How God Speaks: When We Seek His Heart

We all want to hear from God. At least, many of us do. We want that special revelation, to receive that call, or perhaps the answer to that problem or decision we’ve been wrestling over. I’ve been in that place so many times, and I’m certain I’ll land there again. But while God indeed wants us to continually seek His guidance, His desire for us go so much deeper.

He wants our hearts. He wants us. All of us. And He wants us to want Him—more than His answers or solutions. When I’m in that place of wrestling, I have to ask myself, what do I want more? That “special word” from God or God to connect with God Himself?

And here’s what’s beautiful. When I seek God’s presence above all else, His guidance follows. In fact, His guidance becomes a part of me as He gently yet consistently molds my heart and will and transforms my thinking.

I hear Him most clearly when I lose myself in Him and make Him and Him alone my prize. What a tender, loving, and faithful Father He is! He draws me to Himself, invites me to worship, and then, in this context of love—love from Him to me and me to Him—He speaks. And in that moment of divine intimacy, all confusion, angst, and anxiety flee as confidence and courage well within.

He inspires me to do His will and empowers me for whatever’s ahead. This has always been His way.

The apostle Paul, perhaps the most effective and empowered missionary of all time, is a great example of this. You can read about his history and journeys in the book of Acts, but to paraphrase, while he was vehemently seeking to persecute God’s children, Christ intervened, transformed him, and ignited within him a new, life-giving passion to share the gospel.

That’s God’s call for all of us—to proclaim the power and reality of grace. But we each also have a more unique, more defined call as well, perhaps to mentor youth or write encouraging letters to shut-ins or teach Bible studies to young moms.

Some of you may have discovered how God wants to use you in this season, but perhaps you’re not quite certain. Maybe you’re in a period of waiting and God seems silent, and so you’re asking, maybe even begging, for Him to reveal your next steps. I get it. Those “blurry” periods can be difficult and painful, and in the waiting, we might be tempted to seek God’s call more than we seek Him—forgetting that He alone is the source of all that is good and hope-filled, fulfilling, and true. Forgetting that He is faithful to give us all we need, answers included, when we need it.

There’s a sense of rest, and power, displayed by those who get that, who’ve learned to consistently quiet themselves in God’s presence,  and to seek His presence above all. Paul exemplified this. “For me to live is Christ,” he wrote, “and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21, NIV). It was from that sense of devotion, of connection, that he received his unique, history-changing call to share Christ with the Gentiles. Acts 13:2 tells us while the prophets and teachers at Antioch “were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them” (NLT).

In the middle of worship, God spoke.

That’s often how He interacts with us as well, because while, yes, He longs to guide us, He longs for us more.

There’s a sense of rest, and power, displayed by those who get that, who’ve learned to consistently quiet themselves in God’s presence, and to seek His presence above all. Paul exemplified this. “For me to live is Christ,” he wrote, “and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21, NIV). It was from that sense of devotion, of connection, that he received his unique, history-changing call to share Christ with the Gentiles. Acts 13:2 tells us while the prophets and teachers at Antioch “were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” (NIV).

In the middle of worship, God spoke.

That’s often how He interacts with us as well, because while, yes, He longs to guide us, He longs for us more.

Let’s talk about this! How do you connect with God? When do you tend to feel closest to Him? What are some ways you intentionally cultivate a relationship with Christ?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Tell us how He’s brought you freedom, or what freedom means to you, and get entered to win an awesome prize bundle. Find out more HERE. And make sure to check out my latest Faith Over Fear podcast, The Courage to Draw Near to God. You can listen HERE.

Book discussion inviteI’d also love if you’d join me for an online book discussion on maria Furlough’s Breaking Free From Fear. Contact me HERE for more information.

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

No More Leftovers: A Gift For My God by Guest Blogger Jessica Brodie

quote from Keller with woman gazing toward sunset

Our trust in God is often most clearly seen in our checkbook. Our finances are also often the hardest areas to surrender, because we’re apt tie our sense of security to our paycheck more than we do to our Lord. At least, that’s my tendency. Unless I regularly guard against this, I can easily make our savings account my god, but like so many other idols I’ve clung to at various periods in my life, those crisp little green bills make lofty but empty promises.

As I read my guest’s post last night, I thought back twenty-some years ago to all the financial struggles my husband and I used to have, all the tension and stress and conflict that seemed to plague our home, back when we bowed to the almighty dollar.

No more leftovers: A gift for my God

By Jessica Brodie

I used to be that girl who’d slip a dollar, maybe a five if I were feeling flush, into the collection plate at church and feel just fine.

“God doesn’t need my money. He’s God. He’s ‘above’ such things,” I’d tell myself. Besides, I was a broke college student, or later, just scraping by in the workforce. Tithing was an Old Testament concept, or something only wealthy people did… or so I thought.

Much later, I came to understand tithing was for me—a way to honor God, to acknowledge Him tangibly as Lord over my life, to know that everything in my life (including my bank balance!) belongs to Him and I am merely His manager, His overseer. Twice a month, I forced myself to allocate ten percent of my paycheck to God’s tithe. Soon it became a habit, and eventually a joy. Some months, when finances were tight, I’d hold off on my tithe until I’d paid all my other bills, or I’d double up and pay it all the next pay period. But it always got paid.

I was feeling proud of myself… until this morning, when I was reading the Bible.

In the Book of Nehemiah, the Israelites had recently returned from exile to Jerusalem and had just learned through the Instruction Scrolls all the ways they’d disobeyed God’s Laws. Feeling horribly guilty about their behavior, they made a covenant with God to follow His commands, include pledging not to let their children intermarry with other faiths and to keep the “sabbath year,” which meant forgiving all debts and letting the land rest from crops every seventh year.

They also pledged to give toward the upkeep of God’s house—not just with what was left over, but with their “firstfruits,” the best and initial results of whatever it was they could offer:

  • “…the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree…” (Nehemiah 10:35 NIV);
  • “… the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks…” (36); and
  • “… the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil…” (37a).

The point hit hard within me: These Israelites pledged to bring the first, the best—not the leftover.

And that was what I needed to do, too.

Ouch.

See, the Israelites had gotten off track in obedience. Some of this wasn’t necessarily their “fault,” for their parents hadn’t taught them these things, and no one in their life remembered God’s rules because His commandments were all hidden away.

They’d forgotten or never understood what God had commanded His people way back in the wilderness: “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God” (Exodus 23:19a NIV) and “When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest” (Leviticus 23:10 NIV).

But when they learned all those years later what God had asked of them, they wanted to do right. They wanted to honor God with their very best.

What I was doing—making sure God “got paid” His tithe—was behaving as though my tithe was a bill and not a sacrificial offering. And that was not the point. My tithe is not a bill. It’s a gift and an honor.

Just like the Israelites, I was off-track in my own obedience. And now that I understood this, I needed to make things right.

This morning, as I write this, happens to be payday. Yesterday, I’d planned to postpone my tithe until Sunday, after my fridge was restocked and my other bills paid. But now I know what I need to do.

Before anything else, I need to give over my firstfruits to God. And for me, that means heading to my church’s website and paying my tithe online, so it can go right away to all the ministries and mission work God is doing through His people and His church.

It’s a simple distinction in my life, but it’s important. It says “God comes first,” both literally and figuratively.

After that, I can hit the grocery store. For I know He will provide. He always does.

It’s an honor to kneel before my Lord, whether at His altar or online, and offer Him what I can.

Get to Know Jessica!

Jessica Brodie's headshotJessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com. Connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.

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If this  post hit your insecurities, now with everything related to the C!9 virus especially, you might find my latest article on Crosswalk discussing wise financial choices we can make today to help us weather whatever comes well. Read it HERE.

And make sure to listen to my latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode on living deeper anchored in grace––especially when we feel we’ve messed up. Find it HERE.

Plus, I’d love to connect with you tonight on Zoom or Facebook for a Book discussion invitegreat discussion on Maria Furlough’s Breaking the Fear Cycle. As an added bonus, she’ll be join us via Zoom for our last week’s discussion! Find the zoom meeting join link HERE.

 

Hiding in the Shelter of God’s Wings Until the Danger Passes

 

hiding in God

What happens when life pummels us from every side, relentlessly? When the dangers seem much larger than we can bear? We hide ourselves deep within Our Father’s embrace. We hide ourselves in the shelter of His wings.

A couple Sundays ago, my daughter was in a car wreck. She called us in tears, and the minutes seemed to tick by so slowly as my husband, her fiancé, and I drove to the crash site. Though my head told me she was fine—she’d been able to call us, after all—my heart worried. I needed to see her for myself; I needed to hold her close, if only to comfort her.

When we got there, our fear immediately turned to praise. Though she’d totaled her car, she was fine. Shaken, but fine. God had sheltered her in His wings—as she had done for her dog, who was riding with her.

Apparently, her reaction was instinctual and instant. Her brain hadn’t even fully registered what was going on, but as another car smashed into her front driver’s side, she folded her body over her dog to ensure its safety. She covered sweet Misha with herself, cushioning her in the most protective position possible.

Honestly, when I first learned this, I became frustrated. I adore her little dog, but my daughter had placed herself in danger by bending forward. But then God reminded me that she wasn’t completely exposed nor was she helpless. She also had been tucked within the protective embrace of the One bigger and stronger than her and the force of metal against metal.

That same morning, this is what I’d read, written by Israel’s second king, a man named David:

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I will look to You for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes” (Psalm 57:1, NLT).

Pause and consider the imagery presented by this verse. Picture the wingspan of an adult eagle, stretching the length of a man. Perched high in a tree and hid deep within its mother’s wings, that eaglet can rest in peace, knowing it is safe and well cared for.

Scripture demonstrates this is how God cares for us.

Perhaps you’re praying as David did so long ago, “Hide me in Your wings, Lord. Keep me safe until the danger passes.”

To which He responds, “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13, Verse imageNIV).

So what does that look like, hiding ourselves in our Savior?

First, we trust. We recognize that this is indeed our current position. We are held by God. He is our Protector and strong tower.

Second, we come away whenever we need and as often as we need to connect with Him. When we spend time with Him, He expels all that threatens to defeat us, to make us cower, with His love and truth.

Let’s talk about this! In what ways do you intentionally hide yourself in Christ when you’re anxious or afraid?

You might also enjoy:

Five Ways Fear Lies to Us

And check out Jennifer’s latest podcast episode, Overcoming Fear of Failure, HERE.

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram and find her ministry, Wholly Loved, HERE.

Book discussion inviteMake sure to join her on Thursday evenings, starting April 23rd, for a faith-building book discussion aimed at helping us conquer our anxieties. Contact her HERE for more info! And as an added bonus, you’ll get to “meet” the author! Maria Furlough, author of Breaking the Fear Cycle, will be joining Jennifer via Zoom, which she’ll live stream to Wholly Loved Ministries private Facebook group (which you’re invited to join) on May 14th for the last week of the book discussion. How fun is that?!

AND … indie singer/songwriter will be live streaming to Wholly Loved’s private group as well, this Friday! Find out more HERE.

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Extending Grace to Save Our Relationships

Grace quote on purple background

When I say or do something unkind, I love to claim grace for myself. But what about when others hurt or mistreat me? What about those moments when others behave as, well, flawed people in need of Jesus? How can I show them the same truth-and-grace-based love that Jesus shows me?

My guest today tackled this question, and the answer God led her to saved her marriage.

I Was Eaten Up by Discontent

By Kathy Collard Miller

By the time Larry and I had been married seven years, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t love me anymore. He was working two jobs, had a flying hobby and was never home. I certainly was home with a strong-willed two-year-old and a newborn. I never went anywhere but Larry chose to do everything he wanted, seemingly without any thought of me.

If only he would stay home and help me with these kids, I wouldn’t be angry all the time and we could be a happy family. But no matter how much I complained to him and demanded God change Larry, nothing happened. Even God has abandoned me, I concluded.

One morning Larry announced he would be gone flying the entire day. I said, “I’ll get the kids ready. We’ll go with…”

“Kathy, you can’t go. I rented a two-seater plane and Joe is going.”

“But Larry, you’re never home. You work too many hours. You…”

“Kathy, I’m working all those hours to secure our financial future. You just don’t appreciate all I’m doing.”

My face grew hot with fury. “Money isn’t helping me cope with these kids! I get so angry,” I snapped.

“Kathy, that’s just typical motherhood blues. You’ll be fine. See you later.”

Larry walked through the laundry room into the garage, closing the laundry room door behind him. I was eating an apple and hurled the half eaten apple toward the closing door. The apple shattered on impact and red and white apple pieces flew throughout the laundry room adhering to the ceiling and the walls. I whirled around and marched into my bedroom, dropping to kneel beside my bed. “Lord, make that plane crash! I don’t care if he ever comes home again.”

Larry’s plane didn’t crash, but I felt as if my life crashed into a pit of depression and fury fueled by discontentment.

During the following months, the pieces of apple rotted, adhered to the walls and ceiling of my laundry room. Every day I saw them as a memorial to my rotten marriage and my life, rehearsing every evidence of my disappointing life.

One day months later, I sensed God say to me in my heart, “Tell Larry you love him.” I was shocked to hear God’s prodding. I didn’t love Larry and I believed he hated me—so I wasn’t about to give Larry ammunition against me. After all, if he heard those three little words, “I love you,” that I hadn’t said or thought for over two years, he might think I was approving of his negligence. I flatly refused.

God repeated the message and I refused again! Then I sensed the Holy Spirit giving a different message: “Then think it the next time you see Larry.”

  1. If he doesn’t hear me then he can’t use it against me. Then I’ll do it, even if it’s not true.

That evening, Larry returned from a flying trip. I stared at him, gulped, and thought, “I love you…” and then added, “but I don’t really.” Although I was obeying God, I still couldn’t believe it could ever be true.

I continued making that choice and God directed me to study Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who Phil 1:6 on purple backgroundbegan a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (ESV). That helped me see I was demanding perfection from myself and from Larry. But just as God was patient with me in my journey of growth, I could be patient with Larry. He would never love me perfectly but God could. I realized my discontent was being fueled by my perfectionism.

What a difference. I began giving Larry credit for the simplest thing he did for us. I complimented him and refused to rehearse his faults. No longer did Larry feel like a failure who could never please me. In turn, he wanted to become more of a godly man. He changed jobs and didn’t have the money to fly. He choose to stay home more. We weren’t keeping track of the other’s failures. Little by little we grew in unconditional love and grace, the very opposite of discontent.

That was in 1978 and now, many years later, Larry and I continue to choose contentment by acknowledging the other’s loving choices and forgiving each other’s imperfections. We tell each other several times a day specifically how much we love and appreciate each other. We want God glorified through our story.

Let’s talk about this! How quick are you to offer others grace? Who is one person God might want you to actively show grace to today? What are some ways you’ve grown in this area? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, Resting in Grace. Find it HERE.

Get to know Kathy:

Kathy Miller's headshotKathy Collard Miller tells her story of overcoming being an angry mom and discontented wife in her book No More Anger: Hope for An Out-of-Control Mom (Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.) She is also a speaker who has spoken in 8 foreign countries and over 30 US States. www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Learn more about her book, Hope for An Out-of-Control Mom:

How can I have hurt my own child? Why am I book cover for No More Angerso angry at my husband?

*What is it like to be in the heart and mind of an out of control mother?
*What is it like to hate yourself so much that you plan to take your own life?
*What is it like to believe God has given up on you and there is no hope?
*What is it like to see the emotional and physical pain you’re inflicting on your child?

The rest of the story …

*You’ll also learn what it’s like to see anger replaced by patience.
*You’ll also learn what it’s like to overcome suicidal thoughts.
*You’ll also learn what it’s like to know God never gives up on you.
*You’ll also learn what it’s like to see healing in the lives of those you wounded.

Kathy Collard Miller tells the riveting true story of being an angry and abusive mother. At the same time, she was a Christian who prayed for an instantaneous deliverance of her deep-seated anger. God answered yes through a process of growth. He also healed her relationship with her husband.

Is ‘no more anger’ possible? Let Kathy’s story assure you through hope and God’s help, the answer is ‘Yes!’–Carol Kent, author, speaker.

Buy the book HERE.

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Make sure to check out Jennifer Slattery’s latest podcast episode: Moving Past Fear of Exposure. We can live in hiding, in shame, or we can live in the confidence of grace. The former leads to isolation and loneliness. The latter to peace and increased relational intimacy with God and others.

You might also enjoy:

How to Stop Identifying With Your Sin by Jennifer on iBelieve

Holding Tight to Our Spouse as Christ Holds Tight to Us, also by Jennifer

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram and find her ministry, Wholly Loved, HERE.

Book discussion inviteMake sure to join her on Thursday evenings, starting April 23rd, for a faith-building book discussion aimed at helping us conquer our anxieties. Contact her HERE for more info!

 

 

How Grace Shatters Shame and Sin

Grace quote, teal writing, white background

You might not have recognized me, might even have tried to avoid me, had you met me in my teen years. I was a foul-mouthed, often drunk, angry and self-destructing kid. Then God began reaching deep into my heart, transforming and healing me bit by bit.

But though He shattered my chains of sin and heartache, through His grace, I hadn’t quite learned to step into that freedom. I hadn’t yet learned to live in my new identity—to allow His love and grace, and not my past or my shame to define me.

This was especially true when I behaved not as the redeemed daughter of Christ that I currently am but the bitter and sinful girl I’d once been. In those moments, and the regret that followed, I was tempted to believe that I still was that girl.

But that girl is dead and gone, never to return. For “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, Grace quote with gradiant green backgroundbut Christ who lives in me.” (Phil. 3:12).

No matter how I feel and regardless of the struggles I face, God’s precious, perfect Son lives in me.

I’ve heard it said, all sin is an identity problem. That statement’s too deep, too rich, to unpack here, but when I sin now, as a daughter of Christ, that’s certainly true. I’ve forgotten who I am and who I’m called to be. When I fight for my rights, it’s evidence that I forgot Christ saved me to die—because only in death can I truly live. When financial insecurity or fear of loss stirs ugly behaviors within me, it’s evidence that I’ve lost sight of my position as my Daddy’s girl. I’ve forgotten that I am indeed His child, and that He will indeed provide for me and meet my needs.

When I fight for that promotion, or that project, or that idea, thinking that thing will somehow fulfill me, I’ve forgotten that I’ve already received intimate interaction with the Creator and lover of my soul.

Regardless of whether I’m temporarily stuck in sin or shame, the answer is the same—grace. To meditate on God’s grace deeply and consistently. To regularly take time to remember the price He paid—for me. To contemplate what such an act revealed regarding His heart—for me. And to praise Him for the fact that I truly am free.

When I pause to reflect on the cross of Christ, my gratitude stirs within me a desire to live better. To live fully as the woman He created me to be. To grab hold of that for which Christ grabbed hold of me. (Philippians 3:12).

He died to set me free. I honor Him and the price He paid when I learn to live, daily and deeply, in that freedom.

If you’re struggling to anchor yourself in that place, in your Daddy’s heart, these verses might help:

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17, ESV).

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, ESV).

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him” (Colossians 1:21-22, ESV).

And make sure to check out our Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, available for free on the YouVersion Bible Reading App:

Grace Reading Plan ImageChrist’s grace has the power to change everything. We don’t have to strive, to compete, or compare, or question whether or not we measure up. We’re enough because Christ in us is enough. The cross of Christ sets us free.

I also invite you to listen to my latest podcast episode: Courage to Conquer our Fear of Missing Out. Find it HERE.

 

Risking Failure to Become All God Created You to Be

 

Eyes on God with purple background

How many opportunities have you avoided, how many dreams have you never pursued, for fear of failure? Or perhaps you embraced that new challenge but then spent countless sleepless nights fretting over what might happen or what others might think when you didn’t measure up or succeed?

The summer before our daughter’s senior year in high school, she had some big decisions to make, decisions that could literally cost her tens of thousands of dollars. She’d been working tirelessly for an academic scholarship, and through sheer grit stood a good chance of attaining it. She knew she could take an easy course load and preserve her GPA, perhaps even improve it. Or she could challenge herself by taking advanced placement math and science classes.

Back then, none of us realized she had an undiagnosed learning disability. But we did know how time consuming and difficult school was for her. She often took twice as long as other students to complete homework and taught herself, through online videos, what other students managed to learn through lecture.

So, basically, we all knew, by taking these classes, she could easily fail. Worse, her failure would cost her a regency—a full academic scholarship for all four years. To a seventeen-year-old on a reasonable allowance, that felt like a lot of money. Uncertain of what to do, she came to my husband and I for advice. To her frustration, I’m sure, we didn’t give her any, except to encourage her not to base her decision on fear. Though we understood the consequences, should she fail, and how devastated she’d be, we also knew she’d suffer more in the long run by becoming risk adverse. We didn’t want her to go through life tiptoeing forward, looking for that next drop off or dead end. We wanted her to proceed with confidence, viewing every setback and roadblock as a learning opportunity.

With a lot of tears, an unseen amount of hours, and a great deal of stress, she passed all of her classes and received that long-coveted regency. But this accomplishment, initially celebrated, soon enslaved her. Once in college, she quickly discovered all the adaptations that had carried her through high school no longer worked. Despite how hard she was trying, despite all the sleepless nights she spent studying, her grades were slipping fast.

As a result, she tried harder, acquiring shingles twice in her first two years away from home.

One day, watching her emotional angst, I looked her in the eye and said, “I kind of hope you’ll fail. I want you to see that failing isn’t the end of the world.”

I reminded her of Ephesians 2:10, which says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

She was, and is, God’s “handiwork,” His masterpiece, being molded by her loving Creator, who was shaping her in Christ toquote pulled from post with purple background do precisely what He created her to.

In other words, God had a plan for her, one He set into motion before she took her first breath. A plan He assigned knowing every challenge, set back, and momentary “failure” she’d face. She didn’t have to have it all figured out or tackle every difficulty perfectly. She wouldn’t and couldn’t. Rather, she needed to keep her eye on Christ and her heart surrendered and obedient to Him. I knew, so long as she did that, He’d take care of everything else. He would complete all that concerned her. (Ps. 138:8)

I wanted her to experience the freedom that comes when we learn to view failure differently. I knew she’d still work hard. That’s in her nature. But I wanted her to do so with joy and peace rather than stress, fear, and striving.

She did lose that scholarship, and though at first this crushed her, she recovered. She bounced back. In fact, she’ll graduate this spring with a degree that challenged her every brain cell and last ounce of grit. A degree some told her she’d never earn. And for four years, especially on those days when her learning disability seemed insurmountable, part of her wondered if all those naysayers were right.

I imagine there were many times she debated giving up, doing something easier, something safer, something with little to no risk.

She held tight to God’s promise in Ephesians 2:10 knowing He had a plan for her, was working out that plan, and would perfect all that concerned her.  

Today, less than two months before her graduation, I’m wondering …

What if she’d taken those easier classes in high school? What other “easy” and “safe” decisions would they have led to?

What if, when others tossed doubt on her resolve, she’d quit, midway through college, and opted for her second or third career choice?

But perhaps most importantly, what if the resolve and courage built with every difficult step prepared her for all the uncertainties ahead and all God has in store for her?

What if embracing risk led to her greatest growth and strength?

What if our saying yes and embracing risk does the same for us?

Let’s talk about this! Is God asking you to embrace risk for Him? If so, what? And how can you step into that today?

When has risk initiated personal growth?

If you’re following the Faith Over Fear challenge, congrats! We’ve made it to week eight! Woohoo! (Please note, I noticed I uploaded the wrong questions and notes to the wrong week. You can find all the shownotes and questions, with Bible references, HERE.)

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, Logo image for Faith Over Fearlisten to the first two episodes of her Faith Over Fear podcast HERE and find her free Bible reading plan HERE.

Additional resources:

Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough by

Letting Go of the Need to Control – Guest Post

quote on surrender with flower in background

Lately, our world seems completely out of control. When I focus on all the chaos, I worry about our economy, about loved ones, about my daughter and son-in-laws college classes … in short, about a lot. But then I remember truth, and that truth grounds mean. If you find your thoughts pinging in a thousand different directions and your heart longing for control, I hope my friend Melanie Redd’s post below encourages you.

Letting Go of the Need to Control

Melanie Redd

It’s true… I really hate being the passenger in any car.

When my husband and I first got married, he was usually the one to drive. This was a change for me. I’d not ridden as a passenger as much since I was a child.

This was when I realized that I liked being the driver more than the passenger.

Later, as our children began to learn to drive, I really struggled with not being in the driver’s seat. (If only the passenger seat had a steering wheel and brakes!)

In the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to ride along with several friends and family members as they’ve driven us places. Once again, I’ve struggled with allowing others to drive while I helplessly watch from the back seat or the passenger side.

What is my hang-up with being a passenger?

Why does this bother me so much?

Because I like being in control of the car. Truly, I want to be the one to steer the car, pump the brakes, determine the speed, and control the trajectory of the vehicle.

And, if I’m being honest, my desire to be in control goes well beyond driving. I like to be in control of everything in my life. Maybe you do as well?

The older I get, however, the more I realize that absolute control is impossible. In fact, if we try to carefully control every single detail of our lives, we can go quite crazy!

So, what can we do with control issues?

How can we more reasonably and wisely live with things we cannot control?

I’ve found great comfort in the words of a prayer that hung on the wall in my grandmother’s house – beautifully needlepointed.

It’s called the Serenity Prayer, and it reads like this:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Yes. This prayer is used in AA meetings around the world.

But it applies to all of us. Indeed, all of God’s children like to feel like they have some control in their lives.

To assist us, let’s break down this prayer into three sections:

First, we can ask God to give us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.

Serenity is an old-fashioned work for peace, calm, tranquility.

It’s a sense of well-being about our lives. To be serene is to keep your composure when things feel out of control.

What are some of the things you and I cannot change?

  • Other people
  • Our bosses
  • The weather
  • Our pastor
  • Our children
  • Our spouse
  • The past
  • The future
  • So many more things

Once we realize that only God can truly change hearts, we will quit trying to fix, change, and coerce the people and circumstances around us.

There is sweet freedom in letting go of the need to control everyone and everything! Sweet freedom.

One of my favorite authors, Amy Carmichael, explained it this way. “In acceptance, lies peace.”

Second, we ask God to give us the courage to change the things we can.

Courage is tenacity. It’s that quality of spirit that pushes us forward in bravery and hope. To be courageous is to audacious!Joshua 1:9

Joshua 1:9 encourages us, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (ESV)

And, courage is a choice. It is a willful action on our part.

What can we change and control in our own lives?

  • Our clothing choices
  • What we eat and drink
  • What we do
  • How we live
  • How we respond to others
  • How we spend our time
  • Whether or not we exercise
  • How we relate to God
  • What we say
  • How we think
  • And, so much more

Absolutely, there is so much we can choose to control in our lives.

But we must choose. And, often we must choose with great courage.

Why not ask God to give you the courage to make some life-altering and life-sweetening changes this week?

Third, we can ask God to give us the wisdom to know what we can and cannot change.

This final part of this prayer may be the most difficult. Honestly, it may be at the heart of our control.

Indeed, this may be the hardest part of this whole process.

And, this is where prayer comes in. I think of the words of James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (ESV)

When we don’t know how to proceed in a situation or a relationship, we can pray and ask God to give us wisdom, insight and discernment.

For years I dealt with a close female relative who I wanted to please. I worked like crazy to make her happy. Through gifts, words, phone calls, and actions, I tried to make this person love and accept me.

Finally, one day after praying over this relationship, a very wise friend helped me to realize that I was never going to make this relative change. No matter what I did, she was not capable of becoming the kind of person I hoped she could become.

Accepting that my relative would never change brought such freedom to my life.

Now, I expect nothing from this person. And, I’m able to just love her without any demands. This particular choice has changed everything in our relationship – especially me!

I believe all of us can find freedom in accepting what we cannot change. Truly, in laying down our expectations and demands, we can find great peace.

It’s not an easy thing to do, but it can be incredibly liberating!

What about you?

Are you the kind of person who also likes to be in the driver’s seat?

Do you struggle with control?

How does the Serenity Prayer help you? Which part is most challenging for you to practice?How have you found peace in surrendering control?

***

Let’s talk about this! Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because can all learn from and encourage one another. If you’re struggling with finding peace and standing on faith in our seemingly out-of-control world, listen to my latest podcast episode Fear of Losing Control: Courage to Surrender with International Speaker Carol Kent. Find it HERE.

Get to Know Melanie

Melanie's headshotMelanie is a Christian blogger, Motivational Speaker and Author. She’s written four books and has a brand-new book – Live in Light: 5-Minute Devotions for Teen Girls.

She’s married to Randy for the past 29 years and serving alongside him in ministry.

Additionally, she’s mom to two awesome young adults.

God’s grace never ceases to amaze her.

You can find out more about Melanie & her ministry at www.melanieredd.com.

You can connect with Melanie here:

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Aditonal Resources:

Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear Bible Reading Plan

Changing the World Through Surrender

To Soar We Must First Let Go

Surrendering Our Fix-It Plans to Experience Christ

Fear No More–Finding Eternal Significance in Christ

In my young adult years, I wasted so much energy, so much peace, trying to prove my worth. Driven by a hidden fear of insignificance, I chased after one goal after another and defined myself by external and subjective standards. As a result, I developed a rather shallow sense of purpose and believed the lie that I was what I did. Therefore, my heart inevitably shifted toward pride or insecurity, and it often bounced between the two numerous times each day.

But then, sickness temporarily robbed me of my ability to perform all those tasks I thought defined me. Roles shifted rapidly in our home as the caretaker became the one receiving care. There were days I felt worthless, like a burden and a drain. I hadn’t learned to live anchored in my Christ-centered identity.

It took temporarily losing myself—who I thought I was—to recognize and rest in where my true significance lay. One afternoon, battling pain and fatigue, I asked God, in frustration, why He wouldn’t heal me. After all, couldn’t I serve Him better well—strong and energetic? Just imagine all the studies I could lead, the women I could mentor, the outreach events I could help plan!

But as I sat in His presence, He spoke heart-soothing truth to my soul. He hadn’t created me to launch ministries, raise perfect children, or even to embark on oversea missions. Now, He may indeed call me to do those things, but that wasn’t why He gave me breath. Instead, He formed me by His loving hands for His pleasure and His glory. That’s where my true significance lies—in Him—and I can live that out, no matter my circumstances or limitations.

When I was sick, that meant sitting in His presence every day and connecting, Father to daughter, and knowing in those moments, that was enough. I didn’t have to perform, impress, strive, or to stress. I simply needed to live loved and to love God and others in return.

As a mom, I get this. I’m crazy proud of my daughter, of all she’s accomplished and overcome, but her external achievements aren’t what bring me greatest pleasure. Rather, my heart fills with joy whenever she turns off her phone, sets her agenda aside, and simply sits with me. Those are the moments I cherish most. She doesn’t have to impress me or present a polished image of herself. She doesn’t have to check off numerous sacrificial tasks to enter my presence. She simply needs to come, and when she does, I welcome her near. In fact, were she to forfeit time with me to achieve what she hoped might impress me, I’d be saddened.

I suspect God would say the same. Though He longs for our obedience, of course, and for us to live our lives surrendered to Him, He desires us most of all. He paid a high price—death on the cross—to remove the sin that separated us and to draw us close. Ephesians The price Christ paid to draw us near1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure” (NLT, emphasis mine).

Can anything be more glorious, more fulfilling, more significant than that—to bring all mighty God, Creator and Ruler of all, pleasure? According to Scripture, that’s precisely what we did the moment we received Christ’s grace.

During my time of illness, as I daily rested in Him, simply connected with Him, I sensed and echoed His pleasure. I received pleasure not from anything God had done or might do but simply through my union with Him.

During those soul-to-Christ encounters, God reminded me of my second yet equally important purpose—to make Him known. Though I’d always assumed I did that best through some grand act of service, perhaps leading Vacation Bible School or speaking from a stage, He helped me see how my weakness, my steady leaning on Him, could provide the purest proclamation of the gospel.

God wasn’t asking me to be a super-hero Christian displaying super-human strength. Rather, He was asking me to demonstrate a super-hero, ever-present, ever-loving God able to carry me through every struggle and triumph. That’s what it means to bring Him glory. The gospel is most clearly revealed through our dependence on Him, and sometimes that dependence shows clearest when we feel as if our significance, at least as our culture might define it, has slipped away.

My identity is in Christ—I am loved by and belong to Him, and that will never change.

My significance is in Christ—He defines my worth and assigns my purpose.

What’s more, my purpose is to know Christ and make Him known, and I can do that when well, when sick, when energetic, and when tired.

Let’s talk about this! In what ways have you allowed your identity, value, and purpose to become tangled? Have you based your significance on the roles you fill or tasks you perform? How might God be calling you to go deeper—in Him? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, listen to her Faith Over Fear podcast HERE

Additional resources:

What Makes My Life Significant by John Piper

Finding Significance in Christ by Abiding Above Ministries

Who Am I? A New Way to Define Identity by Melissa Crutchfield

Visit Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear page for more faith-building resources

 

Fear of Missing Out–Finding Faith in God’s Leading

Woman walking down dirt road

Thirteen years ago, as we packed our minivan from top to bottom to move literally across the country, I felt as if I was losing myself. I thought my dreams, which God had slowly birthed within me as I served in a close-knit Southern California church, would languish then die.

Ten years later, when one transition after another crippled an organization I wrote for, my journey once again felt unsteady. Fearful to lose something that brought such fulfillment, I began striving and stressing and fighting to control every area of my career. As a result, every opportunity left me with more confusion than clarity, more exhaustion than hope or joy.

It felt as if I was standing at a main trail head with a thousand paths extending before me trying to discern which one would lead to my desired destination. And in my inability to make a decision, to rest in my Father’s loving and faithful arms, I chose them all, or at least, as many as I could, inevitably forfeiting my joy, peace, and effectiveness.

Ironically, my fear of missing out—of that perfect opportunity or experience or role—caused me to miss out on those things that truly mattered. Eventually, everything became stressful and burdensome, like I was constantly kicking against high tide.

Defeated and discouraged, I told God I was tired of the work, of the stress, and the pressure. I told Him I wanted to quit.

He agreed, though He didn’t want me to quit writing and serving. He wanted me to quit striving. He wanted me to rest in Him. To trust that He had a plan and was big enough and strong enough and loving enough to bring that plan to pass.

He’s strong enough to perfect all that concerns me, all that concerns my loved ones, and all that concerns the women I serve.

Like Psalm 139:16 promises, “all the days ordained for me were written in [His} book before one of them came to be” Psalm 139:16 with sunrise background(NIV).

If I believe this to be true, for me and those I love, I have no reason to fear or to strive. I simply need to listen, surrender, and obey.

Whenever I begin to feel exhausted and overwhelmed, whenever I’m tempted to chase after that next shiny or exciting thing, I have to ask myself why. Because I’ve self-analyzed enough to know there’s almost always something deeper going on—some hole I’m hoping to fill, wound I’m trying to numb, or fear I’m trying to avoid.

True peace comes when I humbly pray, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV).

Search me: Penetrate to my depths, to those deepest, most hidden parts of me. Expose my self-deception and faulty perception and flood every shadowed crevice within my heart with Your truth-bearing, lie-expelling light.

Know my anxious thoughts: Reveal to me what I’m really thinking and those nagging lies that fuel distrust. Lies such as: God doesn’t care, doesn’t hear, or lacks the desire and power to lead me and those I love.

Lead me in the way everlasting: Purge everything false, everything hurtful or idolatrous, so that Your faith-bolstering truth may reign. Lead me in Your way, for only You and the things of You are eternal, and only You know how to feed and fill my heart.

Let’s talk about this. How often does fear of missing out—the fear that you or someone you love will miss out on something—drive your behavior?

For example, fear that:

  • turning down that extra project will cost you that promotion
  • not signing your child up for that traveling sports team will cost them popularity and social connections
  • declining that invitation will place you on the outskirts of your peer group
  • setting boundaries in that relationship will prevent you from getting married or having a family
  • should you prioritize financial wisdom over that vacation, the opportunity may never come again

But perhaps an even better question: Are you living like a called, empowered, and loved child of the sovereign God or like an orphan?

What is one truth you can meditate on this week to live more consistently as God’s chosen and deeply loved child and move deeper into freedom?

Additional resources:

Four Ways to Fight Fear of Missing Out by Jon Bloom

Have No Fear of Missing Out by

Countering Fear of Missing Out by Jennifer Slattery

Visit Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear page HERE for additional resources.

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with a fear of missing out, and if so how? How does remembering Christ is control and has a plan for you help you move from fear to faith.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, Logo image for Faith Over Fearlisten to the first two episodes of her Faith Over Fear podcast HERE and find her free Bible reading plan HERE.

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Conquering Our Fear of Weakness

quote on overcoming fear of weakness with blue background

I don’t like to appear weak or needy. In fact, I will go to great lengths to avoid this and to portray an image of strength, even in the face of weakness. I suspect some of this comes from my slightly stubborn and determined personality. But honestly, most of my insecurities stem from fear and pride. I’m afraid my weaknesses might somehow disqualify me from some future opportunity and might cause others to lose their respect for me.

I didn’t realize I had a fear of weakness until I became physically weak. Some of you know my story—how I grew sick in 2011. And while I’m so much better than I was, I’m still far from the athlete I once considered myself to be. Sometimes, oftentimes, actually, I’m afraid to admit why: I have fibromyalgia, though I hide my symptoms well. I’ve learned to smile through the pain and shake off the fatigue—until I come home. There, nestled in the security of my husband’s love, my true and often hurting self emerges.

Like I indicated, my insecurities stem from a fear of missing out. Of being labeled by my weaknesses rather than my strengths. Of being discounted before I even try. Of having to fight not just my inherent limitations, but other people’s false perceptions as well. In short, my fears stem from a failure to rest in God’s sovereignty and grace.

One hot, summer afternoon, I sensed God’s nudge to share how He’d met me in my struggle—how He became my strength during a time of weakness. But out of fear and shame, I remained quiet. As I explained to God why—all I feared might happen should I step out from behind my carefully erected veneer, He reminded me of a faith-bolstering truth.

He’d called me. Long before I took my first breath, committed my first sin, ran my first triathlon, or acquired my first illness. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV). This means God has a plan for me and my life, a wonderful, eternally significant plan. That plan absolutely must include my current condition, because He set His plan into motion before my diagnosis. What’s more, Psalm 139:16 tells me that every day of my life was recorded in God’s book before a single one came to pass.

But the original Hebrew goes deeper. It says, in essence, “All the days fashioned, or molded into form, for me …” Combined with Ephesians 2:10, this creates an image of a patient, loving, intentional craftsman molding a pliable, not yet perfected lump of clay into His masterpiece. The pushing, squeezing, and molding hurts, absolutely. But never without purpose. Never without hope.

My condition cannot limit the call God’s placed on my life. It may, in fact, reveal that call more clearly. Though I don’t believe He gave me fibromyalgia, He can and will use it to reveal the gospel. As I lean on Him, the only One able to bringQuote from post strength from my weakness, I proclaim a God bigger than everything hard, broken, tarnished, and incomplete in this world. And as I long for restoration and health, He lifts my heart to thoughts of eternity where He’ll one day make all things right. Where there will be no more pain, no more sickness, no weakness or sin. Nothing but light and life and love as we, God’s children, stand in the presence of the One who is light and love.

So in the meantime, I serve, honestly, faithfully, and authentically, focusing not on how others perceive me but rather how I reveal my God.

Fear of weakness, at its root, is an idolatry problem. It stems from a failure to lose myself completely in my Lord, the One who gave Himself completely for me. I conquer this fear not through fighting for strength but rather choosing surrender. Choosing to lose myself in a battle greater than me.

Let’s talk about this! When has your weakness caused you to rely on God and therefore turned to a strength? When has your strength resulted in self-reliance and therefore turned to a weakness?

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, Logo image for Faith Over Fearlisten to the first two episodes of her Faith Over Fear podcast HERE and find her free Bible reading plan HERE.

Additional resources:

Moving Past Self-Sufficiency, video presentation from Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Don’t Fear Weakness by Bear Grylls

Weakness is an Invitation From God by Sarah Walton