I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve said something and then heard my 25-year-old son say, “Filter, Mom!” In truth, remembering to filter what goes on in my head before it comes out of my mouth has always been a struggle for me. I tend to speak much more than I should in some situations and then not say enough in others. Often I’ve missed the blessing of hearing what others are saying in both instances.
However, besides the obvious fact that I miss things, what is the ultimate responsibility I have in my words? Are there consequences far greater than what I may or may not miss? (more…)
I can almost say for certain that there is someone in your life that is abrasive, irritating, competitive, judgemental, controlling, annoying or just plain mean. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about. You cringe at the thought of just being in their presence.
It might be a colleague, a family member, the parent of a student at your child’s school, maybe someone at the gym or all of the above. Wherever you are, inevitably there they are.
No matter how hard you try to avoid them, you round the corner and THERE THEY ARE! Alarms are going off inside your head! You try desperately to contain your panic, but it’s hard when you instinctively want to turn and run! Instead, you awkwardly manage to expel a series of words that don’t quite sound the same way you thought they would in your head. You feel like a babbling idiot and by the expression on their face they are in agreement.
A sad truth in all of this, is that it isn’t just the colleague, the family member, the parent of a student at your child’s school or even the person at the gym. It’s us… Christian women at church on Sunday morning, at our bible study, in our small group, even at our children’s youth group functions.
Why is this? One reason… Satan! He wants nothing more than for us to focus on his deception and by this creating a division within us; distracting us from the opportunity to see the beauty of Christ in others and in ourselves. Whether we are the cause or the effect of the irritation we focus on the negative in either scenario. We fail to understand the purpose of the irritation and discomfort. If somehow we could just learn to respond in grace, truth, love and total acceptance of one another we would find peace.
As I ponder this, I am reminded of one of God’s amazing creatures the oyster, and the beautiful pearl that He designed for it to create. By definition, pearls form out of the oyster’s natural reaction to protect itself from the irritant. As the sand or parasite works it’s way into the oyster, it’s defense is to coat the irritant with a substance called nacre (the brilliant substance that gives pearls their beauty, luster, strength and resilience). This nacre is deposited layer upon layer as a protective barrier until a lustrous pearl is formed.
It is only in Jesus that we will find this natural beauty within us.
It cannot be cultured or imitated. The process takes time but understanding the value of what it will produce helps us to look to Jesus. Remember that:
In all things the greatest of these is love.
What Satan intends for evil, God intends for good… and it is miraculously happening at the same time. Hold tight to this, believe it and trust in Him.
We have the choice to respond in defense and avoidance of the irritation of others or embrace and accept the opportunity to see the beautiful pearl that can only be produced when we allow the Holy Spirit to be our protective barrier that not only coats and protects us but transforms our irritation into a strong, brilliantly beautiful pearl that is genuine and unique.Complete with the capacity to respond in grace, truth and love; and gives us the ability to find
the peace and acceptance that each of us so badly longs for.
Easter. Let’s put all those controversies aside about whether or not we should hunt eggs or have a bunny or whatever else people want to argue about and talk about how lonely those hunts can be. The kiddos might be hunting wildly for those multi-colored eggs, but look around when that’s happening. What you will invariably see are men and women standing alone or even in little bunches, smiling as if they are enjoying the afternoon, but what they are really doing is wishing that someone…anyone…would notice how utterly miserable they truly are. Of course, some are having fun, but some absolutely are not. The kicker is that pretty much no one notices whether they are or not, and they certainly aren’t telling.
Why is that?
It’s kind of funny that we live in such a streamlined society where everybody is connected to everybody, and yet for the most part, we are utterly and completely alone. Even conversations at tables in restaurants these days are neglected in favor of checking your Facebook status or email or texts or Twitter. I’ve sat and watched two people sit together for dinner and never even look at one another, their attentions fully given to whatever handheld device they own at the time. It’s never been more hazardous than now to walk down the street for fear of any number of passersby running right into you because they’re looking down at their phone instead of where they are walking.
This plague, though commonplace in mainstream society, has unfortunately permeated our Christian lives, as well. Some of us may live in extremely populated areas, but for some reason we feel nothing but loneliness and isolation from those around us who share the most amazing gift of all time—Jesus!
I have often traveled to Harare, Zimbabwe, this time of year so that I can speak at Easter conferences, and I am always overwhelmed with the words so many of the women there speak to me. Had they not been speaking Shona, the native language of most of Zimbabwe, the words they were saying would have been exactly the same words I’ve heard over and over again here in America: “I’m so lonely.”
It’s not that they are alone. Few of us are ever alone, but the pain of loneliness is rampant among Christians.
How very sad that is.
So I began to ask myself why that is the case. Why are members of an eternal family, truly those who are now the bride of Christ, suffering from such a condition? I mean, I can almost understand how unbelievers might feel lonely. After all, what do they share with others but a constant desire to figure out how to be happy or content or joyful? We, however, have been given the key to such things, and we share that key with millions of other people, many of whom live right in our neighborhoods. If not there, at least there are those with whom we attend church or bible study.
Why are so many of us, all over the world, still so lonely?
I’m convinced that it’s not loneliness that has plagued our existences, but isolation. Most of us have a tendency to isolate ourselves, either in our sadness or our sin. We might reveal some things, but for the most part, we live under the misapprehension that our suffering or our sin is somehow more extreme or more dire than anyone else’s. Either that or we delude ourselves into thinking that we don’t want to burden anyone else with our problems, so we keep them to ourselves, simmering just beneath the surface of the smiles we paste on in public.
Consequently, many of us who have reason for the most joy experience pain that is both unnecessary and unwarranted, which is just the way Satan wants it. If he can convince us of this lie, then what we should be presenting to the unsaved world—peace and joy that surpasses all understanding—is buried beneath a mountain of misery that lives inside of our heads.
This is precisely why we are to be who God intended His children to be, and that is relational. We are to belong to a body of believers, not so that we fill a square in the account journal of our sanctification, but so that we can build one another up, hold one another accountable, and fellowship together. We need our brothers and sisters and we need to seek them out. Living inside of our own heads is exactly what Satan wants because there is no relationship there.
My heart hurt for the women of Zimbabwe, just like my heart hurts for every man and woman I meet who suffers from this plague. It hurt so much that the focus of my work has streamlined to one of building discipleship and relational connection between believers all over the world. This is a plague that should not be, and all of us must do what we can to extinguish it however we can.
What can you do to either break out of this isolation or help others to do so? I pray that all of us seriously consider the ramifications of a body of believers who segregate themselves from every other part of the body in horrible isolation. Move toward relationship with your brothers and sisters. After all, heaven isn’t going to be a lonely place. God meant for us to seek relationship with each other and the beauty that comes with that while we are here on earth.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony….Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:12-16)
Lately, scrolling through Facebook has become much more than a mindless activity full of relatable photos, memes, and hilarious videos. Instead, I’ve learned to view it as an opportunity to obtain a glimpse into the lives, minds, and hearts of many friends and family members on social media. This morning, during my daily scroll through the incessantly, inordinate Facebook feature otherwise known as “newsfeed,” I came across a post from a young lady that caught my eye and peeked my interest. The post was barely noticeable, only comprised of two words. Yet, those two words shot through my body and into my soul like a burst of electricity. Those two words stayed in my head all day like a catchy tune, and at night, hovered over my mind like a storm cloud. The post came from a young lady who struggles with dysthymia, also known as chronic depression. Those two words were: nobody understands.
A love we crave
Biblically speaking, a man’s purpose is to know God, and to spend eternity relishing in the enjoyment of Him. We were created to experience intimacy with the God of the universe, and to spend our days pursuing the knowledge of Him. In light of this, I believe that an inevitable characteristic of this design for humans to know, is a desire to be known. Humans were created to know, and be known by God Himself. Naturally, this desire to be known has been tainted by the fall, and sin has perverted a right desire, into one full of selfish ambition and personal glory. This is wildly evident in today’s culture through a yearning for fame, and an insatiable desire for attention from those of the opposite gender. This yearning to be known is especially evident within this age of technology. We desire so much to be known, that we create various social media as platforms to showcase ourselves. We spend hours upon hours designing boards we feel best represent our style, hobbies, dreams and ambitions, taste in music, movies and food. We tweet our every move in order to keep the world up-to-date on our lives. We take the time to fill out silly questionnaires and “like” different pages so that our friends can know us better. Our human desire to be known is evident in every aspect of our lives.
It can be said—to be known, is to be loved. Or better yet, to be loved, is to be known. We see this truth played out in Matthew 7:23 and John 10:14-15. In Matthew, the Lord rebukes the one who does not belong to Him with the terrifying statement “I never knew you…” while in the gospel of John, Jesus uses the knowledge of His children to claim them as His own stating: “I know my own and my own know me.”
Humans crave an understanding kind of love. A love that knows truly, sincerely, and deeply. A comprehending love, a grasping love—an intimate love that can fathom them. To know God, and to be known by Him is the only redemption.
Fully God, fully man
As I read the words, “nobody understands,” a verse immediately came to mind. No, it wasn’t Psalm 119, nor was it Psalm 139. The verse that came to mind, was the end of Hebrews chapter four, and beginning of Hebrews chapter 5:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (5) For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.
In the Old Testament, the duty of a priest was to operate as intercessor between God and the people. He would offer sacrifices on behalf of the people, but also for himself since he too was a sinner. Because of this, the priest was able to show compassion towards the people, since he himself was beset with weakness. Of course, after Christ’s death and resurrection, we are able to have access to the Father and to experience intimacy with Him. Jesus Christ, as the great and final high priest, bridged the gap between a holy God and fallen man.
But we know this. We know God sent his Son to live the life of perfect obedience which we could never attain. We understand that it is only the sinless life and righteousness of Jesus Christ that makes us right before God. Most believers have no problem understanding the fact that Christ was sinless, and this is because we grasp His deity. However, I believe many Christians fail to comprehend the aspect of Christ that legitimized Him as a sacrifice, which is His humanity.
The incarnation of God is an astounding facet of the gospel. As J.I. Packer stated: “Here are two mysteries for the price of one — the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus. . . . Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.”
We are confident in Christ’s deity, yet oftentimes, we undermine His humanity. Nonetheless, the truth of Jesus’s humanity is to be regarded just as important as the truth of His deity. We know from the Word of God two things to be absolutely sure: Jesus has two natures—God and man. And each nature is full and complete—He is fully God, and fully man (Colossians 2:9, John 1:14, Hebrews 2:14). But what does it mean that Christ was fully man? It simply means this: that Jesus was exposed to all the limitation of man. He required all things you and I require in order to survive… food, drink, and sleep. He was not exempt from the things which confide us, such as gravity, pain, fatigue, and illness. Because He was bound to all the limitations of man, this includes the temptation we experience. He Himself was tempted, as Hebrews says, “in every respect.”
Hopefully this truth will lead the believer to ask the question; why? Why would the God of the universe willingly subject Himself to the limitations of man? The beginning of Hebrews tells us it is so that He can deal gently with the ignorant, and the wayward since He Himself was beset with weakness.
How beautiful is that? This perfectly holy being chose to subject Himself to temptation in order to deal gently with us. The Creator willingly humbled Himself to walk amongst the creation, so that we might know one who understands. The one who spoke and caused all to be, the one who the wind and the waves obey, the one who commands the tiniest of bacteria, to the greatest of all mammals—He understands. In the God of all creation, we find the greatest love—a sacrificial, sympathetic, and understanding love.
I urge you, never again to be dismayed by the lie designed by Satan to isolate you. The lie that you are alone, and misunderstood. The King of kings understands more than you’re capable of comprehending. What a shame it is to walk through life believing no one understands or cares, and what an offense it is to a God who left His throne to demonstrate how much He does.
Miryea attends The Masters College majoring in English with a minor in Bible. With her degree, she plans to teach middle school English as well as continue to enjoy, and further develop her passion for writing. Born and raised in Arizona, she was home schooled from first through twelfth grade, and is the eldest of two.
“This is not my life.”
“Those are not my children.”
“That is not my husband.”
Have you ever looked around at your life and thought any of these things? I mean, this isn’t what we signed up for, right? No one told us the day we walked down that isle or the day we graduated from school or the day we heard our child’s first cry that things would one day take us to the brink of despair.
That’s someone else’s life. That’s not mine.
But then one day it is. One day you wake up and all those women whose lives were battered by unfaithful spouses or lost children or sickness or death are suddenly not just remote prayer requests. No longer can you abstractly look at those sad and torn lives and feel sympathy. Now you are smack in the middle of empathy. You’re living it, and the only thing you can do is look around and wonder, “What happened?”
The truth is that if you’ve been an adult woman for longer than three minutes, you will have experienced these emotions, and you’ll experience them more than once. We were never promised a rose garden in this life, and for the most part, we realize that.
But sometimes it’s not just a weed-infested garden that we find ourselves in the middle of. It’s a pool of sticky, slimy toxic waste, and we think, “Nope. This is not my life.”
What are we to do in those moments? What does a Christian woman do when even getting out of bed seems abundantly out of the question?
I have recently experienced yet another of those seasons in my life as a woman, wife, and mother, and I was struck with these thoughts in rapid succession. Huddled in the corner of my bedroom, lights off, and curled up so tightly on the floor that my joints ached, the despair caught me almost off-guard. I wasn’t even crying correctly because I couldn’t breathe well enough to make a sound. I just rocked and gasped for air. And then my thoughts changed from “This is not my life” to “I have to fix this!”
Isn’t that the way we are? That’s how God created us women. We manage things. Paul referred to women as the “managers of the house” in Titus 2:5, and managers manage things. Consequently, our first instincts are to manage our situations.
It only took me a few minutes, however, to realize that I couldn’t manage anyone out of anything this time, and instead of moving from that realization toward Christian resolution, I moved toward anger with God.
“I know You think I’m this strong. I know You think I can handle this, and I know You said I wouldn’t be given anything more than I could handle, but I’m not this strong! This is too much!”
Of course, I didn’t actually yell these things out loud, although I have before. No, this time I screamed with boldness in my head. I really was confounded by God’s apparent misidentification of my supposed strength. I needed Him to reconsider.
Have you ever felt this way? Are you feeling it now?
I am ever amazed at our Father’s grace. I’m in awe of His constant and abiding love and patience toward us. He could have yelled back at me right then. He could have struck me down completely for my irreverence. That would have been warranted.
However, what He gently did was fill my head with these words:
Debbie, I do not ordain these things in your life to point you to your own strength. I ordain them to move you toward Mine.
You see, it will forever be our propensity to try and make things about us. It’s my knee-jerk reaction to bolster my own fortitude and figure things out, and then to be angry when I’m just not strong enough or smart enough or tolerant enough or when I feel forced to do things on my own. This is unfortunately an anger that when harbored will quickly turn into bitterness.
Indeed there are a lot of bitter women out there, and among them is no small number of bitter Christian women. Why? Because we simply aren’t strong enough, and truthfully, that was never God’s point.
Everything is about Him, and these times are meant to bring attention to Him, to His strength, His love, His mercy, His care, His tolerance, His grace, and His perfect plan.
What do we do as Christian women in moments of such complete despair that we can’t even breathe?
I was pouring out to a dear friend in the middle of this—which, by the way, I highly encourage you to do—and she reminded me of exactly what we are to do when we look at the life we now live and wonder how it all went so wrong so quickly. She reminded me of Psalm 121,
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
When you are on your bedroom floor and the pain is beyond your ability to bear, you do the only thing you can do, you do the only thing you should do, and you lift up your eyes.
Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28-30,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
There are going to be moments in these lives as pilgrims in this foreign land when we are nothing less than confused by the things that happen. We can become downcast in our souls over the heartache inflicted on us by the ones we love the most, and we will gaze at our circumstances with a sadness that feels insurmountable.
What do we do?
We lift our tired, tear dimmed eyes toward heaven and unto our Father. We rest in His divine and loving purposes. After all, we have a hope that the world does not share, a hope and an assurance that we do not serve a God who is an “absentee Father.” Our Lord is fully involved in the lives of His children, and He has promised us that He has a plan, a plan that will not harm us but will bring us a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) He has promised us that all of our lives are purposed for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)
So, my sisters, lift up your eyes to the hills. From where does your help come? Your help comes from the Lord, the very Maker of the heavens and the earth.
This morning I was reading the Book of Joshua, one of my favorite books in the Bible. I love the character of Joshua and how he handled such a difficult situation with grace and dignity. More than share about an idea I squeezed out of the text, I want to invite you into this story with me. It may seem silly, but that’s okay. For the next few moments, let your imagination run with it, in fact, let your imagination run wild. Imagine yourself in the story, see the plot through the lens of different characters. Maybe begin by reading through a passage as Joshua and then go back to see it from the perspective of those living in Jericho. Open yourself up to see this story from a new perspective and allow your eyes to see something that you hadn’t noticed before.
Are you ready? Okay, let’s begin.
Before we even begin to read the text, I want you to remember what you know about the people of Israel. They, as a people group, went from being slaves to being wanderers. For 40 years these people marched around the desert; they had to wait for the old generation to die off before entering into promise. How do you think these people felt? Maybe they were small children or teenagers when they came out of Egypt. They had heard all their lives about the signs and wonders of God and seen him perform miracles as he provided for them in the desert. Now was their time: they were entering into the promised land.
Imagine the excitement that flooded their hearts and minds. I probably would’ve felt scared or some trepidation because the thing so long awaited was finally here! I wonder if they continued to complain or if they exuded worship. Moses, their leader who they had been following their entire lives, had died and his apprentice was appointed their new leader. With excitement and determination the entire nation agreed to follow him in the same manner they had followed Moses. They exuberantly expressed their determination to follow God and all his precepts. They steadfastly promised to not depart from God or his law.
The nation moves closer to their promise. I wonder if, as they grew closer, selfishness began to make itself known. I wonder if people began to grow more concerned about getting enough for themselves and less about the good of nation. How would you have felt crossing the river and seeing different scenery than you had before? I wonder if anyone swooned or cried upon seeing the land flowing with milk and honey. Did anyone have a heart attack upon seeing the beauty of the land or the size of the inhabitants?
I wonder if their countenance fell when they saw the size of Jericho. Or did they remain full of faith and hope? Jericho was essentially a fortress, it was impregnable. If the people living there didn’t want you inside, there was no way you were getting in. I think that’s probably why the Lord picked Jericho first. Have you ever thought about the fact that the Lord could’ve directed them to start taking over the land in a different area? God could’ve eased them into this idea, defeating the smaller towns first, to build up their confidence, but he didn’t. God wanted to show himself strong when the people of Israel could do nothing to assist him.
So, the Lord speaks to Joshua and downloads what’s arguably the most absurd battle plan ever: walk silently. In my mind, I always pictured a group of 100-200 people marching around this rather large wall, but in reality that number was in the thousands. Joshua 4:13 says “About 40,000 ready for war passed over before the Lord for battle, to the pains of Jericho”. Can you even imagine what it would be like to walk around a wall silently with a group of 40,000 people? Imagine how loud their footsteps would be! They would be a thundering herd who never spoke a word. I wonder how the people living inside the wall felt, did they think it was an earthquake? Or did they look outside and taunt the Israelites for their foolishness?
The Israelites obeyed and stayed silent. I wonder if they prayed quietly to themselves as they walked. Did they come up with creative hand signals to communicate with each other or were they on-task? I know I would’ve had a hard time keeping my trap shut, but I suppose there was great motivation to obey.
For 6 days they repeated this long walk. The city of Jericho itself was about 6 acres, not including the large wall and moat that surrounded it. These people were getting their workout! I wonder if feelings of uselessness or frustration began to grow in them as the days marched on. After all, they had just been wandering aimlessly in the desert for 40 years.
But then the 7th day came. I’m sure the excitement was palpable. I’m surprised they were able to hold it together for that long! I wonder if the walk that day was at a quicker pace than normal; were they almost sprinting there at the end of their 7th lap? I would imagine, though their bodies probably ached from the distance they had walked, their spirits were lifted and adrenaline was pumping, fueling them to continue forward.
Then, the moment they had been waiting for came: it came time to shout.
Imagine that sound! 40,000 people with trumpets and pent up noise within them, shouting for victory. For 40 years they had been aimless, without victory, without a home, without anything other than the provision of God, and they were about to claim the first of many promises. I like to imagine that God was smiling from ear to ear, proud of his precious people for their obedience and faith. Then the walls came down. I wonder if, because of their noise, they didn’t realize that it was happening right away. I wonder if someone in the crowd excitedly began to point as a section of the wall began to crumble right before their eyes. Then, I imagine, the shout from the crowd grew louder as they saw God come through on his promise.
One of the most beautiful things about this story is the faithfulness of God. Rahab was a prostitute living in the wall of Jericho and her whole family was spared because God had honored his promise. She ended up living with the nation of Israel for the rest of her days and is an important figure in the lineage of Jesus.
God is faithful and his promises are true. This questioning and imagining that we just went through isn’t just limited to Bible stories, but can be used in our everyday lives. When someone’s telling you a story about their lives, ask questions, and put yourself into their shoes. Insert yourself into their story and try to see things the way they do. I believe God is honored when we take a little extra time to look deeper than the surface.
Thank you for imagining with me today!