When The Unexpected Happens: Part 1

A day after Christmas in 2017, I started my fast for financial breakthrough and healing for my family as planned. I went into this fast with an expectation perspective. I was expecting to encounter God in a special way but I was also facing a ton of uncertainty in my life which caused me to feel uncertain about His timing during the process. I thought I had prepared efficiently for this. I used my vacation hours at work, I planned to also fast from Facebook and limit communication with friends to emergency only. I’ve never felt more excited to spend time with God and see Him move in my life.

However, a few days before Christmas the unexpected happened. After church, I went to visit my aunt at her house as I usually do on Sundays especially because she lives so close to my church. I noticed something different about her. It was as if she was a different person. She seemed very unengaged in our conversation. Not thinking much of it and not worrying, I went home. The next day my sister calls me mentioning that she also noticed the changes and that we needed to take her to the ER. A bit of history, my aunt recently suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke in early 2017 so any changes in her behavior are expected to raise urgent concerns for us.

She was rushed to the ER on Christmas eve but sent home because she “appeared” to be fine and told that it’s best not to use unnecessary radiation like a CTscan (on a person with a history of stroke). The coming days were rough. Her symptoms seemed to be more apparent; From memory loss to apathy. She couldn’t remember the year we were in. I caught her saying that we were in the year 1981! That was very alarming to me and provoked my study of Alzheimer’s disease. I had to remind her to do almost everything and I felt really overwhelmed. Now, I’m not usually very open with my emotions in this way and I appear to be very emotionally strong but I wrestled with God on this because of how unexpected it was and the pain I felt. And I felt the push, even more, to pray for healing over my family in addition to financial breakthrough. I leaned a lot on prayers from friends and loved ones. For those of you who do not know, my mother also suffered from a stroke 6 years ago and is now paralyzed and struggles with speech. My father passed away 2 years later. So the closest relative to me is my aunt.

laurel and james

That week I fought tears as I prayed in God’s presence. I waited and rested in Him. I’ve reflected on His divine providence in my life and I knew that He wanted me to trust Him. During that fast, I noticed as He started to open doors for me in just 2 days. The second day I felt so much peace it was overwhelming. I also received random emails for opportunities I did not initially apply for. On January 2nd, my aunt had an appointment for an MRI and I was excited to have them finally take a look at her brain especially because of the concerns we had that ER physicians found hard to assess. I fell asleep in the waiting room expecting to wait for at least 2 hours. However, they woke me up within 30 minutes, “Vanessa, she’s done!” When I followed the technician to the area where my aunt was I asked “she’s finished already?!” she replied, “No, the doctor will explain it to you.” Now my heart beats are on one thousand per second. The doctor explained that she did indeed have a stroke and they were now rushing her to be recessed in the ER.

This stroke was different from her last one. It was smaller and affected her much less. Thanks to God! Also the timing in which we brought her in did not make a difference. she’s now in recovery and doing better. I no longer have the same fear I had the initial week of the symptoms but I’m so grateful to God for giving me that peace and for the recovery she’s made thus far. I’m glad we have more of an awareness of what happened to her and that she is God’s hands. I am also thankful to all of the friends that have extended prayer during this rough time.

A lesson I learned from this experience is that life will be full of unexpected occurrences and challenges. What’s most important is how we react to those events. Sometimes it may seem like God is not present during these times but He is. He is showing us something but we must pay attention and be sensitive to His voice. I noticed during these moments an urgency for prayer, a need to commune with Him. He is a good God and He uses these experiences for a specific purpose but in the end, it all works out for our good. I pray that during times of despair that the Lord is able to fill you with hope, wisdom and a peace that surpasses all understanding. Love you! God bless.

To be continued…

Dealing With Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a new and ambiguous concept of emotion we all face to some extent in our careers. In some cases it can be analogous to explaining why we dream; there are many scientific arguments for it but it’s still a mystery. I wanted to present a surface level approach to this concept on Living with Grace and reason some solutions to handling it hence my peers and I often have this feeling that we may be a fraud. I don’t know what season you’re in in your life right now but you may be feeling like a fraud in a position that God has called you into and it may be causing you some delays. That position is not limited to a career, it can be marriage, motherhood, fatherhood, positions of leadership in the body of Christ, evangelism, etc. I’m writing this to encourage you to remember your identity in Christ and why you were called to your specific purpose and to ultimately unmask the lie that you are not equipped for the position you were called to.

What is imposter syndrome?

According to The Scientific American “Impostor Syndrome is a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  It strikes smart, successful individuals.  It often rears its head after an especially notable accomplishment, like admission to a prestigious university, public acclaim, winning an award, or earning a promotion.” (What is Imposter Syndrome, 2015) 

The root of imposter syndrome is fear. It’s the fear that someone will notice that one is not equipped for the position. However, let’s shift that perspective and suggest that we are equipped because we were chosen for the role. If God is sovereign and we were offered the opportunity to work for the company we work for in the role that we’re in then that suggests that God permitted us to operate in that role. Therefore, He will equip us to successfully fulfill all the responsibilities of that role. However, we must be intentional about it. One thing I’ve learned is that the more I feel discouraged and I allow the “imposter” feeling to steal my identity, the less confident I am in God’s Word and the process in which He’s positioned me. It’s important to pray and speak life over your identity. Ask God to supply all your needs for the specific role, meditating on scripture such as Philippians 4:19. 

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Remembering Why You Were Called to This Specific Purpose

In a practical sense, we may not understand how our roles ultimately tie into God’s will for our lives and how they will bring Him glory. I learned that it’s less about the specific task at hand (also important because God created work before giving Adam and assignment – Gen. 2:15) rather more about the spiritual fruit that will develop by completing the assignment that is a part of the greater whole of God’s sovereign will for our lives.

The Lord gives us particular assignments to develop us over time and prepare us for the next season in our lives. His desire is that we fully develop the fruit of the Spirit which are “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control…” Galatians 5:22-23. Therefore,  it’s important to understand how we are being developed spiritually in the process. Walk into every opportunity with confidence always asking God “what am I supposed to learn here?”

You are not an imposter. There is a specific purpose for your life; nothing happens by chance. God qualified you for that promotion or else you wouldn’t be there. I pray that you have surrendered your life to Christ, you have acknowledged the value that comes from being a child of God and you are walking in His will. I work in the tech industry where imposter syndrome is prevalent among software developers and it feels inevitable even to the most seasoned engineers but I have the hope planted in me that the Lord has given me access to everything I need to accomplish all that is required for my role. However, that takes time and intentionality in overcoming fear when the thoughts that provoke it comes to mind. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7). It’s a struggle for us all but together we will get through it. Just remember we are not living this life for ourselves we are a part of a much larger story. So you are not alone on this journey, you’ll be surprised at how many people feel the way you feel, share it with someone. I pray that the Lord provides you with the confidence to overcome imposter syndrome, that He supplies all your needs to produce the fruit needed for the position you are called to and that you walk in faith in His Word, acknowledging that in His will you are capable because He is able! (Ephesians 3:20)

May God bless you!

Understanding Grace

About 3 years ago, around 7:30pm on a Friday, I was pulled over by a police officer for a traffic violation. I was prohibited from making a left turn at an intersection between 7pm and 9pm. I was aware of the indicated times but like some of us, I ignored the signs because I was in a rush to a destination. I was startled when the officer handed me a fine with the penalty of 2 points added to my license if I pleaded guilty. The interesting part was that there were others being pulled over for the same reason. This was the first time I saw officers strategically waiting by a traffic sign and watching for violators. However, I refused to plead guilty. I was determined to fight this just like any other ticket I received despite whether I was guilty or not.

So I fought it. I requested a court appearance. This was my first time doing this and I was very skeptical of the outcome. I was afraid of what my future would look like if I didn’t win this case. Would I be stuck with higher insurance for a few years? Would I be able to even switch my insurance company? Minor things that were huge to me. To my surprise, I was in for a treat. Distressed, I approached the judge. The judge then asks “what are you here for?” I revealed the type of traffic violation and before I can even defend my actions. He says “Not Guilty.” Just like that, he let me go and he did it with a smile and said: “enjoy the rest of your day.” The joy I felt was unbelievable. I was also perplexed. Why did he let me off the hook that easy? Forget the points, I didn’t even have to pay a fine which I was confident I’d have to do even if they let me go. I didn’t deserve to be set free and yet the judge deemed me innocent.

My experience is merely one of the many illustrations of God’s grace in my life. The ultimate, most basic display of God’s grace and love not just for me but for all of us is and will always be Jesus’ atonement for our sins. Jesus’ atonement lies at the foundation of every believer. It’s the reason why we think, worship and live the way we do. It’s also what inspired the title of this blog and my youtube channel two years ago. It’s also the meaning of my middle name, Charesse. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that we never fully understand the true meaning of grace until we are faced with the opportunity to give it to others. For example, many of us have a hard time forgiving people who have hurt us in our past. I’ve been faced with this several times in my life. I’ve been bullied throughout elementary school and I’ve felt the power of painful words expressed toward me in my adulthood. I’ve learned that by forgiving those who have hurt me and continuing to express kindness despite the way they’ve made me feel is easy when I can truly reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Of course, forgiveness is never easy but God wants to walk us through it. He wants to remind us daily of His grace upon our lives. We are part of a much larger story.

Ephesians 1_4-6

We are called to die to ourselves daily and submit our will to God’s. Jesus demonstrates this on the cross when He says “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Hence, He pleaded to God to take this cup (the death sentence being carried out) away from Him, if it was in His will. Always affirming God’s will throughout: “nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Just imagine the pain experienced, it must have been difficult denying His own will. Jesus certainly wasn’t a man led by His feelings. He carried out the will of God which was often very tough but bore so much glory. Because we know God works all things out for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purpose it should be easier to make tough decisions after all they’re not as hard as what Jesus experienced. However, they’re still difficult. Important to note here that directly after Jesus cries out to God, to let His will be done, in verse 43, it says “An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened him.”God knows walking in His will may be difficult for us at times but He will strengthen you.

God has freely given us His grace at His son’s expense so that we can also have the power to deny our will and give grace to others. Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:14 says “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” Also in Luke 6:36, Jesus says “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” And He says in Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Until you’ve forgiven or shown compassion to someone who seemingly does not deserve it, you won’t be able to fully wrap your mind around the fullness of God’s grace and mercy bestowed on us. I know this from experience, I’ve spent countless nights crying after a graceful act that I realized God was using to paint a picture of His grace and show me how to deny my flesh and choose His will. I’ve been so blessed by these moments and I look forward to the many ways God will strengthen and use me. I pray He will do the same for you. His grace is immeasurable and incomparable to any amount of grace we’ve ever shown anyone. It’s far beyond anything we can understand. The more we are presented with the challenge of operating gracefully in circumstances that are difficult, the more we will comprehend His grace.

May God’s grace be with you!

A Man of An Unexpected Encounter

I often times think about the many ways God pursues us and it drives me to tears. He really is relentless in His pursuit and I feel so honored to have been adopted into His family. Whenever I think about how difficult this journey is, I think about how God pursued me, who I was before and how He has changed me, how His Word is always true and never fails. Walking by faith and not by sight can be incredibly difficult amidst all of the depravity and uncertainty today. Thus to have continuous faith and consistent integrity is truly valuable and reveals the glory of God.

Reading through Isaiah 55 and carefully meditating on God’s words and thinking about how important every detail is to Him, I felt as if I had a faith boost. The New International Version calls this chapter Invitation to The Thirsty whereas my NKJV bible deems it An Invitation to Abundant Life.  Whichever is most appropriate, this chapter is profound and abundantly meaningful. It is a reflection of God’s tender mercies and grace. Of course, this isn’t the only text in the scriptures that displays God’s character so beautifully but what stood out to me is when He says “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (v. 11). What a delightful depiction of how God’s word never fails and always prospers. Amen? It’ll make sense why this stood out to me personally if you continue to read.

When I was about 20 years old I was approached by a homeless man in a McDonald’s by Yankee Stadium. My immediate assumption was that this man was going to ask me for money and I was prepared to flee the scene in a New York minute. However, something unexpected happened that changed my life forever. He began to prophesy. I was startled. Hence, I never imagined a homeless man would speak prophetically to me or anyone really. A man of an unexpected encounter. Most importantly, I was not a Christian at the time. My life was very different. Yet it was as if this man knew me and he came to do the will of God by sharing with me how much God loved me and how God called me for a specific purpose. Although I didn’t know God, at this time in my life I was searching for answers. What boggled me, even more, is when this man started mentioning how I was going to marry someone that is going to help me fulfill this mission of sharing the gospel and making disciples. There were several things that were difficult to process at the time:

  1. I’m going to surrender my life to Christ? What does that mean? I’m not “religious.”
  2.  I’m going to get married? Eeew (haha)
  3. I’m going to have a ministry with my husband? That sounds like a lot. How is that even possible?

So there were many things that were perplexing and frightening in all honesty. However, in retrospect, I see how that prophecy is unfolding. The homeless man finishes by saying, “I don’t want your money. What you will do for the kingdom is more valuable than your money.” God had been trying to reach me for many years prior to this (I’ll share more of my story in future posts) and for once this encounter really stood out to me. It was as if God was waving a flag in my face at this point in such an overt way while still manifesting Himself unexpectedly. It reminds me of how Jesus encounters His followers. He didn’t warn them He just approached them while they were pre-occupied and said: “follow me”. Isn’t it amazing how the creator of all things can be so loving that He persistently pursues us, mere human beings in the most subtle ways? Praise God! I spent days thinking about this encounter and processing through it after it happened.

A year later, I gave my life to Christ, unexpectedly. In my heart, I have this knowing that it’s what I’ve desired my entire life and that I’ve made the best decision I could ever make. God’s Word really never returns void. If God can open up the mouth of a donkey and speak through him (Numbers 22:21-39), He can use anyone, anything or any circumstance He wills to reach His children. Which means we have work to do. Jesus says “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37). Let’s continue to seek God on how He wants to use us. Nonetheless, I thank God for using that man to prophesy over me. I thank God for that man’s boldness. If it wasn’t for the many ways the Holy Spirit has encountered me, I would not be the professing Christian I am today. Now I have an indelible story to share with anyone willing to listen.

In the event that my church is allowing us to share how we came to faith in our small groups, I cannot help to reflect on this very prominent moment in my life and I felt so moved by the Holy Spirit to share this with you all. Saints, in what ways have God pursued you?

God bless you and thanks for reading!

 

 

How God Saved Me From Joining a Christian Cult

I almost joined a cult, you guys. Well, this is quite embarrassing but I felt the nudging from the Lord to share this story. It’s one that contains a multitude of emotions ranging from scary, sad, humorous, gratitude and more but I’ll let you decide for yourself.

It all started a few years ago after entering a new season of spiritual growth in my life. I was still very new to Christ but I was searching for answers. I wanted to go deeper but I wasn’t quite sure how and what made it even more difficult, I was not a member of a local church. Yes, the perfect recipe for being attacked as a new believer. I had recently left my former church and was searching for a church home in my neighborhood. I’ve attended church every Sunday but what I was honestly looking for were friends. I already had dozens of friends who loved God but I wanted at least one really close one to accompany me on this new spiritual journey. Yea, I wasn’t very mature at the time.

So I prayed and I mean I cried out to God about this. Then one day while shopping at H&M, a really nice young woman approached me. She seemed to be around my age. She invited me to a coffee gathering and asked me if I was Christian. I told her that I was. I remember thinking wow this girl looks like me and she really loves God too, I want to check out her gathering. She mentioned that the gathering was not a church gathering just a time of fellowship and bible study for people of all diverse denominations or faith who love God. It sounded very enticing at the time. So I attended and immediately felt something that is difficult to explain. I remember it clearly after worship there was a Korean man who presented a short sermon and I don’t remember everything he said but I remembered the feeling I felt. You know when Paul says “They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.” Romans 2:15(NLT) Well, I didn’t know the scriptures very well at the time (which is why I was searching for bible studies) but I just knew everything he was professing was false teaching. It was as if the Holy Spirit was saying very clearly “that’s not true. Get out of here.” I felt the urge to leave immediately but I wanted to be polite to my new friend who seemed like the sweetest girl on the planet. So she starts asking me about my job and my schedule and eventually she introduces me to other people there who were trying to get me to complete an application with personal information. Thank God I didn’t complete the entire application but yikes!

Jude 1:12 (NIV)

12 These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead.

Eventually, this woman, let’s call her Justina, began to reach out to me often to meet up and talk and even do a bible study. I was all for it because I love bible study and I started to like this girl who I thought I had so much in common with. Then she assigned me to what they call a private teacher who would meet with me 2-3 times weekly for a bible study and that’s where things started to get really weird. If I did well with this bible study and understood the teaching, they were going to enroll me in the main course which was a free 6-month Bible-intensive course that will help me to become a bible scholar. I felt hesitant but I was also curious. So I attended for about 2 weeks and I noticed many red flags. One major one was their emphasis on the book of revelation and perception of Jesus’ parables as “hidden keys.” They believed that we must fully understand the book of revelation in order to be saved. So I ejected but they kept pursuing me. I no longer cared to attend but oddly I was curious about investigating further. I began to raise questions like: Why was it that no one I met had a church home? and why is Justina always speaking of traveling to Korea? And why do they compromise on things the bible is clearly against? I often spoke to my brothers and sisters in Christ about it and every one of them advised me to stop meeting with these people. I even challenged the private instructor I had and I noticed a shift in her demeanor. That same day she asked if I could be re-assigned to another instructor. I guess the truth really hurts.

This is where I finally gave up: I got accepted into the technology program of my dreams. It was already hard enough to get into the program and I had already decided that I was going to devote myself to completing the program. Of course, they were not in support. They were relentless in getting me to join the 6-month course. There was a process in recruitment and I’ll never forget the recruiter who tried to get me to join says “you can’t share anything you learn with everyone because they may think you’re weird”. HUH??!! I immediately felt the Holy Spirit at this point stirring in me all types of emotions but ultimately a sense that this was very ungodly and anti-gospel hence the gospel is all about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and making disciples. So I politely said that I will not be joining. Of course, they guilt-tripped me and said something along the lines of “if you truly loved the Lord you would make the sacrifice.” I remember walking away that day feeling so alone, confused and crying out to God, desiring to be closer to Him and to be protected from people like this but also begging Him to know the truth. I just wanted to know Him for myself. So I did that on my own.

1 John 4:4 (NKJV)

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

A year later I accidentally stumbled upon a Youtube video about a Korean Christian Cult called Shincheonji. I researched it and noticed how fast it was growing around the world and how it is disguised in many locations. It seemed almost completely identical to the one I almost joined. I fell to my knees and praised God for being with me and rescuing me from that. I sometimes imagine what my life would be like if God was not with me and I actually agreed with their teaching. Thank God for discernment. I believe God uses all experiences to bring us closer to Him and to help others.

These people still roam the streets today in efforts to recruit people who are searching for answers. My heart is burdened for those already brain-washed by this. Please be careful brethren. I encourage you to know the Lord and His voice for yourself. I pray that you will be hidden in the word and keep your mind guarded against deception so that when you are approached your discernment will be sharp.

Thank you so much for reading and may God bless you and protect you always!

God and Our Desire for Creativity

Creativity is a beautiful concept. The very foundation of our existence. We were created by a creative creator. So it makes sense that many of us have a longing to be creative. God is abundantly creative and He wants us to live life abundantly and be fruitful because He loves us and we were created in His image.

Human head concept

I’ve always been so intrigued by God’s creation and I’m often in awe whenever I travel and observe nature. Lately, I’ve been inspired to share my thoughts on this topic because I noticed my longing to be more fruitful and creative for His kingdom. I wanted to find the source of this desire because it’s been more intense than it ever has and I’m sure many believers can relate to this.  It’s a longing to go deeper with God and explore the many ways He wants to use me. I’ve been feeling so honored to be in His presence and so humbled by the Holy Spirit that it’s caused me to really think deeply about my identity.

As Christians, we adopt the biblical worldview of being in the world but not of it as Jesus so mercifully says in 1 John 2:15-17 ” 15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

From a very early age, I’ve always felt like a foreigner in a world I did not belong to. And this is before knowing Christ. I was bullied often and told that I’m different. Well, maybe there was some truth to it, my adolescent years contained some pretty peculiar attributes- for one,  the enjoyment of singing in various languages in a household where that deemed rare and often made me the target of comedic relief. But I always felt the difficulty to conform. I struggled for a while in addition to being painfully shy but eventually, I was able to climb out of it somewhat and that just led me down a rabbit hole of mistakes. I was trying to be someone that I was not. Nonetheless, I discovered my unique talents and abilities and created a path of success for myself, or so it seemed (in retrospect I see God’s hand in it all). I wrote a play in high school that was elected to be performed by professional actors, I worked on a set for a film which has my name in the credits, I worked for former president Bill Clinton, was chosen to be valedictorian of my class and the list goes on. Yet I still believed I wasn’t creative; in many words, fruitless.

Of course with hills, there are always valleys in life. Valleys of stagnation when you feel unfruitful. That fruitlessness-despair which can sometimes lead to depression is a cry of our inherent desire to reconnect with the Father and be fruitful again. That desire has encouraged me to have a strong spiritual longing for fruitfulness. It’s as if those accomplishments in my past hold no value because I’ve found something so much greater! And it’s exactly what God wants from us. However, in retrospect, I do understand why God set me apart. Jesus says in John 15: 1-2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” He gave us talents and spiritual gifts to edify the church in preparation for His return. This walk is not to be taken lightly it’s much deeper than just accepting Him. He is a creative God who has implanted creativity in us and unique gifts to be fruitful and be used by Him. Imagine if we were all aware of our gifts how much we can do!

Are you bearing fruit?

I pray that God blesses you and His Holy Spirit encourages you to seek the gifts He has implanted in you and use them for His glory. I pray that God will raise up a generation of believers that are so on fire for Him and are willing to perform and witness many signs and wonders again.

God bless and continue to spend more time in His presence.

With Love,

Vanessa

Trusting God Through Difficult Times: Part 1

We live in a fallen world where everyone desires to maximize comfort and minimize suffering. Everyone is striving to reach their next season of blessings where everything seems to go so well that worrying becomes a sin of the past and sadly we forget about the trials we’ve faced. Living in the age of social media, I notice people rarely speak about the seasons of suffering; the process that God allows us to endure to draw us closer to Him before the blessings are poured out; not acknowledging that suffering can be a blessing in itself. People rarely see suffering as a good human experience that produces growth and I understand. But isn’t it interesting that the countries where Christians endure the most suffering and persecution seem to have the most faith-filled believers? Although my suffering is nothing compared to many of those who are persecuted in these countries, I am guilty of questioning God about my life sometimes.

What does it mean to suffer?

We can learn a lot from the disciples and early Christians but let’s focus on Apostle Paul for a minute. He is a great example of suffering outside of Jesus and would probably find some of the things we complain about to be quite humorous if he was alive today. Here’s a man who gave his entire life to Christ,  who he has never met in the flesh (only in spirit) and trusted Christ so much so that he was willing to be persecuted, endure pain and rejoice in it all for the glory of God.  The man who so famously posits “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” -Phillippians 1:21 But what does this look like for the 21st century Christian?

Surrender All 

What are you holding on to? I was holding on to a lot that only left me feeling empty. But I learned that tough times are temporary, God is eternal. Money, nice cars, houses, careers, friendships, beauty are all fleeting. Jesus Christ is everlasting. Only in Him am I  truly rich. Nothing on this earth is truly satisfying without God. I know this from experience. I thought my life was so full. Great things were happening consecutively and I was happy for some time but I was hungry for more. Each time I sufficiently conquered something, attained an accolade, I would say to myself “this is just not enough, there has to be more to life than this”. As an ambitious person, it was hard for me to stop seeking. Even as good things continue to happen in my life still nothing can satisfy me like Jesus. My joy comes from Him. Happiness comes and goes but joy is permanent. This joy is supernatural and transcends all the dark moments in my life. He’s my best friend and my Father. Only He can carry me through and out of tough times and make my good times so much brighter.

Therefore, it wasn’t until I surrendered everything to Him that I truly felt peace. Trust me, the money will only make you happy for a little while but without Jesus, you’ll always be wanting more. I’ve heard stories of wealthy people who sold all of their possessions and gave their lives to Christ. Isn’t it interesting how the depression rate in the US is on the rise and that those statistics include the wealthy? Whether you are rich or poor, if your life isn’t surrendered to Christ, you’ll always be desiring more. It’s because we were created by God and for God. We were created to desire a divine relationship that cannot be substituted with anything earthly. Thus why we feel a longing for something more even when we have so much. Often times, we don’t feel God’s presence in our circumstances and we fall subject to the idea that maybe He’s not there. That maybe He’s not listening because our circumstances are seemingly too unbearable. However, His Word is truth and you can stand tall on His promise that “he will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6.  We can trust that our unity with Him in heaven is a greater extension of our unity with Him right now on earth. So ask yourself, is there something you are still hanging on to that you need to lay at the altar? Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that you sell all your possessions and give up on everything. I am simply suggesting a paradigm-shift; that you shift your focus so that it is Christ-centered. Is He your priority? You can still be an electrical engineer who loves travel and dirt bikes but how much do you love Jesus? Your efforts to focus on Him will help you to trust in Him more. (More about surrendering in a later post)

Have Hope in His Goodness

We can rest our hope in our Father’s promises because the scriptures prove He’s faithful to the end. He always finishes what He begins unlike us who struggle with this. If we truly know who God is, we will be able to put our complete trust in His character, His wisdom and His sovereignty. Whenever we are faced with a challenge that seems absolutely unbearable and impossible to get out of, it will be easier to understand that God has us right where He wants us. He wants us to draw closer to him and He has something up His sleeve. He is about to do the impossible in that situation so that He can get all the glory for it. Amen? Let’s reflect on the many times He’s done that.

Paul writes in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Because God is good and there is nothing He cannot do, we have to make the effort to have faith that He is working all things out for our good. Because of the fall in Genesis 3, we were separated from the presence of God and pain and suffering became inevitable but God sent a Redeemer, He gave His only begotten son Jesus Christ so that we can live eternally with Him. Is there a greater love than that?

Ask for Wisdom, Perspective and have Faith 

Consider Job. A man who was considered very pleasing in God’s eyes. He was the most faithful in all the land yet God allowed Him to endure suffering as a test of his faith. In just a matter of time, He lost everything yet he still rejoiced to say in Job 19:25 “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end, he will stand on the earth.” How many of us can have faith like this? Job so faithfully abandoned his trust in God even when his circumstances didn’t make sense. His wife and his friends didn’t understand it. But God has a way of giving us greater perspective by revealing His omnipotence for example when He says to Job in Job 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me if you have understanding.” Eventually, Job overcomes his trials and his losses are restored in double. A story that so profoundly exemplifies the beauty of the journey, highlights true faithfulness and trust in God. Like a woman who endures the pain of childbirth, if only we were all aware of the joy that lies on the other side of our pain. To do this we must seek wisdom and perspective from the Lord. In James 1:5 it says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” God wants to give us wisdom during these times so just ask for it and have confidence in the wisdom that He gives you.

Develop a Discipline to Turn Your Pain into Glory

On the topic of developing perspective and discernment, there’s a posture in which this is cultivated. Many of you know the trials I’ve endured with losing my father and dealing with my mother’s illnesses. It’s truly been a journey but God has never failed to comfort me and give me perspective throughout. However, I had to make an effort on my end, I had to make a choice. As difficult as it seems, we have to choose to feel better and this comes out of full devotion to God and dwelling in His presence. The more time you spend in God’s presence (worship, prayer, reading etc) the more your thinking patterns will change and you’ll be more encouraged as the Holy Spirit exhorts you to develop a discipline to turn your circumstances around. Whether that be waking up earlier, going for a run, reading scripture, reading devotions, worshipping, spending time in prayer, journaling, and blogging. In addition, spending more time at church, or with friends, brothers and sisters in Christ and family, being active in your church’s ministries and maybe starting your own. Maybe it’s finally starting that business God told you you should start or going on that missions trip, interceding in prayer for that friend or relative or sharing the gospel with a stranger. It will all be food for your spirit and help you to grow closer to God. You’ll begin to see your life transform. As mentioned, God allows us to go through tough times so that it can be used for His glory so ask Him what you should be doing in this season that will bring Him the most glory. We have to be intentional about our healing and often times this includes helping others going through similar struggles. I truly believe purpose is found in that.

No matter how hard it gets, please don’t forget that God loves you – He gave His only begotten son. You are so valued! Heaven went bankrupt for you. He wants a relationship with you and wants to turn your pain into glory. And He’s working things out for you for your good. He has your best interest at heart and has a really good plan for your life. In due timing, that situation will disappear, just continue to have faith. Trust that the pain you are enduring is only for a season and that this chastening and sanctifying process is so that you can be Christ-like, be a light in a dark place and be prepared for better seasons to come. No matter if you are Christian or not, no one is exempt from the struggles in this world that resulted from the fall but if you have Jesus you will for certain have peace and hope that transcends all understanding. He makes everything better.

May God bless you!

I hope this was a blessing to you!

P.S. God created us for community. Never go through tough times alone. I am your friend. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me for anything.

Much love,

Vanessa

To Be Continued Because The Journey Never Ends…