Yes…And

It’s a known human weakness that we tend to see more of what we want to than the things we don’t. Denial of that which threatens our comfort is a coping skill most of us have mastered. This can be simple and harmless when it pertains to matters which are light in the scope of eternity, such as choosing to avoid taking on a new project because its so much easier to just juggle what we already have on our plate. We stay focused on the reasons why what we’re already doing are important, and we neglect the nagging reasons why we should reprioritize to make room for something that might be more fruitful.

However, there are matters which fall much heavier on the scale of eternal things, and which are far more complicated and harmful if avoided. These leave doors open to doubt and deception which ultimately have the capacity to completely derail us from true faith in Christ. There is a little word that often serves as a big key to these doors, and if you find yourself uttering it – either out loud or in the private conversations you have with your own soul – chances are it’s time to reckon with something you’ve been trying to ignore.

That little word is “but.” We often find this word lurking in the deep, dark, shattered places in our lives. When tragedies strike. When trauma hits hard. When unexplainable and unfair losses catch us off guard and steal the breath from our lungs. When we don’t know how to make sense of something, we will often find ourselves in deliberation with our own beliefs, or the devil’s accusations (or both), trying to reason about how God could have allowed it to happen. We say things like, “But I just don’t understand. Why him (or why her)?” “But I’ve done everything I can. How could this happen?” “But I thought God was good.” Or we may find ourselves saying things like, “Yes, but God is still good.” The latter statement is usually a valiant and humble effort to hold onto the last shreds of faith we may feel we have, and it is honorable. But it isn’t always truthful. The enemy knows when we utter a hollow confession, and he will grant us the false comfort of a weak confession if it means we won’t move closer to God. Sometimes our confessions of faith are nothing more than family relics, passed down through generations, that we aren’t even sure we believe, but it still seems like the right thing to say.

Does all of this count for nothing? Are the professions we utter in the depths of our mourning worth anything before God?

I believe they are…when they’re true. And I believe that every loss and devastating event in our lives are an invitation to dig through the layers of what’s only superficially true – what’s comfortable and easy to profess, and to get down to the confessions that are true in the bedrock of our souls.

In order to accept that invitation, however, I think we need to know and consider some things up front:

  1. It’s high time for this to take place. We are stepping into the days (if we haven’t already) when deception will abound, and there will be plenty of comfortable and easy “truth” preached, in the effort to keep you content with less than you will need in order to survive what’s coming. If you are prone to avoiding the hard truths, it’s time to address that part of your character, and to let God lead you into a real understanding of the whole truth, not just a part of it.
  2. Most, if not all of us – especially if there is any church in our family or personal history – have learned to confess things we don’t wholeheartedly believe. It’s what we do. This is not necessarily a fault – at first, it can be helpful in moving us toward truth. But if we settle there – if we haven’t actually apprehended the truth and the revelation of what we are copycat confessing, then those confessions WILL NOT stand in the day of trouble. They will have no roots. God desires that we would know Him, and know His Word, and be fully equipped to stand through the darkness that is coming upon the whole world. But if the light that is in Christ is only seen from a distance, and not fully possessed and fully burning from within us, we will be overcome by – rather than be overcomers of – that darkness.
  3. Where we tend to offer a “but,” God places an “and.” Scripture is so clear about what we can expect. If we study it, and if we study not only to learn information, but to know the God Who gave it to us, then we won’t be surprised when things go from bad to worse. Neither will be shaken. Sometimes people read comfortable and easily accessible (by way of familiarity) Scripture passages like Psalm 91 [https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2091&version=NIV], with its promises of protection and deliverance, and clutch it like it’s a life insurance policy, or an escape-from-difficulty-or-death pass. But if we take Scripture in its entire context, we see that there is more to the story, and that the more is not a contradiction, but a complement. Where we may encounter persecution or loss and offer a rebuttal of “but,” Scripture addresses it as a necessary “and.”

In 2 Timothy 3:11-12 Paul writes to Timothy and the church he has been assigned to lead, saying:

“You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra—but the Lord rescued me from all of it.  Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (emboldened italics mine)

In Mark 10:27-30, we see Jesus’ response to Peter when he protests that he and the other disciples have given up everything to follow God, after Jesus has just delivered the bad news that it will be very hard for anyone who is rich and comfortable to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Then Peter began to speak up. ‘We’ve given up everything to follow you,’ he said. Yes,’ Jesus replied, and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.'” (Emboldened italics mine)

These are hard truths to swallow. They are truths it is easier not to look at, if we’re honest. Psalm 91 makes us feel safe and secure. 2 Timothy 3 and Mark 10 make us want to reconsider our passionate declarations of following Jesus. If it means losing all, are we still game? If it means suffering, will we still follow? If it means more pain than earthly gain, are we still able to utter our “yes” with confidence?

Truth be told, in the depths of your heart, have you embraced the “and” which God has written for your sake?

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, we must be grounded in the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. God promises us deliverance…and danger. In both, we are assured of His faithful Presence, and that is what is supposed to keep us from being shaken.

There will be times appointed for battling – for standing your ground and refusing to let the enemy have what He has come for. But there will also be times appointed for rest and acceptance – for embracing what God said would and must come, and knowing that He has not given you over to the enemy or abandoned you in the midst of your trial, but is rather fulfilling His Word in a way you may not understand. In both instances, His faithfulness is sure. Are you able to not only confess this, but believe it in the shattered pieces that will lay at your feet?

A good test I like to give myself in this regard centers on another little word: “if.” Take the most precious people, relationships and things you have, one at a time, and ask yourself, “If I were to lose ___________, would I be okay? Could I still trust God and truly believe that He is good?” If fear or dread strikes your heart, there is a good chance you have some digging to do with God. There’s a good chance He is extending that invitation to you.

Of course, no one instinctively rejoices at the thought of loss or pain, and only you and God know what your heart is truly believing. I offer this as nothing more than an encouragement and exhortation to go deeper and to grow stronger and more rooted in your union with Christ. When we cling to anything more than we cling to Him – which often happens unintentionally and without our awareness – we are in danger of living superficially. And superficial followers, according to Scripture, don’t make it to the end. They don’t receive the prize that’s been promised. The enemy is too easily able to dissuade them. How I pray this will not be you and me!

Do a heart check today, Beloved. Ask God to make you brave enough to examine your declarations, and ask Him to show you what you might be avoiding, in an effort to remain “safe” and comfortable. We are moving toward more chaos and darkness on our way to seeing the return of Christ, and God wants to ensure that we will be able to stand through it. We may face more loss and devastation than we want to think about, but God wants us to know – in the depths of our souls – that He is still good, and still with us, and still fulfilling His promises.

Trade your “but” for God’s “and,” and embrace the full revelation of His truth. It is powerful and life-giving, even when it is stripping. Get beneath the surface and root yourself in His incredible, perfect love. It is the only truly safe place to live.

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}


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