So let’s walk right up to Him and get what He is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
Hebrews 4:16 (The Message)
I have read this verse a thousand times before today and the way it’s presented through The Message translation hit a home run within my aching soul. Let me give you an example:
I had a posterior spinal fusion to correct my Scoliosis six years ago. Ever since that day, I haven’t been able to sleep on my stomach, which had previously been my favorite way to lay in bed. The most unfortunate part of this story is that now when I put myself in the position that used to be SO COMFORTABLE, has now become excruciatingly painful. I mean to the point where it almost takes my breath away at first. Through the immense pain and discomfort God has taught me something so incredible.
When I relax and don’t tense up the immense pain in my muscles slowly begins to lessen.
Last night, as I was lying there with my face literally planted in my mattress, God in His sovereignty spoke to my heart saying, “The same thing happened the first time you approached Me. You were tense. Sin had provoked a spirit of fear in you. Once you accepted and knew Me as your Redeemer and Heavenly Dad, you weren’t afraid anymore and could truly rest in your identity as My daughter.”
As those precious words were being uttered to my heart I just couldn’t help but be in awe of who He is. Everything He is. How beautifully profound! I love it when He speaks so clearly there’s no mistaking it. I have had that conversation on repeat in my mind all day today. Sometimes the most painful situations we encounter in this life can actually be a soothing balm for our soul that teaches us so much about our Heavenly Dad. (That’s what I call Him quite often.)
Our conversation also deeply resonated with me about what it actually means to live humility out in my spirit on a daily basis. Hebrews 4:16 became even more alive to me in that moment when the tightness in my muscles was almost too much to bear. Humility is an essential component in our relationship with Christ. Why? Because humility allows us to see God’s love on a more intimate level. It gives us the courage to fall on my face before Him (sometimes in a puddle of tears) and know that He will hold me until I calm down. If I’ll just accept what He “is so ready to give.” A new job. A new CNA. Peace. Hope. Joy.
I could keep going, but you see the point, right?
If we are too scared to approach Him because of the situation we’re facing, then how do we expect Him to help us?
God is all about spending time with US. He desires to spend time with US. Everyone has to start somewhere. I’m here to tell you the first few times you go to Him, it may be painful or uncomfortable, but the more we are faithful in spending time with Him- We can trust and relax in His presence.
Comparison is something that has plagued humanity since before the world began. The lie that we must compare ourselves to others in order to feel significant is from Satan himself and not God. God created every person on this planet different for a reason. We’re unique and those imperfections are what make us beautiful. It’s in our moments of weakness that God’s glory becomes even more radiant!
I want to look at three realities in Scripture that deal with the comparison struggle:
Adam and Eve
Abram and Sarai
Satan wanting to be better than God
Genesis 3:1-24: Eve was the first person to ever face the comparison struggle. We watch as she is the first to fall victim to the the lies from Satan. In verses 4 through 6, she becomes convinced by Satan to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She thinks she will be like God by eating the fruit in verse six.
4You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
6The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
Genesis 3:4-6 NLT
Can you identify with the comparison struggle?
It’s no coincidence that the comparison struggle can be traced all the way back to Genesis. God put it there to remind us that He knows what a battle comparison can be in our lives. Since I’m being brutally honest with you here, there have been times where I have faced the very same struggle with comparing myself to those around me. It can start out so subtly until I feel God speaking to my heart saying, “Andrea, stop comparing yourself to her. I created you to be yourself and no one else. If I would’ve wanted everyone to be the same, you would be that way.”
It’s in those moments that I stop and fall to my knees. I’ve read the story of Adam and Eve a thousand times, but not until recently did I realize that both of them were facing the comparison struggle long before you and I existed. They bought into Satan’s lie that by eating that piece of fruit, they could be like God. (v. 6)
Comparison and Pride Go Hand in Hand
I’ve always learned so much from Abram and Sarai. They loved God and wanted to follow Him, yet they had a tendency to get very impatient with God. Ever been there? It’s a REAL battle.
The story of Abram and Sarai is a prime example of comparison leading to pride. Sarah knew that God would be faithful to His promise of numerous descendants. (Genesis 15:1-6) However, she was growing impatient with God again. How do we know this? Sarah started comparing herself to Hagar because she was jealous of her.
We see this coming to fruition Genesis 16 through “The Birth of Ishmael” as it’s entitled in my Bible. Looking back on Abram and Sarai’s story along with Adam and Eve, it shouldn’t be surprising that comparison will always lead to jealousy in our hearts.
What I love most about Abram and Sarai’s story is that despite all their mistakes, God kept His word and remained faithful to the promises He had made. We need to be reminded of that very truth on a daily basis.
The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”
Isaiah 40:8 NLT
I had always heard that Satan had been thrown out of Heaven because he wanted to be greater than God. However, I’ve recently realized that Satan not only wanted to be like God, but he wanted to be greater than God himself! This conclusion astounds me. No wonder Satan uses the comparison trap on us because he’s just hoping we’ll bite the bait of being jealous of others.
12“How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. 13 For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north.[e] 14 I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’
Isaiah 14:12-14 NLT
These words in Isaiah are evidence that comparison and jealousy always come as a package deal. Make no mistake that comparing ourselves to others is a sin, whether we realize it at the time or not.
Although comparison may appear subtle at first, we’re essentially telling God that we aren’t content with the way He created us. Talk about a fresh perspective on the struggle of comparison! I felt such a deep desire from the Spirit to write about comparison this week because it’s something that He has really been convicting me of and speaking to me about.
The good news is that with Jesus we have HOPE. He knows we are going to struggle and sin while in the flesh. Of this we can be sure: God loves us through it all, just as He did for the people in Scripture. His love for us never changes and He is always faithful.
“Never forget as you step forward with your life that you are a trailblazer. Someone is watching. It’s the walking in front of. It’s the standing beside. It’s the trudging behind. We do this because we aren’t alone in it. Even if you don’t see others watching or standing or following, they are there. Women, young men, old men- all sorts of people. Seeing you be brave may be all the need to be brave.”
Let’s All Be Brave, Annie F. Downs
I am here to tell you that I want to encourage you to be brave before I start telling you my story. Right now, bravery looks like standing here in front of your wonderful faces, virtually. Being brave is NOT natural for me, but the older I get, the more I feel God leading me more in that direction.
What does brave look like to you right now?
I became a daughter of the King when I was eight years old and ever since that day I felt like God had a unique plan and purpose for my life, specifically designed by Him. Throughout the years that followed, remembering God’s perfect plan for my life was becoming increasingly difficult as I was so easily allowing myself to be entangled in Satan’s lies. I was allowing myself to become so fixated on the things I couldn’t do as a result of having Cerebral Palsy that the mere truth that the God who created the universe has a purpose for my fleeting life had become a distant reality in the depths of my soul.
Even through the dark time, I did my best to cling to two immensely powerful verses in Scripture which can both be found in Jeremiah. “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT) This verse always seems to mean something new to me every time I read it. Granted, I have no clue where God plans to take me in this life, but I’m ready for our adventure because I have come to the realization that I am in no place to try and “limit” Him in terms of what I think I can and can’t do. Truth is, He knows more about me than I will ever know, so how could I doubt my Creator?
Fast forward to the middle and high school years when God’s voice had become even more of a faint whisper in my heart. His voice remained that way until July 2013. I’m not over exaggerating when I tell you that’s the week where EVERYTHING changed for me!
I went with my youth group to the LIFE Conference in St. Louis, MO that summer. As our last session was coming to a close, everyone was served communion (with real bread, not crackers-just saying). Let me just tell you, my friend, there is absolutely nothing on the face of the planet more beautiful than being able to share communion with 6,500 other teenagers from all across the globe. The speaker that night talked about living in true servanthood for Christ. (Besides, isn’t that what we’re called to do anyway according to Matthew 28:19?) He kept saying over and over again that we couldn’t begin living in TRUE servanthood if we weren’t content with the servant (ourselves) first. In that moment, I began to sob (just as I am now as I write this. Don’t worry, they’re happy sobs now) because God kept telling me to put aside my old ways of negativity, doubt and insecurity. I could only be content in Him. I left that arena as a totally new woman that night. (2 Corinthians 5:17) I am forever grateful for that sweet time of communion with my youth group in St. Louis. It’s where I learned that sometimes the greatest miracles God does aren’t necessarily the physical ones.
That night God showed me there is purpose in the pain.
My miracle didn’t come in the physical form, but it CAME.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture comes from Luke 13. It’s entitled “Jesus Heals on the Sabbath” in my Bible. I love this passage dearly, mainly because I see so much of myself in this woman. Luke tells us she “had been crippled by an evil spirit.” That same crippling spirit caused her to be “bent over double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight.” (v. 10-11) I can’t imagine the immense amount of pain she must’ve been in. It doesn’t get any sweeter then verse twelve, y’all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said, ”Dear woman, you are free of your sickness!” I often wonder if the joy that woman felt when she was healed and the joy and freedom I’ve found in being content in Him are anything alike?
I can promise you this:
There is always purpose in the pain.
A Heavenly purpose.
Hopefully by now you can see how good God has been to me even when I didn’t deserve it. I’m sure we could all testify to His goodness. Thanks for letting me share my story. I hope it was an encouragement…
Just like you did for Habakkuk and the people of Israel. They were exhausted and worn out from all the waiting and wondering, just like I’ve been for the last twenty years. Some days everything in this life feels like it’s all too much for me and You use my weakest moments to remind me that it’s not my battle, after all.
Recently, I had a day where nothing seemed to be going right. No morning coffee or worship music. On this particular morning, it was imperative for me to be heading out the door.
Ever been there? I think we all have if we’re being honest. To put it bluntly, that day ended up being not so great. God later spoke to me by His spirit saying, That day was out of control because I wasn’t the one in the driver’s seat. WHOA. The crucial reality that He gently whispered to me in that still moment sparked something within the deepest depths of my soul.
I wanted to consult the Bible and see if I could find something that related to my current situation. (Spoiler alert: There is ALWAYS something in the Bible that relates to whatever we may be going through. That’s why I never get tired of reading His Word). With God, nothing is a coincidence because it’s all part of His plan.
It should’ve been no surprise to me when God called me to write about Habakkuk since I’ve been studying his book for the last three weeks on Sunday mornings. I love this book in the Bible because it’s pretty darn close to the reality of my own life. It’s full of wrestling and waiting on God, trusting His faithfulness and finally resting in the confidence of His promises even when we don’t necessarily know how our stories will end.
As I have been reading the first two chapters of Habakkuk’s story, I get the sense that he is crying out in deep despair to the Lord on behalf of the people of Israel. Their current situation was far from good. The people in leadership were evil and destructive.
Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. 4 The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.
Habakkuk 1:3-4 New Living Translation
I adore these verses not because they’re joyful, but because I’ve heard myself crying out very similar things to my precious Savior over my last twenty years. From the moment I read these brutally honest words, I knew I had to write about them. God’s word had become real to me like never before. I saw myself crying out some of these very same vulnerable and gut wrenching words. God, in His loving kindness, used Habakkuk’s story to serve as a “full circle moment” in the words of Steven Furtick to show me once again how far I’ve come. It was such a soothing moment for my soul.
I want to challenge you to think back to a time in your life when you experienced a “full circle moment.” What did God speak to you? I firmly believe that these full circle moments can be the turning point in the life of a Christian if we let them. Ouch. This can be painful because our human nature isn’t too comfortable with change.
I believe Habakkuk learned the beauty of our full circle moments can’t happen without the sting of sacrifice. This was the perspective I got while reading the first several verses of Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter three:
I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy.
3 I see God moving across the deserts from Edom,[a] the Holy One coming from Mount Paran.[b] His brilliant splendor fills the heavens, and the earth is filled with his praise. 4 His coming is as brilliant as the sunrise. Rays of light flash from his hands, where his awesome power is hidden. 5 Pestilence marches before him; plague follows close behind. 6 When he stops, the earth shakes. When he looks, the nations tremble. He shatters the everlasting mountains and levels the eternal hills.
Habakkuk 3:2-7 New Living Translation
If we truly want to appreciate the beauty of the full circle moments, we must, …”trace God’s hand of faithfulness.” As Lysa TerKeurst says. I believe that’s what Habakkuk was doing in this prayer. In addition to crying out to God for help, Habakkuk also recognized the need to constantly remind himself of God’s faithfulness in the past.
Gracious, have I wrestled with this a time or a thousand! Those seasons of my life were some of the hardest YEARS I have ever lived through. Can I share a secret with you, though? I wouldn’t trade them for the world. (I know. You probably weren’t expecting that answer). It’s the truth. Granted, I’m saying it in retrospect, but still. I’m SO grateful for those years of questions, tears and wondering because God knew it would make me even stronger for Him.
I think that as Habakkuk was entering the last phases of writing his struggles, he knew that the battle wasn’t his to fight. It was God’s.
The Lord replied,
“Look around at the nations; look and be amazed![a] For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. 6 I am raising up the Babylonians,[b] a cruel and violent people. They will march across the world and conquer other lands. 7 They are notorious for their cruelty and do whatever they like.
By the second half of his prayer, we see where he finally sees the truth that it’s God’s battle, indeed:
I trembled inside when I heard this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me,[a] and I shook in terror. 16 I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. 17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer,[b] able to tread upon the heights.
Habakkuk 3:16-19 New Living Translation
So, I believe there are three beautiful crumbs of wisdom we can take away from Habakkuk’s story:
The people were running on empty, but God filled them by preparing them to watch Him fight the battle. (Hab. 1:5-7)
The hard times of wrestling Habakkuk went through made him stronger for God in the long run because he reflected on God’s faithfulness in the past. (Habakkuk 3:2-7)
God is always making things new (even through destruction). From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation God uses people. Ordinary people such as you and I to carry out His will on Earth. I know there have been times where I’ve forgotten, in a sense, that the people God used were just like us. Flawed by human nature, yet saved by grace alone as Romans 3:23-24 reminds us.
Genesis 6: In my Bible it’s entitled “A World Gone Wrong” which clearly tells me that things aren’t looking so great namely because sin (see Genesis 3:1-19) was running rampant in the midst of God’s perfect creation that was created by Him for our pleasure.
By the time we get to this place in Scripture, it’s evident that God’s patience with His people is running scarcely thin. How do we know? Look at what Genesis 6:3 says, “Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”
We meet Noah (in the second half of Genesis 6:11-22) There are many things I love about Noah. Here are my top three:
Noah was an ordinary man who was married with a family. In fact, we are told in verse nine that “Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.”
Though it is unclear in Scripture, I often wonder if Noah or his family ever questioned what God had told them to do. If I were in their position, I probably would’ve been curious.
Noah truly understood first time obedience. He knew what God was asking of him and he was ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work. It’s a little embarrassing to write, but I can’t say I would be that obedient at first without pacing back and forth a little bit.
I like to look at this part of Noah’s Story like the warm-up, so to speak. For Noah, it was getting all the materials to build the Ark. What might it be for you? Going back to school? Changing jobs? Stepping out in faith to a new God-given opportunity? Sometimes God causes us to walk through spiritual warm-ups to get us ready prepared for the next big step in our adventure of faith. We see this applied in the sports world all the time. No team ever makes it to the SuperBowl without practicing. God works the same way-He doesn’t put us in the “game” until we’ve had some practice; it’s often found in the faith building experiences that mold and shape our faith in Christ. (Read Genesis 6:11-22)
After Noah had diligently prepared for the flood, God knew it was time. Because Noah obeyed the Lord by building the Ark, God blessed him by protecting Noah and his family. They were the only people who didn’t get wiped out by the flood! How incredible! (Read Genesis 7:11-24)
God is always faithful. He keeps every promise. He never leaves us even the midst of a raging flood. He is so merciful. The story of Noah has always intrigued me and the older I get, the more I am UNDONE by God’s grace!
After the flood began to calm down, God realized how much He truly loves and adores the people and the planet the he created. So much so that in verses 8-17 of Genesis 9, God in his sovereignty promises His covenant with humanity by sending a rainbow and a dove as a sign that He will never destroy the earth in that way again.
A final tidbit: God always restores. It’s what He’s done from the very beginning as is evident through Noah’s Story. There’s nothing too broken, damaged, or scarred that He can’t restore. (Do you hear me?) God can restore absolutely anything!
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
“Stay alert!” Watch out, for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter 5:8-9 NLT
Faith in itself is a very complex ideal for our human minds here on earth to understand, although it’s an essential component to the relationship we have with Christ. With our faith in Him, we can move mountains, but without it we face a path of discontentment and self-destruction.
That statement alone should motivate us as Christians to take our responsibility in Him even more seriously, but in some cases it can have the opposite effect.
This can happen for one of two reasons: Someone might feel like it’s easier to live in defeat instead of victory, which more than likely resulted from a repetitive lie from Satan. Second, maybe they’ve been asleep spiritually and forgotten what God’s direction and nearness feels like.
Regardless of where you are in your relationship with Him, there is great hope and joy. It’s no coincidence that the ultimate hope and joy our hearts desire can only be found in Christ- He put those desires in us when he made us in His image.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV
I have come to a greater understanding over the years that God doesn’t want us to live a life of defeat because we are VICTORIOUS in Christ!
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV
God also earnestly desires for our lives here on earth to be enjoyable and exciting, but we can never lose sight of the future we have in eternity through what Jesus did on the cross. Honestly, I believe that’s where faith takes over. Faith is that sweet reminder of what is to come in Heaven. It’s the strength that has carried me through almost twenty years of having Cerebral Palsy.
What I’m saying is this: If we have faith and trust in Him, no matter what we can truly experience the joy that can only from Him. If that’s not you, you have no idea what you’re missing and it’s my hope and prayer that you will choose to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust Him, and He will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:5-6 NLT
Andlet patient endurance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:4 ESV
Around the middle school age, I can remember becoming very insecure about being in a wheelchair. I didn’t like how even people who knew me, or just plain strangers out in public would stare at me. It wasn’t until a number of years later as I grew up and allowed God to mold me into the woman I am today, that I began to realize just how far He has brought me.
When I think of someone who battled insecurity in the Bible, Moses comes to mind. He was aware of God’s calling on his life, but felt ill-equipped to live out the calling. Haven’t we all been there at some point or another? I know I have.
In Exodus 3, we encounter Moses at the Burning Bush having a conversation with God about Moses’ calling.
7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
Exodus 3:7-12 ESV
What strikes me most in this passage is Moses’ response in verse eleven. Who am I? Who am I to lead these people, Lord? Personally, my response to God’s calling on my life sounds much like this:
But, Lord, I’m just an ordinary woman with a disability. Who am I that You say that the words You have given to me? Nobody will care what I have to say. The “I” within that previous statement is the root of the issue, for both myself and also for Moses. It wasn’t Moses leading the people out of Egypt, in the same way I’m not the one writing these very words. It was God who was speaking through Moses and it’s God who is speaking through me.
From the moment I was content in my identity as His daughter and not my disability, He resurrected my soul from the grave of insecurity and into the garden of contentment! There’s nothing more beautiful than that.
So, what “graves” do you need God to resurrect you from today? Let me assure you that He is ready and willing to do that for you. Don’t let Satan stop you from doing that thing that God has called you to do. I did that for far too long and all it did was leave me discouraged. Because of Jesus, we have hope. Hope to start over, and ultimately, the hope of eternity!