As a nine-year-old visiting my aunt’s cottage, I stood extra tall when Uncle John brought me a can of paint and a paintbrush to brighten his old folding lawn chairs. I stared at the wooden backs, seats, and armrests, connected to rusty aluminum bars and hinges. With all that rust, I figured I’d better paint the aluminum too. Make the whole thing more unified.
Uh-oh! When Uncle John returned to inspect my artwork, he narrowed his eyes. My heart sank as he shouted, “What have you done?” Family members gathered for the worst art show in history. Their teasing and mockery cut deep as blame unleashed shame. Desperate to hide, I ran to the first place I could think of, their smelly old outhouse, where I had a good cry.
As various childhood traumas haunted me over the years, each memory left me with a sense of pity and loneliness. Somewhere along the way, I learned to envision Jesus in the middle of each mess. He stood by my side, even in that old rickety outhouse, wiping my tears, identifying with the holes in my heart.
“The Lord is close to all whose hearts are crushed by pain, and he is always ready to restore the repentant one.”Psalm 34:18 (TPT)
It isn’t about about the size of your problems. Big or small, God cares and understands it all. He never criticizes nor minimizes. When others think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill, Jesus, your advocate and champion, takes your feelings seriously. He loves you fiercely and wants you to see him as your ever-present best friend. He offers you a walloping dose of grace, even on your smelliest days. The God who throws mountains into the sea is always one hundred percent for you!
In your sanctified imagination, can you see him with his arm around your shoulders, eager to tackle that mind-bending issue alongside you? The Prince of Peace is right there, ready to steady your pounding heart. He is tender toward your weaknesses. He knows you’re made of dust.
The woman caught in adultery was given a front row seat to Christ’s saving presence when he wrote in the dust while the Pharisees set down their stones (See John 8:1–8). The Samaritan woman at the well discovered a close-up picture of Christ breaking social and societal boundaries when he loved her amidst her dishonesty about her shady history (See John 4:1–26). Jesus gently and tenderly uncovered her secrets so he could transform her mindset and vision—because that’s what love does.
The same Jesus who encountered these women thousands of years ago stands beside you in your current trial, reminding you all the while to see him as your lifeline. He works tirelessly and timelessly, turning broken people into masterpieces. Just as he painted a picture of love, acceptance, and forgiveness in their lives, he dips his brush into the well of Calvary’s crimson flow, painting a picture of wholeness into your thirsty heart today. Do you hear his whisper?
What is man’s judgement in the face of my acceptance? What are scoffers and mockers in the presence of Love when I open my arms to you? No matter how dark and bleak your picture, when you welcome the Light of Life, I restore and repaint you with heaven’s colors of incomparable light. Hope and redemption are yours, as I joyfully mark you for me.
He gives us sanctified imaginations so we can paint pictures and tell stories that help others understand his accessible Kingdom more clearly.
Imagine compassion flowing like a waterfall from his throne, rushing and slushing into every parched part of your soul. Parts that have been marred and overlooked by neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends. Parts that feel fragile and broken. The One who loves all of his children equally is ready to move into your picture and rain refreshment and wholeness exactly where you need it most.
You don’t need to flip out or kick the can of paint when Satan tries to mess with your picture. From day one, he’s planned and schemed your ruin, simply because you’re God’s most prized design. The enemy makes suggestions in the sound of your own voice, and then he suggests that you put it on repeat. “God is withholding from you… Can he really be trusted? You’ve gone too far. You missed it. You lost your chance of favor. You might as well settle for less or give up altogether.” You don’t need to come into agreement with lies.
When Satan’s muddy bristles slap your war-weary brain, remember you’re free to choose a disciplined life in the Spirit and refocus on your Designer and his big-picture plans for you. God told us we’d have troubles, but we can take courage and encourage one another—because Jesus overcame the world!
My favorite part of the Lord’s prayer is Matthew 6:10. Cause your every purpose to be fulfilled on earth, just as it is in heaven. When you pray in faith according to God’s Word, he wants you to see and believe that amazing things are happening behind the scenes. When God’s Kingdom power breaks through, he expands your vision, even as you partner with him for transformation.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweat drops of blood. When crimson rose to the surface, Jesus became a picture of power that flowed from the inside out. This same power is available to you right now through the indwelling Holy Spirit. By the blood of Christ, you can come out of the winepress in God’s holy colors.
“Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation.”Hebrews 12:2 (TPT)
Before Christ endured his final wrestling match on the cross, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. He grew his spiritual muscles by resisting a barrage of weighty temptations, including forty grueling days in the wilderness. With God’s Word as a double-edged sword in his mouth, Jesus dispelled Satan’s lies in exchange for his Father’s truth. Our Savior presented a glorious picture of submission, which now helps us choose life-giving obedience in our own wilderness.
Life is messy. Every artist starts with a jumble of paint on their pallets and brushes. They persevere when they keep the finished product in mind, trusting the details will all come together.
“So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together for good.”Romans 8:28 (TPT)
When you become like a child who seeks God for wisdom and direction as you walk with your feet on his, you don’t need to be concerned about missteps. Only his steps. Because when you walk and talk with him, you start to see like him. Everything brightens through his big-picture lens, and you can laugh at the days to come.
For the last six years, I’ve battled a serious health condition. As I’ve been standing on God’s promises for healing, he’s been teaching me the power of keeping my praise on. The weapon of praise is a gateway to freedom. To offer Christ a sacrifice of praise is our highest privilege. In heaven, our praise is no longer a sacrifice. Down here, it demonstrates beautiful trust. It declares before heaven and hell that we’re free to choose God and give him our paintbrush no matter what.
“I’m bursting with joy over what you’ve done for me! My lips are full of perpetual praise.”Psalm 34:1 (TPT)
Praise infuses our souls like splashes of vibrant colors on a canvas. It confuses the enemy and pushes back his swipes of darkness that try to cloud our picture. When we call on the Lord, he answers us. His voice rings out with resurrection life. His presence is our peaceful background music, even inspiring others as we cooperate and co-create with God. Listen to his gentle rivers of truth:
I am your Living Water. Grab ahold of this mystery. Just as I am in you, you are in me. You may feel like you’re in over your head, but you’re completely submerged in me. You’re baptized in my perfect love, which dissolves fear and everything that tries to compete with me. Yes, I empower you to trust me with the simplicity and abandon of a child. Reach for me as I reach for you. Unlock yourself as you lock eyes with me, your Creator and personal Prince of Peace, until your perspective, no matter how cloudy, matches mine completely. To see like me is to trust me wholeheartedly. It’s a gift we give each other. Today and eternally.
In God’s upside-down Kingdom, he inspires vibrant ponderable pictures in his children’s open minds. We see depictions of truth in the simplicity of a child leaping into Daddy’s open arms, of dry bones coming to life, of sealed graves opening, and of death-defying love, planted and sealed in each one of us.
To see yourself rooted in Christ like a branch in a vine that bears fruit in every season, is to see yourself on a supernatural canvas of “hope not deferred,” but tangible here and now. I pray you stare long and hard at this hope as you purely and boldly live it out for God before others. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.
Even as you’re surrounded and championed by ministering spirits and the great cloud of witnesses, in Jesus’ Name, may you picture Emmanuel, God with us, more clearly today. For to see him is to trust him, and to trust him is to see him…
“What bliss you experience when your heart is pure! For then your eyes will open to see more and more of God.”Matthew 5:8 (TPT)
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