How Disobedience Led to My Depression

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

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

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

Depression as a Result of Choices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice from My Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Do If You’re Depressed

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

I remain confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart

and wait for the Lord.

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

Related Resources:

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

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

 

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

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

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Learning to Depend on God

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

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

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

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

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

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

Independence as a Coping Mechanism

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

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

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

Giving up Self-Sufficiency for God-Dependency

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

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

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

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

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

Acting Out of the Flesh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editor’s Note:

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

Related Resources:

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

Carol Whitaker

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

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When We Suffer for Doing Good

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Tune into the Beulah Girl Podcast. Co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley explore finding identity in Christ. Episodes cover topics such as spiritual growth, relationships, emotional health, physical healing, ministry, and more. Subscribe to get each episode on Soundcloud or simply listen to the individual episode here.

Have you ever wanted to fight God on an issue even though you knew that He would blow you out of the water with an argument or action that would show you how wrong you were? Have you ever wanted to wrestle against God even though you knew He would win?

I know the fallacy of using my own human logic to try to guide my life or figure out God. I’ve been walking with him long enough to know that His ways are not my own. He has shown that to me over and over.

But recently, even though I knew that it was pointless, I wanted so badly to accuse Him and turn away. I’d been in this place many a time, and I know the danger of going my own way, but I wanted to flee anyway.

When Doing God’s Will Leads to Suffering

Here’s what I was all tied up in knots about: If He was going to ask me to do an action for Him, I felt that it should end in good. The situation should end with a happy ending, with a ribbon tied in a bow on top. But yet again, I had stepped out to do an uncomfortable action because He had told me to, and it had ended in circumstances that were not what I wanted or expected.

Quite honestly, I felt that there had been too many of those situations lately. It makes sense to do the hard thing that will end in the award, the raise at work, the leading of someone to Christ, the healing, the miracle. But what about the hard action that leads to persecution, the argument, or the confusing events that don’t add up. What then?

In those scenarios, we can feel like God is being cruel to us because of what He has asked us to do. We may be infuriated by the fact that He has led us to a place where we are encountering hardship that we wouldn’t be encountering if we hadn’t listened to Him. We wouldn’t be the first to feel this way.

In the book of Job, Job becomes fed up with the hardship that has come in his life. He essentially tells God as much, accusing God of cruelty and persecution (Job 30:21, ESV). However, we know from reading the rest of the book of Job that God was not being malicious to Job — nor is He that to us. God allowed the affliction in Job’s life not to be “cruel” or play a mean game with Job’s life, but because He had a purpose. And Satan — not God — was the responsible party for the trouble that came into Job’s life. As Jon Bloom points in “When God Feels Cruel” on desiringgod.org, God did permit Satan’s actions — but He did so to prove Satan wrong and provide encouragement to many other sufferers who would come after Job.

In fact, God responds to Job’s accusation of cruelty and asks him this important question, “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:8, ESV). The Message translation words it like this: “Are you calling me a sinner so you can be a saint?” In other words, God asks Job if he is able to stand against Him on his own righteousness.

In our own lives, when we feel that God is being cruel to us because He has allowed or led us into undesirable circumstances, we see that God is more than capable of running the universe — and often our accusations of Him are made because we don’t understand things from His perspective. As Bloom notes, we have to trust in God’s goodness despite what our feelings tell us.

Certainly, after listening to God’s argument, Job repents of his original position and acknowledges that God is sovereign and worthy of praise no matter the events in his life. Similarly, in my own situation, while I didn’t get the same monologue God gave Job, God stopped me in my tracks by offering a divine response to my human argument.

What God Says About the Suffering That Comes From Doing His Will

The next morning during my quiet time, as I was still fuming over the injustice of the reality that good doesn’t always come to you for doing God’s will, I came across this gem of Scripture in 1 Peter 4:19:

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Say what? I didn’t have to wait for a thunderclap from heaven to signal God’s answer. His response waited quietly right in front of me silencing every complaint I wanted to raise in His direction. I knew He wanted me to stop resisting Him and accept the situation He had ordained in my life. Like Job, I had to acknowledge God’s supreme power and knowledge even when things weren’t making sense according to my own wisdom.

When we’re in a place where we don’t like where God has brought us, we can break down this verse and look at a few ideas that may help us in our circumstance:

1. We will suffer for doing His will.

If we look at other translations of this verse, the wording is arranged to say not “those who suffer for doing the will of their Creator” but to say something more along the lines of “if God’s will is for you to suffer.” For instance, the New Life Version says “if God wants you to suffer” and the New Century Version says “then those who suffer as God wants.”

No matter which translation you look at, the passage highlights the idea that God’s will and suffering are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes God’s will leads straight into suffering, and it’s difficult to grapple with in those moments because we don’t always know all the whys.

However, if we look at other sections of 1 Peter, we see that suffering in doing God’s will is something we should rejoice over — not something that should derail us from our calling.

2. Despite what happens, we need to commit ourselves to Him.

I love this next section. The verse tells us what we should do in the situation where obedience doesn’t appear to be paying off: “Commit ourselves to our faithful Creator.” The temptation is to get angry, to tell God we will control things, that we will “take it from here.” But this is where trust comes in. Do we believe He loves us? Do we believe His way is perfect and He knows all things? Do we believe He is worthy of our trust?

The passage assures us that He is trustworthy. In fact, quite interestingly, Peter uses the word “faithful” to describe the One who holds us and all of our circumstances together. He is faithful not just when events are favorable in our life — but even in the midst of suffering.

3. Even when we suffer, we need to continue to do good.

Lastly, the verse urges us to continue to do good even when it doesn’t make sense, the way is hard, and we want to give up. Quite honestly, what we all want to do when our situation doesn’t pan out the way we thought it would is run in the opposite direction. But this verse urges us to “continue to do good.” And that sometimes is the hardest thing. To continue when you don’t have the results you want, you don’t know why, and it doesn’t make sense.

Friend, we have a God who knows what He is doing. When the way is unclear, and we can’t see what He is doing, the passage urges us to keep on doing what we know is right. My former senior pastor used to say, “When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.” In other words, when you have no earthly idea why circumstances are going the way they are or why He has allowed what He has in your life, you can still trust that God is good and His way is flawless.

When I survey my life, I know Him to be a faithful God. I can look back and see how he was constant through times where I was not. He has always been there for me and you, and He will continue to be faithful, or as one of my favorite worship songs says — “do it again.”

Let’s choose to trust Him even when His will leads to hardship rather than good.

Related Bible Verses:

Proverbs 16:9: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

*Updated October 30, 2017

 

 

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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What Is Preventing You From Living a Set-Apart Life?

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Tune into the Beulah Girl Podcast. Co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley explore finding identity in Christ. Episodes cover topics such as spiritual growth, relationships, emotional health, physical healing, ministry, and more. Subscribe to get each episode on Soundcloud or simply listen to the individual episode here.

Recently, my daughter was moved from her third grade class to a new class. The school had more third graders than they anticipated, so not even a few weeks into the school year, they are getting a new teacher and placing students in a new class.

This is very good news in many ways because my daughter will have a smaller learning environment, more one-on-one attention from her teacher, and less noise and chaos (as she was experiencing in her much bigger class). However, my daughter is sad about the move because she has to leave behind the comfort of her old classroom and her friends. Her best friend and the other girls she has befriended are not coming with her on the move.

The reason she was selected for the move was because of her high test scores — so while we can celebrate that her scores are so high, she is not excited because she feels like this move is a punishment.

Spiritually, sometimes we may feel like this as well. It’s exciting to be chosen by God for our specific calling — to be set apart to do His purposes, but the reality of the life we live as Christians is that we have to give up some things in order to be live a consecrated life. When we leave behind friends that we wanted to keep or lifestyle choices that we don’t really want to give up, those decisions can be painful.

However, if we choose not to let go of what God asks of us, these things we hold onto can become obstacles to following God’s will and letting ourselves be set apart for His purposes.

Consecration: A Life Set Apart

Before we continue on in our conversation, it’s important to understand what consecration is. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, consecration is “the devoting or setting apart of anything to the worship of God.” The Bible tells us that we are “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1) and the “temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17). Offering ourselves to God and living lives in His holy service is pleasing worship to him. In 1 Peter 2:9-12, we see our position as members of one body:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praise of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, abut now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

This passage informs us that as believers we are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood” (v. 9). However, this means we are “foreigners and exiles” in this world, and we have to live differently than unbelievers and “abstain from sinful desires” (v. 11). While we can’t do anything to add to Jesus’ work on the cross in terms of our salvation, living a life that pleases and honors Him is a continual choice we make.

What it Means To Live a Consecrated Life

In The Spirit-Filled Life on Biblehub.com, John MacNeil stresses that consecration involves surrender, a transfer of ownership, and enthroning Christ. All of these points are interrelated, but what he means by “surrender” is that after conversion we give God our bodies, too, not just our souls. He quotes Dr. Chalmers as saying, “In conversion, God gives to me, but in consecration I give to God.”

By “transfer of ownership” he advocates that we live our lives ever aware of the fact that we have been purchased. MacNeil cites 1 Corinthians 19, 20 as support for this idea, which says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Consecration means that we continually remember that we belong to God and that our lives no longer are ours to do with as we please.

Additionally, when MacNeil says that we need to “enthrone Christ” in our life, he rightly advocates the idea that a consecrated life involves more than just conversion. At conversion, we invite Christ in the throne room, but to sanctify ourselves (in the sense of the New Testament usage) means to set apart ourselves so we put Christ on the throne and glorify Him in all we do.

However, as I previously mentioned, obstacles exist that can stand in the way of living out a life that is set apart for God. We must identify and remove these hindrances so we can live the Christian life we were called to live.

Obstacles That Stand in the Way of a Consecrated Life

1. Unbelief.

When many people hear the word “unbelief,” they think of unbelief in God’s existence. While it can mean that, unbelief is not believing in the truths we encounter in God’s Word or the promises of God. We can be a Christian and still struggle with unbelief.

In our spiritual walk, God continually grows and refines us as we walk with Him. However, at times we will come across truths in His Word that don’t sit right with us for whatever reason. We resist them because they go against our common sense or what we were taught when were young. Or they may urge us to do something that we don’t think we want to do or think we can do. In those moments, we have a choice to take the path of belief or the path of unbelief.

The famous evangelist Billy Graham had an experience in his Christian walk where he felt unsure about some of the truths he encountered in God’s Word. In fact, another prominent Christian pastor urged him not to take everything in the Bible as truth. However, Billy Graham prayed about it and came to this conclusion: By faith, he would accept everything in the Bible as truth even when he didn’t understand.

We must do the same. If we choose to walk our own way, we choose not to walk in God’s benefits and blessings that come from our obedience. We will get stagnant in our walk. It is impossible to please God without faith, and we must determine to stake our lives on the truth of the Bible whether it always sits right with us or not.

God invites our questions. His Word says that any who need wisdom should ask (James 1:5). It’s OK to wrestle and work out things — but not to walk away from God’s truth and choose our own.

2. Ignorance.

While unbelief is coming across a truth and not accepting it, ignorance is simply not knowing the truths of God.

I am a former English teacher. I love to delve into the Bible and analyze the meanings of passages and look up commentary. The Word of God is an endless source of wisdom for me. However, even if I study every second of every day for the rest of my life, I will never know every truth there is to know. There are some things that I will still not understand. However, even though I will never know everything, I need to make it a priority to learn every day about God. I need to carve out time with Him and open myself up to His truth. The Bible says that people die for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).

God honors our feeble steps of faith. When we are young in the faith, if we make attempts to learn about God and read His Word, the Holy Spirit helps to fill in the gaps. There have been times when the Holy Spirit counseled me from within on what to do in a particular situation before I had ever read the right passages. However, we need to make sure that we are learning continually from His Word and opening ourselves to hear from Him. When we don’t know the truths of God, we won’t be able to withstand the enemy’s attack or be prepared for the circumstances that come our way.

God doesn’t expect us to know or understand everything, but the Bible is clear that the wise learn and adhere to the commands of God. Proverbs 6:20-22 tells us this:

My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake you mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around you neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.

Ignorance can prevent us from knowing how to live our lives in in a God-honoring manner. In addition, if we aren’t opening ourselves up to learn from God and hear from Him daily, this can be a major obstacle in our spiritual life.

3. Fear.

Lastly, I don’t know about you, but fear is a struggle for me. As a recovering people-pleaser, I don’t want to disappoint the people around me. I generally don’t choose actions that will make me stand out or look different because I fear the negative reactions or rejection of others. However, the Bible tells us that instead of fearing man and his reaction to us, we need to concern ourselves only with God’s view of us and instead fear God. Matthew 10:28 says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Similarly, Paul in Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Proverbs 29:25 says this: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

Rather than look at obedience as drudgery, we can view it in a different light entirely. The Bible tells us that giving ourselves to the work of God is a privilege. In Through My Eyes, by Tim Tebow, he talks about how he looks for opportunities to witness to others. In fact, he likes to be different and stand out. He defines being the same as everyone else as “average” and “mediocre.” He says this: “As I got older and heard kids talking about wanting to ‘fit in,’ or wanting to be ‘normal,’ I never quite understood why they felt that way. What’s the point of being ‘normal’? That sounds average to me, and I never felt like I was created to be average.”

I love his explanation and definition of being different. It inspires me to embrace obedience and the “peculiarity” we have as believers — viewing it as a special undertaking, not something we are forced to do out of obligation. To truly be vessels that God can use, we must not allow our fear to prevent us from stepping out and doing the will of God.

Consecration: Giving Back to God

Living a consecrated life means choosing to give back to God because of what He has done for us. Consecration means acknowledging that we belong to God, and we must allow Him to choose to do with us as He wants. However, as Rick Warren says in The Purpose-Driven Life, sometimes the “living sacrifice” likes to crawl off the altar. In other words, sometimes we don’t want to do what God would have us do.

However, in those moments we must remember that God knows what is best for our good and the good of others. He is making out of us a masterpiece to put His glory on display — and we must let Him do as He likes and trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense or He points us in a way that we don’t want to go.

Once, I had a choir director that gave me a part for a musical that I didn’t even try out for. I was getting back into music and tried out for a solo. He talked with me and selected instead a shorter duet over the background of a children’s choir. While the part wasn’t one I would have picked for myself, I realized that it was the perfect part for me. I am not sure I could have made in one piece through the longer solo as I was dealing with a lot of nerves getting back on the stage again — and the audience we had was a couple thousand. His judgment was better than mine, and he knew what was best in that situation.

Similarly, God doesn’t always pick for us the “part” we would pick for ourselves. Sometimes with our limited perspective, it’s hard to see what He’s doing or feel like His plan for us makes sense. If we surrender, however, as Charles Stanley notes in The Blessings of Brokenness, we will live a life that is much better and more fulfilling than we could have ever envisioned or orchestrated for ourselves.

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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Set Apart for God’s Special Purpose

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In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21).

Vessels are meant to be used. Vessels are empty (“What Is a Vessel?”). As vessels of God, we don’t have to worry whether we have anything to put in the cup; we only need concern ourselves with what kind of cup we will be; God will do the infilling. We have a choice in this faith of ours (“What Is a Vessel?”). We can be rich or poor. We can enter heaven “like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames,” or we can receive a warm welcome into “eternal dwellings” (1 Corinthians 3:15 NLT; Luke 16:9). We can bring great riches into our eternal account, or — as harsh as it sounds — everything we did on earth can be burned in God’s fire (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).

As emphasized by Reverend Norman Holmes in “Vessels of Honor,” we make those choices now — will we be spiritually rich, fancy vessels of gold and silver, experiencing great supernatural experiences and mind-blowing visitations, or will we be like a coffee mug of the dollar store variety? God wants us to choose the precious. As we set ourselves apart for His purposes, He will Himself make us into that vessel He can use for special purposes — not a vessel that is left on the shelf and rarely used.

Consecration: Living Set-Apart Lives for Him

The word consecrate, according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, means to “set apart.” In a slightly different sense of the word, sanctification means to set apart as different but also carries the denotation of a cleansing occurring. If God calls you to set you apart, you are going to get a bath! For this reason, the two terms have come to be almost interchangeable over the years — not to be confused with justification, the just-as-if-I-had-never-sinned word. Justified is what Jesus did for us on the cross, consecration is what do out of gratitude for the fact, and sanctification is the ongoing outworking of the cross’s cleansing.

As a sidebar, as John MacNeil points out in The Spirit-Filled Life on Biblehub.com, it’s interesting to note Jesus said that He “sanctified Himself” (John 17:19). Obviously, He didn’t have to cleanse Himself. That sense of the word sanctified or consecrated — according to Ellicott’s Commentary — is thought of as He set Himself apart for “the work which was immediately before [Jesus] — the offering [up of] Himself.” It’s a good idea to be thinking of the work before us — God wants to use us!

So, consecration means we separate ourselves to God by giving ourselves back to Him in surrender. However, as MacNeil observes, in that surrender, we have choices. Will it be a total surrender, or will we maintain veto power? Will it be complete or will we reserve the right to indulge in “small” sins like venting our anger on social media? Will we have doors in our hearts that say “Do not enter” to God? Or will we allow Him to turn the light on in every area?

The Word says, “Deep calls to deep” (Psalm 42:7). The deeper we allow God to go — “Lord, instead of venting here, I will just tell you right now I don’t like this person, but I’ll make it between You and me. You see all,” the deeper His river can flow through us to the depths of others (MacNeil).

If we seek anointing, we have to let it go deep in ourselves first. In America we can be tempted to insulate our lives from suffering as so many entertainments are available to us here that can easily placate our souls, but God invites us to suffer in our flesh by allowing it to be crucified with Him, so He can flow through us into deep places to others. Like Jesus who “poured out His soul unto death,” if we pour out our souls in such a way, we will indeed know His anointing is flowing through us (Isaiah 53:12, AKJV).

Choosing to Be a Vessel God Can Use

As we choose what type of vessel we are going to be — silver and gold, or wood or clay — we must choose to leave some things behind. Like Jeremiah, we have to “extract the precious from the worthless” (Jeremiah 15:19, NASB).

Achan, a character in the Old Testament, chose to sneakily keep some spoils of war hidden in his tent. The result was all Israel suffered from his sin at the battle of Ai, where God allowed a defeat to the enemy’s forces. It’s not clear exactly what Achan stole from Jericho when it fell, but the Hebrew renders it “devoted things.” These devoted things were that which the Lord had said were to be destroyed — devoted to destruction. Nonetheless, Achan piled up a heap of the forbidden things in his tent. It wound up costing him his life.

Have we held on to that which God has devoted to “destruction”? If we hold on to sin, we are harboring a heap of trouble in our “tent.” Sexual sin, especially, as well as pride and the fear of man are “gateway sins” that open the door to other sins. We must allow the Holy Spirit to set us apart from who we used to be and the things we used to desire before the Lord can give us that ministry He so longs to.

As we allow God to take away our old self-image, our consecration results in purification. Otherwise, instead of being a precious vessel God can use, we are not only not that, we are — along with our hidden sins — like a rusty, old tin can. Instead of honor, we will, like Achan, experience devastation in areas God had never intended. This does not mean we won’t go to heaven, but it may mean huge areas of our lives will be subject to, well, destruction (1 Corinthians 3:15). Paul says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7, NASB). Consecration and purification go hand-in-hand.

Part of separating oneself for God’s special purposes involves allowing God to bring boundaries into certain relationships, especially ones with unbelievers. Paul writes, “Therefore, come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

I remember as a new hire at a workplace when a dear friend was throwing a party — one I very much planned to attend. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit crashed into my world and said, “Don’t go.” I was shocked! Didn’t the Lord realize I had already RSVP’d — that a last-minute cancellation wouldn’t be a good “witness”? Besides, everyone who was anyone was going to attend — namely, those I perceived that could solidify my standing at work.

Though I really wanted to go, I slowly began to concede to God’s plan. Just to show you what a coward I was, I did not have the guts to tell my friend I wasn’t coming, so, I was forced to write a note and deliver it. Soon, I sensed the presence of God on my life in a new way, but first I had to “die” to expectations to be a certain way. Remember the Bible says, “They are surprised that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of wild living, and they slander you” (1 Peter 4:4, HCSB). God began to deliver me from the fear of man. I was on the path to being the special, consecrated vessel I was created to become, and I eventually enjoyed becoming the leader of a blessed Bible study there.

Useful for God’s Kingdom Work

We can fit into American culture or fit into the culture of the kingdom of God. Paul writes, “For no one can lay a foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, his workmanship will be evident, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will prove the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:11-14). This is not something to fear but to anticipate. If we’re going to do this thing, we might as well do it right, surrender, step out in faith way beyond our ability to save ourselves, let Him set us apart, and see what God might do.

We live in times that demand our greatest efforts to draw near to God’s throne as people are paralyzed with fear and anxiety; they are wrestling with eternal questions now as never before. Ironically, the nightly news that can make us despair — with ISIS attacks, the sharp political divide in America, growing racial tension, threats of international war and natural disasters — has forced the discussion of religion back into people’s minds. The harvest is ripe as never before. We must be ready for the Master’s use in such a time as this.

As Joshua said to the Israelites before crossing the Jordan, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow, the Lord will do amazing things among you” (Joshua 3:5). It’s time to allow God to do the sometimes painful, but always wonderful — work He wants to do in us. Choose wisely today to be the precious, beautiful silver and gold vessel God wants you to be, and you will not only shine brightly now, you will reap a great reward.

 *Updated from the original version September 30, 2017

Stacey Crayton

Stacey Crayton

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

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When Obedience in the Christian Life Is Hard

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As a high school English teacher, I remember my former department head telling me that after leaving teaching to become a stay-at-home mom for a few years, she cried every time she looked outside and saw the school busses come around each fall.

She missed her job as a teacher that much.

I had no idea what she meant at the time. I was a young motivated teacher with no children, and I didn’t consider that I would ever leave the field of education.

And now, into this current phase of life, I have been out of the education field for six years and have since birthed two more babies. It is very unlikely that I will ever go back. I left not only to be more present with my little ones but also to follow God’s leading.

And I can tell you, friend, sometimes the way He leads hurts.

Now, I am the one who gets a little weepy every time a new school year begins. I eye my children’s classrooms — the brightly colored bulletin boards, work bins, and neatly organized curriculum binders, and I get a little nostalgic.

Teaching is in my blood. My mom was a teacher. Several of my aunts. I lined up my stuffed animals as a child and pretended to teach them.

The truth is that leaving your old life to answer God’s call isn’t without cost. I remember my life as a teacher. How neat it all was. All the pieces wrapped up in a little bow. A paycheck. Summers off. All our debt paid. Vacations twice a year. A retirement pension.

I shudder now as I remember once callously telling a struggling single mom that I never let my bank account get under a certain amount. Wince. Double wince.

I think about that prideful statement now whenever I can’t buy shoes for my kids. On our current one-income status, my outfits the last few years have been mostly supplemented by my mom. It’s a good thing she is a gift giver and likes to send gifts! My maternity wardrobe while pregnant with my last child consisted of 9-year-old maternity dresses (when I got really big, only about five of these actually fit) that I rotated throughout my pregnancy.

In Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, Josephine, a strong-willed sister and main character, sells her long beautiful tresses of hair to fund a ticket for her mother to go to Washington to see her wounded soldier father. Her sister asks her that night why she is crying, assuming the tears are for her father. Josephine laughs and explains the real reason, saying, “My hair!”

And they both crack up over her vanity. I can relate. Sometimes my own tears are equally as vain.

However, I need only look to Scripture to see what God says about the sacrifices we make to follow Christ. Perhaps these will help you as well if you long for a simpler time in your life without the trials you are currently facing:

 “Go, sell everything you have … . Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). These are the words of Jesus to a young rich man who inquired of Jesus what he needed to do to earn eternal life. The young man had observed outward regulations of religion, but Jesus looked at him with love and said, “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). The man went away with a sad heart because he was unwilling to give up his wealth.

Jesus wasn’t really interested in the man giving up his money. He was interested in the man giving up what was closest to his heart. Essentially, we all have “wealth” — things that Jesus will ask us to surrender to follow Him. These could be relationships, jobs, material things, ideologies; Jesus wants us to give up the things we are holding onto to make room for Him.

 “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33).  Again, we have a few more lines on the same theme. Just like the rich man in the verse above, we will continually have choices as to whether or not we obey God’s voice in our life and follow His call or go our own way. Though there may be pain in the letting go, when we release what we think we want, we find real life and meaning.

 “Narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). Jesus said these words because He knew that not everyone would want their lives to be restricted by a narrow definition of right and wrong, salvation and purpose. Our world is constantly broadening the definitions of morality, marriage and family, identity, and salvation.

Why? A broad, encompassing definition of these areas makes life so much easier. It feels easier in the moment not to discipline oneself to read the Bible and follow its precepts. It feels easier not to commit to a marriage relationship over a long period of time. It feels easier to not be obedient to God’s call when there are far more alluring paths that call for our allegiance. However, the Bible is clear that those who walk the narrow path He offers will reap the benefits and avoid destruction.

I listened to a sermon this past Christmas Eve that stuck with me. It was an odd message for a Christmas Eve service, as the pastor acknowledged, because it didn’t cover the usual topics of Mary, Joseph, and the wise men. It covered Revelation 12:11, and as the pastor read the verse, one line jumped out at me: “They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” As my friend Suzy Lolley explained in in a past blog post (on an unrelated topic), the verse was a rhema word for me. Scripture came alive for me in that moment.

I had been asking God for a breakthrough in a few areas and here was a major key for me: I needed to stop loving my life more than I loved the things of God. When I hold onto my life loosely and care not what I lose in my devotion to Christ, I don’t see the things I let go of in the same way.

Around the same time I heard the Christmas Eve sermon, I read The Magnolia Story: Chip and Joanna Gaines; what struck me was Chip and Joanna’s obedience. They struggled and wrestled over God’s directives, but then they got over themselves and just did what God asked. Though they have a hit TV show, most of the homes they’ve done for others have been larger and grander than the homes they were living in at the time and the home they are living in now. They say this: They had learned to thrive even when things weren’t good.

I can’t say that my life has been without blessing. It has. But following God means letting go when He says and not holding on (even in my thoughts) to that which He has told me to release. It also means willingly following and obeying even if it makes me uncomfortable, I am afraid what people think, or I don’t like the way God is pointing.

Psalm 37:3-4 reminds us of this truth: “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 31:19 says it like this: “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.”

We don’t suffer or go through hardship just for hardship. Sure, we get refined in the process, and our trials are those He allows because they bring Him glory. But we also do so confident in the knowledge that when we walk with Him and surrender to His leading, He has good in store for us.

Those tasks we do in obedience to Him — however hard — are the same ones that birth in us joy (Psalm 126:5).

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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Overcoming Fear in Doing the Will of God

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As believers, we’re called to serve God and offer ourselves as “living sacrifices for His glory” (Romans 12:1). However, there are real obstacles that threaten us in the midst of being faithful in living out His will for us. One of the major obstacles Christians face is fear.

As I explained in a previous post, Matthew 14:28-32 gives us a good illustration of what it looks like to falter in our walk of faith. In the passage we see that Peter goes on a faith walk towards Jesus but then begins to sink when he looks at the obstacles around him — the wind and the waves — and becomes afraid. Jesus pulls him up and chastises him for his lack of faith, but Jesus does not leave him in his failure. He tells him why he was sinking, and the two are able to climb back in the boat together and get to their destination.

However, Peter had to get past his very real unbelief and fear he felt in the moment, and Jesus addresses it. Similarly, many of us are desiring to be obedient to God, but we are dealing with crushing fear or another obstacle. How do we get past our fear when we are attempting to follow the will of God?

Not too long ago, I asked God this very question as I had been dealing with my own fear. Sometimes God answers me right away, and other times He waits for a season to respond. This time His answer came just a day or so after I had posed the query. I was looking for a calendar in a desk drawer, and a sheet of notes I had taken on Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life caught my eye. I’ve read this book from cover to cover on a few different occasions, but I have no recollection of taking these notes and can’t remember why I wrote down these ideas.

However, when I glanced over the scribbled words, God gave me an answer. Yet, as He often does, God didn’t respond in the way I thought He would. He gave me an entirely different response that I want to share with you.

Lessons from Rick Warren that we can apply to overcome our fear:

1. We have to understand what it means to rely on God and operate in His power.

While we may think of relying on God as a passive endeavor — one where we do absolutely nothing and He does everything — that is not the case. As Warren stresses, reliance on God doesn’t mean we don’t do anything. Trust in God means that we are co-workers with God. A few of the ideas I jotted down from Warren’s book:

  • Christ-likeness is not produced by imitation, but by inhabitation. We allow Christ to live through us.
  • We choose to do the right thing and trust God’s Spirit to give us His power, love, faith, and wisdom to do that.
  • The Holy Spirit releases His power the moment you take a step of faith.
  • Obedience unlocks God’s power.
  • God wants you to act first — move ahead in your weakness, doing the right thing in spite of your fears. That’s how you cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
  • Effort has nothing to do with your salvation, but it has much to do with your spiritual growth. At least eight times in the New Testament we are told to “make every effort” in our growth toward becoming like Jesus.

We need to pause for just a minute and let these wise words sink in. When we follow in God’s way, we won’t necessarily feel an absence of fear. However, God’s power meets us when we act in obedience. Psalm 63:8 says, “I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” The King James 2000 Bible version says, “My soul follows hard after you: your right hand upholds me.” Some of us are waiting to not feel fear before we act or waiting for our feelings to line up with what God would have us to do. However, it is in taking the steps ordained for us by God that we are met by the Holy Spirit’s power.

Similarly, another place in Scripture where this concept of walking in trust and God’s power is illustrated is John 6:28, 29. In this passage, a crowd asks Jesus what they should do to do the work of God. Jesus responds by saying, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (v. 29). The word “believe” that is used can be translated in the Greek as “pisteuó,” which means to “believe, entrust.” According to Helps Word-Studies, this means “not only to be persuaded of something, but means to be persuaded by the Lord: it is belief that leads to/proceeds from God’s inbirthing of faith.”

The word “pisteuó” is a verb. So, not only does it mean what we believe in our thoughts — it refers to a giving up of oneself to God. This kind of entrusting leads to action in our lives as we follow His lead. According to the Encyclopedia of the Bible, faith is “that which responds to and is sustained by God’s faithfulness.”

A few years ago, I went through a hard season where God had me go back to my previous place of employment. He was walking me through healing from an addiction to others’ approval, and one of the hard tasks He had me do in walking out of my people-pleasing behavior was do the thing I fear the most: face people and reveal the ways that I had fallen short.

I had been a former high school teacher, and I had spent years cultivating the worship of my students. As a young teacher, I was flirtatious and had a male fan club in every class. Though my actions were not those that constituted an inappropriate relationship or illegal activity, I knew that I had not been a Christian role model for my students. God nudged me to make some hard contacts with my former classes and administration and apologize for not being a Godly role model and state that I was making a turn in my Christian walk.

This was difficult for me in many ways. You might think that I had great courage that enabled me to do this, but that isn’t the case. I knew I had no choice. I was terribly afraid, and it was not an easy task. I knew that that was the way God was pointing and for me to continue to walk with Him, I was going to have to obey Him. I did those actions in fear — but God enabled me in the process as I did what He asked, and He gave me grace as I was speaking to people.

2. Spiritual transformation is a process.

Saying spiritual growth doesn’t happen instantly is not a cop-out. Certainly, it says nowhere in the Bible that we should sin because it really does not matter. In fact, the Bible tells us the opposite. It tells us that if we know the right thing to do and don’t do it, for us it is sin (James 4:17). However, we need to know that spiritual maturity is a process that does take time. God gives us opportunities to learn and grow and become more like Him.

Warren emphasizes that God uses His Word, people, and circumstances to shape us. Therefore, our transformation away from fearfulness to courage — the kind Christ had — is not automatic. It will be gradual. In fact, God puts us in particular situations so that we can practice Christlikeness (Warren).

If we are having an issue with fear, He is going to put us in circumstances where we can practice breaking through this barrier to do His will. We may literally be shaking as we type up the email to send, tell our testimony to someone, or step away from a safe comfort zone (perhaps a stable job or living situation) to answer God’s call on our life. However, as we encounter more and more situations like this, we will become less fearful and more like Christ.

Salvation is worked out in each of our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit. In other words, God is always working in us to know and do His will (Philippians 2:12, 13). Warren explains a few things about this:

  • There are two parts to spiritual growth: work out and work in.
  • “Work out” is your responsibility. You don’t work for your salvation because you can’t add anything to Jesus’ work. You work out to develop the body, not get the body. We should make every effort to grow spiritually.
  • “Work in” is God’s role — as we make efforts to grow spiritually, God makes us more like His Son.

Again, we have here the idea, just as we discussed in the previous point, that overcoming our fear is a collaborative effort with God. It doesn’t happen right away. Whatever obstacles are hindering us from answering His call are those that we can overcome with His help when we believe that His power is enough. But He gives us lots of opportunities to work on making gains against whatever is holding us back.

Conclusion:

Fear will often prevent us from doing what we know to do in the moment of following God. However, we are not left alone in our fear. God promises us in His Word that when we step out in obedience into what feels like thin air, we will feel a solid rock under our feet. He will uphold those who put their trust in Him and follow Him when it feels hard, it feels scary, and we don’t know what to do.

The more we adopt this philosophy of believing that God will meet us in our weakness and stepping out even when our own strength is small, the more victory we will have in breaking past the obstacles that prevent us from being obedient and following Him. This isn’t a willpower thing — this is “I can do all things through Christ” kind of thing (Philippians 4:13).

Let’s pray: Dear God, help us in those times when we want to follow you but are afraid. Help us believe in your promises in the Bible and trust in Your power that You have made available to us as Christ followers. Forgive us for the times we have fallen short of Your perfect will. Help us be more bold in the future as we follow You. Amen.

How about you? Do you struggle with fear? Share with us in the comments!

Carol Whitaker

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

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Having the Faith to Get Through Your Storm

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Hey friends! Tune in for our first podcast episode: Faith in Storms. Suzy Lolley and I talk about how to have real faith when you are faced with trials and fear that threaten to knock you off course.

Some people in the Bible inspire me, but also intimidate me a little. I think, Why can’t I have the boldness of Paul when he instructed the sailors to abandon the ship in the storm, witnessed to the Roman guard, or killed the serpent? Certainly, in looking at other people like Daniel who prayed faithfully three times a day and did not forsake God even while serving a pagan ruler or Esther who risked her life for her own people, I feel small in comparison.

However, Peter is a person I can relate to. He often said the wrong thing or messed up in a big way, and yet, Jesus loved him. In looking at the story of Peter walking on water, we can find encouragement for those times when our faith feels small and our obstacles big. When we want to follow hard after Jesus, but we feel overwhelmed and pulled under by the trials we face.

In Matthew 14:28-32 (NLT), Peter sees the Lord walking on the water and asks to come out to Him. Jesus consents, and Peter leaves the boat to walk on the water towards Jesus:

Then Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you walking on the water.’ ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save Me, Lord!’ he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said. ‘Why did you doubt me?’

Peters starts out with such courage, “presumption” even, according to Matthew Henry. You have to love Peter. He is the first one to step out of the boat after Jesus, and he is completely un-phased at first by the elements of the storm. He simply wants to be near Jesus.

And we are often the same way. When we ask Jesus what we can do for Him, He calls us to a specific service for Him. We embrace the task with excitement and joy. It may be frightening to leave behind the safe boat we were once in, but we can’t wait to get over the side of the boat and onto the waves. We may feel courage in our quest, “presumption” even. However, we quickly learn that walking on top of the waves is no easy feat. While Jesus makes water-walking look easy — gliding on top of life’s situations with calm and complete control — Peter realizes quickly that the work of following Jesus is no cake walk. Before he knows it, he begins to get fearful and starts to sink.

All of Peter’s bluster and fortitude evaporate rather quickly. And it runs out because he takes his eyes off of his Savior and fixes them on the waves, the wind, and the precariousness of his circumstances. However, when he calls out for Jesus’ rescue, Jesus immediately comes to his aid and pulls him up.

Jesus isn’t rattled or put out by Peter’s unbelief. He chides him and says, “You have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?” (v. 31). However, He does so to seize the moment to teach Peter, not demean him. Also, we see that Jesus doesn’t cast Peter out of His presence. Jesus doesn’t tell Peter his failures prevent him from being in relationship with him.

What we can learn from this exchange:

We need the supernatural power of God to do His work.

Many of us know, in theory, that we need to depend on God to complete His work, but it is only in stepping out that we realize that to do what He has called us to do is a supernatural “water-walking” endeavor. We can’t achieve it in our own strength. We need Jesus to enable us to rise above our treacherous circumstances to walk as Jesus did above the fray.

Not too long ago, I read a Proverbs 31 Ministries devotional written by Tracie Miles where she gives a story about an obstacle course she went to with her daughter. When she climbed up to begin the course, she looked down and chickened out. Her daughter swung across the ropes with ease — and yet, Tracie couldn’t get over her fear. That is the way with our walks with God. He keeps taking us deeper and deeper until we are positioned in a place where we have to be completely dependent on Him.

We look at the ropes and the ground below (or in the case of Peter, the wind and the waves), and we panic. We’re in way beyond our comfort level — and that’s how He wants it to be. He wants us in a place where we have to rely on Him, but it is not comfortable for us. We want to climb down where the heights aren’t quite so dizzying. However, it’s when we walk in trust that He enables us to have the power to do His work.

As Psalm 63:8 says, those who cling to God are held up by God (Henry). When we seek the more convenient path that isn’t the way He would have for us or doubt that God has the power to help us overcome the obstacles we face, we start to sink. It is only through His power that we are able to walk on top of life’s situations and make it through the difficulties that will come our way.

Jesus helps us in our failures.

In moments of unbelief or fear, we tend to beat ourselves up, to assume that maybe Jesus doesn’t want us anymore. But Jesus reaches out to Peter in His failure in response to Peter’s cry. Sure, Jesus chides Peter, but Jesus does not stop loving Peter or stop wanting Peter as a follower because of Peter’s mistakes. Similarly, even when we try to do it all right, we won’t be perfect like Jesus. We’ll sometimes say the unkind word, walk past a person who needs help, or deny Christ in our life with our actions. Those moments are opportunities for us to return to Jesus, confess, and allow Him to rescue us.

If you use a GPS, you know that when you get off course the GPS will calculate a new route to get you back to where you need to be going. That is the way with God. We stray. We’re a little unfaithful here, we mess up there, and He gets us back on track. We may have delays in our journey. We may not get there as fast as we want to, but He doesn’t leave us and reject us when we’re attempting to follow Him and come up short.

Recently, I have been walking through a situation where I need God to come through for me, but I feel He hasn’t. There have been times in the past where He has performed miracles and rescued me. I know He is able. I don’t doubt His existence or capability, but I have been experiencing severe doubts in this situation because there are so many impossibilities. There has been strain on relationships and finances and my health. I’m having trouble believing God is going to help me in the way I need. I went to church one Sunday in a not-so-great state of mind, as I was struggling with negative thoughts.

My daughter had had a virus all week where she broke out in spots. We had had numerous commitments and events for the kids’ school on top of that which left me exhausted. When we walked in the doors, my son told me his stomach was hurting. So, I took my other two to class and decided my son needed to sit with me. However, I didn’t want to bring him into the service because I feared he might throw up. Therefore, I sat out in the foyer with him and watched the broadcast of the service on a screen.

Sitting there with my son in my arms — far away from the “real action” — God’s presence began to rest on me when I closed my eyes. I started shaking because I was so bone-weary and dry, and I needed His strength and His help. Not surprisingly, the pastor began to preach on doubt — and how we can believe even when we don’t know how God could possibly come through for us. That is faith.

I left the service so renewed. My son’s stomach still hurt and none of my circumstances had changed, but I knew that it was going to be OK. We stopped by my health teacher husband’s classroom after the service. As we were sitting in the classroom talking while the kids were running around, my husband turned on some worship music. He “just happened” to play a song by Third Day called “Mountain of God.” It’s an older song, but the lyrics say, “Thought that I was all alone / Broken and afraid / But You were there with me / Yes, you were there with me.”

Tears came to my eyes because here God was reassuring me a second time, as he was in the sermon, “Have faith. Don’t doubt. I am with you. You’re on the right path.”

Conclusion:

We will fail at times in our walk with Christ. We won’t do it perfectly, and we will be tempted to fall away when our faith feels small. However, we would do well to be like Peter and call out to Jesus when we are sinking — knowing that Jesus will save us from our troubles.

As Henry emphasizes, our remedy in times of trial is to re-establish our hope in God. The Bible tells us that faith is believing despite what the circumstances look like. In fact, as Henry includes in his commentary, Romans 4:18-25 (MSG) gives us a picture of what it’s like to hope in the midst of difficulty:

Abraham was first named ‘father’ and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, ‘You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!’

Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, ‘It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.’ Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, ‘Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.’ But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.

Peter, although imperfect, can still be commended because he stepped out of the boat. He endeavored to go on a walk of faith towards Jesus. While it is true that he slipped up and started to go under, Jesus wasn’t taken aback by this. He wasn’t surprised by it. He still bid Peter come.

Many of us don’t want to get out of the boat because we know we can’t make the walk perfectly. We are afraid to fail. We are afraid of the storm. But Jesus knows our weaknesses. He still wants to use us. He wants us to advance towards Him.

*Updated November 4, 2017.

Carol Whitaker

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

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

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

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

Building Identity on the Foundation of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emptying Yourself to Be Filled With Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Useful for God’s Purposes

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

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

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

Stacey Crayton

Stacey Crayton

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

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Does God Love Me When I Fail?

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I am the mom of an active 1-year-old girl. In the past few months, she has mastered the art of crawling and is now working on taking her first steps. Her journey to mobility has included lots of spills and falls. This bright, determined girl believes she is more capable than she truly is. She sets out to crawl up the stairs, maneuver under our wrought iron breakfast table (can you say “Ouch”?), or wedge herself behind the computer desk in the middle of a mess of electrical cords. However, her skill level doesn’t always match her courage level.

Mama has to hover close by to pull her off of the stairs, extract her from beneath the table, and grab her from behind the computer desk. But falls, bumps, and bruises are part of her learning process. There will be a day when she will run up and down the steps with ease, sit down at the breakfast table, and take steps without the aid of my hand. If she were to decide not to try anymore after falling down, she would never start walking. Her failures along the way don’t define her. They are part of her learning.

In our spiritual walk, as we follow Jesus and model ourselves after Him, we will fail at times. The temptation in those moments is to get exasperated and give up on ourselves, but we need to turn to Jesus in those situations and allow Him to help us up. More often than not, we stew in our inadequacy, try to get ourselves out of our mess, and get down on ourselves for our lack. We need to turn to Him for a rescue so that we can keep going.

Peter was a disciple who knew a lot about failure. He was always saying the wrong thing or “putting the cart before the horse,” so to speak. He had plenty of boisterous courage and desire to follow Jesus, but he didn’t always say what he should or act with wisdom in every circumstance. And yet, Jesus never rejected Peter for his failure. Jesus still wanted Peter as a disciple when Peter said the wrong words, misunderstood Jesus, or acted impulsively in ways that hurt the kingdom.

In Matthew 14:30-33, we have such a place where Peter wanted to do something for Jesus, yet his execution wasn’t as great as his will in the moment. Jesus had come to the disciples, walking on the water in the midst of a storm, and Peter asked to walk out to Him. Let’s take a look at the passage:

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Three observations we can make:

1. Jesus reaches for Peter in his failure.

What we need to observe in the passage is that Jesus extends his hand out to Peter when he fails and pulls him up. For those of us who have been in the church awhile, we know how we should act and what the Bible says. Therefore, when we don’t live up to the Bible’s standards or fail in some way, we feel ashamed and convicted. We may think our perfect performance is what makes us acceptable to God. However, the Bible is clear that God loves us when we succeed and when we fail. His love for us isn’t based on what we do; it’s based on what He did for us. God loved us before we became believers. He loves sinners and believers!

Obviously, here, Jesus isn’t pleased by Peter’s lack of faith. Similarly, God isn’t pleased with us when we don’t trust what He says or act in obedience. However, the works we do when walking in His will come out a response to His love for us (John 14:15), not for fear that He will take His love away (1 John 4:18). Jesus’ sacrifice is what makes us acceptable to God. If we have put our faith in Jesus Christ, we have the benefit of this justification before God. Our works don’t earn us this justification, but rather, our works are performed out of gratitude for what He has done for us. And, there are definite blessings and benefits that come from choosing to surrender to Him.

2. God loves us enough to correct us.

Secondly, when Jesus chides Peter, it’s not because He doesn’t love Him. Rather, it’s because He loves Him too much not to correct him. I have a particular strong-willed child that throws spectacular tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. I love this child too much to give in to him when he screams and cries and throws toys. I know if I do he’ll grow up to be a person no one wants to be around.

Similarly, the Bible tells us that God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6). His correction is for our benefit and good, though painful in the moment (Hebrews 12:11). Jesus’ correction of Peter is such that it helps him know what he is doing wrong so he can stop sinking. We should note that right after Jesus’ rebuke, Jesus gets into the boat with Peter. Obviously, Jesus had no intention of leaving Peter in his failure, and He has no intention of leaving us there either. He’ll tell us what we need to do to get on track, and help calm whatever fears are causing us to lose faith.

3. Peter’s failure doesn’t diminish God’s sovereignty.

We need to also observe the response of the disciples when Jesus came into the boat. They worship him, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God” (v. 32). Perhaps other discussion came about between the disciples and Jesus that isn’t recorded here, but we should note that Jesus is still sovereign in the situation despite Peter’s actions. Often, when we fail, we may feel that our failure is such that we can no longer be useful in the kingdom. But God can use even our mistakes for His good and glory. We shouldn’t take advantage of God’s grace by doing whatever we want, but we need to know that God can turn our poor choices around so they ultimately become part of His purposes (Romans 8:28). Jesus’ power is evident when Peter walks towards him on the waves, but is also evident when He rescues Peter from sinking in full view of the other disciples.

What Can We Do When We Fail?

Recently, I heard a sermon on Matthew 5:13-16, which talks about believers being “salt and the light.” The pastor emphasized that as believers we often let our sin pollute our witness. He held up two salt shakers to further illustrate his point. One salt shaker had dirt mixed in with the salt. The other was filled up with pure salt. He said that when we get polluted by sin, we simply need to repent and let God make our shaker pure again. In essence, we can get up again. Oftentimes, we feel ashamed and want to hide our failures. We think Jesus can’t use us anymore or think we will never be as spiritual as other Christians we know.

The truth is that Jesus wants us even when we fail. He knew we would not be perfect as His followers. He won’t gloss over our sin or pretend like it doesn’t exist. He’ll address our failure, and there may be earthly consequences for our actions, but He’ll walk us through those. We can come to Him in our weakness, and He fills in our gaps. We are righteous not because we try hard or do everything perfect. We are righteous because of His work on the cross.

A favorite verse of mine says this: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Are we walking like that today or walking under a heavy burden of condemnation? Let’s go to Jesus today, confess any sin we might have, and take His much lighter burden in exchange for our heavier one.

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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