Tastefully Trendy

A life and fashion blog by Sarah Beth

Tag: faith

By Faith

Today’s post is part journal entry, part encouragement for anyone who thinks like me, and part “I feel like I need to say these things ‘out loud’ to really cement them”. But, I also have a cute outfit at the bottom of the page, along with a side-by-side with middle school me, so please join me for whichever part(s) are most beneficial to you. I hope it all will be.

Although I was raised in a Christian home and accepted Jesus at a very young age, there is one aspect of the Christian faith that has always been difficult for me – the actual faith part.

I don’t have trouble believing that God exists, that Jesus died and rose again for our salvation, that one day all who believe in Him will be in Heaven, or any of the other key elements of Christianity. I don’t even have trouble believing that God directs our steps and has a divine plan for each one of us. But, when you start getting into the specifics of what that divine plan might be, or how God relates to us on an individual level, that’s where I’ve struggled more.

But, it is an invaluable lesson, if we can get it, and the way God is teaching me about faith at the moment is by leading me to have faith for something VERY specific. I’ve literally never done this before. Sure, I’ve asked God whether or not I should take a certain job and had faith that He was directing me. Or, I’ve prayed for someone’s health or financial situation and believed that God would intervene. But, those all seemed very manageable and also generic enough that God could do a lot of different things, and I would still believe that He’d answered my prayer. These kinds of prayers did not “stretch” my faith or challenge my theology at all.

But this time is different. This time, there is no way for me to see God’s hand through a variety of solutions. I’m either right in what I believe God has spoken to my heart and He’ll do it, or I’m wrong and He won’t. And if He doesn’t, then I’ll have to wrestle with what that means. But there is no wiggle room. There is no way for a half-answered prayer here.

I’ve never been a “name it/claim it” person; it doesn’t fit with my theology. I don’t think God is a cosmic genie, up in the heavens ready at our beck and call to grant our wishes. However, I do believe that God is a good Father, I believe He answers prayer, and I believe He speaks to us in all kinds of different ways, if only we will listen. I also believe, as one of my mentors used to say, that He wants us to be in His will even more than we do.

So, when I felt that God laid something specific on my heart to pray in faith for/about, I didn’t feel that I was “naming” it and claiming it. Rather, I felt like He gave me the idea in the first place. Yes, it’s an idea that I’m super into, but I wasn’t just sitting around thinking of things I wanted and giving God His marching orders. Instead, I felt like God had invited me to join Him in working to accomplish His will by placing this particular situation on my heart. My responsibility in this task was to pray and to believe that He will do what He has said, which is both an honor and very humbling – but also a little terrifying.

I guess the reason praying for something specific scares me so much, besides the fact that I’ve never done it before, is that I could be wrong. And if I’m wrong, what does that say about my relationship with God – my ability to hear from Him, His willingness to speak to me, who He is in general…

Also, if I’m wrong, not only will I be disappointed, but I’ll feel foolish. I’m not talking to many people about this situation – you know, except all of you – so, there won’t be a lot of other people judging me if I misheard. But I’ll know.

But faith is risky by its very nature.

Everything good in life is: relationships, love, new ventures, investments. If we only made decisions based on very sure things, we’d have a limited pool of options available to us.

I was talking to a wise friend about this a month or two ago, and I expressed to her my fear about having misheard God and what the implications of that might be for my faith overall. She asked a simple question, “But, what is your alternative?”

That question put everything into perspective for me, because she’s right – I have no alternative. If God is not who He says He is, what hope do I have in life at all? A hopeless, godless life is a reality I can’t even fathom. So, then, if I believe God is who He says He is, how does that impact my daily life? Do I also believe that He speaks to me, and if so, what do I do about what He’s said?

As my friend and I were talking, I couldn’t help but think of several Biblical heroes who have faced very specific situations that were likely quite trying on their faith. I think we read these Bible stories as though the characters in them are just innately good, and they didn’t ever struggle to have the right response. But I bet it was just as difficult for them to exercise faith as it is for us. Thankfully, though, we have the benefit of their experiences to inspire us in our own.

For example, when faced with the very real possibility of losing her position – and her life – by going before the king uninvited, Queen Esther said, “If I perish, I perish” – and armed with the prayers of her people, she stepped out in faith and saved an entire nation from annihilation.

Abraham followed God’s word up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac, believing all the way that God would provide an alternative sacrifice. But if He didn’t, Abraham was still going to believe God and go through with what He had said. Fortunately, God did provide a ram in the thicket…just in the nick of time.

Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego stood at the edge of the fiery furnace, boldly proclaiming that God would rescue them. But even if He did not, they committed that they would not turn away from Him. In their case, their faith was so tested, they actually went INTO the fire before God saved them. But, save them He did and not even their clothes smelled of smoke.

What is even more encouraging about these stories is that not only did all of these people stand in faith in impossible circumstances, believing in God regardless of the consequences, but in each situation, God did come through and their faith was rewarded.

So, with all of these truths in mind, I’ve decided to press forward in the direction I believe that God has called me. It is a risk. I might be wrong. I might be disappointed. But, I also might grow in the Lord in a way I’ve never yet experienced.

Like Esther, I’m choosing to take a risk in faith, and if I perish, I perish (which, in this particular situation is unlikely to happen, but I can be dramatic, so the phrase seems fitting). And I’m excited to see what/how/when/why God will use my faith and work in my life.

A couple of years ago, I did a series on hope (parts 2 and 3 here and here). Faith is hope’s very close cousin. The other day, Sandi Patty, my childhood musical idol, posted something on Instagram from her husband, who commented that faith is the substance of things hoped for – a verse we all know. But, that means that faith is what allows us to have hope; it’s the basis of our hope. Faith in God’s goodness is what gives us the strength to hope.

First Corinthians says, these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. So, now that I’ve mastered the first two (jk about the mastering…), maybe you can expect a love series sometime in the future. I probably have an awful lot of lessons to learn on the “greatest of these”.

And now, as promised, here is my cute outfit – and a sudden transition.

I’ve wanted to get in on the overalls trend since they first rolled back into style a few years ago, but since I refuse to pay full (over)price for farm clothing, I had to wait until I could find a good deal. So, finally, at the end of summer, I’ve found my white shorts overalls, and I just hope they’ll still be in style next year.

I realize this picture is a little blurry, but I liked my face in it, so I’m embracing the blur.

This shirt was a vacation purchase, which is honestly the only reason I own it. It was more than I would normally have paid, but who can do math properly while you’re at the beach? So, I accidentally bought it and now I’m pretty happy that I did. In the close up, you can see more of the shirt detail – as well as the buttons on my overalls.

The last time overalls were in style, I was 12 and I was ALL ABOUT THEM.

So, in celebration of the style’s return, here is a side-by-side of 2019 me and 1997 me…who wore it better?

I am jealous of 6th grade me’s tan, though. I lived in Florida.

So, there you have it. What has God taught you about faith recently, or how have you seen him work in your life as you’ve stepped out in faith?

Or, if you’d rather, we can talk about overalls. What do you think of this trend?

As always, thank you all for reading. You’re all just the best.

<3,

SB

Hope Deferred

There are a lot of really great reasons to have hope.
  • By focusing on the possible positive outcomes, you take your mind off the negative possibilities, relieving yourself of that worry and anxiety.
  • The expression “hope floats” demonstrates hope’s ability to keep us “buoyed” – our spirits are high when we are looking forward to something good.
  • Hope motivates us to action. When you’re believing in a positive outcome, you take steps toward making that happen. Just like a pregnant woman prepares her nursery in happy anticipation of her child’s arrival, hope enables us to take measures to prepare ourselves for the good things coming down the pike.

I think the main reason most of us don’t actively hope is fear. When you have been hurt or disappointed so many times, you want to “guard your heart”, as the Bible says. Only, I don’t think “guarding your heart” means exactly what we’ve often interpreted it to mean. I don’t think it means do whatever you can to keep pain out. Rather, it means surrounding yourself with those things that give life to your spirit, with people who encourage you, with Scripture that speaks truth, and with faith, hope, and love. In doing so, you will protect your heart – not from pain ever getting to it, but from being crushed under the weight of that pain.

But, I get that fear.

I have been very disappointed in one particular area over and over again, and that’s the area where I struggle to have hope. When I go shopping, I have no trouble hoping that I will find some cute clothes; my experience has taught me that is likely to happen. I also find it easy to hope that when I go out in downtown Nashville, I will hear good music and talk to interesting people. I’ve learned to have a confident expectation of that result.

But, what about those areas where I haven’t had good results? Where I have been rejected or overlooked or turned away time and again? Those areas that actually really matter to me, deep down? What about those hopes for each of us of getting married, or having a child, or being matched for an adoption, or getting a promotion, or passing the licensure exam, or fill in the blank… How do I have hope when everything seems to indicate I really should keep my expectations low?

Those are the times when hope is absolutely the hardest. But, those are also the times when we must have hope. We must fight for it, for all the reasons mentioned above, and so many more.

If a situation is certain, there is no reason to have hope. At that point, you’re essentially just stating a fact. Yes, I have hope every night that when I go to sleep, my bed won’t collapse; however, that’s never happened, and I know the wood in my bed is sturdy and assembled well. So, I’m really just assured of fact at that point.

I mentioned yesterday that there was one more definition of hope according to Merriam-Webster. Technically, I guess it’s a definition for the expression, “hope against hope”, but it says, “to hope without any basis for expecting fulfillment”. Similarly, Romans 8:24-25 says, “…[H]ope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

We can’t wait until things look like they’re going in our favor to have hope. We must have hope now and confidently expect God to move on our behalf.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

Many of you are probably familiar with this proverb. I’ve heard it a million times and always thought it meant that hope unfulfilled makes the heart sick. And, I think it does. But, I also think that it refers to putting off hope. By trying to protect ourselves from pain by delaying having hope, we’re doing the exact opposite. We’re depriving ourselves of the peace and joy that comes from anticipating that God will move in our lives. We’re giving room to anxiety and worry and becoming pessimistic. And we are limiting the joy we can experience when something good does happen as a culmination of our hopes and dreams.

I think putting off hope also can create self-fulfilling prophecies. Earlier I mentioned how hope motivates us to action. The converse, though, is that if we don’t have hope, we are motivated to inaction. How many great things never happen because we’re too afraid they might not work out? By failing to act, we create the very scenario we were afraid of in the first place. You’re afraid the boss might find you too forward if you mention taking on more responsibility, so you stay silent; he assumes you aren’t interested in a promotion, and you get passed over. You’re afraid you might not be successful in that career, so you don’t pursue licensure and stay in a dead end job you don’t love. You think long-distance relationships seldom work, so you break up before you have a chance to try.

However, hope actually minimizes disappointments.

To use my earlier scenarios, I don’t lose hope if I shop and find nothing. I’m bummed, of course, because I like new clothes. But, I have the confident and happy expectation that the next time I shop, I’ll find something. If I go downtown and the band sounds terrible and no one talks to me, I might wish I’d stayed home and watched a movie instead, but I don’t assume I’ll never hear good music or meet interesting people again. And I certainly don’t think something is wrong with me. I just assume it was an off night and have hope that the next time I go, it will be better.

Disappointments always come. It’s a part of life, especially since while we know that God’s plans are best, we don’t always know what those best plans are. But, if we have hope, we can bounce back quicker from that disappointment. We can take things in stride, knowing that something else good is around the corner. God’s Word promises that since even human fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, our Heavenly Father does even more. It also says that the righteous have never been forsaken or God’s children had to beg for bread (Ps. 37:25).

So, while we may not have, as M-W says, “any basis for expecting fulfillment” in our particular situation, we do have basis to expect God to do good things in our lives because that’s who He is, and He has before. Just like David knew God could equip him to kill Goliath because he’d killed the lion and the bear, so we can look back on our experiences and see the many ways God has worked in our lives, even in ways we didn’t anticipate or in circumstances that seemed, well, hopeless. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so if He came through before, He will come through again – sometimes in the exact ways we’re hoping, sometimes in ways that exceed what we hoped for, and sometimes in ways that are completely different than what we imagined. But, He always comes through.

Where have you been deferring hope in your life? Have you put it off because you’re afraid of the disappointment? Think through the worst case scenario, and imagine what it will be like if you do have hope versus if you don’t. If the end result is going to be the same, won’t it be better to go into it hopeful, and then emerge still hopeful? And maybe, in the process, we will find what we were hoping for all along. But, as the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace said, EVEN IF we do not, we are able to still praise God because He is good, and so are His ways in our lives.

(Thank you to Joyce Meyer and her book, Get Your Hopes Up!, for inspiration on several of these points.)

(Part 2 of a 3-part series)

Even So, It is Well

I’ve been reflecting lately on entitlement in our spiritual lives. In recent sermons and readings, I’ve been impressed with the idea that we’re not guaranteed a perfect life – even as Americans, something pretty hard for my western, Millennial mind to grasp. Suffering is a part of life, and those verses that say, “in this world, you will have trouble”, actually  mean it.

I don’t mean this to be a depressing post, but maybe because I’m in my 30s now, I’ve just realized that life isn’t perfect. A lot of people go through a lot of hard things. And that doesn’t mean God isn’t good. It also doesn’t mean that I’m immune.

I’ve always imagined that I would fall in love; have a good marriage with well-behaved, smart children; and live the proverbial happily ever after. And maybe I will. But, God doesn’t owe me that. He doesn’t owe me anything. He gave me life and salvation, and if that’s all He ever did, it would still be an astounding grace.

Of course, that’s not all He’s done for me (see Wednesday’s somewhat silly post about jewelry and clothing). But, He doesn’t owe me anything. Just because I was born in America instead of an Indian slum, I have special privileges. But, they aren’t owed to me. Just because I was born middle-class white, I have a lot of opportunities. But, they aren’t owed to me. Just because I was born a woman who would like to be married and have children, I have a hope that one day, I’ll get what I’ve always wanted. But, it isn’t owed to me.

So, while I work on my attitude and expectations that a Holy God cater to my whims, I continue to pray that He will give me “the desires of my heart.” But, in case that’s not what that verse actually means…or, in case that desire remains unfulfilled until I’m 82, I’m also working on making the words of the old hymn true for me, as well:

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, EVEN SO, it is well with my soul.

Maybe you can relate to a hope deferred. Maybe you can relate to feeling entitled. Maybe you can’t, but you understand what it’s like to go through challenges and still see that God is good. Regardless, I hope that everyone will be able to come to a place where they too can say, “even so, it is well.”

And, I hope that you will wear sequins. Because as my shirt (which, ironically, has no sequins on it) says – life is short. And no matter what our circumstances, we all can look for a reason to celebrate. 1 - sequins and leopard

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