Rest in Jesus

In Jesus, we can find trust and rest. If you don’t feel at peace, it is probably because you haven’t fully trusted Him. I ran into this the other day. I asked for God’s will for my life and for peace, then I turned around and demanded an answer. I felt like Jesus was telling me that was the problem- not that looking for an answer on how to live wisely in relationships or otherwise is a sin in itself. Living wisely is good. But any good thing becomes bad when it is elevated above God and that is exactly what happened. Instead of pursuing and putting my faith into Him and His will directly, I was pursuing a response, and when I didn’t get one, I had no peace. Jesus was basically saying I had missed the whole point- the deep reason I was troubled wasn’t a lack of answer or even my question in itself; it was because an answer wasn’t really what I needed. And when I actually thought about it, I agree. What if we knew the answers to everything in the world? What if, for some hypothetical reason, God gave you a complete vision of what would happen every day for the rest of your life. Would that bring you peace? I thought about it personally, and the answer is no. It wouldn’t bring me any peace to have knowledge of what is going on. For example, if I knew my mom was going to die today, that knowledge wouldn’t bring me peace. I would be screaming and crying. She’s my mom and it would break my heart. But even if I knew that, sin is in the world and there is nothing I can do about that. We cannot stop death, which is a result of sin. What will be will be, and knowing something is about to happen doesn’t necessarily make it any more tolerable.

The only peace, the only real love, and the only thing that matters in the world is Jesus Christ because in Him and through Him everything of significance is redeemed and brought back to life. Tune in to what He wants. Just surrender. Just listen. Freely make yourself vulnerable and available to Him. And don’t drive yourself crazy trying to figure it out, either, because you won’t win that way. We don’t have the mind of God. Believe me. I’ve tried to be responsible for my own mental incompetence and it landed me in a lot of trouble (I wrote another post on that. It’s called “Strong in the Spirit” if you want to read it https://brookenicolenorris.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/strong-in-the-spirit/). There is only one way to the Father, one way to peace, and one way to love, and His name is Jesus. Will you trust Him?

John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.”

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”

Hebrews 4:9-11, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”

Strong in the Spirit

I had OCD before I even knew what the word meant. When I was six years old, I was in my uncle’s wedding and I wore mascara for the first time. Well, I pulled on my eyelashes that night in the shower so that it would come off, and for some reason, it gave me much enjoyment, so I continued pulling for days. Though I didn’t wear mascara again for nearly another decade, I still continued to pull my eyelashes. I plucked them out, ruining them.

When I was in my junior year I learned about OCD in psychology class, but by that time I had developed more symptoms like checking the sink faucet repeatedly at night instead of sleeping. The awful thing was I knew the water would be off before I even got out of bed, but somehow my conscience deviated and told me I must go check on the faucet. I had no choice; it felt like sin if I didn’t check the faucet. So I did, and sleep payed the price.

By this point it was affecting my spiritual life because OCD is so closely linked with your conscience. Different voices in my head told me to do stupid things, sometimes they would ask out of faith, and they would always be contradictory so that I never knew which one to listen to. It was really hurting my relationship with God because I was beginning to wonder which voice was His, and which one came from the devil, and which one I was arbitrarily creating.

I believe all of this reached its worst about two months ago. As I had learned in psychology, stress does feed OCD and it just so happened that high school graduation, relationship troubles of all sorts, and career/college/future worries all hit me at the same time. I felt lost. I wanted to live for God, but completely lacked the power. I had been saved years before, and God had been growing me throughout, but I was getting irritated because I was trying to be perfect, not driven by OCD and sin, but I couldn’t. Various addictions grew worse and actually my mind began to randomly entertain violent thoughts towards people I loved out of the blue, even if I wasn’t mad at them. And here’s the curse of OCD: the more you grow anxious over it, and the more you try to control it, the more it will devour you. Panic feeds the cycle and your own will does very little to break it since your will comes from your mind, which is the source of the sickness to begin with. In addition to OCD, I was also growing frustrated with my seeming inability to stop sinning. I knew sin hurt people and hurt God, so I didn’t want to do the things I was doing. I eventually despaired so much I started choking back tears and faintly thinking of how I wished I could kill myself so I couldn’t hurt people anymore. The day before my graduation I knew I had just about hit the point of madness, but thankfully, that’s when it all came together.

I had recently started to focus on Jesus more than myself, and that helped me because it’s much easier to try to follow Him than to consciously stop what you are doing. In other words, if you are saved, and you are striving to become more like Jesus, take the focus off yourself- living for Him will come more naturally. Since you are in Jesus, you won’t want to sin because sin is not like Jesus. It was a fine alternative to beating myself up, for sure. In addition, I had just listened to an eye-opening sermon on the Holy Spirit. It said the Spirit has never made people go crazy; instead, it gives them a sound mind, which definitely didn’t sound like the definition of my mind. On the day before my graduation, though, I realized my problem: even though I had been saved, God had spoken to me, and I loved Him, I still had not given Jesus everything. There had been a struggle inside of me for months: I had wanted to surrender to Him, I had even asked for it, but I felt like I was still holding onto something. Then I realized what it was. I had been holding myself accountable for sin so much that it was all about me. I was praying for God’s help, but really I was trying to fix the problem with my own strength and then punishing myself when I discovered (repeatedly) I couldn’t be the person I wanted to be. I wasn’t fully acknowledging how Jesus paid for our sin so we wouldn’t have to. Jesus paying for our sins means we can’t be perfect by ourselves. We need Him and if we focus our minds on Him instead of our sin and our problems and our worry, trusting that He wants only the best for us and will take care of those things, He will heal us. Already, He has begun to heal me and I feel stronger.

I asked for God’s Holy Spirit in my life; He was the missing piece. He gives us strength because of Jesus. The day after I released all my problems and worries to Him, He showed me even more areas I had been blind to without Him. I discovered there were several idolatries in my life and the danger had been growing until I gave it all to Jesus. Worry. People. All these things had been so deviant in my life because I knew by the Bible there was a problem, but my own heart lacked the complete power of Holy Spirit and Jesus, therefore, I had no way to fix it. I do now-   “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7). Pursuing Jesus first has consequently, and sometimes surprisingly, healed me and fixed many of my problems. I said “many of my problems,” meaning that yes, I am human, and I still have troubles, but I wait on God in faith that He will take care of me. I believe if we put Him first, He does solve our problems. As C.S. Lewis put it, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither” (Lewis). God is a good, good, Father and He will provide if you trust Him with your troubles. His love never fails.

If you want a sound mind, a peaceful soul, and a heart overflowing with love, then trust Him. Give Him all your troubles, and then “renew your mind” to focus on Him and His truth instead of your problems (Romans 12:2). I promise you He will change you for the better if you let Him.

 

I am including the link to the sermon on the Holy Spirit because it helped me a lot in this struggle. I referenced the third message in the series, but they were all awesome, so here they are- http://subsplash.com/highlandschurch/s/1b60116/

The (Real) Breaking of The Fellowship

*Originally published on EEB at the following link: The (Real) Breaking of The Fellowship

Over the past few months, I have found surprising strength in God. Radically. Throughout the whole time, however, something hadn’t been quite right yet. I felt like I was taking awkward baby steps against high tide and didn’t quite have a heading. I was confused, but kept going. And even though I’m still growing, obviously, I think a lot of this confusion just culminated into answers while I was praying and reading my Bible a couple of days ago. I was praying about something in particular, which I will explain to you in a few minutes, and I opened up the Bible, looking for help. God pointed me to a scripture I had no idea existed in the context I was thinking, but it perfectly fit what I needed. Tears streamed down my face as all the pieces suddenly flew into place…it was amazing and broke my heart all at the same time.
It all started back in the summer. I had just learned that some people I knew didn’t think the same way I did about religious matters, which troubled me. They were Christians in the sense that they believed in Jesus Christ and God made the world, but we differed on a lot of other issues. And for some reason, I apparently had believed that they were perfect.  And this is going to sound very hypocritical, but when I hear other people aren’t perfect, I tend to label them as “a mess,” quite forgetting that I am in the same boat! Some days, I am not even in the boat, metaphorically speaking; I’m holding onto a lifesaver outside of the boat, fighting waves of doubt. I forget I’m not perfect. I forget they’re not perfect. I forget we’re all unperfect.
The problem was, I didn’t know how to take disappointment. I kept trying to either defend the people in my mind and actions, or completely rejecting them. I prayed about it, and honestly I thought that both actions didn’t seem quite right: it seemed a bit extreme to avoid these people like I was a perfect saint since the only Real Perfect Holy Person died for them, but at the same time it was a really stupid idea to try to copy their mistakes! Anyway, I kept praying about it, but feeling confused. And then fear crept in, which only added to my confusion. What if I had to say goodbye? What if God was trying to tell me to go? And then what if He wasn’t? What if He put these people in my life so that we could grow in faith together and I was supposed to be His hand in guiding them? I couldn’t decide which one was worse because either way it would require more strength than I thought I had.
I decided, at least for the time being, that the best idea was to serve God in all I could and try to keep my spiritual ears open, but honestly it’s hard to be unbiased when you want Someone to say something.
For the next few months, I went through some terrible times. Some days, I became almost embittered, becoming scornful in an attempt to let go of these people. I tried to tell myself that I do without them; I tried to convince myself that I was strong and had the strength to “defy gravity,” so to speak. I had the Lord, so why did I need people anyway? These days didn’t last very long. After all, who has ever heard of a “wicked” Christian, pun intended? It became very clear that this was not the way of the Lord.
The other days were just as bad, if not worse. If I wasn’t copying these other peoples’ mistakes, I was living in fear of losing them, or perhaps doing both at the same time. Needless to say, it was a terrible, terrifying place to be.
Yesterday and today peace finally began to fall upon me. I was still worried, but I had decided that I was going to follow God no matter what. I was thinking about some friendships, almost dead, which had been hanging in the shadows for some time, and was nearly sick with worry. What if the same thing happened to my other friends and family who I had already been worrying about for months? The friendships I had already lost stung badly…I was still not healed from some broken relationships which had spiraled a long time ago. It would nearly break me if something like that happened with anyone I really knew well and loved. Once again, I prayed. I needed comfort, and answers. I didn’t know how to deal with not knowing the future. I didn’t know how to deal with disappointment. I didn’t know how to deal with tough times, or troubled relationships, or goodbyes, now or later. And then a miracle happened. I opened the Bible and found myself in Ezekiel. I flipped back a few pages, trying to find something to read and feeling literally lost because I didn’t think Ezekiel was almost in the New Testament (I don’t know the exact order of the books of the Bible like I should…) Then I “stumbled” upon Kings and found the passage where Elijah is taken up into heaven. As it turns out, this was God’s direction, not me simply browsing through the pages.
I had read about Elijah being taken up into heaven before, probably in a kids’ illustrated Bible, but I had never noticed his apprentice, Elisha. If you can picture Elijah as Frodo Baggins and Elisha as Sam, then you get a good idea of their relationship. As I continued reading, “The Breaking of The Fellowship” even started playing in the back of my mind, which certainly didn’t help the flood of feels I was going through by this point, nor did hearing my brother playing a moving rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” on a CD player down the hall. In the Lord of The Rings trilogy, Sam follows Frodo from the beginning of their journey through the end, and then to the final moments of Frodo’s life on Middle Earth, when he sails to the Grey Havens, which is basically a heaven for elves in the book. The story of Elijah and Elisha reads the same way. Over and over again, Elijah tells Elisha to leave him, but each time Elisha replies, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you” (2 Kings 2:2). Time travels on, and other prophets ask Elisha if he knows that the Lord is about to take Elijah away from him and up into heaven. He responds, “‘Yes, I know,’ Elisha replied, ‘but do not speak of it'” (2 Kings 2:3).
And then the climax of my emotional battle came when I read what Elijah asks Elisha just before his departure for heaven. 2 Kings 2:9 says, “When they had crossed [the Jordan River], Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’” (2 Kings 2:9). Several things hit me all at once, and I began to cry. Then the most amazing thing happened. The Holy Spirit began to communicate with me clearer than ever before; it was actually like God was right there holding me. I broke down.
I realized that Elijah’s words needed to become my attitude towards everyone because I would have to tell them all goodbye one day. Everyone. Friends, family, everyone… not just fleeting friends who visit for a season and then move on. I had already been thinking about one person in particular through all of this turmoil over the past few months….in fact, throughout this post I have been saying I was concerned about “people,” but in reality I was mostly concerned about one person who I love, and whose position in my life seems most uncertain and unpredictable. Well, when all of these thoughts began to unfurl, this person immediately came to mind, and then Sarah. I didn’t know why she came to mind, unless I was thinking of the relationship between Elijah and Elisha because over the years she has definitely been an Elijah and a Sam to me. She has guided me through many a Mordor! However, at the moment, I still wasn’t sure why I was thinking about her in particular; I did figure this out the next day, however, and I will explain in a moment. But while I was thinking about Elijah’s attitude and inevitable goodbyes, I suddenly had a shadowy mental image of a light in a dark tunnel, and stairs. I suddenly believed in God and in heaven more than ever before; it was like I was catching just a glimmer of things to come. I felt just a drop of God’s presence deep in my heart, and it was enough to totally make me believe like never before. While all of this was going on, God seemed to be whispering in my head, “Can’t you trust me with these people? I have them safely under my wing and we are all going to be together in heaven one day. Because of this, there is nothing in this world that can truly separate you from them. You might be apart from them for a little while, but I’m not trying to separate all of you in the long run. So why would you try to blame me when goodbyes come, and why are you worrying about when you are going to have to tell them goodbye? Can’t you trust me?” This was the first time I had felt so much confidence about all of the believers I know (and the ones I don’t know) being together forever someday; it was amazing! It also showed me that my focus had been in the wrong place. I had been too concerned about “forever” in the earthly sense of the word, forgetting that “forever” literally means eternally in the spiritual sense and is much more important than anything which “matters” down here on earth. The good news is that, while earthly forever is somewhat of a myth, spiritual forever is a truth and it was the one God was giving me confidence in!
I realized that since goodbyes are inevitably coming, we must each be warriors. We must be strong enough in our own faith to stand and lift others up when they fall, and we must have enough faith to keep fighting after life or death has taken our fellow warriors away from us for a time. However, all the while we must be gentle enough to receive help and to give as well as receive love. We’ve got to have special people in our lives without becoming overwhelmed by the fear of goodbye. Essentially, we’ve got to be fearless warriors. For years I had read Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” but honestly I didn’t, and probably still don’t, fully comprehend it. To me, it seemed like one of those pious sayings which mean well, but, well, don’t mean a whole lot, like “Bless your little heart.” But really, it means that we draw all our strength from the Lord.
I did discover why Sarah was in that vision, and it does have something to do with finding strength in the Lord. The next day I talked to her, and discovered she wasn’t as perfect as I had always imagined. She was going through hard times, too, which I somehow didn’t believe was possible for her to do and probably why I hadn’t opened up to her so much about some of the problems I was facing. While I was talking to her, though, it hit me: our strength does come from the Lord and everything we do is supposed to be modeled after Him. In our lives there are many “idols,” but once we are past the stage of “monkey see, monkey do,” I strongly believe that there are no more “role models,” just “role virtues.” This is because we all stumble, and if you think people are perfect, you will be sorely disappointed. Point being, we do have spiritual leaders in the Christian community, yes, but I really don’t care if you are a new Christian, devout Christian, pastor, etc. If you are breathing in this world right now, you and I have equal chances of letting doubt and the world overtake us without God’s help. If you are in doubt right now, I urge you to keep going. God is with you, even if you can’t see Him, and I promise He will speak to you, as He spoke to me after months of waiting. And I will live by Elijah’s standard: I want to do what I can for you before I am taken from you or before you are taken from me. If you are a Christian, you are my family and we are supposed to lift each other up and pray for each other because no one in this world is free from doubt and we are all in the same boat. If you are not a Christian, then I wish you would talk to me all the more because there is hope in Jesus Christ!
So as the world rages and falls into the dark shadow of Mordor, stay strong, my friends. Keep fighting the good fight in Christ’s name, as He gives you as much strength as you need for your calling. Love your friends, family, and everyone you come into contact with, no matter how long or short you may know them. Don’t worry about how much time you have on this earth, or how much time you have with people, but trust that God, who has them all safely in His hand, will give you just the right amount of time needed. And then use that time wisely. Pull the lost around you into our boat so that more people will be a part of the Lord’s promise of bringing all of the believers together again in heaven. I can hardly wait until we are all together with God in a true “Fellowship of the King.” 🙂

Pardon my Mess

Hello, everyone! I am glad you found my blog! I apologize for the mess. I’m trying to get it set up, so hopefully all of this will be cleaned up shortly. If you are feeling patient, go ahead and give it a follow so you don’t miss a single post…once it’s uploaded, that is.