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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I’ll be honest. Tonight is a rough night. As I’m researching verses on prayer and thinking about ‘pushing through’ and ‘leaning into God’, it’s really the last thing I have energy for.

“God, I can’t do this!” I’m not feeling well and I’m exhausted and all I want is to be wrapped in my husband’s arms, feel his strong shoulder on my cheek and hear his voice say “Aw Kate, you’re having a rough day hey?”

I turned to 1 Peter 5:6 & 7

Humble yourselves therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Humble yourselves. Well I feel humble right now. Leaning more towards pathetic, actually. Unworthy. Weak. God, you have asked me to do this and you need to carry me right now because I can’t do this on my own. You have said that you will give us what we need to get through points like this in our struggles, and right now God, I just need to see that you’re here with me.

The word “cast” reminds me of fly fishing. I’ve never been fly fishing, but I’ve watched The River Runs Through It and I figure that’s just as good (oh look, my sense of humor is still in tact!). When you watch a fisherman cast his line, he doesn’t do it with aggression or force, he casts it with confidence and ease. Right now, that’s the only way I can cast my anxiety on God. I don’t have the strength to be firm or forceful or to pray with power. I just have enough energy to have confidence that God hears my prayers and will help me with the burden of this moment. I’m going to gently, quietly, remind him that I am here, spill my heart aches to him and allow him to flood over me. That’s all I can do, that’s all I have room for right now.

My God won’t forget about me, he won’t pass by me. He has brought me here for a reason, told me things for a reason, shown me hope for a reason, and he will complete what he has started. But right now is not a loud, powerful, energetic battle. Right now is the moment for me to rest in his loving arms and trust that even when I can’t see anything, even when I feel exhausted, he’s not only holding me, he’s also working on the other side of my mountain.

Because he cares for me.

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.

Psalm 9:9

Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. By your mighty power you rescue those who seek refuge from their enemies….Hide me in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 17:7&8b

O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.

Psalm 62:8

He is my loving ally and my fortress, my tower of safety, my rescuer. He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.

Psalm 144:2

My God cares for me. He is my refuge when times are hard. He is my shelter when the storm is raging around me. He is what I need, when I need it.

He cares for me.

He holds me when I’m hurting and desires the best for me. This is a passing moment. A moment where there will only be one set of footsteps in the sand. But soon there will be two again and God will have given me the strength I need to continue on the path he has set me on.

It’s so comforting to know that my God is more powerful than anything out there. When life gets to much, I can collapse in his arms and he will fight for me until I recover, and even after, thank goodness. He is a strong tower, he holds me in the palm of his hands, he shelters me with his wings. He is the reason I am able to continue.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m listening to a Matt Chandler sermon and one thing grabs my attention. After he mentions that he was battling cancer and that he believes that God allowed it to be put into his life he says “Do you want to argue that God couldn’t have stopped it?”

Anything and everything that happens in your life is allowed by God. Bad things are allowed by God. Not because he wants his children to suffer, not because he isn’t seeing their pain, and not because he doesn’t care. But because there is something he is using that circumstance for. There is a reason that he will bring you through hard trials. What is he trying to teach you?

My husband told me several times that he knew for a fact that God told him to marry me. This didn’t make any sense to us as I was threatening and preparing to leave him. It was confusing and seemingly pointless. Why would God have told him to marry me only to let me leave the marriage?? That isn’t something God would have done. God hates divorce! But God allowed me to leave for a reason. He allowed our second attempt at fixing our marriage to fail for a reason. Why? What was he trying to teach us?

When we are going through hard times, times that seem like they are going to destroy us, God is trying to teach us something. I believe that he is bringing us to a point of brokenness, whatever that might mean to us personally, so that we can fully lean on him and realize that he is our saving grace. He is the reason we are here. He is our savior in every sense of the word.

If we look at all the disciples and prophets in the bible, they lived fully and passionately for God. Their lives were horrible. They were stoned to death, poor, homeless, hungry, friendless…but they were passionate. They were on fire for God. God allowed them to have bare lives, lives that were filled with nothing but God, because he wanted them to know that he was their sole provider. He wanted to show them how powerful he was and that he was paying attention to every detail of their lives. Why do we look at our lives when they are going wrong and wonder where God is? Why do we look at other peoples’ lives, watching them suffer, and think that God wouldn’t want that? God doesn’t want us to be in pain, he doesn’t want us to hurt, but sometimes it takes some pain for us to release control to him and allow him to be God in our lives.

Having money and comfort in life isn’t wrong, it’s also something that God has given us. But that doesn’t mean that he only wants us to have comfort and wealth. It doesn’t mean that wealth is proof that God is leading you or intimately involved in your life. Ultimately, God wants us to be as close to him as we can be and this may mean taking things away from us to allow us to make him priority in our lives.

In order to have a dynamic testimony you need to have a dynamic life.

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to the world.

1 Peter 4:12-13

So because of our trials and hardships, we are “partners with Christ” and we will see his “glory revealed”. How awesome is that? Because we are going through hard times, because our marriage is falling apart but we are clinging to God with everything we have, because we have been diagnosed with cancer but we are strengthening our faith, because our Dad left our Mom but we trust God knows what he is doing, because our brother is addicted to drugs or our sister is pregnant but we continue to focus on God, because we aren’t getting the hours at work we need to but we’re trusting that God is working…because our lives seem out of control but we have faith in God and we push through with trust in him and his way and timing, we will see God’s glory revealed.

I don’t know about you, but I want to see God’s glory!

Who can speak and have it happen if The Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?

Lamentations 3:37&38

What if, when we go through hard times we pray “God, I can’t handle this on my own, give me the strength to deal with this. Show me what you want me to learn and help me to draw closer to you through this.”

This morning I started reading Deuteronomy 31. I had highlighted verses 6 & 8 because I love how God promises several times to never leave us or forsake us and also tells us repeatedly to be strong and courageous.

God will always be with us, he will never leave or forsake us, but we need to make a conscious decision to be strong and courageous and to obey him.

When God has a point to make, he repeats himself so we will catch on. Within these two verses God tells us to be strong and courageous twice, not to be afraid or terrified twice and that he will never leave or forsake us twice. He means it.

And then I looked back to Deuteronomy 30. It describes how, if you turn to the lord and obey him, he will bring prosperity to your life. In these verses (1-10) there are several repetitions too. Three times God tells us to obey him and three times he repeats “with all your heart and with all your soul”.

Deuteronomy 29 talks about renewing a covenant with God, not so much reestablishing a new one, but adding to one that was already established with the Lord. As I read through a few things caught my eye, God is reestablishing a covenant he has already made with the Israelites, reiterating commands he has already given and adding to them. He tells them to stick to the covenant and they will be blessed and prosper in everything they do. He reminds them that they are standing in front of God, entering into a covenant and sealing it with an oath.

So in Deuteronomy 29 God reestablishes a covenant with his people, in 30 he tells them what they will have in return when they obey or disobey the covenant and in 31 he repeats that he will never leave or forsake them and tells them to be strong and courageous.

When I was running away from God and from my husband I knew what God wanted me to do. I knew not only what he wanted me to do, but why. He told me so clearly, as I lay in bed one night, to read the bible and I would return to my husband.

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach…No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Deuteronomy 30:11&14

I believe that everyone that is running from God knows exactly what they need to do to return to him. I believe that God is chasing them so passionately and that at one point they could almost clearly hear his voice telling them what to do. Depending on how long they have been running from him, they may not hear his voice as clearly now because they have been pushing it to the side for so long, but I know that if they would take a moment to be still and to rest their minds, they will remember what God has been telling them to do.

In these three chapters God was serious about punishing these people physically if they did not obey his commands and stick to the covenant they were making with him. They would have actually died, they would have actually been destroyed by their enemies.

God doesn’t do that to us now, he doesn’t just make us keel over and die if we don’t obey him. But disobedience of his word and personal instructions to us makes us die a different type of death.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.

Ephesians 2:1

Your vibrancy dies, your passion for life, your dignity. In your disobedience to God you will become dismal. Maybe not on the outside, maybe you will be like me and seem positive and excited for life to everyone around you regardless of your situation. But on the inside you will feel lonely, pointless, lifeless and lost.

Ephesians 4:17-19 describes someone who has gone away from God as being “separated from the life of God”, “having lost all sensitivity” “with a continual lust for more”. And this is exactly how I was. I was desensitized to the harsh, crass and lost world around me. Nothing could fill me, nothing was good enough, I needed more and more of everything, continually searching for something that would make me feel whole.

None of my new friends saw this in me, they saw a fun and hardworking girl that chased after life and loved where she was. But my old friends and my family saw that I was searching for something. They felt that I wasn’t where I needed to be.

It was when I obeyed and made a choice to love God with all of my heart and soul that the change happened. In obedience God changes you. It wasn’t so much a choice to love God with all that I am, it was a natural progression because of obedience.

God gives us what we need to live a full life IF we obey him. If we take that step, and usually it’s a simple one, to obey what he has been telling us, he will help us with the rest. When we obey him, whether we feel like it or not, God will wash through us and transform us into someone that passionately loves him with all of our heart and soul.

When we do what we are told he does what he has promised.

Deuteronomy 29: This is what I’ve told you do to.

Deuteronomy 30: This is what I will give you and this is what will happen if you don’t listen.

Deuteronomy 31: But I will never leave you. Be strong and courageous.

There wasn’t a time in the two years I was running from God that I didn’t know what God wanted me to do. Sure, I ignored him or did half of what he wanted me to do and thought that would be good enough. But if I had sat still and rested my mind for a moment, I would have remembered exactly what God’s instructions were to me.

And when that day came, when I was broken down enough and lonely enough and realized that all my pursuits left me empty, and I obeyed what God had told me to do…that was when my eyes were opened. I took that step of obedience and my eyes were, almost literally, opened.

I actually felt alive instantly. I literally felt as though I had been seeing in black and white for the past two years and suddenly color was there, vibrancy, JOY. Suddenly I could see and feel. Suddenly I was alive!

God doesn’t just tell you to be obedient so he can control you, he tells you to be obedient because he wants you to live a full and joyful life! He doesn’t just tell you do obey him and not give you something in return. He sees your steps towards him and is dying to reward you for them. He is so excited to give you what he has promised if you obey him!

He’s told you to do something. He will give you something in return. If you run from him, there will be consequences. But he will never leave or forsake you. Be strong and courageous.

Last night I prayed a prayer that scared me. I prayed that God would allow me to do something reckless for him. Again. You would think that I am already at the place where I am doing this for God. He is basically providing the money for me to survive; I have no permanent residence and nothing else to my name. I am dependent on my God for everything in my life right now. But I am finding that although I am really just living on faith right now, I am getting to a point where it seems ‘normal’.

My pay-cheques are covering, if barely, my bills and I am living off of the meager tips that my part-time waitressing job in a small town provides. I’m not a martyr, I don’t enjoy suffering nor am I trying to romance my position in life, I am actually content and peaceful with where I am at. I am enjoying seeing God work and waiting on him! But, like I said, I have gotten to the point where this place that I am at is do-able. And I think that’s why I prayed this prayer for challenge.

Really, that’s what it is.

I prayed for a challenge.

Why are we so afraid to pray prayers like this? Are we afraid that God will hurt us? If we go to church and memorize scripture like “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13), why is it so hard for us to believe that this is actually true?

Isn’t it better to be challenged and see God work, than to be comfortable and only see a tiny part of him?

When I took that one step of obedience, God showed me just how powerful he is. I gave up a boyfriend I was committed to, I gave up my new life with so many good friends close by, I gave the dream of buying a motorcycle this summer, I gave up a cute condo, I gave up being close to my niece and my sisters, I gave up a great paying job, I gave up a dynamic and amazing church, I gave up the dream of owning a home soon…the list goes on! But guess what. I don’t regret any of it! And it’s not because of me. I’m not an amazing person that can just live simply and be happy with it. I’m not someone who wants to be single or is satisfied with living at my parents place. But when God brings you through something, he provides you with what you need in order to make it through.

If someone had told me pre-Easter that I would be giving all of these things up and moving back to my hometown, I would have laughed hysterically and actually thought they were the probably the stupidest person I had met. I’m not kidding. Not only did I want to give up any of these things, but I didn’t know how it would be possible…how I would mentally, emotionally, be able to.

But with God, all things are possible.

Without these things, I am content. I am satisfied. I am living an amazing life and seeing my God work daily. And that is better than any of these things combined.

I would much rather live without these things and see firsthand that my God is powerful, than live with them and wonder if my God is truly as big as the bible says he is.

Why are we afraid of allowing God to work in our lives? Don’t we believe that he actually wants us to prosper (Jeremiah 29:11)? Are we so full of ourselves that we actually believe we can control our lives more effectively than God can? I mean, really, that’s what it boils down to. If I can’t pray this prayer, if I can’t abandon control of my life to God, than I am actually saying that I believe I can do a better job than God can. Personally, I think that’s scarier than giving him control in the first place.

So I’m going to pray this prayer again tonight. And even though it gives me butterflies when I wonder what it means, what will change in my life in order to experience being reckless for God, I am excited. Excited to see God move so wildly in my life again.

 

The other night I heard a friend say “Yeah, but God would want…”

So many times we put our ‘wants’ into our opinion of what God wants for us. God doesn’t want us to suffer, he wants us to prosper, but his definition of suffering and prospering may differ from ours!

So often we come to a conclusion of what God wants for our lives without comparing it to God’s word. And because of the situation I am in, I hear comments like this often. “God doesn’t want you to be single your whole life”, “God wants you to be happy”, “God doesn’t want you to suffer”…

Singleness.

Singleness isn’t a bad thing! Singleness gives you time with God, time to focus on your relationship with him without interruption and time to hear his voice and walk in the direction he is setting before you.

An unmarried woman or a virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.

1 Corinthians 7:34

Yes, I have been married before. Yes, sex is wonderful. Yes, I can’t wait to be married again. But God has called me to wait for my husband to return to me, however long that takes. God doesn’t ask you to do things that he won’t provide the strength to endure. Through God, I am satisfied with where I am in life. Through him, I am content being single.

If I was trying to do this on my own strength, it would be impossible. When I focus on the world’s definition of happiness in this part of my life, I get antsy. I want a man to put his arms around me, I want to be kissed again, I want to go on a date, I want to hear how beautiful he thinks I am. But when I pray for strength to help me through this point of my life, God provides in a way I never, ever thought was possible.

Yes, I believe that I am called to a married life. I believe that God will allow this to happen and that my husband and I will have such a testimony and such a powerful relationship that it will only bring God glory. The ‘how’ is what I don’t know right now. But it’s not my job to know the ‘how’, it’s my job to know obey God’s instructions. I can’t wait for that day where I look back and see the ‘how’! The day where I can say “Hey satan, look at this! What you meant as a curse, God has turned into a blessing! You are crushed beneath our feet!!”

Suffering

If you look at what the disciples had to go through to witness and to live their lives to glorify Christ…I think I have a pretty cushy life. “Suffering” is the last word I would use to describe it.

Yes, I’m living a single life. Yes, I am living off of a limited pay-cheque. But I have never felt so full of life! I have never felt so close to God, so in-tune with my purpose in life or so at peace.

Sure, there are bad days where I wish I was “normal”. Where I wish that I could just live life and not worry about being accountable to God (wait, stop…is that what it is to be ‘normal’?!…yikes!). But I believe so strongly that God has called me to this path that I know I can’t give up on it. Not only am I fully confident that God has told me to live this life for him, but in this lifestyle I have heard from him so frequently and so obviously that I just wouldn’t and couldn’t give up on that.

Consider who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:3

If I keep my eyes on Jesus, everything else fades into the background. If I focus on him and his biblical call to my life, everything else is just a slight detail. Forget my marriage for a second, forget my husband for a moment…God’s call to every Christian’s life is to live fully for him. When I get to the Pearly Gates God isn’t going to ask me “So Katie, were you married?” or “When was the last time you had sex?” He’s going to ask me what I did to advance the Kingdom of Heaven and what fruit I have to show for it, he’s going to ask what treasured I stored up for Heaven, not Earth.

There is always a purpose to the suffering that God asks of us. He won’t ask us to do anything that he won’t help us through and when we look back and realize that the God of the universe was right beside us the entire time, speaking to us and holding our hand, I believe that we won’t consider what we went through as suffering. We’ll realize the miracle of experiencing our God through it all made it worth it.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you… Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.

Psalm 32:8,10