Remaining Focused Amid Opposition

Quote from post on multi-shaded blue background

When God calls us to something, we should expect difficulties and opposition. Not everyone will understand our actions or motivations. Some people might even misjudge us or actively fight against us. The question is, how will we respond? Will we shrink back? Lash out in anger and frustration, or diligently, confidently forge ahead?

In short, when obedience feels challenging, whose voice will we give preeminence? Those of our naysayers or our own insecurities? Or will we give our Savior the authority He deserves?

Years ago, I served in an area for which I was unqualified and ill-prepared. Having received zero training, I wanted to learn to lead well. To glean from other female leaders who had perhaps encountered similar challenges and understood all the relational dynamics involved with leading women. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that in the church I attended at the time, so I began reaching out to others in my community. Within a week, I’d gathered eight Christ-led, wise women of grace excited to share their insights and also to learn from others. Basically, to join a mission-minded group of ladies.

Two women praying together.

Filled with joy, I began envisioning what our meetings might look like. We could discuss highlights from ministry-related articles and books, pray for one another, and share ideas. We could learn from one another’s successes and failures and together, impact our community for Christ.

My excitement quickly deflated, however, when one of the pastors I served under called me in to his office. His facial expression, body language, and tone made it clear—he was not a fan of my endeavors. I sensed, in fact, that my actions raised suspicion, as if this small group of women were in some way acting with subterfuge.

Hurt and confused, I said I would quietly let this group I’d launched die and determined to do my best to honor my role with my limited training and experience. But my heart continued to ache for deep, ministry-related connections with other Christ-focused women. And I was saddened to know how close such a group had come to taking form.

My soul felt burdened to pursue the call God had given me, but the doors in front of me felt perpetually closed.

One afternoon, I shared my frustrations with my husband.   

He shook his head and said, “Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you know is right.”

I contemplated his statement for some time, struggling to determine my next best, most God-honoring step. Did He want me to initiate change in my current environment? Was He calling me to seek support elsewhere?

I prayed over that situation, over the need, the hole God made increasingly apparent, for over a year, until I knew with certainty, He was calling me to act. The following week, Wholly Loved Ministries was born, a place where women from diverse denominations can grow in their gifting and their relationship with Christ. That small group of women who gathered together in a local coffee shop to dream of all the lives God might change, through our first timid yet obedient steps, has now grown to a team of 30 speaking life across the globe.

All by God’s grace, and in part, because we refused to allow opposition to dictate our actions.

Perhaps you’ve experienced a similar situation—an invitation to act that left others confused or even angered. And maybe in the moment, compliance felt easier, safer. Certainly less confrontational. But if we want to live for Christ and fully embrace all God’s called us to, we cannot be swayed by other people’s hostility.

Consider the example Jesus provided in Matthew 12:9-14. He’d recently made some pretty big claims: That He was the Son of God who knew God intimately and always did as God desired. (John 5:16-21.) That He possessed the same life-giving power as God the Father. And that He was Lord of the Sabbath. Then He performed miracles to validate His claims.

About this time, the Bible says Jesus went over to the Pharisee’s synagogue. While there, He noticed a man with a deformed hand. Seeking a way to trick Christ, the Pharisees asked, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:10, NLT).

They saw this individual as an opportunity for entrapment. But Jesus saw the man’s wounded heart, his need, and was moved by deep compassion. Though He knew His actions would lead to increased opposition, He chose to advance God’s light. He told the man to stretch out his hand. When he obeyed, Scripture says “it was restored, just like the other one” (Matthew 12:13, NLT).

Can you imagine the man’s joy? This was cause for celebration. He had been touched by the light of Christ. But the religious leaders were not impressed. Instead they “called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus” (Matthew 12:14, NLT).

And yet again, Jesus remained focused on His mission and, leaving the area, continued healing and teaching.

He didn’t let spiritual resistance keep Him from the synagogue or hinder His decision to heal. Nor did He try to fight against it, at least, not as we might expect. Instead, He kept moving forward, kept spreading the light, wherever He went and to whomever would receive it.

His faithful, steady actions provide a model for us. When darkness hits, and it will, we can falter in fear, lash out in anger, or faithfully advance God’s light.

In what way is God calling you to advance His light this week? In what way has darkness threatened to halt your steps? What is one truth that will help you move forward in confidence and victory?

Speaking of embracing our calling, if you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to listen to Faith Over Fear episode: The Courage to Pursue Our Calling.

What to Do When Others Don’t Understand Our Anxiety Faith Over Fear

We all want to feel understood. Known and accepted. The problem is, no one will truly understand what it’s like to live with anxiety if they themselves haven’t struggled. So what do we do when we’re craving the support of those who “get us” but don’t feel we’re able to receive what we need? In this episode, Jennifer Slattery takes listeners to the root of this need and shares ways we can identify and grow a healthy support system. Find Jennifer Slattery at: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Resource: Becoming His Princess Video: Growing in Grace Becoming His Princess Bible Study If this topic is helpful, be sure to listen to Episode 15 – The Courage to Fight against Fear Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. Who do you most turn to when you need support? 2. How does that person(s) best support you? 3. Consider the health of that relationship. In what ways do you support the other person? 4. What conversations might you need to have in order to deepen the mutual ties of support? 5. Consider your current circle of close friends. Are those friends able to provide the support you need? 6. Consider your desire to be understood. How might a failure to live in your identity in Christ affect your desire? 7. Consider your desire to be understood. In what ways does a failure to recognize your true value affect your desire? 8. How can you anchor deeper in grace? 9. How might living anchored deeper in grace help you feel less alone? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Aleksei Morozov
  1. What to Do When Others Don’t Understand Our Anxiety
  2. The Courage to Be Vulnerable – Ep. 52
  3. The Courage to Share Jesus with Others – Ep. 51
  4. The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50
  5. The Courage to Fight for Others – Ep. 49

And there’s still time to sign up for Wholly Loved’s Beautiful Mess Mother Daughter Conference. Find out more HERE.

For those following our chronological New Testament Bible reading plan, today’s post kicks us off with the first suggested passage.

Graphic of week 12's chronological reading plan passages.

When God Calls Us Back to Where We’ve Failed

Blue background with quote from Corrie Ten Boom on trusting God

When calling us to a place of increased fruitfulness, often God first bring us to the very place we failed. Will we courageously step forward into all He has for us, or will past disappointments keep us stuck?

I’ve stood with my feet anchored in cement, but I’ve also experienced the joy and freedom, and incredible intimacy with Christ, that comes from following His lead. And with every obedience choice, I’m learning to lift my gaze off of my weakness and lack and onto his strength and abundance.

Perhaps most importantly, I’m learning to trust that His ways truly are best and that He has the power to lead me to His best. That in fact that is precisely where He is leading me, with every step He asks me to take.

When my daughter was young, I sensed God calling me to launch a children’s ministry, and so I did. Almost without thinking. In many ways, my yeses came a lot easier back then, primarily because I hadn’t been serving long enough to experience much failure.

Initially, everything seemed great, and the ministry grew far beyond what I’d anticipated or envisioned. Initially, everything went well, and I received such joy and fulfillment from every moment, even those that brought fatigue. But then, problems hit, one after the other after the other, and all in areas I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared for. A year, maybe two, later, I quit, confused and hurt that God would call me into something only to let me fail.

Over time, I grieved and moved on, and I began to find ways to serve once again. Fulfilling, joy-giving ways, but I carried that first failed experience with me wherever I went. As a result, I was reluctant to take significant risks. I told myself I was merely holding all things, ministry included, loosely, but really, I was self-protecting. Insulating my heart so that it wouldn’t sting so deeply, should God decide this next venture wasn’t to last.

Had I been Simon Peter, the day Jesus called him to push out into the deep, I suspect I would’ve needed a lot more persuading and cajoling. You might be familiar with the story. We find it in Luke chapter 5, which tells us of a day when Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilee. As usual, a crowd surrounded Him. Upon seeing an Simon’s empty boat, he got in and began to teach the people from there. At some point, Simon, who had been cleaning his empty nets, got in the boat as well.

Verse 4 tells us, “When [Jesus] had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (NIV). Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”

In other words, he and his partners had done everything they knew to do. They’d given it their best effort and likely had exhausted themselves trying, only to find their nets clogged with algae and plant life. From a human perspective, going for another round would only dirty the nets they’d likely just cleaned. And yet, Simon responded, “But because You say so, I will let down the nets.”

The result?

“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their Corrie Ten Boom Quote on Trusting Godnets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”

Jesus called Simon right back to his place of failure. In this, the God of abundance filled his nets to overflowing—just to prove He could, so that they could follow Him without fear. And that’s precisely what occurred. You see, the power wasn’t in the miraculous number of fish but in the God who commanded them. Simon was able to shift his focus off of himself, his efforts or abilities or resources, and even God’s provision and center it firmly on Jesus, His Provider and Sustainer. That was what gave him to courage to leave his now filled nets, the equivalent of a thriving 401K, to follow however Christ led.

And it all began when Simon allowed God to lead him back to the very place in which he had failed.

Let’s talk about this! When has a past failure hindered your actions? When God calls you to something, do you ever hear a nagging voice that says, “Remember last time you tried that …” What are some ways you gain courage to push out into the deep, so to speak? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and connect with me  on Facebook and Instagram. I invite those who struggle with fear to join my private Faith Over Fear Facebook community found HERE.

Speaking of stepping out into potentially deep waters, I also encourage you to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode on finding the courage to embrace our calling.

For those following the chronological New Testament Bible reading plan:

Bible reading plan image week 9

Staying Alert to the Harvest God is Preparing


Sometimes we can become so focused on where we wish God would work that we’re unable to see where He’s working all around us. We can become so fixated on trying to shove through a closed door, we miss a thousand other openings He’s prepared for us.

About five years ago, my husband and I decided to become more intentional with outreach. God had recently opened our eyes to some pretty deep hurts in our community—generational hurts often experienced by families attempting to navigate our world alone. Struggles we understood, because we’d been there. We’d been the couple with the failing marriage, the family with suffocating debt. The man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father who desperately wanted to do better, to live and love better, but felt powerless to change for any significant period of time.

Then one afternoon, a woman in our neighborhood invited me to church, and so I went. At first, I went alone, but soon, my husband joined me. We began to learn what life with Jesus—real life period!—could look like, and bit by bit, everything changed. He steadily, progressively broke the chains that bound us, healed our hurts, and purified and deepened our love for one another.

And we wanted everyone we knew to experience that same freedom, a freedom we knew could only come from a thriving relationship in Christ. We soon discovered, however, not everyone wanted that. Some people—the very people we felt led to reach out to, in fact, appeared unreceptive to our message and really anything other than surface level interactions. Yet, we persevered, for years, with zero results. I began to feel discouraged. I knew God had called us, as Christ followers, to share His truth. But how could we, when no one seemed interested in hearing it?

Our excitement started to fade, but then God began to shift our view. In the midst of that seemingly unfruitful year, He brought people into our circle—people looking for community, for support, and for truth. Honestly, it took me a while to shift my direction. In my stubborn fixation on how I was expecting God to work, I almost missed all the miracles He was inviting us to participate in.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus’s disciples seemed to struggle with a similar problem. They abandoned everything to follow Jesus on His eternal, life-saving mission, but He often took them places and to speak to people they never expected. A Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter. Tax collectors, peasants, the lame, and the leper. And a five-times married Samaritan woman, someone Rabbis in their day would’ve gone great lengths to avoid.

But Jesus sought her out, spoke truth into her heart, and used her to reach her entire village. Those of you familiar with the hatred Jews felt for Samaritans, and Samaritan women especially, who were considered perpetually “unclean” can envision how shocking this must’ve been. I imagine their shock intensified, maybe even turning to disgust, when their respected teacher agreed to stay in that Samaritan village, eating off their dishes, sleeping in their homes, for two days.

Based on Christ’s words to His likely stunned disciples, this was not the ministry they’d been expecting. He said, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35, NIV).

It’s like He was saying, “Open your eyes to what God is doing all around you. Speak to those He’s already preparing. Those who are hungry for life change.”

I wonder if He’s saying the same to us. We should reach out to everyone, absolutely. But may we never become so fixated on how we expect or hope God to work that we miss a whole village anxious for truth.

Let’s talk about this. First, I’d love to hear if you’re enjoying our chronological stroll through the New Testament. Today’s passage, John 4:27-38, kicks off week seven. Second, I’d love to read about times when God opened your eyes to a ministry outlet you might’ve otherwise missed. What did God teach you through that? Did anything else stand out to you in today’s passage?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Seeing the Light in Dark Times

Prayer: God flood our lives with light.No matter how dark things appear, light is breaking through, always. The question is, will we see it? When difficulties come, it’s so easy to focus on the challenges and disappointments, and in that, to forget the heart, power, presence, and purposes of Christ.

I’ve noticed something lately, something that happens again and Sunrise over the ocean with quote from postagain. So often, my most challenging moments, in Christ’s hands, become so life-giving. When C19 hit, my ministry lost an entire year of conferences, and therefore a year worth of funding. At the time, I felt confused and uncertain. But God used the pause and our renewed focus on Him to lead us into new, increasingly fruitful territory.

This pattern has played out in my relationships as well. When we lived in Southern California, my marriage was in a rough place. I felt so alone and ached to connect deeply with my husband, but the hours and stress of his job routinely stole him from me. For a while, the situation seemed to get worse. But even then, God was working, revealing things to both of us we too easily ignored prior. That dark period became a catalyst for change and growth.

Perhaps the most vivid light-piercing-darkness event occurred when I first became sick. Initially, fighting my illness alone, I tried various supplemental “cures.” The more out of control my body felt, the more I fought for control. By the time I sought a doctor and received a diagnosis, my latent, previously manageable and largely “ignored” OCD morphed into obvious germaphobia.

That period was so hard on all of us, but it also led to deep healing. We couldn’t justify or downplay my behavior anymore. I wasn’t simply focused or particular. When life became challenging and darkness pressed in, it squeezed out my inner gunk that we had learned to ignore.

We could’ve become suffocated by the darkness. Instead, by God’s grace, we linked arms, turned to Jesus, and steadily sought and followed His light. And His light indeed broke through in such a beautiful, life-giving way. While this didn’t eliminate our pain, that period changed us, for the better.

Speaking of Jesus, John 1:4-5 says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (NIV).

Jesus didn’t come during a rosy time in history. Lives were ravished by King Herod’s infanticide, Roman oppression, poverty and hunger, leprosy and the lifelong isolation that accompanied it. But God was doing a mighty work not even the most powerful tyrannical ruler or most devastating disease could halt. He was bringing life to the dead and piercing the darkness with light.

The Pharisees couldn’t see this. They were blinded, distracted by the darkness, the darkness within themselves, yes, but also all the oppression and uncertainty in their world. All they could see was what they might lose, should this faith-movement continue: Their prestigious roles as religious leaders, their already tenuous relationship with the Roman authorities, their way of life. They couldn’t, or maybe wouldn’t, see the light—the gift of life and freedom Christ offered.

No matter what 2021 brings, I refuse to be like them. I refuse to become so engulfed in today’s challenges that I fail to see God’s light breaking through. Because I know it’s there. It always is, a light nothing, not the pain of today or the uncertainty of tomorrow, can extinguish.

Speaking of intentionally seeing and pursuing the light, I invite you to begin your new year determined to walk in God’s truth. Join me as I read—and write—chronologically through the New Testament. Each week, we’ll kick off with a devotional post, similar to today’s, followed by five days of suggested reading.

Bible reading plan imageWeek one:

Day one: Mark 1:1, Luke 1:1-4, John 1:1-5

Day two: John 1:6-18

Day three: Luke 1;5-17

Day four: Luke 1:18-25

Day five: Luke 1:26-38

Let’s talk about this!

How is God’s light breaking through your circumstances this month? And perhaps more importantly, how can you seek out and hold tight to that light when dark circumstances hit? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

And speaking of God’s light breaking through relational challenges …

Finding Emotional Health Through Daily Scripture Reading

Logo image for Wholly Loved's Bible reading appGod created us to live in freedom and deep connection with Him and others. Unfortunately, life experiences often hinder our ability to fully experience the abundant, beyond expectation, life Jesus died to give us. Many of us are hurting, struggling with insecurity, and tiptoeing through our days as we attempt to navigate the chaos. Still others of us are reacting to others with “fight” or “flight” responses–living in a continual state of avoidance and withdrawal or offense and defensiveness. So often, we attempt to fight these deep, heart-level battles with surface level tactics, but God wants to take us deeper. He wants to bring us to a place where we’re so grounded in Him, so encased and filled with His love, all the gunk of the world bounces off our wholly loved selves.

We want to help you take steps toward greater emotional and spiritual freedom, and we’ve designed a Bible reading plan, now available on the YouVersion app, to help you do that. You can find the app HERE.

 

Update on Keep Your Eyes on the Call Post

Hey, y’all,

Sorry for the double post this morning, but I updated the previous (find it HERE) to include a Bible reading plan and didn’t want those of you who receive my posts in your inbox to miss it (as I don’t believe you receive posts a second time when they’re revised).

As I almost always write out of whatever God is showing me during my prayer or Bible reading times, and I will likely be camped out in the time when Ezra and others are rebuilding God’s Temple …

For those wanting to follow along with my Bible reading (as I have a feeling many of my preceding posts will stem from that), here’s a daily reading list. (I’m reading out of a chronological Bible so am simultaneously in Ezra, Haggai, Daniel, and Psalms.) I’ll share some questions you can use each day to help you process what God might be telling you below. They’re pulled from Day One Option One of Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Day one: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-11

Day two: Ezra 2

Day three: Psalm 126, 147

Day four: Ezra 3

Day five: Ezra 4

Day six: Spend a day reviewing, journaling on, and praying over what God showed you during your day one-five Bible reading time.

Questions you can work through as you read your daily Bible passages:

Who are the main characters in this passage?

What does this passage reveal about the human condition, such as:

  • Mankind’s rebellion against/obedience toward God?
  • Mankind’s attempts to fill their needs apart from Him or relying on Him for their needs?
  • Mankind’s attempts to reach Him on their own terms?

What does this passage reveal regarding God’s nature?

What does/might this passage reveal about God’s plans?

How might this passage reveal mankind’s need for the gospel?

In what ways are you/have you been similar to one or more of the characters in this passage?

What might God want you to know through this section of Scripture?

What might He be asking you to do?

End your reading in prayer, asking God to help you apply the biblical truths discovered and live out whatever you sense Him impressing on your heart.