The most recent truth that God has spoken to me came in the form of a quiet rebuke:
“Daughter, you do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”
Before I give the context for why Jesus had to give me this gentle reminder, let’s break down the verse a little bit. I promise I’ll circle back around.
According to Hebrews 10:39, in the eyes of God there are only two categories of people: those who shrink back and are destroyed, and those who have faith and are saved.
I want to lay the groundwork with defining the phrase, “shrink back.” According to dictionary.com, shrink back means:
“To pull away from a source of disgust or fear.”
Or, to take it a step further, blueletterbible.com defines it in the Greek as:
“The timidity of one stealthily retreating.”
Let’s pause here for a minute and ask, Where is the inception of this concept of “shrinking back” found?
I want to suggest that its origination goes all the way back to the garden. After eating the fruit in the garden, Adam responded to the Lord’s question, “Where are you?” with “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Adam shrunk back. When confronted by the reality of sin and brokenness in light of the reality of absolute truth and holiness, he hid. And, as sons of Adam, that same cowardly voice that whispers in shame, telling us to retreat and to try to figure out a way to cover our nakedness, still speaks. But, as sons of God, we have the capacity to fight back, to shut the mouth of that voice that urges us to respond to the tension of the holy and the unholy by shrinking back and running away, and to instead respond by rising up and running towards the cross.
It really shouldn’t surprise us to see how this concept manifests itself in the world. Our nature, because we are born into rebellion and sin, is to shrink back from acknowledging an objective standard of truth that exposes our depravity, lack of faith, and need for a Savior. The pride, idolatry, fear, and hostility that we see in and around us is a result of a people who is desperately trying to cover her nakedness and self-protect by whatever means possible—whether through retreating to the safety blanket of intellectual ability, physical gratification, or materialistic accumulation, just to name a few.
And, as Paul says, “that is what you were.” Meaning, we no longer belong to those who “shrink back.” So, who are those that stand in contrast to those who shrink back?
Those who have faith.
According to Hebrews 11, faith is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.” Faith is confidence and assurance, not timidity and doubt.
The reason I wanted to write about faith is because I’ve had a bitter struggle with it the past few weeks. Honestly, I’ve had a bitter struggle with it the past few years.
I’ve already talked about a small part of this story, but in order to give more context for this subject matter, I want to share a little more. About 18 months ago, as I was praying and asking for direction in some very specific areas of my life, God gave me a promise that He was going to miraculously heal my eyes (reference this blog for more details).
And, while that is such an amazing promise to receive from the Lord, that promise has also revealed more doubt, insecurity, and uncertainty than I’ver wrestled with in my life.
Since June of 2016, I’ve prayed hundreds of prayers, fasted for multiple days at a time, wept and pleaded desperately with God, and questioned many things that I thought I knew with absolute certainty. And whereas I’ve been prayed and prophesied over an encouragingly large amount of times, and have gone through incredible seasons of expectancy and hope, I’ve also gone through intense seasons of doubt and questioning. And, honestly, sometimes those seasons are so closely knitted together that I have barely caught a glimpse of the growth and life of spring before I am confronted by the barrenness of winter.
In the past two months, I have heard the Father speak so clearly—giving me great vision for the ways in which He would fulfill His promises to me and placing people in my life that would encourage me tremendously in my journey of faith. I went into the week of thanksgiving so hopeful, so expectant that this was it. My family and I even planned a night of worship while I was home in an attempt to simply set the stage and invite God to “do His thing.”
But, as He had foreordained, His timing for healing had not yet come, which was not at all the answer I wanted.
How could I continue to “get my hopes up” and have a confident, assured faith that believes in the God of the impossible, and yet not get my heart dashed to pieces in disappointment when He whispers “not yet”?
That was the question I had no desire to confront. I was tired of having faith, worn out with waiting, and exasperated with the process of patience. I wanted to self-protect. I wanted to have the reins of control in my hands for once. I wanted to mindlessly scroll through Instagram and Snapchat rather than fight to have faith in the goodness of God. I wanted to distract myself with Netflix over pressing in to perseverance in seeking the will of God.
And so I did. For a solid 5 days I did everything I could to turn off—to shrink back and numb myself to the conflicted, messy emotions I had no desire to process. But, on day 5 of my spiritual/emotional shut down, the Lord whispered to my heart:
“Daughter, You do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”
We live in the reality of the “already” and the “not yet” (@MattChandler). And, in order to continue to “get my hopes up” and have a big faith that believes in the God of the impossible and remains steadfast and unshakeable even in the midst of disappointment and uncertainty, I am learning that my faith has to extend beyond what God has said He will do for me to being rooted in the nature of what He has already done in me. I must believe that all of His promises are “yes” and “amen” in Christ, period. I must believe that “It is finished.” In the face of the “not yet,” we get the glorious privilege of planting ourselves in that same soil where the cross of Christ stood, and preaching to ourselves the message of the overwhelming goodness of God displayed in the glory of the promised salvation that is ours by faith.
Because we do not belong to those who shrink back.
*The cover photo is of my spiritual grandfather, Bob McCustion, who exemplified most to me the concept of “those who have faith and are saved.” I will forever be marked and inspired by the life of this man who never shrunk back.