Our study for the fall of 2016, Falling in Love Again with Your Lord, has come to an end. I have taken this study before, but honestly, the study felt new to me this time. Life changes, but the Word of God does not. It meets us where we are.

On our last day of study, Laurie asked us to give serious consideration to these questions: “What do I cling to?” and/or, “Where am I tempted to place my hope and trust – other than the Lord?” Laurie then asked us to email our thoughts to her.

I thought about these questions for many days. I ended up appreciating Laurie’s “assignment” because the Lord used it as a helpful exercise for me – it made me honestly apprise where I place my trust.

To start with, I thought a lot about the word “cling.” The first image that comes to my mind when I think of this word is a child clinging to a parent. When I volunteered in the church preschool ministry, I saw many a child cling to his or her mother or father before coming into the classroom. With that image in mind, I asked myself: Is there anyone or anything I hold onto so tightly that I would have to be torn away from it? Yes – my family. I don’t want to lose them. I hold tightly to them, if not literally, certainly emotionally. I also hold tightly to what I know, what I can see. My flesh rebels at the thought of letting go of what I perceive as control. My flesh longs to feel control. My flesh yearns for predictability, stability, comfort, ease.

Underneath the “clinging” image were the answers to where I place my hope and trust:

My Performance/Approval of Others

I know my salvation has nothing to do with works or how good I am. Christ has redeemed me through His blood! But it is still very important to me for others to think I am doing a good job – whether it’s working inside or outside of my home. I think the need to feel recognized for a job well done goes back a long way, to my childhood. My identity is strongly rooted in how well I do – at anything. (As a sidebar, the Lord is lovingly rooting this out in my life. Through physical affliction and ultimately, disability, the Lord has literally made it physically impossible for me to do what I think I need and want to do. I am facing the hard fact that my eyes are not fixed on God’s kingdom, but my own).

Other People

It is tempting to place my trust in others – especially “professionals” – versus taking my concerns first before the Lord and seeking His will and direction.

My Feelings

Sometimes, I find myself clinging to my feelings instead of the truth. That way, I can stay mad, hurt, discouraged, or distant. My flesh has lots of excuses for why I am entitled to wallow in my feelings.

So, now that I have a better understanding of where I am tempted to place my hope and trust, how do I change? How do I place my hope and trust in the Lord? The eternal versus the temporal?

Laurie gave us a helpful acronym to help us battle our flesh:


C – Confidence in Christ alone

L – Looking to Christ alone

I – Intimately identifying with Christ alone

N – No, No, No to sin within

G – Gripping Grace

None of these behaviors are easy and they do not come naturally. I am going to make and carry a “CLING” card, to remind myself of how to cling to the Lord. I am weak and subject to all sorts of distractions and failures. But the Lord is able, and He will fight for me!

Lord, help me to truly believe you and cling only to your hand.

Growing in Grace

For the very first time I sat in a church service that would intentionally gear the sermons for the rest of December for Advent. Growing up I was not familiar with the idea of Advent. It was actually not until I came to Thistlebend that I first heard the word. The sermon on this particular Sunday, Zechariah and Elizabeth, was a second topic that I am not too familiar on. (Although I can vividly recall the moment in my late teens when I discovered Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were related.)

Elizabeth and Zechariah were not just any old people. He was a priest and she had an extremely impressive lineage. As we got further into the sermon I couldn’t help but feel as though I could relate to Elizabeth and her husband. Not in the way of him being a priest and she being a decedent of Aaron, but in their struggle to have a child. Still, I believe they didn’t find their identity in having children because the Bible goes on to say that they were “…walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6b). They were faithful, obedient, and upright believers. The Word of God makes it very clear that in His sight, Elizabeth and Zechariah were seen as “righteous” (Luke 1:6a).

I found myself sitting on that seat in church crying because, as a woman, I can all too well imagine what Elizabeth was going through. The pastor mentioned that they lived in an historical and cultural context where not having children would have been seen as a punishment from God. I can relate to the month to month struggle of realizing that conceiving is not happening and feeling like it probably won’t. I know what it feels like to have it cross my mind that maybe this is a direct result of my own doing. I don’t know about Elizabeth, but it can be heart wrenching at times because you still try and hold on to the hope that if you can just remain faithful, He will provide. So the months are painful when your faith is starting to run thin. We might not know exactly what Elizabeth was thinking but we do know that “they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years” (Luke 1:7). This is the same couple who God himself saw as righteous. They were righteous but still having this deep desire withheld from them. If anyone could continue clinging to the idea that maybe, just maybe, the Lord was probably going to give them the desire of their heart because their ways were pleasing to Him, IT WAS THIS COUPLE.

Throughout the sermon other characteristics about this couple and their story began to take shape. Yes she was advanced in age and barren; nevertheless they remained faithful in their walk with God. We don’t read how they went off taking matters into their own hands. We don’t read about Elizabeth giving Zechariah permission to be with anyone in order to appease their heart’s desire. In fact in this same historical and cultural context you can review many sources that give evidence of a man actually divorcing a woman because she has not conceived a child. This act of divorce would have been seen as entirely valid, and the husband would be free to marry again without consequence; the husband would be able to pursue having a child once more.

We instead read that Zechariah continued in the duties of the priesthood. By this time who knows how many years had gone by. But in God’s timing, when Zechariah was chosen to have the honor to enter the Holy of Holies in the temple, God sent word through the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth would give birth to a son. Can you imagine what encountering Gabriel in the temple must have been like? It is during this time in the temple that Zechariah in a state of doubt says, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18). It hit me in that moment that it doesn’t matter who you are, how well you are positioned within your church, or how long you have been a believer. Your doubt in God can creep in. I have watched it happen in believers who are “veterans” and I have experienced it personally. I too could relate to this! I say I know Him, and I believe He is God, and yet I have doubted Him more times than I can count. I have doubted Him even in the midst of plain-as-day answers that He has provided for me.

I could go on about all the things I journaled about while looking through this particular story. In this season of my life, this couple’s struggle and answered prayers spoke to my heart. I found that this account in the Bible not only spoke to me because I could relate to their struggle of trying to have children. But it is a beautiful picture of how I need to respond in faithfulness in the capacity to which He has called me to serve. I can’t just throw my hands in the air because I don’t get exactly what I am wanting or what I feel I deserve. It is remaining obedient and faithful to the God you serve despite your circumstances. It is a testament to not walking out in front of God before He tells you to move, no matter how long you have been a believer who feels like they can make their own “sound decisions.” It is trusting whole heartedly that He hears you and sees you right where you are. Most of all, it is trusting Him with your heart because He has a plan for you that is better than what you could ever have for yourself.

Before I close, I wanted to share this with you. Zechariah’s name can be translated “the Lord remembers.” I also found that Elizabeth’s name can be translated, “the oath of God.” And their son, John’s name means, “the Lord is gracious.” A writer put it this way:

And how very gracious He had been to them. They merely asked for a son to carry on the family name and priesthood. God gave them the forerunner of the Messiah, a child upon whom the hand of God was evident from his earliest days, a man whom Jesus Christ would call the greatest among men (Matt. 11:11). God does not always give according to our asking, and certainly not according to our deserving. He gives according to the riches of His grace.

All for His Glory

While I hate to say it because I KNOW the truth, I still cling to my feelings, which keeps me from clinging to the Lord. Everything I shared in my Taking the Truth to Heart each week during the Falling in Love Again with Your Lord study all boiled down to the fact that I’m not believing who God says He is. I keep thinking about the TRUTH that God is in complete control and He also loves me. But then when I feel as if I have lost control, I will do just about anything in my power to keep the control I think I have. Like when I feel overwhelmed because I realize that I need to rush if I want to get everything around my house in order or everything on my to-do list crossed off for the day. I will get a headache. I will think of no one but myself and what I think needs to get done. This kind of thing can lead to maybe my husband asking me to do something and me just acting so frustrated with him because it didn’t fit into my plan for the day. I only think about what I think is right, better yet, what I feel is right. This causes me to not serve my family like I desire to do and should do. It also leaves no room for me to pay attention to anyone else and what they may be going through.

The selfishness that the Lord has allowed me to see lately has truly overwhelmed and saddened me. And again, because I feel like my life should go a certain way, or (another way to say that is) because I don’t believe God is who He says He is, I just completely push others to the wayside. I said to a friend the other day that I can taste the freedom that would result from actually believing God’s truth, the relief that would really come if I just took hold of God’s truth with everything I have. I want that, I really do. And I’m thankful for that desire. But actually acting it out is something entirely different. And it’s so frustrating to me because I know what to do and I don’t do it. And then I again, I hear the focus on myself as I even type that sentence. I want to cling to Him with everything, I want Him to be everything because the truth is that He is everything. I know that producing this dependence on Him in my heart is a work that only God can do.

I keep wanting my life to be my form of perfect, when the only true perfection is found in Jesus alone. I also am tempted to believe the lie that now that I have confessed my self-centeredness, I can fix it myself. If I just discipline myself more, I think I can fix myself so that I won’t be that self absorbed woman anymore. But I really really desire to be okay with being broken and not fixed so that Jesus alone can fix me. Because the truth is, that is the only way. The old me is a self-absorbed, must have it a certain way king of woman who follows feelings and her own form of perfection. But I really, really desire to actually cling to my new identity that is in Jesus. In this new identity, He gives me grace to follow His way alone. His way will be done no matter what anyway. And I know that His way is good, even if it doesn’t feel good to not have my way right now.

“For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations” (Isa. 61:11).

Will you please pray for me? I really want to believe the truth of God’s Word alone and want His glory more than my own. I’m praying for you as well, dear reader, that you will cling to God alone, and that God will reveal to you other things you may be clinging to that aren’t Him. What are you clinging to?

Planted for His Glory