Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:22-24).
I’ve heard a lot of opinions on the passage in Ephesians 5 about being a submissive wife. I’ve heard it described as outdated and sexist. Many women protest the idea of having to submit themselves to any man, even their husband. Some point out that submission should be completely mutual, that Paul was implying that husbands and wives ought to be subservient to each other. On the other hand, I have also heard that it’s a beautiful, even essential component of marriage and it’s a specific calling for wives.
I’m writing this post to share what I have learned over the past year and specifically these past few months on what it means for a wife to submit to her husband. I’m not sharing this to point fingers or make women feel like they’re doing a bad job at fulfilling Ephesians 5. I’m also not sharing this so that my definition of submission can be fully adopted by others. What I desire is an honest dialogue on the struggle of figuring out what submission means in the twenty-first century, particularly when every marriage looks so different and every woman is unique.
But I suppose I have to start by sharing how I began to figure out what submission looks like for me.
. . . . .
This past summer my husband crashed and totaled his car. It was his fault. And shortly before this happened, he had changed his car insurance to where he was no longer covered like he should be for incidences such as these. So as a result, he had to spend thousands of dollars, the money that him and I had been saving for us to have after we got married, on a new car. A clunky, dirty Ford Taurus. I hate the Taurus.
And for that week that we hunted for a new car, I almost hated Grant. Because here I was, having to drive him to dealership after dealership to help him find a car. Here I was, having to say goodbye to the money that we had put aside for OUR future just so we could pay for HIS mistake. I remember complaining about Grant and his irresponsibility to all of my friends and family. I could not believe that he allowed this to happen. I was so, so angry and let down.
And then we bought that Ford Taurus. And we were fine again. Life went back to normal. Except Grant didn’t go back to normal.
I saw guilt slowly eating away at him. The harsh words I had spoken were still piercing his heart. He felt like he had lost his dignity and my trust. To this day, when we speak of that car crash, I see the fallen look on his face and the regret in his eyes. He carries that time with him, and as a result, so do I.
I now know that the men in our lives will always do stupid things. But we are often guilty of doing stupid things in response to them, too.
Beating him up for this, along with all the other mistakes that he had made over the years, always seemed like the right thing to do at the time. There should be consequences for his actions, right? Why should he be let off the hook? Why should I show him the same amount of love and respect and trust after he makes these irresponsible, immature decisions? He needs to learn his lesson, I always reasoned with myself.
But my punishments for him always ended up being punishments for myself, too. Because I was turning into a woman that no man should want to marry. My efforts to control the situation only made me feel more out-of-control. I couldn’t stop my anger from being unleashed. I couldn’t hold back my tongue from swearing and yelling and saying things I didn’t mean. And that’s a pretty bad place to be in.
How did I let myself break all of my promises to not become the monster I once was? It was always a joke among my friends in high school that I was the meanest, most demanding girlfriend, but it all of a sudden wasn’t funny anymore. Not when this man who was so good to me was carrying around so much guilt that he wasn’t even capable of forgiving himself.
My efforts to be in control, my desire to punish and yell at Grant for his actions, are what I consider to be the stupidest things I have done. And it’s these stupid things that I myself carry around with me. And when it comes up in conversation, it’s what makes my face fall and my eyes fill with regret. We both have felt deep shame of our pasts, of the things we’ve done that have affected and hurt one another.
And it was only when I finally saw this damage inflicted on our hearts did I realize that maybe showing him some respect, regardless of whether it’s well-deserved, could do a lot more for us than being in control.
And that was what I was always after, really: control.
Isn’t that part of the reason for why the idea of submission sounds so horrifying to some? Women, especially the ones who have grand dreams for their future and perhaps have been hardened by their past, just want some sense of control in their life. And if that means controlling their man, so be it. Anything to keep the attention and affection on them. Anything to have those large holes in their heart filled. Like the wicked queen from Once Upon a Time, we destroy anyone and anything in our path to what we think will finally make us happy. But happiness never comes.
I’m so thankful that I was finally able to open my eyes to just how little reward there is for gaining or maintaining control. There has been no gain to justify the hurt and anger that accompanies it. Respect between Grant and I, on the other hand, has gone a long way over time. It has even begun repairing some of the damage from that car wreck.
And the way I show respect to Grant is by submitting to him — small, daily acts of surrender. And God has used my small, daily acts of surrender to transform me into a woman who not only is able to submit to her husband, but is actually joyful to do it.
My small, daily acts of surrender may not look like much from the outside, but I know they mean a lot to Grant. They have meant a lot to our marriage. Submission has not always been convenient or easy for me, but it has been worth it.
I submit to Grant by bringing our household responsibilities before him and laying them at his feet. I maintain some control by handling most, if not all, of the budget, the groceries, the errands, and the housework (yes, I am that housewife), but I still give him a voice. I show respect for him by asking for his input on our finances and delegating responsibilities to him that I could just as easily do on my own. I trust him to provide for us instead of constantly pointing out where our money is falling short. I thank him for the things he does around the house, regardless of whether the tasks were completed in my desired time-table. Believe it or not, I even trust him to handle the insurance. Grant has given me the power to do all things for our household on our own. But out of respect and honor for him, I allow us to share the power.
I submit to Grant by holding back from making decisions without first asking him. All questions such as whether I’ll look for another job after graduation or if I’ll focus on my writing or if we’ll stay in our one-bedroom apartment or if we’ll save money for a vacation are answered through a dialogue between my husband and I. It sounds silly to bring all of these decisions to him when I could so easily make them myself. After all, wouldn’t he want me to be happy? Of course, he will encourage me to chase after my dreams and be wise with our finances. But that’s not the point. The point of bringing these things to Grant is not so that I’ll gain his approval of them, but rather so that he knows his opinions matter.
I submit to Grant by putting him first, like when I wake up at 4:00 AM on the weekend, on the mornings that I could otherwise spend sleeping in, to help him get ready for work and make him breakfast. I learned this from my mother, who does the same for my dad, and I remember many friends not understanding why my mom willingly does this. Now those same friends don’t understand why I do, too. Even Grant questions why we like to subject ourselves to cold, dark mornings for the sake of our husbands. He feels selfish for letting me cook him eggs and toast when I could still be in bed, but he lets me do it because I tell him that it fulfills something in me that was never fulfilled before.
My heart was so self-centered for so long that I felt empty and unloved the moment that Grant chose himself over me. But now that I’ve allowed myself to be more husband-centered instead, I feel whole and loved the moment that I choose Grant over myself.
In a way, I am using the control that I have to relinquish control to Grant. And this, to me, is submission.
I think that submission sounds like a dirty word to some women because they think that it implies a lack of power. Like women are weaklings who are only designed to serve their men in whatever capacity their men see fit.
But what I have experienced is that submission IS power. It gives me the power to let go of the meaningless things that I clung to for security and happiness. It gives me the power to become a woman who is modeled after Christ in the way she loves and serves. It gives me the power to choose a calling — the calling of a wife as a helper and family-builder — that is greater than my selfish ambitions.
The more I give to Grant, the more free I become — free from selfishness, greed, laziness, unwholesome thoughts, bitterness, and anger.
I remember when I always expected Grant to cater to me. Before we were married, I would complain when he’d leave for work because I knew that it meant I’d be alone. I would expect him to always be on his A game, planning the loveliest dates and surprising me with thoughtful actions. I made him feel immature and foolish for the way he spent his money and his time. I scolded him and yelled at him for decisions he made without consulting me. I put burdens on his shoulders that he shouldn’t have had to carry. I was not willing to relinquish control by any means. And all of this was just my way of seeking fulfillment and happiness, which never worked.
Submission, instead of control, is how I now pursue my fulfillment. And it does fulfill me. Because I get to watch my husband feel loved and respected. I get to play a part in the restoration of his dignity. And in return, I also reap the benefits of a fulfilled husband, one who is free to respond with love for me, just like the vision of the husband and wife I had always read of in Ephesians 5.
When I submit to my husband, I am sending him the message that he is capable and smart, that his thoughts and opinions do matter, that his mistakes are not unforgivable. And I realize through this that my mistakes can be forgiven, as well.
I am not perfect. I am no saint. But I am a woman who is committed to loving and respecting my husband, even when that means relinquishing parts of my life that my flesh would rather keep under my control or use for selfish purposes. I am a woman who, though she might fail to choose love and surrender in the moment, is willing to eventually put down her pride and guilt and try again.
Our marriage counselor once asked Grant and I, “What hill are you willing to die on?” And I remember realizing in that moment that I pick a lot of foolish hills to camp out on, fully prepared to give up what is most valuable for something that is hardly worth it.
I now know that I shouldn’t be picking battles with my husband. I should be picking battles with satan, the real enemy. And I bet that he hates what I’m now doing to Grant: letting him come first, letting his voice matter, letting him feel loved, letting our marriage honor God.
I have a piece of paper taped to our bathroom mirror that I look at and read every day. At first, I was embarrassed to tape it there because I knew that many people would see it and would perhaps question it or judge it. It’s a glimpse into our personal struggles, the things that many wives, including myself, would probably want people to think are under control and totally fine in their marriage. Regardless of the fear I felt, I taped it up anyway. And I’ve allowed it to encourage me on a daily basis to be the woman I know God has ordained for me to be.
It reads as follows:
I am on my husband’s/wife’s team and he/she is on mine.
I will fight for my husband/wife every day of our lives together.
I will pursue peace with my husband/wife.
I will protect my husband’s/wife’s dignity.
I will bear my husband’s/wife’s burdens.
I submit myself to my husband/wife.
I will release all anger and bitterness toward my husband/wife.
I will believe in my husband/wife.
This is my personal motto and vision for our marriage. I don’t live by it all the time, but I so badly want to. And maybe you want to live by it, too. Maybe you, like me, are tired of seeing your husband’s fallen face and feeling your own regret. Maybe you have experienced enough “control” to know that it does nothing but cause hurt in relationships. Maybe you want to be the woman that submits to her husband, even if you aren’t fully sure of what that means just yet.
Submission will probably look differently for a lot of wives, but I believe that is one of the reasons for why it is so beautiful. It is a personal, intimate act between husband and wife that will mean something special and unique to the both of you. It doesn’t have to be explained or meet others’ expectations. It just has to do its job of forging love within your marriage. And it will.
My call to other wives, and even women who are not yet wives, is to pursue what submission means for you. How can you lay down your life for your husband or your future husband? How can you relinquish some of the control that you have fought to hold onto? How can you choose service over selfishness, love over laziness, and purposeful submission over power?
It will not always be an easy decision. There will be choices that don’t seem quite so black-and-white. But I challenge you to bring even those choices to your husband and let him join you on this journey. We don’t have to fend for ourselves or be left to our own devices when it comes to figuring out how to be the wife God wants us to be. We can lift each other up — husbands and wives, women and friends, mentors and mentees — as we pursue both our personal and universal callings.
Submission matters. I needed a car wreck to open my eyes to this truth, but you don’t.
A few people have been hinting to me that I may be not as committed to marrying my fiancé in seven months as I claim to be. This usually happens right after they ask me how Grant and I are doing or what being engaged is like because I end up being honest with them. I tell each and every one of them that it’s weird and it’s hard and I’m sometimes scared.
Yes, I do fear marriage. And with this fear comes another fear — that my fear of marriage means I can’t possibly be ready to get married.
But here’s what I’m learning: my fear of marriage does not primarily stem from my lack of confidence in Grant to be my husband. My fear of marriage primarily stems from my lack of confidence in God to make a way for Grant and I.
Confession: When I first began dating Grant fifteen months ago, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t last. Grant didn’t open doors for me, he was too strange for my taste, he hardly asked how my day was, and he was a terrible kisser. I had my own issues, as well, including but not limited to my infatuation with my ex-boyfriend, my consistent insecurities, and my lack of trust in Grant’s commitment to me.
I honestly can’t explain why we kept going, why I didn’t break things off with him from the get-go. I guess I was just curious to see what might happen. I wondered if Grant could change (because of course, I was more selfishly concerned with him changing than myself).
And he has changed in a lot of ways since we began dating, but not because of my own power. Grant has changed because of his God-given strength and the hand of God in his life. Yes, I have played a role in Grant’s transformation (I taught him to kiss, after all), yet I’m not the one who’s made him into the man he is today.
After undergoing a lot of changes in my own life these past fifteen months, the same is true of Grant relating to my transformation. Grant has helped me believe in love again, but he has not been the one healing my heart. He’s not the one who has made me into the woman I am today. That work has been of God.
Now here we are, getting ready to commit our lives to each other, and I’m scared all over again. I’m wondering if Grant and I can keep changing enough to actually make this whole marriage thing work.
We are still so messed up — my insecurity and anger somehow feeding into his fear and passivity, and vice versa. Fight or flight kicks in. Sometimes I am still about ready to quit. So yes, when people hint that I may not be all that committed to marrying the one I love, they are absolutely right.
I am not committed to marrying Grant if it means that I’ll forever be this woman and he’ll forever be this man. This, to me, means a doomed marriage and a miserable life.
If there’s no chance of change, transformation, or growth, what good would “for better or for worse” be? We would never know anything better or anything worse. We would only know sameness — the same fights, the same pain, the same joy and love every single day. I don’t want that. My love for Grant at forty better trump the love I have for him now at twenty. I don’t want to make a commitment that only means reliving this season over and over again for the rest of my life.
You probably don’t want such a marriage either. We naturally crave growth and progress, no matter how much we love the person sitting across from us at the table.
With this in mind, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for me to sometimes come across as ready to jump ship; I am scaring myself silly by picturing a stale, unmoving, and unsatisfactory future! A marriage like that could be considered one of Dante’s layers of hell.
But here’s what calms my fears: my growing faith that God is a God of hope, renewal, and transformation.
And when I call to mind God’s provision in the past and remind myself of his promises in Scripture for our future, I am so ready to commit, I’d elope today.
I’m like Noah yelling at Allie: “It’s gonna be really hard, and we’re gonna have to work at this every day. But I wanna do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.”
Noah can say this because he knows that people don’t remain the same. He knows that they’re going to have to work at being in a relationship every single day for the rest of their lives. Allie is going to have to let go of her fears, as well as her fiancé and her desire to make her family happy. And he knows that over time, they will both have to become different people because only then will they have a chance at a thriving future together.
“Will you do something for me? Please? Will you just picture your life for me? Thirty years from now? Forty years from now? What’s it look like? If it’s with that guy, go. Go! I lost you once. I think I can do it again if I thought it’s what you really wanted. But don’t you take the easy way out,” he begs Allie as hopeful, teary-eyed women everywhere root for them.
When I place my confidence in God, I once again become aware that the people Grant and I are right now are not the people we will be forever. We are being transformed into Jesus’ likeness “with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
As I become more God-aware in the context of our marriage, it doesn’t seem so frightening anymore. It’s still going to be hard, no doubt about that. But it sounds do-able, so do-able that Scripture actually boasts about it.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless… This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-23,25-27,32).
God boasts in his design of marriage because it is like the beautiful relationship between Christ and the Church. And such a beautiful and sacrificial relationship can be a reality for wives and husbands, no matter how much a profound mystery it may be.
Grant and I want this kind of marriage for ourselves and we believe we can have it. Though we are flawed and doomed to disappoint, God is perfect and faithful to provide.
The transformation that’s required of us as a husband and wife is up to him (and he’s already begun the work). The finances we will need for our shared life will have to be provided by him (and we’ve already seen him provide). The faithfulness marriage calls for will be nurtured and strengthened in us through him (and as you can see, I still have some faithfulness left in me yet). All the glory really must go to God.
I’m not writing this post to defend my decision to marry Grant. I’m actually writing this as a reference and reminder for myself. When I am tempted to focus solely on who Grant and I are in this moment, I know I’m going to need a fresh dose of God-awareness. I have to remember that transformation is taking place and it’s only because of the power of God that we’ll ever have a chance of glorifying him with our relationship for the rest of our lives.
And if you’re thinking of marriage or working towards marriage, then let this be a reminder for you, as well. A beautiful, Christ-centered marriage can be a reality, but not because of your own hard work and merit. You will always fall short and your partner will always fall short. It’s only because of the goodness and power of God that a beautiful, Christ-centered marriage can be a reality.
And if all of this is true, you and I don’t need more fight or flight; we need more faith.
The kind of faith that makes you look at your partner in the eye after they’ve failed you for the hundredth time and helps you say those three words, “I forgive you.”
The kind of faith that makes you bring your partner’s burdens to the feet of Jesus instead of just your own because you know there’s an enemy coming after your partner when you’re not even around and only God can protect him.
The kind of faith that knows that you are not responsible for the growth of your partner and God’s charge for you is to simply love them and build them up despite any frustration, bitterness, or pain.
The kind of faith that empowers you to love with more than a cheap, earthly, conditional love. The kind of faith that will sustain and protect you before your vows, as well as long after them.
I am praying and hoping that God grows this kind of faith in my heart, as well as Grant’s. Right now, I am also praying that he grows this kind of faith in YOUR heart because I know there will come a time when you’ll be scared, too. And when that day comes, I pray that you won’t listen to the lies and you will instead pursue truth.
The truth is that becoming the husband or wife you desire to be doesn’t happen overnight, and you won’t get the husband or wife you desire to have overnight either. Important, sacred things like marriage take time. God’s work takes time. Do what you can with what you have right now, but trust God to do the rest.
Marriage was his design; he will see it to completion (Philippians 1:6).
Many of us are in the in-between of life. What do I mean by this?
We are in a season where we are waiting for something to happen. We are in a place that is unlike where we were, yet it’s also not where we want to be or think we should be. I call this place the in-between, and being in it often causes a perception or sensation of floating or not moving. In the in-between, it’s not unusual for us to look at the world around us and wonder why nothing is changing.
I myself am in the in-between.
I am a little over halfway through with my college education, but I still have several semesters of papers, homework, midterms and finals ahead of me before I graduate.
I am in my twenties and becoming an independent adult, but still live at home and am provided for as a child. I am transitioning, but not yet on my own.
I am engaged to the man I want to marry, but we’re not yet married. We still have at least six months to go with a wedding to plan and a joint life to prepare for.
I am working in a ministry I love and am passionate about, but still feeling like there’s something more out there for me. I have yet to solidify my calling, and I keep wondering when I will find that place where I fully belong.
I am nowhere near where I was when I first began following Christ, but in many ways I feel like I have hardly moved at all. I’m still believing many of the same lies and fighting the same battles. I can see the other side on which healing and freedom lie, but sometimes I feel like I’m not moving any closer.
I am in the in-between in almost every area of my life. And I’m realizing that the reason these times and places of in-between feel like the most grueling and challenging is because the in-between is where I most often look more at myself and less at God. I have allowed the in-between to hinder my vision of all things Kingdom-related.
It’s not because God isn’t here with me; it’s because I’ve become so consumed with getting OUT of the in-between that I have been forgetting to look for or acknowledge him.
I have been blind to the divine work happening around me. I’ve been feeling alone, wondering if my prayers are getting anywhere past the ceiling. I’ve been missing the life-changing work the Holy Spirit is doing, and I’ve been unable to identify the favor of God in my life that has been sustaining me and providing for me all along.
I don’t want to miss these things anymore. I’m starting to change my perspective and put my eyes back on the prize, and I’m now realizing that God is not waiting for me to get married, graduate, finish my book, or find my calling to begin doing miraculous work in my life. He wants to do things here and now.
This in-between I am in isn’t just an in-between to God. It’s a place where prayers can be answered, doors can be opened, and true life-changing growth can happen.
This season of waiting in my early twenties is still just as important of a time as my thirties or forties or fifties will be. The things I am investing in now are still worth investing in, even though they’re not the things I imagine myself investing in forever. The woman I am becoming is worth the work, time, and effort that has to be put in, and it’s God who’s crafting me into that woman piece-by-piece, day-by-day.
This realization is freeing. I’m beginning to recognize the fruits of the Holy Spirit being developed in me and I’m seeing the blessings of God that are enabling me to move forward with my dreams.
The same can be true for you today. You might feel like you’re always waiting for something, like you’re constantly in-between, and you’re not getting any closer to where you want to be. But my friend, feelings can be wrong. Your perceptions can be wrong. At the end of the day, you are all-faulty human and God is still all-knowing God.
Your inability to see the movement of God does not negate the movement of God that is happening.
God does not operate on your time schedule or your list of priorities, and he’s not waiting for you to get your life together to begin molding you into the image of his Son, which is his desire for you (Romans 8:29). Your Father is present and active in your life, whether you see it or not. And he still wants to use you for his glory here and now, whether you realize it or not.
You have to choose to look up.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning (Psalm 130:5-6).
Do you know what watchmen do? Watchmen keep watch of a city or fortress throughout the night. They are on a mission to preserve and protect, and they do not let down their guard until morning comes.
How are you waiting for the Lord? Are you remaining faithful and alert, as a watchman is until morning? Or are you letting your guard down, letting distractions consume you until you forget the tasks at hand and what you’re even waiting for?
Now is not the time to stop waiting for the Lord. And waiting for the Lord doesn’t mean looking the other way and being caught by surprise when he comes.
Waiting haphazardly is not God’s desire for you in this place of in-between; you are called to wait expectantly.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:10-11).
While you’re in this season of stillness, do you know that God is God and what that means for your life? Do you know that his mission to bring himself glory through your life is true even today?
Look at Psalm 46:11: the God of Jacob is our fortress.
He’s the one we’re waiting for and the one we wait for.
Just as a watchman waits for morning because of the fortress they are charged with protecting, we wait for God because of God, because we know who he is and we desire his active presence in our lives. We are waiting for him to do the work only he can do.
I know the in-between is tough and you want a way out, but if you’re too busy looking for your dreams to come true, you will forget why you’re waiting. You will forget that God is still good and still working and one hundred percent worth waiting for.
The in-between is not an abyss. The in-between is a place like any other place — one in which God is sovereign and on your side. He is still for you. Even if you’re not for the current life you’re living.
I am praying over you and I the very prayer Paul spoke over the church in Ephesus once upon a time.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come (Ephesians 1:17-21).
In other words:
God, give us your wisdom through the Holy Spirit so we can know you and see you better. We need enlightenment, Lord. We need heart knowledge of who you are and what you’re doing. This hope you’ve called us to is sometimes forgotten. Jesus, I’m asking you to help us remember. In these times of longing and confusion, give us the ability to not only recognize your great power, but to wield that great power in our own lives. The power of your love, grace, and sovereignty is far greater than any circumstances we find ourselves in or any scheme that is set up against us. You are with us now and you will be with us always. Thank you. We love you. Amen.
Let me tell you something about my headaches.
I get these things called cluster headaches every now and again, and they’re called cluster headaches because they only come once a year and they often come in a large (and largely painful) quantity.
I wake up with them usually. And it takes me a minute to realize what they are, but once I do, I sprint out of bed for pills and a bottle of cold water. And then I have to run to the bathroom before the pills I just took and the water I just drank are puked up all over the floor. When I am able enough to get up from the bathroom floor, I put a Bed Buddy cold pack on my forehead and drag myself to bed. I usually writhe for a little bit, stop to cry and pray and scream and vomit and whimper. Light kills me. Standing kills me. Even sitting up kills me.
All I can do is just wait it out. Fortunately, cluster headaches don’t last longer than two hours. Sometimes they’re only fifteen minutes long. But the pain is still the same and I have that voice in my head that tells me this is never going to end.
Did I mention that cluster headaches have another name? Suicide headaches. Cluster headaches are considered one of the worst pains known to mankind and having them increases a person’s risk for suicide. Pleasant, right?
I’m explaining all of this to you because I had one this morning. The first one like this in a year. I probably could’ve expected it, but you always hope you never have to have one of those dreadful headaches again. This is my third year and it’s the exact same thing with the exact same thoughts running through my head.
Thoughts like I HATE YOU SATAN AND ALL YOUR STUPID DEMONS AND I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS BECAUSE I AM A DAUGHTER OF GOD AND I HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO SEND ALL OF YOU BACK TO THE PITS OF HELL IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST.
And then thoughts like JESUS, PLEASE HEAL ME. HEAL ME. PLEASE…PLEASE… PLEASE… PLEASE (and so on and so forth).
And then thoughts like LET ME DIE. JUST KILL ME. I CAN’T DO THIS.
And then thoughts like MY VOMIT TASTES LIKE GINGER ALE.
But you know what I think upsets me the most about these headaches? It’s not that they’re the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s not that I can’t stand or sit up or keep my food down. It’s not that I’m wanting to die. It’s not that my boyfriend is seeing this happen to me and has to hold my tangled hair back from my contorted, puffy-eyed face.
What upsets me the most is that I KNOW I have been given authority to command my body to be better and I KNOW God is good and delights in healing His children, but I can’t seem to get either of those things to happen.
My prayers felt powerless coming out of my mouth as the pain remained and nothing changed.
I had absolutely no control.
And that’s a scary thing to me because I almost always am in control (or at least I think I am). I don’t have much of a say in what the world does, but I can manage my own life and my own body and my own health and what I say or do. If I’m sick, I can go to the doctor and get medicine to make me better. If I don’t like a person, I can tell them to leave me alone and walk away. If I’m feeling something too strongly, I can write it out in a blog post or in my journal or in a song.
But today was a day in which I just couldn’t control things. I couldn’t control these bastardly headaches and I couldn’t control these ghastly thoughts and I couldn’t control the demons afflicting me or the God I expected to save me.
THAT is what upset me the most.
And that’s when the thoughts turned into WHAT KIND OF GOD WATCHES HIS CHILD SUFFER THIS TYPE OF PAIN AND NOT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT? WHAT KIND OF GOD HEARS HIS HURTING DAUGHTER’S PRAYERS AND REQUESTS AND DECIDES TO NOT GRANT THEM? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO BE LEARNING? ARE MY PRAYERS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU?
And I wish I could say that He gave me this awesome revelation or I was healed right then and there. But I cried and vomited and rolled around for some time after these things transpired. I am feeling better now, but the healing wasn’t instantaneous and I didn’t walk away feeling as good as new.
But is God still good? Yes.
Do I still have faith? Always.
Do these headaches still suck? You bet.
But do I get through them alive? Every time.
This is not a post about God being cruel. This isn’t a post about how He chose to not heal me when I asked Him to and how that was so utterly wrong of Him. This isn’t a post about how there’s suffering in the world and nothing’s happening about it.
This is a post on time. That one thing NO ONE can control.
God authored time. A clockmaker gets a clock to tick, but whether or not that clock is working, time is still moving forward as we continue to orbit. And God lets this happen because time is HIS and His alone.
Why did I get this headache on a Tuesday morning versus any other day of the week? I don’t know. Why does this happen year after year? I don’t know. Why didn’t my headache go away the moment I called out his name? I don’t know.
And I don’t think I ever will know.
Just like I don’t know why death has to come early for some people and why he waits so many years before giving us the things we’ve been earnestly praying for.
All I know is that God is good and He has been faithful to me even in my wondering and questioning and faithlessness.
His decision to not heal me of my headache instantly is not an indicator of a lack of power or goodness or love. It is rather an expression of his power and goodness and love.
Why would I want to serve and follow a God who does everything I ask of Him the minute I ask it? If He did, I’d be engaged to a man I now know I didn’t have a chance of having a good relationship with. If He did, I would be knee-deep in a career I now know I wouldn’t enjoy. If He did, I would be the most impatient and faithLESS girl in the world.
Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for (Hebrews 11:1-2).
The ancients– Noah, Abraham, Joseph, the marchers of Jericho, and many others– were not commended for how quickly their prayers were answered. They were commended for how faithful they remained when there appeared to be no answers. And what joy they must have received when their prayers were not only answered, but God was given the glory! He IS a God of power and goodness and love, they must have exclaimed.
If everything was done their way and in their timing, things wouldn’t have been the same. We would not know such ancients, such faithful warriors and servants of Christ. We would only know quick-fix prayers, which may do good for the body but not for the soul.
My soul has been healed this morning because I am reminded that God is the Master of time and He is a good one.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God has power to do what he promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:18-22).
I want to be like Abraham. I don’t want to stare at unanswered prayers and questions with skepticism and halfhearted hope. I want to stare at God, my good and faithful God, and I want to not waver in my belief.
I am persuaded that God has power to do what he promised. And He could’ve given me supernatural physical strength to send that blasted headache away forever, but He chose to gave me supernatural spiritual strength for my soul. That strength is faith. And I don’t see Him as a bad Father for that. No, He’s a very good one indeed.
I am healed.
I can find Jesus in a Wendy’s better than I can find him in the woods.
I told this to some of my roommates the other week and they thought it was quite funny. I am hilarious, am I not?
But I mean those words wholeheartedly.
I don’t find God in nature the way that others do. I just don’t.
That used to make me feel weird. Like why does everyone around me want to climb a mountain and watch the sunset together? That’s a lot of hiking. I’m not down for that.
Why do people get up at the crack of dawn to sit out on the patio and listen to birds while praying and reading? I don’t want to hear birds as I pray. I want to hear the sound of coffee brewing.
And I know now that that is okay.
Yes, nature is God’s creation. We are meant to appreciate it and see the beauty in it all. And there are times when I do. When I went to the beach this past April, I saw a porpoise dive above the water for the first time. It took my breath away. Never before had I seen anything so majestic.
But there aren’t any porpoises in suburban Georgia. There’s just trees and damp grass.
And I have found that I connect to Jesus a lot better indoors. It’s just the way I’m wired.
Up until a couple years ago, I didn’t understand that ALL people are wired differently.
Some of us connect to God through worship. I am one of those people. One of my favorite parts of my morning is when I have Jesus Culture praising God through my earbuds while I carefully fry eggs on the stove.
Then there are others who connect to God through studying. They’ll read commentaries upon commentaries, and sometimes they’ll have one of those Bibles with one translation on one side and a different translation on the other. They just want to soak in the Word and pour themselves into the studying of every phrase and punctuation mark. I admire their thirst for knowledge so much.
There are also people who connect to God through other people. They will sit down over tea and have meaningful conversations about faith and life. And when they leave, they feel like they caught a glimpse of the face of God through the well-spoken words of a well-intentioned friend.
Some connect to God through acts of service. In the lending of a hand to a brother or sister in need, they resonate with the sacrifices and selflessness Christ displayed toward themselves.
Then there are those who connect to God through prayer. They just pray and pray and pray. They are warriors of prayer, slaying the attacks of the enemy through declarations of God’s promises.
And there are, of course, those who connect to Him through nature.
And none of these methods of seeking the Lord are better than any other. It is a privilege to be able to seek God in our individual ways. He is not only inviting, but also personal.
I used to think it was strange when I would stand next to people during worship at church and they wouldn’t sing or raise their hands. We’re worshiping the one true God, dude! What’s your problem?
Maybe there was never a problem at all. People are just different. And the silent worshiper in church could turn out to be the most studious learner of the Bible or the most earnest prayer warrior. You never really know.
So that’s why I like to ASK people how they connect to God rather than just assume they’re exactly like me. And when they tell me they love nature and being out in God’s creation, I just smile, nod my head, and say, “That’s really cool. I like that… but still definitely not for me.”
I’ll go find Jesus in a Wendy’s and you can go find Jesus in the woods, and then we can come together and bring what we have found because we’re all on a pursuit together. How does that sound?
God is not enough for me.
He IS, but by the looks of my life and a true assessment of my heart, I live as though He’s not.
And It pains me to write that because I so badly want Him to be.
I know that the life I’m living and the life I’m seeking often demonstrates a hidden, subtle insecurity stemmed in the belief that God cannot fill me. He cannot provide me with my needs. He cannot and perhaps WILL not give me the life I desire when I desire it.
And that is a difficult place to be in because I know that’s not how things should be.
I’m a Christian. I’m supposed to love God more than anything (with all my heart, soul, and mind, to be exact). I’m supposed to desire His will above my own. I’m supposed to find fullness and joy in Him, not look to other things or people in this life to satisfy me.
But I’d be lying if I said I am doing any of those things.
There are times when I do love God more. But when I step off of that altar of surrender and worship, life goes on and I find myself whisked away again by love for myself. You wouldn’t know by looking at me, but I know my own heart. And I know that a lot of what I do is to fulfill MY wants and needs prior to God’s or anyone else’s.
There are times when I do desire His will first and foremost. I say it in my prayers, most definitely. But if I really did always desire His will first, then I’d stop trying to control my life. I’d stop resisting the work He’s doing in me, the little acts of obedience He has called me to do.
There are times when I am filled with the absolute joy of Christ. It’s like time stops and I’m just caught up in His love and wonderful embrace. But it never lasts. The song ends, the dance comes to a halt, and I’m left waiting for the next punch in the stomach. Or even worse: indifference washes over me.
Sometimes the hardest thing about being a Christ-follower is accepting that some things don’t last. Distractions, sorrow, and frustrations are always lurking around the corner, waiting for me to take my eyes off of Jesus. I feel like I just have to constantly look up at the sky and beg for more: more patience, more focus, more joy, more peace, more EVERYTHING.
What do I do, friends? How do I escape this life of constant longing?
I have no answers. I have a few theories, but I’m starting to think this is how life is. It’s hard, it’s slow. It cycles through various seasons, as do our emotions and relationship with God.
I can beg God to take my desires away, to strip me of all feeling and all longing for the future or for anything besides Him. I can ask Him to direct my eyes to be on Him and Him alone for the rest of my life.
But I don’t think He will.
Part of the reason we are given this life is to BE ALIVE. And being alive involves feeling, wanting, needing (and yes, hurting). The same goes for being alive in Him. These things don’t go away. I actually think they’re amplified. But it’s a good kind of amplification, the kind of volume that you know you want to live your life at forever. You don’t want to quiet the love you feel, the longing for Jesus that is suddenly stronger than anything you’d ever known.
I find comfort in the knowledge that Jesus was (and still is) alive. He walked this earth. He knew no sin, yet he knew pain. If he could walk this earth now, I’d like to think that he might find me and hug me. He’d hold me close, whisper into my ear and heart, “It’s okay. I know.” I’d stain his robe with my tears, all the tears of longing and wondering and confusion. And I think He’d cherish each of those tears that fell from my eye because He knows they come from a place of desire for HIM.
You see, I am pained by my lack of absolute dedication, focus, and love for God, but that in itself tells me I’m doing something right.
I WANT to want Him.
And sometimes I get that want. Not always. Not completely.
But when I behold His glory and His worthiness… boy, how I want to be with Him and follow Him more than anything else! The thought crosses my mind: He IS enough.
The thought leaves, but it was there. And I will find it again. And again.
That’s all I have to hold on to.
I can’t always fathom how God can be enough for me, but maybe for now that is enough for Him.
He wants me anyway. He beckons me anyway.
And if Jesus were physically here, I think he’d hold me anyway, too.
I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’ … my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16: 2,9-11)
The book of Romans has been driving me crazy (in a good way) for the past couple of months, and one verse in particular has stuck in my mind.
“Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)
These words are so fancy. Like what on earth does it mean to be predestined? And not only that, but also to be called and justified and even glorified?
I’ve been coming humbly before God and begging for Him to show me what this means.
I know there’s a powerful meaning here.
After soaking it in for a couple days, I feel like I’m a few steps closer to understanding the implications of this verse and I figured someone could benefit from this too.
I’m sure I’m far from fully uncovering the truth, but this seems like a good start.
Predetermined: to be chosen, to be decreed from eternity by God
You and I are predetermined. We are chosen by God for a purpose. The scary thing about that is we don’t know what the full purpose is. Some people have been given insight into God’s plan for their life, but even then they don’t know it to the full. We are so clueless. Yet despite our cluelessness, the plan prevails. God set something into motion involving us since before we even came into this world. Just think about that for a second.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Repeat this after me: I am predestined.
Called: to be beckoned and invited, to be given a name or title
You and I are called. We are invited to something greater. We are invited to God himself. When Jesus gave his life up for us, the veil was torn and we no longer had to have that separation between us and Him. Not only that, but we are called a new name. We have been given a new title. I’m not just Jessie anymore, and you’re not just you. We are now His children. Ladies, you are his precious daughter, his beloved. Men, you are his son, his warrior. He is so proud of you.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
Repeat after me: I am called.
Justified: to be declared righteous and just, to be accepted and allowed
You and I are justified. We are declared righteous in His sight. We are accepted. The word “justified” can be confusing and I have stumbled over it for some time. How could I possibly be righteous in God’s sight when it’s clear I’m so… NOT? But here’s the shame-shattering truth: from the moment you received the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, you were washed clean. You’re not some sinner. You’re not some lost soul. You are redeemed and righteous.
What does that mean for our lives? That means that despite our confusion, our wandering, our mistakes and weaknesses, we are protected by the blood of Jesus. We WILL mess up. I definitely mess up daily. But I am still just as accepted and pure and perfect. In my imperfection, I am still perfect because Jesus was perfect enough to bestow that perfection upon me. And the same is completely true for you. Once you are a new creation in Christ, you are NEW.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
Repeat after me: I am justified.
Glorified: to be made glorious (like Jesus), to impart glory to something, to be celebrated, to be radiant
You and I are glorified. We are radiant. We are celebrated and exude the glory of God. And because of our gloriousness (bestowed upon us by Jesus), we can in return bestow glory upon Him. It’s such a beautiful cycle!
The more we look upon Jesus, the more we are made to be like him. And the more we are made to be like him, the more glory we bring to the Father. This is mind-blowing and yet I feel like we pay it so little attention. We forget about this constant sanctification that we are undergoing. We forget that everything is used by God. We forget that everything comes FROM Him and is FOR Him.
We are from God and for God.
For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36)
Repeat after me: I am glorified.
I’m still learning what all of these things mean and I’m sure I’ll never fully understand. How amazing God’s truth is! It’s so amazing that we can’t even fully fathom it. Why would we serve and worship a God who we can fully comprehend and understand? No, it’s because of His mystery that we continue to come hungry and thirsty before Him.
I am so hungry for truth.
And if you’re hungry too, then start in God’s Word. Chew on what these things mean. Read the stories, the testimonies, the letters and exhortations.
I feel like we’re so darn busy sometimes, way too busy to let God fully do His work us. We’re too busy to hear Him out or really digest the wisdom and truth he’s wanting us to have. He needs us to just stop for a second and find rest in Him. We have to stop being such a “Martha” (poor Martha just can’t catch a break). We have to learn the art of being still.
And being still means that we cease striving.
It means that we cease striving to fill ourselves up with things that are not God himself.
Even in seeking truth, we can end up taking our eyes off of the truth, off of the main point. The main point and focus should always be God. The truth is found in Jesus. The wisdom is given to us by the Spirit. God wants us to know Him and He gives us all we need to do just that. But being still is a vital component of that.
I know this concept of being still doesn’t relate to Romans 8:30 directly, but if we are to understand the Word of God such as this verse, we do have to start with rest. We have to quiet down long enough. His voice is there, but sometimes we’re so busy that we miss it.
Be still and know that He is God.
We are predestined, called, justified, and glorified for Him.
I pray that we begin to understand more of what that means.