Christian women, this blog post may not make you happy. And if that is the case, you may need to hear it more than anyone. As I type this today I want you to know that when I write about something, it means God is dealing with it in my own heart. He is a God of loving discipline (Heb. 12), and I often feel very loved by him! Yet, there are some of you who need to hear this just like I do. I do not see or hear happiness, contentment, satisfaction or a pleasure of the Lord from you. I see and hear the world. I see anxiety, busyness, and self-absorption pushing out the goodness of the Lord that should be on display.
Many of us have deceived ourselves into separating joy and happiness into different categories. As if one is real and the other fake. We too often allow ourselves to be moody, downcast or grumpy. When asked about joy in our lives, we may respond that we have a deep joy in the Lord, but that doesn’t mean we have to be happy every day. Is this a true statement? The bible teaches us that what is in the heart will be displayed in our lives (and thus our days):
As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man. – Proverbs 27:19
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45
Joy is a fruit from the Spirit within us. Happiness is not separate from joy or a superficial form of it. Happiness should be a “symptom” of the joy within us. We are commanded to “Rejoice in the Lord always;” (Phil. 4:4). Even in this verse (and many others like it) the Greek for “rejoice” (chairō ) is translated as “to be cheerful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off” (blueletterbible.org). Being cheerful and calmly happy sounds like a beautiful demonstration of being satisfied with the Lord.
There will certainly be times of sorrow, mourning and seriousness. However, these are not the norm and not adequate excuses to cover the majority of our lives. For even in times of difficulty there should be an undercurrent of contentment as we abide in Christ. What a wondrous testimony to be able to smile and praise while the fiery darts of the enemy are coming at you! The knowledge of victory with Jesus is that sweet.
Does this mean I want you to wear a “mask” of happiness? To slap on a smile and call it good? No. The joy of the Lord cannot be faked, so don’t bother trying. My desire is that you come to a point in your relationship with Christ that you do not feel the need for a mask. That your satisfaction in Jesus is so paramount that you are not hindered by worldly concerns. That offenses, disagreements, and the pains of life all seem petty and microscopic compared to the vast riches you have in God and the depth of grace you see in the face of Jesus Christ.
This is not a simple teaching, this comes with maturity in your walk with God. I see very few women who display such characteristics as this consistently, though it must be pursued. Do not think it will be accomplished without time and effort. And the ONLY way it comes is with deep and long fellowship with God himself. It comes from increasing in your knowledge of him through his Word and finding him infinitely valuable and precious above all else. It is only in his presence that “there is fullness of joy” Psalm 16:11.
Preacher, caretaker of orphans, and man of great faith, George Muller (1805-1898) made happiness in the Lord a priority:
According to my judgement the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you, the Lord's work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself! Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life…after much experience I specially commend this point to the notice of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ: the secret of all true effectual service is joy in God, having experimental acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself. (http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/george-muellers-strategy-for-showing-god)
If reading this blog stings today, I hope it is God’s Word doing its work on your heart. Allow it to bite and then take action on it. Go to God who is the source of all joy and abide (live, dwell, remain) in his Word. Be happy in Christ.
This is the blog that I don’t want to write and you don’t want to read. Can we just be honest about that right up front? Like bad medicine you need to take but only want to spit out. The sweetness can only be tasted when the healing comes… but, oh how sweet the healing is when it does come. So, take a deep breath with me, ladies, it’s time to swallow.
Introverted, anti-social, hermit, reserved, don’t like crowds, being shy, a wallflower, a loner. I have used each of these terms to describe myself many times in my life (heck, the past week). They are a handy excuse for my behavior and serve as a warning for people to stay back. Like saying, “Please carefully remove yourself from my precious personal bubble. Um, one more step back…aaand one more. There, now we are far enough apart that we can be pleasant friends but not have to get caught up in any messy personal issues.”
I enjoy using the above terms if I must be honest (and I must)…and I know I’m not the only one. If this blog caught your attention you are probably in a similar boat as me (not the same boat hence the issue). You may be offended already that I have called it a…SIN. I don’t like it either, but I’m not the boss and I don’t make the rules.
A verse that came up in a women’s Bible study recently, and that just keeps slapping me in the face, is Proverbs18:1 which reads, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement.” Did you feel that smack like I did? Hear that clear element of selfishness in “seeks his own desire” and foolishness in “breaks out against all sound judgement”?
How can isolation be selfish? When we distance ourselves from others we are not able to connect and display Christ to them. We are not there to speak God’s words of encouragement to them. Paul in his ministries lived with the people and worked with the people in order to win them to salvation, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22. This is not possible if we are hidden away.
How is isolation foolish? Our purpose for breathing is to glorify God through sharing the gospel and proclaiming his name to the nations. Hard to be effective in this calling when our noses are in a novel or we are “just not in the mood to deal with people”. Taking ourselves out of interaction with others is like taking ourselves out of the race and still expecting to win, pure foolishness.
So, ladies, let’s be big girls and call sin “sin” when the Bible calls it out. No sense softening evil to make it comfy. We don’t want it comfy. We want sin as uncomfortable in our lives as putting on a wet swim suit covered in sand or like a mouth full of gravel (Proverbs 20:17).
Is taking time to be alone always sin? My goodness no. There are times of needed refueling and resting. Time to get yourself away from the world to spend time alone with God (epic oxymoron when you think about it). Jesus himself often moved away from the crowds that followed him, he also often got up early in the morning and found a solitary place to pray. Time alone can be good, acceptable and beneficial when done for the proper reasons.
The motive is the crucial difference, the essence of whether the removing of yourself from others is a sin or a time of godly refueling. Think carefully, what is causing you to want to shut the world out? Is it fear of rejection, judgement, being socially inept, not wanting others to see the “real you”? Is it laziness? As painful as these can be, they are inadequate excuses. We cannot hide behind our feelings. Spend time studying who you are in Christ for your strength, looking at him not yourself. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7.
So consider this a reminder to check your heart - is how you are living fulfilling what God has called you to? If you are claimed by God, you contain a treasure beyond measure - step out and share it. Multiply your joy in fellowship. No more keeping others at arm’s length for fear of discomfort. Decide not to be okay with selfish and foolish isolation, be disgusted by it; shed the suit and spit out the gravel. Be bold and connect with others, dare to get messy and love people with the crazy love of Christ and… allow them to love you back.
Praise God and wage spiritual war with the incredible act of engaging with others.
…but God is good and I will praise him anyway. I am a Christian and I live in this sinful world right along with the rest of you. I have good days and I have rotten “please don’t make me get out of bed” days. Life can feel full of blessings one day and curses the next.
Yet, once you are a heart-deep, follower of Christ these highs and lows do not determine or deter your purpose for breathing. Every day and every night is meant for praise. Praise for the gracious God who plans our steps and has written out our days – the easy breezy, the messy and the miserable (Ps. 139:16).
Things will not always go well for us, there is no such thing as karma and you don’t deserve easy living no matter how hard you work. When in doubt, take some time to talk to my good friends Noah, Moses, Aaron, Abraham, Sarah, Leah, Job, Ruth, Naomi, Daniel, Rahab, Joseph, Joshua, Esther, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jonah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Mary, Peter, Paul, John, and Stephen. And then sit down and have a chat with my best friend, Jesus, and ask him all about his life on this planet.
True Christians are not allowed to be fair-weather followers and neither are they to be storm-soaked beggars. We praise, because that’s what were created to do. “…all things were created by him and for him.” Col. 1:6. We praise God day in, day out, in sunshine and hail, at the beach and knee deep in the swamp.
Why? I think the better question is why not?
Is God always good? Yes (Ps. 136:9). Does he promise to have you, hold you and never let you go? Yes (Heb. 13:5). Does he promise that everything he does is for your good and that you will receive a glorious eternity? Yes and yes (Rom. 8:28, Jn. 3:16). Umm…why are we complaining again? Praise seems the only logical expression when you serve a God this wonderful.
Peter said it well, “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. If you have been called out of darkness into his light, you are to declare his excellencies. That is the purpose that he called you for.
So, ladies, while we are living in this world together, let’s praise God. On the days of cute selfies, happy children, helpful husbands and clean houses. AND on the days of ugly tears, unruly homes, rude spouses, and fat clothes. Praise God. Whether it is a victory shout or a whisper of hope in the darkness - praise God!
“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Hebrews 13:15
Yep, that would be me. Now before you start to think this is just another blog on trusting in God to be our strength when we are weak, keep reading. You are wrong. Although it is true, God is our strength when we are weak, that is not my point today.
A couple weeks ago I was struggling to like myself even a little. I felt like a failure at all I put my hands to: this blog, my Bible study, counseling, housekeeping, eating right, child rearing…do I need to go on? The word that kept running through my mind was “inadequate”. The only thing I felt good at was failing. Yes, picture Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh but looking like me. Ever find yourself there? Oh, bother… where did my tail go?
So I have experienced these occasional states of “woe is me” before, I knew what I needed… ice cream with a big spoon, cosmic brownies and HGTV… no? No, I have tried that route before; I know it leads to feeling worse in every way.
I was well aware that I needed God and to hear from his Word. I read through chapters like Psalms 9, 16, 18 and 139, Hebrews 13, Philippians 4, 2 Corinthians 12, the list goes on. After soaking in God’s mighty Word did my rotten feelings lift and was my joy restored? No. They didn’t and it wasn’t. I still felt like my miserable self.
How can this be? Isn’t God’s Word all powerful and uplifting? Yes, it is. Aren’t God’s promises always reliable and rock solid? Yes they are. Isn’t God supposed to be our refuge and shelter? Yes, he is.
Here is the truth. My feelings, good or bad, do not heighten or lesson the Word of God. I have walked with God long enough to trust him no matter how my physical body feels. I cling to his promises more than I cling to my emotions of the moment.
Am I really inadequate? Well… yes. But I don’t put my trust in me and my ability to succeed or fail, I trust in a God that is more than adequate in every way possible.
This is what God wants from us and the lesson he wanted me to understand that week. Our obedience to what he calls us to is not dependent on how we feel or what we are going through. We read and trust God’s Word because we have faith in the one it is all about, Jesus Christ.
I don’t read my Bible just to feel good and I don’t stop when I don’t feel good. I read it because it contains the words of life and truth. Like Peter said to Jesus when the huge crowd deserted him after the difficult teaching he gave, Jesus turns to Peter and asks “Do you want to go away too?” Here is his response: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68.
Why would I look anywhere else? Only God’s Words have the power to save me. I knew all that I read was doing a work in my heart even if I could not feel it at that moment. Isaiah 55:11 – “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
I have kicked old Eeyore to the curb; God has graciously and patiently restored my ability to identify in him. No matter how wonderful or rotten I feel, I will always trust in the goodness of God. Like David I will proclaim Psalms 13:5&6, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
This was the simple text a friend sent me several weeks ago. I had been sitting reading my Bible and was struggling deeply with an issue concerning one of my children. My heart was aching and the tears were flowing freely down my face. When the text came my first reaction was, “How did she know? Could she hear me crying from across town?” Silly, I know and totally illogical, but the perfect timing of her simple question was supernatural. I burst into uncontrollable sobs. This time because of the amazing ability of my Father God to comfort me using one of his other children.
This little message spoke volumes of love, concern and encouragement to my heart. Does that seem strange? It shouldn’t. I knew the sender well and I knew the care behind these words. She was and is a sister in Christ; therefore we share something very strong. In 1 Corinthians 12:4, 5 it says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord.”
The same Spirit resides in each of us who belong to Christ, so this shouldn’t be surprising at all. This is the Holy Spirit given to us as a gift from Jesus Christ as our helper to be with us forever. The world cannot receive him because it does not know him, only those redeemed by Jesus have the Holy Spirit. “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:17.
The Holy Spirit is God (part of the trinity) and dwells in us. Mind blowing? Absolutely. Allow the Spirit to nudge you toward good works and loving others, “especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10. We do these works for the glory of God and they result in thanksgiving toward God in us.
If you are a believer, when someone crosses your mind, know that there is a reason for it. Pray for that person then reach out to them if you feel led to. It could be a simple text, email, written note or phone call. Maybe you need to go further and invite them out for coffee or lunch. Any of these seemingly small acts could mean so much to them. Be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit; it is truly obedience to God.
I have a friend who often takes pictures of the beautiful scenery around her. Whenever I see something I know she would capture, I pray for her. On my drive into Dubuque for work I turn off the radio and pray for those God places on my heart that day. It may be for a known prayer request or a general prayer for God’s will to be done in their life. If someone stays on my mind, I connect with them in some way through messages or meeting for a simple talk and prayer.
This is what family does for one another. We pray, we encourage, and we spur one another on toward Christ always. How can you do this for someone today?
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thess. 5:11
This past Sunday afternoon I was in a dark and cold building sweeping up what looked like dust bunnies that had been hit by an enlarger ray in a sci-fi movie. I did this for nearly two hours and the place was still a mess after I was done. I was wearing Carhartts, long underwear and rubberized work gloves (that still somehow don’t keep my hands from turning black). The mask I had to wear over my mouth and nose was uncomfortable and made it hard to breath. Not exactly how someone wants to spend their day off…yet…for some reason I found myself smiling.
It has been a rough year for a variety of reasons, not the least of which has been the fire that consumed our business in November. As you can see from above, the cleanup process has been messy, slow and time consuming. The gigantic dust bunnies are the insulation that fell when the ceiling came down. It covered everything in the back half of the shop, things like burned up cars, melted electronics, ruined tools and tons of broken glass. There is no electricity so the only light comes from our headlamps and the meager sunlight that comes through the few windows that are not boarded up. It is a dark and cold place (another reminder that I want no part of Hell). Despite all of the gloom, my heart was still warm that afternoon and at times I even found myself singing the songs I had heard at church that morning.
These are the final days of 2014 and my mind was on the past twelve months. If I had to gauge the worth of our past year by the world’s standards I may have a right to feel sorry for myself and complain (the fire, canceled family vacations, kidney stones, surgery, etc.).
Praise God, I don’t care what the world’s opinion is. I only desire to gauge my success through the eyes of God. He has blessed me with so much in 2014: watching our church family grow and desire more of God, an opportunity to serve alongside brothers and sisters in Kentucky, seeing a friend give her life to Jesus, being provided more opportunities to share my faith, seeing the love of Christ grow in my children, watching my husband handle difficult situations with godly grace and strength, and so much more. Wow, what an awesome year!
Don’t worry, I’m not always this cheerful, I have to get my attitude adjusted frequently. At times my perspective gets skewed and I can feel the pity party starting. There are times I have been in the same burned out shop hauling garbage and I had no desire to sing or smile. I have learned it’s those times that I need a good slap of truth to get my head back on straight. One of my favorites is the same one the Pastor used on Sunday morning –
Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
And if you start Romans 12, you might as well just keep on reading, because the whole chapter is great. Verses 9-21 are about the marks of a True Christian. Verse 11, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (NIV). I love that verse, it sums up how we should take on every New Year (heck, every new day)!
How has your past twelve months been? Have you seen growth towards God in your life? Have you been working towards what pleases Him or yourself? Are you closer to Jesus now then on January 1, 2014, do you know him better? That is how each and every year must be gauged. If you aren’t sure or if you haven’t experienced growth towards Christ, this is the perfect time to start!
If you are tired of the same old resolutions of weight loss, exercise and home organization (yep, I’m reading your mind) then make a change toward eternal betterment. Let 2015 be the year that you put yourself aside and choose to please Jesus instead. Then no matter what occurs in the next twelve months, whether it’s health problems, parenting issues or losing your job, if you truly strive to serve and glorify God you will have had the best year yet. It’s time to go for it and have a truly Happy New Year!
If you were in the midst of a struggle with deep loneliness and I told you I could relate because I experienced two weeks of loneliness, would that hold much weight with you? Probably not. What if instead, I told you that I experienced years of loneliness and can easily remember the pain and the times I cried out to God begging him to send just one good friend into my life. Does that change things? I believe it does.
I dealt with loneliness in my life during a time when I was living on my own, raising my son, and working very hard to get through nursing school and work a part time job. I was surrounded by others and stayed very busy, but I did not have even one close friend. It was a painful time in many ways and I just couldn’t understand why God was allowing it; especially for what seemed like such a long time.
However, it was during those years that I dug deep into God. I had been a believer for a while and trusted that God knew my struggles and would provide for me (even if I didn’t appreciate his time table). I read his Word and held tight to his promises, like God being a “Father of the fatherless” in Psalm 68:5 and the comforting words of “I will never leave you or forsake you.” in Hebrews 12:5. Did I still struggle with anger and bitterness? You bet, but even then God was patient and faithful.
I now look back and nearly explode with thanksgiving in what I see God was doing in my life at that time. I praise him for giving me tools I never would have had if that time had been easy and without burdens. I can relate to so many more women now than ever before. Not just with loneliness but a slew of other difficulties too. I received real life experiences that equipped me to battle alongside other women today.
It has taken me years to admit to the depth of loneliness I experienced during that time, but as I pursue a ministry of transparency, I am finding that so many women are able to relate to my experience. I can minister to them because God led me through this fire early on in life. He let me go through years of pain so that I would remember it well. So that I can now hug a hurting woman and say to her, “I know how you feel, let me tell you what God did in my life.” God speaks to this in 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 -
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
What about you? What afflictions has God allowed in your life in order for you to better minister to others? Are you dealing with a chronic illness, a troubled marriage, or a difficult child? Do you feel like the situation will never end? This may be hard to grasp now, but God WILL use this for good in your life and very likely for the good of others too. Dig deep into him during this time and be determined to cling to Christ no matter what, knowing that you will receive comfort from him as promised above.
My life looks much different than it did back then, but I am so thankful for what God allowed and how he is faithful in using everything for my good and more importantly for his glory. I can now understand how what one day seems like such a heavy burden can later be seen as a gift. Don’t waste the gifts God is giving you right now. Use whatever is causing you pain to drive you toward Christ and turn what the Enemy planned for your harm into good. Maybe you know the pain of cancer, losing a child, or depression. God has allowed you to know this pain for a reason, don’t waste it.