When Suicide Seems Like the Answer

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In this episode, we finish our recent series on depression. In episodes 5 and 6 of the podcast, we discuss how to overcome depression if you’re caught in a cycle of bad choices and how to avoid falling in the trap of negative social comparison that can lead to depression. To conclude our series, we talk about why suicide is never the answer and what to do if you are having suicidal thoughts. Even if you are not someone having suicidal thoughts, we encourage you to tune in so that you can have understanding and compassion for those in your life dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts.

If you are struggling with depression and are having thoughts of suicide or know someone in your life who is suicidal, we urge you reach out and get help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak to a trained professional. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, and the call is free. You can also call 911 or check yourself into any emergency room. It is important to tell others what you are feeling and get the help you need. As a friend, you can direct another to these resources and provide continued support by helping them plug in with a counselor or pastor.

Related Resources:

Although the above resources are helpful, the ultimate solution to find lasting peace and life-change is Jesus. If you have not put your faith and trust in Him as your personal Savior, we’d love for you to visit our Know God page to find out how to do that.

Want to listen to co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley talk through and explain the points in more of our latest posts? Subscribe on Soundcloud and receive all of our latest episodes!

 

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Avoiding Comparison That Leads to Depression

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Hey friend, have you ever looked at someone else and wanted her house, her looks, her promotion, her life? Comparison — looking at others and assessing what they have that we don’t — can lead to negative thoughts that spiral into depression. In this second podcast episode in our depression series, we discuss the common problem women have of looking at others and experiencing discontent. We explore three practical ways we can avoid falling into the trap of negatively comparing ourselves to others and instead celebrate the person God made us to be.

If you haven’t yet listened to episode 5 (our first episode in the depression series) and read the corresponding post, we encourage you to do so. In addition, you can tune in next week for our final episode on depression. We will wrap up our series by taking a candid look at the place depression sometimes leads — suicide — and why suicide is never the answer.

Related Resources:

Want to listen to co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley talk through and explain the points in more of our latest posts? Subscribe on Soundcloud and receive all of our latest episodes!

If you’d like to take a look at the resources mentioned in the podcast, check out Sandra Stanley’s Comparison Trap: A 28-Day Devotional for Women and Victory Over Depression

In addition, though not mentioned in the podcast, the following are a few more articles related to overcoming negative thinking and depression that may be an encouragement and help to you: A Christian Perspective: Overcoming DepressionHow Can I Overcome Negative Thinking Patterns and Depression?, and Why Medicine Won’t Cure Your Depression.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

How Disobedience Led to My Depression

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Tune into the Beulah Girl Podcast. Co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley explore finding identity in Christ. Episodes cover topics such as spiritual growth, relationships, emotional health, physical healing, ministry, and more.

When you know something, you can’t unknow it. That earthly law is true for our spiritual lives as well. I was raised by my dad and a strict Pentecostal Holiness grandmother. I was taught how to dress, which included, in the South, always wearing a slip. I was not permitted to spend an inordinate time of with boys. I was in church every time the doors were open and for special events.

I would not trade any of that, because my brothers and I all serve the Lord today. However, because I grew up knowing what it meant not just to profess Jesus but also to serve him, the beginning of my sinful choices in the area of sexual behavior caused a tension between what I knew to do and what I was doing. I guess you might compare me to the apostle Paul in that way: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15).

Depression as a Result of Choices

For me, when I began to sin sexually, a tremendous condemnation-induced depression set in and would not leave. In fact, it persisted over a five-year period. When you know what you’re supposed to be doing and you don’t do it, you can’t help but be tense and frustrated and angry. And that tension and anger and frustration turned inward is what my unprofessional psychological mind would call depression.

This depression was there when I got up, when I walked into the grocery store, and when I laid my head on my pillow at night. My brother had the room next door, as I was still living at home, and he was probably most aware of what was going on. However, neither he nor anyone else could give me the solution.

Let me pause right here. Depression is a real disease. Some people might have bouts of it that last for a little while and are induced by circumstances, but probably in my case of such frequent and even constant episodes, I would’ve been diagnosed as clinically depressed had I let anyone diagnose me. Instead, I put the record of self-hatred and worthlessness on the turntable and let the needle spin. And that’s an apt metaphor.

Truly the pathways our brain travels down over and over physically become deeper and easier to travel. The more I dwelled on something either good or bad, the more prone I was to feel that way about myself. In fact, when you’re depressed, you sometimes forget whom the thoughts even come from. You feel like God is condemning you. Or at least you feel like you’re condemning yourself. My depression was a result of choices. I’m not here at this moment to talk about what physical or genetic tendencies can lead to clinical depression. I’m certainly not qualified for that. What I want to talk about are my choices, their direct impact on my feelings of hopelessness, and how I found hope again.

What I’m about to discuss may sound juvenile, but I was a juvenile of the time my depression started after all. After high school, my world was opened up in some ways it probably should not have been. I still lived at home and I still worked a local job, but in college, you can go to school if you feel like it and not go if you don’t. Whereas one of my nicknames in middle and high school was “Goody Squared,” even a good girl’s worldviews as a Christian are constantly challenged as close by as in a small-town college.

Remember those days with me: You’re beginning to spread your wings and feel what it is to finally be an adult and be able to make your own choices. At my house, I no longer had a curfew. All of that “looseness” combined to create some bad situations for me to put myself in with my then-boyfriend-now- husband. Although I don’t believe that I need to air our dirty laundry here in the public arena, I think you will get the picture.

Every time we moved physically closer, my heart was in a cataclysm. My spirit knew to do the right thing, but my body and my soul were sinning against God. Like I said, for me that was my depression trigger. The activities in which we were engaged brought continuous attention, but then the pull of doing right caused guilt. The results? Closeness and thrill for the moment, followed by regret, shame, and self-hatred afterward.

And that cycle lasted for five years. You would think that if sexual sin was the cause of my depression, that when I got married and everything was “permitted,” my depression would’ve left. However, that is not the case. And that note gets me to the point of how I found help and how you can too.

Advice from My Journey

There are no tricks or magic beans in this road to wholeness, and you definitely need to get professional help if you have depression that just won’t go away. I was plain stupid for not doing more to get help with mine, especially since it lasted so long. But if you’re like me, and you know the cause of your depression and you know the source of help, here’s some advice that might assist you in your journey.

1. Get help from friends. Don’t stop talking. I have the same two friends I relied for so much help during this time. They drove me around the car, took me out to eat, and let me spend the night with them as I ranted over and over about how much I hated myself and how no one liked me and how I wasn’t good enough. I honestly can’t even remember everything I said because I have always been happy. This new depressed person was honestly really foreign to me. But regardless of what I said, I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant to listen to.

I could’ve stopped talking, but by the grace of God, I didn’t. Not even when I felt suicidal. I’ll talk about that in a later post, but I want to say at this point that you can’t get help if no one knows you need it. The word “mask” is so overused in our society, but whatever it is you are wearing to cover up your depression, make sure to keep talking to somebody, and if that person won’t listen, find somebody else.

It really doesn’t matter if they know what to say even. You just need someone who is willing to listen to you and not let you talk yourself into a decision that will have lasting impact.

2. Resist old thinking patterns. When you’re free, there will still always be a temptation to go back into the old ways. You might think it’s weird that I say temptation, but on the other side of this journey of depression, I realize that for me, it can be an occasional temptation not only to have depressive thoughts and wallow in them, but also to try to use them to manipulate others into feeling sorry for me. There you go. I said it out loud. For me, a few years ago, I had an episode that lasted about thirty minutes in a bookstore parking lot.

For those few minutes, I was captive again to thoughts that I had not had for years. This time, though, was different. I knew what it was like to be free, so I began to talk out loud in my car to my thoughts and to Satan, the originator of anything that’s not godly, and I said I would not believe those thoughts again. I was free and I was going to remain free.

Sometimes you have to say out loud like a lunatic or read from a card if you don’t feel like saying it, that you are free. Our words are weapons against the enemy, and we do not need to be afraid to use them.

You may be depressed, or you may know someone who is. If you fit one of those categories, please don’t make this post about blaming yourself for your depression. Jesus absolutely adores you, no matter what choices you do or do not make. Hear my heart, though, when I say that personal choices that violate the Word of God can cause painful mental and physical side effects.

What to Do If You’re Depressed

If you are feeling trapped, get help from His Word, from friends, from a counselor, and from processing out loud. But remember that there’s a woman here who has come out on the other side. There is hope for you. As a matter of fact, there’s some Scripture that sustained me through so many of my days. May I end by sharing it with you? Psalm 27:13, 14 says this:

I remain confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart

and wait for the Lord.

You will see His goodness, friend. I’m living proof. If you want us to pray for you and hold out hope for you, please leave us a comment below. We’re all in this together.

Related Resources:

Want to listen to co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley talk through and explain the points in our latest posts? Check out the brand new Beulah Girl podcast on Soundcloud. Subscribe on Soundcloud and receive all of our latest episodes!

If you’d like to read more about depression, check out A Christian Perspective: Overcoming Depression and the related article links on depression below.

 

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

Learning to Depend on God

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“I can do it myself!” my daughter announced as she raced ahead of me down the sidewalk. My heart did a little sideways flip-flop as I watched her neon shoes hit the pavement, causing her Lalaloopsy backpack to bounce against her narrow frame.

It was the second day of kindergarten. At my oldest daughter’s pleading, I had allowed her to ride the bus home from school. As the bus rumbled to a stop and the kids filed out, I did not catch sight of her. Worried that she had been placed on the wrong bus, I peered in to ask the driver and found my daughter giggling with two new friends on the front seat.

Looking surprised to see me, she jumped out of her seat and bounced down the stairs onto the sidewalk. Her feet had barely hit the pavement before she whirled around and insisted, “I can do it myself!”

Obviously, she had no idea where to exit because this was her first time riding the bus home, but rather than admit her need for my help, she declared that she would have been just fine had I not leaned in and collected her.

Watching that determined little girl skip away down the sidewalk, I felt a rustle in my spirit. Isn’t this what I do to God on a regular basis? How often does He fetch me off the “bus” only to see me claim that it was all my own doing?

Perhaps that heart flutter I felt was because I am often the little girl in this interchange. I am the one telling God, “I can do it myself.”

Independence as a Coping Mechanism

A can-do spirit has always been stitched into my DNA. My parents would most likely corroborate, but in looking back, I also developed self-reliance as a weapon I used to fight back against circumstances I couldn’t control.

Unfortunately, I had some situations in my childhood where I tried to voice my needs, and I was answered with irritation, anger or silence. I soon discovered that it was easier not to assert myself in some situations. Easier not to create a problem.

I became self-sufficient so that I wouldn’t impose on anyone. I built a fortress of one to protect myself. I didn’t realize that whether or not people always have good reactions to me, I need to share my needs. God doesn’t want me to cover up who I am in an unhealthy way to please others. I am not a problem if I speak up or express how I feel.

Giving up Self-Sufficiency for God-Dependency

Self-sufficiency wasn’t the only way that I tried to manage those people around me and make them like me; I also made the decision to be really useful. Not only would I never inconvenience the people in my life by expressing what I wanted, but I would also display how productive I could be — how successful. I would prove to everyone I was worth it.

Particularly in college and the first few years of teaching, I became extremely performance-driven. Although I didn’t recognize it as such, I was relying on my own fleshly attitudes to make it through my life. I believed in God, but I didn’t really know that He could help me with all the finite details of my emotions. I didn’t think He cared about that. My “It’s all up to me. I have to make this happen” attitude in college took a toll on my body.

I developed a nervous stomach and paralyzing fear and anxiety. While other people agonized over the extra pounds they were gaining, I fit easily in size zero jeans. All of my worrying whittled me down to very thin. One particular Sunday, I went forward at church for prayer when stress had brought me to the point of near collapse — and the preacher happened to say something about the cause of anxiety during the prayer time: fear.

A light bulb went off in my head, and I began to see how my terror that I wouldn’t measure up or succeed was paralyzing me and causing me to over-work myself in an effort to succeed. When I realized that the antidote to fear is trust, and I could hand over my worry to God and rest, my schoolwork became a lot more manageable. Because at the bottom of all of my self-reliance was a huge fear: that I would fail. I would fail in relationships. I would fail at being successful.

And when I failed, I had an even bigger fear — I would be rejected.

Acting Out of the Flesh

What I didn’t realize a few years ago is that by trying to change myself to please people, I was attempting to manufacture acceptance from the people around me with my actions. The desire to do things without God is something every person attempts to do whether he or she recognizes it or not. Even Christians can operate in the flesh.

According to a By Divine Design conference I attended, living in the flesh is when we attempt to meet our own needs for love, acceptance, worth and security apart from God. This desire to be independent came into the world when Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:1-21). Our flesh wants control, but we cannot experience abundant life when we live out of our flesh rather than His Spirit (John 6:63).

I’d grown up in church and had only heard flesh defined as our sinful nature that leads us to lie, cheat, steal, lust, etc. However, I didn’t realize that flesh is a little more encompassing. Certainly, we may be tempted in those areas that I just listed, but acting out of our flesh also includes the ways we try to do life in our own strength and the coping skills we use to get what we want out of our environment —  even those skills considered socially acceptable (By Design). I tried to do this with my independence and performance; however, there are other coping strategies that exist as well: criticism of others, workaholism, stoicism, escapism, perfectionism, and the list goes on.

The more I tried to cope by using my own flesh patterns, the more tied up in knots I became. It’s not wrong to have needs or express them, as I learned, or let the people in our lives help us feel loved and cherished; however, it’s a problem when we lean the entire weight of our identity on others’ reactions and our own achievements. God never intended us to generate our own devices to get through our circumstances. Consider what God says about how we are to approach life in Proverbs 3:5,6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

The New Living Translation actually says that this means “do not depend on your own understanding.” Therefore, the Bible teaches a dependence on God — not on our own flesh. In practical terms, this means seeking out the advice and will of God in our choices, relationships, and actions. In fact, The NIV Application Commentary suggests that not leaning on our own understanding goes beyond just asking for help in daily decisions; depending on God means “not being wise in [our] own eyes” (Prov. 3:7).

We shouldn’t necessarily feel guilty if we go somewhere for lunch before consulting Him; however, this does mean that our attitude is one of acknowledging God’s wisdom as surpassing our own. Trying to bull-doze through life on our own strength is being wise in our own eyes. Being dependent doesn’t mean we don’t have a personality or a brain. Being dependent means giving up our self-made strategies and learning God’s better ones. Being dependent means trusting so that we don’t have to fall for the lie that “it’s all up to me.”

Because the other part of Proverbs 3:5-8 is this: When we choose to depend on God’s ways over our own, He “makes [our] paths straight.” The Hebrew word for “straight” indicates “travel made safe by clearing and leveling the road” (The NIV Application Commentary). That means when we choose to lean on God instead of ourselves, He literally clears the way. It doesn’t mean we won’t be met with obstacles, because we will, but we will be traveling a way leveled in advance for us by the Almighty God.

We can rest because He’s got our back. And I don’t know about you, but that way sounds a whole lot better than trying to “do it myself”!

*Revised from a post originally published February 5, 2015.

Editor’s Note:

Please note that in the articles “Set Apart for God’s Special Purpose” and “Having the Faith to Get Through Your Storm,” changes were made to account for sources that were not included in original draft and/or bring clarification to key concepts. While we make every effort to correctly identify sources in original, at times corrections do have to be made after publication. We apologize for not including those in original draft. Please check out our new publication policy on our About page.

Related Resources:

Want to listen to co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley talk through and explain the points in our latest posts? Check out the brand new Beulah Girl podcast on Soundcloud. Subscribe on Soundcloud and receive all of our latest episodes!

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 Good That Can Come From Our Pain

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A few years ago, when I went through my second miscarriage, I slipped into a deep period of grief and suffering that lasted several dark months.

In the midst of that season, I didn’t know if I could ever feel joy again. I felt confused as I looked around me at the healthy, happy people. How could others smile and enjoy life while I was too sick to stand on my feet for long periods of time?

While my physical health was on the mend and my emotions in an even more precarious state, I felt during that season that I was falling in a deep black hole. When I cried out to God for relief, He stitched across the divide and created a bottom to that bottom-less well. There would be an end to the grief, I found. I would climb out of the hole and find light and happiness once again.

A year after I had the miscarriage, I regained my health and was in a place where I could try again for another baby. However, I didn’t know if I had it in me emotionally and physically to go through another pregnancy. Before I had the chance to decide whether or not I could try again, I got the surprise of my life: I was pregnant!

I couldn’t believe it when I began to feel the tell-tale signs of a pregnancy. God, in His goodness, had allowed me to conceive again. And just because He is God, I got pregnant with my daughter Ansley exactly one year after my miscarriage date. I saw her on an ultrasound screen for the first time when she was 11 weeks — exactly the age of the one I had lost.

God Is Still Good When We Hurt

If only I had had the perspective following my pregnancy loss that I have now. It’s easy in times of intense suffering to believe that circumstances will never get better and assume God doesn’t care. While I don’t know everything entailed in your journey, I do know this: He is still good even when it hurts, and we can’t understand.

Recently, an unexpected medical situation popped up in my life. Doctors gave me a diagnosis of an internal tear, and it brought me to a place of pain for several weeks. Medical staff informed me painkillers would aggravate the problem, so I wasn’t given any. I was sent home with the same excruciating pain I felt going in and a small tube of numbing crème that didn’t numb anything at all.

And though the physical suffering was on a much smaller scale than the suffering I experienced after my miscarriage, I still suffered. And the questions still came: Why is this happening? Have you forgotten me, God? Why am I not getting better? Really? Did I have to get sick with a condition where they can’t give me any painkillers?

There was a point the morning after I spent the night in the urgent care where I was in so much pain (and so overwhelmed by the lack of pain management they were able to provide) that I burst into tears with the morning supervising nurse, saying: “I am a mom. I have three kids to take care of. How am I supposed to function?”

She surveyed me calmly, “What do you want me to do?” She wasn’t being rude, but she obviously had never suffered from this particular malady.

“I want you to fix me! I want a solution!” I felt like screaming these words, but instead I took a moment to edit them and present them in a much calmer manner. She gave a few suggestions, and I eventually stumbled out of there with a prescription for more crème and promises that a surgeon’s office would call me.

Why Suffering Can Be a Blessing

In retrospect, perhaps my grief in the urgent care was such because there was no easy fix. Suffering — physical or otherwise — takes us to that realization: Our bodies fail us. Our health isn’t forever what it was when we were teenagers. We realize again that our world is broken. We need only look around to survey the epic suffering all around us — and in us — and assess that things aren’t the way they should be.

Matthew 5:4 tells us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Certainly, as many theologians assert, this verse refers to those who become aware of their own sin and the sin of others and weep over that. In their repentance and remorse for sin, Jesus comforts by taking away their guilt. However, a second application exists as well. For those of us who mourn because life’s trials become too much, Jesus is there to comfort us then as well.

So, you might say, “Well, Jesus may be there for us in our sorrow, but isn’t it still a bit of a stretch to say a person is ‘blessed’ if he mourns?” That is a really great question, and I have a great answer for it. The word “blessed” means “fortunate.” It sounds completely upside down in all ways to say that a person who suffers is “fortunate.” However, suffering can at times be viewed as a very good thing. Here’s why: It points us back to our Creator.

C.S. Lewis wrote this: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” What he meant is for the person who lives a life of ease and experiences very little pain, he may feel he can get along fine leaning on his own strength, but it is suffering that awakens him to his need of a Savior.

I once read a story about a proud atheist. He had a Christian grandson who tried unsuccessfully to witness to him. The grandfather lived as he pleased with great wealth, health, and happiness. However, in his later years, his health broke down. It was only in that place that he could receive the good news of the Gospel, sick on his deathbed, when all his worldly supports had failed him.

Similarly, sometimes our suffering is that which reminds us how weak we are on our own. Blessed are we in our suffering when we can look through our pain to the One who made us and call out to Him. God didn’t create the suffering on earth. He intended that we not live with sin or sickness.

However, He can use the suffering in our lives to help us reach a deeper awareness of Him. We may never find ourselves in such a position of utter dependence unless we first experience suffering.

Conclusion: God’s Grace Is Sufficient for Us When We Suffer

What can we conclude, then? In times of great affliction, a human solution doesn’t always exist: medicine that will take away the pain or a doctor that can make our body or mind go back to perfect health with a snap of a finger.

But no matter the diagnosis or circumstance, we can rest as believers in the truth that Jesus never leaves us, and He knows what we’re going through.

Admittedly, Jesus doesn’t always give us the physical healing we want right away. Some of us have to wait for eternity for that. But what He does give us is comfort and the strength to make it through each day relying on His power and not our own. In Him, we have a hope we can anchor ourselves to when everything has gone askew, and we can’t be sure of anything any longer.

In my most recent situation, I’d love to say that Jesus immediately took away my medical ills. But that’s not what happened. I improved slowly over a several week period. Some days I called out to Him in desperation to speed up the process — but did not get the immediate resolution I wanted. Rather, in one prayer time when I asked Him how he expected me to get through another day, these words came to mind, “ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

More time passed where I experienced this same level of desperation. As more days went by, the pain lessened. And one morning, I woke up without pain. God had healed me.

I realize that not every story ends this way. And, certainly, I have had other situations that have had less desirable outcomes. However, Matthew 5:4 reminds us that we’re blessed when we mourn. Not just when the healing comes or life is going great.

We’re also blessed when we let our suffering remind us of our need for our Maker and allow His grace to be sufficient in our pain.

 

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 Art of Finding Self-Worth: Embracing Your Identity in Christ

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Because of an abusive past, so much of my identity was based in my sexuality. I thought if I was “hot” enough, I would meet my own needs by getting all the attention and affection I desired. I bit the apple of seduction hard by the time I was 15. All I had to do was get skinny enough, buy clothes cute enough, get my makeup right enough . . . and I had power, influence on others, something to offer the world. Power! I had never experienced it before, and it felt good. Here was my salvation, my panacea for the pain and powerlessness of my situation, my way out of a world that didn’t seem to open a lot of positive doors. I could do this thing and do it right!

As a young person, I used to wonder why old people’s faces were so downcast, why so many senior citizens seemed miserable. I’ll tell you why because now I know. Sin takes you farther and deeper than you ever thought possible or ever wanted to go. They may not know enough about God and the Bible to realize that’s what happened to them, but that’s what painted the frown on their face — whether the sin of unforgiveness or bitterness or anger or pride or addiction or whatever other sin they committed in reacting to life’s hard circumstances.

Building Identity on the Foundation of Christ

For me, the sin of seduction began to snake its way into my insecure teen years as my “salvation” until it eventually wove its way into every fabric of my life for decades to come. Even as a Christian, my relationships were marred by it because of the spirit of pride that hid behind it all; I thought I could, by my own means, “get” people to like me. The foundation of all my interactions was me striving, me getting people to like me, which God in His providence allowed to backfire — ultimately causing people to reject me! In many ways, I was a performer on a stage, and eventually, my life did not ring with the truth that causes others to trust; it rang with undertones of “old-man” sexuality and the serpent that had controlled my life for so long. My relationships and ability to be real with those I cared about collapsed around me, and because I chose not to identify completely with Christ, my foundation in Him was crumbling.

Every now and again, God can speak a word into one’s spirit that seems to set their course for a lifetime. As a new Christian at 18 and an artist, I remember one such encounter with God as if it were a visitation from God Himself. He said, “Are you willing to paint paintings in life and give them away?” It doesn’t sound like a visitation to you, but to me, it got right to the heart of who I was. I thought of what that would mean. Use my gift to give it away. Get no glory. Have no tangible proof of my worthiness. Have nothing to hang in my house to point to and say, “I am wanted; there is good in me; I am worthy.”

God’s presence was there in a solemn way waiting for my answer. I panicked. There was God asking a simple question, and I felt myself delaying, drifting away with each second passing until my answer, pitifully, was a bewildered, “No, sorry, God” — revealing the depth of inculcation this snake of seduction had wrapped into my soul. I said, “God, I want to, but I just don’t know how I could get people to like me — if I don’t have my art to show them.”

It’s the “little” decisions we make like this that part the seas wide open in our lives to live for God — or not. It’s not about going to church on Sunday and getting dressed up and saying all the right things when inside we are telling God no about emptying ourselves of that which would give us identity and purpose outside of Himself. The way we go about feeling worthy tells everything about us.

It goes right to the joint and marrow of who we are. Do we get a sense of dignity, purpose, and worth from the amazing presence of Christ within us? Do we break the bread and drink the wine imbibing all the sweetness of what Christ did for us, smelling the rose of Sharon in our lives? Do we sense the holy royalty of Christ emerging as we take pity on the least person in our lives — the janitor, the garbage-man, the homeless?

Or do we grab the American dream in some way, piling SUV’s, latte buzzes, the latest technology, the cliques, the “ministry” or designer clothes that we wear to “dress up for God” into our lives to point to our “art” and say to the world, “I am worthy; look at what I have created”?

Emptying Yourself to Be Filled With Christ

Exodus 20:4 (NLT) says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” But so often, we make ourselves an idol. Feeling the pangs of insecurity, we want to be admired, esteemed, and respected to excess. While Jesus validates our need for honor, the path to it is always to go lower. As we go lower and humble ourselves, we empty ourselves that God may fill us and be all-in-all.

And since God is a blessing God, He can’t “resist” an empty vessel.

In 2 Kings 4, a widow approaches Elijah. Her prophet-husband had died with creditors about to seize her sons. All she had was a little jar of oil, so Elijah instructed her to borrow all the vessels she possibly could and not “just a few” (v. 3). Then she was instructed to come inside and close the door. She began to pour oil and poured and poured until every vessel was filled; then she sold the oil to pay her debts. She had to get the empty vessels, and she had to shut the door. We don’t always want to borrow things, to be in need, to get the empty vessels or to be one, for that matter — and we don’t always shut the door. But we have to empty ourselves if we want God to fill us.

Unfortunately, sometimes instead of waiting for God to honor us, we carve out some worship for ourselves. We want people to see what we’re doing. John the Baptist set the example when he said, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV). However, so many of us are guilty of selfish ambition — the sin that drove Satan from heaven itself. Are we trying to go up — to ascend in a selfishly ambitious way? Or are we trying to come down? To descend and humble ourselves like Jesus did, empty ourselves, and ironically find the greatest fulfillment of worth in being empty for God?

Mercifully, God has a way of stripping us. I had a dream in which I perched on a stool in front of a huge makeup case. I said out loud, “The princess (i.e., myself) has almost this much makeup.” Suddenly, the stool fell over, the makeup case tumbled, hitting a man in our church who had a heart problem, and also toppling onto a friend whom I knew God had told to go without makeup. As I prayed for the interpretation, I asked God, “What is the stool?” He said, “Pride.” I knew this was not a “good” dream! God was after something. Mind you, my makeup was not too excessive, but my goal in those days was to be hot, not holy.

Then the Lord showed me the man with the heart problem had a spiritual “heart” problem, and my use of makeup was hurting him in the form of temptation as well as it was hurting the girl whom the Lord had told to quit wearing makeup. I was violating her conscience by the way I wore mine! Excessive makeup had to go, and God made very clear — a little foundation, a little concealer, a little blush, OK — but no mascara. No lipstick — my hallmark! — whatsoever. Not even Vaseline. The pangs of obedience shot through me. I counted the cost. Christ was worth it.

So, while losing my “face” was a difficult task at first, it eventually transformed the way I saw myself. I actually began to like my looks more! I seemed much more the “girl next door” than someone trying to be “hot.” I found out it feels a lot better to feel safe and wholesome than to feel hot! God may not be making the heavy request of you to remove your “face,” but each one of us must be willing to yield whatever God puts His finger on that we have used as an identity crutch.

Being Useful for God’s Purposes

The writer of Proverbs states, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30, ESV). God is a god who gives favor. It is not up to us to try to draw people to ourselves through our gifts, talents, looks, positions, titles, riches, personality, or anything else we can manipulate.

Only God knows the things we must yield to Him to get our foundation right, and our walks with Him are highly individualized. Whatever the Lord may impress upon you, determine today not to be “hot” for others but an empty vessel God can use for His purposes. We must abandon ourselves to the “audience of One” — to quit performing for the world and make our sole focus Christ, so that at the end of our lives, we stand on the great stage of the life we lived, and there is One person clapping in the audience — clapping and standing — and it is Christ. The years fly as swift as swallows, and blond hair turns gray. Are we anchored to the Lord to get praise from Him and the favor He provides, or are we still striving and struggling to do it all ourselves?

My house is full of paintings now. I have given some away, I have kept many, and the Lord knows if I had it to do all over again, I would say a huge yes to God’s query and give every painting away! Instead, God asked for the painting on my face, and this time, I said He could have it, and it has meant everything to me.

Stacey Crayton

Stacey Crayton

Stacey Crayton lives in Canton, Georgia, with her husband and feline despot, Gideon. Stacey's name means "resurrection," and it also is a story of her life -- many "deaths" in different areas that seem to keep returning as empowering events. She is a former contributing editor to "Living Water Journal" and enjoys hiking, biking, painting in oils, acrylics -- and recently, watercolors -- and loves nothing more than to wake up watching tree shadows flicker on the top of her tent. A teacher, Stacey holds a master's in Teaching English as a Second Language and is learning to praise God even in a current season of being in "God's waiting room." Her dream is to hold prophetic and deliverance conferences to see God's people get set free around the globe. Until then, she keeps practicing on herself, her family, and whoever will listen to her ministry in the "highways and byways." Stacey is a bold believer who specializes in witnessing for the kingdom of God.

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Using the Word of God to Combat Anxiety: Learning From John Piper

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We welcomed a darling baby girl into our family this past May. All the cliché things about babies you could possibly say are true about this little girl: she has completely captured our hearts, and we can’t imagine life without her.

However, though we are enamored with this little chubby-cheeked cherub, I am going to be real with you: three kids is uber-tough to handle on some days. Afternoons and evenings are particularly stressful when my oldest two get home from school, and I am chasing after a mobile, squealing infant; helping my oldest two with homework; getting dinner on the table; and ensuring all three of my kids get into bed with bodies bathed and teeth brushed. Because my husband is a head coach of two sports, most of my evenings are spent doing this alone.

Usually, the day ends with me standing in the shower escaping for a few moments of alone time to ease the tension that never has really left my upper shoulders since we had a third one. My stress exists because of the number of things I have to do during the day in taking care of three young kids — but in the midst of this kid chaos, I have been attempting to work on a project that I fear will not get done. And that low-grade fear is permeating my days and causing me anxiety.

I read an article recently by John Piper of Desiringgod.org that stated that anxiety is a state of unbelief. I’ve written about how anxiety is caused by fear, but I believe Piper was able to zoom out the lens even further and accurately assess not only the role of fear but the role of unbelief in anxiety.

What is unbelief? Unbelief is essentially not believing in or trusting God and what He says. Fear is unbelief. Behind the fear I am experiencing lies unbelief in the promises God has in His Word concerning the work He has given me. Most of us would say we believe in God and want to follow His ways, but we have trouble trusting His sovereignty and ability to help us in the midst of trying situations where the demands on us are great and our strength feels small.

What Does the Word of God Say About Combatting Anxiety?

To combat the turbulence of this season, I have felt led to turn to Isaiah 26:3. The passage says this: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you. Because he trusts in you.” Certainly, we find a measure of comfort in the reading of the words. But if we dig into this passage a little, we discover further help for fretful thoughts and unbelief.

The verse points out that the mind that is “stayed” on Christ will be in perfect peace. It’s important to look at what a mind “stayed” on Christ looks like. I thought before I did any research on the wording in this passage that a mind “stayed” on Christ was fixed on Him. Certainly, that seems logical doesn’t it? If we’re always thinking about God and “stayed” on Him then we won’t succumb to our anxious thoughts, right?

Well, that is not exactly what I found. Certainly, God wants us to think about Him, pray to Him, and meditate on Him. All of those things are good and will help us when we feel anxious. However, when it says here that the mind is stayed on God, the word “stayed” in the Hebrew means “supported by God.” The Hebrew word is “sāmūḵ” and means “upheld” or “established.”

To have a mind that is stayed on God isn’t just to think about God. To have a mind stayed on God is to be supported, established in God’s truth to the point that my mind is literally held up by God. In other words, just as a house sits firmly on a foundation, so my mind needs to be rooted in the things of God. And the verse makes an important connection between the mind at peace and the person that trusts. As the Keil and Delitszch Commentary on the Old Testament says, “Such a mind is thus kept by Jehovah, because its trust is placed in Jehovah.”

What we can conclude is that when we cling to God and what His Word says and ground ourselves in Him, this secures stability and peace in our minds.

Piper advocates this same idea in his article (although he uses different Scripture references). Instead of fixing to that which produces anxious thoughts, we can hang onto God’s truth. For instance, in my current scenario, I can switch out thoughts like, “I can’t take this. The kids are driving me crazy. I’ll never get my work done!” In their place, I can say, “I can do all this through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). God will help me get this impossible workload done (Philippians 1:6). God has equipped me with all I need to do His work (Hebrews 13:21).” We stabilize our runaway thoughts with truth much like an ancient sagging floor is stabilized by a hefty crossbeam.

An Offensive Strategy to Fight Against Anxiety

So, what if we have spoken all of the right verses and we still have anxiety? We keep speaking them, and we keep seeking the Lord. As Piper explains beautifully in his article, we overcome our struggles not just by speaking truth but by the help of the Spirit who lives inside us. Additionally, he points out that just because we have anxiety doesn’t mean that we should quit the race or think we don’t have the faith of other Christians. It means that Satan has targeted us and thrown “mud on our windshield.” We need to fight back with our “windshield wipers.” We need to fight back with the Word of God and the help of His Spirit. Note what Piper says:

When anxiety strikes and blurs our vision of God’s glory and the greatness of the future that he plans for us, this does not mean that we are faithless, or that we will not make it to heaven. It means our faith is being attacked. At first blow our belief in God’s promises may sputter and swerve. But whether we stay on track and make it to the finish line depends on whether we set in motion a process of resistance. Will we turn on the windshield wipers and will we use our windshield washer? … You deal with anxieties by battling unbelief. And you battle unbelief by meditating on God’s Word and asking for the help of his Spirit. The windshield wipers are the promises of God that clear away the mud of unbelief. And the windshield washer fluid is the help of the Holy Spirit.

Christians are not exempt from anxiety. We will feel anxious, fearful, panicked in reaction to certain scenarios. However, when we feel anxiety, we have prescription in the Word of God to begin speaking that Word over us and our situation. But simply speaking verses over ourselves won’t necessarily make our anxiety go away.

There are times when we won’t be sure what specific verse speaks to our situation because we are not in touch with the lies getting us off track. Whenever we feel fear that won’t subside, then, we need to pray and ask God for His help and wisdom (James 1:5).

Truly, we don’t need to fixate on feeling bad about ourselves when we feel anxiety. We need to attach ourselves to truth that we can speak to the lies and doubts coming against us. And the more we are in the truth, the more we will be able to discern the lies that show up on our doorstep.

Conclusion:

I wish that I never had to feel anxiety again. I have been freed from certain bouts of anxiety at particular intervals for long periods of time, but it often finds its way back. There have been moments when I’ve wondered: Is this anxiety ever going to stop coming around?

Well, probably not as long as I am living on this planet. However, God has given us an offensive strategy, so when fear comes, we can stabilize unhealthy thoughts with God’s truth. My anxiety has evaporated in this season as I have replaced my worries with His assurances found in Scripture. And — I have let go of my timetable for the project and instead embraced the idea that God’s timing for its completion may be different than I originally envisioned.

What about you? Do you struggle with anxiety? Has there been a time when God gave you a particular verse to cling to that helped you? Share with us in the comments!

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 to Deal with the Pain of Rejection and Find Healing

how-to-deal-with-the-pain-of-rejection-and-find-healing

As a middle school student, I remember sitting at a lunch table with my much cooler best friend, hearing a boy ask, “Why is she sitting here?”

He, of course, was talking about me. As his words washed over me, I sat frozen in shame. The boy’s inquiry was especially horrifying to me as he had been in my fifth grade class, but here he sat pretending like he didn’t know me. My best friend stumbled around with a defense. But as a few more incidents like that happened, and she skyrocketed to the top of our junior high social infrastructure, our friendship began to dissolve. By the time we reached high school, the only time I ever went over to her house was when her mom asked me to babysit her younger brother.

Obviously, that was middle school, but the reality is that rejection is not isolated to the middle school setting. And those rejections that happen to us — even from a long time ago — can have real and lasting impacts on our sense of worth.

As Kristin Weir notes in “The Pain of Social Rejection,” acceptance is a deep primal need. She cites the following research finding from C. Nathan DeWall, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky: “Humans have a fundamental need to belong. Just as we have needs for food and water, we also have needs for positive and lasting relationships.”

However, the truth is that at times we will get the boot in a relationship or a pink slip at a job. There will be times that we don’t measure up to the standards of others or fail in our execution of duties. Yet, if we let our hurt and anger turn to bitterness in the course of the rejection, we will find ourselves enslaved to out-of-control emotions that destroy our future relationships and opportunities.

So, knowing that rejection can damage us greatly if we don’t work through it in a healthy manner, here are three things to keep in mind when dealing with a painful rejection:

1. View rejection as protection.

In a recent article, Lysa Terkeurst writes that there is “usually some element of protection wrapped in every rejection.” I never thought about it like that until I read her statement, but her words are true. While most of us do everything we can to be in a certain group, there are times when God may lead us away from a particular relationship or opportunity because He is protecting us.

In the case of the middle school scenario I described, the rejection felt unbearable at the time because I wanted to be liked by his group of kids. They were popular — and my best friend from my neighborhood, the one whom I had invited to attend public school with me (she was a former private school attendee), was someone I desperately wanted to impress. I can’t tell you how humiliating it was for me to be shamed in front of her by kids I had grown up with. However, rejection from that particular group was actually a good thing for me. They were a fast group of kids who ended up doing a fair share of partying, bent on wordly pursuits.

Because I was blindly pursuing inclusion in this particular group, I could not see that God had given me friends that were more my pace. While I wasn’t as thrilled about the bookish girls at the table I usually sat at, I had much more in common with them. They liked to read books and involved themselves in activities like student government and yearbook. Instead of looking for a grander friend base (when it clearly wasn’t working out), I needed to recognize God’s protection steering me away from influences that weren’t good for me.

2. Everyone experiences rejection: what matters is how we deal with it.

For those of us who have experienced a lot of rejection, we may think we are the only ones. Perhaps we have developed an unhealthy dialogue in our head that goes something like this: This always happens to me. I am always the one who gets left out.

However, the truth is that everyone, at some point, experiences rejection. Whether that be by a spouse, a friend, a parent, a boss, a co-worker, or a sibling. What matters is how we react — what thoughts we allow in our heads as a result of our rejections.

In his article “How to Cope With Rejection,” Dr. Frederic Neuman notes as a psychiatrist he had one self-confident patient who didn’t have much going for him in the looks department, yet he managed to never have a shortage of girlfriends. Conversely, he had a fellow psychiatrist who by all appearances had everything going for him, yet had terrible anxiety (after the breakup of his marriage) about dating women.

What was the difference? When meeting women in a social setting, the patient usually was rejected by several prospective women in a night before he would meet one who would talk to him. He just shrugged off the rejections and kept moving. The psychiatrist, on the other hand, was paralyzed and defeated after his divorce to the point that he was afraid to put himself out there.

If we have numerous rejections or a traumatic experience that rocks our sense of worth, we may be more susceptible to rejection. While our more stable peers may brush off the slights and jeers they receive — we may internalize them and believe everything negative we hear about ourselves. The key is to know what God says about us and, as the pastor at the new church I have been attending says, preach the truth to ourselves every day.

What does God say? We are loved. We are treasured. He delights in us. He formed us in our mother’s womb. He knew us before we were born. His version of us needs to be the filter we use to accept or not accept the words and actions that come our way.

3. Past rejection shouldn’t define our relationships in the present.

Beth Moore makes an adept observation in a recent Proverbs 31 Ministries devotional that the biggest obstacle we have to our next relationship may well be a previous one.

Recently, I had a situation where I dreaded a certain conversation I needed to have with an individual. I had offered some candid comments, and because my honesty had at times in the past caused people to cut off relationships with me, I was sweating this person’s response to me.

However, the person surprised me by not reacting in anger but rather thanking me for my honesty. We were able to have a good conversation after that, and I appreciated the person’s ability not to take offense at my words. My fear over the reaction I anticipated was unfounded. I assumed that the reaction would be one that others had to me, but I found that not to be the case.

As Moore stresses, just because we have been rejected in a past instance does not mean that we will be rejected in a future one. In fact, according to Moore, the very next person we meet may be the most key person to us on our journey. Therefore, we can’t let what has happened in a few relationships ruin or define the new relationships God wants to send our way.

We Need to Work Through Rejection

Rejection is not easy. No one wants to have a middle school type moment and be the one no one talks to or invites to the party. But we should know that rejection is something that we will all experience.

Rather than avoid new relationships or people altogether, we need to work through our rejection, forgive those who have hurt us, ask God to forgive us where we have held any grudges — and keep walking with open hearts knowing that rejection in one’s past doesn’t have to ruin the good God has for us in our future.

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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When Jesus Asks You to Go Into a Storm

When Jesus Asks You to Go Into A Storm

A few weeks ago, I listened to a sermon that dug into the marrow of my soul. The sermon was about the storms of life that come up suddenly — like sudden squalls on a calm lake.

The sermon made an impression on me not only because it was a compelling talk and gave a slightly different take on the story of the disciples on the sea, but because it touched off a little warning signal in my spirit. I felt a whisper all around me. Something is coming.

Though I am a firm advocate of looking for good and not projecting bad in the future, I also know that sometimes God warns us of things to come. I felt that He was giving me an oh-so-subtle heads up. I buckled down in prayer. I braced myself in spirit for the phone call, the conflict, the problem to emerge.

But, as so often happens with God, I got the slow dawning realization that perhaps the storm was one that I was going to have to walk into on my accord. A hurricane wasn’t necessarily going to brew up outside my control and leave me in the middle without a choice (as has often happened). I was going to have to choose to walk into it and trust Him to meet me in it and get me through it.

As I have shared many times on my blog, I have been through some healing these past few years — and the end result had been peace. I had set boundaries in relationships that had never been set before. I had made amends and apologies. I had experienced great gains in sifting through emotional baggage and negative unresolved emotions that had built up.

But in a way that is His own, God showed me that I was in danger of falling back into some of my old people-pleasing patterns. I had backed away from some confrontations, had remained silent when I should have spoken up. God was prompting me not to lose the lessons He had taught me, but to keep walking head-long into difficult conversations and initiate tough calls as He led me.

To stop hiding and being cowardly about facing people. To walk in the power of His Holy Spirit and not backtrack into avoidance and escapism when He directed me to places that were difficult.

Jesus Directs His Disciples Into a Storm

As the pastor pointed out in the sermon on the disciples, in John 6:16-21 Jesus directed the disciples onto the lake knowing that there was going to be a storm:

When evening came, his disciples went down into the sea, got into the boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

What is interesting to note here is that Jesus sent the disciples into the boat without Him. He left to go and pray. We must know that there are some decisions we will have to make. He will direct us — but we ourselves are the ones who must choose to walk in that way. He won’t force us.

And — even when we do our duty and listen to Christ’s command, we will find ourselves in adverse circumstances, afraid. Many of us assume that doing the will of God will lead us away from difficulty rather than towards it. But as we see in this Scripture, the disciples’ obedience led them straight into a squall.

However, just at the right moment, when the storm was reaching a fever pitch and tossing the disciples about — Jesus came to them, walking on the water, saying, “It is I; do not be afraid” (v. 20).

As commentator Matthew Henry notes, Jesus walking on the water revealed His complete command over the situation. He walks above our trouble and circumstances and can teach us to do the same. However, as the accounts in Matthew 14:26 and Mark 6:49 relate, the disciples were afraid when they first saw Jesus because they didn’t recognize Him at first. Jesus, to them, looked like some sort of apparition. In the darkness and the winds, they couldn’t make out His face.

And perhaps we don’t recognize Jesus in our circumstance at first either.

It was only when Jesus spoke that they recognized His voice and invited them into the boat. Again, just as they chose to go into the boat at His command, they also chose to welcome Him into their boat in the midst of the storm.

And it was only then that they “immediately” (as the passage says) reached the other side. Was Jesus being merciless, then, by sending them ahead of Him into the boat into the storm? No, not at all. Sometimes, the only way to get to the other side is through an incident than around it.

My self-protective tendencies make me want to always look for the easy way, the way where no one gets offended, no one gets upset and no one gets their feathers ruffled.

But that’s not always the way Jesus would have me go.

Did He send His disciples to die in the middle of the lake? Did He send His disciples to a place He couldn’t see or control?

No, He sent them into a storm that He would meet them in the center in, even though it looked, by all appearances, that He would be sitting this one out.

Is God Asking You to Walk Into a Storm?

Perhaps God is asking you to do something hard. Confess a wrong to someone else. Confront a friend about a sin. Set a boundary in a relationship where the other person has freely walked all over you for years. Say no to a situation that is tempting you to act in ways you know you shouldn’t.

But to do so may mean a storm. It may mean a loss of a relationship. It may mean people mocking you for your beliefs. And you tell God you don’t want to go. You want to stay on the shore.

I want to as well, friend. But I know I have to go. So the Holy Spirit and I have been sifting through relationships. I have been consulting Him about what to say, which direction to go. And one by one, as I seek Him and seek His Word, I am launching out in actions that will continue to provide the boundaries around me in relationships, that will help me navigate those in a healthy way with His strategies rather than my own.

Is it easy, friend? No, it’s not. His way never is.

But is it life-changing. Life infusing? Spirit-dependent living? Yes it is.

I urge you — take His invitation. Step out. Leave behind the safe dock and embrace the winds — because it is in the storm where He will meet you.

If you would like to join in for a chat about emotional healing and maintaining that healing after you’ve walked through it, I will be talking more about that as well as the inspiration for this post. You can subscribe for free to our live video chat this Monday, August 7 @ 9 p.m. EST, watch the replay, or leave a comment below.

 

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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Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted: Here’s Hope You Can Cling to

Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted_

When I was an unmarried college student, I got a job working at a retail store in the local mall.

People that I knew would frequently come through, but I was surprised one day to see a good looking young man approach me. I recognized him as the brother of a boy I had known in my middle school days.

He smiled at me and struck up a conversation. As he continued talking to me for more than a few minutes, I found his attention flattering but began to wonder why he was lingering around me for so long. Right around the time that I began to assume that he was being flirtatious with me, these words came out of his mouth: “So, tell me about her. Does she have a boyfriend?”

I immediately paused in my shirt folding and looked to see where he was gesturing. My gaze fell on the beautiful young high school student that had just joined our staff. She had long, straight brown hair and a bubbly smile.

I felt a jolt of unpleasantness course through my veins. Though I had no interest in this young man and did not desire to “hook up” with him, I was flattered by the idea that he might be talking to me because he thought I was interesting or attractive. However, his comment underlined the real reason he was acting so friendly in my presence.

The idea made me freeze a little because I had observed flocks of guys around this particular girl on a regular basis, and it was hard not to be feel terribly plain and unnoticed working beside her.

“She has a boyfriend,” I said very evenly as I finished the last of the shirts in my pile.

His face fell and within seconds he mumbled his goodbyes and quickly exited the store. I stood there feeling slightly used and annoyed. Could he not just chat with me a few moments because I grew up near his family, and I had gone to school with his brother? Why was his only intent to use me to get to this other girl?

Although this irritated feeling in this particular incident was one I was able to shrug off within a matter of moments, I suppose that the reason the irritation was there to begin with was because of something deep within me that this situation touched on. A fear that perhaps I didn’t have what other girls had to offer.

A longing to be noticed and admired — even by somebody’s brother whom I wasn’t even interested in.

Leah from the Bible: A Woman Insecure and Unwanted

When I was a young girl, I was familiar with the story of Leah and Rachel, and here was my honest thought concerning God’s placement of it in the Bible: it reinforced my belief that it was important to be more like Rachel than Leah. Males loved Rachels.

I had a few Rachels in my immediate realm who proved this point. They were pretty, popular, sought after. Enough said.

But I never considered that the story in the Bible wasn’t to make insecure girls feel even more insecure. God’s intention in placing it there was most likely to show overlooked-feeling girls such as myself how to find confidence and belonging.

Let’s look at Leah’s story in Genesis 29. Leah was given to Jacob when Jacob didn’t even want her. Rather than the sister he thought he was getting on his wedding night, he got Leah. And when he discovered that his trickster father-in-law had made the switch, he was angry and demanded that he have Rachel. And there was nothing Leah could do to change the situation she found herself in.

She didn’t have a choice when her father, Laban, chose her to dupe Jacob, and she couldn’t get out of a marriage she was bound by covenant into, even though it meant sharing her husband with a sister that was the favored one, the one that Jacob loved.

So, as blogger and Proverbs 31 contributor Lynn Cowell points out in a blog post, Leah did what any desperate woman would do, and she attempted to offer Jacob something that would make him love her. In her society, because a woman’s fertility was valued, she bore him sons. And with each son she birthed, the Bible says that Leah believed that the child would help Jacob feel attached to her. Three times, she did this!

It’s easy to look at poor Leah here and claim that we would never repeatedly engage in the same cycle of approval-seeking (when it clearly isn’t working), but that is exactly some of us have done a thousand times.

We continue to call the man who won’t commit to a serious relationship and make excuses when he never calls us. We continue to kill ourselves out-performing everyone at our job to prove to a hard-to-please male boss that we are a good employee. We think of ways we can dress better, do our hair differently, lose a few pounds to keep the affections of a husband who is distant and unaffectionate. And though our efforts don’t work, we lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that if we just do [fill in the blank], we will finally win him.

Leah fell into this trap again and again. You can almost imagine her as she presented her newest newborn to her husband with eager expectation, but he did not waver in his love for Rachel. In fact, the irony is that Rachel was barren for many years when they were first married, but Jacob showed devotion and favoritism towards her even when she had difficulty conceiving.

Have you ever been there?

But as Cowell observes, there is a turning point in the story where Leah had a heart-change. She stopped looking to her husband, and she started looking to God for her love and fulfillment. In verse 35, after the birth of her fourth son, Leah said: “This time I will praise the Lord.” And then Leah stopped bearing children for a time.

Aren’t you just cheering for Leah here? She adjusted her focus to the One who created her.

However, her change of heart may have only been temporary. She began child-bearing again — it doesn’t expressly say that did this to try once again to gain her husband’s attention, but more out of competition with her sister.

Regardless of whether Leah changed her approval-seeking ways with her husband permanently or not, her heart-change (even if only temporary) did not change her circumstances. The Scriptures give no indication that her husband began to love her. In fact, it indicates that she remained unloved. When Jacob was afraid to meet his brother, Esau, later in the story, he sent Leah out in front. Rachel was safely positioned back with him.

But Leah’s best moment was when she found strength in a God who loved her and had a purpose for her when the world was unfair to her. It turns out that Leah was in the lineage of Jesus Christ! And, though the biblical account doesn’t tell us what happened between Jacob and Leah later in life, I’d like to think that perhaps Jacob grew to respect and perhaps even love this wife he initially didn’t want.

What we do know is that Leah outlived Rachel and was buried next to him (an honor not even Rachel had).

If You Feel Unwanted

I know if you are reading this and find yourself feeling left out and unloved like Leah, you might be wondering: Does this mean my circumstances will never change? I can’t answer that. I do know that God wants us to find meaningful connections in our relationships, and I believe that He can restore any relationship.

However, I also know that sometimes God doesn’t change our circumstances the way we want. Instead, He may change us.

The encouragement is that if we find ourselves in a challenging work situation or relationship, we can know that God has a purpose for us, and though we may not be able to change the people in our situation, we can change our own perspective and find contentment and belonging despite how people may view us.

For some of us, God may make it obvious that we do need to move on from the situation we’re in. But for others of us, God may have us stick out a stressful work environment, tough family situation we want to run from, or marriage that isn’t ideal.

The Real Lesson of the Story: You Can Be Loved For Being You

So the real lesson the story isn’t that I should try to be a Rachel if I’m not. The story reminds me not to find my sole value in the desires of a person because I may be sorely disappointed. God gave us male-female relationships for our enjoyment and fulfillment, yes, but if the male is our source, the one we look to for our sense of worth, we will find ourselves on shaky ground. We may find ourselves in an unhealthy cycle of striving, like Leah, to get him to notice us or try to make him love us.

God is the only One who can love you completely in the way that you need to be loved. And He finds delight in you, just the way you are! A better way to live is to be secure in who God made you to be. When we rest in the truth that God loves us, we find the strength and grace to navigate the relationships in our life in a healthy manner — whether the people in our closest realm see the value God sees in us — or not.

Carol’s note: Please understand that my intent in writing this article is not to encourage you to stay in an abusive situation. Please seek out the help of a Christian counselor or pastor if you are being physically or emotionally abused.

 

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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