What are You Leaning Into?

leaningEver hear someone refer to God as a crutch? Something only weak people need to lean on to get through life?

I’ve always found that argument irrational, all the more so when promoted by people who practically worship rationality.

It implies that weakness is the exception. But aren’t we all weak in one area or another?

Superman is a fantasy figure, and even he had a weakness: kryptonite (or Lois Lane, depending on your point of view 😊). Show me one person who won’t admit to any kind of weakness, and I’ll show you a person who is delusional.

And even if we agree that everyone has some type of weakness, it’s still not easy to personally admit it. Our culture reveres strength. An admission of weakness carries the stigma of being “less than.”

Less than adequate.

Less than acceptable.

Less than whole.

Admitting weakness requires admitting we need help. That’s usually okay physically. If you break your leg, it’s foolish to try walking without the aid of a crutch or other tool to help you get around until your bone heals.

So why is it many of us find it next to impossible to admit we need help mentally, emotionally, or spiritually?

If the Bible is true—and nothing has yet proven that it isn’t—then we are weak in every area, not just physically. Jesus Christ became human to bring the healing and wholeness we need, first spiritually, and in other areas of life, too.

To reject the wholeness He came to restore to us would be as foolish as a person with a broken leg rejecting crutches or a wheelchair.

We all lean into something or someone when we’re weak, whether we admit it or not.

When life doesn’t make sense, which way do you lean?

When tragedy strikes, which way do you lean?

When your energy is sapped, which way do you lean?

Do you lean into God or away from Him?

  • The atheist denies God’s existence and leans into humanity’s wisdom.
  • An agnostic leans into the certainty that it’s impossible to be certain about God.
  • The Christian admits his or her need, and leans into God, through the cross of Christ and dependence on His Holy Spirit.

Real foolishness is denying our weakness in the face of the overwhelming evidence of our need.

Do you really think people are born good? Then why is it we never have to teach a toddler to say “no” or “mine”? Or why do we have to teach a child to share, but we never have to teach a child to be selfish?

Adults are no better. We just learn to hide our sin under a veneer of civility (although these days, even civility has suffered a black eye).

Take a long look around. Then take a long look in the mirror. There are no exceptions. No, not even one.

That’s the reason Christ came to earth as a human and died for us. He did what we could not do for ourselves. He met our greatest need: the need to be restored to the divine relationship for which we were created.

If Jesus Christ is not who He said He is, then in the words of the apostle Paul, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (I Corinthians 15:19 NIV).

The older I get, the more I realize that often the worst thing I can do is try to make sense of life with my limited perspective and understanding. For if this world really is all there is, then life is, indeed, a cruel joke.

I recently experienced a severe loss. It has left me feeling weak. But when I lean into God during my times of need, I gain:

  • strength in my weakness
  • peace as I face unexpected circumstances
  • equipping to accomplish the tasks before me
  • and hope as I face uncertainty.

Corrie ten Boom said it best when she said, “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”

Whatever you’re facing today in your weakness, will you lean into Jesus Christ?

It’s the strongest thing you’ll ever do.


 
Labels, Identity, & Boxes on a Piece of Paper

Labels

Been thinking about labels lately. How we assign them to ourselves and to others.

Of all the seasons of my life, junior high school was the most painful. Labels ruled and cliques reigned. You were labeled if you belonged to a group and labeled if you didn’t.

Smart. Stupid.

Pretty. Ugly.

Jock. Nerd.

Popular. Loser.

Adults used to be subtler about the use of labels. Not anymore. The words are often spit out with venom usually reserved for the lowest of the low.

Liberal. Conservative.

Democrat. Republican.

Intellectual. Religious fanatic.

This week, I came face to face with another label. It happened in a doctor’s office as I completed one of several forms.

The first 20 years of my life I was Single.

Then I spent the next 40 years Married.

Now I’m face to face with a new label: Widow.

Single. Married. Widow.

Who knew that checking a box on a form would cause me to rethink my identity? And yet it did.

But is that really my identity? Or is it simply a description of my status?

The last 2 months have given me the opportunity to consider who I am. What is my primary identity?

I was an executive…and now I’m not.

I was a wife…and now I’m not.

I’m an author now.

I’m a teacher now.

I’m a widow now.

My employment status and my marital status are subject to change. But one thing will never change. One label describes me now and for all eternity.

I am a Christian.

That means I’m a child of God. A daughter of the Creator of the universe.

I have:

A living hope (I Peter 1:3).

An imperishable inheritance (I Peter 1:4).

The seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Eternal life that has already begun (John 5:24).

Checking a box on a piece of paper describes my circumstances. But it doesn’t come close to describing who I am…and who I always will be.

Priscilla Shirer said it better than I could:

Who are YOU?


 
What If God Allows It?

What if

It’s hurricane season in Florida. With every new tropical disturbance identified in the Atlantic Ocean, Florida residents play the “What if?” game.

What if a hurricane strikes us again?

What if we experience similar flooding to the Carolinas?

And the what-ifs extend beyond the weather.

What if the diagnosis is cancer?

What if the prognosis is terminal?

What if my prodigal refuses to return?

Most Christians say they trust God. We quote Bible verses that talk about God as Provider, Protector, and Healer. We memorize verses describing God’s loving nature and His compassion.

But even as we quote truth, our circumstances can unleash fears in overwhelming waves.

What if God allows the cancer to return?

And what if God permits my prodigal to remain lost?

What if God allows us to lose our home?

The resulting fears rise above our immediate circumstances to influence our view of God.

We doubt God’s goodness, even though the Bible declares that God is good (Psalm 100:5)

And we doubt God’s provision, even though the Bible tells us He will meet our needs (Phil. 4:19).

We doubt God’s love, even though the Bible tells us God is love (I John 4:8).

When we allow our fears to trump our faith, it’s the equivalent of saying God doesn’t have our best interests at heart. And even when we don’t fear, we can rebel against God by choosing what we think is best, rather than what He says is best.

  • It’s what Eve believed in the Garden when she believed Satan’s lies and ate the fruit that God had declared forbidden. What if God is keeping the best for Himself?
  • It’s what the ancient Israelites believed when they refused to enter the promised land for fear of the “giants” in the land. What if God allows us to die in the Promised Land?
  • It’s what King David believed when he allowed lust for another man’s wife to cause him to commit murder. What if God wants me to deny my physical desires?

How are your circumstances influencing your perspective of our heavenly Father? Do you hold a high view of God? Have you allowed what you don’t understand about His ways to prevent you from trusting His nature?

God calls His children to trust Him despite our what-ifs.

And if our what-if actually happens, will we still trust Him?

What what-if are you struggling with today?


 
One Word Update – Wrong Word for 2018?

Gratitude

By most people’s standards, I picked the wrong word for 2018.

For several years now, instead of making new year’s resolutions, I’ve practiced selecting one word to focus on each year. Actually, it’s not so much that I select the word, it’s more that it’s the word I believe God gives me.

As I posted this past January, my word for 2018 is gratitude.

My husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the beginning of 2017, and after chemotherapy, radiation, and more chemo, was declared to be in remission by October. When I selected gratitude as my word, we had not yet learned of the remission. Still, as we waited for my husband’s PET scan results, I knew the choice I had to make. To choose gratitude regardless of whether the cancer was still present. To hold on to thankfulness, no matter what.

Sadly, the cancer returned with a vengeance early this year. It metastasized, yielding a terminal prognosis. We are walking that journey today.

If gratitude is based solely on pleasant experiences, then I did, indeed, select the wrong word for 2018.

But despite the hurricane-force winds ripping through my circumstances, one thing will never change. Because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, I will always belong to my heavenly Father. And I have the comfort of knowing my husband has the same assurance.

We’ve been given the gift of eternal life. The incomparable gift of eternal life. A gift that will always eclipse our physical circumstances. It overshadows the worst diagnosis and outlasts the saddest prognosis. And it speaks hope into our brokenness.

So yes, gratitude is still my word for 2018. It’s still the right word for 2018. I’m grateful for the forty years of life my husband and I have shared together. Despite the terminal prognosis, I’m grateful for the remaining time—however limited—we do have, whether months, weeks or days. And I’m grateful for the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is upholding and strengthening us during circumstances that would otherwise be unbearable.

Surely that is reason enough to always be grateful. Grateful for what I have, regardless of how long it will last. Grateful for who I have, regardless of the soon-to-be fulfilled prognosis. And grateful for who I—and we—belong to, because He is holding us close and wrapping us in His love.

Did you choose “one word” for 2018?
Share your update…


 
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