritual endeavors are for me and my life in a given season. That being said, I'm sure some teachers and churches cross the line of burdening their people unnecessarily. I'll be praying God gives you keen discernment on your situation. Thanks for your thoughts today :)

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  2. this is absolutely beautiful leslie....such depth and such power! touched me deep, deep in my soul. just this morning john and i were sitting talking about a tough family situation we have - one of those on-going ugly situations where we think 'how can we change that person' or how can we be smarter when visiting/seeing him. what strikes me hard after reading your post is that this situation isn't for us to be 'smart' enough - it's about prayer and allowing God to guide us - allow Love to guide us. We had a speaker @ Nurture (rockharbors version of mops) share how her whole life is surrounded by prayer - weekly prayer walks that can go on for hours, daily prayer for hours etc etc - all of which was so incredible to hear and hear how God has moved - but it was also super discouraging because that is not what prayer will look like for each mom in that room. i absolutely LOVE how you describe God's relationship with us. thank you!

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    1. It's crazy how varied our lives in Christ can look and still be "enough." What He asks of one person has no bearing on what He asks of ME. That is freeing, isn't it? I'm so glad you found some freedom in your journey today, Ingrid! Nice to hear from you, friend.

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  3. ps - no longer blog but still LOVE reading yours daily!

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  4. i truly loved reading this. i think it's really what i needed to hear and puts my relationship with the Lord in perspective. I feel like I fail so much and that it damages our relationship because I'm not good enough, or try hard enough because that's what it seems like. I forget though that He will never give up on me. what a great feeling that is! he will NEVER give up on me. this was a super blessing on my heart today. thank you!

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    1. Yes! Never ever. We can do things that damage our relationship with Him, of course. Sin breaks our fellowship with Him, for instance. But we have the promise that nothing we do can ever separate us from His love. And on the flip side of that coin, we can't ever do anything that causes Him to love us MORE. We have it all already. Our "trying" should be a refection of our love and gratitude back, and always in the acceptance of grace for what we can't be. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  5. I was thinking of that quote before you even said it, I love it's simple truth. And I am so in awe of my relentless God, how he pursues me, how he chases me, how he romances me. I'm grateful for his grace in those seasons where I am all mixed up and try too hard to rely on my own doing.

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  6. I can't accidentally ruin things between God and I.
    thankful for that!
    and for your words tonight.

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  7. Hi Les,
    Great post! You nailed it perfectly, "relentless." God is everywhere, as close as our breath, permanently by our side nudging us. It's our choice as to whether or not we respond to His "nudging." There is no where we can flee to, where God isn't there. That simple fact is amazing. There are so many Christians that strut around with an air of elite specialness, as if they are holier than the rest, boasting their way is God's way, I think they are terribly misguided. We are ALL children of God, even those who don't accept His invitation, it's not a one time offer, it's constant. I would rather bumble around humbly in faith, where I can keep my heart and mind open. I think a post like this one really transcends those other negative views of Christianity, and can reach a lot of audiences. Nice job! Xoxo

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  8. Thankful that I just came across your blog thanks to Jami Nato's #letsgetpraisy link up. SO thankful for this post.

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  9. Well said!
    God has spoken to my heart through your beautiful words.

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