Each Day’s Troubles––Guest Post by Victoria Mejias

Fall lake image with quote on worry.

I struggle to remain focused on today, especially when I feel anxious. My mind can conjure too many what-if scenarios. Obviously all of my fretting doesn’t change whatever may lay ahead, but it does steal my energy and peace to handle my challenges well.

I so want to grow in this area, which is why I find my friend Victoria Mejias so inspiring. Whenever I encounter a woman of incredible faith, of consistent surrender, even during the hardest times, I pay attention. I watch, I listen, and I learn.

The devotion below is taken from a Bible plan written by Victoria for those struggling with chronic illness. Keep an eye out for her full Bible plan, releasing by Wholly Loved Ministries, soon!

Each Days Troubles

By Victoria Mejias

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34, NIV). 

“Day one: trouble eating, swallowing and severe fatigue. Day two: trouble walking and balance issues…” I wrote in my journal as my physician had instructed.

As if I don’t have enough physical ailments, I’m also highly allergic to the contrast used in diagnostic tests used to determine whether or not I’m experiencing a flare up of my chronic illness. So I’m left with taking copious notes and jotting down my symptoms on a daily basis.

Living with multiple sclerosis makes it difficult to plan ahead. As a single mom, I force myself to press on despite how I feel physically, mentally or emotionally. But my diagnosis isn’t just chronic, it’s progressive. Meaning my worst day in one week could be my best moving forward.

It’s exhausting and enough to drive anyone to despair. But I remind myself as I read the Apostle Matthew’s account of Christ’s words, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34, NIV). Upon reading that, I’m reminded not to be weighed down by any given day’s hardships. 

Imagine Christ, knowing full well the agony that awaited Him, saying not to worry. He embraced His fate, a barbaric crucifixion for our sake, being secure of His future. 

Chronic illness is real. Mine, in particular, is degenerative. One look at my journal would illustrate that. And still, I can remind myself not to worry. Not because tomorrow will be painless. Just the opposite, it’ll serve up its own special blend of trouble. 

But, it simply doesn’t compare to the glory we’ll experience on the other side of our physical suffering. And we can find comfort in knowing our eternity with Him awaits.

Get to Know Victoria!

Victoria Mejias serves on the Wholly Loved Ministry team in numerous capacities, from board member to writer. She’s a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Omaha and holds a Certificate in Urban Ministries from the Dallas Theological Seminary’s Urban Ministry Institute.

Victoria Mejias's headshot

She is a former Pastor and has spoken at a variety of venues on matters of leadership, diversity, spirituality and faith– locally, nationally and internationally. Victoria is the recipient of two U.S. Congressional awards for her service, has two children, loves the Lord and reaching the lost. She enjoys travel, arts and culture and speaks very openly about her journey with Multiple Sclerosis. To learn more about her, visit Victoria online at www.victoriaelizabeth.com.

Here more of Victoria’s story on episode four of my Faith Over Fear podcast, which you can find HERE.

Listen to the latest episode, A Prayer Challenge to Help You Fight Anxiety, here:

A Prayer Challenge to Help You Fight Anxiety Faith Over Fear

While pray may feel like a passive act, it’s actually one of our strongest weapons against anxiety and fear. Through prayer, we enlist the help of our Creator, connect with Christ on a deeper level, and actively experience His power and strength at work within us. In this episode, Jennifer explains the effectiveness of four key prayers and challenges listeners to a 30-day prayer challenge designed to strengthen their faith. Find Jennifer Slattery at: JenniferSlatteryLivesoutLoud https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find her ministry, Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Prayer focus: Week One: God’s glory Week Two: God’s love Week Three: The power of gratitude Week Four: Actively pray against fear Image Episode Credit: Getty/logolis
  1. A Prayer Challenge to Help You Fight Anxiety
  2. Raising Courageous Kids – Ep. 25
  3. Introducing: Thriving with Chronic Illness
  4. The Courage to Obey God – Ep. 24
  5. The Courage to Set Boundaries – Ep. 23

And, before you go, some fun news: Faith Over Fear will have three new hosts! My Wholly Loved sisters, Jodie Bailey, Shellie Arnold, and Tara Rye, will be joining me as cohosts, shifting the podcast under the Wholly Loved umbrella. More hosts mean more perspectives, more truth, and more fun! We’ll be launching, as a team, with a series we’re super excited about: Women of the Bible: Their challenges, hurts, what they might have feared, and how God met them with love and grace.

When Others React in Fear-Based Behaviors

Graphic with quote on grace

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that most of our negative encounters, conflicts, and relational barriers stem from fear. And in this, from a failure to accept, understand, and live in grace. When we mess up, think we have, or worry someone else determines we have, we tend to hide, to blame, to deflect, and point fingers. Many of us have come to recognize these unhealthy reactions in ourselves. But are we also able to see these tendencies in others?

We have a tendency to see the outward symptoms, but God zeroes in on the heart. We see the failings. God sees those too, but always with His eye set on each of our potential. You may have heard the sculptor analogy, may even have used it to comfort yourself.

Man chiseling stone

It says, in essence, that just as the artists sees his finished masterpiece in a slab of stone, once all the excess has been chipped away and rough edges sanded smooth, so too God sees His masterpiece hidden within our sin and brokenness. And like a careful craftsman, He slowly, gently, patiently molds us into men and women who more accurately reflect His Son.

But here’s the thing—we’re not the only ones He’s molding, and we’re not the only ones in need of grace. We’re not the only ones who need to be reminded that there indeed is grace.

My daughter often says, “Every painting has an ugly phase,” a phase, frankly, the artist never wants to display. Some may even bolt the doors to the studio, barring entrance until their work reaches a certain standard.

I suspect this is true for many of the people you and I encounter. They long to be fully known and fully loved. We all do. But they’re afraid of rejection. So, whenever someone begins to jiggle their doorknob or their unfinished pieces begin to show, they react. They lash out, withdraw, or both. Humans have exhibited this pattern of fear-based behavior since the beginning of time, since the very first humans committed their very first sin.

You might be familiar with this story preserved in Genesis 3. God gave Adam and Eve a clear and reasonable command. They could enjoy everything in the literal paradise God had created except for the fruit from a single tree. They disobeyed, despite the abundance, and immediately felt the weight of their sin. Shame entered their heart and caused them to hide, to deflect, and to blame. (Gen. 3:7-14) They felt exposed and immediately sought to cover their shame, to in effect plaster over their sin. But nothing they did could appease their guilt or remove their shame.

So, how did God respond?

He moved in. “Where are you?” He asked (v. 9), and not because He didn’t know. Rather, He was calling them out of hiding, into the light of His presence once more*. Then, verse 21 tells us, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” This was the first animal sacrifice in history, a vivid picture of Christ’s death to come. In other words, through this covering, God did for them what they couldn’t do for themselves; He covered them in grace.

The same grace He provided to you and I. A grace He wants us to not only experience but also put on full display.

Our God is still calling people out of hiding, and He longs to use us to do so. May He help us to see, respond to, and love others in the same way He loves us so that through us everyone we encounter may catch a glimpse of His life-changing grace.

*Idea taken from Tara Rye, a Wholly Loved Team Member, and her thoughts on this biblical account.

Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plan

As you prayerfully work through various relationships, you may find Wholly Loved’s 20 Days to Relational Health Bible plan helpful. Locate it HERE.

And for all of us parents, grandparents, guardians, aunts, and uncles, I encourage you to listen to my latest Faith Over Fear Podcast, titled Raising Courageous Kids. Because we all have a responsibility to love the next generation well.

A Prayer Challenge to Help You Fight Anxiety Faith Over Fear

While pray may feel like a passive act, it’s actually one of our strongest weapons against anxiety and fear. Through prayer, we enlist the help of our Creator, connect with Christ on a deeper level, and actively experience His power and strength at work within us. In this episode, Jennifer explains the effectiveness of four key prayers and challenges listeners to a 30-day prayer challenge designed to strengthen their faith. Find Jennifer Slattery at: JenniferSlatteryLivesoutLoud https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find her ministry, Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Prayer focus: Week One: God’s glory Week Two: God’s love Week Three: The power of gratitude Week Four: Actively pray against fear Image Episode Credit: Getty/logolis
  1. A Prayer Challenge to Help You Fight Anxiety
  2. Raising Courageous Kids – Ep. 25
  3. Introducing: Thriving with Chronic Illness
  4. The Courage to Obey God – Ep. 24
  5. The Courage to Set Boundaries – Ep. 23

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram! Find Wholly Loved Ministries HERE.

*Scripture taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

God-Led God-Empowered Prayers

Some battles are far too important, far too consequential, for us to ever attempt to fight them alone.

This has become clearer to me now more than ever. God recently called me to engage in a battle so far beyond me, where the opposition felt so fierce and unconquerable, I knew Christ was my only hope. Therefore, I’m seeking Him and His will like I never have before, and I’m refusing to fight alone. I’ve gathered a group of women, nearly 30 in fact, to engage in the most powerful way possible—on our knees. And we’re experiencing Christ in a way, frankly, I never have before.

woman praying

Something miraculous, completely mind-blowing, occurs when we come together, seek God’s heart, and diligently pray as He leads. He moves in powerful ways. In ways that remind us that He truly is our all-powerful, loving, sovereign faithful God.

And I’m wondering why I don’t pray more. The only conclusion I’ve come up with is that I tend to make far too much of myself—my wisdom and efforts—and far too little of God. Because if I truly believed everything I claimed, that He indeed is the God over all of history, who knows the best course of action for every situation and has the power to bring His hope-filled, life-giving will to pass, then prayer would be my first response. Always.

Prayer isn’t about us convincing God to act in a particular way. Effective prayer is about us surrendering our hearts to Christ and inviting Him to mold us so that like our Savior we’re able to say, “God, not my will but Yours be done.” When we do that, our prayers become strategic, and you and I become empowered warriors in the battle against darkness.

Consider this quote, from the anonymous author of the Kneeling Christian: “When Christ is all in all—when He is Savior and Lord and King of our whole being, then it is really He who prays our prayers.”

Lord, guide us. Move us. Empower us. Use us. We know this battle before us ultimately belongs to You, and we know You have already won. Help us to always walk as victors, with the confidence and assurance of knowing that we belong to the Lord of lords and King of kings. And help us to trust, to hold tight to faith, even if that means disregarding “sight” while we wait for Your victory to unfold. (Hebrews 11:1)

For those following my Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast, make sure to check out my latest episode with Wholly Loved team member Victoria Mejias on knowing when to rest and when to push through. You can listen here:

Episode 13: Knowing When to Push and When to Rest Thriving with Chronic Illness

Balancing our time and energy with chronic illness can feel challenging and confusing. If we never push through when feeling unwell, we’ll likely never accomplish anything. However, we can easily overdo things, stealing our “jelly beans” as Jennifer terms it, and thus leaving us too fatigued for our highest priority tasks or activities. In this episode, Jennifer Slattery speaks with her Wholly Loved Ministry partner Victoria Mejias on how Victoria manages her time, energy, and symptoms as a single mom with progressive multiple sclerosis. Find Victoria online at: https://www.VictoriaElizabeth.com Find Jennifer Slattery at: http://jenniferSlatteryLivesoutLoud https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte Find her and Victoria’s ministry at: http://whollyloved.com Additional Resources: Faith Over Fear: Living with a Limp: https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/episode-4-the-courage-to-live-with-a-limp-embracing-our-weakness Faith Over Fear: The Courage to Have Hard Conversations: https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/the-courage-to-have-hard-conversations-ep-18 Group Discussion Questions: 1. How unpredictable are your symptoms? 2. What are some ways you can leave margin for unexpected difficult days? 3. How accurately does your schedule mirror your priorities? 4. What most challenges your ability to “push through” difficult days when necessary? 5. What most challenges your ability to rest when necessary? 6. In what ways do you struggle with guilt related to your limitations or necessary boundaries? 7. What lies are tied to your guilt? 8. What truths regarding Christ, His plans and power, and who you are in Him, can speak to your guilt? 9. What other fears are tied to your limitations or necessary boundaries? 10. What truths regarding Christ, His power and plans, and your identity in Him, can speak to those fears? 11. Is there anything God might be asking you to do in relation to what you take on and what you release? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Biscotto87
  1. Episode 13: Knowing When to Push and When to Rest
  2. Episode 12: How Chronic Illness Can Deepen Our Intimacy with Christ
  3. Episode 11: Thriving with Chronic Illness in Marriage
  4. Episode 10: Growing Intentionally Instead of Giving Up
  5. Episode 9: Pursuing Health in Our Relationships

You can check out my latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode on Finding the Courage to Obey here:

A Prayer Challenge to Help You Fight Anxiety Faith Over Fear

While pray may feel like a passive act, it’s actually one of our strongest weapons against anxiety and fear. Through prayer, we enlist the help of our Creator, connect with Christ on a deeper level, and actively experience His power and strength at work within us. In this episode, Jennifer explains the effectiveness of four key prayers and challenges listeners to a 30-day prayer challenge designed to strengthen their faith. Find Jennifer Slattery at: JenniferSlatteryLivesoutLoud https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find her ministry, Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Prayer focus: Week One: God’s glory Week Two: God’s love Week Three: The power of gratitude Week Four: Actively pray against fear Image Episode Credit: Getty/logolis
  1. A Prayer Challenge to Help You Fight Anxiety
  2. Raising Courageous Kids – Ep. 25
  3. Introducing: Thriving with Chronic Illness
  4. The Courage to Obey God – Ep. 24
  5. The Courage to Set Boundaries – Ep. 23

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram! Find Wholly Loved Ministries HERE.

Fun News Shared Here First

Image of a question mark

Can you guess what my news is?

I don’t want to raise expectations too high. For some of you, this might not seem all that exciting. Before I go too far, I should probably respond to all the guesses y’all made on Facebook.

No, I’m not a grandmother (unless my grand-dogs count, and they totally should!). Yes, I am going on a trip, but that’s not the fun news.

Violin lessons? Um, I’m tone deaf and musically challenged, though that won’t stop me from belting out praise songs when the mood hits. Earning a theology degree? That would be interesting. I’ve long fiddled with the idea of getting my master’s. But no, that’s not it. Leading my own ministry? Sort of, although Wholly Loved isn’t “mine” per say. Praise God we have an amazing team of nearly thirty talented and Christ-led individuals passionate about helping women experience freedom. But while that’s a praise, that’s not my news. 🙂

About a month ago, I decided we’d find a fun way to celebrate once I reached the ten book mark–the tenth traditionally published book. At the time, I had 8 traditionally published books (and others that I had published myself). I assumed my tenth contract would coincide with my 50th birthday, which I also planned to celebrate–preferably by going on a trip with family.

But then …

I received an email from my agent. My publisher offered me my first two book contract. This means I’ve hit the ten book mark! So that feels fun.

Celebrate with me?

Oh, and before I go, I should probably mention, LifeAudio.com dropped another Faith Over Fear Podcast episode. This one was on one of my favorite topics, or at least, one I’m coming to believe is of utmost importance in so many areas: Having the Courage to Set Boundaries. You can listen here:

A Prayer Challenge to Help You Fight Anxiety Faith Over Fear

While pray may feel like a passive act, it’s actually one of our strongest weapons against anxiety and fear. Through prayer, we enlist the help of our Creator, connect with Christ on a deeper level, and actively experience His power and strength at work within us. In this episode, Jennifer explains the effectiveness of four key prayers and challenges listeners to a 30-day prayer challenge designed to strengthen their faith. Find Jennifer Slattery at: JenniferSlatteryLivesoutLoud https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find her ministry, Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Prayer focus: Week One: God’s glory Week Two: God’s love Week Three: The power of gratitude Week Four: Actively pray against fear Image Episode Credit: Getty/logolis
  1. A Prayer Challenge to Help You Fight Anxiety
  2. Raising Courageous Kids – Ep. 25
  3. Introducing: Thriving with Chronic Illness
  4. The Courage to Obey God – Ep. 24
  5. The Courage to Set Boundaries – Ep. 23

Is there a fear related topic you wish I’d cover? If so, let me know!

When Hurts Come––Guard Your Inner Spark

woman sitting on park benchThe heart is a fragile yet powerful organ. Nurture and feed it well, and life and health follows. When we neglect it, allow hurts to sink deep and then fester, bitterness begins to invade every crevice, strangling our joy and peace. That’s not to say we should ignore, suppress, or deny our hurts. In fact, I’d argue doing so only leads to decay. Somehow, we have to learn to feel and to heal. To grieve with Jesus.

And perhaps that’s the difference between those who manage to move forward and those who seem to remain forever stuck, not just in their wounds, but in all the byproducts that come from unresolved, and often fed, past hurts.

A while back, after a powerful women’s event that proclaimed the freedom of forgiveness, of emotional release, I talked to a woman who’s been struggling for years. Maybe ten. Someone in her past hurt her deeply. They betrayed her trust, had abandoned her, and treated her unjustly. She had every right to be angry, and she was.

For nearly a decade, in fact. And her anger was destroying her, imprisoning her, only it didn’t show up as anger. Instead, those deep wounds presented as anxiety and chaos, as depression, sorrow and distrust. We spoke about this briefly, and I encouraged her to grieve with Jesus, following His lead in full surrender. But she couldn’t.

No. She wouldn’t. Her injustice felt much too unjust for her to just let go. I suppose she thought releasing the offense would simultaneously absolve her offender of guilt. She couldn’t see how she was allowing him to hurt her all over again, continuously.

She was letting him snuff out her candle. Her inner spark. What made her her. As a result, she was walking through life not only weakened, but many times, already defeated. And in this, she was robbing herself of the life Christ had died to give her.

Consider the converse. A couple of years ago, a friend called me. “Pray for my heart,” she said, explaining how she’d been wounded pretty deeply. She didn’t tell me how or offer a name, nor did she need to. Instead, she asked me to surround her candle, her inner spark, with prayer. She grieved the hurt, absolutely. But because she invited Jesus into her pain, bitterness never took root.

I’ve heard it said, anger is often a secondary emotion, arising, most often, when we’re afraid or have been hurt. It’s so easy to bypass the hurt, which can make us feel woman lying on leaf-covered groundweak, and jump straight to the anger, which often gives the illusion of strength. But Scripture tells us, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah.  Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:4-5, ESV).

Before we react, God tells us to pause. To ponder. And to trust.

Dr. Allender and Longman, authors of the Cry of the Soul, put it this way: “Anger should lead us into silent pondering rather than direct action. Usually, anger is a starting gun that signals us to leap from the blocks to control, consume, destroy. Instead, anger should be a starting gun that calls us to sit down and think.”

What hurts lie beneath our anger?

Why do those hurts hurt so deeply?

What lies have we attached to them? We almost always do this. We’re not simply hurt because someone snubs us. No. The hurt often comes when we assign motive—“They don’t value me.”—and then a falsehood—”I’m annoying.”

Pause to prayerfully consider how that’s been true for you. Invite God to unpack your anger, your hurts, to show you everything entangled in them. Then ask Him to replace every falsehood He reveals with truth.

This is how, in part, we guard our hearts above all else, so that the well springs of life might first fill them then flow from them.

Is there something you need to grieve? An offense you need to let go? Will you have the courage to release it? Will you guard your candle, your inner spark, knowing all God has for you is good?

If this post resonated, I encourage you to read my latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode with Leigh Mackenzie on finding the courage to heal. You can listen to our discussion HERE.

Share your thoughts, stories, and comments below and connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

I also encourage you to listen to my latest Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast episode on growing closer to Christ. Find it HERE.

Trusting God’s Timing

In my rush to “fix things” I have landed in numerous messes. This is especially true when I’m feeling anxious about something. Then every moment feels like an hour and every hour like a day. Have you been there?

During Bible study or small group discussion, I can talk quite confidently about how God’s timing and ways are best. But then, something happens, something frightening or uncomfortable, and I’m tempted to sort of rush things along, if not shove the situation in whatever direction I feel best.

In those moments, I act as if I have perfect wisdom for that situation. And in my waiting, in the unknown, doubts begin to arise, whispering, “What if God doesn’t come through this time?”

Do you ever do that? In your moment of uncertainty, in the uncomfortable unknowns, do you ever wonder if God truly will help? If His plans, be they for you or for someone you love, truly will be hope-filled? And when dealing with big hurts, big fears, if you or they will be able to survive the wait.

When I find myself in that place, I like to remember historical examples of when the miracle occurred at the moment when all seemed lost. Consider the story of Esther. You might be familiar with it. A murderously jealous man named Haman tricked Persia’s ruler into ordering the destruction of all the Jews. An entire nation of people, who, quit frankly, had little recourse or hope of aid. Haman was evil, conniving, and powerful, a dangerous combination. Who could possibly stand against such a man?

The same God who can stand against the evil that assaults us each day, for as Romans 8:31 states, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (NIV). The only logical answer? No one. That’s true now, and it was true back in Esther’s day as well. No matter how bleak things seemed or how silent God seemed, He remained in full control, quietly yet decisively working behind the scenes through a seemingly unconnected yet frustrated occurrence––insomnia.

Haman went to bed that night thinking for sure his plan was as good and carried out. But while he retired with dreams of malice, the king remained awake. Perhaps hoping to lull his brain with details, “he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles, and they were read before the king.” And he learned, the man who, albeit unknown to him, Haman was so intent on killing, had acted as a national hero. Mordecai, the hero who chose to trust God even when circumstances must’ve felt so bleak, was elevated and honored, while Haman, the “destroyer” was destroyed.

This is much more than an inspiring story. It’s a revelation of who God is at His core. He sees us, even when we feel unseen. He hears us, when we feel we have no voice. And He is always, always working on our behalf, for our good and His glory. Our Haman’s will change, as will the threats they pose, but praise God, He never will.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NIV).

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

If you’re struggling to remain confident, trusting, amid all the uncertainty this year has brought, I encourage you to listen to my two latest Faith Over Fear Podcast episodes:

Finding Courage in Financial Uncertainty

and

Finding the Courage to Wait

If you or a loved one struggle with chronic illness, I also invite you to listen to my latest Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast titled Thriving With Chronic Illness in Marriage.

Finding God Amid Our Uncertainty

bridge picture with Proverbs 2:7-8

Imagine having deep, soul-quieting peace, regardless of the circumstance. Imagine being so rooted in Christ and His will, every step on a foggy and unclear path felt certain. Imagine experiencing deep peace even in the middle of great uncertainty. I’m convinced this is where God wants to take us, and He does so, primarily, by drawing us closer to Him.

Proverbs 2:6-11 puts it this way:

For the Lord gives wisdom;
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for He guards the course of the just
and protects the way of His faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.

This passage assures us of a few things. First, while we can gain insight from a myriad of places—books, teachers, friends—all wisdom comes from one place: God. Most of us recognize this intellectually, but do we live this practically? When uncertainty arises, where do we go first? Our friend, spouse, or trusted spiritual leader, or to Christ? And what voice do we give most weight to? What’s more, what voice do we most have the courage to wait on?

That’s what I find most challenging. I’m quick to seek God’s guidance, but can lose footing in the waiting. Life can feel so urgent. I fear, if I don’t act now, I’ll miss an opportunity or the situation will implode beyond repair. But this type of thinking demonstrates I’ve lost sight of a few things, such as the fact that God is so much bigger than me, that His love is greater than my mistakes and ability to understand Him, and that He will, always, guide me toward His very best.

That’s the second assurance this passage in Proverbs provides. The Lord truly does give us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. He’s not stingy. If His desire is that you and I remain in step with Him, will He not give us whatever we need in order to do so? But this wisdom doesn’t come from periodic and impersonal downloads as we’re frantically running about. It comes as we live in relationship with Christ. Day by day, as we read Scripture and closer to Him, He begins to transform our thinking and desires, pouring His wisdom into our hearts.

Finally, this Proverbs passage reminds us of God’s grace as He lovingly leads us toward His very best. As we wait for this transformation to occur, for truth to replace our areas of deception and wisdom our folly, we can trust this: Our God is a good, good Father who doesn’t treat us as our sins and stupid errors deserve. Instead, He gently, persistently nudges us along the way. Scripture makes two truths clear: God has a plan for us and has taken full responsibility of that plan.

Oh, we can rebel against it. We can seek out our plans over God’s, and rob ourselves of the peace, fulfillment, and joy our souls were created for.

But if we’re honestly trying to honor Christ, we can trust Him to direct our steps and protect our way. In the meantime, we keep woman on beach with text from poststepping, with our eyes on Him, maintaining a heart of surrender, prioritizing our relationship with Him above all. Knowing He’s with us, going before us, standing beside us and behind us. He encompasses us in His love, and His love, when received to the depths of our soul, truly does have the power to cast out all fear, fear of the unknown included.

Let’s talk about this! Pause to consider your journey thus far. Review where you’ve been and all the steps, some that perhaps, in hindsight proved vital, though you were unaware of their impact at the time? If you’re in a period of uncertainty now, what truths regarding who God is and what He’s promised can help you find peace? And perhaps most importantly, what is one thing you can do this week to grow closer to the God who knows you, loves you, and has an amazing, hope-filled plan for you?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If today’s post resonated with you, I encourage you to listen to my Faith Over Fear podcast episode titled the Courage to Face Uncertainty. You can find it HERE.

If you’re in a place of waiting, I encourage you to listen to my Faith Over Fear episode titled: The courage to Wait. You can find it HERE.

Before you go, and especially for those currently navigating challenging relationships, I encourage you to watch my latest iBelieve video devotion. You can find it HERE.

For those struggling with the pain and fatigue of chronic illness, I encourage you to read my latest Crosswalk on finding joy amid chronic illness HERE.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Growing Through the Hard Stuff––Guest Post by Jessica Brodie

Text graphic on the goodness of God

Imagine if we could all orchestrate life precisely as we desired. I’m certain most of us would seek out a pleasant, serene, and problem free existence. But would we also appreciate the immaturity that would necessary follow? While this isn’t my favorite truth in Scripture, I’ve discovered my greatest growth often comes during my most challenging times. This has been my guest’s experience as well.

Growing Through Hardship

By Jessica Brodie

Have you ever experienced a season in your life you thought would never end?

My struggle with infertility felt like it took forever. When I found out it was probably because my cycles were a little “off,” I thought, “No big deal. I’ll just take a pill, get back on track hormonally, and I’ll be pregnant in no time.”

Except I wasn’t.

Next I had minor surgery to scan my insides and make sure there wasn’t something else amiss. Two tiny scars and a lot of worries later, and that too was checked off the list—no problem there. It just boiled down to wonky hormonal imbalances. That and time.

Oh, time—the hardest struggle of all.

As the days passed, my obsession with my fertility only increased. Would it happen this month? How about this month? Surely, now…

Nope. Nothing. Two, then three friends had babies.

I began to realize pregnancy might never happen for me. I had to figure out a way to reconcile with that without it killing my soul. Finally, I surrendered to the truth—God had a plan for my life, and if it didn’t include birthing children, I’d adopt or figure out some other way to be a mom. Either way, I learned to embrace the hardship. I found joy in the center of my pain.

Long walks turned into meditative moments with God, and I realized, one way or the other, everything was going to be OK.

Later, I did get pregnant. Now I have two kids and two step kids, ages 11, 12, 13 and 14, and I look back on that time and see what I couldn’t see then: that trial was a testing period in my life. It was a struggle that taught me to rely on God, to trust His plan for my life, and to surrender my own desires for whatever mysteries He had in store for me.

It wasn’t easy. That time produced a bucket of tears and a lot of anguished nights. But the experience strengthened me as a woman of Quote pulled from post on gradiant blue backgroundGod. It helped me cultivate soul-survival skills I didn’t know I possessed.

The apostle James write that we should consider it “joy” whenever we face trials. As he says, “You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

Because I learned to persevere in my faith even through difficulties and disappointments, I grew as a woman. I matured and ripened. It prepared me for even harder struggles I experienced later, including divorce and poverty. And it helped me blossom as a daughter of God, ready and willing to shove my own wishes aside to truly embrace whatever it is He has planned.

Hardship usually isn’t fun. But looking back on previous difficulties shows me God’s hand in a perspective I didn’t see at the time. I’m grateful for the hard times, for they’ve made me to woman of faith I am today. And I don’t fear the hardships ahead of me.

For as the apostle Paul declares, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).

If this post encouraged you, make sure to listen to Jennifer Slattery’s Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast episode on living our our calling even amid great challenges. You can find that HERE.

You might also enjoy her episodes on depression (found HERE) and anger (found HERE).

Get to Know Jessica!

Jessica is an award-winning journalist and author with thousands of articles to her name. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, which has won 104 journalism awards during her tenure. She is author of More Like Jesus: A Devotional Journey (2018) and editor of Stories of Racial Awakening: Narratives on Changed Hearts and Lives of South Carolina United Methodists (2018), both from her newspaper’s the Advocate Press. She also writes fiction, represented by Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency, and her novel The Memory Garden won the 2018 Genesis contest for unpublished contemporary fiction from the American Christian Fiction Writers. A speaker and frequent contributor to Response magazine and the United Methodist News Service, among many other publications, she has a faith blog at JessicaBrodie.com. Subscribe to Jessica’s YouTube channel HERE.

If you’re looking for additional support, Jennifer and Jessica invite you to join Wholly Loved Ministries private Facebook group––a place where women can receive support, encouragement, prayer, and celebrate their praises within one another. Find us HERE.

 

Five Statements Conflict Avoidance Make

Angry coupleOur response to conflict can either lead to healing and deeper connections or ugliness. I’ve experienced both. Honestly, I’ve caused both. I’ve had times where fear motivated me to remain quiet when I knew God was calling me to speak. I’ve also blurted way too many statements I came to regret, many times moments after I opened my mouth. And I’ve watched God bring about incredible health––in marriages and families, ministries, churches, and communities––through Christ-centered, honest, but difficult conversations.

Whenever we separate truth and love, dysfunction and distrust grow. Plus, we miss a huge opportunity to advance Christ’s message of reconciliation. According to Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert the reconcilation Christ offers “means putting things back into their right relationship again.[1]” Speaking on God’s desires, the authors remind us, in every interaction, “the goal is to restore people to a full expression of humanness, to being what God created us all to be, people who glorify God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.”

This is, in part, what it means to act as a peacemaker––someone who actively brings shalom into every interaction. Our Christ-centered interactions also provide tangible examples of our love, commitment, and trust.

When, in our aversion to conflict, we choose self-protection over relational health, our actions speak in ways we likely didn’t intend.

Here are 5 statements conflict avoidance makes:

1. I don’t trust you.

When our fear hinders our communication, we’re in essence demonstrating our lack of trust in the other person. We either don’t trust the relationship to withstand the discussion or we don’t trust the other person to respond well. If this is the case, perhaps the best place to start is with honesty. For example, we could say, “I greatly value our relationship, and I have a fear that I might say something to jeopardize that.” Then see how the person responds.

2. I don’t truly value this relationship.

Unresolved issues tend to lead to bitterness and frustration, which in turn harm our friendships, often more than if we’d had the courage to initiate a difficult conversation.

3. I love myself more than you.

When I shy away from uncomfortable discussions, especially those involving someone else’s behavior, I woman sitting in windowwant to believe I’m doing so out of love for the other person. But most often, self-love is to blame. True, Christ-centered love says, “I’m going to seek your best, even if that upsets you or causes you to leave. I love you enough to risk making you angry.”

4. I choose comfort over your and my long term growth.

I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and I don’t always handle challenging conversations well. As a result, I’d much prefer to ignore problems when they arise. But God calls me to love with courage and self-sacrifice. If Jesus, my role model, Savior, and Lord, willingly incurred horrific abuse to bring me freedom and spiritual health and wholeness, then I can embrace personal discomfort, awkwardness, and weakness to love you well.

5. I don’t trust Jesus to actively heal and deepen our relationship.

We all make mistakes. We react in ways we wish we hadn’t and say things we should’ve never voiced. Some situations leave us confused, and in our confusion, we can feel paralyzed. What should we say, how should we say it, and when? When we remain in that confused state, we’re in essence saying we don’t believe Jesus can fill in our gaps and redeem our regrets. We’re saying we don’t believe He remains sovereign over the hearts of man.

Thankfully, we don’t have to handle anything, relational conflict included, on our own. The Holy Spirit lives in us, stirring us to speak as He directs. In everything, He leads all of His children to increased health and freedom.

[1]Corbett, Steve. Fikkert, Brian. “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.” (2009) Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers

If this is an area you struggle with, or simply want to grow in, listen to my latest podcast episode called the Courage to Have Hard Conversations.

You might find this article helpful also: “7 Things You Need to Know When Talking to Difficult People.”

When Life Challenges Our Productivity and Peace

image of a woman under stressWhy is it, the times we most need energy, we tend to feel most fatigued? Or those days, when our increased, perhaps even “urgent” responsibilities necessitate efficiency, all becomes chaotic?

Is that ever true for you? Do you ever live in that tension of what you “must do” tempered by what you feel you can?

I suspect that’s everyone, during this C19 change where people juggle their workload with home educating and chasing little ones determined to pop into every Zoom meeting. This year has challenged, and perhaps for some of you, obliterated, any sense of predictability and control.

How do you respond to those periods? Do you try harder? Fill your mind and heart with guilt and condemnation regarding all you could’ve-should’ve done? Or do you choose to rest in grace?

We cannot simultaneously feed our self-defeating thoughts and live in Christ’s grace.

I’ve had to remind myself of this a lot lately. I’ve had to remind myself of who I am and who Christ is.

I am a deeply loved, completely accepted, and irrevocably called child of God.

And He is the one who loves me, who died to unite my soul with His, and who is, even now, on my hardest and most chaotic days, equipping and empowering me to do all He’s assigned.

I find great comfort in knowing God’s plans for me are so much greater than me. This has been a rough couple of months, with a consistently spiked pain level that keeps me up late into the night and often wakes me once I’ve finally crashed. As a result, sleep deprivation continually steals my focus and productivity. In the past, when a flare lasted days, or even weeks, I’ve managed to make up for time lost easily enough. Whereas once, these difficult moments used to lead to feelings of defeat and discouragement, now I hardly give them a passing thought. I simply view them as a temporary unexpected challenge I know will soon pass.

But lately, as my body’s rebellion continues, now into month three, the fight I thought I’d won, permanently has resurfaced, inviting me to anchor myself, ever-deeper in God’s sovereign grace. A grace that says I don’t have to perform or achieve. That assures me, while God will indeed use me, He doesn’t in fact need me. He invites me to serve Him not so that I can impress Him or in an effort to please Him, but rather to experience Him more fully. So that I can learn to yield more fully to Him and His Spirit stirring within.

What’s more, He knew precisely what every flare would look like and how long it would last—and He’s already worked out all the details. Woman sitting outsideHe fashioned my days, knowing where I’d be, in this moment. I have everything I need in Christ to do all He asks. Scripture promises: “His divine power has given [me] everything [I] need for a godly life through [my] knowledge of Him who called [me] by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).

I’m quieting my “inner enneagram 8” with this reminder: God will give me the strength, power, and perseverance to do all that He asks.

Even if, for today, that means setting my to-do list for a much-needed nap.

While you might not suffer from chronic illness, I suspect your daily struggles can easily challenge your sense of peace. I imagine there have been times when you’ve wrestled with feels of inadequacy, with a pressure to do or be more. If so, will you join me in leaning deeper into God’s grace, knowing, “[God’s] eyes saw [our] unformed body; all the days ordained for [us] were written in [His] book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16, NIV).

logo image for chronic illness podcastIf you do struggle with chronic illness, I encourage you to listen to my latest podcast episode where I discuss issues, questions, and emotions that arise when God doesn’t heal. You can listen HERE.

And, if you’re trying to juggle work demands with unexpected home educating, make sure to listen to my latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode with homeschool expert Jennifer Henn, titled: Courage to Face a Difficult School Year. Find it HERE.