How Do You Stay So Positive?

happiness

It was a question via Facebook messenger, completely out of the blue from a high school girl from our Youth Center. She simply asked,

“How do you stay so positive?”

I wanted to hug her.

It’s such a simple, little question packed with SO much.

I remember what it is like to be a teenage girl. It’s overwhelming. It’s difficult. It’s lonely. It’s confusing. I love that this young lady feels all the feels and wants to fight negativity. Fight lies. Fight cynicism. Fight apathy. And have positivity.

Here’s how I responded to her that night (it was late, and a little jumbled :)):

“I know it’s a little cliche-but honestly, it’s my faith. Faith and age 😊 I wasn’t always like this-when I was your age, I was on depression medication, Zoloft, and definitely had breakdowns and felt despair. I’ve even had those in the last couple of years (though the older I get, the less and less frequent that happens). My faith keeps me positive for 2 main reasons: one, I believe that absolutely everything that happens, God can use for good-to grow me into a better woman. He is doing a million different things in my life all at once, for me- for my good, and I only can see a few of them. I believe He is good and patient and kind-so that helps a lot. And secondly, I believe that no matter what happens in this life–it’ll pass. I know it will. And eventually this life will be over and the best life will begin! And that helps me maintain a positive perspective too.

It doesn’t come naturally always. A lot of times i have to “walk myself to truth” and journal out what I know to be true, and what lies I may be believing that are causing my heartache. It doesn’t just happen overnight; it is a journey. But I can say for fact, that choosing joy and fighting for positivity now, is sooooooooo much easier today. So wherever you’re at-keep fighting for joy. Figure out truth and preach it to yourself and have others speak truth to you too! God really is the great Comforter and believing in him-his power & goodness & control- is the only way I’ve found to really BE positive!”

Talk Yourself Out of Lies

I was recently praying to the Lord about my future-my desires, my heartaches, my deeps hope that only He and I know about. After expressing them to Him, I ended with “not my will, but yours be done” and I started to cry. I cried because I was scared that God’s will looks very different than what I hoped for my life. I cried because I feared God’s will would be difficult and painful and possibly opposite of me getting what I want so badly.

And then I stopped myself, and asked God to search my heart.

I was quietly speaking and believing lies to myself. My tears said: “My desire is for my comfort and happiness. If God is good and loves me deeply, then He should go after that for me because I know what’s best for me. But I fear that God is not good and his love for me not deep enough to care about my heartache or my pains. He might, in fact, PURPOSEFULLY make it difficult or opposite if what I want”.  That’s what my heart believed in that moment!

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit who resides in me fought those lies with truth from Scripture. I then thought:

“…YOU God, are the ultimate joy, prize, and satisfaction (Ps. 16:11). Getting ____________ is NOT what will “make or break” my life-KNOWING AND LOVING YOU will. If I seek you-I WILL find you (Matt. 7:7), and in finding you, getting to know how amazing you are will be ABOVE and beyond all I could imagine (Eph. 3:20). And you’ve already promised me you’ll be here-you’ll never leave me (Heb. 13:5). You’ll not stop loving me, and everything you do is good and right (Rom. 8:28-19). Your will is PERFECT! (Ps. 18:30) You’ll fulfill and satisfy me, direct me, and give me EVERYTHING I need (Phil. 4:19)”.

This is the Word of the Lord; thanks be to God.

One of my burdens right now in life is singleness. Maybe yours is a wayward child, or a jobless future, or an unloving spouse. As you run to God with your desires for the future, remember to combat any lies that sneak into your heart. Any doubts that creeps in that tells you God isn’t good, or isn’t working-need to be immediately fought with truth from Scripture and a reminder of the eternity to come. I ended my prayer like this:

“Oh dear Father. Please help me not to get tangled up in lies and distracted by thoughts about a possible (but not guaranteed) future marriage. Because I AM guaranteed a wedding and a groom-a PERFECT one-Christ in glory. I have salvation! Forgiveness of sins! I am your daughter! Knowing, believing, and clinging to THAT truth will propel me through all seasons of doubt, loneliness, rejection, or whatever else. Because even if you see fit to allow me to endure suffering through singleness for the rest of my life-I’ll choose to believe that you always give what is best for me. YOU ARE ENOUGH. YOU ARE WORTH IT. YOU WILL SATISFY.”

“There are no disappointments to those who wills are buried in the will of God.” Frederick William Faber

When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head. ~ Charles Spurgeon: When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head. ~ Charles Spurgeon

Please Help with Hell and Ministry!

I had the opportunity to talk briefly with a young man who has a beautiful understanding of the gospel. It is BEAUTIFUL. His passion is incredible, and his grasp of the character of God is a deep, deep loving well.

From what I can see, he is unlike anyone I’ve met before. And I do NOT say that lightly. He has the potential to be used by God to impact and change lives in incalculable ways-for His Name’s sake. I am confident that his gospel ministry could bring countless to the throne of God to better know and worship the King of Kings.

However, he is currently at a bit of a stand still. He is wrestling with God. Wrestling towards God, yes-but also unconfident in God’s complete goodness according to orthodox Christianity. He is dissatisfied with God’s justice being rooted in eternal damnation-it doesn’t sit right, and doesn’t seem to make sense. He so badly wants to be able to trust our perfect God as presented by the Bible and  the church today, but wishes that one lifetime of sin against a holy, just (don’t forget: good, loving, gracious, merciful) God did not merit endless, eternal torment upon torment.

In many ways, you probably agree with him. I know that I and C.S. Lewis agree with him. Concerning hell, Lewis once wrote, “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power”. I told the young man, I would love it if when I get to heaven I could run up the Father and ask Him, if one day he will break into hell, the way He broke into earth, and do what only God can do-redeem sinner to himself, so that EVERY knee bows and tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, and He responds with a smile, “Shh…don’t tell the angels, they don’t know yet—it’ll be a surprise, but yes, my wrath is satisfied at the cross and in hell, and now my mercy will once again extend to those who do not deserve it, and can do NOTHING to receive it.” WHAT A DAY OF REJOICING THAT WOULD BE! But, I told the young man, if I get to glory, ask that question, and my Father says, “Sweet, daughter, no. My perfect, just wrath will not allow for that.”—that I believe and must trust that in that moment He will somehow give me new eyes to see His holiness and His beauty in a way that brings peace and praise. Though today, I cannot see that clearly, by faith I seek to train my heart to trust His goodness and His perfection even if that is the case.

BUT this young man (and I!) really, really wants love to win in the end, and for after spending even billions of years in hell…God breaks in and His glory and goodness and grace and love and mercy are seen again like never before. That’s our God! And the angels, and we as his redeemed people praise Him and are able to love Him even MORE because of His incredible character and steadfast love and mercies that know no end!

But, unfortunately, that’s heresy.

Rob Bell was “crucified” for thoughts like this.

Doctrinally strong churches won’t hire a pastor who thinks like this.

So this left me asking, what should a young man who deeply, passionately adores the gospel, is clearly anointed for ministry, but wrestles with this “anti-evangelical” ideology of hell one day coming to an end, do?

I know the short answer-PRAY. Pray for eyes to see truth and a heart to receive understanding with gratitude, confidence, and peace. But, can you think of anything else to help this young man? Any other words of wisdom? Remember, it’s not HELL he has a problem with-he totally sees its reality in Scripture–it’s the eternality of hell that is more of the hang up.

Thanks so much!

Soli deo Gloria.

When Every Day is a Battle

By my boss, I was recently given one of the top things on my wish list, the puritan prayer book, “The Valley of Vision”. I was so encouraged by the introduction of the book, I thought I’d share it with you. This is especially for my brothers and sisters who are in a difficult situation right now, who feel like they are at their lowest low, and know each morning when they wake up that the day is going to be a constant battle. To you, I grieve that you are in these lowlands, but pray that while you are in the valley, God gives you clearer eyes to see Him.

The Valley of Vision

“Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,

Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,

Where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

That the way down is the way up,

That to be low is to be high,

That the broken heart is the healed heart,

That the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

That the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

That to have nothing is to possess all,

That to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

That to give is to receive,

That the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find they light in my darkness,

Thy life in my death,

Thy joy in my sorrow,

Thy grace in my sin,

Thy riches in my poverty

Thy glory in my valley.”

Don’t give up. God is close to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18), He see each of your tears (Ps. 56:8),He will never leave you (Heb. 13:5), and He will sustain you (Phil 4:19) through this, and every difficult day.

Peace Within the Gray

PWTGAre you in a gray area? You know, in one of those situation where God hasn’t said stop, but He also hasn’t said go? Though he clearly hasn’t said yes, He definitely hasn’t said no. Do you feel like you’ve been in this or at this for far too long, that it is far too painful, and that you are far too fragile to be able to stay here? Where is the solution? The door isn’t locked, but it isn’t really open either. Do you beg God for an answer? Any answer! Do you cry out to Him for the next step, or for assurance or confidence to do something other than just pray and pray and pray and pray?

Yeah, me too.

And I’ve heard it painfully expressed from so many people lately. Friendships, marriages, careers, and future plans are all in these drab, gray areas.

With my heavy heart thinking of my burdens and the burdens of so many around me, I went to the one place of true comfort, the only source of peace-God’s word. I needed to read and see that He hears me, and that He cares, and that He is doing something now or is going to do something soon. I needed that assurance and that comfort that there is a purpose for where I am at now, and that God can grant peace even in the gray area if I trust in Him.

Among other truths, I ended up being wonderfully encouraged by this compilation of verses all about God hearing us. As I read through them my anxious heart started to feel more at ease, and I noticed something. Twelve of the verses listed came from Psalms, many of which came from David. They sounded so confident. They sounded so sure. It made me wonder, did David really know gray areas?  Was his life mostly easy? Would he be able to comfort someone stuck in a rut?

So I looked up a chronology of David’s life and saw gray upon gray upon gray! I forget that this giant slaying, song writing, legendary man after God’s own heart, lived a very difficult life. Read the list! He was exiled from Saul for 9 years, endured a three year famine, involved in wars, committed horrendous sins of his own, and then saw his own family commit equally horrendous offensive sins, he was tormented during most of his son Absalom’s life, exiled again when he was 65 because of that very son, and many other untold heartaches I am sure.

Yet, this is the man who says all these things about God answering, and delivering, and listening, and saving, and being merciful, and being steadfast, and being gracious and good and loving.  How? And if he can, how can you and I?

Where I landed is that David did (and you and I should do) two main things. He looked back and he looked forward. When I say that “he looked back” I mean that he went through enough in life that he could reflect on and see God’s hand and faithfulness in each circumstance.  He could have confidence that God would not abandon him now because he clearly saw how God did not abandon him in the past.  And he looked WAY back, to the pages of scripture to know God’s character and who He is. And the second thing David models to us, is that He looks forward. He trusts God future plan of perfection. He knows that eventually (even if it is nine years later, or in eternity) God is going to bring resolution, and it will be in His perfect timing and His perfect way.

In order to, like David, have peace in the gray areas you must take time to cleanse your heart of cynicism and search for God. You must trust his Word and his goodness by praying and reading Scripture. That is the only way your heart will change. Yes, this is work. It takes time. It might be hard at first. It might feel like the cliché Sunday School answer. But you CANNOT have peace apart from God and his word. And you cannot know God apart from spending deliberate time with Him. As C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” So stop just thinking that peace or holiness or contentment is just going to come. It isn’t. It takes work. But the end result of peace is completely worth it-so do it. Look forward and know that you are not going to be in this situation forever; don’t waste this time. Look forward and trust God is working, and that He will work ALL things together for good. You want to grow and be better, and wiser, and more loving, and more patient because of this time. Life is full of ebbing and flowing, and after this trial will come another one, so learn to have peace now so that you can have it in every circumstance. Your gray area, it will be redeemed one way or another. Until that comes-cling to truth that God is present and faithful and loving and has a purpose-search Him to know.