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.

The Beauty of Hard Thanksgivings

radiating Christ's love with image of lighthouse in the night

For some of you, Thanksgiving will be hard. Painful. Maybe chaotic and surrounded by dysfunction. But God can bring such eternal beauty in the midst of your most challenging moments. In fact, the beauty can come precisely because of your hardship.

One fall when we lived in Southern California, I wanted to teach our daughter about the constellations. This proved challenging as the town we lived in remained perpetually lit, allowing us to see only the brightest stars. One evening, my husband and I decided to take a family drive to the desert–we lived on the edge of the Mojave. Once we arrived and looked above, we were awed by the beauty. The night sky glimmered with countless stars, their radiance clear and striking in the black sky.

This is how God shines in us. If we belong to Jesus, Scripture says we are the light of the world. This means we display the radiance and hope and life of Christ, whether or not we speak a word. He remains in us, illuminating our surroundings and relationships with light.

But though He is always shining, sometimes His light shines brighter than others. When we display a supernatural love in text pulled from post on yellow backgroundthe face of hatred, and health and grace amidst dysfunction, our reliance on Him and His power displayed through us magnifies our radiance.

The other day, I spoke to a sweet friend who has experienced more hardship than any other person I know. It seems as if life is hitting her hard, relentlessly, from every angle: health, relational, financial … It will likely be very hard for her to remain thankful this Thanksgiving. With tears in her eyes, she said to me, “It’s hard to see God in all this.” Her voice cracked. “What did I do?”

My reply: “You did nothing wrong.”

To the contrary. Though I know she’s not perfect, she consistently reveals Christ, not only in her words and actions but perhaps most importantly, in her steady reliance on Him. Simply by walking with Him and leaning on Him through her pain, she reveals a God who holds tight, who remains and never lets go. She demonstrates the reality of the gospel.

Just over 2,000 years ago, an ancient church planter named Paul wrote to a group of new believers who had miraculously been rescued from darkness. They lived in Thessalonica, a wealthy Greek and pagan city filled with idolatry. Scripture makes it clear, they also experienced persecution, but despite that, they received the gospel with joy and thus became an example to all.

Paul wrote:

6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the Word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thes. 1:6-10, ESV).

The Thessalonicans were living examples of the power and reality of the gospel. Their lives proclaimed their faith, and others noticed.

As evangelist John Paul Warren states, “Your life is a witness to the world of a loving Savior and His redemptive plan for man.”

Sometimes, oftentimes, that witness shines brightest in the darkest circumstances, so if this Thanksgiving is hard, remember, you did nothing wrong. You may in fact be doing everything right. God may be using you at this moment to create something eternally beautiful: changed lives. So hold tight, draw near to Him, stay embraced in His love and grace, and trust Him to shine brightly and beautifully through you.

You may also enjoy:

My Near Death Experience and Other Things I’m Thankful for by Unshakable Hope

When Thanksgiving Hurts by Jessica Brodie

Gratitude Changes Everything by Sharon Jaynes

When it’s Hard to be Grateful on Thanksgiving by Kristin, Day Spring Devotionals

Getting Through Thanksgiving Weekend by Andrea Chatelain

Finding Lost Thankfulness by Andrea Chatelain

Make sure to check out Jennifer Slattery’s latest newsletter edition! It contains a cut excerpt from my next release, an inspirational message, recipe, and book review. You can find that HERE, and contact her HERE to book her to speak at your next women’s event. (She also speaks to book clubs and MOPS groups via live video.)

Bible reading plan imageYou may also enjoy Jennifer’s Bible reading plan, Cultivating a Thankful Heart, available on the YouVersion Bible app. You can find it HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram and follow her on Twitter. You can also find her on Crosswalk.

Grace for Our Imperfect Thanksgivings — Guest Post

Christmas image with a quote on choosing the precious over the perfect.

We’ve all probably allowed ourselves to get so caught up in the event of a thing that we’ve lost sight of that thing all together. I have. When I do, my stress climbs and my attitude tanks. But then God gently helps me shift my priorities back where they should be. Amazingly, when I do, my attitude and inner tranquility follow. I’ve learned, no matter how hard I try, my Thanksgiving and Christmas will inevitably be imperfect. But I’m also learning, it’s often the imperfections that make those unscripted moments so beautiful.

If you’re beginning to feel the stress of the holidays, or preemptively want to avoid this, I think you’ll find my guest Andrea Chatelain’s post encouraging, and you’ll want to grab a copy of the devotional she contributed to, mentioned at the end.

Grace for the Holidays

by Andrea Chatelain

The turkey was frozen. My mother and I flopped it in the sink and ran warm water over the cold, hard, unappetizing bird. This was the second year in a row this fiasco had happened. All we wanted was the thanksgiving meal magazines touted. Twice baked mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing, green beans and bacon with caramelized onion and a golden brown cooked turkey. So maybe our expectations were a little high. But they pointed to an even bigger problem.

Our anxiety was just as high as our expectations.

It’s not bad to want to serve our families well, but when we make perfection our goal we rarely do so with happy hearts. My mom and I grew stressed, there seemed insufficient time or oven space to get everything done in my little galley kitchen. Meanwhile I have no memory of what my kids were doing while I was busy worrying about a thawing turkey.

So I hold tight to Psalm 17:1 ESV during the holidays which reminds us, “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house Thanksgiving place setting with text of psalm 17:1full of feasting with strife.”

There are so many instances this is true, but especially when we prepare for big gatherings. I’ve learned it’s better to have store bought stuffing than batches of Pinterest worthy meals if it means I have more time, joy, and peace with the people I love.

But it’s hard to give up the idyllic version of Thanksgiving we have in our minds. How do we stop competing with the invisible and improbable version of our perfect holiday and accept the reality of our time and emotional constraints?

For me, it means squashing my pride and remembering the grace I have in Jesus. He doesn’t expect us to serve perfectly. He never called us to nail the most golden pie crust or win an award for cleanest house. He commands us to love others well with the strength He provides.

When we serve others, we are “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:10-12, ESV).

Boy do I want to be filled with His glorious might, endurance, patience, and joy this season! I’m not sure if that is what this passage teaches and I don’t have time right now to really dig in to check. Sorry! Can we just cut that part out and use this: When we focus on Jesus, He changes our stressed out minds to servant hearts. We serve and love better when we lean on and are energized by Him.

This reminds me to focus on pleasing Jesus because He will lead me to peace, not anxiety.

The stress and emotions of the holidays are real, but we don’t have to be overwhelmed by meals and chaos. We can choose instead to be overwhelmed by the provision and grace of Christ. Focus your heart on Him this season and let go of the idea of perfection, you will experience His peace and joy no matter your circumstances, even if you turkey is frozen.

Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to prioritize precious moments over expectations for perfection? When you sense yourself prioritizing details over people, what helps you to regain a proper perspective? Share your thoughts, tips, and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Get to know Andrea!

Andrea's author photoAndrea 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 WhollyLoved 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. Visit her on her blog and follow her on Facebook.

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

cover for Wholly Loved's devotionalhis 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.

Christ’s Glory Through His Death and What This Means For Us

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We’ve all encountered someone who later turned out to be much different than we originally thought. Maybe they presented as the perfect, compassionate friend only to turn on us when we didn’t meet their expectations. Or perhaps the opposite occurred and we assumed someone was shallow or selfish or irresponsible, only to discover, when life became hard, they showed themselves to be steady, present, and unshakable.

It’s so easy to misjudge someone and assign selfish motives or ill intent. For years, I did this to my husband, and it nearly destroyed our marriage. He and I are different in so many ways, including how we receive and express love. I’m a “quality time” person who measures the health of our relationship based on the depth of our conversations. He’s a provider and protector at heart whom will spend hours if not days searching for that perfect gift and earning the income to provide it.

Not being a “gift” person, I not only didn’t understand this, but in my misunderstanding, I assumed his motives were as opposite to truth as possible. In my thinking, he loved his job more than my daughter and I and was merely buying us presents or trinkets to appease us. But then we went through a difficult financial period and I watched him sacrifice time, energy, sleep—everything—for us. I’ve seen this again and again. When times become difficult, his inner hero emerges, casting out all doubt regarding who he is and the depth of his love.

We see the true nature and affections of a person during difficult circumstances, or as a former publishing colleague once put it, “Squeeze a sponge and what’s inside comes out.” Likely we can all attest to the truth in that statement, not just in regard to others, but in relation to Christ as well.

I’ve shared previously how my view of God has shifted over the years. The more I come to know Him, the clearer His heart becomes. Through difficulties, upheavals, and uncertainties, He’s revealed misconceptions and allowed my faslehoods to surface so that my heart can become, ever-deeper, anchored in truth. When it felt as if my world were spinning out of control, He held me and worked my chaos to good. When it seemed as if everyone else had abandoned me, He remained and drew me close. When bitterness welled within and even my prayers turned angry, He spoke words of love to my breaking heart.

Again and again, through hard times and good, God has shown me His love and faithfulness are beyond anything I could expect or imagine. However, He’s revealed Himself most clearly through the cross. If I ever doubt who He is and how He feels, not just about me but for all His creation, may God remind me, afresh, of the price He paid. May that dark moment in history forever be a beacon to my heart and yours, a reminder of who Christ is at His core.

In John chapter 13, shortly before His death, Jesus gathered His disciples close and explained to them all that was to come. “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with Me will betray Me” He said (v. 23, NLT). “For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago” (v. 24, NLT). What’s more, “All of you will desert Me” (Mark 14:27a, NLT). He told them He was going to die but that He would also rise again.

After His betrayer had left, Jesus said to His precious friends, “Now is the Son glorified and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify the Son in Himself, and will glorify Him at once” (John 13:31, NIV).

Christ was glorified on and through the cross, an act that Scripture reveals as “the very lowest point of His degradation” but which “John’s gospel always represents as the very highest point of His glory.” For the cross glorified Christ “in two ways. It was the revelation of His heart; it was the throne of His sovereign power” (MacLaren).

This is what it means to be glorified, edoxasthē in the original Greek. It’s ascribing God His true value and recognizing or acknowledging Him for who He truly is and honoring Him in that.

On the cross, we see Jesus’ unchanging nature: the victorious, self-sacrificing God who loves His children fiercely and will stop at nothing to draw us close. In His resurrection, we see His sovereignty over death and sin.

Through Christ’s horrific death, God the Father and God the Son received clear and immeasurable glory, casting a beam of truth and grace upon all mankind.

And now that we’ve seen Him for who He truly is, He invites us to live in that truth. To live changed, for Christ’s grace and truth, when received, always lead to transformation, so that we too, His redeemed children, are revealed in how we live and love.

Or to put is perhaps more simply: Jesus showed who He truly is and the depth of His love through sacrifice. I must do the same.

Let’s talk about this! How often do you pause to contemplate all Christ did on the cross and what that reveals about Him? When has His death and resurrection felt most real to you?

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Speaking of thoughts that produce gratitude and praise … YouVersion has recently released Jennifer Slattery’s Bible reading plan, Bible reading plan imageCultivating a Thankful Heart–just in time for Thanksgiving! You can check it out HERE.

 

How God Responds to Our Pain

quote on leaning on God in hard times and image of a girl.

If you want to catch a glimpse of God’s heart for you, simply watch a mother with her newborn. The hours spent walking the floor as she tries to soothe her little one to sleep. The energy sacrificed to care for her. The joy she feels when the child grows or laughs or simply breathes. Her anguish when her child is sick or in pain.

Nothing tears me up and drives me to pray quite like seeing my daughter struggle. About two and a half years ago she accepted and eight-month coop in North Carolina. Anxious for an opportunity to venture into the adult world, she left Nebraska with hope-filled anticipation.

Her enthusiasm soon turned into a scary depression, triggered by numerous circumstances. First, she was considerably younger than all her coworkers, which made it difficult for her to form relationships. Second, she was paired with an extremely critical and domineering roommate who caused my daughter to doubt everything good about herself. Navigating a management role at the age of 19, this was her first time living so far from home, and she was lonely. She struggled to find a faith community and missed her friends and family. As time went on, her feelings of isolation grew, which only served to deepen what we later learned was undiagnosed depression.

Watching her struggle from afar, I felt powerless to help her. I often longed to catch a plane, if for no other reason than to stay close. To hold her, and in so doing, to shoulder some of her load.

When we’re hurting, like my daughter was, it helps to know we’re not alone. The truth is, if we belong to Jesus, we never Quote from pulse and woman looking out the window are, regardless of how we feel. Scripture promises that. It tells us, throughout its pages, that God is with us, loves us fiercely, and will never leave us. What’s more, when we feel as if our heart is shredded, when the pain is so intense, it steals our words and we find ourselves unable to pray, the Holy Spirit steps in and intercedes for us.

Romans 8:26 tells us “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (NIV). Words in the original Greek often convey such richer meaning than our English translations, and that is true here.

When we suffer, and we will, the Spirit closely identifies with our suffering and comes alongside us in a deeply personal, empowering way. The late biblical commentator Matthew Poole phrased it this way: “The word” helps, or more accurately, joins to help, sunantilambanomai in the Greek, “imports such help, as when another of great strength steps in and sustains the burden that lies too heavy on our shoulders.”

But God does so much more than that. He feels our pain and prays for and with us with “groanings too deep for words” (ESV).

I’ve never understood the depth of this verse, the depth of God’s emotion conveyed by the words Paul chose, until I too prayed and “groaned” for my daughter during her struggle. If God feels even half of what I did, and I know He does, as His love is so much greater than mine, than I know, when I’m hurting, His heart breaks as well, and His heartbreak spurs Him to action.

God stays with me, offers His strength in place of my weakness, and prays with and for me. He doesn’t let up nor will He leave until He’s carried me safely to the other side. He will do the same for you.

Let’s talk about this! Did you know that God prays for you? That He’s deeply concerned for you and loves you as deeply as Romans 8:26 indicates? How does this knowledge bring comfort when you feel pain? Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instragram. Check out her blog on Crosswalk HERE.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Additional Resources:

The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis

Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong by JC Hutchison

God Meant it For Good by RT Kendall

Finding Jesus in the Center of My Pain by Jessica Brodie

 

Setting Aside Expectations to Love With Grace

 

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Sometimes I forget that transformation takes time. I’m not just talking in regard to my own growth, but this is especially true when I watch others. I can easily expect them to have reached a certain level and therefore to behave and think a certain way.

The problem is, I have spiritual forgetfulness. I forget where I once was and how slow my progress came; all the tentative steps forward followed by numerous slips and stumbles backward. I forget about all the nights I lay in bed reviewing my day—all the ways I had failed and all the people I had hurt. I often felt so defeated.

I felt certain I wasn’t growing, wasn’t changing; at least not in ways I could readily see. And I worried that maybe I never would, that maybe this Christianity thing wasn’t working for me, or that something about me was irreparably broken. I didn’t understand the reason for my struggle or the process of growth. I didn’t realize that transformation takes time. A lot of time.

It takes time for worldviews to shift, for attitudes to change, and habits to be broken.

This spiritual forgetfulness causes me to lay unrealistic expectations on my precious sisters in Christ, and in the process I unknowingly speak condemnation. In my attitudes and my expectations I say, “You’re not doing this right. This faith-thing isn’t working for you. You’re irreparably broken or maybe too hard hearted for God’s grace to reign within you.”

When discussing sinful behavior displayed by others, I often hear, “Yes Jesus loved the sinner, but He told them to ‘Go and sin no more.’” And this is true; Christ never encouraged or applauded or condoned sin. But neither did He—nor does He—expect instant transformation. Nor do we have any idea what transpired in people’s lives days or even months after their encounters with Jesus.

Consider the woman at the well. You can find her story in John chapter 4. Though she has initiated a great deal of speculation, we don’t really know what her behavior had been prior to encountering Jesus. We do know, however, that she lived perpetually empty—because Christ offered to fill her. We know she wasn’t living as the radiant daughter He created her to be, because apart from Christ, we’re all living false versions of ourselves. We also know she had spent decades among other humans, navigating her way, without God, through a broken and sinful world. Therefore we know she behaved sinfully and harbored deceived thinking.

We all did, before God’s intervention. And we all do, on occasion, likely more often than we’d care to admit, even now.

Our thoughts, desires, and habits change, slowly but steadily, as we draw ever-closer to Christ and soak in Scripture (Romans 12:2).

As we “renew our minds” daily with truth, as we surrender to God’s Spirit within, He takes us from “glory to glory.” In other words, He molds us ever-increasingly into the likeness of His Son. This speaks of an ongoing progression, one I’m certain the Samaritan woman experienced, and needed to experience. By the time she met Jesus, she’d lived a lifetime apart from Him. She’d developed a particular way of perceiving, acting, and reacting. She might’ve been fowl mouthed, short-tempered, and addicted to men. Those parts of her, whatever her particular sins were, had become ingrained deep within. I suspect it took years, if not decades, for God to remove and redeem them.

At least, that was the case for me, and I’m still learning, growing, and changing.

Sometimes, I encounter people who remember me from five years ago or perhaps even one year ago, and they expect that woman today. But she’s gone. She’s been transformed. She has grown and she has experienced a new level of freedom. And a year from now, God willing, I’ll be dramatically different—more patient and loving and self-controlled—than I am today.

Some people recognize this, and they treat me as if that were true. In this, I find the freedom, courage, and the hope to keep growing. But others don’t get it, and when they treat me as if those things were not true, as If I haven’t grown, or perhaps can’t grow, I’m tempted toward shame and defeat.

How we treat others matters. I want to be one who speaks life. I want to recognize growth regardless of how big or how small, to celebrate it and call it out. I want to allow others to change, not holding past behaviors or attitudes against fall background with lantern and quote from postthem. I want to treat others with the same gentleness with which Christ treats me. I love the apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6. Speaking to relatively new believers living in Philippi, he said, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Paul was confident God would continue to grow the Philippian believers.

I want to live and love with that same confidence. I want to live recognizing that it is God who transforms, and that God always complete what He starts.

I’ll say it again: God always completes what He starts, in His way and His time, by the power of His Spirit working in all of us broken and sinful humans.

Let’s talk about this! When do you most find you struggle with unrealistic expectations, when it comes to your growth or the growth of others? How does God direct you during those times? Share your thoughts, stories, and questions with us in the comments below.

Speaking of grace, and God’s gift that came through Christ, you may also enjoy an article I recently wrote for iBelieve on all the symbolism and truth wrapped up in Christ’s birth and birthplace. You can read it HERE.

 

Other people’s sin, our lives, and God’s Sovereignty

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Where does man’s choice, most specifically, man’s sin, and God’s sovereignty, intersect? I suspect we’ve all wrestled with that question at some point. We understand that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, faithful, and true. We believe the One who formed the stars from nothing and set our world into motion can easily orchestrate the details of our lives.

But what about human choice? What about when our boss makes a foolish decision and the company goes bankrupt, or one person’s sin drastically impacts the life of another? We all watch the news, and if we’re honest, we wonder, Lord, where were You when that parent began abusing that child, or that shooter purchased that gun, or that drunk driver got behind the wheel of his car?

Though admittedly, the answers to such questions are much more complicated than my temporal, short-sighted mind quote pulled from text with sunset backgroundcould ever understand, I’m comforted with this: Today isn’t the end, and one day God will indeed turn all things to good.

Scripture reveals this again and again. Consider Sarai, later called Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Her story is told in Genesis chapters 12-23. God called her and her husband out of a pagan city-state and led them to what scholars refer to as the Promised Land. They followed,  obediently it seemed, until Abraham became scared—twice—and betrayed his wife—twice. She soon found herself in a helpless, terrifying situation.

But God came through. He saw her, He rescued her, and He ultimately penned a beautiful story through her.

Then there was the young Hebrew named Joseph, born three generations later. God called him out from among his brothers for an amazing God-ordained purpose—the saving of many lives. Only shortly after that call, the immature teen bragged about a series of dreams God gave him. His siblings became enraged, beat him, and sold him into slavery. And that wasn’t the worst he experienced. Later, while serving faithfully in a foreign land, his master’s wife hit on him, numerous times. Driven by integrity, he rebuffed her. She became incensed, accused him of assault, and had him thrown into prison.

But again, God came through. Not immediately, not even quickly, but in His perfect timing. At just the right time, actually. He orchestrated Joseph’s release and placed him in a position of leadership, just as Joseph’s dreams had predicted, decade’s prior.

I could go on, and perhaps you could too. Maybe like me, you could even share examples from your life—of times when others attempted to harm you but God ultimately turned the situation to good, like Romans 8:28 promised. That verse states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (NIV)

Notice Scripture didn’t say, “God will only allow that which is good.” Rather, it says, “He will turn to good …”

In other words, yes, God may very well let us experience some of our worst fears. But when we do, we can trust that those terrifying moments won’t last forever and that God will one day use them for good.

Quote pulled from post with sunrise backgroundThat is where our confidence rests—not in the circumstances of today but rather the promises of tomorrow when God will make all things right. This means we can trust, though life might hurt now, heaven is coming, and I believe when we’re standing on the other side of eternity, experiencing life as God intended it, we’ll deem every momentary struggle endured today not only worth it but insignificant in comparison to the paradise God held secure for us.

Let’s talk about this! Where do you place your confidence? Do you trust that God indeed holds your tomorrow? And if so, how does that trust impact your today? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Also, I realized a bit ago, I never gave a “deadline” for the book bundle giveaway! I will close the contest to new entries pictures of bookson Nov. 16th. Y’all can “vote” on your favorite entry between from Nov. 21st through Nov. 30th. I’ll announce the winner the first week of December–that way whomever wins can use the books as Christmas gifts, should they choose.

For more information or to enter, go HERE.

And if you haven’t done so, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s latest Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instragram. Check out her blog on Crosswalk HERE.