Stuck Between Multiple Sorrows and the Valley of the Shadow of Death

The title says it all. It’s a longer way to allude to the phrase “between a rock and a hard place”. But those a very vague places. Rocks come in all sizes and a hard place could be anything. I needed something more specific — and biblical — to help me define where I feel I’ve been the past few months.

Let me explain.

The phrase “multiple sorrows” comes from Psalm 16:4a,

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; (ESV)

Running after other gods is exactly where I’ve been lately. I’m Jonah right after God told him to go to Nineveh. I’m the people Jeremiah is preaching too who have forsaken their God and drawn cisterns that cannot hold water. I’m the Israelites who, as Moses is up on the mountain receiving the commandments of God, decide to make a golden calf that is here and now, instead of then and coming. None of those stories ended well. Big fishes, national captivity, corporate death. Multiple sorrows.

And yet, on the other side of conundrum is the very real Valley of the Shadow of Death, from Psalm 23:4,

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me. (ESV)

The rest of verse is beautiful. David, the psalmist, says that even though he is being led into this horrid and terrifying valley, that he doesn’t fear. Not because the Valley isn’t worthy of his or anyone’s fear, but because He knows His God is with Him. He is comforted by the very presence of His God with him.

So what’s my problem? Unlike David, I don’t look at how big my God is; instead I look at how scary this Valley is. I see its cobwebs, I see the scary eyes staring back at me, I see the creatures baring their razor-sharp teeth in my direction, waiting to chew me alive. I see these images, then I stare back up at God. Not to see His all-sufficiency, not to marvel at His ability to protect me regardless of the threat, not to lean heavily on all His numerous promises to never leave me nor forsake me. No, I look up at God to ask Him, “Why?” I look up at God to question Him, not trust Him; to argue with Him, not believe in Him and His Word. I know He told me His ways are not my ways, and that His thoughts aren’t my thoughts. I understand that His knowledge is not only higher but eternal. I (say I) believe that He truly loves me and only gives good gifts. And yet, here I stand at the entrance to this Valley, looking, searching, frantically trying to find how this could be a good gift.

But I don’t see it. And so, in my own knowledge, in my own way that seems right to me that ultimately leads to death, I run. I run hard. But where and what do I run to? Running towards multiple sorrows sounds really horrible. But running through a Valley known for being the shadow of Death doesn’t sound too appealing either. So here I am. Stuck.

Stuck between the promises of the Almighty and the promises of the world. Stuck between wondering which pain is really worth it. Stuck at wanting to not move at all, hoping I can stay this way till eternity. Stuck between crippling anxiety and oppressive depression. Stuck between grace and condemnation. Stuck between truth and lies.

Either way, I’m stuck. I would love to end this with some really good biblical truth. And I could do that. I could show you that Jesus promised we would have trouble in this world but that we should take heart because He overcame the world (John 16:33). I could show you that Paul told us that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). I could point out that God was with David even in the Valley, as He was with the Israelites in the wilderness, as He would also be with Jonah on his way to Nineveh. I could point out that all of God’s promises are yes though Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). All of these points are true. All these points are valid. All these points are biblical and scriptural. And yet, I’m still stuck.

Voluntarily stuck, I’m sure. I know God’s grace reaches this deep. If it didn’t, His grace wouldn’t be that impressive. And that’s my one and only hope right now. Not a hope like a big, blinding light that overpowers everything dark. No, this hope is more like a little night-light in a big room. But even a small light is seen in the darkness. And even mustard seed faith can move mountains. So, maybe even the smallest of grace can help me become unstuck. And He’s known for giving greater grace. I could use some greater grace right now.

I wrote this for the stuck. I wrote this for those who try to run to the world and to God, sometimes in the same day. I wrote this for those who feel internally stretched beyond their max point. I wrote this for you. Because if we are stuck, at least we aren’t alone.

 

 

1 Kings 22, Amen Corners and Lying Spirits

We love signs. We love looking for answers in places that we think will not only tell us what we want to know, but what we want to hear. In our search for answers, we inevitably take along with us our desires. We know what we want to hear and we hope we hear it. God knows that about us. But so does the enemy.

In 1 Kings 22 we see the king of Israel, Ahab, and the King of Judah, Jehoshaphat, discussing the reclamation of land Ahab believes to be Israel’s. Ahab asks Jehoshaphat if he will help Israel reclaim this land from Syria. Jehoshaphat is on board, but only after asking the Lord if this is what He wants first.

“And he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.””

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭22:4-5‬ ESV

So Ahab goes and calls some of his prophet friends and asks them. And they all say “The Lord says it’s cool” (urban paraphrase). But Jehoshaphat isn’t satisfied. He asks Ahab “Are sure there’s no other prophet we can ask?” Then Ahab says “So there is this one guy but I don’t like him because he never prophesies anything good for me!”

“But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?” And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.””

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭22:7-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Obviously Jehoshaphat didnt trust Ahab’s prophet friends. And to make the trust issues worsen, when asked if there is another prophet to inquire from, Ahab replies that he knows one but would rather not use him because the guy never prophesies in his favor.

A lot of us are like Ahab. We love truth as long as the truth benefits us. We sometimes purposefully surround ourselves with people who will only tell us what we want to hear and allow us to do whatever we have already decided to do. We don’t wish for wise counsel, we wish for blind consent.

So Ahab sent a messenger to his prophet frenemy Micaiah while his fake prophet friends repeated the same lie to him. When Micaiah arrives before the two kings he is urged to prophesy in line with what the other “prophets” have already said. Instead, Micaiah says that he will only say what the Lord tells him to.

“And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.””

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭22:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Micaiah’s prophesy, summarized is that Israel should attack but the king will die. And that’s exactly what happened. But I jump to the end of the story to spend more time highlighting the middle. Because the ending, though important, is only half the lesson. The rest is in how Ahab receives, and doesn’t receive, and obvious word from the Lord.

Micaiah says that victory is given to the king. Ahab, though he got what he wanted, is still unsure since this prophet never tells him what he wants to hear. So he inquired further. Micaiah then prophesies that the battle will leave the people king-less. This ominous word sounds more like the prophet that Ahab knows and dislikes. But Micaiah isn’t done.

“And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.””

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭22:19-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Please don’t miss this what just happened here. There aren’t many times that we get glimpses into throne room activity and when we do, we should take great notice.

In this instance, God blatantly asks how can we get Ahab to die. Yes, that bluntly and that boldly. And though that sounds harsh, it really isn’t once we see the rest of the story. A spirit comes forward and says that it knows a way to make that happen. It says it will go and be a “lying spirit” in the mouth of Ahab’s fake prophet friends. The Lord then says not only is that a great plan, it’s a plan that will surely work. Micaiah, in plain language, tell Ahab that the Lord told your prophets to lie in order so that you would be killed in battle. And what does Ahab do with the information? Locks Micaiah up in prison. And we know the end of the story: Ahab dies. A random arrow, not even meant for him, pierces his body and kills him.

“But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” And the battle continued that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Syrians, until at evening he died. And the blood of the wound flowed into the bottom of the chariot.”

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭22:34-35‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God used Ahab’s own disobedience to be the conduit for Ahab’s prophesied demise. The Lord did not have to tell Ahab his plans. And Ahab did not have to go into battle. The Lord never said don’t go; He just said Ahab would die. This was less a specific judgement over Israel and more of one over Ahab for all of his disobedience (See 1 Kings 18-22).

And here is where we should be vigilant to hear the word of the Lord. Our personal amen corners might just be being used as tools of Lord for our discipline or our judgement. The issue is that not Ahab had friends who didn’t speak truth; the issue that Ahab preferred lies over truth because lies taste better. Lies are easier to swallow and go down smoother. Artificial coloring and sugar always look pleasing and taste desirably. But, they are as beautiful to the eyes and ears as they are detrimental to the body and soul.

Truth comes from God. And us being made in His image means we want truth. We desire truth because we were made in truth, from Truth. But our sin has made us not want lies. Like Romans 1 says, we have traded the things of God for lies and false beliefs. We now no longer care what is truly true, as long as it fits what we already want. Ahab wanted the same thing, and we see where that got him.

Your amen corner might just be killing you. Listen to the word of the Lord before it is too late. God did not leave Ahab without a word from Him. And like Ahab, we also have the Word from God; this Word (the Bible) is finished as it contains all we need to know about God in order to find Him. But God also did not force Ahab to obey; and we won’t force us either. We must choose to trust the Word of God over our own word. Since we are finite, temporary, and created creatures, our word that comes from us can only be that. But God, our Creator, is never created and has always been, is eternal and is permanent. And so is His truth.

Your friends may be lying to you and you not even aware. Or they could mean well just be wrong. I’m not saying to start mistrusting our friends, our twitter followers or our little fanbase. I’m just reminding us all that truth doesn’t come from friendship; it comes from relationship with the God of truth.

Take that amen of your corner and give it to God. It might just save you life.

Image Source: Lightstock

In Medias Res: New Title, Same Focus

Have you ever had a friend jump right into the middle of a story and zoom into details and quotes without any back story or context? Or have you ever watched a movie and the beginning isn’t a narrative that tells the origin of the story but instead you are thrust right into a battle scene with no idea how this battle started? Then you, my friend, just experienced the storytelling device called in medias res. In medias res is when a story opens up in the middle of the storyline, not at the beginning. It is Latin for “into the middle of things”. Many stories employ this technique, including Homer’s “The Odyssey” and even the Bible in Genesis can be argued that it starts in the middle of things, while looking back briefly at the beginning of things.

Although it can be confusing at first, I like the use of in medias res because this technique best resembles our life; internally and externally. Whenever we meet someone new, we are meeting them in medias res. Even babies come into the world 9 months after conception. That is almost a year of an entire life being created without interruption, mostly. But when meeting friends, going on dates, greeting at church, introducing yourself to new coworkers, you are meeting all of these people, in media res.

The only person who does not meet us in media res is God, for He sees the beginning as it were the end and the middle as the present. But God almost always finds us, though, in medias res. When we come to God, whether it is at the age of 4 or 94, we are coming to him in the middle of things. And sometimes, we are in the middle of some very heavy and hurtful things.

That is one of the reasons I blog the way I do, and it’s why I changed the title of my blog. It is not only paying homage to the device, but it represents what I try to do here on this site. I’ll be honest, I don’t think my voice is very influential. I don’t think it’s very needed or wanted often times. But I know the Lord has given me something to say, and He chooses the ear (or ears) who hear it. But one of the things that consistently bugs me about church culture is that we never talk about our problems in medias res; we only talk about them at the ending credits. We talk about them after the dragon is killed, after the bomb is diffused and after we come home from the war. But never in the middle.

My life is not done. My flesh is not dead. My sin is not killed. My heart is not always fully set on Christ and won’t always be this side of Heaven. I have physical ailments. I have internal health issues. I have mental health issues. I have trauma, pain, and past hurts that still cling hard to my soul. I give in to lust. I give in to anger. I give in to laziness and procrastination. I constantly wonder if following God is worth the suffering that comes with it. I constantly wonder if the joy God offers is really better than the world’s. I don’t always believe in the promises of God. I don’t always have hope in the Lord. I don’t always want to be alive. And that is right now. Like, at the moment I am typing this, I struggle with all of those things. In medias res.

I wish we talked more like this. The people who have been most impacted by my writing are people who are honest enough to say that they are in the middle of things. That they are in the midst of the battle, not at the beginning or the end. And if we are honest, which sadly we aren’t always, we are all there. But yet, we shy away from showing our open wounds in the middle of the battle and instead rather show them once they are scarred over. We would rather talk to you once we have figured things out than talk to you in the middle of processing. We do not want to show the struggle; we want to show the victory.

But God isn’t impressed with our victory. Because He knows all victory is really His. But, instead, God ask us to show our struggle. He says His power is made perfect in our weakness, not in our strength. Your strength is only present because of the God who supplies it. Therefore, He is not impressed nor amused by you showing something He gave; and worst, flaunting it off as your own. But our weakness? He loves when we show that. Not in a self-pitying, reverse-prideful way. But in a dependent, humble, in recognition of our need for God’s grace kind of way. He already knows the end. And for those of us who are found in Christ, we do as well. But it’s the middle where we show it. It’s our willingness to struggle with Christ in the middle of things that shows that we also believe in how the story ends; and it shows that we also believe in how the story began.

We are all in medias res. And this site, my blog, is dedicated to showing my life in the middle of things. Those who stumble along this site are hopefully finding God on their way to finding God. Join the journey.

On Being At Peace with the War in Your Soul

lightstock_79737_small_darryl

This post is probably not one where I give some advice on how I have conquered the issue at hand. I know as the self-proclaimed protagonist in my own blog, I should be telling you about this topic, post-victory. But that is not where this is written. I’m not reporting live from the triumphant other side of the struggle, but actually while I’m still in the middle of it. Think of this as more of a captain’s log than a post-game interview.

They say true peace is not being at rest when circumstances are calm, but instead when they aren’t. They say courage is not the absence of fear, but the answering the call to do something brave in spite of fear. “They” say a lot. And they aren’t wrong; these platitudes and anecdotes just aren’t really helpful. So yes, true peace happens when things around you aren’t at peace. Cool. But how do I achieve that peace? While we can understand that courage isn’t the absent of fear, how do we deal with the present fear?

I’ve been reading St. Augustine’s, “Confessions” for a class I am taking. I can truly say I have probably never felt a more kindred spirit than I do with Augustine. “Confessions” is essentially an autobiography on his own personal conversion story and explains his very introspective journey to Christ. In Book 8 of “Confessions”, he begins to detail the fierce internal struggle that kept him from completely surrendering to Christ. He described himself as a “house divided against himself” as he navigated all the reasons he could not easily renounce the passions of the world around him. He had listened to other conversions stories and wondered what was he missing that they had found? How did they do the act that he so desperately wanted to be able to do, yet could not – or would not – find the strength to do? Why had grace fallen on them and missed him?

Paul talks about this at length in Romans 7, but 1 Peter 2:11 gets right to point of what Augustine and myself (and everyone else, for that matter) feel in regards to our hearts:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires,which wage war against your soul.

1 Peter 2:11

“Which wage war against your soul”. The New American Standard Bible calls these sinful desires, “fleshly lusts”. Augustine thought that becoming a Christian meant that all his old desires would leave him. But that isn’t true. Becoming a Christian is not about never sinning again, but instead about being reunited with the Father who sent His Son to die for us because of our sin, who then both sent the Holy Spirit to give us the ability to put sin to death. But if we are putting sin to death, that means it must still be alive somehow. And if Peter is urging us to abstain from fleshly lusts, from sinful desires, that must mean the opportunity to give in to these is still present. We are at war. And we must fight.

But, like Augustine, I get discouraged when I see these desires. Instead of looking at them as opportunities to see the work of the Spirit in me to kill these off, I am always so discouraged that there was something to have to kill in the first place. I thought being a Christian meant moving into a different house where things are better, new, and perfect. Instead, Im realizing that living in this life means God is actually preserving me and not the house. For the house is temporary (my flesh). It is wasting away everyday as the inner self is being renewed. And most days I feel that viscerally. I feel like a crumbling house with nothing to offer except “old” sins that are very present that just won’t seem to die.

What does it look like to be at peace with this war? To accept that in this life, we are called to fight, not to sit passively by sipping lemonade waiting to die and meet Jesus? I immediately thought of the storm Jesus calmed. He was asleep in the boat while his disciples were being pounded by a torrential downpour. They frantically wake Jesus up, accusing him of not even caring. Once he calms the storm, he looks at them and ask why their faith is so little.

Is that what is happening to me? Is my discouragement really just lack of faith? God doesn’t promise us that we won’t walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but He does promise that He will be with us in it. Is it ok to be both discouraged that I have to walk through a place that is characterized by both shadow and death and full of faith in the God who holds my hand? Could the disciples have been both frustrated and secure? Does being at peace with the war in our souls mean not being allowed to be frustrated that it is still a war?

I’m not sure. I can give you a whole host of bible verses and biblical platitudes on this topic, but this is actually one I want to see through firsthand. I want to get to the end of the journey (or this part of it, at least) and then report back what I’ve found. People more intelligent than I have written about this; maybe you should check them out. In the meantime, I’m reporting live from the war, in the middle of my sinful passions and my desire to live for Jesus. I’ll share updates as they come.

 

Image Source: Lightstock

How to Feel About Your Feelings

“Your feelings may lie to you but scripture never will”

“Don’t trust your feelings”

“Your feelings are selfish and come from a deceitful heart; they can’t be trusted”

Have you ever heard any variation of these comments? I have, too many times to count. And even if the comment was not explicitly said, the sentiment was still there: your feelings are trouble and you should watch out for them.

For an emotional guy like me, that’s pretty hard to do. At any given time, I’m pretty aware and in tune with what I’m feeling. And I feel a lot (too much, if you ask me). So when someone like me hears the statement “You can’t trust your feelings”, I’m basically left holding ten grocery bags of emotions and no pantry to put them in.

Are my feelings my enemy? Are they psyche drunk texts of the mind and soul just waiting to ruin our lives as soon as we press send? Or are they something else? What if my feelings aren’t my enemy, but actually just broken? What if it isn’t my feelings that can’t be trusted, but instead what I choose to do with them? If my feelings are the message and I am the recipient, then isn’t it my responsibility on how I respond?

When we call our feelings liars, we do a few unhelpful things. First, we make them an enemy when that is the last thing they are. Feelings help us relate. Those without feelings are called psychopaths, not trusted friends. We are given feelings by God because in His sovereignty they are part of what makes us human. And like all things human post-The Fall, they are broken. But in Jesus, all broken things find their redemption. I believe our feelings are not internal enemies waiting to ruin our lives, but instead parts of creation inside of us that long like Romans 8 for their full redemption one day.

The second thing we do when we call our feelings liars is that we align them with the real Enemy, Satan. Satan is the father of lies. Lies are not of God, they are of Satan. Lying is a sin. When we lie, we are not showing that God is our Father (and for some, He isn’t). Lying is from the Devil for it is the first thing he utters when taking to Adam and Eve. If our feelings are liars, then they can’t be from God.

Lastly, we don’t teach people properly how to deal with emotions when we call our feelings liars. When we assume every feeling we feel is lying to us, we are more likely to condemn them for being bad instead of processing why we feel the way we do. We will then push our feelings down and repress them, instead of bringing them to God asking Him to help us evaluate them. If we just assume that what we feel is a lie, we will never fully evaluate if that is the truth, or not.

Often times, Jeremiah 17:9 gets thrown into the emotional condemnation stew whenever talk of emotions comes up:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭17:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

If we look closely at the verses before verse 9, specifically 5 and 7, we see that the Lord is condemning those who only trust in themselves. The Lord is not condemning what we feel, but how we respond to what we feel. Our feelings are not the issue, our flesh is:

“Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭17:5‬ ‭ESV

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭17:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Our heart is sick, because our heart is broken. And what flows from it must be redeemed, surely. We shouldn’t just assume something is right because our heart said it; but we can’t assume it’s wrong either. We must combine what we feel with the Word of God and follow what it says. But that doesn’t mean my feelings lie to me; they just aren’t the best places to figure out where to go with my heart.

I read one article that said that our emotions are like gauges. They can’t tell you where to go, just what’s going on with the vessel. When our “Check Engine Light” comes on, we don’t automatically know what is wrong with the car. We know it’s something to do with the engine but most cars won’t be specific with what is happening. And what if the car we have is faulty, known for displaying indicators that aren’t really happening? If we just ignore them always, assuming they are lying to us, we might find ourselves stranded on the side of the road because we didn’t take the time to figure it out.

If your feelings are indicators, our God is the mechanic. The light could mean nothing, or could mean a lot of things. We won’t know until we take our car into the shop and the Mechanic takes a look at it and tell us what is going on.

So now that we know our feelings aren’t our enemy, but they don’t always specifically tell us what to do, what are we to do with them? I think the Psalms provide a great place for how to “feel biblically”. David never hid his emotions. He never ignored them or immediately wrote them off. The pattern we see David go through is one of acknowledgment and submission.

David allows himself to feel the emotion. He acknowledges that he feels alone, that he is being attacked, that he can’t see or feel God’s presence. He questions God, he asks for insight, and begs for an answer. And then, in the middle of it, he submits it to God. He acknowledges what He feels, and then he gives those feelings over to go. His feelings are his two mites he puts in the offering plate, asking God to do something with them.

David’s feelings didn’t lie to him, because he submitted them to God for the response. He didn’t say “Nope. I don’t feel alone. I feel fine”. He acknowledges that he feels alone, and then he tells his soul what to do with that feeling. His feelings are broken, and he takes them to one who can fix them.

Your feelings are not liars, friend. No, they cannot be trusted to always guide you in life. But they were never meant to. Your feelings were never meant to be the sole guiding light in life, pre-Fall or post-Fall. The issue is not our feelings, but how we respond to them and what we expect of them. They were never given to us to replace God. They were given to us because God feels too and we are made in His Image. He is happy, he is grieved, he is angry, he is joyful. God and God alone was always meant to be Who we follow; our feelings are just indicators of where we are in that walk. So no, do not trust them for all things; but do not ignore them. Your feelings are not your enemy. They are awaiting the same redemption as you.

Worshipping My Comfort In the Temple of Me

I love to be comfortable. I love the feeling of knowing that things are working out as they should (or as I believe they should). I love not feeling pain of any kind. I love knowing all is well in the world and that it still spins on its proper axis, orbiting around me and all that I wish to see happen in my life.

So it goes without saying that I abhor and vehemently dislike the opposite of comfort: discomfort. I hate discomfort, with a passion. I have great disdain for any season of discomfort. I strongly dislike any sensation of pain, physical, emotional or spiritual. I hate when I’m faced with the reality that my life is actually not fully in my control and that situations and events can happen to me without my permission or agreement. It hurts to know that the world does not, in fact, revolve around me.

Facing this harsh reality makes me sound spoiled and selfish. And that’s because I am. But it also shows something else about me: I’m an idolater. I worship at many temples daily where statues of myself and all that I wish to see happen are erected in my image and my liking, surrounded by my altars where I choose what is the appropriate sacrifice to be killed there. I worship my comfort. I long for it, pursue it, build my life (and the life of others around me if they don’t take notice) to fit and conform to whatever makes me comfortable. In my world, the only sin is to be uncomfortable. And that is a sin I make sure never happens. I sacrifice, I pray, I live for the god of discomfort. And so do a lot other people I know. And it’s killing us all.

2 Corinthians 1 calls God the God of all comfort. Paul used verses 3-5 explain the how the Lord uses our discomfort for His purposes, and for our personal comfort. That’s right; God uses our discomfort to comfort us.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:3-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

1. God comfort us for the sake of comforting us, period. God is not a fan of discomfort in a sadistic way. He is not, nor has ever been a God who takes delight in the discomfort of His creation who He made in His image. He loves us and Has always loved us before the world was made. So He allows discomfort first to show Himself as the ultimate comforter. Meaning that when I take the role of comforter, I’m actually trying take God’s place. And while that may sound slightly hyperbolic, think about this: can a baby feed itself? Not at first, and while he or she can’t, it is unwise and completely arrogant of said baby to think they have the ability to do something they can’t. And if they choose to not let the loving parent do his or her job, the baby will eventually starve and die. In the same way, we are not autonomous self-made creatures who are capable of doing something without the allowance of a sovereign God. They very breath in our lungs is borrowed and will be taken when God seems fit. If He is sovereign over our life, He must also be sovereign over our comfort.

2. He allows us to experience discomfort so that we can comfort others with the comfort that we ourselves have received from God. If you are someone who has personally overcome a difficult and uncomfortable trial by the grace of God, you know the joy of being able to show that hope to someone who is now where you once were. But in order to share in that joy, we must first experience the sadness. Before we can be used to heal, sometimes we have to first be hurt. Discomfort is always a prerequisite for comfort.  But this is another way that the Father does not allow our discomfort to be wasted.

3. We become closer to Christ in our discomfort. Paul shows us that as we share in sufferings like Christ did, we share in the comfort He experienced too. Jesus is and was God and will always be. But now the Son of God has flesh and will always have it. He is the perfect human, the type of humanity we were created to be. The second and better Adam. And since He is and was fully human, He experienced true and real human pain and suffering. He is our High Priest who can empathize with us in all things. And discomfort is one of those things. And as we experience discomfort for God’s sake, we are experiencing what our Savior felt. And the promise (and it is a promise) is that if we experience that pain, we will experience the comfort He received. The same Father that comforted Christ, comforts us. The same Spirit that counseled Christ, counsel us. The same angels that ministered to Christ, minister to us. Our discomfort is an opportunity to experience intimacy with our Savior as we are eventually brought into the comfort He was brought into.

The reality is, I still like my comfort and discomfort might always be an enemy I struggle to give God authority over. And although it’s something I’m struggling to be ok with, the truth is that my discomfort is for a purpose. It allows me to see my Father as the only true Comforter, it gives me the opportunity to comfort others and it ushers me into a deeper intimacy with my Savior. And yet, my pendulum still wants to swing towards comfort at all costs. But thank God for the truth. And join me in prayer as I pray that God changes my heart to allow to true Comforter to comfort me at the time He sees fit. He does a way better job than me, anyway.

My Guide to Help My Non-Black Friends Celebrate Black History Month

Black History Month is here once again. Even though it’s the shortest month of the year, and even though Black History should be celebrated year round, I’m grateful that we have this month to pull the country’s collective attention to the history of my people and all the contributions we’ve made to this country.

And every year I watch my non-black friends (mainly my white friends…) struggle to figure out ways to celebrate this month without offending people or without seeming too interested as to make sure they get invited back to thanksgiving dinner and Christmas at the end of the year.

I can’t help you with that last one, but I can certainly help you with the first one! Here’s my short guide to helping non-black (mainly white…) people celebrate Black History Month:

1. Know the history of Black History Month and why we celebrate it.

Do you know how Black History got its start? Do you know who Carter G. Woodson is? If you don’t, google it. This is a month of research for the uninformed. Know how this month came about, why it was started, the path it took to make it happen and why it’s important today.

2. Go see Black Panther (February 16th, y’all!)

Besides it being the newest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is a huge deal for the black community to finally have some character representation that spans an entire movie! The fact that I basically can grow my hair out to the exact length and style of Chadwick Boseman and not have to “dress up” as him shows that representation matters.

Also, go see it in IMAX, 3-D, and dine-in theaters only. #Reparations

3. Only buy chocolate on Valentine’s Day

……….self explanatory, really. Plus it’s a good test for your boo thang, because if he/she doesn’t like chocolate, they’re probably racist anyway so now you know! (Kidding……slightly)

4. Learn about someone in Black History that you didn’t know about.

Movies like “Hidden Figures” show that there are people so important in black history that don’t get much of the spotlight due them. Yes we know the Martin Luther King Jrs, the Rosa Parks, the Thurgood Marshalls, and the Jessie Owens. But why didn’t we hear about the Katherine Johnsons, the Dorothy Vaughans, and the Mary Jacksons? This month, try finding about someone you didn’t know about. Black History is everywhere!

5. Learn about how past black history events have affected current American living.

How did George Washington Carver’s scientific research affect what we know today? Did Maya Angelou’s literary work shape what we think and know about Black women? How have the athletic accomplishments of black athletes in sports paved the way for achievements today? So many past events led the way for how America runs today. Try to connect the dots between some of these achievements and today’s current cultural climate

6. Learn about current black history!

Black History is literally happening today! Serena Williams, Simone Biles, the Nigerian Bobsled Team, just to name a few! Black History didn’t stop in the civil rights movement. It is very current. And our knowledge on it should be too! Find something current in black history that you can tell your children or your friends about having witnessed live!

7. Try to research and dispel one lie or myth related to black history that you were taught in school or elsewhere in life.

Christianity is not the white man’s religion. That is just one myth that I hear often that shows that the speaker of such nonsense doesn’t understand the clear African roots of the early Christian church.

Also, did you know that racism is a systematic issue and not an event that is simply boiled down the sporadic occurrences of discrimination?

This myth and many more others are waiting to be dispelled! Find a misconception, or downright lie, to uncover this black history month.

8. Read a book! (Or a few)

Y’all. There are so many books on this issue.

So. Many. Books.

And not just books, but articles, blogs, podcasts, sermons, so many resources to learn about race and racism. In the comment section feel free to put a book that you’ve read that helped shaped your view on race. Here are some of mine

Divided by Faith

Dream with Me

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Letters To a Birmingham Jail

How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind

9. Consider going to an event that is celebrating black history this month, or that celebrates it year round.

There might be a black history event around the corner from you and you not even know it. I’m sure watching your child recite only the safe portions of the “I Have A Dream” speech is cute and will get a lot of likes on your Facebook page, but consider going somewhere where you might be the minority. Maybe plan a trip to a museum, an art exhibit, or a production about or celebrating Black History.

Consider worshiping at a black church. Drink in the years of generational style, cultural, and deep faith passed down to us. Soak in the hand gestures, the movements, the oratory stylistics. Be a part of a tradition born on American soil and is every bit as American as your own traditions.

10. Be in prayer for our nation with regards to race

Pray. Racism is evil. Racial division is a notch in the enemy’s belt. He loves division. He loves racism. He loves sin. Pray against it in our nation, in our government, in our systems and in our world. Ask for eyes to see as God sees and for faith to move in kingdom-redeeming ways. Let us all pray that His will, especially with regards to race, be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Let us ask for a glimpse of the coming Revelation 7:9 church where every tongue, tribe and nation will be found around the throne worshipping God forevermore.

Happy Black History Month!