I have a lot to say for someone who doesn't have much to say.

Compass Cover w:Title

“Compass” Lyrics:

Push against the wind

Running to the storm

Where you lead

I’ll go

Though my feet are worn

 

Dirt may fill my eyes

Fear might steal my breath

Let my faith arise

In the face of death

 

Spirit

I’ll follow

Take me where

You want to go

No fear

Will shake me

Even in the unknown

 

Your power

In me

Teach me how

To let it flow

Spirit

Of Jesus

Compass of my soul

 

(Show me where to go compass of my soul)

 

Thunder in the skies

Worry in my chest

Still my troubled heart

Help me feel your rest

 

As the flood surrounds

You will make a way

For me to walk ahead

Or stand in the rain

 

Spirit, I’ll follow

No fear will shake me

 

Your power

In me

Teach me how

To let it flow

Spirit

Of Jesus

Compass of my soul

Compass of my soul

 

(Tell me where to go compass of my soul)

(Show me where to go compass of my soul)

 

When the storm shall break

And reveal the night

In the dark, I’ll walk

And await your light

 

With my faith renewed

And my heart refined

I will seek the One

Who gave His life for mine

 

Spirit

I’ll follow

Take me where

You want to go

No fear

Will shake me

Even in the unknown

 

 

 

Copyright 2018 “Compass” by Rylan Rivers

 

In January, I attended what my church calls, The Dream Conference. It’s a beautiful 3-day experience where you fellowship, worship, and hear inspiring messages that are meant to help you find out God’s dream for your life – also known as, your purpose.

My husband and I had attended and by the end (to keep a long story short) we felt strongly prompted by the Holy Spirit to devote our musical talents and desires to the Lord’s good purpose. Before we left, we ran into the Children’s pastors and were offered a chance to start and lead children’s worship! I was so excited, but deep inside, when we accepted the offer, I felt this odd lack of peace. I disregarded that sense, and we pursued after this goal, assuming that it was what God wanted us to do, considering we had literally moments ago surrendered our music to Him.

Well, several months prior, God plucked me out of my daily routine through an illness and I spent three days “fasting” from all forms of media, besides sermons. I prayed, read my Bible, and listened to sermons and nothing else. During that time, God had done two alarming things. For one, He granted my prayer to have a revelation of His holiness. He did this by inspiring me to take a very dark song I’d written, and turn it into a song about His holiness, then granted me the ability to sing it (I could barely talk before singing it and lost my voice immediately after recording it). Secondly, He told me He wanted my husband and I to have a child, and that this child was meant to come before the music went anywhere and would be part of our ministry.

Literally one week before I was going to begin as the Children’s Worship Leader, I became pregnant and the symptoms were severe enough that I had to ask them to postpone my start, possibly until after I had the baby. The whole time, I was thinking about what God had told me before: first the child, then the music. I was also considering that the “dark” sounding song that turned into something about His holiness and everything else He’d ever inspired me to write, was not exactly “churchy” let alone, appropriate for children’s worship. It was more appropriate for evangelism and out-of-church ministry.

Again, to cut a long story down, without warning, the church’s worship leader became involved and his daughters took our place in children’s worship and not a word was uttered to my husband and I. Honestly, I was angry and relieved at the same time. After much prayer, the Lord showed me that He had no intention of actually placing us on that stage. He was using us to help throttle the pastors into putting the right people in their place, while also teaching me a harsh, and well needed, lesson about where I belong in the body of Christ. It finally hit me that God didn’t design me to be a worship leader in a church, but to use my various arts to evangelize. He was saying, “stop trying to be something I didn’t make you to be, and embrace who you truly are.” I feel so liberated knowing that I don’t have to be like anyone else. I don’t have to change who I am to fit into some “Christian” mold, I am already molded into what God wants me to be – I just have to do it.

This experience is why I’m writing about purpose. I don’t want anyone reading to assume their story is just like this, either. All of us have a different role and God has deliberately designed us and our lives to prepare us in the way He wants us to go – the way which is most satisfying for us.

So, let’s look at seven different ways to find out what God’s specific purpose is for your life! 

  1. Your purpose is specific to your natural gifts and talents. (See Exodus 31:3-5)

As we know, God is the one who created us. He is a purposeful and deliberate God and is not likely to simply bless us with a natural ability that doesn’t have an important role in our lives. This means that the things that come natural to you are good indicators of what God might want you to do. For example, you might be a natural at cooking. Sure, you might take classes to further improve it, but you just get it in a way most people don’t. That could mean God wants to use you to bless others with food – something well known to bring others into community.

Our natural gifts come in all varieties of shapes and sizes. They generally are satisfying to us and unchanging throughout our lives. Even if you have seasons where you don’t do it as much as you’d like, you will always come back to those things. Make a list of your natural talents and ask God to help you see how these gifts are instruments of His purpose.

 

  1. Your purpose is specific to your spiritual gifts. (See 1 Corinthians 12:1-11)

You are likely familiar with the spiritual gifts, but in case you aren’t, a quick overview: The spiritual gifts are abilities that are supernaturally deposited by the Holy Spirit into every Christian at the point that you accept Christ. These gifts are designed to build up the church (the community of believers, not simply the physical church). There are many types (mostly listed in the scripture above) and they are all equally significant to God.

If you are not sure what your spiritual gift(s) are, I strongly advise you to ask God to help you discover those gifts. There are tons of resources available to help you understand what they are, how they work, and what yours are. There’s a good chance I will be writing about them soon as well. But these gifts are one of the biggest indicators of what your purpose is. Your spiritual gifts show you what your greatest strengths are – things that supernaturally charged by the Holy Spirit beyond regular ability. These gifts will give you energy, joy, and endurance, even when you are being challenged by an area of service. One of the best ways to find out what yours are, is to get around people and get involved in different types of service. Try children’s ministry or small groups to test the gift of teaching, for example. Try volunteering at a hospice or retirement facility to test the gift of exhortation. Keep trying until you find something that is deeply satisfying, and pray, pray, pray about it!

 

  1. Your purpose relates to your passions.

My pastor did an amazing job with this subject. He worded it as, God’s dream for your life is related to what you can’t stand. What he meant is that there are some subjects that just ignite a fire in us like nothing else. We might have one particular subject or several, but they will help us see the direction God wants us to go. These types of passions are divinely rooted in us if they correlate to things God also hates.

A great example of this is Moses. In Exodus 3:11-15, we see the familiar part of his story where he notices the Hebrew slave being abused by the Egyptian. This burned against Moses – the injustice, the lack of humanity. It upset him so much that he actually kills the Egyptian. Of course, Moses is chosen by God to face Pharaoh and free the Hebrews from slavery. Moses could not stand seeing the Hebrews as tortured slaves, neither could God. Those passions ignited together and led Moses on one of the most incredible journeys of faith in the Bible.

Likewise, when David faced Goliath, it was because he could not stand to see Goliath mocking and threatening God’s people (1 Samuel 17:26-27). Again, God couldn’t stand to see that either, so when David’s passion entwined with God’s passion, it turned into not only an incredible, miraculous victory, but David’s calling into kingship.

We can take from this by closely evaluating ourselves. What are some injustices that drive you crazy? What is that one topic that even if you were about to fall asleep a second ago, the moment someone brings it up, you are wide awake and ready for battle? Make a list of these things, from what gets you the most fired up to the least, and ask God to show you what passions align with His. Also, don’t get caught up writing things down that you should care more about. If you really don’t get fired up about homelessness or kids that are going hungry, don’t put them on the list. Something can upset us without it being something we are deeply passionate about. Be as honest as you can and remember God put those passions there for a reason.

 

  1. Your purpose is not necessarily the most “Christian” or “churchy” sounding thing.

 This goes back to my story above. You might have the natural gift of charisma, the spiritual gift of pastoring/teaching, and have a vigorous passion for correcting false doctrines and God still might not have designed for you to be a pastor. Yes, being a pastor is one of the most “Christian”/”churchy” sounding titles out there, but maybe God gave you all those gifts and wants you to be a manager in a corporation that shows people the love of Jesus by walking in the faith and that is your ministry. Or maybe He gave you all those gifts so that you could lead a faith-filled family, or both.

I struggle with this in every way. God’s shown me countless times that my role is outside of the physical building of the church, using artistic means to shepherd lost/confused/hurting souls. But every time I see those worship leaders on stage or listen to a Bible Study series, I doubt what God’s told me. God constantly has had to remind me that His purpose is not limited by societal standards, physical buildings, or religious titles.

This is one that I believe you can only come to know through spending time alone with God. Once you’ve looked at the previous steps, look to this and ask God to help you discern between the possibilities of your gifts, passions, and talents. Remember 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, where Paul describes that church is the body of Christ, and a body is made of different parts. You wouldn’t expect the shoulders to walk – so why would God expect you to do something He didn’t design you most efficiently for? And, why should you? There is a role for each person. Do not compare yourself to anyone else!

 

  1. Your purpose will cause you to trust in God more.

 God is not about to give you some wimpy dream or purpose. One of the most important roles of our purpose is that it will cause us to trust in Him, in small daily ways and sometimes huge ways, in order to accomplish it. Again, look at Moses. He doubted instantaneously that he could accomplish what God called him to do. Moses’s purpose forced him to trust in God with every step of the way. Of course, Moses is a big example. Most of us are likely not called to speak plagues over Egypt and part seas, but that doesn’t mean God’s methods have changed.

Sometimes it’s the smallest things in life that require us to trust God. Either way, you can always tell you are on the right path if that path is leading you closer to God and increasing your faith. A lot of times, this means God’s purpose might not make the most sense to our logical minds. We probably see lots of other, safer paths, than the one He designed us to take. But remember Proverbs 3:5-6. We are told to trust in His ways, not our understanding, and then He will make our paths straight. So, as you evaluate the possibilities, ask God to help you trust Him more. Focus on Him, His character, and His ways. We naturally walk in the direction our eyes are set on, so set your eyes on Him and you will gravitate in the direction He is leading.

 

  1. Your purpose may not be easy, but it will bring peace and joy.

One of the big mistakes people make, is they start going in the direction of God’s prompting and the second something goes wrong or it becomes difficult they think, “Oops, wrong way” and turn around. The thing about God is He deliberately makes your path difficult, not to hurt you, but to grow you. He doesn’t want your purpose in life to be something so easy that you wouldn’t need to rely on Him, nor does He want it to be so easy that you remain unfazed by it. Your purpose is part of the sanctification process. Sure, once you’re saved your salvation is in place and you are promised everlasting life in Heaven, but God still wants to do a work in you for the remainder of your life. What better way than through your purpose?

Here’s the catch. You can tell it’s your purpose because if you pursue it even when it gets difficult, you will encounter God’s peace and joy in spite of the trials. But you have to keep going and not give up yet. If you keep going and you never experience peace and joy, then that’s a good indicator that you’ve gone the wrong way, in which you should pause (be still) and wait for God’s direction. Don’t just assume it’s wrong. Ask God to confirm that it’s wrong (shut the door) and lead you back to your path.

After the worship leader’s daughters took my place, God helped me to do this. He told me to be still, and I was. I felt I had done something wrong and felt guilty, but I laid that at His feet. I asked Him to confirm if it was wrong, to shut the door completely, and to open the right door for me and encourage me to walk through. After praying that, my church randomly made a drastic change in which eliminated the need for Wednesday worship (the day we were supposed to lead) in the children’s ministry (they are doing kids small groups instead). Then as if that wasn’t enough, the children’s pastor resigned to be a stay-at-home mom and my whole connection to the children’s worship was eliminated, and I remained with my precious preschoolers. I have so much peace about what happened and am filled with divinely given joy, in spite of a lost opportunity, because I know I’m back on the path God designed me for. Look for those spiritual indicators as you pursue your purpose!

 

  1. Your purpose will help other people.

Lastly, your purpose is not meant to be a selfish thing. You might enjoy it (and should!) but it’s actually there to help other people. Everything God does is for our good and the good of the Kingdom. This means that as you begin living out your purpose there will be evidence of your good works around you. Of course, you can see fruits of your labor in anything really, but this will be something more. It will surprise you, satisfy you, and teach you. God will often, especially if you ask Him to, send people to encourage you on your path. This, to me, is one of the final steps to identifying your purpose: seeing how it sows into others in a way that is beyond your comprehension. It might not even be deliberate, but if it is God-given, He will ensure it helps other people.

The reason I say this is one of the final steps, is that there are plenty of opportunities to serve/volunteer out there, and obviously, those things are meant to help people. You can get so busy doing things that are good and helpful, but still miss the thing you would be most effective at if you don’t spend time with God evaluating your specifics. Of course, as I’d said above, you can try different things to discover what clicks, but just keep in mind that you trying to find what clicks, not just what works.

 

Purpose is such a big topic, and this is not an inclusive list or a fool-proof way to find yours. This is just what has helped me and what I feel God wanted me to share. Finding your purpose will not just happen overnight for most people. You have to take time, lots of time, with God in prayer. And remember as I said in the first post, it’s not actually about you. As counterintuitive and contradictory to much of what I’ve said above as that may sound. Your purpose as a human being is first and foremost to love and know God. Only once you’ve focused on Him, worshipping and glorifying Him, can you really start to see the specific, individual purpose He has for you.

“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all,” (Ephesians 4:1b-3).

 

If you are a human being, you want – even need – to have a purpose in life. Everyone wants to know why they are alive and what they are supposed to do. Most people expect that knowing their purpose and pursuing it is the way of happiness.

Many Christian’s are obsessed with Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This verse is on everything! Shirts, purses, jewelry, notebooks, tattoos, grad caps – it’s probably literally been iced onto at least a hundred cakes. Yet, for some people, this verse is upsetting. They are totally lost and they don’t see why they even exist in the first place. Maybe they once felt purpose, and now they don’t. Some may have never discovered a sense of purpose. A lack of purpose is huge reason people suffer from depression, self-esteem issues, and has undoubtedly contributed to suicides since the dawn of humanity.

 

So, over the next couple weeks, I want to address the purpose-problem. It starts with understanding why God created people, and therefore, why He created you.

First of all, God doesn’t need you – He wants you.

God is not a human being. He does not have needs like we do. He is absolutely, completely self-sufficient in every way, lacking in nothing. He was not lonely before He created Adam and Eve and He certainly was not any less powerful without them. When He created Adam and Eve it was an act of love, born of sheer will and desire. Our Father never needed Adam and Eve to love Him back – otherwise, He would have made it an uncontrollable part of their being. God’s existence, power, and holiness is in no way effected by whether humans love Him back or not.

However, in spite of His total self-sufficiency, He chose to make us. Isaiah 43:7 says that we are created for God’s glory. We are created by God and for God. He desired to give us life, to love us, to die for us, to save us, and to live with us for all of eternity. Again, not because He needs us in any way, but because He wants us.

 

I have to drive this point home because a lot of people struggle with feeling unneeded or insignificant, and it probably doesn’t help for me to tell you that God doesn’t need you.

Think about it this way. I need to drink water to live. I don’t have a choice, it’s just the way it is. If I want to exist, I must drink water. I don’t exactly enjoy water that much. I struggle to drink a healthy amount every day, but I will force myself to do so because I know I need to hydrate myself (especially since I live in a desert!). When it comes to a need, it doesn’t matter whether I like it or not. I don’t have to love it. I just have to have it.

Then there is tea. I love tea. I love every kind of tea! It will drink it even if I know it will burn my tongue. I’ll drink it after the ice has melted. I will drink it whether it’s sweetened or not. I love every kind of tea I have ever had in the whole history of my life. So, when I drink tea, I drink it because I enjoy it! It’s special to me. It’s something I look forward to and I will drink it whether I’m thirsty or not just because it tastes good.

So, which matters more to me really? The water I need or the tea I want? Obviously, the tea.

When it comes to people, I strongly believe many bad relationships and friendships are born from need. If we think we need someone for security, financial reasons, emotional stability, or anything else, we have actually demeaned that person. If we say we needthem, we are implying that they are a survival mechanism and not something that we cherish. No human being should ever, ever have to be someone’s survival mechanism. It is unhealthy and it creates codependency.

If we try to say God needs us, we are making God sound codependent on us. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to follow a God that was codependent on me. I want to follow a God that has everything He needs within Himself, but chooses to love me and humbly bend down from Heaven to be in a healthy relationship with me. Wouldn’t it be devastating if the only reason Jesus died was because if He didn’t save us, God would be less of who He is? It would make that a selfish motive, but we know Jesus died in pure selflessness. His motive was completely driven by love and desire. Jesus did not want to suffer, but He wanted to save you. He chose to suffer because His desire for your salvation surpassed his lack of desire for suffering and because He knew it was the only way we could be in relationship with Him like He truly wants.

Secondly, God made us to glorify Him.

Remember Isaiah 43:7 stated that we are created for God’s glory. Isaiah 43:21 also says we are to declare His praise. God made us to worship Him! We are not here for our own glory. We are not here to “make our own meaning” or even to “leave our mark”. Those things will likely happen if we follow God, but that should not be the intent of our hearts. God wants us to worship Him and glorify Him in all that we do and all that we are.

 

This Biblical fact is also a problem for many of us. I, admittedly, have struggled with it. Sometimes I have thought it selfish of God to create us just to glorify Him! I have wrestled with how we are told not to be prideful, yet our God wants us to boast about Him and bow down before Him. And we are supposed to forget about ourselves and serve Him – and all of that at one point had me downright angry with God. It made me feel unimportant and made me think I was serving a God that was arrogant.

But to think these things is to not see the full picture. We must remember that all of God’s commandments and ways are set in place for our good (Deut. 10:12-13, Jer. 29:11). So how is glorifying God for our benefit? And why would this be part of our purpose in being created?

I mentioned in another post that when we worship God, we are inviting Him into our presence. Now worshiping is not only singing. Worship is every pure act toward God that we do to seek Him. Reading the Bible, attending church, writing, praying, taking care of our bodies, loving other people, helping, serving – you name it. There are tons of ways to worship God, because it is the focus of our hearts that determines worship. So, when we do any true act of worship, we are inviting God to come into our hearts and effect ourselves and our lives.

By seeking God and inviting His presence, we then reap the benefit of His presence. His peace, joy, love, and Spirit surround us. We are suddenly at harmony within even in the middle of chaos. We are suddenly focused on hope and light, instead of problems and darkness. He created us because He wanted us here, He wants to love us, and He wants us to glorify Him in all that we do so that we can be in relationship with Him and receive His blessings! You aren’t going to get blessed, have peace, or feel joy until you learn to worship Him.

The other great benefit is that those who seek to glorify God are also exalted! Psalm 146:8 says, “The Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.” When we are bowed down in worship of Him, He will lift us up. This means He will lift our souls internally and He will lift our lives externally. God wants us raise people up who seek His glory so that other people may also be blessed. Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” When we are living out our purpose to glorify God, we are giving God the thumbs up to exalt us so that we can give other people a reason to praise God – and in many cases, come to God for the first time.

This is what my pastor calls the “blessing cycle.” You glorify God, He exalts you. The more you glorify Him, the more you are exalted and the more you want to glorify Him. So, you are living out your purpose, God is blessing you, and God is using you to encourage and bless others. You are in a cycle going from “glory to glory” and it is pleasing to God. God wants to bless you! And He wants you to bless others for His glory so that they might enter the blessing cycle.

Everything God does is for His glory and for our good. Our purpose begins here and expands into individual, specific, God-given routes. We will talk about those next week, but for now, I challenge you to spend time meditating on what it really means to be more than needed, but wanted by the Creator and King of the Universe, and how you can start focusing your heart on bringing Him glory.

I was roughly ten years old when I first met a witch. She wasn’t much of witch yet, could not do anything magical or fascinating, but she believed in magic very much. And not just the fun fairytale magic we get in Disney movies. No, this young friend was aspiring to be a witch, just like her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. I never witnessed anything special, but they had tarot cards that supposedly could tell the future and if they could just tap into their spirit, just worship the gods and goddesses enough, maybe they would obtain power.

They called themselves Wiccans.

At about ten, raised Christian, I was not very familiar with the idea that people existed that didn’t believe in Jesus. It felt evil to talk about their being other gods – and didn’t the bible say to avoid fortune tellers?

Yet, I was a very unpopular and shy child, extremely troubled by social anxiety. I knew what my friend was into was dangerous to my faith, but yet, I didn’t want to lose my bestfriend. Plus, I trusted her. Maybe Iwas wrong? So, I let my curiosity wander.

Luckily, this friend moved away and the decision was made for me that I would return to my faith and not chase after magic. I mostly let it go, though I continued to be amazed at the thought of – what if?

When I was 13, my family and I had just moved – in the middle of the school year – back to our hometown from Texas. I still was riddled with anxiety and let’s just say – people loved to pick on me. I was not popular. I had no idea how to handle my frizzed out curly hair. My wire glasses were always a bit crooked since I never stopped trying to adjust them myself. For some reason, in spite of my mother and sister’s keen sense of fashion and makeup expertise, I always found a way to wear the least flattering clothing I had and bright green eyeshadow (I thought it would make my brown eyes look hazel…).

So, in short, I was a nerd and the new kid.

I made a friend who helped me make a lot of friends. She was Christian – or said she was, at least. And while I wasn’t suddenly a popular kid, I at least had some really wonderful friends for once and felt like I belonged somewhere. I became very close to the one friend in particular. She became my new best friend for many years. I don’t want to go into tons of detail for her privacy, but I will say after that first year she had traded her Christian title for agnostic. She was very interested in paranormal things – ghosts, psychics, and supernatural abilities. I had never totally lost my interest in it, and so together we spawned a bit of an obsession. It got to the point where I was not just studying psychic powers and ghosts, but trying to obtainpsychic powers and talkto ghosts. I thought that, somehow, I was going to help the ghosts get to Heaven. I also thought that God had gifted me with an ability to “discern spirits” – which in my interpretation meant, see, hear, and talk to them.

It was here that my life began to flood with darkness. Again, I’ll spare most of the details, but I often wondered if I was losing my mind. I started seeing figures, reflections, and strange lights. I would hear voices and other peculiar noises, like melodies. I even felt like someone had laid their hand on my shoulder, head, or arms on several occasions. This was also the same time I began writing dark music about death, suicide, the end of the world, and other depressing subjects.

I was a mess!

I remember my dad calling me and talking to me when I would go visit him. He knew something was deeply wrong – the Holy Spirit had told him. He prayed for me many times, and almost every time the scary things would go away for awhile… then I’d start to miss them. Then it would come back, and usually worse.

Now eventually, I became scared enough and strong enough in my very contorted faith to choose to let all these things go. I decided I would avoid paranormal things and try my best to stay focused on God. I told my friend I couldn’t be around those things and that they were evil. I straight up called it all demonic and prayed God would protect me. My friend was good about it. She always was very good at respecting my desire to return to God, even if she didn’t believe in Him.

Well, I finally get a few years out of the deep depth, with only a few occasional slips back into my love of the paranormal. I mostly spend my time writing books that I’ll never publish and talking to that friend about her own writing projects as well as mine. Yet again, once I got to my senior year in high school, I ran into someone new.

While I had mostly upgraded out of complete nerd classification, I was now just one of those people that went mostly unnoticed. I had a couple of great friends and I finally knew a little bit more about how to dress nice and wear my makeup correctly. But something in me just longed to be noticed.

This new person I met was a gorgeous and brilliant aspiring film director. She somehow chose to befriend me of all people and with her at my side, I suddenly was bursting forth my creativity. I started to show people my music, art, writing, and was directing films in our Filmmaking course. Everything was going up! People recognized me. People actually would talk to me, and not just to get answers on the homework! And then this new friend began to slowly unravel her beliefs. Her abilities of “foresight” and a vast knowledge about the psychic and witchcraft subjects that had finally forsaken. For a short time, I fell under the spell of curiosity again. But by graduation, I had remembered how much evil it provoked and we both went separate ways.

But even after school, I became close to a girl at work. She was very invested in psychics and tarot cards. Unfortunately, I had just taken a nose-dive with my faith and didn’t even know what to believe anymore so I thought that maybe this was what I was supposed to be following the whole time. I let her do tarot readings. We went and paid a psychic over $100 a visit for her to tell me what my future held and what I was to do. The psychic told me her power came from God and I believed it. Then I watched as the tarot readings and psychic predictions began to prove themselvestrue.

That’s about when I got into using crystal pendants for guidance and trying to open up my chakras to balance my energies and unlock my psychic power. But the worst part of this mess, is that even though my Christian faith was rocky, I still believed in God Himself. So, I prayed to Him and asked Him to answer me using the crystals and tarot cards. I asked Him to help me balance my energies. But I distinctly remember one day when I started feeling some conviction and I asked Him if it was okay to use these methods to communicate with Him – after all, the things seemed to work until I asked Him to respond.

Lo and behold, the Lord said NO!

Praise God, I began to filter those practices out of my life. Meanwhile, my friends got deeper into it until they were proclaiming themselves witches, praying to Wiccan gods and goddesses, and mocking my faith in God (though stating they supported me).

I wish I could say I cut off from everything and fully turned back to God right then, but it still took me a few years to stop desiring their ways. God actually had me separate from those friends completely in order to protect me, because I struggled too much to keep my faith. I’m grateful and still sad for the loss of all these friends, especially the later ones. I think about them every day. I have dreams about them and pray for them. But I know that God has drawn boundary lines for me, and thanks to those, I now can see that all that I got into before was evil, offensive to God, and made me a child of the devil.

I’m sharing this story, though I feel much shame over these things, because it is through all of this mayhem, God revealed to me my purpose and calling. He shared with me recently that I experienced all of those odd (and sometimes frightening) situations so that He could use me as a voice in spiritual warfare. God took my greatest mistakes and sins, and is now using them to draw me closer to Him and to use me to help others see the truth in those areas of darkness. I am embarrassed to say I essentially practiced witchcraft (while calling myself a Christian) but I am so honored and humbled that God would use me in spite of it, and use those experiences.

There is no sin in our past that God can’t still turn around for good. Nothing goes to waste, nothing is an accident. Our perfect God knows what He is doing by letting us stumble and get lost. And I cannot express how beautiful it is or how much purpose is instilled when you ask God to show you why He let you do the things you are most ashamed of, and He answers.

I also shared this story to raise awareness of a growing belief system. The New Age and Wiccan cultures have been increasing over the years. The belief systems focus on self-empowerment and self-reliance which I know are not all bad. There is also a very heavy emphasis on looking into the future, which God warns us against. The issue is that the power they try to obtain is real in a way. The future they see is often relatively accurate. But the power comes from the Enemy and while it might make you feel better about yourself, more independent even, it also corrupts you the longer you chase after it. Though I was more confident than I had ever been, I became a very selfish and angry person. I did a lot of things that I regret now!  Seeing the future is also dangerous because it changes the way we act and can actually cause great damage when you try to obtain those things early or avoid them.

But there is good power. There is a good Spirit we can communicate with. There is a good God we can worship and rely on. When we follow Him, we are filled with Hispower and His wisdom. God can do far more incredible things within us and through us than we could ever do through the Enemy’s means (witchcraft, sorcery, etc). And His power in us makes us better. When God is our source of strength, energy, understanding, wisdom, and power He enables us to produce good fruits that will help us and other people. There is nothing more incredible than being used by God! So, if for any reason, you find yourself in the shoes I once was in, remember that you can tread into the darkness and use the power of evil, or you can walk in the light and be filled with the power of the Creator of the universe – who spoke the world into being, who breathed in you life, who conquered death, and sustains everything you see, hear, touch, feel, taste, and beyond. His power is greater than the Enemy’s. His power is cleansing, pure, and holy. His power is founded in love and breeds love. If you aren’t convinced, ask Him to open your spiritual eyes. Ask Him to let you see His supernatural side. You will be amazed and all the “power” that this world and below has to offer will look like a speck of dirt in the grandness of His magnificence!

I used to worship the devil.

Not on purpose.

I read my Bible most nights and prayed to God. I attended church sometimes and even assisted in churches at times. I gave God credit for saving me from sin, for making me, and for giving me the gifts and talents I had. I thought for sure I hated evil, including and especially Satan and all of his hosts. I loved stories in the Bible where Jesus would rescue people from legions of evil forces and cast them into the wilderness. I did my best to keep the Commandments and do good deeds. I at least tried to be like Jesus and would wear my W.W.J.D. bracelets and cross necklaces and was very proud of the cross on my wall.

And yet, I had no idea who God was.

The problem began when I read in 1 Corinthians about the spiritual gifts God would give His children. I was obsessed with this passage. After all, I’d grown up watching shows and movies about superheroes, witches, and other “gifted” people. I’d taken to shows about psychics and the paranormal – ghosts, hauntings, and the like. Somewhere in this, I thought I had received some special gifts from God that I was meant to use to help people. In the next several posts, I’m going to begin unveiling some of these “gifts,” where they came from, and what they did to me, but most importantly how God has redeemed me from the darkness I was in. But for now, I am going to focus on the thing that I believe triggered the darkness and drew it closest to me.

My voice.

If you know anything about me, you know I have always loved to write music and sing. I began singing before I can even remember it, but mostly kept it to myself until I was in middle school. I would practically run off the bus so I could come home and sing while I was alone. I prayed endlessly that God would give me a great voice so that I could use it to sing about Him. Then I would attempt to sing a couple songs off K-Love and proceed to singing random Broadway music. As I got older and practiced, my voice matured and I started to feel more confident in it. I felt like God had heard my prayers and now I was good enough to start doing something with this music.

However, it was also around then that I began to dive into the deep with very dark music that in no way reflected a faith message. I began thinking that to sing about God or to even write music or sing music that was uplifting or happy was cheesy. So, I stopped singing about God. I started practicing songs that had messages of vengeance, death, suicide, anger, and aggression. I thought the darker it is, the most powerful the message. I actually thought listening to such dark music made me happy – I loved it. That was talent.

Now, I’m not here to bash secular music or even music that has a darker sound. There are secular songs that are important and even some of the best Christian music out there has a darker sound – which to me, makes them more real and relatable. But the message of the song is what is most dangerous, and it was the love I had for it and the sudden desire to make music like it that began to hurt me.

The first handful of songs I wrote and sang were riddled with evil messages and destructive themes. I sang about watching the world end, wanting to die, what death would feel like, and was in no way ashamed to use graphic/gory language to make sure it was clear that I was real and wasn’t some cheesy attempt for a music artist.

Of course, in middle school and early high school, most of us have gone through some sort of weird phase. This was just a fraction of mine. The issue was I didn’t let it go right away and also, I had specifically told God I would only use my voice for Him. I fluctuated time to time, trying to get back on track but I was so in love with the darkness that it seeped into everything I wrote, drew, and sang. My imagination was a horror movie, yet I romanticized it. By doing so, I unknowingly romanticized evil and sin.

Even after I graduated high school, I felt the pull. I wanted to please God, but I always told myself I needed to reach people in dark places by being like them, and then I could tell them about Jesus. This was just a way to make myself feel better about what I was doing, and it was a lie.

My music proceeded in darkness. One of my “favorite” songs then began with me singing, “I’m dead” over and over again before I branched out and talked about how I needed to “find my spirit and make them fear it”. I went from just being sad, to wanting to terrify people with my music. The music I composed was eerie and gives me chills (in a bad way) just thinking about it. And yet the entire time, I still believed God gave me my voice and still remembered my promise.

In honesty, it took me until a couple years ago to start at least trying to write music that wasn’t dripping with death themes. And even then, it took me until about a year ago to realize that my voice belongs to God. He gave it to me to glorify Him, not to do whatever I pleased with it. My musical gifts were lying in ruin by the time I realized that I had used them against the One who gave them to me.

God showed me that the more I lay my voice and talents at His feet, the more He blesses them and uses them. When I am composing my vocal melodies and lyrics, I have to constantly say, “God inspire me with what is right. Show me how to bring you glory. Eliminate my own ideas.” I tell you, like a hurricane, God takes over my mind. I feel His Spirit as I sing words I hadn’t yet written and notes I didn’t know I could sing. I go back and listen and I know it is not me, but God using me as an instrument. There is life in the songs and in my voice that was absent in everything I ever tried to make on my own. He has surprised me by taking my love of music that gives you chills and using it to guide me as I compose music that gives you chills from the presence of God within them. He’s shown me how to take that darkness and use it to speak truth; how to be honest and vulnerable about evil without glorifying evil.

But God has shown me something else.

This story is not just about how I came to sing and make Christian music. It’s how the power of our voices impacts us. See, in church, when they sing worship music to God there are a couple things it does for them. It opens the hearts of the people and it calls upon the Spirit of God. That’s why most churches begin with music – they want to invite the presence of the Holy Spirit to come into the building and into their hearts.

Here’s the thing: I used to sing to the darkness. I sang about death, destruction, self-edification, and glorified the things that God hates. If singing Godly worship music invokes the Spirit of God, what does singing about evil things invoke?

The Spirit of Death. Satan and all of his hosts. Demonic forces were attracted to the subjects I sang – I called them out of their depths and invited them into my heart. It is no wonder I became consumed in depression, anxiety, self-deprecation, and a desire to isolate myself. It is no wonder I slowly but surely forgot who God was and what receiving a gift from Him truly meant. It is no wonder I began to twist the truths of the Bible and believe lies. I invited evil to tell me about who I was, who God was, and what was important.

God revealed this to me one morning after I had prayed for Him to lend me His spiritual eyes so I could discern the truth from lies in my past. Again, not all “secular” music is evil and invokes the devil. But if you have a God-given gift, protect it by laying it at His feet. It is the gifts God gives us that show us our path in this world and will have the greatest impact. Satan does not want you to know that. He does not want you to use your gifts for God. He wants you to use them to worship yourself and your pain and lead you into his darkness.

Lastly, whether you sing or don’t sing, remember that your words have a deep effect on you. You might think no one is listening, but the enemy is hanging on to every word you say. We shouldn’t live in fear of this, but in frank understanding that Satan is waiting for you to give him permission to enter your mind. That being said, Christ is our salvation and protection. When we worship Christ with our words, our voices, our hearts, soul, spirit, and mind – that has the power to cast out darkness. The enemy and all of his forces will flee from the name of Jesus Christ. So say it.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. I had this wonderful idea of starting a new series to help people with the trials of faith – but then suddenly I found myself overcome with the very things I claimed to be healed from.

When I first returned to my blog, I proclaimed how God had lifted me from my anxiety and depression – wow, I don’t need a doctor or counselor or medications! It was a beautiful reprieve from my pain. I knew I was supposed to help people with anxiety and depression. I felt that was finally my chance to step up and be strong for others.  But then after a series of events, it all came back worse than before. There was a sudden onset of panic in my anxiety – hyperventilation and tingling – feelings so overwhelming I thought I would faint. My body broke out in rashes. I have tension in nearly every muscle. Nightmares. Fatigue. Memory-loss. I’ve blanked out and missed whole moments of my life. Then the depression got worse. I went from thinking “I just want to sleep all the time” to hearing the word “suicide” in my mind every single time I felt even the tiniest pang of sadness.

It’s been a rough few weeks! What troubled me most is that the more I struggled, the less I felt like I could help anyone. How could I teach about God’s love and grace when I felt so far from Him? I sought Him day in and out through prayer, fasting, bible studies, prayer meetings, sermons, and trying to still help other people. My sorrows and anxieties had overburdened me to a point where I just couldn’t hear Him anymore. I wanted to die and I won’t be surprised if that thought returns again someday.

But I’m not writing this to talk about poor me and how I’ve suffered. I’m writing this because as I’ve started to hear from God again and understand His purposes, I’ve realized that God has not made me to be miraculously healed. He made me to walk beside Him on the long, painful journey of recovery so that I may walk other people to recovery, maybe alongside me, maybe someday ahead. My heart burns for people who suffer with depression and anxiety – God knows that. He put that fire there for a reason.

I want those who read my blog to understand I am not coming from some sunshine filled mountain peak. I’m in the dark valley, too. I know how hard it is. Somedays I wake up and want to fight and be strong. Other days I want to give up and find my bed in the ground. But, I want to shed some biblical truth about these subjects.

First of all, let’s talk about the guilt of depression. You might think to yourself every time you get low that you are letting God or others down. You might think God will be mad that you aren’t being more grateful, more joyful, showing more love. Why aren’t you pouring out for others? How selfish of you to think about yourself and your pain so much that you would be overcome by it! You are a Christian – depression is a bad witness.

Literally writing that stings my eyes.

I’ve thought those things and so much more almost every day in the past few weeks. Remember though, that even God feels sorrow. There’s many examples in the Bible that suggest that Jesus might have even experienced seasons of depression. Read Isaiah 53.

Repeatedly Isaiah prophesies about the servant of the Lord (Jesus) and his heavy sorrows. He calls him a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (IS. 53:3b). He states that Jesus was “oppressed” in verse 53:7. The anguish is described as reaching his very soul in verse 53:11.

What’s even more, 53:10 says this is all God’s will! God willed Jesus to suffer extreme sorrows and be crushed. This doesn’t mean God liked it – obviously God is ultimately the one who felt this deep pain. But remember again the call of a Christian is to be like Jesus – that includes suffering like Jesus at times (see 1 Peter 3:20-25).

Everything has it’s due season. Sometimes God wills us to be in utter joy and bliss. Other times He wills us to experience deep sorrows. For those with depression, that will happen more intensely and frequently than it does for others. I know I would probably want to slap myself right now, if in this very moment I was feeling that deep pain. I would think “this is dumb. Why should I be a Christian? Where is God? I thought He draws near to the brokenhearted. Why did Jesus have to feel such sorrow? Does God love us at all?”

But be encouraged! If you have depression God has selected you for a deeper relationship with Him than your jovial friends can have. He has selected you to experience Him in a different way. To testify and witness in a different way. Surely, you will have opportunities of abundance where you share the joy of God – but right now, let’s focus on what you are doing that is actually good during depression.

I read a devotional today from Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman that focused on a portion of Ecclesiastes 7, about sorrow. This really spoke to me about the significance of our sorrow.

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth,” (Ecc. 7:2-3, ESV).

Here we are reading God’s word and He’s saying it’s better to feel sorrow than to laugh. Okay, wait. Seriously? God, You’d rather me mourn than feast? Frown than laugh? That doesn’t make sense. I thought God wanted His children to be happy because He loves us!

Well, here’s the deal. I love how Cowman puts this, “Accordingly, it is sorrow that causes us to take the time to think deeply and seriously. Sorrow makes us move more slowly and considerately and examine our motives and attitudes. It opens within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it makes us willing to set our capacities afloat on a limitless sea of service for God and for others… God never uses anyone to a great degree until He breaks the person completely… It takes sorrow to expand and deepen the soul.” (From Steams in the Desert)

I kept saying to myself and to God, “I’m too depressed. How can I help anyone?” and God told me, after much waiting, “I’m using your depression so that you can help others. How can you help them if you don’t know the depth of their pain? The greater your sorrow, the closer you come to me, the closer you come, the more I will expand your wisdom and the more you will experience me.”

In some strange way, this brings me joy. Who thought I’d feel joyful about being depressed. Ultimately, what this is teaching me is that sometimes God choses to miraculously heal someone of depression/anxiety. Maybe that’s their witness because He knows that is what is best, but I think most of the time, He wants to use those things to teach us more and make us stronger. Let’s put it this way: if God doesn’t miraculously heal you, it’s because He knows you are strong enough to go to the darkest depths and still come back up. He will make you wiser. He will grow your love. He will reveal things to you that other people around you may never know or experience. It might feel like a curse. It might feel like you’re being punished or that you are disappointing God, but do not become depressed about depression. Be encouraged. Recognize those seasons as growth periods. Times to slow down from the whir of life and reflect on God and His ways and His purposes. You have been chosen to experience these things for a reason and you will reap eternal benefits if you just keep trusting God and fighting with everything you have and everything He supplies you with.

Ultimately, God does want you to experience joy, peace, and abundance. Don’t ever doubt that. He loves you immensely, but His ways are not our ways. His love surpasses our understanding. God is with you whether you feel Him there or not. He is doing something within you that will ultimately bring you joy, peace, and abundance, but you have to walk through valleys of shadow. You still have to climb the mountain to reach the peak, but the Lord will sustain you and guide you. You will know Him better and feel His love more every time you take a journey like this with Him.

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!”(Psalm 128:5)

This is for you: “Broken Things” – Matthew West

All In

In this new series, I am going to tackle some of the toughest subjects I have encountered – subjects that have shattered people’s faith. I’m started with a major faith killer in today’s society, which is the Bible’s take on the role of women. I’ve watched my female friends bow out of Christianity because they believe the Bible makes women out to be weak, helpless, and inferior to men. They thought the Bible oppressed women and glorified men.

So, let’s clear things up! What does the Bible really say about women and how does that apply to us today?

First of all, Genesis 1:27 tells us that both men and women are created in God’s image. This means that God views us as equals. He didn’t create Adam like Himself and then make something up for Eve. Both are made to be like God in character. It is very important to remember that when the Bible is dishing out the roles of man vs. woman, there is no difference in value or importance. God designed each gender for the roles defined.

Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him,’” and in verse 22-23, “and the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of man.”

God made Adam, but realized that he shouldn’t be alone. God had given him authority over the Earth and animals, but without a companion, without someone he could share it with – it wasn’t enough. He then begins creating all different animals and creatures as Adam’s “helpers” but no one is “fit for him.” This means that nothing else is going to cut it until God creates Eve. When God crafts Eve, he literally takes part of Adam away in order to make her – this makes them one flesh. In other words, God specifically designed Eve for Adam and Adam for Eve. They complement each other. It does not imply that women are less than or even reliant on men. It is also important to note that the Bible is specifically showing a husband-wife relationship here, not just a man-woman relationship.

Things start getting more confusing in Genesis 3. Here Eve has given in to the temptation. She ate the fruit and now God is revealing the consequences: she must suffer childbearing pains (as the “mother of all living,” originally a blessed title), she will be ruled over by her husband, and now Adam is going to suffer and toil all the days of his life for joining her in eating the fruit. The key thing I want to focus on is in Gen. 3:16 when it says, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Assuming Eve is representing all women to follow, this would suggest that wives will be ruled by their husbands. As a woman, that’s a bit frustrating to hear. Why should all women have to pay for what Eve did? I thought God was just?

I’m just going to let that sit for a moment. In fact, I’m probably going to make you feel worse.

1 Timothy 2 has a lot to say about women’s roles after The Fall. Paul first stresses that women should be modest in how they dress – that seems reasonable. Tempting others to sin is sin (even unintentionally), even if they don’t follow through with the sin, they’ve thought it, and just thinking it is also a sin! Obviously, if we want to be clear of sin, choosing to dress respectfully to ourselves with the body God made for us is a good place to start.

But then, it goes on in verses 12-14, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”

NOOO! If you read this out of context, it sounds like God’s decided no woman can ever have authority in any situation. She must be quiet and cannot teach anyone anything. Furthermore, man came first so man is superior and a woman messed up, so it’s all her fault the world is fallen.

Yikes. This is how I would have taken it in the past. Context is so important to understanding the true meaning of passages in the Bible. What is happening in 1 Timothy is that Apostle Paul is writing to the church of Ephesus, telling them how the church is supposed to be, in accordance to what God has revealed to him. When it says, “I do not permit,” that is Paul speaking in his authority as the one God called to raise the churches after Christ. When it says women cannot teach or exercise authority over a man, he is referring to women serving as Elders in a church. The Bible is very clear that men should be the leaders/overseers/elders of a church. Women are allowed to teach children and other women, but should be “quiet” as in not leading over a congregation.

I want to pause and point out that many theologians debate that the only reason things were laid out this way for the church in Ephesus and several other churches, is that in that culture, women were generally not educated. Most women, based on the laws (which we are told to follow the laws of our lands), could not even read. This means that those women could not study the Bible on their own and had to learn from their husbands, who were educated. It is a widely accepted theory that in today’s world, this means women with education and an ability to read the Bible and learn from it themselves are now fully “allowed” to teach and lead congregations (hence Joyce Meyer). Additionally, in Acts 18:24-26, two women are shown pulling aside a well-educated elder and teaching him the way of God. Obviously, this is not over the congregation, but it shows that women are allowed to teach and guide men.

Back to the verses, when Paul mentions Adam and Eve, he is showing us that the roles of men and women were part of God’s design and not necessarily just a result of the original sin. God intended for men to lead and women to support. This created a balanced relationship. If both tried to lead, there would be conflict. If both only supported, there would be no direction. Again, remember this is meant for married couples. Marriage was designed to symbolize the relationship between Christ (the groom) and the Church/Us (the bride).

This is best described in Ephesians 5:22-24:

“Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

Here Paul is saying wives submit to their husband just like they submit to Christ. Still sounds a bit frustrating, but submission does not make us slaves to our husbands. God wants wives to listen to their husbands, respect them, run ideas past them, be agreeable, and trust them. Obviously, this doesn’t mean husbands should get to walk all over their wives and treat them like slaves and property. It doesn’t mean get in the kitchen and make dinner because he said so. It means God’s dream – if you will – is that wives will be eager to help, support, and please their husband. Also, notice it doesn’t say, “Women submit to men, as to the Lord.” It’s only to her own husband. He is illustrating the best way for a woman to be a godly wife – the way that will lead to the most happiness! Remember, God has our good in mind!

Ready for the flipside?

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself… Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:25-31, ESV)

The husband is supposed to put his wife before himself – to be willing to die for her, give up all that he has for her. This means that if he’s striving to be like Christ, he’s going to be leading in a way that is not best for himself, but best for his wife. The husband is supposed to be self-sacrificial. In God’s perfect dream for marriage, the wife is helping the husband and the husband is leading them toward her best interest. They take care of each other. Neither is more important. They are devoting themselves to each other’s happiness and fulfillment.

Let’s take on another difficult verse!

 1 Peter 3:7 says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

I like how when I first read this, I was all about it until I got to “weaker vessel,” then that was the only thing I originally took out of it. It’s easy to read that and think, “oh so now women are weak?!” There’s a couple ways to take it. Personally, I take it as cultural status. Women were viewed as lesser than men in that culture, so husbands were supposed to treat them as equal heirs because in God’s eyes, that’s what they are. Notice also, it says that the husbands’ prayers can be hindered by how he treats his wife! So, if a man is abusing his authority, mistreating her, hurting her, God’s going to look down and stamp a big fat “NO” on his prayers because he is disobeying His command. This can even be taken as a warning against physical abuse, since yes, generally speaking, most men are physically stronger than women and have a greater potential of hurting their wives. (Of course, it can go the other way too, and I’m sure God won’t answer the prayers of an abusive wife either.)

Most of the “trouble” verses are about wives and husbands, some of it applies to churches, but none of it applies to the workplace, school, or any other situation. Women are not inferior to men according to the Bible. In fact, if I had more time, I’d write all the examples of how much God loves his daughters and how big of an impact they have had! The bottom line is that God has a vision for the dynamic between a man and woman, but because it is so easy to misunderstand what is really being said, take things out of context, and misuse the Word, it was perceived and taught in the light of women being lesser than men.

As a final note, here’s some “Verses to Remember” about the type of women God actually hopes his daughters will be!

Proverbs 31:

  • V. 17: “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.”
  • V. 20: “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches her hands to the needy.”
  • V. 25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the times to come.”
  • V. 26: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
  • V. 30-31: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”

There are countless examples in the Bible of Jesus and his disciples physically healing people. From the blind, to the lame, to those dying from the plague, to the already deceased – Jesus seemed to have no boundaries about healing the sick. And yet, how many of us today either struggle with permanent physical ailments or know someone who is? Even devote, spirit-filled people sometimes are left in poor health, and this right here is really, really difficult for me to wrap around. Ironically, just in time for me to broach this subject, God’s prepared for me a testimony. It’s a bit lengthy, but I think God brought this to me now for a reason, so I hope you’ll take the time to read my story:

After my husband and I married and gave our lives over to Christ, our lives began to change. Things became more about God’s vision than our vision. But, honestly, I didn’t have a good grasp on what God wanted from us. So, I spent many hours a week praying that God would share with me his dream for our lives. It took time, but one day I had this “revelation.” I was meditating on those prayers, wondering what God had in mind, when several crisp visions and pieces of understanding hit me. It was amazing! I didn’t know much detail about anything – how it would happen or when – but I knew God had a big calling in several areas of our lives.

The biggest one: we are supposed to have a son.

I was a little dumbfounded by that. Honestly, I love children but the thought of having my own was never that appealing. I had a lot of reasons, but anyone in my family will tell you I’ve always been at least mildly against it. My husband didn’t have much of an opinion on it either. We both were in the “if it happens, okay – if not, okay!” mindset, though I was leaning more toward it not being okay if we had one. So that is how I know the revelation I had wasn’t my own. I was terrified, upset, and a little excited. Of course, having God reveal anything to you is thrilling – but really? Why did it have to be that?

I told my husband all about what God shared with me, and he reacted close to the same as I did. We both agreed God must mean this is for later down the road. That brought me some peace, and almost made me excited. I would get a few years to let this settle in and grow on me!

Well, as time went on, this lingered almost constantly in my mind. I started to be okay with the idea, then I started to wonder when God intended this to happen, and then I started to wonder if I actually wanted it to happen. I started praying again, but God wasn’t responding. I started to doubt the revelation, thinking maybe I just made it up and was being silly anyway. Maybe God was up there chuckling at me for being so anxious about this subject. I had my husband pray about it, asked him to ask God for confirmation. I kept asking for confirmation myself too. I’d say, “God, I’m going to open my Bible and I want you to say whatever it is you need to say to me,” and I’d open it and there’d be something about a child.

At this point, I realized my revelation simply must be right but maybe I wasn’t spending enough quiet time with God to hear him answer. I knew I had some time off work coming up in September, so I vowed that during that time, I was going to stay in deep prayer, study, and mediation until I understood God’s vision and what my role was in it.

Almost immediately after this, I got very sick. It started with a minor throat infection, turned into tonsil stones, canker sores, a swollen and very infected throat with blisters as far down as doctors could see, then a fever, shakes, chills, a cold, and a very high resting heart rate. I had three different strep tests, an EKG, and blood work done. They even put me on a beta-blocker to calm my heart down. Most importantly, she ordered me to take off work for the next four days.

I was physically miserable. It hurt to talk, swallow, and even breath sometimes– and forget eating anything besides chicken noodle soup and mashed potatoes. And naturally, my husband had to work all of those days, so I was stuck in my room alone with no energy to do anything besides—

Pray. It was exactly what I needed. Sure, I felt terrible, but God had me right where he needed me. He wasn’t about to let my busy work schedule get in the way of what he needed to tell me. He needed me out of the game, unable to do anything productive besides focus on him.

So that’s what I did. The first three days I sat and studied the Bible, read books by my pastor and his brother, prayed, and listened. I was so sick that it was very hard to concentrate too, so I started writing down my prayers – an old trick I used a few years ago. It helps you stay on subject and keep your mind from wandering, then you have that prayer recorded so it’s easier to see all God does!

On the third day, I was getting really frustrated, bored, and a bit depressed. After all, God told me I was supposed to sing (as I’ve mentioned before) and I could barely even talk! I figured I’d recover but I wanted to sing right then! I wanted to use my gift and sing praise songs and write music to God, and I was getting so impatient. What made it worse, I realized I didn’t even really know how to “worship.” Worshipping isn’t just singing praise, it’s about adoring God for who he is. I’m great at thanking God for what he does, but I didn’t know much about adoring him for who he is. In my frustration, I picked up my prayer journal and begged God to teach me how to simply adore him instead of just appreciate what he does for me.

Within the next thirty minutes, I felt urged to pull up some of the music files my husband and I have made, then I went to a certain song we’d let go, then suddenly I was editing the sound and changing the lyrics—

Then I was singing – yes, singing, with blisters down my swollen throat, with vocal chords not used for at least a week – singing. I recorded the new lyrics, and the whole song was about God’s awesome character and power. I was thrilled! And almost immediately after recording, my voice went back to its sick self.

It was incredible to experience that. I knew that was part of why God pulled me out of my work routine – he needed to show me the key to falling in love with him so I could feel passionate about music again and be inspired. It was so amazing to have my voice healed just enough to record that song so I wouldn’t lose it, even though I lost the strength in my voice again after.

What it really did was lift up my faith. So, by day four, I knew God was on a mission. I had reached a point where I was ready to listen and learn from him. That day, I picked up my prayer journal and wrote all about how incredible he is. How amazing it is that he listens to all of his children all at the same time and has such a deep personal relationship with all of us at once! Then I thanked him for the teaching and inspiration and the people in my life. Then I came back to my original question: What about this child?!

By starting my prayer focused on God: his character, love, power, wisdom, strength, etc. I made myself open to hearing his voice, not just my voice asking questions. So this time, when I brought it up, the most breathtaking thing happened – the Holy Spirit wrote through me.

This part might sound crazy to some, but I know what I experienced! As I was writing, I started to feel the Holy Spirit’s prompting, just like it says in the Bible, that the Spirit will guide us in prayer. Then suddenly I felt this overwhelming sensation and my eyes basically glazed over, I wasn’t looking at what I was writing, but I could hear the words of my prayer loudly inside my mind. So I wrote fiercely what was resounding within me.

God answered me. He told me his vision for this child he’d simply mentioned to me before – he wants us to have this child soon, to raise him with the Spirit, and grow him in God’s love and way. He’s supposed to be part of our spiritual journey, part of the other elements God revealed in the original revelation. He wants him to grow to be a spiritual leader.

This was a lot to take in. I literally stood up to walk away, get some water or something, but instead fell on my knees and wept. I was overcome with emotions – mostly humility and gratitude. God had listened and answered me, and he had a big dream for us that we were so afraid of before, but now I wanted it to happen. He changed my heart, and my husband’s heart about having a child – and I think that was the biggest demonstration of his power.

I was still sick, however. I had to return to work the next day and I was totally out of it. Between still feeling shocked about what God said to being sick and having to go back to my management job, I wasn’t ready. I felt pathetic. I couldn’t concentrate and I felt like I was in slow motion. I looked terrible and people were pointing it out. I still couldn’t talk or hear well. Plus I was having an anxiety crisis because I realized I couldn’t keep taking the beta blocker if we were going to try to get pregnant, which is what God said to do!

I got home and turned this up to God. I told him bluntly, “You said you want me to have a baby, and you want this to happen now, so I need you to heal my body because I can’t take that medication and be pregnant. I give my physical body to you like everything else I have. Do with me what you need to fulfill your will and purpose, but I know you want this child so whatever is wrong with my heart – heal it, in Jesus Christ name!”

Like I said, I get my prayer tips from David.

But what was beautiful, is the next day, I was alright. I told God I wasn’t going to take that medication. I was going to trust him to keep my body healthy for his future plans. My heart rate returned to normal. My voice came back. My illness left me. I still took time outside of work to rest and recover, but I knew that I’d prayed in accordance to God’s will, he’d answered, and he’d healed me.

Again, I know that was lengthy, and you’re probably trying to figure out where I’m going with this in terms of God’s promise for physical healing. Honestly, this subject is very difficult for me for a lot of reasons. But what I learned in my down time with God is that he has a plan and purpose for everything, even sickness.

I am guilty, sadly, of accusing people of not having enough faith and not being healed because of that. And while I think in some instances, a lack of faith is the problem. The Bible even says that God cannot perform miracles for those who do not believe (note: “cannot” because he will not act outside of his own rules and order). But there are plenty of earnest believers that are not healed, that have permanent illnesses, injuries, deformities, or diseases. What it comes down to is this: we cannot understand God or his purposes. We can only work with what he reveals and seek him desperately for more wisdom and understanding in those circumstances. In some backwards seeming way, God might be protecting us by allowing us to suffer physically. He might be using it as a tool to connect with us, to heal us emotionally or spiritually. Maybe he’s trying to get your attention. Maybe he has your attention but needs to hold it this way. Maybe he’s going to heal you at exactly the right moment for your greatest benefit or the greatest benefit of his kingdom (to provide testimony). Maybe he’s going to let you stay that way to teach others compassion or to teach you to accept help. Maybe he is testing your faith. There are more reasons that I can think of or list!

Just remember, God always works for the good of his children. I learned a lot by turning my sick time into prayer time. He healed me right when it was appropriate, not a moment sooner. There are things I still have, like a broken tailbone, that he hasn’t healed. But I trust him with that. I think physical ailments show us dependency on God. He wants us to rely on him. When we are weak, he his strong – that goes for physical situations too.

God’s promise for physical healing is personal. He ultimately grants us a new body in heaven without pain or illness. But whatever your struggle is, give it to him and trust that no matter what he does, whether it’s healing or not, he is doing it for you, even if there seems to be no reason, no lesson, no hope in it. Trust him to provide for you and to pull you through – not out of – your physical suffering. God’s ways are beyond our comprehension – every type of suffering is a chance to further our faith and dependency on God.

In closing to this series, if you have prayer requests for healing, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual, please send them to me! I would love to pray for you. If you like, I can anonymously post your requests for my readers, so they may pray as well!

Write to me or send requests here: amberrylanrivers@gmail.com

I used to have this cute little thought that my life was going to be a breeze if I believed in God. If I just trust him, love him, and seek him, nothing bad would happen. I thought if something bad did happen, it meant I was doing something wrong and being punished. As I became an adult, I realized bad things happen all the time to everyone and it doesn’t matter if you believe in God or not. So, then I started to ask that big question many of us face and many theologians have tackled:

Why would a loving God let me and all these other people suffer?

When this really hit home, it took a major toll on my faith. I would say this is the first thing that shook my faith before I let it go. Ironically, when I found God again, this was the first subject coming up in my bible studies (not even on purpose) and at church. It’s like God wanted to make sure I really understood this one this time so I wouldn’t give up on him again. So, in case you haven’t heard, here’s why you’ll still suffer, and what role God promises to play while you do.

I mentioned in my last post that after we’ve been given a new heart, one with Christ, our main objective in life becomes transforming as close to Christ’s image as we can get. What happened to Jesus? He was ridiculed, prosecuted, tortured, and killed. Sounds like some suffering, right? Unfortunately for us comfort seekers, this means if we are going to become like Christ we need to suffer like Christ. Fortunately for us, not many of us are meant to suffer that intensely.

1 Peter 4:18 says, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good,” (ESV).

God’s ultimate will is for you to become like Christ, so if you are suffering so you can become more like Christ, you are suffering for a right reason. Let’s refresh, becoming like Christ means living in love, grace, mercy, righteousness, helping other people, and advancing the kingdom of God. Of course, everyone knows about “growing pains.” Our pain and suffering grows us and molds us. Your suffering is not in vain. It is a healthy tool God uses to help you become more than you believe you can ever be. Just like a coach pushing athletes, God will help us overcome future obstacles, self-doubts, and physical barriers by allowing us to suffer. He doesn’t enjoy it any more than you do, but he is highly aware of the end goal. You need to be too.

I know this is rough. Many of you are thinking, “Why become a Christian than if it basically promises suffering?”

Well, you are going to suffer no matter what. Just think for a moment about all the other things you could suffer for, things that happen when you are living an unrighteous life without Christ. You could suffer from a hangover and something mean you said while drunk. You could suffer from addiction, weight-loss, and health problems caused by drugs. You could suffer from cheating on your significant other or spouse. You could suffer from spreading gossip and hurting others with your words. You could suffer from lying to your employer, your kids, your friends, etc. There all sorts of things people suffer from today that are not beneficial to them in the long run. These things hurt you and the people around you, and they take you away from God’s plan for your life. Christ suffered for people’s salvation, not from drunkenness, addictions, maliciousness, gossip, or deceit.

Personally, I would rather suffer because I’m doing the right thing, not because I’m doing the wrong thing. It’s up to you. Will you suffer for a cause or from bad choices?

So, wait, what about healing? What does this have to do with the series topic at all?

This is a large subject. I will likely write more about suffering for Christ later, but for now, let’s tie this together. Part of emotional healing is understanding what I explained above. You have to keep yourself from thinking that suffering means God isn’t real, doesn’t care, or is mad at you. You will never find peace if every time life gets rough, you turn on God. Unless you are acting in total disobedience and throwing faith in the garbage can, your suffering is not an indicator that you are doing anything wrong or even that your faith is weak. People die, wars start, jobs are lost… it’s part of living in a fallen world. If you follow God, he is going to put meaning to your suffering. He’s also going to bring you comfort and emotional healing.

King David tells us a promise from God in Psalm 34:17-19:

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

God will deliver the righteous out of their troubles. He’s going to draw close to them. He’s going to save their spirit. It still tells us there will be many problems in life, but if you are focused on God – loving him, serving him, and leaning on him – he’s going to see you through it.

Very important thing to note, he isn’t going to “spare” us from our troubles. He’s not even going to deliver us “from” our troubles. He is going to deliver us “out of” our troubles; this means we still have to go through it, but he is going to walk with us through it. He will be there suffering alongside us and carrying most of the weight. He will not let it crush you. He will only let you struggle enough that it makes you stronger, gives you a testimony, and grows your faith.

In Psalm 28:6-8 it says:

“Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. The Lord is the strength of his people, he is the saving refuge of his anointed.”

Earlier in that psalm, David was crying out to God. He was telling him like it is. He told God exactly how he felt and exactly what he wanted God to do. God listened to him, and in the above verse, we see the outcome. God knew David’s heart and when he asked, he received. David trusted in God to help him so God did. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

When it comes to our emotions, when we are in the midst of suffering, it’s hard to just calm down and “be still” and know that he is God. If you’re angry, you probably don’t feel like talking to God right now. If you’re sad, you might not think he cares or wants to hear it anyway. I imagine David yelling in about half of the psalms… Just, “GOD WHERE ARE YOU AND WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING? LISTEN TO ME!!” or “HEY I THOUGHT YOU HAD THIS ONE?! WHAT HAPPENED?” But wow, God responds to our blunt honesty. I take my prayer tips from David all the way, and honestly, the more I just pour it out and stop trying to sound so “holy” the more God answers me.

What’s also important is that in order to receive God’s help, David not only had to trust in him, but he had to be grateful. Imagine if someone asked you for help, you gave it, they never thanked you, but kept coming back for help. Would you want to help them? No. God will decide what to do regardless, but keep in mind to be grateful, regardless. No matter what he does, he is doing it because it is ultimately what is best. Praise him! Thank him for keeping your best interest in mind!

This brings me to the next big wrecker of all peace and happiness. Want to spoil any good moment? Just dump some anxiety into it. I have an anxious mind. I am constantly tempted to just stew in my worries, even about things I know aren’t even true. For example, I know God’s called me to use my voice to sing for his glory, but then I get some allergies, get sick, and lose my voice and want to totally freak out because how will I ever fulfill my purpose now?!

Our friend, Apostle Paul, has a remedy: “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:5b-7, ESV).

When you bring your worries to God, he will give you peace and guard your heart and mind. When we give all of our concerns to God, he promises to bring us peace. It makes sense – if you tell someone who can fix your problem about your problem, doesn’t it make you feel better? So imagine if you tell an all-powerful God about your anxieties. Won’t it bring you comfort to know that you are no longer in control of this thing, that someone who promises to bring good to you is in control?

This is a lot to take in, and I want to put more detail in, but I know it’s long enough already. Most of this is easy to agree with and understand in our minds. Most of us can read this and feel comforted right now. But, when the heat turns up in life and it’s time to endure some suffering, all this just sounds like a cute little idea. When my social anxiety kicks in in front of four people, I want to panic at thought of ever singing in front of a crowd. When my depression tries to come back and tell me I’m not good or pretty enough for my husband, I want to disappear off the face of the earth. But, when I cast these concerns on God, he guards my heart and calms me down. My spirit is healed and I have the strength of God within me. No level of emotional pain or worry is a match for God. We will all still struggle and suffer, but in those moments, know that is when God is closest to you. He will bring you through it.

Verses to Think About:

Romans 8:37-39: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death not life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (ESV).

Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” (ESV).