Jesus is Lord of “What Might Have Been”

I heard this phrase in a sermon last week; “Jesus is Lord of what might have been.”

It couldn’t be a more timely season in my life to hear this statement and to sit in the truth of the many passages that support this claim. I know that Jesus is Lord over all of the “what ifs,” “could of’s,” would ofs,” “should ofs” and “not nows” in my life, but there are times when my sight of this reality is blurry and my practical theology isn’t matching up with my systematic theology. At times, I see in myself a tendency to forget about the comfort, strength, motivation and relief that comes from knowing that Jesus is King over all and that the Lord will glorify Himself no matter what – – even when the “what might have beens” of my life are circling around in my thoughts.

When I was reminded of it this past weekend, I was comforted and relieved.

Gratitude-Changes-Everything-Free-Printable-Gray-GoldI can’t begin to count how many “what might have been” thoughts have crossed my mind in the course of the last four months, let alone this past year. But what I can do is share with you what I’ve realized about my “what might have been” pondering. The Lord reminded me of Proverbs 13:12, which says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” What a difficult realization to confront: my wonderings about what could have been are all too often connected to “deferred hopes” and reveal that my heart is sick and tired and wants things my way.

When I really considered the desires and petitioned prayers I had labeled as “what might have beens” over the last several months, I saw a theme. Although the theme of my thought patterns haven’t been completely lost in an abyss of “woe is me,” because certain things ended up in the “what might have been” pile; I haven’t truly  been resting in the truth that Jesus is Lord of whatever might have been in my life. 

This week I took a serious look at the thoughts that were going through my mind.

I’ve wondered about what might have been in regards to my dreams for helping plant a new church in DC. I’ve wondered about what might have been in some of my friendships that have seen easier seasons. I’ve wondered what might have come from newly discovered connections and sparks with people that seem to have fizzled out. I’ve wondered about what could have developed from a short-lived, whirlwind experience of chemistry and unexpected interactions with a guy who actually got my attention. I’ve thought about what might have been in areas of my career that I haven’t yet had the chance to explore. Let’s be honest, I’ve wondered what might have been had I been as strict as I could be on my nutritional goals.

I could go on, but you know what? I don’t need to because I think you get my point. Amazing epiphanies can happen when one actually pays attention to the topics of their thoughts, their words and the frequency of those two things.

Who seriously wants to live in the negative, Debbie downer zone of “what might have been” rains of thought? I definitely DON’T!

I want to view the desires I had for past situations in my life for what they are: under Jesus’ power and Lordship. I want to fight my natural tendency to analyze everything and choose to wonder about “what might have been” had the Lord not saved me from a life I would have chosen for myself – – but only briefly because wow that’s a dark whole! I want to wonder what might have been had He not been the Shepherd that He is, what might have been had He not called me His child or had He not provided a way for me to be reconciled to Him in Christ?

I want to wonder about the “what might have beens” of my life in this way so that I am encouraged and motivated to walk in a manner worthy of His calling (Eph. 4:1). It’s freeing to know that by the power of the Holy Spirit I can truly identify the ways in my life that the Lord has been making the desires of my heart in tune with His will, but not allowing the “what might have been” hopes of my heart and it’s limited scope of what I need! From this perspective, my hopes and desires will come true and the Lord will show Himself to be that tree of life described in Proverbs 13:12.

I’m grateful that the Jesus is Lord over everything single “what might have been” in my life and I am grateful He knows better than I do about what hopes, dreams and desires of my heart should inevitably fall under that category. He knows what’s best for me and calls me to trust Him in that.

Everything else pales in comparison.

 

 

 

Processing the Last Year in Light of Psalms 23 & 24

A few weeks ago I heard a sermon on Psalms 23 and 24 and I can’t stop thinking about the implications of these two passages. Don’t you just love when that happens?

I’ve been planning to post a blog about Psalm 23 in particular, and when I went to write it I realized it was almost July 14th, so I decided to wait and combine my posts. Some of you may not realize the significance of this date, but exactly a year ago today three friends and I set out on our cross country adventure from SoCal to DC. I won’t go into the details of that trip here or about why I uprooted my life to move back across the country (after moving from Boston to SoCal six years earlier), but you can read about it in this post where I announce my big move news. And for fun, you can read about how I was feeling three weeks before the move and one week before the move.

But, back to the blog at hand :); we all know I ramble.

change-quotesAs I thought about the truths in Psalms 23 & 24 and realized it’s been a year since I left California, the two thoughts collided; the aftermath of which was beautifully enlightening and deeply comforting.

Psalm 23 describes the Lord as a Shepherd. This psalm is often a passage that’s read at funerals or used for comfort in troubling times, but my recent studies have reminded me of the rich truths and encouragement it offers for all seasons of life. As one of His sheep, the Lord leads me, never leaves me, always knows what I need and in what season I need it.

Psalm 24 declares the Lord as the King of Glory. Not only is He near to His children, but He is King over all and will be glorified no matter what. He is all powerful, mighty in battle, all knowing, and He is the one who established the earth and all of its inhabitants. Nothing in my life is out of His control and He is the author of my salvation.

When I think about the last year of my life, I am immensely comforted by these two Psalms. When I think about the events and realities of the last four months I find great hope and rest in these two passages. Not only have I experienced all four seasons that DC has to offer in the last year, but I’ve walked through several seasons of my life and relationship with the Lord in the last year.

I’m grateful to be on the other side of this past year, reflecting on all that’s happened and all I have learned.  

This last year has been full of amazing and heart breaking experiences, challenging, eye-opening and inspiring circumstances, uncertainties, confirmations and HOPE.

It’s been a year consisting of more changes and transitions than I could have ever anticipated or expected. It’s been a year full of developments that have challenged my trust in the Lord, my perspective of friendship, my ideals and desires to one day have a significant other, my thoughts on celebrating and suffering well with others and so many more of my ideals.

It’s been a year that has revealed my expectations for church life (both preferential and biblical), my desires toward ministry, toward service and how the Lord would use me within the body and His kingdom. It’s been a year that has stretched my comfort zones in more ways than I could explain here and a year that has solidified desires I have toward my career and personal life a like.

It’s been a year that has resulted in new and changed relationships from near and far. I’ve seen friendships grow in spite of distance and friendships strengthen regardless of proximity or circumstance. This past year has been one that’s resulted in glimpses of “what could have been” and “never would be,” to lessons in “what may still be,” “what is worth the wait,” “what’s worth the sacrifice and heartache,” and “what doesn’t really matter in the end.”

This has been my reality since last July.

But as I ponder the last twelve months, I find myself being most thankful for the fact that it’s also been a year that has expanded my understanding of the Lord and His word, my worth in Him, my purpose in Him and my desires to trust Him through every season still.

Psalm 23 reminds me that the Lord has my best interest in mind. He makes me rest when I need it, He leads me through dark seasons of life when I can’t see, He sits me by still waters when I am in need of refreshment, and He comforts me with His rod and staff by preventing me from making unwise decisions or drawing me back to the fold when I’ve wandered too far.  He’s been faithful this past year and all the years of my life, and will continue to be!

Psalm 24 reminds me that my God is in control and no matter what happens He is still the King and will be glorified. No “unexpected” changes in my life are outside of His power or knowledge and all things will work together for His glory and my good. He will win the battle, He has made a way in Christ and I am blessed in Him because I belong to Him.

In light of everything I can wholeheartedly say that it’s been a wonderful year; through the tears, the fears, the smiles and the laughs I can say “thank you, Lord!”

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing to Trust the Lord in the Midst of Changes

Well, here I am again. I know it’s been a while; in typical Jenn fashion, I’ve been a busy bee and a little unsure what to post about first. But, I finally got the motivation bug this evening and I just had to share about the goodness of the Lord during times of unexpected change in life lately.

You see, I did not anticipate some of the changes that have occurred in this season of life and I may have been a bit shocked by some of them, BUT in the midst of it all the Lord remains constant and has continuously reminded me of several things that have been carrying me through this season.

Some of those reminders include:

  • His will is always most important.
  • His ways are not my ways. His methods are not my methods.
  • This earth is not my home.
  • He knows all, and thus much more than I do about anything and everything.
  • He will lead me in the path of righteousness and it may not look like I think it should or expect it to look.
  • He has made promises to His children and He is faithful to fulfill those promises – even when my human perspective is discouraged by how things look to be adding up.
  • He is my only constant and will never change.
  • He is simultaneously working in the lives of others. Sometimes His guidance for myself and them will seem contradictory and at times His plan for changes in our lives will seem to collide – but I can’t see the whole picture and I may never need to.
  • He sees me. He knows me. He loves me. He continues to pursue me.
  • He is always intentional;  in fact He created intentionality and calls us to experience the wealth of His pursuit and provision through Christ.
  • He has a plan and will often use unlikely and undesired means to bring about His purposes – like suffering.

Even though this is a longer list, this is really just to name a few of the truths about the Lord that I’ve been attempting to rest in lately.Hebrews

To top it all off, it’s been such a sweet and timely season of studying the books of Hebrews and Acts with some friends. Studying and learning about Christ’s sacrifice and priesthood through Old Testament applications has been awesome. Being reminded that Christ was made perfect through suffering has been humbling. Seeing the many changes and experiences the early church went through in Acts has been encouraging. Walking through these changes with a solid community of believers (literally here in DC and in other states) has been an immeasurable blessing.

Sure, there are many things in my life that seem uncertain right now or that I might find myself “wishing” had turned out differently, but I can say in  the midst of it all that my God has not changed, He is worthy of my trust and will never forsake His promises of my inheritance in Him once this life fades away. In Him and by His Spirit, I can fight the many spiritual battles alongside the amazing Christ-like siblings He’s placed in my life and pray through the changes – as each comes my way.

I’ll leave you with a passage that I can’t get enough of right now, and a quote from John Piper that’s been a continuous reminder to persevere in the forward fight to choose trust in the Lord no matter what. Enjoy and be encouraged!

Paraphrase: “…exercise the organ of faith in pumping the blood of obedience.” – John Piper in a sermon about The Doctrine of Perseverance.

Hebrews 10: 19-25: “19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Thoughts on Giving & Meeting Needs

Yesterday my friend Corrine and I had the privilege of writing thank you notes to the people who donated to help her and her husband pay their medical bills (you can see more about that here). It was a great way to reflect on how the Lord provided for their needs through the donations and generosity of others. As Corrine, myself and my roomie were talking about the concept of giving and meeting the needs of others, we started discussing the series our pastors are doing at our church.

As I thought about the concepts we were discussing, this thought came to mind:

Giving shouldn’t be a matter of “should I,” “how much” or “when to,” but rather a matter of “what or who to give to.”

This thought doesn’t just apply to giving money, but to time, emotions and talents as well. The Bible calls believers to give sacrificially and to give when the need comes up, not when it’s convenient for us. Whenever an opportunity comes up to give the Lord often brings to mind Proverbs 3:27-28; “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you.”

I have to admit there are times when opportunities are presented and I miss them; sadly sometimes due to my selfishness and unwillingness to do good when I have the means to do so. When I think about selfishness and self preservation I realize that, at their core, they truly reveal a serious lack of trust in the Lord. So it wasn’t surprising to realize that the same chapter where the verses above can be found are the often quoted Proverbs 3:5-6; “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

These verses are life verses for me and I can recall many times when they’ve been dear friends to me in great times of despair. They have also been reminders to continue to look to the Lord in times of great blessings. And of course they have been exhortations in times of learning and growth. I just love how the Lord reveals new layers and truths through His Word over time and in different seasons of our lives!

Which brings me back to our  current sermon series, “The Practice of Giving.” I must say that I am BEYOND grateful for how our pastors have approached this topic. The topic of money is always a tough one to cover, but the topic of how to be kingdom minded with our money is another battle entirely. I’m proud of my pastors for how they’ve discussed these issues in their sermons and I’ve been challenged in many ways.

I’ve been challenged to approach this concept of giving from all angles, not just from the perspective of money. I’m challenged to ask myself how I’m giving of my time in prayer for others, in service to others and in making myself available to meet needs that come up. I’m challenged to ask myself if I’m missing any opportunities to meet needs around me because I’m so consumed with myself, with materialism, with “my time” and/or my “to do list.” And of course many of the opportunities that come up will be to help meet financial needs, so I’m challenged to ask myself if I’m trusting the Lord to provide when He presents an opportunity for giving financially -it’s His money any way!

Lastly, the Lord continues to challenge me to trust Him to provide for my current needs with moving to DC. As the date gets closer He’s revealing that these needs aren’t just financial, though it would be easy to be consumed with that aspect of it. There are needs of prayer, needs of physical help with moving, needs of encouraging words and even needs of  farewell hugs.

So often we think that the word “giving” only refers to financial giving, especially when mentioned in a church setting, but that’s not always the case. Giving means acknowledging the Lord in all we do and trusting Him to make our paths straight. Giving means trusting the Lord in all areas of life; whether that’s seeking Him to answer the question of “where or who to” to give to or surrendering our own needs to Him and trusting Him to provide above all that we could ask or think of.

I know it will continue to be a long road of progressive sanctification, but my prayer for you and I is that the Lord would create in us hearts that desire to give and surrender to Him in every way that He calls us to.