How Should Christians React to Sin in Society?

Love the sinner; hate the sin. God can do this, but can we? It seems that if I actively hate the sinful behavior of individuals, I can’t simultaneously show love to the people engaging in that behavior.

Some sins are socially unacceptable. Murder and theft, for instance, are not okay to anyone, whether saved or not. Other things which the Bible condemns as sin are, at least in our current society, considered acceptable. Adultery? Sleeping around is a behavior flaunted in almost every modern TV show I’ve seen. And then we have drunkenness, which is so common no one really thinks anything of it unless someone gets hurt or killed. And homosexuality, which has come to such a place of acceptance that people are being told they CANNOT speak out against it.

More and more, as sin becomes socially acceptable and things like drunkenness, adultery, homosexuality, gluttony, and lying become matters of course, we (Christians) have to decide how to react. The more acceptable these things are, the more prevalent they will be. What do we do when we see people engaging in these behaviors?

Too Much Love

On one side of the spectrum, we have a reaction to sin that involves too much love and a strange idea that tolerance equals love. We react this way because we want people to know that it’s for God to judge, not for us, and we want people to feel loved. We’ve been led to believe that real love means not telling someone they’re wrong. Postmodernism is all about shades of grey and says that truth is relative.

As Christians, when we get sucked into this thinking, we start to shy away from calling anything sin for fear that we will hurt others or drive them away from Christ or, worse, that we might get a reputation of being intolerant. Some Christians believe that the way to deal with sin in society is to completely ignore it and focus only on the “love the sinner” part of the message.

I get the idea of tolerance. I get why Christians are scared to take a stand on anything or say anything politically incorrect. After all, if we speak out against a socially acceptable sin, won’t we be pushing people away from the gospel?

And that’s the problem.

We try to win people over to Christ by being almost like them. Almost just like them. Not quite the same, but the closer we are, the better our chances, right?

But it’s all wrong.

Be ye holy because I am holy, says the Lord! (see 1 Pet. 1) Come out from among them and be ye separate! (see 2 Cor. 6) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers! (see 2 Cor. 6) Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven! (see Matt. 5) Be not conformed to this world! (see Rom. 12) You must be born again! (see John 3) If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new! (see 2 Cor. 5)

Something inside me just wants to scream that we STOP IT! Stop trying to be as close to the world as possible! Stop accepting sin! Stop averting your eyes and buttoning your lips!

Too Much Hate

On the other end of the spectrum is, of course, a reaction that involves too much hate. Too much judgment. Christians might react this way because they see things in black and white and believe that sin is sin, it’s always wrong, and it should not be tolerated. While there is some truth to that thinking, the reaction is wrong when it leads to shaming people or treating them as less-than-human because of their behavior.

Some Christians take homophobia to a whole new level. It’s like the newest form of racism. People who practice homosexuality can be looked down on so much that they feel like total outsiders. They might even be kicked out of church if they admit to that behavior.

As Christians, when we’re tempted to react this way, we should remind ourselves that we ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (see Rom. 3) Sin entered the world through one man’s choice of [anything other than God] over God. God said, and Adam questioned whether God really knew best, and in the end he chose something other than God. Call it pride or call it disobedience, but it all boils town to, first, a lack of faith or a wrong attitude about God, followed by a choice of something else other than God. Self rather than God. Love rather than God. Pleasure rather than God.

No matter the sin, it all comes back to the same thing, and no matter whether we consider the sin large or small, it’s enough to separate you from God. (see Is. 59) A lie will separate you from God no more or less than murder and no more or less than a sexual sin. Sin is sin. Christians forget that. Christians tend to turn a blind eye to their own faults, then when someone comes around with an obvious sin, they think that associating with that person would be encouraging the sin or showing too much tolerance. Jesus was known for associating with the sinners, but we shun them and kick them while they’re down because their big, obvious sin seems worse to us than our little bad habits.

Sin is sin. We are all sinners. God does not cast away the imperfect. He  uses the weak and the foolish things in this world to confound and shame the wise and the strong. (See 1 Cor. 1)

A Happy Medium

The hateful reaction holds some truth: Sin is wrong, period. It’s not ever okay.

The loving reaction holds some truth, too: Everyone deserves love (because they are God’s creation and God loves them). We aren’t called to disassociate ourselves from sinners.

So how do we love the sinner and hate the sin?

Here are some things I think we should all keep in mind, and hopefully they will help us accomplish this seemingly impossible goal.

  1. God created perfection, but we are all sinners living in a fallen world.
              When sin entered the world through Adam, everything got corrupted. Everything is affected, even you and me. We all have an inclination for sin, and we have all sinned. None of us deserves God’s forgiveness, and if we have it it’s only by His grace. If we do good, it’s only by His grace. If we beat temptation, it’s only by His grace. We need to be in constant humble awareness of this.
  2. We need to deal with ourselves first.
              Christianity is about relationship. Most importantly, my Christian walk is about my relationship with God. That means that the sin I most need to worry about is my own sin, because my sin separates me from God. (see Is. 59) I need to remove the plank from my eye before I can see to remove the speck from someone else’s. (see Matt. 7) I need to confess my sins, repent from them, and consistently walk with God, forgiven and empowered by His grace.
  3. Love is not synonymous with tolerance.
              We should stand for what we believe in. A mother who loves her child deeply will not tolerate disobedience from her child (just as God does not tolerate disobedience from  us). A sister who loves her brother will not tolerate him making bad, harmful decisions (because she doesn’t want to see him get hurt)! Christians do not need to tolerate sin in society if it means we are turning a blind eye and trying to continue as if it’s not happening.
              I believe Christians need to do a better job of calling sin what it is. Don’t be afraid to call it like you see it. When asked to join in on an activity, it’s okay to say, “No, I do not do that. God says that’s not okay.” And it’s also alright to say, “God says sex is good but is intended only for for within the marriage of one man and one woman.” I believe God. I believe His truth is universal. Truth is black and white, not relative. Sin is sin. Truth is truth. Stand up for what you believe, but do so without attacking the people who don’t share the same belief. Like it or not, it is our very same God who gives them the right to choose something other than Him.
  4. Overcome evil with good. (see Rom. 12)
              We need to be light in a dark world. (see Matt. 5) and show Christ to the world by how we live, act, and speak. Our joy, our peace, our love, and our attempts to be better should be our witness and our legacy. We want others to come to Christ and receive forgiveness as we have, and we know that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But how are people to call upon Him Whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never heard? (see Rom. 10 ) And how are they to hear unless we tell them and show them?

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” 
Vince Lombardi

Why Does God Allow Trials? (pt. 2)

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

During my time away from God, the time I spent calling myself agnostic, I let down a lot of standards. Certain things weren’t temptations for me, so I stayed pure in some areas not because of my morals or standards but because I just had no interest. I did, however, try out (more) forms of self-medication and escapism. I left my family, turned my back on their attempts to help, and ran off to Arkansas where I moved in with a guy I barely knew. Then later I ran off with another guy I barely knew. I lied and snuck around and let things come out of my mouth that I’d not previously allowed.

My coming back to God was a process. It didn’t happen in a sudden transformation. In fact, it’s been an ongoing thing ever since its beginning, but I guess that’s how relationships work.

After several months of wandering, I hit a new low. My depression and anxiety were untreated because, of course, I had no insurance and no money. My Asperger’s had never been diagnosed, let alone had I learned how to handle it. I had no job. I was alone with a guy I’d only known a couple months with all my family hundreds of miles away. I had a suitcase of clothing and books, a pillow and blanket, and a tent with a leak, and it was winter. And it was in the mountains of North Carolina. And it was raining. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

For once, it wasn’t just me who was lying awake at night.

He was cold and frustrated and, now, wet from the leak in our tent. I was miserably curled up on the half-deflated air mattress, my precious Tempurpedic pillow hard as a rock from the cold. We had moved our camp down the mountain a bit, so it wasn’t quite as freezing as it had been the previous nights, but it was miserable nonetheless. My one beige blanket wasn’t enough to keep us warm.

It had taken hours, the first night, for my hip to touch the ground, but apparently the hole in the mattress had grown, and this time it only took half an hour. I couldn’t help but think of the waste of money both the tent and the air mattress had turned out to be. What useful things we could have bought when we arrived in Asheville, NC, if we hadn’t purchased these wastes. Food, for instance, would have been good. Shampoo, maybe. A camping stove. But we had none of those.

The rain began to fall harder, and we realized we couldn’t stay in the tent all night like this. Instead, we let ourselves out into the dark woods with our jackets and single  umbrella and began to walk into town. There was a 24-hour diner down the hill and about a half a mile past the Greyhound bus station (where we had arrived several days prior). We took seats and ordered coffee and hot chocolate, and I pulled out my old Nokia cellphone, grateful once again that my sister had let me remain on the family phone plan when I ran away.

While he lay down on the bench on his side of the table, I dialed my mom in Texas, and I told her about my miserable predicament, but it didn’t take long before I realized I couldn’t accept any offers of help from her since they would involve leaving him here, stranded and alone. My parents – no, actually, every one of my family and friends disapproved of my choice of companion. I could see their point. If I had not gotten involved with him, I would still be in Arkansas with a place to stay and a not-so-bad job at a daycare. Instead, I’d brought home a stray and decided to take care of him, sacrificing what little I had because he liked me and gave me attention.

The staff in the diner grew tired of us, of him sleeping in their booth, of the fact that we were obviously just using them as a place to hide from the weather even though we couldn’t afford any real purchases, and they told us we needed to leave. We ended up walking about 3 miles down to Walmart, the only other business open in the middle of the night, and we spent the rest of the night pacing around the store, killing time.

The next day, we were sitting in a church waiting for the attached soup kitchen to open for lunch, when I received a phone call from an angry-sounding man asking for my companion. My companion filled me in after the call, telling me it was nothing – a misunderstanding or a wrong number. They said he owed money, but he didn’t, and they had the wrong guy. They claimed to have a recording of his voice, but it wasn’t him. Feeling confused, I tried to shrug it off, but the ball dropped later that day as we were in the bus station.

It was my sister who called, this time. Michelle, I need to talk to you about the cellphone bill. I knew it was going to be bad. And it was. He had racked up hundreds of dollars on my phone, which was in my sister’s name. What was worse, the charges weren’t all innocent like the text messages that cost $0.10 per message or the calls to information (411). Most of the charges were from calls and texts to 900 numbers. Hotlines. Inappropriate, embarrassing secrets, all going on behind my own back on my own phone.

Finally, I was disgusted enough to agree to my mother’s offer. That same day, I got on  yet another Greyhound bus and headed back home to Texas, leaving my companion behind. (For a time.)

Mom and Michelle in 2006

(My mom and me eating cake for my Bday about a month after this story takes place.)

Why Does God Allow Trials? (pt. 1)

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

The first time I really, honestly questioned God’s existence was when I was 18 and facing a rough spot in life, a trial. My trial was mostly internal and invisible. At the time, I wished I had been crippled or had cancer or something, anything that someone else might be able to see from the outside. I hated the fact that people could look at me and think, “She has it pretty good!”

I went through a long trial, and I was a Christian, so I prayed. I prayed things like, “God, I know you’re there, so please help me,” and like, “God, I’m not asking you to change my circumstance. Just help me through it. Please. I need you.”

But I felt nothing as I prayed. And I felt nothing after I prayed. And I saw no sign of any supernatural help from God.

I thought I wasn’t believing hard enough or wasn’t living perfectly enough, so I put more effort into doing the right things and praying the right way and believing harder because that’s what was supposed to help. Eventually, though, I crossed a line and allowed myself to consider something else.

My rationality became: If God exists, I believe He has to be the God of the Bible. I believe He is everything the Bible says He is. Therefore, God must be holy, just, omniscient, omnipotent, merciful, and loving – all these things I’ve always believed Him to be. I don’t doubt that He is those things. But a loving God wouldn’t do this to me. If God exists and loves me, He would be helping me, not ignoring me. I’ve been pleading for a year, and nothing has happened. There’s no chance that God is simply not those things; therefore I have to conclude that maybe God doesn’t exist at all.

After I figured that out, I started calling myself agnostic. I stopped going to church. Stopped praying. Let down my guard and my standards. Went about my life as best as I could without God. (For a time.)

A “Hopeless” Wish? Or A Confident Expectation?

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (KJV)

Faith, hope, and love.

Really?

More like faith, love, and wishful thinking.

Love is the “greatest,” the most obvious, and possibly the hardest. We understand that love is generous, patient, kind, and forgiving. We know that “love covers a multitude of sin,” and we know that we are to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Faith is complex, but we understand it to some degree. We know it’s the “evidence of things unseen.” We know it can move mountains – or it should be able to, at least. We know that we are “saved by grace through faith,” so even if it’s not the greatest of the three, it’s still pretty great.

But what of hope?

Do we think enough about hope? Do we think of hope at all?

We hope things go well, hope God will answer our prayers, et cetera, but, really, is it any more to us than wishful thinking?

The word hope appears in the KJV 133 times, and it goes up from there when looking at other translations. ESV mentions hope 164 times, NIV 180, and the Amplified Bible has 195 occurrences of the word hope. For comparison, KJV mentions faith 336 times and love/charity 466 times. (These numbers come from keyword searches on BibleGateway.com.)

In what (or in whom) do we hope? And what is hope?

Is Christianity defined by sinlessness, grace, love, and faith more than it is defined by hope? I found a neat article on Bible.org that says the modern idea of hope is “to desire very much, but with no real assurance of getting your desire.” Wishful thinking. But, more than that, it actually sounds kind of hope-less, doesn’t it? No assurance of getting your desire? If this is hope, why would it be much of a big deal at all?

The article goes on to explain, however, that in scripture the word indicates certainty and trust. It is a confident expectation. “In the Bible, hope is never a static or passive thing…It is dynamic, active, directive, and life-sustaining.” It’s not an unrealistic wish. It’s not a desire with no assurance. It is not an escape from reality. Hope is based in reality, on God’s promises, and it’s a huge part of the Christian life.

Psalm 71:5 (Amplified Bible)

For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my trust from my youth and the source of my confidence.

In the general, non-Christian population, hope (confident expectation) is usually placed in oneself. People expect themselves to succeed, to pull through. In spite of all odds and all difficulties, they will, in the end, expect to see themselves thrive. ((Not everyone. Some people are depressed and utterly hopeless. Some have had their confidence shattered, but it’s true for the majority.)

What’s sad to me is that, as far as I can see, Christians tend to be the same way! We believe in ourselves above all else, and when it comes to God  and His promises we have these wishy-washy, timid desires. Our hope is more like “positive thinking,” and it contains no real power or reward.

Hope should be a more prominent theme in Christianity. Why else does God tell us so many amazing things about it? Our hope should be in Christ and in His promises. Then we will find hope giving us joy and peace. Then we will find hope sustaining us. Then we will find compassion and and grace and abundant life.

We have to change our thinking and renew our minds and re-focus. Place your “confident expectation” where it should be. Not on you. On the One who provides.

Lamentation 3:21-26 (Amplified Bible)

But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.

The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him. The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word].

It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord.

Romans 5:2-6 (Amplified Bible)

Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.

Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. While we were yet in weakness [powerless to help ourselves], at the fitting time Christ died for (in behalf of) the ungodly.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (Amplified Bible)

[Most] blessed is the man who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord, and whose hope and confidence the Lord is. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters that spreads out its roots by the river; and it shall not see and fear when heat comes; but its leaf shall be green. It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit.

Isaiah 26:3-4 (Amplified Bible)

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].

Amplified Bible (AMP)

Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Separation and Healthy Marriage

If you follow my vlogs on YouTube, you are aware that my husband and I have been separated a while. Since late August, actually, when I left Missouri and went to Arizona to stay with my parents. Soon, this separation is ending, and I’m going back to Ft. Leonard Wood with Tumbles to reunite our little family.

Before I left, I thought and prayed a lot about even the idea of separation. I read about it a lot online, and I came across very mixed messages. I don’t know if anyone will end up coming across my website sometime when they’re looking for answers, but, just in case, I want to throw my opinion into the mix. Take it for what it’s worth. I’m a young, married, Christian woman with some life experience under her belt, but I’m no psychologist, clergy member, or anything like that.

Is Separation a Good Option?michy rose

After going through marriage and separation, I have to say that I do not believe separation is a good option for any marriage. I can understand why it seems appealing, I can understand feeling you need space, and I can even understand feeling that the space and time apart could do you and your marriage good. In spite of understanding these things, however, I have to say that my advice is to do your very best to avoid separation if reuniting is your end goal. (If you are aiming toward divorce for whatever reason and do not wish to reunite, that’s sort of a separate issue.)

Before I left, I read on both sides of the issue. Even within the Christian community there were conflicting messages about whether it had any possibility to be helpful to a marriage or not. I believe the ultimate answer is that it is not helpful, but rather it is harmful to a marriage to go through a separation when the goal is ultimately to keep the marriage going and reunite.

What Happens When You Separate

There may already be emotional distance between a husband and wife, but, upon separating, that emotional distance is increased as well as the physical distance. Without the ability to touch and see your partner, you lose a sense of intimacy. Without that physical intimacy (even if it’s just a hand on the arm now and then or a hug) and without the exchange of words you get when living together, the emotional distance becomes even greater. You go from feeling a little disconnected to being extremely disconnected.

Is that bad? Isn’t that sometimes what we hope to gain from separation? Maybe you feel like you need that space because you’ve been fighting so much that resentment is building up and building up and you’re worried you’re going to hate each other or head straight toward divorce if you don’t create that distance!

To that, I would say that’s exactly what the world and the devil want you to think. That’s just my honest opinion because that’s exactly where I was! There was fighting, resentment, and serious issues that needed to be worked through, and I believed whole-heartedly that things were not going to change – could not even be worked on – until we’d had some time apart. I believed that staying together with our relationship in that state would only cause the hurt feelings and bitterness and resentment to grow to a point beyond repair. This is, I would guess, the main reason Christians who don’t want to divorce would end up separating.

Why the Distance is Bad

You think you want that distance, and you think that distance could help, and you think that if it doesn’t help, well, you were doomed anyway — something like that, right? But the truth is that the distance itself rips things even further apart. You can’t work on your issues when you’re apart. Maybe you can wait until the hurt feelings subside, but once you see your partner again, everything is going to resurface. And in the meantime, while you’re physically and emotionally distant, it’s easy – it’s so easy to allow yourself to behave towards your spouse without the love and/or respect that they need to be treated with, and it’s so easy to be tempted into indulging in various vices (cheating, drinking, flirting, squandering money, etc) because there’s no one there to call you on it and (so it seems) no one there to get hurt by it.

Basically, distance brings more distance. You can’t get close by being distant. When two marry, they become one flesh, and they need to be together and foster that togetherness, growing closer. Distance, for whatever reason, tends to be unhealthy. Being apart lets you each be pulled in different directions, and the longer you are apart, the further you get from each other. For my husband and me, the distance hurt us tremendously: emotionally, financially, relationally. It was harder to communicate, and we couldn’t get counseling. We got used to being independent again and making decisions solo. And as we got used to being apart, we seemed to pull away from each other even more until there was almost no closeness or intimacy left.

Divorce, at a point like that, becomes almost inevitable. You left angry, you didn’t resolve anything, you grew apart, and now there’s nothing left of that closeness you once felt. Even worse, if trust has been broken at some point there may be literally nothing pushing you to reunite.

roseStick it Out

I have to just encourage everyone to please stick it out. It sounds crazy some times that staying together could be the right thing to do even when it hurts, even when you’re unhappy, even when you can’t seem to get along with each other. Obviously, things aren’t going to get better without change taking place, but don’t choose the route of separation. I believe it is almost always going to do more damage than good and will more often than not lead to divorce!

Get back to being friends. Maybe split up your finances, if you’ve been pooling resources. Maybe sleep in different rooms. Maybe redefine things in your marriage (chores, responsibilities, duties, expectations). Definitely get some good counsel, preferably from a good Christian therapist or a pastor. Keep telling your spouse that you love them, and keep trying to act out that love. Keep praying. Pray HARD. Pray seriously and whole-heartedly. Pray face-down on the ground, pray in your car, pray in bed, pray over your meals, pray for your marriage constantly.

If things are going to get better – if your marriage is going to flourish and begin to be repaired – it’s going to be while you are together and working jointly toward the same goal.

What If.

No two people, situations, or marriages are alike. I understand that some people may think, "That doesn’t apply to me because my situation is ____." I understand that. There are so many problems that could be taking place. All I can say is that I encourage you to stick it out if possible and if you want and hope to keep your marriage alive.

The exceptions are when you either want a divorce or when there is ongoing unsafe behavior taking place (any form of abuse). If you must separate but still hope to reuinte, I cannot stress enough how important I believe it to be to have a pre-determined time limit, rules, and goals, and it is also really important to remain close to each other so you can get counseling! I would say a 2 hour drive, max! If you plan to divorce anyway, that’s a totally different issue. Separate and do what you must.

But if you plan to reunite, and if you want your marriage to last, stick it out. Stay together. Get in counseling. Maybe crash on a friend’s couch for a few nights, but don’t leave. I left, and I thought it was necessary, but it ended up creating so much distance between us that we almost went past the point of no return. I can only attribute it to God that he worked things out in a way that brought us to a point of trying to reconcile.

I just wanted to express these things. Feel free to
contact me privately or leave a comment if you want to talk about this further
(either my situation or your own). I’ll do my best to answer.

Trusting the Only One I Can Conclusion

Part Two

Very shortly before we moved, we finally settled where we would be living. A first-time landlord was renting out a beautiful country home for a price we could just afford, and, man, the pictures were just beautiful. They even helped us move in and flew down from another state to sign the papers with us the very day after we arrived in Missouri, so we only had to spend two nights in an expensive hotel.

Fantastic. Beautiful house, tons of space, living in the country with plans to grow tons of veggies in the big garden, almost fully unpacked quicker than I thought possible. Marty’s work was going great, and they were promising him a promotion, and we even found a church to visit that seemed good. Yup, it was a good 2 weeks or so.

Then Marty ended up at the hospital. And I had a wreck. And I started resenting the stupid country home. Stupid house, with stupid gravel roads, and stupid ambulances and tow trucks that couldn’t ever find it, and stupid lack of cellphone and internet reception, and stupid everything. I felt unsafe, and I was worried about having an accident or emergency and being unable to get help. I was afraid to drive over 10 MPH, and my anxiety and depression went through the roof.

Mom, my hero, came to my rescue again. She stayed with me for a month at the beginning of Marty’s deployment when I was falling apart, and she stayed with me for three weeks here in Missouri when I was falling apart. She helped me a lot, and I got some support from my doctor, and I got back into counseling, and we attended church regularly at the church Marty and I had visited twice, but I was hardly praying, and I wasn’t really acting as if I trusted God.

Right after my mom had to leave, Marty and I spoke on the phone, and he revealed some things to me that were extremely painful. Things from his past that he had been advised never to tell me… but he decided he wanted to be open (and, in my opinion, he probably needed to get these things out in the open in order to heal). At first, the pain was excruciating, but that didn’t last as long as I’d expected. It faded and was replaced by an extremely heavy burden. It was so heavy, and I cried not because I was hurting so much as because I just didn’t know what in the world to do with this burden, this information. Where did life go from here, and what was I supposed to do every day? I felt kind of numb, kind of depressed, very burdened.

But God never abandoned me. Never, in everything I’ve gone through, and only a few of you really know everything that I’ve gone through. When I’m in true need, he always has made a way. My jobs and living situations, in so many more instances than the ones I’ve mentioned above… He always provided. Financially, always. When I had a wreck and was panicked? When we had to pay thousands of dollars for fixing the car and having a rental? When Marty was in the hospital? My mom was able to come, the money came just in time for our DITY move, and God put us in exactly the right place.

It took that kind of breaking that happened when Marty revealed those things to me to get to another level. Because for two days I carried that burden, and then it was Sunday. I planned to get up early and go to church, and I was going to talk to the Pastor’s wife that morning before service and try to get some help or perspective or prayer or something. When I woke up, though, I said screw it. Nevermind. I can’t do it. I’m tired, and I’m depressed, and I’m going back to sleep. I did. I went back to sleep. And then I woke up, and I had just enough time to go to church. I went.

(Sidenote: This church is different from any I’ve been to. They call themselves non-denominational and Holy Spirit led. They’re truly unique. And at this church, the worship service is basically in the dark, and many of the congregation (which is only about 15 people on a good day) go up front to this open area where they sometimes dance or lift hands or kneel or lay flat on their faces or wave flags around or clap or just whatever they’re led to do. It’s all completely unique. I spent my first two months there standing by my pew and singing, like I would have anywhere else, but I kept feeling like I should go up. Go up front. Go up front. I felt like I needed to just do it. Go up front. I told God he had to be patient with me because I’m shy. Just be patient, God. I’m not trying to fight you, just trying to work up the courage.)

Worship began, and I felt that tug I’d been feeling for weeks. Go up front. I thought about it, but no, I couldn’t. See, so-and-so is standing right there, and I’d have to squeeze past and disturb her, and, see, on the other side there’s so-and-so, and he’s taking up the whole space. I won’t fit. We got to the second to the last song, and all the so-and-sos left. Errr.. Okay, God. I guess… I guess this is it. I started to go, I stopped. I almost took a step, I stopped. I took a step, I went back. Finally, though, I forced myself to walk up to the front. I stood awkwardly to the side with my arms crossed across my tummy and closed my eyes and sang.

The female deacon of the church came up to me shortly afterward and placed her hand on the center of my chest, starting to pray for me. I kept singing. She gently unfolded my arms till they were palm-up at my sides. She touched my head, told me to let go, let go, let go, breathe deep. From behind me, someone was touching my back, and someone was holding my arms up until I was reaching up to heaven, and I started to shake. It was hot. I was worried maybe nothing would happen, and how would I have faith then? But I was shaking, and I was breathing deep and telling God I let go, I don’t want it, You take it! My knees were weak, and at least three people were praying around me as the last song started up.

They say you’re slain in the Spirit when they touch you and pray over you and you fall down. I wanted that, but I couldn’t figure out where the line was between resisting and simply letting my legs give out. Eventually, though, I was at the point where I felt like I was going to faint, and I just went ahead and sat down. The others left, though one put a light blanket over my head, but the deacon stayed and prayed. She held my face and prayed and told me to let go, and I continued to just try and do what she said. Breathe deep. Let go of everything.

When worship ended, I sat for a while. When I opened my eyes, I was kind of seeing double. I was still shaky, and I felt a bit intoxicated. But oh, I felt joy. I felt light. I felt… my burden was gone. As if God said, of course you don’t know what to do with this burden. It’s not yours to carry! The sermon afterward felt like it was just for me, and that afternoon I got even more encouragement from talking to the pastor. God has never been so real to me as he has been since that day…

And I could finally see how God had worked everything out just perfectly. Now, Marty’s going to be medically discharged from the Army, but it wasn’t God’s will for him to deny the orders to Missouri and get out the way he wanted to. No, we had to come here. We had to come here so he could have the care he needed when he ended up in the hospital. We had to come here so we could grow in the ways we needed to grow. We had to come to this house, because otherwise we would never have gone to this tiny church in the middle of nowhere. We needed to be here, at this time, and things needed to happen in this way, and even when it was too much to handle, it was all right (and alright!) because God had things in hand. He always does.

God is the One who will never let me down. The only One I can fully trust with absolutely no doubt or fear of being let down. Because of what He has done in my life (definitely not because of what I have done), I’ve finally come to a point of what I believe is complete trust in Him. I think it will be tested, and I think I will have to really put forth effort to live out that trust when I’m tempted to worry about things, but I honestly believe that I can say that I trust him completely. With everything. And I hope to learn to keep giving over things to Him as I realize that I’m holding onto the control or worrying about the outcome. Even when my anxiety and depression tells me things are not ok, I know deep down that they are.

And I’m not sure what else I can say. I can’t make anyone else trust Him. I can’t convince you that my experiences are not just coincidental and emotional but truly spiritual. But that’s my story. And I just want to brag on my Heavenly Father and how amazing he is.

Trusting the Only One I Can Continued

Part One

I was working a part-time job which I liked, but I needed income from a full-time job. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I got a call from an office I had faxed a resume to probably six months prior, and they gave me a job with a higher hourly pay and a promise to move me up to full time after a short while. My mom, always full of faith, said it must be God. I said ok. I was excited about the prospect of having enough money to support myself and move out of my parents’ house before they moved out of state.

I believe it was the very day after I got hired that I went to Goodwill during my lunch-break with my coworker from my original job, and there I found a couch. I needed this couch. It was in great condition, and I could afford it, and I knew I could store it in my mom’s house until I moved out. I can’t remember how it worked out, but somehow or other, my parents went to look at the couch themselves. My mom told me I should pray about it. I said ok. Later that night, I was whining to her about wanting the couch and asking her to make the decision for me. Could I have it? Her answer: did you pray about it? Me: …no… I pouted and went back into my room, laid on the bed, and prayed for the first time in a long time.

I asked God… should I get the couch? What should I do? And I heard…nothing. Not that I should do nothing, but I heard no reply. I heard nothing at all. I was frustrated. I went to work the next day still frustrated and still not sure what to do. Then I got a phonecall from my mom saying that, if I liked, they could meet me at the store after work to get the couch. I agreed, and we went.

When we got to the store, however, the couch was sold. I was a little taken aback. Like… *blink blink* … ok God. No couch. That was a pretty direct answer.

I left feeling pretty good, and I started to pray more. I prayed about my new job, thanking God for it. I went to work at the new job. I hated it. Okay… but God gave it to me, right? So I prayed, and I told God it was really hard, and I didn’t know whether to quit or not, and what should I do? Should I keep it? No answer.

I went to work again, and in the middle of the day, I was fired. Umm… *blink blink* … ok, God. Thanks for that. At least I didn’t have to quit.

I stayed at my original job, and before long they bumped up my pay and my hours. Then, again, they bumped it up, and I was working full time! When it was time to move out of my parents’ house, God directed me to a really great first apartment. Based on my previous experiences, I was confident when I prayed about whether to take the apartment, even though I didn’t hear a supernatural voice saying “DO IT!” because I had begun to trust that while I was seeking His will, He wasn’t going to lead me into something contrary to it. Around this time I also finally started reading the Bible regularly again.

Fast forward some, and we get to my dear husband’s reappearance in my life. We had known each other since we were twelve, but we had never dated. When it came down to deciding to date, I took it very seriously. I had been praying for months that God would prepare me to be a good wife but also to help me be content in singleness, which was something I had never been content in. Finally, I felt content, and there came Marty, and there came a new feeling about him that was more than what I’d felt for him the previous 7 years… So I prayed about it some more. A lot more. For about 3 months straight. And I sought advice from people I trusted, godly people. I felt peace with the decision that I should go ahead. All signs pointed to yes. And so we dated, and so we married, and so we fast-forward again.

Since that point in my life, I was kind of stagnant in my spiritual life. Actually, dating and getting married hampered things because I no longer made time for prayer and the Bible. I knew I shouldn’t make my husband my “god,” but I just couldn’t seem to get my priorities straight. So I kind of stayed where I was. I had a sort of confidence that God wasn’t going to let us walk into something awful if we were seeking Him, and that was about it. Then, during Marty’s last deployment, he got orders for Fort Leonard Wood, and Marty had to extend his time in the Army in order to take the orders.

He was basically forced to stay in longer, when he had been planning to get out. And we were both like… Ummm… ok God. If you say so… Missouri, here we come.

Things have been a struggle, let me tell you. Deployment was a struggle, but I grew some… Of course, my good habits of daily Bible reading and prayer didn’t really carry over once Marty came home. Things were just too hectic. We had trips to take and packing to do and a move on the horizon, and Marty was really struggling with stuff at work. The time between his coming home and our moving was hard. Deciding to do a DITY move, having to pack up our whole house and load the moving truck and drive ourselves and our three animals to another state… Oh, and there was the struggle of trying to figure out where we could live. I tried to trust God, but it sure felt like I was doing everything. Where in the world was He, and where in the world were we going to live, and how was I supposed to have any peace when it’s weeks till the move and we still have no place to live! See, really, I wasn’t trusting God at all.