Do you ever struggle to connect your questions to God’s answers, or the harsh realities of your life to God’s power, or your choices to God’s wisdom, or your apathy to God’s calling? If you answered yes, then settle in a big, comfy chair. I expect you’re going to quickly become good friends with the author of my next summer reading pick, Gwen Smith.
Gwen knows how easy it is to dismiss God’s plans with thoughts like “I can’t make a big difference for God because I’m just an ordinary woman with an ordinary life.” Trust me, I totally have thoughts like that myself. Yet Gwen’s book, I Want It All, helps us understand how God created us to join Him in doing amazing work in the world, no matter who we are or how ordinary we think our life is. If you’ve been struggling with thinking big thoughts about God and what He can do in you and through you, I Want It All can help change your perspective, and maybe get you more excited about being passionate about your faith than you’ve been in a while.
And seriously, who doesn’t want that? 🙂
The Bible tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 ESV). The writer of Hebrews goes on to tell us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Impossible. Take that in. It also says that those of us who draw near to God need to “believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (v. 6 ESV).
I wonder … does my faith please God? Do I believe Him a lot or just a little? At times I find myself on autopilot when I pray. Especially when the sun is shining and the world is right. I forget the active nature of believing and fall into passivity. Believing is a choice that must be made with every prayer, not just one time. In the passivity, I forget to expect big things from Him. Or I stomp my feet and demand that He answer me now, now, NOW!
Do you ever do that? Do you ever pray—because it’s what we Jesus girls do—but forget to think big thoughts about God and expect great things from Him? Do you ever get bossy with your prayers and try to tell God how you think He should take care of your situation? (Hang on. I just stubbed my toe on that one.) Do you ever pray for big things but doubt that God even hears you? Do you ever doubt His power?
Don’t fret. Doubts are going to happen.
Paul Tournier said, “Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith either.” Jesus said that everything is possible for one who believes (Mark 9:23). When in doubt, I often throw up a simple prayer like the man in Mark 9:24: I believe; help my unbelief!
I’m convinced that our lack of belief diminishes the power God wants to amplify through our great expectations of Him. The good news is that He meets honest hearts in the middle of unbelief and helps us wait in expectation. When we pray the Holy Spirit bridges the gaps between our struggles and His strength.
I want every ounce of power God has for me, but I’m going to be honest with you: there are times when I feel as though I’m in a trash compactor with the walls closing in. Times when I pray and fight tooth and nail to experience that all-is-well peace.
I’m actually there now.
I am praying for my son, who just had surgery and is facing a four-month recovery.
I’m praying for a forty-two-year-old friend who was diagnosed a year ago with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, chemo, radiation, and reconstruction. She was on the road to healing. Doing great. Only to find out that she now has stage-four cancer in her spine. She is the matriarch to a household of boys. She is a rose among thorns. Thorns need their rose. She’s been given one to three years to live.
I’m also praying for Jennifer, one of my best friends from college whose husband just died suddenly, leaving her a widow and their two children fatherless.
And there are other loved ones struggling too. So many others. I know your list is just as long as mine.
I pray … and at times I feel like curling up in a fetal position.
The walls of pain are pressing hard. The aches are real. The groanings are raw.
Under the weight of it all, I’m thankful for what I know of God. For what I know of His power. I know that God is in the middle of it all. That He is right beside me. Right beside them. I know that He is more than able to handle complicated challenges and is faithful to provide the grace needed for each broken moment.
I also know that without His strength I crumble. Without His presence I panic. Without His Spirit I wander and wonder and wane. When David was in duress, he often spoke to himself in the Psalms. I love that … because I do it too sometimes. “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him” (Ps. 62:5 NIV 1984).
I turn my heart toward God and talk to myself. Keep calm, Gwen. God is still on the throne, and you are free to approach Him at any time, with any ache, with any question, with any weakness. Thank You, Jesus.
I love the way The Message paraphrases the encouraging verses of Ephesians 3:20: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”
There is power in prayer, power in God’s nearness, power in pouring out our emotions, and power in picking up His Word. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17 ESV).
God’s Word speaks strength to wilted souls. It bolsters our believing. Press into the Word when the walls of life press in on you. Here are a few of my go-to verses in times like these:
LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy…. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. (Hab. 3:2, 17–19)
When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. (Ps. 94:18–19)
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (73:26)
And press into prayer. Even when it’s hard to pray. Even when you want to shout to the heavens, “Come on, God! I need You here!” Even when your prayers seem to go unanswered, or when you receive a different answer than the one you were hoping for.
There is never a time when God doesn’t hear the cries of His children.
Believe it. He hears your prayers and can be trusted.
When we press past the pain in prayer, when we press into Jesus, peace sutures bleeding hearts and holds them tenderly until they heal. Agony is attended to by the One who knows the wrenching sting of pain, betrayal, and loss. By the One who understands. The compassionate One who reaches for the trembling hands of a struggler, picks her up, and carries her to a place of wholeness and healing. He fights for His child when she is too weary and worn to engage in the battle (Exodus 14:14).
Though the walls press in, God is able and available to work within—deeply and gently—with a grace that gives strength and is sufficient for your every need.
Yes. Doubts will come … but God will meet you in your doubts and walk you toward faith. He promises to meet us in the chasm between our needs and His provision.
Believe. Make that choice. Then wait in great expectation of the God you know. ~Gwen Smith
Gwen Smith is an author and volleyball enthusiast who lives in sunny North Carolina and has been married to her college honey, Brad, for 23 years. They are tired parents to three tall, competitive-sport-playing teens who keep them on their toes and on their knees. Her online friends meet at GwenSmith.net to connect and be encouraged, and her goal is to help women think big thoughts about God and be inspired to live out the grace and truth of Jesus. Gwen Smith’s new book, I Want It ALL, is filled with practical help, Biblical depth and applicable lessons. And it includes a Bible Study Guide right in the back. No extra purchases required! READY TO PEEK INSIDE THE PAGES? Download a FREE sample chapter at iwantitallbook.com. or order yours today from Amazon. Connect with Gwen on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
What is something you’ve done in your faith walk which has created a drive in you to be a better person?
Last week’s winners are below and have been notified via email:
Hope Prevails: K, Agnes, Pam, and Marsha
A Different Beautiful: Deborah