So I can’t get past the life changing message in 2 Chronicles 20 (Who would have ever guessed there was such awesome stuff in Chronicles? Who even knows where Chronicles is in the Scriptures?).
Let’s Get Caught Up
To get caught up with this blog, read Juggling. Here’s a quick recap: We know that King Jehoshaphat is up against an army he cannot defeat. He cries out to God and says: “We are powerless against this great horde…we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
God responds: “The battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.” Wow. I can’t get over God’s answer. He says in essence, “You can’t do it. You will fail. Watch me do my thing.”
God wanted to show off to His people. He knew that they could not do anything on their own; only He is self-sufficient. He wanted to prove this to them. So what were they to do during the battle if they weren’t going to fight?
2 Chronicles 20:21: “And Jehoshaphat appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise Him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for His steadfast love endures forever.”
The army simply praised God! And God blessed them…He “gave rest all around”.
I love this story because it proves what I know intellectually, but need to be reminded of emotionally. I can do nothing. I am simply a branch. Do you remember in John 15 in the Scriptures when Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches”? Have you ever wondered what that actually meant?
It means realizing that the vine gives the nutrients. The vine causes the growth. The vine protects, sustains, and fortifies. I simply get to know who Jesus is and then let him come in and do all of the work. The more I get to know him, the more like him I become. I just am because I am a part of the Almighty I Am.
Who Am I?
I’ve said this before, but some of you don’t know who you are because you don’t know who Jesus is. Wait, what? You are trying to find your identity in anything and everything because you are too afraid to slow down and really ask the questions: Does Jesus love me? Does he accept me? The answer is a resounding YES! But some of you have been taught a Jesus that doesn’t exist. You’ve been taught a Jesus arrogant Christians made up to control you. It’s time to stop running from him and figure out who he actually is.
A great place to start is in the Gospels. When I was deconstructing my faith, I started reading in the Gospels. My views and relationship with Jesus were transformed as I read how he interacted with people and loved them unconditionally.
What Happened Next?
And would you know, I started slowing down. Saying no. Leaning into my identity as someone who is loved and accepted by Jesus and so no longer needed to prove herself. I started getting healthy in counselling and loving people with no strings attached. I started being thankful and praising Jesus for the good things in my life that I was finally able to slow down and enjoy. It was not overnight, but gosh was it life-changing.
So what about you? Are you brave enough to come to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Scriptures) and see who Jesus actually is?
Have you ever read the book Grace Walk by Steve McVey? It’s one of my faves. Just read this statement from the book: “A grace perspective lets us see the commands [in Scripture] not as obligations, but as opportunities for the life of Christ to be revealed through us…Set free by grace, we don’t face the commandments with self-condemnation, but with spiritual anticipation that Jesus Christ will reveal His life in us.” McVey goes on to say that when Jesus was asked by a religious leader (I never stopped to think about that…a religious leader, who wanted to make sure he did everything right, was the one who asked Jesus) what the greatest commandment was (or what his main focus should be in order to be “successful”), Jesus answered with Mark 12:30-31. Jesus didn’t say to “be holy as I am holy” or “to read and meditate on Scripture day and night”. No, He said to fall more in love with Him and love others well.
The Bible’s Role
McVey goes on to discuss the role of the Bible in our everyday lives. He said we are taught that the way to live right by God is to read and memorize Scripture. However, he said as a young man, Scripture alone was not enough to empower him to say no to harmful things. He would memorize, recite, and carry around verse cards to no avail. He explains, “The Bible is a weapon against the powers of darkness. However, it isn’t possible to recite verses to the devil and expect him to run in fear…As you abide in Christ moment by moment, your love for Him will enable you to resist temptation by the power of His life within you.”
I started thinking through Scripture…and I thought of James 4. James explains that the way to resist the enemy is to “draw near to God”. James doesn’t say anything about reading and memorizing Scripture. He writes about pursuing an intimate relationship with Jesus. Satan is intimidated by intimacy with Jesus because Jesus is the only person he can’t beat. Don’t forget…Satan can quote Scripture. He used Scripture in Matthew 4 to get Jesus to worship him. Interesting. It isn’t Scripture that will overpower the enemy – it’s Jesus’s actual power.
Secondly, I thought of 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 where Paul is writing about the “messenger of Satan” sent to torment him. He didn’t get rid of the affliction through Scripture memorization or recitation. Just like I didn’t get healthy from reading the Scriptures. Jesus didn’t even tell Paul to handle the situation that way. What is the answer? God’s grace. Intimacy with Jesus. Wow.
I Can’t Read Enough.
I am just marinating in that right now because it is blowing up everything I have held to for a while. The way I deal with my struggles and failures is not by “doing” anything. I can’t memorize enough, read enough, serve enough, or say no enough. If I could, that would fly in the face of the Gospel. Why? Because “doing” something means I am relying on myself, not on Jesus.
Scripture was used as such a weapon in my life for so many years. When I started getting healthy and deconstructing who Jesus actually was and what He actually says, I pulled away from the Scriptures for a season. Now – lets take a pause here because some of you may be freaking out a bit. Let me explain…
I had grown up in an environment where acceptance and approval was confused. I was accepted when people approved of my behavior. Because this was my experience with humans, I figured that’s how Jesus interacted with me. When I’d do my morning “quiet time” as a student and young adult, I would spend about 20 minutes agonizing in detailed confession. Then I would spend 5-10 minutes reading the Scriptures – looking for ways I had failed and how Jesus needed to “fix” me. My relationship with Jesus was built on condemnation and guilt. And this is not the Jesus of the Scriptures.
Is the Bible Safe?
So for the past ten years, I have had to rediscover safety in the Scriptures. The Bible shouldn’t be a weapon used to beat me up and tear me down. It’s a tool I can use to find out more about Jesus. But I’ve had to go slow and take my time in this process. First, I have learned how to have an intimate relationship with Jesus outside of the Scriptures. As a result, I’ve learned to pray more regularly – I have random convos with Jesus now all of the time. I connect with him when I’m outside, or listening to worship music, or reading a good book. My relationship and intimacy with him has expanded as I’ve taken a break from the Scriptures and I’m so grateful!
I am learning to come to Jesus in honest surrender, instead of doing more Bible studies and projects for healing, I am praying prayers like, “Jesus, I am getting defeated time and time again. I am struggling. I want You, but in all honesty, I want this “thing” too. You live inside of me. You deal with it. I am trusting You for victory.”
Hear me: I am not saying the Scriptures are evil and should be avoided. What I am saying is that some of you shouldn’t fear taking a break from something that may be putting a choke hold around your neck and seek to find Jesus in other ways as well. Here’s the safe guard: I took my break from the Scriptures in community, counselling, and while still attending a solid church. I did not do this in isolation. That would be dangerous (see Proverbs 18:1 in the ESV).
Jesus is Safe.
I just want you to know that if your relationship with Jesus was wounded or stalled due to some misguided practice of acceptance and approval, you can relearn Who Jesus is and how He operates, it will just take time. For a while, the only books in the Scriptures I’d read were the Gospels. The Gospels are basically biographies or memoirs of Jesus. Rediscovering who he is and how he operates helps me exhale and feel safe with him again.
One more thing – the Jesus some of you walked away from isn’t even Jesus. You walked away from a Jesus arrogant Christians made up. Why not try coming back for a minute and seeing Who he actually is?
We all get wounded. The question is are we living wounded or living with our wounds?
If you are living wounded, then you may…
- Walk around as a victim.
- Refuse to release the pain.
- Struggle to surrender.
- Hold grudges.
- Allow every negative circumstance to remind you of previous negative circumstances.
- Battle depression.
- Pull away from friends and family.
- Be bitter.
- Live paranoid.
- Be angry.
I’m not saying this is an end-all-be-all list for people who are walking around nursing their wounds. In fact, if you can think of other tell-tale signs that someone is living wounded, add them to the comments!
What’s interesting is that we are often blind to the fact that we are nursing our wounds. In fact, we may even think we are doing what we need to care for our wounds. Self-medication does work…for a while. Eventually, those things you are using to numb the pain will not work anymore. And then you will have a choice: Do you continue down the self-destructive path you are on, or do you decide to get help? The hard truth is that some of you cannot make progress in your healing because you are afraid to entrust your wound to someone else.
Jesus Christ didn’t just come to save us from our sins, but also to heal us from our wounds.
Think about it: A daughter is in an accident, rushed to the emergency room, rescued into stable condition, and ushered into the ICU. The father arrives and decides that Urgent Care treatment is all he is willing to pay for. She will therefore spend the rest of her life in the ICU. Sound realistic? Nope. So why do we think our Heavenly Father will do the same and maybe even worse with us? Yes, He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. We are in “stable condition” if we accept Jesus as our Savior. However, Jesus also came to give abundant life (John 10:10). Unfortunately, Satan is the Father of all lies and he seeks to utterly destroy us (John 8:44, 1 Peter 5:8). He convinces us that we can take care of ourselves, that there’s nothing more to be done, and that we have to live wounded.
But you see, there is a difference between living wounded and living with our wounds.
Here is another illustration: If you were to severely cut your arm, you would have a bloody mess on your hands (pun not intended…but it’s awesome). You would have to spend weeks cleaning and caring for your wound. Ultimately, it would heal and leave a small scar hardly anyone would notice. Since you took the time to clean and mend the cut, it no longer causes pain. The only way anyone would know about the wound is if you felt lead to show and tell.
The same thing occurs with our emotional wounds. When we are initially hurt emotionally, we are bleeding everywhere. We have to go through intense treatment. Once we have healed, we have the scar, but not the intense pain. We learn to live and are able to interact again healthily.
It takes time and hard work to heal.
The healing process is made up of both discovery and application.
- Discovery: Discovering your triggers…what causes the wound to flair and be painful. Some of you have certain M.O. reactions that you just consider “part of your personality” now. You’ve never taken the time to discover what your body believes are threats to your wound. And so it goes into “fight or flight” mode to protect you. However, these responses are not healthy to you or your relationships and you need to pay attention to when, where, and why they are happening so you can determine what caused them.
- Application: Once you discover what your triggers are, you can begin to apply healthy response techniques to those triggers. You can rewire your brain to stop interpreting certain situations as dangerous. You can teach your body to live and interact peacefully with your surroundings. But it does take time, patience, and practice.
I named my podcast Scar Stories because when we do the hard work of healing, our scars become our stories. We get to use our stories to redeem and rescue those who feel just as alone, forgotten, embarrassed, discouraged, and hopeless as we once did. This is your battle wound that God will use to heal others when you are ready. Don’t let anyone take advantage of your scar or use your scar. Don’t let anyone silence your voice. You need to own it because the world needs it.
Full disclosure: I wrote this blog sitting in car line (the longest line you will ever sit in – where your soul dies). I came home and read it to my husband, Bryant, and then he read me his message for that week (surprise – he’s a pastor) and gosh were we so in sync. So, after you read this, I’d encourage you to listen to this podcast.
But without further ado, here is my car line blog.
We are afraid of our own brokenness.
Admitting we are broken would be to admit that we have a past that we don’t know what to do with. What do we do about all of those things we regret? All those seasons and situations and circumstances that we wish with all of our might we could go back and change – for ourselves, for our marriages, for our families, for our relationships.
We already know the answer and that’s what scares us to death: We will be able to do absolutely nothing.
We cannot change the past. We can only own the past. And gosh almighty that is so painful. Embracing the fact that there are things we could have done differently and therefore our life wouldn’t look like it does now is nothing short of daunting. This is why we tend to rewrite history. It’s the best form of self-defense. Your brain cannot face the fact that certain relationships, seasons, opportunities are lost or broken because of your choices. Living with that grief is too overwhelming. So we lie to ourselves and others, not out of spite, malice, or ill-will, but out of self-protection. Our pride becomes our saving grace and that leaves no room for God’s grace.
Here’s what I think we all too often forget…
If we don’t deal with our pasts and failures, then we will live enslaved to them. That kind of bondage looks like living with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, anger, a lack of empathy, an obsession with control, ignorance, manipulation, rejection, passive aggressiveness, arrogance, and abandonment.
That sounds like an awful way to live.
So you have a choice: You can decide not to deal with your past and remain enslaved to it…or you can go back, with the help of a therapist/counselor, and do the hard work of getting healthy.
Yes, it will be grueling at first. But you will be guided by someone who’s been trained to take you where you need to go and not to leave you there. If you choose not to do this, you will constantly sabotage the relationships that are most important to you…not to mention your own life.
Once you’ve dealt with your past, you may still have some pain, regret, and emotion around certain people, situations and circumstances. But you won’t be controlled by those triggers. You will live free and be able to embrace a healthy future with a healthy you fostering healthy relationships.
So the choice is yours. But so many people’s well-beings depends on your choice.
Your partner, your kids, your parents, your friends…YOURSELF.
Jesus wants you to escape from the prison that is your past. He will guide you and He will never leave you. He wants to give you a hope and a future. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. You have to do what only you can do and then trust God for what only He can do – and that’s wash grace, forgiveness, and love over your past so you don’t have to live any more of your life behind it’s bars.
So go ahead. Call that friend. Attend that community group. Make that appointment. The future you is begging the current you to take the steps you need to get healthy.
See you on the other side.️
Speaking out about your anxiety, depression, or other mental illness is frightening. It’s humiliating. We don’t want to look weak. Or weird. Or crazy. People will look at us funny. Think we are nuts. Put us in a mental hospital. Think we are broken. But aren’t we? Aren’t we all broken? Isn’t that why Jesus Christ died on the cross – because we are so messed up we don’t even know how messed up we are (Jeremiah 17:9)? Ya’ll – It’s time we got a grip. The very thing that keeps people from accepting Jesus as their Savior is keeping you from getting the healing you desperately need: Pride. Admitting you need help. You don’t have it all together.
And maybe you can readily admit: “I don’t have it all together.” But what about that insecurity that is crippling you? What about that exhaustion that won’t go away no matter how much you sleep? What about that sadness that keeps creeping in for no reason? What about your thoughts that you can’t quiet down? What about the fear that keeps you awake at night? What about the incessant control you demand to have? What about the people you are sucking dry because of your identity issues? What about your need for perfection that is debilitating you? What about it? Why can’t you face it? Why can’t you speak out about it?
We have to fight. Listen to me, I’m pleading with you. This isn’t going away. It’s just not. And it’s going to strain your marriage, damage your kids, mess with your job, and leave you lonely. It will eat you alive. I promise I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer here. But we can’t keep thinking these things will deal with themselves. That’s what Satan wants you to believe. But you have to realize he is out to destroy you.
When we give in, we give up the abundant life God promises those who trust Him. We can’t keep giving in to our anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. We have to stand up. That’s where true courage lies: With those who say, “Enough! I am going to stop the cycle. I am going to fight for my spouse, my kids, my job, my friends. I am going to fight so I can be a testament to the grace of Jesus. The power of Jesus. If He can heal me, He can heal you.”
I speak openly about my anxiety, depression, and personality disorder because I want people to know that it isn’t an easy fight, but oh so worth it!!! When I was diagnosed with these mental illnesses several years ago, I was so discouraged. But then my counselor helped me to see how strong Jesus’s grace was in me. He had preserved me from some terrible decisions that could have destroyed my life. And while I battled with suicidal thoughts and nearly dissolved my marriage, God’s unconditional love and forgiveness chased me down until I couldn’t fight Him anymore and I finally surrendered. I surrendered to His love: The Love I was so desperate to feel. He met me face down in the dark. Alone. Scared. Hurting. Desperate. And that’s when Grace took over. It was a long road. And sometimes still is. But I wouldn’t trade the healing I’ve received from the hand of God for anything.
Why are you living this way? Why so trapped? Why so scared? Break. Free. Your future isn’t worth your pride. Jesus wants to heal you, but you have to stop fighting Him. So step out in faith. I promise you the freedom you will receive will be worth more than the momentary humiliation you may feel.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:1
Just a season. This too shall pass.
I am going to tell you, some days I cling to those seven powerful words, don’t you? Some seasons in our lives just suck. There’s no other way to put it.
- You are struggling with grades, friends, identity, you name it – in high school. Yeah. Those four years are rough. Awful sometimes. It’s a season. Hang in there. I promise, the best is yet to come. Dig your roots down deep in your youth group. If you don’t have one, find one. Probably some of the most influential people in my life were my mentors in high school. They don’t know it, but I think of them often and remember that during that time, they were my lifelines.
- You are 21 and still single. Seems like a lifetime, doesn’t it? Been there. In fact, I was 23 when I met Bryant (or 24…I can’t remember and I am terrible at simple math). When I graduated from college, I had only had one official boyfriend (a few “going steadies” in between) and most of my friends were already married with a child and number two on the way. No lie. I felt like the Apostle Paul: I had the gift of celibacy. When I moved to Florida, I was so lonely at times. I second guessed my personality, looks, you name it. And what’s funny? I was only 23. If you are in this boat, I am not patronizing you. I get it. But it’s a season. Just a season. Fill your single years with as much as you can. Start pursuing your dreams. Take a chance. I moved down to Florida from New York and took a job at a respectable school when I was only 22 and after a pretty severe breakup. I was scared to death. Best decision I made. Cause then I met Bryant…on a blind date…and the rest is history!
- You are recently married and facing marital trouble. Been there. Our first year was no picnic. It was awful. But it was a season. We sought counselling, experienced real healing, and I’m going to be honest, I understood the ramifications of the Gospel during that season more than any other time in my life. It was the most sanctifying, healing, horrifying, exhilarating time in our lives. And our marriage is strong and healthy now as a result. A season.
- You were diagnosed with clinical depression or some sort of personality disorder and/or anxiety disorder. Been there. I was diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder shortly after we got married (hence some of our difficulties). That’s when I jumped head first into counselling. Yes, I was embarrassed by the label. I hated it. But it forced me – I mean absolutely demanded – into the grace, love, and unconditional forgiveness of Christ. My mental illness still beats me up at times. But it’s just a season. I know during those times to reach out to my closest friends for prayer. I speak honestly with Bryant. And I schedule a counseling appointment. Yes, even after ten years, I still see my counselor. It’s a season.
- You have a newborn. Need I say more? Listen, it’s a season. Now he/she is a toddler. It’s a season. I so appreciate Instagram right now. You know why? I have some honest mommy friends who share their real stories of frustration, pain, exhaustion, excitement, and happiness through pictures. I don’t feel so alone. And we can be praying for each other and encouraging each other that this is just a season. One day, when we are 50 and empty-nesters, we are going to miss these days. Sometimes I don’t believe that, but I take the word of my more “seasoned” friends. Hang in there mommy and daddy. Soak in those precious moments. Laugh at the aggravating ones. It’s a season.
- You are divorced or have faced (are facing) some sort of loss. My dear, dear brother or sister…It’s a season. Please do not think for a moment that God has abandoned you. That’s what Satan wants you to think. He wants to destroy your life and the fastest way to do that is to isolate you from your Heavenly Father who probably doesn’t seem that loving right now. This is cliché, but grasp a hold of His promises from the Word of God: His mercies are new every morning. He’s never going to leave or forsake you. He wants to give you abundant life. Find some friends who can have faith for you during this time. Hurt. Bleed. But then cling. Cling to Him. It’s just a season.
You were diagnosed with cancer. You’ve just moved for the hundredth time. You have trouble making and keeping friends. You have to pull away from a person who is doing you and your family some harm. You lost your job. You quit your job. You can’t make ends meet. You are making more than you ever have. Seasons. These are all seasons. I have friends in almost every one of these categories. Dear friends. Friends that I hate seeing hurt. Friends that feel so alone. And all I can say is that God is WITH you. He knows.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Exodus 2:25. The Israelites were experiencing brutal slavery and felt like God was no where to be found. But this verse says so eloquently:
God saw what was going on with Israel.
So I leave you with this…not a theological argument for God’s presence, not a ton of Scriptures for you to memorize, not another Bible study or list of things to do. Just this: God sees. God knows. God understands. God’s with you. It’s just a season. Hang in there dear friend.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity
A time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a t time to search and a a time to give up,
at time to keep and time to throw away,
at time to tear and time to mend,
at time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a t time to war and a a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8