I’m so grateful to be published on The Rebelution about such an important topic—how our relationship with God is so satisfying and so worth it!
“Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.” — Psalm 146:3
People often talk about marriage as if that is the highest goal in life. As if once you are joined with another soul you are finally complete. As if trusting fully in another person is the greatest thing to pursue.
A few weeks ago, I went to a conference that radically challenged me in my view of marriage and God. Do I truly believe my relationship with Him is the most beautiful, satisfying relationship that exists?
While many of us may theoretically believe this, I don’t think most of us believe it so completely that it transforms our everyday lives.
Below is a common passage about marriage and our relationship with God:
“’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:31-32
I used to think—oh, come on Paul! Why do you have to talk about Jesus right now, all I want to know is how on earth should married people behave!
Well, I’ve come to realize that Paul is making a crucial point. The relationship between husband and wife is merely a reflection of the greater reality—Christ and the church. That means that Christ and the church are united as one flesh, just as the Father and Son are one. When you believe in Jesus, you have entered into an eternal covenant with Him, and one day you and I will dine at the wedding feast with our dear Bridegroom, the Lamb of God, who has taken away the sins of the world!
Our relationship with God is certainly not like earthly romance. No, it’s even better (I’m not kidding). It’s an eternal romance, more satisfying than any other relationship we will ever experience.
And the best part is? Eternity starts now.
While our culture glorifies passion, sex, and romance, what we are really longing for is God Himself. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Every time a man knocks on a brothel door, he is really searching for God.”
We shouldn’t waste our time putting our trust in earthly princes or princesses. Human beings cannot save. They can’t save us from our loneliness. They can’t save us from our aching hearts. They can’t save us from our need to feel loved.
Really, truly, absolutely. God can fill this hole inside our hearts, and He will if we simply let Him. In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).
Despite all the hype about marriage, there isn’t any marriage in heaven, as Jesus said:
“At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” – Matthew 22:30
Marriage won’t matter after we die, so why are we spending our whole lives planning the day we trust in a spouse rather than right now choosing to trust in our Eternal King?
The relationship between husband and wife is a beautiful sacrament that reminds us of how beautiful the day will be when we meet Jesus face to face. It is good and honorable to marry, but just the same it is good and honorable to love others. Love friends, love family, love strangers, love God. All of this reflects the love of God, just as marriage does.
Whether or not you’re married or you will one day married, please, right now, make much of Christ. Make much of your romance with Him and less of your romance with people. Make much of your purity in Him and less of your passion with other people. Make much of your hopes in Him and less of your hopes in human beings who fail to satisfy.
Because He’s worth it. I can’t promise you anything, but He can promise you everything, and He does, over and over again in His word.
I read Psalm 146:3 last night, letting it sink into me as I turned my affections completely to Christ. When I read further, I grew more in awe of the God who is nowhere near to being a frail human incapable of saving us. He is the God who saves:
“Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.” Psalm 146:3-10
The Lord reigns forever; human beings do not. Who are you entrusting with the happiness of your soul? Only God can bear the weight of it, and fill your heart with total comfort.
My favorite song at the conference completely sums up what I learned there. After vainly striving after the things of this world, I always find my rest in God, because “to be with Him” is where I truly belong.
This is a scene from chapter 5 of my ten-chapter fantasy novella, The Healer of Istagun, told from Tarquin’s perspective. Enjoy! To see the original chapter 5, click here.
“Tarquin, am I going to be okay? Do you think I’ll get over this?” My sister Mara’s hollowed dark eyes pleaded me.
I could hardly bear the sight of her weak figure and pale face splotched with tumors. Would she be sent to Winter with the dying ones before she got well enough?
Before I could answer her, I heard a knock at the door. Wondering who it could be, I rushed to open it.
Dahlia, with her wild brown hair and beautiful dark eyes, stood there, with a young Spring boy at her side. My heart stopped.
“Hi, Dahlia,” I said in greeting.
She blushed, no doubt surprised I remembered her name. I was half embarrassed I had.
“Oh, never mind,” she said quickly. “I thought this was where the younger boys or girls—”
“—it is. My sister is here.” I raked my hand through my hair, worried that Mara thought I’d left her forever. Her brain was in a muddled state due to the plague. “I was caring for her and the rest of them since they have no one else to help them.”
Dahlia’s face paled whiter than the sick ones. “We came here to…” She cleared her throat, but before she could finish, the Spring boy held out a basket of fresh buns.
“Want some, sir?” His voice was small; I hadn’t seen a Spring boy in so long. He was adorable.
Dahlia smiled a little. “We were giving them out to the sick.”
Her concern for the sick ones warmed my heart. I wondered if she knew Gesu. Not just knew about him, but knew him, like I did. Gesu’s kind-heartedness, after all, inspired me to tend to these girls.
I watched Dahlia for a moment as she stared around the room, as if searching for something, or perhaps someone. Then she and the Spring boy began handing out the fresh buns.
I rushed to my sister’s side. “I’m here now.”
Mara struggled to open her heavy eyelids. “Tarquin, I love you.”
“I love you, too.” I dabbed a wet cloth on her forehead. “You’ll be all right, sis.”
Suddenly I noticed a green fairy entering the room. “Attention, everyone!” she shouted. “Queen Hazina has made a new decree for the lands of Spring, Summer, and Autumn: ‘All the sick must proceed to Winter.’ The ‘sick’ are defined by the queen as ‘those unable to work for her majesty.’ Therefore, if you do not stand up within five seconds, you will be taken immediately to Winter.” Four other green fairies stood by, with chains ready.
I stood up straight, but the sick ones couldn’t even begin to sit up. I stared at Dahlia from across the room, not taking my eyes off her as her dark eyes drew me in. I hadn’t stopped thinking about her since Gesu’s miracle session a few days ago. She hadn’t wanted to marry anyone, but I could fix that.
When the door closed sharply, I realized then that the fairies had indeed taken away the sick ones, leaving Dahlia, Kari, and me behind.
I dropped my gaze from Dahlia, thinking of Mara, dear Mara. I should have tried to save her, to help her stand somehow.
“Can I eat a bun?” Kari asked the young woman.
After a pause, Dahlia told him he could have them all.
The boat. She needed to see the boat. If we were some of the only few left well and alive in Summer, she needed to know about it, in case the time came for us to leave Istagun.
“Dahlia.” Her name came out weaker than I intended. “I want you to see something.”
“I’ll be right back, Kari.”
Her willingness to follow me surprised me. Was I so attractive that I could change her mind about me within a few days?
I led her down to the dark, filthy basement. Perhaps I was a fool to bring a pretty girl down to this place. I probably was just going to scare her off. Still, it was important she knew.
“The boys wouldn’t let me use theirs, so I come here sometimes and…”
I lit a lantern, revealing the boat I’d spent hours laboring over.
“It’s called a boat,” I said quietly.
“A boat?” She stared at me, almost blissfully, and my heart ached.
“I built it, so I could one day travel across the seas, to the mountains. There are rumors about these people called Treelanders, who live in the forests. I want to meet them, to escape this Summer, and to be free.” I gazed off into the dark basement, remembering the stories I’d heard from the Gesu-following fairies. They dreamed of traveling to the Treelanders to live among them and share the goodness of Gesu with them.
I stifled a laugh. “Well, I hope so. A fairy used to tell me stories, so that’s all I have to go off of.”
Dahlia grimaced. “Why are you showing me this?”
Her question caught me off guard, but I shrugged. “You and I… we’re some of the only few left here, and—”
“—and we have responsibilities!” She folded her arms across her chest. “You can’t just leave everyone here to die, while you go on a silly adventure to a land far away!”
I lowered the lantern from my face, grimacing at her biting remark. So, she thought I was an idiot. I could change that.
“I showed this to you so you’d know, when the time came,” I said steadily, though inside I shook at her entrancing gaze. “But you’re right. Now is not the time for adventures… Now is the time to find Gesu.”
“Gesu?” she asked softly.
“Yes, Dahlia. He’s the only one who can save us.” I searched her face, willing her to believe me. Of course she believed. She had seen the miracles. But there was so much more to just believing in what Gesu could do. You had to believe in who He was.
“Tarquin,” she whispered, “can he bring the dead back to life?”
I frowned, unable to grasp why she’d expect so much from the man. “I don’t know. Why do you ask?”
“I need to find my sister, Hollis. She’s been sick for years. I don’t know where she is, or even if she’s still…” Her voice cracked unexpectedly, and she turned to leave.
I wanted to reach out and clasp hold of her small hand, but I restrained myself.
“Wait, Dahlia,” I said, thinking of my own sister, and how I’d be just as anxious to find Mara as Dahlia seemed about finding Hollis. “Is that why you came to this hut? To find your sister?”
“Yeah.” She took a step up the stairs.
I stared at the back of her head where her dark curls cascaded down to her waist. I couldn’t let her leave. And we both knew that Gesu was the only cure to this plague.
“Let’s go to Autumn to get Gesu,” I suggested. “He can heal everyone choked by the plague—and your sister, once we find her. She’s probably in Winter. We’ll figure something out and…”
I watched as she stormed upstairs, her sobs resonating down to me in the dark basement. My heart went out to her. Both of our sisters were gone.
Only Gesu could help us now.
So my creative writing teacher told us: “Give me some words that you would use to describe a restaurant.” So we said “okay” and gave her these: light, clatter, specials, cheesecake, spill, bacon, gratuity, bitter, delectable, tip, matre’d, mmmmmm, tasty, atmosphere, cheap, menu
Guess what she said next? “Write something without the setting of a restaurant using all of these words!”
This story is the result of that…
I pumped my feet over the bicycle pedals, taking in the glorious light of the sun setting in the west, glowing behind enormous clouds.
Evan had been pedaling behind me without speaking a word for five or ten minutes now. I only knew he was still there because I kept hearing the clatter of his gears on his rusty bicycle. No doubt that old bike was bitter of the many years of forced outdoor adventures, rumbling on the long stretches of dirt roads surrounded by the painfully flat Kansas prairies.
I made an effort at conversation: “How’s it working at the diner, being the handsome matre’d and all?”
“It’s all right.” He laughed a little, but he kept pedaling slowly behind me. His poor bike didn’t even let him keep up with his five foot girlfriend. Or was there something else on his mind?
“I’d go for a delectable slice of cheesecake right now,” I said, imagining the tasty dessert on my tongue. I remembered that first date we spent at the diner, sharing a slice of cheesecake, since we were poor college students and that was the only thing cheap enough on the menu. That was a few months ago, when our fascination for one another was at its peak. How could something that had seemed so real wear off so soon? I hoped it truly hadn’t. I hoped he still loved me.
“Strawberry cheesecake is one of the specials right now,” he murmured from behind me.
“Mmmmmm.” Now the thought of cheesecake made my stomach rumble as I pedaled along. I gazed at the vast fields of wheat and corn that spread out endlessly to the horizon where the warm yellows and reds of sunlight continuously took my breath away. The atmosphere was so quiet and empty, yet strangely beautiful, calming my wearied spirit from the week of college finals that had so overwhelmed me. I set my foot down to stop the bike and stared off at the sunset.
“Why’d ya stop?” Evan said, as if forcing a playfulness in his tone.
I turned toward him, narrowing my brows. “Remember when you walked up to my table so carefully, trying not to spill the eggs and bacon?”
Evan managed a smile. “How could I forget?”
Heat flooded my cheeks, doubts surfacing within me. I was probably making him feel uncomfortable; he probably didn’t want to be here. For all I knew, he brought me here to announce that he wanted to break up. Yet I continued, “And that’s when it all started, when you started talking to me more, and I realized you liked me…”
“You gave me the biggest tip.” Evan grinned, but there was a hesitance in his dark, penetrating eyes.
“I call it gratuity.”
“Of course, Miss English Major.” He chuckled at the familiar joke, but then uncertainty filled his expression again and he searched my face. “Lydia, remember that night during Bible study?”
I nodded, but I didn’t know why he brought it up now. That had been the days before we started dating, when I had first met him, but also when I had first met the Lord.
Still sitting on his bike behind me, he stretched his hand out to me, so I shifted my body on the bike seat and reached my hand back toward him to clasp hold of his strong hand.
“Remember the Scripture we read that stirred your heart?” His voice was gentle, bringing back the memory of the Bible passage we’d read in our small group that night, a year before the incident at the diner.
“A little bit,” I said, trying to remember everything. “It was about Martha, listening to Jesus. He told her He was the resurrection and the life.”
He squeezed my hand, the warmth in his fingers comforting me.
We stared at each other in awe, holding hands, never wanting to let go. “Yes, Lydia,” Evan said, his voice returning with the passion and hope I’d so long associated with him. “Jesus is life.”
“And he brought me life again—through your message, that very night.” Tears filled my eyes again, but for a different reason than before. Even today, Evan was the leader of a small group of young men and women, often speaking passionately about the Scriptures, helping us to understand the heart of the gospel better. The Holy Spirit had convicted me through his message that night, bringing me to a place where I could fully trust in Jesus as my Savior.
But I didn’t understand why he was bringing this up at a time like this. “I thought you wanted to break up with me, Evan. I thought that’s why you brought me here.”
The young man pedaled his old rusty bike slowly till it sat close beside me. “The thought never crossed my mind, Lydia. I love you. I’ve just been tired, so tired. Between school and work at the diner, I feel like I have no time for you. I feel like we’ve grown distant, and that it’s my fault. I’m sorry.”
As he reached out and touched my cheek, his tenderness stunned me. I hadn’t felt like this in a long time, like he truly adored me. I let the tears fall down face. “I forgive you, Evan. I felt the same way, but I don’t feel that way anymore. We’re going to serve Jesus together, I’m sure of it. Wherever we are, me as an English teacher, or if you really become a pastor…”
Sitting astride our bikes, we gazed out into the empty prairie at the bright glint of the sun in the west that was now almost hidden completely under the earth. It was getting dark, but neither of us wanted to go back to the city.
Evan smiled at me, a hope burning in his eyes, and I couldn’t help but be assured of his love for me. “Or I could serve Jesus right now, as a handsome matre’d?”
“Or that. Maybe you could serve Him some delectable strawberry cheesecake…” After a moment my nervous chuckle exploded into a long, joyous laugh, as I realized he was finally laughing in return.
A man is walking on the beach. The beach represents his life. There are two sets of footprints on the beach: one is God’s, and the other the man’s. Occasionally there is only one set of footprints. “Why was there only one set of footprints during that time?” the man asked at the end of his life. God answered, “The two sets of footprints are the times I walked beside you through life. The one set of footprints are the harder times in your life, when I carried you.”
When my cousin told me that story, I exclaimed, “God is sooo romantic!” And we both laughed.
And as I thought about it more, I realized how true my whimsical statement was.
Romance doesn’t have to mean the mushy gushy falling in love with the opposite gender. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne used romance to describe nature and friendship. I think of romance as cuddled up in blankets on a winter night drinking hot cocoa, and I also think of it as God chasing after us, beckoning us to choose Him, to accept His gift of Jesus to take away our sins.
“[He] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:4
God surely carries us in the harder time in our lives, if we choose to trust in Him. He surely walks with us if we choose to walk with Him. He longs to take the most unworthy people and transform them. He loves to show love to the unlovable.
“I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.‘
I will say to those called ‘Not my people, ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’” Hosea 2:23
The story Emma by Jane Austen is fresh in my mind after watching one of the movies last night. Emma is the story of a middle class young English lady in the 1800’s. She completely misunderstands everyone, and even purposely is prejudice against people (yes, very similar to Pride and Prejudice, in those respects). Mr. Knightley ends up being right about practically everything she was wrong about. Emma responds to this discovery with deep regret, realizing how much she loves him. In return, Mr. Knightley forgives her, and loves her all the more. This gives a picture of how God loves us.
Ultimately, repentance wins God’s heart. He loved us before, but whenever we show we love Him, too, and we understand He is right about everything we were wrong about–well, the angels rejoice wildly with their instruments up in heaven. Jesus intercedes on our behalf, allowing us to have a relationship with our Creator. And His Spirit comes to dwell in us, so we may have power to will and to act according to His good purpose.
When our hearts are set on Him, anything is possible. Don’t give up, your bridegroom loves you. He calls us on the adventure of a lifetime, and in the hard times, He will carry us. In the good times, He will walk by our side.
“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” – Exodus 15:13
Here’s the excerpt, as promised!
The following day, he caught me crying as we hiked up a cliff.
“Sigrid, are ye doin’ all right?” he said from behind me.
I brushed back tears. “I’m doing wonderful,” I said as I stumbled over a protruding rock. Every memory of Mum lay trapped in the center of my mind. Today the thought of her had entered my head when I had picked her favorite flowers, lavender primroses, and now I could not push my grief out of my mind.
I kept walking, faster now, trying to draw closer to Lars who strode through the thick pines in the distance, energized by his morning breakfast. The last thing I wanted was this pathetic boy discovering my own weakness.
“Did ye find those purple flowers ye was lookin’ for?”
“It doesn’t matter. You can’t eat them, so there’s no point in having them.”
The truth was, I’d looked everywhere for them, but couldn’t find them. I was as if the gods themselves were ruining everything I tried to do.
“Are ye… are ye not enjoying yerself on this noble adventure of ours?” he asked gently.
I shot a glance at him. “I don’t even know why I came on your ‘noble adventure’ in the first place. To ruin a friendship and become a burden? To defend a country I have no reason to love?”
“Ye didn’t have to—”
“—I didn’t have a choice, really. It was the only way to do it.” I walked faster, but Erik drew alongside me.
“The only way for ye to do what, lass?” he asked, his forehead creased with anxiety.
We stared at each other, motionless, my heart trembling at his gaze. I wanted to cry again, but I withheld my tears. I could never tell him why I was truly going to Ireland. “I… I just want to go home.” Not to Bergen, but to my mother, my real home.
I turned away and hurried to catch up with Lars, feeling Erik’s eyes locked on me the whole way. He would never understand.
And I was beginning to fear I would never be able to go home.
“There’s a real war out there, you know, you mustn’t risk your life.”
She looked up at me with earnestness in her pale cheeks and round opal eyes. Dark brown cascades rippled over her shoulders. She was too pretty a girl to leave, too pretty to run off and risk my life when I could live happily here with her… but no—I could not think of myself. The lives of hundreds of others were at stake. God had gifted me with the capability of healing the sick and wounded, so I had to use it for His glory.
“I understand your fears, Clarisse, but this is a risk I must take for the Lord. I will risk my life to save the people of France and to share with them the mysteries of God’s grace. And I will risk it for you, beloved—by helping others have the strength to fight this war, so you can be free.”
She breathed in my ear. “Oh, Pierre, I would rather be with you in the coldness of this place than flying on the wings of freedom without you.”
Her voice was worn and ragged from years of adversity. She was not innocent of troubles; she was afraid, because she knew well the capacity they had to hurt her.
I clutched her hand tightly and whispered against it. “I am not going to die, my love. Trust me, I am not going to die.”
“You can never be too sure, though. Can’t you think for once of yourself?” she asked quietly. Her heart thudded against me as I drew her shivering frame close and rested my chin on the top of her head. She continued, “You’ve always been caring for the sick and wounded, but someday you will wear yourself out, you will die. Then what will become of me? Perhaps you don’t mind yourself dying, but really, Pierre, what will I do without you?”
Withdrawing from my arms, she stared fixedly up at me, her chin trembling and silent tears dripping down her cheeks. What would she do?
I studied her carefully, as I tucked her soft hair behind her ears. “You are right, Clarisse—I am not one to bother about myself, but it is simply because I have learned that my life is in the hands of God, and His grace is something to be spread like wildfire. That is the only way all the wars of this world will end: by spreading God’s grace that covers all sin to even the most undeserving. So, beloved, do not be afraid if you find out I have been healing the wounds of the enemy. They don’t deserve it, but neither do any of us. And no person can truly live if they are never completely forgiven.”
I gazed down at her glistening eyes and slim shoulders. “And as for you, dear one, God is always with you, even if I die. He loves you and He cares for you—rely on Him, will you, my love? Will you place your life in His hands while I’m gone, and even when I return?”
“I will, Pierre,” she agreed, her face radiant with a new hope. “You are right—God is in control. He will take care of me while you are off healing the dying people of France. He will take care of you as well.” She smiled tenderly. “You are a good man, Pierre.”
Heat poured into my cheeks. I knew I didn’t deserve that praise. And yet her words gave me a more acute awareness of her love for me. How could I leave her? But I had to—but no. But yes. I determined to untangle myself from the mysteries of love, and I fixed my eyes on the ground, my thoughts on God, the One I’d be a most pitiable man without.
“Then now is when we would say farewell, my love.” I kissed her hand lightly, and then hastened out the door with my burlap sack over my shoulder.
I had to stop. That one word shook me with a feeling so severe I could not make sense of it. If I looked at her one more time, my heart might break from the knowledge of what I had to do. No matter the cost, the pain, no matter how much I loved her—I belonged to the Lord, and it was futile and worthless to think of myself and what I most wanted, when He had a far better plan for me. So I just stood in the doorway with my back to her.
“You will return to me?”
“Yes,” I assured her, “all in the good Lord’s timing. I will come back and marry you. You can be sure of that.” I took another step away.
“Do you promise?” she asked in a small, frail voice.
I looked back at her, just once, for the last time. Her beauty warmed me inside, as it had so many times before.
Collecting my thoughts, I considered telling her what I felt to say, but the truth ended up prying its way out of my mouth. “I can’t promise my return,” I said frankly. “The French Revolution isn’t an organized war—anything could happen. But I do promise I will try my very hardest.”
She nodded slowly, accepting it. “God be with you, Pierre.”
“And He with you, Clarisse.”
I turned away from her before my emotions could overpower the insistent Spirit within me. I straddled the old mare and set her off down the road, departing the fragile young woman all alone in the cold house. Tears sprung from my eyes as I rode through the snow with the sack full of food, medicine, and blankets.
I hadn’t been completely honest with her. No matter what, I was bound to die through this risky procedure of healing the sick and wounded on the streets of Paris, simply because I didn’t have a weapon. I wouldn’t defend myself, no matter what, even if I did have a musket. I wouldn’t shoot at anyone, because God saw them all as wandering souls in desperate need of a Savior—and He had perfect eyesight. Both my allies and enemies would be healed, and God would be glorified through me. But the French Revolution wasn’t an organized war. The enemy would likely fire at me even if I came to heal them. Indeed, the Spirit within me gave me the sense that this would surely happened, and that my time would soon end. I knew I would never see Clarisse again in that cold little house, and neither would we ever marry. But thank God we’d meet in a big warm one, filled with inexplicable light. There, at least, I was guaranteed to see her again, as a sister in Christ, and in a place where I could breathe free air at last.
As I rode nearer to the deafening sound of the gunshots, I prayed that the lives I saved physically would be saved spiritually through the words the Spirit gave me, and that they would discover the big, warm house as well. But for the first time since I had learned about God’s hand on my life, it took great strength to place my thoughts off myself, and place them on the road in front of me that led to the dying people I would heal. Nevertheless, I forced myself to look through God’s eyes, and see the hurt and suffering of the world. I asked for His strength to think of them and their pain, and to forget about my own. For if I did not look through His eyes and ask for His strength, I would fail. And if I failed to turn to His power, I would die trying to do good on my own—or worse, I would die forgetting the hundreds of lives at stake.
I could not think of myself.
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” – Acts 20:24 (NIV)