Finding Healing From Same-Sex Relationships

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In the novel The Color Purple, the main character Celie develops an intimate relationship with another woman, Shug Avery. Though she is a married woman, her husband abuses her, so she seeks respite in the arms of a kind friend who pays attention to her.

Though we might think this is the kind of scenario reserved for the pages of fiction, I believe this kind of situation is not uncommon. Though the details might not unfold in exactly the same way in every story, we may find ourselves more susceptible to finding love in a place we never thought we would in the wake of a rejection of some kind, abandonment, or other serious attack to our worth.

Certainly, same-sex relationships can happen because individuals have feelings for or an attraction to the same sex, but as The Color Purple illustrates, individuals who never struggled with a same-sex attraction can drift into same-sex relationships for emotional fulfillment and security, especially if those individuals are in a place of feeling unloved and insecure.

I would know — because this happened to me.

My Story of Same-Sex Relationships

When I was in high school, I had friendships with other girls that started off as regular friendships and then grew physical. This wasn’t a pre-meditated decision. I wasn’t struggling with same-sex attraction or unaware of what the Bible said about homosexuality. I grew up in a Christian home and knew the Bible’s stance on same-sex relationships.

But I was afraid of the opposite sex. I went through an awkward stage in middle school and early high school and was teased by a handful of my male peers. Sensitive and insecure, I internalized the criticism and determined something was wrong with me. I bought into the lie that no guy could ever like me. Even as I had interest from some males and friendships with males that developed into dating relationships, I secretly believed that they could not really care about me.

I needed an out for the pain I experienced when others rejected me and a place to boost my sagging sense of worth. I didn’t know how to place my identity in Christ or find in Him the love and acceptance I was missing. Therefore, these physical relationships evolved. I denied what was really happening and even thought that I was saving myself for marriage.

Even though this experimentation with the same sex ended before I graduated from high school, I carried a deep sense of shame for what I had participated in. I resolved that I would never tell anyone what I had done. I would keep my past sins a secret.

However, I didn’t know that stuffing down your sin doesn’t heal or liberate you. It places you in bondage. To get free, we have to do as the Bible says and choose to walk in the light (1 John 1:7-9). The Bible says that we are to confess our sins to others and bring out in the open what we are hiding (James 5:16). Although individual confession in our own prayer time is needed, we also find healing by sharing our sin struggles with others and asking others to pray for us.

Certainly, open confession isn’t advisable in every circumstance, and we shouldn’t run around and confess every thought and action. In addition, we should be wise about whom we confide in, as there are some who can’t handle the details of our story. However, we find a great release of guilt and shame when we choose to be transparent with others.

This could look different depending on our circumstance, but this might mean confessing to a fellow believer, pastor/church leader, or Christian counselor. This may mean telling others our testimony, as I am doing here. Whatever the case, God will lead us in the right way to go when we open ourselves to Him and choose to surrender over the dark parts of our life that need redemption.

Walking in the Light of God’s Freedom

Some time ago, I watched a documentary where siblings, abandoned by their mother, went on a search to find out their mother’s identity and the reasons for their abandonment. With the help of an agency, the agency found a relative in their mother’s family and set up a meeting to meet with her. The aunt, as she identified herself, gave details about their mother. Yet, after the initial meeting, when the agency pressed for further meetings and details, a truth immerged that no one expected: the “aunt” was actually the biological mother of the children. She was afraid to tell the truth because she didn’t want to inflict more pain on her adult children and identify herself as the one who had abandoned them. Yet, when the agency suspected the truth based on the details she gave, she finally caved.

Before her confession, her secrets were weighing on her so heavily she had been having heart problems, but when she chose to be honest about her shortcomings, the burden of guilt and shame she had carried lifted — and her heart problem began to improve.

I tell this story because confession is not easy. Those of us raised in the church may have the hardest time confessing sin because we know better, and it’s all too easy to play the perfect game by dressing up each Sunday and warning a pew, but no healing can come until we get honest with God and sometimes others, depending on the situation. Only then can healing come.

God Heals Us When We Turn to Him

If you are someone who has had same-sex experiences in your past, you don’t have to live in shame and condemnation. Maybe you have always felt different and have been attracted to the same sex. Or maybe, like me, you found yourself involved in a relationship with the same sex at a time in your life when you felt unloved or unworthy. Or maybe you are someone is attracted to both genders and consider yourself bisexual.

Whatever the case, when we veer outside of God’s plan for sex and relationships, our actions cause burdens of shame and guilt that we cannot remove on our own. God promises not to turn anyone away who comes to Him — and grants healing to those who call on Him and desire to walk in His ways.

If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can do that now and ask Him to help you walk a new way. And, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you can approach Him with confidence as a beloved child of God. In either scenario, He is waiting with open arms.

Related Resources:

This is part of a 2-part series on same-sex relationships. Check out my first article in the series about what our approach should be as Christians to the topic. If you’d like to hear more details about my personal testimony, check out my podcast episode at the top of this post.

Feel a little confused about what it means to confess our sins to others and what the Bible says about confession? Check out this free resource detailing a few guidelines about confession (when to share and when not to) that I’ve learned on my journey.

Want to learn more about breaking free of sexual sin? Check out these following articles on severing unwanted soul ties: “Breaking Negative Soul Ties; Getting Rid of Emotional and Romantic Baggage” and “Breaking Unhealthy Soul Ties: How to Get Over Past Romantic Relationships.”

*Updated September 15, 2018.

 

 

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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Helping Others in the Midst of Your Pain

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An ultrasound when you’re not pregnant has to be just about the saddest thing ever.

That was my thought as I walked into my doctor’s office a week after a devastating miscarriage. I was scheduled for a follow-up ultrasound to check on me after a surgery at the hospital the week before.

I could visualize it now: my empty uterus blown up on the screen, its rounded walls encircling life no longer. No comforting blinking blip of a baby’s heartbeat — just a yawning expanse of gray fuzz where a fetus had been just a few weeks earlier.

To make matters worse, I was not feeling great. I had a racing heartbeat and low iron levels. Walking from the car up to the office was an effort for me. I felt sorry for myself, and I was prepared for others to feel sorry for me too. I figured God had arranged a motherly ultrasound tech to do the ultrasound, perhaps a kind nurse to minister to me in my time of brokenness.

But God had other plans.

Telling Our Story Helps Others Find Healing

The ultrasound tech who found me in the waiting room was not the maternal tech I was hoping for. She was younger than me, thin. There was a vulnerability about her. Although she gave me instructions in a most professional way about what clothes to remove and where to position myself on the table, I felt a sensitivity immediately in my spirit, a prick.

We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes. As pleasant as a conversation about a lost baby can be. Yes, I did just lose my baby at 11 1/2 weeks. Yes, I was supposed to have my 12 week ultrasound today, but instead they changed it to my post-miscarriage ultrasound. No, this was not my first pregnancy. The conversation then took a rather innocent turn. I had mistakenly thought that my ultrasound was going to be after my doctor exam (and urine sample) and had filled up on water. So, I commented on how excruciating it can be to have an ultrasound with a full bladder. She began to relate a story to me of an ultrasound she had had recently where she was in intense discomfort.

I assumed she had children and asked how many she had. She quickly explained that she had no children but had actually had an ultrasound to look at a cyst on her uterus that she had been having problems with for the past few years. The moment that she said “cyst” a word dropped into my brain, and I tried to shake it off, but it came again. Unforgiveness. She continued to talk and the word came again. Unforgiveness. It drowned out all other sounds and kept interrupting my thoughts like an incoming message chime in an email.

As much as I would like to say that I am a wonderful Christian and that I wanted to speak to this woman and tell her about my own past struggles with unforgiveness and the physical problems it caused me, I really didn’t. However, I also know that God gives me very specific words for people at extremely inconvenient times, and when I ignore His assignments I always regret it. Feeling a thin film of sweat develop on my brow, I made my way off the table and into the bathroom to get the rest of my clothes on. God, do you want me to tell her that her condition may be caused by unforgiveness in a relationship? I only heard silence and the efficient hum of the ultrasound tech’s movements on the other side of the door.

I already knew the answer.

In the least awkward way possible, I opened the door, smiled at the woman and said to her, “I am not a medical professional, and this may not even be for you, but when you were talking about cysts a moment ago, I got a word in my mind for you.” I then proceeded to tell her I was a Christian and how my decision to hold onto hatred for a friend after she had hurt me had caused a problem with bleeding.

The issue continued for over a month until I felt convicted and apologized to my friend. The very day I forgave her and sent her an apology email the problem went away. I told the ultrasound tech that sometimes we just get physical problems (we live in a fallen world and experience illness as a result), but at times we get physical problems as a result of emotional or spiritual problems. I offered her my story and told her I did not want her to suffer, so she could weigh out if what I said applied to her.

The awkward thing for me in that moment was I could very well have been wrong. I could have imagined the words in my head and imagined that it had anything to do with her. I could have greatly offended her and made a stressful situation worse. Yet, Jesus was bold with people. He gave them actions to complete and didn’t mince words. He was compassionate, but he didn’t just stand around and lament the condition people were in. He healed them.

I wasn’t Jesus and I didn’t even feel much like Him in that moment, but if He was indeed giving me these words for this woman, He was offering her a step to healing. And a step to Himself.

I was just a flawed woman in a doctor’s office after the loss of a pregnancy. A woman feeling dizzy and lightheaded and sad for my baby. But when I began talking, I felt such strength and power, as only Christ can provide, and I didn’t feel sad at all. My problems were so far removed from me at that moment. And I really felt that there was something sadder than an ultrasound when you aren’t pregnant: a person without the hope of Jesus Christ.

Even in my condition, I had a hope to lean the weight of my sadness on.

She didn’t say much in response, but I could tell by the look in her eyes that my words had moved her. And because nothing else came to mind and she looked like she needed a moment to process everything, I gave her a hug and stepped away. I didn’t know what was going on her life or what was going on with her body, but God did. And all I could do was offer Him.

Helping Others Helps Us Heal

The lesson I learned in the ultrasound room is this: God wants to use me even when I feel that I am at my lowest and weakest point. He always has others on His mind. While I mainly have myself on my mind — reaching out and ministering to others in my own broken state can heal not only the other person but can help to heal my own heart. As Shelene Bryan notes in Love, Skip, Jump, “It is in sacrificially loving others that God can use us and fulfill us in a way that nothing else can. By surrendering our plans and desires to Him we can be part of something He wants to do.”

Is there something right now that the Lord might be asking of you? Something that makes you a little scared, a little uncomfortable? You may have to push aside your own desires or even reach out in the midst of your own suffering, but if you do, you may be able to forget your own sadness and feel the goodness of God in the midst of your pain.

Related Resources:

As stated in the article, physical illness is not always a result of an emotional issue or sin in our lives. Physical illness is part of the fallen world we live in. However, sometimes our physical illness can come as a result of emotional pain or sin struggles in our lives. If you’re interested in learning more about illness that comes as a result of an issue in our lives such as unforgiveness, check out this series on healing: Part One: Is There a Healing Formula in the Bible?, Part Two: How Confession Brings Healing, Part Three: How Repentance Brings Healing.

Have you missed hearing co-hosts Suzy Lolley and Carol Whitaker talk through the points of our posts on our podcast? We’ve taken a break from the podcast this summer, but we’re coming back in September, so mark your calendars! Our first podcast for Season 2 will cover what our view as Christians should be on homosexuality.  Check out our podcast archive from Season 1 if you would like to circle back and listen to any episodes you missed.

*Updated and adapted from a post originally published November 8, 2014.

 

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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Why We Need God’s Wisdom

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When I was growing up, I never quite understood the Bible and decided it was archaic and boring. As a young person, when I did try to read the Scriptures — out of duty, mostly, and some curiosity — I pretty much stuck to Psalms and Proverbs. If I was feeling really adventurous, I might open a chapter from the New Testament, but even then I read on a surface level and stayed away from any passages that might be confusing or challenging.

As I grew in my faith, I began to study the Word of God more diligently by looking up commentaries and notes on the passages. I developed a love for the Word; however, as much as I have grown to love reading the Bible, this love is tempered at times by the reality that God’s Word doesn’t always feel like a loving embrace. The Word is truly active and pierces uncomfortably into places I don’t always want God to go (Hebrews 4:12).

It’s those moments of discipline — whether through His Word or some other means — where God corrects me or points out a way I need to change that make me want to avoid reading his Word or opening up myself to His counsel.

However, the Bible tells us that people are “destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). However much we may not want to hear what God might say to us at times, we need the wisdom God provides to do life. Proverbs 1:20-28, 33 urges us to learn from and submit to God’s wisdom. Let’s take a look at the passage:

Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: ‘How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. But since you refused to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you … . Then you will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord … But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.’

A few things that we note about these lines:

1. Wisdom is ours for the taking.

In the original Hebrew, the word “wisdom” is plural. God’s wisdom (or wisdoms) reaches out to us in many ways: through His Word, as I mentioned, but also though prayer, our experiences, conversations with friends, sermons, His creation — to name a few. And interestingly, in the lines, wisdom addresses three types of people: the simple who don’t know the ways of God or what it says in the Bible, mockers who laugh at the wisdom of Scripture and God, and fools who hate learning and refuse to learn from it.

In addition, wisdom’s voice is loud enough to be heard (she “raises” her voice) and is above the other voices and influences in our lives (“on top of the wall”) (vv. 20, 21). Clearly God is eager to make Himself and His counsel known. In the passage, the voice of wisdom goes out in public places where people are sure to gather and be found (in other words, it’s available). However, the people in the passage rush by in busy throngs and don’t pay attention. Though wisdom calls to us, we have a responsibility to pause and listen.

2. Wisdom warns us to turn from the way we are living.

Not only do we need to pause and listen, we must turn from our wrong ways when we hear God’s warning. Verse 23 says, “Repent at my rebuke!” The King James Version says it like this: “Turn you at my reproof.” Again, we see that God makes great efforts to give us His instruction and direct us in the way we should go, but it is our choice as to whether or not we will accept His words and respond to His correction.

As Mike Riches points out in Living Free, most of have a negative view of repentance. We associate repentance with feeling bad over a wrong or God being angry with us. However, Riches emphasizes that it is because of God’s kindness that we can repent. The Bible tells us that God “disciplines those He loves” (Hebrews 12:6). It is because of His love for us that He seeks to warn us before we make poor choices and give us wisdom that will help us live in a way where we can avoid bringing harm upon ourselves.

3. There is a point where we will be left to our own devices.

The passage encourages us to listen and turn when we hear God, or there is a point where wisdom stops calling. In fact, the lines tell us that when we ignore wisdom, she will “laugh” because we “hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord” (v. 29).

Wisdom is personified in these lines and is not suggesting that God will mock us unmercifully when we stray. But it is giving a caution as to our ways. Not only is this admonition for those who refuse God’s call to salvation, there is also a message for believers. God will warn us of certain actions or attempt to show us the right way to go, but if we stubbornly resist Him long enough, He will leave us to our own devices. And our choices made independently of Him will have consequences.

As I was meditating on these lines, attempting to better understand them, I was reminded of the times in my life when God told me to do a particular task or initiate a conversation, and I was reluctant because I was afraid or it was uncomfortable for me to obey. God’s voice usually came to me more than once in a few different ways, so that it became clear to me what course I was to take. Often, if I was resisting, I became so miserable that there was a point I just went ahead and did what God asked of me — however hard it was — so I could feel a sense of peace again.

However, there were other instances where I said no to God. I told Him I wouldn’t do what He wanted of me. I didn’t like the way He was pointing because the path didn’t look as attractive as another, or I didn’t want to do whatever hard thing that He was asking. And, those times I rebelled never ended well. Though the disaster wasn’t always immediate, I could trace back years later and see how the decision to go my own way brought harm rather than good.

Clearly, God is a God of restoration and redemption. We can make poor choices and return back to Him for forgiveness. The Bible is clear that He pursues us when we stray. But as the proverb warns, there is a point where our own refusal to yield to God will result in God allowing us to do what we want. That could mean an eternity separated from Him if we don’t ever accept salvation, or it could simply mean a period of stagnancy as a believer because we ignored His voice.

The key here, as commentator Alexander McLaren points out, is to note that wisdom’s charge is not against the deeds of the persons addressed, but the dispositions: the simple, the scoffer, the fool. Those described in the passage aren’t people who make a few bad choices and desire to repent. The individuals described are those opposed to God — consistently over time — either because they don’t try to learn His wisdom and walk with Him or are vehemently opposed to Him or simply don’t want to do what He says.

Certainly, though, the proverb ends on an encouraging note for those who choose to hear God’s voice. In verse 33, it tells us that those who listen to God will “live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” While that doesn’t mean that we will never have trouble as Christians, we will have the assurance that God is with those who obey Him and remain in Him (John 15:4, 5). Later in Proverbs 2, we are further encouraged that when we accept God’s wisdom and seek to learn His instruction, His wisdom will guard and protect us.

Why We Should Listen to Wisdom’s Call and Heed the Word of God

God’s instruction is all around us and available to us in His Word for us to learn — but it is up to us to accept what He says to us and seek out His knowledge. When we study what His Word says and seek to hear from Him, we know what direction to go and what actions to take.

Even if we have made choices in our past that were harmful to us, or we are making harmful choices now, we can listen and turn. God has provided a way for us in His Son Jesus Christ for us to turn to Him in repentance.

If we have never accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we can do that now. And, as believers, if we have received salvation but have areas of our lives where we aren’t listening, we can take steps to do a U-turn. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

God’s heart is for us to not fall into unrepentance or bad choices — but we have to heed wisdom’s call.

Let’s pray: Dear Lord, we have fallen short of your laws and precepts. But you knew this would happen, and that is why you provided a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and be in right relationship with you through Jesus Christ. Forgive us for [name any specific sins]. Help us walk in your ways and receive your forgiveness. We love you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Related Resources:

Is there ever a point where God gives up on us when we repeat the same sins or run away from Him? Billy Graham explores this question in more detail with this answer.

Are you a person who has not yet put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and have an interest in learning more about salvation? Check out our Know God page for more information on inviting Jesus into your life.

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 You Don’t Like the Way God Leads

prairie-1246633_1920Not too long ago, my family moved into a new community and transitioned from the church and home we had grown very comfortable in.

I remember well the events that led up to this move. The school year was drawing to a close. My husband generally has a slew of coaching opportunities that are available to him around the spring of every year, and he asked me casually one day if he should stay at the current school he was at or apply at a few of these head coaching positions he had seen pop up.

Because I have been married to my husband for fifteen years, and I am accustomed to his restless and adventurous spirit, I shrugged his comment off and told him with a bit of an eye roll: “You’re staying at the school you’re at.” End of discussion.

However, he decided he wanted to put in for a few positions, so again he brought up the idea of possibly coaching at a different school. I shrugged again and suggested he apply to the jobs and see what happened. I figured that these were opportunities that would go nowhere. I had seen it happen many times, and I rationalized that he would end up back at his same school for the next school year.

But that is not what happened. Through a series of events, my husband was contacted for interviews by two of the schools he applied at. At one of the schools, he interviewed for the same position as a coaching friend of his. His friend got the position and then did something surprising: he offered Keith the assistant position.

My initial reaction when Keith brought this opportunity to my attention was that he shouldn’t take it. The move would not be a promotion and the school was far away. There would be no sense in my husband taking that job unless we moved nearer to the school. And the school was in a place we had no interest living in.

We talked about this and both came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be advantageous for him to take this job, but then the Holy Spirit began to work on our hearts. Friday of the week that my husband had mentioned this possibility to me, I opened up my devotion that morning. I don’t even remember what the devotion said or how God made this clear to me, but I suddenly felt this idea wash over me that we were to move.

My husband also told me that he felt like he should take the job. With only the weekend to make a decision and notify the school, we both prayed about it, and that Sunday we had the prayer team at our church pray for us. We did not get a scroll from heaven with detailed instructions or an angel descending down telling us God’s directive, but by the end of the weekend, we both felt that we were to go.

Embarking on a New Move

Initially, there was excitement as we made plans. We had to fix up our house and put it up for sale. We would need to locate a house in the new county. My husband had to notify his current school and his lacrosse program. We scurried to follow this new direction we felt God was leading us.

But, I have to be honest, in the midst of the plans there was some confusion and sadness on my part. I felt a little bit of bitterness towards God. He was leading us somewhere where I had never expected He would. Sure, in my current situation, God had either closed ministry opportunities or told me not to take them, but I accepted it believing that He would open them again. We were comfortable. I didn’t expect that He would ever move us on.

Even though God told me when I prayed about it that the reason we were to go was for “something better,” I didn’t know if I could believe Him. I couldn’t see on the outside how anything better could await us in this place I didn’t want to go.

I loved our stately brick house in the neighborhood we had scoped out over a year long process. It represented everything that I had wanted at the time: status, acceptance, and a safe environment for raising our children. And we would have to leave it all behind.

Not only that, a few months into our house listing, when I got pregnant (again, a surprise that I did not expect), I was rattled by how out of control I was with everything. While I was excited about a new life growing inside of me, the unknowns of another pregnancy (after a painful loss and associated health challenges the year before) on top of the unknowns related to the move stretched my Type-A, I-have-to-control-everything personality in uncomfortable ways. I know some of you reading this may be thinking, “Get over yourself! Give up control! But I can tell you, I struggled.

Yet, however difficult it might be for us to initially let go of something God asks of us — a community or church we love, a ministry position, a relationship, a material possession, control — while the process of giving it up may be one we struggle with, the end result is peace and joy.

As Charles Stanley notes in The Blessings of Brokenness, “When we give up something to which we are clinging and counting as more valuable than our obedience to God, he often gives us something in return that is even far more valuable or beneficial to us. At times, but not always, it is the very thing we gave up. At other times, it is something different but better.”

The Blessings of Obedience

Let me tell you what has happened since we made this move that I had mixed emotions about.

We’ve only been here for a few months, and some of the very things I was the most worried about have been the place of unexpected blessing. Yes, I have had some very lonely moments transitioning into a new community, but here’s some of the “better” God has already orchestrated:

  • We have a brand new house. Our old house was getting up there in years, and every week we were having things in the house break down that we didn’t have the money to fix. With our one-income status, we simply couldn’t afford to keep up the house in the way we would want to. While our new house is not in a glamorous neighborhood by any means, we are now in a house that has new fixtures and is a new structure, so we aren’t constantly have to deal with things breaking down.
  • We found a church we loved right away. It had taken us three years to find our old church home, and I anticipated that our new church hunt would be similar. Therefore, I could not have been more surprised to find that the first church my husband recommended was one that would be the one that we felt we were meant to attend.
  • I was surprised to find that I liked our surroundings. As much as I loved our old neighborhood, it was getting very crowded in the area we were in, and I longed for a little more serenity. Lately, for whatever reason, I had been missing the coastal landscape I had grown up in. I had longed for the sight of the ocean again. Though we don’t live near the ocean, we live near a large system of lakes and have one in our neighborhood. There is even a lake that you can see from the edge of our property in the land behind us.
  • My children have been doing fine in their new school environments. They have been very resilient during this move, and I haven’t heard too many complaints about what we left behind.

I have only mentioned material things, and I know that often God’s blessings are in the spiritual realm. Those spiritual blessings are just beginning to be evident to me, but the best blessing of all so far is that in moving I was released from a stressful situation where I felt like I was at a dead-end. I wasn’t thriving there any longer and had begged God more than once for a deliverance from my circumstances.

A New Start for Our Family

I don’t want to sugarcoat things. There has been sacrifice and hardship along the way. And sometimes I have found myself in the last few months longing for the familiar, but I have found myself slowly letting go of what I thought I wanted so much.

The other day, my husband casually mentioned the name of the area we are living in: New Hope.

Even though there are various signs around with the name, I had missed it because the only name I had noticed up to that point was the name in the nearby town and our new address.

New Hope. Let me tell you, friends, after the journey I have been on the last few years, I could not be more excited to end up in a place with that name. I believe that it’s no coincidence. It’s like a further reassurance from God about the things He plans to do while we’re here.

And we’ve been given more than a name like New Hope to make us think that.

Questions to Consider: Has God asked you to give up something in the past, and it turned out to be a decision that led to blessing in your life? Is there something He is asking you to give up now? Share with us in the comments below!

*Adapted from a post written for a book study on Charles Stanley’s The Blessings of Brokenness. To view the original post, click here.

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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Embracing Small Moments of Ministry

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As an English teacher, one of the core concepts I learned to teach was theme. It’s the author’s underlying message. It’s what he wants us to take away from a piece of literature. And one of those most common themes is that things are not always as they appear. They’re not as insignificant or even as accidental as they might first seem to be.

One such non-coincidental encounter started as many weekend days of my life do, at the thrift store. I am always drawn to a beautiful book cover (English teacher, remember?), and on this particular day, it was the cover of an anthology on Southernness from the editors of Garden and Gun Magazine. As I opened the book to a “random” page, I landed on an article that purported that Knoxville’s Chintzy Rose tea room and junk shop served tea that surpassed any other in the South. That’s saying something.

Well, how “concidental” then that I just happened to be planning a trip to my hometown in Virginia, and that Knoxville is the halfway point. How “strange,” too, that anyone I had asked to take the trip with me was unavailable. I was a little depressed about going by myself, but when I saw that article about the tea room, I determined to make an adventure out of my trip after all. When the day arrived, I put on an extended episode of my favorite podcast and set my sights on the halfway mark, where my personal roadside attraction was waiting.

When you’re alone, which for many of us happens in small doses and for others too often, you have time to reflect. As I prayed, worshipped, and listened to God on the way, I specifically prayed that I would not miss any plans God had for me that day. Four hours went by, and a little after lunchtime, I arrived at the Chintzy Rose, which was actually out of my way. I missed the little place the first time and even had to turn around to go back to it. When I walked in, antiques were everywhere, and I mean that literally. The shop was more than a little disheveled, but I felt so much at home already.

You see, my artist grandma, who taught me that a teacup should always have a thin lip and what it was to read Victoria magazine, always kept our house a little disheveled with her projects as well. I made my way to the back, beyond the shop, to the smallest tea room you’ve ever seen. There was one empty table, out of three, so I seated myself there. However, Knoxville is in the South, so I when I mentioned that I had driven all the way from Atlanta for the best sweet tea in the region, three ladies from an adjoining table insisted that I sit with them, the embodiment of Southern hospitality.

We sat and laughed together like we had been friends for years. These Christian ladies talked about their kids and grandkids, their work, and their ministries. We bantered back and forth with the owner and with the lady at the third table, and we even met Mrs. Tennessee America. We passed what was surely more time than they had allotted for their lunches, and by the time I said my goodbyes, I had an invitation to go on a thrift-store run with them.

One of the ladies in particular, Caroline, seemed more drawn to me than the others. I don’t recall what it was about her story at this point that connected us, but I do know that I ended my time there with her phone number and an invitation to come stay at her house the next time I was passing through. She came from a broken marriage and seemed to want genuine connection with other women, and I was happy to fulfill my same desire for connection too.

I left that little restaurant with more than just the vintage embroidery hoops I’d purchased and the refill of great sweet tea (it was, after all) in my hand. I left with an overwhelming peace and joy in my heart. I left knowing that, despite the fact that no major miracle had transpired, I had just had a divine appointment. I call that appointment, the one any outsider would have missed, even if they had been looking for it, small ministry. I went out of my way and by doing so encountered someone who needed me in a situation where I needed respite as well.

If you look at every area of my life, there appears to be chaos. From my physical house to my body to ministry transitions, it appears like I’m waiting for my big moment, the time when God will deliver me and finally bring me into the purpose He has for me. But does that mean He wants me to waste all those sweet-tea-and-small-ministry days? Not at all. So let’s examine three ways we can integrate small ministry so that it becomes perhaps the most impactful ministry of all.

3 Ways We Can Integrate Ministry Into Our Everyday

1. The more we take time to look for small opportunities, the more we naturally notice them.

If you’ll recall in my story, before I went to the teahouse, I was already praying and worshiping and asking God to do something with me. I’ve been much more conscious in recent years that the days in between my big moments must be used for some purpose. I’ve put myself in the mindset to look for opportunities to give people a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name. You will find what you look for. As my husband always says about spotting a million silver Hyundais on the road now that I have one, it’s true. In Jeremiah 29:13, Jesus says that very thing. We will find Him if we seek Him with all our hearts. He wants to be found by us. So if you’re waiting for your big moment, don’t miss all those other little moments in between.

2. We change ourselves when we help others.

I went to that teahouse lonely and stressed and concerned with my life’s current state. But I came out full of peace and hope. And even having had an encounter with a new friend. When I sat down at the table, I made it my purpose to return kindness for what had been shown to me when the ladies invited me to sit with them. But I ended up being the one to gain. Isn’t God like that? When we give to others, He says it comes back to us pressed down, shaken together, and running over. If you take time for small ministry, you will be the one ministered to.

3. Your ship may not have come in today, but I bet a kayak did.

In the last few years, my husband and I have joined what’s playfully called the “kayak clique.” There are six of us and hopefully more soon who have kayaks and like to get together to go out on the water. But kayaks aren’t easy. You are physically paddling and when a storm comes, you’re not in one of those boats with a big engine that can escape quickly.

You’re doing all the work and having all the pain. And it can make you feel like it would be so much better to have that big boat that everybody else is in. So many times, we are looking for a big ship to come in. That big opportunity or change, but we have to make sure not to neglect the days that come before. Next time you’re waiting for your big yacht-sized encounter with God or with others, don’t neglect that little kayak of opportunity that might be tied nearby.

You see, God is not interested in us just getting to our big destination. We might be goals-focused. We might want the next job or a bigger house or a better situation. But God is more interested in transforming us on the journey, burning up the dross, and transforming us to pure gold along the way. The kind of people who will actually be strong enough to bear up under the big opportunities when they come. That’s what small ministry is all about — taking time not to miss the opportunities in the everyday, the ones that will build us and transform us … and maybe not be so insignificant after all.

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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As a Mom, Why You Don’t Have to Have all the Answers

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As a blogger, I love to dive deep into the why’s of human nature: Why do I act in a certain way in a scenario? Why do I feel this particular emotion in a situation? I read many articles from psychology and health sites to help inform me when I write articles. And yet, there are times when my research has not been able to provide me the answers I needed at crucial moments in my life, particularly in motherhood. At times, I have no idea why I act the way I do or what to do in a particular situation with my kids.

Some time ago, I was plagued by a nagging question that I couldn’t answer: Why do I get so angry with my oldest daughter? She is such an easy-going, smart kid. She is always eager to please and a great helper around the house. When I correct her, she immediately attempts to remedy what I point out. And she is super responsible with her own homework and schoolwork. And yet, I often fuss at her over miniscule things like leaving her wet towels on the floor or not putting the vacuum cleaner away. I feel irritation when she comes downstairs in a mismatched outfit or says a comment that might raise an eyebrow. Then I overreact, feel bad, and do it all over again.

God Answers My Question

After her younger brother was born, my daughter went through a phase where she asked me repeatedly if I loved her as much as her brother. I couldn’t understand why she would even ask me this question until I watched a video of myself around her and her then infant brother. In the video, I sat on the floor holding my son. My daughter, a 3-year-old at the time, hopped around me trying to get my attention. But each time I looked at her, I had a scowl on my face. The way I looked at my son and the way I looked at her was different and evident to me even in the video.

I know I love her, so why the difference in how I treat them? I prayed about the situation and discussed it with friends at my mom group. Some time went by and I didn’t get an answer to my question. And then, as I was reading an article on worth, God’s answer came to me and hit me like a tidal wave: You are deeply afraid your daughter will be unwanted.

Say what? My fear for her was causing me to get angry? I sat in that moment, reeling from the truth of that statement. I read once that anger is a secondary emotion. Often, anger can mask another emotion such as fear. As clinical psychologist Leon F. Seltzer, PhD, explains, we may get angry when another person cuts us off in traffic, but that anger is actually masking an underlying fear we have that we will be hurt in a car accident.

As only God could, He revealed with unnerving accuracy what my irritability was concealing all along. I feared my daughter wouldn’t grow up knowing how much she was worth or feel like she was wanted. Expecting perfect behavior from her and becoming angry when her “performance” faltered was me attempting to mold her into someone who wouldn’t be rejected. But as I have done many times before, I was attempting to “help” and control a situation that I needed to put in God’s hands. I needed to trust God that He had designed her to be the way He wanted her to be and that there would be friends for her in His provision.

God Confides His Secrets to Us When We Walk With Him

Certainly, my daughter needs my guidance and correction, but the kind I was giving her was beyond what was needed. God giving me that nugget of information helped me understand my own emotions and make a change in becoming more patient with her. A verse that has become a life verse for me is Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and He will make your paths straight.”

The verse cautions us to lean on God rather than our own wisdom. However, this default to our flesh — this drift to fix and handle every situation according to our own wisdom, when it comes to our kids or otherwise, is a constant temptation. I can’t control all the circumstances of my daughter’s life so she won’t face rejection or receive challenges to her worth, although I have certainly tried. I can be a support to her, teach her the lessons I have learned, and guide her using biblical principles and God’s wisdom — but I can’t ensure by being a vigilant mom that she will avoid every heartbreak or only have only good things happen to her.

But I needed God’s wisdom to know how to improve our interactions. How awesome that God used an ordinary experience of reading an article to reveal the deep places of my heart to me. Psalm 25:14 tells us, “The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” The King James words it like this: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.”

While many of us view God as distant and stern, the psalm tells us of a God who wants to be our friend. As the NIV puts it, He “confides” in those who walk with Him. Or, as the KJV says, His “secrets” are with those who fear Him. Both words are translated from a word in Hebrew that means “couch.” If you can believe it, God converses with us much like a friend with another friend on a couch! Each revelation of His is like a specially wrapped gift He presents to us. And He counsels us so that we might know how to better know Him and ourselves — and adjust our behavior so that we can allow our paths to be aligned with His.

We Don’t Have to Know Everything as Moms

A few years ago when we moved, I discovered a surprise behind our new house. One day when I was out in the yard, I caught a glimpse of blue between the trees. As I peered to look closer, I noticed a lake — or in actuality, a small pond. Though such a discovery might not be a big deal to someone else, I grew up on the Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. One of the hardest things for me as a young wife in moving to Georgia was leaving behind the soothing blue of water that I saw daily in my hometown. This little pond was like a hidden treasure!

I couldn’t help but think when I came upon it how the treasures God reveals to us in our walk with Him are like that sparkle of blue I saw behind my house. His secrets are those we don’t always expect to find but are those that delight us as they give us knowledge that make our way clear — and help us to make sense of the problems and dilemmas we have no answer for in motherhood and otherwise.

Often as moms we sometimes forget that we’re not alone. Though we may feel overwhelmed at times, God is not far off and is waiting to tell His secrets to those who will choose to trust Him in the journey. We don’t have to know all the answers as mothers; we just need to stay connected to Him as we move through our days. Though He won’t always answer a question we have or immediately respond, He will guide us in the way we should go when we make it our aim to fully know Him and rely on Him.

Related Resources:

As a parent, do you find it difficult to trust when it comes to your kids? Former blog member Jamie Wills shares a hilarious story about her daughter’s antics one day before church — and how what started as a really bad day turned into a really good one.

Sometimes, we struggle to help our kids with their own self-image because ours is so poor. The following resources offer help for boosting feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth: “Healing Your Low Self-Worth and Wounds of Rejection,” “Self-Worth: How to Start Accepting Yourself,” “Self-Worth: How to Feel Better About Yourself.”

*Updated May 15, 2018.

 

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 We Get Trapped in a Cycle of Rejection

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Rejection is perhaps the deepest pain we can feel as humans. Years ago, before there were limitations on the kind of studies you do, they tested babies and the importance of human contact. In the study, one group of babies was fed and their basic needs attended to, but also held and nurtured. Another group of babies was fed and their basic needs attended to, but not held or nurtured with human touch. As the study continued, the group of babies that had the benefit of human touch thrived, whereas the babies that were deprived of human contact died.

Clearly, you can see why these types of studies are not allowed any longer! But the results of the study show us how our Creator intended for us to be loved and be in community with other people. When we feel rejected or unwanted by others, such rejection can have a serious impact on our physical and emotional health — and these impacts reach beyond the infant years.

In fact, if you take a look at the details of many of the high school shooters who have turned against their own classmates, you see a common theme: rejection. These individuals sought retaliation against others who had laughed at them or belittled them. So great was the sting of others’ rejection, they sought revenge with gunfire. The bizarre and violent retaliatory tactics utilized by those who have been rejected or feel unwanted aren’t limited to the high school shooting category. If you choose to investigate other crimes, you will see that in many cases, horrific acts of murder or harm against another person started with a rejection of some kind.

Clearly, then, its important that we take a look at rejection and how to react when we are rejected — because otherwise, we can fall into a cycle of unhealthy behavior that can have negative impacts on our physical or emotional well-being.

Individuals in the Bible Who Suffered Rejection

There is no better place we can turn to than the Bible for vivid examples of individuals who experienced rejection. Leah was someone who wasn’t wanted by her husband. In fact, her husband, Jacob, was tricked into marrying her by Leah’s own father. Jacob actually desired her sister and had been promised her sister, Rachel. So, after the wedding night when Jacob discovered that he hadn’t been given Rachel, but rather Leah, he demanded the sister that he had worked for. He did get Rachel as his second wife, but he never loved both of his wives equally.

Leah spent much of her marriage trying to earn the affections of her disinterested husband. In fact, she didn’t have much leverage in the relationship, so she clung to the one thing that would get her some measure of attention: she bore children. She birthed son after son in an attempt to win her husband’s heart, saying things like, “Surely my husband will love me now” (Genesis 29:32), and, “At last my husband will become attached to me” (Genesis 29:34). But her husband just loved her sister, Rachel, despite Leah’s attempts to gain his attention. At last, we see a reprieve in Leah’s striving when she says after the birth of her fourth son, “This time I will praise the Lord” (Genesis 29:35). Here, she looks to God as her Source, rather than her husband. However, her rivalry with her sister didn’t end, and she did continue to have more children in an effort to “out-do” her sister.

Similarly, we see in the story of Zacchaeus a man who was rejected by his community. His rejection was due to the fact that he was a tax collector and cheated those he collected from, getting rich from the extra profits. However, although it doesn’t tell us this expressly in the story, maybe Zacchaeus’ rejection started long before he became a tax collector. Maybe Zacchaeus always felt like the odd man out because he was so short. Maybe he relished his power over others in his role as tax collector and liked being able to tax those who had rejected him in the past. Or maybe, as advocated in a study I read on rejection, each time Zacchaeus cheated someone, he was rejected — and with each rejection, he took money from the individuals who rejected him. Again, this is just speculation, but it is possible.

What both of these individuals show us is that rejection is painful, but people who are rejected aren’t without sin of their own. In the case of Leah, she got caught in a cycle of approval-seeking and people-pleasing, as each time she had a child she presented the child to her husband with hope that he would love her. She finally broke that cycle when she began looking to God for approval. Similarly, although we’re not expressly told this, Zacchaeus’ rejection by the community may have been that which contributed or even started his pattern of cheating others.

Getting Caught in a Cycle of Rejection

As I mentioned in my last post, in Mike Riches’ book Living Free, he talks about the idea that often in our rejection, we give the enemy access in our lives because in our anger over the rejection, we turn to ungodly reactions or fleshly coping mechanisms to deal with our pain. As the Bible tells us, we are not to anger in our sin and give a foothold [topos] to Satan (Ephesians 4:26, 27). As Riches explains, when we allow our anger to fester over a rejection and don’t resolve it, we may allow that anger to cause us to react in wrong ways to our rejection. In doing so, we give territory to the enemy.

In our wrong responses to others, which might include lashing out in anger, gossiping, talking maliciously about the person, etc., we may open our lives to the enemy and then continue to give him space to operate by developing patterns of thinking and behavior that become strongholds in our lives. These strongholds serve as obstacles in our Christian walk and must be demolished in order for us to walk in freedom (2 Corinthians 10:4). Not only that, but our ungodly responses can help us get caught in a cycle of rejection. I am basing this term on what Riches calls an offense cycle, but basically what the cycle looks like is this:

  1. We experience a rejection or hurt.
  2. In our anger, we react in ungodly ways in our thoughts and actions.
  3. By acting in wrong ways in our anger, we give topos to the enemy — a place of access for him to influence our thoughts and behavior.
  4. Our ungodly behavior — whether it be bitterness, anger, resentment, negative thoughts about ourselves, etc. — causes more rejection.
  5. When we are rejected again, we react again in ungodly ways in our thoughts and actions, and the cycle continues.

For those of us caught in such a cycle, we may wonder why we are constantly rejected and wonder what we can do to stop being rejected. However, as Riches says, most of us won’t be able to see the role we are playing in the rejection, and we’ll simply blame others for the rejections and take on a victim mentality. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit, if we are willing to come to Him and allow Him to pierce through our defense mechanisms and open ourselves up to His help and healing, we can break out of the cycle of rejection that we are caught in. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever be rejected again, but it does mean that we aren’t inviting those rejections with our own behavior, and we’ll be able to handle rejection in a healthy way when it comes around again.

I’ll be discussing the particulars of how to break out of a rejection cycle in my next post, but to touch on it briefly, we can begin to break out of the cycle when we forgive those who have hurt us in our past and ask forgiveness of those we’ve hurt. In addition, when new hurts and offenses come up, we refuse to retaliate or turn to fleshly coping mechanisms, but instead turn to God for healing and choose to forgive those who hurt us — and even bless and do good to our enemies. Luke 6:27 says: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

I’m not saying that there is never a time that we don’t confront someone or call someone out on their behavior. We need the counsel of the Holy Spirit for that, but we do so in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), and we do so in love (Ephesians 4:15). Blessing others and seeking not to retaliate against our enemies will help us avoid falling into a cycle of rejection. And, if we have already been caught in a cycle of rejection, we can find an out by choosing to take part in the steps of forgiveness I outlined above.

Living Lives Free of Offense

God wants us to live lives that are free (John 10:10). He does not want us to succumb to heavy chains of unforgiveness. The Bible tells us that “Satan prowls like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We can resist his schemes by refusing to get trapped in a cycle of rejection and instead taking the biblical response to offense. Although harder initially, this refusal to retaliate against our enemies and insistence on blessing and forgiving them keeps our mind and bodies at peace, and out of torment and distress.

Related Resources:

Not only can we get caught in an unhealthy rejection cycle when rejected, we might also attempt to strive for others’ approval in an unhealthy way. Check out the following resources on giving over our relationships and stresses about our performance at work to God: “Learning to Depend on God” and “Spiritual Rest: Letting go of Trying so Hard in Our Work and Relationships.”

Want to hear more from co-host Suzy Lolley from the Beulah Girl Podcast? Check out her blog and Facebook page to read her work and connect with her.

 

 

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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Endurance in the Christian Walk to Finish Your Race

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I had a manager once tell me I was really “good out of the gate,” but my energy lessened as my shift wore on. I have found that to be a true description of how I generally approach many tasks in life: My motivation is generally quite high at the outset but begins to wane as time passes and problems and trials sap my strength.

The Christian walk, I have found, is not a sprint but a marathon. Years ago, I answered God’s call with such enthusiasm. Before he gave me a ministry, I begged him for one. I couldn’t wait to get started, and yet, when He gave me the ministry I so wanted, I begged Him shortly after on numerous occasions to let me quit (or at least walk away for a season). I have discovered over the last few years that I don’t have the endurance to complete the marathon. It is only in God’s power that I have kept on for these past few years and continue to keep on in my current season.

To Endure in Our Calling Requires a Continual Commitment

In John 21:15-23, we see a disciple who also has to be instructed when he is about to bomb out on his calling. After making boasts about what he will do for Jesus (Matthew 26:33), this prideful disciple gets a lesson in humility: He fails Jesus by denying him three times. Rather than cast out this disciple, though, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach Peter what it means to be a minister of the Gospel and run the race with endurance.

He asks Peter three separate times if Peter loves Him and then points him to a directive: feed his sheep. Each time Jesus asks, Peter responds by saying, “Lord, you know that I love you.” The last time Jesus asks, Peter shows a shift, prefacing the words with, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you” (v. 17). As I discussed in my last post, Peter’s response shows he is no longer bragging about his abilities. He simply states that he loves him. And, as the IVP New Testament Commentary observes, his last response shows a position of humility and acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty.

Peter’s new learned dependence on Jesus is that which is necessary for us to model if we are to complete our call (and how we can handle the failures that we are sure to have along the way), but there is another lesson embedded in their conversation. According to the IVP, each time Jesus asks represents those times in our lives that we will have the temptation to go an easier way. Service to God isn’t a call we answer one time in our lives. It is a call we answer over and over again.

As exemplified in the passage, we will have to continually renew our commitment to Jesus as we follow Him (IVP). This means that as we grow in spiritual maturity and Jesus reveals to us at different intervals what our walk is going to entail (letting go of a certain habit, overcoming a fear in an area, etc.), we must be willing to answer, “Yes, Lord, I love you [more than these].” I love you more than my comfort, my security, my desire for wealth, or acceptance. I am willing to give this up or work on this area for you. Again and again, Jesus will test us with the question He raised to Peter, “Do you love me [more than these other things]?” We have to be willing to allow Jesus to “raise the bar” in our lives as He teaches us what it means to be His follower.

To Endure We Must Also Stay Fixed on Jesus

Not only must we must be willing to repeatedly deny ourselves and renew our commitment to Him as we continue in our calling, we must not allow distractions to take our focus away from Jesus. Though Peter is making progress in his spiritual maturity and walk with Christ, he still has a human moment where he turns from his claims of devotion and takes his eyes off Jesus. When he learns that his call will entail going where he does not want to go and even being led to die as Jesus did by crucifixion (vv. 18, 19), he pauses for a moment and asks about the fate of John, who is following close behind.

Jesus tells him, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (v. 22). In other words, he tells Peter to only worry about himself. It is all too natural that Peter should be concerned about whether or not others will go through the same difficulties and suffering. But Jesus doesn’t give him the answer he wants, but tells him to stay focused on his own commission.

Too often, we compare our suffering in ministry to that of others. We’re OK with denying ourselves if others walk a similar road, but what if they don’t? What if Jesus has us in a place we don’t want to be, we suffer more than others, or Jesus leads in in a way that seems to be more treacherous than the path of other Christians? We must be willing to follow even if our road looks harder than that of others or is undesirable. As Romans 5:3 and James 1:2-4 tell us, our difficulties don’t have to knock us off the path — but rather, are the very tests that will develop fortitude in us if we let them.

Romans 5:3 (VOICE): “And that’s not all, we also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance.”

James 1:2-4 (VOICE): “Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately [find joy in them]; if you [embrace them], your faith will [blossom under pressure] and [teach you true patience as you endure]. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line — mature, complete and wanting nothing.”

Conclusion:

Jesus’ conversation with Peter offers us some valuable insight into how we can develop and maintain the rigor and endurance it takes to complete the mission God gives us. Like Peter, we have to allow Jesus to turn us from our own desires, love of self, and pride and choose to follow Him again and again even when we’re tired, weary of trials, and disappointed because we don’t have the results or the perks others have. We will have obstacles that threaten to entangle us, but with continued commitment to Christ and a dependence on Him — we will finish the race.

Why must I weep when others sing?

“To test the deeps of suffering.”

Why must I work while others rest?

“To spend my strength at God’s request.”

Why must I lose while others gain?

“To understand defeat’s sharp pain.”

Why must this lot of life be mine

When that which fairer seems is thine?

“Because God knows what plans for me

Shall blossom in eternity.”

– from Streams in the Desert

Related Bible Verses:

Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Hebrews 3:14: “For we have become partners with Christ, if in fact we hold our initial confidence firm until the end.”

Podcast Corrections:

Peter denied Jesus the night of Jesus’ arrest, not before.

 

 

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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Why Your Failure Isn’t Final

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In my life, trust of God has been the most difficult lesson for me to learn, and I’ve had many big failures in this area — times when I succumbed to fear and doubt in a crucial moment when I needed to have faith instead. In fact, I can count some major times in the last few years where God arranged something on my behalf or wanted me to simply rest in Him, but instead, I trusted my own understanding or that of others in a situation.

But here’s what I’m learning now: God gives us a second chance (or maybe a 20th chance, if that is what is needed) to learn what we failed to learn before. Recently, I’ve found myself in a circumstance that feels all too familiar: It’s been the overriding refrain of my life the last few years. God has been leading me through challenging circumstances, and yet, He has been telling me to trust what He will do on my behalf.

The “practical” voice of reason in my head screams that this can’t be right, it can’t be the way. I’ve prayed about a step I can take to “fix” this situation or proactively step forward, but God has told me to wait. And this waiting is that which I have been instructed to before and failed at. So this time feels extra hard because my go-to response in times like this has always been to try to work my way out, make something happen, avoid the pain by taking the escape (even if it’s not God’s will). And I know I can’t do that this time.

Curbing that “do-it-myself, I want it my way” fleshly attitude is one that is taking painful discipline and work with the Holy Spirit. Maybe as you are reading this, you can think of a lesson God is teaching you — about trust — or maybe in a different area. Whatever the lesson is, no matter how not-fun, we should be encouraged that scores of individuals in the Bible had to be given multiple opportunities to learn a lesson.

Peter: A Disciple Who Was Given a Second Chance

Peter is perhaps the best all-time example of a disciple who needed more than one chance to learn a lesson. In John 21, Peter has failed big-time. Just as Jesus predicted, Peter denies he knows Jesus on the night of Jesus’ arrest and betrays his Lord. And yet, Jesus doesn’t reject Peter in his failure.

After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Mary Magdalene and other women find an angel in the empty tomb, and he gives them a message from Jesus, saying, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’ ” (Mark 16: 6, 7). Did you get that? Jesus asks for the guy who had failed him miserably just a few days earlier by especially singling him out by saying “the disciples and Peter.” Peter responds to the Lord’s call, and Jesus initiates a conversation with him, as recorded in John 21:15-18:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’ Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.

It seems a little surprising that Jesus would seek out Peter and spend time with him after Peter had so obviously failed him. But there are two important lessons we can learn from Jesus’ actions:

1. Our failure is an opportunity for us to grow.

So many of us view failure as a final end that we can never recover from. However, we see from this passage that God never wastes an opportunity. He uses everything in our life — even our failures — for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

As described in these lines, Jesus uses Peter’s failure to teach him and help him grow. However, Peter’s growth doesn’t come without some personal angst. The second chance Jesus offers Peter has eery parallels to the time he failed. Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus asks him if he loves him three times. As the IVP New Testament Commentary illuminates, Jesus’ questions are probing, and most likely, make Peter uncomfortable. Each time Jesus poses the same question, he is reminded of his failure, and that is painful.

Similarly, for us, as much as the second chance God offers may be one we’re relieved to see in front of us, it may also be painful as we enter circumstances that resemble those we left. We have to face what we did wrong and change. Yet, here, we can see Peter is already changing. When Jesus inquires of him as to his love, Peter doesn’t brag as he has in times past (IVP). Before the crucifixion, Peter had insisted he would never fall away, even if others did (Matthew 26:33). Here, he simply answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (vv. 15, 16).

In addition, the third time Jesus asks, Peter answers with a variation saying, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you” (v. 17, emphasis mine). By his acknowledgement of Jesus as all-knowing, Peter further shows a new humility that points to God’s sovereignty and knowledge, rather than his own (IVP). Jesus further explains how Peter will have to continue to deny himself by being a disciple, saying, “When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (v. 18). Jesus loves and forgives Peter, but spells out clearly to Peter that being a disciple with entail continued humility and dependence on God.

2. God wants us in our failure.

God’s love is a concept that many of us struggle with. I remember years ago struggling to feel God’s love, and He told me I couldn’t feel it fully because of my unbelief. As I’ve begun to believe in God’s love, I’ve begun to recognize the ways God is intimately involved in my life — how recklessly He loves each of us, and how He’s willing to pursue us when we get it wrong and stray (Matthew 18:12).

Though God loves us so much that He comes after us when we fail, we have to accept His love and pursuit of us. Jesus includes Peter’s name with his instructions because he wants it to be clear to Peter that he is included. But Peter still had to make the choice to return and accept the forgiveness and acceptance of His Savior. He had to allow himself to go through the uncomfortable heart surgery Jesus performed on him when it would have been much easier just to cut off ties and go his own way. But despite how uncomfortable it must have been for Peter to face Jesus when he had just denied him and submit to Jesus’ discipline, Peter returns and became stronger and better equipped for his role as a disciple because of his willingness to learn from Jesus.

As I discussed in a previous post, not everyone who is offered that love chooses to return when they fail. But how amazing that God offers us unconditional love knowing that some will reject Him. When we “love” as the world loves, we love with a conditional love. This type of love loves until the person fails and then casts out so that there is no hope of restoration. But God teaches a different way, a way that says, “I want you no matter how bad you mess it up, no matter how you get it wrong.”

Truly, this knowledge shouldn’t give us a nonchalant attitude where we take advantage of the grace offered and knowingly make bad choices with the excuse of, “It’s OK, God will forgive me.” God does forgive us when we repent, but the Bible warns us to be sincere in our repentance (Romans 6:1, 2; 14, 15). And we should know that while God’s grace is lavish, earthly consequences can come as a result of our choices and should help deter us from not doing what is right.

But how wonderful that God never leaves us in our failure. When we’re not strong enough to make the right choices, we can turn to Him, and He sustains us and gives us what we need to do what’s right.

Psalm 54:4: “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.”

Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he. I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Related Resources:

Want some more posts on Easter? Check out last week’s post on Jesus’ feelings as He went to the cross. We can learn from Him how to handle seasons where we feel lonely in our calling or wonder if God has left us.

Don’t have time to read many posts but want to listen instead? Check out this post in podcast form or past episodes by stopping by our brand new podcast archive.

 

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 You Feel Lonely in Your Calling

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“I feel so alone,” I told my husband in a hormone-induced crying spell.

We had transitioned to a new house and a new community, and the transition had been fairly smooth, but as I moved into my last weeks of pregnancy, I felt alone.

Alone when I drove my kids to school, and I didn’t know a soul in the building.

Alone when we went to our new church, and I didn’t recognize a single face.

Alone when I went to my new doctor, and I didn’t know any of the medical staff.

Alone when I contemplated the difficult situations that had seemed to pile up the last year as I did what God asked of me.

Alone.

Jesus knew loneliness in his journey to the cross. However, as relayed in Matthew 26-28, although much attention is often given to those that opposed Him and betrayed Him and the suffering He went through (and rightly so), He was also defended and aided by His heavenly Father.

That though Jesus was mocked by those who didn’t believe His words, there were ways that the truth of His words reached the eyes and ears of those in His community. In re-reading His story recently, I was reminded that perhaps if we find ourselves feeling alone in whatever assignment Jesus has given us, we may be tempted to quit or believe God has forgotten us.

But we can see from the Easter story how God’s plan may lead us to what feels like a solitary path — but in the midst of that path, God is there — at work.

A few takeaways we can get from the Easter story:

1. We should stay fixed on God even when we feel forsaken.

When we observe Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked His disciples to be vigilant and pray with Him. But each time that He asked them and went away to pray, they fell asleep. No one stayed awake with Jesus through the intense moments He experienced before His arrest.

But Jesus remained fixed on God and His Father’s will even when others around Him didn’t understand or were not there for Him when He needed them. The third time when He went away, He came back to find them asleep once again, but He simply said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:45, 46).

Similarly, when Jesus hung on the cross, before He breathed His last breath, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Although many disagree on what happened on the cross and after Jesus died, Jesus felt a separation from the presence of His heavenly Father as He took on the sin of the world.

I find it amazingly comforting that Jesus, the most perfect human being, felt deserted. That whether Jesus was abandoned by His Father or just felt abandoned, the truth was that He experienced this right when He was in the center of God’s plan!

And, if indeed Jesus did endure this separation, one benefit that we have that Jesus did not is that although we may feel that God is not with us, as Derek Gentle points out in an article, “[Jesus] was forsaken that God might never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5, Romans 8:31-39).” Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice so that we would never have to be completely alone.

Therefore, if we find ourselves feeling isolated in following Jesus’ plan for us, we may be tempted to give up or assume God has deserted us. We may feel that others have fallen asleep on us — are not near when we have needed them most — but that does not mean that we should fall away from what God wants us to do or assume that God has done the same.

2. God provides for us and is present in our process.

We can see in Jesus’ story how even though God allowed Jesus’ suffering and allowed Jesus to be betrayed and abandoned by those closest to Him, He also provided for Him. Yes, undoubtedly there may have been a momentary separation as Jesus became a propitiation for our sin, but we see that God cared for Jesus’ needs and was very present in the process.

Earlier, before Jesus was arrested, a woman came and washed Jesus’ feet with a jar of expensive alabaster perfume. The disciples objected to this lavish display, saying that the money could be used for the poor. However, Jesus responded by asking, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial” (Matthew 26:7-10).

Later in the passage, a man whom apparently none of the disciples even knew provided a place for Jesus and His disciples to eat the last supper. The Luke account says that an angel came down in the Garden of Gethsemane to strengthen Jesus when his disciples could not be counted on (22:43). After Jesus’ death, a rich man named Joseph, who had become a follower of Jesus, asked Pilate for Jesus’ body, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and placed the body in his own tomb that he had just cut out of rock.

Clearly, even as Jesus felt deserted by His closest friends and even God Himself at one point, God provided those who were available to minister and care for Jesus in the midst of carrying out His will.

Likewise, if we look around during the times we feel the most alone or afraid, we will most likely be able to trace God’s hand and see how He gives us supernatural aid or the help of kind people in our journey — people we not know or necessarily solicit help from. But people who step up and offer us the support we need even as we’re facing our darkest hours.

3. If we face opposition doing what God has told us to, He will defend us.

There are times when we should give an answer to those that question us, but there are other times when we don’t need to say anything. God will do it for us.

When Jesus was brought before Pilate, Scriptures tell us that He was silent when accused, and they were amazed that He did not respond to any of the charges they brought against Him. He was mocked by the soldiers, the crowd, and the religious priests. Later, when He hung on the cross, they told Him that He should save Himself and prove He was the Son of God.

But Jesus did not speak in response to their insults at the trial or on the cross. However, what we can observe is that God’s defense was all around for the observant one taking note. When Pilate questioned Jesus, he received a message from his wife imploring Pilate to let Jesus go as she had had a dream about him that day. Pilate himself knew the religious leaders had a personal agenda. After the message from his wife, he washed his hands in front of the crowd to let them know that he had reservations about their accusations and didn’t want Jesus’ blood on his hands.

Not only was evidence of Jesus’ innocence given through the words and actions of people, the natural world gave further witness. The afternoon that Jesus died, darkness came over the land from noon to three; “the curtain from the temple was torn from top to bottom”; and an earthquake shook the earth so that tombs opened, and “the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life” (Matthew 27:45, 51, 52).

As if that were not enough evidence for the unbelieving that Jesus’ had spoken the truth, after Jesus was placed in a tomb, an angel rolled the stone of his tomb away, and Jesus rose from the dead! He then appeared to some women that had come to his tomb, later to His disciples. Clearly, as a worship song by Elevation Music says: “The evidence is [or in this case, was] all around.”

If people don’t believe us or listen when we do or say what God asks, we needn’t worry or waste our effort trying to convince them. God, in His own way and timing, will make His message abundantly clear to all who are listening. The truth will prevail without unneeded energy wasted on our part.

4. God’s power cannot be contained or minimized.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that Jesus was the Son of God as He claimed, the chief priests and elders in the Jewish community were so threatened by Jesus that they didn’t want to know the truth. They just wanted Him out of the picture. However, they had to do quite a bit of manipulating on their end to have Jesus crucified. They convinced the crowd to ask for Barabbas rather than Jesus when Pilate asked which prisoner they wanted released.

Later, the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate and asked that Jesus’ tomb be made secure until the third day so that the disciples couldn’t come and steal the body and claim that he was raised from the dead. Pilate agreed to have the tomb sealed and even gave them guards to protect the tomb.

Clearly, the religious leaders were doing all they could to make sure that the people did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God — but what they didn’t realize is that they were trying to minimize God’s plan and power. As is apparent in the passage, no man is able to contain His power.

As I touched on in my previous point, just as Jesus had said, three days after He died, He rose again. After a violent earthquake, an angel of the Lord came down and rolled back the stone on the tomb and sat on it. Mary Magdalene and another Mary found the tomb empty and the stone rolled away. The guards that Pilate had sent were afraid at what they saw and went and told the chief priests what they had seen (yes, the very priests who had mocked Jesus’ claim that He was the Son of God).

The chief priests made the decision to give the guards money to lie about what happened, and a false story was circulated in the Jewish community. But for those paying attention, it was obvious that Jesus was the Son of God and God’s plan was being accomplished despite the resistance of the religious leaders.

We can know that we may be persecuted and opposed as we do what God asks of us, but God is not derailed by human schemes. His plan will be accomplished whether people believe us or not.

If You Feel Alone

Perhaps this Easter, you feel some of the same emotions our Lord did when He was crucified. Perhaps you feel marginalized, misunderstood, or mocked. Perhaps as you have attempted to give the message God wanted you to or walk in the path He has laid out for you, you have faced loneliness, rejection, and scorn.

Remember this: His resurrection power cannot be contained. Whatever assignment you are on, however difficult, is one that cannot be thwarted. God’s purposes will be accomplished no matter how bleak the circumstances or how daunting the opposition.

Though we may not hear an immediate response when we cry out “My God, why have you forsaken me?” — we can rest assured that although God may not take away our suffering, there will be victory in the storm.

Hopefully, in reading this, you will be encouraged to keep plugging away at the task God has given you! Leave a comment in the box below if you would like to share what you are going through or you would like us to pray for you.

*Updated version of a post originally posted May 26, 2016.

Related Resources:

Want to read more posts on Easter? Check out last week’s post on a scene that happened before Jesus’ death where Mary anointed the feet of Jesus and prepared His body for burial, and Judas rebuked her. We can learn much from Judas and Mary about the cost of following Jesus and how giving up what we want for Jesus enables us to have something even better.

Don’t have time to read the post or others but want to listen instead? Check out the post from last week in podcast form or past episodes by stopping by our brand new podcast archive.

 

 

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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