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I was driving from my cousin’s wedding in Hershey, Pennsylvania, to the airport in Philadelphia. I had an early afternoon flight to New York City and an overnight flight to Edinburgh to celebrate New Year’s with my friends.
I felt complicated emotions. December 30. The year was ending. In fact, here was the end, staring right at me. And all the things I’d believed, all the words I’d thought were meant for this exact year, all the days I had pressed through the unbelief, all the times I’d chosen to be fully persuaded even when the story wasn’t working out—they all blinked before my eyes. They all rubbed my heart raw. They all made me very sad.
Because it was over. I was hours away from flying to Scotland. All opportunity for God to do what I was fully persuaded He would do had left. And I wondered if He was kind.
I rented a tiny little car to take me the couple of hours to the airport. I connected my phone with the Bluetooth and started listening to the podcast of a sermon from a church I love. I honestly don’t remember much of the sermon, but I do remember the pastor asking a question as I traveled the lonely highway through the country parts of Pennsylvania.
“What do you believe about God?”
And immediately, before I even had time to ask God, a paragraph dropped into my mind. Before I even had time to think, it was there in full.
I think God strings me along. He tells me what I want to hear so I won’t quit playing for His team. He doesn’t actually intend to do the things He says, but He says them to me because it’s what I want to hear.
He strings me along.
I couldn’t get that phrase to stop repeating in my mind. And it broke my heart a little bit every time it did, because I knew if I was being honest, I deeply believed it was true. It felt very, very true. This paragraph had been bubbling up in my heart for a long time—waiting, I guess, for the right person to ask me the right question—or maybe waiting for me to have the courage to say what I was really feeling.
I tell people a lot, “God can handle your doubts and fears. He can handle your true feelings. Don’t hold back.” And I think I’ve always believed that. I’ve never questioned whether God could handle my doubts; I think I worried that I couldn’t handle them. Like, if I actually said this stuff out loud—that God was just stringing me along in this life and in this story—my faith wouldn’t survive it or recover from it. So I didn’t say it.
But there, in the car, I knew the whole paragraph existed in the deepest part of me, even while I knew it wasn’t true. I knew it wasn’t the character of the God I’d grown to know and love over the last thirty years of my life. The God I met in the sanctuary of my church as a five-year-oldwas not a God who lied to His kids to get what He wanted. He wouldn’t lie to me, I knew it. So why was this paragraph so deeply embedded in my heart?
I paused the podcast and just drove for a bit. I sat there with the lie I’d believed. I heard it over and over again in my mind. I thought about what I learned at a singles workshop I attended earlier in the year, how when you believe a lie, you pray for it to be removed, and then you ask God what truth should be there.
I started the podcast back up, and the pastor said, “Ask God what is actually true about Him.”
So I did. There in the rental car at ten in the morning on December 30. No emotion, no tears. I just wanted to know what was true and what wasn’t. I needed my mind to be set right and for the truth to determine where we were supposed to go next.
“Okay, God, tell me the truth here.
And in that still small voice, that quiet place where God and I meet alone, I knew it. “God is kind to me.”
God is kind to me.
That is absolutely what is true.
Even though I was driving out of Pennsylvania and was running out of calendar days—even though I was leaving behind this year where so many road signs had pointed toward a different ending than this one, I knew what was true. God is kind to me.
It didn’t make me feel different. You know that, right? It wasn’t that I suddenly was driving through rainbows, tapping my non-accelerator foot, glancing into the rear- view at teeth that sparkled every time I smiled. Not at all. The drive to the airport was me repeating over and over what was true, implanting it in my heart, saying it, choosing it, long before it felt true.
Annie F. Downs is a bestselling author, nationally known speaker, and podcast host based in Nashville, Tennessee. An author of multiple bestselling books including 100 Days to Brave, Looking for Lovely, and Let’s All Be Brave, Annie also loves traveling around the country speaking at conferences, churches, and events. Annie hosts the weekly popular That Sounds Fun Podcast and is a huge fan of bands with banjos, glitter, her community of friends, boiled peanuts, and soccer. Read more at anniefdowns.com and follow her @anniefdowns.
Excerpt from Remember God. Used with permission.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Courtney Clayton