On Burnout

Bible study this evening yielded advice from thousands of years ago that is oh so applicable to us today. Thanks Lord, I really needed to hear this truth from You in my exhaustion today. You’ve called me not to be superhuman but to be Yours, and while I am willing to stand alone for You, there is a whole Body of Christ out there. I don’t have to carry this alone. But if I had to, I would, Sir!

 

When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?” Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.” “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.” – Exodus 18:14-23 NLT

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A Hug From God

Today just kind of wasn’t my day.

It started early, or rather, it didn’t. I startled awake five minutes after my alarm went off, suddenly remembering I had to pick up our junior groom at 06:00. It was 05:25. In a whirlwind, I flew up and got dressed before charging off to pick up the poor chap five minutes late alongside the road on an ice cold morning. By the time I was back and had helped push our head groom’s dead car into the safety of the yard, we were late. “Late” in my life means skipped rides or skipped meals. Also, something had stung my heart horse’s nose and given him hives and my favourite schoolie had trodden on my foot. Did I mention the ring was super boggy? I nearly wrote my youngster off lunging him in it.

And then, cantering around a turn towards a fence, my top horse fell. Almost on me. She’d slipped on the equally boggy arena footing – I can only blame sleep deprivation for my poor judgment. She bounced up like a rubber ball; I groaned to my feet. Nothing major, but I knew I’d be feeling it tomorrow. Coincidentally the day of my first lesson in preparation for my coach’s exam.

I dragged myself through the rest of the day, sore, grumpy, tired, whining, and decidedly ungrateful. I snapped at my sister and gave a sale pony a reprimand she didn’t really need, and it took every shred of my remaining patience to finish my first two lessons.

In short, I needed a good slap.

But God gave me a hug instead.

I was trudging through my last lesson, feeling the steady ache in my neck, wondering how I was going to do it all again tomorrow and trying my best for my client because they always deserve that, when I heard it. A high, surreal sound, thin and bright as a rapier blade catching the sun, and so pure and piercing that I stopped dead and stared into the sky. I half believed it was a dream. I’d only ever heard recordings. But then it came again, thrown joyously across the mighty sky.

The cry of a fish eagle.

It took me a second to find him, but there he was. A noble shadow cut into the sky; tremendous wings thrown wide in sharp silhouette, the white head outstretched. He wheeled on the dizzy heights with fearless grace. Higher than I could comprehend.

I have never seen a fish eagle here before, and I’ve lived here almost seventeen years. And you know I love to look towards the sky. The haunting cry rang out again, straight into my soul. My clients stared, but I couldn’t stop looking at that bright wingshadow, knowing exactly what lay so far beyond and yet closer than my breath. I reached up and wrapped my fingers around the cross I wear, fighting to keep down the tears.

 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

I didn’t know what to say except thank You. I was a bit tired, so I’d scorned and snapped and sulked and stumbled, pushed away His commandments and whined about my small miseries to the God Who’d died a gruesome death to pay the price for me. I deserve punishment.

But what I got was a direct reminder that no matter what, He’s with me. That as long as I hang on to Him, exhaustion will fall away. My freedom, my flight would mock that of the majestic eagle who threw wide his sharp-edged pinions on the rising wind. My strength would be renewed because it wouldn’t be mine, but His in me.

I deserve death. But what I got was an embrace from God. Such is the inexplicable and inexhaustible and unlimited love of our Holy King.

So I fall to my knees and I surrender to the One Who will lift me up on eagle wings.

Immanuel

This is for everyone who is sad this Christmas.

I don’t know why you’re hurting. Maybe that’s just been the norm for you lately. Maybe you’re not where you’d hoped to be by now. Maybe the weight of this aching world is just too much for you right now. Maybe you’re missing someone for the first time at Christmas. Maybe you lost somebody. Maybe yourself. I don’t know why, but I know you’re out there and you’re in pain.

Christmas has always been a time of pure joy to me. First, childlike wonder. Then, a more solemn, a deeper joy at the birth of my beloved Saviour. This is the first time I’ll spend Christmas in pain. It’s a new experience, but I thank God for it because it has opened new doors.

No holiday has been so clutched at by the world as Christmas has, and sometimes it can be hard to separate the Godly from the carnal. Beloved, this year has shown me that the pressure to be happy and holly and jolly is carnal. We’re not called to be happy. We’re called to be His.

Christ’s birth was not the Coming. It was not the start of all joy or the end of all pain. For Him at least, it was the beginning of the worst pain any man has ever gone through. Did Mary know that in a few short years, she’d watch her Baby die a horrible death? Did the Baby know? Did the Father miss His presence in Heaven then, did He feel sorrow at the trials that lay before His Child? Jesus didn’t come to bring joy. He came to bring the way, the truth and the life. He came to bring, above all, Himself. Jesus: God who saves.

Don’t feel like you have to be happy. The shepherds felt fear before joy. Just do what they did: leave it all and come worship that Baby, the Baby King. The Holy and Everlasting and Almighty God that became a small, dirty, squalling, dependent thing in order to save a whole world of small, dirty things. Come to Him and bring yourself for a gift and you’ll discover that that Baby doesn’t bring joy to the world. He is joy to the world and the only source of it. And sometimes to bring you to the source, He drives you there with a sorrow that nothing else can soothe.

The point is not to be happy. The point is that He’s with us now as always. You don’t have to pretend. Not to me and not to Him and if anyone else makes you feel judged, well, that’s just not their job.

He is not “God you have to pretend for”. He is not “God of the perfect decorations/cookies/meal” or “God of keeping up with the Joneses” or “Jolly God”. He is much more profound, much more demanding, much more dynamic and lasting. He is simply Immanuel: “God with us”.

That’s why He came, after all. Not to make us happy but to make us His. He had always been The Lord My Shepherd and The Lord My Rock and The Lord of Hosts and The Lord Provides. But Christmas, well that changed everything because He drew us closer. He became God With Us.

And no matter how deep your valley, no matter how serious your wounds, this much I can promise now and forever: He is with you.

A New Song

Forgive me now because I have been unfaithful

don’t ask me why, because I don’t know

So many times I tried, but was unable…

but this heart belongs to You alone

And now I’m in our secret place, alone in Your embrace

where all my wrongs have been erased

You have forgiven

All the promises and lies, all the times I compromised

All the times You were denied

You have forgiven

It looks something like a hymn, doesn’t it? It reads like a hymn; it’s a song to the glory of God, and its words are a celebration of the Lord’s all-embracing forgiveness. None of the lyrics of the whole song – this is just a part of it – are untrue or blasphemous; in fact the whole thing provides hope and encouragement for those who wonder if God can ever forgive them yet again. It rings with the joyous knowledge that Jesus will always forgive, even when there are no excuses, and that He is loving and merciful no matter what. If we’ll only confess and ask Him for forgiveness, He will forgive. And that is exactly what this song says.

Yet, if the song was actually played, not just the lyrics written, there are thousands of Christians all over the world who would protest that the song is an abomination to God. Why? Because it’s rock. Christian rock, yes; but all the same, it’s hard-hitting, drum-solo-abounding, electric-guitar-slamming rock. This particular song, Skillet’s “Forgiven”, has a particularly heavy feel to it and its writers sure didn’t hold back on the drums. And because of this, people everywhere – people who believe in God, mostly, and who stand up in church to sing His praises every Sunday – call it blasphemy.

I have never really been able to grasp why. I know that there are many rock artists out there who have a less-than-favourable reputation; in fact, rock in general has been cloaked in disrepute for years. But why should there be such a taboo on rock written for God’s glory? It’s a little like saying that because heathens invented calendars, all calendars are blasphemous. Isn’t it a good thing that some people are turning rock into an instrument to edify fellow Christians and praise our Lord?

To be honest, I’m not even a die-hard rock fan. I mostly listen to classical, pop and country (which drives some of my peers insane, but hey, nobody has a voice like Josh Groban), but if I like the lyrics and the singer’s voice, I’m just as happy listening to Skillet or Joe Niemand’s heavier albums as to a rendition of “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring”. Happier, in fact: some of the old hymns like “Amazing Grace”, originally so powerful, have become so old that people forget they’re even hymns. Unbelievers sing “Silent Night” at Christmas with the rest of us, because that’s what they do, not because they actually believe in the Virgin Mother and Child. Old hymns have become much the same.

But when a long-haired guy with tattoos walks up to the microphone, slams on his guitar and starts to sing about forgiveness or grace or redemption, you have to sit up. You have to take notice. Because this is a new song, and it’s loud and it’s in your face and you can’t just hide it away under traditions.

Perhaps that’s why rock is so detested by so many – especially the older generation. No, I’m not just saying this because I’m a teen who wants her own way. And yes, I know a lot of older people don’t like rock because it’s loud and noisy and it’s not to their taste. And that’s fine. If someone tells me to turn off that noise because it’s driving them nuts, I’ll do it. But don’t tell me to turn off that noise because it’s tainting my soul. That young Christian rock artist with the long hair might look like he just walked out of a bar fight, but (and there are exceptions to every rule) he is singing to God’s glory, and he probably means it a lot more passionately, and believes a lot more fervently, than the stiff-collared pillar of society mumbling through “Jerusalem” on Sunday morning.

In fact, the trouble is not so much that people think rock music is wrong, as that so many adults are terrified of what teenagers are going to do to themselves and society. They have good reason: teenagers have acted irresponsibly, criminally, carelessly, and heartlessly. Our generation is dying young and suffers from depression, eating disorders, and other mental issues like never before. Teenagers are in trouble; in some cases, teenagers are trouble.

Yes, teens are young and inexperienced and get into trouble. But there are some of us still out there who are responsible, who believe, and who aren’t going to be stupid and end up in jail somewhere. There are those of us who, like me, were raised well and have loving parents and have dedicated their lives to God. But our number is diminishing, because some adults don’t trust us. And I address this not to all adults, because I know many adults who treat us right – not the way we want to be treated, maybe, but the way we need to be treated – with enough freedom and enough guidance. I address this to the small amount of people who choose to handle us like we’re on a short fuse and about to blow up and destroy ourselves. Thanks be to God, very few of the adults I know are like this, least of all my own parents; but there are some out there, and I beg them to listen.

Yes, we are still teenagers. We are young and we are alive, and we still celebrate it. Yes, we know they just want what’s best for us, but we have to spread our wings sometime. We’re not afraid of adrenalin and adventure the way so many older people are. A lot of us celebrate it by going out and getting drunk and driving fast just for the thrill of it, or being stupid and reckless and taking inordinate risks, which is one reason why so many people die so young. But don’t turn us all into rebels just because we’re a bit noisier and a bit livelier and a bit more fiery than the rest of you. Let us have our rock, if its lyrics are acceptable to our God; let us have our parties, if we all stay responsible; let us try new things and gallop on young horses and ride rollercoasters, if the risk is not irresponsibly high; let us dance late into the night with the flashing lights and the loud music and the laughter, if we remain pure and free from sin. It is possible. We are young and we are alive. We have no right to inflict our noise and our liveliness on you if you don’t want it, but when we’re out of your way, not harming anyone, and staying out of trouble, don’t stop us from being young and alive. You were young too, once.

Yes, there are responsible teenagers out there. We can have fun without causing danger or trouble or sin. So guide us, discipline us when we need it, set limits, and be our leaders by example; but don’t stifle us, don’t try to crush the life out of us and turn us into grey stereotypes, cardboard cut-outs of society’s expectations. We are already a group of square pegs in a world of round holes, treated like children and expected to act like adults; we are already studying hard, working hard, struggling to break into the adult world of forms and licences and signatures. So let us escape, responsibly, into our loud music and our parties. Trust us just a little, and we will honour you.

God wants people to be alive and afire, not stumble colourlessly through life. Let us dance as the night grows older, knowing that our own youth will only last a moment. Let us celebrate being young and alive. We know about all the rebels out there, about all the teens that get into trouble, and we’re not them. I speak for all the responsible teenagers out there who want to breathe. Who want to be trusted.

We sing a new song to the God we love just as much as you do. “Sing unto Him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise” (Psalm 33:3). We will sing “Amazing Grace” with you on Sunday morning; we will kneel in our closets in silence and praise Him with our prayer every day of the week; but let us be free to praise Him in our own way. We are on fire, and ours is a generation of lively believers.

We know what’s right and wrong and we’re trying to do what’s right. We might not be doing it the way you would, and we might still be on a learning curve, but we’re on fire for our God and we want to get out there and grab life with both hands.

Please don’t try to stop us.

We Should Burn

If we’re not going to burn in Hell, we should burn for Heaven.

I have written before of the extreme wit and occasional quirky wisdom of a favourite author, Sir Terry Pratchett. A literary genius, even his funniest, silliest book held a depth of wisdom to it that leaves me wishing he had been a Christian instead of a champion for atheism, because he could have turned the world on its head with that mind. But even with his atheistic viewpoint, Sir Terry’s novels have a way of making me see myself – see Christians – through an unbeliever’s eyes. It’s an excerpt from one of Discworld novels, Carpe Jugulum, that has me thinking today.

I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of what the passage says is that if there really is a god who loves us like a father, then why don’t Christians burn with passion at that knowledge?

And you know what? They have a point.

“I would have had no problem following Christ,” Mahatma Ghandi said, “if it were not for Christ’s followers.” And it’s true. Those who labelled themselves Christians have put crosses on their shields and ridden into battle to attempt to claim a city where Christ once lived, when they should have put crosses on their backs and walked into that city to preach to those whom Christ still loves. They have called themselves Christians and built concentration camps that killed millions. They have been cold, destructive, murderous, bloodthirsty. They have squabbled amongst themselves like petty children, pride and self-righteousness getting in the way of true doctrine, splitting up into warring factions like a country that won’t listen to its king.

They, however, are not our concern. They are dead and gone and there is nothing we can do about them; they have done their damage, and it is up to us to have the meekness, the patience, and above all the love that they have failed to give. Their judgment will come in the day that they stand before the Lord and say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” and He will reply, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:22-23).

fire

Fire (Photo credit: matthewvenn)

But there is one thing that the earlier Christians, who wrought so much harm, had that we don’t. A saving grace, if you like, that, if they truly believed that they were doing what they did for our God, could redeem them. Something that so many of us lack today.

Not love, not hope, not faith, but something far less mentioned, and yet still essential.

Fire.

“[God] sets me on fire,” said John Wesley. “The people come out to watch me burn.” And we should burn!

We know the truth! We know the answers to the big questions! We know there is a God Who loves us, a God Who is in control! Our God died and lives again for us! Our God gave His only begotten Son for us! Our God gave Himself for us! There is a Heaven! And we can all go there, we can all live forever in peace and joy!

Our God is unimaginably powerful, inexpressibly great, indescribably loving, and incomprehensibly forgiving. He loves us, He forgives us, He knows us. He is bigger than the world, He made us and He cares for us. He is building Heaven for us and we will always be safe there. He created Adam knowing that mankind would fall from grace and that He would have to give up Jesus, would have to give up Himself, would have to endure all that terrible pain, to save us. And He did it anyway! He knew from the start what He would have to go through to save our sorry, ungrateful, undeserving skins, and He made us and gave us a free will anyway! Because He loves us! Because, above and beyond all, unlike any other god ever worshipped, our God is real!

We should burn!

We should burn with this knowledge! It should eat us up from the inside, it should take our breath away! We need to laugh more, we need to cry more. We need to sing, we need to dance, we need to scream. We need to do more than just exist, than just stagger zombie-like through this grey world with no more spark in our eye or spring in our step than any miserable sinner on the road to Hell. We need to burn!

We need to have passion, we need to have fire. We need to stop just doing and start striving. We need not be loud. We need not be proud. We need not be exuberant. But when someone looks us in the eyes, there should be something in there, a conviction, a faith… a flame. We must be the city on the hill that cannot be hid, the light that burns before all men. A beacon of flame for our God. He is inside us, and He wants to light us up like a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. He wants to give us that shining light to guide our fellow men.

We should burn!

Oh, we don’t all have to be loud. Some of us will burn like wildfires, like volcanoes; the preacher standing on the pulpit calling out his message to a thousand listeners will blaze like a firestorm. The old lady on her knees in prayer in a nursing home, the prayer warrior, unnoticed, unassuming will smoulder low, like coals. The small child singing “Jesus loves me” will flicker like a candle flame. The reformers will rip through the world like a forest fire. The loving mother with the words of God on her tongue will crackle with the reassuring heat of a hearth fire. Others will be sparks or stars that nobody knows about, except Jesus, the only One Who really counts.

But whichever way we burn, we should burn!

Whatever we do, we should do it passionately. If we preach we should preach as though we hold a flaming sword in hand. If we sing we should sing as though we have a full choir of angels singing with us. If we fight evil we should fight it as though a regiment of chariots of fire backs us up. If we pray we should pray as though Jesus is sitting across from us, listening. Why? Because we do hold that flaming sword, we do have that choir of angels, we do have that regiment of chariots, we do have that attentive Listener right beside us.

There is nothing wrong with resting. Even the brightest fire will at times burn low, and we are commanded to take a day’s rest out of every seven. But we should still burn.

We are the children of the Most High God! We are the light of this world, the salt of this earth!

Gas Flame

Gas Flame (Photo credit: tristrambrelstaff)

And we should burn! We should be all ablaze with love, we should be ardent with faith, we should be aflame with the hope that our God has given us! Because fire is bright, fire is respected, fire gives life and light, and most of all, fire spreads.

Even if all we can do is be a small candle flame in a dark night, we can burn. We can make a difference to one life at a time. In our own ways, big and small, all over the world we can change this unhappy universe and turn the everlasting souls of mankind towards the glorious light of Heaven and not the ruthless darkness of Hell.

We should not relent. We should rally our warriors and go to battle. Only God knows when Jesus is coming, but we know He is coming, and whether He comes tomorrow or in a thousand years there are souls slipping away from us every day.

And even if we don’t burn to save souls, we should burn for our God just because He saved us. We should burn with this knowledge not for anyone else but Him. We should quest after His people to save them not because we want to be right but because we love Him and we love them. We should burn! When there is evil in this world it should smite us like a knife in the chest, like a kick in the guts! We should care!

We should burn! We need to be alive, to be sensitive, to be passionate, to listen, to love, to laugh, to cry! We can’t keep on going through the motions, robotic, passive, desensitised to all the dreadful things and dark sins this world holds. We are special!

We should care.

We should burn.

English: Two candles in love. The flame is inv...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I Thank God

A lot has changed since I was last blogging regularly.

As some of you may know, in February this year, shortly after my sixteenth birthday, I was diagnosed with mild depression. The doctor called it mild, and in relation to most cases of depression, it was. I was on antidepressants, then tranquilisers, for five or six months before quitting the medications and being fine with it. I was never driven to the point of self-harm more serious than my chronic nailbiting, or to suicidal tendencies.

But in the depths of that depression, it didn’t feel mild.

It was as if all ability to experience pleasant or positive emotions had been shut off. Imagine a world without love, joy, excitement, exhilaration, happiness, comfort, or humour. A world where nothing is beautiful, nothing is funny, nothing is cute, nothing is exciting. The most positive thing there is a kind of determination akin to desperation, a frantic, almost hysterical determination to hold onto what you believe in. Or used to believe in, because when it’s hard to believe that tomorrow will even come, it’s hard to believe that there’s a God out there.

For a short time, that was my world.

It didn’t last long. Thank God. I mean literally, thank God. It was the first true trial of my faith, and it was the first time I saw the appeal in atheism. But thank God, I didn’t go that way. By my fingernails, by the skin of my teeth I held onto my faith and Jesus never for one instant let me go. They say that sometimes God calms the storm and sometimes He allows the storm to rage and calms His child, and that was what He did for me.

How long was it really? A few weeks? A few months? Barely long enough to be classified depression, but long enough to leave a lasting impact on me, long enough to feel like decades. I won’t lie to you, some of the effects weren’t good. But I would not take back that experience even if I could. Because of my depression, I am a stronger person, better, deeper. I am more able to listen, understand, love and forgive, because I’ve been there. I’ve been in the place where all you can think about is yourself and you don’t even know you’re hurting everyone else because you can’t even think about them.

I thank God for my depression.

I thank Him, also, for healing me of it. It was by Him and through Him that I was healed. His Hand was in everything; most pointedly in the way He healed me directly, spiritually, baptising me in the Holy Ghost and pouring His blessings out onto me, opening my eyes to Scriptures and showing me again the evidence of His existence in the glory of His creation until once more I understood and had faith. But He was also there in the medication that healed me physically, and in the people that healed me emotionally. And are still healing me.

Emotions take the longest to heal. Emotions can destroy you. But emotions make everything worth it. Don’t get me wrong, I still have black days and times of absolute panic, dissolving into empty, aching hopelessness. The great fog has lifted, but there are still clouds in the sky. But for every sadness, there are a multitude of joys to outmatch it.

My parents were undoubtedly the people most responsible for the start of my recovery; their patience, understanding and willingness to stand back and allow me to sort myself out, whilst at the same time always being there to support me, was virtually superhuman – and still is. But there is someone else, too. It was in the very depths of that depression that God sent someone into my life who would make everything make sense, who would make it all worth it, who would make me understand why I had to go through that fight and just how much the fight had improved me, and who would ultimately be the one to drag me out of the hole I had dug for myself, whether I liked it or not.

This blog post is a goodbye to loneliness. For most of my adolescent life, I was extremely lonely. Not alone; never alone, for my God was always with me. But even Adam, who walked with God and saw Him face to face, was in need of Eve. We all need someone special to be our soulmate. And at the bottom of it all the loneliness was a major underlying part of the depression; it was something that manifested itself in the depression in my panic at being alone and my desperate desire to be with people.

But being with people is simply not enough. There has to be that one person who understands you and whom you understand, someone you know so well that you only have to close your eyes to hear their voice encouraging you on.

And God sent me that person.

It wasn’t always easy. Love isn’t easy. Jesus never said it would be easy. But it is always worth it. Even in this short space of time, God has used this person to teach me so much about forgiveness, unconditional love, patience, kindness, trust, justice, humility. That I’m not always right, nor am I always wrong.

I’ve heard of relationships drawing people away from God. This one pulls me closer to Him, banishes fears, teaches me more about trust and hope and faith and most of all love. I have learnt to speak to Him and how to listen; I have learnt how to forgive and, even harder, how to be forgiven; I have learnt the power of unconditional love.

I have learnt the meaning of the Scripture “Perfect love casteth out fear”. In my depression, my greatest fear was the fear of death. But I’ve learned that you can’t be afraid to die when someone else’s life means so much more to you than your own.

I have learnt that I am worth it after all. I have learnt that we are all flawed, but that’s okay. I have learnt how to be okay with myself. I have learnt what love is. I understand my God better now, because He is love.

And I am not lonely anymore. Now there is always someone there, just a message or a call or, at the best of times, a touch away. No joke is too silly, no secret too close, no worry too deep or no dream too crazy to share. I have relearnt what it’s like to laugh until you almost wet your pants, smile until your cheeks ache and become so happy you cry your eyes out (baffling but true).

I have learnt why people have two hands.

God has always held me, led me by my right hand. But that still left one hand empty.

It’s not empty anymore.

I have thanked God for my depression, but that is behind me now. Now, every day, I thank God for my boyfriend. Every single day. He’s one pretty amazing person.

He rides, too! :D

Of course he rides!

You Are Loved

There is no feeling so precious to me in the entire world. Nothing can raise my shameful head, lift my sinking heart, or quench my thirsting and weary soul better than this feeling.

Having this feeling and knowing this truth leaves me walking on sunshine and climbing rainbows. Not only do I reciprocate this feeling, not only can I say these three words back, but when someone else decides to give me this wonderful feeling, I feel empowered. I feel like I can change the world. I feel like I can be everything I have always wanted to be and so much more. I feel like I matter. I feel like I’m worth it.

I don’t feel broken and messed up, if only for a few seconds, after hearing those words.

This is one thing of which I am absolutely certain. An unending concept. A promise that always stands, to uplift, to uphold. And the concept is this: YOU ARE LOVED.

There is nothing so great, nothing so uplifting, nothing so reassuring, nothing so special to me as being told those three words, “I love you”. My world can crumble, my plans can fail; but when I know I am loved I am more than a conqueror.

Perfect love casts out fear; love lasts forever. We are given not a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of a sound mind. Love empowers, protects, forgives, forgets, has no regrets, and is unconditional.

When I know I am loved I will walk in the valley of the shadow of death. When I know I am loved I will fly with eagles and chase the horizon. When I know I am loved I will run on clifftops without fearing the precipice, for I am loved and will be caught should I fall.

When I know I am loved I’ll run on clouds and ride wild horses; when I know I am loved I’ll walk into the lion’s den. Love, the purest and kindest and truest and most perfect love, breaks my shackles and spreads my wings.

I am but a speck of dust on the face of a mighty universe, but when I know I am loved I am an unafraid speck of dust and perhaps even an important one.

I tend to forget that I am loved, but I am. Loved by my amazing family, who tell me every day and still don’t quite know how much I appreciate and am amazed by their unconditional love. Loved by the devotion in my German shepherd’s eyes as she bounds up to me laughing in the silent way that dogs have of laughing. Loved by friends too wonderful to describe. You know who you are and how much it means to me.

And I am always loved.

He promised.

He promised His love for me with every letter of every one of the 783 137 words in the Bible. He promised His love for me with every promise of safety and peace in this world and the world to come. He promised His love for me, a love no angel or principality or power can separate me from, a love whose height and breadth and depth are so great as to be unknowable. He promised His love for me, a fearfully and wonderfully made person whom He created, whom He knows.

In fact, He didn’t just promise His love for me. He promised it to all of us. No matter who you are or where you come from. No matter how deep the darkness inside you is. No matter how deep your wounds. No matter how bruised, battered, bludgeoned and bloodstained you may be. No matter how much you hate others, hate yourself, even hate Him. He knows you down to the deepest blackness of your heart, the brightest radiance of your spirit, and He promises this: YOU ARE LOVED.

He promises it not just with words. He promises this not just with miracles. He promises this with every drop of His innocent blood. He promises this with every stab of agony that wracked His beautiful Body as it hung on the cross. He promises this with every sobbing breath He took on that cross, every heartbeat tearing Him slowly apart. He promises that He has done the dying for you, He has saved you and most of all He promises that He loves you.

No matter what.

YOU ARE LOVED.

I could go further on how big He is and how wondrous it is that He loves me. I’d give you hints on how to serve Him and what pleases Him, and even how to love Him back. But this is the truth that can save the world, the truth I’d rearrange the stars into writing, the truth I’d blaze across the sky with a pen of fire if I could. YOU ARE LOVED. Whoever you are. Wherever you are. Whatever you’ve done. Whatever you’ve left undone. YOU ARE LOVED. This I promise; and yet not I, but the Holy Spirit in me.

Jesus loves you, and He says you’re worth loving. Don’t forget it.