“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” -- Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)
“Welcome home!” Huh? What did she say? I didn’t know how to respond to the sweet lady who greeted me the first time I walked into Gateway Church over a decade ago. I’m pretty sure I awkwardly mumbled, “You too?” as she handed me the bulletin. I wondered if she said this to everyone or if she knew insecurity and social anxiety had a paralyzing grip on my life. In hindsight, I know the Holy Spirit prompted her to say those words the evening God gave 19-year-old me (the most insecure person ever) the courage to attend a Saturday night service by myself. That’s when everything changed; I left with a new heart and a place to belong.
Weeks before, a doctor told me my battle with social anxiety would hinder my ability to thrive in social settings and make engaging in conversations a struggle for the rest of my life. If he could only see me now! This part of my story is why Ezekiel 36 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Ezekiel, an Old Testament prophet whose name means “God will strengthen,” paints a vivid picture of God’s salvation and restoration. After Ezekiel tells the people of Israel God will give them a new heart and put His Spirit in them, we see an illustration of what this looks like in the life of a believer.
“And when I bring you back, people will say, ‘This former wasteland is now like the Garden of Eden! The abandoned and ruined cities now have strong walls and are filled with people!’” (Ezekiel 36:35, NLT) The word for wasteland here means deserted, to have no sign of life. Compare that to the garden described in Genesis when God walked with Adam and Eve. In Hebrew, Eden means luxury and delight. This is more than a slight change; it’s a complete one-eighty.
A few years ago at Starbucks, I ran into an old classmate from high school. He didn’t believe me when I told him what I do for a living. “A pastor?!” It’s because he remembered the old me: a relational wasteland, terribly insecure, and emotionally crippled by social anxiety. Thankfully, that’s not me anymore. Quite the opposite! The devil’s plan was for my weakness to stifle my potential. For too long I settled on surviving, but all along, God’s desire was to completely transform weakness into strength.
Does something in your life resemble a wasteland? For the past week, we’ve been focusing on believing in Jesus. Part of believing in Jesus is believing you are who He says you are and trusting His ability to transform every area of your life. Your weakness does not define you. The more barren the wasteland appears, the more bountiful the harvest when we walk in our God-given identity. His strength is made perfect in our weakness, and He wants to reveal His strength and restorative power to you today.
God, thank You for the gift of a new heart. Please show me if there is an area in my life You want to transform. I believe in Your ability to make all things new, and I choose You as my source of identity today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
For Further Study
- Psalm 51:10; Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 37
-- Kyle Fox
Taken from Created to Be, a Gateway devotion.
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