When Our View of God Clashes With Reality

quote on God's faithfulness

Sometimes our expectations lead to our greatest disappointments. They can hinder us from truly knowing one another.

They can hinder us from truly knowing God as well.

Have you ever had someone grow attached to the person they thought you were? Not who you were but an individual they’d conjured in their mind? I have, and the situation didn’t end well.

I met Anna* at church. Though we had numerous mutual friends, children close in age, and had been part of the same faith community for years, we didn’t really know one another. But then, after having read material I wrote, she initiated a conversation. We soon developed a relationship and began to go on walks and talk over coffee. Our interactions, though brief and sporadic, were pleasant enough, until I ceased meeting the woman’s expectations.

She acted as if I had deceived and cheated her.

Have you ever experienced something similar?

Have you ever felt that way about God?

I have. My relationship with Christ has swung from one side of the pendulum to the other, finally resting back in center. Early on, I viewed Him as hard and exacting, the One with the power and authority to send me to hell and who would be quite justified in doing so. I knew Him as the Rule Setter but struggled to see Him as loving and compassionate Father.

Steadily, one sermon, Bible passage, and Christ-centered interaction at a time, He transformed my thinking so that I began to view Him as my Savior and Friend. And for sure, He is both of those, but somehow, in the softening, I lost sight of the fact that His merciful side doesn’t negate His awesome sovereignty as the One who formed and retains full ownership of all creation, myself included.

As a result, I began to expect blessings and abundance. Oh, I never would’ve said that, if asked. I understood, at least in theory, that life held no guarantees and often horrible things happen to really good, God-loving people. I had read the book of Job, after all. But when that somebody was me, I grew sulky, frustrated, and at times, downright angry. I accused God of holding out on me, of not caring, and of not listening.

But really the problem lay with me. I allowed my self-created ideas of who I thought He was hinder my intimacy with the God who is and always will be:

Always good, faithful, loving, and true.

One day, when our daughter was young, I asked her to help me unload groceries from the car. She huffed and said, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t make me do this.”

I’m not sure if she really believed that or was simply trying to talk her way out of what she clearly deemed to be a rather torturous event. I suspect the latter. But she was so melodramatic about the whole thing, it was all I could do to keep from laughing. Once certain I could respond with appropriate sternness, I replied, “It is because I love you that I must insist you unload them all.” Then, pocketing my keys, I left her to it, adding, “I’m raising you to have a servant’s, not serve-me, heart.”

Then I went inside.

I wonder how many times God whispered similar words to my huffing and hemming heart over the years. “I know you want that promotion. I know you feel I’m being unfair withholding it from you, but I would rather raise a daughter who trusts in Me more than her paycheck.”

“I know you don’t enjoy having chronic illness. I know it hurts and is hard. But I want you to experience My strength made perfect in your weakness.”

Or perhaps most challenging, “I know you don’t like to see your daughter struggle in this way. I Know it breaks your heart, and it does mine as well. But you must entrust her to Me. I’m growing her, patiently and faithfully, just as I have you all these years.”

I’ve seen enough of His heart, of His faithfulness, to know just how true that is. I’ve come to trust Him, to see Him as Father and Savior and Friend and King. I still have areas of deception He’s working to rectify with truth, areas of misconception His grace will expel. But for now, I’m resting in this:

He is good. He is loving. He is faithful, and He is enough. Regardless of what my fickle feelings or faulty perceptions might tempt me to believe. And perhaps that’s the most glorious lesson He’s taught me—to question everything else but Him. To say, like the apostle Paul did in his letter to the Romans, “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

When our view of God clashes with reality, it’s an invitation to get to know Him better.

*Name changed for privacy purposes

Let’s talk about this! When have circumstances challenged your view of God? How did you respond? Did your understanding of Him deepen through that event?

If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, available on the YouVersion app, 30 Days of Emotional Health. You can find it  HERE.

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Trusting God to Lead and Guide Through Closed and Opened Doors

Picture of a door with text from Revelations 3;8

Sometimes I can spend more time questioning if something is God’s will than actually pursuing it. Granted, it’s good to seek clarity and to bring every thought and passion to Christ for His direction, or redirection, whichever the case may be. But often, when I’m reluctant to move forward, my hesitation comes more from insecurity and a false fear of missing out than patiently waiting on God.

A statement made by a missionary couple nearly a year ago often inspires me to forward progression. They were relatively newly married and had recently sensed God’s call to missions. When I asked them how they discerned God’s will, I expected to hear a list of resources they’d read, conversations they’d held, and divine “aha” moments. Though I have no doubt those things occurred, as God is faithful to confirm His will, their reply reminded me of the power and beauty of obedience.

“A lot of can people get stuck,” Dan Medrano said. “When they don’t know for certain something is God’s will, they won’t move forward. We don’t want to do that. So, if we think God is leading us toward something, we’re going to move forward in faith until He says otherwise. If something’s not of Him, He’ll show us through prayer, Bible reading, the Holy Spirit, and trusted friends.” (Read their full story HERE, page 5.)

I love the child-like trust and full surrender revealed in Dan’s comment: “If we think God is leading us toward something, we’re going to move forward in faith until He says otherwise.”

Dan and his wife relied, completely, on God’s sovereignty and faithfulness. They believed He’d open whatever doors He wanted them to walk through and would close whatever ones He didn’t.

Early in my writing career, as I read God’s promise to the Philadelphian church in Revelations 3:8, I sensed His whisper in my heart, “This is for you as well.”

The verse reads, “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My Word and have not denied My name” (NIV).

God packed so much encouragement in those two precious sentences. His plans for me aren’t dependent on my strength, which will always be woefully insufficient. Nor will I miss them or mess them up. Rather, I live out His will, in all it’s fullness and at every moment, simply by leaning into Him and continually moving forward, trusting, if I offer my heart completely to Him, He’ll stir it in whatever direction He chooses.

Sitting in that place of full surrender, of total pliability, brings such peace. It reminds us that we don’t have to hear God perfectly. He doesn’t sit up in heaven, waiting to catch us in a misstep. He’s a good, patient, tender-hearted Father who continually walks beside us.

I suggest God receives the same joy watching us grow and explore as we do with our children.

When our daughter was young, she and I often went on “adventure walks.” We were living in a Southern California suburb at the time filled with crisscrossing, winding walking paths and parks less than a half a mile in each direction. Each morning, we ventured on whatever path she chose. I was less concerned with where we landed than each precious moment shared between us. There were times I’d redirect her, like when we neared a busy road or needed to meet friends at the playground. But most of the time, I simply enjoyed walking beside her, hearing her chatter, and watching her eyes light up at every “blow flower” we encountered.

When I get logged down with to-dos and ministry demands, I have to intentionally remind myself that Christ alone is my prize, and I am His. He longs for me—my heart, child-like trust, and my moment-by-moment surrender—more than anything I might do for Him. He wants me to remain pliable. This means, when I’m heading one way and hit a dead end, rather than getting frustrated or trying to force through it, I smile, gaze up at my good, good Father, and placing my hand in His, follow. And when the road ahead looks clouded and I can only see that next step, I lean closer to my Guide, knowing however and wherever He leads will be good.

Because He is good.

Let’s talk about this! What do you tend to value more—God’s guidance for what’s ahead or Him? Your relationship with Him or what you do for Him? How might your stress, anxiety, and uncertainty level change if, moment by moment, you reminded yourself that He alone is your prize and so long as you’re prioritizing Him, everything else will follow.

Logo image for Wholly Loved's Bible reading appIf you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, available on the YouVersion app, 30 Days of Emotional Health. You can find it  HERE.

And join our Facebook community on Facebook to connect with other women and find encouragement as you grow in your faith. Join by clicking the button below, and make sure to follow us on Instagram. And if you’re a book lover, you can follow my author page on Amazon HERE. Contact me HERE to book me for your next women’s event or Bible study.

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When Ministries Die

woman sitting outside

Imagine forsaking your way of life to answer a call, pouring your life into following God, however He leads, only to learn, at the end of a long, difficult journey, your efforts will eventually come to naught. Those people you prayed for will turn away from God. Those relationships you fought for will fall apart anyway. That ministry you built and nurtured and grew from nothing but a vague idea will die completely.

Some 3,500 years ago*, God called a meek shepherd to leave his way of life in Midian to accept a monumental task—to free God’s people from centuries of oppression. After some hesitation, this man, named Moses, agreed, successfully liberated the Israelites, and led them to the land God promised them.

But this wasn’t just a rescue mission. Through Moses, God was changing worldviews and revealing His heart and will to the world.

Moses’ life is an example of surrendered obedience. Though he never entered the land God had promised, when his time on earth concluded, he could look back over all the lives he’d touched and imagine, with confidence, the legacy he’d leave.

Except that wasn’t exactly what happened. Though he did leave a legacy, I suspect it wasn’t what Moses had hoped for. As he was about to die, God said, in essence, “Everything you’ve worked for, everything I’ve called you to, will fail. The people I loved, provided for, and protected are going to rebel against Me.” (Deut. 32)

They would enter the Promised land as God had promised, and in response, the people would reject their Creator. God knew this, before He led them out of Egypt and drew them near.

Because God’s faithfulness is never dependent on our actions.quote from post.

Nor is our ministry dependent on results. That said, regardless of how things end, during our lifetime, or even for generations to come, God’s will prevails. We saw this, quite clearly, through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and we’ll see it again when He returns to earth to reign for forever more.

As we wait, we’re called to be faithful. To focus on Him and His will done in and through us. That is and always will be enough.

More than enough.

Though it had to sting, to hear his life’s work would soon deteriorate, Moses could die in peace, because he’d done as God had commanded.

When we do the same, and daily step out in faith and surrendered obedience, we can call it a win, regardless of the results of our efforts. And despite what may feel like a huge loss today, we can celebrate knowing in the end, Christ triumphs.

Let’s talk about this! Are you tired? Has something you’ve worked for turned out different than you expected? How might focusing on the faithfulness of God instead of the often faithlessness of others help you stay focused and encouraged? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

For those who live local, join me for two great events! Live teaching of Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study (Register HERE), and one of our Fully Alive Conferences. You can find out more and click through links to register HERE.

You can snag your free copy (ebook) of the study HERE.

God Among the Bullet Points

planner and pensEvery birthday and New Year, I’m forced to take stock. Have I lived the past year well? Am I moving forward in faith? Can I reasonably recover from all my mess ups and mishaps and perhaps behave differently the next time around? Unfortunately, I fail much more often than I’d care to admit, but despite my mess-ups, mishaps, and downright failings, one thing remains certain and unwavering, as my guest today discovered while doing a little life-check of her own.

God among the bullet-points

By Jessica Brodie

Ever try to sum up your life in a bullet-list? It’s a weird, sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious exercise in self-absorption (if I’m generous, self-healing) that I tried one lonely New Year’s Day 13 years ago.

It went something like this:

  • Born January 19, North Miami, Florida
  • Lived with parents in small house near grandparents
  • Earliest memories: books, brown shag carpet
  • Age two, moved to better house
  • Favorites: banana trees, stripy sneakers, books, spiky grass, swing set, Mom’s typewriter
  • Afraid of everyone and everything

I should mention I was a full-fledged grownup when I did this, well into my career, married…old enough to have achieved some maturity. And at the end, I had a neatly printed six-page document filled with all the dysfunctions and quirks that had comprised my life. Right there, in black and white, I could see exactly how far I’d come.

Take that, Mean Girls of the Sixth Grade. Harrumpf.

Sure, I’d had my share of embarrassing failures and broken hearts, but a few lines later there was the college scholarship, the promotion, the kiss. Life went on. Ups, downs—they littered the page without discernible pattern.

“That’s just life,” I’d concluded—random, messy, beautiful, full of chance and happenstance, with me in the starring role. I saw how time and again I’d navigated a difficult circumstance with a solid, moral decision or confronted a tough issue by standing strong, staying true. I congratulated myself on my perseverance and gumption.

Ah, younger me.

I knew nothing.

See, all that time I thought I was steering myself through the tough times. But it wasn’t. It was God. Now I see the light.

Thirteen years later, I’ve had two children and gained two stepchildren. I’ve become a daily reader of Scripture rather than a casual Bible-thumber. I’ve experienced loss, single-momhood, near-poverty, and wealth. I’ve been to Africa and walked with lions, seen miracles happen before my eyes and within my body.

I’ve lived. And in living, I’ve come to understand how little any of it has to do with me or the choices I made. I’ve also come to see how lucky I am God has allowed me to experience this grand, majestic ride.

Recently, I tried that bullet-list exercise again—but this time, instead of chance and happenstance, I was struck by the master pattern I saw: God’s hand on everything. Every. Thing.

Why had I ever thought my life was random? It was a magical, God-orchestrated symphony. In every moment, big and small, God was there—guiding, maneuvering, until whatever He’d planned had been fulfilled … then leading me onto the next step.

That infertility struggle that seemed to last forever? Now I saw it so clearly pointing me toward humility and submission to God’s will.

That tough job where I felt so utterly alone? God was helping me rely on my internal chops—and Him—to be a better leader.

Today I look at my list and don’t regret any of the mistakes and painful moments I see. My only regret is all the time I wasted from worry.

And I see what I should have been doing all along: resting securely in the knowledge that God has our roadmap already printed out for us in the form of the Holy Bible.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” He tells us, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).*

Try the bullet-list for yourself and see if you, too, can tell all that God has done and is doing in your life.

*Bible verse taken from Biblehub.com

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Author Jessica Brodie's headshotJessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest continuously published newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/.

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Let’s talk about this! In her book, Victim of Grace, author Robin Jones Gunn talks about taking an annual “Selah” where she hits the pause button and sort of takes stock of her previous year and what God might want to do in the year ahead. This really struck me because I have a tendency to stay so busy doing, I can miss observing all God has done or might want to do. Jessica’s post today encouraged me to hit the pause button this week, to take some time to prayerfully look over past journal entries, to meditate on Scripture, to contemplate all God has done.

What about you? Do you normally take time to remember and contemplate? If so, when and how? If not, how might doing so increase your sense of peace and awe for God? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Before you go, I wanted to invite you to join me and my Wholly Loved sisters each Wednesday for our new video devotions–short, transformative nuggets designed to help you center yourself in Christ and His truth. You can watch our first two HERE and HERE, then return to the Wholly Loved site each Wednesday for another inspirational message. And if you haven’t done so, make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive inspirational content, recipes, short stories, and more sent directly to your inbox. As an added bonus, subscribers cover image for study based on 1 Timothyreceive a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (sent separately). You can sign up HERE.

For those in the Omaha/LaVista/Lincoln area, join us for one of our upcoming conferences. You can find out more HERE.

The Faithfulness of God in the Middle of Our Uncertainty

I know fear. I know uncertainty. I know the desire to cling to and remain in my comfort zone, and I’ve seen what happens when I follow God and step out, whether that means walking across the street to engage with a neighbor, joining a ministry, maybe galavanting across the nation–as I happen to be doing right now. 😉

If you were in the audience this past Monday, you learned I can easily allow fear to hinder my obedience. But I’m learning not only how futile many of my fears are, but where I need to place them–in Christ’s hands.

I thought of this, and my self-protecting tendency, when left on my own, as I read Laura Hilton’s post below. If you find yourself clinging to safety nets and searching for comfort zones, may you be encouraged, inspired–and challenged–by Laura’s devotion.

The Faithfulness of God in the Middle of Our Uncertainty

by Laura Hilton

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV). 

I am a coward. There is no other way to put it.

My son was graduating from A school with the Coast Guard. This is a school where Coasties are sent to learn the job they would be doing in the Coast Guard. My son is a DC rating and his job is “Firefighter” but firefighting is only a small part of what he does.

Basically, he is a “Damage Controlman” and does it all. Construction. Plumbing. Welding. Firefighting. And so much more.

So, my Coastie really wanted us to come to his graduation. This is a big moment for them. This, and when they graduate from bootcamp.

But I’m looking at the map from the northern part of Arkansas to Newport News, Virginia and thinking, “Um, we have to drive through Nashville, Tennessee.”

Terror strikes. I get freaked out driving through Little Rock, Arkansas and Springfield, Missouri. Memphis, Tennessee is a nightmare. And Nashville will only be worse.

Thankfully, my husband loves me. We loaded up the car with three of the five kids (one was in college and couldn’t come) and headed toward Virginia. And he googled the trip so we could take a bypass around Nashville.

But then there was Knoxville. He hadn’t googled to find a bypass for Knoxville and we hit it at five o’clock rush hour. Five lanes of traffic, going one way, all at a complete stop.

I was praying, shaking, but trying so hard not to freak out and scare the girls, because they were scared enough. Like me, they were used to rural Arkansas traffic where five cars on the road is considered a traffic jam.

But God came through. We survived Knoxville. And the Great Smokies and Appalachian Mountains we saw were absolutely gorgeous. Some of God’s best handiwork. I was able to stand on the Appalachian Trail (an item on my bucket list) and my children actually hiked a portion. And standing on the trail I knew why people hiked it to find God. There is just a tangible peace around that place.

And I saw the ocean. For the very first time. In real life. I handled it. In my hands. Another item on my bucket list.

Even though I was ripped out of my comfort zone, the trip was worth it. For more than one reason. I got to meet some Coast Guard Moms I’d become internet friends with. I planned to meet some reader friends (but that didn’t work out.) I met courageous young men my son talked about as they were in his classes in A school. I saw my son. And I checked two items off my bucket list.

God came through. And even though I’ll probably panic when facing a long trip through major cities again, I learned that God is able to protect us in rush hour in unfamiliar cities. And He has some pleasant surprises along the way.

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Let’s talk about this! When have you felt fearful, uncomfortable, or insecure about something but chose to do it anyway? What was the result? Would you do it again, if given the choice? Did you learn anything about God during those times? About yourself?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

And while we’re talking about encouragement … I’ll be releasing the next edition of my quarterly newsletter this month! Are you a subscriber yet? If not, how come? You’re missing out on some fun and inspiring free content: short stories, recipes, devotions, and of course, info on where I’m at or what’s next for me. Plus, in the very near future, I’ll be hosting regular fun give-aways available only to subscribers. Want to sign up? You can do so HERE.

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Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, and writes devotionals for blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New.

Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye. They currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a pastor’s wife, and homeschools her two youngest children.

When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas. Visit her online at

her blog,  follow her on Twitter @laura_V_Hilton, and connect with her on Facebook.

Second Chance Brides:

Hope for Happy Endings Is Renewed in Nine Historical Romances

Meet nine women from history spanning from 1776 to 1944 feel the sting of having lost out on love. Can their hope for experiencing romance again be renewed?

Love in the Crossfire by Lauralee Bliss – Trenton, New Jersey, 1776
Gretchen Hanson watched her beau go off to war and never return. She soon falls for an enemy scout who stumbles upon her farm. If Jake is discovered, it could mean death for them all. Will Gretchen let go of love or stand strong?

Daughter of Orion by Ramona K. Cecil – New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1859
Whaling widow, Matilda Daggett, vows to never again give her heart to a seaman. But when debt drives her to masquerade as a cabin boy on a whaling ship, a young harpooner threatens both her vow and her heart.

The Substitute Husband and the Unexpected Bride by Pamela Griffin – Washington Territory, 1864
Cecily McGiver, a mail-order bride, arrives in the rugged Washington Territory shocked to find herself without a husband—that is until Garrett, a widower, offers to take the position. Can the challenges that face them lead to love?

The Prickly Pear Bride by Pam Hillman – Little Prickly Pear Creek, Montana Territory, 1884
Shepherdess Evelyn Arnold left her intended at the altar so he could marry the woman he really loved. Dubbed Miss Prickly Pear, Evelyn is resigned to a loveless life and the ridicule of her neighbors. When Cole Rawlins sweeps her out of a raging river, she realizes even a prickly pear can find love.

The Widow of St. Charles Avenue by Grace Hitchcock – New Orleans, 1895
Colette Olivier, a young widow who married out of obligation, finds herself at the end of her mourning period and besieged with suitors out for her inheritance. With her pick of any man, she is drawn to an unlikely choice.

Married by Mistake by Laura V. Hilton – Mackinac Island, 1902
When a plan to pose for advertising goes awry, Thomas Hale and Bessie O’Hara find themselves legally married. Now Bessie and Thomas must decide whether to continue the charade or walk away. Either choice could ruin them if the truth gets out.

Fanned Embers by Angela Breidenbach – Bitterroot Mountains, Montana/Idaho border, 1910
Stranded in the treacherous railroad camp after her husband’s murder, Juliana Hayes has no desire to marry a ruffian like Lukas Filips. Can she release prejudice to love again? Or will they even survive the fiery Pacific Northwest disaster to find out?

From a Distance by Amber Stockton – Breckenridge, Colorado, 1925
Financial Manager Trevor Fox sets out to find a lady to love him and not his money, then meets and falls for an average girl only to discover she’d deceived him to protect her heart after he unknowingly rejects her.
Buy it HERE.