Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Bitter and Sweet Love Affair

A common hashtag these days is #relationshipgoals. I'm sure you have seen it on plenty of posts unless you live under a social media rock (not a bad thing). The thing is, a lot of the qualities being attributed to as "goals" aren't always qualities we should aim for nor are the relationships being painted as picture-perfect all that they are cracked up to be. It makes me think a lot about what I should be pursuing in my own personal friendships & relationships, my marriage, and most importantly, in my relationship with Christ. And...I've come to the conclusion that I want nothing less than a bitter and sweet love affair...


I never understood until I was around 20 years old what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I grew up in church, but it just wasn't something I was taught. It was in a Bible study led by one of my mentors that this concept really started to come to life for me. I was mesmerized. I had never known that Jesus desired to have a personal relationship with me. ME. The me who was in a pretty rough place in life and made a lot of questionable decisions at the time. I was a college girl going through a pretty serious identity crisis. I didn't know my worth or even who I really was for that matter. It was through this study that I laid my life down at the foot of the cross and started pursuing Jesus & finding my identity in Him.

In the years since, I certainly have not always nailed this concept perfectly...but I have always been aware of it. And even in the times I failed miserably, He was actively calling me back to my first love...and always welcoming me back with open arms.

Where does this leave me now? I have experienced enough in the last 6 or 7 years of my life to know that life with Jesus always beats life without Him. I tried to run from Him more than enough times, but hindsight is 20/20 and I now know much better.

So what about this love affair?

I don't think it will be enough to one day stand before the Lord and say, "But God...I went to church every time the doors opened...but God...I opened my Bible sometimes...but God...I even prayed when I needed You...but God..."

See I just honestly don't think our excuses will be enough. I think we will have to answer for more substantial things...like how many people will be in Heaven because of us...or how many strangers we opened up our homes to...or how many meals we fed hungry people...or how many people's stories we invested in...or what ways we climbed down the ladder to help others instead of up it to help ourselves.

When we come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, we have a message to share with others. Our lives and influence must bear fruits that align with the Word (see Matthew 7:15-20). And quite honestly, I don't want to play it safe anymore.

I think that if I am going to fulfill the calling laid upon my life then I have no option but for my relationship with Jesus to be a bitter and sweet love affair.

Bitter?

Yes, bitter. Nothing about following Jesus is comfortable...and if it is for you then I'm not so sure we know the same Jesus. Paul teaches us that all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Even Jesus teaches us that we will be persecuted just as He was (John 15:20). Jesus calls us outside of our comfort zones which is a very bitter thing...but that's the only way we can ever really grow.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10


A lot of my story has been so unbelievably bitter that I could hardly stand it at times. Honestly. I have had my fair share of pain and suffering. On the very worst day of my life, I experienced something fairly traumatic...but through the experience, I became closer to Jesus than I ever had before. You can read more about that part of my story here. Once I was delivered from it, I was able to look back and say, "but look what the Lord has done..."

And that makes the bitterness worth it.

We aren't promised a easy, happy, or prosperous life here on this side of eternity...until the new earth, we will always experience brokenness in our fallen world. And because of that, we are always going to have some bitter parts of our stories. But anything that catapults us deeper in our Father's heart must be welcomed at face value.

I have said before that I often pray for Jesus to be the driving desire of my life. And with this, I know I am going to be stretched. It's going to be tough and messy. And sometimes it will flat out suck (just keeping it real). There is always temptation to just want to play it safe and comfortable, but I suppose we will be able to do that when eternity gets here...and I'm preaching to myself here as well.

Life with Jesus is bitter because it stretches me and grows me and challenges me and pushes me beyond the safety nets and walls that I try to construct for myself.

It's changing how I live my life. I have to manage better how I spend my time and what I do with my free time which is scarce at best. I have to carefully discern who I'm supposed to invest in and help mentor (or humbly attempt to anyway). I have to be more intentional about starting every day in the Word...and not on social media or with Lorelai and Rory Gilmore (my current guilty pleasure). It's not easy.

So often I just want to take it easy. What happened to the American dream? Can't I just focus on building a dream home and raising 2.5 children and climbing the corporate ladder? I could, but then I wouldn't be living out my calling and I would miss out on some of the greatest opportunities that the Lord has in store for me.

Sweet?

While I do believe that for my relationship with Christ to reach its potential, it does have to be bitter...please friend, don't miss this forest for the trees. It is oh so SWEET!

The absolute greatest blessing of my entire life has been and continues to be my adventure with Jesus. He pursues me and loves me beyond what I could ever possibly imagine...and the same goes for you too.

My story would be very dark if it wasn't for Jesus. But I am more than a conqueror through him who loves me (see Romans 8:37). He calls me to Him. He is always there for me...and He simply makes my life sweet...despite the bitter. :)

It's an incredible honor to be a part of this great love affair with Jesus. He changed my life for the absolute best. And I found that life starting making way more sense for me when I fell madly in love with Him.

So my challenge to you is to pursue this relationship...because it really is the foundation of everything else. How you nurture your relationship with Christ has a profound effect on all your other friendships and relationships. I have even found that how much I am pouring into my relationship with Christ directly impacts my marriage and my home. When my relationship with Christ goes through a dry spell (no one's fault but mine), these other areas of my life suffer immensely.

Practically speaking, a lot of the issue is time management. Try making Jesus the first part of your day instead of the last that you squeeze in as you're falling asleep. Get in the Word daily (this one is KEY)! Live your life in worship...go throughout your day with Jesus as your purpose, not just an afterthought. Find a Bible study to work through either alone or with a small group. There's so many apps out there that are faith-based and have some really in-depth resources. Invite people that you wouldn't normally into your home. Invest in others in ways you never have. Share the gospel because it's absolutely the greatest story ever told.

These are just some practical ideas...but trust Jesus to show you how to work this out in your own life. Get down to the nitty-gritty with Him and honestly just be yourself. I think you will really be surprised by what's in store.

Relationship with Jesus is so, so much more than religion and church attendance. A deep, intimate relationship with Jesus should be our #relationshipgoals. It's wild and crazy and messy and hard and fun and beautiful so much more.  

And it's the most bitter and sweetest thing I've ever known.


One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet. Proverbs 27:7

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