Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11
Rest and downtime are precious, but very rare, moments when you have young children. A few years back, my wife and I were experiencing this sweet feeling of bliss as both our daughters were off in dreamland. Unfortunately, as soon as the tranquility appeared, it quickly departed when a loud voice and horns jolted us from off the couch: “OH NO….WE’RE OFF THE TRACKS!!!”
We bolted upstairs to our daughter’s room while the message continued to play over and over again. Frantically we attempted to locate the source of all of the commotion. Our girls, now wide awake, looked on puzzled as they watched their mom and dad search underneath desks, toy boxes, and dressers. After what seemed like an eternity later, we found the culprit: A Leap Frog ABC Train that somehow turned itself on.
OH NO…WE’RE OFF THE TRACKS! That evening we received the message loud and clear. The same can’t be said for many of us when our soul attempts to get our attention and alert us to the issues taking place on the inside.
We’re in such a hurry caring for everything else that we often forget to tend to the most critical part of ourselves. We devote a great deal of time, energy and thought to the external world (bills, jobs, family, media, schedules, etc.) while disregarding the internal.
All of this running around is getting us nowhere fast. The full life we desire always seems just out of reach. In our attempts to get our lives moving in a better direction and destination, we allow our souls to become a train wreck. Many of us are “off the tracks,” and we don’t even know it.
Our soul is our life. When we neglect it, we aren’t truly living. But, when we slow down, turn our attention to the inside and tend to our soul, we experience the capacity to live in a way where our circumstances don’t define us, and where we can love and respond to the needs of those around us without wanting anything in return. Peace on the outside only comes when we’re attuned to what’s taking place on the inside. Wholeness originates from within.
- Where has your soul gone “off the tracks”? How can you tend to this area?
- Why is wholeness found only from within?
God, help me to pause and look within myself. Expose the places that I’ve dismissed or underestimated their influence and impact. Refresh my soul with Your love and Your grace. Breathe new life and new words of mercy in me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1,2
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
Just like long distance running there will inevitably come a time in your walk with God when you “Hit The Wall.” Marathon runners say somewhere around mile 20 your pace begins to slow, your stomach starts to ache and your legs feel like lead (or Jell-o). Doubt begins to creep in as they begin to question if they have the ability to make it to the finish line. With their energy level at zero, hope seems lost. Some runners persevere while others call it quits. Change will always be met with resistance. Maturity is found in those moments when you embrace the struggle by facing it head on.
Maybe the person you are trying to help finds themselves caught up in the struggle. They’ve lost hope. Their excuses to quit seem to outweigh their willingness to endure. Part of them wants to wave the white flag in surrender and go back to their old routine.
Maybe in the midst of the struggle is where you are residing right now.
This is the time when you need to rely on perseverance. While hope fuels your pursuit, your convictions will be what holds you together in the midst of the struggle. Quite simply, without convictions that ground you, hopelessness will reign supreme when you “hit the wall.” Convictions help us recall His faithfulness, which provides us with the strength, and will of heart to persevere. Hebrews 10:36 says you “need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”
A conviction that should bring us all hope comes from Philippians 1:6 where it says “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This passage makes room for our struggle as it reminds us that everyone is a work in progress.
Unfortunately, most of us make no provision for our struggle. We see our struggle as something that is wrong. Somehow we believe that contrary to every other type of change, which occurs in our lives that the spiritual ones should be easy, and come with little to no resistance. Our transformation is a process where struggle is inevitable. Resistance builds strength and strength only shows up in our life through the act of surrendering to God.
God has numbered our days to form us into His image and it will take until our very last breath for this to happen. When we are tempted to give in, it is not to time to quit. This is the moment where we must look to God to see what He is teaching us. This is the moment when we need community the most.
Change cannot and does not occur without struggle. The encouraging thing is that God wants to meet us in the midst of our struggle. That is exactly where He wants us to be. Where we have exhausted all our human strength, patience, and will and have nothing else to rely on but Him.
- What is your normal reaction when you meet resistance (Hit The Wall) in an area of your life where you are trying to grow?
- How can you help someone today persevere in the midst of a struggle they might be facing?
God, may I look at my struggles differently. Allow me to view them as ways you are stretching my character and bring me closer to Your side. Give me the words to help and encourage others who are struggling to hope things can change. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:8-9
I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. Jeremiah 31:25
The other day my daughter’s cellphone decided to take a swim in the sink. Granted, it was only a 5-second jaunt, but the encounter caused it to go on the fritz.
We jumped into action, dried it off, stuck it in a bag of rice (and then Damp Rid), and shed a few tears (her for being without a phone and me calculating how much a potential replacement might cost). And now, we’re praying, praying and praying some more that her cellphone exhibits the power of Christ and resurrects from the dead.
We’re now over 24 hours in and I don’t know if Madison is going to make it. The lack of connection is killing her. No apps to play. No Instagram to check. No text messages sent. And no phone calls received. She’s far from an electronics addict, but being disconnected even for this short while is taking a toll on her.
The grief she feels is similar to how we respond when our hearts wander in search of a connection they can trust. God hardwired us for connection (with Him and with others) so if this malfunctions we suffer. When the heart is void of contact, it causes tremendous problems in all aspect of our lives. The detachment influences our mindset, our attitude, our relationships and our actions.
We wander and worry, with nothing keeping us secure and grounded. As the heart looks for its resting place, it seeks out secure links in everything and anything. From prestige and success to possessions and people, it yearns to find security in a connection that matters.
The things of this world might distract us for a bit. Our achievements will fade in time. The amount of stuff we collect during our days can’t come with us in the end. Even our relationships with others will sometimes be strained, tested, and challenged.
Other than Christ’s unconditional love, everything we put our hope in will let us down. The human soul only experiences a secure and unshakable connection when its anchored in His grace. Every longing we have is a longing for God. By staying close to Him, we find true rest.
- How would you describe your current connection level?
- How are the longings you are experiencing a hunger for a deeper connection with Christ?
God, in You, and You alone, does my heart rest. Let me look to You for the security, purpose, and wholeness of my heart. Satisfy my every longing, knowing You are better than everything else. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have TAKEN OFF your old self with its practices and have PUT ON the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:5-10
Being a father of two young ladies, I’ve quickly learned that “we’ll be ready in 5 minutes” is girl code for “it will be at least a half hour until we are walking out the door.” In that timeframe, there will be at least a dozen outfit changes that take place. One look gets replaced with another.
As I sit patiently on the couch, I’ll hear the issues they have with every outfit: The top clashes with the bottom. Those jeans are so out of style. They don’t have cute enough shoes to go with their ensemble. The skirt is way too short (this outfit change was brought to you by the protective dad in me).
A flurry of trying on and taking off apparel ensues for what seems like an eternity. Coming to a final consensus on an outfit seems like an impossible task. Trying on different outfits isn’t exclusive for tween girls. Many believers do the same exercise when it comes to trust in their identity in Christ. Today’s passage found in Colossians 3 speaks of TAKING OFF your old self and its practices and PUTTING ON the new self clothed in Christ. (v. 9-10).
Don’t be mistaken. Some read this verse and think this it is like putting on a new pair of jeans or a fancy top only to take it off before bedtime. This isn’t what Paul is talking. Neither is it looking at your tag to see what label you are wearing. Even though you sin, you are a new creation. Paul is referring to a once and for all identity change. Your old self is gone and replaced with something brand new.
When we enter into a relationship with Christ, an incredible transformation takes place. In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul talks about the drastic change that occurs within us when we accept what Christ did on the cross and decide to walk with Him. Paul once again uses the imagery of our old self passing away, dying to Christ, as He forges a new self alive through Him. A transformation like this occurs not by our power, but solely through His ability to transform us into something new.
I’m far from a fashion expert, but I know one thing: that outfit no longer fits. It’s not flattering and, most importantly, it’s not who you are. Imagine if you lived out of your new identity and were no longer paralyzed by attempting to put back your old self? How would that influence how you approach your day and what you see reflecting in the mirror?
- In what areas do you struggle with seeing yourself as a new creation in Christ?
God, only You could transform my heart and my character. It is through the beauty of the cross that I am made new. May I trust in the security my identity in You provides. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Matthew 7:24-27
For some, acceptance has the highest value. For others, they hope that their decisions will provide some level of security. The appearance of success, a sense of notoriety, a moment of peace or a feeling of stability. These are just a few of the things we hope we’ll experience as a result of the decisions we make. We are searching for a full life.
Hope always has a focus – a place where we set our eyes. Hope is directional as it points us towards something. There is movement when it comes to hope. It encourages us to move in a direction that is either toward God or away from Him, but it always points us somewhere. One direction leads us to something that cannot sustain (hopes of this world) while the other is where fulfillment and life is found (hope of God).
Decisions are hopeful and the weight of our hope needs a firm foundation. You have to decide what you will live for and then arrange you life to pursue it. Often our foundation crumbles under the weight of the life we were made for. It is crucial we have a foundation strong enough to bear the weight of our hope.
Our perspective of hope must develop past just feelings or received blessings. Seeing hope from a foundational standpoint occurs when you begin to widen the lens. Where you place your hope shines light on what you believe about God. If God is not trustworthy or has ‘failed’ you somehow, you will be less inclined to place your hope in Him. Yet, if you see God as the supplier of our every need then you trust in His provision. Both perspectives of God reveal what our hope rests on.
If what you see determines where you are headed then questions involving direction are also needed as we evaluate where we have placed our hope. When we need hope, where do we turn? When we face difficulty, is our initial reaction to turn to friends, family, or even our sheer willpower to get us through this stretch? What direction do our eyes turn when we are trying to make sense out of something life throws our way? Do we look to people, circumstances or other aspects of this life? Is seeking out wisdom even in the picture?
Without having God’s Truth serve as our foundation, we find ourselves on shaky ground. Our hearts can easily be deceived and alter our perspective our decisions. Scripture talks about when we suppress the truth that we have a darken understanding, futile thinking and our hearts become hardened. Proverbs 17:24 says, “a discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.” Keeping wisdom in view is keeping God as your focus.
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus tells a parable that speaks of the importance of building a home on a solid foundation versus a house built on sand. The foundation becomes significant when the house begins to settle as it weathers the test of time. Eventually, the cracks in the foundation will cause the house built on sand to fall apart. The shifting sand cannot withhold the storms of life. There is no assurance, there is no rest and hope at best is fleeting. Experiencing a full life is impossible. What your hope is in reveals who or what you are building upon. The reliability of that foundation to support you is displayed through the way we live our lives.
Only one foundation can provide rest and this is of great importance. Rest is the ability to be quiet and confident. It is dependent on trust and assurance, not on personal accomplishment or circumstances. Assurance and trusts are givens, resulting in rest when it comes to hope that is found in Jesus. Some may wonder why God is so concerned that we have hope. It is because without hope there can be no faith. In Hebrews 11:1, we read that faith is the substance of things hoped for. Faith springs out of hope.
- If someone were to look at your life, where would they say your hope is placed?
- Where do you turn when you need hope?
God, may I see the Truth as my firm foundation. May Your Word and Your will be the cornerstones that I build every decision upon. Thank you for providing me with unshakable hope. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. Romans 5:8
For the past 17 years, I’ve been a freelance writer. There have been ups and downs in terms of billings, but overall it has been a great way to do what I love but still have the freedom to be with my family and take time off whenever I want.
Lately, though, work has slowed down. I mean, really slowed down. I do what I know to do: prospect like crazy via LinkedIn and other modern ways of finding work. It’s almost humorous how it’s not getting the results I want. I feel like God is up to something, but He’s just winking at me and not telling me what yet.
All of this has been testing my sense of self-worth. Apparently I am tying my income-producing ability to my value. My sweet husband reminds me that God values me no matter what my monthly billings add up to.
We’re learning in the “Make Me Like You” series that God is always pulling us into true connection with Him and with others. He wants us to value ourselves the way He does: as saints because of what His Son has done for us. Yes, we are still sinners, but we are forgiven by the one true God and we are made pure because of Jesus’s blood.
God also wants us to be willing to be real — not only with Him, but with our fellow earth dwellers. Authenticity and vulnerability bring us closer to each other and to God. When we share our struggles, our loads are lightened.
Sometimes we have to wait for answers from a sovereign God who rules the universe but also finds time for every one of His children. We wait and we connect and we trust the process. God promises that we will become who we are meant to become. We can live in that amazing hope every day.
- Where are you on the scale of your self-worth as well as your willingness to share authentically with others? What are your fears about showing your true self?
- What would life be like if your self-worth and willingness to avail your true self to others where both at their peak?
Dear Father in Heaven, Your love is a force that overwhelms us when we think about it. You redeemed us. You are with us. You will bring us home one day! Help us to acknowledge our relationship fears and trust You enough to live genuinely with our family and friends. Guide us to live in the “marvelous light” no matter what our circumstances. Amen.
PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:2-4
What’s the worst name someone called you? It might’ve been a parent, a spouse, a teacher, a friend who threw out this label. Most likely, you can remember the exact word or phrase, as well who said it, how it made you feel, and also how that label impacted you over the years. What was the label? Failure, over-achiever, addict, worthless, ordinary, fat, weird, screw-up? Stop for a moment and reflect on the labels you cling to and let define you.
Sometimes we label ourselves based off of not what people say, but by their actions or lack thereof. I know I did. UNLOVABLE. This is a label I carried for years. It’s the label I’ll quickly pick back up if I’m not careful. You see my dad wasn’t in the picture. He never made time for me. And, because of that, I felt I wasn’t lovable and worthy of a person’s time.
And how did I respond to this label? QUIET – I didn’t feel I was worth getting to know. WITHDRAWN – I didn’t want to put myself out there for fear of getting hurt again. PERFECTIONIST – I thought I had to prove my worth by succeeding. CYNICAL – I hesitated to trust people’s intentions.
I don’t think I’m odd when it comes to the way I internalized my label. You see there is always a story behind the label. Something that drives our behavior and our actions. But, when we quickly write off people and place them in boxes, we lose sight of their story, and they continue carrying this label with them.
The longer we accept the labels people place on us or we put on ourselves, it becomes easier to buy into the lie that these labels define us. Sometimes when we believe what everyone says about us, we will live it out. Labels drive the way we respond or interact with others. Labels influence the way we perceive the world and our part in it.
The people within our reach cling to their labels, either placed on them by others or themselves. The shame that some of these labels hold has held them captive for years. Many have reluctantly embraced them and have lost hope. Some people use them as excuses.
These titles try to tell us who we are and what we should do. Labels prove to be an ideal hiding place. They allow us to retreat into the safety of “that’s just who I am.” They can stick with us forever and can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. They are deceptive and self-limiting by preventing us from moving forward. We go about our daily business, bruised, dented and beat up. We feel less than…about as valuable as one of those dented cans on the clearance rack.
But, as believers, we have a message of hope. We have a different perspective to offer. We don’t want others just to let go of their labels. We want them to embrace a new identity. God’s love possesses the power to conquer any label. He can and will break the labels that have held all of us hostage. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, the new has come.”
- What labels do you cling to and use to define yourself? How have these labels impacted you and your relationships over the years?
- How do you think God feels about you labeling yourself in this way?
God, as hard as it is for me to say, I’ve been holding on to specific labels for a long time. During the years, I’ve let them define me and shape my identity. When I look in the mirror, they are all I see. Today, when I glance in the mirror may I see myself as a new creation because that is what I am. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:7
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatains 6:2
Today is just ‘blah.’ Sorry, I know as a writer I should have the capability of being a bit more eloquent or descriptive, but this dreary, wet weather doesn’t deserve the effort.
Full transparent moment: after dropping the kids off at school, I had to fight the urge to head home, hop back in bed, pull the covers over my head and call in “sick.” The grey sky seemed to mimic my mood. With a lot on my mind and my heart, the task of adulting felt like too tall of an order for me.
When things overwhelm me, I tend to retreat, shrink back and isolate. I need time to think and process on my own (and if I’m real honest…avoid altogether). Some might say “well…you’re a classic introvert,” and there’d be some validity to their assertion, but it doesn’t encompass the whole picture. More sociable doesn’t necessarily more open and transparent.
Regardless of whether one is the life of the party or a wallflower next to the punch bowl, we all tend to handle life’s circumstances relying on our strength. We avoid being vulnerable and exposing our weaknesses, struggles and scars. We don’t want to be a burden or appear needy. So, we put the covers over our head and deal with everything on our own.
Isolation only exasperates the problem. We get into our head and begin to weave together stories and tales about our circumstances. We justify and excuse. We reason we are the only ones facing these issues and that no one else We concoct worse case scenarios and sometimes settle for a life of “this is just how it’s going to be.” We place the whole world on our shoulders all while trying to keep a picture-perfect smile on our face.
Something has to change. We need to get out of bed, face the day, and show up for one another. We have to bring our WHOLE self to our relationships. But, please understand: vulnerability isn’t just to make our lives better and function more smoothly.
Our vulnerability contributes to other people. The more we withhold, the more we limit the opportunities for other people to reflect Christ’s love, be the body of Christ, to encourage and to challenge. We need each other to learn, to grow and to become the man or woman God intended us to be.
- What relationship do you need to “show up” for? How can you begin to bring your WHOLE self to this connection?
God, thank you for today. Let me face it with a full heart, knowing You’ve put people in my life who love, care and support me. May I utilize the community You’ve provided me so that we can better reflect Your heart to the world around us. Allow my words and actions to encourage others to be transparent and vulnerable as well. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:25-27
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32
We all are master storytellers. Without even realizing it, we craft tales about the world around us and the part we play in it. We weave together narratives about the other person and their intentions. Whenever someone brings up a complicated subject, we go into storytelling mode to protect ourselves or to justify the reasons why we can disregard what they are saying. These stories influence our relationships in ways we can hardly imagine. Many of us define ourselves by our stories. They allow us to remain the victim, the hero or the casual bystander.
Very rarely, if ever, do we take the time and possess the courage to look at our story. We don’t want to consider for a moment that our stories might be elaborate tales with very little truth found within. Our stories keep us from a connection. Our stories prohibit trust. Often, our stories fail to show compassion. Our tendency, when it comes to conflict, is usually to avoid. We attempt to keep the peace by covering up or overcompensating. Living in our own stories allows us to do just that. Sometimes the pool we are swimming in is the pool of our own story, and we are drowning.
We are not alone in our attempts to tread water. Those around us are often just trying to keep their heads above water. We all need a life preserver to hold onto and drag us out of the current of our own story, which can only occur with acknowledging there is a bigger story than our own- God’s story. Realizing our need for grace should fuel the compassion we extend to others. Unless we provide a safe place for people to process and grow, our relationships will remain stuck.
Trust is the linchpin to true connection. The erosion of trust leads to the erosion of safety. When someone refuses to listen or participate in a crucial conversation, it reveals they don’t feel safe with their surroundings. The foundation of trust crumbles as emotions and hostility reign. Emotions run raw when we are feeling isolated and disconnected from others.
In his book, The Power of The Other, author and psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud states that every relationship resides in one of four corners of connection. The first corner is merely a lack of connection where one remains disconnected from everyone. Making your home in this corner leads to feelings of loneliness and depression. People choose this corner because they are afraid of getting burned yet again. If one ventures out from this place, they often head to the second corner, which is a bad connection. They reason that a bad relationship is better than no connection at all. Finding yourself in this place is to know anxiety. Your identity is wrapped up in how you perform and measure up to others. When things don’t go right, you feel judged and condemned.
If the individual doesn’t retreat to the first corner, they will reside in the third corner or better known as pseudo-connection. This place is infamous for being the land of comfort, escapism, and addiction. People set up shop to mask all their pain even if it only provides temporary relief. The last corner is where we all desire to call home. It is the land of real connection where you are loved and accepted just as you are. It doesn’t mean that conflict doesn’t exist, but when you reside here you can hear and confront difficult things knowing you are safe. In our relationships, we must move to the fourth corner and be the type of person who shows compassion and grace.
- There are four corners of connection: (1) no connection (2) bad connection (3) pseudo connection (4) real connection. In the relationships that hold the most influence on your life, what corner are you residing in and how is your current connection level influencing your growth?
God, help me to confront the false stories I tell myself. Open my eyes to how I enable these narratives to dictate my actions and words as well as the depth of my relationships. May I pursue true connection with others and provide a compassionate environment for individuals to feel safe enough to reveal their true self. My desire is to honor You in my relationships. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.