God speaks to me.
I get really nervous when I claim that around people, particularly those who are not as… umm… pentecostal?… but He does. Through the Holy Spirit, He communicates to me. And no, it’s not an audible voice. It’s just a voice that I know and recognize in my head.
And it sounds a lot like myself. Which also makes me nervous. Why would I think a voice in my head that sounds like MY voice could possibly be God speaking to me?
That’s where faith comes in, I suppose.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’ve had times where I thought I was hearing from Him and I clearly wasn’t. I was trying to predict things and declare things in my life that I had no business predicting. Lo and behold, those things didn’t come to pass. I sometimes accused Him during those times, as if He led me astray. But then I realized it was just me mishearing, me wanting answers so badly that I tried to answer them myself. And that was even more discouraging. If I can confuse my voice for His voice at times, then could it be that I’m confusing my voice for His voice ALL the time?
But I know I’m not. There have been times when He’s spoken so clearly to my heart. That voice in my head guides me into His love. Sometimes it guides me to love others and speak into people’s lives on things I would never think to speak of out of my own power and knowledge. I am given insight, prophetic words if you will.
I know not everyone believes in this kind of stuff, but it’s all real to me.
Let me tell you something, though. About a year after I began actively hearing God, I stopped listening. Something happened where I just didn’t know if I could trust that voice anymore. I was “hearing” things about my future and my family that ended up not being right, and that just threw me for a loop. Things had never been so wrong. I had never felt so wrong. Guess this was all just a lie, I told myself. And that time of freeing, reciprocated communication came to an end.
But a couple months ago, I began listening again. I stopped trying to put Him on mute. What a beautiful time of whispers and assurances and loving guidance this has been.
But the thoughts still linger: What if it’s not real? What if this is just me? What if I’m just really good at talking to myself?
I’m afraid of both losing my faith and finding my faith. I don’t want to put up a wall between God and I, but I also don’t want to be naive.
I’m at the point now where I’ve decided that whether I’m right or wrong or a little in-between, I like this relationship thing I have going on with Him. It’s a give-and-receive, hear-and-listen kind of relationship that’s changed my view of God and myself.
The doubt remains, but right now I’m taking baby steps, sitting before God in the mornings and letting Him speak words to me while I’m trying my hardest to soak them in.
I think He understands how hard this is. Surely He’s not blind to the obvious— He’s up there and we’re down here, and there’s A LOT of room for misinterpretation and questioning.
When I was praying about these doubts of mine a couple days ago, I was led to these verses in Psalm 139:
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand– when I awake, I am still with you (v. 17-18).
If King David was given a glimpse into the thoughts of God, then perhaps God really is revealing some of His thoughts to me, too. After all, I have the Holy Spirit. And I don’t think God has changed His mind on wanting to communicate with His children.
And you want to know what I think? David probably wrestled with some of the same things. I mean, the guy was a king and then he committed this sin and ended up being hated and then was chased out of his kingdom. There’s no way he was just a happy-go-lucky camper who believed a hundred percent of the time that God was always there and speaking to him. And I know this because all throughout his Psalms, we see things like:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I find no rest (Psalm 22:1-2).
He asks the same questions a lot of us do. He dealt with doubt just as we do. And I believe that asking those questions and dealing with doubt is okay.
If God is trying to communicate with me and I’m slow to listen or believe, I don’t think He’s going to sit up there in heaven, shaking his head in frustration.
No, I believe He would pursue further. As Jesus took Thomas’ hand and showed him his wounds, I believe He’ll show me what I need to see, as well. He doesn’t want to leave us in our small-mindedness or doubt.
Look, Jessie. I know you don’t want to believe these words. I know you don’t think it could be true that I would want to speak to you and spend time with you just as eagerly as you do with me. But I do. Look at these wounds in my side. Look at my scarred hand. Look what I did so we wouldn’t have to be apart! And this Holy Spirit that’s inside of you now isn’t some fictional mass in your body. It’s me. I want to be your friend, your counselor, your guide. You don’t have to find your way in the dark by yourself. You don’t have to silence the enemy’s lies on your own. I’m here. Look at me. Hear me calling you now.
I’m being careful, only allowing myself to believe so much and take in what I know to be absolutely true. My faith is growing again, though. And I’m again finding some of the joy and peace that I felt like I was missing during that year of silence.
God doesn’t deserve to be muted. Even my own voice doesn’t deserve to be muted. I was given this voice from the Creator, was I not? I need to listen to both, discerning what is true and good and holy.
And I definitely need to kick that stupid satan’s voice out, too. Which is a work in progress.
I’m forever going to hear voices in my head and I want to pursue the truth that those voices are communicating to me while dismantling the lies that try to come between God and I.
I’m still scared of being wrong, but if I’m right— well, what a beautiful thing.
I don’t think I could leave Clarkston right now even if I tried.
It’s not because this place is better than home. It’s not because I enjoy my roommates’ company more than my family, boyfriend, and hometown friends. It’s not even because the food is better here (which it is).
I don’t think I could leave Clarkston because it feels like God has me here. Not in a forceful, “thou-shalt-forever-remain-stuck-under-my-command” kind of way, but in a loving, powerful “hey-you-know-that-I-have-you-here-for-a-reason” kind of way.
While reading Psalm 139 this afternoon, I was drawn to verse 5:
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Guys, God has hemmed me in. And it’s one of the most relieving feelings to know that in this moment I’m in the right place. I can’t speak for tomorrow or the day after that, but I can certainly speak for today.
His hand is upon me here. I can tell because I’ve been struggling against it. Some might take that as a sign that it is NOT God’s will for me to remain in Clarkston, but I know myself well enough to realize that the times I’ve fought the hardest against where I am are the times I’ve belonged the most in those places.
I think back to how badly I wanted to run away before starting my freshman year of college. I imagined hopping on a plane and spending the rest of my life sipping Arabian coffee with my new Henna-adorned Muslim friends in a land far away from suburbia.
And then I recall how much it hurt to be turned down from my dream internship a year later, the internship that would’ve taken me away from the most painful and eye-opening experience I have had in my almost-twenty years of living. The last thing I wanted was to spend a summer in my friend-forsaken town, but I did and it changed me.
And most overwhelming of all is the constant nostalgia-like longing for the future, to the days where I am no longer just an “I”, but a “we”– someone’s wife and mother. Never do I feel more of a calling on my life than when I think of the baby-nursing, diaper-changing, marriage-protecting days I believe are coming.
Time and time again, I have felt stuck, just longing, DYING, to leave my home and the life I’m currently living. God, please just let me fast-forward to a different time, a different place. I’d give anything.
But looking back, I can see now that God had purposefully hemmed me in. His hand had been upon me in the places I had felt forsaken. And though I wrestled against these many circumstances, I eventually found a way to surrender. Surrender doesn’t come easily to me, but freeing things in life rarely do.
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been wrestling against being in Clarkston. For reasons I’m not even sure I understand fully, I often think of leaving. I picture myself spending these summer days at home, sipping coffee and writing meaningful blog posts as I rest against my pillow-filled chaise, my dog resting against me. That’s where I belong, I think.
But God thinks otherwise.
I know this because He’s been opening my eyes to Him and to beautiful things while I’ve been here. I’ve been so busy wrestling for the past month that I’m sure I’ve missed some of what He’s been trying to show me. But I’m starting to see more clearly.
His presence asks me to remain present, so I will dutifully stay.
There is a beauty in being hemmed in. It feels like maybe the place I am in is covered in grace. Even I am covered in grace. And I don’t want to miss these beautiful, grace-filled moments anymore.
These are my thoughts for right now on why I am here. It’s still going to be difficult to make this place my home, but where God leads I have committed to go. And right here is where I’ve been led.
I’m hemmed in.
P.S. I know I’ve been so vague on what exactly is going on here in Clarkston. I promise I am working on sharing more testimonies and stories with you. I have plans on writing more informative pieces in the next couple of weeks so perhaps the pieces will fall into place for my curious readers on what is happening here. To tell you the truth, I’m still a little lost myself.
But here’s some information I can offer for now: people are falling more in love with Jesus in Clarkston– missionaries and refugees alike. There’s still a lot of work to be done among these unreached people groups, but we’re witnessing how small moments of faith can result in great opportunities.
Keep an eye out for blog posts to come.
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)
I want to be blessed. I desire God’s favor upon my life. I don’t think that is a shameful desire in any way, and I believe God planted that desire in me.
But I have the hardest time figuring out how to get that blessing. A lot of the time I feel like I can earn it. Like maybe if I just do enough good things, God will grant me happiness and blessings. If I honor Him enough with my relationships, then maybe He’ll bless my relationships. If I do enough in my ministry, then maybe He’ll bless my ministry. If I seek him more and more, then maybe He’ll favor me.
Then there’s this passage in the book of Psalms that I can’t overlook.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Indeed our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel. (Psalm 89:15-18)
God, I want that to be me.
How do you learn to acclaim God? How do you walk in the light of His presence?
If this is what makes His children blessed, then I feel like these questions are worth finding an answer to.
I’ll just say here and now, though, that I don’t have the full answers.
What I know right now is this:
- Acclaiming God means to praise God
- Walking into the light implies walking out of darkness
Somehow we have to learn to praise God. Somehow we have to walk out of darkness and into His light.
Here’s what else I know:
- I have learned to praise God most through my difficulties and pain. I have learned to praise God in joyous times, as well. But it’s the dark times in my life and the overcoming of that darkness that has taught me what truly worshiping God and surrendering to God means.
- I have walked into the light most when I have finally bared my soul and let the darkness go. Not just to God, but to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I can walk in His light by releasing my innermost secrets and desires to God. But I have experienced many moments of shame-lifting, freeing intimacy with people, too. I have found light by first going through the darkest tunnels, whether hand-in-hand with a friend or alone with just the Spirit in my heart.
What I’m thinking is that perhaps blessings must come through difficulties and pain, through the hard stuff of life.
It takes trials to remind you of how powerful He is. It takes rock bottom to remind you that He is what you really need. Through our difficulties and pain we learn to acclaim and praise God.
It takes darkness to remind you that you need light. It takes painful soul-baring moments and conversations to assure you that you are not alone and living in light is a very real, freeing possibility. Through our difficulties and pain we learn to walk in His light.
First comes pain. Then comes gain.
Isn’t that a major concept of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? The Beatitudes, anyone?
Amidst the hard stuff of life, we receive blessing.
And what is this blessing we receive?
Maybe it’s the next part of that passage. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Indeed our shield belongs to the Lord…
The blessings are:
- joy in His name
- celebration for His righteousness
- glory and strength of God
- our horn (our power and strength)
- our shield (our protection)
It all just sounds so wonderful. I can’t even comprehend what fully receiving those blessings would look like because here on earth everything just seems so pitiful compared to the beauty and glory in heaven.
The joy we feel now is not even close to the joy in heaven. The celebrations we have here are nothing like the celebrations in His kingdom. The glory and strength of God can only be glimpsed so much through our tiny human eyes and brains. And the horn and shield, Him being our power and protection, is a whole other concept I think we are far from fully comprehending.
These blessings of God are being unlocked here. I do know this to be true.
But there’s so much more we have yet to uncover. There’s still more praising and walking in light to be done.
And hard stuff must come.
So let’s get ready. Expect the suffering and the blessing because they’re both coming.
One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is wait on God. In many ways and for various reasons, I am actually currently in a season of waiting on God, which is a lot more difficult than it may sound. I’m sure if you’ve ever been in a season of waiting, you understand.
You see, sometimes it’s easy to assume our plans are the best plans and our timing is the perfect timing. After all, who should know how to run our lives better than ourselves?
What’s easy to forget, however, is how truly perfect God and His timing is.
As I’m waiting for God to give me clear direction for my life and waiting for my knight in shining armor to finally ask me on a date, I am at a point of desperation where I have nowhere and no one else to seek but God himself. And this, my friends, is just where I need to be.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).
In the process of waiting and finally running to God, I’m realizing that before my season of waiting is over, I must learn how to completely find my delight in Him. I can continue to put my hope in the promises He’s given me, but I must realize and accept that nothing else in this world can ever satisfy me the way God does. Until I realize that, I will continue chasing after things that are only getting farther and farther away from me. If I truly trust that God knows the desires of my heart and He’ll give them to me when the time is right, I must let go and just simply find joy in Him. Despite the pain. Despite the impatience. Despite the trials and temptations.
About six months ago, I was waiting on a word or appearance from God. I was waiting on a large booming voice to come from the sky, a glistening and glorious face to appear in my dreams. I just wanted to see Him and hear Him and feel Him like I’ve never experienced before. So I waited.
I cried. I pleaded. I begged. I yelled.
One day, as I was reading in Exodus, a passage struck me as peculiar. In fact, I remember I was quite angry.
The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, ‘Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them (Exodus 19:20-22).
Why would you stop them from seeing you, Lord? Why would you not let them come near you? These were the questions that rose to my mind immediately, and an anger resided in me.
After all, there didn’t seem to be any good reason for Him to withhold Himself from His people. If He loves them so much, He shouldn’t be putting up a wall. Right?
A simple reply from the Lord: They weren’t ready.
It wasn’t until months later that I fully understood what that meant. We truly have no idea the plans God has for our lives. He may reveal bits and pieces, but the whole grand picture is inconceivable, even by the wisest of all men. We cannot possibly wrap our minds around how great and awesome God is, and we also can’t grasp how perfect his timing is. We will always be one step behind Him. Usually many, many steps. And in almost all cases, we are simply just not ready for what He has planned for us.
I was not ready to hear a loud booming voice. In fact, I know I’m still not. I was not ready to see His glory in full. I’m still not ready for that either. Will I ever experience these things? I don’t know. If not in this life, certainly in the next.
But I do know this: I hear His voice and see Him more clearly than ever before, and it’s not in the ways I expect. It’s not always in the timing I prefer either. But He somehow manages to show up and present Himself perfectly. Every time.
This is the God we serve. The One who shows up at the perfect time and in the perfect way.
And if you think your plan is better than His, look at what happened to Sarah in Genesis 16. Sarah is given a promise from God himself that she will have children, but instead of waiting on this to come to pass when it is supposed to, she decides to let a little Ishmael be born through her servant, Hagar. Well, that’s an unnecessary mess. There’s a reason we’re called to wait. There’s a reason things don’t happen the way we want them to. The truth is, we don’t know what we’re doing!
Whether you have been waiting for a very long time for something to come to pass or you are just now entering a season of waiting, hold on. Delight yourself in Him, continue trusting in His promises, and most importantly, surrender. It’s weird to think that the things God himself gives us or will give us need to be surrendered, but they do. Sometimes we get so focused on His blessings, we take our eyes off of the grandest blessing of them all- the ability to be in a beautiful relationship with our Savior and True Love.
I read Psalm 81 this morning and found such a truth within it that I could not deny.
“Hear me, my people, and I will warn you-
if you would only listen to me, Israel!
You shall have no foreign god among you;
you shall not worship any god other than me.
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own devices.
If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.“
These eight verses hold so many truths for our own lives. We are commanded to not put anything before God, to not be idolators. But how often do we seek satisfaction from things or people that aren’t God? He wants to satisfy us, He wants to fill us. When we delight in Him, He gives us our heart’s desires. But instead we look to others, thinking they’re the ones that will bring us the most joy. No wonder we wander off the path He has laid out for us. No wonder we find ourselves in dangerous territory and destructive waters. He will shield us from these things that destroy us and eat us alive, but only if we look to Him for what He most longs to give. He is our satisfaction.
Today let Him be your everything.