Believing is Hard

Believing is hard.

Truer words have never been spoken by a pastor in my opinion, and it was a great introduction to the topic for the third week of our series: God is for the unbeliever.

It is obvious from my previous posts I am not an unbeliever, but that doesn’t mean I don’t encounter doubt. The great thing about God, though, is He is okay with that. John 3:16 tells us God loved us so much He sent Jesus. It doesn’t say “because the world loved Him” or “so the world would love Him.” It says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV). He already loved us, whether we loved Him or not. Matthew 11:28 says “come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (NKJV). Again, it doesn’t say “only those who believe, come to me,” or “come to me only after you have accepted me as Savior.” No, there were no pre-requisites.

In other words, it doesn’t matter where we are in our belief of God, He loves us no matter what.

. . . . . .

Since first hearing it at my previous church, the story of Mark 9:14-24 has impacted me. However, since experiencing…what has been going on in my life, I view the story differently. I wasn’t at my lowest then, at rock bottom. Now, I feel I am. I literally have nowhere else to go but God, much like the father in the story. The father’s plea of “if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mark 9:22, NKJV) hits me harder. Not because I’m a parent (unless you count being a pet-parent), but because my soul has that plea every day.

Jesus responds: “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes”  (Mark 9:23, NKJV). This doesn’t necessarily mean that everything we desire will happen; rather, that what we desire is possible if we would only believe.

The father cries out to Jesus in response: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NKJV).

And there we have it. We can believe, yet still have unbelief, especially when things in life hit us hard. Sometimes we just have to cry out I need help believing!

And I do.

There are plenty of times I have difficulty believing something unless I can see fruit of the labor. While I have no problem attributing the good things of my past and present to God, I sometimes have difficulty in believing He is working unless I can immediately see something. My husband and I experienced difficulties in the past, but things happened that made it clear God was behind the solution. Now, though, I am struggling with seeing how He is working because things haven’t happened in the way I anticipated. At the same time, I do believe He is working.

So I cry out I believe; help me with my unbelief!

. . . . . .

A thought struck me during the message yesterday.

My parents divorced when I was 13. While it definitely wasn’t a decision made by both parties, it also wasn’t in any way messy (at least that I could see). There are two things I remember during this time. The first was a night my parents were arguing. I begged my mom to not divorce my dad, and her response was not “I promise.” I don’t remember the exact response, but the message was things are harder to do when you’re in the situation. I also remember begging God to not separate my family.

Obviously, that prayer was not answered. I was, of course, upset, and I blamed Him for everything. I then realized that was the beginning of my doubt.

But as I was listening to the message, I thought what if there was a reason that particular prayer wasn’t answered?

Since my life imploded (well, that’s what it feels like!), my parents have helped and supported me, but in their own ways. While my dad and I have been close since I was little, and we’ve always had our own way of bonding, I feel like I understand him a bit more now. And though my mom and I have always been very close, this situation has given me the opportunity to separate myself a bit and see things I didn’t before. I’ve realized I need to be me.

Perhaps it was part of a bigger plan.

. . . . . .

Believing is hard. Do you agree? Why or why not?

What helps you to believe?

I’m going to continue to work on my belief. I am going to continue to cry out to Him to help my unbelief. I’m going to keep praying, keep plugging into my church, and keep speaking life into what I am facing.

Because when we have nowhere else to go, we go to God.

Day 19: It Isn’t Over Yet

How did it go?

I went to my first Oakland Athletics game in (roughly) 5 years with my dad today, and, though I got a little sunburned, I was not disappointed.

We were playing the Minnesota Twins, and they had a good lead. Before the second inning had even begun, we were down 3 – 0. At the 3rd inning, we scored 2 runs, and by the end of the 8th inning it was a tied game: 5 – 5.

The game ended in the 12th inning with an Athletics walkoff home run. The final score was 6 – 5.

At the top of the 11th inning, my dad suggested we get going. We had been in the sun since we got there, we were burned, and it appeared the game may not end in our favor. “But it’s not over yet!” I told him, on the edge of my seat, hands clasped together, waiting.

He chuckled and told me, “alright, let’s give it one more, how’s that?”

Of course, we were glad we stayed. We saw that winning home run, got to watch the team rush the field, got to clap with the rest of the fans.

We got to see the end because we chose to just give it a little bit longer. We got to see the end because we decided it would be worth it.

What did I learn?

We have to stay faithful.

If we give in because of what we cannot see, we will miss the miracles God has in store for us. If we trust only the scoreboard of us against the enemy and forget about the capabilities we have, we will give in too soon, and we won’t be available for whatever comes next.

The Athletics could have given up. A baseball game is “supposed” to only be 9 innings. At the bottom of the 9th, the team could have decided this is pointless; we won’t be able to score; let’s stop doing our best. But they didn’t. They knew they had fans who had come to see them, who were cheering for them. Because they didn’t give up in outfield, they continued to perform at bat, and they eventually won.

If we feel defeated and we allow that defeat to take root, we will stop trying (outfield). If we stop trying, stop listening to God and communicating with Him daily (at bat), we will be unable to win any battle brought against us.

And know there are always others cheering for you. God, for one. But others, too. Strangers who are going through something similar and who also hope for freedom or answers. Family and friends who want to see you do more than just survive. Those people are not going to go home, no matter how late the innings go. Because they want what you do: hope, freedom, miracles.

As my dad used to joke with me, “it ain’t over ‘till the fat lady sings.”

Don’t let the scoreboard determine your fate. Don’t stop fighting for what you believe. Don’t give up on the dreams God has given you. It isn’t over until God decides it is.

Are you looking at the scoreboard thinking you won’t win? What battle are you fighting that God wants you to win? What miracle are you waiting on?

Remember: it only takes one really good hit for that ball to fly through the air and the stands and be a home run.

So let God guide your hit and you’ll hit it out of the park.

Day 9: Good Timing

How did it go?

It’s a little hard to explain today. I’m still moving through an “episode” so my world seems a bit fuzzy at times. In some moments I’m alright, then something tiny happens and I’m not. But one thing did encourage me this morning, and that was a—you guessed it—podcast episode. Except it’s a different one than any of the others I’ve mentioned.

I haven’t found a church here, and I’m struggling to connect with God. I know the enemy wants as far away from Him during difficult times, but I am trying to find my way back. I follow my pastor from my previous city on Twitter, and he often Retweets Joel Osteen. So, in an effort to get some time with God more often, I subscribed to Joel Osteen’s podcast on iTunes. This morning, I listened to the most recent episode: “Right on Time.”

And I think listening to it this morning was perfect timing.

I definitely felt more positive, more empowered, more convicted after listening to it. It was a great way to spend 30 minutes of my morning commute.

Today also gave me more opportunities to figure things out. (Sorry, that’s the only way I can think to put it.) And I’ve realized something: I don’t want to be alone because my mind won’t stop spinning, but I also don’t want to be around others because then I have to perform a certain way. (Have you ever heard of “speech acts”?) But I realized I’m okay alone when I’m with Belle, writing, or even reading.

So I’ve decided I’m going to take some alone time. More than I have recently. I also think that’s the only way I’m going to gain a deeper connection with the Lord.

What did I learn?

 I guess sometimes we do just need to be alone. And sometimes we need to revel in that alone-ness. And being alone is different than being lonely, especially if that alone-ness can bring you closer to the Lord.

The Joel Osteen podcast episode today talked about how God’s timing is always the perfect timing. We should not get upset or frustrated because something isn’t happening as fast or in the way we would like it to; God is moving. We have to trust in Him and His timing.

I learned that’s hard for me: trusting in His timing.

I believe in Him, and, deep down, I believe He can move mountains. But I need to spend time with Him to truly believe that. Which means I can’t rush anything because I haven’t figured out how to spend that much-needed time with Him yet.

Nothing will happen until I get my heart and soul right.