A favourite Scripture among many Christians is from the book of Proverbs (Chapter 3: verses 5 – 6).
“Trust in The LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths”.
For those who have never encountered The Living God, who don’t know the Reality of the Risen Christ, and who don’t personally have a relationship with Him as their Lord and Saviour, then this advice might seem a little bit strange, inaccessible or contrary to their way of thinking and of living life. For without God in the picture, people trust in their own wayward hearts, they lean on their own faulty reasoning, ‘logic’ and understanding, and that of other people as they try to forge out a way forwards, yet never walking in the Truth.
Statements like these can be hard to swallow, might invite challenging discussion, but as someone who does know The Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, I also know just how much I need Him to navigate the path ahead for me, and to trust The One Who sees and knows with perfect wisdom the many things I can’t possibly figure out without Him. Who would walk into a jungle for the first time without a guide? Who would walk through the jungle of life without The Saviour, The Shepherd, The One Who declares in Truth: “I AM The Way, The Truth and The Life (no one comes to The Father except through Me)” ?
For those of us who do know Him, we have a responsibility to always seek His guidance and direction in our lives, in the day to day decisions, as well as the bigger situations we may face. How many times do we get into a mess trying to figure out things all on our own, when we only have to ask, and listen for that direction that He so freely gives? The Good Shepherd will never lead us astray.
We need to stay focussed on Him, because He has a plan, a mission, a purpose for our lives, and much of this is being played out in the spiritual realm – something that the secular world around us does not understand, accept or acknowledge, and something that others may not be ‘armed’ to know what they are actually ‘dabbling with’ when it comes to spiritual things that on the surface seem harmless.
WE need to stay focussed, alert, on track and listen for His direction, and guidance, through the Word and being led by His Spirit.
Sometimes there may be a lot of competing demands in our lives, things that arise from a variety of sources, and seemingly ‘good causes’, but before diving in, we need to acknowledge our Lord and ask what He desires and requires of us. Just because something on the surface seems like it is a good thing to be involved with, doesn’t mean that it is something that He wants us to focus our attention on, or maybe He has a different or a better way than the one we see immediately set before us.
Are you letting competing voices draw you away from hearing The Voice of your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ?
The world busies itself with all sorts of things to be done, but sometimes rushing into things isn’t the best course of action. Wait, listen, trust in Him with all your heart, lean on His understanding and not your own, acknowledge Him in everything, knowing that without any doubt, He *will* direct your paths.
We all need mental resilience to make it through this life. For some of us, this has been a great battle when it comes to our self perception.
Once upon a time, you were born, a precious, adorable, beautiful and wonderful little baby, full of hope and promise. Perhaps like me, you are blessed to be loved by parents who wanted you. Yet, even if you sadly didn’t have that love, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever about the fact of the miracle of your birth, the wonder of your life, and any person of sound mind and heart would declare the truth that you were born a precious, loveable, beautiful little baby, worthy of love, and to be cherished, regardless of the hand in life or circumstances you were dealt.
Each and every baby, every life is precious, no matter how it came to be. That includes you.
However, somewhere along the way, life got tricky, it got complicated, and we got hurt. Those who were meant to protect us either didn’t or couldn’t and we were wounded. I’d like to focus here specifically on one aspect of wounding or abuse (as this is such a vast topic, I couldn’t do it justice to try to explore in one post all the different ways we can be hurt in this life) – that of words.
Perhaps like many of you, the wounds of words came early in childhood, and consequently caused a great distortion in self image, feelings of worth and confidence. If you have suffered the wounding words of childhood, adolescence and even adulthood, it can be hard to differentiate the effects of those wounds from the truth of who you are. It can be a life long journey. I know.
Perhaps you are stuck in a time, or feeling the reeling pain from memories where you might have been labelled with cruel words such as: ugly, stupid, fat, disgusting, loser, loner, nobody, outcast, dog, pot ugly, idiot, geek, weirdo, or whatever it may have been.
At a formative age, we don’t know the difference between who we are and what we are told about ourselves. I have as a young child, a teenager and an adult been told that I was pretty, lovely, beautiful, etc. However, there was a time in my life growing up that I believed and felt that I was too ugly and disgusting and repulsive to even be alive. I was called ugly, black *****, pot ugly, dog, etc. I was also physically hit and hurt by bullies at school, but that’s another story, I’m just focusing on words for now.
The words literally broke me. I felt repulsive, like a monster, sick to my stomach and I felt like my poor mum had to live with a monster for a daughter, I felt too ugly and worthless to be on this planet, so much so that I felt I would lessen the burden if I wasn’t here. I went through great psychological trauma, and couldn’t express it.
However, the confusion continued when I started getting compliments maybe only a year later. I truly believed that the people saying nice things about me were ridiculing and tormenting me and abusing me further with their mockery. But they weren’t. It didn’t make sense to me that I could go from being the ugliest girl ever to someone who was admired or thought of as pretty. I couldn’t handle or make sense of it, and it takes a very long time to unpick the lies we absorb as children.
The reason why I’m sharing this isn’t merely to provide insight into my story, but to help you with yours. You probably have some wounds caused by words that you still struggle not to believe are true. Were you called ugly, or stupid or worthless? Do the words make it true? Perhaps, like me you internalised them as being true, you felt the horrific feelings that went along with the pain of verbal abuse, and they all but wrecked you. But are they really true? Were they?
As an adult, it has taken me decades to make progress, but I feel I am getting there, and as I get stronger I want to help other people too.
Think back to the image of the baby I told you about. You need to believe that each and every baby is precious. So what happened? Did you and I turn into some kind of monstrous creatures as we grew up? Those words cut so deep and so many people were saying them that surely they were true? No, that’s one of the effects of abuse. The lies wound us and distort our self image, perception and sense of value. You might have heard the illustration that a £20.00 note (or whatever your paper currency is) doesn’t lose its value and worth just because it is crushed and crumpled. It isn’t any less valuable than a crisp new one from the bank. The same goes for you and I. The words are the crumpling, but they don’t determine our worth or our identity or our dignity as human beings.
You and I didn’t grow out of being beautiful, precious, lovable, special babies. We didn’t lose our value. The world told us lies and we believed them and have suffered from that. But our stories don’t need to end there.
Can you love that baby but not the child or adolescent? Why? Why are we like that as a society and individuals? No matter who you are or what you’ve done, you are precious. You are worthy in God’s sight, and no lie is of the truth.
You might think it strange to hear me say that we are in a ‘spiritual battle’, but we are. There is evil in this world, that seeks to steal, kill and to destroy. But Jesus Christ came to give us life in all its fulness. He can heal those wounds. It is knowing and believing the Truth that sets us free.
No matter what you look like, or your perceived intelligence levels, social status, or abilities, you are of incredible worth. You are precious, wanted and loved. No matter if you have never been told that by another human being, it’s how God sees you.
And even if you’re not at the point of believing that, just think of your worth as a person. Think of that precious baby. Only a very cruel and callous person hardened by the world and their own hearts could look at a baby and not see it as precious. So look kindly upon yourself, remember that that’s how you started out and the lies you have come to believe about yourself are just that – lies. You are lovable, forgivable, beautiful, worthy, incredible, and you deserve to live.
So grow strong in knowing the Truth. The lies are powerful, but not as powerful as the Truth, so just try to imagine how powerful that Truth actually is and what you can do with it when you share it with the world! No one said it would be easy, but my friend, your journey doesn’t end there. Nor does mine.
Let me leave you and I with some affirmations the truth about who we are:
I was born beautiful, lovely, unique, precious, lovable, one of a kind. I am and always have been special, worthy and full of potential. I can be forgiven, cleansed, cherished. I can overcome lies with the Truth. I can grow strong. Nothing can take away my worth as a human being, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.
I am and always have been beautiful, precious, fearfully and wonderfully made. This is the Truth of who I am and nothing and no one can take that away or change it. Maybe life has ‘crumpled’ me a bit, but it hasn’t taken away my value or intrinsic worth and it never will, even if for a while I believe the lies.
But no lie is of the Truth and the Truth of who I am is so much more powerful than any lie that has tried to defeat me or make me feel worthless. I am a human being, and I am precious, and I will live knowing my worth and being kind to and loving myself.
Proverbs 27 v 6 advises us that: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”.
What does this mean?
The wounds of a friend are faithful. A true friend may give advice, instruction, counsel or even just suggestions that are intended for their friend’s good. What a person does with that communication is up to them, but a true friend is not willing to withhold good counsel intended to protect their friend even if it is not received well.
Can you think of a situation when you have been the faithful friend whose words may have caused offence but were given out of love, concern, care and sincerity? Perhaps you advised a friend that the person they were getting in a relationship with had a bad reputation and that it would be better for them to steer clear. Maybe they thanked you for your input, or maybe they told you to get lost, to mind your own business, etc, but had you known what you did, to refuse to share that with your friend would have been cruel and irresponsible. You can speak the truth in love.
However, someone who couldn’t really care less if the relationship would end up being harmful might flatter you with ‘kisses’, i.e. tell you the things you want to hear, rather than telling you the truth. In the moment the enemy seems like more of a friend than your friend whose wounds are faithful. It can be easy to become blind sighted by our own desires, and what our itching ears want to hear.
Just as ‘iron sharpens iron’ so too does good, wise, discerning, loving, loyal and honest friendship mutually sharpen the characters of us and our friends.
However, sometimes a friend can be an enemy, without really setting out or intending to do so. A person may easily identify a lie as being ‘bad’, but they may make excuses for withholding the truth but that doesn’t make it any less of a lie or any less damaging.
If someone habitually withholds the truth from a friend, they are effectively lying to them and keeping things unconfessed, hidden and in darkness. A true friend may be clumsy with their words, but their intention comes from a place of love or at least kindness and respect, and you know that they will be honest with you. Covering things up or withholding truth is very sadly, and however unintentionally a form of deceit, verging on being cruel and selfish.
We are never in a place to judge other people’s motives, but we need to discern truth from error. Sometimes we learn the hard way that when the truth about a situation is withheld from us, or how a situation is perceived by someone is not shared with us, even if it is with the intention ‘not to offend’, then we are being denied honest and sincere communication. We are silently being lied to. If we have done something wrong, we will not be told about it, perhaps because our friend is not willing to ‘faithfully wound’ us for the sake of our own good and theirs. And under the surface, perhaps those who withhold the truth from another party allow bitterness to fester, and silently but very intentionally control the situation, perhaps by pushing us away, but without in the end showing honest and genuine love, care, concern or respect because they have chosen to with hold the truth.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend. We need to be intentional in walking in the light, of being honest and truthful and respectful, rather than withholding truth from people and silently punishing them for something they didn’t even know or weren’t given a chance to know was wrong.
Kind and lovely people can fall into this trap of being unfaithful because it in the short term it seems to cause less damage, discomfort, awkwardness or unease – but in the long run, withholding truth is just as damaging as an outright lie.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Let us seek never to be an enemy to our friends by withholding truth from them, especially if what we don’t tell them leads us to taking a course of action that will affect them negatively while withholding explanation. To do so would be to choose not to walk in the light because in the short term it feels more comfortable to take the easy path. The easy way is not always the best, so take time to ponder the path of your feet for your own good and the good of others. And to keep walking in the light, be quick to choose to forgive, to be understanding, respectful and loving, and to be the kind of person who you yourself can respect. x
Do you ever have those moments, perhaps when you are doing ok, and have been working hard at your life, but something makes you feel inadequate, not quite good enough?
I think these moments come to us all, and perhaps we don’t recognise that we internalise certain false beliefs about ourselves at such times, because they leave an emotional imprint.
Maybe you have been doing your best, but then you come face to face with someone else’s accomplishments, perhaps they are younger than you, more vibrant, making changes that are positively impacting the world around them…and you suddenly feel deflated, as if what you are doing is not good enough, and wonder why aren’t you doing or able to do those things. Or maybe you’ve been working through some struggles and doing your best to get by, and make the most of what you’ve got, to have a right attitude, and at last you feel like you might just be getting there, to a place of contentment if not quite satisfaction. You’re doing ok. And then you see that someone else’s life is overflowing with the blessings you can’t imagine ever happening for yourself, and you wonder whether you’re just not good enough, not worthy enough, or why things are so much harder for you.
Maybe you feel like, despite the evidence to the contrary, you’re not talented, everyone around you is better, and those feelings of insecurity tug at your heart and threaten to bring you down.
And all the while, someone is looking at you and your life and thinking, wow, he / she is amazing. Maybe they see you as the girl who is smart, and beautiful and has many friends, who seems to breeze through life, and face struggles with strength and defiance. Maybe they wish for your home, or your talents, or to be able to travel and go where you have gone, or to be a strong independent singleton, or to have that seemingly happy family that you know is actually not that much of a fairy-tale from the inside. Maybe they see you as the guy who is always cheerful, smart, likeable, funny, attractive, with not a care in the world. And all the while, inside your mind and heart, it couldn’t be more different.
Just know that these feelings are normal, and we all face them at some point or another through life, and to varying degrees. Things are never just quite what they seem. There are things about each other we can’t see. We can’t see someone’s past, we can’t see their losses, their mental health struggles, their chronic pain, their illness, their fears, their unfulfilled longings, their low-self esteem, their childhood traumas, their loneliness. There is so much about each other that we fail to see, perhaps behind smiles and accomplishments that indicate that everything is ‘great’ for that person.
But we all are human, and we all have our ups and downs. So if you feel insecure, know that often this may come from comparisons with others, including false comparisons and negative thinking. Do we really have the right to judge and compare and make value judgements on the basis of that? I don’t think we do. It can be hard sometimes to feel as though you are enough, to overcome the lies that tell you you’re not worthy as a person, and to allow the Truth in. When Light shines on any of our hearts, it exposes the darkness that is in us all, and only by surrendering to the Truth, that we need to be set free and healed and saved and helped can we begin to be our authentic selves, unafraid to step into the Light.
You are unique, there is no one else like you, with the exact same blueprint, DNA, and intricate design as you. Even ‘identical twins’ are not the same. There is no one quite like you, and that is what makes you special. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. And yes, you’re not like that other person you admire, but you weren’t meant to be. You might not have the easier path, but are there not lessons that you could not possibly have learned otherwise? Lessons that might just help someone else in an incredible or small way. You don’t look like them because you aren’t meant to. You don’t have the same life as them, because you weren’t meant to. And they don’t have your life. So when you feel insecure, remember that you are remarkably unique, one of a kind, unlike any other, and take time to seek the Truth and the Light that will illuminate who you are and who you are meant to be – uniquely, incomparably you. x
Well today, the day after the United Kingdom held its European Parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced her resignation, to be effective as of Friday June 7th, two weeks from now. She spoke of how she tried her best for the country she loves, and how she was motivated by her public duty and her democratic obligations to the will of the people, speaking specifically about the referendum vote three years ago that resulted in a simple majority to leave the European Union…or ‘Brexit’ as it has come to be known.
Most people feel disaffected with politics, although there has been expressions of sympathy towards Mrs May who was choked with emotion at the end of her resignation speech.
We face new challenges going forwards, and who knows what the rest of the world thinks of the United Kingdom in this respect. Yet, whatever our political opinions, persuasions or if we choose not to get involved at times, the Christian’s responsibility, regardless of personalities, politics or any other such thing, is to pray.
We are admonished in 1 Timothy 2:
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all…“