Powerful Truth For When Our Hearts Grow Ill

Quote regarding a life committed to God on colorful background

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you love Me now?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional resources:

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

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

Freedom From Entitlement by Jennifer Slattery

Fighting Discontentment by Jennifer Slattery

The Entitlement Cure by Proverbs 31 Ministries

 

Retaining Our Power of Choice Each Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So can you.

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

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

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

Grab your copy HERE.

Additional resources:

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

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

Find it HERE.

Additional resources:

Freedom From Self-Sufficiency (video)

Choose a Positive Attitude, Pastor Rick McDaniel

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

 

Filled to Overflowing

puddle of waterFor years, I was a stale and stagnate Christian. Christ had deposited His living water within my sole, but it was more like a trickling creek than the gushing river He desired.

I wasn’t thriving. In many ways, I was barely surviving. Then one weekend, I went on a women’s retreat and heard the account of the Samaritan woman (John 4) who’d gone through a string of relationships and, I felt certain, lived as empty as I was. She may have been widowed numerous times, abandoned by her past husbands, or she may have chosen divorce. Regardless, she’d engaged in and lost five relationships, and that had to leave emotional scars.

Jesus saw her pain and He sought her out. Knowing she’d soon reach the community well, He arrived first, sent His disciples away, and waited.

Just as, each day, He patiently waits for us. Once she arrived, He initiated a conversation by asking for a drink of water, triggering a deeper thirst than any liquid could quench. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks for a drink,” He said, “you would have asked Him, and He would’ve given you living water” (John 4:10, NIV).

In Ancient Palestinian, water was rare, precious, and necessary. Rain only fell during a few months each year, and when it did, the previously brown and barren countryside became lush and green. Against this backdrop Jesus said, in essence, come to Me to come alive, fully alive. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, He later said, “Whoever believes in Me, as image of a stream in a forestScripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37-39, NIV).

This felt confusing. I’d already entrusted my eternal salvation to Christ. But I had never learned to truly live in Him, for numerous reasons, many of that took over a decade to unpack. However, much of it came down to this: I didn’t know how to live loved. Past hurts, fears, and a continual blanket of self-loathing covered my heart in scar tissue, and it blocked me from fully receiving the grace God continually poured upon me. Equally depleting, I spent so much time attempting to fill all my empty places in my own strength—through alcohol, social functions, food—I routinely distanced myself from the only One who could fill me completely.

I hadn’t a clue how to hold authentic relationships—with anyone, let alone the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present yet invisible Creator. So I asked Him to show me. To teach me. To heal me. And He did. For the next fifteen or so years, He soothed my hurts, removed my distrust, and helped me discover the freedom of living love.

Of living filled.

We receive God’s living water, the Holy Spirit, the moment we trust in Christ for salvation. But our experience doesn’tend there. As we deepen our relationship with Christ and our surrender, the streams God deposited within us grow stronger, filling us so completely, His Spirit pours out in like a refreshing, life-giving fountain.

Let’s talk about this! Have you experienced God’s living water? How’s your stream? Is something slowing the waters of God’s Spirit? How can you give Him more access to yourself so that He can flow within and from you unhindered? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and make sure to connect with me on Instagram or Facebook.

If today’s post encouraged you, make sure to check out Wholly Loved Devotional, Drawing Near:

Drawing Near Daily DevotionEach day, God beckons us to Himself, calling us to rest in His love and grace. As we do, He heals our hurts, overpowers our fears with love, and restores us to the women He created us to be. This 90-day devotional, written by women who are learning themselves to live anchored in God’s grace, will help you deepen your faith and grow your relationship with Christ.

You can buy it HERE.

Unclogging Our Spiritual Heart Valves

Upset woman by herself in a dark alley. For years, I chose misery over life. I tended to magnify the negative and completely overlook the good. Not only did this strangle the joy, peace, and vitality from me, birthing in their place bitterness and agitation. It also routinely distanced me from Christ. I often felt disconnected from Him, confused regarding His guidance, anxious regarding my circumstances, and unfulfilled in my relationships.

I routinely blamed others and my circumstances for my inner disconnect. Or, I’d simply try to shove all the negativity down in an attempt to muddle through my dimmed existence in my own strength. But then, come Sunday, I’d enter into the church sanctuary, and praise music would begin to play. As was expected, I’d begin to join in. Before I reached the chorus, however, I’d sense God tugging on my heart: Forgive, and as if to halt any excuse hidden in feigned ignorance, a name or face would follow, and in this I was given a choice.

I could continue feeding the negativity brewing within me, or I could step into—bask in—my Father’s grace—a grace deep and strong and present enough to bring light and joy and life to the most deadened hearts, mine included, and lifeless situations.

1 Peter 2:1 lays this out pretty clearly. It says, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

In other words, we’re to do two things: Deliberately and diligently purge all that is dark and ugly within and seek out God’s light. As we do, He draws us closer to Himself and floods the deepest recesses of our hearts with those things that are good and lovely and pure.

My heart cannot be deeply united with Christ unless it is also deeply immersed in His will. I cannot simultaneously Woman sitting outside with text pulled from post. experience the full expression of His love and grace within me while withholding those same gifts from others. What flows in will necessarily flow out. Therefore, if God’s reconciling, forgiving, life-giving Spirit isn’t flowing freely from me, it’s quite likely my heart valves have become clogged.

The results of spiritual blockages are similar to what one experiences with obstructed arteries. We lose oxygen and energy. We lose our vitality and dilute and distort everything good both within and without. Within because those best parts of us, those unique personality traits God hand-crafted within us to add color to our world and strength and healing to our relationships becomes tainted with self-protection, distrust, and harbored offense. Without because this settled anger begins to blanket our thoughts and distorts our perceptions until we see more gloom than good.

In John 10:10, Jesus said that He came to give us “abundant” or “filled to overflowing” life. This speaks of a vibrancy that saturates to our core and spills out into every moment and on every encounter. Envisioning what this might look like lived out, I’m reminded of my daughter as a toddler. She had a joy about her that radiated so brightly from within, she often captured the attention of strangers. Her laugh could produce smiles on the gloomiest faces and often made one feel as if, but for a moment, they’d encountered the divine.

Woman laughing with text pulled from post.Because, in a way, they had. Whenever we see joy, we catch a glimpse of heaven, where joy abounds.

When we express joy, we experience a token of eternity in the here and now.

But when we harbor bitterness in the heart Christ gave His dying breath to cleanse, we quite literally become our own killjoys.

We all want to experience vibrant, joy-filled, thriving life. We all have access to that life through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Why would we allow anything or anyone to steal that joy from us?

Let’s talk about this! We get to choose whether or not we’ll live with joy or bitterness, forgiveness or offense. When hurt, what are some things we can do to center ourselves and our hearts in Christ’s love? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments below.

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.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Cultivating Sincere Love

 

Image of a sunrise peaking out from behind storm clouds and text pulled from the post.

We can’t feed bitterness and simultaneously cultivate joy. We won’t experience the full to overflowing life Jesus promised if we cling to unforgiveness. And perhaps most importantly, we can’t display the beautiful, grace-giving love our world needs when pride, envy, or malice clog our hearts.

I wish I could say I routinely radiate Christ, but unless I guard against this, when difficulties hit, I’m often quick to complain and slow to pray. I’m easily distracted by the imperfect, unexpected, or undesired rather than the abundance of blessings God’s provided.

In fact, there was a time when that was my default demeanor, until God woke me up through a series of encounters.

Initially, when I met Tracy*, compassion drew me to her. She was new to the area, appeared to be hurting, and I thought perhaps she could use a friend. So, I issued an invitation, and we began meeting for coffee.

Soon, our conversations felt repetitive, filled with complaining and bitterness. At first, I wondered if she was depressed, and she may have been, and if so, in need of patience and grace.

She may have been depressed. But I wasn’t, and yet, I’d been acting just like her.

In other words, though I had much to be thankful for, including a daily connection with God Himself—the source of all joy—I chose bitterness and negativity. I chose to focus on momentary “offenses”, what I didn’t have that I wanted, on expectations gone awry, and robbed myself of the peace and full to overflowing life Jesus died to give me.

Through my interactions with this other woman, God helped me see how my attitude, which I’d displayed without thinking, was choking my spiritual vitality, hindering my relationships, and diluting my prayers.

Worst of all, it was squelching my love, the one thing those I care for most needed from me.

In a letter bearing his name, Peter, an early church father who spent time with Jesus before His death, wrote to Christians experiencing oppression and persecution. Living under the evil emperor Nero, they needed not only encouragement but also incredible emotional Picture of two friends with text from 1 Peter 1:22support. So he urged them to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” (1 Peter 1:22, ESV).

We all know what casual love looks like—the type that offers kind words when it’s convenient but seems absent when needs arise. The kind that’s more self-protecting than sacrificing and prideful than initiating. The kind that might look good on the outside but lacks substance when it counts.

That’s not the kind of love Peter commanded. Instead, they were to demonstrate a sincere, unfeigned love free from hidden agendas and selfish motives.

Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I showed that type of love. Selfish motives often creep into my best, most altruistic intentions. This lessens, however, when I diligently practice Peter’s admonitions that follow in 2 Peter 2:1-3: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk”—Scripture— “that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted the Lord is good” (ESV).

In other words, we can’t harbor bitterness or envy in one area or in relation to one particular person and expect our other relationships to remain pure and sincere. Malice, deceit, and slander, and all their equally destructive sisters, once entertained, invade our hearts until everything becomes tainted.

To display the love, joy, and peace God commands, we need to both purge and fill. We need to actively and continually throw out everything that hinders while soaking in everything that ignites.

That is the only way we will truly be able to love others well, as Christ loves us.

Let’s talk about this. What’s hindering you from fully expressing the love of Christ? Is there an old offense you’re rehashing? Unforgiveness you’re feeding? If so, hand that to God. Ask Him to remove it from you, to replace it with truth, and then intentionally remember all the ways God has shown you that He is indeed good.

It’s really hard to remain angry or bitter when focused on the love and grace of Christ.

It’s equally hard to experience the full to overflowing life Jesus promised when we’ve chosen bitterness instead.

What resonated or challenged you most in today’s post? Share your thoughts, stories, examples, and questions in the comments below.

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Join the Wholly Loved team on March 23rd to discover how to live fully, vibrantly alive, prioritize your time according to God’s leading, and experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in your most enjoyable and difficult moments. Visit the Wholly Loved website to find out more and King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha to register. We also encourage you to grab a free copy of our Bible study, Becoming His Princess. You can do so HERE. Listen to each week’s opening session HERE.

Want Jennifer or her team to come to you? Contact her HERE.