Whatever Is True

I am an overthinker in every sense of the word. In fact I’m sure I overthought how to begin this post, and I can assure you that after I publish it I will have thought of a million other ways to express what I intended to say. I can take hours to decide whether or not to buy a simple pair of shoes. Seriously. I’m not kidding. Just ask the men in my life who get dragged along on my shopping excursions. Sometimes overthinking can stop me dead in my tracks because my logical thoughts transition into fear. Emotions about a situation have the potential to overtake what the mind knows to be true. It’s no wonder that Paul exhorts us to think on “whatever is true” in Philippians 4:8. He also encourages us in Ephesians 6:14 to “fasten on the belt of truth” as the first piece of our spiritual armor when we go to war against the enemy. Rehearsing truth helps me maintain my sanity in the midst of daily struggles when my emotions attempt to take me down a winding and dangerous path.

Truth is undeniably a mighty weapon at our disposal in the daily battles we face; however, it seems that uncertainty is celebrated as a virtue in our present cultural climate. Constant questioning, while viewing life through the lens of skepticism, is often valued more than actually arriving at an answer. After all, how can we really know that our truth is correct and someone else’s truth is wrong? In a post-truth world where each of us is left to come up with our own definition of right and wrong, any mention of objective standards is dismissed and viewed as dogmatic and closed-minded. Additionally, strength of emotion is frequently equated with truth.

So does truth exist? As an evangelical Christian who believes in the absolute authority of the Bible, I can rest in John 8:32 which says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This tells me that God does not want me to remain captive in a prison of my own uncertainty. The Bible affirms to me that there is nothing wrong with going to God with my questions. Jesus calls Himself “the way, the truth, and the life” in John 14:6 and was especially patient with those who came to him honestly and humbly seeking answers. He encourages us to come to Him with the humility of a child (Matthew 18:4) and promises in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” These verses don’t guarantee immediate answers; however, while answers may not come quickly, this doesn’t mean that no real answers exist, or that I should allow my emotions to be the arbiters of truth.

I recently read a helpful illustration in which the author described knowledge and feelings as follows, “I see feelings more as a person walking alongside you, always held in the clasp of your knowledge. If that person reverses the grip and your knowledge is clasped by the person of feeling, trouble begins.” God made us with emotions, but He also gives us the truth of His Word to guide us. Feelings can be irresponsible tour guides for life. They never tell us to buckle our seat belts or to keep our arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. Truth, on the other hand, keeps us safe and makes sure we have all the facts when navigating through unfamiliar territory.

I am reminded of an incident that happened with my older son when he was about eighteen months old. Our morning church service had just dismissed, and he was standing outside the front door of the sanctuary. A friend of mine was holding onto his hand while I was having a conversation at the bottom of a flight of concrete steps leading down from the entrance. Despite being held in her protective grasp, my son, in all of his toddler wisdom, decided to wriggle his tiny fingers free and exert his independence. As he did so, the force of jerking his hand loose sent him tumbling perilously down the steps to the sidewalk below. I caught the incident out of the corner of my eye, and though I can now picture it in slow motion, I was unable to reach him in time. He landed at the bottom of the steps battered and bruised because he let his childish impulsivity reign in the moment. Following the investment of a substantial emergency room copay, we discovered that he was fine, other than a few bumps and scrapes, but he had learned a painful lesson about the physical properties of concrete.

How often do we let our feelings fling us to the ground instead of remaining firmly within the grasp of truth? When we let our feelings dictate the way we react, the results can be disastrous. As a woman, I know I am particularly vulnerable to this scheme of the enemy. In the emotion of the moment, I develop temporary amnesia and forget things like who God says He is, who He says I am, and how I am to conduct myself as His child. If the enemy succeeds in getting me emotionally wrapped up in a situation, my mind spins out of control like a tornado on an Alabama spring afternoon, and I am capable of leaving a lot of wreckage behind.

This is precisely why it is so important to keep our minds immersed in God’s word and meditate on it daily. When our minds are permeated with the truth we find within the pages of scripture, our feelings don’t have a chance to extricate their little fingers out of the grasp of the One who is the source of all truth. As we find ourselves in the midst of daily struggles, let’s continue to keep our minds on “things above”…held within the sure and steady grip of our heavenly Father.

Time to Make Lemonade

This year has been challenging to say the least. So far, I have experienced the heartache of losing two beloved family members, the pain of a difficult ministry crisis, and the stress of an unexpected job transition. Add to that the recent financial strain of replacing our home air conditioning unit in the stifling August heat, and you have a recipe for bitterness. Life has been hurling lemons at me left and right, and I have been struggling to keep my mind focused on “things above.” Perhaps you’ve been there, too. Maybe you’ve felt like you had a target painted on your chest with a giant lemon-shooting bazooka gun aimed and ready to knock you off your feet. I realize that others have experienced more pain that I could ever begin to comprehend, and I don’t intend to minimize those circumstances. I have discovered, however, through personal experience, how easy it is to become bogged down in self-pity when you find yourself in the middle of one of life’s most disappointing moments. I’ve been in a season of life lately in which I felt like lemons were being propelled at me in rapid-fire succession. The saltiness of tears evoked by earthly struggles has made me crave the sweetness of things above. God’s work in my life has led me to believe that it is time to pick up those lemons, lift up my eyes to Him, and make some lemonade.

Sweetness flows into my life from multiple streams. The first is the truth of the Bible. As I meditate on God’s Word, I am reminded of who He is. God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and merciful, among many other things. He promises to faithfully love me and never leave me whether I’m on the highest mountaintop or in the deepest valley. I have also experienced the sweetness of fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ as they held me close during times of sorrow, lifted me up during moments of despair, and spoke life to me in periods of disappointment. I can’t help but taste sweetness as I observe the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation that surrounds me. I watch the way my Heavenly Father supplies even the smallest sparrow’s every need. He refreshes the earth with rain, and then places a rainbow in the sky to remind me that He is a promise keeper. At the end of each day He paints the sky with the magnificent colors of the sunset, and I am reminded of His awe-inspiring majesty.

Negativity abounds in the world today, and we often look around us and within ourselves for answers, rather than up to the One who holds all things together. My desire is to spend more time each day setting my mind on the “things above” as Paul instructs in Colossians 3:2.  As I write and reflect, perhaps I can also encourage others to maintain a heavenly perspective. Life is filled with bitter trials, and we are not promised a full measure of sweetness until we reach heaven one day. As long as I’m on this side of eternity and equipped with strength that only God provides, I intend to run the race set before me, gather the lemons spread out along the path, and squeeze out every bit of bitterness into a cup that’s already overflowing with sweet blessings. I don’t know of a better recipe for making lemonade.