Meet Carlos Rodriguez. Carlos is a part of our family of churches, pastoring at Catch The Fire Raleigh in North Carolina. Carlos attended the School of Ministry here in Toronto, and so he is very familiar with Freshwind. He has spoken at Freshwind a number of times before, and we are thrilled to have him back. Since Carlos' Toronto adventures, he has traveled the world and ministered to others through speaking, prison ministry, writing a book called Simply Sonship (with another book in the works), starting HappySonship.com and investing in his own family. We love Carlos’ authenticity, passion and his ability to convey God’s truth in a powerful and relatable way.
I really, REALLY appreciated Carlos’ words. Why? Because it’s what I needed to hear. I’m someone who has struggled with disappointment and depression for the majority of my life; chronic pain resulting from a serious car accident, facing rejection relationally and professionally, and a lot of my dreams not becoming reality are just the short list of my past disappointments. I’ve tried to follow the Lord well, but sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. So the message of how to harness hope and look for God's goodness in the midst of challenge is one I need to hear… over and over again.
What does it mean to you?
I think we can all relate to doing what we think is right, but still having things not work out. We naturally feel disappointment and frustration when we realize the situation hasn’t unfolded the way we wanted. For so many years before I allowed God to heal my wounded heart, I expected disappointment - I lived in it. But take a moment to ponder over Carlos’ words:
“Maybe you’re confusing the darkness of the grave with the darkness of the womb - the darkness of new beginnings, of rediscovery, of rebirth. Something new is coming.”
If we instead shift our thinking to expect what Carlos challenges us to believe, we will be in a much better place to deal with the tension of living in the now, while still hoping and waiting for what’s to come. We will be able to see how God has planted us, rather than see ourselves as stuck in our circumstances.
As Carlos said in his video:
And I’m speaking to you right now - take courage! God has called you, He has anointed you, He has empowered you. It doesn’t mean you are perfect, it doesn’t mean you get it right all the time. It doesn’t even mean in the journey or the process you are doing all the things appropriately or correctly all the time. But I believe with all of my heart and I am completely convinced without a shadow of a doubt of three things:
God really loves you.
God will endure with you.
God believes in you.
We know God loves us; as the song goes, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” There are countless ways the Bible points to our Father’s love for us - for you. One of the most commonly referenced verses is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” So we have the Bible, God’s word, that tells us. But I would also encourage you to ask Him to show and tell you why He loves you himself. The point of a relationship is to be in communication and partnership with one another. So talk to God, your Heavenly Papa, and ask Him about His love for you. Perhaps it sounds weird or different, but He will show you. As He shows you His love, He will help you deal with the disappointments, the unknowns, the whys. The more I have shared my hurts with Him and allowed Him into my brokenness, the more hope I’ve felt for the future.
Here are some practical steps I have taken in the past year to help me shift from living in disappointment to living with hope and joy:
1. I asked God to forgive me for pushing my disappointments and anger deep within me. I wanted to ignore my thoughts and feelings, but by pushing them aside, I didn't deal with my hurt and anger.
2. I forgave those who had hurt and disappointed me, whether intentionally or unintentionally. I have learned that forgiveness is a choice and not a feeling, so sometimes I have to forgive someone multiple times for the same issue. That’s okay, as long as I’m choosing to forgive that person.
3. I forgave myself for the poor choices I have made and how I responded and coped in my circumstances. As Carlos said, we’re not perfect and we don’t do everything correctly. When I was a teenager, I struggled with self-harm – that was my way to cope – so I needed to forgive myself for hurting myself and learn healthy ways to deal with disappointment, anger and hurt. Now, it’s much better if I take some deep breaths, close my eyes and talk it through with Jesus.
4. I have learned the importance of honesty. Be honest! Be honest about what you’re thinking and feeling with yourself, with others and with God (even when it feels scary). As you process out loud, especially with God and those you trust, fear will lose its hold on you. Remember – nothing is too intense for God to handle.
5. I ask God to renew my mind. The Bible says that God will give us hope and it is important to catch and change our negative thinking patterns (Psalm 94:14 and Romans 12:2). When I struggle with doubt, I do my best to recognize it and ask God to reveal His truth.
As I have taken these steps of forgiveness and honesty, God has healed my heart in many ways. These steps will always be a part of my life because we are not immune to hurt, but I am equipped. The beautiful part is that He and I are a lot closer and I have hope because of the good He's done with my mess. I chose to trust His love for me and open my heart to Him to heal.
It’s worth the fight - it’s worth trusting in Jesus.
Remember, love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).
And God is love (1 John 4:8).