Sun peeking through clouds

Beauty for Our Gloomiest Days

by Amy Anguish

Heading out into the rain to run errands is never my idea of a good time. But the weather doesn’t care when the milk and bread are gone. A few weeks ago, I loaded up my five-year-old and started out with a few stops planned. At the third store, though, my van wouldn’t start. Two hours and the cost of a new battery later, we finally finished our trip, soggy and tired and grumpy. It was difficult to see the good in the situation.

Do you find overcast skies to be downers? This time of year, at least in middle Tennessee, we experience plenty of gray days. And I will be honest. They make it hard to get motivated–whether for shopping or anything else.

Maybe it’s because I grew up listening to the Carpenters singing about “Rainy Days and Mondays,” but probably it’s just human nature. There’s something to be said for the Vitamin D sunshine brings to our lives.

And dreary conditions are just that–Dreary. So many of my Facebook memories say something like, “This weather has me wishing I could just stay in with a cup of tea and a good book.”

Are we completely depressed now? I hope not.

Have you ever gotten up at just the right moment to see the sunrise? Or sat still long enough to see it set? The artist in me loves to watch how God colors the horizon differently every night. 

Scripture states, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV).

Night sky with Psalm 19:1 in text.

God’s been painting for a long time. He’s good at it.

Have you noticed on partly cloudy mornings or evenings, the hues appear more intense? They’re reflected off more surfaces, literally streaking the sky with colors.

The clouds actually make the sunrise or sunset more beautiful.

See where I’m going?

We all have overcast seasons, physically and spiritually. My workload picked up quite a bit this last year, which is a good thing, because it means I’m getting more stories published. But, that also means my editing and marketing increased. And those tasks are … well, draining though necessary.

The extra stress has definitely clouded my attitude. However, after struggling through the rough times, the sun shone through the grays and lit the darkness, shooting colors every which way across my life. Through readers telling me how much they enjoyed a story, or seeing a nice review come through, or having someone ask if I have any other books coming out because they want to read more. It’s encouraging. 

In my earlier story, when my car broke down, a friend came to my rescue. We shared a ton of laughter trying to figure out where to attach the cables on these particular vehicles. Our interaction provided a silver-lining in a potentially rotten situation.

Just like a gorgeous sunset reminds us that clouds aren’t all bad.

Life is full of gloomy moments, but that doesn’t mean it’s only dreary. Even the grayest sky shows color somewhere—in a rainbow or sunrise. God never promised us only sunshine. But He did say He’d be there through everything, including the rain—and edits.

So, I find I can’t completely hate overcast days. Because with the clouds comes a beautiful reminder of His presence and promises. Just like He sent me those sweet comments from  readers. And my friend with jumper cables and laughter.

What ways has God reminded you of His love and faithfulness lately?

Get to Know Amy!

Author of An Unexpected Legacy, Faith and Hope, and Saving Grace

Amy R Anguish grew up a preacher’s kid, and in spite of having lived in seven different states that are all south of the Mason Dixon line, she is not a football fan. Currently, she resides in Tennessee with her husband, daughter, and son, and usually a bossy cat or two. Amy has an English degree from Freed-Hardeman University that she intends to use to glorify God, and she wants her stories to show that while Christians face real struggles, it can still work out for good.

Amy Anguish's headshot

Follow her at aBitofAnguish or on Facebook and Twitter. Learn more about her books on Pinterest and check out the YouTube channel she does with two other authors, Once Upon a Page.

Check Out Her Latest story, Mistletoe Make-believe, found in Candy Cane Wishes and Saltwater Dreams:

Charlie Hill’s family thinks his daughter Hailey needs a mom—to the point they won’t get off his back until he finds her one. Desperate to be free from their nagging, he asks a stranger to pretend she’s his girlfriend during the holidays.

Cover image for Candy Cane Wishes & Saltwater Dreams.

When romance author Samantha Arwine takes a working vacation to St. Simons Island over Christmas, she never dreamed she’d be involved in a real-life romance. Are the sparks between her and Charlie real? Or is it just her imagination?

Find it HERE.

Before you go, make sure to check out the latest Your Daily Bible Verse podcast episodes, hosted by Grace Fox and I.

The Fear that Casts Out Fear (Proverbs 3:7-8) Your Daily Bible Verse

Your Daily Bible Verse is a daily podcast where we dive deeper into Scripture, re-examining your favorite verses and getting to the heart of the message of God’s Word.Meet Our Hosts:Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.comFollow Jennifer:https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/https://www.facebook.com/JenSlattehttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/Grace Fox has published hundreds of articles and authored 10 books including the award-winning devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos. She’s a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a regular contributor to Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus. Grace lives aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, she and her husband celebrate three grown kids and eleven grandchildren.Subscribe to her weekly devotional blog and monthly update on her website: www.gracefox.comFollow Grace:Facebook: www.fb.com/gracefox.authorInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gracefoxauthorListen to the Teach Us to Pray podcast here: https://www.lifeaudio.com/teach-us-to-pray/
  1. The Fear that Casts Out Fear (Proverbs 3:7-8)
  2. The Cure for Complaining (Exodus 5:22-23)
  3. Courageously Following God's Leading (Acts 8:26)
  4. The King's Praise (1 Chronicles 29:11)
  5. Christ's Tender Display of Love (Mark 8:25)

And the latest episode of the Faith Over Fear podcast:

The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82 Faith Over Fear

At times, God’s call to love others persistently and sacrificially can feel confusing, especially if the individual we’re reaching out to behaves in unhealthy and hurtful ways. How can we love well, in a way that is healthy and emotionally and mentally safe? In this episode, Jennifer discusses ways our insecurities and past hurts can pose personal challenges, how God uses those challenges to create increased beauty within us, and the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries in all our interactions. Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails here: https://bit.ly/3l1eAYs Resource mentioned: Becoming His Princess Bible Study Video Week One: https://bit.ly/3o5qHFG Group Discussion Questions: 1. What did you find most helpful in today’s episode and why? 2. How often do you pause to evaluate your reactions to particular people or situations? 3. In what ways have your insecurities or past hurts colored your perception during disagreements or relationally tense moments? 4. Consider someone with whom you often experience difficulty. How much of your ongoing issues might be exacerbated by unresolved hurts from your past? 5. When, if ever, do you find yourself getting sucked into someone else’s drama? 6. What are some ways you can avoid this? 7. How well do you “shake off” rejection? 8. What might healthy boundaries look like in your situation? 9. What do you find most challenging when it comes to establishing or maintaining healthy boundaries? 10. What is one action step you feel God is wanting you to take after having listened to this podcast episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/LinaDes
  1. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82
  2. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 1) – Ep. 81
  3. The Love That Casts Out Fear – Ep. 80
  4. Anchored in Christ When the Storms of Life Hit – Ep. 79
  5. The Courage to Grieve – Ep. 78

question mark

Before I launch into today’s post, question: How many of you are enjoying my following chronologically through the New Testament? Were you aware that’s what I’ve been doing? (For example, today’s post covers the reading passage for day one of week 31.) I ask because this has been super challenging, y’all! If you’re enjoying this journey and find it helpful, then I’ll keep pushing on. But if you’re not … I might reconsider my content plans. 🙂 Let me know in the comments.

And now back to your regularly schedule post …

When my actions and reactions don’t resemble the love and grace of Christ, I know I’ve left my Savior behind. This happens every time I allow my fear and pride, rather than Christ, take the lead. Soon, I develop an us-vs-them mentality. As people become issues, love, that which Christ told us to radiate most clearly, begins to grow cold. 

Praying through Luke 9 this past week, I sensed God calling me to evaluate my pride-filled Pharisitical tendencies within me. Those times when I serve from a place of superiority, and reveal this in the ugliness that follows. When that sense of superiority entices me to fight for a mound of dirt that isn’t worth my, or your, or anyone else’s time, ignoring the hill–Calvary–our Savior fixed His gaze upon.

Luke 9:51 records some of the most beautiful words in Scripture: “​​As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (NIV). 

Knowing all He’d face there, maybe even feeling some of the anguish that would later consume His soul “to the point of death” in the Garden, He set walked with determined steps. 

And once again, He and His disciples stopped through Samaria along the way. Only this time, they didn’t receive the same welcome. In fact, they were rejected, as they had numerous times before. 

Only this time, James and John didn’t become grieved, as one might expect, considering all the Samaritans were forfeiting. They weren’t even annoyed, as can occur with road weary travelers. 

No. They became enraged. Murderously, so. “Lord,” they said, upon seeing how the Samaritans rejected Christ, “do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

Am I the only one struck by the sad contrast? The One with every right to obliterate not just the people in that village, but all of mankind as well, was determined to reach Jerusalem, no matter how difficult each step must’ve been. 

The hill upon which His love would be vividly displayed–for those who received and rejected Him. The disciples didn’t understand that. I suspect they were blinded by pride, thinking they, the chosen ones, had lowered themselves simply to enter that village. Their sense of superiority tainted any love they might otherwise have displayed.

Sadly, pride likely lay at the root of the Samaritan’s actions as well. Scholars remind us they welcomed Christ readily enough when He came “from some unknown region of Judæa where He had been baptising (John 3:22; John 4:3).” Knowing He was heading toward Jerusalem, the place the Jews had long contended as the only proper place to worship, however? And not to the temple they’d built on Mount Gerizzim? Implying that, perhaps, they were wrong?

Unthinkable! 

How sad to think their indignation blinded them to the truth Christ had so beautifully proclaimed to the Samaritan woman He’d met at Jacob’s well, early in His ministry. He didn’t come to tell us where to worship but rather Who to worship. 

How grieved Jesus must’ve been that day, to see putrid reservoirs of pride well up within hearts on both sides, where streams of living water should’ve begun to flow.

While I’ve never asked God to obliterate an entire town, I’ve seen my pride repel the very people God died to save. 

Lord, remind us, daily, of our need for You, precisely why we need You so desperately, so that our hearts won’t decay from the sin of superiority. Fill us so fully with Your love, only what is good and lovely and pure can remain. 

For those following the chronological New Testament reading plan …

Week 31 Bible reading plan image

Picture of a Bible with quote from Oswald Chambers

The hungry and neglected heart will always find a way to justify sin. To deceive itself into believing that forbidden act is life-giving and that the ways of God lead to death. Death of joy, of freedom, of peace. Every compromising step gains strength, feeding the lies slowly strangling our souls, convincing us that God isn’t truly loving, faithful, and good. Until, years later, we look back at the rubble of our lives and wonder how we reached such devastation.

Relationships destroyed.

People hurt.

Hope dashed.

Jobs lost.

Personal integrity and our self-respect, shattered.

Our sense of purpose crushed between an overwhelming sense of futility.

Obedience is hard. Sometimes painful. But always life giving. And yet, this truth is hard to understand, to truly believe, if we don’t truly know God. Perhaps this is why A. W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

The spouse who flirts with their coworker rather than investing in their marriage demonstrates they don’t believe God has their best in mind. That He’s either incapable of fulfilling Christ’s promises to bring us peace and joy, or that He simply doesn’t care enough to do so.

The friend who gives in to gossip believes the gratification and shallow connection she receives in the moment will fulfill her more than a life that honors Christ. That those immature friends, not God, will give her what her soul craves most.

We can often recognize, perhaps even predict, the destruction that comes from “big” and scandalous sins like adultery or theft, while excusing, even justifying the pride that slowly but steadily silences God’s voice and pull us further and further from Him.

Honestly, that’s the most destructive force within me, the virus that all too easily multiplies and evolves. It almost destroyed my marriage. It’s caused pain to my child. Because of it, I’ve had times when I’ve remained tethered to an “offense” that seeped toxins into my soul.

We’ve all probably witnessed this progression in others. We might even have felt repulsion rise up , but do we feel the same gut-level disgust to the sin lurking within us? Ready to devour us?

Darkness doesn’t play around, y’all. This is why Jesus used such strong, vivid analogies in Mark 9 when He said, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell” Mark 9:42-47, NIV).

Strong words. While not meant to be taken literally, they do accurately convey this truth: sin is much too enticing, deceptive, and destructive for us to tiptoe around it.

Woman walking in sand and quote on not tiptoeing around sin.

We were meant for more. For life. Vibrant, beyond-our-expectations, life. One so rich and full, Jesus was willing to give His all that we might receive it. May we honor that precious gift in how we live each day and with every thought and burgeoning desire we feed or starve.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you protect your heart before ugly seeds take root? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage each other. And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

Chronological Reading Plan Graphic Week 30

Catch the latest podcast episode, with guest Ava Pennington here:

The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82 Faith Over Fear

At times, God’s call to love others persistently and sacrificially can feel confusing, especially if the individual we’re reaching out to behaves in unhealthy and hurtful ways. How can we love well, in a way that is healthy and emotionally and mentally safe? In this episode, Jennifer discusses ways our insecurities and past hurts can pose personal challenges, how God uses those challenges to create increased beauty within us, and the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries in all our interactions. Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails here: https://bit.ly/3l1eAYs Resource mentioned: Becoming His Princess Bible Study Video Week One: https://bit.ly/3o5qHFG Group Discussion Questions: 1. What did you find most helpful in today’s episode and why? 2. How often do you pause to evaluate your reactions to particular people or situations? 3. In what ways have your insecurities or past hurts colored your perception during disagreements or relationally tense moments? 4. Consider someone with whom you often experience difficulty. How much of your ongoing issues might be exacerbated by unresolved hurts from your past? 5. When, if ever, do you find yourself getting sucked into someone else’s drama? 6. What are some ways you can avoid this? 7. How well do you “shake off” rejection? 8. What might healthy boundaries look like in your situation? 9. What do you find most challenging when it comes to establishing or maintaining healthy boundaries? 10. What is one action step you feel God is wanting you to take after having listened to this podcast episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/LinaDes
  1. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82
  2. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 1) – Ep. 81
  3. The Love That Casts Out Fear – Ep. 80
  4. Anchored in Christ When the Storms of Life Hit – Ep. 79
  5. The Courage to Grieve – Ep. 78

If we ignore God’s voice, we might lose our ability to hear Him. That’s a dark, frightening, and dangerous place to be, which is why Jesus said, in essence, “Be careful how you hear.”

Quote from post with image of a woman on a dusty road.

And while, in context, He was speaking of those who would ultimately accept or reject His truth, this principle applies to all of us: We can’t selectively listen and expect a close relationship with Christ.

I’ve experienced the soul-reaching ache, almost numbness, that comes from consistently telling God no. From downplaying, discounting, and outright ignoring His nudges. He was persistent for about a year, speaking to me in numerous ways—through Scripture, statements made by others, a prick in my heart when certain song lyrics played. But my fears and insecurities screamed louder. I was so focused on all I thought I might lose, I couldn’t fathom all, through obedience, I might gain.

And so, for a time, I robbed myself of the greatest gift Christ died to give me—intimacy with Him. During that time, I continued to carry out all the appropriate religious acts. I read my Bible each morning. Went to church every Sunday. Prayed before meals and taught our daughter the truths of Scripture.

Externally, I presented like a woman of strong faith, but internally, my soul withered.

With longing, I reflected on moments when God had felt specifically close and His voice had resonated particularly clearly, and I became alarmed. But I never made the connection between the emptiness I felt and my disobedience nearly a year prior.

Soon, this spiritual starvation filled me with desperation. I needed to feel God’s presence. I began crying out for His nearness, for the soul-deep connection we’d once shared.

But God remained silent. Prayer after prayer, Bible passage after Bible passage, I heard nothing.

Until one afternoon, in the middle of a run, I mentally yelled, “God, what do You want me to do? Whatever it is, just tell me, and I’ll do it.”

His swift yet clear whisper in the depths of my soul arrested my thoughts: “I already told you.” He didn’t need to say more, for I knew. With the clarity that can only come from the Holy Spirit, I knew. In my disobedience—that I had convinced myself wasn’t truly disobedience—I’d driven God away. While I’d remained His child, firmly in His eternal grip, in steadily ignoring my Savior’s promptings, my ears had nearly become too dull to hear.

In that moment, I had a choice to make, one I could no longer put off or justify away. Would I “pay attention to what [I heard]” (Mark 4:24, NLT)?

Mark 4:24 with image of a woman near the ocean.

That was a defining, line-in-the-sand moment for me, one that dramatically changed my life.

Sadly, I’ve seen others turn the other way. One person in particular comes to mind. I’ve personally witnessed numerous miraculous ways God has spoken to her, drawn her, and invited her to experience His abundant life. I’ve even seen her take tentative steps in that direction, until her land-in-the-sand moment came, that instance where she had to decide whose will she would follow, hers or God’s. Unfortunately, she chose her dreams over those God had hand-crafted for her, with heartbreaking results: isolation. Numerous relationships lost. Increased emotional and spiritual darkness.

The inability to hear God.

I pray one morning God will awaken her soul, as He did with mine, so that she will begin to take heed of what she hears so that she can experience the filled-to-overflowing life Christ promised.

That’s His invitation to us all. Where are you in your listening journey? Are you tempted to silence God’s voice in a particular area? And most importantly, is whatever is hindering your obedience worth forfeiting intimacy with Christ?  

For those following the chronological reading plan through the New Testament …

Week 19 of the Bible reading plan.

picture of a bearMy family calls me Mama Bear for a reason. I love deeply and fiercely, especially when someone hurts those I love. I can also struggle with the ability to let go, long after the incident has passed. Something deep within me cries out for justice—for the offender to acknowledge and take responsibility for the damage they’ve caused. When that doesn’t occur, I take comfort in knowing God sees and knows all, my and my loved one’s hurts included, and will one day make all things right.

When my daughter was young, a teacher spoke ugly things into her heart and hurt her deeply. She had entered the school with a love for learning and a hunger to explore. By the end of her fifth grade year, she became paralyzed by a growing fear of failure. She grew so afraid she’d get answers wrong, she got to where she couldn’t write anything.

In a year’s span, I watched the spark within her grow dimmer and dimmer. It took some time for this hurt to heal. Years of loving and kind educators speaking life into those wounded areas. Witnessing the long-lasting effects of my daughter’s pain triggered protective anger within me. I wanted the harsh teacher to know precisely what she’d done.

I imagine there have been times when you’ve felt the same.

When we’re in that place, it helps to remember our God sees. He quote from post on a teal backgroundsees every hurt, every callous word, every unloving act. He sees, He cares, and promises to, one day, make all things right. While this truth doesn’t negative the pain we all experience in this broken and often unjust world, it does help cushion the blow knowing we and our loved ones aren’t alone. God sprinkles reminders of this throughout Scripture, of times when He demonstrated His love for justice and those who likely felt discarded, betrayed, and abandoned.

I wonder if that’s how Bathsheba, the woman from 2 Samuel 11, felt when she first learned of her husband’s death. Some of you may be familiar with the story. Scripture tells us one day, King David was walking about on his palace roof, likely gazing across his land. From this elevated position on top of Mount Zion, upon which his castle stood, he could easily see the open courts of all the houses below. And then, mid-stroll, a beautiful woman captured his attention. She was bathing in her garden, completing ceremonial purification rights, likely in honor of God. Completely unaware of the lust-filled eyes locked upon her. Shortly after, the king’s messengers came knocking at her door to take her back to the palace. Soon after, King David, the man with supreme authority in the land, slept with her then sent her home.

How might you have felt in this situation? Living during a time when women were often treated as property, to be summoned, used, then discarded? And then, before those wounds have had time to heal, she learned she’s pregnant. Likely terrified, she told the king. Soon after, he had her husband killed.

After all this, did her soul cry out for justice? Did she long to know that someone saw her pain, that someone cared? We know from Scripture God indeed saw it all and held David accountable for his sin. (2 Samuel 12). But He did more than that.

Notice how she’s mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy in Matthew 1:

Verse six states, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife” (NIV).

First, why mention her at all? Obviously, each of the men listed had mothers, but we only read of five: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. With each, we learn of the sons they bore, but notice, with Bathsheba, we’re told something more. We learn not that she was married to David, the Goliath slayer and “man after God’s own heart.” No, Scripture says she was Uriah’s wife, the valiant, honorable man David, the king, had, in essence, murdered.

Granted, that’s not the purpose of Matthew’s list, and my perspective is merely conjecture at best. Still, I can’t help but find significance and comfort in knowing that God preserved this truth, that Bathsheba belonged to Uriah first. That they had belonged to one another. David stole her from her husband then later stole her husband from her.

In this small section of Scripture, I’m reminded that God cares for our big hurts and our small and has promised, one day, justice will prevail. Until then, we hold tight to the comfort of His love and the knowledge that He sees every injustice we suffer.

Let’s talk about this. Is there a situation, maybe a past hurt or a hurt someone you love has suffered, that you need to surrender to God? What words of comfort and truth is He speaking into your heart today? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. And speaking of hurts, make sure to check out the latest Faith Over Fear Podcast episode on finding the courage to break free from fear of rejection. You can listen HERE.

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram! For those following the chronological reading plan:

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

 

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)

 

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.

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.™