I have had a very anxious feeling in my gut as of late. Nothing medical and nothing serious along those lines, just a little twisting telling me that there was something I should be doing. Every Wednesday and Sunday this feeling would appear, jumping in my stomach like a living sticky-note with one specific phrase: "Go forward and pray."
Now, I have no problem with being in front of people, and no problem praying (though I admit that in my personal life I don't pray half as much as I need to), so why was this happening to me? Well, I'm no pastor, but I feel like it was God's way of calling me to fully dedicate my life to Him. I'm a born again Christian, and I believe in Jesus Christ, but I was probably still holding onto my life like the imperfect human I am, missing that very important bit of faith to just let go. I wanted to still be in control of my life, even though I know full well that God is in control of everything and will care for me. It's not that I don't trust Him, I just wanted to make sure that this aspect of my life would still be okay in my sight and care.
I have a feeling that this is what I had to go forward and pray about on the altar. I had tried praying about it from my seat in the balcony, I had tried at home, but there was just something about praying on those steps that I felt like I had to do. Something just wasn't cutting it with where I was because I probably wasn't going as far as I needed to. I tried to talk myself out of doing it for some reason or the other, and I actually think that Satan was doing his best to keep me from going down there and simply praying. I won with making myself stay where I was, telling myself that I didn't need to do it, I could pray from anywhere (which I can, but that's not the point), that I was being silly in thinking this way. But the knot in my stomach stayed, and every time my pastor stood down there during the invitation, I felt a calling to just go down and pray. Officially. Not from my seat, not from my bed, but on my knees at the altar.
Now, I'm not saying that this has made me some magical human being with super spiritual powers. Not at all. In fact, I'm still horrible. But the point is...that feeling in my stomach is gone. When I went down and got on my knees before the Lord, my anxiety over dedicating my WHOLE life left. Now when my pastor gives the invitation to come forward, I don't sit and squirm in my seat like before. I am confident now that God knows I will do my best to always give every aspect of my life to Him. I will fail, and there will be times when I grab on to my life and hold on because I feel like I have to guard it 24/7 lest something bad happens, but I made an effort to go down and tell God myself that I am giving Him the reins entirely. Even if I reach up and try to take those guiding ropes back, I know better, and ultimately He is in charge. There is a weight off my shoulders, and something I had been telling myself was silly and too small to go down and pray about in front of the whole congregation has turned out to be something that sat on my shoulders like two boulders until I gave it to God.
I feel invigorated as of late, and the past two sermons preached at my church further built my confidence up. Yesterday morning my pastor preached about giving selflessly. Even though it was in a tithing context, he made sure to tell how it wasn't just about giving money to God, but giving your trust to God. He said that we tend to claim full trust in God, but when it comes to giving God our money, especially when we don't have a lot of it, our trust runs off somewhere and we cling to it, telling God that we really need this right now and can't give it away. There is food to buy! Bills to be paid! But why should we not trust the same God who gave us that money in the first place to not take care of us after we give that money back to Him? Very interesting and encouraging for me that morning.
Then the evening sermon really built me up. Our pastor preached from Psalm 51, and I connect with this passage so much right now. Several verses stuck with me, and I will keep them with me from now on so that when I start to feel the way I had been feeling before again, I can just read these and remember how I am feeling now.
"Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice" (Psalm 51:8).
Sin takes away all joy in life. It may bring momentary pleasure, but happiness and true joy is lost as a result. So David is asking for his joy back by confessing his sins to the Lord. Then the last part of the verse is yet again asking for joy, but for joy after God's loving discipline. Sometimes we have to be smacked before we realize our error, and when we repent and come back to God, He gives us a reason to be joyful again...even when the smack hurt. I always want to feel joy. I know I will end up being smacked in my life, but I always want to have the joy of the Lord in me.
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant ,e a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you" (Psalm 51:10-13).
These verses are ones I always want to remember. I want to be brought back to God and do His work with joy in my heart and soul. And more importantly, I want to help others achieve the same joy! I am going to be printing this up and hanging it on my wall as a constant reminder of God's love for me, even though I strayed and did not put my full trust in Him like I should have. These verses are so encouraging and inspiring for me, and I'm praying to have a humbled, joyful, teaching heart such as this.
Wishing you all a great Monday, and a Happy St. Patty's Day! ♥
(P.S. The peach tree is blooming!)