Unchanging God, Endlessly New Love

“These are the good old days” reads a banner in our home. In the midst of chasing toddlers and cooking dinners and cramming in work, the makings of a full life are passing by. Though these days are hectic and often exhausting, I find it unsettling to know that I might look back on these years as some of my favorite. The sobering reality is that time is passing by and nothing is permanent. 

I see it most clearly in my kids—I long for certain things to endure, the morning snuggling and the storytelling. I hunger for permanence and so want to cling to something that won’t be a day older tomorrow. And yet I am ever drawn to the new—new experiences, new stages, new opportunities. Each day I am rocked back and forth between my desires for the eternal and an appetite for newness, and often I find neither to be satisfied.

CS Lewis famously said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” The tough reality is that our desires for permanence and newness will never be fully satisfied in our experience on earth. We live as those who are fading day by day, slowly wearing out until death in spite of the small encounters with newness along the way. But God didn’t just give us unmet desires to frustrate us, He made us for both permanence and newness so that he might make himself known to us through them. For the creator God is both eternal and permanent and also ever new, bringing new life and wonder day by day. 

An unchanging God

Permanence is foundational to our God’s character. One of his attributes is his immutability, which means that he is unchanging. As Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (13:8). The Psalmist says, They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away. Like a worn-out garment, everything on earth will pass away, but God alone will remain, unfaded, unchanged, forever existing in eternal perfection. 

But God also made us to know and enjoy his eternal permanence. Before the fall, humanity was made to participate with God in perfect, eternal, unchanging relationship with the dawning of each new day. Our desire for permanence, therefore, reveals what our lives should have been like—ever resting in the perfect reliability of our God with no threat or fading of life while also experiencing the glory of God in new ways each day as we walked in his midst. My sorrow over things lost and years passed by and my hope for a taste of something new are not merely the evidence of a fickle heart, they are the phantom pains of what we have lost to sin and a reminder of the promise of eternal life.

Our unchanging experience of God 

As one who longs for permanence, delights in newness, and yet is daily disappointed by what grows worn and dies, so much of my experience is weariness. It is exhausting to so frequently say goodbye as something ends while holding onto the hope of something new bringing a fresh wave of joy. This place of in between—knowing what we were made for and not fully experiencing it—is wearisome. Fortunately, God’s love for us and our experience of His love does not ride the same emotional rollercoaster. CS Lewis put it concisely when he said, “Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.”

But while God’s love for us is does not change, our experience of His love does. God’s love is not some assembly line robot, presenting the ones He loves with the same experience of his love every time. God is a craftsman, and His love reflects this part of his nature. He gives attention to each piece of wood, takes it, forms it, loves it into wholeness each day. Sometimes the tradition I am a part of can underplay the deep importance of religious experience. It is not wrong for us to hunger for a new experience of God’s love in the same way that a wife desires for her husband to show her love again today, in a way that befits their needs and lives today. God’s love meets us afresh—in the pain and joy and messes we are living in—and changes us as we experience it. God is the same every day, his love for us is permanent, but it is also endlessly new.

The newness that satisfies

Behold, I am making all things new (Rev 21:5). This is not just a verse describing the new heavens and the new earth, it is also what God is doing today through His people, the Church. Today, we get to participate in the unfailing newness of the Triune God. He is making all things new today. And he begins with us. 

From the Father we have the promise, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam 3:22-23). There will never be a sunrise that isn’t colored by the Father’s unwavering love for us and his promise to extend new mercy to us as we go to work, raise children, fight with our spouse, sin, struggle, and fail. His mercy will always be new to us.

In Christ, we are raised to walk in “newness of life” with Him as he conquers the grave—our life in Christ is marked by new life (Rom ….). And the Spirit does an ongoing renewing work of our minds, our souls, our spirits, and our bodies. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day (2 Cor 4:16). In our all-encompassing triune God, we are met with the permanence and the newness that our hearts were made for. In our unchanging and never-ending God, we are given what we need to endure change with grace, hope towards the next provision of his love, and rest knowing that He is with us every step of the way.

The Joy of Limitations

This week my whole family fell like dominoes to a stomach bug, one tapping another in a week-long chain of misery. I was the last to go down which meant that I was scrambling between holding three-year olds while they threw up, changing and washing sheets and pajamas, attempting to feed those with an appetite, and trying to hammer out a few pieces of work in the midst of it all. 

I love to think of myself as a “do it all” person. I can work from home with no childcare during a pandemic! I can find time to exercise and read and write! I can definitely attend a new women’s Bible study! I can, I can, I can! I can do it all! But the humbling truth is that I can’t. I cannot do it all; and that’s actually a good thing.

God made humans as limited beings. Where he is transcendent and unending and all-knowing and without beginning or end—limitless—we are not. As embodied people, our flesh literally enrobes us in limits. We cannot be two places at once, we can’t stay up all day and all night, we cannot go without food or water—we inhabit this fleshy thing with all sorts of requirements and needs. And because we have limits, we must daily choose how to use our energy, where to put our time, what to focus our attention on. 

GK Chesterton says, “Every act of will is an act of self-limitation. To desire action is to desire limitation. In that sense every act is an act of self-sacrifice. When you choose anything, you reject everything else.” The decisions we make—our acts of will—are actually acts of self-limitation, a choice that says, I value this very much and am choosing to pour my resources into it. But by choosing one thing, we are inherently not choosing something else. 

But Chesterton goes beyond merely saying that we make these self-limiting decisions every day to say that when we desire to do anything, we are desiring limitation. We actually want to be limited, to not do everything and do the one thing that we want or need to. And this reality of choosing to do one thing becomes an act of self-sacrifice, choosing to deny yourself of all other things for the one thing you do choose. When I chose to marry my husband Andrew, I chose to deny every other man on the planet. That is an act of self-limitation, and that limitation is actually something to desire, something good

Even as I write this, my modern sentiments scream, this is why multi-tasking is so great! We can do more than one thing! Or if I’m just smart enough and have enough hacks, I can do much more in less time, perhaps doubling the number of things I can choose. But the reality remains, that no matter how many wonderful things we do cram into a day or week or year, we will never be able to do it all. Each “yes” means a million “no’s.”

Though God wove human limitations into the fabric of creation before the fall and we know that our limits are good, when God took on human flesh and became a limited person, He showed us how to navigate the temptation to do everything. As one scholar put it, Jesus led a wildly unsuccessful and inefficient healing and teaching ministry. He chose to hang out with a handful of average men, never leveraging to get in more—more healings, miracles, sermons, declarations of divinity. Jesus, as a limited man, walked the same pathways of limitations that we do. Choosing to heal one person meant not being available to millions of others. Choosing to teach one sermon meant not teaching the infinite others he had. Choosing to travel to Jerusalem and its surrounding cities meant not traveling across the world to share the good news of the Kingdom of God. 

God became limited. God said “no” to things. God entered into our realm of action and self-sacrifice to show us that it is good! It is good to have limits. And He became like us to show us how to be faithful in our limits. He was faithful to the people who needed his time, to the people he was called to and the people he chose, enjoying the reality that His ministry would be spent with guys like Peter and John, giving them His full attention. He was faithful in His limits; he said “yes” to things and, therefore, said “no,” trusting that He didn’t need to heal every person on earth for the Father to accomplish the purposes He had for Him. And because Jesus did, we can too. 

This week I experienced my limits, I couldn’t do it all. I was forced in a unique way to grapple with the fact that my multitasking might seem effective, but in reality is a guise—I am limited. And those limits are for my good, for my enjoyment and benefit, that I might faithfully say “yes” to the things I need to and want to while I trust in my limitless God to tend to the things I cannot. 

From Suffering to Praise, Together

On Sunday at church I bumped into a friend on my way to grab a coffee and asked, “How are you?!” “I’m fine,” she replied, although I noticed her teary eyes. Then she gave—”Actually no, I’m not good,” and the tears came. I was honored by her honesty, but it stabbed at my heart during the service—how many others are here today just pretending to be ok?

Does anyone know your deepest pain today? Have you told anyone of the ways you are suffering, struggling with sin, discouraged, or apathetic? I would imagine that the answer for many is no. When it comes to pain, our impulse is to pray and suffer in isolation, only revealing our deepest wounds and hopes in the quiet of prayer. We pray for our desires, but it feels too vulnerable to invite anyone else into the longings of our heart.

But the logic of the church opposes this individualism—the church by nature is communal, an interconnected family to which we belong and are known. As believers, we can’t afford to suffer in isolation because the way Christ is most clearly manifested to us today is in His Body—the Church. As members of God’s body, we need to cast off this individualism and reclaim the beauty and power of being known in our church.

Psalm 22 offers a template for crying out to God in the context of community, situating ourselves in the story of God’s faithfulness in the past, and testifying to the congregation when God answers our prayers. As we practice this discipline, we are formed into the people of God—people who participate in the story of God’s salvation and faithfulness today.

Remembering who God is. Psalm 22 presents a suffering Psalmist, feeling abandoned and alone, but fixing his eyes on God’s holiness—His character—and remembering God’s faithfulness to his forefathers. 

My god my god why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame (1-5).

As in many of the psalms, we see the invitation to cry out to God with honesty, but as we do so to cling to God’s character and the ways that God has demonstrated His faithfulness to His people before. Though the psalmist feels forsaken and like the Lord will never answer him, he leans upon what He knows God has done before. Each instance of God’s provision that came before this moment has collected in his imagination, testifying to a God who has always been faithful. This is why God sits enthroned on Israel’s praises; as God proves his steadfast, holy, and good character again and again in the lives of His people, we do what we were made to do—glorify Him, enshrouding Him in our right worship. When we find ourselves suffering, we must turn to the story of God’s people before us, but we must also turn to God’s people around us.

Praising God in the congregation.

I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you; you who fear the Lord praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel (22-23).

The Psalmist understands the communal nature and responsibility of his current suffering—that when God proves himself faithful, he will testify to God’s work, glorifying Him and participating in the story of God’s people from the beginning. But if we never share our suffering with the congregation, we probably won’t tell them when God answers our prayer. Rejoicing in the Lord’s provision is a community activity in the Psalms, and our participation is not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of the entire community.

God doesn’t only answer prayers for us—He answers them for our friend, for the woman sitting next to me at church, for the weary moms and disillusioned dads. God answers our prayer for our own good but also for His glory, He wants us to tell of His power and mercy and faithfulness again and again. This is why the Psalmist says, From you comes my praise in the great congregation...The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord (26). When we share our suffering and God’s provision with the Body, we nourish the afflicted who are crying out, and give hope for those who are seeking Him. God uses our suffering and His faithfulness as an encouragement to others, so when we isolate ourselves in a church, we withhold the power of God in our lives from those around us who need it most.

A beautiful inheritance. Posterity (future generations) shall serve him. It shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it (30-31). 

Though a community is blessed when members share their burdens and testify to God’s faithfulness, this practice forms us as spiritual people. As we learn to live in community and again and again see that God is who He says He is, God shapes us into His people—people who are known, who ask for prayer and pray fervently, who remember what God has done, and glorify Him always. In community, we become what Israel was to us—the people who followed God in their context and whose stories we turn to for a reminder of who God is.

As we are formed into people who trust in the Lord in community, we pass on the most valuable gift of our own spiritual formation; we testify both in our words and deeds to the coming generation of who this God is. We become people who proclaim his righteousness to those not yet born. So while we will tell the incredible stories of God’s works to the next generation, the inheritance we bestow on our children and their children is a legacy of seeking God, participating in the body of Christ, and glorifying God in all circumstances. A people formed by these movements will shape the generation following them, creating a beautiful inheritance. 

On the cross, Jesus prayed the opening verses of this psalm. He prayed alone, as one left to die in His suffering. He prayed remembering the Father’s perfect faithfulness to His people. On the cross, Jesus cried out, envisioning the future of God’s people, and died alone so that we might participate in His resurrected Body as people who are certain of His faithfulness and equipped to endure suffering together.

Do You Understand?

During my time leading Bible studies for college students, a phrase I heard more often than any other was, “What this verse means to me is…”

I’ve said it, you probably have, too, but when it comes to reading, studying, and understanding the Word of God, exploring what a verse “means to me” is a flimsy foundation on which to build our faith. We so want to read a verse or chapter, get a sense for the vibe of the passage, and allow it to mean exactly what we would like it to mean, but when we study God’s Word, our goal must always be to discover what the verse means in the context it is written

Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart argue in How To Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, “A text cannot mean what it never could have meant to its author or his or her readers.” We might want a verse to mean something to us, but if it does not align with the context in which it was written, it cannot and does not mean what we want it to mean. And because the Bible is not primarily a tool for self-discovery, we must be willing to spend time in it as such.

When we come to the Bible, we must begin with comprehension—understanding what is actually being said. We often jump to what a verse “means to me” because we have skipped this essential step. When we leave it out, what the Bible says becomes completely subjective and self-centered, meaning whatever we might want it to mean at that time. It’s easy to read a passage and get an impression or jump on one phrase, but it takes time to read a passage, follow the logic and argument, ask questions about a phrase, and study what the author is actually saying. But do this we must. One of the first things I learned in seminary was that “context is king;” you cannot escape, get around or avoid it—to read the Bible, you must go through the context in which it is written.

Context vs. expectation

Any time we read Scripture, we bring our whole selves—how our day is going, our experiences, our emotions, our hopes for this particular moment in God’s Word—and that’s good. It is good to be self-aware, knowing how we are doing, the expectations we have, and what we might be needing to hear on any given day. But without comprehension, we will likely read into the text what we want to see rather than studying God’s Word for what He wants us to see.

Here’s an example. Philippians 3:14 says, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.” I absolutely made this my verse for high school sports, whispering it to myself, and maybe a teammate, when we were losing by 10 in the fourth quarter, because, you know, Jesus will totally make me win this game. But if we read the chapter to understand what Paul is saying, he says he can do anything in Christ who strengthens him in the context of suffering, not always having what he needed, and depending on others to support him in his lack. I might want this verse to mean that I can do and accomplish anything in Christ, but Paul is saying that because of Jesus, he can face any circumstance, especially adverse ones, with joy, because Jesus is his life.  

The good news is that God, through His Holy Spirit, illuminates His Word to us—the Spirit literally opens our minds and hearts to receive what He wants to teach us. Our God is so personal and loving that when we open His word, He promises to meet us, reveal Himself to us, and speak to us. God knows exactly what we need, and if we are willing to listen to what His Word actually says, we might discover that what he has for us is even better than what we were hoping to find. 

Skipping comprehension diminishes who God is

Beyond reading ourselves into the text, when we skip comprehension, we never learn the heart of God for us, we opt out of hard words that might challenge us, and ultimately, we never grow in our confidence of what the Bible really says. When we elevate our situation, feelings, or an interpretation apart from the context, the Word of God becomes a story that is bent around what we want to hear, but it will never be able to stand up to the difficulties we will face. 

God wants us to know him. So when we skip comprehension we don’t allow God to actually speak to us. He wants to reveal himself to us, to teach us, to meet us in our circumstances and struggles. But if we ignore how he has revealed himself to his people before us, we will never know who he is for us today. We need a Bible that that says “You are not your own but have been bought with a price” because I want to be my own master every day. We need a Bible that speaks words that don’t always align with our culture. We need a Bible that tells us what our sin is. We need a Bible that tells us about the holiness of God. We need a Bible that confronts our own agenda for our lives.

As we approach God’s word today, remember that our experience, emotions, and desires are not the center of the universe, God is. And as we read His Word with expectation, we will find ourselves hearing what we need to hear, being challenged in the ways we need to be challenged, and receiving comfort from a God who loves us so much that He makes Himself known to us. 

The Emptiness of Cultural Kindness

Kindness seems to be everywhere these days. It’s posted on yard signs and granola bars, t-shirts, and posters for your home. Though kindness is not new, BE KIND! has become a warm greeting in a culture that prides itself on tolerance, acceptance, and affirmation.

A few months ago, Ellen Degeneres fell from her two-decade-long reign as the queen of kindness for apparently, well, being very unkind. Kindness was her motto, encouraging everyone to “Be kind to one another” as the parting message of every episode. But for someone who has made millions selling the idea of kindness, her brand of kindness has proved to be empty after her show was canceled due to reports of the toxic, racist, and abusive work culture she set. 

When our national face of kindness proves to be deeply unkind, we have to wonder, does the kindness that our culture celebrates have any value? Or is it lacking, pretending to do and be good while unable to produce any good or loving changes in our world? In a culture that is hungry for kindness but often finding cultural kindness to be empty, we must look to scripture and the author of kindness to teach us what kindness truly is. 

True kindness is always rooted in love. 

Cultural kindness is more about tolerance, enduring differences without complaining, and being nice than it is about love. It asks us only to be pleasant to those whom we are different from, but it does not call us to love them. When kindness is without love, it can quickly become insincere, something we do because we are supposed to. But kindness without love is not kindness at all, but rather an imitation, a fake that supposes love for another, but is merely an act.  

This is the problem with cultural kindness. I can be nice and tolerate someone while hating them at the same time, and this is what we see in the case of Ellen. Her public persona of kindness turned out to be mere niceness. She played at being kind, but in reality, was unkind, and the fruits of her labor were abuse, division, and hurt. Though cultural kindness puts on the facade of love, at best it a bland tolerance of other people, at worst, it is hatred with a smile. 

In contrast, biblical kindness, real kindness, is always rooted in the steadfast and self-sacrificing love of God. He is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works (Ps 145:17), He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness towards his people (Neh 9:17), with everlasting kindness, I will have compassion to you (Is 54:8). In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word chesed, which means loving-kindness, is used to describe how God relates to his people. It is also this loving-kindness that he desires from his people in response to his own. As he says in Hos 6:6, For I desire steadfast love (kindness), not sacrifices, the knowledge of God and not burnt offerings. God makes it clear that niceness—burnt offerings and sacrifices that go through the motions of devotion without love, do not delight him. Rather, he desires earnest love and knowledge of who He is. 

Unlike cultural kindness, chesed captures the steadfast and sacrificial love of God who does not abandon a people who are radically different than he is, who anger him, who test and fail him again and again. True kindness, therefore, must be rooted in this kind of covenantal love that endures at all costs. Our kind God does not merely tolerate us. He does not endure us with distaste. He loves us with a fierce kindness that is more committed to our own well-being than we are. 

True kindness is not always agreeable.  

Godly kindness is rooted in the covenantal love of God who pursues the flourishing of his creation. But real human flourishing comes when humanity lives in accordance with what we were created for: submission to and obedience of our Creator. Because God’s covenantal love always has the aim of changing a sinful people into a holy nation, godly kindness is not always agreeable. 

To be kind in our culture means that we rarely disagree. It has been argued that our culture is rapidly losing its ability to disagree with others and maintain friendship. We live in a nation in which outrage trumps listening and understanding, and disagreement means dismissal. When the January 6 attack on the capital occurred, my Facebook page was flooded with statements saying something along the lines of, “If you don’t condemn what happened today, we are no longer friends.” While the condemnation of the events was valid and the comments were intended to declare their disapproval, they demonstrated how culture responds to disagreement: we cancel. 

When cultural kindness meets disagreement or injustice, it responds with cancellation. Cancel culture is cultural kindness’s attempt at justice. Though there is goodness in the desire to make right what has gone wrong, kindness without love leads to justice without love. We are content to settle for dismissal because our kindness was never more than niceness; it was never motivated by wanting to know another or be known, never fierce enough to engage in hard conversations, to call something wrong or work towards restoring a broken person. 

Not so for the biblical kindness— God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Rom 2:4). Godly kindness confronts in love so that we might be conformed into his image. Because he loves us and wants us to flourish, God’s steadfast loving-kindness will challenge us, tell us when we are wrong, and change us. This is why the Psalmist says let a righteous man rebuke me, it is a kindness (Ps 141:5). It is in kindness when he corrects, rebukes, and convicts us because he loves us enough to see that we might become mature and complete, lacking in nothing (Jas 1:4) and receiving the our inheritance as his children. The people of God should never be marked by mere agreeableness, but rather embrace the kindness that is not content to allow us to stay in sin, that permits suffering so that we might depend on him more, and that speaks the truth in love (Eph 4:15).

Moreover, where cultural kindness leads to cancel-culture “justice”, godly kindness that is rooted in love leads us to restorative justice through truth-telling, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. This is the fruit of the kindness of God and what Paul is getting at when he says, behold, the kindness and severity of God (Rom 11:22). He is not interested in niceness, he is interested in bringing many sons to glory, and in his kindness, he will surely do it. 

God’s ultimate kindness in Christ.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (Tit 3:4-7). 

In his eternal kindness, the Father sent Christ to extend the ultimate kindness: our salvation. But in Christ he also enables us to be transformed into his likeness through the Spirit who produces godly fruit in our lives like kindness (Gal 5:22). This is the calling that is placed on his followers, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, and meekness (Col 3:12). To clothe ourselves in kindness means that we care about knowing another person rather than being superficial. That we care about their well-being, are willing to endure with them when things get tough, to sacrifice for them, and disagree to speak the truth in love for their sake. 

In John 8 a woman is caught in adultery. It was a crime deserving death and he community was ready to stone her. But Jesus showed her kindness. He showed her love and mercy thought they could not have been more different. He didn’t reject or condemn her for her choices or beliefs. He knelt beside her and protected her. He reminded the crowd that they too were sinners. But he also didn’t say that her actions didn’t matter. He called her into repentance and obedience when he said, Go and sin no more (8:11).

May we grow in this kind of godly kindness in a world that desperately needs the kindness of our Savior.

The Mercy of Motherhood

Learning to love outside of myself

An upsetting thing has happened to me since becoming a mother almost three years ago; an awakening of sorts. Where I once went about my days mostly concerned about my own well-being and the health and safety of those closest to me, I now find myself regularly undone when I see or hear of suffering in another’s life. 

It started small, crying during Little Women when Meg said she felt alone, tearing up seeing Facebook posts about kids who were sick, trembling at the thought of something happening to my girls; hearing about suffering caused a surge of gut-wrenching compassion that alarmed me. 

As a kid, I confusedly watched my own mother cringe at headlines or say something like, “I just can’t watch that,” when we were choosing movies. What I had once attributed to weakness, some foreign power that made my very strong mother very emotional, was now my reality. At first, I marveled at what felt like a newly torn hole, a whirlpool of compassion that drew in anything that came near, but soon realized that this sensation was here to stay, locked firmly in my life scooping up any passing grief with unrestrained emotion. 

I may fight the swell of compassion because it feels like weakness, but in Christ, our mercy is our greatest strength.

When it was said in response to the murder of George Floyd, “All mothers were summoned when George Floyd cried out for his momma,” I cried as the puzzle pieces snapped into place. Every mother was summoned because every mother has been awakened to a new depth of mercy coursing through her heart. The sad privilege and sin of only caring for oneself dies when a woman becomes a mother, her life and body now permanently put on guard, ready to go into battle for another, ready to hold and hug and listen and be called into action.

The problem of course is that suffering is everywhere. Suffering from the pandemic and racial injustice, suffering for refugees and persecuted Christians, suffering for my family and friends and yours. I find myself overwhelmed by a compassion I did not necessarily choose or cultivate but was rather thrust upon me like my own twin daughters on my chest when they were born at 3 AM. But what I have largely processed as being burden uncovered by motherhood, newfound compassion is not a loss, it is a gain.

Upon entering motherhood we are swept into a greater mission that goes beyond merely caring for and protecting those who are close to us. We become mothers, allies, and protectors of other’s children young and old, of other mothers, of any who might stir compassion in our widened hearts. Though motherhood is not the only vehicle for growing in compassion—Jesus was never a father and yet is our exemplar of mercy—motherhood takes us out of ourselves in a literal way, asking us to care for another no matter how weak or weary we may be. This ability and depth is terrifying, but it is also a gift. 

But embracing this change has not been clean or simple. In my fear of this new mercy, I find myself trying to hide or simply look away in a sad effort to feel less. I want to evade the swell of pity and sorrow that rises, desperately trying to unbear this burden or allowing it to drive me away from compassion into worry and anxiety. A fire of mercy had been stoked, but I am only and desperately trying to extinguish it. To feel compassion unrestricted is to feel too much. For many, motherhood may not be the primary place that the Lord chooses to widen your heart in compassion, but if you find yourself undone like me, take heart. We can and must learn to wield and embrace mercy as part of our identity rather than hide from it.

Compassion as discipleship

Compassion is a gift that is designed to reshape our lives and bodies to care not merely for our children whom we love, but for all children of God. It is a gift from a merciful savior who is committed to transforming us into His likeness and His likeness is deeply merciful. He is “the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction (2 Cor 1:3-4). It is His will for us to care for the widow and the orphan (Jas 1:27), to give generously of ourselves and our time in the exact same way that He did. 

Mercy, therefore, becomes one of the most important paths of discipleship that we can tread because it takes us into the heart of Christ and out of our concern solely for ourselves. We must be willing to shake off the temptations to hide from compassion or look away so that we might learn what our God has ordained for us in motherhood: a heart that is rich in mercy and willing to comfort those who suffer. 

A fire of mercy had been stoked, but I am only and desperately trying to extinguish it. To feel compassion unrestricted is to feel too much.

A mothering God

Growing in compassion through motherhood is no accident or hormonal adjustment, it is woven into God’s perfect design, written into our hearts before we knew it was there so that we might one day more deeply understand the height and depth and breadth of God’s love and compassion for us. In grief over his lost children, Jesus said, Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing (Matt 23:37). Merciful Jesus longed to care for his people like a mother hen, drawing His people to Himself to provide for and protect them as a mother does.

But the power of a mother’s mercy is not only found in the tenderness of Christ, we see it in the enduring compassion of the Father when he too expresses his love for his children by saying, Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you (Is 49:15). And Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river…and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem (Is 66:12-13). In our Father’s steadfastness, he compares himself to a mother who nurtures her children, carrying them close, feeding and comforting them. 


God chooses to talk of the depth of his compassion in terms of motherhood because motherhood is uniquely powerful. In His perfect and inspired Word, our God holds motherhood in such high regard that He expresses His own commitment and devotion to His people in terms of it. If our Father chooses to widen our hearts through motherhood it is so that we more fully understand His—one that longs for His children’s flourishing and would do anything to see make them know His love. 

The courage to follow

Growing in mercy will grow us in godliness because Jesus is mercy at His core, breathing and bleeding compassion, bearing the weight of a broken world to the point of death so that we don’t have to hide in fear from it. We must be brave and humble, willing to feel the pain of our brothers and sisters, to bear the burdens of others, to weep with those who weep, and follow merciful Jesus to the end. The Jesus who touched our sores and wiped our tears bore it all not so I could hide from a compassion like His but so that I could receive it myself, coming alongside Him in his work as one willing to face suffering with the hope of knowing that the worst we encounter here will be redeemed to the fullest one day. 

Christ the merciful and compassionate showed me mercy so that my heart might break like his, not to protect me from feeling broken. I may fight the swell of compassion because it feels like weakness, but in Christ, our mercy is our greatest strength. He plants compassion in our hearts to rehumanize and reawaken us to His Kingdom coming. The choice we make is not whether to feel, it is whether to hope that the resurrection is true and real and tangible today, putting in its place our suffering as a light and momentary affliction, a signpost that we are not yet home, but we are growing as we walk this path of motherhood.

Finding Home, Finding Rest

Published on For the Church

Before the pandemic, I would anticipate coming home from work, changing into comfy clothes, and resting, knowing that my day was done. Home and rest have always been connected. Until now. 

My rhythm of work and rest has been shattered. Although I’m home all day, I find myself exhausted and restless, wanting to find rest but not knowing how. It turns out that home itself is not the source of rest. Home isn’t even a specific place. 

In his book On the Road with Saint AugustineJames K. A. Smith examines all of life through the lens of travelers pursuing a home. The non-Christian travels looking for home—desiring to belong, to find meaning and rest, but being disappointed by every place that promises this home-ness. 

The Christian, on the other hand, knows where her home is. Christians know that their home is not a place, a job, a relationship, or money, but their home is in God. The Christian places her hope in someday arriving at her ultimate home in his presence while finding a home for today through union with Christ.

But perhaps more important than knowing where home is, the Christian is able to find rest—rest for her soul in the midst of the journey that will enable her to keep on traveling. 

Read the full post here.

Rejoice Together, Suffer Together, Repeat

Appearing on For the Church

Have you ever heard something good that happened to a friend but rather than being excited and celebrating with her, you compare your success or want what she has? It seems pretty common, and unfortunately, it was my mindset this week. It is an ugly place to be. Not much love for a sister. Not much willingness to be for her. Not much thinking about anyone but myself.

Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Christian friendships should be marked by the fullness of life — climbing into the pit of despair with one another and delighting together when there is good news. These relationships are for-each-other relationships. When my sister hurts, I hurt. When she rejoices, my heart is gladdened. Christian friendships bear the beauty mark of other-centeredness, and this other-centeredness is always the result of finding an identity that isn’t in what you have, accomplish, or do. 

Read the full post on For the Church

Looking for saints: When a pastor disappoints you

It’s been a publicly bad year for pastors. It’s not only Ravi Zacharias and Hillsong New York pastor Carl Lentz, it’s regular, everyday ministers who are not doing well; caught up in spiritual abuse, dabbling in sin where they know they shouldn’t, and walking (or being asked to walk) away from ministry. 

The hammering reports of the moral failure of public leaders are disheartening, but it’s even more disappointing when pastors and leaders in your own church suddenly resign. In the age of social justice, our first response is to try to remedy the situation by calling for punishment and removal. We want to know the pastor is sorry and repentant and the hurt people receive care. We want to feel like we have done the right thing in response to the pain that their sin has caused. 

Though I cannot stress how important these actions of justice are, having watched a few churches reel and recover after their pastor’s sins were exposed, I wonder where the gospel fits into the moral failure of our pastors. Though forgiveness and reconciliation is a long and bumpy road that cannot be rushed, Jesus is the friend to sinners, the gracious king who draws near to us in our ugliest state. But it seems that when our spiritual leaders fail us, the church begins to act like Jesus is not a friend to sinful pastors.

Culturally, justice has never been in higher demand, but as Micah 6:8 teaches us, we are called to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Doing justice is not enough in the kingdom of God; it must always be accompanied with mercy and humility. We must move beyond our culture’s focus on justice that punishes and toward a Godly justice that seeks to restore the broken-hearted.

Cultural vs Kingdom justice

Our culture responds to moral failure by canceling; mistakes are something from which we do not recover. Their ministry is over; that church is finished; their books are no longer being published. Justice always requires rectification—setting things right, but our culture almost exclusively associates justice with punishment. Punitive justice is swift, harsh and the easiest response, even when it is wrong. It is tidy to lock up a perpetrator or ask a pastor to resign, but it does nothing to heal the wounds of those perpetrated. While punishment is a necessary component of justice, it is not the whole picture of biblical justice. Setting right what has gone wrong in the kingdom of God goes beyond the execution of the law and endeavors the work of restoration: to repair what was broken. 

Restorative justice is a kingdom-bringing justice. It does not merely punish but pursues and anticipates redemption and reconciliation. Where our culture cries for punishment, Christians must cry for restoration. Punitive justice leaves those who have been hurt wanting for something that is lacking; we must aim to restore the personhood of those wronged as well as the wrong-doer. In a new creation kingdom, the people of God live under new creation principles—life coming out of death, sins removed as far as the east is from the west, relationships reconciled, abundant and scandalous grace. We are messengers of the gospel and ministers of reconciliation in God’s new creation kingdom that forgives the murderer has mercy on the repentant. Our gospel, our Kingdom and King, cannot be so small that we settle for our culture’s punitive system and stop our pursuit of justice at punishment. As Micah directs us, our justice should be marked by a love of mercy and deep humility, not merely pursue justice that punishes.

The mercy of the gospel

In the gospel, we are given a vastly different set of resources in which we can expect sin, failure, brokenness, and also respond to it with more than a dismissal from service. What makes the church the church is not perfection, it is mercy: the willingness to pardon sin no matter how grievous or offensive. Our failures are the location for magnifying the beauty and strength of the gospel. Therefore, how Christians respond to moral failure reveals what gospel we truly believe: is it one of hope and mercy or is it one of shame and judgment? 

Jonathan Edwards argues that “God has no pleasure in the destruction or calamity of persons or people. He had rather they should turn and continue in peace. He is well-pleased if they forsake their evil ways, that he may not have occasion to execute his wrath upon them. He is a God that delights in mercy, and judgment is his strange work.” But more often than not, mercy is not at the center of my heart. I want to know the pastor is sorry for what they have done, want them to prove their repentance, tell them the depths of their wrongs. While truth-telling and repentance are essential, I wonder at what point truth-telling becomes shaming, driving in an unnecessary knife. Our God is rich in mercy, and as his people, it is imperative that we cultivate hearts that are willing to move past punishment towards what our Savior cherishes most. 

When a pastor disappointed their people, many people are caught with the realization that they have been expecting perfection from them. We want our pastors to be super-Christians living out the gospel in the fullest possible terms and giving us the hope and inspiration to do so too. But pastors are just people, which is why approaching their fatal flaws with humility is so important. We often begin to believe our leaders to be impenetrable to sin as if they have matured out of it. But we know that they have not. They are human beings, no different from you or me but tasked with the incredible challenge of leading other sinners. But our biblical and church history is full of these sinners who lead God’s people— sinners who are actually the saints of God, not because of their perfection but because of how they returned to the Lord after their failures.

David would have been finished in today’s culture, not celebrated as one of the great kings of Israel. Paul never would have been allowed to preach after murdering believers who went before him. The church has always been messy and sinful, but in the face of failure, God’s mercy and grace become more tangible, strange, and beautiful than ever. We see in Adam and Eve, our first failing leaders who were punished for their sin, the heart of God for fallen leaders; he sends them on with a covenant of grace, not a covenant of works that depended on their ongoing perfection. We too participate in a covenant of grace through Christ, and in it, we must be willing to embody a kingdom that is not only just, but merciful and compassionate and humble as well. If these promises throughout scripture stop in the name of pastoral failure, our faith is nothing, our gospel powerless, the risen Christ defeated. 


The way through our disappointment with our leaders today is to practice the gospel—this is what it means to be a saint. Though that might sound simple or trite, our gospel is simple: to show grace to the sinner, to love the outcast, to care for the weak. Pastors are sinful people too, and they need grace. Grace is not saying, “it’s ok” or minimizing the wrong they committed. Justice is not dismissive of wrongs and pain. Grace says, you hurt me, but I forgive you. The gospel is big enough for you to not be perfect. In our disappointment, we can find comfort that though we are grieved and hurting, we do not lose hope. Our God is a god who bring beauty out of ashes.

You Follow Me

Following Jesus when he calls us to different things

At some point, most of us have looked at someone else and thought, why does their life seem so much easier than mine? Whether they have more money or their kids are super-achievers or they love their job, we tend to glance side-to-side and wonder, why did God give them that and not give it to me? But underneath this seemingly innocuous question is the basic belief that God is supposed to give us all some measure of fairness; we all have our own blessings and struggles, but God should ultimately distribute suffering, success, happiness, and trials evenly. 

My mom used to say,Life isn’t fair,” but perhaps it is God who isn’t fair. God isn’t in the business of democracy, doling out equal portions of joy and suffering to his creation. He is always just—never letting evil overcome good, but when it comes to his children, He does not apportion us the same lots in life. And unless we address this tough reality, our expectations for God and how our life should look will continue to be marked by disappointment. 

In the final chapter of John, Jesus calls Peter to found his Church and warns him that he will suffer the same fate as his savior: death by crucifixion. I think most of us would respond to Jesus in the same way that Peter did—he asks, but what about John? Is he going to be crucified too?! Why do I have to be crucified!? Peter’s immediate reaction to his master calling him to a life of ministry, sacrifice, and ultimately dying for the glory of God is to look at the guy next to him and ask about what God has planned for him

Because we all have this tendency inside of us, we must hear what Jesus has to say about it. Jesus tells Peter, If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me (Jn 21:22). Jesus doesn’t entertain this kind of comparative thinking, but challenges Peter by telling him that it doesn’t matter what his plans are for John, whether he live until Christ’s second coming or not doesn’t change the call he has placed on Peter’s life—“You follow me.” 

Just like Peter, God calls us to certain works and specific suffering. He allows exactly what we need for both our flourishing and refinement, whispering, “Follow me” as he permits enough friction to keep striving after him and enough comfort to delight in his perfect provision. We must learn from Peter and John how to stop questioning his will for our lives and embrace the lot he has given us for our good and his glory. 

Following Jesus in our work; a call to cultivate what we have been given

Through Peter and John, we see how God assigns unique work within a larger calling. All humans have two callings; a primary calling and a secondary calling. Primary calling is the same for everyone: to glorify God and enjoy him forever (Westminster Catechism). But our secondary callings are unique and localized to our lives: it is the place that we live out our primary calling. 

But God does not appoint us all to the same work, he gives us a lot, a patch of ground, and says this is where I want you to work. Cultivate your love for me and bring me glory through what you do here. In Psalm 16, David declares, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Your lot might be as a stay-at-home mom, a fitness instructor, or lawyer, but whatever it is, God calls us to work out our primary calling to glorify and enjoy him in the context of that everyday work, creatively pursuing him in what he has given us. 

Both Peter and John were disciples, but the callings Jesus placed on their lives were different. Peter would preach sermons, establish churches, and travel through the Ancient Near East as a missionary to the Jews. John too would work in the local church, but from the cross, Jesus asked John to take care of his widowed mother since he would not be there to do it (Jn 19:27). John’s calling took him into exile and to continue in ministry while Peter and Paul were crucified. 

Peter and John’s secondary callings were to work out how to love and glorify God in these places, grappling with how to glorify God when they were isolated in exile, sharing the gospel with people who didn’t want to hear it, when they were caring for an elderly widow. These men fought the same doubts as us wondering, why did God call me here, to this lot

I find myself asking, why did God give me twins? Why did he call me to marry a pastor and be in ministry? Why did God call me to this life and not theirs? When I find myself thinking these things, I must remember Jesus’ words, what is their calling to you? You follow me! We need to stop asking why this lot and start asking how do I follow Jesus here, cultivating the lot he has given me for his glory?

Following Jesus in suffering; the call to submit

Every Christian is called to suffer as a fundamental part of following Jesus. If we love him, we start doing the kinds of things he did—like putting other’s needs ahead of our own, giving up our rights for them, bearing their burdens, and submitting willingly to the will of the Father that sometimes leads us into places we would rather not go. 

But suffering is never a waste. Not only does suffering provide an opportunity to know our weakness and draw from the infinite well of God’s strength (2 Cor 12:10), suffering is the currency of our sanctification, refining us so we might grow in humility, patience, perseverance, and joy in spite of our circumstances. When God calls us to suffer, he is accomplishing his purposes of transforming us into the likeness of Christ. 

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34). For Peter, following Jesus would literally lead him to the cross. Though we will likely never face crucifixion, our response to suffering is the same as Peter’s as we cry, unfair! We believe suffering is a hindrance in our lives to be avoided. And like Peter, when we compare the suffering in our lives to others, we walk ourselves into a place of anger and entitlement before the Lord; we don’t deserve to suffer. This kind of thinking, however, is unbiblical and unrealistic. Suffering is a friend, not a foe, and we must learn to submit to the suffering God has for us in the same way that Jesus did. This too is part of following him. 

Jesus suffered the cross out of love for his Father and joy in knowing that his submission would glorify his Father. But more than that, he submitted to the suffering he was called to so that we too might follow him, submitting to his will for us. This is what Jesus calls Peter into—submitting to his will out of love. Peter had just told Jesus three times that he loved him. The only reason Peter would continue to follow Jesus after hearing of his fate is because he loved Jesus and believed that Jesus was worth dying for, that Jesus truly was Lord. And this is the exact same reason why we follow him today through our own suffering; because he is our suffering, good, faithful King, and we love him. And as we do God strengthens, confirms, and establishes us in our suffering (1 Pt 5:10), we experience the power of the resurrection (Phil 3:10), we are glorified with Christ (Rom 8:17), and we learn contentment in our weakness and dependence on Christ (2 Cor 12:10). When we submit to the suffering that God calls us to, we follow in the footsteps of Jesus who also submitted to the suffering that the father called him to out of love for the Father. 

How we follow

Willingly. “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you” (Ps 32:9). When comparison, jealousy, or suffering arrive, we must choose to stay near Jesus. Unlike an untamed animal who requires restraints, submitting to Jesus means we choose to stay near him in all circumstances. With our eyes fixed on Him. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb 12:2). The best way to keep us from looking at others and growing angry with the Lord is to keep our eyes fixed on Him. He is our mark, our measure, our King, and the one whom we serve. Fix your eyes on him.