When Favored Doesn’t Feel Good

There’s a common misconception out there that God’s favor looks like multi-million dollar houses and BMW’s. That once you accept him as your Savior, you will gain his favor and all will be right as rain in your world with nary a care. Who doesn’t love the smell of a new car??

It’s kind of easy to do, to fall into this favored-means-favorite-so-God-won’t-give-you-more-than-you-can-handle trap. I can’t tell you the number of times I found myself knee deep in it and wondered what in the heck I was doing wrong. Was God angry with me? Did he care? Was I not faithful enough? Does it really matter? 

If favored meant a perfect marriage with perfect kids and a white picket fence, no struggles, no strains, no skeletons haunting you and you had more money than month then at times I felt like his most un-favored.

Somehow we’ve twisted the favor of God to be a golden ticket for a front row seat in the audience of Oprah’s favorite things. Walking away with all the booty and bling and none of the suffering. 

Last fall I started paying attention to the people in the Bible who are favored by God. It’s easy to wrap their lives in pretty packages and tie them up with a bow because we know the whole story. But everyone has a messy middle. 

Take Noah, for example, who found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:8 NIV) He and his family were saved from dying in the flood. On the first boat ever made. With a bunch of animals. And no time-line. We have 16 chickens that make a lot of manure. I cannot imagine how much poo each of those 2×2’s produced. And remember it rained for forty days and forty nights but the Noah family was on the ark around 270 days. I’m sure he didn’t feel so favored at times. 

Then there’s highly favored Mary the Mother of Jesus who found favor with God. (Luke 1:28,30NIV) What an honor to be chosen to birth the Savior of the world. But we get blinded by the twinkling lights shining down on the trees stuffed with presents and packages underneath to remember how hard it must have been to walk the road as highly favored. 

A virgin who becomes pregnant also becomes the chatter of much gossip. Riding on a donkey for miles when you’re ready to give birth then giving birth in a cave among farm animals. Fleeing to save your Son’s life because some dude has lost his ever-loving jealous mind. Watching your Son grow up and do miracles and ministry only to be beaten and hung on a tree. I wonder if at any point Mary thought highly favored was over-rated? 

What about Moses who was leading some pretty whiny people through the desert and was just about ready to give up? His burden had become too heavy to bear, the people to burdensome to lead, wearied from dealing with it all he says to the Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes… (Numbers 11:15 NIV) God heard. God answered. But not in a way you might think.

Moses had indeed found favor in the eyes of the Lord but he still had to face the hard thing….just not alone. God asked him to bring seventy elders and officials with him to the Tent of Meeting so they could stand with Moses before God. 

They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone. (Numbers 11:15-17NIV)

Favor in all three scenarios is the word grace. 

God’s grace is what saw Noah through the storm. 

God’s grace is what allowed Mary to endure hardships and heartache. 

God’s grace is what enabled Moses to carry out his duties as leader. 

Each one was favored by God. Each one had been given more than they could handle but for the grace of God. 

No. The favor of God doesn’t always feel good. We will be asked to weather the storm and shovel some stuff that stinks. We will be chosen to minister from places of heartache and hurt, places not of our choosing. We will be asked to face difficult challenges, desert places and dire circumstances. 

But never alone. 

That’s the favor of God. 

Jesus said, I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20 MSG)

That’s grace. 

kw

Did God Really Say…Follow Your Heart

Follow your heart is a popular persuasion for people today. Its guidance is given when the meeting with a friend is over, your coffee mugs are empty and you still haven’t figured out a solution, a next step for the problem, decision or path you’re facing. So we ask, what’s your heart telling you? Just follow that. 

Is that the best advice? No.

Is it sound advice? No. 

Didn’t David say that somewhere in the Psalms? Definitely no. David followed his heart right into Bathsheba’s bed. 

Follow Your Heart:

To follow implies that something or someone is leading you. Your heart is then the thing that is doing the leading. According to Greek and Hebrew traditions the heart is the seat of our emotions, desires, and feelings. When we use the advice to follow our hearts, we are, in essence, allowing our emotions, desires and feelings to be our guides. 

I so want this “follow your heart” advice to be a sensible thing. I want my heart to be good, my emotions even keel, desires pure, feelings steady. But scripture tells me otherwise: It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies and cussing. (Matthew 15:19MSG)

Are these the kinds of things we want to follow? Yeah, me neither. 

Our hearts are foolish. A wise man once said, He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26NKJV)

It’s what makes us think we know what’s best for us. It’s what makes us think we’re smarter and bigger than God. It’s what makes us think the grass is greener somewhere else. It’s what makes us puff up with pride, be unforgiving and draw a stubborn line in the sand. It’s what has us one decision away from destruction.  What feels right in the height of sweet emotion often turns bitter down the road. 

Our hearts are fickle. It can change from day to day or even moment by moment. In a split second we can go from happy heart to hurting heart, from heart of a warrior to way of a worrier, from brave heart to brokenhearted. An instant, a phone call, a look, a temptation….is often all it takes.

If I follow my heart and act out from a place of hurt, worry or brokenness I won’t make the decisions based on truth but on feelings. If I follow my heart based on arrogance and sheer stubbornness…well I won’t have many friends at the end of the day. 

Our hearts are fraudulent. Jeremiah tells us that our hearts are deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9NIV) The deception is that we can live our truth. 

As adventurous and daring as that sounds, it’s a lie. Living our truth is code for following our own hearts into the foolish things that we later regret (if we ever admit it was wrong). Living our truth means leave me alone, I know what I’m doing, I don’t need your advice, let me be in my sin, MY truth

So what do we do? We know that following our hearts is bad advice that gets us going in the wrong direction. The good news is we can lead our hearts by doing these three things. 

Check your heart. This little ditty was made famous by comedian John Crist. Or was it David? Search me God and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24CSB)

If there is an offensive thing found? Don’t look to the culture to compare, to see if maybe it ain’t so bad as so and so. Admit it, turn from it and run. 

Guard your heart above all else because it is the wellspring of life. according to Proverbs 4:23NIV. 

Guard it from what exactly? From foolishness, falling for fickle feelings and fraudulent activity. Recognize the lie of living your truth. Our plumb line is not the world or social media or famous people or the person in the pew next to us. Ours is the Bible so…

Renew your mind.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2NIV) 

I love this bit from Romans 12:1-2 in the Message: 

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (emphasis mine)

Transformed minds make for hearts that do not easily conform to the culture or be beguiled by twisted truths wrapped in pretty packages. 

Follow your heart sure sounds romantic and noble and true but it’s not. It gets us into trouble. Every. Single. Time. 

Don’t follow your heart. Follow Me. (Jesus) 

kw

Did God Really Say…You Can Do Anything!

Sweet Jesus! What are you doing? Shouted my man on the phone after he heard loud sparking and me screaming. 

I plugged in the charger like you told me to! But now the cables are dangling and touching each other and sparks are flying.

You plugged the charger in first??

Yes…

You hitch up the cables THEN plug in the charger!!! DON’T TOUCH THEM AND UNPLUG THE CHARGER FROM THE OUTLET. 

I didn’t know that…

This was an actual phone conversation betweenTodd and I after I left the lights on in my daughter’s car and found the battery dead the next morning. (Who knew her lights didn’t automatically shut off like my car did?) I’ve never jumped a battery. I’ve never desired to know how to jump a battery. 

I will never be a mechanic because I have 0 (that’s ZERO) mechanical skills. None. Nada. Zilch. I don’t care HOW things work as long as they DO. I know. I know. I really need to know some basics or I will die trying to jump any machine with a motor in the future. 

When I hear the words, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING! hollered from the platforms of people who are motivational speakers, I giggle to myself, you have never seen my mechanical skills. 

My Granny had some mad sewing skills. She could quilt, hem, tear apart and put back together, make clothes, embroider…you name it in the material world and she could do it. 

Bangs? Not so much. This is me in about the fifth grade looking like she used pinking sheers to trim my bangs the DAY BEFORE PICTURE DAY!! If there had been alcohol allowed in the house, I swear she’d been drinking by the looks of those bangs. 

You guys. Seriously. We weren’t made to do anything and everything. In fact…

You can do nothing. 

How’s that for incentive? Anybody need a motivational speaker with this message of encouragement? Fortunately I’m not the one quoted here. It’s the very words of Jesus in John 15. 

As women of faith, there’s a key component we sometimes forget in our quest to do. That is staying connected to the Vine, Jesus, because apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5NIV)  

That’s a far cry from Social Media’s mantra of You Can Do Anything! 

But isn’t this the exact opposite of what Paul is telling the people of Philippi when he says of himself, I can do all things…(Philippians 4:13NIV)

We sometimes take this verse to mean literally ALL things, as in everything. Paul knew that it was through Christwho gave him and us the strength to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:11NIV) 

You and I aren’t meant to do anything and everything. We aren’t meant to do it all. No matter how hard you shake your pom-poms and tell me I can, I’m simply not meant to. It’s exhausting to think otherwise. So I won’t be working on your car any time soon! Aren’t you glad?

Can this blog post get any more depressing? Great way to start off the series Kim. So are we supposed to do nothing then? 

Of course not! We have different gifts according to the grace given us. (Romans 12:6NIV) My Granny was a fantastic seamstress who used her gifts to the glory of God by making clothes for people, quilts for auction with the money given to the poor in the community. My man is a fixer of things (said with hearts in my eyes because I am not!) and can use his gifts to help people. I often volunteer his fixer upper skills when there is a need because I know he can do it. 

Paul tells us the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. (1Corinthians 12:14-15NIV)

Bottom line? We need each other! 

There are women who are great teachers, rockers of babies, fitness instructors, IT people, data collectors, financers, real-estate agents, stay-at-home Mommas, cleaners, secretaries, organizers, gabbers, encouragers, noticers of the least of these, speakers…you get the picture…all manner of gifts and talents you were created to do. 

The church needs you and me to be operating in our strengths. The God-given gifts and talents you bring are important. When the church is filled with people who aren’t trying to do just anything and everything but THE thing he called you to then not only does the church benefit, so does the community and it glorifies God! 

Still not convinced? Two words. Home. Perm. 

Holly Dance Attendant 1982

Try as she might, my Granny was not meant to be a hairdresser. No one should be allowed to use a solution that can burn your skin and fry your hair without some serious training! 

Stop listening to the lie that you can do anything or even everything.  Stay connected to the Vine, glorify God by using your gifts and talents. The world needs who you were made to be. (Joanna Gaines)

kw

Did God Really Say…

We sounded a little off. The handful of men singing bass weren’t loud enough to bring harmony to the overload of women who could sing soprano. (That’s a whole other post right there. 🙂 ) The altos were doing their best but the Easter cantata was in just a few days. The one first soprano who could bring the dramatic crescendo to the song of all songs couldn’t hit that high note if her soul depended on it…allergies. This rag tag team of volunteer singers needed a resurrection miracle before Easter Sunday. 

I sensed our poor choir director/piano player/costume designer needed some encouragement so I said as I was seated in the sea of sopranos something about God seeing how hard we’ve been working and bad practice means good performance. 

Someone piped up from the alto section; God helps those who help themselves. We have to work harder or he won’t bless this mess. 

This said in her best Southern Baptist church lady drawl, and with such conviction and authority that I thought for sure it was Biblical. It sure sounded like something King Solomon would say from his book of wisdom, Proverbs. 

Nope.

Not only was it not a Proverb, it wasn’t in the Bible anywhere. But it sure sounded like it. I was too young to need hearing aids and too old to be duped by one-liners that sounded Biblical. Especially from someone who gave Saturday Night Live more material for Dana Carvey’s church lady act.

We live in a world of Social Media snippets, a maze of memes and Instagram images that resound as the very words of God when really they are twists of truth meant to trap and entangle us. 

Some of them sound so “for us”, like they are standing on the roadside with a banner that has your name on it, cheering loudly as you run your race. They hold up posters that say…

You can do ANYTHING! 

Do what makes you happy!

Follow your heart! 

Love yourself! 

Favored =favorite.

Dream big/hustle hard

You’ll never be given more than you can handle

You are enough.

And last but not least, written in my best southern drawl…

God helps those who help themselves

Have you fallen for any of them? I know I have. Just like I did in that choir loft many years ago, except that I’m not near as naïve now. I’m learning to hold what sounds good up against what I know is good…Scripture. 

I was texting a friend about this series and asking her some of what she sees women falling for. After some back and forth, I ended with this: 

These are exactly what I’m looking for! And YES to all of the above. I may not have any friends but Jesus after June but hey I’ll leave a truth trail sprinkled with grace anyhow. 

I’ve tussled with this series for a while now, afraid to offend. Besides that, I’m not an expert on anything or an uber popular writer with thousands of “followers”. I fall more in the category of chicken wrangler and weed wrestler. But the trap of half-truths and filtered frames are shouting our names more and more. We live in a world where we need whole truths and a panoramic view to see just what the enemy is doing. 

I hope you hang with me this month so you’ll see what I’m concerned about. I don’t want to sound like some grouch from the south that needs to get off her high horse…I was the receiver of such. 

But I want better for us women of faith! Don’t you? 

I can’t care if you like me because it’s not about me. I can’t care if the truth hurts because it’s what also sets us free. (John 8:32) I may never be a New York Times best selling author who needs to wash her face and I won’t apologize for speaking the truth. Though I will say to you (and me), Girl, Read Your Bible!

So with humor and grace, I’ll get the conversation started. Did God really say…

kw