**Note: It is now one 1:35 in the morning. I have just finished writing this post, and the simple thought of proof-reading at this time of night in the morning makes me cringe. For now, please overlook any grammatical and/or formatting errors. I'm tired.

**Note 2: This post is interspersed with pictures from my day today. I was going to write about it, but I went off on a long tangent (surprising, I know) and I am now quite exhausted. As you read the post, please enjoy the completely unrelated pictures from my day and use your imagination to infer what we did today. Enjoy!

Why do my bad days always seem to turn into blog posts?

Just in case any of you were wondering: life is hard, life is not fair, life can be annoying, life is most definitely tiring, and in some cases, confusing. It is sometimes too much for my extremely literal, analytical little brain to handle.

Lately, I have been feeling as if God couldn't get any farther away. I did not understand why, but I was exhausted--physically, spiritually, and mentally. To my shame, I admit that for quite a while I avoided telling God how I felt. I was still "spending time" with Him, but it was becoming more of a rushed thing in the morning than it was a valuable relationship and an enjoyable part of my day.

So after a wonderful day in downtown Lynchburg with my grandparents (who came and visited me today!), I came back to my room, and I was upset. There was this feeling of heaviness that I just couldn't break. It had built and built, and I couldn't avoid it any longer. Over the past several days, I have tried just asking God about it:
"What is wrong with me? Why don't I want you anymore? Why don't I want to serve you? Why don't I want to surrender everything? I want to be hungry for You, God, but I am not. I can't help it. Something is wrong, and I need You. I need You now. I just feel so heavy, so burdened, so unworthy."

That is another thing that I have been dealing with lately: the feeling of dirtiness. How in the world could God continue to love me when I continually hurt Him? Compared to His holiness, I had honestly forgotten the power of my God's forgiveness. I had forgotten (and doubted) that when He saved me, He took Jesus as my sacrifice. Listen to this: Jesus is not only my sacrifice for everything "bad" I have ever done, He is also the replacement for everything "good." Remember Isaiah 64:6?
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (NIV)
Yes, this verse talks about how our sins ruin us, but notice that so do our "righteous acts." Compared to our Holy God, even our best acts of righteousness are not even partially good enough to be accepted by Him. Jesus is not just our replacement for all of our bad; He replaces all of our "filthy" (comparatively) good with His perfect good.
I am not good enough for God. Period.
My sin is not good enough to be accepted by Him.
My good is not good enough to be accepted by Him.
That's why I need Jesus: to cover my everything.
Realizing that was very freeing. I have Jesus to cover me; it is just a matter of believing that He is perfection in my place, even when I do not feel that He is.

God showed me all that (some of that He showed me just now, actually), but I still had that feeling of heaviness that I couldn't shake. So, what did I do? I called Mama, of course.

**Side Note: One of the best tips I have: when you are really struggling with something, especially after you have brought it to God, share your heart with a godly person you trust whom you know will be truthful with you and give you godly advice... just my two cents.**

So I called my mama. I explained to her how I didn't feel that excitement that I once felt when opening my Bible to spend time with God, how I didn't find myself bringing Him up in conversation, how it wasn't near as easy and to completely give God my life and let Him do whatever He wanted to with it.
Through a few tears and a tired body, I just poured my heart out to her, told her how confused I was, how exhausted I was, how aggravated I was, and how much I wanted to desire God again like I did before.


Long story (very) short, she gave me some godly (and motherly) advice and reminded me that the benefits and the joy that I get out of my relationship with God is directly related to the time I spend with Him, doing things for Him, and doing things that please Him. She reminded me that my heart is in need of others-centeredness. I have been so focused on my schoolwork and my exhaustion and my schedule that I have forgotten to just stop and
  1. Pray for others: get my mind off of Lauren and think of all of the people that I know who are in need of comfort from their Father--or in need of a Father
  2. Worship: setting aside all of my temporary problems to praise an eternal God who has already done more for me than I can imagine.

As soon as she said it, I noticed that I have been lacking in both of those departments; I had been so focused on Lauren and Lauren's problems that it started to overwhelm me.
Lastly, mama prayed for me. I am telling you guys-- a prayer for a hurting soul is just as good if not better than chicken soup for a sick body.
I got off the phone somewhat rejuvenated, determined that the God who saved me "is able to keep [me] from stumbling and to present [me] before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy." Jude 1:24 (NIV)

I got off the phone and was in desperate need of some worship Psalms, and as I was flipping through, I managed to find Psalm 18, one of my absolute favorites. However, I saw it in a slightly different light tonight. Look at these verses:

God-He clothes me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer and sets me securely on the heights. He trains my hands for war; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand upholds me, and Your humility exalts me. You widen [a place] beneath me for my steps, and my ankles do not give way
Now, I've got another metaphor (similar to this post), so please bear with me here. But it is worth it; I promise.
So, I am going to be honest with you: I have sometimes wondered why doing good things (or "good works" if you will) is so vital to the Christian life if Jesus is the one who saves us. We get to heaven of no effort of our own, but as James so eloquently puts it: "faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." James 2:17. So why are "works" so important if we are saved by grace? Why was I in such a slum when I was keeping to myself and not taking time out of my schedule to further God's kingdom?
I might have an answer.

You have heard of the metaphor that life is a battle right?
(Well, technically, that would not really be a metaphor because there truly is a spiritual battle raging that we cannot see with our eyes-- Ephesians 6:12)
If you look at the Psalm above, it addresses several things: the design, the placement, the training, and the gift.

The first and second parts go together: "he makes me feet like the feet of a deer and sets me securely on the heights."
In our lives, God forms us for what He has called us to do, and He places us there. This part is solely God's doing; He is the one Who creates us and formulates a specialized plan for our lives that will bring Him the most glory. He makes us; he prepares us for what we need to do, meaning that he equips us with everything we need to fulfill His calling for our lives. In this verse, God specifically made the deer's feet to be compatible with the type of terrain that the deer would encounter; the same goes for us. God instills in us our personality traits, our desires, our passions, our distastes, our idiosyncrasies to specifically line up for what he has for us.

So what does this have to do with "good works" you ask?
Just be patient (it's a virtue, you know) I'm getting there...

Third, and probably what stuck out to me the most, God trains our hands for war. (This is referring to His children.) Those who are His children are in a battle remember? We are fighting against everything that is not of God. If the battle is the Lord's though, if He has already claimed the victory, why do we fight?
We fight because we are on His team, and we are a part of His army. Yes, our God has the victory, but how does He win? By fighting. And how does He fight? With an army. And who is His army? It's us! We are His children, we are co-heirs with Christ.
But in sharing in Christ's glory, we also share in His sufferings. We share in the battle. We fight!
But we don't have to be afraid! Why? Because God not only "makes" us specifically for the battles he wants us to fight, He not only "sets" us in a strategic location where we can be of the most use to Him, He also trains us!
What kind of Captain would He be if He didn't teach His soldiers how to fight?
What kind of soldiers would we be if we just relied on the Captain to do all the fighting and didn't fight ourselves?

This is where the "works" come in. We don't fight to obtain the status of  "the winning army," we fight to advance the territory of our King for whom we are fighting.

Now it is important to remember the last point as well: God has given us the "shield of His salvation."
Think about that: a shield is a complete cover, complete protection. The King's soldiers already have complete protection, complete salvation. The shield covers one's body completely. As a result of this, all of the King's soldiers are survivors. But there is a key difference between a victor and a survivor.

Victors advance the battle, victors claim ground for their cause, victors fight hard and long, victors endure pain and much hostility from the opposing side because they are fighting against something and advancing ground for their cause. God calls us to be Victors.

Survivors, on the other hand, are still in possession of the shield (just like the victors) but they do not advance anywhere. They merely hunker down behind their shield of salvation and assume that because they  are safe, that they are done with their job. Survivors just wait out the battle, no fighting, no advancing, no opposition, no rescuing other people, no comforting the tired and weary soldiers, they just sit, undisturbed behind their shields, waiting for the battle to end.

To sum it all up, I realized that I had just been surviving. I had been so caught up in myself and my school work that I wasn't fighting. When I don't fight, I don't gain ground in my relationship with my Father. When I don't gain ground, I remain where I am (spiritually). When I stop fighting, although I am covered and protected by my sheild, I still feel the weight of everything pushing down on me, hence the heaviness I was feeling.

My friends, we are not called to be survivors. Yes, we will survive, but our potential is far greater than to merely survive. What purpose to the survivors serve to the King? What good are they doing Him?

We are made to be victors.
We are positioned to be victors.
We are trained to be victors.
We are given the protection of salvation so we could advance in complete assurance and victory.

(I am speaking to myself right now.)
We were created for much more than to simply live our own lives. We were created by our Father, to be rescued by our Father, to fulfill the plan of our Father, for the glory of our Father.

We (I) need to take the focus off of ourselves and place it on the battlefield, always looking to our Captain for encouragement, for directions, for comfort.
 It is whenever I settle down in my "just survive" mentality that I lose focus of the goal, and it blocks my view of the battlefield and the Captain. The longer I just sit and take advantage of my wonderful salvation, the harder it is to get up and start fighting again.
May we never think that it is okay for us to just sit.
We are created for battle, he are placed in battle, we are trained for battle, we are protected in battle. We have no excuse.

Refocus your attention. Stand up, dust yourself off. Don't just use your shield, use your training.
We were made for more than this world. We were made to be victorious.

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