When I actually started believing the Bible

Some people are troopers. Some people are jugglers. You know the type. Or maybe you are the type. Troopers put their head down. They make it through the tough stuff. “Grin and bear it”. Jugglers can take on lots of things and always manage to keep them all in the air with a confident smile. Then some people are whiners. I don’t need a Cosmo quiz to tell me what kind of person I am. I am a whiner. If something is less than comfy I complain-either out loud or to myself in my head or to God in obnoxious prayers. Sometimes if something goes wrong I think my whole day is shot. Of if I have a bad day, or a string of bad days, I think my whole entire life is horrible.  I can relate to this quote a friend posted on Instagram yesterday.

My dad calls this mentality “throwing the baby out with the bath water”. That analogy never really made a whole lot of sense to me growing up. Actually come think of it, it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But somehow I can relate.

For a while in an attempt to be less of a whiner I became more of a stuffer. I would just swallow all my feelings, ya know, stuff them down and put on a forced smile and pretend everything was okay in the name of contentment. Often I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Clearly, my attempts and trooping and juggling back-fired. There would come a boiling point and I would spew like Mt. St. Helen. I am sure any therapist worth their hourly fee would tell me I wasn’t really addressing the root of the problem. I wasn’t really listening to my emotions. “Emotions are indicators” they would say. I have spent years being told that. As a teenager we are told to control our emotions and not let our emotions control us, but rarely how to do this. (By “we” I pretty much mean women. Men aren’t told this as often as women. Peter has no idea this cliché even existed except for possibly over-hearing it in counseling sessions with me.) We are told emotions are indicators of what is going on beneath the surface. We are told emotions are all honest. We are told no one can argue with our emotions. And a bunch of other crap like that. (disclaimer: I definitely think there is partial truth and definite merit here, but not in and of itself).

Unfortunately I bought into the crap for a while. I even went a step further than believing emotions are indicators. I let emotions be dictators. I let them decide how I was going to not just feel but act. I let emotions dictate truth to me. Turns out emotions are not the best indicators of truth. (I know! Hard to believe, right?!) In fact, I found that emotions are the second best liar ever, next to the Devil himself (who I really DO think is real and I really do think likes to use emotions as tools of deception). When I let emotions be more than an indicator, when I let them be a dictator, I made them a liar and I gave them permission to be a controller-leaving me out of control.

This became especially prevalent in areas of suffering and hardship. If something was hard I labeled it bad. If God felt far away, He was. If I felt something, it must be true. I ignored the truth of scripture, which often flew in the face of what I was feeling to be true. Well actually, that isn’t completely accurate. I didn’t just ignore scripture. I read it. I memorized it. I listened to it in sermons and songs, verses like “draw near to God and He will draw near to you” or “God brings all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (James 4:8 and Romans 8:28). . I hated those verses. I would get so fed up with hearing people quote scripture of comfort or scripture of God’s sovereignty. Why? Because it didn’t feel true in my life. I came to believe that scripture was lying. I chose to believe my feelings instead of God. Emotions like to feed off themselves. And Satan likes to feed on lies. So many negative things, dangerous things, were thriving inside me. Meanwhile I was starving. What I lacked was perspective. What I needed was faith.

It wasn’t an overnight transformation. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t without many nights soaking my pillow with tears. It wasn’t without many honest, fumbling prayers. It wasn’t without grace that I came to a place of faith. But I decided to start believing what the Bible said, even if it didn’t seem to feel true. I decided “hey, these emotions have gotten me nowhere, but places I don’t want to go. It is time I start speaking truth to myself. It is time I start bossing my emotions around. It is time I start believing that something bigger than me and what I feel is true. It is time I start actually living as if the Bible I claim to believe is true-not just parts of it that resonate with me, but all of it.”

Turns out God is right. Turns out God’s way is best. Turns out scripture is true and sometimes my feelings lie.

When I decided to start believing the Bible, God changed my heart. My faith grew. My emotions followed…usually. I have to keep those suckers on a short leash. The analogy of the mustard seed makes such perfect sense to me now.

“Because you have so little faith.
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,
you can say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20.

I realized just how flawed and destructive my thinking really was. I was so “me-centered”. I wouldn’t have said it or realized it at the time but I was living as if God owed me something. When something was hard I automatically assumed that God didn’t keep His promises, God didn’t love me and I had every right to be angry with God. I wanted desperately to be close to God, but I wanted it on my terms, not His. I am so thankful that God didn’t give me what I deserved. I am thankful He was patient with me and just so, so compassionate. I am so thankful He chiseled away at my pride and my sinful thinking.  He took a mustard seed of faith-which was all I had to give at the time-and moved mountains in my heart. He gave me grace: His unmerited favor on my life, everything I didn’t  (and don’t ) deserve.

I don’t say all this to come off as if I have it all figured out. It is quite the opposite, really. What I am saying is that apart from God I would be an even bigger mess than I already am. What I am saying is that God gets the glory for any good you see in me, any change that has taken place. It is all Him. So often I still have to remind myself that truth is true even when it doesn’t feel true. Every single day I have to tell myself that just because I feel something doesn’t make it true, or untrue. Just because God doesn’t feel close, doesn’t mean He isn’t. Just because I don’t see evidence of that promise being kept doesn’t mean it isn’t. The story is still being written. Just because something doesn’t feel good, doesn’t mean it isn’t for my good. In fact, probably the opposite. It feels hard because it is for my good. I have to tell myself I can’t be trusted. I have to tell myself Who can be trusted. I some times still look at promises in the Bible and feel anger stir up in me because I don’t see that evidence in my circumstances. But I have learned that God is cool with me pouring my honest thoughts out to Him. He can handle it. He wants me to trust Him, and not just with my pretty thoughts. He wants me to trust Him with my ugly too, with my doubts, with my struggles, with what pains me. He wants to make it beautiful, often by using means I never would have chosen on my own.

So, I am also saying that “I get it”. For anyone who struggles to wrangle their emotions, for anyone who yells and screams and whines to God, to anyone who “throws the baby out with the bath water”, or who wonders if God meant His promises for everyone else but them: “me too”. Been there. Some times I am still there.  But God speaks to us in those moments. He says

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts”.
Isaiah 55:8-9
For so long I took this as God “putting me in my place”, and I guess it is that. But the more I get to know and experience the love, grace and compassion of my God, the more I read these words as the comfort of a father speaking to his child. There is freedom and peace in being put in your rightful place, in living life the way you were designed to. Sometimes I tell my kids to just enjoy being a kid and not having to figure out _____ or to stop challenging me on____ because I (maybe) know what I am talking about. I am their mother after all. I say that to exert authority but also to give them a sense of identity and a sense of comfort. It is all taken care of.  Maybe that is a bit of what God is saying. It makes me feel like it is okay to not have it all figured out; I am not supposed to. It gives me comfort in knowing that God knows my thoughts will be jumbled, and naive, and immature. He knows I don’t get it. But He does. He gets it. When things go “wrong” I can trust that what may seem as confusing, frustrating and just plain painful for me, is just His thoughts and ways being higher than mine. It is pretty nice to be able to rest in the care of someone who knows what is best for me AND will bring it about. When I read the rest of Isaiah 55 it made sense in the context of a loving God taking care of His children.
So, anyway, all this rambling is to say starting to believe the Bible-like really believe on it and act on it-was the best choice I ever made. Since I hung up my feelings and allowed truth to govern my life, the peace and joy I have felt it amazing. (I still have to hang them up every day…who am I kidding?! Every hour.) When I started to take God at His word and trust Him farther than my eyes could see, and in spite of what I was feeling, I felt like I finally “got it”. (Now, don’t get me wrong, as Peter or anyone close to me can tell you, I am FAR from having this figured out. But I am working on it.) And God has never let me down. Not even for a moment. Turns out He never had.

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