My white toenail polish is chipping from when I painted them before our beach trip in August. And though my jug of Coffee-Mate Pumpkin Spice creamer sits half empty inside my refrigerator door–I don’t feel ready for the season to change yet. It’s almost as if, I’m a little bit afraid of what it might bring.
My heart is holding onto summer like my toenails are holding onto this polish, and I want to be back on the beach in the beaming sunlight, walking in the surf, holding my sticky, sunscreen-scented baby girl sleeping against my chest and being soothed by the constant hush of the wind and gentle crash of waves.
My heart has a way of wanting to stay places.
The thing I’m realizing about seasons, is they always change without permission. You simply go to bed in summer, and wake up in fall.
And it’s startling.
Just when you think you’ve pinned one season down, it goes fluttering off again like a butterfly.
But this year is different. There’s a sort of resistance in me to move into the next season, and the unknown future.
Maybe, I’m not the only one craving a little more stability, and predictability in the year 2020. Maybe it’s because it’s felt like a pre-apocalyptic explosion of sin + death, and natural disasters that have left me feeling more jaded and hopeless than usual. And, I’ve noticed a question rolling around inside of me. It’s one I haven’t dared to speak out loud, but it’s there, sticking out like a partly-hidden tattoo, just begging me to look at it.
And the question is:
“What horrible thing will happen next this year?”
Maybe, you are wondering this, too?
Author, Emily P. Freeman, says that we get ourselves into trouble when we don’t, “name things properly.” And the dark thing living in my gut, or maybe my soul, that needs to be named is called,
Dread of the future.
Dread of what is coming.
Dread of all the worst-case-scenarios (just because it’s 2020.)
But here’s the problem with living in dread, and it’s a BIG problem:
dread drains the life out of you.
Dread drains you.
dread drains others around you.
And if you remove the “r” from dread–do you know what word it spells?
Dread makes you dead in the next season.
And this sense of dread we are all feeling–it’s not from the Lord.
It’s actually the opposite feeling of being in the presence of the Lord.
Because when we are in the presence of the Lord, He does not drain us, He FILLS us.
And He makes us overflow with His Spirit.
But there is a harsh enemy of our souls running rampant right now, and we dare not ignore or excuse him. His name is Satan, and his presence does drain the life from you, and his main ambition is steal, kill, and destroy you.
So, do not ignore this invisible war that is going on every day. It is the battle of your soul.
And to fight, and overcome this enemy–you absolutely must learn to distinguish the voices.
It is in fact a matter of life and death.
Jesus warned us of this when He spoke about being the Good Shepherd,
He said, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:4-5)
Likewise, we must not only ignore, but run away from the voice of the stranger when we hear it. This stranger wants to turn us away from the Good Shepherd who literally lays His life down for us.
And what does the voice of the “stranger” sound like?
It may be different for all of us.
But it could be something like…
What’s wrong with you?
Why can’t you get yourself together?
You should be so much further by now.
Why do you even try?
You’re always going to be stuck here.
You’ll never change. And you’ll only get worse.
He may say many other more terrible and vile things than this, as you know. But my dear friend Emily Wierenga has learned to distinguish the voices, when they come after her, accusing, and abusing, and pointing at her, trying to tear her down. She said once that something the enemy always spoke to her after her writing and speaking was, “You’re just an affirmation junkie.”
And in time, she has learned to simply and softly, yet boldly say,
“No. This is not the voice of my Abba Father.”
This is not the voice of my Abba Father.
And my spirit echoes with this truth.
He does not speak to His children in the same way the accuser does.
His voice does not bring death, and dread, and despair. It brings life.
And His voice not only calls us from death to life, but His Voice is Life itself.
Calling out to us.
Freely inviting us to follow Him.
So, if you’re being weighed down (and I mean totally sabbotaged) with dread in your spirit–maybe stop and ask yourself, “Who have I been listening to?”
“What am I taking in?”
“Is this the voice of my Father, or is this a “stranger?”
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
I’m writing this, because I need to remember, and I want to remind you, that you don’t have to be killed and destroyed in 2020!
You don’t have to just lay down and die this year.
You can have LIFE, and have it abundantly in Jesus Christ this new season.
You can live abundantly in the year 2020. And 2021, and 2022, and so on.
Because of Jesus. Because your life and your joy are not dictated by your circumstances, but by the living, abiding Presence of Jesus Christ.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
You hear His voice.
You hear His voice!
So, right now, I want to invite you to drop your dread.
Lift your head.
And look to Jesus.
Because no matter what else happens this crazy year–Jesus already knows about it. And whether the sky comes crashing down in giant flaming pieces, or the mountains burst apart and fall into the heart of the sea, or world war breaks out to the ends of the earth, or (I could list A LOT of my worst case scenarios here…but I will spare you the details of my own crazy mind.) The point is, no matter what happens, Jesus promises this:
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28
No one will snatch them out of my hand.
Hear this with your spirit today,
No one will snatch you out of His hand.
No one will be able to snatch you out of His hand.
That means that you enter into this new fall season, in His hand.
And you will enter this winter, in His hand.
And you will enter the spring, in His hand.
And all the days of your life, are in His hand. And even in death, when He in His sovereign, loving mercy and wisdom–takes you home on the exact day He has written in His book (Psalm 139) whether it’s tomorrow, or in 3 years, or in 80 years, you will still be safe within His hand.
Because nothing can separate you from the love of Jesus Christ, and no one can pry you out of His hand.
And not ever.
And so, as long as you are living in His hand, and as long as you are His sheep, and following His voice–
there is radiant, wild, abounding hope for you as you live within the hand of Jesus Christ.
There is safety, and peace, and rest for you.
There is abundant life for you.
And you do not have to carry the burden of this world on your shoulders–because He already carries it on His strong shoulders.
You do not have search out all the wickedness of this world, hiding under every rock and tree–because His eyes already roam to and fro, searching the whole earth, day and night to see whose hearts are committed to Him.
You do not have to carry the burden of sin and death on your shoulders each day–because He already did it for you, when He carried the cross of sin and shame and died for you, and overcame the grave.
He already broke the power of cancelled sin, and He already performed the greatest healing we could ever want or need.
On the cross.
And He has not left us as orphans.
He has not left us to live in a prison, hiding in shame, and in constant fear of the future. He has come to burst open the cage, and teach us to fly.
“…For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7
He is God. And He is here. And He has sent His Spirit to us–
So, my dear sisters (and any brothers reading this) we don’t have to ask ourselves,
“What horrible thing might happen next this year?”
Rather, as we are shielded by the very nail-pierced hand of Jesus Christ, whom hell itself could not and cannot pry open, we can confidently ask:
“What beautiful, radiant, glorious thing might the Lord do next this season?”
“What Spirit-driven, kingdom-advancing, light-blazing, chain-breaking, soul-healing, joy-saturated work might He be leading us in this year?”
Will you give him this permission to shake open your prison?
Will you give Him this invitation to blow open all the doors you’ve bolted shut? And I don’t mean physical doors. I mean the ones on your heart. Where He longs to come and flood every dark place with His radiant, healing Light.
Whatever your fears are–and I could stack mine toe to toe, because I am just as fearful as you are, and probably far worse, but what if we laid them all down in the presence of Jesus? What if we were honest, and poured out our hearts to Him, and simply told Him what we were actually afraid of, and what we actually need right now?
What if we wrote it down on paper, and laid it before him as we knelt beside the couch in the dark tonight? Might that just break it’s power? Naming those fears? Might that just give Him the opportunity to speak a word to your heart, that no one else on earth is able to speak?
What might happen–inside of us–what might shift–if instead of using our imaginations for all the “worst case scenarios” and horror scenes we can dream up, we let God take our imaginations captive for His good?
What if our minds were so set on Him, that instead of automatically thinking of all the worst-case-scenarios–we began daydreaming of best-case scenarios?
What if we dreamed of God-scenarios? You know, like the scenes that happened in the Bible? Where God’s people came without absolutely nothing, but fearful, but trembling hearts, and God came and met their simple obedience with everything, and poured out His mercy and goodness on them so lavishly they couldn’t even contain it?
A few summers ago, in the muggy heat, I sat in the woods with a little crowd of people listening to Todd White speak. And, I know he sparks controversy with some–but what I heard him say that day has stayed with me ever since. He talked about going into Walmart, and on the streets and asking God to lead him to people he could talk to and pray for. And often he asked those people if he could pray for physical healing for them. And if they allowed him, he would pray. And sometimes, not always, he saw healings take place.
But he started getting a lot of flack from other Christians, who were saying, “You shouldn’t do that. You’re going up to these unbelievers and praying for physical healing–but what if God doesn’t heal? Then what?”
And Todd answered, “But what if He does?”
And they’d say again, “Yes. But what if He doesn’t?”
And he’d say, and he got choked up here, “But what if He does?”
But what if He does?
Sometimes, we let the possibility of God saying, “No,” dissuade us from even daring to ask boldly of Him. And my point is not to argue about physical healings–but rather–to cultivate this sense of holy wonder, this glimmer of hope, this best-case-scenario, faith-fueled imagination that says, in the face of all odds and in the most desperate situations, “I’m talking to God here, ‘the Creator of the ends of the earth [who] does not grow tired or weary, and [whose] understanding is unsearchable’ (Isaiah 40:28) And He may not do the thing that I am asking Him for, the thing I am crying out to Him for with all of my being….
what if He does?”
And, this is called hope.
It is as wild and dangerous as you can get, to hope deeply in the Lord. And yet, when you are bowing and humbled in His presence, desperate for Him to move, and waiting and watching for Him to do so, this is also as safest place you can be.
no one can snatch you out of His hand.
So, drop the dread.
Because dread is for the dead.
But He is the God of the living.
And He has made you and called you to be
Very much alive.
Isaiah wrote this,
“For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” Isaiah 8:11-13
So let’s pray right here, for this hope:
Dear Father God,
I confess that my heart has questioned your goodness this year. I have questioned your nearness, and sometimes You have seemed a million miles away. And, I have listened to my fears rather than You. I have listened to my despair. And in it, another voice came in. A strange voice. Not yours. One that has made me want to hide, and doubt You. One that has made me unsure, fearful, and filled me with dread. Dread has made me dead and drained the very life from me. And I need You to come now, and silence that voice, and let me hear Yours. Come, fill me with Your breath of Life. You are not just a Good Shepherd, You are my Good Shepherd. And, I want to follow Your voice—only. Help me to know Your voice. And follow You. Help me not to walk in the ways of this people, but in Your ways. Help me not to fear what they fear, or dread what they dread. Rather, let me fear You, and regard You as holy. Lead me today into the abundant life You promised. I lay down my fears before You. I lay down my desires and passions before You. I open my arms to You, I open my heart to You. And I invite You to come and speak to me here. I invite You into this season, into this year. Help me to step into it, fully, in hope. Even if it’s looked different than I thought it would, I know You are here, and You are leading me. Help me to embrace all that You have for me and fill me with a living hope in Jesus Christ. I look forward to the adventure of following You in this new season. And I thank You that no one can snatch me from Your hand, for You will hold me fast, forever.
In Jesus Name,
It’s time to step into the new season. And embrace it with hope.
So, yes, pull out every fall decoration you’ve got.
Pour yourself a hot cup of coffee with pumpkin spice creamer.
Take off the hideous, chipped toenail polish that is refusing to let go of summer. And paint them something warm and toasty. Because this is a new season. And you don’t know where God will take those beautiful feet this year. But you can go in faith, knowing He will not call you anywhere that He is not already there.
And as you‘re decorating, begin pondering, “What good and beautiful thing might the Lord have prepared for me, (or for us), this fall?”
But instead of listening to the stranger’s voice, the one that reminds you of every fear, and dread, and anxiety. The one who questions your faith-filled prayers with, “But what if He doesn’t?”
Answer back, face to the wind, sweater pulled a little tighter, as the leaves crunch under your feet,
“But what if He does?”
For this is a new season.