Summer Shore is co-founder of Revive Ministries, a writer, speaker, and co-host of the Experience Revival podcast. She has been an on-air personality in Christian radio for the past 6 years and has been speaking and teaching for 18 years, using humor and real-life experiences to connect with women, speak to their hearts and draw them closer to God. She also enjoys singing and leading worship whenever she can. Summer and her husband, Jake, have been married for almost 20 years and have 3 boys that keep her on her toes! Summer loves spending time traveling and going on adventures with her family, especially if it involves going to her favorite Cuban restaurant. When she’s not on the air or working with Revive, you’ll find her curled up in a fuzzy blanket with a mug of chai tea and, you guessed it, a Hallmark movie. You can connect with her on Instagram @summer_shore.
Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
Every July 4th we stop and pause and celebrate our freedom. While we have tremendous liberty here in the United States, there is another freedom that is greater still. It is a freedom not granted to us by a government or a person, but a calling from God to live in freedom through Christ.
The word “calling” comes from the greek word kaleo, which means Divine Invitation. Usually we talk about calling in terms of the purpose and meaning we want to find in our lives. We are invited by God to be a part of His story. He has created each of us uniquely, with gifts and talents and roles to play.
But God has also extended a Divine Invitation to live in freedom. When Jesus died on the cross, was buried and raised from the dead three days later, He broke the hold of sin on our lives and we were set free. Jesus conquered and we get to share the victory!
Through Christ, we are invited to live in freedom from sin, wrong thinking and insecurity. Freedom from measuring up and competing with our friends and neighbors. Freedom from despair and hopelessness, loneliness and isolation. Freedom from addiction and being stuck in unhealthy cycles. Through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, we can experience a life that is truly free.
All of this freedom is ultimately for a purpose. We are not set free to run back to the things that held us captive again, or to be the sole beneficiaries of our new found liberty. We are set free to love and serve one another. We are free to use our gifts to help others, to lift them up and encourage them. We can point people toward Christ, so that they too can live a life of freedom and joy. We can give them a hand up, dust them off and lead them out of the darkness of captivity and into the light. No longer do we have to be hindered by our past and our failings. We are invited by God Himself to experience freedom like no other!
In Christ you are grounded in truth, empowered by the Holy Spirit and truly set free.
When I was in college, a couple families from my church would make dinner for our college ministry’s perpetually hungry group of students. Every Monday night we would get together, pray, eat, worship and hang out afterward. A newer friend to our group, Dustin, was asked to say the blessing for the food. He didn’t have a lot of experience at church or with praying, but he was up for giving it a shot. Everyone gathered around and bowed their heads and waited for Dustin to pray.
After a thoughtful pause, he said confidently, “Hey God! How’s it going? I hope your day is going great. Thanks a lot for the people that made all this food—the burgers smell really good and..uh..we are looking forward to eating them. Ok, that’s it.”
A smile spread around the room as we were reminded of a very important fact: prayer is an honest conversation with God. What my friend lacked in elegant, churchy verbiage, he more than made up with sincerity and a willing heart.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that God just wants us to talk to Him. Dustin’s prayer, reminds me of a quote by Dallas Willard who said, “Living prayer is simply talking to God about what we are doing together.”
God is already by our side every moment, working in the world around us, and giving us a chance to join Him. What if we talked with God each day about what we’ll do together and where we’ll go together? What eternal perspective might be granted to the things we do both great and small, if we acknowledged our Heavenly Father walking beside us?
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
God literally invites you to talk to Him about all the things. Whether you’re sick or in trouble, or happy and content, God wants to hear from you.
God wants to be a part of your life, to be there for you and support and encourage you. He is there to cheer with you when you get that promotion you’ve been working toward, or when your little one takes their first steps. He sees your joy and delights in it.
When you grieve, God wants to holds you close. When you cry, He’s right there waiting to comfort you and give you strength. He wants to hear from you when you feel lost or confused, when you don’t understand where He is working or what you’re supposed to do next. God is big enough to handle our real human emotions. He is secure enough to field our questions, doubts and even our anger. It’s ok to tell Him about it.
If you are sick, God doesn’t want you to suffer alone. You are not an inconvenience. He wants you to reach out to Him and to the church to anoint you with oil and pray with you. He works through His people to encourage you and help you get the resources and care that you need to be well.
Even when we are sinning, God wants to be in conversation together. God never moves away or abandons us when we mess up, but often our instinct is to run and hide. We withdraw in shame or sometimes even in defiance. The first step to restoration is a conversation with God. Our Heavenly Father knows and understands that avoiding temptation and sin is difficult. He sent Jesus to redeem us and the Holy Spirit to help us, knowing that we are not strong enough on our own.
Talking to God even when we are messing up, counteracts our human tendency to withdraw. It keeps us close to our Savior and our source of strength, so that we can live differently–to live holy. Prayer can give us the courage to reach out to a trusted friend to confess our sin, seek support and find accountability. It is safe to talk to God about sin. He even says that we will be forgiven. It is in honest relationship with our Heavenly Father and our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ that we are changed and set free from sin.
Prayer is powerful and transformative. Prayer changes our hearts and shapes us to be more like God. You and your closest friend likely have similar wardrobes or mannerisms. It’s human nature to become a little more like the people we spend time with. In spending time with God in the conversation of prayer, we start to take on more of His characteristics and perspective. We more easily recognize His voice and begin to anticipate, by the power of the Holy Spirit, where He is leading us.
Even Jesus, who was perfect, valued and needed prayer. Luke 5:15-17 tells us that when Jesus was doing ministry “…the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Jesus knew that to effectively complete His mission here on earth, He had to stay connected to the Father. He talked with God about what they were doing together and poured out His heart to Him.
Jesus not only prayed for His own benefit, but for the benefit of those watching. He modeled a healthy relationship with God so that we too could learn and implement prayer in our lives. What is amazing, is that through Jesus, we have the same access to talk to God that He did. When you are up at 2:00 in the morning with a fussy little one, God is there and ready to hear you. When you are driving home from work and feeling anxious about balancing family time with work obligations, God wants you to share it with Him. We can have a continuous conversation with God at any time and in any place. What an awe-inspiring thing to be able to share our hearts and thoughts with the very God who created us.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Praying continually” doesn’t mean you have to go to church in the morning and stay there praying on your knees all day long. It simply means to keep the conversation going. Check in with God, give Him your status update before you post it on social media.
Prayer is an impactful and a powerful part of our lives as Christians. It is necessary for building a relationship with God that continually transforms us to be more like Him.
Anyone can do it and it doesn’t have to sound fancy to please God. He simply wants to hear your heart, and to be your steadfast source of love and comfort, wisdom and peace. You don’t have to look far to find Him. He is there already, walking right beside you, ready to listen to His beloved daughter.
Ever since I was a kid growing up in Washington, DC, I’ve been a bit of a scrapper. My earliest scuffle that I can remember was in kindergarten. A kid took my crayons and wouldn’t give them back. At recess I asked for their return politely, several times with increasing intensity, but still no crayons. At this point, playground rules in 1980’s DC dictate that we throw down. It was either stand up to this punk kid, or never again illustrate beautiful pictures with my favorite cornflower-colored crayon. He leaned in to push me, so I shoved him to the blacktop hard enough that he dropped my crayons. I scooped up my Crayolas, looked down at him and repeated with my best street tone, “I said, GIMME MY CRAYONS!” Then I turned and walked away the victor, with my rightful belongings restored.
I was always a strong-willed child. My mom tells me stories about me when I was two years old, literally daring her to “go ahead and spank me” for my persistent defiance and disobedience that day. She is probably relieved that my stubbornness led me into ministry, instead of becoming the leader of a gang.
Growing up, I approached most of life with that same undaunted tenacity. I would try to first handle things peacefully and with some grace, but deep down I always knew, that if I needed to, I could take life’s punches and still get back up.
What I quickly discovered however, is that it is much simpler to get back up when you’re on a playground and it’s only crayons at stake. You don’t have to be an adult long before you start weathering blows that sting a whole lot more. Maybe it’s the time-stopping phone call that brings news of serious illness for yourself or a loved one. It could be getting the next round of bills and having to decide which ones not to pay so that your family can buy groceries that week. For some, it’s hearing the doctor say, “We can’t find the baby’s heartbeat, we’re so sorry”.
Life can be mean and so very hard. It’s not fair and I get it. It’s the awful kid on the playground all over again, only this time you can’t push the bully named “grief, stress and anxiety” to the blacktop in self-defense. It can begin to feel like you’re fighting a battle that you can’t win, just swinging away at thin air until you feel exhausted and defeated.
All of those scenarios I listed above are my own. I have lived them. I have taken those hits square on the metaphorical jaw, and yet somehow, I’ve gotten back up. It is not through sheer determination of the will or by some rare form of strength that I get back up. It is the power of Christ in me and around me, that pulls me up out of the mud, and sets me upright again on solid ground where I can stand.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”
Time and time again, I have found myself in over my head, facing a fight I can’t possibly win on my own. It happens so often in my life that I actually started wondering if anyone else has this many problems. I found myself asking in my pitiful state, “Why me? Why do I have to endure all this?”
As the last part of Psalm 40:3 says, “Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.” As a Christian, a woman, a mom, an employee, people are watching to see if I will get back up when life knocks me down. How I walk through crisis, big or small is a testimony to God at work in my life and in the world around me. While I can’t control what trials will come my way, I can control how I choose to navigate those challenges.
Sometimes God grants me strength to fight the good fight like in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.” Other times, God is lifting me out of the mud to set me on solid ground again, like in Psalm 40. In every situation, God is always working on my behalf, allowing others to witness how He is at work in my weakness. It is only through Jesus that I am the “Get Back Up Girl”.
My job is not to engineer my success or come up with plans A-Z of how I will avoid painful situations. My job is to ready myself and stay connected to the One who strengthens me and never, ever lets me down.
In Ephesians 6:13-18, we hear about the armor of God that equips us for everything life can throw at us. We can put on the belt of truth to keep us thinking clearly and a breastplate of righteousness, so that we don’t have to be ashamed—we are made righteous through Christ. Our feet are fitted with the good news of peace and the best part, we get a shield! When we are weary from the fight, we can rest secure while the enemy’s arrows glance off of us. On top of it all, God gives us a helmet of salvation that gives us hope, along with the powerful weapon of His Word.
We have all of this from God, to equip us to get back up. My friend, if you are battle weary and worn out, let Him pull you back to your feet today, place you on solid ground and give you peace. If boldness and strength are what you need, our God will supply it. You are loved beyond measure! I know in times of hardship that can be hard to believe, but God loves you so very much. Hear Him cheering you on, “I’ve got you! You can do this!” Now, get back up girl!
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to get back up. – Ephesians 6:13
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
With flowers popping up, and more blue-sky days in the week, the optimism of a new season is all around. Especially coming out of dark winter, the light and new life of spring offers a welcome reprieve, full of promise and hope.
I have been inspired by all this newness to do some spring cleaning. I opened up the windows to let in the breeze, and aired out the all stale corners of the house that haven’t seen the bright light of day in a while. I even dusted the hard to reach places.
Personally, there are parts of my heart that could use the same treatment. There are hidden corners in my soul that haven’t seen the bright light of day in a while. Parts of me that are still holding on old ways instead of walking renewed in the light of Christ.
I sometimes forget the power that we have through Jesus. His story did not end at the cross, yet often I live as though it did. The comfort of consistency quietly draws me back into old familiar ways, even when I know there is a better way. Whether it is a lack of self-control, being short-tempered, or even just a bit lazy, if I am not intentional about letting the Holy Spirit renew my mind, I miss out on the freedom and joy of living in the light.
What if we all believed in and lived out the truth that the cross was not the end, it was the plot twist? Jesus overcame death, the grave, and rose to life again. When we choose to follow Christ, and clothe ourselves in His righteousness through baptism, the old ways fade away like snow in the early spring. We can throw open the shutters of our hearts and breathe deep of new mercies, not just once, but every morning. We are released from the slavery of sin and are made new by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. In Christ, we are raised to new life–to walk in new ways, running toward new hope.
There’s a great illustration of this in one of my favorite movies, the Coen Brothers comedy, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Three escaped convicts, Everett, Delmar and Pete are on the run and have just narrowly escaped the sheriff and his hounds. They pause for a moment in their journey to build a fire, eat and rest, when they hear some faint singing. The three men stand bewildered, as they watch a church congregation walking toward a nearby river for baptisms. The moment Delmar sees a chance for redemption, the draw is irresistible. He runs as fast as he can to the water, confesses his sin to the preacher, and is baptized. He looks to his companions and calls out to them, “Well, that’s it boys, I’ve been redeemed…It’s the straight and narrow from here on out, and heaven everlasting is my reward. The preacher says all my sins have been washed away! Neither God, nor man’s got nothing on me now! Come on in boys, the water is fine.”
As strange as it may sound, I can’t watch this scene without thinking of my own baptism and tearing up. While I didn’t “knock over a Piggly-Wiggly” like Delmar did to earn his jail sentence, I have had my share of mistakes. I had sin in my life that I wanted washed away. I longed for the ultimate spring cleaning of my heart to lead me to the freedom of a new life in Christ.
What works with this scene is that throughout the rest of the movie, Delmar’s sticks to his promise. He is a new creation. While the company he keeps continues to be a little rough around the edges, the film culminates with his friends’ ultimate repentance and an allusion to their salvation. O Brother, Where Art Thou is not a Christian film, but Delmar’s response in this particular scene reminds me of Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT):
“Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”
We have an opportunity every day to throw off the old ways and run toward new life in Christ. With a childlike faith, we can lean into the love of Christ, take hold of the redemption offered to us, and live empowered by the Holy Spirit, being continually renewed and made to look more like Jesus every day. What spring cleaning needs to be done in your life? Come on in darling, the water is fine.
Easter can be a perplexing time of year. It is both joyful and somber. With springtime in the air, Easter egg hunts, and church worship services, we celebrate the joy and celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and triumph over sin and death. But there is also the week leading up to Easter, Holy Week. It’s a time of reflection and remembrance that before the victory, God chose to sacrifice and Jesus chose to suffer. He took on our sin and paid the price for it. It is the most expensive ransom ever paid, and it begs the question, “Why would he do that for me?”
Recently, I was sitting in the prayer room at my church with a friend who was wrestling with this very question. She was struggling to understand how God could love her this much, or that He would go to such lengths just to be with her. We were about to take communion together, and as she held in her hand the tiny piece of cracker and little plastic cup of juice that represent Jesus’ physical sacrifice, her sorrow was palpable.
What she couldn’t see in that moment, is that she is worth it. God loves her so much that He dreamed of her, planned ahead for her, and created her for a purpose. Jesus willingly gave up His life for her because He believes that she is worth it. And He believes that you are too.
God created you to know Him, love Him and have fellowship with Him. He calls you His daughter, and co-heir with Christ. He is proud to be seen with you and looks forward to time with you. If He had Facebook you’d be in his profile pic. If he had a fridge, your picture would be on it.
After sin entered this world and separated us from God, His singular focus became to make a way for us to be with Him again. He has been working tirelessly ever since, pursuing you, loving you in every moment, good and bad. He gently whispers his promises and sings over you with love. (Zephaniah 3:17). In every moment, in every circumstance, he keeps on loving you, because you are worth it to Him.
God’s love is not just lip service. “He demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) This is love beyond comprehension. He himself went to the cross as the ultimate sacrifice, to bear our shame and take our sin. But He didn’t stop there. He rose from the grave, He conquered death and broke sin’s hold on us forever, so we we will never be separated from His love again.
God’s passion and love for us for us led him to the cross for the purpose of redeeming us. When the ground shook and Jesus conquered death, He declared our worth right then and there, once and for all. Because of Christ, we can lean against the very throne of God as his beloved daughter, redeemed and made whole.
I imagine the voice of our Heavenly Father, calling out, “I love you! You are my precious daughter and there is nothing I would not do for you. I went to hell and back to save you and I would do it again. There is no height, nor depth that will keep you from my love. There’s nothing in heaven or on earth that can separate you from my love. (Romans 8:31-39) In your darkest moments, when you are at your worst, you are worth it. In your victories and triumphs, you are worth it. I am here with you. I will guide your steps and guard your heart. I love you daughter. You are worth it.”
We have been talking about purpose a lot here at Revive Ministries. It is a topic that is popping up everywhere because, as humans, we long for purpose and direction. It is how we are put together. No one wants to feel like they are just a proverbial hamster on the wheel of life. But it can feel really challenging to find your purpose, let alone live it out. Hopefully the last couple of “Revive Your Week” articles have given you a solid place to start to prayerfully discerning your purpose. (You can read the previous articles on purpose here: “Made For Purpose”and “Living On Purpose”)
Sometimes in seeking our purpose we often fail to thrive in our purpose because we have not taken care of our heart. We are all living in different seasons of life and each season has its own purposes, but many times our hearts still don’t feel content or fulfilled. We find ourselves longing for something more or something different, even when our purpose is clear. I believe this is the heart-piece of all this purpose-talk and the root of finding peace and joy in every season to which we are called.
When we look back at the book of Genesis, we see that God made people on purpose and for a purpose. When he created Adam and Eve, He made them stewards over all of creation. He gave them specific tasks to care for the world around them and to make something of it, and He invited them to enjoy their calling. They had a sense of purpose and the benefit of God’s eternal perspective guiding them. They didn’t have to “play the game” or engineer their own success, because they had God right there before them, showing them the best way. They had peace and fulfillment, living purposefully in God’s daily presence.
In Genesis chapter 3, we meet a new creature, the serpent. The serpent was described as more crafty than any of the wild animals. (Genesis 3:1) I’m kind of a word-nerd, and the word “crafty” is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “clever at attaining one’s ends by indirect and often deceptive means”. The serpent’s agenda is not God’s agenda. He intends to corrupt peace and derail purpose. The serpent deceives Eve, telling her that if she eats from tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, her eyes will be opened, and she will be like God. He plants a seed of doubt in her mind by twisting the truth and making her question God’s goodness and sovereignty. The serpent convinces Eve that God is intentionally withholding something good from her. As she bought into that lie, an initial seed of doubt grew into an ugly weed of discontentment. Eve decided to take matters into her own hands, and in her fear of missing out, she relied upon on her own understanding and lost sight of what was true.
That same seed of doubt pervades our culture today, stirring discontentment and the fear that we are missing out. The enemy still whispers in our ear, “If God really loved you, your life would be easier and your prayers would be answered the way you wanted. Look at your friend over there…if God really cares then why doesn’t your life look more like hers?”
Discontentment is one of Satan’s greatest tools in derailing purpose and destroying peace. It is the same trick we see in the Garden of Eden in Genesis. He convinced Eve that she was missing out and not living up to her fullest potential. Likewise, he lures us into believing that in our current season of life, our purpose is not enough. While we can often recognize discontentment, we don’t always see that at the root of it is the false belief that God is intentionally withholding something good from us.
This is such a subtle deception that can take hold in our hearts, without even being aware of it. That’s why it is so important to look honestly at our hearts and take any false thoughts captive. Are there areas in your life where you feel discontented? Do you believe God is holding back good from you? When you find yourself feeling like you are missing out on something good, or when it is tough to see how God is using you in your current season, tell God about it, ask Him for what you need. He wants to be in relationship with you, and provide for all your needs. He already knows what you need before you even ask it and He wants to give you good things (Matthew 6:8, 2 Corinthians 9:8). In the book of Matthew, Jesus says…
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
We are human and perpetually get things wrong. Yet, we know how to give good things to our kids and loved ones when they ask for it. God in His infinite wisdom, love and perfection knows even better how to give us good things. And what’s more, he knows when to give them and in just the right ways.
One of my favorite quotes is by Lysa Terkeurst: “God loves you too much to answer your prayer in any other way than the right way, and at any time other than the right time.” This perspective of trust in God and how much He loves us is freeing, and reminds us of the relationship that God wants with us.
Jesus encourages us continually ask and seek good things from our Heavenly Father. We are invited to be in relationship with God so that we can stay grounded in the truth of God’s character, and experience His benevolence and kindness. As we spend time with God, our perspective is no longer limited to what we can see and understand because we have God right there with us, showing us the best way. His eternal perspective helps us to know what to ask for and how to best live out the good purposes He has in store for us.
When we believe that God has intentionally given us good things and put us right where we are for a good purpose, we can begin to see the everyday things, in any season as joy-giving and purposeful.
I worked in healthcare for 13 years before pursuing my dream of doing full time women’s ministry and working in media. During that time, my health care job was important to my patients, and to my family, and helped provide for our physical needs. I enjoyed the work I did and wasn’t unhappy, but neither was I completely satisfied. I always felt like there was more, someday, to be achieved. I wasn’t sure what that would look like, just that there was more. I wanted to feel a greater sense of purpose in my career and in my life so that I could better use the gifts that God had given me. I wrestled with God a lot about timelines and details about what that might look like and when it would be time to step out in faith and pursue the dreams that were on my heart. On more than one occasion, I tried to do things my way, in my own time, only to end up back where I started. I had to trust and wait patiently on the Lord. When the time finally came, God made it clear what He was calling me to and everything fell into place. I have seen God at work more in these past few years than ever before.
My career change was a dramatic shift that left me wondering if the 13 years in health care was a waste. Looking back now, I can see that God was cultivating in me the character and skills that I would need to walk in my current calling. Just like He is preparing me for the next season after this one.
God will use all of our experiences to work out His good and perfect purposes. About two years ago, my mom had major heart surgery. She spent several days in the hospital after surgery transitioning from intensive care to a cardiac surgical unit, and then home. It was no coincidence that the first five years of my health care career were spent in a cardiac unit at a hospital. God had equipped me during that time with skills that I could never have anticipated needing, so that I could care for my mom and support my family when they needed it most. My experience in healthcare strengthened my own constitution, preparing me for what to expect, so I could stay calm and process all that was happening.
Now, a couple years later, my mom is the healthiest she’s ever been, and we are celebrating her new lease on life together. All that time I had spent feeling adrift and wondering what God had in store for me, had culminated beautifully in one purposeful moment that made it all worthwhile. Had God answered my prayer to be an R&B musician right out of college, I would have been ill-equipped and of little service to my family in that time when my mom’s heart failed and surgery was required. God simply knew better.
And that is just the outcome I could see. There are thousands of ripples from thousands of interactions with patients that all impact God’s kingdom. Everything we do, in every season can have eternal purpose.
I want to encourage you to spend some time with God this week talking about your season and your purpose. Let the love of our Heavenly Father bring healing and peace to the places where discontentment has taken root. You can trust that God is not withholding good from you, but He is active and working on your behalf. No matter what season you are in, you have a purpose and God will use this time to bring about good things and blessing in your life and the lives of others.
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”- 2 Corinthians 9:8
“What is my purpose?” “What was I created to do?” “How do I find my purpose and feel fulfilled in my current season of life?” These are all big, burning questions that we hear a lot of women asking and seeking the answers to. Last week we talked about the three different types of purpose. (You can read about them in our article “Made For Purpose”.)
The first purpose is universal, to love God and believe in His son, Jesus, sharing His Word and His love with others. This is the foundation upon which our identity is built. The second purpose utilizes our unique gifts and can be lived out through our vocation, in our churches and our communities. The third is our day-to-day purpose. These are the everyday tasks or duties we are called to in our current circumstance and season of life.
Today, I want to focus on this third type of purpose, our everyday purpose. I’m hoping to offer some encouragement that it is possible to experience a fulfilling sense of purpose in our day-to-day lives, regardless of the season of life your are in currently.
If we’re being honest, our everyday purpose can sometimes feel a little less than glamorous and exciting because of the repetitive nature of daily tasks and to-do’s. Taking care of our families, making meals, cleaning the house, working a job, and helping friends in need, can blur together into a routine that feels mundane or predictable. While there may be moments of fulfillment, it’s hard to feel like you are living out purpose when you are sitting in the carpool lane, folding another load of laundry or giving medications and caring for a chronically ill loved one. It can be challenging to feel like you are using your talents and gifts during your daily routine. We can find purpose and fulfillment in our day-to-day through a change of perspective. I know this may sound oversimplified or like a platitude, but stick with me.
What if we zoomed out from our limited perspective and instead saw our circumstances from an eternal one? Having an eternal perspective allows us to see God’s hand in all the little details. We will begin to recognize how He is using us right where we are, in each task we have before us, to do real work for His Kingdom.
Recently, my kids approached me asking to have some friends over to play. I was super tired and wasn’t too keen on doubling the number of noisy boys in my house that day, but God nudged me to see beyond what was right in front of me. When I zoomed out to an eternal perspective, I saw that my younger son wanted to invite over a boy who tends to get picked on a lot at school and could use a friend to encourage him. My older son wanted to invite a classmate to hang out who is a great kid and a positive, godly influence in my son’s life. I could see that my sons were making good choices with their friendships and it was important for me to support that. Having an eternal perspective showed me the ministry that my kids were living out and how God might be at work in their friendships.
Sometimes the little things we do have a bigger impact than we can ever know. I have a friend who has a fantastic smile. She knows the joy of being God’s daughter and it shows in her eyes every time she smiles. It’s contagious and brightens every room she enters. It’s part of how God made her. It’d be easy to say “It’s just smiling, no big deal”, but to the person that is hurting, is it just a smile? To the one who feels unseen and unloved, could it mean something more? Is is possible that God can break through to the hurting and broken through something as simple as a smile? Zooming out to an eternal perspective, we can begin to see how God uses the little and big things to accomplish His good work in our lives and in the world around us.
How can you begin to apply an eternal perspective to your everyday life? Walk through your average day in your mind and examine how you see your daily tasks and roles. Take special notice of your attitude toward each one. How might something we see as mundane or ordinary take on a greater purpose if we see it as joining the Lord in the work He is doing?
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
I want to challenge you to look at things differently this week. Ask God to help you see things, including yourself, from His eternal perspective. What gifts or natural aptitudes do you have that show up in your daily routine? Are there things that you have dismissed as “It’s just listening, checking in on a friend, reading to my kid, putting a band-aid on a cut… (fill in the blank)”. Maybe you think to yourself “I do this all the time, it’s not a big deal”. All these things have an eternal impact. We just need the right perspective to see it.
It may seem like a minor thing to you to listen to someone tell you about their day, but to the other person, it could mean the world to feel heard. Being your naturally cheerful self may seem normal to you, but it could encourage someone who is having a difficult day. Showing up for the 20th time to your kid’s soccer game or helping them with their homework feels routine, but to your child, it means you value them and see them.
God has made you on purpose with your unique passions, giftedness, quirkiness, and all, to bless others and serve Him. When we see the way we were created, as the gift that it is, suddenly just being yourself has purpose. With an eternal perspective, we will find our purpose in our everyday interactions with those around us as we recognize the ways God is at work in even the mundane routines of our lives.
When we talk about our identity in Christ and who we are in light of His love for us, I find that we, as women, often have two simultaneous and opposing thoughts.
There’s the positive, upbeat identity we feel we should have or want to have, of being a daughter of the Most High God, loved, redeemed and free. And then in the same train of thought, many of us experience an unforgiving wave of shame that keeps us from believing any of that could possibly be true.
A lot of times we confuse shame with guilt, but they are two very different things. Guilt tells us there is something wrong with our actions-but not something inherently wrong with who we are. Guilt spurs us on to repentance and change, but our identity is unaltered, left intact. We are still loved, and we know it, or we wouldn’t try to do better. Guilt can positively shape our character and is productive in the same way that pain is helpful in diagnosing injury or illness. It points us toward what can be fixed and made better.
Shame, on the other hand, is never good and has the power to make us feel bad about who we are. It redefines our identity by what we do or don’t do. It makes us feel small, unworthy, unloved and insecure. It causes us to feel that any moment God’s grace for us will surely run out.
Shame separates us from God, not because He moves away from us, but because we run and hide from Him. Take Adam and Eve for instance. When they first sinned in the Garden of Eden, they hid from God. Even though they knew God and saw Him face to face every day, they were ashamed and ran from Him. Shame clouded how they saw God and themselves. What is the very next thing that God did? He pursued them, he looked for them and called out to them. Sure He knew where they were, but the love communicated in God’s pursuit is astounding.
In order to understand and truly experience the love of God, we have to look at how our “shame-filter” alters our perception about the very gospel of Jesus and nature of God.
When we read the Gospel, or “good news about Jesus” in the Bible, we often hear it summarized it like this: “We are sinners. And our sin separates us from God. But God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross, be buried, and after three days, come back to life, all to take away our sin.”
The “good news” here is that even though we are sinners, there is grace for us through Jesus. That is good news! But maybe this summarization of the gospel emphasizes our own filter of shame. Summing up the Gospel this way places our primary identity in what we do. We. Are. Sinners. But what if we are more than that?
What if we zoomed out and looked at the Gospel through the whole story of God’s love woven throughout the Bible. We might summarize it more like this:
“We are God’s beloved, created in His image, in whom Christ dwells and delights. We make mistakes and we still sin. But our sin does not define us, meaning it is not our primary identity. It is something that we do, and we continue to strive to leave sin behind. Because God loves us so much, and keeps on loving us, He has gone to great lengths to conquer sin and make a way for us to be with Him. He gave His own Son to die on the cross in our place, to take the weight of our sin away, to bury our shame with him and three days later, to come back to life so that we can be raised to new life with Him, unashamed and radiant, a new creation, never to be separated from His love.”
Do you hear the difference? When we place our identity in our sinfulness, it slowly erodes the truth that we are first and foremost, God’s beloved daughters.
Let me balance out the scripture scales here. Yes, we need grace! No, we should not continue to sin, just to experience more grace. We should not and cannot take sin lightly. Romans 6says we are made new through Christ and should live like it. That is why it is so important to not allow the enemy to turn productive guilt into paralyzing shame.
“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5
We have loving Creator who knows us and longs to have relationship with us. He is not waiting for us to slip up so He can bring down the hammer of punishment. He lovingly pursues us, calling out to us by name. He already knows exactly where we are, and is waiting to gently lead us back to restored relationship with Him.
When we look to God as the source of our identity and redemption, we are so filled with His love that there is no room for shame. We are no longer defined by our sin, but we are given a clean slate and a new beginning. We see ourselves as God sees us and our identity is unshakable.
1 John 2:28 encourages, “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”
Dear sister, stay in relationship with Jesus so that you can continually be reminded of who you are in Him. Continue in Him, keep your face toward His, so that you can be confident! Step out into the light with me, feel the sunshine on your face. You are forgiven, loved and complete in Christ. Let’s live like the beloved daughters of God that we are, radiant and unashamed.
It snowed today in my town, not a lot, but enough that school was cancelled for my kids.
When my kids hear “snow day”, they hear music and singing, birds chirping and the rejoicing of the local youth celebrating across the neighborhood. When I hear “snow day” I hear a snarky voice inside my head saying, “Good luck getting anything done today.”
I love my children dearly, but I have one day each week where everyone in my house leaves for their respective jobs and schooling, and I have the house all to myself. It’s my my one day to make a dent in the never-ending to-do list, run errands and then pick up the kids and the next shift of my day starts. But in the morning, in those first few moments after I kiss them goodbye and send them off, it’s quiet and peaceful. I can curl up on my couch in my fuzzy socks, wrapped my fluffy blanket and quietly sip my coffee while the dog turns a circle and gently plops down next to me with a contented sigh. I take my journal off of the new, cute and trendy side table I just got for Christmas, and settle in to read God’s Word and jot down my thoughts and prayers. As I lean against the sofa pillows, I imagine I am leaning against the very throne of God, safe, secure and at peace.
At least that’s how it goes in my head. I have had that experience a few times, but most of the time I find myself chasing it, frantically packing up the kids and then walking the dog so she doesn’t spend all morning barking at her own reflection. In reality, my cute trendy side-table has been commandeered by my youngest child as “his corner for playing Minecraft” and my fuzzy blanket is usually occupied by the dog after Bark-fest 2019 wraps up. Heaven help us if the mailman comes. And just beyond my cute little corner of the living room, are piles of laundry waiting to be folded and a bathroom that needs deliverance (AKA deep cleaning).
These moments with God are often my anchor to sanity. Especially when I have a crazy-busy week or my reserves are already tapped. Spending time with God resets my perspective and gives me the insight and stamina to not just survive the day, but live it to His glory. But I’ll admit, it is hard to feel that peace when nothing lines up the way I planned, and the day threatens to overwhelm me. Today was one of those days.
As I was aimlessly wandering around the house trying to figure out my next steps, a song I haven’t thought of in years came to mind and put words to the longing in my heart. It is a simple song with a melody sort of like a lullaby:
Hide me away O Lord, Hide me away O Lord, In the day of trouble, ‘neath the shadow of your wing, Hide me away O Lord.
Give me your peace, O Lord, Give me your peace, O Lord, , In the day of trouble, ‘neath the shadow of your wing, Give me your peace, O Lord.
In a house that felt busy, with stir-crazy kids and a noisy dog, I wanted to hide away. I wanted to sneak back into my bedroom and stay there, wrapped up in my blankets and just let the day roll past. The day felt troublesome and I began to long for peace. I hadn’t planned on the kids being home. I didn’t have a game plan for when the novelty of the snow wore off and the cabin-fever bickering would begin. I desperately needed a place where I could meet God, connect and get my mind right.
So I went to the one place I figured I could hide for a little bit. I went back to my bedroom and got under the covers. Not for the rest of the day, but to pause for just a few minutes. I knew that if I could just be still and let go of my expectations for the day, that I would be able to hear God, comforting me and guiding me. I trusted that if I allowed God to quiet my mind, that he would give me the strength and clarity I needed for the rest of the day.
While I was hiding out, I found the verse of the day on my Bible phone app. As I lay there, I read these words, from Psalm 91:1-2,4-5
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’…He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
I asked God to shelter me in His wings, to hide me away for a moment and restore me. I asked Him to shield me from the chaos and anxiety that kept trying to creep into my mind and let me rest in His shadow. I asked God to help me do the things. All the things. Because frankly I did not want to get back up and head back into the living room.
I lay there complaining to the Lord for a few more minutes and, as He always does, He gently began to change my heart and mind. Somehow, I got dressed (like in real clothes, not sweats) and took my kids to get hot chocolate and run a quick errand. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was good.
When we got back, I realized that the kids weren’t chaotic, my mind was. They had actually been pretty great. I was so focused on meeting God on my terms, in my “perfect” setting, that I forgot I serve a God who is omnipresent! He can meet me anywhere. In fact, He was already steps ahead of me, providing for my every need and care. I can hide away under the shelter of His wing and find refuge, in any circumstance. He would shield me and care for me whether the day brought discontentment or actual real trouble.
By the end of the day, I experienced peace. I got the kids fed, my husband came home from work and I got back into my fuzzy sweatpants & slippers to wind down the day. It is amazing the power our minds have to alter our perception of a day. I’m pretty sure that nothing changed today except me. The weather stayed gloomy and cold, my kids did their thing, even the dog stuck to her routine. But I was changed, I found peace, under the shelter of God’s gentle but mighty wing. Even in what feels like chaos, whether everything you planned for the day worked out or not, He is there. You can trust that God will meet you right in the middle of your day , be your refuge and strength and bring you peace.
“Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story– those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.” Psalm 107:2
Valentine’s Day is today, and while Netflix is teeming with rom-coms and happily-ever-afters, real life isn’t quite as formulaic as my favorite chick flick. There is no soft filter smoothing the fine lines on my face from where I smile, and no theme song playing in the background. I don’t have a trendy assistant/best friend that brings me my coffee while we banter about our latest shenanigans. And I don’t wear Gucci or Prada.
My story is a little less shiny. There are seasons of joy and sorrow, faith and doubt. There are times of courage and times of fear. I’ve experienced love, romance and marriage, with flowers and all the feels and mushy stuff. There have also been hard days, when we honestly didn’t know how we were going to work things out.
My husband and I know the joy and challenges of having two awesome kids.
We know the pain of grief and the hope of heaven as we wait to meet loved ones again someday.
There have been detours and windy roads, ambiguous places where it wasn’t clear what to do. Whole chapters of my life story are all about waiting, and then waiting some more. And every now and then there’s a lightning bolt of clarity and direction, launching me into a new and exciting adventure.
But as I look back over my 39 years, I see another story as well. The story of Jesus, at work in my life, laughing when I’m goofy, crying with me when I weep, redeeming my pain for purpose and standing by me triumphantly in victory. His presence has been constant, even when I wasn’t looking for him.
God has written my story into His bigger story of love. He has gone to the greatest lengths to make sure that we can be with Him, secure and loved. His love is true and perfect. God’s love drives out fear. It’s patient and kind, and keeps no record of the wrong we do. It endures all things. In fact, the theme of the entire Bible is the story of God’s unfailing love for us!
This is the firm foundation upon which our identity is grounded. Who we are at our very core is “beloved by God”. On days like Valentine’s Day, it can be tempting to let the world’s expectations, or even our own, creep in and stir up comparison and disappointment. But regardless of our relationship status, how many friends reach out on Facebook to wish us a Happy Day, or how pampered we feel, we can know, without a doubt that we are loved by God.
There’s a hymn I grew up singing in church and it is one of my very favorites. I think it perfectly captures the peace of being so beloved by our Lord.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine O what a foretaste of glory divine Heir of salvation, purchase of God Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
Perfect submission, all is at rest I in my Savior am happy and blessed Watching and waiting, looking above Filled with His goodness, lost in His love
This is my story, this is my song Praising my Savior all the day long This is my story, this is my song Praising my Savior all the day long
Our life may not be perfect, but we can have the perfect love of Jesus. He never abandons us, he pursues us and protects us. We get to experience that perfect submission and rest that the song speaks of. We are filled with God’s goodness and can get lost in His love.
What’s more, when we embrace our belovedness to God, we begin to see the belovedness of others. It changes how we interact with the world around us and gives us a heavenly perspective. We feel more loved by others because God is first and foremost filling us with His perfect love. We can in turn, show love to others who need it, and live a life with our minds free from comparison and insecurity.
Let this be your story and song too! Rest in knowledge that the God who created the universe and all things in it, thought the world needed one of you too. You have value and worth, and are deeply, and profoundly loved.