Dead No More

Have you ever been running towards something, feeling like you’re chasing the dream you’re meant to have, but feeling dead inside? Something just isn’t right. Your heart tells you it’s what you need to do, what you need to have, but there’s a tiny bit inside you that is cringing and you’re not sure why. A few years ago I started running from my marriage. It seemed like the only option for me at the time, the only way out of the drowning feeling I was overcome with. I moved to a new city several hours away and started my own life, pursuing the things that I ‘knew’ would make me happy. By the time two years had passed, I had achieved everything I thought I wanted. But still…something…something was wrong. I felt dead inside. I felt like I wasn’t achieving anything, like my life didn’t have purpose, like I was an empty shell. I had what the world was telling me I needed but I wasn’t satisfied.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… Ephesians 2:1

Through my sins, the multitude of them, I had died. My soul was shriveled and lifeless, even if my body seemed vibrant to those around me. The meaningful part of me, the true Katie, had passed away leaving a wandering and lost shadow of who I had been. God knew though. He was watching and waiting for when the time was right. When I was ready, he opened my eyes and made me see the mess I had left in my wake. Even though I had destroyed my life, he has helped me in the last two years to heal and grow and become a woman that is an even better version of what I was before. He has made me alive again, passionate, enthusiastic, full to the brim of purpose in him. Lately, there has been overwhelming temptation to go back to certain aspects of my previous life. It has been so hard to remember that, even though some of God’s promises have yet to be fulfilled, I am where I should be. Satan has been reminding me of the ‘fun’ I had before and that I am ‘missing out’ on it now. But if I truly believe in the Bible, I should truly believe that I was “dead in my transgressions”. When God took me back and opened my eyes, I felt a physical reaction. I could see clearer, I could hear clearer…it was as if I had stepped out of a fog. So why would I go back to being dead? Why would I purposely and intentionally deny the death I felt then and the life I feel now just for a temporary fix? Temptation does that, it pulls you into a lifestyle that seems fun and exciting or maybe even safe, only to actually kill you slowly and turn you into a hollow version of what you once were. Sometimes temptation makes sense. Sometimes Satan dresses like an angel, a rescuer, that seems like it will pull you out of the mess you’re in. Sometimes people you trust encourage you in the temptation. I believe that we know. Even when we say we haven’t heard from God, we know what he wants us to do. It might not be a huge, bellowing voice, it might just be an unsettled feeling in our spirit, but we know what God really wants from us. And going in another direction, is never worth it. We have to decide. What are you following? Who are you listening to? Who are you obeying? And I’ll be honest. At this point, I am grudgingly being obedient. The temptation seems much more fun and actual makes sense to most people around me. But the point of my life isn’t to make sense to the people around me. It’s to glorify God and to live a life worthy of my calling. By God’s strength, not my own, I refuse to be dead any longer. I refuse to believe the lies, I refuse to deny the full life that God has placed in front of me. So help me God, I will wait for his promises.

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Aside

In order for something to be good, it needs to be new. Isn’t that what our culture teaches us? Second hand, cringe. Trying a relationship again, nuh-uh. Even working at an existing relationship to make it better isn’t something that is accepted or even encouraged.

New is best. New, shiny, exciting, that’s what is going to make you excited!

Divorce is accepted because there’s no way the wrongful person will change. Move on, improve yourself and find someone you deserve. Hashing through the same old arguments and expecting that person to have a change of heart is just putting yourself through unneeded torture. People don’t change and there’s someone out there that will accept you for who you are, that will give you what you need and that will love you in the way you need to be loved.

I was reading in Ezekiel last night, flipping through my highlighted verses, and skimmed over Ezekiel chapter 36.

On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will settle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.

Ezekiel 36:33

I’ve read this verse many times. Over and over. I just love how, regardless of how many times you read something, new lessons always pop up.

Isn’t it interesting that God didn’t tell the people “I will build a new city for you, I will give you the homes and land of your dreams!”. Nope, he said “You’ll stay where you are and I will rebuild your towns and all the ruins around you”. I wonder how many people heard that and thought “Drag, I totally wanted to move somewhere new. This rebuilding stuff will be a lot of work…”

This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden;

Ezekiel 36:35

God’s plan wasn’t just to rebuild their lands to their former glory. It was to completely renovate them. To make them so beautiful that people noticed and that they would compare them to the garden of Eden. God’s plan wasn’t to give them back what they had before, but to give them a place that they had only dreamed about. A beautiful, lush land. A place where they had pure relationship and interaction with him.

God is into restoration…but more than that, he’s into transformation. If you obey God, if you return to him, on that very day, he says, he will cleanse you and he will resettle your towns and rebuild your ruins. I love the end of verse 36:

I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.

Ezekiel 36:36b

It’s a neat practice to put accentuation on different words in a verse. If you put accentuation on the second ‘I’, it shows that GOD will be the one that works, HE will be the one that does the rebuilding. If you put the accentuation on “will”, it shows that God WILL do it! He has said it and he won’t back out of it! God never goes back on his word, he never changes his mind, what he has said he will do, he WILL do!

Just because God is promising you the Promised Land, doesn’t mean that this land will be a new place for you. It doesn’t mean that it will be somewhere different. It could very well be that God’s promise means that such an immense change will take place that you won’t even recognize your current land. That it will be everything that you could have ever dreamed about and more.

I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake.

Ezekiel 36:32

He is restoring your land, he is building your garden of Eden, not for your sake…but for his. This isn’t about your glory, it’s about his. Everything you’re going through is about bringing God Glory. Your life isn’t about making you happy or making people notice you, it’s about bringing people to the recognition that God has given us everything we need and is the reason our lands have been restored and transformed.

If you are praying for transformation in your life, for restoration, God will do it. HE will do it. You need to step back, to be still and allow him to work. He will transform your life, your lands, your marriage, your children, your parents, your job…whatever it is, into something you never expected it to be, into a garden of Eden that people step back and notice. Not only will God be the one to do the work, but he will do it. He has promised and God doesn’t make false promises. Be patient. Don’t set boundaries of time. Give God space to work and with the time you would have spent worrying and making demands, spend that with God instead and you will be amazed at the changes you’ll see around you.

Aside

When I was running from God I specifically remember hearing his voice telling me to pick up my bible, read his word, and I would return to my husband. I also, very clearly, remember telling him “No”. I stubbornly didn’t want to return to my marriage, my husband, my home town, my Christian ‘good girl’ ways…So I closed my heart to God and turned my back to him in order to pursue a life that I was sure would make me happy.

Did you know that turning from God, hardening your heart against him, is a sin? I mean, yeah, it’s obviously not a good idea…but a SIN? Exodus 9 verse 27 and 34 both explain that hardening your heart against God, like Pharaoh did, is a sin.

Sinning against God like this was a continual choice I made while I was running. Even though, like Pharaoh, I saw obvious signs that God was calling me to obedience, I denied them and angrily chased after a worldly lifestyle. There was a voice in my head that kept reminding me that I would eventually follow God again. A voice that, annoyingly enough, told me I would move back to my home town. And my heart of hearts knew that I wouldn’t be happy until I returned to my husband, marriage and my God. But I kept doing what ‘made sense’ to me at the time.

Pharaoh was only doing what made sense to him at the time. Not that this excuses his disobedience, but let’s put ourselves in his shoes for a second. He was a powerful king over not only his people, but the Israelites, and this invisible God was asking him to release them. This made no sense to him. Why would he release an entire nation of people?

It didn’t make sense for me to deny what the world was saying about happiness. Happiness is up to you! You make your destiny, you have to take care of Number One, your success is dependent on you, you. are. it., it’s your life, chase after your dreams, become who you want to be, don’t let anyone stop you. It didn’t make any sense for me to remain in a marriage that was uncomfortable, where I was depressed, where I was trapped. Running after a good job, a fun social life, a cute condo, and having guys in my life that appreciated me was what would make me happy! There was no way that being happy equaled giving all of this up for a God that I couldn’t see and a God that was asking me to be somewhere where I was uncomfortable.

So I did that. I achieved those things, I got the best paying job I’d ever had, I had a great social life partying and rubbing shoulders with CEO’s and Oil and Gas big-wigs. I had a super cute condo, I went to yoga often, worked out and was fit, had guys left right and center. But at the end of the night, I was alone in bed, crying because a piece of my heart was still missing…and I was confused.

All of these things were supposed to make me happy, but why did I feel so empty?? Why was something just…missing??

So instead of sinning the next time God spoke to me, I listened. He told me to pick up my bible, so I picked it up. With conditions, of course, but I picked it up. And what happened next amazed me, blew me away…I touched that bible, that’s literally all it took, and suddenly I was a dry, parched sponge and God was the water that quenched my thirst. Everything that I had been running from, I realized very quickly, was exactly what I was aching to find. The happiness that I was searching for wasn’t in anything I expected, it really was in this invisible God. It wasn’t in the things that I could see or touch or in things that made sense like men or money, the happiness I wanted, the piece of my heart that was missing, was God.

I wonder what would have happened if Pharaoh would have listened to God the first time, if he would have taking that leap of faith instead of hardening his heart? His decision affected everyone around him, just like mine did. If he had just said “Yes” to God, I wonder what blessing the nation of Egypt would have received instead of the plagues…

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

 

I’m working my way through Exodus. It’s been a couple months in this book and I’m on Chapter 5. Go me. I’m not a slow reader, but I have so many books on the go that it’s hard to finish one reading project before I start another…there’s just so many great books out there and so little time!!

The other night I was laying in bed, starting my reading for the evening, and I decided that Exodus would be the chosen book. It wasn’t quite what I was thinking I needed that night, but I felt like I should.

Ever heard that saying “never should on yourself”? I love that saying, so true. But this time it was a good thing that I should on myself.

Chapter 5. Moses has been told by God to go to Pharaoh and tell him to release the Israelites. Aaron goes with him and between verses 1-21 they present this idea to the king of Egypt.

God was pretty clear, he said he would release his people if Moses went to the king and asked him to release them. So when Moses did this, when Moses was obedient to God and Pharaoh didn’t release them…he, instead, made their lives so much worse…the people turned on Moses saying “May the Lord look upon you and judge you!” (vs. 21).

Imagine, this strong, confidant man who has seen a flaming bush in the desert, who has clear and obvious instruction from God. Who has seen his stick turn into a snake, who has witnessed water turning into blood. This man goes before the king of all of Egypt, a king he can see, he can hear and who rules and punishes before his eyes. He can physically touch this king. And he takes this bizarre idea to this king, this idea that everyone would have thought was crazy, and truly believes that Pharaoh will release an entire nation of people because of it. But Pharaoh doesn’t. Matter of fact, he does the opposite. He punishes the people. He makes their lives impossible. He sets expectations that can’t be accomplished and then he beats them when they aren’t completed.

And Moses is confused, hurt even. Why would God do this to him? Why wouldn’t God do what he said he was going to do?

We all know the end result of this story, Moses presents this idea to Pharaoh several times and finally, after it seems like it just couldn’t get any worse, the king releases the nation of Israel.

God didn’t give Moses a timeline. He gave him instructions and a promise. Moses knew what he had seen, he knew he wasn’t crazy, he knew that God existed and had spoken to him. He knew what he knew what he knew. God had told him he would release the Isralites and so he kept going forward in faith, knowing that God would complete his promise.

God doesn’t promise that life will be easy in our obedience. He doesn’t promise that there won’t be suffering. He doesn’t promise that it will happen in the timing we expect. But what he does promise is that he will complete what he has started. He promises that he will be with us every step of the way and he promises that he will show himself when we need it most. All he asks of us is that we continue to do what he has asked of us, even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when there is an entire nation shouting insults at us, asking us to leave them alone…we answer to God. Not to the people around us.

Did you wonder why I put that line in there “He can physically touch this king“? Because sometimes, when we look around and see the disobedience of those around us or lack of movement, we see what is happening in the physical world, we forget that what we can see with our eyes has nothing to do with the work God is doing in the spiritual realm. You can see what is around you, you can’t see God, and some times, most of the time, it’s easier to trust what you can see rather than trust what an invisible God has told you.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11:1

God asks us to walk in faith, to trust him and to not pay attention to what we can see with our physical eyes.

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Romans 8:24-25

God works in and with the impossibilities. He works beyond what we can see with our eyes. And he wants all the glory. He wants to bring us to a place where all we can do is give credit to him. Where there is no other way that we succeeded other than by his hand.

God will do what he has said he will do. It won’t be in our timing. It won’t be how we expect. But he will move mountains, he will set the captives free, he will bring us to the land he has promised and he will show us miracles along the way.

Our God is good. Our God is loving. All we need to do is be obedient, put one foot in front of the other, listen, breathe, walk with him and watch him work. He has never promised that it will be easy, but he has promised to carry us through.

 

Aside

I think about the amount of excuses I make in order to avoid taking the steps of obedience that God is asking of me, and it blows me away. When God told me to return to my commitment of marriage to my husband, there were SO many excuses. But he doesn’t love me. But he lives so far away. But he’ll never give me another chance. But he’s dating someone else. But my friends will think I’m crazy. When God told me to move back to my hometown, there was another handful of excuses. But I don’t want to live in a small town. But it will cost so much money to move. But my friends will think I’m insane. But I have no money. But I won’t have a job. But I’ll have to live with my parents again….

There are SO many human excuses we can make to avoid doing what God has told us to do!

God has told me to take certain steps in my life. Before I left my husband, he told me to keep trying. He told me not to move. He told me to keep reading my bible. He told me to keep going to church. But with my human eyes, these didn’t seem like good options. I couldn’t see how doing these things would change anything.

Obedience to God isn’t about making sense. It’s not about doing what makes sense to us! It’s about being obedient to our GOD and trusting that whatever he’s asking of us is in his plan for our lives. It’s about just doing it! Just taking those steps to shut our mouths and obey him.

God doesn’t care about our excuses, our excuses don’t make sense to him. He has infinite power over our lives, our excuses are just empty words to him. He can see the whole picture, he knows that if we just listen to him and take the steps to do what he’s telling us to do, everything will make sense to us eventually.

Looking back at the excuses I made to avoid returning to my marriage and my hometown, I see that none of them were valid. I moved back to my hometown and somehow the money wasn’t an issue. I moved back in with my parents and don’t mind it a bit. I am loving my life in a small town and the quietness and peacefulness it’s bringing. And I had a job within a week of moving back. My friends, the ones that thought I was crazy for taking both the step to return to my commitment to my marriage and to return to my hometown, have faded away. It turns out we weren’t as close as I thought we were and their opinions aren’t important to me anymore.

God has taken care of all of my concerns and shown me that I needed to just take that leap of faith…he’s shown me that it wasn’t really that big of a leap, the ground was closer than I thought, and that cliff I thought I was jumping off was just a tiny hill. God has shown me that even when something seems impossible to me, I need to obey him and he will prove to me that nothing is impossible for him. God has shown me that I only need to be obedient, even when it doesn’t make sense at all, and he will provide all of my needs. God has shown me the power of prayer.

God doesn’t want to hear our excuses. To him, our opinion of his commands are laughable. He chuckles when we try to tell him that our situations are impossible to fix or that his requests can’t be accomplished…All God asks is that we obey him. And when we do obey him, when we shut up and do what he says, we will see just how big our God is. He will bless us in our obedience! And the biggest blessing we could ever ask for is to see the power that our God is capable of!

 

Satan was once an angel. A servant of God. But when he decided to pursue his own interests, he fell from his place in heaven and became an enemy of God. He, not so suddenly, I’m sure, realized that he didn’t have to focus on the Creator but that he could create his own life and make his own decisions and follow his own rules.

Satan is a liar(John 8:44), he is uncaring, crass, rude, selfish, unsatisfied, a wanderer, a tempter…obviously there are more characteristics to satan, but these are a few. Weirdly they are actually words that could be used to describe me while I was running away from my own purpose in Christ. Connection? You betcha.

He who is not with me is against me…

Matthew 12:30

I made the intentional decision to take my life into my own hands, to walk away from God’s purpose for my life; to walk away from his instructions, laws and direction for every Christian. I felt at the time that my plan was better than his. His plan didn’t make sense to me, so I went with what did – walking away from my marriage into the life that I “knew” would make me satisfied and happy. My focus became myself. My happiness. My fulfillment. My enjoyment. My fun.

If you are not for God, you are against him.

If you are not living for God…you are living for….?

The longer I lived in my selfish life, the more frustrated I got. The more crass I became. The more tempted I was to try new forms of entertainment. The easier it was to think of being with other men. The more unsatisfied I was with my living conditions. The more argumentative I was. The more selfish I was. Satans characteristics were slowly becoming mine. And I was completely oblivious to it. Just like the frog that slowly, unknowing, boils to death, I was slowly being tricked into this deadly lifestyle.

Satan fell from heaven when he pursued his own interests.

When you pursue your own interests, you will fall from your own heaven. Not the Heaven that God resides in, your place in God’s kingdom is not something you will lose your place in although you will be accountable for every action you take. But you will fall from your rightful place in life. Happiness will elude you and satisfaction will always be an unattainable goal. Following your own path and interests, your own plan, will never lead to that feeling of wholeness and happiness like satan would like you to think.

You might be convinced that there is no way that being obedient to God could lead to your happiness. You might be like I was, in a place of darkness, frustration beyond what you thought was possible. You might be feeling trapped, lost, depressed…You might have a plan for a way out, a plan you “know” will lead to your happiness and peace…finally! Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve pursued my own life. I’ve left my husband. I’ve drank like a fish. I’ve slept around. I’ve flirted around. I’ve cursed and told beyond disgusting jokes. I “knew” for a fact that being these things was being who I was really supposed to be. But in the end, after I chased after these things and fell from my own heaven…I realized that all these things were a lie. My wholeness wasn’t found in anything but God’s plan. And when I looked back at the destruction in my wake, I realized that I was only just becoming more and more like God’s enemy. I wasn’t whole, I was troubled. I wasn’t satisfied, I was lost.

And satan thinks he’s won this battle. He looks at poor little Katie and laughs when he sees that she has nothing to her name and her husband isn’t with her. But what he refuses to acknowledge is that God turns curses into blessings, what satan has used against me, God is turning to use for me, and satan will be crushed under my God’s feet (Romans 16:20)! My situation will be turned around to give glory to God and bring so many people to God’s kingdom. Satan will see how miniscule he is compared to the power my God has. He is a created being and the God of God’s, satans Creator, will show him who’s boss and will destroy him.

We might be fooled by satan for a while. We might deny that it is his presence in our lives and his voice in our head. But God will grab us back and show us that his glory reigns. He is who the only presence that will fill us so full it can’t even be described. Satan’s characteristics are nothing compared to God’s.

Our interests will only lead us down the wrong path, they’ll only lead to more questioning, more restlessness. Even when it doesn’t make sense, pursue God and his plan for your life. When you start to wonder what this might be, read his word and do what it says. Don’t follow your ‘idea’ of what you think God might want in your life. Follow the written word. Simplify. Press forward. PUSH into God with all your might, even when everything in you is telling you to run.

When our hearts are in this vulnerable state we can’t always trust what they are telling us, this is why we need to rely on what God’s word is saying in this stage in our lives.

Even when it doesn’t make sense, remind yourself constantly that God’s will for your life will bring you satisfaction. And just keep doing what his word tells you to do.

There is an end to these feelings. Satan has an appointment for failure.

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!

Luke 1:45

 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.

Romans 12:1

I was listening to a Francis Chan video, one of his teachings for his book Multiply, and one thing he said really hit me. So often, in our Christian walk, we wait for ‘feeling’ to come before the action. We wait to feel ‘led’ before we are obedient. Francis challenged us to be obedient and allow the feelings to come when and if they do.

It’s so true! There is something huge I have been considering doing in the past while, since God rescued me from the path I was on, and I’ve been praying and waiting for a sign to take this step. I realize now, that it has been my fear that has been holding me back, not God. When I look at the step that has been on my heart to take, I realize that there is no way that God would tell me not to do this. It’s hard. It’s huge. But I need to take a deep breath and step out with courage and faith.

The bible tells us to be obedient, to sacrifice ourselves, and that this is true worship for our God. I need to sacrifice my pride, my image and even my emotions in order to be obedient to him. And by doing this I am worshiping the savior that sacrificed it all for me.

It is because of God’s plan and his plan alone that I have reached this point in my life. The point where I know that, regardless of how the world views my life or defines ‘success’, I know that I am where I am meant to be. My heart is full, overflowing with excitement when I look at what I am involved in on a daily basis. God is constantly bringing me to ways to give him glory and I feel complete when I pursue those tasks. I have bad days, days where I look at my circumstances instead of at God and I get bogged down and overwhelmed. But when I focus on God and pray that he gives me strength and courage and peace, he does. And when I pray that he puts tasks in front of me that with bring him glory, he does. And when I pray. And when I keep centered on him. And when I realize that nothing else matters but him. Life calms and my heart is full.

Emotions are elusive. They are unreliable. And satan can use our surroundings to alter our emotions in a heart-beat. So we can’t trust in our emotions to be obedient to God! We can only back our actions up with scripture and pray that God will lead us where he wants us to go. And when we take emotions out of the picture and trust that our savior is in control. When we take steps, regardless of our feelings, and are obedient, then we will see God work. Not only will we see God work, but we will know that headed towards our purpose in life.

So how can we apply this in our daily lives? Well, you know that family you wanted to bring dinner to? Just do it. Don’t think about if they’ll appreciate it or if you’ll feel weird about arriving on their doorstep. Just do it. You know that person at work you hesitated in complimenting the other day? Just do it. Don’t worry about their reaction or your insecurity if someone else hears you. You know how you were planning on volunteering at that soup kitchen? Just do it. God will help you ease into conversation with the people there.

Make a list of all the things that have been rolling around in your mind. Things you’ve wondered if you should do or say. Write a list and accomplish one of those things every day. If they’re bigger accomplishments, make a goal to cross them off the list once a week.

Have you considered that it may be the Holy Spirit that is prompting you to do these things? Maybe those ideas are actually God whispering in your ear. Why don’t you just do them? Don’t wait for the right emotions to propel you into action. As long as these actions are biblically sound, do them!

Yes, there may be times where you need to take two steps backwards. You may realize that you rushed forward to quickly and it wasn’t the right timing. That’s ok! Life is a constant state of learning. Learn from your mistakes.

You can’t ever mess something up more than God’s ability to fix it. Trust me, I know.

When you sacrifice your emotions, your sleep, your free time, your energy and body…when you give up something to glorify God…that is worship! It’s when we worship our Creator that we feel whole and complete. And if we make an effort to do this daily, imagine how full our lives will feel!