I recently admitted to myself that I struggle with perfectionism.
Peer into my life and you’ll realise it’s highly imperfect.
But I guess that isn’t the point.
Perfectionism is in the straining towards an ideal standard in your head – not the (highly mythical) achievement of that standard. I now believe that those wise people who’ve mastered ‘imperfectionism’ are the ones who’ve discovered that ‘good enough’ is much, much more liberating…
I think part of my struggle comes from the deeply embedded idea that if I succeed in doing everything just right, I’ll be acceptable and loved by everyone.
It’s irrational, but I think such striving simply reflects a desire we all have to prove our own worth, and to be loved for it.
You’d think that when I accepted just how much God loves me and has forgiven me I would’ve given up the need to prove myself. But it’s in my nature to keep trying to earn his favour – as if it was about me, and my ability to impress him – and others.
But this kind of thinking never ends well. It only leads us on a cycle of self-driven effort and striving that causes stress, disappointment, frustration, and more anxiety.
When I’m tempted to ‘strive’ rather than let God take over, I try and remind myself of the following truths...
Only God is truly perfect, and He alone can make me more like Him.
When we receive Christ into our life we receive his perfection – God accepts us as righteous because of what Christ has done for us. Knowing that it’s God that does the ‘perfecting’ takes so much pressure off! Once I remind myself he’s done it all, there is so much freedom….
True strength and power comes to us when we admit our weakness and our complete need for God.
Remembering that I’ll only succeed when I rely on God rather than my own reasoning and effort gives me a whole new perspective – whether it’s facing the challenge of finishing an important project at work, or resolving a conflict with a friend, or learning how to parent a special needs child. There is no perfect – only perfect reliance on a much-bigger God.
As 2 Corinthians 12:9 says:
I am loved
Knowing just how much I am loved and redeemed by the God of the universe helps dispel the fears and anxieties which keep the focus on me, and my achievements. God is love, and His love is constant and true regardless of what I do or don’t achieve – however perfectly or imperfectly.
I might be tempted to believe that creating the perfect dinner party meal, or getting an A-plus on that exam, or winning every netball game might make me worthwhile, valuable, loveable… But God says no – while these things are good, they are not what qualifies me for his love, or His acceptance. What qualifies us is the blood of Jesus, shed for us to take away our sin and redeem us from our old way of thinking; our previous way of life.
May we lean completely on the qualifications Christ has earnt for us by his blood, and start to do life in His strength rather than our own.
God, thank You for Your love, which makes me whole. Forgive me for trying to earn Your favour and the favour of others through my own efforts. Help me to accept that You’ve done the work of redeeming and sanctifying me…I don’t have to do it for myself. When I’m tempted to ‘strive’, give me the courage to let go and fall into your arms – my loving, all-sufficient Father, who has provided for me and will always be my strength in my weakness. Help me to “be anxious for nothing” but trust completely in Your will and purpose for my life and in the amazing power of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. In His name, Amen.
I've often thought of myself as someone who colours inside the lines. You know, a good girl who gets on with what's expected of her and keeps the rules. But the more I journey with God, the more I can see that I've learnt to colour outside the lines; to go against the grain and walk with Him by faith.
Isaiah 55 tells us that God's ways are not our ways - they often sit outside of our logic and reasoning and because of this, faith often calls us to a path that feels counter-intuitive.
Sometimes faith says pull back when we would think rush in
Sometimes faith says give when we would like to hold back
Sometimes faith says go when we would prefer to stay
This has been the pattern all throughout Scripture:
God asked Noah to build an ark when he'd never even seen rain
He sent Abraham on a journey to an undisclosed location - asking him to pack up all his belongings and leave everything he had ever known
He asked a destitute widow to share the last of her provisions when she had no means to replenish them
He sent the disciples out in pairs to do ministry and wouldn't allow them to take any provisions with them, asking them to rely on those they ministered to for sustenance
All things that fly in the face of conventional wisdom - that go against the grain of forming a plan, of making provision, of having a safety net. Yes, while faith isn't about being reckless, sometimes it will sure look that way!
In my own journey, I've come to realise that my ability to walk by faith - to be obedient to what God is asking of me - is tied to my priorities and my affections. Hebrews 11 tells us that the men and women we so often refer to as the 'heroes of faith' were able to live as they did because they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth (v. 13). The Passion Translations challenges me with this rendering:
For clearly those who live this way are longing for the appearing of a heavenly city. And if their hearts were still remembering what they left behind, they would have found an opportunity to go back. But they couldn't turn back for their hearts were fixed on what was far greater, that is, the heavenly realm.
These heroes of faith both endured and achieved much for the Kingdom of God because they had determined where their treasure lay. They had fixed their heart to His.
When this world and all of its comforts has more of a hold on my heart than He does, my capacity to embrace His wisdom and to walk in faith is diminished. When He is no longer enough for me, then I hesitate to walk in surrendered obedience and even my frail human logic seems safer than the path that He has set before me.
Yes, this life of faith requires on my part a constant checking of my heart and my pursuits.
Am I distracted by what is temporal instead of engaged with what is eternal?
Am I self-reliant or God-reliant?
Am I craving the approval of the world or anchored by His love?
The current landscape of my own life is both exhilarating and terrifying. And truthfully, I find myself having to continually determine and redetermine to walk by faith. It's not a one off decision but a day by day, sometimes moment by moment process of choosing to trust and obey. To keep my heart fixed to His.
But the last two years have reminded me afresh that not only are God's ways not our ways, they are higher.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
And because they are higher than ours, we find rest and strength in them; provisions for the journey that He has sent us on. The path of faith might be uncomfortable, but because it is marked out by His presence we can expect to experience His comfort along the way.
However much sacrifice walking by faith invites, the rewards are far greater.
How is He inviting you to fix your heart to His today?
Curled over clutching my stomach in pain, I was all too aware of what I had been trying to avoid for well over a year - I was gluten intolerant. Gluten-based food was making me sick; yet I kept on eating it, living in denial hoping, maybe – this time - I’d be okay.
Here’s what I painfully discovered: ignoring a problem does not make it go away. Doing the exact same thing over and over changes nothing, in fact it usually makes matters worse. The stomach problems only increased after each glutinous intake causing me to cancel appointments and miss out on events.
During my most recent episode racked with pain and saying “Never again”, I really did decide – never again. The Holy Spirit had got through to this tough nut at last, telling me “If you do not face your problems, they will not go away, you need to make some life changes”
Of course, it wasn’t lost on me that this didn’t only apply to food, but also to the bad habits and sinful behaviour patterns I was struggling with. Talk about God having to take strong measures to get my attention!
I hadn’t wanted to admit I had issues with gluten, neither did I want to accept or cease the sin in my life. I was afraid to make life changes in case God did not come through for me. It seemed easier to just carry on as I was in my miserable condition.
My journey the last 5 years has been no glutinous cakewalk. I’ve physically and emotionally hurt, I’ve been disappointed, I’ve suffered losses and felt acute grief. I know I am in a pruning and character building season but I’ve been bucking against it all the way. Yet throughout Jesus has revealed to me by grace that He is the Good Shepherd watching over my life.
God has been taking things away that do me harm and the pain has been part of the process, revealing what is within me when the pressure is on. I can see He’s been setting me free step by step and am humbled like Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I cannot boast in myself at all. I’ve discovered what I thought was good in me, is not whatsoever; and that what is bad in me doesn’t stop God loving me either. All I know is that I’m more real than I’ve ever been, holding on with child-like faith.
2 years ago, I became dairy intolerant and I had another period of denial and pain before I accepted life changes needed to be made. The crux of the matter has been coming to terms with giving up what is not good for me – even though I still crave it. The desire to eat dairy and gluten don’t leave me, and neither do the habits of a life time want to go either. Oh, but the consequences – are they worth it? Think slowly about that one.
Now sometime into a gluten elimination diet I am already much better. I have recognised that to see change, I have to make some life changes.
I’ve learned that Jesus really is my Shepherd and He is looking after me - his sheep. (Sheep aren’t the smartest creatures around, getting themselves tangled up and off track). He knows me in my weakness yet He loves and pursues me unconditionally even in my biggest messes – especially even!
My Good Shepherd doesn’t just wrench this Sheep out of the barbed wire or bushes – no, He untangles me bit by bit. This is what He is doing in our own lives, that’s why it’s a process.
Sometimes it takes time to give things up. We may not be ready, or we may be unwilling, perhaps even facing other issues that cloud the main one. The journey may appear to be somewhat of a dog leg trek, but I can testify that God never gives up on us! And along the way reveals His true unconditional love which changes our lives.
What are you struggling with? What symptoms are you trying to ignore? Is the tolerance of sin still winning over the pain of obedience? The truth is that making good choices isn’t easy. Our flesh wants what is bad, our spirit cries out for God.
But if we want to see a different result, if we desire to be free, we need to accept that life changes are necessary. We can trust God, we can trust Jesus the Good Shepherd. God really does and will come through for us.
When my kids are fighting over something I sing 'Let It Go'. I get down on one knee and make a fool of myself, changing the mood and making them forget what they were fighting over in the first place.
I can often have an internal argument and end up singing the song to myself… which, if you were watching me, would be quite weird…
I can be quite particular. I like to do things in a certain way; I have my routine, and a method to carry out my tasks. But I struggle to keep going if my routine gets interrupted for some reason. There is a part of me that says, if you can't do it perfectly, you might as well give up now. It might sound odd, but it can be physically exhausting. And this is where the song comes in.
I have to shift my focus from whatever is blocking me to the simple truth: God doesn't ask for perfection, he asks for perseverance. John Bloom from desiringgod.org said:
Perfectionism is a pride- or fear-based compulsion that either fuels our obsessive fixation on doing something perfectly or paralyzes us from acting at all — both of which often result in the harmful neglect of other necessary or good things.
There are things in life that are beyond our control. Schedules, situations, and people are ever changing. And while I like my to do lists and love the feeling that comes when I can cross something off one of those lists, I've had to learn that when things beyond my control hinder me from being able to achieve my tasks, that I need to let go and let God. There is a prayer that I say often:
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
This is where I thought it finished. But I have recently discovered a second verse:
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Taking this world as it is, not as I would have it - we need to be faith-based, not fear-based, followers of Christ, accepting the things we cannot change and trusting God to make things right.
We are reminded of this in Proverbs 3:5:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
I love worship music. It soothes my heart and fixes my eyes on God. It Is Well With My Soul is a popular hymn and has been remade by many musicians, but the second verse of the original lyrics seems to connect with me:
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
Although Satan will continue to strike repeatedly, attempting to knock me off course, I can stand sure that my God loves me and gave His only son for me. (John 3:16)
Can I encourage you: whatever is holding you back or frustrating you, give it to God. Through praying, singing or writing. Let go of what is holding you to this world’s lies and grasp hold of His truths that you are loved and you are worthy. Let it be well with your soul.
Keep shining, you never know whose dark day you might be lighting up!
I've always known that my girls are chalk and cheese: one of them gravitates towards a schedule, liking to know not only what is happening, but exactly when it's happening. She thrives on order and clear expectations while the other is more free-spirited. With her creative temperament she doesn't like the how - or even the when - being dictated to her.
Our recent foray into homeschooling has brought these differences to the surface and I've struggled at times to figure out balancing their competing needs for freedom and discipline. But it's not only watching them that has had me contemplating this balance - as I've been adjusting to our new lifestyle and settling into our new community after our move, my own routines have been somewhat upset. Constantly surrounded by children with very little time to myself, I'm having to find a new normal and create new spaces and ways for staying connected to God.
The process of carving out new rhythms and routines has made me realise afresh that we all have this need for both freedom and discipline. And that rather than competing, they are actually complimentary threads that we need to learn to weave together; that we can't truly have freedom in our lives without discipline.
In my own journey, I've tended to swing like a pendulum towards one or the other, failing to allow them to work in sync. When life has felt out of control I've grasped on to discipline in an attempt to regain control; to help me feel like I'm doing and being enough. If life is reduced to lists and tasks that can be ticked off then I feel a sense of achievement and worth.
But such phases are short-lived simply because, well, life happens and I can't sustain the internal pressure that comes with having to constantly achieve my 'list' or the guilt that comes when I miss something on my list. So I throw off the yoke of discipline because, after all, the one whom the Son sets free is free indeed, meaning, I can do what I want, when I want. I don't need systems and structures and disciplines because I'm free; I'm covered by grace.
Again though, it doesn't take long before chaos ensues and the pendulum swings back to discipline and then back to what I think is freedom. This backwards to and fro movement stems from a false understanding of what it means to be free and of the heart and purpose of discipline.
My rebellion against discipline is often tied up in how I see it and in what is driving me towards it. When I associate discipline with punishment alone, then a fear of disappointing those that I love, of disappointing God, paralyses me and all I can hear are voices of condemnation. When I look to discipline because I am driven to perform, driven to prove what a 'good girl' I am, it becomes a relentless master that I cannot appease.
I have a very wise father, and he once said something that has always stayed with me, shifting how I viewed the subject of discipline. He said: We must steward our desires with discipline. Desire without discipline is fantasy.
What if I could see discipline as the vehicle through which I steward the desires that God has planted within me? What if instead of connecting it to fear and punishment, I saw it through the lens of love and grace?
Proverbs 3:12 tells us:
For the Father’s discipline comes only from his passionate love and pleasure for you. Even when it seems like his correction is harsh, it’s still better than any father on earth gives to his child.
God disciplines us, and encourages us to discipline our own lives, because His heart is to facilitate the freedom and the fullness that He created us for.
Because while we might think of freedom as licence, it is actually the power to choose well. And if we want to enter into all that God has for us, we will use our freedom to steward that desire with the appropriate disciplines.
People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life.
My own journey in recent months has reminded me that the absence of discipline was robbing me of freedom and fruitfulness and that I needed to make wiser choices.
Without disciplining myself to spend time in the Word I was being robbed of the power of its truth. My life and my heart couldn't be washed by its wisdom.
Without disciplining myself to be connected; to gather regularly with other believers I was being robbed of the power of what happens when two or more gather. I was robbed of their gifts in my life.
Without disciplining myself to pray and commune with God, I was being robbed of the power of intimacy. I was missing out not only on sharing my heart, but on hearing His.
I have felt the gentle and yet firm whisper of God inviting me to interweave my freedom with discipline, and as I have heeded His correction, I have been reminded why the puritans referred to spiritual disciplines as disciplines of grace. Disciplines, when they flow from our freedom to choose, instead of our efforts to prove ourselves, create times and spaces for us to experience the grace of God in our lives.
So I'm learning (yet again) to slow the pendulum down; to allow freedom and discipline to come together to shape my life.
What desires is God inviting you to steward with discipline in this season?
Is it just me, or do you find that your mind easily wanders?
A perfect example, was when I sat down to start writing this, only to remember I needed to send out some text messages before the day was done, and half an hour later, I now begin….
More seriously though, how easily does not only our mind wander in the moment, but the more life I live, I realise how powerful my thought life is, and how easy it can be for my thoughts to wander off course.
There are a lot of places our thoughts can go, and one of my many go to’s can be that of “worry”. It could be as simple as worrying about a trip to the dentist, or as complex as worrying about a diagnosis you’ve been given. It could be worry about how a relational issue is going to be solved, or worrying about how you are going to meet your bills this month.
I don’t know about you, but in this fast-paced life we live, with opportunity to be bombarded at any moment with news of another traumatic incident, I need some good tools under my belt to know how to deal with worry. One of my favourite passages of Scripture is found in Philippians:
Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.
Could it really be that simple? Is it even possible? I mean, Paul tells us not to worry about ANYTHING….
So if he is serious about this, how can I put this into practice in my everyday life; when I am overwhelmed and can’t see a way out?
For me, in this season of my life, as a Mum (or Mom now that I’m living in America), as a wife, as a volunteer pastor alongside my husband, my go to worry can be, “Am I doing enough?” If I let my thoughts go down that path long enough, I find myself in a place of discontent, and a little bit paralysed if I’m honest. It can at times, feel like, where do I even begin? Who needs my time?
I am so grateful for a God who meets me in my mess, and reminds me, that He is with me. This passage in Philippians gives me confidence that I don’t have to tackle my situations alone, or worry my way down a path that leads me nowhere good. He invites me to “Tell him every detail of my life”. I think we can get good at giving people the glossy version of how we’re doing and sometimes that can roll over into our relationship with God. Can I remind you, and myself (haha), that God is not afraid of your emotions, or your disappointments, or your lack of faith in the moment. He instead invites us to lay it out with vulnerability before Him, nothing left unsaid… and He makes this incredible promise in return:
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The “peace of God” is available to each one of us, and it is something that no earthly thing can replicate. It literally is a peace that “transcends human understanding”.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 says,
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
What if we I took God at His word, and trusted that not only is He with us, but that we can experience this “peace”, no matter where we find ourselves? If we believed that there really is no place that His peace can’t find us?
What are you going through today that you need the peace of God to invade?
My prayer for you is that you would allow God into those spaces and places of your life, those worries that feel so overwhelming, and let His peace meet you right where you are at. He doesn’t promise to always change what we are walking through, but He does promise His peace in the middle of it, and when we discover that peace, our thoughts are refocused in the light of who our God is.
There’s a long and layered backstory to this blog (which I may put into a book someday) but for now I'm going to summarize the relevant information in 3 points:
1. I really want to have children and be at home with them (at least while they are little)
2. God has made it extremely clear in a number of ways that he wants my husband and I to build a house
3. 1 & 2 are not compatible with our current financial situation (in order to service the mortgage we both need to be working)
About a month or so ago, we had a number of “out-of -our-control” situations that meant the cost of our build almost doubled (keeping in mind point # 3 was a thing before this happened).
Now, I’ve never really been a fearful person. I’ve been graced with childlike faith and carefree hope, but the moment I saw that number something flipped inside me and all I felt was trapped and powerless and ashamed.
I began to do mental math – what sort and how many promotions I would need; calculating what I could earn from doing extra jobs or hours or what I could possibly do to make this work. I spent the afternoon swirling around in a frenzy of anxiety and numbers that I knew would never add up. I was so caught up in this spiral it was hard to hear His voice, so when I got home I returned to the original promise we had been given, to reassure myself that God had called us into this process and would not abandon us halfway through.
A song of the stairway, by King Solomon
When I was first given this Psalm, I was understandably captured by the parts about children and houses. But this day, the moment I heard His voice again was in verse two. My one and only question was “How am I going to pay for this house?” and His answer came gentle and firm.. “Get an early night.”
So I did. I went to bed before 8pm and had the holiest sleep of my life. When I woke up, not a single thing had changed about my 3 realities listed at the start, but I just understood on a deep and unshakeable level that striving is senseless and His gifts are good. And that some of His best work happens, not necessarily when I do nothing, but more when I lay my head down in confidence that he's providing and doing His best work while I'm at my most vulnerable.
Bill Johnson says, "You only have authority over storms that you can sleep in." (Matthew 8:23-27) I am convinced that once God has given a promise, there is nothing the enemy can say or do to stop that promise eventuating. The only thing that is up for debate is your rest, peace and joy in the process. Your rest, peace and joy are yours. Don’t sacrifice them, don’t squander your beautiful inheritance as those things are yours right now and can be with you on every journey and in every storm as you walk toward the future He has declared for you.
I’m beginning to learn that sleep is a prophetic demonstration of trust and rest, and is one of His most precious gifts to us. He provides sleep to His beloved, AND provides for His beloved even while they sleep!
Since that night, I’ve had a growing awareness of just how much sleep is contested in so many people’s lives, and the impact that it has. With that growing awareness has come an increased authority to see this precious gift restored. To my tired, exhausted or weary friend: If you’re reading this, regardless of the reason, I release grace over you right now and declare that the contest over your sleep has ended and the winner is Jesus. It’s always Him. He’s never lost a battle. Tonight, is the beginning of you sleeping soundly, and waking up refreshed, regardless of the number of hours you got. He can do a lot with a little, you know.
As for the house, we have had at so many instances where the impossible has become possible including one where we needed $50,000 in one week and 7 days later it was covered (through about 5 different creative and random miracles). I’m embracing this season for the extravagant demonstration of Love that it really is, and pondering these things in my heart until a day where I have the full and powerful story to tell. And until that time, I’ll be over here with more than enough peace and joy for the journey.
P.S. I’d love if you would get in touch with your stories of sleep provision in your current situation, or your stories of provision while you sleep!
I often label myself as a Jack-of-all-trades, or should I say Jill-of-all-trades. I have tried my hand at many different crafts, skills and tasks and at home I cook most meals, fix the leaking toilet, mow the lawns, mend the uniforms, sew the costumes, wash the car… just don’t ask me to climb a ladder!
“Jack of all trades, master of none…” Sometimes it can have a negative tone to it; that I am not a Specialist in any field, I’m just a Generalist. But that’s ok. This is who God made me to be, and I am truly thankful to him for it.
I haven’t always been satisfied with who or what I am. I grew up with a low self-esteem, being the chubby girl at school. All the other girls were prettier or excelled at sport, or singing, or writing and here was me, just doing my work. Throughout my primary years I often had someone pointing out what was wrong with me. The names still echo in my mind, “Beached Whale”, “Roly Poly Nicholy”. I dreaded PE Classes, especially swimming! Of course I had some great friends, and they would always support me - and I knew my parents believed in me and loved me. But isn’t it funny how the negative things stick in my mind more than the positive?
It has been a long road to get to the point of accepting who I am, and it is something I have to continually reiterate to myself. I am a child of God. And regardless of what is going on in my life, no one can take that away from me.
If God is for us, who can be against us?
I am a visual learner, so for me, I have to put my reminders where I will see them every day. Whether at home or at work, I have things on the wall and written on the mirror. Scriptures are crucial. A couple that I keep close are:
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
I also tend to collect items that tie in with a scripture or an event that had meaning for me. I have a bracelet that I wear most days with a cross on it from a ladies retreat; I have small canvas paintings that I made at prayer weekends at church that sit on my desk to remind me of the truths I learnt through those weekends. I have colouring books with verses throughout them and a bible with pages for journaling and drawing and colouring. I love to colour. And I love to be able to ponder on one verse. Even for weeks at a time. Sometimes just one word. Last year, God gave me one word, Precious. That word has stuck with me. I have a whole page in my diary of just that word written creatively with swirls and colours and hearts. I am an avid believer in rote learning. The more I write it, the more it will stick in my head. And being able to see the word that I heard from God makes it all the more special.
Can I encourage you, if you are struggling with self-acceptance, if you feel like everyone is against you, if you don’t even want to go outside, just remember: You are a Child of God. He loves you more than you will ever realise or understand and whether you are a Jill-of-all-trades or a Master-of-one, you were fearfully and wonderfully made and God will never tell you otherwise!
Make a conscious decision to remind yourself of that fact every day.
How could you help cement His truth and what He says about you in your life?
Keep shining, you never know whose dark day you might be lighting up!
Ever felt the urge to compare your body to someone else’s?
Or ponder why some things come so easy to other people while you have to struggle through the same problems every day?
Or why you weren’t given the talents or gifts of someone who seems to just naturally succeed at life?
Making comparisons is all too easy.
The media is often blamed – and rightly so – for the pressure it places on young women to look a certain way. Even church, which should be a place of acceptance and freedom to be who God has gifted you to be – can become competitive too. Sometimes churches can over-emphasise how much work you’re doing for the kingdom, or how committed you are, or what your attendance record looks like. And some youth groups can be more intimidating than high school, with the pressure to fit a certain mould.
Social media can be a breeding ground for competition and comparisons too.
Had a bad day? Well, log on and witness how many women have had breakfast in bed served by their fabulous husband when you’ve just gone through a separation… or observe photos of gorgeous newborns when you’ve been trying for a baby for years… And it’s really not the fault of the person posting the pics – most of the time they’re just sharing good news. But because it's human nature to compare ourselves to others, it really can be quite depressing…
I like this quote:
“One reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with other people’s highlight reel.”
Facebook is a truckload of highlight reels. Of course if you knew the behind-the-scenes of every smiling image, you would find the girl on your friends list may well have just as many insecurities, low moments, and silent struggles, as you.
We’re all struggling with something, at some time.
As a parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I've often found it tempting to compare my family situation to others. Scrolling through photos where kids my son's age are receiving awards at school and thriving can be a real trigger for me – and I slip into despondency. But I need to keep coming back to the fact that God has taken me and our family on this journey for a reason, and remind myself to be thankful for the many blessings and beautiful moments that come along with the trials.
In whatever we’re facing, it’s so reassuring to know we have a God who has mapped out our life from the beginning.
He knew what struggles would be unique to us and has a plan and a purpose for every aspect of our lives.
Because of Christ, we are well-equipped and more than enough.
With God, we have what it takes to face life head on.
And if we don’t already have the skills needed to confront our daily dilemmas, we will learn them soon enough!
We are works in progress, moulded by each new thing that comes our way.
And we have a loving, comforting Heavenly Father who knows exactly what we need at all times.
Not that it isn’t still tempting to play the comparison game...
But when we remember that God’s ways are higher than ours; His intentions towards us are only good; and He is with us all the way – then we find the strength to keep pushing through and meeting each new challenge with confidence, boldness, and wisdom.
He is with us, right now, in our unique struggles, and he will guide us through.
But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness'. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
They were bickering over something. I can't even remember what. It wasn't even a full-scale argument, just a difference of opinion, but on this particular day, it just felt like too much. I could feel myself reaching breaking point. I wanted to scream all manner of things; instead I abruptly sent them to their rooms with no explanation. I'd have to later explain it wasn't because of anything that they'd done (I have one daughter who is devastated at the mere thought of making a mistake and upsetting someone); it was because of me. It was to protect them from me.
I did not have the reserves that day to speak with wisdom or grace; to be sensitive to their own struggles in the midst of all our transitions. At that moment, I was definitely not the epitome of a Proverbs 31 woman!
The Proverbs 31 woman. Sometimes we read of her and find freedom in the many and varied tasks she engaged in; in how industrious she was both inside her home and in the marketplace. Other times? Well, let's just say we wish she hadn't been quite so talented at balancing it all so virtuously!
A few years back, I was invited to be part of a series a Women's Ministry was doing on the Proverbs 31 woman. I was assigned verse 26 and it was loosely titled wisdom. I was excited - that is until I actually read the verse and realised that it was about the tongue! It says:
She opens her mouth in [skillful and godly] wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue [giving counsel and instruction].
When I read these words I think I literally sighed. The Message paraphrase summarises it saying: "When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly."
Can I be honest and say that this is not always what comes out of my mouth?
You've probably gathered by now that I am a words girl. I love words. I love to read them, write them and if you've ever met me, then you'll know I'm seldom short on them in conversation either! But what is my strength is also an area of weakness for me. And I know, that when I can't control my tongue; when I'm lashing out or not opening my mouth in wisdom, that it's an indication of something deeper. It's an indication of how healthy my heart is.
In Luke's gospel, Jesus said this:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
One of the biggest things I've realised as a Mum, is that more than managing a household, I am managing an economy of hearts. And each of these hearts is indelibly tied to the health of my own heart.
When my heart is tired, impatient words spill over.
When my heart is disappointed, cynical words squash expectation.
When my heart is holding on to hurts, bitter words poison the air.
Healthy words and healthy connections require a healthy heart. I love how the NLT translates this verse, it says: A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart.
My heart is a treasury. It is worth taking care of.
Over the years I've learnt the importance of doing things that bring me joy; of nurturing my soul and practicing self care. But the biggest thing I've come to realise that my heart needs to be healthy is truth. God's truth. I don't want the world's wisdom or its ever-fluctuating truth. I want His.
Sometimes storing up His truth in my heart is hard - not merely because life is busy, but because sometimes His truth is confronting. It asks me to surrender. It asks me to obey. It asks me to trust.
But only God's truth can refresh my weary soul and renew my strength.
Only God's truth can speak to my disappointment, reviving faith and restoring hope.
And only God's truth has the power to wash me clean; to heal and redeem my hurting, broken places.
So I store it up in my heart. Some days I snack on it - grazing where I can. Other days I sit and feast, savouring each morsel. I let it sustain me. And with every deposit, His wisdom shapes my life.
What are you storing up in your heart? Allow His truth to reveal the treasure that lies in your heart today.
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from the blogging team encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
If you want to get blog posts direct to your inbox pop here.