11 “I cannot keep from speaking.
I must express my anguish.
My bitter soul must complain.
“One of the most consistent teachings of Scripture is that moments of difficulty will come. Rather than grumbling, we should pray and push forward, trusting God to expand our souls.”
This morning as I read the excerpt above from a devotional written by a well-known Christian leader, my eyes fixated on the words, “we should.” As I paused to consider the proceeding phrase, “rather than grumbling,” I became angry. I agreed with the sentiment of what the author was saying, “we should” pray. However, I found myself adamantly opposed to the statement that suggested what we should not do: grumble– or as Job puts it, complain. In the current season of my life, I have felt the sting of familiar religious phrases from the friends of Job who tell me what I should and should not do to end my suffering. The words they communicated may have been true, but they did not taste like the sweet fruit of love.
“We should” reeks of a religious spirit. Its motivation is that of obligation to the law, not love. Jesus never taught His disciples to perform the ten commandments perfectly to please Him. Instead, He invited them- He invites us- to love Him; thus, fulfilling the most important commandment in the law of Moses. The Lords desire is that we trust Him with all of our heart (mind, will and emotions).
I know about loving Him with some of my heart. I was what some would call a strong-willed child. And that strong will didn’t go away when I was born again! As a young believer, I was on my way to becoming a well-respected religious leader. A Pharisee of Pharisees. I worked diligently at transforming my mind. I disciplined my will to submit, submit, submit. But I was absolutely void of any emotion in my relationship with the Lord. I had spent an entire lifetime learning to stuff my feelings. I knew how to pray and push on. That is, until 2011, when I saw JESUS face to face while receiving healing and deliverance ministry from others in the body of Christ. During that encounter, I was SET FREE from emotional bondage! By the power of His Spirit, I could no longer keep from speaking. I HAD to express my anguish. My bitter soul HAD to complain. As I did so, the Light of the world exposed what was hidden in darkness, thus releasing a floodgate of tears that as Corey Russell says, turned into liquid prayers.
My friend, I submit to you that we SHOULD grumble, complain, throw a hissy fit, or have a temper tantrum! God already knows what’s in our hearts. Why are we so afraid of expressing it to Him? Do we fear His rejection? Do we believe He will leave or forsake us if we don’t perform our religious duties perfectly? Or do we fear what our friends will think or say if we absolutely lose it? I encourage you to read to the end of Job’s story in the book that bears His name. Yes, God rebuked Job for his pride, but He did not condemn him for expressing what was in his heart as he suffered great loss.
Let us, like Job, bare our souls to the One who knows every intimate detail of our lives. Let us trust that when we have a 4-year-old meltdown in our room, our mothers garden, or the Walmart parking lot, He can handle it. Let us believe He is who He says He is: comforter, healer, deliverer. Let us remember, He is a good Father, able to give us good gifts and a good spanking, when we need it. Let us be like little children, expressing the good, bad and ugly in His presence, without fear. This is how we learn to love Him with ALL of our hearts.
The Lord is my shepherd,
I [a]shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside [b]still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the [c]paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the [d]valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no [e]evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You [f]have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 [g]Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will [h]dwell in the house of the Lord [i]forever.
Growing up in the Presbyterian and Methodist church, I learned the 23rdPsalm by merely repeating it over and over again during Sunday Services. Everyone knows the passage – even unbelievers can recite it from memory at funerals. We did so at my mother’s Celebration of Life last month. I know the words, but His Spirit is making the Word known to me in the valley of the shadow of death.
It seems as if everything in my life is dying. I am surrounded by:
The death of my mother.
The death of our church community.
The death of our ministry.
The death of relationships with family and friends.
The death of our home in North Carolina.
The death of unmet expectations as offers are rejected on homes we’ve bid on in Florida.
In the valley, there are shadows of death. In the shadows, we are surrounded by darkness. In the darkness, our vision is limited. And what we cannot see, we will fear.
I’ve discovered that when I react to fear, I will either dismiss or deny pain. If I choose to dismiss the pain of death, I will rationalize my feelings by comparing myself to others, thus determining that I shouldn’t be depressed, angry, or disappointed. In that headspace, I belittle my suffering when stacking it against those that, from my perspective, are enduring greater hardships. If I chose to deny the pain of death by pretending it’s not happening, I will suppress my feelings, or try to avoid them altogether. The strain of carrying such a heavy burden will inevitably lead to a collapse- physically or emotionally.
With each passing day, I realize more and more that I cannot go through this valley alone. God has been faithful. He has never left me. He will not forsake me. He is with me, walking me through it. Although there are times I want to, I know that If I try to run, I’ll miss the green pastures and still waters. So, He is making melie down in the grass to receive rest and rejuvenation. He is leading me to stillness; to drink, so that I may be refreshed and restored.
My friend, I was made- YOU were made for intimacy with the Lord. But let’s be honest. In our busy, distracted, self-important lives, we rarely take the time to pursue Him. Heck, we barely devote any time to genuinely pursuing righteous relationship with others! But isn’t it interesting? When someone dies, our calendar miraculously clears. We’ll take the time to be with friends and family in their grief. We’ll spend the money on airfare. We’ll rent a car. We’ll book a hotel. We’ll take a meal. We’ll sit and talk and laugh and weep with those who weep. Death causes us to see, if only for a moment- the reality of life. It’s in the shadow of death that we ponder- and perhaps ask the hard questions. It’s in the shadow that our ego is revealed. It’s in the shadow that He uses the rod and staff to discipline us. It’s in the shadow that we feel the loving sting of His correction. It’s in the shadow that we feel His comfort and care for us. It’s in the shadow that the things of this world grow strangely dim. It’s in the shadow that we are redeemed. It’s in the shadow that we are restored. It’s in the shadow that we see the Shepherd. It’s in the shadow that we realize that we, like sheep, have all gone astray. It’s in the shadow that we are prepared to face our enemies. It’s in the shadow that we are anointed with the oil of joy. It’s in the shadow that we learn how to dwell in the Father’s house- forever, and ever.
25 After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned 26 to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land. 27 This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. 28 But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea[a] and along the Jordan Valley.”
30 But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”
31 But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!”
The Lord had delivered His children from slavery in Egypt.
He was with them as they wandered in the desert.
And He was bringing them into a new land…He promised.
After the 12 returned from their scouting adventure, they gave their report to Moses and the people. They all agreed on what they saw: milk, honey andgiants. But their responses were divided:
2 of the men were filled with faith.
10 were filled with fear.
The report of the majority infected the ENTIRE community. By believing what the 10 said, the children of Israel doubted what God had said. Subsequently, they were willing to go back to bondage or just die in the wilderness! Paralyzed by fear, they refused to fight the giants in order to claim the land God promised to them. Witnessing the massive pity party, Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes in deep grief, pleading with their brothers and sisters to NOT rebel against the Lord- and NOT be afraid of the people!!!
We’re currently facing the same test of faith.
A roadblock I continue to encounter in the wilderness, between Egypt and the promised land, is the fear of man. Being non-creative and unclever, it’s a tactic the enemy has used over and over again since my childhood. He’s convinced people- family and friends- even fellow Israelites to speak things which cause me to doubt what God has said. Most of the time, it’s very subtle and difficult to understand in the natural. But He is always faithful! When I ask the Holy Spirit for supernatural help, He gives me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand. Only then can I recognize the lies, be set free by the Truth, and extend forgiveness to those who didn’t know what they were saying.
God promised us a new land 7 years ago.
He sent us to scout it out.
We saw the milk and honey.
We saw the giants.
And…we heard reports from the 10:
“Did God really say to move to Florida?”
“Did God really sayto live in Lakeland?”
“Did God really say to relocate to be a part of a CHURCH?”
“Did God really say to leave your entire extended family?”
“Did God really say to close the ministry & stop meeting (church @ home)?”
“Florida is so dang hot… they have LOTS of hurricanes- and alligators!”
“Lakeland is a terrible town….and it’s not near the beach.”
“There’s no perfect church…why not just stay here?”
“Family is everything….I can’t believe you’d abandon them.”
“You invested so much in your ministry…it’s a waste to give it up.”
Yep. There’s been a lot of chatter in the community.
But we’re going with the minority report.
We believe what God said.
So, it’s time to prepare for battle…. because we’re following Him into the land HE promised!
Luke 14: 25-35
25 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them,26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? 29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30 They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
IF I want to be a disciple of Jesus…THEN I must essentially hate everyone (including myself).
That doesn’t sound like the bible at all, does it? How many sermon series are centered around this passage of scripture? How often is it shared and liked on social media? Regardless, it is written, in redlettering. There is a cost that is required to follow Him. There is a cost and a cross.
It’s our choice, however.
I’m currently in a “then” season.
I answered another “if” question 7 years ago. The Lord spoke to me in the secret place: “I’m removing your tent pegs….and sending you to a new land (Florida).” (read about it here: https://deepintothewater.com/2020/11/18/uprooting/) I must admit, I didn’t respond with great faith in the beginning, as Mary did when the angel told her she would conceive the Savior of the world by the power of the Spirit. Instead, I asked a slew of questions,
“What about my husband?
What about our kids?
What about our family?
What about our house?”
Still, the Lord was gracious. He gave me the gift of time and testing to build my faith. He gave me the gift of time and testing to count the cost. He gave me the gift of time and testing to face my fear of man. He gave me the gift of time and testing to confront the lies of the enemy. He gave me the gift of time and testing to receive the Father’s perfect love. He gave me the gift of time and testing to obey the Lord. He gave me the gift of time and testing to follow His Spirit.
IF I wanted to be a disciple…THEN I had to count the cost of my relationships:
- My husband initially rejected God’s call to go (which felt like personal rejection).
- Our children initially rejected God’s call to go (ditto to the above).
- Our family & friends initially rejected God’s call to go (ditto, again).
IF I wanted to be a disciple…THEN I had to pick up my cross:
- We closed the ministry we planted and pioneered for more than a decade.
IF I want to be a disciple…THEN I have to follow Him to Florida:
- I have to leave my friends and family.
- I have to leave the house we’ve poured blood, sweat and tears in to remodel.
- I have to leave some of our possessions.
The cost, however, pales in comparison to the reward of knowing the One who has called me by name. To the One who ran out to meet me when I came home to Him. To the One who healed and delivered me from sin. To the One who filled me with Himself.
There must be a call.
There must be a cost.
There must be a cross.
IF we leave everything….AND follow Him, we will see His plan, His promise, and His provision fulfilled in our lives. I’m living proof of it, my friend! His Word has NOT returned void. He said He would take care of all these things to fulfill His promise, including answering my prayer to sell our house, supernaturally.
“Lord, would you pleeeeeease just send someone over to buy our house?”
Our next-door neighbor referred her sisters family.
They came over, walked through, sat and talked with us …and later made an offer.
The rest, as they say, is history.
He’s calling you, my friend. Can you hear Him? He wants an intimate, deep, abiding relationship with you. THAT is the ONE THING He is after: your heart. Do you know Him? Does He know you? IF you want to be His disciple…THEN you must consider the cost to leave your family, your nets, your boats and follow Him.
Trust me, HE is worth it!
18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.
21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.