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 write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) 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 two 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 write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) 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 two children.

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Self-Worth: The Question Every Woman Asks

Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted_ (2)

The teenage girl stands in front of the vending machine, a frown on her face. She scans the snack selections uncertainly. Several minutes tick by. She is unaware that anyone is behind her. I am a few feet back and notice her thin shoulders.

She has lost a bit of weight in the last year. She has a new boyfriend on her arm. He is not with her now, but even though she smiles when she is with him, I notice something worried in her expression. I see a bit of a desperation in the way she clings to his hand, attaches herself to him in her every spare moment.

She surveys the snacks carefully one last time and selects a bag of chips. I get the impression that she is choosing carefully — that perhaps this one item will be all she eats today. Although what I am thinking is merely conjecture — I see myself in this girl. No, not in the selection of Doritos or the rapid weight loss — but in the fear. The desire written all over her face to be loved. The fear that maybe he’ll find out she’s not enough.

And I know he will — not because she doesn’t have enough to offer — but because she doesn’t believe that she does.

Another Story of Broken Self-Worth

I think back to 18-year-old me. I am excited. Cheeks flushed. I am packing to go on a trip. A trip to see a boy that expressly asked for me. But as I pack, I am also worried. He hasn’t seen me in a few months. Does my hair look all right? Do I look too thin?

I have never flown across the country alone before. I combat my nerves for seven straight hours with each dip of the airplane. I have written dozens of letters to this person, but I have never met his family. I haven’t been alone with him for more than a handful of hours. I want this trip to be amazing. I want everything to be perfect.

When I get off the plane, I look around expectantly, but I don’t see him. After waiting for some time (this is pre-cell phone era, people), I notice that no one is standing around.

I walk in the direction of the other people. I don’t know where I am supposed to meet him. I am not even sure I remember what he looks like. At last, just when I am getting a little panicked, I see him standing by a wall in a sweater I would never pick out. I go up and hug him, but things feel awkward and off right away. He tells me that his mom bought him the sweater. I decide that I don’t like it. I keep my opinion to myself. Tacky sweater or no, this boy is the boy of my dreams. I figure that we just need a little time to warm up to each other again.

But that doesn’t happen. In fact, the whole visit, it feels like he drifts further and further away from me, and I can’t get through to him. He is distracted, busy. He tells me he is going hunting with his friends. He has a doctor’s appointment. He doesn’t want to walk outside in the snow even though I ask. He beats me in checkers every time and laughs at the way I try to lift weights. I feel stupid. Inadequate. In the way.

At the end, when it is time to say good-bye, he hands me a letter. There is no explanation in it — just a “sorry” that is vague. He tells me that he won’t be riding with me to the airport. He is going to sleep in.

I call him twice more — once when I get to the airport and once more when I get home. I can tell he doesn’t want to talk. What did I do wrong? I obsess. Was it the way I dressed? Talked? Acted? When he doesn’t call again, I let him confirm what I was afraid of all along.

Moving On: Finding Self-Worth in the Wrong Places

I start college with high hopes of stepping out as a new person — in leaving behind the past, but I am immediately pursued by a boy I don’t even like. Initially, I go out with him just because I don’t know how to thwart his advances, and I am flattered by his attention.

We enter into a relationship. But he, too, helps to dig my self-esteem further down. He is critical of me. One day when I don on shorts (I was already self-conscious about my skinny legs), he squints and tells me he notices some cellulite forming on my thighs. (I laugh now when I write this because I definitely had nothing like cellulite on my legs at the time. Now might be a different story!)

He flirts openly with other girls on campus, and he discusses different features of attractive girls in my presence. I feel insecure and plain in comparison. I put an end to the relationship. I make the decision right then and there that I don’t care what happens to me. I don’t care if I just throw myself away.

Not too long after that, I meet a young marine. He pays attention to me. He is kind. He has money to pay for his bills. He doesn’t talk about other girls in my presence. He never makes fun of me, and I never worry that he wants someone else.

I am not ready for marriage. I am too young, but I say “yes” when he asks. He is going to have to travel a lot, and he wants to move to Georgia when he gets out. I think about how wonderful it would be to run away from my problems and be loved for the rest of my life.

But I quickly find that my problems follow me. After marriage, I find myself homesick and depressed. My husband’s love isn’t enough to convince me of my worth. I keep striving and seeking. I remember getting a break-through one day at the altar when I go forward for prayer. God tells me to forgive the boy who hurt me all those years ago (and I conclude later that that includes the others who have hurt me as well) — and He tells me something else: Carol, it wasn’t your fault.

The Question Every Woman Asks Concerning Her Worth

In Your Captivating Heart: Discover How God’s Love Can Free a Woman’s Soul, Stasi Eldredge asserts that women go through life asking this question: “Am I lovely?” The problem is that they take this question to the wrong people. I took my question to the boy in another state, the boyfriend in college — and I let them answer it for me. And the answer I got back was this: No, you are not. You are defective. You can’t hold a man’s love. Other women have something you don’t. As Eldredge notes:

You see, every girl is asking one fundamental Question, a question that is core to her heart. Little boys have a core Question too. Little boys want to know, Do I have what it takes? All of that rough and tumble, all that daring and superhero dress-up, all of that is a boy seeking to prove that he does have what it takes … Little girls, on the other hand, want to know, Am I lovely? Do you see me? Am I worth fighting for? The twirling skirts, the dress-up, the longing to be pretty and seen — all of that is about seeking an answer to our Question.

What if, instead of taking our question to bosses or fathers or boyfriends, we take our question to God? What if we let Him answer it, and it is from that place of security that we are able to operate out of a stable identity?

Yes, I believe that God designed a woman to want to be noticed and pursued by a man, and it’s not wrong for us to want to be what Eldredge describes as “captivating” to that special person in our life. But what if we decide to see ourselves the way God sees us so it won’t completely derail us when someone doesn’t treat us the way we should be treated or offers an opinion about us that doesn’t line up with God’s?

As Eldredge asks in a book she co-wrote with her husband, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, what if the truly most unbeautiful parts of me or you aren’t the flaws others have pointed out in us or we have imagined in ourselves, but the belief in us that says we are not enough? What if the way we can be the most beautiful is to be us without trying to morph into a more polished, prettier, smarter version of us?

Because here’s the thing that I wish I had known as a young person, and I wish I could tell the girl at the vending machine and all of us desperate women unhappy with ourselves: that we have to risk sharing our beauty with others knowing that not everyone will affirm it or acknowledge it (Eldredge, Captivating).

But if we are firm in our identity and beauty because we are daughters of God, even if another person rejects us, they can’t convince us that we don’t possess beauty or worth. Because we are too convinced (based on the fact that One bigger and more important has already convinced us) — that we do.

 

 

 

 

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 write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) 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 two children.

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How I Gave up My Need to Perform for Approval

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (7)

For most of my life, I have been a people pleaser. Many times I have focused my day on winning the approval of others. I wanted to hear another person thank me for something I did or respond with praise over my effort.

This desire for people to notice me began as a teenager. Both my parents loved and accepted me, but that was not enough. Instead I sought out my friends’ approval. As a teenager, I “did church” just to be a part of a group, seeking the group’s approval and not God’s. I developed performance-for-approval habits as a teenager, and these became a way of life.

All through college and even my career in teaching, I used my performance to gain others’ admiration or affection. When I spent time with God, I shared my worldly wants and ambitions with Him, but not my emotional needs. I felt like I might exhaust God by asking Him each day to help me feel loved and worthy. So I didn’t ask.

The Cost of Seeking the Approval of Others

Unfortunately, my approval seeking began to take an emotional toll on me, particularly in my teaching career.

When I desired to move from the classroom to the role of an elementary principal, I was encouraged to take leadership classes that prepared me for the job. In my classes I was informed that I needed to dress for success. I observed the leaders who taught the class and realized that I would have to wear high heels and professional suits, plus get my nails done.

All of these requirements stretched me because I was a play-in-the-dirt kind of girl. My hands didn’t like princess nails. I placed a lot of pressure on myself not only in my job, but as a mom. I felt the success of my children was another way I could show my success as a person.

As a result of the demands I put on myself and accepted from others, insomnia began to settle into my nighttime routine. During those sleepless moments, I woke up angry and emotionally exhausted. I didn’t feel like I dressed like my superiors wanted me to, parented well enough, or met the needs of those closest to me. I stayed awake planning ways I could do better at work and at home.

Hours would tick by without a feeling of peace. I tried all the strategies I learned in church: quoting Scripture, praying, or singing my favorite worship song.

However, where was God in all of this? Far away! I didn’t allow the Holy Spirit to direct my path in relationships because I was determined to meet my needs for love and acceptance on my own: I would buy a new pair of high heel shoes, get my nails done — or bake someone their favorite treat, call them, or take them to lunch.

All these ideas for trying to please or impress others seemed harmless, but my heart was not a godly heart. I was seeking a human love that could not measure up to God’s love, and I was not demonstrating an unconditional love toward others. I was offering my performance in exchange for something in return.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (8)

How I Gave Up My Need for People’s Approval

Several years ago, when I retired from education, I began to really dig into God’s Word. I joined a young moms’ Bible study at my church. I accidentally found myself in this class because I liked the topic of the Bible study. On the first day, I realized that there were two older people in the class, and I was one of them. The moms made me feel welcome, but when I left, I was not sure I should return.

The next week I returned to the class. I chose to stay because these young moms had amazing energy, a strong desire to learn about God’s word, and a wish to connect with other moms who understood the challenges of being a mother. It was during a study called The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst, that I realized I was driven by my need to live life in a stellar performance mode to win others’ approval. I was convicted by a verse included in the study that jumped out at me with these words:

Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. (Matthew 6:1, MSG)

In our study, Terkeurst referred to author and pastor Dallas Willard, who wrote The Divine Conspiracy. He says,

When we want human approval and esteem, and do what we do for the sake of it, God courteously stands aside because, by our wish, it does not concern him… . When our aim is to impress human beings … he lets us do that… . On the other hand, if we live unto God alone, he responds to our expectations — which are of him alone.

I had one of those oh-my-gosh moments when I read that. I took a deep look into my past and discovered all these years I was living my life out-of-sync with God. What Williard says about how God “courteously stands aside” while we aim to impress was true in my life.

God was standing aside since my pride created a distance between us. After this moment in the study, however, my quiet moments with God became a time to examine my deep desire to be loved by others and why I felt I needed to work so hard to make people accept me. The solution to my problem was not to earn my family and friends’ love, but to live my life for God and trust Him to meet my need for approval.

It was a freeing moment! A weight had been lifted because I didn’t have to try to win people’s approval. I could let go of my own unrealistic expectations for myself and performance-based system of living. How freeing is that — awesomely so! God created us to worship Him and to celebrate how He created us. My moments with God now begin with praise because He so wonderfully made me the way He wanted to and not the way I think He should have made me.

Now when I wake to the old voices of fear and worry telling me that I have to perform, I pray to my Father, acknowledging how He loves me for me, and I praise Him for making me “me.” I think about 1 Thessalonians 2:4 (NLT), which says, “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.”

I ask God to search my heart to direct me when I am concerned about my relationships with others. When I do that, I am able to let go of my anxiety about what I have or have not done that day; I meditate on how He loves me, and when I do, all is well with my soul and sleep returns.

Prayer: Father, may we praise You for the breath that You created in us. May we know that this day, You have given to each one of us a desire to celebrate living life for You. As we live today, continue to search our hearts and draw us near so we will not leave Your presence to seek what we think we should accomplish. Help us to be mindful that our performance is to bring You great joy because You are the center of our life. We trust You to walk with us and direct our actions. May all the glory be Yours. 

Sheila Michael

Sheila Michael

Sheila is a retired elementary school principal and educator. She spent over thirty years in education and has a specialist degree in educational leadership. She is also a wife, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of 12 amazing kiddos. Sheila enjoys cooking and teaching her grandchildren how to cook. Family gatherings are essential to the Michael “herd,” as they gather to share life with each other. Residing in Georgia, Sheila calls herself a “Southern belle with a twist,” since her husband is from Iowa. Sheila’s personal journey with God has created in her a desire to write and share the “God moments” she has experienced in her life. She loves mentoring young women in their walk with Christ and encouraging families to serve and love the Lord and each other as they navigate through life’s challenges.

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An Argument With God: How I Am Overcoming My New Mommy Fears

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I have done a few things in my life that people have deemed “scary.” I have gone scuba diving with sharks many times and traveled to a foreign country completely alone. I married my husband with the intention of moving to Africa with him shortly after our wedding, despite having never lived more than 45 minutes from my childhood home. I love to go to the local pet store and cuddle the snakes. I think they’re cute. Truly, I can’t think of many things that scare me, except one.

All my life, I was absolutely terrified of being a mother. Being responsible for a fragile, innocent human life without somehow screwing it up in a major way seemed impossible. Even now, with a 7-month-old, I am absolutely terrified of being a mother. I love my daughter more than words can describe. Prior to having her, I miscarried three babies, so her mere existence is miraculous. She is my most precious gift from God. And I’m scared of her.

She was born 3 1/2 pounds. She lived in the hospital for a month, and during those weeks I woke up at night to “feed” a breast pump instead of my baby. We visited her every day, gingerly cradling her tiny frame. We became accustomed to sharing her with the doctors and nurses and learned how to hold her as closely as we could without tangling the wires attaching her to the monitors that told us she was alive.

And then, one day, at 4 1/2 pounds, she came home. No more doctors, no more nurses, no more monitors. I had been scared while she was in the NICU, but the fear was intensified with every visitor to our house, every hand that touched her, and with every noise she made. How could we care for such a tiny baby? How could we keep her alive? I knew nothing about babies. One of our daughter’s nurses had to teach me how to change a diaper. At home with the tiniest human I’d ever seen, I panicked over every spit up, every tummy ache, and every cry. I begged my husband not to go back to work. I wanted someone else to take care of her. I couldn’t do it.

She weighs 14 pounds now, and I’m still afraid. Afraid of her getting sick, afraid of dropping her, afraid she will stop eating. Sometimes, I don’t even know what I’m afraid of. There are times I feel like I’m hitting my stride, like everything might be OK, but most of the time, I feel ill-equipped and totally incapable of being her mother. She’s perfect and precious, and how could I ever be qualified to guard and protect such a treasure?

My prayers largely consist of desperate cries to God. “I can’t do this! I’m going to fail! I’m a terrible mother, and I’m not good at this! Why did you choose me?”

One of my favorite animated movies is The Prince of Egypt. The story of Moses and the burning bush can be found in the third chapter of Exodus, but I love the depiction of that event in this movie.

In the following scene, Moses has been commanded by God to deliver an entire race of people from slavery. And not just any race of people — God’s prized, chosen children. It’s an impossible task to Moses, and naturally, he argues:

God: So I have come down to deliver them out of slavery and bring them to a good land. A land flowing with milk and honey. And so, unto Pharaoh, I shall send … you.

Moses: Me? W-who am I to lead these people? They’ll never believe me; they won’t even listen!

God: I shall teach you what to say.

Moses: But I was their enemy. I was the prince of Egypt, the son of the man who slaughtered their children! You’ve chosen the wrong messenger! H-how can I even speak to these people —

God: WHO MADE MAN’S MOUTH? WHO MADE THE DEAF, THE MUTE, THE SEEING OR THE BLIND? DID NOT I? NOW GO!

A pause. Once stern and intimidating, God’s booming voice becomes tender.

God: Oh, Moses. I shall be with you when you go to the king of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not listen. So I will stretch out my hand and smite Egypt with all my wonders! Take the staff in your hand, Moses. With it, you shall do my wonders.

Then, the God of creation whispers gently to His precious child.

God: I shall be with you, Moses.

I identify with Moses here. Not because I have ever been given the task of leading an entire nation, but because I have felt the crushing, hopeless feeling of inadequacy.

How often do I argue with God? How often do I try to convince Him that I am not worthy of the calling I’ve received (Ephesians 4:1)? How often have I tried to convince Him to find someone more qualified?

The real truth is that there isn’t a woman on the planet more qualified to raise my daughter than I am. I came into this knowing nothing about caring for a child, and yet, there is no one more fit for the job of Mellie’s mother than I. That’s the way He designed it all. She grew inside my body, she was born from my body, she was fed from my body, and when her eyes meet mine, the sparkle there speaks of a bond no one else will ever have with her. We are connected. Forever. Our Creator planned it that way.

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So, when I cry out to God that I just can’t do it, that the weight of this responsibility is more than I can handle, perhaps what He says sounds something like this:

God: WHO MADE YOU? WHO MADE HER? WHO FORMED HER IN YOUR WOMB, AND YOU IN YOUR MOTHER’S? DID NOT I? NOW GO!

And then, maybe His voice softens.

God: Oh, Sharon. I will be with you as you raise up your daughter. Give your aching hands to Me. Give your tired feet to Me. Give your fearful heart to Me. With them, you shall do My wonders. I will be with you, Sharon.

The fear doesn’t dissipate immediately. The anxiety doesn’t totally disappear. But the truth remains. Mellie needs me, not another mother. And I need her. God doesn’t tell me how it’s all going to work out. He just tells me to go. God doesn’t tell me the work is going to be easy. He just tells me to be strong and do it (1 Chronicles 28:10). Yes, I’m lacking. Yes, I’m weak. But according to His Word, His power is activated, made perfect, by my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I just have to go.

God didn’t give Moses all the details, but He walked before him, showing him the way, doing the miraculous just when things seemed the bleakest. And hasn’t God always done that for me? Didn’t he already save Mellie’s life and mine seven months ago when things spun far out of our control? What reason have I to doubt Him now, to question what He is capable of? Or what He is capable of through me?

Is there something you’re arguing with God about? Is there something you are convinced you just can’t do? Are you convinced you’re not worthy of the calling you’ve received? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharon Early

With a bachelor’s degree in English, Sharon Early did not actually put her English background to use right away. She began a job as an animal trainer out of college and then moved on to become a marketing writer. Her latest role is now stay-at-home mom to her infant daughter, Mellie Christine. Married for almost 3 years to her pilot-husband, Sharon has lost 3 babies to miscarriage and is currently pregnant with a brother or sister for Mellie. A Lord of the Rings fan, Sharon once tried to learn Elvish, and dreams of visiting New Zealand where the movies were filmed. She also loves musicals, particularly Phantom of the Opera. Over the course of her life, Sharon has struggled with depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and promiscuity before coming to Jesus at the age of 23. Because she still struggles with many of these things, Sharon believes that the worst thing she can do as a Christian woman is pretend like these issues do not exist. Because she has been the recipient of judgment and criticism from other Christians for battling these demons, Sharon is passionate about letting other Christian women know it’s okay to not be okay, and that it’s only when we admit we are not okay that we can begin to fully rely on God’s grace. Sharon firmly believes that we defeat the lies of the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11).

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When You Feel Insecure as a Leader

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For the longest time, I asked God to give me a ministry. It was driving me crazy when I left teaching that I ended up in a desert season where I didn’t have any sort of project or outlet for my creativity. Once up to my eyeballs in paperwork, lesson planning, meetings, and grading, I found myself staring at a blank schedule when I became a stay-at-home mom. The only things on it were the monotonous tasks associated with mothering my then infant son and toddler daughter.

Don’t get me wrong — motherhood is a noble job, and I know that some stay-at-home moms feel called to do just that, but I was itching to get back into the workforce almost the moment I left it. I wanted God to plant me into a ministry and give me another career. I didn’t want to wake up to another day of naptimes and bottle feedings. Another day of living in the same T-shirt and spit-up stained sweats.

When it dawned on me that God wanted me to start my own ministry blog (a prospect that scared the heck out of me), I found it to be way harder that I thought it would be. Most days I tell Him that someone else could do a better job. There are people who are better writers, better speakers, better administrators. People who know about SEO and WordPress plugins and social media. People who know more about blogging and write posts with no anxiety whatsoever. People who don’t have to potty-train reluctant little boys while trying to simultaneously revise paragraphs and look up commentary for verses.

But I keep coming back to the same idea that God chose me for this. And because He chose me, I have a choice — to embrace this calling or hide.

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When I get conflict-ridden emails to answer, look at ways to grow the ministry and then look at my lack of funds and know-how, stare at blank paper asking God what I need to say in a meeting, I sometimes want to run away.

The bottom line is I don’t feel like a good-enough, equipped-enough leader. I’m barely surviving most days. But a story that has inspired me lately is the one of David because he was the least likely on the planet to lead Israel, but he is the one God chose.

There are a few things we can learn about combatting our own insecurities in leadership from David’s story:

1. Good leaders get their confidence from God’s acceptance of them.

David was the least significant of all the brothers in his family. He was out tending sheep when Samuel stopped by to anoint the next king. No one in his family saw that he had the potential to be the next great king, but God did.

Surprisingly, David didn’t seem put off by the fact that no one in his family believed he was fit for leadership. He seemed to just take the anointing in stride and then go back to tending sheep. He accepted the Lord’s promotion of him even when no one else other than Samuel believed him equipped for the job.

Similarly, when Mary learned from the angel that she would become pregnant with child, she accepted the Lord’s assignment in bearing Jesus (granted, she didn’t have much choice as to what happened inside of her body), but she did have a choice as to her attitude towards the situation. She said “yes” to God with these words: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38 — NLT).

I’d love to say that I have been as accepting as David and Mary of the Lord’s assignment for me, but I haven’t. I’ve wanted the assignment to be different. I’ve asked Him not to make me write about the parts of my story I don’t want to share. And I’ve wanted others to see immediately the calling He has had for me. But what I can learn from David and Mary is that God calls things before they are (Romans 4:17 — NKJV). I need to accept what He has said of me because He has said it.

2. Good leaders don’t let others derail them from their God-appointed task.

A few years ago, when I was begging God to let me do something for Him, I had forgotten all the conflict and opposition that comes with leadership. Leaders have to make decisions that are not always well-received or popular. As you may have guessed from my last point, I like people to understand me. Because of this, I feel inside a need to defend myself, to justify my actions when people don’t agree with me, but another leadership quality I can learn from David is that he didn’t allow the misunderstanding of others to derail him.

We see in David’s story after he was anointed king that he was instructed by his father to bring supplies to the battlefield. (Yes, David still lived at home for a time even after he was anointed king.) The Israelites were fighting the Philistines, and David did as his father instructed and brought cheese and bread to the battle lines.

His older brother, perhaps a bit peeved about David’s recent anointing, said, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down here only to watch the battle” (1 Samuel 17:28). Talk about major injustice! Major misunderstanding! David had been told to go by his father. He had no ill motives, yet his brother assumed he did.

David, seeing right through his brother’s jealousy, responded: “Now what have I done? Can’t I even speak?” (v. 29). By his words, we see his rejection of Eliab’s critique. Because, as the Reformation Study Bible points out, Eliab’s words contradicted what God had already said about David. Note, earlier, God defined David as a person after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). And, when Samuel anointed David, God made it clear that He looks not at what man looks at but the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). And He clearly found David’s pleasing.

David wisely chose not to allow his brother’s cut-down to change his mind about who God had called him to be. In fact, right after this conversation, David went and asked Saul if he could go out and fight Goliath.

As it turns out, David had a Goliath in his own family to conquer before he ever made it to the battlefield.

People will say things that go against what God has told us — and many of us believe those words over God’s. As commentator Matthew Henry notes:

Those that undertake great and public services must not think it strange if they be discountenanced and opposed by those from whom they had reason to expect support and assistance; but must humbly go on with their work, in the face not only of their enemies’ threats, but of their friends’ slights and suspicions.

I have not been like David in my own transition into leadership. The second that criticism comes, self-doubt and insecurity set in. The solid rock I feel myself standing on feels shaky, crumbling. Maybe I am not the person for this job. What if I fail? Did God really tell me to start this? Maybe others are right. I need to quit. I can’t do this anymore.

When moments like these come, my mind races. And I feel panic and anxiety. God, don’t make me do this any longer! But God, through the story of David, has been reassuring me to not give up. To keep going and see myself as a leader because He has said it is so. The only person that needs to accept that other than Him is me.

I have to believe it for myself.

David models for us how to not allow others’ voices to drown out God’s calling on our lives. It’s good to listen to feedback and gain advice, but not if the advice counters what God has said is so. It’s easy to lose confidence as a leader based on what others believe or say about us unless we continually keep in view the foundation of our confidence: Him.

I haven’t lost my fear or insecurity in this process, but I’m making the decision to ask God for strength to face my Goliaths and depend on Him when I don’t feel like I can possibly do what He has asked of me.

What about you? Has God called you into a position that feels a little too big for you, and you feel like maybe your heard Him wrong? Tell us in the comment box below about a struggle or leadership problem you are facing.

 

 

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 write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) 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 two children.

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When We See Ourselves Through His Eyes

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“To be known and accepted are two of the fundamental needs a human has.” — Jennie Allen

My six-year-old daughter and four-year-old son usually play in the backyard as I prepare dinner after school.

I like to keep an eye on them through my cracked kitchen window. But on those days when the temperature is just right and we’re choosing between leftovers or easy dinners, we’ll head out to the front yard for some bike riding. Most of the time, it’s just my kids riding their big wheels up and down the street together. Sometimes my neighbor’s boys come outside and play as well. My son is immediately drawn into playing with them because like most boys, he prefers playing with other kids of his own gender.

Recently, we went outside for our playtime in the front yard. As I watched my kids start to play, I unfolded a chair, placed it on my driveway, and sat down in it to relax. My neighbor’s boys, both six, not too soon after ran outside. They quickly “huddled up” in their front yard to talk about how to play a game. One of the boys started shaking his arm very quickly, making gestures as to give instructions to the other. As the other boy tried to listen attentively, he couldn’t help but laugh at how silly his brother was. They both stopped and had a good laugh as they were about to begin their venture.

My son observed this.

He jumped off his bike that he was riding and ran over to try and “fit in” with joy and expectancy.

They didn’t notice him.

But I did.

He was so sad and disappointed. My heart broke for him.

It broke not only because he was excluded, but because he didn’t see all the love and adoration beaming from MY heart in his direction.

Not only did my heart break for him in that moment, but I was painfully reminded of my younger self. I could see my younger self, as I watched my son, also craving to be seen and acknowledged, wanting to belong.

At the age of 16, I was very involved with our church choir. I looked forward to choir practice activities because I lived in a less-than-two-fun-things-to-do-per-month small, country town. When we all got together for choir practice, we had fun. I thought we were really good friends.

One day on my way into Walmart, I spotted some of the girls from our choir, laughing and playing beside the store’s sliding doors. I anticipated our cheerful reunion because I just knew they would welcome me with a hug, like always. I assumed they would ask how I was and what I was up to like we did at our choir rehearsals.

I happily skipped towards them. “Hey guys, how are you?!” I asked.

They stopped laughing, looked at me, and then turned back and kept talking, like I wasn’t even there. I quickly spoke again, “Hey!” This time they didn’t even stop to look at me. They just ignored me.

I felt invisible.

I thought I was crazy for a moment.

How could they just ignore me? How could they be a friend in one moment and in another not see me? No hug or conversation? I was hurt and confused. I quickly ran in the store to try and escape those feelings, hoping they would go undetected.

Now here I was watching my son feeling invisible.  

As I sat there in my lawn chair watching from the garage door, I felt the need to run to him. To get up and go rescue him the way I would’ve wanted to be rescued standing outside of the Walmart in my teenage years.

I wanted to pick him up, put my arms around him, and pour into him reminders of my love and affection towards him. To reassure him. To protect him. To restore him.

God noticed me watching my son and desiring to reaffirm my love for him that day, and He said to me in a gentle voice, “See? Now do you see how I feel about you? Now do you see how much I love you?”

I jumped up and paced back and forth. How could I have missed this? How could I not know this fact that my Father, my Creator, loved me unconditionally?

As I stood there, I apologized to God for forgetting this reality. I’ve read this truth in His Word, even if I forgot about it in my daily walk:

‘That’s how much you mean to me!

That’s how much I love you!

I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,

trade the creation just for you.

So don’t be afraid. I’m with you.

I’ll round up all your scattered children, pull them in from east and west.’ ”

(Isaiah 43:4-7 — MSG)

Once upon a time, I knew how important I was to God. I don’t have to perform or try and fit in with Him or with anyone. He made me just the way I am. I am His child, and I am loved and accepted just for being me. His approval is all I really need.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t remember this when I encountered my choir friends all those years ago, and I cannot shelter my son from the rejection of his peers like he experienced during our outside playtime. The one thing I can do to is to teach him about God’s love and that God will always see him when others don’t. I hope that he will eventually understand that seeing himself through God’s eyes is most important. However, I know that my son might still try to be visible to others even after my best efforts to guide him.

If this is ever the case, I pray that the Lord will remind my son — just like He reminded me — that He is always there watching over him and loving him unconditionally.

Deidre Dezelle

Deidre Dezelle

With training in culinary arts, business and nursing, Deidre Dezelle is a nurturer at heart. She enjoys catering family and friend functions and hopes to branch out some day and own her own event planning company. Currently a wife and stay-at-home mom, Deidre never thought she would choose the path of domestic engineer, but God placed it on her heart after she started having children. Having a front row seat to watching each one of her children's developmental gains makes Deidre proud. In addition to her roles of wife and mom, Deidre enjoys gardening and couponing, as well as large family gatherings during the holidays. As a child, Deidre had a difficult time finding peace – as she suffered rejection at a young age and often had a hard time controlling her emotions. She found peace when she stopped looking around her and looked above at her Creator. She now strives to keep a home that is Christ-centered, tranquil, and full of love. Writing is relatively new for Deidre. She recently felt a tug to share what God has been speaking to her --- and has begun to write about her God experiences here on Beulah Girl.

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How I Overcame My Tendency to Self-Sabotage in Relationships

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My name is Adriana Howard. I’m twenty-seven years old with a husband of five years, and I am a recovering self-saboteur. This may or may not be the time when you all respond with, “Hi, Adriana,” and I nod back awkwardly as I try to avoid your eyes. However, as we are currently interacting with another over a blog post, we’ll skip over the pleasantries and dive into the good stuff. Sabotage is deliberate damage or destruction of a thing so that it doesn’t work properly. Self-sabotage is when we do that to ourselves.

I have spent a good portion of my adult life hindering myself from cultivating authentic relationships with other women. And while I may not have always been conscious of my efforts, they were certainly intentional. I did a marvelous job of convincing myself that I was fine without other women in my life to depend on, or women who cared enough to depend on me, that I hardly noticed how much I needed them.

But it wasn’t until last year that I really began to see and suffer the consequences of my behavior. I didn’t feel the confines of the hole I had dug myself into until I was faced with things like hurts and fears and years old secrets with no one to tell them to. And it wasn’t easy to come to this realization. It’d be more fun to wear a shirt that says “I Must Be a Freak” on it. At least then, I would have a new shirt.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have friends, family, a handsome genius for a husband. Above everything, I have my Jesus. He is immeasurably good to me though my heart is quick to wander. But even with His abounding love and kindness, there was this void in me that wasn’t being filled. I’m not saying there are holes in me that God can’t fix. But I do think that there are holes that God allows because His plans for me include being vulnerable with others. He’s a good Father in that way — leaving me to my hurts so that I might learn and run towards the things He has for me.

Unfortunately, I tend to run away from — not towards — things that make me uncomfortable. And sadly, meaningful, vulnerable, weather-the-storms kind of relationships with women make me uncomfortable.

Over this past few years, I feel like God and I have been on a journey together. I’ve rediscovered beautiful truths about Him. He is my generous father. He is my gracious friend. I’ve relearned what His voice sounds like when He speaks promise to my heart. But I’ve also discovered truths about myself that I wasn’t in a rush to confront. The truths were these: I don’t know how to trust. I don’t think that I’m enough. I’m terrified of being forgotten. And the more that I thought about these things, the more I realized how deep the dirty waters ran.

The Seeds and Scars of Childhood

I grew up the oldest child of three. Independence and leadership qualities have always been natural components of my make-up. I’m sure that is a truth shared by many oldest siblings. But as a result of my family’s situation, I’ve not only been the big sister — I was the adult in the family well before my time. Sin and substance abuse has plagued my family for a long time, and while God has delivered us through some very trying times, we carried a lot of scars.

My siblings and I have been left by both of our parents at one point or another, and although God did a big restorative work in my mom and dad, there were seeds in mistrust sown in my heart. For a long time afterwards, every relationship — familial, romantic, platonic, whatever — looked like a risk to me. In my limited understanding, if my parents could so easily dismiss me, then surely others would too, and that was especially true where other women were concerned.

Then I got married. And I wasn’t the big sister anymore. Instead, I went from being the responsible, mature, swoop-in-and-save-the-day big sister to being stuck somewhere in the middle. And the only thing worse than being stuck in the middle is being stuck in the middle of two sisters-in-law who, coincidentally, were also the oldest siblings in their households. They were also swoop-in-and-save-the-day kind of women. But they were also beautiful, talented, and more outgoing than I was. And as hard as I tried to muddle through friendships with them, I couldn’t force authenticity, and I couldn’t fake my affections. And if they saw how broken and strange I was, they would surely run away.

God Begins to Make Me New

I was unwilling to be vulnerable. I didn’t know how to trust them. I felt unbelievable pressure to conform to aspects of them. I wasn’t as settled or as typically feminine as they were, so my knee-jerk reaction was to feel inadequate. I didn’t dress like they did, or think like they did. I wasn’t charming like they were. I so wanted to be liked by them, but I had no idea how to connect. From there came whispers of lies in the dark. I was easy to forget. I was easy to overlook. Simply put, I was afraid because all of those things had happened before.

I had been forgotten, overlooked, left behind. When I began to really pursue the Lord, friends moved on. When more exciting relationships came along, friends left me in the waiting place. In some ways, I’m still waiting. I said that sabotage meant to deliberately damage a thing to the point that it wouldn’t work correctly. Without realizing it, I had sabotaged my chances for friendships that had the potential to be beautiful, and I did so to the point that I wasn’t working correctly anymore. And from my vantage point, trusting others had proven more to me about the ugliness in people than it had the good in them. And I couldn’t trust my heart with ugly people — especially not when I was just as ugly as they were.

But the ugliness in my heart went much deeper than I suspected, and when the realization that I kept God at strict arm’s lengths hit me, I was undone. As He worked to surgically extract chunks of darkness from within me, it became more and more apparent that my issues with faith and trust and vulnerability weren’t just with people. I had kept God at bay by allowing Him the safest minimal access to me. And there I was — cut open, nerves exposed, no clue how to scream for help. But in a way that is His alone, God took extraordinary measures to speak to me a truth that screamed above the lies I had succumbed to.

Are you ready for it? It’s a good one. In fact, it ruined me in all of the best ways.

Who I AM is of little importance when compared to who HE IS.

With that in mind, breaking down the walls that I had painstakingly constructed became a task worth chasing after. I wasn’t good enough for Him. I’m still not. For all of my pitiful efforts, I never will be. But the best parts of me are found in Him anyway, and because of that, while I am not enough, I do have something to offer — to Him and to others. I’m practicing vulnerability. I’m pursuing accountability.

More importantly, I’m putting away ridiculous notions that the only value that comes from friendships is what I get out of them, and I’m learning how to avail myself and serve. With that divine sense of worth renewed in me, it’s not only become easier to open up, but it’s become a joy as well. And as for my sisters-in-law, these days they are my sisters in every sense of the word. I’ve confided in them from deep places, and they have yet to turn and run.

Recently, I came across this verse, and it shook me, not because it was theologically deep, but because it was for me. I hope that it speaks to your soul as well: “Unless the Lord had been my help, My soul would soon have settled into silence.”  (Psalm 94:17)

Had it not been for the Lord, I would have faded away into quiet nothing. But I am His, and so I am not overlooked. I have not been forgotten. And because the Lord is my shepherd, I am allowing vulnerability and trust to produce something whole within me. My name is Adriana Howard. I’m twenty seven years old with a husband of five years, and I am a recovering self-saboteur. Without the Lord, I would have settled into silence. And instead, I am being made new.

 

Adriana Howard

Adriana Howard

Adriana Howard describes herself as "sort of a mess in pursuit of a great story." Adriana spent a year teaching high school English, and currently, she is teaching theater after school at a local elementary school. She also serves with her husband as a youth pastor at her church. One day, Adriana hopes to be a published author. For the time being, she wants to travel the world, adopt children, learn how to really love people, maintain a garden, go back to India, and work alongside her husband in ministry. Other passions of Adriana's include love war films, cooking, bulky typewriters, crowded airports, winter’s first snow, Elizabeth I, and books of all shapes and sizes. Last but certainly not least, Adriana has a passionate love for Jesus. You can connect with Adriana on her blog where she dabbles in fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

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How Past Wounds Turned Me Into a Fearful Control Freak

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I sit in the dim room with other women. As the video starts for the new Bible study, panic rises inside me like fast-moving mercury in a barometer on a hot July day. The speaker, Ann Voskamp, tells about the death of her sister. As she describes the delivery truck pulling up the drive, the screams of her mother, I grow uncomfortable. Tears surface, a softball-size lump forms in my throat. I rehearse in my mind, “Do not cry. Do not cry. Do not cry.”

I try to think of something funny. Like one of my daughter’s jokes that has no punchline. And it’s hilarious because she thinks it is. And she laughs like it is possibly the world’s best joke. When actually it may be the world’s worst one. Thinking about this helps me remain calm, though I am hysterical on the inside.

Why am I having such a hard time listening to Voskamp’s story? Why does it upset me so much that I want to leave the room?

It is not until a few months later that I realize why I had the reaction I did to Voskamp’s story. I reacted the way I did because I have control issues. I have been there in her story — crushed beneath delivery truck moments I didn’t see coming. And because of those occasions, I have had problems with trust and problems in relationships.

How I Became a Control Freak

I didn’t always have the need to anticipate things, the fear of the unexpected to the extent that I would try to micromanage my circumstances. But out of my childhood was birthed the need to be able to have a say, to be able to have some decision over the outcome.

I didn’t get to pick the fact that I lived in a house that I was ashamed of. I didn’t get to choose the fact that I didn’t have any clothes to wear in high school. I didn’t get to have a say when my father came home angry and yelled at us. Which happened a lot. I wasn’t asked when a person in a significant relationship chose to break up with me and leave me outside his house with nothing but a letter. So, I made the decision as a young woman to never let anyone hurt me again. (As if I could realistically manipulate every element in my environment.)

That choice probably didn’t appear pivotal, but it was. Because of that resolution, I put myself in the unrealistic position as one who can control what happens to me. And I really can’t. I can’t anticipate the actions of others and manipulate the people around me so that I can avoid feeling a certain way. But that’s what I’ve tried to do.

And although my struggles stemmed mainly from failed male relationships — my father who ignored me and the boyfriends who left me — this pain translated into destructive tendencies in all my relationships, particularly friendships with women. I asked God why this was, and He told me: I’ve been chasing after power. Because if you’ve ever felt voiceless, then you know that you never want to feel that way again.

When I Let Fear Turn Me into a Mean Girl

Underneath that need to control has been something larger: fear. When I find myself in situations where I don’t like how events are turning out, I get afraid. Afraid of getting hurt. And it’s in that place of fear that I act in ways I shouldn’t.

I circumvent circumstances or hurt people before they can hurt me.

Some time ago, after losing a baby, I felt like I had sufficiently healed from the wound. I felt that I was at peace with what had happened. There was another woman I knew who was pregnant at the same time as me. A woman whose belly kept expanding even as mine was shrinking. A woman who got to go through all the milestones that I would never get to go through with the baby I lost.

I was really struggling with the fact that we had gotten pregnant around the same time. I was angry that God would bless her and allow her to continue on with her pregnancy — and not me. But I knew I needed to do the right thing, so I called her up and told her that I was happy for her, and I wished her well with her pregnancy.

But weeks later, when we attended an event together, I struggled knowing she would be there — reminding me of a loss I didn’t want to be reminded of. Knowing that she would be looking very pregnant, I dressed in a form-fitting dress. If I couldn’t be pregnant, I wanted to out-do her in some way, knowing that she would be weary of her swollen ankles and protruding stomach.

After the event, I knew I had acted in the wrong way. I felt like God wanted me to admit to her that I was having a hard time with the fact that she had her baby, and I couldn’t have mine. So I apologized to her.

Flaunting my skinny body in front of her was about trying to get the upper hand in a situation where I felt helpless. My problem really wasn’t with her. It was about fighting with everything I had against the perceived injustice of a situation.

You see, that “harmless” vow I made as a young person to never allow a person to hurt me made me feel I had to manipulate that situation.

Giving up Fear and My Need to Control

Jesus knew a few women in His time who had difficulties with relationships. A few women who probably felt like me — that life handed them circumstances they didn’t ask for.

In John 4:4, Jesus initiates a conversation with one such woman at a well. She had had five marriages and was living with a man she wasn’t married to, though we aren’t told whether her previous marriages ended because she had committed adultery or her husbands sent her away. Whatever the case, she had no husband when Jesus found her. Maybe she had decided that she had had enough of marriage and had decided to live outside the boundaries of matrimony to preserve her heart.

Maybe like me, she felt that if she could just control x, y and z, she could prevent another heartbreak. Another catastrophe.

Jesus does two really important things when He talks to her. He tells her that He knows all about her past string of husbands and the man she is living with now — establishing Himself as the one who knows her secrets. And then, He gives her a solution when He brings up a conversation with her about “living water” (v. 10).

The solution He offers the woman at the well and offers to you and me is Himself. The ultimate power source. She doesn’t have to hope for a better situation or figure out how to make that happen, Jesus shows a better way — which is not to try to change those around her, but be changed herself. To allow His eternal wellspring of life to live in her.

When we recognize Him as the one in control, we don’t have to be in control. We don’t have to exhaust ourselves “drawing water” from our own wells that will eventually run dry. We have in Him a never ending source of contentment, peace, satisfaction and belonging that fills all those places of neediness where we were never loved or noticed by the people we counted on the most.

The woman at the well drops her water jar and runs to tell the village about Jesus, saying, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” (v. 29). By leaving her jar behind, we see that she is leaving behind her old methods of satisfying her thirst and embracing Jesus.

As commentator Alexander McLaren notes, the interesting thing about this exchange between Jesus and the woman is that she has no idea who He really is at first, and the truth gradually dawns on her. So it is when we walk with Jesus. We don’t really understand Him or His ways until we get to know Him better.

Not only does the truth of who He is dawn on her, the truth about herself dawns on her as well.

My need to control has not really been a problem with control — it’s been about a problem with trust. I didn’t know that I could trust God in my situation with the pregnant woman. Even though it would appear that I was acting out against her, I was shaking my fist at a God who I felt didn’t notice or care.

But I don’t have to be Carol control freak. Carol walking around with past wounds. He says, “Come to me. I have all you have been looking for. You will find it nowhere else but in me. And your desire for stability, knowing what outcomes in situations will be — I know it all. I can help you better than anyone because I know the end before you know the beginning.”

Those delivery truck moments — we can’t avoid them. They will come. We can’t waste time worrying and trying to avoid pain. We need to rest in the knowledge that Jesus will walk us through those trials.

What I can learn from Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well is that instead of controlling out of fear, I can trust.

 

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 write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) 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 two children.

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Spiritual Rest: Letting Go of Trying so Hard in Our Work and Relationships

She looked at me with a serious gaze and explained, “It’s not a matter of trying harder.”

Sitting in the doctor’s office after a surgery — a doctor in front of me with my charts mapping out my low iron levels — I knew what she said to be true. Plagued with a racing heartbeat, dizziness when I stood up, and fatigue when I walked the distance of a parking lot, my body was struggling to bounce back from a pregnancy loss.

I wasn’t functioning at my optimal level because my heart was having to work overtime to circulate oxygen through my body, and the doctor predicted that it would be several months before I regained my strength. Even if I wanted to will myself to get better, I could not get to the place I had been before surgery simply by “trying harder.”

Similar to the case of my post-surgery health crisis, I have found myself many times running on empty spiritually and not really understanding why I can’t get to an optimal efficiency level. Contrary to the messages of our culture, we were never designed to live in an achievement system where we go it alone in our own strength. We were designed to live in a place of dependence on God — created to live in a state of rest in our decision-making, interactions with others and work endeavors.

Rest in God does not equate with lying around all the time — being at rest is a choice of believing that God is who He says He is and His precepts are true. Being at rest means taking purposeful steps in the direction we feel He has called us. We always have a choice, and if we choose not to walk in faith than we will not be at rest.

When we step out and allow Him to guide our steps, we have the blessing of peace in what we are doing. We have the confidence and assurance that we are doing the will of God and that He will protect us in the way we are going because we are relying on Him and not ourselves for guidance.

So many verses in the Bible emphasize this important point:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

“Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28).

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Rest in Our Work

I first encountered the term “labor-rest” in a sermon by our senior pastor Dr. Mark Walker. As he defined it, labor-rest is the idea that even in my work I am not frantic because I am not trusting in my own resources or decision-making abilities, but rather relying on God’s wisdom and resources, allowing Him to guide and help me in the important work I do.

An example of this rest principle was when I was working on the creation of this blog. I had received some advice from a friend and had managed to set up a blog on WordPress and buy a domain. However, when I attempted to change my layout and the format of my blog, I ran into some roadblocks. I couldn’t figure out how to make my pages show up under the appropriate menu tabs. I really was quite frustrated.

A few weeks into worrying about it, I prayed and immediately the name of a friend from my Break-time For Moms group popped into my head. I emailed her and set up a meeting, and she was able to quickly correct the errors in formatting and organize my pages under the appropriate tabs.

If I had only prayed to begin with, I would have saved myself needless worry.

Getting to a place where we can rest takes a little effort because we have to let go. We have to trust that we are not the best ones to handle the situation. We may get by for a time on our own abilities and efforts, but we will not have the peace or the energy we will have if we decide initially to rely on the advice and wisdom of God.

On the flip side of labor-rest is achieving in our own power, and it creates damaging circumstances. As Steve McVey notes in Grace Walk: What You’ve Always Wanted in the Christian Walk, “Self-sufficiency always produces conflict … It is God’s purpose to bring us to the place where we rest totally in the sufficiency of Christ within us for every situation.” When we strive to produce in our own strength, we get burned out and may even compromise ourselves to get ahead. When we believe that we are the source for our income and well-being and leave God out of it, we may need to cut corners to maintain our status at work or get a promotion.

Suddenly, flirting with the married boss to get a raise, covering up a costly mistake we made in order to save face, or refusing to confront the wrong actions of a powerful co-worker begin to appeal to us because we are not trusting God for our sustenance but instead looking to ourselves, the people and systems around us as our supplier.

Rest in Our Relationships

Not only can I have rest in my work — God also wants me to have rest in my relationships. As Joyce Meyer argues in Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone:

We can even 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 not our concern.

The key to rest in relationships is resting our identity in God and not using other people to define us and help us feel good about ourselves. If we know that we are accepted and approved by God, we don’t have to find a relationship to make us feel filled and valuable. We don’t have to constantly worry that the other person may end the relationship or lose interest because our whole identity is not tied up in that person.

If the person chooses to move on — a friend stops calling, a spouse leaves, or a family member decides to not forgive after a conflict — it may hurt and we may miss them, but because our identity is resting in who God says we are and not on who those people say we are, we do not have to crumble and lose all sense of self when the other person is no longer a part of our lives.

A few years ago, I was devastated by the loss of a friendship with a very close friend. She was one of the first friends I made when I came to Georgia — our husbands got along, and we were at a similar age and life stage. However, I clung very tightly to that relationship because of my own insecurity. When she became close friends with another couple and flaked out on a few engagements, I got really angry.

In retrospect, I see that I was depending way too much on that relationship for fulfillment. I still see her from time to time, but we are not close like we once were. I am at a point where I have been able to let that relationship go because God has helped me to find healing in that area and not cling so tightly to that friendship.

A phrase Beth Moore uses to reassure herself when she begins to have fearful thoughts that her spouse will leave or a friend will desert her is simply “Then God.”  We can know that if times get really hard and we face a relationship fallout even when we’ve done everything we can to keep it together, “Then God.”  We have the foundation of God to rely on to help us keep ourselves in tact through any relationship difficulty.

The reality is that even when we do all the right things at times, people will still betray us, abuse us, misunderstand us and forsake us. But we always have the comfort of knowing that God will never do these things to us.

Finding Rest

The interesting thing about finding rest in our work and relationships is that both involve being at rest with who we are in Christ. Once we have decided upon our identity and our ability to lean into His character and trust Him with all facets of our lives, our need to manipulate, control or act in ways that jeopardize our peace ends. As Meyer observes in Addiction to Approval:

Hebrews 4 teaches us that we can enter the rest of God through believing. It says we should be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter the rest of God. We should have knowledge of it and experience it for ourselves. Those who have entered the rest of God have ceased from the weariness and pain of human labors. They are not tied up in knots; they are relaxed, secure and free to be themselves.

I can honestly confess to you that I am not fully at that place yet of being “relaxed, secure and free” to be myself.  I am still working on letting go, and allowing God to do what He wants with me. I do well depending on God for awhile and then find myself getting anxious about a project or a relationship — and I spend a lot of energy trying to figure things out. Many times the way He assigns doesn’t seem very logical to me.

Meyer is not advocating that we “strive diligently” by spinning our wheels futilely chasing and attempting to earn something from God. Just like the place I was in after getting out of the hospital a few months ago — “trying harder” doesn’t produce results. Rather, what Meyer is saying is that when we believe what God says and submit to His ways of doing things, there is an ease that we experience with which we can approach our work and our dealings with others. I find rest not only when I come and sit at Jesus’ feet (Matthew 11:28); I find rest when I take Jesus’ “yoke” upon me and “learn” from Him (Matthew 11:29).

Taking His “yoke” upon me means allowing myself to be led by Him and doing what He wants me to do. Although I am under his yoke, He encourages me and enables me with his Spirit to go down the path He has for me. There may be some difficult steps, but He walks them with me.

He shows me how to do life better than I know how to do it on my own.

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As Matthew Henry comments in response to this passage, taking Christ’s yoke upon myself makes it possible for my soul to “dwell at ease”; for as he notes, “The way of duty [spending time with Jesus and allowing His teaching to transform me] is the way of rest.”

Related Bible Verses:

Hebrews 4:1-3 (NLT): “God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news — that God has prepared this rest — has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter his rest.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) 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 two children.

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