1.15.2019

The Faith Aspect of Doubting

To have feelings of doubt can be a scary thing.  Sometimes it's frowned upon to feel doubt - about your decisions, your life choices, and yes, even your faith.  Because, in a sense, it's as if you're unsure, you're second guessing yourself, or even just plain wrong.  You've probably equated doubt as sinful at one point or another because, in most churches, doubting is looked at as a lack of faith.

Then guilt starts to creep in.

I think we, as a believers, tend to get a lot of judgement passed on us because doubting is considered faith taboo.  If you believe in something, you should never doubt it.  Right?

Wrong.

Want to know why?

Because to doubt is simply to not be sure of something.  It is a lack of understanding.  We, as humans, have a finite mind.  It is in our nature to doubt, to be curious, to be skeptical, to ask questions.  What we don't understand, we instinctively doubt its authenticity.  Our hearts desire truth, to know what is real, therefore we question God.


"Faith is developed in doubt.  Faith always develops in doubt.  Faith learns to depend on God because of doubt.  If you never doubted God, you would be Him... God is not going to allow you to become so arrogant that you never have doubts.  If He removed the doubt, He would remove the need for Him; for you to know that He is God and you are not.  That's why you doubt.  There are benefits to the doubt... That's where you find the revelation of the goodness of God.  Not in your self-confidence, but in your self-doubt."
- Stephen Furtick, "It's Okay To Have Doubts"


King David is a prime example of being faith-filled, yet still having doubts.  In Psalm 77 he writes about his times of doubt.  He cries out in questions, such as "Will the LORD...never again be favorable?  Has His steadfast love forever ceased?  Are His promises at an end for all time?" (verses 7-8)  This is the same man who is known in the Bible as "the man after God's own heart".  Interesting how David is never referred to as a sinful doubter, or a man of little faith.  But in his efforts to know and understand God more fully, he questions Him.

Now this isn't to say that we should doubt and question God to the point of being blasphemous.  Or to view our doubt as a dead end.  "Well I don't understand so forget this."  When our doubts begin to push us towards rebellion and make us question who God is or His authority and power, this is where we must retreat back to our solid foundation and remind ourselves of what we already know is true.  But rather, challenging our faith and seeking answers to the honest questions we have is good!

Doubt can very easily take over the battle instead of being commanded by faith - which David does in the verses directly following his doubt-filled please.  He fights against his humanly feelings by recalling to mind the truths he does know and is certain of, regarding God and His faithfulness.

"I will remember the deeds of the LORD...  I will ponder all Your work and meditate on Your mighty deeds.  Your way, O God, is holy.  What god is great like our God?" (verse 11-13)

Our Creator is far beyond our comprehension and His ways are not our ways.  We do have His Word, though, in which we learn more about His character, and ultimately, His sovereignty.  Yet even then, He reveals Himself to us in little sparks rather than an all consuming forest fire.  What we know about Him cannot be fit into a human sized box.  Think of it as breadcrumbs that we will be following all the way to heaven.  We're never going to understand Him fully, and seeing Him move in our every day lives just acquaints us more with how He works, not His intention for every occurrence that takes place.


"What the Bible reveals of God is precisely what God wanted revealed of Himself - no more and no less.  But it isn't everything about Him.  Scripture raises as many questions as it answers."
- Barnabas Piper, "Help My Unbelief"


This is where faith and doubt unite as our human brains attempt to grasp at Who God is, what He's doing, and why He's doing it.  Questions like "Why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?" or "If God is the Healer, why doesn't He answer the prayers of the sick and heal them?"  These are questions that many people cry out in the midst of pain and suffering.  Who wouldn't?  But does this mean that they are sinning because of their lack of understanding, because of their "lack of faith"?

In Mark 9, we are told the story of a father who brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus.  The father says "...but if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."

He used the word "if", implying that he was doubtful.  He showed that he was hopeful by bringing his son to Jesus, yet at the same time, he was worried that his child might be ruled by this evil spirit forever... unless Jesus really could heal him.

Jesus answered the bereaved father by saying, "If I can?  All things are possible for one who believes."  Here He is acknowledging that the father indeed was filled with doubt, yet He encourages him to believe.

The words which the father answered Him are ones that are often quoted by many:

"I believe.  Help my unbelief!"

If there was ever a moment of raw honesty in the Bible, I think this is it.  He not only acknowledged that he had faith, but that he also needed Jesus to help him attain a deeper understanding of the faith he desired.

That is where I want to be.

In moments of pure vulnerability, brutal honesty, telling God that I believe in Him, I have faith in His authority, yet even then, I need more.  I want more.  I want to know Him deeper, more intimately.  I have questions, but I know He has all the answers.  I question His ways only because I don't understand them.  I doubt my worthiness of His forgiveness and grace, only because I believe He is holy and just.  I am skeptical of His love because it is reckless and unfathomable.

And a truth I do believe in, a cornerstone to my relationship with Christ is this:

"If I am faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself." (2 Timothy 2:13)

Don't let doubt and unbelief rule, but instead, let it be part of the journey to seeking Him and asking faith-filled questions with the intention to fall into a deeper relationship with your Creator.

1.10.2019

6 Ways to Set Yourself Up For Success in 2019



1. Change your mindset.
Decide whether or not the views you had in life for 2018 are the same ones you want to proceed with and how you want to think and view the way you're going to live in 2019.  Whatever situations you feel that you failed in, whatever ways you feel you lacked wisdom, in whatever situations you feel you needed more guidance, figure out what you fall short in as an individual or how you need to change, and refocus on that as you proceed into a new year.


2. Let go.
Anything that ties you to heartache, pain, or makes you feel worthless - let. it. go.  Don't allow yourself to bring the past into the future.  Sever ties.  Cut off anything unhealthy from last year.  Yes, this includes people.


3. Forgive yourself.
You made mistakes, you allowed people into your life who didn't deserve your friendship, you went places you shouldn't have, you spent your time unwisely, you bought things that added no value to your life, but hey.  It's okay.  Forgive yourself.  Move on.


4. Let yourself heal.
Take time for yourself.  Allow space and moments for you to rebuild a foundation.  But this year, a stronger, more solid one.
I've said this a million times, but I know I'll probably say it a million times more before I die: no matter how much you think others will be there for you, in the end you are the best only person who knows what you need.  You are the only one who can protect yoruself.  Healing always takes time, so it's not like the end of 2018 was supposed to have all the answers and be all that you needed for you to be done with pain and heartbroken.  But at least give yourself a good head start to be on the right path for 2019.  And remember that healing takes time.


5. Embrace the new.
Not all new things are scary.  Or sometimes the new is scary... and it's good.  Or even the best thing for you.  2019 will bring lots of change and eye-opening situations.  And it will stretch you, just like 2018 did.  But you survived last year, right?  So you got this.  Don't be afraid of turning your life around and, in essence, starting over.  It's good to get a fresh start, a new beginning.


6. Focus.
Decide on what the most important things are in your life.
Prioritize them.
Whether it be family, your job, your faith, your hobbies.  And yes, it's okay if "Myself" is at the top of that list.
Decide what you want to invest in.  These are going to be your primary topics of focus in the new year.  These are going to be what gets you out of bed in the morning, what keeps you going, what keeps you invigorated for 2019.  Choose wisely, and don't doubt your heart.  And don't compare yourself to anyone else, either!  We are each living our own journeys.  Whatever causes you to be distracted, feel insecure, doubt yourself, feel discontent or compare yourself to someone else, cut it out of your life.  If it's not adding anything good, helpful or encouraging to your mind and heart, it needs to go.

Enter 2019 with a fresh perspective, a self-awareness, and a renewed spirit of confidence.

You got this.

1.01.2019

What 2018 took from me


At the beginning of 2018, I vowed to myself that it was going to be a great year.  I was going to learn a lot, I was going to be willing to learn a lot, I was going to go places, I was going to push myself to try new things…  And I did all of the above.

Followers have been asking me to talk about my last year - favorite things, worst things, to share what I’ve learned, which resolutions I actually accomplished, etc.  Here are a few:

  • Road-tripped to Redding, California, by myself.
  • Got septum, navel, and industrial piercings. (The septum piercing didn’t stick around for long)
  • Got more tattoos.
  • Moved.
  • Became manager at Black Rock Coffee Bar.
  • Expanded my plant and crystal collections.
  • Read 12 books.
  • Started boxing training.
  • Visited family in California and Texas.
  • Read at a poetry slam.
  • Road-tripped to Canada.
  • Became a worship leader at a church.
  • Didn't eat fast food.

This year has been one of the best and worst years of my life.  I’ve lived and learned and lost a lot.  Honestly, sitting here and writing this is helping me process it all.  And it’s not easy.  But I know it’s for the best.  I need to.  I’ve kept things at bay for far too long, afraid to feel what is bound to be felt when topics are brought to light and memories resurface.  It’s crazy to realize how much I’ve changed and developed in the last year. 

I titled this post “What 2018 took from me” because at the beginning of the year, I asked my heavenly Father to expand and decrease me.  To bless me in ways only He knows how to, but to also take away anything that wasn’t for my good.  Anything that wasn’t His best for me.  And anything that needed to get out.

Two months ago, I watched a sermon by Pastor Robert Madu, when he guest spoke at Elevation Church in Texas.  I can honestly say that it was the most life-changing and impactful sermon I have ever heard.  Throughout the last two months, I have re-listened and re-watched it almost a dozen times.  The sermon title is “Get Out” and in short, Pastor Madu speaks on telling anything negative, unbelieving or ungodly to get out of our lives.  Because, as believers, we “have not been given the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).   Therefore, anything other than the fruit of the Spirit needs to get out.  The sermon is so much more than that.  Honestly, if you have 45 minutes to do anything today, watch/listen to it.  (Seriously, stop reading this and go do it right now).  Another topic he touches on in the sermon is how we, as humans, are all connected.  Not just because we are all made by the Creator, but because our lives are all entwined by feelings and emotions, situations, experiences, everything!  We affect each others’ lives through words and touch.  The impact you leave on someone just by a five minute interaction can affect them for the rest of their lives.  How are you choosing to influence others?  How are you choosing to decide things for your own life?

Not only was this sermon motivational and affected me so deeply because of the pure authenticity in his words, but it also resonated with a lot of what I learned this year.  And if there are three lessons that I want to share with you the most, they are these:

1.  2018 took loneliness from me.
There is no one you should invest time in more than yourself.
I’m not saying this in a self-centered way, but rather “put your oxygen mask on before assisting others”.  If you can’t love and care for yourself first, no one else will.  If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will.  And here’s the biggest one for me - if you can’t enjoy your own company, no one else will value it either.  
I have always been a social person.  I would rather spend time with other people than spend time alone.  I have never enjoyed going out and shopping or being out in public by myself.  I always wished I could have someone to call up and ask them to join me.  Quality Time is my greatest love language, so naturally, I want to spend time with other people.  That’s how I get my cup filled.  Or at least, how I thought I needed to.
Until God really started teaching me about embracing - and enjoying! - my own company.  No, Raquel, it’s not weird to go out to dinner alone.  It’s not crazy to road trip by yourself to another state.  It’s okay to go on a date with yourself.  It’s hella fun to go to a concert by yourself.  
For so long, I think I just felt awkward because it was so far out of my comfort zone to do anything like that alone.  But once I started challenging myself and stepping out to at least try doing things on my own, it honestly wasn’t so scary anymore.  You can often find me strolling through downtown Portland, exploring parks, going on hikes, road-tripping, perusing in a bookstore, at a nice restaurant… all by myself.  2017 taught me much about choosing the right people to surround myself with.  2018 taught me that I’m my own best company and friends will cross my path when God orchestrates them to.  Until then, I can be my own best friend.

2.  2018 took misplaced security from me.
It's easy to get wrapped up in people or places that you feel comfortable with/in.  You can even go so far as to say that you love them so much that you set your security, your value, and your worth into whatever you gained from being around them.  Whether it be words of affirmation or feeling like you have purpose or direction in life.  It's not easy to admit this.  And usually you only realize it when circumstances change and those people or places aren't as prominent anymore.  It throws you off.  The rug gets pulled out from under you.  Because basing your security in anything changeable will mean that your identity will shift as well.  And I learned this lesson well in 2018.  God gently reminded me that my occupation(s) in life shouldn't be where I focus and base my identity on.  And it takes a lot of refocusing to rebuild a foundation of security.  But this new year is going to be so good.

3.  2018 took unhealthy relationships from me.
In the words of Halsey, "And I was like 'You know what? I'm done.'  And I cut a lot of people out of my life.  Some for a little bit of time, and they came back around.  Some for good."  This just about sums up what I did this year.  And I hope you know that you have the permission and the power to do the same.  Anyone who reminds you of your past, continuously points out your flaws, manipulates or takes advantage of you, makes you cry on a regular basis, needs to get out.  You deserve to be surrounded by people who build you up and remind you of the good they see in your heart, the amazing impact you have on lives around you, and encourage you to love life and always strive for better.


Happy New Year, dear readers.  I pray it holds many lessons and blessings for you.  It's going to be an amazing year.

---

2018 favorites:

“For thus says the LORD who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), “I am the LORD, and there is none else.  I have not spoken in secret, in some dark land.”
- Isaiah 45:18-19

“But remember the former days when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings.”
- Hebrews 10:32

“O LORD, You are my God.  I will exalt You.  I will give thanks to Your name for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness."
- Isaiah 25:1

“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves.  So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.  For He inflicts pain and gives relief; He woads and His hands also heal."
- Isaiah 5:17-18

“Finally, be strong in the LORD and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
- Ephesians 6:12-13


Sing My Way Back - Steffany Gretzinger
Born Again - Cory Asbury
Tethered - Phil Wickham
Steady Ground - Christian Carcamo
Defender - Rita Springer (Upperroom version)
Freedom - Kim Walker-Smith
Move - Chris McClarney
Known - Tauren Wells
Living Hope - Phil Wickham
Hypnotized - Tory Lanez
Forever Right Now - Conor Matthews
You & I - Picture This
There’s No Way - Lauv ft. Julia Michaels
Drunk Me - Mitchell Tenpenny
You Might Be - Autograf ft. Lils
Electric Touch - ARIZONA
Born - OneRepublic
Over & Over - Ben Rector
Battle - David Guetta ft. Faouzia
Born To Love You - LANCO
Jet Lag - Gavin Haley
Fractures - Illenium ft. Nevve
My Thoughts On You - The Band Camino
Green Lights - NF
Jump - Julia Michaels ft. Trippie Redd
Without Me - Halsey