I asked a simple question during my morning prayers yesterday. “What is true about me, Jesus?”
Why am I struggling with things that should be simple? Why am I stressed? Sad? Confused? Tired? Romans 8:27 says, “He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.” He can tell me what’s true about myself with more clarity, accuracy and purity than I can possibly muster.
I know John 16:33 says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” I’m not referring to these “normal” trials and problems — though they certainly happen — and can sometimes be consequences of my heart’s condition.
I’m talking about subtleties. The tears that were present just behind my eyes all day yesterday; yet I couldn’t quite put a name them. The tension in my neck and shoulders. The confusion about my future and today’s big decisions. Even with my limited understanding, I was pretty sure that a large part of my problems and these feelings… began within me.
When I asked, “What is true about me, Jesus?” the following words came to me in my prayer journaling — I believe at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
“You try to run in your own strength without returning to me to receive my resurrection power. What you receive from your time with me is quickly “used up,” but often you don’t sense your spiritual depletion. Being spiritually dry feels “normal” because so much of your life has been lived performing outside of my abundance. You begin in surrender with a heart focused on me, but quickly shift to dependence on your natural gifts and abilities instead of me. Learn to see your negative emotions as indicators of your desperate need to seek my face frequently and regularly.”
The thought isn’t new, but the words ring true. I am humbled and saddened at the thought that I can forget Him so easily, and go at it on my own — even with good intentions. I know that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) I also know that John 15:4-5 says, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Scripture backs up my journaling, as it always must. When I push forward in my own strength — I find myself tired. Confused. Overwhelmed. Sad.
As I was writing this post, I was reminded that the verse from John I quoted above is the answer to a question. I looked back for context — planning to transition to today’s devotion from My Utmost for His Highest (below). I hadn’t realized before, but I was looking at the same verse — different translations!
Here is the expanded context I looked up from John 16:30-33 in The Message.
His disciples said, “Finally! You’re giving it to us straight, in plain talk—no more figures of speech. Now we know that you know everything—it all comes together in you. You won’t have to put up with our questions anymore. We’re convinced you came from God.”
Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”
When God repeats Himself, I’ve learned to listen. Below is today’s Utmost for HIs Highest devotional that underscored my prayer time message (words in parenthesis are my commentary).
“Now we believe….” (I’ve been telling Jesus, I Believe! I want to live trusting and surrendered to YOU!) But Jesus asks, “Do you…? Indeed the hour is coming…that you…will leave Me alone” John 16:31-32. Many Christian workers have left Jesus Christ alone and yet tried to serve Him out of a sense of duty, or because they sense a need as a result of their own discernment. (That’s been me at times… and it seems harmless, even “good” and fruitful). The reason for this is actually the absence of the resurrection life of Jesus. Our soul has gotten out of intimate contact with God by leaning on our own religious understanding. See Proverbs 3:5-6. This is not deliberate sin and there is no punishment attached to it. But once a person realizes how he has hindered his understanding of Jesus Christ, and caused uncertainties, sorrows, and difficulties for himself, it is with shame and remorse that he has to return. (Here I am Lord! I believe; help my unbelief!)
We need to rely on the resurrection life of Jesus on a much deeper level than we do now. (Amen!) We should get in the habit of continually seeking His counsel on everything, (I’m planning to really expand on what seeking His counsel on EVERYTHING looks like for me) instead of making our own commonsense decisions and then asking Him to bless them. (This one has gotten me into trouble more than once! He always forgives… but there are consequences.) He cannot bless them; it is not in His realm to do so, and those decisions are severed from reality. If we do something simply out of a sense of duty, we are trying to live up to a standard that competes with Jesus Christ. We become a prideful, arrogant person, thinking we know what to do in every situation. (OUCH! Thank you for your forgiveness.) We have put our sense of duty on the throne of our life, instead of enthroning the resurrection life of Jesus. We are not told to “walk in the light” of our conscience or in the light of a sense of duty, but to “walk in the light as He is in the light…” 1 John 1:7. When we do something out of a sense of duty (or relying on our own common sense, talents and even spiritual gifts), it is easy to explain the reasons for our actions to others. But when we do something out of obedience to the Lord, there can be no other explanation— just obedience. That is why a saint can be so easily ridiculed and misunderstood. (I have felt this kind of “misunderstood” by man and it’s NOT comfortable… but oh how sweet it is knowing I’m right where Jesus asked me to be.)
Can you relate? In my journaling, He went on to say…
- Overeating? Seek me.
- Tired? Rest in Me.
- Stressed? Give it to me.
- Confused? Ask me.
“Not just in your journal and “prayer time,” but all day. And when you speak to Me, don’t just shoot a missile you hope lands in my earshot. Stop. Turn your attention to Me. Speak. Silence. Wait. Expect My answer. You can accomplish this even as your body continues moving if necessary… but wait for Me to answer, because you believe I will.”
James 1:5-7 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.…”
Matthew 21:22 “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Thank you, Jesus, for your answer that’s as simple as my question. I believe, Lord, help my unbelief! Amen.