Resting in God Our Rock When Our Enemies Attack

quote on staying close to God

In 2006, my husband stepped into an ugly power struggle that nearly cost him his job. In the span of a year, he’d changed employment three times, landing, precariously, at the company he’d started with, but in a different location and with a pay cut and demotion. The organization he initially quit, with zero notice. Therefore, though my husband’s former boss, through God’s grace, invited him back, Steve’s position felt shaky at best. Like he was one mistake away from unemployment.

Adding to this mess of uncertainty was the fact that my husband was coming in both equal and under the current shop director. A man accustomed to little oversight, and whom we soon discovered was behaving unethically in countless ways. He was allowing employees to “steal” time, was misreporting injuries, misusing his company credit card in outlandish and grievous ways, and gave those with influence special privileges. Worse, he pressured my husband to comply with his dishonest tactics.

Though anxious, my husband refused, knowing, however his boss responded, whatever occurred, his allegiance was to Christ and Christ alone. He made the right hard choice. The result: the truth eventually came out, his boss and numerous managers were fired and walked off the property, while my husband was promoted.

We rejoiced at God’s goodness and grace, celebrating the fact that righteousness and justice had prevailed. Soon, however, our praise turned to desperate prayers for God’s intervention and protection as evil, power-hungry men used to getting their way slandered and attacked him.

One man in particular, the union rep, determined to make it his mission to get my husband fired. Every day, he bombarded my husband with accusations and demands in an attempt to wear him down. When this didn’t work, he turned to the Chief Executive Officer telling him how “terrible” my husband was. Once sent, he printed and prominently displayed the letter he wrote, in which he’d twisted everything my husband had or hadn’t done in an effort to make him look bad.

While walking down the hallway one morning, my husband happened to see this letter, tacked on one of the union bulletin boards. He felt attacked and deeply fatigued. Not only had his continual decision to make the right hard choice not produced positive results, but it’d landed him in a mess. One that felt never-ending and in fact appeared to be gaining momentum.

With every interaction, my anxiety climbed. What if this man succeeded and Steve’s company let him go? Where would he work? How would we pay our bills? Our mortgage? What if we lost our home?

Initially, our world felt out of control. Our security only as steady, as sure, as my husband’s next paycheck. But then we remembered our sure foundation, the immovable rock upon which we stood.

Psalm 18:1-2 says, “I love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliver.”quote pulled from post

This was written by ancient Israel’s second king, a mighty warrior who’d once defeated a tyrannical giant without displaying a hint of fear. But this warrior found strength not in himself and his military prowess, but instead in His sovereign, all-powerful, ever-present God. He recognized how insufficient, how vulnerable, he was apart from God, but more so, how protected, untouchable, he was when raised upon the crags of God’s love.

Towering rocks or bluffs dotted the landscape of ancient Palestine, providing places of refuge, of protection, for all who scampered upon them. These elevated geological edifices were difficult to reach and offered shelter within their caverns. Therefore, they became places of safety in times of danger.

Fortresses offered similar protection. The people built heavily-fortified cities high upon a cliff, where they could see enemies approach for miles. Then, they erected stone towers at the highest point in the city.

Can you sense the layers of protection revealed in the Psalm 18 passage? In Christ, we stand high upon an immovable rock of power and grace, further hidden within the clefts of His love. His strength is greater than anything or anyone that comes against us. We are triply protected within His steadfast embrace. He is our sure and constant deliverer, the rock beneath our feet, and the fortress surrounding us.

In 2006, as attacks continued to barrage my husband and our family, we hid ourselves deeply in God. When anxiety arose, we reminded ourselves of where our true security lay, and all we knew to be true about God. He was faithful, loving and attentive—unconquerable. He was our ever-present provider, the only One with the power to sustain us.

That year, He proved Himself to be all those things and more. I’m confident He’ll do the same for you. Whatever you’re facing, whatever is coming against you, rest in this: God’s got you. He’s standing beside you, within you, and is camped around you. He is your refuge, your rock, and your strong, fortified tower.

You don’t have to be strong or know all the answers—that secret that will somehow whisk you to safety—because in Christ, you’re already safe.

Let’s talk about this! When has God proven Himself to be your rock and your fortress? How might remembering this time help you when future problems hit?

If you’re facing a difficult, uncertain period, how might it help to shift your thoughts off your ever-changing circumstances and onto your immovable Savior?

If you currently feel under attack, make sure to keep an eye out for my upcoming Faith Over Fear podcast, releasing at the endLogo image for Faith Over Fear of this month by Salem Web Communications, my upcoming Faith Over Fear Bible reading plan, and join the Faith Over Fear challenge launching on social media on February 6th. You can find the Faith Over Fear Facebook group HERE and watch a short clip on unexpected anxiety HERE. Read the passage I reference in the video HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

Finding Joy When Our Kids Struggle

woman with childWhen those we love hurt, often our first response is to try to fix things. Or, if we anticipate a potential threat, we may attempt to orchestrate things so that those we care about somehow remain pain-free. At least, that’s how I’m tempted to respond. Until I take a step back and consider life through a more grace-filled lens and remember, God always has a hope-filled plan, one intended to bring healing and growth.

I’ve always hated to see our daughter struggle emotionally, spiritually, or physically. As a result, at times, my parenting became entangled with my heart’s desire to make my daughter happy. Many times, watching tears pour from her big green eyes, I forgot God’s primary focus was on her growth, not her momentary comfort or pleasure.

Unfortunately, sometimes, many times, growth involves pain.

When our daughter was young, we home-schooled, and after an expensive and unproductive first semester, I started adapting my lessons to her learning style. I realized rather quickly, textbooks and paperwork didn’t work for her, so I tossed out over a thousand dollars’ worth of curriculum and began planning my own.

I found a way to teach everything through dialogue, stories, or hands-on activities. She excelled and quickly developed a love for learning punctuated by questions and personal exploration. In fact, many times I felt as if I was simply trying to keep up!

Everything changed once she entered institutionalized school. To paraphrase her next eight-and-a-half years of learning, she struggled. A lot. Though I saw her angst, I largely didn’t understand what was really going on. Initially, I assumed she was simply having a difficult time adjusting and that I’d left some holes in her educational journey. When she reached high school, I figured her challenges came from taking a demanding course load, from not having developed proper time management and study skills, and from not clicking with teachers.

I didn’t realize how hard she was working nor how many adaptations she’d made in order to be successful.

Then came college when everything moved much more quickly, was much more challenging, and where her adaptations proved insufficient.

She called me often, in tears, saying, “Mom, this just isn’t working for me. No matter how hard I try or how much I study.” She would routinely stay up until one or two in the morning, doing all she knew to do in order to prepare for a test or master an assignment, only to fail. She became so sleep deprived, her vision blurred, and she had migraines more often than not. She also developed severe testing anxiety to the point she’d vomit every morning before class.

Her stress level became so high, she acquired her second and third bout of shingles her freshman and sophomore years, consecutively. Well-intentioned friends suggested perhaps she needed to change majors, and though I never voiced this to her, I wondered the same. Yet, she’d felt called into engineering since a missions trip to El Salvador in middle school and was determined to persevere, pushing herself deeper and deeper into exhaustion.

Luckily, an insightful professor noticed some concerns with her writing and suggested she get tested for dyslexia. She did in December of her sophomore year, and as I read the results a week later, I cried as so many of her childhood struggles and behaviors suddenly made sense.

How could I not have known? Why hadn’t God told me? I’d prayed, almost daily, that He would grant me wisdom and help me parent to her heart. He’d done that in so many areas; why not in this one? Had we known, we could’ve gotten her help and resources that would’ve helped her succeed and avoid so much pain.

But as I was praying, struggling with my guilt and frustration at God for what felt like His lack of direction, I sensed Him whispering to my spirit, “She needed to struggle.”

I thought about that statement for some time after and have come to realize how true that was. Had I known about her dyslexia and other challenges, likely in empathy, I would’ve limited her. I might have encouraged her to take easier classes. But more than that, she wouldn’t have developed the grit that has enabled her to press through and view difficulties as challenges to overcome rather than dead ends.

Let’s talk about this! What resonated with you most when you read today’s post? When has someone else’s pain sent you into “fix it” mode, and how might pointing them to Jesus and growth in Him help them more instead?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

And speaking on the courage to surrender–whether ourselves or someone we love–make to keep an eye out for my upcoming Faith Over Fear podcast, releasing at the end of this month by Salem Web Communications. We’ll be talking about, among other things, finding the courage to surrender.

I’ll also be  releasing, through the YouVersion app, and will launch a Faith Over Fear challenge on social media on February 6th. Find out more HERE. And make sure to watch out for Wholly Loved’s next Bible study, Unshakable, Unbreakable Joy, releasing in 2020, with relationship building resources and more!

 

New Year’s Resolutions Worth Making and Keeping

Picture of a calendar

When you review 2019, the highs and the lows, the goals you began with and those unexpected yet precious moments experienced along the way, does it change how you view 2020? Does it change what you’ll prioritize and what you’ll release?

It does for me.

I’ve discovered how fleeting grand achievements can be. Last decade, years before I received my first publishing contract, I often dreamed of the “call.” For a time, this longing became my obsession, causing my emotions to rise and fall on every step forward or rejection. And now, nine titles and countless articles later, though I’m grateful for every opportunity God allowed, those accomplishments aren’t what I hold most dear.

Similarly, as a former high school dropout, it took me nearly twenty years to earn my college degree. Twenty years of moves and starting over, of switching majors, juggling motherhood and canceled babysitters and studying and tests. But though my family celebrated—with flourless chocolate cake!— when I finally graduated, that event wouldn’t make my “end of life” list. Too many other, much more monumental and sacred memories will occupy that spot.

On New Year’s Eve, as I sat across from the love of my life and, together, we reminisced on all of our successes and failures, some patterns emerged—patterns of beauty, of growth, of healing. Of heart-purging and filling, adding clarity to my days ahead. I want to live with intentionality, absolutely! But I want to make sure I’m pursuing what matters most, what adds beauty, purpose, and joy.

In 2020 …

  1. I want to prioritize prayer

Each morning, before I write one task on my ever-lengthening to-do list, I want to prayerfully offer each moment to my Savior. I know He has a plan, not just for my life, but for my every day as well. He knows what’s ahead, whom I’ll encounter, and when my loved ones will need an extra hug. Ultimately, I want to live as if God truly is my Lord—my master and my guide.

  1. I want to practice gratitude Gratitude notebook

The other night, my husband said something that briefly took me aback. He said I was a positive person, and this brought me joy, not just because I believe that’s such a godly trait to cultivate, but also because there was a time when he likely would’ve said the opposite. There was a time when my thoughts instantly jumped to the negative and I complained much more frequently than I praised. But as my intimacy with Christ deepened, my perspective changed. My heart changed, and I realized how blessed I truly was. God has given me so much—a husband I adore, a daughter who daily makes me laugh, loved ones who see the best in me, and a faith-family who continually points me to Christ. But even if all of those things were absent, I’d still be abundantly blessed because I always and will forever have my Savior, the One who knows me, sees me, stands beside me, and loved me enough to redeem me.

  1. I’ll take a regular Sabbath rest

If you know me well, you’ve discovered how easily bored I can be. How much enjoyment I receive from productivity, efficiency, and forward momentum. My husband often jokes that I have “ants in my pants,” claiming I can’t even watch television without having other tasks to complete. He’s not wrong. I’m a writer, editor, mentor, ministry leader, teacher, and speaker who often works long hours and ruthlessly eliminates distractions. But amidst all my busyness, I’ve learned to fiercely guard my Sabbaths. Sundays are my rest days and have been since my daughter’s preschool years. Those are the days I set my manuscripts and computer aside, turn my phone to silent, and spend my afternoons and evenings reading or napping.

Those moments of reprieve give me the energy I need to successfully tackle the rest of my week.

  1. I’ll diligently live in grace

I used to waste so much time and energy on guilt and regret. When I’d say something I wished I hadn’t or maybe acted rude rather than loving, I’d rehash the scenario in my brain for days. I routinely lived in shame rather than grace, in essence, elevating my sin above the cross. But no more! Jesus paid much too high a price for me to hold on to my former self. I most honor His death and most clearly represent the gospel when I live in its reality. When I anchor myself so deeply in Christ’s love and forgiveness, that everything else fades so far in my periphery that I forget it entirely.

God doesn’t ask me to live perfectly. He doesn’t expect me to strive or perform. Rather, He invites me to abide and accept, fully and deeply, the precious gift of atonement He granted.

  1. I’ll diligently dish out grace

I cannot simultaneously live in grace while withholding it from others. Whenever I cling to an offense, whenever I harbor bitter thoughts and emotions against another fallible but deeply loved human, I’m demonstrating I’ve lost sight of the cross. I’ve lost sight of my Savior. I’ve lost sight of hope. But when I begin to view others through the same lens through which Christ views me, healing prevails. Christ’s love purifies my heart and draws me closer to Himself and others.

  1. I’ll live generously

God, my Provider and Sustainer, invites me, daily, to live in full dependence on Him. That is where my generosity stems from. When I realize I belong to the God who owns a thousand cattle on a thousand hills, I find the courage to release my grip on my time and resources. As I do, His joy flows, unhindered through me and my heart and life align more closely with His.

  1. I’ll dance often woman dancing in the sunset

Years ago, my daughter came home from school one afternoon feeling down. I don’t remember why, but it was a situation I had zero control over. I stood there for a moment, saddened by her pain. Then not knowing what else to do, I grabbed her hands and pulled her into a goofy dance. At first, she was stiff, reluctant. I’m sure she rolled her eyes with a huff. But soon, she relaxed, and together we danced about the kitchen, both our days momentarily lightened.

The next day when she returned home, she grabbed my hands and began to dance as I had done with her. I realized how much that silly yet special moment had meant to her. This soon became our tradition—on good days and bad, hard days and those filled with celebration, we learned to hit pause, to intentionally create moments of joy.

  1. I’ll laugh often

Ladies, we often set the tone in our homes. We can sprinkle gloom and frustration or stir our family to laughter. Both types of environments are contagious. One leads to increased tension while the other binds hearts, defuses stress, and infuses our days with life and light.

  1. I’ll guard my peace

We’ll likely face numerous challenges in the year ahead, many we won’t have control over. But that doesn’t mean we must absorb the tension and chaos. We certainly don’t have to reflect it. God invites us to live from a higher plane—seated in the heavenlies with Him (Eph. 2:6). In other words, to remember where our true home lies, where our Power Source resides, and to live, continually, yielded to our guide.

Perhaps God leads us to remove ourselves from certain situations, or maybe He’ll call us to persevere in love. Regardless, when we’re following Him, seeking to honor Him above all else, everything will feel much less consequential. Because our eyes will rise above the drama of today and center on the things of eternity.

  1. I’ll embrace godly risk

Scripture tells me I have the power of the risen Savior living and breathing within me, stirring and empowering me to do His will. I refuse to allow my fears or insecurities to hinder what God might want to do in and through me. I belong to Him, to be used as He wills—for His glory, not mine. When I daily squash my pride to give God’s Spirit free reign, my fears begin to die as the strength and courage birthed through surrender take hold.

God has so much planned for 2020, plans He’s inviting you and I to participate in. He’s not calling us to change the world with superhuman faith. All He’s asking is that we’d yield, live in and breath out His grace, and grab hold of every moment of joy, so that He can change the world through us.

Speaking of moving boldly into 2020 … I invite you to join me for my Faith Over Fear challenge, which I’ll launch next month. Keep an eye out!

Additional resources:

Better Than New Year’s Resolutions by Jennifer Slattery

10 Steps to Help You Think Through Your Goals for the New Year by Jennifer Slattery

More Than a New Year’s Resolution by Girlfriends in God

 

Powerful Truth For When Our Hearts Grow Ill

Quote regarding a life committed to God on colorful background

I can easily become entitled. This can remain hidden when life goes well. But when difficulties hit, I find myself battling a slowly corroding heart, half of which longs to surrender to Christ while the rest fights for “self.”

About a decade ago, our family experienced a period of upheaval that triggered some pretty deep and latent wounds. We’d moved across the country six months prior, something I hadn’t wanted to do. I’d just begun to get settled and connected with the local faith and home school communities, when my husband quit his job. Though the logical side of my brain, which shrunk considerably in that moment, understood why, my insecure child threw a fit.

Soon fear turned into bitterness that morphed into depression. As our savings dwindled and we made plans to move yet again, my anger grew. I found the situation unjust, as if I were a victim to my husband’s decisions.

In short, I determined I deserved better. When my life began to crumble, my sense of entitlement wreaked havoc with my peace and surrender.

Somehow I’d forgotten that all life is a gift. I’d forgotten the beauty of salvation—that years prior, my holy God looked down on rebellious and self-destructing me, and in place of judgement, offered me mercy and grace. Whenever I lose sight of the cross, of who God is and all He’s done, my heart begins to turn. Ugliness seeps in, whispering toxic lies like, “This isn’t fair,” and “You deserve better.” The more I listen, the darker my world becomes.

That winter, I began plunging into a gloom that felt heavy and oppressive and might’ve swallowed up everything precious and right in my life, had God not intervened. But He did, with one simple yet profound question:

“Do you love Me now?”

I understood precisely what He was asking. He wanted to know if my love was based on what He did or didn’t give me. Was it a shallow, conditional love that expanded when blessings came and shrunk during hardships? Or did the One who bled and died for me have my heart?

Tears poured down my face as reality hit—not just regarding my current plight, but of who Christ was, in all His risen glory. He’d given His life so that I might live, and in that moment, I gave mine back to Him. I surrendered.

As I did, peace and joy rushed in, giving me the strength to endure our challenges well as I leaned fully on Him.

Now, when entitlement begins to rise up, I contemplate Scriptures like Psalm 8. Written as a hymn, the words remind me of who God is and who I am in relation to Him.

“Lord, our Lord,” David wrote, calling Him not just Yahweh, the powerful Creator, but Adonia, his master as well.

“How majestic is your name … You have set Your glory in the heavens …” (v. 1). There I pause, for as long as necessary, prayerfully meditating on God’s power and vastness. “When I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is mankind” or who is Jennifer Slattery “that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?” (v. 3-4).

Who am I, sinful and rebellious and often woefully deceived, that You, my Lord, would notice me? That You would die for me?quote from post with colorful background

When I meditate on the cross, everything else begins to fade. And all I can say is, “Thank You.”

Let’s talk about this! When has a sense of entitlement stolen your peace and joy? How did God redirect you back to gratitude, surrender, and praise?

Speaking of tending our hearts, have you checked out Jennifer Slattery’s Bible reading plan, Cultivating a Thankful Heart? You can find it HERE. And keep an eye out for her upcoming podcast, Faith Over Fear, hosted by Salem communications and her correlating Faith Over Fear Bible reading plan on YouVersion. Both will release in early 2020.

Additional resources:

Entitlement Will Rob You of Rest by Chelsea Patterson Sobolik on Desiring God

The Entitlement Cure: The Path to Jesus by Dr. Townsend

Freedom From Entitlement by Jennifer Slattery

Fighting Discontentment by Jennifer Slattery

The Entitlement Cure by Proverbs 31 Ministries

 

Experiencing Peace When Encountering “Problem” People

Woman experiencing a headacheRelationships can be hard and rewarding, stressful and comforting, this time of year especially. We all probably have at least one person we’d must rather avoid but whom we tend to find ourselves sitting directly across from during Christmas dinner. If you’re anticipating some unpleasant conversations and interactions this season, I hope you’ll find encouragement in my guest Andrea Chatelain’s post.

Experiencing Peace When Encountering Problem People

By Andrea Chatelain

Envision the person you’re least looking forward to seeing this Christmas holiday. Even thinking about them may make you uncomfortable or irritable. Their words may sting, their actions leave disastrous wakes, or perhaps they’re simply insensitive and rude. Perhaps flying to Florida for the holidays sounds pretty good right about now. How can we make sure unenjoyable people don’t ruin our special day? The answer centers less on who we’re annoyed with and everything to do with our relationship with Christ.

When negative thoughts regarding a family member or acquaintance swell, I have to ask myself some questions to get back on track: How has God shown me compassion and patience? How has He forgiven me recently? And how is He asking me to bear with the person I am annoyed with?

I had to do this recently. To be honest, sometimes I get weary of forgiving the same person over and over. I get angry when I stew about their choices and actions. I think it would be easier to avoid them and move on. But when I answer the questions above and ponder the way Jesus has handled my offenses, I’m so grateful He’s ready to pour out an abundance of grace and patience when I mess up? He always gives me another chance.

When I want to love others like Jesus, I remember Colossians 3:12-15. In this passage, Paul, an early church planter wrote, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness,woman in winter gear with quote on "wearing" Christ and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15, NIV).

Woah. That one packs a good truth punch. When I want to engage in a disagreement, put someone in their rightful place, or walk away from a relationship out of annoyance, I have to remember I’m chosen and loved, and called to show compassion to others when they don’t deserve it. I’m to forgive others as Christ has forgiven me. And in doing so, I put on love and help bind my family together in harmony.

When I’m right with Jesus and in tune with all the gifts He gives me, it impacts how I respond to those who annoy me. I’m more gracious and patient because I’m empowered by God’s Spirit and living out of His kindness.

That’s not to say we should never set boundaries for ourselves and our children. Sometimes we do indeed need to distance ourselves from unhealthy behavior. But even then, we must continually check our hearts to ensure we’re following Christ’s leading and not reacting out of bitterness or resentment. We can forgive from afar, love others without inviting or accepting abuse, and  hold tough conversations with grace.

But when emotional or physical safety isn’t involved, when we’re simply dealing with someone we don’t particularly enjoy, Colossians 3:12-15 can help us love well this season.

If you’re struggling with potential holiday encounters Christmas, reflect on the kindness and grace God’s shown you. How can you bear with others in that same compassion and love? Let’s commit to surrendering to Christ in the face of grievances this Christmas so our hearts can experience His peace.

Get to Know Andrea!

Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer at Glory Be, writer/speaker for Wholly Loved Ministries, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She loves connecting with women to remind them they can find everything they need in Jesus.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you stay grounded in peace and fitted in love during difficult or stressful situations? Share your thoughts with us, and make sure to grab a copy of Wholly Loved’s Christmas devotional, which Andrea contributed to, Intentional Holidays:

cover image for Wholly Loved's DevotionalThis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle; to trade striving and performing for resting and rejoicing.In our photoshopped, Instagram, hyper-publicized culture, it feels like the bar is always rising. Not only must we create that memorable Thanksgiving meal, but it must look Pinterest worthy when we’re done. We rush to find the perfect gift and that gown for that party we feel obligated to attend and wonder how we’ll pay for it all or find the time and energy to get everything done. But Immanuel—God with us—is indeed with us in the middle of our dinner fails and celebrations.This holiday season, each morning, no matter how busy our day or frazzled our heart, God is drawing us near so that we can live filled. We can experience peace in the middle of our crazy through the Prince of Peace, our Savior, Immanuel.

Additional Resources:

The Key to Experiencing Christmas Peace in Your Life Today by John Piper

Finding Peace in the Chaos of Christmas, on Proverbs 31 Ministries

Five Ways to Exchange Panic for Peace This Christmas, Lifeway

Christmas Dysfunction or Growth and Peace–Your Choice, by Jennifer Slattery

Retaining Our Power of Choice Each Day

sunrise image with quote on surrender(Taken from a lesson cut from Wholly Loved’s Unshakable, Unbreakable Joy study, releasing soon.)

I often decide, before my feet hit the floor, how my day will go. Will I be disappointed and frustrated or at peace and fulfilled? Will I be self-obsessed and therefore prideful or insecure or will I sift everything through a story more beautiful and enduring than anything I could ever dream of or achieve on my own?

We can decide how we will respond before difficulties and frustrations ever hit. When we cultivate a surrendered heart, life feels much easier, more joyful, and we’re less reactive. We can stand strong and faithful, empowered, no matter what we encounter.

So often, we forfeit our joy through default. We behave as if we’re victims to our circumstances and other people’s reactions and forget that God the enormity of God. We forget that He’s in all things, working through all things, andMountain image with quote from post will ultimately redeem all things.

More than that, we allow life’s temporary challenges to overshadow the things of eternity.

My daughter is getting married this spring. By the time this study releases, the wedding, with all its glamor and chaos, laughter and tears, will be over. The vows will have been spoken. The guests, many of them family we see maybe once a year, will have come and gone. Those first dances—between my princess and her prince and my girl and her daddy—will be but memories and captured photographs. The spilled drinks will be mopped up, the trash carted away …

I have no idea what that day will bring, but here’s what I know: I’ll cherish every moment; I’ve already decided this, and I refuse to let temporary circumstances and mishaps steal what’s most precious. Those moments, whether celebrated or bemoaned, that I’ll never be able to get back. Knowing this, I will choose celebration over bemoaning.

I refuse to allow inconsequential details distract me from my part and enjoyment of the bigger story.

I wonder, what might my life, my joy, and my effectiveness might look like if I made this decision daily, no matter the situation? If I began with an attitude of surrender and determined to remain there? If I didn’t allow the problems of today to distract me from the glory of eternity.

When our daughter was young and I felt perpetually insecure, I carried 2 Timothy 2:4 in my pocket. It says: “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer” (NIV). Or to phrase it differently, no one called to serve an eternal king becomes entangled in daily drama. They remain focused on their higher calling.

If you were to pick up any of my copious Bibles stacked on my shelves, you’d likely find one phrase underlined again and again: “a servant of Christ.” That was perhaps Paul’s favorite way to introduce himself. This was the mindset he maintained. More than anything else, more than being a church leader or pastor or traveling evangelist or even husband, he was a slave of Christ. Nothing else mattered, and therefore nothing else had the power to defeat or derail him.

I want to live with such focus, such purpose, each and every day. Thanks to Christ in me, I can.

So can you.

Let’s talk about this! Can you share a time when you chose surrender in a chaotic or unpleasant situation? What helped you make that choice and what was the result? Share your comments, thoughts, and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

You might find Wholly Loved’s latest Devotional, Intentional Holidays: Finding Peace in the Prince of Peace helpful:

cover for Wholly Loved's devotionalThis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle and to trade our striving for resting and rejoicing. Immanuel, God with us, encourages us to hit pause in the middle of our crazy, beautiful, and not-so-glamorous moments to experience Him. No matter how busy our days, fragmented our minds, disrupted our plans, or frazzled our hearts, God beckons us to draw near so that we can live filled and refilled. We can experience peace, no matter our circumstances, through the Prince of Peace, our Savior.

Grab your copy HERE.

Additional resources:

Preparing Our Hearts For Christmas, Wholly Loved’s latest Bible reading plan on YouVersion:

This holiday season, take some time to slow down and reflect on God’s goodness and the precious gift of Christ with us.

Find it HERE.

Additional resources:

Freedom From Self-Sufficiency (video)

Choose a Positive Attitude, Pastor Rick McDaniel

Don’t Let a Bad Attitude Rule Your Life (Proverbs 31 Ministries)

 

Finding Strength to Love Well This Christmas

Quote on showing Christ's love with Christmas background

Unfortunately, when I most need Christ’s strength is often when I’m least apt to seek it. When I most feel rushed and overwhelmed, somehow I deceive myself into thinking I can handle the situation and my responses. And perhaps, for a while I can, but the more I rely on myself, the weaker and less loving and grace-filled I become.

As the bustle of Christmas approaches, along with the obligations and gatherings frequently attached to it, I’m reminding myself of this long-verified truth: I am hopeless and helpless without my Savior. Whenever I forget this and allow busyness to steal those precious, soul-fortifying moments I know I need, I reveal though I claim He’s the source of everything good and right within me, somewhere deep within I’ve believed a potentially destructive lie: That I’ve got this, whatever this may be. The longer I operate in that falsehood, the weaker I become and the closer I edge toward hurt and regret.

About five years ago, our family learned a local youth would soon be out of a home, so, though our schedules were full, we took this child in. Though we anticipated challenges, the arrangement proved exponentially more difficult than we could’ve imaged. The teen was hostile, rebellious, and prone to angry outbursts. Our once peaceful home soon morphed into one frequently filled with yelling and slamming doors.

I knew every destructive behavior this teen displayed came from a place of deep pain. I knew Jesus was the only One able to heal this child, and I so longed to continually point to the life-transforming power of Christ. I longed to reveal that power within me, through my words and actions. The problem was, I routinely felt overwhelmed, chasing one responsibility from the next, I had little time for anything other than what I call “shout out” prayers—those frantic requests tossed heavenward as one runs from problem or obligation to the next.

Whenever I put off my time with Christ, I quickly regretted this. I’d respond in frustration rather than grace, reflecting back what I’d received from the child rather than the love of my Savior. Yet each time I pulled away to rest in God’s presence, whether for a moment or ten, His peace washed over me, strengthening and refreshing me as He spoke tenderly to my soul. And almost always, He cleared my vision, giving me a depth of understanding, and with this, compassion, I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Jesus put this it this way: “Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me” (John 15:4, NIV).

Christ’s words make me think of Galatians 5:22-23, which says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (NIV).

Notice, the writer didn’t say, “Now the Spirit helps Jennifer produce love and joy and self-control.” No, text pulled from post with an image of woman standingit says the Holy Spirit produces these traits within me. As I yield to Him, His power expands within me, giving me strength in place of weakness, patience in place of frustration, and self-control where tempers once flared.

Christmas will be busy. I’ve long since succumbed to this truth, and likely events, recipes, and relational interactions won’t quite go as I’d hoped. I can’t prevent the oven from breaking, my neighbor from fuming, or great-aunt Janice from throwing a fit when traditions aren’t followed as she desires. But I can always draw near to my Savior and yield to His love and grace, flowing first within and then without, me. I’ll likely regret numerous things this holiday season, but I know with certainty I’ll never regret that.

Let’s talk about this. How do you stay connected to Christ during busy and stressful seasons? What are some ways you plan to prioritize your time with Him this Christmas.

You might find Wholly Loved’s latest Devotional, Intentional Holidays: Finding Peace in the Prince of Peace helpful:

cover for Wholly Loved's devotionalThis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle and to trade our striving for resting and rejoicing. Immanuel, God with us, encourages us to hit pause in the middle of our crazy, beautiful, and not-so-glamorous moments to experience Him. No matter how busy our days, fragmented our minds, disrupted our plans, or frazzled our hearts, God beckons us to draw near so that we can live filled and refilled. We can experience peace, no matter our circumstances, through the Prince of Peace, our Savior.

Grab your copy HERE.

Additional resources:

Preparing Our Hearts For Christmas, Wholly Loved’s latest Bible reading plan on YouVersion:

This holiday season, take some time to slow down and reflect on God’s goodness and the precious gift of Christ with us.

Find it HERE.