Heartbreak and Healing

I’ve heard it said many times that God is Faithful and I’ve always believed it, because I know that His Word is true. But, I had never experienced His faithfulness in a way that I could tangibly understand. That is until heartbreak.

There isn’t a pain I have felt that has been as absolutely soul-crushing as heartbreak. It feels like you can’t breathe, like there is an unrelenting pain consuming you from the inside out. It’s hands down the worst feeling I have ever experienced. So many things in this world can shatter a heart. Abuse, death, illness, loss, rejection, abandonment. When your heart is broken, it feels like everything is crashing down around you, into jagged little pieces.

It was in those darkest moments that God spoke to me the clearest. His tender voice pierced through the fog of my sorrow and ministered to the deepest parts of my broken heart. One night, as I cried myself to sleep I lamented to the Lord, ‘God, I feel so very broken.’ God heard my cries. That night, I had the unmistakable vision in my mind’s eye of a stained glass window. In my heart, God spoke to me.

“Just as a beautiful stained glass window is made up of tiny fragments of glass, I will use the shattered pieces of your heart to create something even more beautiful than you could ever imagine. With my Light shining through you, you will be a masterpiece of my craftsmanship. I will heal your heart and you will reflect my glory.”

How comforting those words were to me in my sorrow. The Bible reminds us of God’s promises in the Psalms, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (31:18) “Christ heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (147:3)

Now, when I think back upon those months in the valley, I don’t feel heartbroken, I feel grateful. Grateful that God was close to me in my sorrow, that He carried me when I couldn’t walk, that He healed my heart and restored my brokenness.

God is Good. God is Faithful.

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Do Not Fear

Fear. What an ugly four-letter word. Throughout my life I’ve been afraid of so many things. Failure, rejection, abandonment, the future, the unknown. I’ve been scared of not having enough money, enough friends, enough recognition. I’ve been afraid of looking dumb and of being unworthy.

Fear has paralyzed me from making decisions because I was afraid of making the wrong ones. Fear has distorted my perception and caused me to assume the worst about people. Fear has lead to insecurity and anger which has in turn caused others pain. The one consistent thing about fear is that it always leaves me feeling dejected and defeated.

The Bible makes it clear that fear is not from God. God’s plan for me is to live a life of victory over fear, but why is it so difficult to put this truth into practice? After examining my heart, I realized that I had been allowing fear to impair my faith. Fear was clouding my spiritual vision and making me worry that God would let me down as so many others had. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

When I choose to lay my fears at the foot of the cross and to focus on the truth of God’s Word, fear loses its power. I don’t need to be afraid of the future because God holds every tomorrow in the palm of His hands. I don’t need to fear the unknown because God has a good plan for my life and He promises to provide for my every need. I don’t need to be afraid of being alone because God will never reject me or abandon me. The God of the universe is bigger than all of my fears and He calls me loved, accepted, worthy.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

The Dangers of Envy

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with envy. I learned from a young age that the the more popular you seemed and the more possessions you had, the more value you were given by society. And so began my very long and very arduous battle with coveting.

The rise in popularity of social media only served to exacerbated my problem as I was constantly bombarded with reminders of other people’s success. Whether a friend was announcing a promotion or a pregnancy, I found myself invariably longing for what everybody else had. It got to a point where I found it difficult to celebrate my friends’ accomplishments because their successes were a bitter reminder of the areas in my life where I had apparently failed.

This constant comparison is not only exhausting, it’s destructive as well. It’s no wonder God commands us in Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  As with all of God’s instructions to us, His tenth commandment is for our own benefit. His desire is to protect us from the dangers of envy and coveting. But what is so harmful about desiring what somebody else has?

The definition of coveting is wanting something very much that belongs to someone else. Some dictionaries even go so far as to define it as a strong hunger and thirst for something. To want something, in and of itself is not innately bad. However, the only thing we should be hungering and thirsting after is God’s presence. It is when our desires contort into idols and we become obsessed and fixated on the things we don’t have that we approach a very dangerous and slippery slope.

What lies at the heart of this struggle to obey God’s final commandment? When we covet what somebody else has, we are taking our focus off of God and turning it inward. We ignore God’s boundless generosity and instead concentrate on the things He has not given us. In essence, we are admitting that we don’t fully trust in God’s sovereignty and His provision in our lives. Though envy may seem innocuous at first, a covetous attitude is like a cancer, multiplying quickly and devouring everything in its path.

Here are three imminent dangers we face when we disobey God’s tenth commandment.

  1. We lose sight of our blessings. When we expend all of our energy trying to acquire what other people have, we inevitably take for granted the many blessings God has generously given us.
  1. We become discontent. Coveting promotes a spirit of competition. No matter how much we have been given, when all we see is what we are lacking, we will always believe that we don’t have enough.
  1. We question God’s goodness. Does God really want the best for me? If left unchecked, envy will eventually harden your heart, making you bitter and resentful towards God and others.

If you’ve noticed this negative pattern forming in your thought life, don’t despair! Here are three practical steps we can take to combat a covetous attitude:

  1. Practice thankfulness. Having an attitude of gratitude is the first step to overcoming envy. Start a gratitude journal and count your blessings every day.
  1. Engage in generosity. Generosity is the opposite of coveting. Every good gift is from the Lord and is meant to be used for His Glory, to make known His gospel and to bless His people. The fruit of generosity is joy.
  2. Pray for an increase of faith. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 13:21 that God will equip us with everything good that we need in order to accomplish His will. We lack nothing in Christ. Ask God to change your heart and help you to see Him as Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord that provides.

When we practice thankfulness, engage in generosity and pray for an increase of faith we will be able to avoid the dangerous pitfalls of envy and coveting. It may take a concerted effort at first, but once we learn to stop focusing on what other people have and instead choose to focus on God’s faithful provision in our lives, we will soon realize that we have more blessings than we can even begin to count.

Honour Your Father and Mother

Of the ten commandments given to us by God, I have consistently found this to be one of the most difficult to put into practice. Throughout my life, I have routinely fallen short in my quest to obey the fifth commandment, ‘Honor your father and mother…” Growing up, I was a rebellious and disobedient teenager. Even into my adult years, I struggled to be respectful in my interactions with my parents. I didn’t understand why it was so difficult until I participated in a program that taught on the topic of healing and forgiveness.   

I realized that although I had a deep love for my parents, it was buried under an avalanche of anger and resentment. As a child, I was deeply affected by my parents’ divorce and the tumultuous years that followed. I didn’t know how to deal with my pain at that age, so I attempted to ignore it. But as the years passed, the pain didn’t disappear, contrarily, it festered and grew into hostility and resentment.

As I dug deeper, I discovered that these negative emotions were fueled by unforgiveness; I was unable to move past my parents mistakes and sins. As I remained a prisoner to my own emotions, not only was my disobedience to God preventing me from experiencing His peace and joy, it was hardening my heart toward my parents and prohibiting me from honoring them the way God commands. But how do we honor our parents when we’ve been wounded by their sins? Are we still obligated to honor our mother and father when we don’t believe that it is deserved?

The answer is yes. God uses no uncertain terms in this regard. “Cursed is anyone who dishonors their father or mother….” Deuteronomy 27:16. These are powerful, indisputable words. God doesn’t say, ‘Honor your parents if…’ If they were perfect. If they never disappointed you. If they did everything right. No, God’s command does not come with any loopholes.

As children, we honor our parents through our obedience to them. As we move into adulthood, honoring them takes on a different role. Honor is defined as, ‘to regard with great respect and esteem’. How do we do this when it’s difficult, when we have been hurt, or when we don’t feel like it? Honoring, much like love, is not a feeling, but a choice. Here are three ways that we can practically obey God’s fifth commandment.

  1. Forgive our parents. We need to acknowledge that our parents are only human, with their own struggles, sins and limitations. When I made the conscious choice to forgive my mother and father, I was able to see them as broken people just like me, in need of grace. By extending grace and forgiveness to our parents, as God has first done for us, we not only honor them, but we honor God through our obedience.
  1. Affirm our parents. Instead of dwelling on the ways in which our parents have fallen short, we can choose to focus on the things our parents did well. We can thank them for the sacrifices they made and the support they provided throughout our lives. This includes not trying to change them, but instead honoring them despite their flaws. A little affirmation often goes a long way.
  1. Pray for our parents. We can ask God for His eyes and His heart toward our parents. Repent of the times that you’ve have fallen short of obeying God’s commandment. Pray to see your parents with compassion instead of bitterness and with appreciation instead of as a image of unmet explications. God wants to heal our hearts and give us the wisdom and discernment needed to honor our parents as He instructs us to.

Our love for God and our desire to bring Him Glory is demonstrated through our obedience. In the Bible, God declares, “If you love me you will obey my commandments.” John 14:15. As we seek to honor our parents through forgiveness, affirmation and prayer, we honor God through our obedience, displaying His power and glory for the world to see.

No Filter

What do the photos of a magnificent sunset, a perfectly plated piece of cake and your friend’s adorable new puppy have in common? They’ve all been considerably edited before gracing the internet with their artistry. A bit more contrast here, a little less saturation there, and voila! Your picture was just transformed from bland to brilliant in ten seconds flat. In fact, altering photos prior to posting them online is such a common practice that it has become significant to note when no enhancements have been made, hence the popular hashtag, #nofilter.

But what’s at the core of this obsession with picture perfection? Could it represent something deeper than the desire to wow your friends with your phenomenal photography skills? In my experience, the answer is yes. Sadly, it would seem that altering photos and altering ourselves are merely two sides of the same image-obsessed coin.

Have you ever met somebody who regularly changes their personality depending on who they are with? Perhaps he or she acts shy and reserved with one group of people, but suddenly becomes wild and reckless when hanging out with a different crowd. If I’m being honest, that somebody used to be me. There was a time when I was so uncomfortable in my own skin that I felt the need to continually change my personality in order to gain the attention and approval of others. Much like the motivation for editing my facebook photos, I would alter my personality in a desperate attempt to impress those around me.

The truth is, however, no one except God has the power to make us feel accepted, valued or loved. He is the One who created us in His image with a specific purpose for our lives.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

Of course, self-acceptance is a continual process and it can be challenging at first to change your way of thinking. But, believe me when I tell you that it is so worth the effort. The first step in this journey to healing is recognizing the lies that are holding you captive. For me, it was believing that I was worthless, unlovable and not good enough. Thankfully, the more time I spent in God’s Word, the more deeply I began to understand that these negative thought patterns were lies from the enemy, meant to keep me in bondage and prevent me from understanding my true identity in Christ.

The next time you are tempted to believe the lies that bring destruction, make a conscious choice to renounce the enemy’s accusations and turn to God instead. Ask Him to reveal His truth about your identity, purpose and value. We will only be able to combat the deception of the enemy once we know who we are and to whom we belong.

We must claim our identity as children of God, reject the lies that we have believed and instead embrace who God created us to be. What does the Word of God tell us about our identity in Christ?

“I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me.” Romans 8:37

“I am submitted to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus.” James 4:7

“I show forth the praises of God Who has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

“I have the Greater One living in me; greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

If we believe God is who He says He is, then by extension we can believe that we are who He says we are. Uniquely crafted, creatively gifted and purposefully made. What a glorious day it will be when we are able to fully accept ourselves for who God created us to be and embrace our uniqueness and individuality. #nopretense. #noshame. #nofilter.

Inner Selfie

Have you ever taken a selfie? If you answered no, you’re either a. lying b. living under a rock or c. a very rare breed, indeed.

You can’t be on the internet for three minutes without being bombarded with glamorous pictures of friends and strangers alike, begging for your attention, appreciation and approval in the form of a like or a double tap. It’s no surprise that ‘selfie’ won the award for the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2013. We are a generation that is obsessed with ourselves.

For guys and girls alike, the pressure to appear attractive, cool and desirable comes at us from every angle, every day. We’re expected to look like we have it all together and force a smile for the camera, regardless of what turmoil we may be facing internally. We are taught that as long as our photos are glossy and bright, it doesn’t matter what our hearts look like. But what price are we willing to pay for the perfect shot?

I admit that I have fallen prey to the never-ending pursuit of achieving the world’s definition of beauty. One day, as I was doing my makeup, I had a revelation. I was trying to get my lip gloss just right when God spoke to me.

“Being pretty isn’t enough. It’s time for you to put more focus on being pretty on the inside”

Ouch. As always, God was right on point. How long had I spent looking in the mirror? How much time do I spend on becoming more attractive in the areas that really matter? What would I see if I could take a selfie of my heart?

We’ve all encountered people who are absolutely gorgeous… until they open their mouths. It’s easy to recognize internal ugliness. Anger. Jealousy. Unforgiveness. Complaining. Bad-mouthing. Gossiping. Crude jokes. Negative remarks.

The Bible is clear about what real beauty looks like.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment… Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” – 1 Peter 3:3-4

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Is God instructing us not to put any effort into our physical appearance? No. He is declaring that the kind of beauty that truly matters lies in our character. The world puts so much focus on outward appearance that far too often, the inside is left to shrivel up and rot away. We start to believe that our appearance is what determines our value and worth. But God warns us about this very thing in the Bible:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of… all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27

“Your beauty should come from within you; the beauty… that will never be destroyed and is very precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4

So, how do we obey God in this area? How do we put pretty into practice?

Responding with grace and forgiveness to those who hurt us.
Being friendly to the person sitting alone.
Not always trying to be right in a conversation.
Not talking behind somebody’s back.
Going out of your way to help others in need.

True beauty is reflecting the love of Christ in everything we think, say and do. It is Humility. Compassion. Gentleness. Patience. Grace. Generosity. Sacrifice. And above all else: Love. Loving the Lord with our whole heart and loving others in His Name.

What a testimony our lives will be when we can take a long look at our selfie, smile with confidence and say, “I am proud of who I see.”

Abba Father, please help us to become men and women of true beauty, beauty that radiates from a heart that seeks Your Face above all else. Help us not to become slaves to the world’s ideals of beauty but transform us from the inside out until we embody the fruit of Your Spirit and our lives become a reflection of Your Love. Thank You for never giving up on us. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

FOMO

Fear Of Missing Out, more commonly referred to as ‘FOMO” is a modern day epidemic among the Millennial generation. But what’s the real deal with this new addition to the long list of acronyms we’ve become so familiar with? Have you ever felt that pang in your gut when you scroll through a series of fb photos of all your friends having an awesome time at a party… that you weren’t invited to? That right there, that’s FOMO rearing its ugly, accusatory head. “You weren’t invited for a reason. You’re missing out on something incredible.” Dictionary.com provides a little more clarity, sharing that FOMO is “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

Don’t get me wrong, social media can be a great tool. It can help you stay in touch with friends, bring awareness to the things you care about and show off those sick new kicks (dang, Daniel!). But, on the flip side, there isn’t much that can make a person more insecure and self doubting than the barrage of images we see online daily. Before social media, people weren’t constantly exposed to the ‘awesome, fun-filled’ lives of everybody they knew (ha!).

The sad truth is that these sometimes candid, often completely contrived, snapshots only capture a moment in time. They simply do not represent the full reality of the situation. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve posted a pic of myself having a seemingly fantastic evening with a group of smiling people. What isn’t shown in my pic, however, is how lonely I felt later that night, the argument I had with my friend and the fact that I didn’t even enjoy the food I was eating. But boy did it look like I was having the time of my life!

So, if it’s all a matter of perspective, where does this intense fear of missing out really stem from? Fear of missing out is more accurately a fear of being left out (FOBLO didn’t sound as catchy). Why are we so determined not to be left out? For me, FOMO hit me where it hurt because it played on my already present insecurities. In my mind, if wasn’t invited to an event, it meant I wasn’t worthy of being invited. Was I not cool enough? Friendly enough? Cute enough? Did they not like me? Had I offended them?

I was so caught up in these negative thoughts, that I didn’t realize I was being irrational and driven by my own insecurities. I couldn’t see that the truth was, my fear was rooted in a sense of rejection, in a false belief that I wasn’t truly accepted. The thing is, if we look to our peers (or anyone else) for acceptance, we will never find it. God is the only one who can speak directly to our identity, value and worth. And the Bible tells us that we are completely accepted by God. “Therefore, accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God.” (Romans 15:7). As hard as it may be to live and think counter-culturally, we must remember that regardless of what social media seems to tell us, God always has the final say.

So, the next time you find yourself being deceived by the FOMO falsehood, pause, take a breath and put things into perspective. You are unconditionally and irrevocably loved, affirmed and accepted through the wonderful work of Jesus on the cross. And no fb photo can ever tell you otherwise.