The funny thing is that I have hardly any memories of Skip and I after that day. We went to the same elementary school, middle school, and high school, yet my memories are confined to such a short period of time because I know that we fell into different crowds and didn’t care to remain friends. All I remember of him from high school was that he dated the same girl for years on end and I kept thinking to myself every time I saw them holding hands in the halls that I don’t know anyone else my age who is as faithful in a relationship as him.
One of the things I did know about him regardless of whether or not we lost touch was that he loved God very well. I also remember that he loved this country and the idea of fighting for it, and after we graduated in the same class from Sprayberry High School in 2012, I wasn’t surprised to find out that he wanted to be a Marine.
Fast forward a few years and I’m sitting alone in my house with tears streaming down my face and wondering why Skip had to die. And as I’m wondering this, I’m also fervently praying for his mother and family because I couldn’t bear the thought of what it must be like for them to hear the news that their Skip is gone. How do you get through the loss of your son? I remember thinking to myself. No mother should have to outlive her child, I also said with anger to God.
But I wasn’t angry at God that day. I was angry at the world. I was angry at the shooter. I was angry at terrorism. And also scared. Because I could no longer deny that evil isn’t lurking around the corner. Skip knew that more than I did. And knowing such evil and doing whatever possible to stop it from harming others is an act of heroic bravery. Unlike me, Skip had that heroic bravery about him.
Like me, most people these days like to pretend that such evil things don’t exist or aren’t happening all around them.
On the day Skip died, he wasn’t given the option of pretending. Skip was a brave and honorable man. He was one of the rare few in this world willing to lay down his life.
I wasn’t planning on going to his funeral today. Even though I was there when the coffin containing Skip’s body arrived at the funeral home last Thursday afternoon and I was also there when that same coffin was leaving the funeral home to be transported to the actual funeral this morning, I didn’t want to go to the funeral. The very scared part of me just wanted to be a witness, a bystander. I didn’t want to be a part of the mourning because then that would require doing something as terrifying as going to a funeral, which I had never done and never wanted to do.
But as I watched the hearse drive by me, I realized that I was already wearing an all-black dress. I had already completely filled my gas tank. I had already bought food to tide me over for a few hours. I was already unscheduled to do anything this afternoon. And lo and behold, I had just enough time to make it to the funeral. So I went. Alone. Unexpectedly. Slightly frightened of what I’d find.
Do you want to know what I found? That I was mourning. I was mourning for Skip, but also for his mother and also for myself. I can’t possibly compare my life to Skip’s life, let alone any experience of mine to Skip’s death. There’s no justice in that. But when I say that I was mourning for myself, I am indicating that something was lost in my life this past week: innocence. I not only became acquainted with the reality of evil more than ever before, but I also became more angry at evil more than ever before. I couldn’t claim naiveness anymore. And I HATED that man for what he had done to a godly man like Skip.
This past semester, I took a class on terrorism and I sat through the whole semester in that class without batting an eye. I even described the terrorists I was learning about as “interesting” and “intriguing.” I contemplated their motives, somehow had natural empathy for them, and would come home to Grant and talk about how fascinating the whole subject was.
But there was not a single fascinating thing about what transpired in Chattanooga less than two weeks ago. Not a single thing. What transpired in Chattanooga was sickening. Disgusting. Horrifying. And heartbreaking.
And I hated that man. Which, if you know me, you would say is absolutely out of my character. Jessie loves everybody!
Except it’s not out of my character. Hate is not out of any of our characters.
You know what’s out of our characters? To love despite complete loss and heartache. To keep going despite losing all that is most precious to you on this earth. To allow yourself to be put in harm’s way and even killed for the sake of so many Americans who forsake both patriotism and respect for servicemen.
That kind of behavior, that kind of love and strength, is not of this world. It is of God.
Skip had that kind of love and strength in him. It WAS of his character — because his character was molded and transformed through his personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
I’m sure Skip hated evil. We can all hate evil (if we choose to finally see it). But you know what else Skip did that I think is pretty uncommon? He loved what is good.
Many of us are in the in-between. We are indifferent to both extremes. We are touched momentarily by a sweet, selfless act and temporarily in shock from a terrorist attack, but we carry on with our ordinary, everyday lives. Skip wasn’t willing to carry on with his ordinary, everyday life. That’s why he joined the Marines. And I know Skip’s mother won’t carry on with her ordinary, everyday life. She will be forever changed by what happened to her son.
We aren’t designed to experience joy and pain only to carry on with our ordinary, everyday lives. That’s the pattern so many of us choose, but it’s not the calling God has for our lives. He wants us to be impacted and touched. Furious for the sake of justice. Jealous for righteousness. And as brokenhearted as he is for the hurting and lost in this world.
We all need wake-up calls. We are all on our way to the grave. Although eternal life will be waiting for many of us on the other side, we still have a life left to live here on this earth. And some of us, like Skip, will be leaving this earth way too soon.
What I loved about Skip’s funeral was that it wasn’t just a celebration of Skip’s life, but it was also a celebration of God’s gift of eternal life. We know that Skip is in the presence of God in Heaven, able to freely rejoice and escape the numbness that this world has to offer us at the cost of our innocence.
I love that at the end of the funeral, the pastor got up on stage and was able to give an invitation to all of those attending. It was an invitation to that same eternal life Skip now calls his home. And I pray that people decided to begin a relationship with God and accept the offer of eternal life in God’s Kingdom as a result of mourning with Skip’s family and friends today. Even the people who were mostly there to get good videos and pictures on their iPhones, the people who disrespectfully made Skip’s funeral look like a spectacle. If they saw the love and life of God through the lens of their camera, then I suppose it would all be worth it.
I guess I’m sharing all of this because I’m mourning in my own way, along with many others. I’m wrestling with how much hate versus love is in my heart as a result of such tragedy and evil happening around me. I’m praying for Skip’s family while also secretly and desperately pleading with God to never let me experience the loss of a child. I’m striving to let myself be changed by this instead of snap back to the naive, ignorant life I often choose to live. And I’m wondering how God is getting the glory through Skip’s life and death (although I have no doubt that he is).
My last thoughts on Skip Wells for today are that I knew him as a boy, when we were young and innocent and mostly unafraid. Now Skip is gone and so is that innocent, courageous youth we both once knew.
He became a man without me noticing and he was going to go off and do great things probably without me noticing, too. But now nothing about Skip can go unnoticed. And I’m left with the choice of whether I’m going to keep noticing — not just Skip, but all other important, even senseless things happening around me, both good and evil — or if I’m going to shut my eyes and choose ignorance.
You have that same choice to make. If you knew Skip, then you also have now known death. And evil. And pain. And loss. You might not feel it all right now, but you can’t say you don’t know that it’s there. So what are you going to do with it?
Are you going to let the evil and pain drive you into the arms of God and purposeful living, as it did for Skip? Or are you going to let it create a wall of bitterness, indifference, or apathy in your heart?
Skip doesn’t have to make that choice any longer. He is with his Creator in a place more beautiful and perfect than we could ever imagine. But you and I are still here. We do have that choice to make. And if we choose right, we may get to scratch the surface of that beauty and perfection, at least enough to get us through each heartbreaking day and tragic night until we get to be face-to-face with our great God, too. And if we choose wrong, we’ll only miss out. We might spare ourselves from some pain right now, but not in the long run.
Skip might have been afraid of death, but he was still willing to risk his life. What are you and I afraid of? And looking at Skip’s bravery and faithfulness, how can we maybe borrow some of that bravery and faithfulness to make sure we also live a life and die a death that is as far from wasted and purposeless as the east is from the west? I’ll give you a hint: even good and honorable Skip knew he needed a Savior. What makes any of us think we don’t desperately need one, too?
Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, we will miss you and we honor you. Thank you for being an example to others around you. I will see you in Heaven someday so please save a perfect peach for me.
Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out — the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.
. . . . . .
I have been this dead man’s mother.
I have carried broken, dead dreams. I have cried alongside coffins containing my hopes and wishes and prayers. Sometimes my heart.
And Jesus has met me on my way to bury these things. He has stopped the funeral procession in progress. Moved with compassion, he has stepped out of the crowd, lifted my chin, and whispered words of relief.
Sometimes when he does this, I look first into his eyes and then back at the coffin and say, “but they’re still dead.” What I have been carrying with me is still unmoving, void of life. I continue on with the funeral procession, desperate to bury these things in the ground and bury myself in sorrow.
But he replies, “You don’t have to bury this at all.” And with one swift motion, he approaches the dead and reverses the damage. He breathes life into what I never thought I’d see breathing again.
And I am reunited with my beloved.
I am rejoiced, overcome with gratitude and awe.
. . . . . .
This is a beautiful story of a mother whose hope was revived as Jesus interrupted a funeral procession and brought her dead son back to life.
And this, too, is my story as Jesus revives my hope and brings my dead things back to life time and time again.
I have been this dead man’s mother, yet I have also often forgotten it.
I have witnessed Jesus interrupt my funeral processions and breathe life back into my hopes and dreams, and then I have thrown accusations at him. Why didn’t you come sooner?
I have seen him change my life. I was even once that dead man. Jesus saved me as crying, praying mothers walked alongside my coffin. And yet I live as though I’m still dead, unable to move or see a future ahead.
I have been given by God what no other could give: revived hopes and dreams, a healing heart that once felt irreparably broken. And then I have felt the call of death come again, rendering me forgetful of His healing hand.
I find myself crying out as if nothing has ever happened. As if I have never seen dead things rise. As if I never was this dead man and never was this dead man’s mother.
. . . . . .
The Spirit inside of me contains the power to move mountains, yet I have been staring at mountains without making a move.
I forget the power that raised this mother’s dead son lives in me. I forget the work that has been done and the promises that have been given.
Most of all, I forget that God is good.
I question his desire to move my mountains because I’ve been staring at nothing but these mountains all my life.
Of course they’re going to seem insurmountable when all I do is gape at their largeness and question God in His faithfulness.
How is He ever going to prove His faithfulness in my life if I’m so quick to forget my once-dead son?
In Scripture, we read of stories where God came to His children’s rescue and they then built an altar to declare and remember what God had done. So where are my altars? Why am I brushing past healing, victories, and resurrections in my life? No wonder I can’t remember. No wonder I’m quick to doubt and fear.
Where is my good Father? I’ve been demanding.
Where is He not? is the better question.
. . . . . .
My declaration over today: I once was dead and now I am alive. My broken heart is being tenderly mended. My hopes and dreams have been renewed.
What has taken place is worthy of remembrance.
So today, God, I remember you.
This morning I began thinking about what it means to guard your heart. I hear it all the time, I’ve seen it in God’s Word, I know it’s what is expected of me, and I’ve been told that men have something to do with it. But I have to admit I’m just as clueless about what guarding my heart means as I am clueless about what the heck is going on in Lost.
So I did what I do every now and then when I want to get a better understanding of something God has said. I went back to the roots. I looked up the Hebrew translation of “heart” from Proverbs 4:23 (above all else, guard your heart), and what I found was enough to get me thinking long and deep.
heart = inner man, mind, will, understanding, thinking, resolution, determination, a seat of appetites, a seat of emotions and passions, a seat of courage
My heart is complex. I knew that already. And God must know it, too, because He sees it better than anyone.
But I didn’t know guarding your heart could have so many connotations. If my heart is all these things: understanding, resolution, emotion, passion, courage… then how can I guard each of them? Apparently protecting this complex heart of mine means a lot more than what this verse in Proverbs first lets on.
For so long I thought guarding your heart just meant protecting things from coming in. Now I see it also means protecting some things from coming out.
I say this because it’s so obvious how my heart has been very much at play in my relationships. After all, my heart is where love is found, like my love for Grant (forgive me for putting so much emphasis on my relationship with Grant, but this is where I’ve been doing a lot of learning and growth this past year). Many miscommunications, disagreements, and fights that I have with Grant are stemmed from something inside of one or both of our hearts. For me, it’s usually fear, insecurity, fleshly passion, or lies.
If I’m not guarding my heart, those things can come spewing out and hurt him. They have many times. I realize now that satan wants my heart to be unguarded because it gives me the opportunity to throw this crap up all over Grant (which he surely doesn’t need or enjoy). Satan wants me to feel like “anything goes,” like it doesn’t matter what I feel or how wrong I may be; I HAVE to act on them and force them onto the poor guy sitting across from me. I let those suckers control me and make way into my relationship. This makes the enemy very happy. After all, his goals are always to steal, kill, and destroy.
The only time these harmful things inside of me are rightfully coming out is when they’re being laid before God for him to deal with. My deep insecurities do not benefit Grant. I don’t want them spilling out before him because they only bring destruction to us. And Grant is not and never can be the true healer of my wounds. That doesn’t mean just letting them stay there and hiding what is really going on, though. I MUST bring my deep insecurities to GOD so HE can bring destruction to THEM. And the same goes for all else that is wrongfully taking place in my heart.
But here’s the other side to guarding your heart: there are things that need to be protected that are good.
My resolution, my determination, my God-given passions and emotions, my courage… these are beautiful and worthy of being protected. I must fight to hold onto these things and not let the enemy distort them or misuse them.
And because Grant has taken up the task of guarding my heart, it means fighting the enemy’s attempts to steal, kill, and destroy alongside me.
It means standing up for me when I feel too weak to get up. It means praying for me and declaring truth over me when I’m facing attack and lies. It means continuing to pursue me even when I argue that I’m not worth pursuing. It means pushing me to believe again when I’m losing my faith or trust.
This isn’t something that is necessarily laid out in God’s Word. There’s no manual for exactly when and how a man should fight for a woman’s cause. But we are given a why: because Jesus fought for his Bride. Men are charged with the task of treating women with that same love and ferocity.
Guarding my heart is a task I myself must face, but I am thankful that I do not have to face it alone.
This is what I gathered from my morning venture into Proverbs, and I know I need to continually bring this to God for better understanding and application. I’ve been too careless with my heart too many times. I’ve seen the catastrophic effects. But PRAISE JESUS that I’m healing and my heart is being restored. I am being renewed through intimacy with God. And that growing intimacy with Him only enhances my intimacy with Grant.
Show me how to guard my heart today, Lord.
This is my prayer. And this is what I’ll keep praying, what I’ll keep waiting expectantly in. My heart is loved too much to be left unguarded. It’s too precious to be ignored.
And this isn’t just true for my heart. It’s true for yours.
Being in a relationship is hard, guys.
I’ve known this for years, yet I still feel like I’m punched in the gut with that truth again and again.
I have no idea how to be someone’s girlfriend.
It’s a daunting task: to be the person they run to, the person they want to pour their love into, the person they want to support and appreciate wholeheartedly.
Because when you are that person for someone, there’s that little voice in the back of your head that says, But I don’t deserve it. And there’s no way I could be that lovely, loving person for them in return. At least that’s how it is for me.
I’m too selfish, too emotional, too messy, too prideful, too insecure, too bitter… how could I rightfully treat this man with respect and love when I hardly know how to love myself? How can I support and encourage this man when I can hardly support and encourage myself?
And he claims he’s a mess, too. Everyone’s got issues, he says. Baggage. But often times, I can only see my flaws and his strengths (or in my prideful moments, it ends up the other way around). And sometimes that makes a relationship one of bitterness or insecurity.
You have it all together. And I’m just… me. Awful, messy me. You should find another woman to love. Someone who doesn’t cry when things don’t go her way, someone who doesn’t pick fights for no reason other than her stupid insecurities.
Someone who always says the right things and does the right things.
It’s hard to remember that that someone doesn’t exist.
The other night, my boyfriend and I had this realization that we call ourselves a team, but we haven’t been acting like one lately. And my first reaction was, It’s my fault, while his first reaction was, It’s MY fault.
Isn’t that so silly? We both were so quick to take the blame.
And we could’ve just left it there. We both could’ve silently come to the conclusion that we’re messy, stupid people who don’t know how to be a good boyfriend or a good girlfriend. Beat ourselves up further and resolve to be better.
But that’s not what I want for him and that’s not what he wants for me.
So what’s a couple to do? Baby steps, my friends.
I asked how he was doing and he shared– open, honest communication about his week, his fears, his struggles. And I listened. I tried offering advice, but didn’t know if it was what he needed. I do think he appreciated the effort. But our conversation didn’t really last long. He had to be up early for work and I was pretty tired myself, so we said goodnight and went our separate ways.
And despite how I felt at that moment– wanting to storm into every room of mess and misunderstanding to set everything bad on fire and leave only the good, perfect, lovely things– that small, honest conversation was a good start.
I’m realizing you don’t have to hash everything out overnight. Every single issue, weakness, and insecurity doesn’t have to be laid out there on the table from day one. You don’t have to fix, fix, fix until both parties are dead tired and there’s nothing left to say.
There’s always going to be something left to say. We’re always going to have bad days and stress. We’re always going to have secrets we hold onto until someone pries us open. We’re always going to have moments of utter weakness that we beat ourselves up over for days.
You’re not going to make a perfect team overnight. You’re not going to make a perfect team over A LIFETIME.
Relationships are hard for everyone. Even the loveliest, sweetest of seasons in dating/marriage are eventually followed by hardships and messes.
We are messy people.
I’ve heard it said that a perfect relationship is just two imperfect people who don’t give up on each other.
I think that’s only partially true. What should be taken out is the “perfect relationship” part because there’s simply no such thing.
No two people can have a perfect relationship because no two people are perfect. No commitment is perfect. Promises are not always perfectly kept. Support doesn’t always come at the perfect time and in the most perfect way.
There’s no such thing as perfection in relationships because there’s no such thing as perfection in life.
The only perfect thing we have is a perfect God, and He’s the only one who can make our relationships into the beautiful, supportive teams we desire.
And even then, they can only be so good. Never perfect. That’s just the burden we live with until we go home to heaven.
So here’s my take on relationships right now: you do what you can with what you have and rely on God to do the rest.
I can show love to my boyfriend in the ways I understand love– kind words, warm affection, gifts and sacrifices. But when I’m stuck in my pride or my foolishness and I don’t even WANT to be loving or kind, I can ask God to strengthen His love in me so I can see past myself and forego my selfish ways.
I can offer wisdom to him when he needs advice or counseling– wisdom I’ve gained from experience and study. But when I don’t know the answers and I’m just as lost as he is, I can lean on God to show us both the right thing to do and the right thing to say.
I can be a sweet, fun, caring girlfriend– when I’m in a great mood or things are going great in my life. But when I’m angry at God, depressed for no reason, and feeling insecure in every area of my life, I sure as heck know I need the grace of God and I can ask Him for that, too. Lord, help my boyfriend deal with me. Because I’m crazy.
Asking God for help in these areas doesn’t mean He’s going to mold me into the perfect girlfriend. What it means is that I recognize my inability to be that perfect somebody for my ever-so-forgiving boyfriend and his inability to be that perfect somebody for me. And in recognizing that, God has the opportunity to heal me of some of my fears and insecurities, offer grace in areas I so badly fail at, and show me how to love in difficult moments. It reminds me that I can’t do it all, and that’s okay.
All I can do is baby steps.
Particularly because I can only predict my mood at this very moment. I can only guarantee I’ll feel nice and loving for the next hour. I am messy and unpredictable. I don’t think that’ll ever change. So I must take just one baby step after another, and believe that it can be enough.
The other night, my baby step was just listening. His baby step was offering nuggets of his life.
Tomorrow, my baby step might be apologizing first. His baby step may be relying on God through prayer instead of trying to fix things himself.
This is what I think relationships are mostly about. Not who will do the right thing first or who will do the right thing better. Certainly not how to be that perfect partner.
Just simply: when will I take that next step, be it ever so seemingly small?
I still have a long way to go. I’ll never win that trophy for best girlfriend of the year. But I can win the heart of the man I love day after day as I become more of the woman– messy and imperfect as she may be– that God is shaping me into.
Relationships will still be hard, but I think I’m learning.
Oh, here’s a photo of me with my wonderful boyfriend, Grant, right before we went on our first Valentine’s Day date. This stud took me to Waffle House (yes, I shamelessly picked Waffle House over every other restaurant we had to choose from… jealous?). Grant is very sweet and understanding of my strange, crazy oh-my-gosh-is-she-even-sane ways. He calls it part of “my complexity”, which makes it sound rather romantic. Oh, and he loves nerdy things, God, and me. So obviously we’re just right for each other.
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)
In the book of Hebrews, the writer is speaking to the Hebrews hundreds of years after their ancestors had escaped Egypt to venture to the Promised Land under the guidance of Moses, one of the greatest Jewish heroes in the Old Testament.
It is evident from the first couple of chapters that the Hebrews are beginning to stray from the life they were called to live. The writer is advising them to look to Jesus, not just the familiar routine of their Jewish tradition. Instead of worshiping angels, who were considered great because of the messages and laws they delivered to their ancestors, they are told to worship Jesus, who is “as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” (1:4)
Instead of relying on the Law to save them, they are also advised to find salvation through faith in Jesus, who was able to “destroy him who holds the power of death- that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (2:14-15) The Hebrews might have thought that they could find their way to heaven through careful practice of their ancestors’ laws and traditions, but the writer was reminding them that Jesus made a way to heaven through his death and resurrection.
In order to boost the Hebrews’ confidence in Jesus, the writer even says “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.” (3:3) This is a mighty risky statement, considering Moses was considered by many the greatest in history. He led God’s people to the Promised Land and was given the Ten Commandments. Yet Jesus is raised higher.
Moses recognized there was someone greater than he, as seen in Deuteronomy when he tells the Israelites that “the Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” (18:4) John the Baptist spoke of Jesus, as well. When questioned by priests and Levites, he denied being the Messiah, the One sent to save God’s people. He responded to their interrogations by using the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 40:3: “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ” (John 1:19-23) Isaiah, the greatest of the prophets, is speaking of One even higher than him, THE Prophet. Numerous time, major figures of the Old and New Testament attested that the Messiah was coming and He was to be praised above all.
So when Jesus finally shows up and dies for his people’s sins to make a way for heaven, why do the Hebrews resort back to the way of the past? The writer advises against this by quoting Psalm 95: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” This refers to the Israelites and how they turned away from God after their rescue from Egypt because of their disbelief. Even though they were on their way to the Promised Land, they still doubted God and failed to trust in Him.
“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.” (Hebrews 4:1-2)
The Hebrews were guilty of not having faith, much like their ancestors. They knew Jesus came to offer salvation, yet they still looked to angels, the commandments of Moses, and their rituals and traditions to save them. It seems silly from our perspective that they would still fail to trust in God and His Son, even after being told time and time again that Jesus is far more than worthy of their praise.
But don’t we do the same?
Just like the Hebrews, we sometimes tend to focus too much on works and actions instead of the relationship with Jesus we are intended to build. We can go to church all we want and tithe all we want and help the needy all we want, but without earnestly seeking God, what good does it do? How will we ever grow? How will we reach the relationship He desires to have with us?
Just like the Hebrews, we harden our hearts and fail to believe God’s promises and truths. We keep coming back to the same lies we’ve been telling ourselves for years: “I can find my own way.” “I don’t need Jesus.” ” I’ll repent later.” “I’m not worthy.” “I don’t deserve to be loved.” “I’ll never find my way out of this mess.” “God can’t use me.” “There’s no point in my life.” “I could never make a difference.”
Even though we know what God does for us, we know Jesus saves all who believes, and we know we will be delivered, we still continue to doubt at times.
Where in your life are you suffering from disbelief? Where have you hardened your heart? Where have you looked elsewhere for salvation? Where are you chained?