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With Abandon

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As I sat in the middle of the student center, tears rolling down my face for what felt like the thousandth time that week, the words of Psalm 42 rang strong in my mind: “My tears have been my food, day and night.”

“I just don’t know what to do!” I said, “I love them all, but this is so hard!”

In the weeks that preceded this conversation, relationships with friends whom I cherished had taken a decidedly sour turn.

As a group of around a dozen first and second year college students, we spent the majority of our time together. All Christians, we actively participated in the same on-campus Christian organization. We attended the same church, lived in the same residence halls, took the same classes, and often had meals and social gatherings with each other. I considered us the best of friends.

At least, we were. Somehow, in a complicated series of snubs, unresolved issues, mishandled disagreements, and an inexcusable amount of gossip, a large rift had been created that no one seemed to know how to fix.

This problem fell on top of a tough quarter of school in which I had loaded up on credit hours and obligations, and a spiritual dry season that seemed unending.

Often, as I cried into my pillow late at night, the word that seemed to echo within the silence of my dorm room was “abandoned.”

Where was my Father God now? The words of Psalm 42 screamed in my heart as I raged against God in my lonely circumstances.

“Where are You?” I would cry, “Why have you abandoned me?”

“I feel like abandoning it all, I don’t know what to do,” I spluttered, starting to feel slightly ashamed for my outburst of emotion.

Sara, a leader in the campus ministry and a friend, listened patiently as I explained my situation.

For as long as I could remember, I had been cycling through friends every year or two. Inevitably, the friends that I made would decide that I didn’t belong, or an argument or disagreement would arise, and the friendship would slowly fade. Nothing big, nothing dramatic. Just a slow death that would occur as I walked away, abandoning my friends along with the problems our relationship had encountered.

“Well,” Sara began, “that’s one thing I won’t let you do.” Looking me in the eyes, she told me lovingly but firmly, “If I see you hanging out with another group of people, I’ll rebuke you.”

Point made. I may have been struggling with my feelings of abandonment, but abandoning the situation was not the solution.

In fact, the right thing to do was exactly the opposite. Just as Jesus entered into an earth marred by sin and hurt, and began to sort through the chaos of human relationships, I’m called to do the same.

God had, and still has, every right to abandon us. He created us for His purpose, and we have abandoned Him. It would be just, perhaps even logical, to leave us to our own devices; to let us suffer the consequences of our choices.

But our Papa was not satisfied with that solution. Instead of abandoning us to wallow in the messes that we have made, He sent His perfect Son to die in our place and restore our relationship with Him.

Was it painful? Yes. Was it costly? Certainly. Was it worth it? I know with every fiber of my being that it was.

God loved us with abandon.

He left His own Son, allowing Christ to cry out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned Me?” He abandoned his own Son, perfect and pure, on the Cross, utterly forsaking Him in a moment that made heaven groan and the earth quake, in order to bring us to Him.

If I desire to be like God, then I, too, must love with abandon.

What does this mean? I think the book Inside Out by Dr. Larry Crabbe says it best: “We are called to enter the disturbing realities of our own life, and the lives of others, with life-changing truth.”

I’m called to enter into the world — the messy, confusing, chaotic, painful world, and bring the truth of the Gospel. Oftentimes, this will hurt. It is in these times that I have to remind myself, as Sara told me in the middle of that busy student center, that love, especially the love that the Gospel calls for, is not easy.

The Lord’s perfect love never promises to remove the sting of others’ failures to love me properly, or my failure to love others properly — not on this earth. But it does give me all that I need to stand as a whole person, capable of loving others without regard for their capacity to hurt me.

That is what it means to love with abandon. Abandoning all that I have — my safety, my comfort, perhaps even my life — to love God and His people as I am called.

Will it be painful? Yes. Will it be costly? Certainly. Will it be worth it? The Lord says it will be, and His promises are trustworthy and true.

As for my friends and me? We called a group meeting in a dorm lobby, where we prayed, cried, looked at Scripture, and hashed out our differences for over two hours. Our friendship was saved, allowing us to press forward to love with abandon. I can look forward to many more years with these friends. These years will certainly be filled with their fair share of trouble, but there will always be the hope that comes with the knowledge that our Lord abandoned all to love us and let us love Him.

Why should I want to do anything less?

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Emily Mueller is currently a sophomore studying photography at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. When not at school, she resides in her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, with her wonderful family. She is a student-leader in Campus Crusade for Christ, a coffee fanatic, and an avid reader of theology books. Most importantly, though, she is a sinner saved by grace, striving to "count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus." Emily blogs at Love God. Love People. and maintains an ever-growing portfolio at Emily Mueller Photography.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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With Abandon

by Emily Mueller time to read: 4 min
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