When Your Emotions Run You Over

Sometimes I think I have enough emotions to go around. It just takes a downward spiral of events through the day for me to burst. We can pretend we’ve never had our fears, sad days, and pity parties (or cried embarrassing amounts of tears during The Notebook). As people, we are made to feel. I know this allows us to live colorful lives of joy and compassion, but I also know it comes with feeling the pain of life, whether it’s your own pain or someone else’s.

We have gradually become a culture that believes in following feelings, emotions, and hearts at all costs. This world is chanting the subliminal motto, “If it feels good, do it.” And this might be true… depending on where our compass is pointing.

There is a balance. We are constantly in a raging war over what we as humans desire, and living to be like Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. But it’s our greatest joy to win this battle; we get the chance in the midst of suffering on earth to purely love God. Galatians 5:17 tells us our flesh and Spirit are constantly conflicting so that we don’t live based on impulsive decisions. The tension of flesh and Spirit causes us to struggle, but it also allows for God to reveal His goodness.

God is not circumstantial. Isn’t this amazing? We are circumstantial; we get frustrated when things don’t go our way, and we love when they do. But God is always steady and constant. God is the very rock we are grounded on. God would be very unorganized if He only met our needs when He felt like it… or when we felt like it. His faithfulness does not depend on how I feel; this is why we see good things happen in the very middle of our sin. God is always faithful regardless of our feelings because He is head over heels in love with the ones He creates.

Keep your thoughts in line. The heart is our center of emotions, and we need it, otherwise we would be numb human beings with no substance and compassion. But anything headed for destruction (or life) starts in our thoughts. We have the power to think as Philippians 4:8 guides us: about things that are true, pure, and excellent. Our thoughts determine our speech and actions, and this is why Paul advises us in verse eight not only to think lovely thoughts, but also to practice them.

Walk with the Holy Spirit. We cannot accomplish godly thought patterns and actions just by trying super hard to be super Christian so we can look super perfect. No, the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness when we walk close to him (Galatians 5:22-23). It takes the pressure off of trying to live perfect because God carries that weight for us. James 3:10-12 also reminds us that we can’t live life by both the flesh and Spirit, just like fresh water and salt water don’t come from the same place. Only submitting our emotions to God can produce a Spirit-led life.

Our emotions are chaotic, but faith is not. Sometimes our emotions can take us on a roller coaster, and it’s a nightmare. However, it does not mean we camp out in our mess of emotions; we prayerfully choose to give our emotional chaos to God because He came to take it from us ages ago. Just because we have the choice of joy does not mean life it’s rainbows and butterflies; but it does mean God will empower us to walk in that choice. Although surrendering our own feelings may seem like our control is being stripped from us, it’s actually our greatest freedom to put our mess into God’s hands.

We are not empty human beings. We are created to love and be loved. When we submit all of our craziness to God, we walk in the power of feeling through our human heart while also walking in the power of God. Next time you need the steady heart of God, create space for Him to enter your mind and walk forward in this peace.

* Cue dance party to Taylor Swift *

Continue Reading

The Grace Mistaken for Perfection

I think we tend to have this odd, twisted perception of God’s grace sometimes and it causes a misunderstanding about how we as Christians should treat others (Christians or not) when they mess up. There are a lot of different ways to respond when you hear someone’s deepest secrets about their past, and I am not dismissing that sometimes there are painful decisions and consequences we all face because we’re human.

I believe it’s in moments of giving advice to others and walking people through to the other side of their mistakes that we find what’s really holding our own faith together. It’s our chance to show people how God sees them: chosen, forgiven, loved, and holy. It’s not a chance for us to condemn, shame, point fingers, tell them what they shoulda-coulda done so we can look like the perfect ones. We are only able to show people how God sees them when we have been changed by His heart for ourselves. Our reaction to others’ mistakes is often related to our view of God.

An attitude of condemnation teaches others that it’s all about playing the part of the “good Christian” and following the rules so God will like us. But I have great news: God has always loved us despite any good or bad action. That love from Him is never earned because it has always existed anyway.

Perfectionism and legalism say that we have to act good so that we are then worthy of God’s grace; anything below perfect has a negative connotation (side note: as a fellow perfectionist, the struggle is so real but it is okay to mess up). But this is a completely self-centered perspective rather than Christ-centered. If we are going to live in freedom, we have to change our thought process. So whether it’s to experience the fullness of God’s grace for yourself, or help someone else along the way, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. You are not defined by your sin.

You have heard this 100 too many times especially if you have grown up in church, and it’s probably getting old, but I just reminded you again because it’s a true and powerful statement. John 1:42 describes Jesus and his first disciples, and Jesus gave Simon son of John the new name of Peter. Peter means “rock”, specifically for the foundation on which a church is built. The irony here is that Peter was the exact opposite: he was unstable and doubtful, but Jesus called him Peter based on what he would become solely by God’s grace. The Bible gives us a living example of how God sees us as a new person through His grace, and any damaged view of ourselves does not change this love!

  1. We are not the standard for someone’s actions; Jesus is.

A lot of times the most finger-pointing will come from people with hidden baggage because they may not have fully received the freedom of grace, so they depend on their human ability to play the part of God. We can’t afford to be the ones who allow our pride to get in the way of someone’s freedom and breakthrough because there’s just no time for it. Ultimately, are you looking for the credit and control, or do you want others to truly catch a glimpse of God’s heart?

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” -2 Corinthians 10:12

  1. Conviction is not the same as condemnation.

Conviction is from the Holy Spirit to gently draw us closer to the heart of God. It brings freedom, surrender, and sheds light on situations that seem dark. Condemnation often brings feelings of fear and shame, and also keeps us bonded to our sin while often keeping it hidden. Many times when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we have to take physical action to break free and this might be scary depending on the circumstances. However, the fear in each conviction and condemnation is much different: conviction makes it hard to stay the same in your sin, while condemnation will bring fear that causes you to hide.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2

 

  1. Obligation versus love:

 

When we receive and experience God’s grace and love, we realize that we truly do not deserve it. It is out that recognition that we obey and please God. This is the difference between a love-driven action rather than religiously following “rules” and “what-not-to-dos.”

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” –Titus 2:11-12

 

  1. Nonbelievers are being misled.

It’s tough when we care about the hearts of people when they’re not living for God. But our harsh attitudes leave people running scared (or not even caring) and staying bonded to sin because of how we Christians have treated their mistakes. They are left with a misleading perception of who God is, and for the thousandth time they’re over being preached at. But our example of living according to the dos and don’ts is a life living in bondage and walking on eggshells in order to maintain the perfect picture that people have from the outside. It is the most destructive way and it’s the opposite of living in freedom under God’s beautiful grace that Jesus paid for. This was the gift of the cross, and it has gotten lost in translation because of our desire to keep things looking pretty and put-together from the outside.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:7;18

 

Be reminded that we are privileged to live for God and obey Him. It’s not a chore, rather we do it out of love because we are so rarely chosen and treasured in the midst of our biggest mistakes. Because of the cross, we are not bound by the slavery to the law. We don’t have to spend our lives gaining God’s freedom and approval like we so often do for people. Allow this transformation in yourself to be a light that points others to the same truth.

Continue Reading

Digging Deeper

Roots are so important. We rarely see them, but they produce what we do see. If we see a withered plant, we can assume that the roots aren’t healthy. We as Christians need strong roots if we are ever going to survive in this world without looking like it.

If you have ever carved your name in the sand or built a sandcastle, you know that water or wind will erase it and it will crumble. In Matthew 7:23-27, we hear all about this concept. The man who builds a house on the rock (God) will be able to withstand any rain, wind, or storm because the foundation is secure. Anything else will crumble, like the man who builds his house on sand. The exact same thing goes for our lives: when our foundation is secure in Christ, our actions will reflect that foundation, and we will not be shaken. So how can we get to the place of healthy roots?

We have to kill the weeds. Weeds count for all the “bad stuff” in your life that will keep you from having strong roots in God. When we have strong roots in God, our lives will reflect that. Likewise, when our hearts are unstable, it will cause our actions to be unstable too. God can’t bloom the good things in our lives if we hoard the unhealthy things.

Remember He’s the source of our strength. Without the strength of a firm foundation, we have no room to grow and establish a stable heart that looks like Christ’s. John 15:4 reminds us that we can’t do anything without God. We can’t produce good fruit in our lives unless everything we are doing starts with God in the first place. When our foundation is prayer and the Bible, we will always produce the right fruit. This is especially key for the hard times; when our roots are strong and they rely on God’s strength, we are stable.

Trust God to supply your need. Once our actions show that God is our true source of strength, we can trust Him fully to give us what we need. The Bible says it better than I ever could: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Even when it doesn’t seem obvious that our needs will be met, He always follows through, so we don’t have to waste our time worrying. We will always bear the fruit when we root ourselves in Him.

You will harvest what you plant. This is simple, yet hard to accept when we want to go through life the easy way. It’s hard because a lot of times I want the results without the work. But I can’t lie to myself that way, and neither can you. Matthew 7:20 says, “Thus by their fruit you will recognize them.” If we back up to verses 17 and 18, Jesus explains that a bad tree can never grow good fruit, and vice versa. But we can’t live in denial and act like the poor actions that we sow will reap good results; if we want to establish ourselves in God, we have to see this reality. When you use God’s word as your foundation, it’s never a bad thing.

The world is watching and waiting for anything real and genuine. This world needs solid God-loving people who have solid roots. Let the world see the best version of God through your solid foundation. If you want change, you always have go back to these roots. This goes for challenging yourself, checking your motives, and redirecting your focus. The best part about God is that when we do find ourselves in a mess of dead roots, He breathes life into us to plant a completely new version that looks more like Him.

Continue Reading

My Plans Are Great, But…

I spent 30 minutes on Pinterest and I planned out my entire wedding: colors, dress ideas, food, venue, makeup, you name it (not realistically, but you get my point!). It’s quite enjoyable. Then again, I like to plan a lot of things. I like to plan tomorrow, and set myself up now for things five years down the road. I like to know what’s happening, where we’re going, and I like to know it right here, right now. I stay organized and on top of everything, and even think a week ahead of my to-do list in some cases. When I have a plan, I stick to it. And planning is all good…to an extent.

Over the past year, the most incredible thing I’ve learned is that God is a better planner than I am. He taught me very quickly and dramatically that I can make all the plans I want, but they really don’t matter, because God’s purpose always wins when I put Him first. My life looks nothing (seriously, I do mean in every aspect) like it did last April, but I love that. I love that God took me and placed me in this exact location at the perfect time; I love that I could’ve never dreamed it up if I tried. And that’s what allowed my perspective of trusting God to shift dramatically. I saw that even when I wasn’t looking, and even in moments I was resistant, He still cared for me enough to show me how faithful He is. Because here’s the thing: when we just simply let God take control, He arranges, plans, and organizes the finest details of our lives in a way that we never could. He takes our dreams and desires and makes them come to life as we surrender them.

One of the most assuring verses to me is Proverbs 37:23. The Bible explains, “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” As we plan out our steps with careful wisdom, God will make them firm because they are decisions grounded in Him. But I also love that He works all things for our good when we fail from time to time (Romans 8:28). I believe one area we fail as Christians is to let the fear of messing up or making wrong decisions paralyze us. We get too scared to “be outside the will of God” so we just stay where we’re at in the safe zone. We don’t take the job, talk to the friend, or get where we need to go. But how could we ever believe the lie that we humans could mess up God’s plan? He is so much higher and bigger than our mess-ups. If He wasn’t, the cross wouldn’t change us.

God is ahead of us and behind us and right with us now. As we use God’s word to light our path, He will show us the way, and baby step by baby step He gives us the wisdom to go where He wants us. Trust God to establish your plans as you surrender your dreams and plans. They’ll always be better than you ever imagined (Ephesians 4:20).

Continue Reading

Victoria’s Secret Ruined Us

Identity, identity, blah, blah, blah. When is this not a hot topic? I am just beyond tired of this. When will we stop being critical of ourselves and stop comparing one girl to the next? I’ve tried to figure out what the issue is, because if we all know our beauty is found in God alone, what is so hard for us to change our thinking and behavior? We know the facts, yet we behave and think the same way. Maybe we can blame our sexually saturated culture and maybe we can blame the fact that our culture says we have to look perfect in order for a man to accept us. Maybe it’s the seemingly beautiful and perfectly proportioned girls plastered over the Victoria’s Secret that leave the men struggling for purity, and leave the women’s idea of the looking perfect yet another bar higher. But it’s not reality… it’s a result of the lies that beg us to believe happiness is found in them.

I’m annoyed because in a sexually twisted world, everywhere we turn there is a half-naked girl waiting to be noticed by drooling men, even if it means eating a burger on a commercial. The problem is, it’s got every other girl trying to measure up so they can be noticed too. But here’s where we all went wrong: we started chasing the wrong thing, and it left us empty.

I’m fed up with believing the lies. I’m tired of a generation of girls being fed the lies of insecurity and comparison. I don’t want our generation to grow up and become mothers that feed our daughters this sick and twisted view because we decided to believe it too. Instead of feeding it, we need to starve it. Basically I’m saying we need to do the hard thing and not the easy thing. But how?

1) Cut the comparison. I believe this is one of the hardest battles we as females will fight. Social media, glass windows, movies, and magazines entertain the idea of comparison. But when we fight the battle through praying God’s word, and really trying to not compare, I believe that’s where the true freedom is because we can embrace the life God set out for us. “Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” – Galatians 6:4 (MSG)

2) Appreciate others’ beauty without envy (it’s completely possible, ladies), because you can know yours is found in God. If he wanted you to have others’ qualities he would have. Walk confidently in God. When we know who God is (by spending time with Him), we begin to know who we are in Him. This, ladies, is called love, and we can’t love others correctly if we don’t know how to love God. “Jesus said, ‘…So love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy… Love others as well as you love yourself. There is no other commandment that ranks with these.’” – Mark 12:31 (MSG)

3) Look past the weight you’d like to lose or gain, the eyebrows you want to draw in, the clothes you want to buy, and realize this is earthly stuff. Just stuff. It feels good to look good and you should try to be as healthy as possible, but when that’s all said and done your character is what stays. “Instead, [beauty] should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” – 1 Peter 3:4

4) Transform your thinking, and cut out the thoughts that don’t align with how God sees you. You really can’t just pray away these feelings and still strive to be like the bar that society as set. You have to strive to be like God, and ask Him to make you into the best version of yourself from the inside out. Once you’ve transformed your mind, your actions will follow. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2

I don’t want to be a generation of women that repeats the same problem over and over. I’m so tired of battling this, and I’m tired of feeding the beast. But if we want this change in ourselves, we have to make that change. And when you mess up and have a meltdown in front of your closet, in the words of Tay Tay, shake it off.

“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.” – Galatians 5:25-26 (MSG)

Continue Reading

The Edge of Burnout

So here’s how today went: I was scheduled to sing on the worship team at church, and I completely missed my alarm and got up ten minutes before I was supposed to leave the house (ouch), was at church until about one o’clock, got called into work, and did some cleaning in between. That’s just one day of this busy life and I know I’m not the only one who feels like sometimes you just can’t catch a break. It almost seems like you’re trying to race against yourself just to keep up with life. It feels like you’re being stretched from every angle until you’re about to snap. This is a recipe for stress followed by a meltdown (guilty)… unless we can learn to handle it the way God would have us.

When I face burn out I know that I have been doing things with my own strength for far too long. It’s too much noise and not enough silence. The answer is to sit in the presence of God and just listen to Him. And no, our flesh does not like this; our flesh loves control, planning, and knowing the future because we can cause our results. But despite our mile-long to-do list with thoughts spinning out of control with questions, our best answer is always resting in God. In this rest, God restores us and renews our soul.

In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus is at Mary and Martha’s house. Verse 39 says that Mary was sitting and listening to the words Jesus said, and Martha was distracted with all the preparations she was making in the house. But in verse 41 and 42 Jesus tells Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.” What a moment Martha had that’s so similar to ours. She even got upset and wanted Mary to help her out!

See, a moment with God can heal you far better then hurrying yourself along throughout your day. His rest renews us. And most of all, the end of our rope reminds us how valuable God’s strength really is, which gives God the credit anyway! It’s a moment, a day, or even a month of stress that can help us realize only God’s strength is what is best for us, and it is far better than any human strength that we could ever possess. But without this strength from God, I’m going to face burnout as I give all my human strength in every area of life, with not enough re-filling in God’s presence.

Maybe the cause of stress isn’t something you can actually take out of your life (work, school, etc.), but you can increase your dependence on God and give yourself grace in a moment of weakness, because there’s just no way that life can be perfect! We can draw strength from God because He’s the source of life and He’s our portion forever. When I hand over my control, my list of to-dos, and my busy mind that doesn’t know how I’ll ever check off every box, God’s gracious love pursues me, and reminds me of what I truly need. You don’t have to spend five hours praying… a simple deep breath and even the most sincere and helpless “Jesus, please help me,” uttered will draw God near to you because He’s a God that turns His ear when we call. Take on today before tomorrow, simply because you’re not in tomorrow yet. When we live for tomorrow, we can miss today all too easily. By doing this, we know that God will provide the strength for us as we trust Him to follow through. And look out for this provision, because it is coming and it will bring special awareness of His guidance.

“’My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” –2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)

 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” -Matthew 5:34 (NIV)

Continue Reading

Patience in the Middle

Just by the title, you probably thought of something you’re waiting for. We are almost always waiting on something, whether it’s a goal to accomplish, dream to achieve, promise delivered, or an answered prayer. Oh, and the lines at Disney.

There are always beginnings, middles, and ends to situations. The beginning of a new job, a marriage, new friendship, or new semester at school is fun and exciting. The ending might result in a promotion, the start of a family, lifelong impacts, or graduating with a degree. The middle, however, is not as sweet as the beginning and end. There’s a lot of waiting around, maybe some tears, a lot of perseverance, and a lot of hard work. Perhaps God intended it to be this way so he could use the most vital part of a situation to mold the best version of you.

Romans 8 (MSG) encourages that “we are enlarged in the waiting.” Oh, how true this is. We are stretched far and wide in “the middle.”

A lot of times we try to rush through seasons of our lives that are God-given, instead of growing though them at the pace He intended. We don’t have to know the reason behind our circumstances, but we do have to remember, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). God’s design is to bring you to your “end” with a deeper knowing of who He is with a heart that deeper resembles Him. Here are four things to know during your middle:

  1. The enemy is a liar. Okay, it’s no secret the enemy does not want you to grow closer to God. Instead, he wants you to fail miserably at being effective for God, and knowing who He is. He steals our joy, magnifies the negative, and whispers the lies that God is not working even in the middle of our waiting (which He is). After we’ve established this, we can now take hold of any negative thoughts that may block our sight of God and redirect them to the truth of God’s Word.
  1. We will go where our eyes are fixed. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:3-4). God’s love, faithfulness, and mercies never run dry. That’s amazing. When our eyes are fixed on His faithfulness while we trust in Him, we are consistently moving toward God, and not backward. When we allow ourselves to become a slave to our emotions and our no-good days, we do the enemy a favor, and we remain ineffective for Christ. We all mess this part up over and over…it’s impossible to be perfect. So what’s the good part about this? God’s grace covers these mess-ups and pity parties, and we can pick up and keep moving forward.
  1. God sees you, and He hasn’t forgotten. There were several people in the Bible who had to wait for a LONG time. Imagine never seeing rain before, God telling you it’s about to flood, and trusting Him to clear the water off the earth so you could get off your boat? I’m glad I wasn’t in Noah’s place! After 150 days of waiting for the rain to stop, Genesis 8:1 says that God remembered Noah, and the waters receded. This is such a familiar story that shows God’s faithfulness. I love that God doesn’t forget, and because I know this, I can have full assurance in His provision without worrying whether or not He will.
  1. Be joyful in the waiting. This is the hardest thing to do in my opinion (seriously, though). Who can actually say they love to wait? Although it seems like the hardest thing to do, it might be the easiest in some ways. If I step back and think about who God is, I don’t see my problems as big, and my waiting as long. If I know God has good plans for me, that He doesn’t forget His promises, and that He has divine timing for every dream of mine to align, then I can be joyful for the day that His plans will pass. The “when” part makes me impatient, but it comes down to a matter of trust, surrender to my own plans, and knowing that God will nurture me from now until I’m ready to move to the next season of my life.

Hold onto those desires deep within your heart. They’re God-given dreams and they’re seeds carefully planted by Him. They take watering (a time of growth and maturing) and they take patience. But we are enlarged in our waiting, and those dreams will bloom like the flowers on the trees in the springtime. God has impeccable timing. Wait on those desires, nurture them with God’s Word, prayer, and worship where you’re at, and in the season you’re in. After you’ve obeyed and trusted God to do His part, you’ll find your labor wasn’t in vain.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” –Galatians 6:9

Continue Reading

Joy in the Middle of Pain

Pain is a word we are all so familiar with. We’re always faced with some magnitude of pain, grief, loss, sadness, loneliness, and depression. Pain is a result of this broken world and we’re bound to face it, but God defines how we face it.

On December 23, 2014, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was the day my entire world changed. The pain of my reality is/was unreal…but yet so was God’s peace. The Bible talks about how peace passes our understanding, and ever since the diagnosis, that is exactly what has happened. Despite the diagnosis, I literally have no understanding as to why I can sleep at night and remain at peace. But what I do know is that God is with my mom and the rest of us, and He’s with you too. He’s with you no matter what your day has looked like so far, or maybe even the past month or year.

Some days I feel on top of the mountain like nothing can ever shake my trust in The Lord. Other days, I feel defeated and beaten by my circumstances. On these days, one of the most beautiful things I’ve learned is to just pour out my heart to God and know that He is with me. Know that He catches every tear, that He’s right there with me as I hurt. I can rest in the fact that He knows the deepest parts of me, and He’s just working behind the scenes of my life as I run to Him. It’s in those broken times that I feel closest to Him. But hear me clearly: this peace does not excuse sadness. It means God’s comfort is closer than ever as we walk through difficulties.

“He bought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.” -Psalm 107: 14

While this is the hardest season of my entire life, I know that God is not surprised by the news, and this brings me so much comfort. He knew the diagnosis before my family, before the doctors, and before any machine could see what was going on, my God all ready knew. And though it’s time for treatment because we have found this news, He was already starting to fight for us when we did not even know we had to fight. I find peace in the fact that this didn’t throw God a curveball. God wasn’t scratching his head in shock when the doctors told us this news! He has a divine plan, and I have no clue why on earth it had to take this route, but even as I’m typing, I am reminded of His grace and sovereignty at my weakest moments.

I’m glad I don’t have to hide my pain and be strong for God. That brokenness is what draws me to Him, and it can draw you to Him no matter your circumstances. There’s no perfect way to walk through pain except by bringing it to Him, and I urge you not to have it all together. Let yourself be a mess; God is pretty awesome at cleaning up a mess. There is such strength in bringing your weak, human, sinful self for God to redeem.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

There has never been a better time for me to recognize that joy is not circumstantial. It’s a true gift that God gives us through the pain, and it is our biggest strength. If there is anyone who knows pain better than you and I, it’s Jesus himself. He was tortured, beaten, abused, neglected, and felt sadness and temptation. He had a journey of his own to get through. He paid for that pain you and I naturally feel, and instead we can choose thankfulness and joy, give that pain to God, and walk in victory. That’s all because Jesus chose you and me. He chose us to be free despite the pain that this earth brings. We don’t have to carry the load of our circumstances. I’m thankful that we serve a God who is FOR US and who fights for us while we are still (Exodus 14:14). He’s not done with me, and He’s not done with you. He is molding you into who you were made to be, just like gold is refined in fire.

No one can fill the void that pain does except for God and God alone. We don’t know the depth of this unless we let him show us. Everything else that can possibly fix the pain we feel or take our minds off of it is only temporary. He is our source of life forever. And He is literally all that we need. He is the source and He is the fix. He comes to give you life, and He comes to allow you to experience His love, His fullness, and to see how deep that will go. This is all for you to experience if you grab hold of it. Isn’t it awesome that if we seek God, He’s there? We can have this love and fullness and all we have to do is take it. It’s that simple. God is so cool. He allows us to experience a taste of Him all because the pain of Jesus took the place of ours.

When we have a full understanding of who God is, that He is on our side and we already have victory, we can walk in freedom and not live as a slave to our bad days. God is behind the scenes of every aspect and when we remember He’s out to do us good and not harm, we can rest in His love. We can count on Him to turn our sorrow to joy (Isaiah 35:10) and our mourning to dancing. He’s good always.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you. – 1 Peter 5:10 (AMP)

Continue Reading

The Comparison Game

In the land of social media, it can be all but “social.” It unfortunately ends in comparison of some sort. So often that you may not even realize it. However, let’s realize that we are comparing our bodies, faces, hair, lives, feelings, and everything in between to a filtered picture that was so carefully posed. A picture is only the final product; the final product will not tell you the missing pieces, or even what is 5 feet to the left of the picture’s border. These captured moments are so misleading, as well as the messages the enemy would have us believe: You’re not happy like that, smart like that, pretty like that, you need those clothes, you don’t have friends like they do, you need a relationship like that (I bet at least someone came to mind with one of those thoughts)…the list goes on and on. And pretty soon you have compared your dullest moments to someone’s best filter. We filter out the moments we don’t want the world to see and we get to choose how the world sees us regardless of if it’s even true. The fashion industry knows this; that’s what Photoshop is for (listen, I love clothes and beauty but I have a point here). Whatever we want the world to believe about us is what we place in front of it to see. I have news for you: every person has struggles, every person has bad days, and every person fights constantly against their sinful nature. I’m NOT counting myself out. I am quite a fan of instagram, BUT when we let our thoughts get out of hand, we may become addicted to comparison, and starving any sense of contentment within us.

There are a lot of feelings that can sprout from comparison: jealousy, greed, discontent, and maybe even bitterness and sadness if it grows. Let’s be real, no one wants to expose their flaws… no one wants to post a bad picture for everyone to see, and no one wants to post imperfections. Take Adam and Eve for example (Genesis 3): they sinned in the garden and immediately they covered themselves up to hide their guilt and shame from God. I love this because it sounds so familiar… they chose to keep God out of it and cover themselves up to look perfect on the outside. They wanted to look okay even when things weren’t okay. If that doesn’t sound familiar, I don’t know what does. Whatever is exposed will long to be seen as perfection, but this is a distortion of our culture. The more we compare ourselves to these “perfect” images, the more we feel we need to measure up to. And guess what? The farther away we get from God’s likeness.

So how do we get to this place of contentment? Well, I’m glad you asked because I’ve had to learn this myself. We get vulnerable with God. He really loves to just talk to you and be real for a second. Adam and Eve’s story didn’t end there: God covered Adam and Eve with his own hands. He related to them with love and he restored their relationship with Him. I find that when I’m vulnerable with God, I’m really being honest with myself AND with God. And that is something that heals you anywhere you’re at.

Second, you have to know who God is. It’s not until we know who God is that we can see ourselves like He does and not as the world would have us see. You’re a product of His creation, His goodness, His likeness, and he chose you and set you apart for His glory. And there is such freedom in knowing that. When we take hold of who He is, mess-ups become less messy, and mistakes are covered in His grace.

The next thing we have to do is love like nothing else. Mark 12:31 says it perfectly: “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” If we are too busy comparing, we won’t have the energy to love. The problem with comparison is that the view of ourselves is always depending on the changing world around us. Our self-view is always shifting because our world is always shifting. When we compare, we either feel better or worse about ourselves all because we are comparing ourselves to a worldly standard. However when we compare ourselves to Christ (Ephesians 5:1), who NEVER changes and is always constant, our confidence is firm and we have the strength to show this aching world a taste of His love.

Lastly, we have to realize that 100% of ALL we need is found in Christ and not in any thing, circumstance, or person on this earth (John 4:14). God’s love is ENOUGH to supply our every need. This world is aching for approval, adoration, love, real/quality things, and not manufactured, filtered, cover-up “good.” It’s time we see through God’s lens and show the world what it is to live under his freedom. This doesn’t mean our days will become great 24/7. It does mean that God’s strength will be more than enough to carry us on our best and worst days. And I myself want a life that reflects that.

Let me be clear: being content does not equal being perfect. Being content with our lives right where we’re at means that we know our satisfaction is found in God and not other possessions or even other people, no matter how God-fearing they are. Discontent and comparison will affect where our eyes are focused and it distracts us from worshipping God. We will always go where our eyes are focused, and we will always try to become what we remain fixed on. God gives us exactly what we need at exactly the right time. And we have to trust that he does this! If God knew you’d be better off with anything added to your life, it would be added. God is enough and YOU are enough just as you are. So stop feeding the lies of comparison and jealousy, and start feeding contentment and love; the love that never fails, and never goes out of style (cue Style by Taylor Swift). Social media doesn’t have to dictate your self-esteem. This world aches for genuine things and they don’t know how to experience it until we show them.

Continue Reading

Overcoming the Lies of Fear

Fear, worry, and doubt… Such familiar feelings, thoughts, and often talked about topics. Yet we all still struggle with them. It’s just not enough for someone to tell us not to worry; maybe it’s because once the endless thought train starts moving, the momentum is so hard to stop.

Throughout elementary school and part of middle school, I struggled with panic attacks and felt I couldn’t ever escape my worry and fear. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, my heart truly goes out to you because it was an awfully scary, lonely feeling that simply made me want to escape everything. They became so frequent that I thought I’d be struggling with this constant battle for the rest of my life. No, my mom didn’t take me to the doctor to be put on medicine, but God healed my fear, worry, panic, and constant what-if thinking. Thank God for praying mommas like mine. I knew it was irrational and I was worried about something that hadn’t happened, but goodness the pain of fear is so very real. From an early age, I was faced with the obstacle of learning how to combat this eerie feeling with the still peace of God through prayer, worship, and His Word.

In all my worries throughout life, I’ve come to the conclusion that worry (grouped together with doubt, deception, and fear) is the belief that something negative or disappointing will come as a result of my current circumstance. Yes, it’s possible that bad things do happen, but we cannot remain paralyzed. It’s a mindset of negative FUTURE effects based on how I FEEL about something now. Worry does two things: It replaces God’s control with MY control, and it counter-acts God’s Word. It’s imagining our future with a hopeless mindset and uncertainty of God’s guidance and sovereignty.

Here’s something we need to understand…from the beginning of time, Satan used the weapon of doubt/deception against Eve to make her question God’s command in the garden.

In Genesis 3:1 the serpent asks, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

Eve distorts God’s original command saying to the serpent, “You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.” (God’s command in Genesis 2:17 says, “If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”) Verse 6 goes on to say that Eve had been convinced by the serpent; she had fallen into the trap of doubt. And just like that, our doubt/fear causes us to act on our own behalf and control our own future, but it leads to death and separation from God’s love, grace, and most importantly, His perfect plan.

When we’re caught in this whirlwind of fear and worry, it will either paralyze us dead in our tracks, or move us to act without the wisdom of God. However, both have one thing in common: where there is fear, the presence of God does not exist.

We can get rid of worry through FAITH. Fear is a lie from the enemy, but faith is truth and brings the peace, confidence, and all-knowing hope that God loves you, desires good for you, cares about everything you are going through, and that he is FOR you. When we stand on promises of God’s Word, we can boldly act in faith and resist the enemy’s attempts to steal our joy. Here are some important steps in taking this leap of faith:

Become content in not knowing every detail. This is so very hard to do, but it’s a crucial step. We are not going to know every detail to our futures and we have to get used to that. Isn’t it funny that we find ourselves trusting in God more easily when we know some of the details? Really trusting in God is learned when we can surrender our control, and not just when some evidence is there for us. Faith does not possess sight.

 

Hold onto hope for dear life. Our hope in Christ is not wishful thinking; it’s an all-knowing assurance that God will come through because He is absolutely wonderful at keeping His promises! Reading promises that scriptures offer us (Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 3:5, Romans 8:28) and not only agreeing with them, but declaring them with confidence over our lives, knowing God will work on our behalf allows us to loosen our control

 

Put away all the what-ifs. When our focus is on the what-ifs, it’s not on God’s promises that he will bring good when the enemy meant to harm us. Christ defeated death, so don’t you know that he is perfectly able to come through and take care of ANY situation no matter the outcome? He calmed raging storms, helped Peter walk on water, created the planet, and told us we could move mountains with our faith. We need to CHOOSE to believe that he is never going to leave us but we can’t use our present circumstances as a gauge.

 

Remember that God is STILL good. Life brings some not-so-pretty circumstances. But God never leaves us. There are deaths, break-ups, losses, failed moments, and bad days, but they allow us to experience God’s grace, love, peace, and goodness all the more! He loves you, and thank goodness our feelings of hopelessness do not determine His sovereignty. He is God no matter how we feel, and he’s big enough to take us through our joy, grief, and everything in between.

 

Be thankful. Philippians 4:6 tells us to present our requests to God with prayer and thanksgiving. Be thankful and look at what God is doing in your life, and already has done. Thankfulness makes us aware of the hand of God actively working on our behalf, allowing us to really see God will never leave us. He fights for us and intercedes for us, and we can enjoy the waiting by being thankful for his presence in the middle of our circumstances. Most importantly, thankfulness will invite his presence and illuminate his love and cancel out the fear.

 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. –Jeremiah 29:11

Continue Reading