Found in Him

As the days and weeks continue to flow by like a steady stream, I am realizing two things. All of life goes on. And Jesus’ love for me is not based on who I am or what I do.

The past few months, my classmates and I have been studying the book of Philippians. That book was always a favorite of mine, but these months of intense study in this book have opened my heart to see that there are riches and depths to this book that I never fully saw or appreciated.

I have cried so many times at the way God has used this book to speak to the depths of my soul during this particularly challenging, changing season. I am humbled at the goodness of God—he never shows up too early or too late to our life situations. He is always on time. In my timeframe, I would have thought he showed up two years too late. But his thoughts are way above mine and his plans are beyond mine (Is. 55:8). He can be trusted.

Nearly all of us want to be found in something—career, relationships, school, ministry, and the like. We want to find that spot that was made exactly for us, while also craving significance and meaning in our lives. We wander, try and fail, and attempt something else in our search for meaning. We compare ourselves and come up short. We hang onto something too tightly and it gets choked or breaks in our grasp, leaving us—frantically—scrambling for the next anything to grab onto.

All of these things are fragile, frail, fleeting attempts to hang onto something that was never meant to support the weight we try to hang on it. And for a long, long time I have struggled with this—this searching for significance in what I do or who I am. But what I have finally come to realize is that there is nothing and no one to be fully found in but in Jesus and his righteousness (Phil. 3:9).

It is counting all else as rubbish and worthless compared to being found in and known by him. The truest significance is being in Jesus. It is not found in making a name for myself or being known for something I do. Rather, it is in the losing of myself that I am truly found. He must become greater and I must become less (John 3:30).

As I transition out of the life I have known for several years now, how desperately I have needed to know that God loves me, not in spite of me or for what he can get out of me, but because of who he is. And because he is unchanging (Mal. 3:6, Heb. 13:8), I do not have to fear that one day I won’t be enough in my frail self for him to keep loving.

But not only have I been consistently reminded that God’s everlasting love for me is not grounded in my love for or service to him, he has also brought people into my life at this time who have given me the very grace of Christ. There is nothing I can give them in return for all they have given me. I am a grateful debtor to the gracious kindness of Jesus overflowing in them.

Christ is my hope. Christ is my life. My life is hidden in him (Col. 3:3) and my citizenship is with him in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Who he created me to be is secure in him. Before the foundation of the world, he called me by name and knew who I would be (Is. 43:1, Eph. 1:4).

Life goes on. And so does Jesus’ love.

Dear ones, I hope you feel the enormous freedom in not being found in what you do or in who you are. I also hope you feel the immense relief that your piece of life is not sustained by you. And I pray you deeply know that you are loved and treasured—not because of who you are or aren’t—but because of who Jesus is.

Find Rest in Jesus

These past days I have been in La Crosse for work training and what a restful time away it turned out to be. The days were long and full, especially as I had school to do into the late evening hours each night. But in the midst of being busy, my soul is at rest.

Actually, my soul has been at rest and peace since Sunday. There are plenty of things to feel stressed about, plenty of things to be anxious about the future with, and not a few things that are carried in sorrow. But in the middle of these things going on around me, I have found that having Jesus is all I really need. He is all.

With hours of drive time, quiet evenings and early mornings at the hotel for restful reflection, and the sustaining prayers of dear people, my soul has found deep rest. God has been reminding me that the prescription for weak, worn-out, empty souls isn’t found in “regrouping”, just pushing through the pain, or trying harder.

No. Rather the treatment is found in Jesus himself. It is being with Jesus (Acts 4:13), resting in Jesus (Matt. 11:29, Ex. 33:14), seeing Jesus (2 Cor. 4:6), delighting in Jesus (Ps. 37:4; 43:4), and being loved by Jesus (Eph. 3:18-19, Rom. 8:35-39). I know of no other medication, treatment, therapy, or cure that could do even a pinch of what Jesus does. And even considering the good that can come from these other means, none of them will last and satisfy forever like Jesus does and will.

In the confusion and heaviness of our lives, pulling ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps is not the answer. We need Jesus. We also need to preach the gospel to ourselves. And we need people in our lives who will give us the depth and width of the Bible. It is being so overwhelmed by God and his Word, that we are able to echo the words of Peter to Jesus, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Not only does Jesus have the words of eternal life, he is eternal life itself. “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

To whom else could we even dare to go to with our worn-out souls, when we have all of life in the fullness of Jesus himself? There is no other answer. None but Jesus.

Obedience is Better than Sacrifice

This is something I wrote on December 29, 2016, in response to God’s very clear call to me the morning before.

Sometimes obedience is following a known path. But sometimes it simply means going, when you have no idea where you are even going. I believe God can and does use both of these journeys in the life of the believer.

I am experiencing the “blessed” privilege of getting to walk the second path—the journey that simply begins with, “Go.” God has been graciously and faithfully revealing more and more of himself to me in his Word, in my classes at Bethlehem, through the words and wisdom of some precious people in my life, and in times of prayer with him.

This week, God met me in such a direct way that his imperative “go” was a non-negotiable. Though I cannot see where all this next road will take me, I am confident that I am being called to leave what has been my life for the past couple years and simply go with him.

I cannot refuse him. Nor can I refuse the longing in my heart that he put there in the first place. There are things I see that could be possibilities on this winding, new trail. There are also things that cradle the depths of my soul that I fully believe are God’s good gifts to me that are meant to be poured out as an offering to the One who gave them to me. Jesus has my heart and I cannot stay any longer when he has so clearly told me to go.

What I have come to see in my own life is the fact that sacrifice is often easier than obedience. But it is not better (1 Sam. 15:22). More often than not, I am willing to sacrifice various aspects of my life for God; but it is far harder to obey him in the unknowns, in the undesirables, or in the messy situations. But God does not want or need the sacrifices that come from a disobedient heart. As God works in my heart, I am aware that at times, I have sacrificed much but obeyed very little. I have given for him, but I have not gone with him. The Christian life is the chance to truly die to fully live. It is also the life of the greatest joy, the fullest purpose, and the deepest relationship.

So, to all the unknowns, uncertainties, losses, pains, and brokenness that will likely find me on this new road, I say, “Jesus is better and enough. I cannot refuse him. It would break my heart.” And to all the joy, hope, beauty, relationships, and life that will also be found on this path, I simply say, “Jesus is also better than any and all of that, as he is the greatest of all good gifts.”

Following Jesus brings a richness to life that is impossible to find anywhere else. With unspeakable joy and hope, I look forward to this next season.