Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants thou hast perfected praise (Matthew 21:16).
What a nice scripture, right? But today, the littlest of my little people has been a real handful! There was no praise from my lips (or hers) just now- only sighing (from me) and eye rolling (once again-from me). On one hand, my princess is adorable, sweet, funny, and super cuddly, but on the other hand she is also demanding, unthankful, dramatic, and very unreasonable! Unfortunately, I just witnessed “the other hand.” In one of my little love's Academy Award winning performances, she told me she stopped loving me. Don’t worry. My feelings weren’t hurt. For I’ve heard those words before. Mama bear has thick skin (sometimes). But it’s what I said to her in return ( “Oh so you only love me when I’m doing what you want?”) that caused me to pause and reflect.
As soon as those words came out of my mouth, it was like someone put on the brakes, and I heard the Lord say those same words back to me: “Oh so you only love me when I’m doing what you want?” Wow! Yeah, I was, and still am convicted, and I’m also guilty of conditional love. What about you? Have you ever heard yourself say the following to God?
If this (insert whatever here) doesn’t happen, I will stop going to church
If this (insert whatever here) doesn’t go my way, maybe God isn’t real
If this (insert whatever here) doesn’t happen, I will turn my back on God
If this (insert whatever here) does happen, I will serve God more faithfully
If this (insert whatever here) does go my way, then God is real
If this (insert whatever here) does happen, I will start going to church
Does any of the above sound familiar? Maybe you haven’t said the exact words, but you get the point. And I’ll be real honest with you: I’m guilty of loving God with conditions! My conditional love wasn’t always obvious (to me) but it became glaringly obvious when my daughter was born 10 weeks early. Let me share with you the short story:
In a small period of time, my comfy little world was turned upside down. At 30 weeks pregnant, I gave birth to my little girl. She only weighed 2 lbs. 12 oz. and needed a ventilator to help her breathe. For the next 8 weeks, the NICU became my home away from home. And even though my princess spent 2 months in the NICU, she bounced back like a rock star, but I didn’t. As a matter of fact, I felt like my world shattered. Everything fell apart, and I mean (it felt like) everything. I quit my job, our finances suffered a major blow, we lost our home, and to top it off I had some health scares. I didn’t think it was fair what I had to go through, and to top it off I felt invisible and unloved.
I had no idea that this storm had a purpose, but God did, and He knew just how to put me back together again.
Never Forget- You Are God’s Garden!
If you read my recent blog about gardening, then you know that God is a master botanist, and you are His garden. Like most untended gardens, though, I had become full of weeds and sly foxes. Those garden invaders were choking life and truth right out of me. Jesus spoke about this very thing when He said:
Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up;
1. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
2. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them;
3. But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold (Matthew 13:3-8).
So, let me ask you, "How is your garden growing?" Not sure? Ask yourself these questions:
1. In the beginning were you passionate about God- even seeing quick growth, but when a trial or storm came your way, did you bolt from the Kingdom of God?
2. Are you struggling with bitterness, unforgiveness, pride, sin, shame, anger, etc? If so, then weeds have invaded your garden!
3. Are you bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit (peace, love, joy, long suffering, etc)? And when trials come (they will come), do you commit to growing deeper in God’s word? Do you attack the trial with prayer and fasting?
Five years ago, in the midst of a storm, I found myself wanting. It was then that I realized my greatest fault: My love was based on blessings. I found that I lacked depth and staying power. Today I look back at that trial by fire, and I still cower at the thought of going through something like that again. But, I learned many things: My roots were dying and needed the water of the Word, and when I began to cling to God’s word like a lifeline in storm tossed waters, I found new strength. When I began to pray in the Spirit, and with understanding, long suffering made sense to me. And when I began to fast from food (and other things), peace & security found a home in my garden. Listen, when you commit to these three "super powers": Bible study, praying, and fasting, then your garden invaders will have to flee.
Oh & Time Travel Helps!
Do you remember the story of Job? If not, hop in the DeLorean and let me refresh your memory: Thousands of years ago, Job and his dear wife lost everything, including the lives of their children. But their suffering was not without purpose. For it revealed their character & staying power. On one hand, Job’s wife had weak faith (me too) and probably even yelled the following words at her husband:
“Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Job, on the other hand, was in this race for the long run. He was committed to seeing a glorious garden unfold from the ashes. And his reply, so long ago, reveal the secrets of his heart:
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips (Job 2:9-10).
Like the Jobs, maybe you are feeling storm tossed and battered by life? Do you feel unloved, unwanted, and invisible? If so, you are not alone:
Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are (1 Peter 5:9).
Knowing others are going through similar trials isn’t always helpful, and it won’t numb your pain. But, and this is something I learned in my own journey, maybe God doesn’t want to numb your pain. As a matter of fact, maybe He wants you to feel the sorrows of this life more and become a conduit of compassion to others. I know that's not what you want to hear, but if we are to become mature in the faith then we need to hear the hard stuff too. When I was in Bible College one of my professors always said: “Your pain will become your ministry.” At 20 something years old, that sounded great to me then, but I didn’t realize that my former, sinful past wasn’t the only pain I was destined to go through. I was naive and didn't understand that putting my faith in Jesus Christ meant that I willingly accepted both blessing and adversity. That lesson took time to learn. However, I did finally learn the value of lifelines. And if you will cling to the lifelines of God's word, prayer, & fasting, then supernatural strength will be perfected in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Beloved, today you need to know that it’s o.k. to fall apart because God is perfectly able to put you back together again:
But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make (Jeremiah 18:4).
Prayer of Agreement:
Will you join me in praying this scripture over your life today (by the way there is power in agreement):
Confess the Word:
But now, O Lord You are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter. And all of us are the work of Your hand (Isaiah 64:8).
Apply the Word:
Overcomer, do you realize that you are My special creation, and I don’t give up until I have perfected the things that concern you? - Abba Father
Pray the Word:
Father, You are the Master Potter & I am the work of Your hands. Lord, help me to rest while you make something beautiful out of my storm-tossed life. Help me to trust that You are making me into a new creation. In Jesus’ name-Amen.
B'Shem Yeshua HaMashiach