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.
How many times has your mind replayed over and over again that mistake you have made in the past? When you think about it, you get a knot in your stomach and feel horrible about yourself. We all have experienced a situation where we really screwed up and we just can’t get past it. Sometimes we mentally beat ourselves up, knowing we screwed up yet again. You may say to yourself, “how could I have been so stupid?” or “how come I keep making the same mistakes?” or “I just can’t get it right!”
Although we know that Jesus died for our sins, we don’t always live in the freedom of forgiveness He offers. God has made us to live a life of true freedom, no longer held captive to sin or bitterness. We often hear about forgiveness in the context of forgiving others, which is important and necessary, but there is one person who we usually have the hardest time forgiving–ourselves.
There have been times in my life when I have messed up and have asked for God’s forgiveness, knowing that the Bible says He will forgive me, but I haven’t extended that same grace to myself. God might be extending forgiveness to me but I can’t always accept it. I don’t feel like I really deserve to be forgiven–I’ve messed up one too many times. Surely His grace only goes so far!
During these times, Psalms 103 reminds me what is true:
All that I am, praise the Lord; everything in me, praise his holy name. My whole being, praise the Lord and do not forget all his kindnesses. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He saves my life from the grave and loads me with love and mercy. He satisfies me with good things and makes me young again, like the eagle. The Lord does what is right and fair for all who are wronged by others. He showed his ways to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. The Lord shows mercy and is kind. He does not become angry quickly, and he has great love. He will not always accuse us, and he will not be angry forever. He has not punished us as our sins should be punished; he has not repaid us for the evil we have done. As high as the sky is above the earth, so great is his love for those who respect him. He has taken our sins away from us as far as the east is from the west. The Lord has mercy on those who respect him, as a father has mercy on his children.”
The first time I saw these verses my heart finally understood the vast scope of God’s love and forgiveness. “He has taken our sins away from us as far as the east is from the west.” Do you know how far that is? The east and west will never meet because they go on forever in opposite directions. It’s not just a really long distance, like saying as far as the moon and back. It’s no distance you can measure because it is infinite. God didn’t just remove our sins and past mistakes from us, but they are so far gone that they can never be found again.
So why do we hold on to something that God has forgiven and doesn’t remember anymore? When we don’t accept God’s grace and forgiveness as our own, we leave an opportunity for Satan to double-down on us with shame. Shame tears us down and attacks our identity, making us feel unworthy and disqualified for God’s love and forgiveness. Shame makes us doubt that we are even forgivable. When we believe the lie that Jesus’ sacrifice is big enough for everyone but ourselves, we aren’t able to experience the freedom that Christ died to give us.
“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin…”Acts 13:38-39
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
The lies of shame and doubt keep us trapped and enslaved to our sin and past mistakes, but God’s immeasurable love for you, propelled Him to send His son to redeem you and remove the sin and shame that entraps you. When we choose to trust in Jesus, we are set free! We are able to let go of our past mistakes and choose the freedom we have in Christ.
So, dear one, let us live in freedom as children of God who are forgiven and loved. There is no end to His passion and love for you–His grace is never-ending. God’s grace and forgiveness are for YOU. Jesus thought of YOU when He went to the cross. Today’s the day to accept His forgiveness for whatever lays heavy on your heart, and allow yourself to be set free from the heavy burden of guilt and shame. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, and it’s God’s desire to see you live a life of freedom in every way!
“…the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…” Isaiah 61:1
At the very heart of Revive Ministries is the Scripture Isaiah 61:1-3. Each verse captures what we pray women will experience as they seek their identity in Christ. All this month we have been talking about freedom, so today we wanted to focus on “binding up the brokenhearted and proclaiming freedom”. Today’s post is a little different from our usual weekly bit o’ encouragement, but we felt that it was important and relevant for so many of the women we encounter every day.
Over the years, we have met many women who have experienced betrayal in their marriages or relationships. It is precisely the kind of experience that turns one’s entire world upside down leaving deep questions about their own identity, and leaves wounds that are painful. The truth is, life is messy and painful and no one is exempt from brokenheartedness or disappointment. When we met our guest blogger Stephanie Broersma, and heard her story of being a broken bride made whole again through Christ, we knew we had to share it with you. Whether you yourself have been through the trauma of betrayal in your marriage, or maybe you know someone who has, you will be blessed and encouraged with Stephanie’s real-life insight, wisdom and humor.
Stephanie Broersma is the author of “Reclaimed: Finding Your Identity After Marital Betrayal” and the founder of Reclaimed Ministries. Her mission is to help others find wholeness and healing again after infidelity, through redefining their identity in Christ.
Below is an excerpt from her book that we are honored to share with you. Stephanie will also be our guest in a special episode of The Experience Revival Podcast, that comes out on Friday! In the podcast, you’ll hear more of Stephanie’s story and how Reclaimed Ministries came to be, learn how a traumatic relationship experience can shape your identity and how you can move past shame, anger and brokenness to gain confidence as you rebuild trust and self-worth in Christ.
A big thank you to Stephanie Broersma for her willingness and vulnerability to share her heart and her story with us! “Reclaimed: Finding Your Identity After Marital Betrayal” is available this month for purchase as an individual devotional or a group study, atreclaimedministry.com.
“Reclaimed: Finding Your Identity After Marital Betrayal” by Stephanie Broersma
“It is critical to know who you are in Christ as you offer yourself to your marriage and other relationships.”
Many women, scrambling to pick up the pieces of a broken heart after the confession or discovery of a marital affair, often state the same question: “Who am I?”
Everything a broken and devastated bride thought they knew about themselves suddenly becomes testimony in the courtroom of life, with their identity on the witness stand. “You’re not a good wife because your husband cheated on you and sought pleasure through a pornography addiction rather than his wife. You’re not pretty enough or skinny enough, so your husband went outside the marriage to seek beauty. How can you be a good friend or mom if you can’t keep your marriage whole?”
The majority of women walking through a confession have expressed how shattered their self image is after attempting to pick up the pieces of betrayal. I know this all too well. When my husband confessed to a ten year pornography addiction followed by multiple affairs, my entire being was crushed. Who I was no longer existed and everything I thought to be true was seen and felt as a lie. My complete existence was felt as a veil of ungodly beliefs and the Enemy had his firm hand on my identity, worth and my value. The command to kill my self worth was perfectly being executed by the maker of lies and his legions. The negative narrative that kept on repeating in my head was that my husband’s web of sin and consequences now defined the person I would be, if I could ever make it out alive. I felt as if the mistakes in our marriage would now identify how I approached relationships. Shame, embarrassment, filth and self disappointment weighed like a ton of bricks making it impossible to take a deep breath.
Your identity is not found in the sins of the past or web of consequences from the mistakes in your marriage. Your identity is found in the Risen Savior!”
I continually wrestled with God about who I was now, and yet His gentle voice would quiet the wandering thoughts that consumed my every waking minute. What I learned in the months post confession was that if I couldn’t identify who I was in Christ, my faith would be crippled and from there every other relationship would fail. Securing my own relationship in Christ was key to healing my wounds before attempting to heal the “us” in our new marriage.
Knowing who you are in Christ is key to any relationship, especially your relationship with yourself. Your identity can’t walk out in confidence if you don’t understand the depth of God’s love for you. You can’t love well if you don’t experience His love first. Scripture reminds us of how much God loves us.
In 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV) it says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
Our citizenship is awaiting us in Heaven. Abba, your Daddy, has given you “a crown of beauty, the oil of gladness, a garment of praise and an everlasting joy.” (Isaiah 61:3,7 NIV)
The negative narrative needs to stop cycling through your head and heart, and instead be replaced with Godly beliefs that speak truth and life. It takes discipline to silence the lies that influence and persuade the course of your life. The narrative we have with ourselves will determine the decisions we make in every relationship we share, in the circle of community we live in. This has been an incredible challenge for me as I battle with self worth, questions of identity, whether I’m good enough, and knowing my value as a cherished bride. The pornography addiction stripped all ideas of beauty from my mind. How am I to compete with airbrushed images and Hollywood fantasies? God clearly did not wire me to be that sexy, mischievous or exposed. But, let me tell you this much…I’ve since learned that’s not what my husband desires for me to be.
Having the clarity to separate the truth from lies has greatly increased my view of who I am. Knowing that I am accepted, secure and significant as a chosen, claimed, precious daughter of Christ’s is key to any pursuit of healing and wholeness. Speaking these truths out daily over yourself, your home and family is such a powerful tool against the Enemy.
You are not called to be weak. You are not of lesser value or diminished by another’s sinful actions. You are not defined by sin or the mistakes of your past. You are not unworthy to someone else’s love. You are not too far lost to be rescued by the Creator of the Universe.
You ARE enough. You ARE worthy. You ARE chosen. You ARE bought by the blood of Christ. You ARE forgiven. You ARE beautiful. You ARE redeemed. You ARE a child of God. It should be a daily discipline to silence the lies and shame of the Enemy, who is here to “kill, steal and destroy,” (John 10:10) God wants you to share in an intimate (in-to-me-see) relationship with Him as He’s already given you a place at His table. Take a seat, rest in His truth and know that you ARE His.
Are you ready to embrace your eternal identity? What do you currently see your image being rooted in? What evidence is there that Christ is working in your life?
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (NIV)
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.
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
Have you ever been driving at night and encountered a dense fog–-a fog so dense that you couldn’t see much past the road right in front of your car? I remember a time in college when I was on the home stretch from a long trip when I encountered this situation. My pulse quickened and anxiety started to creep in as I gripped the steering wheel a little tighter. A road that normally was very familiar to me, now was a complete mystery. I couldn’t tell where I was or what was in front of me. I just had to keep driving (albeit slowly) to get to the next sign. Moving forward didn’t feel safe or secure, but I had to keep going. I found myself praying hard and asking God to get me through safely.
Recently, I have found myself in a similar prayer to God. I wasn’t driving through a dense fog this time, but I was walking through what felt like a figurative fog before me. I was struggling with a bunch of big life stuff and not really sure the best way through them. The way in front of me was unclear and I didn’t know which way to step forward.
I was filled with anxiety, and being a “fixer” personality, my mind immediately went to the things I can do to fix my situation. I wanted to solve it and run to the first thing that felt like security and resolution. I have learned over the years though that this is my panic mode and not my trusting God mode.
I deliberately took a moment and called out to the Lord, “God, I’m scared, I don’t see a way through this. What should I do?” Even as I prayed, my mind was still trying to solve the problem and fix it in a million different ways, but in the midst of that prayer, God spoke to my heart to keep walking forward in faith the path He has already put me on.
Even though hopping off to take a short cut seemed like the safer route, I heard Him encouraging me to keep stepping out in faith, one step at a time, and He would make the ground beneath my feet secure. I could feel Him reassure my heart, saying “I’ve got you!” As I leaned into this assurance from God, His peace washed over me, and these Scriptures came to mind.
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” – Psalm 37:23-24
“I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.” – Proverbs 4:11-12
Sometimes the way through our situation isn’t the way we would choose, because it isn’t always the one that seems the most secure. We often gravitate towards the steps we can control because we know what they look like, and avoid the path that is new and uncharted.
Each day we must choose to trust and keep walking forward in faith the path before us. Even when we cannot see much further than the very step in front of us, we must believe that God has already gone before us and knows what’s ahead. He is in front of us, directing our steps and helping us walk forward–-He makes the path firm and secure.
My friend, if there is something scary you’re facing or your next step is unsure, seek the Lord and He will guide your steps forward. With each step, trust that God will make the ground beneath your feet solid and secure.
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 to 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? When all seemed lost, Jesus overcame death, and 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 deeply 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 to be baptized. Delmar sees a chance for redemption, and the draw is irresistible. He runs as fast as he can to the water, confesses his sin, and is baptized. When he comes up out of the water, he looks to his companions and calls out to them from the shore, “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’ve had sin in my life that I wanted to be washed away. I’ve longed for the ultimate spring cleaning of my heart to lead me to the freedom of a new life in Christ.
Throughout the rest of the movie, Delmar 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. And while O Brother, Where Art Thou is not a Christian film, 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.
Have you ever wondered, “Where is God?” Does He ever seem to have disappeared or gone missing? I know I have! There are times when He feels far away and I have trouble feeling His love and presence.
With Easter coming up, I have been thinking a lot about what those days following the crucifixion must have been like for the followers of Jesus. They had just spent several years with Jesus, he knew them so well and they knew him well. He was the one they left everything for, the one they believed save the world, the one who they would follow to the ends of the earth. Yet they had just witnessed the one they loved, die on a cross and be buried in a tomb and with him, their hope. This was their darkest hour. Can you even imagine how confused and sorrow-filled they all must have felt?
Recently when I was reading the book of John, the story of one woman in particular caught my attention. It was Mary Magdalene. Mary was one of the women that traveled with Jesus and financially supported him in his ministry. Jesus delivered her from a life of misery by driving seven demons out of her. She is mentioned by name twelve times in the gospels, showing the important role she had in the life and ministry of Jesus. Not only was she present to see all his ministry and miracles, but she was standing there at the cross (John 19:25) grief-stricken and heart-broken. As a final act of love, she purchased burial spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early the next morning, she went to the tomb with her spices only to discover that the tomb is empty! Jesus was missing. Can you imagine her horror and confusion?
Now Mary [Magdalene] stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. – John 20:14-18
Mary Magdalene was the first person to discover Jesus was no longer in the tomb. She was devastated and confused to see that the tomb was empty. She did not know what had happened, only that her Lord was missing. Even when Jesus appeared and spoke to her, she did not yet recognize him. Was she too caught up in her grief or maybe in the task of trying to find him? I wonder how many times I have not recognized Jesus when he was right next to me all along?
Jesus simply speaks her name, and instantly she recognizes him and calls out to him. She turned to him, so excited to be with him. He was there all along. This tender moment when he simply says her name, shows how much she meant to him. Jesus had just gone through a torturous and horrible death, descended into hell itself and conquered death to come back to life. He was about to gather his followers to pass on the great commission and ascend into Heaven, yet he stopped and took the time to come alongside Mary. In the midst of her grief, he took the time to comfort her and let her know he was there. He chose Mary Magdalene to be the first to see him after His resurrection and share the most important message of all time. Jesus reassured her of her place in God’s family. All it took was her hearing him say her name, and she saw him for who he really was–her Lord and Messiah.
Dear friend, Jesus knows you by name as well. Even in the times when it seems like He is nowhere to be found, He is with you and calls you by name. Turn your face toward Him and recognize He is right there with you. He longs to comfort you and remind you that you are loved and so very precious to Him!
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
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.