God Wants to Break Your Heart

broken heart

Once God breaks your heart, nobody else can!

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~(Psalm 51:17)

If you’re a Christian and you’ve ever suffered loss, ever felt vulnerable and unprotected, ever felt you were sinking, drowning, crumbling at your core, then you’ve probably also wondered what I have, “Where are You, God?” or simply asked God, “Why?” If you’ve prayed to feel His presence and instead felt absence, prayed to hear His voice and heard deafening silence, prayed for a restored marriage then numbly watched the divorce finalized, prayed for healing and watched loved ones die, if you’ve placed your trust in Him and still felt that burning sting of disappointment, then you’ve encountered the God of which I speak, the God who wants to break your heart.

Of course I’m not suggesting God is some aloof, or worse, sadistic being, deriving pleasure from our pain. However, I am saying that if we’ll ever fulfill our God-ordained purpose, we’ll have to be broken to fit the God-shaped mold for our lives. In “Finding My Way Home,” Henri Nouwen asserts that when Christ cried out, “It is finished,” He didn’t only mean what He’d done, but also what others had done to Him – that He stayed on the cross until all that needed to be done to Him could be done in order to fulfill His purpose. If we’re committed to God and truly passionate about adopting His desires, His thoughts, His ways, then we’ll welcome His process, His breaking, His remaking. We’ll allow His breaking to fulfill our life’s purpose.

I believe God breathes on us in a gentle way to bend our will into submission to His, but much like Jacob, we wrestle. In our striving, though, we encounter the God who loves us enough to break what will not bend. Pastor Howard-John Wesley said, “God knows that life outside of His will is not in your best interest, and He loves you too much not to use everything in His sovereign omnipotence to get you to surrender to His will…we serve a God who, if blessing you doesn’t change your life, [He] has enough love to break you in the right place.” I believe the “right place” for God to break us is our hearts, the wellspring of our inconsistent desires and stubborn wills.

The admonishment in Joel 2:12-13 is to “rend your hearts, not your garments” and return to the Lord with your whole hearts. The message is that the outward appearance of repentance, contrition, and obedience mean nothing if our sinful hearts remain unbroken and turned away from God. The good news is that God waits on us. He waits to be gracious toward us and show us mercy (Isaiah 30:18). My mentor shared her belief that God sometimes withholds His provision until we seek His presence. Perhaps what we’ve thought was God’s silence was His megaphone to help us diligently seek Him. Perhaps what felt like God’s absence was His patience. Perhaps God knows that only desperate, broken hearts can receive His transforming love.

Shannon Alder said, “Blessed are those with cracks in their broken heart because that is how the light gets in.” God wants in, and a broken heart provides a blessed route.I believe God is determined to do a new thing in and through us, and the old places won’t facilitate new growth. In a recent sermon, Pastor MyRon Edmonds said that unless we learn to get vulnerable with God and get broken, our old ways will keep taking us down the same road. But the blessing of God’s breaking is that “once GOD breaks you, nobody else can!” Heart Check: Do you trust God to break those parts of you that won’t bend in submission to His sovereignty? Do you believe the breaking He’s sending is better than the blessing you’re seeking? God wants to break your heart. Will you let Him?

I originally posted this on The Haystack.

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When I Don’t Want God to Be God

1. fear is misplaced faith

Likewise, anxiety is misplaced divinity – something else is God.

4 a.m. – I still hadn’t gotten any good sleep, a daunting reality when I reminded myself the day’s alarm would be blaring in less than 2 hours.

5 a.m. – I jolted awake, somewhat confused because it’d been more than a year since a wave of panic had washed over me like it did in that one sweeping moment. Yet, also somewhat aware of where those overwhelming anxieties were stemming from.

I realized I didn’t want God to be God in HIS way, I wanted Him to be God in MY way.

Having survived years of abuse and working with a number of trauma survivors, I’m well aware of the brokenness life can bring. What heightened my awareness this week was sending all four of our children off to school where they’re no longer under my watchful care. I whispered, “God, please help me to trust You’ll protect my children.” Then, it hit me: what if God protects them the way He protected me? Tears spilled down my face as I realized I didn’t want God to be God in HIS way, I wanted Him to be God in MY way. I don’t want God to allow a fraction of the pain in their lives that He allowed in mine. I want His protection to look like mine would. I want Him to prevent our pain, but He’s determined to purpose our pain.

When I’m honest with myself, I have to admit there are times that I don’t want God to be God. That’s what the heavy dose of panic coursing through my veins was really about. It was really about whether or not I am willing to embrace God’s allowance of affliction over my preference of protection. Do I desire my Savior to also be sovereign? Quite often, at the root of our anxiety is a difficulty in trusting the sovereignty of God, a difficulty in relinquishing all illusions of control to an all-consuming God who won’t reveal all of His plans to us. Notice I mentioned we seek to retain “illusions of control” because our striving with God says nothing of His enduring omnipotence. He’s still in control. He’s still God.

At the root of our anxiety is a difficulty in trusting the sovereignty of God.

Our enemy uses the truth about our experiences to speak lies about our God. His native language is deceitfulness; he’s the father of lies (John 8:44). And, he is still feeding us the same lie he fed Adam and Eve all those years ago: we’d be better gods than God himself.

I’d have to agree with the saying that “fear is misplaced faith,” and I’ll add that much of our anxiety is misplaced divinity. We’ve made something or someone else God – usually ourselves. When we allow our emotions to escalate unchecked, when we listen to the lies about God’s goodness, lies about His character, about His steadfast mercy and love somehow not being what’s best for us, we’re choosing to exalt potential problems over the Prince of Peace. God foresaw that we would experience anxiety, but He calls us to submit those worries to Him because if we don’t we are essentially making a God of whatever or whomever we trust more (1 Peter 5:7). If I trust myself to handle my situation, protect my children, etcetera, more than I trust God, then I’m essentially saying I don’t want God to be God; I want to be God. If God isn’t God, then someone else will be. Quite often, that someone else is self, evidenced when we would rather be the person in control than let God be God. But even the most terrific person will make a terrible God.

If God isn’t God, then someone else will be.

If you are struggling with anxiety, first, know that you are not alone. Know that the God of the universe looked ahead in time, knew you would be burdened with this struggle, and specifically called you to cast all of those anxieties on Him because He cares for you. Second, know that help is available through Christ-centered counseling and medical interventions. You weren’t meant to bear this cross alone. I’ve already prayed for those reading and wanting more help; I believe God for you. Below is a list of resources for anxiety management and finding a skilled therapist in your area.

Click HERE: Anxiety Relaxation Techniques

Click HERE: Find a Psychotherapist (U.S.A. or Canada)

Click HERE: Therapist Locator (outside U.S. or Canada)

 

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Choosing Regrets

leap in the dark

Image credit to MyRon Edmonds

  “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”                                                        ~Ecclesiastes 11:4 (TLB)

The 2-minute video below addresses the difference between day-to-day regrets and life regrets. In summary, people tend to regret ACTIONS in their day-to-day experiences, like maybe traveling for a vacation when they may have wanted the money used for something else, but when reflecting over their lives, the biggest regrets tend to be INACTION. In fact, the number one life regret is not traveling more. Hopefully you enjoy the brief video; you can click subscribe for more. You won’t know every possible outcome, but you really can choose your regrets. Take the leap, go all in, your future self will thank you!

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Life Soundtrack

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Many of our most powerful life experiences are inextricably tied to healing melodies that have both stirred our souls and lifted our spirits, music that will forever have an emotional impact on us and be indelibly etched into the fabric of our lives. Here’s a compilation of what was shared with me along with my own #lifesoundtrack. I thank each of you for sharing and blessing my life!

#ThisSongWasOnRepeat when I wanted to give up on any hopes of healing…but God…TUH #butGod

“When [my sister] Lystra died. “I’m going to be ready” by Yolanda Adams was on Serious REPEAT!”

#ThisSongWasOnRepeat for much of my senior year of high school when the pain of my past threatened to eclipse God’s plan for my life.”

[FOR THE SAME SONG, DIFFERENT TESTIMONY BELOW:]

“I sang this song outside the office of the professor that took my full scholarship away because I couldn’t sign up for a class she wanted me to take. I was sitting in a desk in the hallway outside her office, singing, when SWAT showed up. She called them because I “intimidated” her. Well, maybe but, I got my scholarship back. #goodtimes

“After my abortion. Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.”

“When I was pregnant and terribly anxious because of my heart condition I would listen to “He Has His Hands On You”. I also continually return to Keeping My Mind, Promise Keeper, Draw Nigh, and Breathe Into Me O Lord, from the Spirit of David album.”

 

#ThisSongWasOnRepeat for a number of days my freshman year in college. Some days I couldn’t even muster a prayer. What. a. GOD!”

“Speechless by Israel. Mannnnn”

#ThisSongWasOnRepeat when my water broke after just 25 weeks of pregnancy with the twins and the neonatologist came by to tell me what I can expect for them (bleeding on the brain, seizures, death, nothing good!) [they’re 4, now, btw, alive and completely healthy].”

“When I was tied up and gang raped, not supported, feeling worthless.”

“When reflecting on the miscarriage of my first child…”

#ThisSongWasOnRepeat for the four days between my doctor finding a lump and the negative mammogram results.”

“…this was on repeat when my life was completely broken…spiritually, mentally and emotionally and I just couldn’t turn anywhere else.” [1/3]

“But…AFTER THIS….” [2/3]

“And my favorite Andrae Crouch” [3/3]

This I’ve been meditating on for the last month. It’s completely repetitive (lol) but it was exactly what I needed.” [below is the version sent to me and a shorter version; both are great!]

“When I started to fight back against depression on a spiritual&practical aspect when the enemy tried to convince me it was too dark to pray Already Getting Better by William Murphy got me through those rough counseling sessions”

“When God gave me the strength to let go of the guilt of my past Daryl Coley “He’s Preparing Me” helped me understand that the assignment never changed ! God was preparing me the entire time”

“When I thought that because of my depression God finally gave up on me and stop speaking to me Marvin Sapp’s Speak to my heart and his rendition of “I Come to the Garden Alone” became my daily prayers”

“Reflecting on my last suicide attempt, i look back and remember the pain that had brought me to that point. now diminished greatly on most days, that pain almost rendered me unavailable, incapable, feeling unworthy to worship my creator. i truly could see no other way, no hope, no love, rejection , scorn, contempt, guilt……..i just simply could not have morning come one more day. And as my body fell to the ground, i looked into my husband’s eyes. he was afraid. i’ve never seen that look on his face again and i pray i never will. the vomiting, the ambulance ride, the hospital band that read my name but reminded me that i failed yet again. the anger for having to pick myself up and try to live one more time. i didn’t have a song then. didn’t have much of anything come to think of it. But i did have God’s love. Today, i am still amazed by just how much he loves ME.”

“‘Withholding nothing Melody’ more recently has been blessing me EARLY in the morning”

[FOR THE SAME SONG, DIFFERENT TESTIMONY BELOW:]

“The day before I was to share a very personal testimony, I had the thought, ‘I feel that urge to withhold some things,’ and within a few seconds, I saw a friend tweet, ‘Withholding Nothing.’ I felt God’s peace as I honored Him by speaking truth.”

“Can this be on the life soundtrack list? It’s just… so…relevant. to like, everything.”

I was truly, truly honored to share this day reflecting and worshiping with those who shared. I heard familiar echoes of overwhelming Love telling of a God who reaches into impossibly bleak situations and makes all things new. I hope you’re blessed by this playlist! All of the songs are compiled into a single Youtube playlist HERE.

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Further Out to Sea

Amidst the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy, this week was marked by stories of both suffering and survival. Among the devastation and ruins I’ve witnessed determination and resilience, proving Helen Keller’s words to be true:

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

Like many of you, my friends and I have been discussing the storm and its aftermath. Last night, a friend recounted a news story with such spiritual implications it’s gripped me throughout the day. She said that as Hurricane Sandy approached, a cruise ship was forced to go further out to sea and battle waves as high as 35 feet. I think the instinctual question is, “Why wouldn’t they just head to shore?” I’m sure the answer is as simple as ports closing, and going further out to sea was definitely a more viable option when you consider the alternative – the cruise ship being battered by Sandy and forced to run aground.

Yet, I somehow think if I were on that ship, I’d have prayed both for safety and to get back to shore, A.S.A.P! But, the captain knew what he was doing and knew the best and safest place for the ship and its passengers was further out at sea. So often we pray such conflicting prayers, asking God to save our souls but shunning His method of salvation; requesting financial prosperity but refusing to invest sacrificially to build wealth; claiming we want to be a light in darkness but questioning God’s love when we find ourselves in life’s dark places. I wholeheartedly believe this is why Romans 8:26 reminds us “…we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Thank God for taking our confounded foolishness and transforming it into what it ought to be.

This reminds me of questions David Franklin of Let’s Pray Live recently posed on Twitter: “How does God respond to prayer? Do some prayers go unanswered? Or are all prayers answered in some way?” My response was essentially this: ALL prayers are answered in SOME way, we just need to remember that the Holy Spirit’s prayers are better than ours. The Captain Himself is praying for us, and He knows what He’s doing!

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [God’s] ways higher than your ways and [His] thoughts than your thoughts.”

~Isaiah 55:9

Mark Batterson pointed out that the farthest observable object in our universe is over 13 BILLION light years away from earth. God is saying THAT’S how disparate His thoughts are from our thoughts. I thank God that when I plead for trials to end, He knows how much further things need to go to perfect His peace in my life. In other words, I THANK GOD I’m not the captain! I thank God that when I beg Him to take me back to shore, He knows what’s best for me is to be further out to sea.