Fear No More–Finding Eternal Significance in Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional resources:

What Makes My Life Significant by John Piper

Finding Significance in Christ by Abiding Above Ministries

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

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

 

Finding God Amid Our Fear

Quote pulled from post on a water color background

Sometimes God must allow us to experience our greatest fears in order to free us from them. When it feels as if the ground beneath us will crumble to dust, we learn in a deeply personal way that “though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed” God’s unfailing love will always remain.

To put it simply, we often discover who God is in all His faithful and merciful glory, not during the tranquil periods but when we feel as if our lives have upended.

Some of you may be familiar with this story I’m about to share. I tell it often because, of all the things I’ve experienced throughout my life, this particular event led to my greatest freedom. Though at first, I felt anything but free!

At the time, I was enslaved to fear, primarily of relational loss and financial insecurity. We were living in Louisiana at the time, in a newly built, gated neighborhood and had plenty of money coming in to pay our bills and then some. My husband drove a company car, had a company pension, and managed our finances well. I had every reason to relax, but anxiety frequently won, resulting in a constant fight for control. I lived as an orphan, as if I were forced to navigate a harsh, unpredictable world all alone rather than the beloved, cherished daughter of Christ Scripture promised I was.

Had God not intervened, I’m certain I would’ve destroyed my marriage. But He did, tearing me from my highly-regulated safety plan and allowing me to land in one of my greatest fears—unemployment (my husband’s). This resulted in a three-year transitionary period where we lived off of savings for a while then moved, first to Texas then to Missouri. And with each move, God allowed falsehoods to rise to the surface so He could counter them with truth.

When I felt abandoned and unheard, He assured me He would never leave and was attentive to my every cry. When it seemed my prayers went unanswered, He reminded me that He was working out all things according to His good and loving plan, for my growth and His glory. For every fear, He gently guided me to timeless promises in Scripture, reminding me of who He was, what He’d done, and what’s yet to come. As my vision shifted off of my problems and concerns and onto my powerful, unconquerable God, my fears slowly died.

When I’m feeling frightened, I love to spend time in the psalms, which often seem to echo the cries of my heart. When it feels as if my circumstances are unjust and perhaps others have betrayed me, I know “the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne” (Ps. 9:7). When I feel exposed and helpless, I know where to turn for “the Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (Ps. 9:9).

“Those who know Your name,” the Psalmist says, “trust in You.”

Or to put it another way: If we truly grasp the fullness of Christ—His love, power, and attentive faithfulness toward all His children quote from post with blue and green background—we realize we have no cause for concern and every reason to trust. We can attempt to fight our fears countless ways, but nothing soothes and strengthens the heart quite like growing closer to Christ. He is the only One with the power to save. When all our attempts to control and salvage our situation fail, we discover we truly have all we need in Him. He alone stands firm, immovable, at our side, and He always will.

Let’s talk about this! What characteristics of Christ do you find most comforting when you’re afraid? How do those characteristics speak to your current fear? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments.

For those of you waiting for the Faith Over Fear Podcast, Salem’s target release date is mid to late month. I’ll keep you posted if this changes.

My correlating Bible reading plan is currently available. You can find it HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram and contact her HERE to book her for your next women’s event.

Find her latest articles on ibelieve:

3 Commonly Quotes Bible Contradictions And How to Explain Their Truths to Agnostics

A Prayer of Hope for a Broken Home

What Would Jesus Say About the Church Today

Watch some of Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear video devotions:

Fighting Fear by Living Loved

How Anxiety Dulls Our Spiritual Hearing

 

 

Whatever You Do

When our daughter was young, I was the “Mommy-and-Me-Jamboree” addict. I cherished every moment–every giggle, every storytime, every craft activity. And I loved to turn everything into a party. Why craft alone when I could invite the mom’s club to join us? Why play tea without making it a tea party? (That was the cutest event ever!) Birthday parties? Planned, themed, decorated to the hilt and packed with games. All to see my daughter’s face light up and her eyes squinch up behind a cheeky smile–priceless.  

Then one day it hit me. What if I started throwing parties for God? Meaning, what if I found a way to do what I loved, organizing fun and creative events, to reach others and build up the body of Christ? A short time later, I launched a “Family Ministry”.

Our first event was a skating party. Next, a scavenger hunt at a local trail, followed a month later by a pizza pool party. Yep, it was a blast!

Last week I taught my Sunday school class what it means to do everything for the glory of God and I challenged them to think about those things they love to do. Often we think serving is something we have to do, and we don’t really think in terms of those things we love to do. But I believe God is glorified when we’re on fire, not burned out. When you’re doing what you love, no one has to nudge or guilt you into doing it. The act of service bubbles out of who you are.

Let me give an example. There’s a woman at our church who loves to bake and shop. Not unusual, I know, and upon first glance, we might assume these actions are trivial. But she found a way to flip them–to use them for God’s glory. Our church has formed a relationship with an orphanage in El Salvador and this year, we want to buy Christmas gifts for all the girls. (If you want to help donate to our ongoing orphan ministry, shoot me an email at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com) So what did my dear sister in Christ do? She baked cinnamon roles and sold them to co-workers as a way to help fund this endeavor. Then, she perused the stores, using her $10 and 50% off coupons to stretch each dollar.

*As a side note–if you live in the Midwest and are looking for something romantic to do this Christmas, join us for a charity dinner at the Gladstone Community Center in Gladstone Missouri from 6-10pm on Dec. 17th and help bring hope to El Salvadoran orphans. Make a weekend of it and stay at the Plaza. Shoot me an email for more info.

I know another woman who loves to craft. Today, she runs Christ’s Kitchen, an organization that teaches homeless and impoverished women to make craft items and soup mixes, which sell in various stores throughout Washington State. Others who love to knit make scarves for the homeless and our service men. Some sew quilts. Others coach sports teams, host youth game nights, and women’s luncheons.

It really isn’t about what you do, but about using what you do–whatever you do–to bring glory to God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (NIV)

Love this song! (And the video’s hilarious!) Sweeping up Cheerios, flipping burgers, wiping snotty noses, speaking in front of an audience of 10,000–God sees it all the same as long as everything you do is done for God’s glory.

What about you? what do you love to do and how can you do what you love to bring God glory? Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about how to live the ultimate adventure by doing everything we do for God’s glory.