People say that all religions are similar and therefore equally true (pluralism, universalism, omnism, whaeverism), but that’s really not accurate. Some religions have multiple gods that serve different purposes. Some have one god, who demands works and constant atonement for even a possibility of receiving ‘heaven’ after death-and even with all that hardship, still nothing is certain with allah. Some have the religion of self; and though they would claim to reject the idea of God, they actually are declaring themselves to be their own god. I guess you could say that the common theme amongst religions and world views is a deep yearning for something more than what we can see: more knowledge, equality, love, joy, peace, etc. All of that which is deeply longed for and much more, can be found in the one, true Judeo-Christian God. And I would argue that Christianity is not a religion at all, but a relationship. Our kind and loving God only wants an intimate relationship with us, which He has provided through the belief of Jesus the Messiah as Savior. Our God only wants us to step into a covenant with Him and allow Him to lead us on. As any husband should.
There are many distinctions between Christianity and all other religions/ideologies; however, I just want to focus in on one- the intimate covenant with Jesus.
First, I need to tell you a little about my life in order to show you who this God is and what His covenant with us means.
My husband and I have been in a relationship with Jesus for nearly 3.5 years. We sobered up at ages 19 & 21, surrendered our lives to Christ, and walked forward. Infact, we are coming up on our 3rd year anniversary of marriage. Here’s to defeating the odds! We started out this journey living with some of my family members who were pillars in our faith, meaning they showed us what it looked like to live an imperfect life led by a perfect Messiah.
I slept in a small room with my 3 year old sister (facing my dislike for small children) and Brenner (my husband) slept on my 10 year old brother’s floor. It was hard but oh so necessary for building God’s character within each of us. After a short time we decided to tie the knot. We worked hard, had a beautiful, backyard wedding, and moved into a small one bedroom apartment. Not long after, we had our first baby, Lazarus. Lazzie was our surprise baby whom we found out about 2 weeks before our wedding.Did I mention we are imperfect people being led by a perfecting God? It’s a process! He is a special kid and has his own incredible testimony, hence the awesome name (look up the story of Lazarus in the Bible).
A year and a half went by in that small apartment.
Stumbling and rising, stumbling and rising.
Our faith was weak but it was still there. We were persistent in seeking God because God was persistent in His miraculous provision. And not just material provision, but providing a change in our hearts, minds and souls. We were becoming new. Speaking of new, a new season arrived, and it was time to move forward. In the span of one week, we found ourselves gifted a nice car and moving into our first home. The mountaintop is an amazing place to be. So much fresh air, so much perspective of all that God has to offer. But for every peak, there is an equally deep valley. And soon we found ourselves deep in that struggle with no idea where we were going or how we would get there. All we knew was that the mountain exists and God would get us there again. Death is hard. But with my God, it’s not impossible to keep on living after someone you love has died. We will always miss her, but we know that her life isn’t finished with the grave. So with a shuddering breath, foggy vision, and arms reached out in front of us, we marched on. And God met us. He gave us the hope of life and carried us through the trial. Some situations are so challenging, that walking isn’t even an option..but that’s alright, my God is a Shepherd and knows how to carry us. He quite literally gave us more life in the midst of death with the surprise of our second (and final?) baby! Our little girl, Isabelle, who’s name means devoted to God. With the arrival of our little firecracker, IzzyGray, came the summit of another mountain top.
Our family of four made it to the other side of all that mess. Yet being a stay-at-home mom with 2 under 2 is SO TOUGH and suddenly I found myself facing the mental monsters of my past: depression and anxiety. Down to the valley we went. With the tugging of the Holy Spirit and encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we pressed into God during this mentally/spiritually trying time as parents. We started praying and reading the Bible together every night before putting our kids to bed. Those small acts of pushing forward with God began a spark within us that ignited our entire lives. Our marriage went deeper. Our parenting became more graceful & loving. Our friendships grew. Our ministry thrived. Multiple Bible studies and meet ups were taking place in our home. People, including us, were being delivered in the name of Jesus. Goals were being set, dreams were being envisioned, prayer warriors were rising up against the enemy, and blessing upon blessing were taking place. We were struggling financially but we didn’t even care because we were overflowing with the riches of Heaven. My husband got a second job and I decided to go back to my flexible part-time job, and we could see that our finances were about to rise! Praise God. We could see the mountain coming. This was all leading up to last week.
Last week, my husband started having issues at his job. A few days later our car completely broke down. Having no car suddenly added to the doubt he was already having with his job, and it had us questioning literally everything. In one day, all that we had worked to achieve was on the brink of collapsing. When you take your eyes off God one day, one second, one choice is all it takes for everything to fall apart. But God. BEHOLD! He’s after our hearts. He’s wants an intimate relationship with us. The present circumstances may have seemed to be outwardly damaging but God wanted to do something new inwardly for us. With some counsel, we decided to push through and get rides to work-even if that meant losing money on uber rides and giving friends gas. We chose to walk on, press in, keep fighting the fight.
About a month ago Brenner was washing the dishes, took off his wedding ring, and it vanished. We searched the house and it was gone. The only conclusion was that it was probably thrown away by our sweet toddler. Well last night, after my final tears of self-pity and pleading out to God were shed, I started cleaning the house because I didn’t know what else to do. Low and behold, I found the ring sitting in the corner of the kitchen-a place so incredibly obvious that it had to have been miraculous. I chuckled and picked it up. The engraved words on it gave me chills…
“Put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). Stand firm on what you know is true, remember your salvation in Christ, walk in the righteousness to which you were called, fight off the darkness with the Holy Spirit inside you, block off all negativity, fear, worry and doubt with your faith, and walk in the constant and incomprehensible peace that comes from believing in Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection. Put on the whole armor of God and fight the fight! Do not give up! Do not turn back.
And even more than all of that, I found my husband’s lost wedding ring. God was reminding me that we are in a covenant relationship with Him and He’s got this. We don’t just receive a prize after death. We get the prize on earth too. Eternal life with our all-providing, unconditional loving, ever-caring Husband, The Lord! And oh how He loves us! He will not leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) There is nothing we could do to earn this love but it is given out fully anyways because He’s a good God. We don’t have to worry ‘how’ or ‘why’ some seemingly bad situation happened (though God is cool with you asking Him these things); just know, just believe that God will bring you to the other side.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
The valley and the mountain are both temporary. The ‘mountain mindset’ is eternal.
“This sucks. This is hard. But my God is bigger than this and He loves me. I trust that He will get me through this because He’s done it before.” Divine perspective. And for those who would argue that God’s never done anything for you…you’re alive aren’t you? You’re alive and you have a purpose. God wants you to step in to this intimate covenant with Him. He wants to take care of you. You just have to let Him. I don’t know how we will be okay, but I trust that because God is our husband, we will be okay. Life is up and down-with or without God. Atleast with God, I know that I know that I know that the ‘up’ is coming and I can have genuine joy and peace even when I’m walking down in the valley.