Painted smiles

How much longer will I have to put up with the brokenness? How much more do I have to suffer? Why is it that everyone around me seems to be mending, healing, growing… moving on. Yet, here I am… still struggling.

I wake up every day to paint the smile on my face practice sounding compassionate even though I don’t get a glance or even a greeting. I have to dress like I have everything in order even though my life is far from making sense. I do this because, if I don’t, I’ll be forced to keep pretending like everything is OK.

Is everything OK?

What a question! Define “everything”–do you mean every single thing that is hurting me and ripping me apart or do you just mean every single thing that is in my life? I can easily distract you with the latter so that you don’t see how much I am breaking.

Please don’t tell me that you’re always here to talk to when you just want to know how my day has been. I don’t need surface-level chatter. I know you want me to use your shoulder to cry on, your ear to talk off and your wisdom to follow…

But I need more.

I need saving.

I need wholeness. Acceptance. Grace. Strength.

I can’t find it within myself anymore. I have tried–believe me, I have.

But it’s time that I stop looking within myself and start looking within my God. It can sound crazy. It can sound like another excuse. It can even sound pathetic.

But have you ever experienced the grace of God? He can lift me regardless of how low I am. He can put me together regardless of how broken I am. He can accept me regardless of how rejected I am.

I don’t have to paint smiles when I can experience His joy. I don’t have to practice compassion when I know His love. I don’t have to stress about control when He is the One who has set my path.

I don’t have to hide my brokenness when He brings wholeness.

Be real. Be authentic. Be open about who you really are. Bad days? Impatient? Unmotivated? You don’t have to hide it or even fake it to make it. Feel what you’re feeling. Know what you’re thinking. Understand your fear and doubt so that you can give it to Him in truth and humility. Others don’t see who we are but He does. And He is OK with that.

That’s what matters.

I see therefore I have?

“It is I; don’t be afraid.” – John 6:20

This is such a bold statement. Yes, it’s the Son of God who can say this, but it really is a strange concept to think of.

Humanity craves the physical and the material. They bring assurance, confidence, comfort and even control. If happiness is felt, it needs to be expressed to be legit. Wanna know if you’re rich? You, obviously, wanna see the proof!

Why are you stressed? Can’t you see that everything is OK? Why are you feeling lonely? Can’t you see everyone around you? What you see is what you get, right? Wrong!

The Son of God may not be seen but He has so much to give you—comfort, love, hope, peace, courage and more.

Jesus is relationship.

Jesus is abundance.

Jesus is strength.

Jesus is courage.

Just because you don’t see Him, it doesn’t mean you don’t have Him.

When you see lack, let Jesus in to bring what He has. It’s OK. It’s Jesus… don’t be afraid.

Purpose

Every breath that fills our lungs is a blessing and every breath that fills us is filled with a purpose that was created by God.

We aren’t breathing just so our feet can take more steps.

We aren’t breathing just so our fingers can press more buttons.

We aren’t breathing just so our eyes can see more of this world.

Being created to move with purpose is what allows us to head towards the greatness that God has in store for us. But the journey to that greatness is filled with purpose too.

That purpose is to praise.

Every place we explore, every task we undertake, every part of God’s creation that we see should inspire us to praise Him.

We may go to places that we should or shouldn’t have gone to.

We may do things that we should or shouldn’t have done.

We may see things that we should or shouldn’t have seen.

Purpose fills those things too.

Some things just happen to remind us of what we need, or what we are blessed with, or what we don’t deserve.

It can be difficult to find the things that give you a reason to keep going. We can know what we have found but not understand why we have. And, well, sometimes we just have to look up.

Through it all, God’s goodness never changes and that’s what’s always worth praising for.

Remind yourself of God’s grace, mercy and love—how it’s infinite, steadfast, transformative.

Isn’t that worth praising about?

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” – Psalm 150:6

Where there’s a will…

The thickest chain has binded your almost every move. There’s a lock that could free you yet you don’t have the key to set yourself free. But you do have a set of pliers that are strong enough to break through the chain. Just because you don’t have the specific thing that could lead you to your freedom, it doesn’t mean there isn’t another way. Sometimes, the one thing that looks like our solution could be the one thing that keeps us with the problem. You could obsess over the lock–search and search for that key and ignore the pliers that you have in your hands. Or you could just use those pliers…

No matter what, you are never trapped forever.

With every short breath that you are able to take, it’s a reminder of the fact that you are able to take in a longer and deeper breath. With every second that your head is filled with a thought, it’s a reminder of the fact that your head can be filled with silence. With every meeting that fills your schedule, it’s a reminder of the fact that you are able to create some time to break away from your endless routine.

No matter what, you are never trapped forever.

You can stay in your chains and you can do your best at moving and doing as much as you can. Go for it. You’re still capable of doing something… but wouldn’t it be so much better if you were just free? Free from the routine that isn’t getting you anywhere. Free from the relationship that is hurting you. Free from the expectations that you didn’t agree to?

No matter what, you are never trapped forever.

“‘The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.'”
Numbers 6:25

Darkness is vulnerable…temporary. The moment a glimmer of light even meets darkness, it no longer exists. It’s weakened–defeated. So, what do you need to allow the Light to shine in your direction? Have you tried changing perspective? Changing your position? Why not take a step to the side of that mountain that is blocking the Sun? That’s all it’s hiding–the Sun. It doesn’t want the Light to shine upon you, no way! The moment the Light shines in your direction, you’re strengthened! From Light comes blessing–protection, mercy and peace! The moment you realise that all it takes is a step away from the shade and into the Light is when you’ll realise…

No matter what, you are never trapped forever.

Don’t waste time looking for the key to unlock the chains wrapped around your body, just use those pliers. Grab them and use all that you have to break the chain. Don’t wait. Start to live in freedom now. It’s your birthright, your destiny, your identity. You’re scared to do so? You aren’t ready yet? You think it’s too late?

No matter what, you are never trapped forever.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”.
Galatians 5:1

Walls

It’s odd how we live our day-to-day routine with a wall that guards our heart. A wall that can be layered with other walls to ensure the utmost security. We either have so much to hide, so much to protect, so much to ignore or even so much to fear… maybe it’s a combination of many, if not, all of those things. What’s bizarre is how we may not even know of the walls that have been put up until we find ourselves in a moment where they have been torn down.

Suddenly, what you’ve been hiding is shown, what you’ve been protecting is vulnerable, what you’ve been ignoring is the centre of attention and you’re facing what you’ve been fearing. How does this happen? How do we end up carrying so much within ourselves and choose to keep it to ourselves? Regardless of it’s use, a wall is a barrier. It separates. It prevents the possibility of embracing and releasing. Either can be a positive or a negative. But, a wall is a wall and, the question is, what happens once it’s up?

I want you to imagine yourself wanting to invite a really great friend of yours over to your place. You’ve known each other for, basically, your whole lives. You see each other as often as possible but it’s been a while now as life began to get busier. You don’t know everything about each other but you know much—what you’ve both experienced, your thought and emotional patterns and even each other’s limits. You hear the doorbell ring and you know that it’s your friend. So, you make your way to the door and greet them with a “hi, how are you?” and you’re hoping they won’t notice the obvious. You’re sounding OK, you’re feeling good about being around each other. But, you’re still hoping they won’t notice what’s going on… You’re the friend now. You arrive at your friend’s place and ring their doorbell. They make their way to the door and greet you with a “hi, how are you?”. Obviously, you want to respond but you’re taken aback by the fact that they haven’t opened their door to you. You’re standing there, awkward and confused, not knowing what to do. You ask them if you could come inside but they would prefer that you don’t. You don’t understand why—has something happened to their physical appearance? What are they hiding? And, so, the conversation continues as you stand on opposite sides of the door. You don’t understand what is happening but you continue to cooperate. Even though conversation is happening, you feel that there isn’t honesty and authenticity within the conversation and it’s breaking your heart. You’re not going to use anything against your friend. You just want to be there for them. What’s changed? Why have they stopped letting you in now? That’s what came to mind when I started to reflect on my relationship with God.

Who did I think I was fooling? Here I am thinking that God won’t be able to notice my lack of honesty when I’m the one that’s looking like a fool. It’s as if I told somebody that I’m planning a surprise for them then pretending that I’m not. What does hiding knowledge that has already been gained actually do? If God already knows what’s going on and He chooses to stay close to us then shouldn’t we embrace Him? He loves us and He wants us regardless of the condition of our heart and mind. He sees the state that we’re in and He comes with the conditioner that we need to be renewed with.

“Lord, you have examined me
and know all about me.
 You know when I sit down and when I get up.
You know my thoughts before I think them.
 You know where I go and where I lie down.
You know everything I do.
 Lord, even before I say a word,
you already know it.
 You are all around me—in front and in back—
and have put your hand on me.
 Your knowledge is amazing to me;
it is more than I can understand”. (Psalm 139:1-6)

God already knows what’s within me, what I’m hiding and what I’m not. He is the Creator and I am the creation. He is the Artist and I am the masterpiece.

He is The Father and I am His child.

And, maybe, that’s what the walls are for. Maybe I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be vulnerable to a father. When something is ripped from you, the tear marks can still be left with you. I may have sticky-taped the pieces together but God is the one that can bring me a new piece entirely. But, I’m not sure that I’ve asked for one…

God says in Jeremiah 33:3 that He will answer us and tell us of the “great and hidden things” that we do not know, if we call Him. So, why do I call Him? Is it because I know that I should be doing so? Is it because I know that I can feel love when I’m spending time with Him? Whatever the reason, I don’t think it’s so He can tell me of the “greater and hidden things”. But, that’s the key—to know of those things that God wants us to know. The things that have been burdening us, hurting us, poisoning us. The things that have been preventing us from being completely intimate with God.

I mentioned before that we usually don’t know or aren’t aware of the walls that have been put up until there comes a moment where the walls are torn down. And, I say that, because it happened to me. In a moment where I was surrounded by people praising and worshiping the God that loves them, I chose to observe and take-in the atmosphere I was in. I remember feeling glad that people were experiencing the presence of God and there was no doubt that it wasn’t happening. You could see it: there were tears that had fallen, arms that were raised and prayers that were said. Some people looked so heartbroken as their face and hands were drenched in tears and I remember not understanding why or how that happens. But, when I looked at them properly, their body language was communicating something different: they were comfortable. They were OK. It was as if they were being hugged or even being held together so that, no matter how broken they may be feeling, they’ll remain whole. The moment I began wondering what that would feel like, it happened. My emotions broke through the walls that were stopping them and there was no turning back. There weren’t any particular thoughts or triggers that could stop them. They just had to come out.

What I’d been hiding was shown, what I’d been protecting was vulnerable, what I’d been ignoring was the centre of attention and I’d been facing was what I’d been fearing—intimacy. I didn’t think I’d need it. I didn’t think it was necessary to gain in order to be close, which is completely contradictory considering being “close” is, basically, being somewhat intimate. But, that was the wall that was put up. Close but not intimate.

There shouldn’t have to be a reason for intimacy. It should just happen naturally. We were created to be intimate by an Intimate Creator. Intimacy isn’t a means of punishment or judgement. It’s a means of growth and connection and fulfillment. The closer we are to God, the better we become.

“He must increase, but I must decrease”. (John 3:30)

The walls that are there for our own intentions have to decrease so that the things that God wants to show us can increase. I “must” become desperate for intimacy so that the things that aren’t of God are released and the things that are of God are embraced. I waste strength on holding onto things when I should be allowing God to give me the strength to let them go. He is always wanting to be close to us because it is who He is but I can’t keep Him close for the wrong reasons. What’s the point of letting God in just to see a small part of who He knows I am? He knows His work so who am I to keep that from Him? He loves me for who I am and I should not be preventing the intimacy that comes with His love. How could I know true intimacy if it isn’t with the God who sees and knows everything that is a part of who I am? How could I know intimacy if I’m not being intimate with all that I am?

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. (Matthew 22:37)

I shouldn’t be choosing to love God with only the good that He has done for me or for only the good that He has seen within me. He continues to love me no matter the ratio of my imperfections to my perfections. The walls that are put up don’t hide, protect or separate anything from Him—it’s my lack of willingness that does all of those things. My lack of vulnerability.

But, to a God who loves unconditionally, vulnerability will strengthen me and allow me to feel the true freedom and intimacy that His love comes with. It’s just the courage that I need in order to become that vulnerable with Him. Drawing back to Jeremiah 33:3, it’s my call to God that determines the level of intimacy that I am prepared to have because, even though God knows the desires of our hearts and can fulfill them, He does so when we seek and find true pleasure in His presence (Psalm 37:4). Oppressing who we are in His presence robs us from leaving His presence with the delight that He offers to give us, which should highlight the fact that we are the ones that prevent full intimacy with God. So, not only do we have God keeping what He has for us to Himself but we also keep what we have for Him to ourselves, creating a distant relationship with an intimate God who can unlock the unconditional love that we need to share with others, leading back to oppressing the great potential that lies within.

 

Here’s one that was prepared earlier…

Who are you? Honestly, who do you think you are?

If you thought of your occupation, you’re wrong. If you thought of your age, you’re wrong again. If you’re thinking of what others think of you, scrap it. If you thought of who you are when you’re around others, then that probably isn’t who you are either.

What you like isn’t who you are either. Neither is what you enjoy doing, reading, eating or wearing.

So, when you take that all away, who are you?

What are you scared of saying… or not saying? Let’s take a moment right now to just strip away everything that we associate with. Strip away your home, your family, your hobbies and your habits, your friends, your labels… any words and thoughts that you carry.

Scary, right?

Nothing to hide behind. Nothing to cover. Nothing to protect yourself from.

After all that, you’re still wrong…sorry!

But, if there is nothing left then what is in front of us? Covering and protecting us? With everything stripped away leaving us vulnerable and raw, how are we still protected?

Have you ever mixed water and oil together? It’s a random question, I know, but just think about it—no matter how much water you add, no matter how much oil you add, whether you stir them or shake them or tip over the container that it’s in, they will stay separate. Now, I ain’t no scientist so I’m not going to get into the reasoning behind this all, but the nature of the result is similar to us and our identity.

Who we think we are and we really are don’t mix well together.

Now, we’re still bare, OK? So, let’s think: what are people saying about you? Is it damaging who you are or building you up? What are you saying about yourself? Is it damaging you or building you? What about the material things that you attach yourself to? Surely they can’t really be a part of who you are—I know, it’s harsh—but these things don’t last. Does that mean you’ll go with it? You’re better than that. You’re worth more than that. So, what about your occupation? You aren’t what you do—it can be a reflection of who you are—but it isn’t who you are. And, yes, your passion may be in the midst of that but that isn’t who you are exactly.

Before we continue, think about what you want to (need to?) let go of. Those things that are far from benefiting who you are needs to go away with the wind. Just drop it. Let it fall and break to never be repaired and worn again. Think about that ugly pair of pyjamas that you can finally replace with new ones—grab them, rip it with all of your strength and throw it away. You don’t need it. Even if it’s attached to memories, you don’t need it. Ignore the voices that are telling you that you’ll lose yourself or that you’ll change or that no one will like you because of it. Technically, people aren’t liking you already since it wasn’t who you truly were in the first place. You may lose a lot but you’ll gain even more.

Feeling lighter, hopefully? Now, it’s time for the itty gritty stuff—habits, hobbies, likes and dislikes. If you were to make a list of these for the world to see, would any of it bring shame to your name? Or would it make you shout it to the world in confidence? Yep. So, grab that broom and start sweeping that dirt up—don’t sweep it under the rug though. Just sweep it all out with the rest of the junk. You’re allergic to that dust and it’s time you clean it out.

Now, breathe in that fresh air. You’re doing good.

Here comes the best part.

Before you the opportunity to have an identity by yourself or even by others, there was one already made beforehand. See, just like a professional chef prepares a meal in front of us only to show one that they had made beforehand, you were given the opportunity to create your own identity before the one that was prepared earlier is revealed to you. And, it isn’t done to show you how wrong you are or how incapable by that matter, but to show you how there are things within you that you haven’t explored yet—things that you think you don’t deserve or are even worthy of. To show you how Someone so awesome has paid attention to every single detail of who you are.

You aren’t a mistake. You aren’t a disgrace. You aren’t even looked over.

Child of God, you have been thought of before you were even born (Jeremiah 1:5).

You have been sung over with praises (Zephaniah 3:17.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

You are free from the things that defeat you (John 8:36)

You are chosen, holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)

You are spiritually alive (Ephesians 2:4-5)

You are a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)

You are more than a conqueror in every battle that you face (Romans 8:37).

The amount of potential that you are capable of is beyond anything that you can even imagine. No matter what you have faced, no matter what you have been told, no matter what you have done or thought—you are the most precious child to God.

Just when you think you have reached your limit, when you think you have been all that you could ever be—you’ll be proven wrong…again. It sounds too good to be the truth that you could only believe, but it really is the Truth. It doesn’t matter if you can’t comprehend it. Just trust it.

Just like a soil that is rich, you have amazing things that can grow from you. You’ll rise—you can rise—you’ll flourish, you’ll strengthen and move into greatness! All because of the fact that the God who created every drop in the ocean—every star in the sky, every grain of sand and blade of grass, every breath that you take—loves you.

Even though you know of that word, “love”, He feels it in a way that we’ll never be able to ever feel. And it’s with that same love that He acted upon to make the ultimate sacrifice for you that He loves you with. Because no matter your occupation, no matter your age, no matter what others think of you or who you are when your around others, no matter what you like, do, read, eat or wear, no matter where you live, who your family is, what your hobbies and habits are or who your friends are…

You are loved.

Right around the corner

You may not know it yet but your life is about to change. Every single moment that you have lived has led to a specific moment that will not only change everything but also make sense of everything before that.

The fascinating thing about our lives is that our path has been planned and set before us—every failure, every success, every high and every low. Each of those things will lead to greatness. Each of those things have been placed by God.

I know you’re lost. I know that the routine is becoming harder and harder to continue. I know that it seems like you’re taking three steps back for every step that you take.

But don’t stop. Not now.

Honestly, you’re almost there. You are right around the corner to your greatness—the greatness that He has set for you.

And, trust me, you would want to see this. You have to see what is in store for you because, once you get there, everything will change. You will start to move higher and higher, become greater and greater, from strength to strength.

All you have to do is keep going.

It’s OK if you can’t do this. God can do this with you. That’s what He wants—that’s what He has planned.

God sets the possible before us but He also sets the impossible for us with one crucial difference. When we look at the possible, we think “I’m able to do this”. When we look at the impossible, God thinks “It’s OK, I’m able to do this”. So, let Him.

You have gone through many trials, errors, tests, errors, challenges, errors, hurdles, errors… and it seems like it’s time to give up. Don’t. You’re about to reach a season of success. Just succeed in this one.

Mountains

You’re struggling to do anything at this point. You cannot even fathom what you’re going through. Not only is choosing to get up the next day to face this mountain such a struggle but even simply thinking about it fills you with fear. You can’t do it. Not again. But you have to. You know that there isn’t really another choice, another outcome. Quitting is an option but you don’t want to deal with the consequences. So, you face the mountain. You lose. And you have to do it again. You might win this time but you know that there’s another one to face tomorrow. And knowing that is already exhausting.

How are you going to face this mountain? Why do you have to face this mountain? What did you do to deserve it? Why do you have to face this in order to get to where you want to be? Isn’t there another way? Something else you can do instead?

Can I be honest? There may be another way and that way may lead you to where you want to be but it may not lead you to where God needs you to be.

So, we need to consider the reason for the mountain that is in front of us. Why has it been created? Why do we have to climb it? What will we gain when we climb it? And what will we lose?

Just as you approach the mountain, you realise that you are far from being prepared to climb it and that it is something much bigger than you thought it was. What if I told you that that is true but you could change it somehow? We don’t have the ability to shrink our mountains but we do have the ability to see how small they are in comparison to something much bigger and powerful. Remember that there will always be something bigger than what’s in front of you. All you have to do is find it and compare it and put in the effort to see how small the mountain really is.

But what is bigger than the mountains that we face? What gives us the strength to face our mountains over and over again?

God.

God is bigger than any mountain you face. God can give us the courage we need to face our mountain. God can give us the strength to face it over and over and over again.

But, just like our mountains, God can be seen smaller if we choose to do so—He isn’t smaller than the mountains—but we can create that illusion. Every time that mountain looks bigger, we make God smaller. Every time we stay weakened by that mountain, we become immune to God’s strength. Every time we obsess over that mountain, we forget about our God.

I know it’s hard. I know it’s exhausting. I know it’s terrifying. But remembering how much greater God is really does make it all that little more easier and you that little more stronger and braver. Don’t try and look for God behind the mountain. Place Him beside it and see how little that mountain really is. It’s still going to be tough to conquer, but you will have your Strength, Courage, and Wisdom in front of you.

Every time you fall, it’s OK to break. But don’t stay broken. Allow God to pick you up and face the mountain again. Keep going. Keep trying. When you begin to reach halfway up, God may begin to help you understand what it is you’re doing and why.

What made you fall the last time? What did you learn from that fall? How can you prevent that?

And that’s when the conquering happens. Once you understand why that mountain is there it feels easier. You know what you have to do. You know what to prepare for and how. It’s still going to be frustrating but at least you understand. Can I tell you that it is actually OK to feel frustrated at God for this mountain and that it’s actually OK to express that frustration? The line is only crossed when and if you allow that frustration to pull you away from Him.

See, I just finished conquering quite a huge mountain myself. And I grew more and more frustrated with God each and every day. But, no matter how much I did or did not want to do it, I talked to God. Other than the obvious preparations, my main one was through prayer.  I let out my frustration and, every time it ran out, I found myself beginning to express love and gratitude towards Him. I was able to remember His sovereignty over this mountain and so I put in the effort to trust Him each and every day.

I began with fearing the mountain that I would need to face, being beaten by the mountain that I was facing, understanding why I was facing the mountain, knowing how to conquer the mountain and then, finally, conquering the mountain. Now, don’t forget what you just read: I was beaten by that mountain before conquering it. How, you ask? We may lose battles but we have already won the war. When and if you lose a battle, don’t even think that it’s over. It may feel like it’s over and it may feel like there is no other way to win this, but God has already made you win the war—you just don’t know what conquering the war looks like.

We face every mountain as conquerors—not losers, not novices. God’s love transforms us into conquerors… well, more than that (Romans 8:37). That’s how I conquered my mountain. I did not do this alone. No way. I thought that this mountain was too big for me to handle but I knew that my God was big enough to handle this mountain. When we face mountains, they look down on us with intimidation. But when they face our God, they “melt like wax before [Him]” (Psalm 97:5).

When you actually know and understand the awesomeness that God is, of course you would want to partner with Him. Let Him use you—strengthen you, comfort you, empower you. Yes, you need to face this mountain but you don’t have to face it alone. You may feel alone when facing it but keep remembering that God is really with you, “to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

When you’re scared, God is still with you. When you’re weak, God is still with you. When you’re hurt, God is still with you. When you don’t understand, God is still with you. When you’re brave, God is still with you. When you’re strong, God is still with you. When you’re empowered, God is still with you.

From the moment you prepare to face that mountain, know that God is conquering this with you!

Quality or Convenience?

Today, I got to spend some alone time with God after not doing so for a little bit. When I was getting ready to spend time with Him, I put in the effort to set up an atmosphere for it. Whenever I get ready to spend time with Him, I remember the important things: no distractions, His Word, my journal and privacy. These are the things that help me spend time with Him. So, when I prepare for this moment, I be sure to set an atmosphere that would not distract me, where I could hear what He has for me, where I could speak to Him and truly be alone with Him. I do this so that it isn’t just time I’m spending with Him, but quality time.

A while ago, I started to have some expectations for when I spend time with Him: I wanted to praise and worship Him, hear Him through His Word, and speak to Him. I made sure that I positioned myself to receive these expectations and, if I didn’t, that was ok too. I have my Christian playlist playing, my Bible opened to read and my journal and pen to write in. If I’m going to spend time with God, I want to make sure that that time isn’t wasted—that that time is like no other.

I feel like I spend time with God when I’m at church, when I’m singing along to a praise or worship song or reading His Word with my wife. But, sometimes, I feel like it isn’t quality time—it’s just convenient time. Don’t get me wrong, God can choose to speak to me any time. I just want to always be sure I am spending quality time with Him. I need to prioritise quality time with Him instead of allowing the time to present itself when it’s convenient.

I remember thinking how nice it felt and how much I needed that time spent with Him. And then it struck me—I don’t only want to need to spend time with God, I want to spend time with Him as well.

In my opinion, being wanted and being needed are two very different things. They may require the same outcome, but the motives tend to differ. I shouldn’t only choose to spend time with God when I realise that I need to do so—when I begin to feel empty, weak, hopeless, scared and guilty. I should also choose to spend time with Him when I miss Him—when I want to praise, worship, glorify and honour Him just for being the God that He is. And, it’s ok to spend time for one reason or the other, but I think it’s healthier to spend time with Him when you need to and want to.

It is easy to spend time with God when it is convenient for us—one day is church day, another day is Bible study—but, sometimes, it isn’t enough. We need to be intentional with our time with God. And, if we feel like we struggle to find or make the time, ask Him to do it for you. I did that today since I’m about to start a crazy season that I’m worried I’ll get caught up in. If we allow it, He will take control and open up some opportunities.

We are told to treat others like we would like to be treated (Luke 6:31) and I wouldn’t like it if someone was only spending time with me when it was only convenient for them. Imagine wanting to see them but you couldn’t because they were always too busy for you. I think that that is how God feels. He wants to spend time with us when we need Him and when we want Him.

He doesn’t dread spending quality time with us, He thrives on it.

Even though He knows exactly what goes through our hearts and minds, He wants us to confide in Him. He wants us to open up to Him—use His ears to talk to, His shoulder to cry on, His presence to comfort us.

Our burdens can’t ever drag Him down because He has the strength to lift up the world.

Another way of thinking of it is realising the habits you pick up from those around you. After spending quality time with somebody for a while, you realise that you have started to use the same kind of words and gestures, even thoughts and opinions.  Your bond has strengthened because of the similarities you share.

And that could be beneficial or detrimental.

So, why not apply that same concept to spending quality time with God. The more time you spend with Him, the more you learn of Him and get to truly know who He is. Eventually, you become more like Him—unconditionally loving, graceful, merciful, encouraging, servant-hearted. You begin to love the things that are for Him and hate the things that are against Him. Your heart even begins to break for the things that breaks God’s heart.

How are we supposed to love and trust a God for who He is if we don’t even take the time to know who He is?

The next time you find that you have some free time on your hands, use that time to spend some quality time with God. You’ll love it. And He will too.

The pull

You wake up and it’s a brand new day—whether you dread it or love it—the day is here and it’s ready to be lived. You fill your mind with a list of things to do: go to work, complete an assessment, do some chores. Once your morning routine is done, you get ready to do work on something on your list. In this time, you have either stayed grounded or you have already been pulled. Yes, you managed to recuperate, but you already got pulled and your day has only just begun.

Have you turned on the TV? Have you listened to the radio? Have you browsed through your social media accounts? Have you read the newspaper or magazine?

Amongst all of that, have you thought of Him yet? Have you acknowledged the God that has blessed you with this day?

You probably haven’t, right? I forget too—my intention isn’t to accuse and condemn.

Every day is filled with a variety of things that want us. So many things pull us toward the world and away from God. There is so much to handle… so many things that point away from God. “Don’t worry about spending time with God, you need to meet your deadlines!”. “Look what’s happening in the world! How can God allow that?”. “Considering I’m already a mess, I may as well keep going”.

There are so many distracters that take our focus off God and the things that He is about. They build up and keep building up until they consume our entire day, week, even month or year. Eventually, we forget God. We put Him on hold. We put Him away. We make time to catch-up with friends that we haven’t seen for a while and leave no time to catch-up with the God that we haven’t connected to in months. We spend our day jamming to our new favourite album and forget the lyrics to the songs we praised and worshipped God with. We start to ask the people in our lives for advice and forget how to pray to a God that is always ready to listen. We go through sleepless nights filled with the fear of what is happening around us and don’t bother being comforted by God’s strength.

The world calls us to the things that could destroy us. The call is tempting and persistent and speaks to the quiet things within us. It wants us to be lost amongst the world—become a part of it. Be broken. Be fearful. Be empty. We receive this call every day. But that isn’t the only call we receive. God calls us to the things that could build us. The call may be undesirable and strong and reveals the quiet things within us. He wants us to be found in Him—become a part of His family. Be whole. Be brave. Be filled. We also receive this call every day. Every day is a tug of war—God VS the world. The crazy thing is we also have the power. We can choose which call to answer and which call to reject.

Just because the world wants us, it doesn’t mean it loves us. It just wants us to be away from God. In John 15:19, Jesus mentions that we are not of the world, which is the reason why the world hates us. We are not a part of this world, which is why worldly things destroy us as opposed to build us. It’s just like forcing a fish to live on land. It will breathe the air for a while until it eventually starts dying.

The world that surrounds us is filled with pain, hatred, fear and brokenness. When we are exposed to these things, we break, we hurt, we fear. The things of this world aren’t meant for us and we find that we can’t function properly. We find that we begin to be filled with pain, hatred, fear and brokenness. We become too vulnerable in order to protect ourselves.

We forget about who we are and Who we are made from.

Turn off that TV. Turn off that radio. Logoff social media. Close that magazine or newspaper. But don’t turn off what you saw. Don’t turn off what you heard. Don’t disconnect from what you connected to. Don’t forget what you just read. Remember God in what you just did.

Before you face the world, face God. Before you turn on that TV, channel yourself to Him. Before you turn on that radio, listen out for what He has for you. Before you connect to social media, connect to His heart. Before you read that magazine or newspaper, read The Word.

Before the world tries to pull you, push yourself to God. As you begin to focus on God and share the things of the world that hurt you, He will begin to transform you—empower you. As you let Him know how much of an impact the world is making on you, He will let you know how big His impact on the world is and how He can use you to make an impact on the world.

When we face the world’s pain, we face it with God’s healing. When we face the world’s hatred, we face it with God’s love. When we face the world’s fear, we face it with God’s courage. When we face the world’s brokenness, we face it with God’s wholeness.

But we can’t do this if we forget to face Him before we face the world. And we can’t do this if we don’t let Him be our hiding place before exposing ourselves to the world. The world may be a difficult place to run from but God is a simpler place to hide in.