Freedom Friday: Black Friday Edition

Happy Thanksgiving, Freedom Friday readers!

This is Freedom Friday, the Black Friday edition. While some are out and about, partaking in this Black Friday, by shopping till they drop, others are experiencing something quite different.

Thanksgiving, for some, was a joyous time to gather with family and friends. It was an opportunity to practice family traditions, eat lots of food, and overall rejoice at all God has given them over the past year.

For others, Thanksgiving wasn’t quite so joyous.

The past year for them may have been full of growth and victory, setbacks and forward motion. They may have gone into the holiday with high hopes for health, for maintaining appropriate boundaries, for showing their family how far they have come.

Yet they walk away from that day, feeling like a failure, wondering if they’ve grown or changed at all.

For still others, Thanksgiving was a wake-up call, a realization that things cannot continue the way they have been. Boundaries need to be set, words need to be spoken, and possibly some relationships need to be put on pause or even severed. Just the thought is likely completely overwhelming.

All of these people are experiencing their own emotional Black Friday.

They find themselves rapidly plummeting into their default setting, experiencing despair instead of trust, falling into complete and utter hopelessness. They might struggle with turning back to old coping patterns, or even attempt to paint a prettier picture of the past than is the reality (a concept I discuss in the article “Craving Egypt“).

Freedom no longer feels attainable, and we wonder if we put in all this effort for nothing.

Before you make any rash decisions, wait.

Pause. Take a breath.

There is still hope.

When we experience the petri dish that often is our family, it is normal to fall back in to old patterns of relating. We revert to the way we’ve always interacted because that’s what we know.

Egypt was all the Israelites knew as they wandered in the wilderness. The promised land? They could only guess what that would be like. But Egypt, despite being slavery, felt familiar. Familiar was comfortable for them.

Even unhealthy patterns of relating can have their own level of comfort, even in the midst of their discomfort. That may seem odd, but this is why people generally fall into certain roles within the family. That role, healthy or unhealthy, becomes familiar. The reactions of other to that role, good or bad, is predictable. If one tries to fit into a new role, people react in new ways. Conflict creates a new type of discomfort. Thus, we often revert back to our unhealthy role with its own discomfort and chaos because at least that discomfort is predictable.

This is also why we often revert to our destructive coping mechanisms. The pain they bring is at least familiar. The pain of growth and change, as we strive to let go of those damaging patterns, is new pain.

The distress of trying to break into new patterns is also new, but necessary, pain. Just as believers need to learn to walk in freedom in our journey of faith, we also need to learn to walk in freedom in the ways we relate to our families.

What can we do to avoid another emotional Black Friday?
1. Remember what God has done. Pull out your encouragement file. Grab your journal and your Bible to recognize who He is and what He’s done in your life and the lives of others.

2. Recognize what happened and still needs to happen. Ask your Source to show you with His eyes what really happened on Thanksgiving. Ask for His perspective. Was there a moment when a boundary was crossed that you should have left the room or stood up for yourself somehow? Was there a time you did stand up for yourself where you should have been silent, that the energy you used was like throwing your emotional pearls to the pigs? Did things really go as well as could be expected or hoped for, and yet it was simply your perception or expectations that were off? What boundaries need to be set and what healing needs to take place?

3. Reflect on what God can do. Look back on your stones of remembrance, the ways God has shown Himself strong and faithful in your life. Practice gratitude. Find something to give thanks for. Put your hope in Him based on His character, His love for His children, and His desire to bless you richly. He desires that you become who He created you to be even more than you do! And finally, choose to trust Him.

Even today can be turned around. Make one good choice. Choose to turn to God and not self-medication. Choose to call a friend and not isolate. Choose to share how you are feeling, out loud, to God rather than stuff it down with too much pie.

Choose freedom. My prayers are with you.

Freedom Friday: The God Who Bends

Every once in a while, I stumble across a characteristic of God, an attribute of His, a behavior, a response, that catches my breath.

I wrote a few months ago about the God who sustains, the God who stoops to make us great.

I’m still reading the books of 1 Chronicles and Psalms, and yesterday’s psalm was Psalm 86 (a prayer of David).

The Psalm begins:

Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer.

The God who bends.

I had to pause as I was overcome with this image. Our Heavenly Father, all-powerful and all-knowing, able to speak just one word and entire universes are created – this awesome God. Was He really the God who would bend down to hear our prayer?

First, I wanted to learn more about this word that is translated “bend”.

The transliterated Hebrew word is “natah“. Here are some other ways it’s translated:

to bow
to bend, turn, incline, to bend down
to stretch out, to spread out
to incline, influence, hold out, extend

I then went to the Word to see if there were other mentions of God bending (using my Life Recovery Bible, which is the New Living Translation).

Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see!” 2 Kings 19:16

“Lord, hear my prayer! Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress. Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you.” Psalm 102:1-2

“I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray.” Psalm 17:6

Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see!” Isaiah 37:17

Thus far, these are all declarations from people, requests that God bend down and hear their prayers. These are desperate cries from people desperate for God to show up. Psalm 102 even contains the description: “A prayer of one overwhelmed with trouble, pouring out problems before the Lord.”

And then I read Psalm 116:1-2:

I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!

The God who bends. He bends down to listen. He inclines His ear. He stoops, and then He sustains. He rescues. He comforts, and He answers.

He is the God who bends.

The ultimate picture of God bending is when He sent His Son, Jesus, to carry the cross in order to correct the problem of sin and disconnection from our Source. The perfect picture of Jesus, literally bending under the weight of the cross, so that we would be freed to become the people God created us to be, His flawless sacrifice of love, so that we would walk in the freedom and abundant life that only became possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Verse 5 of Psalm 86 says, “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.” Verse 15 says “You, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”

That is a picture of the God who bends.

Ready to forgive.
Full of unfailing love.
Slow to anger.
Again, full of unfailing love.

The God who spared no expense, who gives, and gives, and gives some more.

Today, the God who bends is calling you to call to Him. Stop trying to become “good enough” to come to Him. There is no such thing! As the song “I will arise and go to Jesus” states, “If we tarry till we’re better, we will never come to all.”

Come. As you are. It sounds trite, almost too simple. That’s the beauty of grace, the beauty of God’s character.

We serve the God who bends.

Freedom Friday: We Can’t Stay Here

At the time I should be posting Freedom Friday, I will instead be speaking at a women’s retreat. I’m looking forward to it!

I want to leave you with this thought.

I have a stirring in me lately, a “holy discontent” as Bill Hybels would say.

The whisper to my soul is this:

“We can’t stay here.”

Last week, we talked about feeling stuck. Sometimes, we stay stuck of our own accord. We make choices that keep us stuck, or we don’t make the choices we need to in order to get unstuck.

Other times, we are just content where we are. That can be complacency, but more often, it’s a sense of peace and satisfaction at what God has done and is doing in our lives.

Then comes the whisper to our souls. The tender, loving call of God.

The gentle prodding, the kind yet persistent nudge, that is saying, “We can’t stay here.

“I know you’re comfortable and content. I am amazed at the child of God you are becoming, of the person I created you to be that is emerging.

“I love you. Passionately. Lavishly. But I’m asking you to take my hand.

“We can’t stay here.”

Have you heard this whisper? Have you responded? Or are you trying to ignore it, content in where you are?

It often comes without guidance. Its purpose is sometimes not to promptly direct us, but it is a preparation, a depositing of an expectation.

God is moving, and I have a choice. I can go with Him, or I can dig my heels in and not move.

If God is speaking this to you today, I encourage you to pray about it. Surrender your fears and desires. Dive deep into His Word. Tell someone about the stirring in your soul, and ask them to pray with you. Prepare yourself for His direction.

Despite the choice we make, God’s calling is clear.

“We can’t stay here.”

Freedom Friday: Feeling Stuck

Sicks kids again today! But here are some short thoughts for you to consider.

I’ve been hearing from a lot of people lately who feel stuck. Stuck in their spiritual lives, stuck in their jobs, stuck in their recovery – just stuck. They feel as if so many things are working against them, and not many things are working for them.

They are asking: what do I do? What can I do? How do I move from this place?

They feel as if their hands are tied.

I read the following verse in my psalm this morning. It actually appears three times in the psalm.

“Turn us again to Yourself, O God. Make Your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.” Psalm 80:3, 7, 19

Sometimes, we overcomplicate things. We forget to pray. We don’t ask for help. We neglect reading God’s Word. We stop trying to hear God’s voice. We don’t utilize the tools we’ve learned are helpful. We lose hope.

As I’ve been praying for these people, God spoke these words to me: they are fearfully and wonderfully made.

How our lives and hearts would be changed if we could begin to grasp the fullness of all that means! He knit us together. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He is the One with the plan and purpose for our lives. He knows us intimately. He alone is able to save us – from our sin, from our struggles, from our bondage in all the forms it takes.

If your hands feel tied today, open your journal and write. Use it as a way to talk to God about what you’re experiencing. Or simply speak to Him out loud. Lay it all out before Him: every circumstance, every doubt, every concern, every emotion, every situation that has you feeling bound & overwhelmed. Ask God to breath life into you once again. Ask Him, as the psalmist did, to turn you to Himself again, shine His face on you. Have a friend pray with you. Read Psalm 139. If it’s familiar to you, read it in a different translation. Read the posts about being a child of God, being His favorite. Trust that He wants to speak to you and pause to listen.

“Turn us again to Yourself, O God. Make Your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.” Psalm 80:3, 7, 19