You No Longer Need to Fear God

In the earliest days of my faith, my view of God was stoked by fear. He was a stern and demanding judge, offended by humanity’s failures, and only the death of Jesus made it tolerable for him to be with us. Fear was also a primary tool my parents used to motivate our behavior. I don’t blame them for that; they didn’t know better. Their religion was steeped in it, so it became their best tool to motivate a disobedient child. Like the threat of hell, they had to find punishments more terrifying than the pleasure we found in doing things our way.

I regret using more of that on my children than I would today. Discovering how tender and loving Father is over the last three decades has changed so much more in my life than fear ever could. While fear is a powerful tool to change behavior in the short term, it does not endear people to the one threatening them. The invitation to know God is not the fear of the consequences of not doing so, but because his nature is so endearing and his desires for us so engaging. That’s why his “perfect love casts out all fear… because the one who fears cannot be perfected in love.” (I John 4)

Learning that changed the entire trajectory of my spiritual journey. No longer tormented by my fear of him, I could find a relationship with him of love, rest, and play that transformed my heart in ways fear never could. Even under the law, fear was only a temporary tool until Christ would come and turn the world upside down with a love that would transform us:

Jesus knew that fear, like a crutch for someone with a broken leg, is only a temporary fix. Though it can be a heady motivation in the short-term, it is absolutely worthless for the long haul. As such it doesn’t really change us; it only controls us as long as our fear can be stoked. That’s why sermons on God’s judgment are so common in Christianity. They confront us with our fears of God and seek to provoke us to live the way we know we should. The repentance that follows and the resolve to rededicate ourselves to Christ’s purpose makes us feel clean again.

Such experience actually helps us live better for a while—but only for a while. Eventually the passion of such moments fade sand the old self encroaches its way back into our lives. We end up caught in the same patterns from which we had repented. Soon the cycle repeats itself.

Fear cannot lead us to life-long transformation, but only a momentary reformation of behavior. Instead of inviting us to enter into relationship with the Living God, it pushes us away with feelings of inadequacy and repetitious failure.

Jesus had a far better way. He wanted to break the bondage of fear itself—even our fear of God. He knew of a force far more powerful—one that would not fade with the passing of time and would invite us into the depths of relationship with God. He would settle for nothing else. Why should we?

Excerpted from chapter nine of He Loves Me

If you’re having trouble finding freedom from fear in your relationship with God, join us for the next meeting of the He Loves Me Book Club that will take place next Saturday, December  9, at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time. You can find the link for this conversation on the Facebook Group Page, or if you are not a member of Facebook, you can write me for a link. These conversations are held and recorded on Zoom. We stream them live on my Facebook Author Page for those who don’t want to be in the Zoom discussion, and you’ll find our previous conversations there.

This week, we will discuss chapters eight and nine about finding our way into the mercy of God and no longer needing fear to help us find freedom. In fact, he offers freedom from our fear of him so that we can come to rest in the love of a gracious Father. That’s where everything good begins to reshape our life story.


And don’t forget, from now until the end of the year, we are offering a 15% discount on any order you place from Lifestream before the end of the year. Just enter “Lifestream2023” in the coupon window at check-out.

Consider giving some of these books to your friends and family for Christmas. A Man Like No Other, The Shack, He Loves Me, Live Loved, Free Full, and Authentic Relationships will bless almost anyone thinking about Jesus’s life. So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, Beyond Sundays, and Finding Church will encourage people disillusioned by organized religion and seeking alternatives. In Season will enable believers to cultivate a deeper place for Jesus to engage their hearts.

You can find all the books Wayne has contributed to here. And if you order in bulk, you can find even deeper discounts.

Grateful Even in Letting Go

For those of us in the States, today is Thanksgiving Day. Though its origin isn’t the cleanest story in our history, setting aside a day to remember God’s goodness despite human frailty is beautiful for all of us.

But how can you be grateful when your life is wrecked with pain or your year is full of loss?

Over the past few years, Sara and I have had significant changes in our lives, some quite painful. Almost everything about our lives has changed in the last two years—from moving homes to reordering our lives significantly to the loss of valuable family relationships to giving up writing for a while, and even the death of my dad and a few other significant men in my life. Last week, we even lost our beloved golden retriever, Abby, who had been a substantial part of our family for the past thirteen years.

Loss hurts, and changes forced upon us by circumstance or the actions of others can be so hard to bear. But that doesn’t mean they can’t lead to gratefulness. In our pain and grief, Sara and I hold the sorrow of our hearts in the presence of Jesus until the loss is swallowed up in his goodness and joy. That’s what grief is supposed to do: to replace the sting of loss with the sweet memories and gifts they instilled in us. That process can take months or even years, but if you hold it in him, his glory will appear.

A few days ago, a good friend, Dana Andreychen of Charlottesville, VA, sent me a poem called Autumn. She also wrote the poem Allowing My Past to Catch up with Me, which I shared here almost eighteen months ago. Not only was the poem timely for a story unfolding in our lives, but it also expresses what it means to love our childhood selves through the trauma they experienced.

Autumn was written out of deep grief and captures this pathway through loss to life so eloquently.


Summer makes its exit
like a treasured soul who
runs through my hands like water
which grasping cannot hold.
With tenderness, I release my grip
and watch it float upward
like a crimson leaf
on this morning’s current
toward a crisp blue sky,
then settle like Autumn
to a littered ground
of harvest color.
I lift it up, body and soul,
and treasure it beautiful,
palms open,
for what it is, for what it was,
for what it may become.
I press it between the pages
of a beloved book
relishing the stories I find there,
and put it on my shelf of favorites
whose lines I will quote from time to time.
Which has played
a part in my becoming.
At times I will reread the volume
of what has been written
in indelible ink,
while knowing that seasons change.
After musing for a while,
I close the book,
place the treasured tome
in its place of honor
and walk out into the unfolding of today…

I love the imagery here of trying to grasp what cannot be grasped and holding our loss lightly as you see how presence and loss are both part of the story God is writing in our hearts. Finally, we can honor the joy of what we lost, place it among our sweetest memories, and open our hearts to what this day might hold.

Not only is this true for the loss of valued relationships, but it is also true for loss brought on by bad fortune, betrayal, or treachery. The latter is far sweeter to process, of course, as you can be thankful for the gift those people were in your life. Nonetheless, even the brutal circumstances in our lives can write God’s story in our hearts in ways that will shape us for whatever else is to come.

Either way, letting Jesus resolve the pain in our hearts will shape us more to live with his grace in the world. In time, you will find yourself overwhelmingly grateful that he is greater than any circumstance that can befall us.

I hope you find your way to thanksgiving, even in moments of loss and disappointment. Learning how he does this will serve you well as your future unfolds.

The Gift of Tom Mohn

When people ask me what books most shaped my life and spiritual journey, I tell them it has never been books; it has always been people. While I’ve read many excellent books and been enlightened by many of them, what has most impacted my journey is the older brothers and sisters I’ve known who have illuminated the pathway before me and held my heart in my most discouraging times.

That’s the richest treasure of the community, his Church in the world. They weren’t “like-minded people,” or they wouldn’t have been able to add insight to my journey. When they crossed my path, I recognized a tenderness in their demeanor and a depth in their soul. Many of them were 15 or 20 years my senior, not people we would typically engage. And yet, I was drawn into a growing friendship with each of them. None of them talked down to me or positioned themselves as a teacher. They accepted me as a friend and allowed me to watch their lives as they struggled through the challenges of faith in a world of chaos.

At every critical moment in my journey, God provided at least one of them to walk with me through pain and hurt, helping me understand what God might be doing in my circumstances and how I might respond in a way that would draw me deeper into the Father’s purpose in my life. I am grateful for all they added to my life and the deep friendship I shared with each of them through significant stretches of my journey.

And now, it seems I’m here to mark their passing—men and women of whom the world was not worthy. I’ve already told you about Kevin Smith from Australia, Dave Coleman, who helped me write So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, and my father, Eugene Jacobsen. Last week, Tom Mohn, one of these dear friends from Tulsa, OK, joined Jesus in eternity. Over the past few days, I’ve reflected on what Tom meant to me and how encouraging he was to Father’s work in my heart. I met Tom later in life, but we connected almost instantly, and I remember fondly the many stories and insights we shared. You can read some of his reflections in his book, Good Morning Brother Pilgrim.

I can remember the details and laughter of so many conversations. We shared dreams, discouragements, and disagreements. Though I was with him less than a dozen times, each was rich with thoughts about God and how we engage him with growing trust and love.

He was our guest on one of the most impactful podcasts from our earliest days at The God Journey, called The Things God Uses. It is one of my all-time favorites and I have recalled his words often and shared them with others who are going through painful transitions. You can listen to it in the link above, but I want to share the high points here. He said God used four critical seasons to shape Tom’s life. Some are quite surprising, and I have also found them to be true in my journey.

  1. The first is a measure of fruitfulness that demonstrates to us that God is with us and can express himself through us in simple and mundane ways as we live alongside others. We all need that affirmation.
  2. The second is a massive dose of failure, not something we got a little wrong but a significant mistake that blew up in our faces. Most people hide such moments, but Tom spoke openly about his, for only then will we distrust our own wisdom and abilities enough that we can begin to trust God and look for his hand at work in us.
  3. The third is being part of a gargantuan heretical movement. He called it aversion therapy—to be so caught up in the arrogance of group-think that you think you have all the correct answers and everyone needs to kneel at your feet to learn the truth. When it gets exposed, you find out you were more in love with the movement than you were with God and loved the role of expert more than servant. Of course, when you realize it, you’ll want to repent and let him soften you rather than double down on your mistaken beliefs in our attempts to save face.
  4. The fourth is a devastating betrayal by a close, intimate friend, especially one you did not deserve. It can happen with a spouse, a business partner, a family member, or a ministry colleague. Only in the depth of pain that you can’t recover from alone will you discover the depth of fellowship in the sufferings of Jesus. It will mark you with a humility that will never put the lust for power over the life of anyone you care about.

Of course, we’ve all been through these experiences and others that shape us, but only if we respond to God in them. Most people grow arrogant in fruitfulness, angry in failure, defensive when proven wrong, and bitter in betrayal. That’s why I appreciate these people who have walked alongside me and pointed to a better road when sharing their own stories.

I’m convinced you have people like that around you, too, which is why I wrote this piece. You have to find them; they won’t knock on your door. But who around you knows the God you want to know and demonstrates the character you find engaging? Ask God to show you who they are, and then find ways to spend time with them and see how the friendship builds over time. Take a risk on people older than you, and don’t assume they won’t care or understand the choices you confront. In most cases, they’ve been through what you’re now facing.

Don’t look for someone to tell you what to do but those who will share their friendship. Then, you’ll glean all the wisdom God wants to give you through those marinated in his love through the most painful circumstances.

The Trajectory of Truth

Sara and I have just begun a fresh reading through Romans to hold what we’ve been learning about trauma and sin up to the light of Paul’s understanding of redemption.

In the first chapter, Paul mentions “the righteousness that comes by faith,” which is the theme of the entire book—how God does by grace what human effort could never achieve. I’ve taught this book many times throughout my life. On this read, it became clear to me how much the meaning of that phrase has changed over time. Truth, it seems, has a trajectory. It’s not a set of facts we come to believe, as if we could clearly see all its implications from the outset. Instead, Truth is the reality we come to embrace over time as Jesus continues to reveal himself and his light to us.

Reflecting on our journey with that phrase provides an interesting roadmap for the fascinating adventure Sara and I have shared.

In my younger days, I would have interpreted that phrase to mean “the good deeds that come from ‘the’ faith.” I would have seen faith as the total of the New Testament rituals and principles I believed and tried to implement. My focus was on my obedience to a list of New Testament expectations. Looking back, I wouldn’t say it led me to more righteousness but more of an appearance of righteousness. I learned how to act better, especially when I was being watched, but doing so only drove the unrighteousness deeper as it found refuge in “righteousness indignation” or “religious arrogance.” Both can be so easily justified as they provide the excuse we need to live a loveless life.

In my twenties and thirties, I would have interpreted that phrase as “the perfection that faith should produce.” This meant the perfection of my actions was the tool I used to evaluate the quality of my faith in God. In my more honest moments, every sin or failure became a source of condemnation and the constant demand for me to try harder. In moments of cognitive dissonance, I would find comfort in the fact that I was working harder than most other Christians I knew as if Jesus were judging on the bell curve. Again, the fruit of that was not righteousness but simply me trying harder to meet God’s standards.

In my mid-forties and early fifties, I would have interpreted that phrase, “Trusting God is the righteousness he seeks.” Some of what Paul says elsewhere underscores this. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” So that was better but still not complete. While there was no shame in it nor any call to perform better, it still didn’t allow me to recognize the transformation God wanted to do in my heart. My alleged faith became a cheap substitute for how he invited me to live rightly with myself and others instead of being the source of that transformation.

For the last twenty years, I have come to interpret that phrase as, “the whole-hearted living that results from my growing trust in Father’s love.” Rather than being an oppressive obligation God puts on us, righteousness is the essence of the freedom to be all God created me to be. I make my better decisions in his wisdom when I am at rest in him instead of striving. Growing trust does produce growing freedom. It not only seeks to untwist me from the distorting of darkness but also engages me with God’s purposes unfolding in the broader world. In my struggles, I’m less bogged down by my well-being and am increasingly aware of how he is loving me and the people around me. Though his way may mean greater pain in the short run, it leads me to a better way to deal with the uncertainties of life. It reminds me that my work is not trying to act more righteously but to find rest in his love and his work in the situations that confront me each day.

In each case, I would have used the exact phrase but applied it quite differently. Those who say, “I just believe what the Bible says,” don’t realize how often they interpret its words. We all do it, often in the vacuum of religious biases or our comfort. They can easily distort its meaning even as we claim to hold fast to the truth of Scripture. What we take Scripture to mean is always an interpretation. In the Jesus Lens, I said the most dangerous Christians in the world are those who don’t know they are interpreting the Bible and assume their interpretation is the only right one.

I have found that my interpretations of Scripture continue to change under the increasing light of his Spirit as he intersects with the reality of my life. How I have come to see “the righteousness that comes faith” in sharper focus over time has clarified its meaning for me. I can only wonder what insights this next decade might bring.

I love that my life is still being shaped by Paul’s words, confirmed by the continuing work of his Spirit in my heart. Seeing how those two line up has provided me the adventure of a lifetime as I awake each day with anticipation as to what he is still refining in my heart and mind.


Also of note— 

The next gathering of the He Loves Me Book Discussion, which will take place on Saturday, November 11, at 1 p.m. Pacific Time. You can find the link for this conversation on the Group Page on Facebook, or if you are not a member of Facebook, you can write me for a link. These conversations are held and recorded on Zoom. We stream them live on my Facebook Author Page for those who don’t want to be in the Zoom discussion, and you’ll find our previous conversations there.

This week, we’ll cover Chapters Six and Seven: “The Tyranny of the Favor Line” and “What Shall I Give to God.” Each of these further breaks down the futility of trying to earn God’s favor with our good works or gifts and invites us into the depth of his love that overcomes all our need to perform.

If you’ve missed previous chapters you can find them here:

You Have No Idea

It’s never a bad day to put some generosity in the world.

A good friend wrote me this week to let me know how the October 31 reading in Live Loved Free Full inspired an act of generosity that lay before him on the very day he was reading it. The reading encouraged him to give beyond what he was already planning to give to someone in need.

You can’t do generosity out of guilt; it will never end up in the right place. But if you walk through your day with a generous heart, God may just show you someone who could use some financial help, a gift of time in a meaningful conversation, or some practical help with a difficult problem. Generosity changes the world; it is the antidote to violence and vengeance so prevalent in our day

Here’s the reading for October 31 and reading it again warmed my heart with the possibilities that each day presents if we can look beyond ourselves to a world in need around us:

We were just finishing our meal with my daughter and the grandkids at Bandit’s, my favorite BBQ restaurant, when I noticed a young couple sitting at a table behind Sara making goo-goo eyes at each other and doting over a one-year-old sitting in a high chair at the end of the table. I was touched by the sweetness of that young family.

I pointed them out to Sara and suggested we pick up their check. It’s something we do occasionally ever since I was involved in a fight for the check at an ice cream parlour in Framingham, Massachusetts, twenty-five years ago. When our hosts pulled rank, demanding to pay it, I picked up the check of a young couple on the other side of the restaurant as an act of surrender.

Since then Sara and I occasionally pick up a check for random strangers. So, I told the waitress I wanted to pay the bill for the family near us. She asked if I wanted to keep it anonymous, which we usually do, but this time it didn’t seem important.

When they finished, they got up to leave and walked by our table without a glance. They didn’t know. They must have sought out the waitress, however, because two minutes later someone tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up, startled, and immediately the young mother broke into tears.

I stood up and introduced myself, and she hugged me while barely able to whisper in my ear, “You have no idea! You have no idea!” When she collected herself, she said, “That little boy was in a hospital Sunday night with a 105-degree fever. We almost lost him.” She broke down again. Now I was tearing up. “You have no idea what this means to us, that Someone knows.”

Sara and I left the restaurant with our hearts soaring. How fun was it to be part of something like that and watch someone be loved by God without us having to tag it with our own graffiti? And Julie said her kids talked about it all the way home, wanting to know what we did and why that woman was crying on Grandpa’s shoulder!

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people,
especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:10


You can order your copy of Live Loved Free Full here. I designed this book to help people have a relational thought every morning that would draw them inside the Father’s heart and set a grace-filled tone to the day. It also makes an excellent Christmas gift for someone looking for that kind of encouragement.

The Thrill of His Presence

It’s one of my favorite epigraphs in He Loves Me. At the beginning of Chapter Five are these words:

The great danger facing all of us . . . is that someday we may wake up and find that we have been busy with husks and trappings of life and have really missed life itself. That is what one prays one’s friends may be spared—satisfaction with a life that…has in it no tingle or thrill that comes from a friendship with the Father.

Phillips Brooks (1835–1893) in Sermons

Those seasons where I gave into distractions of life or let my spiritual journey slide into keeping up with the disciplines I’d been taught are the emptiest seasons of my life. Like most in such seasons, I accused God of going quiet as punishment for my waywardness or to try to make me work harder. I know better now; I had settled for something less than Presence. I had enough of God’s things in my hands that I thought I could move forward on my own.

This quote from Phillips Brooks touches something deep in me—the reminder of the tingle or thrill that comes only from his Presence. He shows up, often when I least expect it, with an insight, a connection with someone else, or a sense of serenity in the midst of a howling storm. Suddenly, my heart or body comes alive, knowing someone Greater is here—in me. The Presence is greater than any sorrow or uncertainty. It is comfort beyond description and joy unspeakable. When he shows up like that, I am confident that there is a way through anything that will lead to his life and light.

I don’t chase the thrill; that, too, can be a distraction. Instead, I relax into his reality, where I can recognize him. That’s the thrill!

Chapter 5 in He Loves Me is titled “Welcome Home” and will be the subject of a Zoom conversation this Saturday morning (October 28) as part of our continuing conversation through the themes of this book. You are welcome to join us at 11 a.m. PDT. You can find the link for this conversation on the Group Page on Facebook, or if you are not a member of Facebook, you can write me for a link. The conversations are held and recorded on Zoom. We stream them live on my Facebook Author Page for those who want to listen in. You’ll find our previous conversations there.

Being welcomed home is what Sara and I experienced this week from our seven-week trip. What a joy to be at home again in an environment that is warm and comforting. That’s what Jesus offered us with his Father in John 14—to be “at home” in him! You need not be intimidated or fearful in the presence of Jesus’s Father. You can be at rest in him even as he helps you negotiate the most painful realities of life in this broken world. You can’t learn this on your own; only Jesus can teach you how to be at rest in his love and goodness.

But don’t settle for anything less; it is the best part of living in this age. It may take a while for you to learn how to recognize the way he touches your heart and invites you into his household, but it is well worth learning. All of life pulls us away from that reality, but the invitation is always there. “Come to me, my beloved, and be at home in my heart.”


Love Is a Pain

Sara and I are set to arrive home today from our seven-week trip across the middle part of the United States. This trip has been remarkable and challenging in so many ways, but in all, well worth it. We’ve shared the ups and downs with our podcast audience in the last few weeks and won’t reiterate them here. Sara joins me for the podcast coming up this Friday.

One of the things we’ve been doing during our long driving days is to discuss putting a book together with our story of the last year and a half. We hope to encourage people who navigate some dark waters to find Jesus there and let him reverse the effects of the trauma or sin that has overwhelmed them.

To help with our recollection, we began to listen to our original seven Redeeming Love podcasts, where Sara and I tell that story close to the time those events unfolded. It’s been a bit surreal to hear us talk about events that shaped our lives in ways we could not have foreseen and now enjoying the fruit of all that pain and the joy that has come of it.

In the first, I tell a story that I had forgotten. It was in the earliest days when my agony was almost unbearable. My friend Luis saw me at my lowest, in those moments of hopelessness where I had no thought Sara would return, and I would somehow have to craft a life without her. Though God had seemingly promised me otherwise, the visible evidence was overwhelmingly against that happening. He sat with me through many tears and painful silences.

One morning, he came to my house, deeply touched by a dream he had the night before. In the dream, he sat on a park bench with Jesus, asking Jesus if he could take my pain away. “I could,” Jesus responded. “but I can’t take his pain away without taking his love away.”

I was blown away when he told me. I have never wanted to embrace pain or love more than I did at that moment. I wanted both. I wanted to love Sara deeply and, simultaneously hold the agony of missing her as the circumstances would still unfold. Avoiding pain would not help me love her. And I discovered that God’s love is bigger than my most hopeless moments and can hold me in the midst of them.

If there were ever a prayer I am glad God did not answer, it would be the one. I wouldn’t have volunteered to give up my love to save me that pain. Today, it makes me wonder how many prayers I have offered to God that, had he answered, would have had unforeseeable consequences. When we pray for things we want, we are often clueless about the harm doing so might cause for ourselves or others.

It also appears we are saying goodbye to our beloved golden retriever, Abby, after nearly thirteen years of enjoying her presence in our family. It will hurt deeply when she leaves us, but the depth of pain only testifies to the extent of love we have for her. I wouldn’t have skipped those thirteen years not to feel the grief that will come with her passing. I will embrace that grief as a testimony of the love and life we have shared.

Love is a pain. But knowing it is even sweetens the pain it causes. And having God’s comfort inside that pain makes the unbearable bearable.

C.S. Lewis said, “If you love deeply, you’re going to get hurt badly. But it’s still worth it.”

That it is.


A reminder:  Chapter 5 will be the focus of our next gathering of the He Loves Me Book Discussion, which will take place this Saturday, October 28, at 11 a.m. Pacific Time. You can find the link for this conversation on the Group Page on Facebook, or if you are not a member of Facebook, you can write me for a link. The conversations are held and recorded on Zoom. We stream them live on my Facebook Author Page for those who don’t want to be in the Zoom discussion, and you’ll find our previous conversations there.

How Do You End Your Day?

At day’s end, where does your mind wander?

As you assess your day, do you predominantly contemplate the places you fell short or the moments that made you grateful?

When I was pounding the religious treadmill, I always found myself far more aware of my mistakes than my joys. I’d go to bed aware of my deficiencies and promise God I’d do better the next day. But then I was right back there the next night doing the same thing. Perfection is an impossible standard.

One of the most significant changes I’ve noticed as I learn to live loved is that I’m much more focused on ways I saw Father’s hand in the day than on the disappointing moments or my failures. And I’m pretty sure I miss ninety percent of that as a barrel through life, but I am treasuring those moments I do see.

If you’ve been schooled in religious performance, it will be far easier for you to believe that God is disappointed in you rather than to believe that God is delighted in you and your desire to know him. That’s especially true when we are aware of our doubts or failures. The religious mind can’t comprehend God’s delight unless we are perfect. So, every failure is more evidence that you’re not good enough to have God’s pleasure, even in the process of him changing the waywardness of your desires.

We discussed that Sunday in our He Loves Me Discussion of chapters 3 and 4. It’s a great way to remind ourselves to stay off the religious treadmill and shift our attention to how his Spirit works in us and around us.

Paul warned us in Romans 8 that the mind focused on the flesh is death. Looking at your performance and feeling shame or frustration for your failures will literally kill you.

But he also encouraged us that when our minds are focused on his Spirit, we will experience his life and peace. So, that’s where we want to look. Don’t assess your failures every night; instead, look for ways God was involved in your day—his fingerprints, winks, whispers, nudges, encouragement, and blessings that were part of your day.

If you’re not used to doing this, don’t be surprised that it will take time to shift your focus, but doing so will bring you great joy. You’ll see that you don’t have to be perfect to have God interact with you and that he is always involved in your life, inviting you to greater rest and trust.

That makes sense, doesn’t it? Since we are helpless in our doubts and sin, we can’t change that without him inviting us into his light and equipping us with his strength and wisdom. “Be holy as I am holy” is either the most frustrating command ever given or the greatest invitation ever made. He wants to come alongside us as he shows us how to live.

So, at the end of your day, when brushing your teeth or laying your head on the pillow, ask Jesus, “How were you with me today?” Don’t hurry the moment. It may not come easy, but wait until your eyes begin to see how he walked with you through your day.

It’s like going outside to look at the stars. Initially, you’ll only see a few, but the longer you stare at the sky, the more your eyes adjust, and you’ll see more and more of its glory.

Your eyes will adjust to match your focus. Look for his delight rather than his disappointment, and you’ll find a trajectory that will rewrite your life.

Life on the Narrow Road

Sara and I visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, last week as part of our RV trip around the heartland. One room in the museum included scores of cartoons published upon his election, scorning and mocking him for his physical attributes and ideals. President Lincoln didn’t pay them much attention, though his wife, Mary, was angered by them.

The next day, Sara asked me if cartoons like that were to be published about me, would they bother me? I thought for a long time.  As a younger man, they would have. I guarded my reputation and took it personally when anyone criticized me. I would have found cartoons like that demoralizing.

But now, it has happened so often, especially by people who make up lies about me to marginalize or discredit me, that I’m well-practiced in negotiating angry people and the lies they tell to make themselves feel better or justify their destructive actions. So, I told Sara I suspect more people in the world hate the things I’ve written, especially about the church Jesus is building, than those who love them. The religious crowd can be relentless in defending the status quo, especially when it is built on so many fears that considering any other option is unthinkable.

Is that why Jesus said his way is a narrow road? Follow the crowd, and you’ll end up in a ditch somewhere with a lot of company. Pursue “likes” and clicks to monetize your thoughts, and you’ll end up bartering in half-truths and distorting the Gospel to offer people false security.

I can’t tell you how many people write me to say that the more freedom they have discovered, the less some of their old friends want to hear about it. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? The more love you have to share, the less people are willing to share it. That’s because while his love is the greatest prize we could ever discover, it does upset the applecart of our illusions.

Jesus knew the truth wouldn’t always be popular and that some would consider love a threat. He warned us that those who would persecute you would think they were doing God a favor. Those who embrace his truth and love would often be mocked and demeaned for it.

It’s not easy staying true to his work when others don’t beat a path to your door. That’s why I have treasured every email, phone call, and blog comment that lets me know people have resonated deeply with things I’ve written or recorded.  Each one is a powerful encouragement to stay the course Jesus has laid out for me.

It’s also why I write and travel to converse with hungry people. I know for every encouragement they get, they probably get twenty discouraging things said or done to them. The narrow road can get lonely sometimes, but truth and love will always be more valuable than a host of friends hoping you’ll stay stuck in the old ways.

But in the end, we dare not look to the crowd, especially religious ones, to affirm his work in us. We live to an audience of one, and while encouragement from others is significant, it is not essential.

Following him is its own reward, and when you no longer need the validation of others to be true to him and his work in you, you’ll find the narrow road a joyful place to be.

Your Silence Was Not Absence

“I’ve never heard him speak to me or felt his love for me.”

Unfortunate words! And I’ve heard them a lot over the years, the frustrated feeling one has when they feel that God is silent. David expresses that pain well in the Psalms, saying he would be as one going down to the pit if God remained silent.

Sadder still are the conclusions people reach about themselves and God from this observation.

  • He isn’t really there.
  • If he is, he doesn’t care about me.
  • He doesn’t talk to people like me.
  • Obviously, I’m not good enough to hear him.
  • I’m not worthy of his love.

Of course, all of those are untrue, no matter how much our perception may argue. All of us have considered those things at some point, but when we can find some humility to reconsider our conclusions, admit to God that we cannot do this without him, and shed our expectations about what God should do, only then will our discernment of that voice grow. We get a glimpse here, a thought there, and begin to discover that he has been there all along.

No, this isn’t easy, and it takes some time, but that’s what his Spirit wants to do in each of us—to teach us how to recognize his whispers in the wind and his nudges on our hearts. It’s a process. Don’t be afraid of it, and don’t be discouraged when it seems you’ll never get it. He’s leading you anyway, even if you don’t recognize it yet. How do I know? Because many of the people who tell God doesn’t talk to them are following his wisdom and leaning into his character, though they may not see the source of it, many of them far more so than those who claim “God told me” to do such and such.

Maybe these words from Sheltering Mercy: Prayers Inspired by the Psalms by Ryan Whitaker Smith and Dan Wilt will help you:

I see now that Your silence was not absence, that my desolation was not my undoing.
In Your time-
(why must long-suffering be such long suffering?)
You plunged into the darkness that held me.
Raised me from ruin.
Reclaimed me.
Restored me.
Rooted and established me in love.’
Just when I had lost the will to sing, Your mercy became music to me;
an old song-

older than this tired earth-and yet, somehow,
as fresh and new as the morning.

It is not your will that any should perish,
but that all should repent and enter Your rest.

God is not silent with any of us. He doesn’t go unspoken. I’m convinced he goes unrecognized. His words are there, his wisdom is there, but we miss them because we are looking in the wrong places. Learning to listen to God is learning to rest and not strive, in growing confidence in his ability to communicate with me rather than my ability to discern him.


Sara and I left Denver yesterday on our travels and headed east. Next stop—Wichita over the weekend. A group of us are getting together on Saturday in Newton to celebrate God’s work in these perilous days. You’re welcome to join us.

After that, we will go through Kansas City on our way to the St. Louis area for the following weekend. We have nothing planned there yet, but we will have some personal connections if no one wants to offer a place to gather and meet others.

Then, we are headed down to Little Rock, Arkansas, to a farm where we will hang out for a weekend of conversation and discernment about God’s work in our day. Others have talked about joining us there from nearby states. If you want to, please email me for details.

Where Freedom Grows

For frequent God Journey listeners, you’ve heard Sara, Kyle, and me discuss the possibility that God may look at our sin quite differently than we do. Even mentioning the word ‘sin’ in a blog post is a risk since most people will tune out at the mere mention of the word. Especially in religious settings, the word itself conjures shame, failure, and impossible demands. Could this be that we don’t look at sin the way God does? I may have had this wrong my entire life.

I was taught that fallen humans are co-conspirators in sin, choosing evil over godliness and that our bad behaviors offend God, meriting his anger and vengeance. As the story goes, however, Jesus came to save us by taking our punishment on himself. So now, we can be forgiven of sin by the work of Jesus. At least, we assume that’s true when we “get saved,” but most traditions have us shifting to personal performance the very next day. So, most of us have wrestled against sin by our self-effort, having limited success and even more failure and increasing guilt. No wonder no one wants to hear about sin.

What if all of that is slightly off-kilter? What if God doesn’t see sin as something we chose but as something that happened to us? We were born into a fallen world with a self-preferring nature, and our shame made us feel abandoned by our Creator and thus unable to see him or trust him. That cannot be healed by guilt, condemnation, and better performance, but only through a love powerful enough to find us in our brokenness and walk us out with his grace.

What has opened the door to this way of thinking? It’s all Sara and I have learned in finding freedom from her trauma. The environment she needed to find healing from the horrible things that happened to her as a young child was the exact opposite of the religious climate we both grew up in. My old view of sin saw it as bad choices we make. We need to be confronted with our sin, confess it to God to be forgiven, be educated on right and wrong, and obey God by our strength of will. The problem with that is it doesn’t work. Even Paul said that he put “no confidence” in the flesh. Strength of will might carry you for an hour or two or even a few days, but eventually, temptation sidetracks us again. But now that we are supposed to “know better,” the guilt is multiplied exponentially. So, we have to go back to confessing and trying harder, and the cycle continues, all driven by the fear of God’s displeasure and judgment.

None of that would have worked with Sara’s trauma. The environment of God’s expectation and human effort strong enough to meet it would only have driven her deeper into the darkness without ever exposing its cause, which is why most traumatized people have walked away from religious settings. The tactics only make them feel like even worse failures.

Even though she had hurt me more than anyone by leaving the way she did, I never saw her trauma as “sin.” I never blamed her for it; she was way too young and had no agency to process what was happening to her. I wasn’t angry or offended at her, even at the things she did to me to survive the pain she was feeling. And even before I knew the cause, I only wanted her back. “Father, forgive her; she knows not what she does” was the easiest prayer to pray. This wasn’t her; it was darkness in her. I could live in forgiveness for her, even while her trauma was still hurting me. I just wanted to help her find the freedom she deserved. Whatever cost I had to pay was insignificant.

The way I treated Sara quite naturally fulfilled all the new covenant hopes for how God asks us to deal with the sins and offenses of others. Her environment for healing was to be embraced by love, even at the depth of her pain and darkness. I had to slow to her pace and offer her a safe and soothing environment. I was only trying to win her heart back, but in that space, she began to see what was true about herself, her past, her God, and even me. Some things were horribly painful; some were delightfully glorious, but there was no way to rush the process. I wasn’t focused on stopping her hurtful actions; I was only trying to connect with her at a heart level and be alongside her as God opened a path to healing. We have feasted on that process together ever since.

That’s what got me thinking that the way I saw Sara’s trauma is the way Father sees my sins. And if this is how he asks us to see brokenness in others, why wouldn’t it also be how he sees it in us? Wouldn’t that same process break the power of sin as well? As we’ve pondered these things, I have become aware that this is how God has been navigating my sins and brokenness over the past three decades as I learned to live loved. I hadn’t been on the performance treadmill, but I didn’t realize how much had been shaped in my life by the safe presence of Jesus and his Father.

Sara didn’t choose trauma; it captured her when she was too young and didn’t have a caregiver to entrust with her pain. Isn’t that like sin? We didn’t choose it; we were captured by it before we were even aware of it. And Paul said we were powerless in sin and blinded by shame to God’s presence with us.

Here’s how all of this has changed my perspective:

I no longer blame myself or others for their sin. It was never a choice but a disease.

I have given up the idea that I am a change agent for others. God has to reveal truth to them at their pace and I can be alongside them with encouragement and compassion while he does that.

We are truly powerless in sin until God untangles it from the inside.

Our sin does not define who we are; our true nature is seen where we are confident and relaxed in Father’s love.

The way to help someone grow is not through confrontation of sin, education of expectations, and accountability to help them perform better, but to be a safe place where people can know they are loved and that God is safe enough to unpack their darkest secrets.

I am increasingly trusting God to be the rescuer from everyone’s brokenness. He’s not looking to punish us for it but to untangle its hold on us.

This perspective gives me better words to navigate my darkness as well as to truly love those caught in sin while at the same time being able to help them find a path out of it in the growing confidence of the Father’s affection. And I don’t say any of this to diminish the destructive power of sin in our world or our personal well-being. Sin destroys us from the inside, diminishing our humanity and destroying meaningful relationships with others. This perspective shows us the path out—not by our performance but by your engagement with love and our willingness to see what’s true instead of seeking comfort in our illusions.

This could be crazy stuff, but I’m loving it, and it is shaping my heart in ways I never expected. I’m exploring this deep rabbit hole to see what might be valid about it and what Father might still want to adjust in my thinking. If you want to explore this more, Sara and I added another podcast this morning to the four we’ve already done on this topic, and I am grateful for the conversations I’m having with people pondering this with us. I love what Father seems to be revealing in all of it.

What if God doesn’t blame us for the darkness that takes hold of our lives? What if he knows that shame and performance will not bring us closer to him but drive us away? What if he knows that a safe, soothing relationship with him is not the reward of our salvation but where it begins? What if he always knew that self-effort would fail us and only a grace-filled relationship with him would rescue us from the darkness? What if he’s always seen us as the gift he created before darkness intruded on us?

Now that would be good news, really good news!


Don’t forget we are starting a Zoom book study this weekend, chapter-by-chapter, through He Loves Me. If you want to come with us, you can either join the Facebook Group or write me for a Zoom link. It will be at 1:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time this Sunday afternoon. For those who want to watch it live, we will also stream it on my Wayne Jacobsen Author Page.

Also, if you are in Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Texas, or New Mexico and have anything in mind as we take our RV on the road again, please let us know. Indeed, we can’t do everything we might be asked to do, but we’ll pray with you and see what Father might have in mind. We enjoy the conversations that happen with people like you on our journey.

Responsible to Obey, or Free to Love?

In an email exchange with a friend, he made this observation:

“If there are no other species out there (in the universe) unless created by Father, we are responsible to obey him. That’s our responsibility. He will bring the end of the age in his time.”

Reading it, I felt a ping in my yuck meter.

“…Responsible to obey him.” There was a time when I’d have felt comfortable with those words, but no longer. He was a good enough friend to push back playfully:

I agree on all points, though I’d substitute “a love to embrace” for “a responsibility to obey. Love will always lead us to obedience but obedience does not always lead us to love. That’s how I see the new covenant.   

He simply wrote back, “Full agreement here.”

So how do you see your relationship with God today? Do you consider it your responsibility to obey him or your joy to embrace his love?

The Old Testament seems to confront us with the need to obey God because we are afraid of him. That’s our responsibility, or so we thought. However, laced throughout the Old Testament is also the language of lovingkindness and mercy. And the writer of Hebrews tells us they couldn’t enter God’s rest, not because of their disobedience, but because of their unbelief. They didn’t trust his love and goodness, and not believing in him, they continued to look to false gods and foreign powers to comfort them.

Jesus underscored the power of his Father’s love when he was here. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” You could read that under the eyes of the Old Testament to mean that keeping commands proves that we love him. But the whole mission of Jesus proves otherwise. He meant, “If you discover the depth of my love, you will find yourself following me to the ends of the earth.”

That’s what I’ve discovered to be true. Those who seek to follow Jesus focused on fear and obedience are not always pleasant people to be around. They are often frustrated and angry, just like the Pharisees were. Thinking their relationship with God is secured by their performance, they are exhausted by their efforts and frustrated at the lack of results. Moreover, they push their frustration onto others by judging their misdeeds and trespassing on their lives by telling others what they should do.

Thinking our responsibility is to obey him draws us right back under the law, and it will kill us. According to the writer of Hebrews, that’s why Israel couldn’t enter God’s rest—not because of a lack of obedience but because of their unbelief. They didn’t believe he was wholly good and that he loved them even in their darkness. If they had, he would have filled up in their hearts what sin seeks to fill.

Jesus has offered us a better way. Come live in his love, grow to trust him, and you’ll find yourself following him with great joy and freedom.

And that’s the obedience that matters.


If you need some help exploring this shift in thinking, Wayne wrote He Loves Me: Learning to Live in the Father’s Affection to do just that.



Triumph Out of Tragedy


Mark is a former pastor before his addiction caught up to him. He’s been writing me from the Portland area for a few years. I want you to hear how Jesus has taken a shipwrecked life and shaped it into a treasure others can be touched by.

I’ll let him tell his story in his own words, taken from recent emails.

Guess which sentence opens doors and which one shuts them:

“Hello, I am Mark, pastor of the Assembly of God Church.”

“Hello, I am Mark, a divorced, former minister who has been in a twelve-step recovery program for 30 years.”

God is not against sin because he is so holy, just, and perfect, and the thought of our selfish imperfection drives him to judgment, destroying and blasting sinners from his path. God hates sin because it destroys his beloved creation.

He has reached out in love through his son Jesus to let the world know he can help us with our sin. He can take our imperfections and the trauma others have visited upon us and turn them, through the redemptive work of his Son on the cross, into something incredibly beautiful.

My greatest shame and defeat, which destroyed my professional career as well as my marriage, Jesus turned into a tool to help many others find hope, healing, and sobriety.

Recovery never stops. My insane thinking colors every aspect of my life, even today. But it’s okay to be this way. I have tools now that help me still the “chattering monkeys” and live as well as respond to life in a healthy manner. To be able to give and receive love, feeling it on the inside. I still attend weekly meetings. And make phone calls.

We end every AA meeting with a question. “Who keeps us sober?” And we respond in unison, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done… “

Today I am a rideshare driver with 215,000 miles and 12,000 rides behind me. There are more stories to hear, prayers to be offered, and refuge to provide—all from a simple driving job that did not even exist just a few years ago.

Other than that, I spend my days enjoying my wife, writing stories, mad scientist gardening, attending meetings, cribbage games, sponsoring addicts, phone calls with friends and family. Plus, I will be performing a wedding shortly for some folks my wife and I just met.

Life is full and mostly pleasant.

What I love about God’s work in Mark is that it has grounded him in a normal life that makes space for Jesus to touch others through him. He has sent me many stories from his rideshare driving of being a voice of hope to desperate people—those who are suicidal or rushing to a hospital after someone else has ended her life. It’s why he takes the late night shifts on weekends in case someone needs a friend. It’s also where he uses the second introduction from his options above.

Everyone’s life doesn’t need to look like Mark’s, but each of us can find our growing health in him and simply be aware of people to love and words to say that will impart grace to others. This is how to live a significant life.

Excruciatingly Beautiful

The phrase “excruciatingly beautiful” first appeared in an email from a friend in Ohio. He told me he had been through a painful betrayal and that God was teaching him how to forgive. “It is excruciatingly beautiful,” he wrote.

I’ve never seen those two words used together anywhere. When I typed ‘excruciatingly beautiful into my search engine, our podcast from two years ago by that name was the first listing. However, other listings defined excruciatingly beautiful as “something so beautiful it hurts,” often used in art forms such as a movie plot or musical score. There’s nothing about how it applies to life.

I would define excruciatingly beautiful as “something beautiful produced out of excruciating pain,” such as the birth of a child or healing from trauma. It can also be true of any pain in our lives that moves us to behold God’s beauty more significantly.

If you’ve never been there, it is hard to imagine how pain can give way to beauty. And yet, I’m so grateful it does. Many see the suffering of our world as proof that a loving Creator cannot exist; I see the beauty he weaves into this fallen universe as proof of a loving Creator spilling redemption into human chaos. No doubt, there is excruciating agony in the selfishness and darkness of our world, and yet there is also exquisite beauty as well. And they aren’t always unrelated. My life’s most remarkable transformations and joys have often come through the most challenging times.

Two years after my friend’s letter to me, that phrase continues to crop up regularly in my conversations, as it did this week talking to a man in a years-long, gut-wrenching crisis. He continues to share with me what he is learning about himself, the Father’s love, and how to engage others more authentically. He described it as beautiful, even while his crisis deepens. Let’s be clear; God is not the author of his situation; it results from how others treat him. God didn’t give him this pain or “allow it” to teach him a lesson. The pain was coming anyway; God is simply working his goodness into the tragedy to make it part of his redemption for my friend and others around him. This is how we become part of his redemption story.

What amazes me is how easily he could cut himself away from his pain and run from it, but he does not. Most do in his situation, which is why many of them don’t get to the beauty that would lie behind it for them, too. He’s sometimes felt like it, but God keeps revealing stuff to him that keeps him in it.

If we’re going to discover his beauty in our circumstances, we can’t run from ‘excruciating.’ No one enjoys pain, but rather than trying to deny your grief or disguise it beneath temporary amusements, it would be far better to sit with God in it. Embrace him in your pain and disappointments, and you will discover what he wants you to know that will soften your heart and transform your thinking. This can take some time—months even—but let his work be perfected in you, and you will discover the mystery of excruciatingly beautiful as well.

That’s what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 4:16-18:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

When the temporal things we think are so important give way to the eternal things that truly are, we behold a beauty more incredible than we could dream. On the one hand, it is sad that it often takes difficult times for us to gain that perspective. On the other, aren’t you grateful that our Father can use anything that happens to us to move us more deeply into the things that matter most?

A White Rainbow

I didn’t know such a thing existed until I saw it in the wild.

Even then, it was difficult to believe my eyes. It looked like a rainbow, but it was completely white. It even had a fainter, secondary rainbow beneath the full one. The picture above doesn’t do it justice.

I found it while walking with Zoey a few weeks ago in the open land behind our neighborhood. It confused me at first, wondering if it really was a rainbow. We were in the early morning mist not far from Mt. Boney. As I crested a hill, I saw it stretched across the grasslands—a pure white arc of reflected light. Startled, I tried to figure out what it was while it accompanied us on our walk for almost fifteen minutes. I even got close to one end, but it stayed just out of reach until it vanished.

I didn’t know if this was a natural phenomenon or if a divine moment was afoot, like the burning bush. The air was electric, my heart quivering in the exquisite beauty of this unique rainbow and the God behind it. But what was I seeing? Was it real? The moment was exhilarating, and while I looked for some glorious revelation beyond the rainbow, none came.

I could think of little else on my way home, where I searched the web to see if there was such a thing as a white rainbow. To my delight, I found there was. They are also called fogbows or ghost rainbows. They are rare, only forming when the sun is low, and the droplets in the mist are not large enough to split the sunlight into the tell-tale colors of the rainbow.

No one I’ve shared this with has ever seen or heard of a white rainbow, which made me feel less like I had missed something in my science classes. Knowing it was a natural-occurring event that others had observed did not rob my wonder. On several occasions, I have seen something so surprising it takes my breath away—a shooting star across a dark, alpine sky, the immensity of the Grand Canyon, the brilliant colors of fall in New England, or a little green iridescent fish swimming by my face mask in Hawaii. This was that kind of experience.

Seeing a pure white rainbow for the first time still makes my heart happy—the glory of God shining through a thin space in his Creation. He seemed particularly close at hand, though I know he was no more present there with it than the many other times I’ve walked those fields.

That’s what I love about this fantastic Creation we live in. There is a ton of pain in this broken world, yet now and then, we catch a glimpse of extraordinary beauty that harkens our hearts to a better day yet to come. You can never be sure what you might see on any given day that can turn your heart to him in a fresh way.

That I would come across a white rainbow at that time in that place, felt like God playing with me a little bit.

And I love it when God plays with me.

He Is Enough

Come away, my beloved!

There! Did you hear it?

Maybe it was just a few notes, but even a bit of it will begin to breathe hope into your exhausted heart. You’ll recognize it as the soothing melody inviting you beside his quiet waters where peace and tranquility will wash over your fear and grief. Linger there and lean away from anxious thoughts and angry voices, both internal and external.

His song carries a different rhythm—

He is enough.

You are deeply loved.

All of Creation is still in his hands.

There’s no fear or frustration in his song. Its soft and lilting tones draw you more deeply to his heart, where fear no longer thrives. It allows you to embrace a reality far more consequential than anything you see with your eyes or hear with your ears.

It calms your heart with the confidence that God is big enough for this, too.

They sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song
of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God
Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.”

Excerpt from July 5 reading in Live Loved Free Full: 365 daily reflections to draw you deeper into the desires Jesus has for you
by Wayne Jacobsen

Letting Jesus Fight for Us

If you haven’t listened to our current podcast about Vengeance, Mercy, and Justice, it’s something I’ve been noodling on for a few weeks. It started with this quote from Adam Smith, “Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.” Too often, our society “lets off” those who are well-connected at the expense of those who have been the victims of their violence or greed. Such “mercy” only adds more pain to those they harmed.

And yet, mercy is what we want for ourselves and those we love, even if we have wronged and offended innocent people. And when we or someone we love suffers at the hands of another, our cry isn’t for mercy but justice. It’s strange, isn’t it? We want mercy for our failures and justice for those of others.

How does God sort through the wake of human pain and brokenness, dispensing both mercy and justice in a way that does not excuse the evil done or revictimize those wronged? Complex questions, to be sure. I don’t know how God does it or will do it when he sums up all things at the end of the age, but I trust him with it. Walking that line between justice and mercy is something we find challenging to do.

Even our cries for justice are often thinly veiled hopes for vengeance. We want people who cause heartache for others to suffer indescribable pain and call it justice. How often have we heard that “justice was served” by a murderer being put to death or dying by his own hand? But was it? Did it restore the life of the one they murdered or right the wrong they had done? Of course not.

The other day, I was talking about this with my friend, Luis, and he shared a recent dream. He was in a battle with a vicious hoard, primarily humans, but also mixed in were animal-human hybrids. He had expended all his ammunition, and still, they came toward him to destroy him. In the fury of adrenaline and the frustration of a losing battle, Jesus came to him in the dream.

“What do you want, vengeance or justice?” Jesus asked him with Luis breathless and terrified

All of his emotions screamed for vengeance in the rage of his own powerlessness. But with Jesus standing there, he knew that was best. “I want justice.”

“Then you better let me fight for you,” Jesus responded, and there the dream ended.

I’m not sure all that means, but as we talked about it, we realized how easily the adrenaline of our fear and anger spills over into feelings of vengeance. We have no idea where the dividing line is. Learning to live in his love will invite us to let Jesus fight for us. He has to show us the way where love can walk through the darkness without being exploited by those who are destructive and also know when he’s inviting us to lay our lives down for someone else’s good. Only he is wise enough to negotiate this space where mercy and justice are complements to each other, not competitors.

I love the instructions he gave his disciples: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” The economy of the coming kingdom is based on a mercy that doesn’t excuse evil nor allows us to be exploited by it. It’s a long process to learn the power of that statement and discover that his mercy is greater than any sacrifice of time, money, or life that we can offer him.

Who is sufficient for these things? We are not. How much more pain have we caused by trying to save ourselves or fix a situation that is beyond us? Of course, that does not mean we quietly suffer abuse or injustice. Allowing him to fight for us is not lying down and suffering the abuse of others. It means we will first find our refuge in him. He is the only one that can hold us in any storm, heal the damage we have suffered, and make up for what others have stolen from us. From there, he may well show us a way to resist those who seek to abuse us or help others find the justice they deserve. But now, we won’t be doing it with vengeance or our limited wisdom or power, but responding where love and justice dance together in his victory.

Micah invites us into that same reality: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). And I think the “with your God” phrase at the end applies to all of the previous invitations:

Do justice… with your God!

Love mercy… with your God!

Walk humbly… with your God!

Because, in fact, that’s the only way we can do those things.


Powerful Word in Times of Trouble

“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Dave Coleman was one of those friends for me. He was a man of immense wisdom, rock-solid integrity, and deep love. I don’t know why he took a liking to me, but he’s one of those friends where the conversations always go deep, and the affection builds over a lifetime. He helped me discover how to live the life behind He Loves Me and was my co-author for So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore.

More importantly, he was there when I was betrayed by my co-pastor, giving me comfort and counsel that steered my heart into a better reality than I might have seen otherwise. He was there through the lawsuit over The Shack and encouraged me to find my home in the truth and not worry about the lies being told of me. And two summers ago, he held my heart through the rejection of a lifelong companion that came out of nowhere.

A few weeks after we talked, he sent me this prayer and admonishment. This was August 2021, still eight months before Sara’s trauma exploded. I wish he’d been there for that, too, but he passed away in November of that year.

May the Father, who is rich in mercy, speak kindly to your heart and comfort you with the thought that the only way out of this is to lay it at the foot of the cross…. with the prayer, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Do not allow your accusers to stifle in any way your message of God’s love. Just allow this experience to increase your urgency and your compassion and, above all, to deepen your dependency on His grace.

Those words have been taped to my computer since receiving them. There is so much in those words that have held my heart, even through the painful days of last spring, as if Dave were comforting me from the grave. Why am I sharing them today? Over the last few days, I’ve found myself sending them to almost a dozen people who needed to hear those exact words in their context. I figured others might need to hear a similar word for their heart. It is as true for you as it continues to be for me.

It’s a beautiful thing for the Father, who is rich in mercy, to speak kindly to your heart and to comfort you at the foot of the cross where the only way to liberate yourself is the prayer of forgiveness in recognition that most people doing hurtful things have no idea what’s motivating their behaviors. And when the Accuser, even in the other voices he uses, tries to erode your confidence in Jesus’s work in you, it’s time to lean in more with more urgency and depend on his grace.



Good news! The renovations on our home are nearing completion. This has taken a bit longer than we thought it would starting out, but this is Sara’s dream. To see it come together now as a place for us to live a life we love and to share our lives with others brings a profound sense of joy. Sorry, no pictures yet. We will in time, but much still needs to be cleaned up and completed.

So, we’ll be moving and settling in over the next couple of weeks. Don’t look for much new stuff here for a bit, though we hope to keep the podcast going on Friday, which is the best way to follow my life these days. All that God has been teaching us and doing in our hearts have found their way into my conversations with Kyle. I can’t begin to tell you how rich these last two years have been. They have had more trouble than we thought we could bear but also a profound grace and Presence that has held us safe and opened our hearts and minds to some unique insights that have touched us deeply.

Our journey over the past 16 months will come full circle next week. We’ve been through an exodus from trauma and a home we loved, took a sojourn through the wilderness of Sara’s trauma, and the healing that came out of it in our RV last fall and our apartment this winter and spring. We will soon move onto a new land of God’s promise—an oasis for our hearts and all who Jesus sends us in this season. We have no idea what any of that means, but we could not be more excited.


The Trajectory of Transformation

After four years and a dozen conversations, Jake is finally relishing the fruit of the transformation that has happened in him over that time. Their final conversation celebrates so many wonderful things I enjoy when people I know move away from Christianity as an obligation into a meaningful relationship with a Father who has genuine affection for them.

Some of my favorite observations of that trajectory shift are summed up in their last moments together:

It was easy to remember how frustrated John had made me in those early days. The more I listened to him the more my life kept falling apart.

John smiled. “I never told you to do one thing. I simply made some observations, asked some questions, and gave you some options. The choices were all yours.”

“I realize that, but they didn’t always turn out so well.”

“How could they? You had two desires that conflicted with one another.”

“What do you mean?”

“You had this incredible hunger to know God and follow him. But you also wanted to be circumstantially secure and well-liked. Those just aren’t compatible with following him. We are safe because he is with us, not because our circumstances are easy, and trying to get everyone to like you only made you less of a person than God made you to be. When you started following what God put in your heart, the other kingdom had to collapse. It was inevitable, if not enviable.”

This Sunday will be the last gathering of the Jake Colsen Book Club, where a group of us are walking through So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I have not read this book since I completed it in 2005, so I have been fascinated to remind myself what’s in that book. It’s also been a chance to relive working with Dave Coleman, my co-author, who passed away 18 months ago.

This book still contains the critical lessons I want people to know when they are ready to embark on a different journey—outside the walls of Christan obligation to discover an endearing, growing friendship with the loving Father. We’ve had a lot of fun exploring the themes most dear to my heart.

This has been a fluid group, and you’re welcome to join us even if our final time is your first one. We are gathering on Zoom this Sunday, May 21 at 1:30 pm PDT. We will cover the final chapter of the book, as well as open up to any questions or discoveries from anywhere in the book. Anyone is welcome to join us, even if it’s your first time. We will also stream it live on my Facebook Author Page, but if you want to be part of the conversation, you can get a link to the Zoom Room by emailing Wayne and asking for it.

You can view our last discussion on chapter 12 here.

The God-Shaped Life

It’s the most amazing process in the universe—how Jesus finds us in the twistedness of our sins, doubts, fears, and illusions. He rescues us not only by his death on the cross to cleanse our sins but also to invite us into a friendship with him that untwists what has been damaged in our hearts. Do you know what it’s like to live increasingly untwisted in a very twisted world? It is the essence of joy and freedom, even in the chaos of the brokenness of others around you. Instead of being pulled into darkness by them, you can offer them a way into the light.

As Sara and I read I Peter recently, a phrase jumped off the page at me and took my breath away. Here’s how Eugene Peterson in The Message translated what Peter writes about obedience to God: “Let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness.”

Does that not capture your heart with great hope and promise?

Who wouldn’t want a life shaped by God’s life? I’ll tell you who—those whose views of God were shaped in religious settings where he was portrayed as the angry author of onerous rules and where holiness was a standard impossible to reach. There’s nothing more difficult than trying to get someone schooled in legalism to be excited about the possibilities of his blazing holiness. They think the fire comes when you haven’t done enough and that his holiness means we suppress who we are to follow the rules. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But for those of us who know him, we hunger to live in his reality, where his affection sets our hearts at rest, and we get to discover who he really made us to be. He lives without fear of the future and without a doubt that he will prevail over the darkness. He is the safest place for us to be at our most broken. Imagine what your life would be like if it were shaped by his life.

Over the last year on The God Journey, Kyle and I have been sorting out what a transformed life looks like. How does living loved change the way we think and engage the world around us? We’ve used a chart to consider how God reveals himself in our tangled-up mess and engages us in friendship. With every revelation of himself and his wisdom to each of us, he invites us to know him. As we learn to listen and believe him, he lifts us above the pain and chaos of this broken age so we can grasp God’s reality that pulses with joy and wonder.

In him, we begin to discover what it means to live inside the Trinity with Father, Son, and Spirit. We learn what love is by how he treats us and then watch it rises in our own hearts for him. We see how his work is so much better than our own efforts and to rest in God’s work and his agenda. And finally, we discover the playful wonder of how God interacts with us, even in our most painful moments. Like a father playing with his children, we become ever more endeared to him, laughing through our joys and weeping with him in our pain.

Now it becomes unthinkable not to believe him, and when we believe him, we will find ourselves following him. This is where we are drawn into a way of living shaped by God’s love, wisdom, and character. In the I Peter verse above, notice that God does the shaping. That’s not our job; we would be incapable of it anyway. We only do the letting. I don’t have to change anything about me to make God happy; all I need to do is let him have me, and that exchange over time will begin to transform me from the inside. This is not following the rules to make him happy; it’s enjoying his life as it liberates me from the illusions that twist my heart in knots. He is always drawing me into that life. My choice is either to go with him or resist him, replacing his wisdom with my own and letting my fears drive my actions.

Discovering how to let him draw us is such a different trailhead from all we were taught to do to try to earn God’s favor. This is where Christianity has gotten discipleship so incredibly backward by creating systems of thought, ritual, practice, or discipline and imposing that on how we think or live. It would be great if it worked, but it doesn’t. No matter how much it is based on truth, it is still an artificial construct like David trying to put on Saul’s armor. It never fits and won’t change us. Our cookie-cutter, mass-produced attempt to make Christians in the world continues to fail when we could instead invite people on a transformative journey with a loving Father.

Helping people discover how to recognize and respond to God’s fingerprints in their day, and his whispers in their hearts are the real work of discipleship. Finding a relaxed pace inside his love will do far more than our old zealous attempts to conform our lives to his ways through human effort. Learn to listen, believe, and follow as you grow to know him, and his fruit will be borne in your heart.

So what does that God-shaped life look like? I’m sure it can be described in many ways, but the following five terms express it well for me. I gleaned these from Scripture and from observing those in my life who have lived multiple decades in an awareness of his love. They provided an excellent completion to the above chart Kyle and I have been working through this year. (You can see the chart above or download it here. And, if you want to listen to those podcasts about that chart, you can do so by following the reverse of the list here. These would make a good study for personal enrichment or even small-group study.)

Here are those five attributes that give evidence of a God-shaped life:

  • Sincere Love — Not flattery, pretense, or mere niceness, but the heartfelt impulse concern for those you’re engaging and the ability to help them discover what’s true as much as their hearts will allow.
  • Resilient Trust — A growing confidence in God’s goodness and faithfulness through the chaos and disappointments of life. Everything that comes at us is an opportunity to discover what he is doing in it, knowing he has the best in mind. It may ebb when challenged, but it always comes back stronger.
  • Generous Compassion — An awareness of the needs of others, especially those on the margins, that touches our hearts and opens the doors to make available our time, emotional support, and physical resources available to others.
  • Tender Authenticity — Never less than honest, but always in a form best able to find access to another’s heart.
  • Bold Humility — Never lording over, never pressuring anyone to accept our view, but also not shying back from stating the truth plainly, even with people who might take offense to it.

Please keep in mind that this is not a list of the ways we’re supposed to behave or traits we are supposed to mimic. The wonderful thing about the God-shaped life is these attributes increasingly emerge in you as you grow freer in his love. You cannot produce these characteristics by your own ingenuity. They can’t be taught in a seminar or codified into a workbook. This is the fruit that grows out of a life spent in God’s presence, discovering who he really is and how he engages you and the world around you.

We have covered the first two characteristics on The God Journey and will cover the remaining three in the next few weeks. I hope you find them helpful to your journey.


Some other items of interest:

Sara and I finally have a move-in date on our remodeled home. We’ll be moving back to Newbury Park on May 30 and setting up our house, where Sara plans an extraordinary garden. And the dogs will love having a yard again. We can’t wait to share this home with others who want to come hang out with us.

The final gathering of the Jake Colsen Book Club will be held Sunday, May 21, at 1:30 pm PDT. We will cover the final chapter of the book, as well as open up to any questions or discoveries from anywhere in the book. Anyone is welcome to join us, even if it’s your first time. We will also stream it live on my Facebook Author Page, but if you want to be part of the conversation, you can get a link to the Zoom Room by emailing Wayne and asking for it. You can view our last discussion on chapter 12 here.

Next up, we’ll be starting a Book Club for He Loves Me over the summer. Stay tuned for details.

A Love Stronger than Our Greatest Fear

Today, Sara and I leave for a bit of a working vacation out to Hawaii. We’ll be sharing with a fellowship in Honolulu next Sunday (April 30), but we’ll mostly be on Maui, savoring God’s work in this last season of our lives and preparing our hearts for what lies ahead.

Before we go, I wanted to leave you with this amazing dream, which can be of great encouragement when you find yourself facing one of your greatest fears. It was sent to me by a good friend, Harvey Mast, who lives in Ohio. He had this dream nearly four years ago while volunteering with a ministry helping women who had been sexually trafficked. He sent it to me recently, and it deeply touched me. It can be interpreted at so many levels and can redirect our focus to the only thing that matters in times of fear. With his permission, I’m publishing an edited version to see what Father might want to reveal to you.

(And my dear sisters, please don’t be put off by this male-as-rescuer story. I know that is a struggle for some since it can be a tiresome cliché. However, Harvey is a man, and this is his dream. I hope you can put yourself in the same place of fighting through your worst fears to help others trapped in theirs, male or female.)

I stood with a group of friends in front of a castle. This was a magical castle, but dark magic ruled inside. There, your worst fears become your reality. Two young girls had wandered into that castle decades ago, and now fear held them captive at the top of the tallest tower where it was so dark no light could penetrate except the warmth of real love.

Many well-meaning, brave young men had tried to rescue the princesses over the years, but all had failed. Entering two at a time, they went to the winding staircase with their romantic ideas of love. Eventually, their fears would overwhelm them, and their screams would echo through the castle as they made a hasty retreat.

With each failed attempt, the lowest section of the staircase would crumble to ruin. Only time would repair the stairs enough to try again, which could often take up to ten years.

As we stood at the castle entrance, time was mending the last step after another failed attempt. “Who will go now?” The question reverberated off the walls. A great silence fell on the crowd. Would anyone risk their greatest fears and another ten years in hopes of rescuing the two lost princesses? It would take two, for each girl needed a separate escort out.

I looked around for someone else to step forward and face his worst fears for the love of another. To my dismay, no one did. Tears began to form in my eyes as I thought about those two young girls trapped inside, and I couldn’t stop myself from stepping forward. “I will go,” I said and waited for another to join me on this quest. Would the love of my Father burning inside me be greater than my greatest fears? I believed it was true, but this would test that for sure.

Soon, a good friend stepped forward to go with me. We entered the castle and started climbing the staircase like many others had. The first fear that came was the fear of failure. “What if we fail and these precious little girls are lost in this hell for another ten years?” I halted at this thought, and this gripping fear weighed heavy on me. I could feel myself shrinking in size.

I continued climbing, now a bit slower. “Who am I to think I could rescue one of them?” was my next fear. I had all but stopped now, and the castle walls seemed to close in on me. “I don’t even know them; what if they are afraid of me?”

Soon I was standing still, paralyzed by these gripping fears. I could no longer see anything in the pitch-black air, not even my friend I knew was beside me. I could physically feel the darkness.

“Father, help me,” my heart whispered as fear roiled inside.

Why did I even come? Oh yes, it was his love inside my heart for those girls. I could feel that warmth again, still burning in my chest. As I paused, I looked down at my feet, hoping to see the next step. I could see it. A warm glow about my feet illuminated the step before me, and I knew this was the way forward. As I took that step, another appeared and another, and before long, we were moving upward again.

Every fear I had ever faced, and even new ones, seem came at us with a vengeance the further we progressed. My focus had shifted to the warmth of His love inside of me, and it was more significant than all the dangers surrounding us. Eventually, we could hear the girls’ voices as we approached the tower’s upper levels. We called out to them, explaining that we were coming and encouraging them to hold on to hope. As we did, this hope grew in us as well. Our pace quickened.

Soon, we reached the top of the staircase and found the room that imprisoned them. We could hear them but not see them until we ran into them in the darkness. We exchanged names, and the glow brightened slightly. I could see one was of Asian descent. She looked up into my eyes and spoke her greatest fear. “How do I know I can trust you?”

An answer came out of my mouth before I had time to filter it. “Why, it’s simple; this is where love led me. Right here.”

“To me?”

“You needed help, didn’t you?” Her fear receded slightly as she hugged me around my waist with her tiny arms.

But they were both still afraid to leave. Their fears had captured them and did not want to face them again in this horrible place. We tried to reason with them, assuring them we would be with them the entire way, but they were reluctant. We could only invite them, realizing we may very well be going back down alone. I don’t know how I would have been able to leave them alone in this place.

We explained that this warm light around our feet was the Father’s true love’s light coming from within us. He is the Father of Light, and he loved all of us so extravagantly. It had shown us the way step by step as we made our ascent and was always greater than our greatest fears.

Though they, too, would be facing their greatest fears as we descended the staircase, they could also have the warmth of his light. They both agreed to come with us if they could walk alongside one of us and learn to focus on love.

“Of course,” we answered.

One step at a time, we made our way downward. Fear assailed each of us unrelentingly, but we simply followed the glowing warmth until we found our way out of the castle.

The girls, whom we thought to be around ten years old when we met them, transformed to their rightful ages as they crossed the threshold into the sunlight.

Instead of being overwhelmed by the voices that scream at you from the uncertain darkness, focus on the warmth of Jesus’s love already inside you and see what next step illuminates for you. Then you, too, will discover that Father’s affection is stronger than our greatest fear. It’s a journey that will not only set you free inside from anything this life can throw at you, but it will also show you how to be a part of God’s redemptive work for others.

We all know the power of fear and how impossible it is to ignore it or manufacture more trust through our own strength. And we all need someone to go with us, not just telling us to “trust more”, but willing to sit alongside us as we learn to let love rule our hearts.

And when you need help, follow this advice from a young woman whose book I am reading at the moment, Cole Arthur Riley’s This Here Flesh:

Find those who tell you, “Do not be afraid,” yet stay close enough to tremble with you. This is a love.

It truly is…

The Day God Died

Twenty-eight years ago, my relationship with God shifted on this one discovery—Jesus did not die to appease the wrath of an offended God. Instead, he died holding our sin and shame in the all-encompassing presence of the Father until it was consumed in his love, and our redemption was won.

As we approach this Easter season and commemorate his death and resurrection, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I was able to hear a more complete story of the atonement than the one I was raised to believe. I cringe to think how the crucifixion story will be told in so many places over the next couple of days and the double-talk many preachers will have to employ to make their vengeful deity appear loving. What Jesus did was not to ward off an angry Father but to open the way into a love so rich and deep it will transform everything about the way we live and think.

I wrote an article in 2010 to summarize what I share about the cross in He Loves Me, Transitions, podcasts, and in countless conversations around the world. Until we get the Atonement story right, we will never be able to see our Father for who he is and come to him with confidence. I am reprinting it here to remind us all that salvation was a work of redemption by a gracious Father.

Something about the story made me cringe every time I heard it, and since I grew up a Baptist, I heard it a lot: To satisfy His need for justice and His demand for holiness, God sentenced His own Son to death in the brutal agony of crucifixion as punishment for the failures and excesses of humanity.

Don’t get me wrong. I want as much mercy as I can get. If someone else wants to take a punishment I deserve and I get off scot-free, I’m fine with that. But what does this narrative force us to conclude about the nature of God?

As we approach Easter, the crucifixion story most often told paints God as an angry, blood-thirsty deity whose appetite for vengeance can only be satisfied by the death of an innocent—the most compassionate and gracious human that ever lived. Am I the only one who struggles with that? The case could be made that it makes God not much different from Molech, Baal or any of the other false deities that required human sacrifice to sate their uncontrollable rage.

We wouldn’t think this story an act of love from anyone else. If you offend me, and the only way I can forgive you is to satisfy my need for justice by directing the full force of my anger for you onto my own son by beating him to death, you probably wouldn’t think me worth knowing. You certainly wouldn’t think of me as loving. And this solution ostensibly comes from the God who asks us as mere humans to forgive others without seeking vengeance. Is He demanding that we be more gracious than He is?

Many of the Old Testament writers did look forward to the cross as a sacrifice that would satisfy God, and they used the language of punishment to explain it. But the New Testament writers looking back through the redemption of the cross saw it very differently. They didn’t see it as the act of an angry God seeking restitution, but the self-giving of a loving God to rescue broken humanity.

Their picture of the cross does not present God as a brutalizing tyrant expending His anger on an innocent victim, but as a loving Father whose Son took the devastation of our failures and held it in the consuming power of His love until sin was destroyed and a portal opened for us to re-engage a trusting relationship with the God of the universe. The New Testament writers saw the cross not as a sacrifice God needed in order to love us, but one we needed to be reconciled to Him.

One of my best friends died of melanoma almost two years ago. Doctors tried to destroy the cancer with the most aggressive chemotherapy they could pour into his body. In the end, it wasn’t enough. The dose needed to kill his melanoma would have killed him first. That was God’s dilemma in wanting to rescue us. The passion He had to cure our sin would overwhelm us before the work was done. Only God Himself could endure the regimen of healing our brokenness demanded.

So He took our place. He embraced our disease by becoming sin itself, and then drank the antidote that would consume sin in His own body. This is substitutionary atonement. He took our place because He was the only one that could endure the cure for our sin. God’s purpose in the cross was not to defend His holiness by punishing Jesus instead of us, but to destroy sin in the only vessel that could hold it until—in God’s passion—sin was destroyed.

Perhaps we need to rethink the crucifixion in line with those early believers. God was not there brutalizing His Son as retribution for our failures; He was loving us through the Son in a way that would set us free to know Him and transform us to be like Him.

Now that’s a God worth knowing.

All that God did in his Son was because he wanted to invite you out of the bondage of sin and shame to a tender place he prepared in his heart for you. Don’t see a terrifying God behind the death of Jesus, but a Father weeping in his love for all his lost children.

What incredible lengths they went to so that we could enjoy life inside their love!


The Trust He Wins in Us

I’ve watched too many Christians struggle to trust God more as if that is something they are supposed to do. If you’ve ever been down that road, you know that it leads to a vast wasteland. We can only pretend to trust him more, and that will fail us when we most need it.

Trust is not something you can demand from someone; it is the natural byproduct of knowing that someone loves you deeply and acts for your greatest good. We don’t give trust; Jesus wins us into it. So the question is never, “How do I trust him more?” The question is, “How is Jesus winning me into his trust today?”  That’s the road you want to venture down.

And you won’t see him winning your trust as long as you’re trying to get God to do what you think is best for you. That will only lead you to disappointment upon disappointment. Focusing our trust in him on a specific outcome is not trusting him at all. It’s only using him to get what we want.  

Jesus has something different in mind by teaching you to love what he loves and to follow him. There you will discover that he is constantly working around us in a way that wins us into his trust. We become increasingly confident that his way is best and that he is continually working to lead us into his freedom. That’s what chapter ten of So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore covers.

Here’s an excerpt as Jake is just beginning to recognize that process:

“That’s the trust he’s building in you right now, and those deals falling through are part of it. Through moments like this he wins our trust. And it’s obviously working.” John said.

“What? Why would you say that?” I asked, not at all feeling like it was.

“Because you’re not as angry as you were when we first met. You’re in a desperate situation now, you’re concerned, but you’re not angry: That shows some incredible growth.”

And for the first time I realized that God had changed something enduring inside of me. I wasn’t burying my anger. It just wasn’t there, even in my disappointment.

“That’s how God wins your trust. He’s not asking you to do something despite all evidence to the contrary. He’s asking you to follow him as you see him unfolding his will in you. As you do that, you’ll find that his words and his ways will hold more certainty for you than your best plans or wisdom.”

Today, Jesus is at work in you to grow your trust in him and his Father. He wants you to know that his power and wisdom are at your disposal for all he is doing in you and how he is working in the circumstances you’re caught up in. Learn to recognize how he is working, and you’ll find your trust growing gradually no matter what you encounter.

We’ll discuss this amazing process at the next gathering of the Jake Colsen Book Club, which will be held this Sunday, March 5, at 1:30 pm PST. This is a change from the previously announced date . Anyone can join us, though you’ll have to work that out in your own time zone. We will also stream it live on my Facebook Author Page, but if you want to be part of the conversation, you can get a link to the Zoom Room by emailing Wayne and asking for it.

You can view our last discussion on chapter 9 here.

The Man of Sorrows

(The graphic above was taken from the cover image of A Man Like No Other, art by Murry Whiteman with text by Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings)

It’s hard to imagine that these words would describe the most authentic personification of love to ever live on this planet, but this is how Isaiah foretold it:

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:3)

The fullness of God’s love was despised and rejected by many who knew him. Incredibly sad!

Jesus often talked about joy, and he wanted his joy to be in us so that our joy would be complete. Nevertheless, he also felt the pain of a fallen Creation and suffered from it himself. Even loving to the full, that love proved disquieting to the agenda of many, and thus he knew the undeserved rejection of those he loved. When I think of Jesus and suffering, I’m so immediately drawn to the events of his Passion that I skip over the pain he held each day while he was here, much less the pain he and his Father have held since Creation’s fall.

Only recently (for reasons I’ll share in the future) has my heart become attuned to the agony of God that beats through the cosmos beneath the strains of the joy and victory of his redemption. Oh, he will win, and one day the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of his Son. I can hardly imagine what that day will be like! Until then, God’s joy is also accompanied by undertones of anguish that he feels for the lingering injustices of humanity, the war and conflicts that devastate countries and destroy friendships and families, the sexual abuse of powerless victims, the despair of suicide and its impact on loved ones, malnourished bodies, natural disasters, and the betrayal and greed some trade on to the exploitation of others.

The writer of Hebrews told us that Jesus’s agony went beyond the crucifixion and was laced throughout his days. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears…” This was more than Gethsemane; this seems to be a regular undertone to his life and may well explain his weeping at the tomb of Lazarus and his anguish in Gethsemane. It certainly was not for the loss of his friend whom he would momentarily raise from the dead, but for death and suffering in the cosmos itself. And if so, he may still carry that agony of a lover for the wounds of his beloved.

Redemption was always in sight, but that did not mitigate his empathy for the wounds of his Creation. The Redeemer comes to our rescue with tears in his eyes, and an ache in his heart for all that “fallenness” has done to us. And when redemption happens, his ecstasy overwhelms his agony. For those of us living before the days of the restoration of Creation, we taste that agony as well in what we suffer and what we behold in others. So when I hear of the devastation of earthquakes in Syria or Turkey, starvation throughout East Africa, needless destruction in Ukraine, or delusion throughout the West, I have a place to put that now. I can hold the world’s pain with God in the hope of a victory yet to come. It has changed the way I pray and the way I walk with others through their own difficulties. You’ll hear more about that in future articles here.

For now, it is enough to be reminded that those who love deeply will hurt deeply. Every lingering pain can be a reminder of the as-yet unredeemed Creation and a touchstone with God’s passion for redemption. When we hurt with others, we are reminded that God bears our pain as well. When we are rejected by people we love, we find comfort that God knows that too. Jesus knows that all too well. Sharing my pain with him as he shares his with me is also part of living loved.

You cannot love and avoid pain. Love allows you to sit in the suffering, your own or someone you care about, and watch for how God moves redemptively. If you run from pain, you’ll find yourself often running from love, and, ultimately, from God. If you can embrace the reality of God-with-you in your suffering, then it will not consume you. It will also allow you to see more easily his way forward until ecstasy triumphs over agony.


Other Items of Note 

  • Our next Wrestling with Trauma conversation will be Sunday, February 26, at 10:00 am. PST. Email Wayne if you’d like to join a small group to provide a place for people to explore their trauma or to find ways to help others they love deal with trauma
  • The next Jake Colsen Book Club session will be held Saturday, March 4, at 1:30 pm PST. You’ll have to work that out in your own time zone. We will explore Chapter 10: Won to Trust, as we consider how Jesus teaches us to trust him and what he wants for us, rather than trying to get him to give us the outcomes we want for ourselves. We will stream it live on my Facebook Author Page, but if you want to be part of the conversation, you can get a link to the Zoom Room by emailing Wayne and asking for it.


Suffering Means You’re Human

Jesus promised us so much joy and victory following him that it can be disorienting to encounter enduring times of pain and suffering. I’ve known many followers of Jesus who wrestle more with the perplexity of how God could have “allowed” them to suffer than the suffering itself would have demanded. It at least adds another layer of pain to whatever we face.

In our quest to live comfortable, happy lives, we forget that plenty of Scriptures also talk about suffering and how God inhabits them to further his work in us and his purpose in the world. Why else would we need a refuge, a deliverer, and a Redeemer? When the Psalmist said that God delivers us from all of our afflictions, doesn’t that mean we had to be in them first? And that deliverance almost always has more in mind than just removing it.

Any follower of Jesus needs a worldview that includes pain and trouble as much as joy and laughter. It doesn’t mean God causes our suffering or even allows it in any volitional sense. They are the result of living in a world out of sync with its Creator. You will no doubt encounter both along your journey, and learning how to rejoice in good times and how to lean into him through difficult ones will be critical to God’s unfolding love in your heart.

As part of ours this summer, Sara and I read Waymaker by Ann Voskamp. We found a lot in this book that touched us and expanded our view of God. This brief section was one of those, talking about the complexity of love and pain in a fallen Creation.

Love lives at peace with pain, and the two will never divorce. Because to love is to be tender enough to know suffering, to be vulnerable enough to know hurt, and the only way to divorce your way from pain is to divorce yourself from any love.”

The destiny we all ultimately dream of is a destination where we are ultimately seen, safe, soothed, and secure! Even nightmares of loss and tragedy and grief can still become an unexpected awakening to tender dreams, if there are ways—even in the dark places—to be seen and known, safe and secure . . . Wherever we are always accepted and never alone, never abandoned, our deepest dreams can come true even in the midst of nightmares.

I had high hopes of waking to a dream different from both of our mothers. No graves. No slammed doors or cold wars, no lightning-bolt diagnosis or stalking depression, no abandonment or estrangement, no cascading job loss or piling bills or empty arms. No trauma from the straight-out-of-nowhere tragedy, the unlikely addictions, the turned distractions, the knife-in-the-back betrayal, the flat-out rejection, or the entirely suffocating personal failure you can’t escape because you can’t escape out of your own skin. Why do we think that our life will be the one that finds a way to easier roads? Why in the world did I? It’s when we expect life to be easy that it becomes hard.

Buy the lie that your life is supposed to be heaven on earth, and suffering can be a torturous hell. But life is suffering, and suffering is but the cross we bear, part of earth’s topography to cross on our way to heaven. I wouldn’t know it for years: Screens sell pipe dreams. Every screen is trying to sell the lie to you-from Hollywood to Netflix to Instagram–the lie that all you have to do is buy this, work out like this, wear this, style it like this, believe this, pursue this, get a career like this, find someone like this, and you, too, can find the way to a perfect life, just like this. But buy any perfectly filtered and marketing-framed illusion, and you end up painfully disillusioned. Regardless of what Instagram or all the glossy ads are shilling, your suffering isn’t some unique anomaly; suffering is the universal experience of all humanity. Suffering doesn’t mean you’re cursed, suffering means you’re human. The question isn’t “Why is there suffering in my life?” but “Why wouldn’t there be suffering?”

Because such is life in a broken world. The question is, “What way will you bear your suffering?” I didn’t know it then, and I am still learning this now: Life is really hard because that is the reality of being alive.

When you can face suffering, knowing it does not prove God loves you any less or is punishing you for some reason, then you are ready to grow through your darker seasons and love others more fully in theirs.


Other Items that might be of interest:

  • Sara joins me on the podcast this Friday since Kyle was out of town. We’ve got news about where we’re going to live next and, more importantly, how Sara’s journey has continued to unfold.
  • Sara and I are now making plans to host a trip to Israel in late January and early February 2024. It will be a ten-day trip in Israel, with an option to add on 3 days in Jordan and a visit to Petra. We hope to have the details out in a week or two. If you’re interested in going, please email me, and I’ll send out more information to you as we get things nailed down.
  • The next session of the Jake Colsen Book Club will be held Saturday, February 18, at 11:00 am PST. You’ll have to work that out in your own time zone. We will explore Chapter 9: A Box by Any Other Name as we talk about humanity’s relentless attempts to put the living, breathing bride of Jesus into a box we think we can manage for him. We will stream it live on my Facebook Author Page, but if you want to be part of the conversation, you can get a link to the Zoom Room by emailing Wayne and asking for it.
  • The next Wrestling with Trauma conversation will be Sunday, February 26, at 10:00 am. PST. Email Wayne if you’d like to join a small group to provide a place for people to explore their trauma or to find ways to help others they love deal with trauma