One of the best questions you can ask yourself:
Do I love Jesus, or do I love the way Jesus is letting my life go right now?
I re-read this quote from Sammy Rhodes the other day and it wounded me deeply. Without phrasing it that exact way, I feel like I've been wrestling with that question for months.
When life goes along smoothly, it's easy to praise God, count myself blessed, and tell others of His greatness . However, when things aren't going my way, when my life is far less than Instagram worthy, when I feel like I can barely trust Him at all, I have a much harder time doing those three things.
Last week, I shared my battle with envy here and admitted that much of that battle was fueled by my constant comparison to everyone else's lives through social media. The more I focused on how great everyone else's lives seemed, the less I counted my own blessings. That's when I re-read the question from Rhodes. The truth that, a) I am taking my many blessings for granted and b) that I should count myself blessed simply because Jesus saved me, knocked the wind out of me. Have I embraced comfortable, Americanized Christianity? Have I really begun to buy into the lie that following Christ means my path will be easy and that troubles will allude me? That's just wrong, plain and simple. The Word tells us that when we choose to follow Christ, we must take up our cross (Matt. 16:24-26). Scripture assures us that we will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12), that we will suffer (1 Peter 4:12-14). Our culture has embraced the #blessed lifestyle when everything is going our way, but for those of us who know Christ, shouldn't we consider ourselves #blessed every day in every circumstance?
While addressing some of these realities, God brought to my mind the women John Piper mentions in his sermon The Ultimate Meaning of True Womanhood. These women could answer Rhodes' question confidently, "We love Jesus. Period." Let me share with you what Piper taught me about living as a woman "#Blessed" by Christ:
The opposite of a wimpy woman is not a brash, pushy, loud, controlling, sassy, uppity, arrogant Amazon. The opposite of a wimpy woman is fourteen-year-old Marie Durant, a French Christian in the 17th century who was arrested for being a Protestant and told she could be released if she said one phrase: “I abjure.” Instead, wrote on the wall of her cell, “Resist,” and stayed there 38 years until she died, doing just that (Passion 116–117).
Gladys and Esther Staines
The opposite of a wimpy woman is Gladys Staines who in 1999, after serving with her husband Graham in India for three decades learned that he and their two sons, Phillip (10) and Timothy (6), had been set on fire and burned alive by the very people they had served for thirty-four years, said, “I have only one message for the people of India. I’m not bitter. Neither am I angry. Let us burn hatred and spread the flame of Christ’s love.”
The opposite of a wimpy woman is her thirteen-year-old daughter Esther (rightly named!) who said, when asked how she felt about her father’s murder, “I praise the Lord that He found my father worthy to die for Him.”
Krista and Vicki
The opposite of a wimpy woman is Krista and Vicki who between them have had over sixy-five surgeries because of so-called birth defects, Apert Syndrome and Hypertelorism, and who testify today through huge challenges, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”; and this: “Even though my life has been difficult, I know that God loves me and created me just the way I am. He has taught me to persevere and to trust Him more than anything.”
Joni Eareckson Tada
The opposite of a wimpy woman is Joni Eareckson Tada who has spent the last forty-one years in a wheel chair, and prays, “Oh, thank you, thank you for this wheel chair! By tasting hell in this life, I’ve been driven to think seriously about what faces me in the next. This paralysis is my greatest mercy” (Christianity Today, January, 2004, 50).
The opposite of a wimpy woman is Suzie who lost her husband four years ago at age fifty-nine, found breast cancer three months later, then lost her mom and writes, “Now I see that I have been crying for the wrong kind of help. I now see, that my worst suffering is my sin — my sin of self-centeredness and self-pity. . . . I know that with His grace, his lovingkindess, and his merciful help, my thoughts can be reformed and my life conformed to be more like His Son.”
Whose account sticks with you the most? For me it was that of the Staines family. Losing Matthew has become my greatest fear in life, so the story of losing both husband/father and sons/brothers completely took my breath away.
For a while now, I have been toying with the idea of starting an Instagram account where I only share the really tedious or downright ugly moments of life. Like when I step on the scale after eating well for a whole week and somehow gained a pound, or when the bags under my eyes make me look like I'm 60 years old, or how my closet floor is usually just a mound of clothes I put on and took off multiple times before leaving the house.
Of course, I would also have to document the more serious things. Like me saying very hurtful things to my husband who deserves only my best words, or maybe I would share the ugly thoughts I have about someone who hurt my feelings. I would posts pictures of my prayers written in frustration and of my cheeks, stained with the tears I have cried over from things like my Grandmother's dementia or health struggles of my own. I would caption every last one of those photos like this: #Blessed. Why? Because I AM blessed. In Christ Jesus, I am counted blessed. He chose me, He loved me, He saved me, therefore, no matter my circumstances, I consider myself blessed!
Let's look at what our Messiah said about living blessed:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Y'all, that FIRES ME UP! I want to be a woman who fears the Lord with all her heart. I want to be so in love with Jesus, that I can praise Him no matter what. He alone has to be enough!
Jesus' life was one of downward mobility. He owned only the shoes on His feet and the clothes on His back. Heck, for all we know, even those were borrowed items!
I'm not saying I should rend my clothes, cover my face in ashes, and dress in sack cloth in order to live a life like Christ. I'm just saying that I want to be one of those women who, in tragic circumstances, can still say, "It's Him. It's only Him. I love Jesus because He first loved me and I consider myself '#blessed' because He calls me His beloved. I will give Him all the glory and praise, even in this storm."
When I start getting caught up again in my ugly, envious thoughts, I now pause to think of those 7 women. I consider too: Ernestina, the girl I sponsor through Compassion who lives in Africa and writes me letters about all the wonderful things Jesus gives her (like bolts of fabric on her birthday so she can sew herself new dresses); Honey, my great-grandmother who lived to be 105 and had ushered into heaven before then her husband, daughter, grand-daughter, father, mother, 9 siblings, and countless other loved ones, yet glowed with the light of Christ more than anyone else I have ever known; of my own Mom, who loves everyone she knows like Jesus would, no matter how they treat her.
My very fervent prayer these days, as I mentioned last week, is that I become attached to things eternal. I think it's good to fully enjoy the blessings that bring us happiness. It's not wrong to own things, to appreciate beautiful things, or to create a fine life for ourselves. It's only harmful when those things consume us, become our identity, or confuse our hearts about our truest blessings.
I want to share a song with you that I heard 3 or 4 years ago at a Young Life TN Leaders weekend. It's a GREAT song no matter when or where you're listening to it, but oh how I wish I could be back in that club room with John Jackson leading hundreds of young adults in this song. It has been one of my favorites ever since. I've started playing it as I make breakfast in the morning. It's a fun reminder that no matter what my day holds, I am truly #Blessed in Christ!
I love this song so much I'm sharing it twice! Below is a video compilation of John Jackson singing Blessed with YL campers. I wish we could all go to camp TODAY and sing this together!