When Hard Times Cause You To Question Your Faith — Guest Post

Sunrise amid clouds with text pulled from post

Everyone has moments of doubts. Some of us have years and even decades of wrestling with deep truths and what we’ve learned about God. But as I often say, doubts don’t so much cause the cracks in our faith as they reveal them. They show us false beliefs, misconceptions, and lightly held truths. In other words, our doubts, when presented honestly to God, when we seek Him and His answers, can pave the way to certainty. Read more from my guest today, Marla Bautista, to see what I mean.

When Hard Times Cause You to Doubt Your Faith

By Marla Bautista

I’ve doubted God, a lot. When my life was at its lowest, I had nothing. I was homeless, broke, and without support from family or friends. I didn’t understand why God allowed me to suffer and wouldn’t alleviate my pain. I was sure He’d left me alone in the world. I spent many nights on the streets, searching for who I was supposed to be, for hope, and ultimately, for peace. I stopped going to church and reading my Bible because I felt abandoned.

Have you ever felt this way?

Yet God promises to remain with us, to help us, and to strengthen us. Isaiah 41:10 reads,: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (ESV).

My life hasn’t been easy. Both my parents passed away before I turned ten years old. I was left with an abusive stepfather. I experienced sexual, emotional, and mental abuse throughout my childhood. I ran away from home many times. Taking my younger brother and sister, I sought refuge from someone, somewhere, to no avail. At the age of 18, I became homeless. I was confused, alone, and scared. I constantly asked myself what I did to deserve the life I received. When I went to church, I was prayed over and ministered to, but I left; homeless, still hungry, and still hurting.

While on the streets, I saw and did things that were far from God’s desire. I was lost. I attempted to restore myself. I struggled. Some days, I didn’t have a place to sleep, others, I slept in a jail cell. Many nights I cried out to God, begging for forgiveness, safety from harm, and most of all, mercy. But I lacked faith that God truly cared for me or wanted to restore me.

Over time, I fell into despair. I no longer believed God heard my prayers. Yet, along my journey, there were signs that He did. I was walking down a street one day, hungry, and in tears. I prayed, “God please, I’m hungry. If You can hear me please help me.” As I walked hopelessly for miles, I felt defeated. Later that day, something told me to reach into my pocket. I did and pulled out two dollars. Initially, I felt scared. I’d had those Jeans on for three days. If there was any money in the pockets, I would have known. Jesus, thank You, I said as tears rolled down my cheeks.

In that moment, God began to restore some of my trust in Him.

Having doubt doesn’t mean you don’t believe in God. It means you’re uncertain about your faith. When things occur that we don’t understand, we question them. Our faith is no exception. If you’re in a period of spiritual wrestling, take it as an invitation to get to know God through Scripture.

Throughout the Bible, it speaks about the restoration of faith through prayer, fasting, and obedience. God invites us to seek Him, then to hold tight to His response when He gives it. James 1:6 reads:

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by Wind-tossed waves and text from James 1:6the wind” (NIV).

I saw this truth played out in my life.

God revealed that He was always with me. He kept a hedge of protection over my life, even in the worst of times. I’m here today only because of His love. He continues to restore me and has equipped me to use my testimony to prove his undying love, and unfathomable mercy toward His children. He will do the same for you.

Are you experiencing a season of doubt? If so, I challenge you to submerge yourself in prayer for seven days. Ask God to reveal Himself and His purpose for you. Study Scripture, take your doubts to God in prayer, and most importantly, obey what He reveals when you read the Bible.

Let’s talk about this! Can you share a time when God met you in the middle of your doubts? What are some ways God has shown Himself real to you? Or maybe you’re struggling right now. What do you most need to hear from God?

Get to know Marla!

Marla Bautista a Military Spouse and mother of three children. She is also the published author of My Thoughts Abandoned, released in 2017. As a freelance writer and blogger, she has written for many publications. Her passion is giving back to people in need. Marla is the Founder of The Bautista Project, a custom décor and apparel company, which uses its profits to provide for homeless communities. The Bautista Project has provided food and basic living essentials to hundreds of people in need.

Visit her online at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Instagram.

If you’re going through a difficult time, especially if you’re in a period of waiting, you may find this video, taken from the Becoming His Princess Study, helpful.

I also invite you to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible app, 30-Days to Emotional Health, available on YouVersion. Find it HERE. And make sure to join our online community by clicking the button below. Oh, and almost forgot: Only five days to release day! Keep an eye out for my next novel, Hometown Healing, releasing in Walmarts and B&Ns near you on the 20th! Woot!

 

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Using Truth to Expel Fear

verse image Isaiah

We can cower to fear or stand firm on God’s truth.

I met today’s guest about a month ago at a writing conference, and we connected relatively quickly. Working on final edits for Dancing in the Rain, a novel with a blind main character attempting to navigate her way to independence (and being a woman, as grown as I am, who’s afraid of the dark, uncertainty, and change), I had recently begun to see my world differently, as the sight-impaired might. And I marveled at the strength one like Loni and Jena Fellers must have to not only survive in this busy, chaotic, rapid-paced world, but thrive and fully live for Jesus, no matter the challenges.

So, I asked Jena, a woman who’s done just that, if she’d share her thoughts on fear. I know you’ll be as encouraged as I was.

But first, I need to share a new law or requirement bloggers have encountered–one I’m still attempting to figure out. I imagine this is to counter spamming and intended to protect all of you. You can read more HERE, but if I understand correctly, I need to send all my subscribers a message re-inviting them to subscribe and letting them know precisely how their information will be used. (In other words, that by subscribing to my blog, you will receive blog posts–and your info will not be used for anything else.) My brain is still trying to process it all, but apparently, I must be in full compliance within 3 days. Prayers appreciated!

Now for today’s inspirational message:

How Truth Expels Fear

by Jena Fellers

“Mommy, there’s a monster in my closet!”

Fear seizes us at a young age. It first invaded mankind in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command  by eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Their eyes were opened to good and, evil. . .raising a new awareness. Afraid of God, they hid. (Genesis 3)

Ever since, the devil has put many fears in man’s mind:

* loneliness and abandonment
* spiders, snakes, and mice
* darkness
* accidents,  and natural disasters
* failure, or success
* death, or losses
* inadequacies

Fears will come, but God gave us a tool to defeat it–His Word. With Scripture, fear can flee as fast as lightening bolts strike.

God’s Word worked for me back in college. I suffered from night blindness and tunnel vision, courtesy of Retinitis Pigmentosa. Knowing His protective power from reading the Bible comforted me. I could stroll alone after night classes without fearing muggers, sexual predators, or stray animals.

The funny thing is, nothing scared me, but it’s close relative, worry, consumed me. I felt anxious about:
* passing tests
* hiring assistants
* money
* accessibility  to courses
* housing

I learned worry is the opposite of faith and didn’t want to disappoint my Heavenly Father by not trusting Him. Proverbs 3 :5 tells us to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding.Image of man reading his Bible

Phil. 4:6 boldly states “Do not be anxious in anything…” In other words, we shouldn’t worry or be afraid. Those emotions steal God’s peace.

Years later, after losing all sight, I put this concept of trusting deeply in God and His Word into practice. On a Sunday evening, a storm blew in from nowhere.

The sunlight peered through our country home  windows as the television announced a severe thunderstorm warning. My pastor husband chose to hold evening services since it should miss us.

Hail soon pounded our van. On the ride (over the phone), I attempted to calm family members who were afraid it was a tornado; not a thunderstorm. I was oblivious a rope-like tornado had started playing chicken with our van.

Realization dawned as Steve whipped in our church parking lot, told our daughter to run inside, grabbed me, and promptly laid me down next to the external wall. We prayed as his body covered mine, and the tornado struck the opposite side, spraying debris all around us.

I was amazed at the overwhelming peace I felt, especially learning the reason we stayed outside was because the wind had hurled a board directly at my head.

When praying, I focused on asking God for help, and peace. I concentrated on placing my complete verse image for 2 Tim 1:7trust in Him, regardless of the outcome. Trust is faith. It also helped knowing fear doesn’t come from God, but from satan. “For God gave us a  spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV).

We don’t have to live enslaved to fearful thinking. According to Romans 12:2, we can renew our mind, and Phil. 4:8 tells us how.

Next time fear’s symptoms arise (nausea, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, sweating, anger, or light-headedness), choose to stand on the truth of God’s Word. If you’re stubborn like me, then ask yourself whose report will you believe? You’re either believing a lie or God’s truth. Will you believe the lie trapped in your mind, or God’s Word?

We have the power to take every fearful thought captive, lock it up, and throw away the key. The choice is ours.

Let’s talk about this! What fears haunt you, and how do you fight it? What other verses are helpful

Get to Know Jena!

Jena Fellers walks by faith; not by sight. . . physically, and spiritually. Three adult children and four Author photo of Jena Fellersgrandchildren fill her with joy. Serving alongside her husband, they have pastored Trinity Worship
Center in Baxter Springs, Kansas for twenty years. Having little to no vision hasn’t stopped her. They founded Word in Action Ministries in 2009. It rebuilds lives through feeding and more.. This year marks their millionth meal served – all without knowing where money, or  help, would come. God truly provides.

Jena plays her flute on the praise and worship team, and teaches Children’s  Church and Sunday school. Thanks to an affordable screen reader, Jena now pursues writing. She loves to  excite, educate, and encourage others to follow Christ a little closer through speaking and blogging. Her first book, “Faith Footprints” is underway.

Visit her website HERE, follow her on Facebook HERE, and check out her ministry (cofounded) HERE.

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For those who are local, make sure to join us for Wholly Loved’s next Bold and Brave Conference on June 23rd in Lincoln, Nebraska. You can find out more and register HERE.

Before you go, if you haven’t signed up for my quarterly newsletter, I encourage you to do so.

Subscribers image of cover for study based on 1 Timothyreceive great content, like a short story, devotion, recipe, and more, sent directly to their inbox, and a thank you gift–a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (ebook, sent separately). You can sign up HERE.

If you have signed up for my newsletter and haven’t received the ebook, please let me know. You can contact me HERE.

I also encourage you to sign up for Wholly Loved’s free quarterly newsletter, releasing at the end of this month.You can do that HERE 

Speaking of freedom, I also invite you to read my latest Crosswalk article on 10 prayers that can help transform your finances. You can read it HERE.

I also invite you to visit Wholly Loved’s website to read about those fears that creep up on us and how we can fight them. You can do that HERE.

For the Joy That’s Coming

Image by Cory Bouthillette on Unsplash

I’m not a fan of long car rides filled with squished and soggy sandwiches that fell to the bottom of our cooler. I never enjoyed listening to our daughter ask, a thousand times: “Are we there yet?” And I don’t like traffic or long stretches of highway with no rest areas in sight.

And yet, our family has intentionally engaged in numerous road trips. The most memorable, and miserable, was when our daughter was twelve. The day before we left, I took her to the orthodontist to receive braces and a contraption called a mara designed to help her lower jaw, which wasn’t growing, catch up with her upper jaw.

The orthodontist warned us she’d be uncomfortable for a day or two, but nothing she couldn’t handle with a steady dose of Motrin. And perhaps that would’ve been true, had she not made a face-plant into the asphalt during recess that very afternoon.

I cleaned her up, gave her some Motrin and a smoothie, and sent her to bed.

The next morning, hours before the sun rose, I loaded our van with snacks, drinks, suitcases, and water toys—everything we’d need for a wonderful Florida vacation. Then, ready to embark on a long-anticipated trip, I dashed inside and upstairs to wake our daughter. (My husband was meeting us there by plane.)

Leaning over her bed, I gentle nudged her. “Sweetie, it’s time,” I said in that sing-songy voice every parent gets when waking their child for their first ever Disney World vacation.

She moaned and rolled over.

And I blinked and stepped back.

Her face! It was swollen, her lips, also swollen, were horribly scabbed, and I hated to think what the inside of her cheeks might look like.

It was obvious she was in pain, and we had a 1,237-mile drive ahead of us—with nothing to distract her from her throbbing face. Stuck in a vehicle for twenty-four hours, not including stops, would be difficult for any fifth grader. But one with a swollen, sore, and bloodied mouth?

And yet, neither of us considered, for an instant, not going.

Why? Because we knew the fun that awaited her would make all her discomfort worth it. Would perhaps even make her forget her pain entirely.

I believe this was the same understanding Paul, the author of Philippians, had, as he sat in a prison cell, waiting to learn, post-trial, whether he’d be allowed to live or die. He knew the glorious future that lay ahead, not just for himself, but for all who believed in Christ. This is why he could say, without hypocrisy, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 3:1, ESV).

A young girl’s trip to Disneyland, sore mouth or not, might seem an insufficient comparison to the persecution Paul suffered and his hope of heaven. And yet, to a child, Disneyland is about as big as it gets, and the pain our daughter endured was significant enough.

But not so significant that it hindered her joy and anticipation of what was to come.

Life is full of frustrations, disappointments, and difficulties. Sometimes our pain is transient, like my daughter’s was. But for others, like those dealing with chronic illness or depression, it can feel like the darkness will never end.

And yet, Disneyland is coming. That is where our hope lies, when we stand before our Savior, enveloped in His love—in heaven, when He’s made all things right and all pain nonexistent.

On our darkest nights, when the road ahead feels steep and long, may we intentionally turn our eyes off of the struggle and instead onto what we know lies ahead.

Before you go, if you haven’t signed up for my quarterly newsletter, I encourage you to do so.

Subscribers image of cover for study based on 1 Timothyreceive great content, like a short story, devotion, recipe, and more, sent directly to their inbox along with a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (ebook, sent separately). You can sign up HERE.

If you have signed up for my newsletter and haven’t received the ebook, please let me know. You can contact me HERE.

I also encourage you to sign up for Wholly Loved’s free quarterly newsletter, releasing at the end of this month.You can do that HERE 

Empty Handed and Expectant; Full Pockets and an Empty Heart

 

Two stark contrasts placed back to back. One an example of complete, unhindered trust and the other of self-reliance.

Parents, do you remember what it was like when your kids were young? When they followed you around everywhere and valued whatever you said? And when life became frightening, they ran to you for comfort and affection.

Little ones don’t worry about where they’ll go tomorrow or whether they’ll have enough to eat or drink.  They simply proceed with their day, laughing, playing, perhaps throwing a fit on occasion, but for the most part, enjoying life.

They come with empty but open hands. And 2,000+ years ago, when they were brought to Jesus, He said, in essence, “Take notice. Watch these little ones and learn. This is the kind of faith that pleases Me.”

And then “He took the children in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 13:15-16), and then He sent them away with peace and joy.

They came empty handed, humble, expectant, and left blessed.

Full.

Some time later, a rich young man came to Jesus with pockets full but heart depleted. Upon seeing the Christ, something within him sparked, and he soon broke out into a run. Kneeling before the Savior, he asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

What was the cost? Donate ten denarii to the poor? He’d do it! Say a certain number of prayers each day? No problem. Serve in the temple or in Man prayinghis community? Whatever it was, whatever Jesus asked, he was ready!

Until Jesus required the one thing the man wasn’t willing to give—his money. Upon first glance, it appears Jesus was calling him out for his wealth, calling him to a life of financial martyrdom. But that’s not the case. This went much deeper. Jesus was touching him at his core, asking him to surrender what he’d come to rely on most—himself.

To come humble, teachable, trusting, and with empty but open hands. Trading that which he held so tightly for something of much greater value—freedom.

The man decided that price was too high, and so, he walked away with full hands and an empty heart.

I don’t have great wealth, but I have plenty of self-reliance. So often, like the rich young man, I come to Jesus, longing to experience deeper freedom, while holding tight to the very things, like my agenda or well-thought out plans, that keep me from it. But if I want the joy and peace of a child, I need to learn to come to Jesus as those little ones from so long ago did—with empty but open hands, relinquishing those things I’ve come to rely on. To gain something much greater–intimacy with Christ.

Trusting God to lead me, to provide for me.

To fill me.

For those of you who like to follow my writing online, pop over to my blog on Crosswalk to read my post on living as Ambassadors of the God Who Sees.

And make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive great content, sent directly to your inbox. You can sign up HERE.

God Opens Doors

God Opens Doors by Sarah Foust

God opens doors. Sometimes I don’t feel like walking through them, but He makes them available. A few years ago, my husband and I felt called to become foster parents. It was a tough process. Scary. More like terrifying. But, God presented us with an opportunity and we chose to follow. I’m so glad we did. It led to personal growth, parental growth, and to adopting our fourth daughter and first son. What a blessing they’ve been in our lives.

If we’d chosen to ignore God’s prompting, we wouldn’t have these two beautiful children. And, I wouldn’t be writing yet. It was through the process of becoming foster parents to our son that I realized I could no longer work full-time. When my job as a medical transcriptionist disappeared the week he arrived in our home, I knew it was time to pursue my dream career.

Through this, we stepped through another door, and I chose to write. I love writing. I’ve dreamed of it since I was in second grade. I remember sitting in the desk, zoning out while the teacher talked as I pictured crafting a real, long, tons-of-words novel.

I put that dream off for a long time because I feared I would fail. What if I pursued this career and fell on my face? What then? My dream would be dead and I’d have nothing to hope for my future career. But God gently nudged me forward, and I am so glad He did.

On November 4th, my first real, long, tons-of-words novel comes out. It’s an idea that originally popped into my head in high school (a few years ago). But with prayer for direction, it has become so much more than that initial spark. I poured my heart and soul into my book baby and it is about to arrive! I cannot wait to hold it in my hands and read my name—my name!—on the cover. I’ll probably cry. No joke.

I don’t know what the next door God will present me with will be, but I plan to step through it. I know that He only wants good for me and that He has a plan. If I’m to do my part, I need to be obedient, brave, and trusting. Who better to place blind trust in than God? If I were to encourage you to do any one thing, it would be to step through the door God has placed before you. He won’t let you fall, or if He does, He will pick you up. He’s waiting on the other side. Waiting to take you where you’re supposed to go. Waiting to lead you to who you are supposed to be.

Let’s talk about this! Do you have a dream career you’ve never pursued because of fear? Is God presenting you with a door of opportunity? Do you plan to walk through it?

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Speaking of living your dreams, or living out your identity in Christ and who He created you to be, as I like to put it, if you’re in the Omaha Metro area, I encourage you to come to Wholly Loved’s Bold and Brave conference. Our first one will be held at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Papillion, NE on February 11th; our second one will be held at Good Shepherd Presbyterian in Lincoln, NE on June 24th. Mark your calendars, and follow us on Facebook for more information. And if you’re a writer living in the Seattle, WA area, I invite you to join me in October at the NCWA monthly meeting where I’ll be talking about overcoming the fear that hinders us from fully living out our calling and the freedom, creativity, and power that comes from surrender. And on the 28th, again for those in the Omaha area, I’ll be speaking at the local Wordsowers meeting on developing a mind of success. Find out more HERE. Because successful people think differently than unsuccessful people do, and science is discovering more and more, our success (in pursuit of our dreams) is much more dependent on our grit than our talent.

You might also enjoy:

Grit by Angela Duckworth

Courage and Calling by Gordon T. Smith

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Sara Foust writes Inspirational Romantic Suspense from a mini-farm in East Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their five homeschooled children. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Tennessee Mountain Writers. Her debut novel Callum’s Compass won second place in Deep River Books’ 2017 Writer’s Contest. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com. And make sure to connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Collum’s Compass:

Kat Williams’s brother died in a gruesome accident in the mountains of East Tennessee. She blames herself.

Ryan Jenkins’s fiancée was murdered. He couldn’t protect her.

With the death of her brother, Kat believes she is unworthy of love from anyone—even God. When a good friend elicits a promise that she will stop living in the past and then leaves her clues to a real-life treasure hunt, Kat embarks on an adventure chock-full of danger. To find the treasure, Kat will have to survive wild animals—and even wilder men. Can she rely on Ryan, the handsome wildlife officer assigned to protect her . . . without falling in love?

Ryan swore off love when his fiancée was murdered, but feelings long-buried rise to the surface around Kat. He volunteers to help with her treasure hunt, vowing to keep her safe. Together they venture deep into caves and tunnels . . . and even deeper into the depths of their unplumbed hearts.

Available soon! Find information at www.saralfoust.com under the books tab

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Never Enough — The Insatiable Hunger of Discontentment

What temporary filler has distracted you from the One who truly fulfills and, as a result, has deepened your ache and left you hollow?

If we were to unpack greed and selfish ambition, I believe we’d find a host of fear, sorrow, insecurities, and emotional wounds beneath them. I’ve noticed my contentment meter shifts dramatically depending on my situation and who I’m with.

Most often, when we’re clamoring after stuff, whether that’s shiny gadgets, fancy clothes, accolades, or fame, we’re not really after the stuff. We’re seeking to find fulfillment and value outside of Christ, and as result, we end up empty and grasping for more.

It’s a depressing cycle.

Greed, at its core, reveals our core beliefs about ourselves and God. Do we believe we have value, not because of what we’ve earned, achieved, or how many likes we’ve accumulated on Facebook? Do we believe God is good, loving, and faithful and true?

Or do we suspect that He’s holding out on us, that He longs to see us miserable, or that He’ll forget about us all together?

This is what happened with Eve back in the Garden of Eden. Perhaps you’re familiar with her story. God had placed her and her husband in a literal paradise, with lush vegetation, beautiful flowers, and absolutely everything they could need or want. Every tree, rose, and softly chirping bird revealed God’s heart, like a thousand love letters scripted just for them. No good thing had He withheld from them.

But one day, Eve entertained an insidious thought, planted during what may have appeared to be a casual, harmless conversation.

The Serpent, “the shrewdest of all the wild animals God had made,” approached Eve and asked, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:2-3).

Nope. In fact, God had said the opposite. Eve and her husband could freely enjoy every nut, berry, and sweet mango. Surrounded by all this abundance, there was but one tree they were not to eat from. And this, rather than all the blessings she’d been freely given, is what Eve chose to focus on.

She took that initial seed of doubt, so carefully planted, and worked it, until she became convinced God was holding out on her.

“She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it too” (Gen. 3:6)

And suddenly, that which initially looked so good, so beautiful and alluring, destroyed them, filling them with shame and shattering the intimacy they’d previously felt with God. By chasing after what God hadn’t granted instead of enjoying what He had, they lost it all.

That’s what greed does. It deceives us into thinking we haven’t been given our due and that what we have isn’t enough. It destroys our ability to enjoy the abundant blessings God has provided. It hurts others, destroys relationships and our integrity, and leads to isolation and ever-increasing discontentment.

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.”

Paul understood this. As a Pharisee, he’d probably seen countless men consumed with greed, who, like the elders in Ephesus, “showed” godliness merely as a way to become wealthy. The result—emotional and spiritual sickness, arguments, jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. In other words, ugliness and a life of drama. These men acted godly but lacked the power to experience the abundant life Christ promised, and instead of turning to Him in order to receive it, they stuffed their hollow and decrepit heart with one empty filler after another.

But God had set Paul free from all that and had given him something deeper, more fulfilling to live for, making everything else appear as rubbish. “Yes, everything else is worthless,” Paul said, “when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

Can we say the same? If not, I suggest we ask God to help us love Him more. As we do, everything else will fade.

Let’s talk about this! How does our focus impact our contentment or lack of it? How does a right view of God—who He is, how He loves, and who we are in Him—enable us to feel content with what He’s provided?

Share your thoughts here, in the comments below or in our online Bible study group on Facebook. 

Local friends, join me next week at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha as I share how we can find peace and refreshment in the middle of our crazy and replace anxiety and fear with a deep and abiding faith. You can register HERE.

You might also enjoy:

A Still and Quiet Soul: Embracing Contentment by Cathy Messecar

 

The Modesty Debate–Going Deeper

If you’ve seen me in my sweat pants and favorite tattered nightshirt, chances are we’re besties. You can tell how close we are by how I dress around you and how long it took me to doll myself up. Before Bible study or church or speaking engagements, I fix my hair, put on make-up, and sift through numerous outfits. But most days, I’m in my writing attire, also known as pajamas, with my hair frizzed and mascara smudged under my eyes.

I reserve my most frightening moments for my family. (You thought bedhead was bad; try bedhead with rebellious, curly hair.)

Ladies, when did our value get tied up in our looks? Men, has your value become entangled in your strength or achievements? Both scenarios have the same root—pride.

When many of us read 1 Timothy 2:9-10, our minds instantly jump to modesty and all the ways we’re rocking this outward expression of piety. So long as our shorts reach a certain length and our bellies and other body parts are covered, we’re good.

But that’s surface thinking, and I believe God’s much more concerned with the condition of our hearts than our fashion choice. That’s not to say we should run around like millennial pop stars. What I’m saying is, if we get our hearts right, everything else will follow.

This past summer, my family and I took a Hawaiian vacation. It was an amazing time to relax, enjoy the ocean, and connect with one another. We tried new foods, experienced the Polynesian culture, and battled with a wave or two.

We opted not to rent a car and chose instead to rely on the local taxi service. The man who drove us to our hotel thought that was an absurdly expensive idea. “Why pay $50 or more for a cab,” he said, “when you can catch the bus for a couple bucks a piece?”

That sounded fun and adventurous and like a great way to experience island culture up close. So, the next day, we climbed on a bus and headed toward the North Shore community of Haleiwa. The bus ride was a bit longer than we’d anticipated, but we didn’t mind. We enjoyed meeting the locals that merged on and off the bus—teenagers dressed in flip-flops and swimsuit cover-ups, backpacks in hand. Men and women going to work, others who had just gotten off and were heading home.

Not long into our ride, an older woman climbed on. Her hands were knotted, her face leathery and tired. Her shoulders hunched. I didn’t know her story, but as I watched her, a wave of compassion swept over me. I wanted to somehow brighten her day, so whenever I caught her eye, I offered a smile and engaged her in conversation.

I felt benevolence toward her and didn’t give a thought of what I wore or how I was perceived. At that moment, I was focused on her, not me.

But then … not long after, another woman got on, this one entirely different than the first. She had an air about her—nose raised, back straight. She was eyeing everyone else as if they were beneath them. She soon struck up a conversation with another woman on the bus, someone she appeared to know. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember the overall tone. It appeared the entire point of her conversation was to let everyone else know how great she was.

It was ugly and wreaked of superiority. Filled with attempts at self-elevation—the kind one might call bragging in disguise.

Her behavior probably should’ve disgusted me. Or at the least, irritated me. Instead, it sucked me in. I found myself sitting a little taller, thinking prideful thoughts, in essence, mentally comparing myself to her, making sure, in my estimation, I came out ahead, of course.

Isn’t it interesting how, in such a short time, pride entered my heart, and instead of focusing on loving others, I began to focus on myself?

There’s that ugly self-love again, and I believe that’s the root of pride. I’m beginning to think this constant obsession with self is one of our greatest faults and most destructive tendencies.

The next morning I opened my Bible to 1 Timothy chapter 2. When I got to verses 9 and 10, it was like God had shone a flashlight into my heart, and I saw that passage in a way I hadn’t before.

In this verse, Paul tells us not to “draw attention to [ourselves] by the way [we] fix our hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” This reminds me of another verse found in Philippians 2:3, which says, “Don’t be selfish. Don’t try to impress others …”

“For women who claim to be devoted to God,” Paul goes on to say, “should make themselves attractive by the things they do” (1 Timothy 2:10, NLT).

I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about our appearance. I’m not telling everyone to toss out their nail polish and lip-gloss. Instead, what I’m saying is, as we’re dolling up, as we’re shopping and getting our nails done, and as we’re interacting with others, may we continually do a heart check. May we ask ourselves: where’s my focus? Am I seeking to elevate myself, to somehow make myself feel as if I’m better than everyone else (which is really a sign of insecurity), or am I finding ways to love others, to build them up, thinking of others as better than myself (Philippians 2:3b, NLT).

That’s hard, and unfortunately, not something I do consistently, But this is an area I want to grow in, because this is the type of behavior and attitude, the type of love, God calls me to.

Let’s talk about this! What about you? What were your initial thoughts when you read today’s passage? How easy is it for you to “consider others more important than yourselves?” What does that look like in the day to day, and how do you think that relates to Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:9-10?