My Jesus Does Stuff

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Last month my family and I ventured to Europe, to see the sites of Rome, and Florence, and Greece, and some others. It was tremendously fun, very educational, and extremely hot.

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But one day, after my husband had I had toured the Renaissance art gallery in Florence (the Uffizi), I was struck by a rather melancholy feeling.

I couldn’t really put my finger on it until the next day, when we visited another church and looked at all the breathtaking artwork. In Italy, I never saw Jesus do anything.

Jesus was everywhere–though perhaps Mary was in slightly more paintings. But everywhere that Jesus was, He wasn’t doing anything. He was either a baby, or else He was dead. Now, I’m not trying to say that dying on the cross wasn’t important, but more often than not He wasn’t even depicted on the cross; He was off the cross, with his bleeding head cradled in some women’s arms. So he’s a baby, or He’s weak, helpless, and dead.

I found the artwork beautiful, and the cathedrals stunning, but I can’t say that I had very many profoundly religious experiences, because I didn’t really sense the Jesus that I know. Rarely did I see Jesus feeding the five thousand, or talking to the woman caught in adultery or the woman at the well, or pulling little children to His lap, or making a whip out of cords, or even rising from the dead! No pictures of empty tombs here.

In the Sistine Chapel there were some paintings of other scenes from Jesus’ life, but in all, His death and his baby-hood took the pre-eminence, as if there was nothing between and nothing afterwards. And I thought to myself, that’s a very hard Jesus to relate to. You know that He suffers, and you know that He was human, but that’s really it. You can’t get a sense of His personality, or His very real-ness. He seems almost impotent.

In contrast, the saints were always doing stuff–slaying dragons, or writing letters, or debating. The apostles were, too. Even the women in Jesus’ life seemed to take the initiative and do something. But not Jesus.

But then I started to wonder: in all my criticizing of this art, do I honestly believe that Jesus does stuff? Or am I just comfortable with the Jesus that I know from Bible stories, too? Do I think that Jesus’ whole life can be depicted in paintings, and that it somehow ended 2000 years ago? I’m not talking about whether or not I believe that Jesus is alive now–I do, and I think most reading this blog do as well–I’m talking about whether or not we believe and we act as if we believe that Jesus is still active now. There’s a whole lot of difference between being alive and being active.

Do we really believe that God does stuff, even today? Do we really believe that He can make a difference in our lives, or are we trying to follow a God who we know about through the Bible, but that’s really as far as it goes. We haven’t experienced Him. That was the overwhelming feeling I got in those cathedrals: they knew about Jesus, but I didn’t see Jesus being an active part of anyone’s life.

We’re in the middle of Revive Your Marriage month, where I’m joining three other bloggy friends to talk about how to make your marriage stronger. And this week we’re talking about prayer.

So let me ask you: do you really believe that prayer can work to change a heart? Do you really believe that Jesus can do miracles in your life, and in your husband’s life, and in your children’s lives?

We’ve had some hard posts lately on this blog, and I was quite moved by many of the stories in this post about how submission doesn’t mean you put up with abuse. So many women testified about how God did provide, and God did show up, and God did rescue them and show them that He is real. I love those stories!

But how do we experience that in our own lives–especially if our situations aren’t as dire? I know that I have felt God the most in my life during the very tough times, and with today being the sixteenth anniversary of my son’s death, I’m taken back to how much I did feel God carrying me. But what about the times that aren’t as tough, but are still difficult? Just the day to day of life, living with someone that you don’t always see eye to eye with. Living a life that didn’t turn out as you hoped? There’s nothing earth-shatteringly wrong, it just doesn’t feel as right as you were expecting. Can you feel God then?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some thoughts. I’ll share them, and then please chime in in the comments and tell us how you’ve worked this through in your own life!

1. It Starts by Recognizing Who is God and Who Is Not

That may sound strange, but I think it’s very hard to feel and experience God when we approach Him feeling as if we know how life should be. When we set the agenda–God, you need to do this! If you would just do X, Y and Z everything would be so much better!–we’re not being humble before God. We’re saying we know best.

If you’re going to feel God, you have to approach Him saying, “I really don’t know how things should go. I want you to take control. I want to give you control, even if that’s scary.”

2. Then, Pray God’s Will

And that’s not a cop out, either. I get kind of tired of prayers that go, “Lord, if it is your will, let X, Y and Z happen, because that just seems obvious to me.” We throw in the “if it is your will” so that if it doesn’t happen, we can say, “well, it’s not my fault. It’s not that I didn’t pray enough. It’s God’s will.”

Yes, but we’re still focused on what we think God should do. I think a better prayer isn’t so much about specific actions God should take as it is about the qualities that we want to see in people afterwards. So rather than pray, “God, teach my husband how to show me love by helping him to see that I need him to talk to me at night, and not sit in front of the TV all the time,” you can pray, “God, make my husband into a man who seeks you first, and then shows your love to others. Let him experience your love in a powerful way, and let that spill over into all aspects of his life.”

In other words, you’re not focused on what you want your husband to do; you’re focused on praying what you know IS God’s will for your husband’s life: that he become more Christ-like. I think that when we focus our prayers for ourselves and for others onto seeing Christ’s characters flow out, those prayers will be more powerful. And they change our hearts, too.

3. Keep Your Focus on Him

Finally, remember that God is enough. When we make God enough, and find our worth and peace in Him, and not in our kids and our husbands, we’re actually freed up to enjoy our families far more than when we’re always finding they fall short. Focus first and foremost on God, rather than on what God can do for you, and you’ll find that you experience Him much more powerfully.

That’s what I’ve come up with, but I don’t know if those are necessarily satisfactory answers for everyone. What do you do when you just need to feel God, and you don’t? When you really do need a certain outcome? How do you cope in prayer? Let’s talk honestly about it in the comments, and help each other!

Comments

  1. Love it! I just heard a sermon from Andy Stanley (#1 in his “Red letter prayers” series) studying the Lord’s Prayer, and right after acknowledging and worshipping God, we need to camp out on the “Your will be done” line… Think about what that looks like in the lives of our husbands and ourselves, and our marriage, I think you hit the ail right on the head (as usual lol), Sheila!
    Thanks again for your great site!
    Auntie Em recently posted…Revive your Marriage- Pray for your HusbandMy Profile

  2. I have seen God change my heart towards my husband through prayer, and I love your words on this. I have had marriage struggles similar to many of the women who post on this site, and really battled anger. With help from a therapist, but mostly through prayer, pleading for my love to increase, for charity (that pure love of Christ), and doing more things that show I love him (even when I didn’t feel it) my heart is changing. His behaviors have changed very much, but because I am more focused on my relationship with God and Christ, our relationship has definitely improved. The notion that God is enough is fairly new to me, and I find it strengthening me tremendously. Thank you for this blog–you have helped greatly!

    • I meant my husband’s behaviors have NOT changed very much . . . but things still feel better between us, and continue to improve.

  3. I love this post! I’ve known Jesus since I was a child. As a child, it was easy to see Jesus as alive & real & active. For some reason, as I grew up, I lost that. Only in the last decade of life have I really dug into His Word & started really seeing Him as alive & active. I took the steps you mentioned. My newest step has been gratitude. As I start to see everything, even the bad things, as something to be grateful for, God seems more & more real. I like the Newsboys’ song “God’s Not Dead!” It really speaks to what we see in the world. The world sees Jesus as just another dead, impotent leader & don’t see He’s alive, working & changing lives!

    Jesus worked in me & changed me from a depressed, shy, insecure, self-obsessed girl to a confident, joyful woman who puts God first, then my Hubby, kids & others! He changed my attitude. He worked wonders in my marriage! Jesus is real! Jesus is active!
    Joyfulmomlea recently posted…Gratefulness!My Profile

  4. Thank you for this post. I think God inspired you to write this just for me! I had to chuckle at how you said we should not tell God how we want him to fix our husbands. When I first started a prayer list, I dutifully put my husband first on the list and wrote “I pray he will be the man God wants him to be and show me how to help”. I realized that it was not my place to “help God change my husband” and have since crossed it out.

  5. Amazing. That’s all I can say: amazing. I had planned to send you an email today Sheila in hopes that you might be able to point to some advice on your blog on the best way for me to handle something my dear hubby did (again) that left me feeling wounded. And here, just five minutes before I have to leave to pick him up from work–and be unable to avoid talking about the incident–I read today’s thoughts from you and find my answer. God is SO amazing.

    You said:

    and the attitude I had been seeking all day just fell into place. Thank you for being His instrument, His mouthpiece. God Bless!

    • Oop, the part of your entry I was quoting didn’t show up. I was referrign to the first paragraph on “Keep Your Focus on Him”

      Finally, remember that God is enough. When we make God enough, and find our worth and peace in Him, and not in our kids and our husbands, we’re actually freed up to enjoy our families far more than when we’re always finding they fall short. Focus first and foremost on God, rather than on what God can do for you, and you’ll find that you experience Him much more powerfully.

    • Thanks so much for sharing that, Laura! Your words are a real encouragement to me, too!

  6. I love this post. I remember going to a Jesus movie when we were teenagers and my friend sitting next to me said triumphantly while Jesus was acting like a real person “Now THAT’S my kind of Jesus!”

    I’ve never forgotten that. But I do forget how powerful and active and living and involved in my life Jesus is sometimes. Thanks for the reminder that He is. And thanks for directing us to pray for more of Him in ours and our loved ones lives.

  7. I know with all my heart that my Redeemer lives. The Lord loves each of his children so much and I know that he is active in all our lives- if we just open our eyes to realize his hand is stretched out to us. When I want to feel close to the Lord I read the scriptures and pray. But I also find that I feel closer to Him when I am serving others. I also make an effort to spend time away from all the distractions- the internet, TV, radio, text messages- all the things that can easily take away the precious time in our day. I find that when I take the time and effort to remove those distractions, I am able to feel the Sprirt so much eaiser and I feel so much closer to our Father in Heaven. I can see the Lord’s hand in my life everyday, but I feel so much closer to Him and can get answers to my prayers much easier when I take the time to listen and make the effort to do those things that are right and will bring me closer to Him. I feel like that’s such a simple truth, and yet why is it that I forget that sometimes? :)

  8. Sheila, this caught my eye on FB today because today we celebrate our son’s 16th birthday. I’m so sorry for your loss and so moved by your words and your ministry. May God touch your heart today as you remember. Hugs to you.
    Mel @ Trailing After God recently posted…When Your Answer Isn’t GentleMy Profile

  9. I think there is SUCH power in handing your situation over to God. He truly is capable! I felt Him change my marriage in a huge way when I started looking to Him, and into my own heart. As a natural born “control freak” I tend to hand God the agenda and say “Here you go, get to work please!” But once I started throwing myself at His feet and giving Him every aspect of every situation, He took over! Our marriage did not just become magically passionate, and our finances did not drastically improve. Our day to day grind still exists. BUT because of the heart change He has done, you’d think everything was different. Our house is now a happy home. Plus, it is SO much easier to follow Him, than try to control something I never had control over to begin with. One of the best things about God is that He can still work in subtle ways to make BIG changes. This is a great post, thank you for it!

  10. I definitely believe in the power of prayer. There have been several instances lately where my husband and I could not come to an agreement on some things. I prayed that God would change one of our hearts, even if it was mine that needed to be changed. In some cases he changed mine, in others, he changed my husbands. I truly believe we never would have gotten past these different opinions if God had not intervened. I like your example on how to pray for the qualities we want to see and not specifically just for what we want.

  11. @somerskys says:

    this post is great!! yes for sure myJESUS!! does STUFF big stuff like because of MARK 11;23 in the bible that HE JESUS told us to pray when there is something bad like dealth or sickness or finacial bad stuff showing up JESUS SAID TO PRAY THIS AND I WILL HELP THIS SITUATION TO CHANGE!!!!!! FOR THE BETTER!! and in my life it does change for the better if i pray this prayer promise THAT I CAN HAVE WHATSOEVER I SAY!! YES MY JESUS DOES STUFF!!!!!!!!! great post Sheila

  12. “Coming boldly to the throne of grace”, “ye have not because ye ask not”, and “thy will be done” have always been difficult aspects of prayer to combine. Does God wants to give us specific things but He’s just waiting to hear from me to ask like those that asked for healing or like the widow who asked with importunity? If God knows I need it or want it, should I really ask Him? I don’t want to “try to change God’s mind after all since He truly knows best.
    I’m still growing (and needs lots more work) in prayer but I’ve learned prayer for me is…
    1. Having a heart to heart conversation with God not a “God do this” list.
    2. Surrendering my will and letting Him know how much I trust Him.
    3. Praying for others needs that changes me and my attitude toward them.
    4. Telling God I’m sorry and asking Him to help me fix that area of my life.
    5. Listening to the Holy Spirit AS I PRAY to tell me what I need to ask for or tell God.
    6. My prayer life and ultimately everything I do is about drawing close to Hi
    So that He can shine through me and give glory right back to Him.

    Hope those points make sense and are a help to someone.

  13. It is totally amazing to see God do stuff! Harder to see though when life is going good. Not because He is not doing stuff but because we are so involved in our lives that we forget to look! I was having difficulty with putting God first financially (buying a house and getting married and having only a casual job was taking its toll) but the 1st Sunday of the month came along and my fiance encouraged me to write my cheque, and I did. Went to bed that night and prayed that God would indeed bless that gift and also let Him know that I was “testing Him” Malachi 3:10 style and I kid you not, the next day I got a call that I got another part time job, and got called in for another shift! And yesterday I just found out that we had an extra $3000 to spare that we didn’t know about! God is good all the time and He does do stuff!! Keep looking for Him!!

  14. One of the most important things I have learned about God and prayer is that by demanding that he does it a certain way does two things. 1.) It sets us up for disappointment and unanswered prayers (or prayers answered differently than WE want it to happen)and 2.) it puts God in a box. What if He desires to answer our prayers BETTER than we can imagine? What if our finite brains can’t comprehend the way he is carefully ordering the things that happen in our life? He has a PERFECT plan for our lives and not only will it be wonderful for us, it will bring Him glory! The only thing that has helped me come around this principle and really believe it has been studying the Old Testament. There are so many promises made by God to us through his Word. Many of the Old Testament stories also bear the truths of these promises out. The OT also speaks of our identity in the Lord and in Christ. I think that knowing our IDENTITY and believing in God’s PROMISES really are key, specifically when dealing with difficult circumstances and trusting God to remedy those circumstances. My favorite verses about our identity are Deuteronomy 7:6 and 14:2 in conjunction with 1 Peter 2:9-12. Reading those verses together really made my identity in Christ come alive! Isaiah 43: 15-19 is one of my favorite promises from God along with Jeremiah 29:11. I think it is also important to note that most of God’s promises do not come without struggle and even opposition. By reading accounts of the Israelites their journey to the Promised Land, I think we are shown a clear example of how we may have to struggle first before the Lord answers our prayers. However, they DID inherit the Promised Land. The Lord was faithful to his promise and it did come to fruition. He is faithful. If we can cling to and believe in his faithfulness – we can conquer any obstacle, any problem, any struggle that we find ourselves in.

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