In Need Today

My faith is a floundering mess.

My soul is worn.

My heart hurts.

And all of this is over circumstances and relationships over which I have NO control. I tried to verbalize my frustrations and hurts to my husband last night. “Everything just looks so broken and there’s a stubborn part of me that believes if I could just be the one in control, it might go differently. If I was in charge of the internet, our website would stop being ridiculous. It’s making us look so unprofessional. Doesn’t God know that? Doesn’t He see her running and hurting? Doesn’t He know how much I want them to stay here? Can’t He just direct him? Why are these babies struggling? Why is everything so broken?”

For all of my  all of my words about hope, I still struggle with surrender. I struggle to release. Just like you, I have to remember that things are broken this side of heaven. I must surround myself with the truth of God’s character and promises.

A favorite verse keeps running through my head today. “Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10, AMP.

My studies are teaching me that the verb for let be in the original Hebrew, rapha, actually means to release, to stop fighting, to just drop it.

So much of my inner struggle over what I cannot control (circumstances or behaviors) comes from a disconnect between what I claim to believe and how I actually lean into God’s promises. As I prayed to learn how to release and trust, God has been faithful to actually teach me. I can normally navigate my life in my own strength. This season, it’s not possible. I hate it. And I love it. And I hate it.

I wrote this verse during my quiet time early this morning, “…May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Psalm 79:8, NIV

I am in desperate need. I need more wisdom. I need God’s presence. I need to decide today whether I will choose truth over feelings. My flesh says my prayer list holds reasons to worry and doubt. My Father says His ways are higher than my ways. And that, should be enough. That is enough… for today.

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12, NIV

shutterstock_156393371_picmonkeyed

Our website is back up and running. Praise the Lord. There’s one small change if you are still having trouble connecting. We’ve moved from http://withjoyretreats.com to http://www.withjoyretreats.com. Our knight in web armor, big-time-help man deserves a lot of credit for his hard work. John Griffith, you are the bomb-diggity. THANK YOU.

Thank YOU for praying, asking, and encouraging this week. Both Carey and I have needed it. God is good, all the time. Let’s keep pressing on to know Him, friends.

Following,

Ginger

Shaking Knees

faith

As I lay in bed last night I turned to my husband and said, “We are really doing this. We are having a kid. Whether we are ready or not, life is about to change at light-speed. How do we get ready for this?”

This question could be applied to any life transition you like: graduation, new jobs, travel, dating, marriage, risks… change. I spent the morning with a friend and mentor who in the past year married off a daughter, became an empty nester, and is currently packing up her house to move to Colorado. Light-speed change. We both voiced our fears over the fact there is so much that we cannot see in our futures. It’s a cocktail of excitement, trepidation, anticipation, and random worries. I love the loop-da-loop on a good roller coaster when my stomach ends up in my throat, but I also hate the slow approach up the very first hill. Even though I know I’m going to love a majority of the coming experience, I still dread that initial dropoff!

In the face of all the newness and uncertainty of life, how do we step forward without our knees shaking?

I don’t know that we have to fake fearless living. The more I experience the more I realize that fear is a valid feeling and emotion. But I’ve also learned that I don’t want fear to make decisions for me. The first time I jumped off a high dive I screamed the whole way down and even continued to scream below the surface of the water. Did that make my jump any less authentic?

It is okay to acknowledge that I am afraid of the changes coming my way. I don’t know what it’s like to parent a child 24-7. Part of me wonders if I’m up to the task. I know I’m selfish. Do I really need to have a child to figure this out? Do I need sleepless nights to affirm the strength of my marriage?

I may scream the whole way off of this diving board, my knees may shake as I climb the ladder, but either way… July will come and my life will transition for the thousandth time.

We walk forward even when our knees are shaking.

“Feelings are indicators, not dictators. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings and perfectly capable of that little gift . . . called self-control.” – Lysa TerKeurst, Unglued

I’m just sharing in case you needed a pep talk today. I know I did. Clinging to this… the answer to our fear is faith.

Following,
Ginger

I Second that Emotion…

Dear Ginger,

I had a young girl ask me the other day, “What do I do with my emotions?” I told her that it would not be wise to let them be the driving force of our decisions, but rather, they can be the caboose that follows our engine of truth and action. But then, I thought, there they are, still holding up the back of the train – for what purpose? I love what Elisabeth Elliot says about emotions being given by God and for God – simply as more fodder that we may offer back up unto Him in complete surrender. Tim Keller shed some light on the situation in a series on “Praying Your Tears” as an honest confession and cry for help. However, I struggle with what that means on a practical day-to-day basis. For instance,

The boy and I broke up last month.

When people ask me, “How are you doing with that whole boy thing?” here is what goes through my head:

-I am sad because I miss him.
-I often feel lonely because I am no longer living life right alongside someone as closely as we were, and don’t ‘feel’ as known.
-I am resolved and peaceful, though, that the Lord is his God, not me, and accordingly, I choose to rest in His sovereignty.
-Because of the current stage in life and transitions that it has involved, “how I am” is a very conditional, fluid concept.
– But I am FINE. Positionally, I am redeemed! delivered! held, comforted, loved, known, and never alone. So that truth clearly changes the way I view all of my feelings. . .

Then I am left here – a place where I know the truth, but still suffer the feelings of loss. Do I acknowledge the feelings, preach the truth, and act accordingly – meaning I view my day as if the truth were the only reality I knew and trust that the feelings will eventually change?

Basically, I am wondering how we, as Christ followers, properly steward our emotions. How do we simultaneously and appropriately validate their placement, but treat them as simple feelings rather than huge road signs that determine our future directions? -K

Wow. Wow. Wow.  This question and explanation give such a window into your heart… and what a beautiful heart you have!  K, thank you so much for letting us all take a moment to explore what it looks like for us to properly steward our emotions.  You’ve obviously taken the time to study this on your own.  What a great list of resources you already have at your disposal.

First things first.  Change brings grief.  I’ve always enjoyed leaving home and adventuring, I’ve just never understood why I tend to have a breakdown the day before I travel.  I recognize now that I anticipate a change and grieve even in advance.  Is this an area of distrust?

I agree with your quote by Elliot – that feelings are given by God and are for God.  Feelings can influence, but you’re right, we walk into dangerous territory when we let our feelings lead.

Disney would have us “follow your heart” and “let your heart be your guide,”  while Scripture reminds us in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”   Our flesh and the Spirit are opposed.  Galatians 5:16-24 goes so far as to explain why they both can’t lead at the same time.

 So I tell you: Live by following the Spirit. Then you will not do what your sinful selves want.17 Our sinful selves want what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is against our sinful selves. The two are against each other, so you cannot do just what you please. But if the Spirit is leading you, you are not under the law.

The wrong things the sinful self does are clear: being sexually unfaithful, not being pure, taking part in sexual sins,20 worshiping gods, doing witchcraft, hating, making trouble, being jealous, being angry, being selfish, making people angry with each other, causing divisions among people, feeling envy, being drunk, having wild and wasteful parties, and doing other things like these. I warn you now as I warned you before: Those who do these things will not inherit God’s kingdom. But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their own sinful selves. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do.

And yet, emotions are a very real part of humanity.  During his time on the earth, Jesus displayed anger, joy and even sorrow.  He felt and experienced emotions deeply when it came to relationships.  C.S. Lewis discusses the cost of living as relational beings.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

So, how do we walk in the Spirit when it comes to our emotions?  How do we keep from becoming hardened by hurt and change?

1.  We recognize that apart from Christ we can do nothing.  (Romans 7:18, John 15:5)  Any ability to continue to give ourselves over to the possibility of being hurt is going to come from the Lord.  He has the power for us to live and move confidently even amidst our changing tides of emotion.

2.  We continue to communicate with God.  Psalm 51:10 in the NCV says: “Create in me a pure heart, God, and make my spirit right again.”  The Psalmist asks that God would give him a pure heart and a right spirit.  He actively pursues health and righteousness even on an emotional level.  The closing of Psalm 139 has become one of my daily prayers: Search me, know me, test me, lead me.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  If we are to find victory even in our feelings, it begins with an open line of communication with the Father.

3.  We rely on God.  We trust in Him.  (Proverbs 3:5)  Certainly we want to discipline ourselves in this area.  I’ll be the first to admit that I often don’t want to change my feelings when I’m having a rough go.  I want to be sorry for myself.  I want to feel hurt and angered.  I want to feel the loss.  I know that He has what I need, but the temptation (at least for me) is to turn to gossip, self-pity, and temporary fixes with food, shopping, and even escape through movies and tv.  The moment I choose to rely on anything else other than God I am denying Him the opportunity to work in a mighty way in my life.  It’s a forceful act of reason sometimes, but in hindsight I know He is the only one who can heal.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, 
   because the LORD has anointed me 
   to preach good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
   to proclaim freedom for the captives 
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor 
   and the day of vengeance of our God, 
to comfort all who mourn…  Isaiah 61:1-2

4.  We must learn to react out of truth.  K, I think you answered much of your own question when you said:  Do I acknowledge the feelings, preach the truth, and act accordingly?  Yes.  I think that’s a huge part of what our response should be.  As C.S. Lewis says in his novel The Silver Chair“Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”   I really and truly believe that sooner or later we have to decide what to do.  In our case, I believe that’s clinging to and reacting to truth rather than just emotion.  We plan ahead.  We have to be proactive and acknowledge that there will be bad days.  There will be crumple to the bathroom floor nights.  And there will be pull up your knees and sob at your steering wheel moments.  Those challenges are coming.  But what we choose to do “sooner or later” has everything to do with where we have placed our hope and if we are grounded in Truth.

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, The Message)

I know God gave me emotions and the ability to feel deeply, but He also gave me a head on my shoulders and oodles of truth in His Word.  As much as I don’t want to admit it or live it- my reaction is my choice.  The feelings will always be there, but hopefully I’m allowing them to be interpreted by a Master translator and guide.

You will keep in perfect peace 
   him whose mind is steadfast, 
   because he trusts in you. 
 Trust in the LORD forever, 
   for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.  Isaiah 26:3-4

Please chime in on this one!  This feels like just the tip of the iceberg.  Share you thoughts for K below.  K- I hope it’s a start to answering this deep and meaningful question.

Following,
Ginger

*A Retro Post from October 4, 2011.

Remould

“Don’t deny the feelings, but realize it takes no faith to stay in the feelings. They are like the screen saver that comes up when the computer is inactive. It is the automatic response, the natural response. You cannot set your mind on two things at once. Thoughts may come fast and furious, but they only come one one at a time. Feelings generally follow what our minds are set on. We get to choose.”

-Emily P. Freeman, Grace for the Good Girl

re-mould

With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.” (Romans 12:1-2, JBP)

Praying He would re-mould our minds this week through His Word, His people, and an attitude of thankfulness!

Following,
Ginger

Feelings

Dear Ginger,

I go to church and know that I should probably feel happy all the time, but I actually feel like I don’t fit in anywhere.  I don’t feel good about myself.  How do I fix my feelings… how do I make them change?

Thanks – F.

Dear F,

Thanks for such a great question that we can ALL identify with.  It sounds like you are in a tough place to be right now.  I am so sorry that things have been hard for you.  I know what it’s like to feel ineffective, depressed, lonely, and like I can’t measure up.  I’ve totally been there.

The crazy thing about feelings is that they are temporary. What we are feeling for a chunk of time (unless depression is involved) tends to change throughout the day.  That means I can be on cloud nine in the morning because I get an encouraging text… but I can also quickly become upset and angered if my phone company accidentally charges me an additional $200 on my bill.  Our emotions change so many times in a single day.  Because emotions are internal you have to change your mindset to change your emotion and this process doesn’t come naturally.  Bummer.

My feelings will change all the time.  (Wait, they just did again. Awesome.)  Just like you I have periods of doubt, frustration, or fear and I can honestly tell you that the only thing that has been able to see me through is the TRUTH of God’s Word. The devil really loves to feed you negative words, guilt, and lies so that your thoughts control you… rather than you controlling your thoughts.

The GREAT news is that regardless of how we are feeling about ourselves or our situations – God still thinks wonderful thoughts about us!

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!” 
Psalm 139:17 (NLT)

Not only does God have precious thoughts about you, but this verse also says that those thoughts cannot be numbered!

Self-esteem would have me working hard to feel better, but I now know that my self-esteem is going to fluctuate on a crazy cycle until I get it centered on God.  Ever seen your washing machine get off center?  It sounds like my whole house is coming down… until it gets balanced and centered.

Our center of gravity should be God’s Word!  My recommendation would be that you start filling up on GOOD stuff.  Replace those negative feelings with Truth.  It’s not going to be like an instant caffeine hit.  You will still have days when you do feel not up to par – but remember 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NCV) and fight like you mean it!

“We fight with weapons that are different from those the world uses. Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy’s strong places. We destroy people’s arguments and every proud thing that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.”

Be encouraged – you are not in this alone!

Following,
Ginger

*A Retro Post that previously appeared on March 16, 2011.

Renewing

“Emotions don’t have a brain. They are reactors. They may respond to truth, but they may also respond to lies with the same passion and conviction, sometimes more so. You must decide if you will trust the feeling or if you will trust the truth.”

-Emily P. Freeman, Grace for the Good Girl

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is –his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV)

For the next few weeks we are going to address our feelings, our responses, and our challenge to renew our minds by absorbing God’s Truth. I hope you’ll join in on the conversation.

Following,
Ginger

Emoting Emotions

Dear Ginger,

I had a young girl ask me the other day, “What do I do with my emotions?” I told her that it would not be wise to let them be the driving force of our decisions, but rather, they can be the caboose that follows our engine of truth and action. But then, I thought, there they are, still holding up the back of the train – for what purpose? I love what Elisabeth Elliot says about emotions being given by God and for God – simply as more fodder that we may offer back up unto Him in complete surrender. Tim Keller shed some light on the situation in a series on “Praying Your Tears” as an honest confession and cry for help. However, I struggle with what that means on a practical day-to-day basis. For instance,

The boy and I broke up last month.

When people ask me, “How are you doing with that whole boy thing?” here is what goes through my head:

-I am sad because I miss him.
-I often feel lonely because I am no longer living life right alongside someone as closely as we were, and don’t ‘feel’ as known.
-I am resolved and peaceful, though, that the Lord is his God, not me, and accordingly, I choose to rest in His sovereignty.
-Because of the current stage in life and transitions that it has involved, “how I am” is a very conditional, fluid concept.
– But I am FINE. Positionally, I am redeemed! delivered! held, comforted, loved, known, and never alone. So that truth clearly changes the way I view all of my feelings. . .

Then I am left here – a place where I know the truth, but still suffer the feelings of loss. Do I acknowledge the feelings, preach the truth, and act accordingly – meaning I view my day as if the truth were the only reality I knew and trust that the feelings will eventually change?

Basically, I am wondering how we, as Christ followers, properly steward our emotions. How do we simultaneously and appropriately validate their placement, but treat them as simple feelings rather than huge road signs that determine our future directions? -K

Wow. Wow. Wow.  This question and explanation give such a window into your heart… and what a beautiful heart you have!  K, thank you so much for letting us all take a moment to explore what it looks like for us to properly steward our emotions.  You’ve obviously taken the time to study this on your own.  What a great list of resources you already have at your disposal.

First things first.  Change brings grief.  I’ve always enjoyed leaving home and adventuring, I’ve just never understood why I tend to have a breakdown the day before I travel.  I recognize now that I anticipate a change and grieve even in advance.  Is this an area of distrust?

I agree with your quote by Elliot – that feelings are given by God and are for God.  Feelings can influence, but you’re right, we walk into dangerous territory when we let our feelings lead.

Disney would have us “follow your heart” and “let your heart be your guide,”  while Scripture reminds us in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”   Our flesh and the Spirit are opposed.  Galatians 5:16-24 goes so far as to explain why they both can’t lead at the same time.

 So I tell you: Live by following the Spirit. Then you will not do what your sinful selves want.17 Our sinful selves want what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is against our sinful selves. The two are against each other, so you cannot do just what you please.18 But if the Spirit is leading you, you are not under the law.

 19 The wrong things the sinful self does are clear: being sexually unfaithful, not being pure, taking part in sexual sins,20 worshiping gods, doing witchcraft, hating, making trouble, being jealous, being angry, being selfish, making people angry with each other, causing divisions among people,21 feeling envy, being drunk, having wild and wasteful parties, and doing other things like these. I warn you now as I warned you before: Those who do these things will not inherit God’s kingdom.22 But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their own sinful selves. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do.

And yet, emotions are a very real part of humanity.  During his time on the earth, Jesus displayed anger, joy and even sorrow.  He felt and experienced emotions deeply when it came to relationships.  C.S. Lewis discusses the cost of living as relational beings.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

So, how do we walk in the Spirit when it comes to our emotions?  How do we keep from becoming hardened by hurt and change?

1.  We recognize that apart from Christ we can do nothing.  (Romans 7:18, John 15:5)  Any ability to continue to give ourselves over to the possibility of being hurt is going to come from the Lord.  He has the power for us to live and move confidently even amidst our changing tides of emotion.

2.  We continue to communicate with God.  Psalm 51:10 in the NCV says: “Create in me a pure heart, God, and make my spirit right again.”  The Psalmist asks that God would give him a pure heart and a right spirit.  He actively pursues health and righteousness even on an emotional level.  The closing of Psalm 139 has become one of my daily prayers: Search me, know me, test me, lead me.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  If we are to find victory even in our feelings, it begins with an open line of communication with the Father.

3.  We rely on God.  We trust in Him.  (Proverbs 3:5)  Certainly we want to discipline ourselves in this area.  I’ll be the first to admit that I often don’t want to change my feelings when I’m having a rough go.  I want to be sorry for myself.  I want to feel hurt and angered.  I want to feel the loss.  I know that He has what I need, but the temptation (at least for me) is to turn to gossip, self-pity, and temporary fixes with food, shopping, and even escape through movies and tv.  The moment I choose to rely on anything else other than God I am denying Him the opportunity to work in a mighty way in my life.  It’s a forceful act of reason sometimes, but in hindsight I know He is the only one who can heal.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, 
   because the LORD has anointed me 
   to preach good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
   to proclaim freedom for the captives 
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor 
   and the day of vengeance of our God, 
to comfort all who mourn…  Isaiah 61:1-2

4.  We must learn to react out of truth.  K, I think you answered much of your own question when you said:  Do I acknowledge the feelings, preach the truth, and act accordingly?  Yes.  I think that’s a huge part of what our response should be.  As C.S. Lewis says in his novel The Silver Chair“Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”   I really and truly believe that sooner or later we have to decide what to do.  In our case, I believe that’s clinging to and reacting to truth rather than just emotion.  We plan ahead.  We have to be proactive and acknowledge that there will be bad days.  There will be crumple to the bathroom floor nights.  And there will be pull up your knees and sob at your steering wheel moments.  Those challenges are coming.  But what we choose to do “sooner or later” has everything to do with where we have placed our hope and if we are grounded in Truth.

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, The Message

I know God gave me emotions and the ability to feel deeply, but He also gave me a head on my shoulders and oodles of truth in His Word.  As much as I don’t want to admit it or live it- my reaction is my choice.  The feelings will always be there, but hopefully I’m allowing them to be interpreted by a Master translator and guide.

You will keep in perfect peace 
   him whose mind is steadfast, 
   because he trusts in you. 
4 Trust in the LORD forever, 
   for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.  Isaiah 26:3-4

Please chime in on this one!  This feels like just the tip of the iceberg.  Share you thoughts for K below.  K- I hope it’s a start to answering this deep and meaningful question.

Following,
Ginger

For more on feelings check out this post from last March.