3 Lessons the Wise Men Can Teach Us Even After the Christmas Season is Over

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” — Matthew 2:9-10

Last week, I posted an article on the wise men and announced via Facebook that I would not be publishing any more this week on my blog as I was exhausted from all of the demands of trying to make Christmas happen.

And then when a family member got sick, and I found out on the morning of Christmas Eve that I would need to step in and host Christmas day at my house, I figured that writing was out of the question — for several more days.

I would be lying in a coma somewhere in my house with my children running around unsupervised, and I would need at least a week to get functional enough to write.

I certainly would not be penning any holiday-themed posts again until next year. Or so I thought. As I expressed to God in my quiet time, I was just. so. tired.

Falling into bed after midnight for the third night in a row feeling too worn out to string a coherent sentence together let alone a blog post, I woke up a few hours later refreshed with a list of thoughts in my head. A list of thoughts in my head about the wise men.

Turns out, I wasn’t quite done writing about them.

I was given a few more observations about the magi’s story that are pertinent for any time of the year that I would like to share before we move past the holiday season.

1. He speaks our language.

As Matthew Henry notes in his commentary, God spoke to the wise men in a language that they could understand. They were most likely astrologers and sorcerers, well-versed in studying the heavens and reading signs. God lead them to his Son by announcing His birth with a star. He revealed Himself to them in a way that they could understand.

God does that with us, too. He promises to be found by those who seek Him, and He speaks your language. He knows what exact questions and doubts you have, gifts, struggles, conflicts — He fashioned your very brain. He knows what will draw you to Him.

My pastor once gave an example of when he plays hide-and-seek with his children. He knows how to hide in difficult places, but because his kids are small and give up easily if he doesn’t give them hints as to his hiding places, He lets them find Him.

With God, it is the same way. He doesn’t remain hidden if we look for Him. I am a words person. I never really thought about it before, but that is how God primarily communicates to me. Through words.

I sometimes get around people and have a specific word flash into my mind. I get ideas for posts throughout the day or at night, and it will just be a download of thoughts. Oftentimes, a stream of words will come to me after watching a movie or reading a book. And I know it’s from Him.

Others have different ways of experiencing God. Some get pictures in their mind, or feel Him best when they are running or out in nature.

There are a thousand ways God pours out Himself so we can find Him. It is because of His great love for us that He does it in a way that will communicate to us personally.

2. He chooses unlikely candidates.

As I mentioned in a previous post about a widow and the prophet Elijah, God chooses unlikely candidates. The wise men were astrologers from a far away Arabian land. There were several more pious men closer to the birth place of Jesus that God could have chosen, but God instead selected these particular magi.

In fact, the rather embarrassing reality is that these magicians were searching for Jesus when the Jews weren’t even looking for Him. The Jews knew of the prophecies and the predictions, and yet it was these magi that God used to follow His star to His Son.

God chose not only the wise men, but some unlikely subjects in the shepherds (Luke 2:15), and Simeon and Ann (Luke 2:38) to come and celebrate his son’s birth. The fact that He selected persons from all ranks and walks of life makes one message abundantly clear: The gospel is for everyone. The gospel isn’t just for church people — it wasn’t just for Jews, His chosen people. It was for common shepherds, sorcerers — everyone.

Although Christ is exclusive in the sense that He offers a narrow path of salvation — Himself — He extends this offer to all.

Again, we see through his placing of the star for the wise men to find, a Creator who greatly loves His creation. Not only does He let us find Him when we are looking, He initiates the search by coming to pursue each one of us.

3. The star isn’t just for the Christmas story.

I used to think that the star was just a unique feature of the Christmas story — something God deposited in His narrative to make the backdrop of his Son’s birth more beautiful; however, one thing I mentioned in my previous post and I feel is worth mentioning again is that the star didn’t just guide those men on their journey. As Henry notes, the “day-star arises in the hearts” of all who seek Him.

I used to worry and sometimes do still worry that I will miss God’s will for me, but the truth is that if I am abiding in Him and walking with Him, I will know the way to go. Just like the star guided the wise men to Jesus’ home, by making Jesus at home in my heart and seeking out His guidance on a daily basis, He illuminates the way for me.

He shows me the path I should take by surrounding me with resources that answer my questions; by speaking directly to me during my quiet time through Scripture; by speaking through pastors and other mature Christian friends through sermons and conversations; by filling my mind with dreams that warn me of future events — these are all ways God leads me like a kind shepherd. As Isaiah 30:21 says:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ “

Since launching a blog, I have experienced a whole lot of pressure. I have readers looking to me for new content every week and these questions fill my mind at times: What am I going to write about? How will I know what to say?

Without fail, when I spend time with Him — my mind floods with inspiration related to the Bible passage or devotional I just read, or the lesson He is currently teaching me. My biggest problem is not having something to say but being diligent about writing down the thoughts when they come.

When I get lazy and don’t record them — I have to ask God for them again because I can’t remember what He told me.

Interestingly enough, the wise men’s star stopped once the wise men reached Herod — and they didn’t get discouraged but instead took it upon themselves to inquire about the child. And once they did, the star rose again for them.

As Henry notes, if we are doing what we have in our power to do — God graciously shows us the next step and makes his star reappear when we need it (Matthew 2:9).

The wise men observed the star with great joy when it showed up again (Matt. 2:10), and so it is with us on our journey with God when we are seeking answers, and He reveals what we have been seeking so we can take the next leg of the journey.

Just like He was faithful about guiding the wise men to Christ, He is faithful about guiding me.

A few days ago, I was flat-lined from holiday preparations. It wasn’t until God wakened me from my sleep to re-energize me and whisper His thoughts that a blog post began to take shape.

Just like the wise men were happy when the star that had disappeared showed back up in the sky, I got pretty excited when God gave me fresh illumination and direction for a piece I was too weary to write.

When I look for Him — He will show me the way.

As Jeremiah 29:13 says, “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart.”

Related Bible Verses:

James 1:5: “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask Him, and He will gladly tell you.”

Proverbs 8:17: “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.”

Deuteronomy 4:29: “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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The Wise Men Dilemma: When the Journey Is Hard

THe Wise Men Dilemma_ When The journey is Hard

Some of the characters I always liked in the Christmas story were the wise men.

They looked so noble and serene, calmly bearing their gifts, laying them gently before Jesus.

But for the longest time, I viewed them as just miniatures in a manger scene. It wasn’t until I read T.S. Eliot’s “The Journey of the Magi”  in college that I began to see the wise men as more than smiling, crowned figurines kneeling before Jesus.

Although their biblical account doesn’t give many details, through some careful study of not only Eliot’s poem but Matthew 2:1 and some illumination from the Holy Spirit, I have come to see the wise men as not just nativity characters but men with a choice — a choice to go “another route” (Matthew 2:12).

Several things about their story stand out to me now.

1. It takes a journey to get to Jesus.

Jesus promises that those who seek Him will find Him (Matthew 7:7,8) — but getting to know Jesus takes a journey of faith, bumps and valleys, questions, doubts — and getting further and further away from the life you used to have.

The assumption is that when you get saved and believe in Jesus that all the work is done. You hear that all the time. Jesus has done it all. And that is true in regards to your salvation, but in regards to sanctification, the working out of your salvation (Philippians 2:12), the process is ongoing.

It takes effort to discover Jesus and really find Him on a daily basis. You have to put in the energy to look for Him, discern His will for you and walk that out in obedience.

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The wise men certainly had to put in some work: they travelled, endured the fatigue of being on the road for endless days, inquired of Jesus’ location and followed a lone star up in the sky — all at great personal cost to themselves.

2. Once you encounter Jesus, you can’t go back the way you came.

Once the wise men found Jesus, they couldn’t travel the same worn paths they knew. They had to take a higher, steeper trail home. And the people around them didn’t treat them the same when they found out the identity of the king they were seeking. Herod wanted them killed. As overjoyed as they were to find Jesus, their encounter with Him actually made their way more treacherous.

I was reminded of this when I heard a sermon on the wise men given last Christmas season by our senior pastor. At the time, I was struggling in my own walk of faith.

God had been leading me on a journey of understanding that my issues with self-worth had me looking to the people around me for approval. So much so, that I had relied on the approval of others to an unhealthy extent, particularly my classes when I was teaching. Some previous rejection made me afraid that I wasn’t really worth it. I constantly relied on the people around me to make me feel good about myself.

Particularly, as a young instructor, I had a male fan club in many of my classes. While I never entered into a relationship with a student or anything of that nature, I know that God distinctly told me that I had set the wrong example. I had encouraged that approval.

He didn’t want me to get my self-worth from the wrong kinds of attention any longer. He wanted me to get it from Him. And He wanted me to go back and tell my teaching community and the families of my students the ways I was changing. He wanted me to apologize for not being the professional role model I thought I was and share my story of learning to find my identity in Him.

3. The journey is solitary.

The wise men followed the star where no one was looking. According to Matthew Henry’s commentary, they arrived in Jerusalem expecting the whole world to be worshipping at Jesus’ feet and instead had to go door-to-door to inquire around quite a bit to even find Him.

As Henry notes, “There arises a day-star in the hearts of those who enquire after Christ” — but it may be a very solitary quest. The star may lead to a place where no one else is going.

When I got the nudge to begin calling families, I had no blue print for what I was doing. No one else I knew had ever undergone a project like that. I had no idea why I was doing it or what the purpose was other than I felt very strongly that God wanted me to go. I didn’t really get many answers until I just started making phone calls and writing emails. I felt that because it was such an individual road that there must be something wrong.

Maybe I didn’t hear God right.

But like the wise men, I kept getting in my heart a leading, a star to follow.

I didn’t know how people would react or if they would misinterpret what I said. I knew that I would be looked at differently, my reputation jeopardized. It involved a death on my part. A surrender of my will. I was nothing short of shocked that Jesus would make me go back and do this.

And that wasn’t the only hard part in my story. I had to go back to some people from my way back past. I had gotten tangled up in some unhealthy relationships as a teenager with not only guys, but girls. Again, looking for that sense of acceptance, I had gone down a path that I never thought I would. He wanted me to go back to those people too and tell them how Jesus was transforming me, admit that I had been wrong.

I resisted at first and many times in the process thinking that the Jesus I knew would never lead me to do something so uncomfortable. I wanted to go into ministry but not if it involved such difficult actions. Not if it involved revealing the truth behind the glossy front I had created and my attempts at looking strong: Not if it meant revealing that I was actually weak and very flawed.

A young rich man in the Bible experienced this same kind of stunned surprise when He encountered Jesus. Approaching Jesus in earnestness one day, he inquired what he could do to earn eternal life. The young man observed the commandments, met all the requirements as far as outward acts of piety. However, Jesus looked at him and detected one thing preventing him from following Him in an abandoned way: his wealth. Jesus told him to sell everything and follow him.

And the young man walked away saddened because he didn’t expect Jesus to ask for that.

The wise men must have had similar qualms when they journeyed all the way to Jesus only to discover that they would have to change their route, and the hard part of their journey wasn’t over when they found Him. In “Journey of the Magi,” Eliot voices the questions the wise men might have had encountering Jesus:

… were we lead all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth

certainly

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen

birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this

Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death,

our death.

Although Eliot’s poem takes some artistic license, we can imagine that for the wise men Jesus’ birth presented a paradox they didn’t expect — calling for a “death” of old practices and routines. The wise men were most likely astrologers, magicians. Surely, Jesus shook up their belief systems a little and made it impossible for them to cling onto their familiar ways of doing things.

The stanza later laments that returning home was hard as they could “no longer be at ease, in their old dispensation.”

The wise men dilemma is this: When you truly encounter Jesus, you have to change. And He may be different than you ever thought.

For the rich young man, he went away downcast because he was willing to observe outward forms of religion but unwilling to give what He held closest to His heart.

Jesus was kind to the man. It even says in the passage that Jesus “loved the man” (Mark 10:21), but what is interesting is that Jesus did not manipulate or coerce the man into leaving his possessions and following him. When the man left, Jesus turned and made a comment to his disciples about the difficulty of getting into heaven. He knew that there would be some that would turn away.

The wise men, on the other hand, heeded the warning in a dream. Instead of going back the familiar paths in which they had come, they travelled home “another route.” They understood the necessity of altering their plans upon meeting Christ.

As J.R. Miller observes in Streams in the Desert (a beloved devotional that has inspired me the past few years):

Every difficult task that comes across your path — every one that you would rather not do, that will take the most effort, cause the most pain, and be the greatest struggle — brings a blessing with it. And refusing to do it regardless of the personal cost is to miss the blessing.

Every difficult stretch of road on which you see the Master’s footprints and along which He calls you to follow Him leads unquestionably to blessings. And they are blessings you will never receive unless you travel the steep and thorny path.

Jesus will never make you follow Him. He will open the possibility, beckon you His way, but it will always be your choice whether you tread after His solitary star and give up whatever it is He is asking of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Give Out of Your Need

Recently, I went to a large children’s consignment sale.

Because the consignment only accepted cash or check, I had to withdraw a set amount of money before I entered. Of course, I did not remember this until after I pulled in the parking lot, turned off the car, lifted my son out of his car seat, strapped him in his stroller, and headed towards the building.

When I realized my dilemma, it was a great deal of trouble to retrace my steps, lift my son back out of his stroller, strap his unwilling little body back into his car seat, fold up the stroller and drive in the direction of an ATM (when the consignment sale was located in an out-of-the-way location).

Therefore, when I retrieved the $60 cash from the ATM and headed back to the sale, I was determined to spend every cent of it. I had a list in my head: my daughter was growing out of the size 5 clothes I had just bought her, and I knew they weren’t going to last the winter.

Once inside, I zoned in on the girls’ section, size 6 racks — a woman on a quest. I gave my son his first snack (to buy myself a few minutes of browsing time), and I started to pull item after item off of the racks. Everything she needed.

Pajamas. Pants. Long-sleeved shirts. Jeans. Skirts.

A few women came near me, perusing, but I wanted them to go away. I needed to get to the best clothes first. I needed to clothe my rapidly growing daughter. And as I was selfishly hoarding most of the size 6 rack on my pile, I felt a tugging on my heart.

The worship music playing in the background blared a little louder, like someone had turned up the volume — each word pushing into my spirit. I could hear all the verses about letting others go first, about giving and serving — about trusting. And then I felt it — God’s whisper to me.

Carol, I want you to give some of that money away.

What? I didn’t want to. In fact, I was most annoyed at being bothered in the middle of my IMPORTANT SHOPPING MISSION. My arguments:

Me: My daughter needs clothes.

God: I will provide.

Me: I am doing a good thing by shopping at a reduced price establishment — this ain’t Macy’s.

God: She really doesn’t need these items yet.

Me: I’m being a good mom by stocking up and preparing for the months to come. Hello, Proverbs 31 woman, anyone?

God: Do you trust me?

I sighed and surrendered, painfully eliminating a third of the clothes on my stroller, and then I began looking for a target. Everyone near me had moved away.

“Whom do you want me to give the money to, Lord?” I asked.

I felt that it didn’t really matter. The point was to open up my selfish heart.

I got into line behind a woman with her grandchild. As I looked closer, I noticed the stroller was shabby. The woman was dressed in workout clothes — her grandchild in a T-shirt. They only had a handful of items.

I struck up a conversation with her — and when the line neared the cash register, I told her that God had impressed it on my heart to give someone money for her purchases that day.

She didn’t want to accept the money, but I insisted, and then there was an awkward silence as we waited for an open cash register.

I don’t know if she really needed financial assistance. Nothing profound happened other than she got a big smile on her face. But it felt good to be obedient and to not ignore God’s nudge. So many times before I have refused.

I was reminded of some words from my Joyce Meyer New Day, New Day devotional:

One time I gave a woman a nice pair of earrings. My flesh wanted to keep them for myself, but my spirit said to be obedient to the Lord and give them away. Later that woman stood up in a meeting and told how she had been given the earrings she was wearing as a ‘free gift.’ The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Yes, it was a free gift to her, but it cost you, just as salvation is a free gift to you but it cost Jesus His life.’ Love is the greatest gift of all. When you show forth the love of God, do it freely, sacrificially — and aggressively!”


The very next night, my husband came home with a $25 gift card from one of his drivers. He had picked up an extra job at a driving school when I quit teaching to help cover some of our expenses. One of his students’ parents had given him an unexpected tip.

christmas gift

Not even one day had passed and I got the return for the small bit I had given away. With $5 added to it.

Instantly, I felt ashamed of how I had doubted God could supply for me in my want.

My idea of giving is to give out of abundance — when I have something extra to spare. But God’s idea of giving is to give out of my need when it will cost me something.

And when I do — He delights in showing me what an easy thing it is for Him to replace, even surpass the little that I give away.

Related Bible Verses:

1 Kings 17:13,15: “Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make me a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son’ … She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.”

Luke 21:4: “All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Self-Worth: How to Start Accepting Yourself

heart-462873_1280She walked past me, and I caught sight of the stump of her right arm and the deep pock marks on her face.

This was not the first time I had seen her. She worked at my doctor’s office and had conducted a few billing transactions for me. She had always been friendly and cordial.

But this time when I saw her, something was different. I felt two words press down into my soul like boot marks on muddy soil: Self-rejection. Anger. Although I knew very little about this woman, I suddenly knew so much about her. I felt the pressure again on my spirit. Those words again: Self-rejection. Anger.

Are you serious, God? Do you want me to say something to her? Although I felt compassion for her, I most certainly did not want to say anything to her. I most certainly did not want to ask her if those words meant anything to her. I most certainly did not want to get involved and embarrass her by bringing up a painful past where perhaps those words had begun to define who she was.

How I Started not Liking Myself

If her story was anything like mine, I could trace my own dislike of myself back to when I was a child. I had developed an anxiety very early on about my worth in relationship to others. The feelings had developed because we lived in a house that was a never-done work-in-process with particle board floors, door-less cupboards, and knob-less doors.

These feelings of inadequacy intensified when I went to school in shabby hand-me-downs and developed much later than my peers. I was scorned for being skinny, unfashionable, and poor. And without even knowing it, I began to feel less than other people. I masked this pain with a brave front, but all the while I had a negative tape playing in my head.

I felt angry at myself for not measuring up. I felt angry at God for making a “mistake.” I felt angry at the cruelty of my friends. I didn’t know that the relationship I had with myself was one of the most important  — the one that would impact how I felt about God and others. I didn’t know that self-rejection would separate me from my peers even more than I already felt separated.

When this scorn for myself got to a level where constantly beating myself up was a normal part of each day, I had to find an out to overcome the negative voices. My method for relieving myself of my pain and feeling good about myself was looking to others to fill what I felt was empty in myself. I vowed to not upset or confront those around me so that I could avoid rejection. I became a perfectionist to perform enough so that I could be useful and acceptable to convince myself and others of my worth.

I married young and used my husband’s attention and love to try to feel good about myself. Even as a married woman, I became flirtatious with the men around me to attempt to further convince myself that I was beautiful and smart. I became a workaholic to try to out-perform others and be the best so that, again, I could quiet the voice inside myself that said I was not worthy.

Getting Rid of Self-Rejection and Self-Hatred

According to a 1990 radio message by Charles Stanley, self-rejection is generated from “chronic feelings of unworthiness.” People who have problems with self-rejection are “willing to base their self-worth on the opinions of others rather than on [their] relationship to God.” Causes for self-rejection can include “an early-in-life deformity, deep emotional hurt from childhood, death of a parent, abandonment, divorce, abuse, guilt from past mistakes, and criticism from others.”

I didn’t know for the longest time what a healthy self-image even looked like and through some study I discovered that God really wants me to be confident in the person He has made me to be. When I turn against myself, I am essentially turning against God and telling him that what he created is defective.

In addition, self-rejection is a strategy Satan uses to get us out of relationship with God and relationship with others. It is based on lies from the master of lies himself. When I look back at pictures of myself and see a beautiful, brown-haired girl, I feel so absolutely sad because the way I saw myself — and still see myself at times — was and is so very distorted.

Because of the lies I began speaking over myself (mainly those I assumed were true or believed from the words of a small handful of people), I stopped seeing myself the way God saw me and instead embraced a version of myself that simply wasn’t true.

What I have learned in my journey to a healthy self-worth is that a confident person does not base his or her self-worth on the opinions of others. A confident person gets his approval from God. As Joyce Meyer says in Approval Addiction: 

We can enter the rest of God concerning what people think of us and whether they approve of us. We can become so secure in Christ that as long as we know our heart is right, we know whatever people think of us is between them and God and is not our concern.

Meyer gives the example of Paul as one confident in his position in Christ. She notes that in 1 Cor. 4 we see a situation in which Paul is being judged regarding his faithfulness. Paul responds to the criticism by saying that he is concerned with God’s judgment rather than man’s, emphasizing, “I do not even put myself on trial and judge myself” (1 Cor. 4:3).

What is encouraging to me (and what Meyer stresses) is that Paul had people questioning him and yet he chose not to let their accusations define him. Although he was concerned about his reputation among men, his primary concern was a clear conscience before God.

I don’t know about you but I struggle with that kind of confidence.

Where Healthy Self-Worth and a Sense of Acceptance Come From

What Paul knew about having a healthy identity and what I am learning is that we can be confident because of Him who lives in us and what He has done for us. We can choose to accept and love ourselves as children of God because He has claimed us and cancelled our failings. We are acceptable because of what Christ has done in us and not because of what we have done for ourselves.

It takes the pressure off when we acknowledge this because we don’t have to worry about gaining the approval of others. We won’t please everyone around us all of the time. We simply have to follow Him where He leads and depend on Him in moments of insecurity when we are afraid we won’t get it right.

When we hear a negative thought creep in such as “There is something wrong with you” or “No one likes you” — we can immediately reject it as a thought from Satan. God convicts us of wrong actions that need to be addressed, but his conviction never comes to destroy us but always to restore us.

As Stanley notes in his radio address, turning away from self-rejection involves identifying the feelings of rejection, rejecting the feelings of rejection, and affirming that you are “unconditionally loved, completely forgiven, totally accepted and complete in Christ.”

To get to that place of acceptance of myself, I have had to forgive myself for not being perfect; forgive my parents for not parenting me perfectly; forgive my tormentors for making fun of me; and forgive God for giving me parts of my story that I thought were imperfect.

Self-Acceptance: How Can You Like Yourself?

The woman at the doctor’s office. I didn’t know anything about her. I didn’t know her story. But in some ways I did. I didn’t have to know every in and in out of her past to see the scars left behind. I felt it so strongly again when I was sitting in the room waiting for the doctor to tell her my own tale of overcoming my own self-rejection and forgiving those who had hurt me.

As if to confirm my assignment, I caught sight of the woman on my way out of the office. She was hurrying along, papers clipped under her disfigured arm. Coward that I am, I did not stop her then. I needed time to examine this, think. I made my next appointment and left. It was not until a week later that I called the office and with a shaky voice told her on the phone that I felt that God had something for me to tell her.

She didn’t say much in response but thanked me for my call. I hope that my words to her will begin a process in her that He began in me some time ago — of learning to accept His love and His version of me.

And I hope my words will inspire a work in you if self-rejection or self-hatred is a struggle, knowing that there is a God who loves you and wants to restore you to Himself. Getting there means believing what He says about you and resisting messages from Satan or peers that would tell you otherwise — and taking yourself off trial.

Related Bible Verses:

1 Corinthians 4:3: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”

Galatians 1:10: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be servant of Christ.”

 Related Resources:

Charles Stanley, a pastor and author, suffered rejection as a child and has written extensively about the the damaging effects of rejection and self-rejection. Click here for his devotional on self-rejection featured on Crosswalk online magazine or here for notes from his radio message.

Have you experienced rejection and as a result find yourself trying to perform to avoid rejection from those around you? Do you have a hard time standing up for yourself or saying no because you fear others’ reactions? Joyce Meyer talks about how to not let the desire for others’ approval dominate your life in Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone.

Photo Credit: Celeste Lindell, Flickr

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Self-Worth: How to Feel Better About Yourself

Sometimes the simplest things make the biggest difference.

Take for instance when I was teaching: My student standardized test scores at the end of my first year were low, and I knew I needed to improve those. After attending a workshop on teaching strategies, I did some serious praying and realized that I was doing too much of the work for my students. I was reading the text and explaining and analyzing — to an audience of air — because while all of my brilliant discussion was going on most of my students were daydreaming about what they were going to eat for lunch.

So, I replaced my teacher-centered activities with more student-centered ones. Rather than have students listen to a story and fill out teacher-generated questions, I had them read portions of the story on their own and fill out 2-column notes, main idea notes, and double-entry journals. The change was really a simple one for me: I didn’t have to come up with all of the questions for the stories and could use fabricated graphic organizer templates, merely changing up the categories depending on the assignment.

That small adjustment paid off for me in a big way in my test scores the next few years.

I’ve found a similar principle to be true in my spiritual life as well. Sometimes minute tweaks can have a big impact. One small but big change that has begun to transform my thought life is simply taking God at His word and believing and speaking His truth over myself.

I didn’t even realize until recently that I was allowing my mind to be infiltrated by lies from the enemy. The area that I was allowing Him to infiltrate the most was in the area of my self-worth.

Somewhere around the time I was 11 or 12, I began to speak negative words over myself. The tape that I had playing in my head sounded like this: There is something wrong with you. No one likes you. You’re not pretty. You’re not enough. You aren’t smart like other people. Obviously, most adolescents do have negative thoughts running through their minds as their bodies change; however, I clung onto these words as absolute truth and let them stay with me into adulthood.

The thing that saddens me so greatly about my decision to believe these lies is that I always had a choice and didn’t know it. I chose to get into agreement with the devil about my self-worth, and by allowing degrading words to invade my thoughts throughout the day, I began to feel really badly about myself. I felt shame and imagined rejection in all of my relationships.

The words began to affect my health and my sense of well-being. All the time that I was letting this internal tape play, I was literally speaking curses over myself and impairing my ability to have successful relationships because I was so insecure and needy.

The simple truth I came across at the age of 34 was this: To change how I felt about myself, I had to start accepting what God said about me and begin to speak those truths over myself. As Joyce Meyer advocates in Approval Addiction, the only way Satan’s lies can destroy me is if I get into agreement with the lies and out of agreement with God’s truth. As Meyer says:

According to Paul’s letter to the Romans, God is for us. We also know that Satan is against us. The question we must ask is are we going to get into agreement with God or with the devil? You know the answer. Stop being against yourself just because Satan is against you!”

The truth that I started to speak over myself is this: I am loved. I am forgiven. I am beautiful. God created works for me to do in advance. He has a plan for me and my life.

You might be reading this, thinking: That’s it? That’s how you revolutionized the way you thought about yourself? Yep! It’s hard to believe that such a simple change could truly make me love myself after years of rejecting the creation God had made.

There are still times the ugly lies present themselves and my confidence is shaken — when I fail or make a mistake and the unkind words of others remind me of my past or my downfalls. Yet, when I hear those old familiar phrases coming back to wreak havoc, I know to resist them.

As a result, I feel happier and more refreshed. I have the confidence to put myself out there in new relationships because I don’t have to fear the risk of rejection.

Meyer comments on the self-assuredness we can have in Christ if we refuse to allow Satan to attack us:

Satan works through people as well as independently. He attacks our confidence through the things people say or don’t say … If people’s opinions, judgments and attitudes toward us are sometimes inspired by the devil, instead of agreeing with what they think and say, we must resist it. If we know God is for us, then it shouldn’t matter how we feel, or what people think of us.”

Refusing to Believe Lies About Your Self-Worth

I encourage you to be honest with yourself right now: What are the lies you are speaking over yourself? What have people said about you that might be crippling your confidence and ability to step out into a fulfilling life? How might you be different if you begin to take God at His word and believe that you are a special and precious creation with a unique purpose for your life?

The antidote to the crippling deception of the enemy is to stand firm against those lies and instead dwell on God’s truth. And, as Meyer concludes in her chapter, “Once we understand how God sees us through Christ, we can refrain from caring about what people think about us, and feeling bad about ourselves … ”

Truths to Help You Feel Better About Yourself

-When you feel reminded of your bad choices: Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

-When you feel bad about your appearance: Psalm 139:3: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

-When you feel like your life has no purpose: Jeremiah 29:11:For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

-When others come against you: Romans 8:31: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

-When you feel unloved: Romans 8:37: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present nor the future … will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Related Resources:

Charles Stanley, a pastor and author, suffered rejection as a child and has written extensively about the the damaging effects of rejection and self-rejection. Click here for his devotional on self-rejection featured on Crosswalk online magazine.

Have you experienced rejection and as a result find yourself trying to perform to avoid rejection from those around you? Do you have a hard time standing up for yourself or saying no because you fear others’ reactions? Joyce Meyer talks about how to not let the desire for others’ approval dominate your life in Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How Can I Overcome Negative Thinking Patterns and Depression?

If you’ve suffered from depression, you may have read my last post on overcoming depression and the limitations of medicine curing depression and still had lingering questions: So, how do I change my thinking? Is there any way to stay out of the dark valleys of depression?

I’ve collected some truths to add on to my previous posts that have helped me address my own dysfunctional thinking. The reality is that I change when I believe what God says and act on His Word rather than act on how I feel. That is where lasting transformative change happens.

Depression and Negative Thinking Patterns

Like many of you, I have often looked at my circumstances through the lens of what should be instead of what really is. Although it sounds pessimistic, it helps me to know that people will hurt me and let me down — and I, in turn, will hurt others. According to Bob George in Victory Over Depression:

All depression begins in the mind with improper thinking patterns that consist of unrealistic expectations or misplaced dependencies. Unrealistic expectations occur when a person simply does not face life as it really is, but looks at life and people as he thinks they should be. It is expecting perfection from ourselves and others. Misplaced dependencies occur when a person depends upon someone or something other than God for his happiness, self-worth, meaning to life, etc.

For the longest time I held people accountable in my thinking when they didn’t treat me like I thought they should. I was a victim, and until they came to acknowledge their wrong to me, I couldn’t let go of the offense.

This is a very unhealthy way to live because people rarely do or even get what you want. Clearly, I had unrealistic expectations and misplaced dependencies.

I relied way too heavily on the people in my life for my happiness. In particular, as a young person, I had a relationship where I looked to the other person for my sense of worth. I bought into the idea in our culture that significant other persons complete us — and when I couldn’t control how this person treated me, I got depressed.

While I should not possess a doormat mentality where people walk on me and hurt me, I can’t expect others to fill me. That’s what I have God for. Not only have my high standards for others led to grief, my own high standards for myself — self-imposed to avoid rejection — have led to depression.

Again and again, I’ve fallen into the trap of feeling I have to perform to be worthy in relationships. I have to accept the truth that I have value not because of my effort but because God says so. I make mistakes — I mess up — and God still loves me! I’m a work in progress, not a finished product, and that is the reality of the Christian walk.

Handling Disappointment: Key to Dealing With Depression

Facing what George refers to as a “seedbed of disappointment” is where I can choose to let thoughts about how disappointed I am fester, or I can choose to release those bad feelings over to God. As George says:

When you choose to respond to an adverse circumstance in anger, you have begun to spiral down to depression, for all depression is rooted in anger — anger at God, a mate, a friend, an enemy, a boss, a parent, etc. Anger leads you to employ defense mechanisms in order to change a person or circumstance. As these efforts fail, you sink into self-pity. In the pool of self-pity, your anger multiples as you ponder past offense, imagine future offense and experience further disappointment at your inability to control your circumstances. Your anger and self-pity result finally in a state of depression.”

In the past, when my actions and others’ haven’t been perfect enough for me, that has led to disappointment; despair because I can’t do better (or they won’t change); self-pity; then depression. As noted in Victory Over Depression, a better way when facing disappointment is to allow my mind to be renewed.

Renewing My Mind to Overcome Negative Thinking Patterns

Renewing my mind means to literally allow my mind to be re-programmed by Christ. That means I have to spend time in the Word and do what the Word says and the Holy Spirit prompts me to do. According to Romans 12:2:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The New Living Translation states it like this: “Don’t copy the behavior of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

In essence, I have to choose not to conform to the world’s way by reading the Word and allowing my thought processes to align with God’s. As this happens, I learn God’s will for me. And when I act on His will, He changes me!

According to George, the world’s order of thinking is “mind — emotions — actions” whereas God’s way is “mind — actions — emotions.” As we act in the right ways even when we don’t feel like it, our attitude changes.

In her study One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp states it a different way, stressing that trust (acting in obedience) is the bridge to joy. We can’t make ourselves godly, but by acting on what He says, we experience the byproduct of that which is godly attributes of love, joy and peace.

To do this, we have to choose to believe who we are in Christ — what He says about us, and not what others say. For me this has been and still is a struggle for me. Old patterns of thinking still like to creep back — they tell me that it is no use, that I will never be good enough, that I failed again, that nothing will change.

I have to reject those thoughts and instead replace them with God’s truth that I am forgiven, righteous and holy. I can tell God how I feel, tell Him I don’t like the adverse situation I am facing. However, instead of demanding that He change it, getting angry at Him and others when they don’t do it my way, I address it with the other person if necessary, let go and trust God to take care of it.

And switching out my faulty thinking patterns for God’s perfect wisdom gets me on the pathway of healthy thinking.

Related Bible Verses:

Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!”

Additional Resources:

For further reading on disappointment and the fickle nature of our emotions, Joyce Meyer writes about avoiding disappointment in “How to Prevent Slipping into Depression.”

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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