“Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.” Psalm 33:22 (NLT)
I’m not sure what it is exactly about this time of year that stirs a deep melancholy in me. It’s hard sometimes to put my finger on why. I’m sure there are lots of factors that color my outlook with a general shade of gray. The weather is not stellar in Oregon this time of year. We haven’t seen the sunshine in weeks and I probably need to take some Vitamin D and level-up my fruit and veggie game.
I think there is probably more to it than that though. We are coming off the busy holidays, full of hustle and bustle and plenty of distraction. Now things are quieter. There’s more time and more space to breathe, rest, think and process things that maybe I’ve been putting off dealing with.
Whether it’s stress and anxiety or pain and grief, if I don’t take time with Jesus to honestly process how I’m feeling, I cannot truly find peace. I will miss out on the hope of healing and the joy that surpasses any circumstances I may be facing.
As women, we have to slow down long enough to take stock of our emotional health and well-being. Whether you are dealing with big, serious stuff, or just day to day frustrations, we can bring all of it to Jesus and process it in the safety of His loving-kindness. Like Psalm 33:12 says, we are surrounded by His unfailing love, and in Him we have hope.
This song by Audrey Assad reminded me of the importance of taking time to observe what you’ve lived though, so that you can find healing and hope. It is my prayer for you today friend, that whatever is weighing on your heart, whether it’s something big and obvious, or a subtle melancholy hanging around in your headspace, don’t run from it. Lean into Jesus’ loving kindness to “calm the raging of the wound. May your healing be a clearing in the woods, and may you breathe in deeper than you ever could before.”
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. John 6:16-21
Picture this scene with me. After a long day of ministering and feeding 5000 people, Jesus goes up to a mountainside to pray. While He is there, His disciples decide to go ahead of Him to Capernaum.
They take the only boat on the shore and start rowing. By now it is getting late and it is dark. They get to the middle of the lake and a strong wind starts blowing and the waves get rough.
I don’t know if you have ever rowed a boat before, but it isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially in the dark with strong winds and rough water! Even though they were experienced fishermen, the storm and waters were so rough that they struggled to get across to the other side.
At just the right time, Jesus shows up, walking casually across the rough water, no less. I don’t blame the disciples for being frightened as He approached. It’s not every day you see a person just taking an unhurried stroll on a stormy sea!
Jesus calls out to them, calming their fears by reminding them who He is. His voice calling out above the waves and the wind must have been the most welcome sound the disciples had ever heard. In that moment, they recognized Him and they were willing to take Him into the boat. As soon as He stepped into the boat, they instantly arrived at the shore.
Did you catch that? They were in the middle of a lake, in a storm, waves crashing everywhere. They are rowing and rowing and not getting anywhere. Then Jesus shows up. Once they decided to invite Him into the boat, they miraculously were transported to the shore, to the exact place they were headed!
Jesus didn’t calm the storm first and walk to the disciples on peaceful waters. He stepped right over the waves, because He himself was Peace. In His presence, they found a life-line that no circumstances could ever break. When we feel stuck in a rough situation that’s hard to see through, we need Jesus to show up. There is nothing, not the darkness of night, or the strongest of storms that can keep Jesus from coming to you.
That rough water–He controls it. The wind obeys His commands. He is in control of all creation and has got you firmly in His grasp. He will not let you go under. He will keep you from sinking and lead you to safety.
Jesus is present in your situation, even if you don’t always recognize Him there. When you take your eyes off the storm long enough to look toward Him, you will always find Him nearby, waiting to help. Listen for His voice above the wind and the waves. Will you let Him into the boat to be your peace and your life-line?
Too often when I find myself in the middle of difficult circumstances, I work so hard to fix it by my own strength that I end up weary and distraught. In those situations, I’m like the disciples, rowing and rowing and not getting anywhere (except worn out!). How long do we needlessly struggle when simply allowing God into the boat will help us experience His strength and peace while we get to where we are supposed to be.
When we are reminded of who God is and allow Him into our situation, we get to experience the peace of knowing we are safe in His love and protection. In His care, He is able to get us to the other side of our situation. He himself is our peace, we need not be afraid. He is always near and ready to step into any storm.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever…Give thanks to the God of Heaven. His love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:1, 26
Today is a day we set aside to give thanks, to fill our hearts with gratitude and take the time to appreciate our family, friends and all that we have. Despite the ups and downs of this past year, we pause and take a moment to remember that God is good. Even through the hardships we are currently facing, God is still good. He is with you and will uphold you with His love.
We give thanks because His love for us endures always. He is God yesterday, today and forever. He has made us in His image and we are His children. His faithfulness to us never ends. His love for us started at the beginning of time, it broke into the world the night that Jesus was born, and He demonstrated His love for us when His son Jesus went to the cross.
Not only did He love us then, He loves us now, and He will love us tomorrow. His love endures forever. His love lasts, it remains firm, it is unyielding. In a world where love seems to come and go with no real certainty, knowing this kind of secure love from God brings us so much peace and joy. Romans 8:38-39 says in Christ, there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from God’s love.
As we reflect on this past year, we can see the many ways God has shown us His love through the people in our lives, His blessings and provision, through answered prayers, and even unanswered ones. We can look back and see His loving touch in so many details of our lives.
Thank you God for loving us with an unending love. It is hard to grasp “forever”, but we are thankful for your love that is both ancient and new every morning. As we reflect on the ways you show your love to us each and every day, we give you thanks. In Christ, Amen.
The past several weeks we have been taking a bit of a deep dive into the topic of shame, and how it can alter our perception of who we are and how we walk around in the world. There is so much more to talk about than what we can cover in a few short articles, but hopefully we can at least begin a journey together of leaving shame behind.
Today, we are going to talk about the source of shame that could possibly be the hardest to let go of, the shame of our own mistakes and bad choices. We can be our own worst critics to begin with, but throw in an actual, real-life-consequences-type of mistake, and we can get sucked down into shame before we even realize it.
In our first article we drew the distinction between guilt and shame, and I think it’s important to visit that again in this context.
Guilt is a healthy emotion that serves to show us where we are wrong and prompt us to take steps to fix the problem. Shame works in a loop, where we relive our mistakes over and over with no hope of ever fixing it. Shame redefines our identity by those mistakes, whereas guilt can spur us on to overcome them, without changing our overall value as a person.
If we want to truly experience the love of God, we have to look at how our own “shame-filter” clouds how we see God, ourselves and others.
When shame takes hold, we wind up placing our identity, our value, our worth in our mistakes and failings. It slowly erodes the truth that we are first and foremost, God’s beloved daughters.
The unclouded truth is that we are His handiwork, a masterpiece, created by God to be in relationship with Him. He is proud to be seen with you. He delights in showing mercy. He pursues you, calling you by name.
And while we might be able to acknowledge in our minds that these things are true, it all feels like a platitude if we don’t also acknowledge that we cannot simply banish shame on our own. We cannot move forward just because we “ought to”. Growth does not come from heaping shame upon shame. It comes from compassion. We need Jesus and we need each other.
Look at how Jesus treats the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. The Bible says she was caught in the act (yikes!) and dragged before the church leaders to be publicly shamed. Because of the law at the time, her punishment would almost certainly be death.
The religious leaders at the time were threatened by Jesus’ teachings and growing popularity. They asked him what they should do, with the intention of trying to trap him in the “wrong” answer. Jesus instead starts to write something in the dirt in front of them. The Bible doesn’t tell us what Jesus wrote, much to my dismay.
The justice warrior in me loves to imagine that it was the hypocritical leaders’ own dirty little secrets. Maybe it was a powerful scripture that convicted their hearts or confounded them in such a way that they relinquished claim over this woman’s life, and walked away. They all just left.
Pretty soon it was just Jesus and the woman. He tells her that he will not condemn her to death, but tells her with loving authority, to leave her life of sin. He grants mercy and calls her to a better life. He commands her to leave the identity of sin and shame behind, and step into a brand new identity.
Our theme verse for this series has been Psalm 34:5 “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
As much as I want to know what Jesus wrote in the dirt that day, I want even more to see the look on this woman’s face after being in the presence of Jesus.
Jesus held her accountable for her actions, he didn’t let her off the hook, but neither did he define her by it. She was first and foremost a human, created in God’s image and made for so much more.
I can picture her transformation from fear and shame to pure radiance the moment she looked into the face of Jesus and was forgiven. No longer was she defined by her past. She wasn’t “that girl” anymore. She was given a clean slate and a new beginning by the One whose opinion ultimately mattered the most.
My sweet friend, we are given the very same forgiveness and redemption. Even if you haven’t been dragged into the public square with all your bad choices on display, chances are there are things you wish you could undo. Maybe you’ve said or done things that you wish you could go back and erase. Maybe you feel like your whole life has just been one big mistake.
Please hear me in the depths of your soul and let this truth settle into every corner of your heart:
In Jesus’ eyes, you are not a mistake, you are a masterpiece.
Even in the middle of your mess, Jesus sees you as beautiful.
Just like a beautiful work of art, your worth is determined by the artist who created you and the price willing to be paid for you. When Jesus went to the cross, he paid the ultimate price. He didn’t just take our mistakes and bad choices, he also took our shame. When Jesus died and rose again, He not only conquered sin, he defeated shame too.
This business of kicking shame to the curb is not just a one time deal. It is a wash-rinse-repeat kind of thing. As human beings, we will continue to make mistakes. We must continue to look into the face of Jesus and remember His unconditional redemption, mercy and love.
The woman in the story would likely struggle with the old identity of shame trying to creep back in and take over. Maybe other people in her life made it hard to forget, while others helped her remember the truth of God’s love. She would have to be intentional about going back to that moment when she was face to face with Jesus, so that God could continually renew her strength and remind her of who she really was.
Time spent with Jesus, in community, in God’s Word, and in prayer & worship builds a foundation for an identity in Christ that is unshakable and grounded in truth. It sustains us and encourages us until we can see Him face-to-face again. It reminds us of who we truly are: daughters of the King, radiant and unashamed.
Lift up your head, step out into the light and feel the sunshine on your face. You are loved, you are forgiven and you are free.
“The cross has spoken, I am forgiven The King of Kings calls me His own Beautiful Savior, I’m yours forever Jesus Christ, my living Hope” -Phil Wickham, Living Hope
These past couple of weeks we have been talking about shame. Particularly the different sources of shame and how to see God working in the middle of our shame. While dealing with shame isn’t always easy or fun, it is hard and holy work that bears talking about. Especially because shame is a force that strives to isolate us and make us feel powerless and stuck in the dark. Just the simple act of shedding light on the topic, frees us to take steps toward healing.
Shame is defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” It is a feeling that may be obvious when we initially experience it, but if we are not careful, shame can make itself at home in our hearts, blending into the background of our daily thoughts. Before we know it, we are carrying our shame around with us everywhere without even realizing how it is changing us.
Shame is more than second-hand embarrassment when you watch someone deliver a clumsy presentation at work. Shame changes how you esteem yourself. It makes you feel small, less valuable than others, like you just want to shrink away and crawl under the table, or simply run and hide.
We talked last week about how insecurities, if left unchecked, can morph into shame. For example, always comparing ourselves to others can trigger deep insecurities, altering how we see ourselves and others. Living a life of comparison buys into the lie that others are victorious while we are alone in our struggles, and therefore unworthy of love, connection, and community. We can combat this lie by looking to God, shifting our focus to a more eternal perspective. This renewing of our minds helps us to experience true and lasting security in God’s love as His precious daughters.
The question today is, what do we do when we experience shame because of someone else’s words or actions? When that painful feeling of humiliation or distress is caused by someone or something else?
Nothing can cut you down faster than a harsh word that reduces your worth down to one trivial thing. Even well intentioned comments can wound deeply. It’s the family member who comments on your weight, again. It’s the coworker that whispers the inappropriate comment that makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, or the friend that betrays your trust and lays your dirty laundry bare before the world.
What about broken brides whose marriages crumble despite their best efforts and fervent prayers? Or those who suffer abuse and trauma at the hands of another? Unfortunately, sometimes shame is brought on by the people who are supposed to love and care for us most.
I’ve heard from women who have felt stuck in abusive relationships. Shame paralyzed them and distorted reality, keeping them feeling alone and unworthy of love and stability. Shame whispers “you can’t do any better” or “you’re just as bad”. And even after walking out of that darkness, many carried shame from that experience with them. They felt like they should have recognized the warning signs, or seen it sooner. They felt embarrassed and foolish for staying as long as they did. They felt like they should have known.
It can feel almost impossible to not let these things define you and allow shame to distort your own sense of worth. It can creep in and make you feel stupid, like something must be wrong with you for these things to happen. It can make you feel like damaged goods.
Before we go any further, it is so important to know that these feelings of shame were put on you. You did not cause them, it’s not due to a lack of faith. It is a natural human response to feel shame when something terrible happens to you. The last thing I want to do is heap shame upon shame by saying you shouldn’t feel that way. What I want more than anything, is for you to see beyond shame, to the truth of who God is and how He loves you. I want that truth to blast a hole into your darkness like a brilliant light, pointing you toward healing and a beautiful future. I want that love and that light to be the influencing factor in what shapes you, not the actions of others or the shame that can cause.
Because the truth is, God sees you not as damaged goods but as the masterpiece He created you to be. He understands first hand what it feels like to suffer the actions of someone else. Throughout His life, Jesus was mocked, up until the point of his death on the cross. He was shamed and humiliated, insulted and abused. And not for anything He himself had done. He knows the hurt of not deserving what is happening. He knows the physical and emotional pain of being betrayed, abandoned and left all alone. He knows what it’s like to stand there with His heart in his hands, only to have it broken.
Jesus chose to go through it all, so that He could take your shame and redeem it. He has felt the way you feel and can put the pieces of your heart back together into something beautiful. He can carry the pain of what you’ve been through and help you do more than just survive, he can revive you. He will breathe life into you, make you new and clean and strong and whole again. He sees your true worth, and esteems you as precious and irreplaceable. There is only one you, and the God of the entire universe loves you so very, very much. You are not alone. He is here, right now, working on your behalf.
Psalm 34:5 reminds us, “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”
Lift your eyes and look for Jesus. Lock your gaze on His face and let the noise and the lies, and the hurt and the pain fade to the background for the moment. You are worthy of His love simply because He created you. You are a daughter of the King. Bring your whole heart, scars and all to Jesus. Take His scarred hand and let Him lead you out of the muck on to solid ground.
There may be work to do, but you don’t have to do it alone. There are people everywhere who will link arms with you in Jesus’ name and walk alongside you to wholeness and healing. You may feel weak, but Jesus is strong. In the light of His love you are free from shame. You are treasured. You are enough.
Next week, we will be talking about one last source of shame and how we can bring our hurt and our shame to Jesus. The goal is that by the end of this series, you will begin to recognize any shame you might be carrying and know how to give it to the One who can truly set you free. Our prayer is that in every circumstance, you will be able to lift your eyes and look to Him, so that you can be radiant and unashamed.
Author’s Note: God is already at work in some of the amazing resources around us. If you feel trapped in abuse, or need someone to talk to as you work through this, there are many wonderful people and organizations ready to help. Please don’t wait to take steps today to be safe and healthy and whole. There are advocates and counselors that God has gifted and equipped to help you this very moment.
Crisis Text Line– Text NAMI to 741-741 and connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.
Over the next few weeks we are diving into a topic that is subtle enough to go unnoticed and unrecognized, but dangerous enough to throw off how we see ourselves and others, even altering our perception of reality. My friend, I’m talking about shame.
In last week’s article, we were reminded of the important distinction between healthy guilt that serves to point us toward constructive solutions to fix a problem, and toxic shame whose only motivation is to keep us stuck in the muck of our problems and failings.
Today I want to begin a conversation about some potential sources of our shame. One of the most common sources of shame is comparison. When we measure our self-worth against our impression (accurate or not) of someone else, it changes how we see ourselves and we can get stuck in a cycle of shame.
We’ve all experienced shame brought on by comparison in some form or another. It’s hard not to, in a world where curated segments of everyone’s lives are on display on social media #livingmybestlife.
A recent article by the Wall Street Journal, reported that using Instagram “makes body image issues worse for 1 in 3 teen girls.” They went on to report that young women are experiencing tremendous pressure to conform to social stereotypes, to match the money and body shapes of influencers, as well as the need for validation through views, likes and follows. About a quarter of the teens who reported feeling “not good enough” said the feeling started on Instagram.
Now, I’m not here to knock social media or influencers, I know a lot of people doing a lot of good on their platforms. But what social media has done is streamline how we compare ourselves to others. We can get on our phones and see the flawless highlight reels of a hundred people in less than 20 minutes. It’s hard to feel confident and content when it seems like everyone has it together, but you.
Comparison doesn’t have to be digital to be dangerous. Maybe you feel “less than” when the house is messy, or the kids had hot dogs for lunch again instead of a pinterest worthy charcuterie board luncheon. It’s possible that you’ve felt the sting of seeing a picture on social media of friends hanging out together, when you had really hoped you’d be invited. Or maybe you just find yourself wishing you had it together more, the way you feel like you “should”. All the areas we fall short can make us feel exposed and chip away at our worth, if we are not careful what we are measuring against.
As a mom, I used to live under a constant cloud of guilt that threatened to knock my self-worth flat. When my first two boys were little, I had to go back to work part-time. I love being a mom and it broke my heart to be away from them. While I was so thankful to have amazing childcare, I still felt like I was failing my children by not being home full-time.
As much as I hated being away from them, I simultaneously longed to have a foot back in the professional world. I enjoyed my job and I got a lot of affirmation and praise there, something I wasn’t getting a lot of while changing diapers and wiping noses. Working outside the home gave me a sense of identity beyond motherhood that I missed desperately.
I felt guilty at work and guilty at home, and no one was getting my best. I saw other moms rocking the mom life and crushing career goals and I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just get it together. The guilt loop quickly spiraled into shame that made me feel like an inferior mom, wife, and overall human.
The problem was that I was measuring my worth by what I thought I “should be doing”, instead of looking to God to measure by His standard.
Our theme verse during this series is Psalm 34:5, “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”
Comparison distracts our gaze, and keeps us looking to our left and to our right, measuring our behind the scenes footage with someone else’s highlight reel. Our focus is not on God, but on others, as we desperately try to keep up. It’s an exercise in frustration that is based on appearances instead of reality, and we can quickly lose ourselves comparing the details of our story with someone else’s.
But when we look to God, Scripture says we are radiant and our faces will never be covered with shame! That simple shift in focus changes our perspective and allows us to see things more clearly. Something in us comes back to life as we start to measure ourselves against God’s unconditional love for us, instead of the impossible and ever changing expectations of the world. We learn to value the unique personality traits, gifts and talents that God created in us, instead of trying to squeeze ourselves into a man-made mold.
When I shifted my focus back to God, I started to understand that my identity first and foremost was not as a mama, or a career woman, but as His beloved daughter. The nagging voice in my head saying “I’m not good enough” began to fade, as God’s love drowned out the noise of the world.
After that, when I was home with the kiddos, changing diapers became an opportunity to sing over my children and teach them about God’s love. The tasks that once felt mundane became a divine invitation to join God in the work He was doing in my home and in my children.
Working outside the home became a chance to share the love of Jesus in how I treated my coworkers and people I encountered. I could rejoice in my work and know that God was using my gifts to help people. I didn’t need to feel guilty about time away from my kids because by focusing on God, I was more present both at work and at home. I was more aware of God at work and how I could join Him, and that was life-giving.
I’m not saying that every diaper change or shift at work was instantly and completely fulfilling. The deeper transformation came with believing that my worth was based on who God says I am, not on my performance or how I measured up compared to other people. God didn’t see me as “less than” if I wasn’t perfect and made a mistake. I could just be myself and rest in the knowledge that my identity and worth were secure, as God’s beloved daughter.
Ephesians 2:10 says “…we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
As I looked to God, I began to see myself the way He does, and it changed how I saw others as well. We are all God’s masterpiece! I no longer felt the need to compete or keep up. I knew that God had created me for a purpose, and that my story, with all its messiness, would point to His greater story of love, redemption and grace.
So, my friend, where are you looking? Take a moment and review the tapes that play in your head. By what standard are you measuring your worth? Are you looking all around you to see how you compare, or are you allowing the truth of God’s love to shape your perspective?
Next, take a moment and appreciate the beautiful qualities God has created in you. You are a masterpiece–even the messy bits. You are valuable, loved and significant, and as a daughter of the King, your identity and worth are secure.
Look to God and keep your focus firmly on Him, because when we do, there is no room for shame. His love washes it clean away, leaving us radiant and confident in our unshakable identity in Him.
“Ugh! I’m late to the pickup line again! They’ll be the last ones there! Their teacher must think I’m a hot mess.”
If you’ve been an adult for more than five minutes, chances are you’ve experienced guilt over whether or not you are “doing life right.” And it’s not just limited to moms. No way, sis! There’s plenty of guilt to go around. Maybe you’ve found yourself thinking these things:
“It’s been a week since I texted back! I’m a terrible friend!”
“I should be working out more (or at all).”
“Did they misunderstand that awkward thing I just said?”
We can go through a whole list of guilt-inducing scenarios in our minds in a flash, and end up feeling like we’re a total mess. But here’s the thing about guilt. Processed through the lens of God’s love and grace, guilt can actually be a healthy thing.
Healthy guilt tells us there is something wrong with our actions, but not something inherently wrong with who we are.
It’s the feeling that nags us when we’ve said something hurtful to a loved one. It spurs us on to say I’m sorry, and to seek forgiveness. Healthy guilt drives us to reevaluate how we spend our time, nudging us to get off our phones and spend more quality time with our family, or finally call that friend back and schedule a coffee date.
Healthy guilt prompts our behavior to change, but our identity stands secure. We are still loved despite our flaws, and we know it, or we wouldn’t be motivated to do better. We can give and receive forgiveness, because God loved and forgave us first.
Guilt can positively shape our character, and is productive in the same way that pain is helpful in diagnosing injury or illness. It’s not pleasant, but it points us toward what can be fixed and made whole again.
But just like a serious injury can get worse without intervention, if no action is taken to handle guilt in healthy, constructive ways, it can very quickly turn into unhealthy shame.
Shame is neither good nor productive, and has the power to make us feel bad about who we are at our very core. It traps us in a guilt-loop, replaying our mistakes and failings over and over again. It redefines our identity by what we do or don’t do, instead of who God says we are.
Shame tells us when we say something hurtful to a loved one, that we are a terrible person, and not worthy of forgiveness. It makes us think that we don’t deserve grace from our family and friends because we haven’t earned it. Shame makes us feel small, unworthy, unloved and insecure. It causes us to believe that any moment even God’s grace for us will surely run out.
Over time, shame can change how we see ourselves and keep us from living the lives of freedom and joy that God has called us to. Think about the tapes that run through your head. Shame often manifests in our thoughts. You may find yourself thinking things like: I’m stupid. I’m unattractive. I’m a failure or a screw-up. I’m a bad person. I’m a fraud or a phony. I’m selfish. I’m not enough. I hate myself. I don’t matter. I’m defective or inadequate. I wish I had never been born. I’m unlovable.
All of these things are the exact opposite of what God says about us. God tells us in His Word that we are His children and cannot be separated from His love (John 1:12, Romans 8:35-39). We are Christ’s friend (John 15:15). We have been redeemed and forgiven of all our sins, and that God is not done with us yet. (Colossians 1:14, Philippians 1:6). He tells us that we are His masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10).
I want us to get back to seeing ourselves the way God does, not as a mess, but as a masterpiece.
So my friend, today kicks off a 3-week blog series about shame! My goal over the next few weeks is that we can learn to differentiate between guilt that makes us better and the shame that weighs us down. We will take a closer look at more potential sources of shame, and begin to realign our perspective with our Heavenly Father’s perspective through scripture.
Psalm 34:5 says “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”
This will be our theme verse and it’s also my prayer for you. As you look to Jesus, I pray that your perspective will begin to shift. I pray that a spark of hope will light up in your heart as you start the journey of kicking shame to the curb. As you experience God’s love, I pray that you are able to take one step closer to living the life of freedom and joy He invites all of us to. As you turn your face toward the very One who created you, may you be truly radiant and unashamed, always knowing and believing how very much you are loved.
Every once and in awhile, I wake up to a day when my insecurities and worries threaten to get the best of me. It can start subtly, but then quickly spirals into a full-on questioning of the meaning of life! “Who am I? What if people don’t like what I have to say? What if I didn’t really hear God right and I’m not the right person for the job?”
Do you ever have that kind of day? Maybe the little everyday stressors are starting to stack up and weigh heavily on your heart, making you question everything. It is so easy to allow these worries to get the best of us. The worries might start small, but can continue to grow until all we can see are those worries and fears. They begin to threaten how we see ourselves and undermine our purpose. Allowing them to consume us will keep us from the joy and peace that God intends for us. God wants so much more for you! He knows that the worries of this life will threaten our joy so He has given us a way to be set free.
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
Philippians 4:6-7 MSG
Joy and worry are opposites in nature. Worry threatens to take our joy and fear is out to destroy our peace. In every situation we must give our worry to God through prayer. When we lay our worries down and place them into His capable hands we are set free from the hold they have over us. We can trust in our all-powerful God, our Heavenly Father, who knows and loves us. He will take care of all our concerns and needs and replace our worry with peace.
As I turn my worries over to God in prayer, I often realize that my thinking is not grounded in the truth. Instead I am caught up in the lies of the enemy. Satan wants us to remain ensnared by the untruths that tell us that we are not capable, not good enough, not called, that we are unlovely or unloved. He wants us to feel alone and paralyzed by worry, fear and insecurity.
But God’s message is different. He is gently calling us to hear the truth of how much He loves us and how He sees us. I can picture Him saying to you and to me:
“Come to me, my child. Give me all that weighs so heavily on your heart. Let me remind of what is true. You are radically loved. You are uniquely and wonderfully made by me and I make no mistakes. I have called you to be my child and be a light in this dark world. You have purpose and significance–there is work in this world that only you can do. I have given you everything you need to do my good work and I will provide for all your needs. Put your trust in me. You are never alone for I am with you always and will never leave you or forsake you. I will take your worries and give you a peace that will guard your heart and mind”
So today, if you find your worries spiraling out of control, ask yourself: Are my thoughts based in truth? Does the message in my mind match the message of God’s truth? If not, talk to God about it and let him know what is on your heart. Trust Him with all that burdens your heart and mind and allow His peace and joy fill you up.
“Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” – Proverbs 16:24
We live in a world with increasing lack of personal interaction with others. Sure, we may speak to others via text, on social media or in passing, but we have fewer and fewer opportunities to truly be encouraged by the presence and words of another.
I’ve recently been studying the power of words and have found that words have more power than we sometimes realize. As kids, we learn to quote the common phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” While this may be a witty defense, it simply is not true. Words are powerful. They have the ability to inspire someone toward greatness, to spur someone on to take action, or to completely crush us.
We all need the life-giving power of encouraging words in our life. They lift us up when we are feeling discouraged, they keep us going when we want to give up, they touch our hearts and renew our spirits. Without the life-giving words of encouragement and truth regularly pouring into us, doubt and insecurity can sneak in and we forget what is true about us.
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
One day, when I was about nine years old, I walked into my bedroom to find a small, blue piece of paper (the size of a sticky note) placed on my pillow. I picked it up and read the hand-written words, “You are special to me. Love, Mom. ” I stared at those words on the paper. In that moment, those words meant the world to me, and have ever since. I was in a time in my life when I really needed to be reminded that someone cherished me and loved me. I took the note, carefully folded it, and gently placed it where all my cherished and most treasured items were stored…in my Mickey Mouse metal safe, complete with not one but two combination locks! You know what? I still have that note today!
When my mom wrote that note that day, she probably had no idea the lasting impact those few words would have on me. They are words that I have recalled and could picture in my head many times over my life when I would get discouraged by life’s hard times, or times of doubt. They have spoken to my heart over and over again, reminding me of the truth that I am loved.
Even in our day to day lives we can get discouraged: when a project at work is overwhelming, or you are going on your 6th day without sleep because you have a sick kid at home, or you begin to question your ability as a parent when your teen slams the door once more. It’s in these moments, that we are at risk of listening to the lies of discouragement that creep in and try to keep us down.
Because of this, it is important to be connected to a community of people who will cheer you on and support you. We need to surround ourselves with people who will be a source of encouragement for us–who will speak life and truth into our soul, who will remind us of God’s grace, love and truth when we forget.
“Encouragement is like oxygen to the soul, and everyone needs it.”
This week, consider bringing an encouraging word to the people you encounter. Even the smallest compliment or encouraging word, or a simple smile could mean the world to someone. Those simple words or actions can communicate worth to someone else. They say, “I see you”, “you are not alone”, “you have a place in this world and I’m glad you’re in it”. Your encouragement can have a far bigger impact than you realize. Just like I’m sure my mom, when she wrote down those few words on a small piece of paper one day, didn’t expect me to still have it today. We never know what someone might be needing to hear, but God does. If we listen and are receptive to His Spirit moving in us, He will give us the words to speak to bring the right encouragement to someone in our life.
Remember to encourage yourself as well. Speak God’s truth and grace to your own soul when you are feeling bad about yourself. Choose to not listen to the enemies lies but hold fast to the truth about who you are in Christ. Remember, you are a child of God, made in His image, beautifully and wonderfully made! Speak to yourself like you would a cherished friend, one who is beloved by God.
And don’t forget our ultimate encourager, the one who is our greatest champion and number one fan…our Heavenly Father. Through His Spirit and His word, we can be reminded of His great love for us and that we are His beautiful masterpiece. His Word is filled with love notes to us from our Father who takes great delight in you and loves you unconditionally.
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
The mind is a powerful thing. It controls every life-giving function in our bodies, processes complex emotions, and is constantly learning and adapting. Our very thoughts have the ability to shape how we see ourselves and the world around us. Because of this, it is paramount that those thoughts be firmly established in truth.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
The first word in the list of things to focus on, is whatever is true. When we hold firmly to the truth about who God is, and who we are in Christ, we have freedom and joy. We are shaped to be more like Christ and we are no longer bound by insecurity or fear. We are free to love ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. We are free to step into our calling when God says go, and free to say no to the things that are not in step with the Holy Spirit’s lead. We are free to live life abundantly. Jesus even promises that when we remain faithful to follow Him, we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free! (John 8:32)
In what area of your life could you use a little more truth that sets you free? Take some time to pray this week about it. Ask God to help you seek the truth about who He is, and who you are, and can be in Him.