“Cassie, have you tried these brownies? They are delicious.”

That was a lie straight out of my dear friend’s pie hole. Faith seems all sweet on the outside, but inside she is full of jokes and evil tricks, such as getting me to eat what I now call sawdust brownies. And I’m not lying when I say it took me 10 minutes to chew and swallow that brownie. It literally tasted and felt like someone had poured sawdust right into my mouth. Worst. Brownie. Ever.

Just a side note here — yes, I actually know what sawdust tastes like. I grew up in a family of saw-millers and construction workers. And those brownies may have looked good, but I assure you, they were not good.

Earlier this week, I started a Bible plan on the Bible app with a group of ladies. Just a way to further and create community among my sisters in Christ, and it was incredible. Ladies were opening up and sharing about things to women they didn’t even know. It was absolutely beautiful. But during the plan, there was one verse and thought that really stood out to me: there is no substitute for the presence of God.

“Here’s the one thing I crave from God, the one thing I seek above all else: I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his house, finding the sweet loveliness of his face, filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace. I want to live my life so close to him that he takes pleasure in my every prayer.” — Psalm 27:4 (TPT)

And that's where the sawdust brownies come into play. Them there brownies looked incredible (I felt the need to use my best Carter County sawmill voice). They were everything you dream a brownie should look like, but someone had the bright idea they also needed to be healthy. Yuck! Y’all, I don’t do healthy, I do tasty. Those brownies were lacking the latter. Anyways, whoever had made the brownies went to extremes to substitute all the goodness in the brownies with things like black beans, and gluten-free sawdust, I mean flour. But in the process of substitution, they sucked the goodness right out of them there brownies! But isn’t that what we do spiritually?

God has given us himself, everything we need to feel satisfied and fulfilled, yet we run to substitutions for our fulfillment. We feel alone in our relationship, so we stay up all night watching unrealistic Netflix romances or looking at pornography trying to fill the void, only building up more walls in our relationship. We struggle in our finances, so we go shopping to make us feel better for a moment, only digging ourselves deeper into debt. We feel empty and worthless, so we try and find our worth on social media, just to see that everyone else's perfect Instagram is better than ours, sending us into a more profound depression and self-hate.

Do you see the cycle? When we start substituting God for idols, we lose. We lose our spouse, our friends, our homes, our worth, our faith. There is no substitute for Jesus in our life any more than there is a substitute for brownies. You can run as fast and as hard as you want from the presence of God, but you will never be fulfilled, and you will never be free.

So I ask you, what are some areas of your life that you need to replace the sawdust with sugar? What have you been using as a substitute for your relationship with Christ? I pray God searches your heart today and reveals to you the places you keep hidden. Friend, I believe in you and Jesus is waiting for you. Now go and take back your life today.

P.S. Shout out to my sweet friend and editor, Faith Schweizer. She is absolutely incredible and such an asset to this ministry and my life. And if you’ve never heard her sing, you should! Go check her out on iTunes. Thank you, Faither, for everything!

(Italic) Downs serves as a young adult/college leader at her church with her husband. She writes faith-based columns in southern Missouri newspapers.

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