This past summer I had the privilege of going to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with Cru for a summer project. Three and a half weeks living in the mountains, growing more in my walk with the Lord, surrounded by great community, hiking, white water rafting, horseback riding, you name it.
“This is going to be such an EASY summer,” I thought…
Nope. I felt like the entire trip God was slapping me in the face saying, “You’re not as good as you thought you were, you’re still a sinner, and you still need a Savior.”
Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing summer, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. In fact, I’d love to go back soon. But God revealed so many internal sins to me during my short time in Jackson Hole, things I didn’t even think I struggled with. He showed me the worst of myself and it was hard. They were all internal “struggles,” things like fear, anxiety, worry, insecurity, bitterness, hatred, and pride. Honestly, by the end of the trip I was sad to leave but somewhat relieved.
“Maybe when I leave Jackson Hole, I’ll leave all these gross sins behind,” I thought.
Yeah right. I’ve been back home for 4 months and still struggling with some of those sins. Some of them may not seem so bad, but think of jealousy, if you continue to be jealous of something or someone, it leads to bitterness, which eventually leads to hate. You can’t live a peaceful, joyful life if you’re full of bitterness and jealousy. And you can’t love God and give Him glory if you’re consumed with hatred.
One day in Jackson Hole, we went horseback riding in the mountains. We got to one area in the mountains that was surrounded by dead pine trees. The guide stopped and turned to all of us and said, “See all the dead pine trees? Recently, they have discovered a small pine beetle that gets inside of the pine trees and rots it from the inside out, eventually destroying it. It’s amazing because such a small pine beetle can take out forests at a time. It’s crazy, something so small can destroy such a large, majestic tree.”
I saw the irony almost immediately. The Bible repeatedly describes someone who “fears (respects, honors) the Lord” as a large tree.
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a TREE planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” -Psalm 1:1-3
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a TREE planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” -Jeremiah 17:7-8
Those who trust in Jesus are like these trees, and we must “let no bitter root to grow which causes trouble and defiles many” (Hebrews 12:15).
I also got to have some amazing conversations in Jackson Hole, particularly with a Cru staff woman, Nance. She taught me some amazing spiritual truths, particularly about true repentance. Usually, we repent of the wrong thing (the behavior) we did (ex: forgive me God for getting jealous) but there is actually a deeper problem that we have to root out. We can’t repent of our behavior; we have to repent of the deeply rooted, internal belief. Your beliefs lead to your thoughts, which lead to your behaviors and feelings.
BELIEFS –> THOUGHTS –> BEHAVIORS/FEELINGS
You are either believing truth or believing lies. You have to pray to God and ask him to reveal the lies you are believing and then replace them with truth. The battle is in your mind.
You see, God wants every aspect of your life. He wants the deep internal things too. Matt Chandler said, “You can’t just mow over weeds, you have to pull them out from the roots. And it’s a lot slower and a more painful process.”
But Jesus knows what’s best for us, when He asks us to surrender things over to Him, it’s because He has something better for us. He wants to spare us of the unnecessary hurts that these things will cause us, because He loves us.
What’s awesome is God hasn’t left us empty handed to deal with our sin. We have a whole book filled with His words. The more we look to Him and His words, the more our thinking will align with truth and the lies we have been believing will begin to fall off. As Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to Him are radiant; there faces are never covered with shame.”