If you want to steadfastly pursue the good, then you have to relinquish the bad – and you can’t do that on your own.
We all have a story. A story to live and a story to tell. And no matter who we are, we all have light and shade on our path. You have lived. You have experienced. You have done things. And you have had things happen to you. Good and bad. Light and dark.
For some blessed souls, their experience has been one with more light than darkness, more protection than distress or horror, more hope and joy than pain, despair, anguish and loss.
So, what will you do with what has happened to you, whether good or bad?
We all have a choice to make. A series of choices. A lifetime of choices.
What happened to you?
For some among us, that question will be poignant, it will resonate deep within, it will touch our soul. We have not lived on the surface of life. We have not been allowed to. We have been hurt, we have suffered, we have known the laceration of spirit and identity that we seek so desperately to be healed. Is this you? You are not alone.
If what has happened to you in life has been mostly good, then I rejoice with you, and encourage you that you can use that too. You can use your strength to help and comfort the weak and hurting. You can give the love that was lavished upon you to those whose wells are dry and empty, who have all but given up on life. You can use the good things that have happened to you too. Perhaps it is the easier path, but you are blessed in it.
What do you do next?
At some point in our lives we have to make a choice. No matter what has happened to us, we all have to make a choice. Life or death. In the physical real as well as in the spiritual realm. I know this road is strewn with complexities, with difficult issues and with choice seemingly taken away from some people at times. You only need to look at the news to see this. But we all have to make our own choice. Life or death. Light or darkness. To step into the light or to stay crippled in fear in the darkness.
As I often say, I write for anyone who will read, I write for believers and non-believers alike; in fact, one of my most interested readers is a friend who is an atheist. Nonetheless, I can only speak the Truth that Jesus Christ is the Light that has extinguished the darkness in my life. Once and for all. A new life, a new heart, a new spirit, a new hope, a new mind-set, a new future, a new Identity, a new kingdom, a new everything.
We all have to make a choice. And how we respond to Jesus Christ is the greatest and most eternally significant choice we will ever make.
What are the burdens that you carry? Shame. Guilt. Fear. Anger. Turmoil. Terror. Self-hatred. Loss. Grief. Pain. Oh the pain. Death? He has taken the sting out of Death. He can bring healing and peace, liquid love into all of our dark and broken and crushed places.
‘He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds’.
‘By His wounds, we are healed’.
He heals the broken hearted and crushed in spirit.
Don’t I know it? I certainly do. For some the healing comes in an instant. For others, like me, it is an unravelling, layer by layer, bit by bit, but the pain, it does ease, the chains, they do fall off, the heart that was defeated, crushed in despair, feeling completely hopeless, useless, weak, unwanted, unloved, despised, rejected…this heart…my heart….finds a home….a HOME, a dwelling place in Pure Perfect Selfless Love….in Him.
But what if you don’t believe?
Things have happened to you. You perhaps feel far from what I am saying. It’s where you are right now. Do I have a word for you?
What will your story be?
Things have happened to you. You have done things. You have lived, experienced, survived. So far.
What do you do when the pain is so great and you’re in a fog? What do you do with what has happened to you? I understand how deep these wounds, these lacerations, this anguish can go. I understand that the darkness in the world can feel like it has all but wrecked us. But it hasn’t.
You can choose.
Will your story be to be defined by what has happened to you? Will you be crushed by it? Will you merely survive it? Perhaps that’s all we can do at times. But we can still choose. Choose to believe in the impossible, in something better, in a purpose from the pain, and choose to use it. Even today.
What will you do with what has happened to you? Will you hope, and will you push through and endure the darkest seasons of recovery so that in time you will break through to the other side? Or will you accept the lie that this is all there is for you, you’re not one of the so called “lucky ones” in life? This isn’t all there is for you. Believe me, there is so much more good things than the bad we leave behind.
Will you endure the hardships, will you allow them to refine you and not merely define you? Will you dream so much farther than the depths and heights of your pain? Will you dream of helping one person some day with what you know, know deep in your soul…what you have survived….what you one day can conquer?
We can work with the surface, but only Pure Love can heal the depths. Can transform.
So, what is your answer?
What will you do with what has happened to you? Will you push through, will you ask for help, will you seek advice, support, counsel, will you do the really tough hard work that will help you to get better, at least better than you are now, and will you pass that on to someone someday, even today?
That’s my choice. I’ve been broken hearted and crushed in spirit. Heavy laden. Giving up inside. In a way that people don’t see on the outside. But healing is Real, it is possible, and even though the journey still can be tough, it is leading somewhere, and it has purpose.
But it’s a choice, our choice, to keep taking that next step. Will you?
It’s all too easy to follow the crowd, but it takes a noble character and a humble heart to choose the narrow path that leads to true Life.
There’s been a situation running through my mind for a little while, where I tried very gently and carefully to express concerns over something to a friend, without saying that they were wrong, but just hinting that in my experience it would be worth being discerning and prayerful.
No harm in that, right? Perhaps this has been in the back of my mind as I realise that people can at times take this as a personal affront, an insult, a criticism of their ability to discern, but it is a very Biblical practice to speak the Truth in Love.
I feel reassured because this evening some things came to my mind about the passage in Scripture where Jesus Christ reveals to His disciples that He must go to the Cross, to die as a sacrifice to enable us to have a way back to God through forgiveness. Now, if you look at this conversation between Jesus and Peter in Matthew 16, you might find that Jesus’ response to Peter, who after all is a concerned follower and friend, isn’t he? seems a bit harsh. Let’s take a look:
“21From that time on Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. “Far be it from You, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to You!” 23But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
‘Ouch!’ Does that come across as harsh? Wasn’t Peter simply trying to protect Jesus from suffering? Why would Jesus give Peter such a harsh rebuke? Wouldn’t you be cut to the core if as a follower of Jesus he connected you with Satan? I can’t imagine how Peter would have felt.
If you don’t know much about the Messiah, then maybe this incident and rebuke seems a bit unkind. But the Truth of the matter, the situation that Jesus Christ could fully discern was that His purpose was to come to live and die as a sacrifice for our sins so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but in Him have everlasting life, because Christ would be resurrected and have power to give us that forgiveness and new life. So in this situation, if Christ didn’t fulfil what He came to do, then there would be absolutely no hope for you, me, Peter or anyone else. We would all be condemned before a righteous Holy God, and Jesus knowing this came as God in Flesh to give us that way out – The Only Way.
So, you see, Peter really wasn’t doing anyone a favour.
I feel encouraged by this, because in the Christian life, there are believers of different levels of maturity, knowledge of Scripture, different walks with The Lord, and varying levels of insight and discernment. We all have blind spots, and we all need to rely on God’s Word, as His Spirit leads us into all Truth, and as we learn to know and to heed the Voice of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, Who always leads us in paths of righteousness for His Name’s Sake.
We need each other too, as Scripture describes God’s people as His ‘Body’ all members of one living unit, with Christ at the Head. We can’t say we don’t need each other, as God speaks through us into each other’s lives regardless of age, stage or place in life.
Consider the apostle Paul and how he often wrote very critical letters to certain churches, while writing very encouraging letters to others. Paul loved them all in sincerity with the love of Christ, which is why he told them things straight, as they were…he didn’t try to ‘sugar coat’ his message to make things more palatable to his hearers, he didn’t try to avoid the issue in case they stopped liking him, he was steadfast in His relationship with Christ, and in Christ he was committed to speaking the Truth in Love, even if that came at great cost to him (and it did).
If you want to read one of Paul’s more encouraging letters to other believers, read ‘Philippians’. It is full of encouragement, love, hope, wisdom and a spiritual perspective. He is very pleased with how the Philippians are conducting themselves in Christ and their mutual love and faith brings much joy and encouragement.
In contrast, consider Paul’s words to the Galatians:
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? (Galatians 3: v1). https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+3&version=KJV
Think for a moment how you would feel if a friend, however much you respected them came to you and called you foolish and that you were erring from the truth. If we’re honest, we might be more than a little offended. We might let our pride rear its ugly head and think ‘who do they think they are? I know as much as they do, why do they think they’re right and I’m wrong?’ I’ve been on both sides of this as a younger Christian and as I’ve grown in faith, maturity, knowledge and application of Scripture. As a younger Christian I knew I was in way over my head, I was in a spiritual battle and I needed as much help as I could get. I respected those who were more mature in the faith, who had been ‘on the road’ as it were longer than I had, and I listened to them. At times, my pride reared its ugly head and I felt that they weren’t always right, but I was open to learning.
No matter how young or old we are, we should be open to learning, to listening, and as we are admonished in 1 Thessalonians 5v21 to ‘test all things and hold fast to what is good’.
It can be a really rewarding experience when we are able to do this together. I love it when genuine, close Christian friends can seek Truth together, can discuss issues and pray over them, seeking Truth as we seek God together, sharpening each other with the ‘sword of the Sprit which is the Word of God’. This is a very Scriptural practice and we should do it as often as possible and as prayerfully as possible. We should all be humble before God to know that He can speak to and through us whatever stage we are at. We should also be open to correction, and love the Truth so much that we can put our ‘egos’ aside to find it.
You might find, however, that not everyone sees things in this way. We may not agree with each other, but we can still discuss and prayerfully seek Truth together and test all things holding fast what is good. We may not arrive at the same understanding of scripture, but it is right to listen and to learn to seek to honour God.
Sometimes people depending on their personality as well as their maturity may take suggestions, corrections or instruction as a personal affront, a blow to their pride, and they may not realise that there is a place for mature, discerning and prayerful Christians who exercise themselves daily in seeking God’s wisdom in scripture, as a regular practice of their lives and one which bears ‘fruit’ of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control – to actually speak into their lives.
This kind of response can lead one to harbour personal offences, hurts, and to even choose to break fellowship with other believers. I’ve been on this path for a while but I know that God has a lot to teach me, and I know I need to be humble and wise to listen and learn whether that is from ‘younger’ or ‘older’ people, or even the lessons I will inevitably learn from interacting with a world that does not even believe in Him. If I am humble and listen for the Voice of my Shepherd then I will learn more in any situation as He leads me on in Truth. However, I recognise that people who are ‘older’, wiser and more mature in the faith, perhaps those like Paul, who I can see living out the Truth, deserve attention and an attentive ear. I will still test all things and hold fast that which is good, because God Alone truly is my Teacher, however, He also has a place for the ‘Body’ to learn and grow together, as ‘iron sharpens iron’ so one person sharpens another.
The ‘takeaway’ from all of this is that if you are a more mature Christian, and are seeking to speak the Truth in Love, know and be reminded that this is a very Biblical practice and a very loving thing to do if done right and with the right motives. Who would want another brother or sister to walk into harm spiritually? There is a place for instruction, admonition, correction, but we should seek to do it gently, respectfully and with love, knowing that we may not necessarily be right.
However, the fact that some people are very easily offended, and their prides are pricked should not deter us from speaking Truth in Love because it is not all about them, just as it was not all about Peter. Jesus Christ knew and saw the bigger picture, and in light of that His Words were (and always will be) on point. It was for Peter’s own good that he was rebuked, as well as for the good of us all, because God Is Good and came to save us. But I have no doubt it wouldn’t have felt quite like that for Peter at the time.
You can only do what you are called to do, and leave the rest to God. Remain humble and keep seeking Truth. But know that the Truth will offend some people, even fellow believers, perhaps because they already know what they want to believe, or because misplaced pride has got the better of them. God calls us to walk in love and to speak the Truth in Love, so we need to be guided by Him and not the whims and fancies of those around us. If they choose not to listen then we can pray for them and for ourselves to be brought into all Truth. But be encouraged if you find yourself in such a situation, and look to the examples set before you in Scripture. Keep yourselves pure, in the love of God and exercise yourself daily in righteousness, being humble to learn and to know that you too may need instruction, reproof, correction and learn to receive that in humility and prayerfully.
If you are feeling a bit like Peter, then be encouraged. It is a wonderful thing to be told the Truth even if in the short term it cuts us to the quick. The Truth, the Word of God is like a double edged sword, dividing even to soul and spirit, joints and marrow. Inevitably that is going to hurt at times. However, be encouraged and reminded that it is the Truth that sets you free, so take heart, lay down your pride, never respond in anger or bitterness, and receive this wonderful Truth – it will change your life from the inside out. Isn’t that a gift to be well received? Think about the character of the one who shares the Truth with you, or seeks to do so – does their words line up with their conduct? Are they Christlike? If so maybe it is for your benefit that they say what they say. If not, well you are still free to test all things and hold fast that which is good.
Be blessed. And speak Truth in Love. x
Followers of Christ, in a world in which we can choose so many things, let us choose the most excellent way – the way of Love. To love The Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as we would want to be loved.
No one said that the most excellent way would be easy, in fact it is often a difficult path, but it is the Way most pleasing to our Creator God, Who Is Love – agape Love – sacrificial love.
It’s good to remind ourselves and each other that while we were enemies of God, dead in our sins He loved us and gave Himself for us. Our God Is at work within us now, enabling us to love.
We can’t do it on our own, but we can make the choice to ask God to enable us to love with the Love He has poured into our hearts by His Holy Spirit. We can think of how much love was shown to us at the Cross, how much we have been forgiven, and we can honour God by choosing the most excellent way – His Way, that of Love.
Let us examine ourselves. Let us encourage each other. Let us pray for each other to be the vessels of God’s love in this broken, hurting and often unloving world.
- Has someone hurt and wronged us? Let us think of our King on the Cross, in Love taking the punishment for us, the very wrath of God that our sins deserved and instead giving us forgiveness, grace, acceptance, perfect love and new life. How can we not be humbled by His love and grace to us. How can we choose bitterness against someone He has Created, someone He loves just as much? As we think on this Truth, He will pour forth love for the one who has wronged us. Perhaps this journey will take time. Hurts caused especially in childhood can be deep and have a hold on us, I have walked through this and it is certainly not an easy path to take, but it is made possible at the Cross. Jesus Christ offers us His very life, and as we let Him in, He will change us from the inside out to be like Him, to love like Him, to think thoughts pleasing to God. Have hope, and trust Him with your hurts. He will replace fear with love for Perfect Love casts out all fear.
- Is someone holding something against us? How should we respond? Should we justify bitterness in our own hearts? No. We should open our hearts and minds to the Love of God in Christ Jesus, and choose the most excellent way of forgiving and loving our neighbour. No one said this is easy, but He Is the One working in us, gently enabling us to hand things over to Him.
- Are we tempted to justify a grudge against someone? We can choose that way, but really we should choose the most excellent way. Does God not love us when we are ‘difficult’? His love in us will help us to love and to go on choosing to love those in our lives who cause us difficulties.
- Should we only choose love when someone shows love to us? Should we only choose to show kindness or give gifts to those who say thank you to us? In this world, perhaps that makes sense, but in God’s Kingdom, it doesn’t. How many things would we lack if God withheld the good gifts He gives us daily, momently that we habitually fail to thank Him for? Do we acknowledge and thank Him for our breath, our life, our health, our clothing, food, shelter, friendships, family, employment, skills, sight, abilities, our senses, our mental health, our good times, His comfort and Presence through the hard times, His Word and Truth, His protection in a dark world? I’m sure we all forget to thank Him for everything He does for us from time to time, but He goes on giving to us, He goes on showing kindness, He keeps on loving. We should do likewise where it is wise to do so.
- Did a friend forget or choose to ignore you on your birthday? Do you choose to ‘retaliate’ with treating them the same, or do you choose to love them with Christ’s love? Choose the most excellent way, and be free from the bounds of the world’s way of thinking and living.
- Did someone selfishly choose what pleases them and disregard what matters to you? You can choose to treat them likewise, or you can choose to bring the unfairness before your merciful and loving God and allow Him to lead you the best way, and ask Him to show you and enable you how to respond.
- Isn’t there someone or some situation in your life right now, today, that is tempting you to choose an imperfect path, an unkind response, or even one that withholds love rather than specifically causes direct or obvious harm? The world tells us ‘don’t get mad, get even’. God calls us to Love. The world tells us to protect ourselves, while God’s protection frees us to rise above the shackles. We should seek His way, we should protect ourselves in Him from bad situations, relationships and company, but where we are safe to choose to reach out in love, we do not need to fear that we will be losing out – God gives grace and glory – no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
- Are you being taken for granted? Is your kindness being abused? Is someone leaving you out? Are groups shunning you from their company? Perhaps you cannot change the situation, or their response but you can find hope and strength, comfort and love in Your Loving Heavenly Father God, He will love you through it, and He will help your heart to grow strong to pulse with the beat of His Love, for Him and for others, knowing that you yourself are safely loved. We have a freedom the world cannot give us, and which the world cannot take away from us. Let us allow that love and freedom to shine so brilliantly in our lives, that those who wrong us will stand in awe of this most excellent way – the Way of Love – the Way of Christ Jesus. Be blessed. x
There’s a lyric in the song, ‘Chasing Cars’ by the band ‘Snow Patrol’ that has a lot to teach me:
“I need your grace to remind me to find my own”.
Now, I can’t with all honesty say that I know or understand what all of the lyrics in this song are about. However, this line resonates with me in such a practical way.
I love Jesus Christ, and at the very heart of being a follower of Christ is the Cross. Forgiveness. Mercy. Unmerited grace and favour. God’s Riches (towards me, a sinner) At Christ’s Expense. GRACE. Amazing Grace. I am awed and humbled by this almost unthinkable, almost absurd, if it wasn’t so incredible, so full of love and self sacrifice, that God Incarnate would take the place of His sinful creation, that Jesus Christ the Son of God would take the wrath and punishment for our, my sins against a Holy God, and having paid the price in full, tear down the dividing wall between a Holy God and sinful man / woman, impart to me His Righteousness.
“I stand amazed in the Presence of Jesus The Nazarene, and wonder how He could Love me, a sinner, condemned unclean, how marvellous, how wonderful and my song shall ever be, how marvellous, how wonderful is my Saviour’s Love for me!” I am clothed and covered in His Righteousness. This complete forgiveness, love and acceptance, a new life, is His Gift to me.
And although this often does leave me speechless, I often fail to understand how to walk in this Truth in the mud and mire of everyday life on this planet.
If forgiveness is so important to me, the very crux and foundation of my faith and my identity in Christ, then why do I need to be reminded of it when people wrong or hurt me? Why as human beings is it so hard to ask for or to extend forgiveness? We still battle against sin in this fallen world, and in ourselves.
I realise that regardless of what anyone else is doing, I need to humble myself before God. Whether that is to repent and ask for forgiveness myself, or to ask for His Grace to work in my heart to enable me to love and forgive those who have wronged me, or in most cases it will be both, whichever way, I need Him.
The impossible is made possible at the Cross, through His death and resurrection. And the beautiful thing is that I have His Grace, to remind me, to find my own (in Him).
Soli deo Gloria. x
‘Google’ tells me that today is ‘Teachers’ Day’. I did not know this when I learned a lesson yesterday evening about being teachable myself.
Firstly, I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all of you out there who are teachers of any kind, whether that be in a formal school / educational system for children or adults, those who are older siblings who have committed to helping your younger brothers or sisters to learning something, parents, youth group workers, leaders, instructors, mentors, support workers, lecturers, workshop leaders, or even I guess, bloggers who are committed to sharing knowledge and life lessons. Thank you for taking the time to use what you have learned to invest in another person for their growth and benefit in life.
Good teachers and bad teachers:
I’m sure we all have memories of people in our lives who have taught (or tried to teach) us something and who have left an impression upon us for good or bad. I can think of certain occasions in my school life when I was quite little when the impact of a particular teacher had a positive influence – they left me feeling encouraged, appreciated, valued, and gave me a desire to continue to work well or to do even better. I remember throughout the years being particularly good at some subjects, but lacking confidence in others. I had a variety of violin teachers throughout primary (elementary) school some of whom saw my lack of confidence and continued to teach me with patience and respect. Others, sadly left me feeling a bit scared and demoralised and not good enough.
In secondary / high school I was good at most subjects, but I excelled in English and got good grades in other subjects such as the sciences and maths, however, these did not come with the poise and confidence I had in English studies, and instead it took a lot of hard work, time, quite a few tears, stress, anxiety and struggle. It stands out to me that in my chemistry class one year I really found it tough, and it was mainly to do with the teacher – I felt victimised (whether I was or not I’m not entirely sure), and a lot of people felt the negative attitude from the teacher too. He even admitted to us that he never wanted to be a teacher, he was in the oil or research industry or something like that and had to go into teaching for a more normal family life I think with his wife and kids. It showed that he never liked to teach us, and as a result I thought I was ‘rubbish’ at chemistry and I thought I hated it.
I had a revelation the following year when a new teacher taught the class – he was great, encouraging, friendly and helpful. Things started to make sense and I realised I actually really liked learning this subject now and I could be good at it, at least at that level. It’s a bit of a shame that I didn’t realise that sooner, but I’m glad for the opportunity to have a better teacher for the last year that I studied the subject before choosing what I’d focus on later in school (not chemistry!).
Maybe it’s something we all need to reflect upon –
- When we think we’re not good at something, it’s worth reflecting upon and challenging any negative input from others that we may have received and internalised as being ‘true’ or ‘fact’, when in actuality it isn’t the case. We are smart, we have potential, and we can try again.
- Very importantly, we need to reflect upon the people we teach in our lives, especially vulnerable adults and younger people and children. Do we ever let our frustrations or lack of patience impact them? Maybe we risk leaving emotional and mental scars if we don’t take responsibility for how we teach – these are people after all, that are valuable and incredible.
- Are there ways we can actively improve upon both learning and teaching in our own lives, or can we challenge someone in a respectful way who may be damaging a child by not teaching them in a constructive way, but trying to ‘bully’ them into learning? We all need to remember that we start not knowing very much at all, so be patient….with others and ourselves.
A lesson in being teachable:
And so, I come to the point I started with – the lesson in being teachable myself. It was a lesson of the heart. I had asked a few close friends to dinner as it’s my birthday this month. Not to celebrate my birthday as such as I don’t want to make it all about me, and don’t want my friends to feel obliged to do anything. One of these friends, a guy (and guys I guess don’t really understand girls) said they’d bring a friend along who is a mutual friend of two of our group. I don’t know this person to talk to but I know who they are. I said, ‘yeah, that’s fine’, but inwardly I kind’ve felt well I want to be with people I know and who know me and care about me on this occasion, not someone who is more of a stranger, however nice they may be. So I went home and prayed about it. I realise that I hear most from God when I am quiet before Him and take the time to really listen. I also admit that I don’t do this as much as I should, as I spend more time expressing my own thoughts. I really need to grow in this area, I know. However, I listened, and God as He does gently and lovingly challenged me with prompting me to reflect upon my motives and to think about His heart. If He were to have a banquet or a dinner or any occasion, who would He invite? As I reflected upon the life of Jesus, I realised His Arms are open to all, and He showed this on the cross. The gentle rebuke and lesson is what I needed to realise that I was in fact thinking more of myself and my ‘needs’ and comfort zone than of being Christlike, of loving in a way that honours Him – something which I’m wholly inadequate to do on my own. He walked me through this in a deeper way as He spoke to me about His Heart and His Kingdom and purposes. I am realising the need for me to humble myself and to choose to be teachable and remain teachable because the answer to the question I had about what to do or how to think about the situation does not lie in reflecting upon my own needs, but on humbling myself to receive His love and truth, that of the Perfect Teacher. If I love Him, I will do what He says, but that means yielding my hard, self-protective, self-interested heart to trust Him, to allow His love and grace to forgive and change me, and to let Him transform me more and more into His likeness, to have a heart that pleases Him.
Are we willing to be teachable, and what does this mean?
Sometimes being teachable means admitting that we have blind spots, that there are things we don’t know or understand yet, and that we need to be quiet and willing to learn from someone wiser than us. However, being teachable as my lesson from yesterday reminds me, isn’t just a matter in terms of knowledge, academic or professional learning, proficiency in a skill, talent, musical instrument, art-form, sport, or such like. It is much more to do with our character, our attitudes, our values, our respect for others, and our heart. Do we realise that there are far more noble ideals at play when we teach and / or learn? Do we realise that being teachable says so much about being human? Being teachable applies to teachers as well as students, for the process of teaching will reveal so much about a teacher’s heart and motives and character as well. Are we willing to humble ourselves and admit that we may be wrong, ignorant, ‘blind’ or hard hearted? And are we willing to yield to the Source of all sources, to learn the purest life lessons that there ever can be to be learned?
What are your thoughts and experiences? Please feel free to share with others here, or if not, reflect upon them for yourself. x
It’s Sunday morning, 9.24am, and ‘Life as it happens to be’ today sees me seeking God for help with anxiety. There’s something about being in the Presence of the Living God, and worshipping Him with His people gathered together on a Sunday, listening to the Truth of the Word spoken, and nourishing our spirits that brings a satisfaction and deep connection with our Creator. In times of worship, amidst the crescendo of praise to our Great God, I can close my eyes and feel like I am connecting one to One with the Lord Jesus. Being part of the family and ‘Body of Christ’ as believers is a beautiful thing, despite the challenges that families do face, it is a connection that is spiritual, and borne out of the pure agape Love of Christ Who unites us.
That being said, the process of managing anxiety, of managing all the practical things it takes to get ready in the morning, prepare mentally and simply get out the door, step into the world and get there on time which can be a big struggle for people with anxiety that isn’t the case for people who don’t have this ‘bug in the system’ with regards to fight / flight, our nervous systems going haywire, and our thoughts looking for ways to ‘get out’ of things, which could be, and as it is in my case, the result of previous difficult and highly stressful experiences in childhood.
We are told to ‘be anxious for nothing’ in Philippians, but to present our requests to God with thanksgiving so that we can experience the Peace of God in Christ that transcends all human understanding. This is our standard, our comfort and our encouragement. But I do acknowledge and give a ‘shout out’ to my brothers and sisters who also struggle with anxiety, crowds and social situations, walking down the street and maintaining composure internally and mentally, that we are humans, we do stumble about, trip over our own feet and get stressed when we can’t find our keys or don’t know what to wear and all the time wanting to honour God but knowing we are kind of hopeless at this thing called life. Is it just me, or is anyone with me? Maybe you see me, or I see you in church and we look like we ‘have it together’. We don’t. Trust me. No one does. That’s why we need Jesus.
And as I try to encourage myself through this post, I’d like to also encourage and remind you that our God Is wonderful, compassionate, patient, gentle, and steadfast and unwavering in His Perfect Love for us. Jesus Christ IS The Good Shepherd, His sheep know His Voice, and we follow Him. He leads us, gently, tenderly, and He also trains us rigorously sometimes to live lives of Righteousness, only possible because of Who He Is and what He has accomplished at the cross – Victory!
Psalm 139 is a beautiful reminder that no matter where we go, or run to or try to hide or what we might be doing, God Is there, right there with us. Always. So even if anxiety gets the better of you and you stay at home, your Loving Saviour is right there with you, drawing you whether or not that be in a church service, on a mountain, in the quiet of your own space, TO HIMSELF.
Yet, in the gospels He also bids us to Come…to Come to Him….and also to get up, to rise and follow Him…one step at a time, knowing that He goes before us and Is our rear-guard of Protection. What a wonderful Saviour.
What about you? Do you have any experiences that you can encourage the rest of the body of Christ / His family with?
Lastly, I sometimes need a bit of a musical encouragement to get me going, so I have been listening to this this morning. xx
Ditch the stereotypes:
For some reason, society in general views single adults negatively. Romantic relationships have become something of an ‘idol’, a false ‘god’ that we fall down and worship as the ultimate source of happiness, fulfilment, joy and purpose in life. In magazines, television, film, online and among family and friendship groups, falling in love, getting married and having children is viewed as the purpose of life, and if you haven’t ‘achieved’ this in life, you may be looked upon with pity, while other people attempt to ‘fix’ whatever they think is ‘wrong’ with your life by looking for someone to complete you and fill the void in your lonely heart and life.
Don’t get me wrong, I recognise love, marriage and family as an important part of life, and a gift from God, for the purpose of honouring God. Ever since I was a little girl, I saw that as a big part of my life, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t worked out that way so far. And if I allow myself to be honest, I think I am grateful for this. Still hopeful for the future, but grateful for the present. I am very unlikely to idolize marriage in the way many people do. Christ is first in my heart and mind, and I am so thankful for that. I am more aware of the reality of marriage from my friend’s lives, that they are not always the ‘fairy-tales’ they once dreamt of, and therefore I am not looking to another person to be emotionally resilient for me, which I have learned to be for myself. Even if you are not a Christian, these lessons still apply.
In times past, and if you have read any of Jane Austen’s novels you will be well aware of the societal norms of the time, marriage was closely related to social class, division of labour, financial stability, life expectancy and gender based roles, and the separation of work and home life. Therefore, to not be married by a certain age would be to have a somewhat insecure place in society and with fewer opportunities especially for women, single women beyond a certain age would generally be looked down upon old maids with no future prospects, and the gossipy societal view of such women would be particularly bleak.
However, times have changed, and although our desires for love and companionship and family for the most part remain, singleness can be viewed very differently in today’s society at least in most Western countries. Young and ‘middle aged’ women and men have more opportunities available to them, generally have longer life expectancy and therefore what was once considered middle aged in the past can still be considered young today.
And yet, some of the stereotypes (for example the single woman alone in an apartment surrounded by cats…where on earth did that come from?!) remain, and may even be ingrained in the psyche of certain generations. For whatever reason you find yourself at your particular age and stage and season of life as a single person, I invite you to ditch the stereotype and lie that your life can’t be purposeful, abundant and fulfilling. We can be a generation that inspires, that views this time and season of our lives as single people, whether it turns out to be temporary or ‘permanent’, as one in which we can be world changers, inspirers, people who put something positive into the world and make a difference.
And if you want to sit in an apartment full of cats, then that is your choice….but it is by no means your destiny! 🙂
Sometimes mornings can be hard. We know what we want our ideal morning routine to be like, but maybe we’ve had a bad sleep, have chronic health problems, wake up in physical pain or simply just “get out on the wrong side of the bed” as the saying goes.
It can be too easy to let our not so great morning experience dictate the rest of the day for us. We might think the day is over before it’s started and already be wishing for another new day, or be thinking about getting everything over and done with and curling up in bed.
But with that outlook, have we given our day a chance? Think of your day as a story, a narrative, a novel in miniature even, and you as the protagonist – the hero or heroine of your story. So, the opening scene happens to be a bit gloomy, but that simply builds suspense and anticipation, for the hero / heroine to find that determination and courageously write a new story for themselves. Look up, have faith, and put your best foot forward, even if your first steps were a bit of a stumble into the day….the day isn’t over yet, give it a chance, who knows, the conclusion of the day’s story might be pretty wonderful indeed! 🙂