This poem comes from Isaiah 51:12-16.
Who are you, that you fear mortal man?
That you lose sight of the Lord’s mighty hand,
That you get lost in the bland finances and advances
Seeking canned, secondhand romances
With the things of the land.
You swim with the school, having forgot how to stand.
Though your days are as sand,
You ignore every chance,
Fearing to be looked at askance.
So focused on man
That you forget the Lord your Maker,
Invader of the hearts of the clay-born,
Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth,
Who quenches every thirst
And deserves to be first
He’s a sunburst
You serve a God who reversed
Places, took the curse on himself,
Defeated the worst hell had to offer
And yet you live in constant fear because of the wrath of the oppressor,
Impossible to measure up,
Despite your endeavors.
But where is the wrath of the oppressor?
I feel a tremor–
The cowering prisoners will soon be set free
No more fatigue or defeat;
His promise complete
Taste and see,
The sweet freedom for which he bleeds.
They will not die in their dungeon,
Nor will they lack bread.
No fear or dread,
No longer dead or beset by impossible debt
But instead a seedbed, a witness of what he has said.
For I AM is the LORD your God,
Who churns up the sea so that the waves roar,
Who transforms and adorns,
Raises you to soar–
The LORD ALMIGHTY is his name!
Who covers us in grace and sets our souls aflame,
Who reigns awesome over an endless domain,
Whose faithfulness always remains,
Who lights the way,
Who’s never swayed,
Who rules the day
Yet knows my pain–
The LORD ALMIGHTY is his name!
For, says the LORD,
“I have put my words in your mouth,”
Arouse the silent houses,
Impossible to douse or to doubt,
Louder than thunderclouds,
The water in the drought.
“I have covered you in the shadow of my hand,”
Able to withstand any demand or attempt to disband
For all the earth is under his command,
Establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth.
I no longer thirst
But headfirst am submersed
In the unreserved light of your glory that burst
From the sky, raining down on the earth.
He says unto Zion, “You are my people,”
I will lift you up on wings as eagles.
I will guard you from evil,
And my grace will sustain.
Through the joy and the pain,
Through the loss and the gain,
I will show you the way
If you only have faith.
My truth will remain;
It cannot be restrained.
I’ll give you a new name
In my arms you are safe.
He is King, and he reigns;
To the world I proclaim–
The LORD ALMIGHTY is his name!
Do you let life interpret God or does God interpret life?
(You can read that multiple times if you need to.)
We may not say it, may not give it voice, may not ever even shape it into words in our minds, but we do this all the time. Your situation shapes your view of God. It shapes your emotions, love, contentment, and peace. It shapes your trust and your faith. As soon as things start going bad, you start questioning your relationship with God. Oh, I haven’t been spending enough time in the Word. Oh, God hasn’t been speaking to me lately. Oh, I just don’t have that spiritual strength I used to.
Here’s the reality: Your relationship with God does not depend on how you feel, but what he’s done. And God does not depend on how I feel, but on who he is. God does not depend on your circumstances, status, struggles, or state of mind. God’s character is not determined by your situation, stresses, social circles, or stage of life. The truth of who God is is unaffected by your decisions, desires, despair, and delusions. God is based on one thing, and one thing only: Himself.
In Exodus 3 when Moses stood barefoot before the fire that did not destroy and asked God what name he should give to the Israelites to describe their God, the Lord answered with five powerful words: I AM WHO I AM.” Tell them “I AM” has sent you.
I AM truth. I AM righteous. I AM love. I AM holy. I AM good. I AM just. I AM strong. I AM gracious. I AM glorious. I AM enough. I AM sovereign. I AM in control.
Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes, in the good times, we take God for granted and forget to be in awe, to be constantly learning more fully who he is and so then when the trials come we’ve forgotten that. We’ve forgotten who he is, this God we claim to serve.
He is a God who transcends circumstance and surpasses situations. He destroys excuses, eliminates obstacles, and supersedes fear. He is over all and in all. He is sovereign, and he is strong. He is powerful, and he is protection. He is refuge, and he is restoration. He carries us through the fight and protects us through the night. He is over every worry and every conflict and every stress and every complicated situation life throws at you because He is Lord.
Ask yourself this question this week, and remember to keep your eyes above the waves. Blessings!
WHAT you are vs. WHO you are: an intriguing and dangerous concept.
Intriguing, because sometimes I forget to make the distinction. Dangerous, because society doesn’t want you to.
Society wants to fit you into a mold. Society wants to file you away according to your appearance, abilities, academics, achievements. Your public successes and failures. The things you show it. The parts of you that everyone sees. Society wants to know what you bring it, and is never satisfied, always demanding more. If only you were ______, then you would be good enough. If only you could do ______ a little better. If only…
My biology teacher once told me a story from his senior year of college, when he and some friends went camping in the woods. They cooked steak over a fire and made some rocks explode, but as the moon climbed and the darkness fell, they began to talk. One had graduated and was in the world, working in a lab, while the rest were still seniors. The natural question they asked was, “What’s it like?” What’s it like, being in the world, making money, living the life you’ve studied for, spent so many years preparing for…
And he who had always made it in college by doing the bare minimum was in danger of losing his job at the lab because he consistently procrastinated. And he who had been on a six-month cycle of girlfriends, moving on whenever he lost the fun, was now engaged to the girl he’d been dating for a year but was afraid now to fully commit, fearing that down the road, it wouldn’t be “fun” anymore.
And he said, “I was preparing for what I knew I wanted to become–but not who I wanted to become.”
And he told them, “Figure out who you want to become.“
Boy, does that strike home.
Especially when it’s so easy to compare yourself to others, and when all you feel like you should be doing is more, more, more. I get so caught up in what I’m doing, what people see, my public image, and hold myself to the impossible standard, and I feel like I’m only ever signing up for more, but all I ever feel is less.
And I feel like the half of what I’m doing are the things nobody sees. And I know it’s selfish of me, I know it’s my human pride. Shouldn’t I be striving to live the life that goes unseen? Because here’s the thing: most of the things that really matter, do go unseen by most. Those are the beautiful things, the worth-it things. The things that give life.
And here’s the thing, those things that matter–they don’t go unseen by the people that matter. They don’t go unseen by the people they directly affect, affect deeply. People notice, when you care. It surprises me sometimes, though it shouldn’t.
And also…they don’t go unseen by God.
Sometimes, when I think of God as all-seeing, it scares me more than anything. Because I know my heart. I know its dirt and dust and grime and dark shadows and cobwebbed corners. The things I hide.
But there’s something bigger about an all-seeing God. It’s called grace.
Not wishy-washy grace. This is no dripping, drizzling, downsized grace. This grace is drenching. It’s torrential, it’s tidal, it’s transforming. It’s whitewater, riptide grace. It tears you apart until there’s no part of you safe from the blinding light of grace, the light that’s like a powerwash on your heart. It stings and moves you a little bit, and there’s no dirt that can withstand the power of this grace.
And because of this grace, you’re a stained glass window. You’re beautiful to him.
And this all-seeing God, he understands. He understands because he crafted every fiber of your being, tuned every string in your body, wove together the strands of your soul and sculpted the crevices of your mind and fashioned the turnings of your heart–he understands. You don’t have to explain yourself to him.
This all-seeing God, he sees what you do in secret. He sees what no one else does. He sees the dirt and the shame and all of the things I want no one to see.
But he also sees the things I feel like no one does. The things that I want them to know. The things that I hold precious and I feel like no one else listens.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like much, though. We take it for granted. We say, God, yes, I know my reward is eternal, but look at what ____ is doing. Look at what they get. God, I know my reward is eternal, but I need something now. How am I supposed to give up ______ for that?
We feel like God expects something of us. We feel like we owe him something. And don’t get me wrong–he does. And we do. And it’s more than we could ever do on our own. And we know that, so we do one of two things: we don’t even try, or we try so hard, we make our checklist of do’s and don’ts, and we’re never satisfied, and we see God as the taskmaster. But…he’s a lot more than that.
He delights in his children. He delights to see them walking in the truth.
That breaks me. When I think that God could actually be pleased. Delighted. Giddily excited. The God of the universe…smiling for me.
I forget so quickly. But that…when I think of that, that’s what drives me on. It’s when I think of heaven, where he’ll wipe every tear from our eyes, every sorrow will be erased and every trouble will be vanquished, every darkness will be conquered and every sleepless night disintegrated–when it all fades away, and there’s only him, standing there with open arms. When I finally see it–when I finally see how all of this, it was really nothing.
It was really nothing.
And all that’s left is purity of joy and peace and love and holiness. A purity that could never be matched on this earth.
So have hope, take heart, and remember–remember that who you are matters a whole lot more than what you are. Your love matters more than your label or lack. What you see matters more than being seen. Your grace matters more than your grades, and your Spirit means more than your status, success, or security.
He sees. Ask him to help you do the same.
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”And Elisha prayed, “Oh Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”
Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha….
2 Kings 6:15-17
Lord, give us your eyes.