How to Overcome Self-Condemnation: Appealing to the Mercy of God

A man seeks God's forgiveness in prayer.

Sometimes when you make a mistake, the hardest part of forgiveness is forgiving yourself. If you’re like me, you might tend to beat yourself up for mistakes you’ve made, mulling over them at night and asking yourself how you could be so stupid. Self-condemnation completely hinders the process of forgiveness.

When we make a mistake, we must ask God for his mercy and strive to resist temptation and live according to His Word, but sometimes our own thoughts can make it much harder to feel forgiven when we imprison ourselves in our own guilt. What we forget in those moments is how much God truly loves us. In order for us to move forward with peace and in confidence, knowing that He has forgiven us, we must recognize His love for us and that His mercy has no end.

Two examples in His Word show us what it means to appeal to God’s mercy.

When Lot and his family escaped Sodom and Gomorrah, he asked God to save a nearby city so that they might flee to it and be saved.

“Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.”

Genesis 19:19-22 (KJV)

One of the first things Lot said to God was a reminder that God had granted Lot grace and that He had “magnified [His] mercy” by saving Lot’s life. When Abraham went to God to try to convince Him not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he appealed to God’s justice, asking if God would destroy the “righteous with the wicked” (see Genesis 18:23). Abraham did not succeed in his intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah, but Lot succeeded in his intercession for Zoar by appealing first to the grace and mercy of God when he was in danger and needed to be saved.

In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable of humility and mercy when comparing the Pharisee to the publican.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican…. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Luke 18:10-11, 13 (KJV)

In this parable, the publican acknowledged his sinfulness and asked that God would show him mercy. He showed humility and an understanding of his own faults and need for a Savior.

These examples remind us to appeal to God’s mercy when we are facing difficulties and when we need forgiveness. Lot appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from circumstances. The publican appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from sin. Neither Lot nor the publican were perfect men, but in Lot’s case and in the parable of the publican, both men were sincere in their appeals, and God showed them His mercy. When we make a mistake and ask for forgiveness, we’re stating that we cannot make it on our own. Our appeal to God’s mercy becomes a declaration that we need Him.

Messing up again and again is human nature. God knows this. Of course, our human nature is not an excuse to sin, but rather it is a reminder that we need Him in order to resist temptation and receive forgiveness.

God is just and faithful to forgive of us our sins as His Word says in 1 John 1:9.

What these accounts remind me of is how much He wants to forgive us. Our God longs for us to surrender to Him and serve Him in righteousness and sincerity, and when we do, then He will forgive us of our sins. We need not walk in guilt and self-condemnation because He already paid the price for our sins and freed us from guilt and shame.

We can overcome guilt and self-condemnation by appealing to God’s mercy, by recognizing our flaws and inadequacies, and by understanding that it is only through the grace, love, and mercy of our Savior that we move forward and walk in confidence with Him. Self-condemnation will keep us from accepting His forgiveness, but the self-realization of our weaknesses and His great love for us keeps us under His blood and walking in newness of life.

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Post Schedule Announcement:

Lots of things are coming up as my schedule will be getting busier over the upcoming weeks, so posts will be on Fridays only until further notice.

I’ve seen there are some newer readers and subscribers to Breathe Pray Repeat, so I also want to say “welcome,” and I pray these posts bless you and encourage you to get closer to God as you seek Him more and study His Word.

If you have any post or Bible study requests, don’t hesitate to comment below or send me a message and let me know! God Bless!

3 Qualities of a Good Servant

A man opens his Bible.

What makes a good and faithful servant?

Is it simply someone who does good deeds and tries to be kind to others? Is it someone who serves their community? Is it someone who prays an hour every day and fills journals with Bible study notes? Is it someone who goes to Bible college and becomes a preacher or worship leader?

What does it take to simply be that good and faithful servant the Lord will welcome into Heaven?

Well, a person can certainly be a good and faithful servant by doing any or all of the above, but pleasing and serving God does not mean that we have to attend Bible college or that we have to become a preacher or singer. Those things are wonderful things but are specific callings rather than general requirements for all Christians.

When we study the Word, we see many examples of various people who were faithful servants—Abraham, Job, and Mary are a few that come to mind. One man in particular who appears very early in the Bible shows us three qualities of a faithful servant that are a good foundation upon which we can build and develop a strong relationship with God.

“And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: And I will make thee swear by the LORD…thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac…And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning the matter.”

Genesis 24:2-4, 9 (KJV)

1. Attentiveness

When Abraham was old, he tasked his eldest and most trusted servant with finding a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Here, we have an example of a servant who was not only attentive to his master’s requests and needs, but he was also mindful of Abraham’s requirements to accomplish his task.

After he met Rebekah and her family, he faithfully repeated to them his errand, detailing every aspect of his oath (see Genesis 24:34-41). A testament to the servant’s mindfulness in completing his task, he even refused their request to let Rebekah stay with her family a little longer:

“And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go. And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.”

Genesis 24:55-56 (KJV)

In order for us to be good servants, we must not only listen to our Master’s commands, but we must be mindful of how we go about our work for the Kingdom. Abraham’s servant carefully heeded each aspect of his oath to his master. Even though some might deem it unkind to not allow Rebekah to stay with her family a few more days, Abraham’s servant was persistent in fulfilling his task, mindful of the time and his master’s needs. Abraham’s son needed a wife, and it was his job to deliver on his task—pronto!

When we serve in the Kingdom, we must be mindful of how we go about our ministry and of how we answer to God’s commands, which brings us to the second quality Abraham’s servant displays.

2. Obedience

Abraham’s servant was obedient to the letter. He swiftly went about finding his master’s son a wife and made sure she was of the same household as Abraham’s family as his master requested. Now, we know Abraham’s servant had a reputation of faithfully obeying his master because Abraham trusted this man with all of the goods of his house (see Genesis 24:2, 10). Over the course of the chapter, we see that Abraham’s servant was forthright as he set out to the well to find Isaac a wife and was very thorough. Before assuming Rebekah was the one God had chosen for his master’s son, Abraham’s servant watched Rebekah carefully and questioned her about her family:

“And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not…And [he] said, Whose daughter art thou?…And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor…And the man bowed his head, and worshipped the LORD. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”

Genesis 24:21, 23-24, 26-27 (KJV)

Abraham’s servant waited for confirmation to ensure Rebekah was the one God had appointed for Isaac, and then he praised God and continued with his task. A good servant obeys, yes, but a good servant must pay close attention to every detail to ensure complete obedience.

3. A Relationship with God

Finally, a good servant must commune with God. We see throughout chapter 24 of Genesis that Abraham’s servant regularly spoke to and praised God. In fact, he spoke to God and worshipped Him three times in this chapter, showing his trust in God and a thankful spirit.

First, Abraham’s servant surrendered the situation to God by asking God to show him the woman He had appointed for Isaac (see Genesis 24:12-14). Second, he praised God when he realized God had blessed his journey and led him to the right woman (see Genesis 24:26-27). Third, he worshipped God when Rebekah’s family released her to accompany him back to Abraham and marry Isaac:

“Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken. And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.”

Genesis 24:51-52 (KJV)

Through each aspect of fulfilling his work, Abraham’s servant gave the glory to God and surrendered his task into God’s hands.

A woman throws her hands up in surrendering everything to Jesus.

In order to become the child of God that He wants us to be, we have to start somewhere. Applying to our own lives the qualities that Abraham’s servant shows us will help us begin a foundation for building a healthy and strong relationship with God. When analyzing your own walk with Him, ask yourself these questions: Am I heeding and obeying God’s commands in my life? Am I faithful in my work in the Kingdom? Am I seeking the Lord faithfully? Have I given Him honor and worship for the things He’s done for me?

If we build a strong relationship with God and follow His guidance and instructions for our lives, then He will ultimately bless us with the greatest reward—hearing the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” as we enter into His Kingdom to be with our King for eternity.

2 Lessons from the Lame Man and the Blind Man: Learning to Recognize Jesus in Your Life

Holding the Bible up to the sky.

What will it take for you to see God in your life?

In the book of John, we see two examples of Jesus healing two separate men—a lame man and a blind man—who both had opportunities to recognize Jesus as their God who had personally touched their lives. Only the blind man recognized God. As for the lame man, there is no record of his salvation, but there is record of his disobedience and lack of gratefulness. When we look at both accounts together, we can see from their differences how important it is to not only glorify and recognize God in our lives but to do whatever it takes so that we can see Him. There are at least two ways the lame man and the blind man differed.

1. They differed in their responses to their peers.

A man looks over the mountains, and a caption reads, "One thing I know: I was blind, now I see."

Both the lame man and the blind man were honest when answering the Jews’ questions about their healings, but the lame man cared more about the interests of his peers while the blind man was able to see through the Jews’ questioning and recognize their antagonistic motives.

“The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that is was Jesus, which had made him whole.”

John 5:10-15 (KJV)

“Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not….They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.”

John 9:10-12, 17 (KJV)

The now-healed lame man was at first unable to identify Jesus by name after he deferred blame to Him, but once he learned who it was who had healed him, he went back to the Jews to inform them that it was Jesus “which had made him whole.” The blind man appeared to care more about pleasing the Jews who were after Jesus than obeying Him. The healed blind man, however, knew Jesus by name and (inadequately) described Him as a prophet.

As they questioned him further, he discerned the Jews’ motives to catch Jesus and remained true to his testimony, refusing to be swayed by his interrogators. Pay attention to his response below:

“He answered, and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see….Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes….Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.”

John 9:25, 28-30, 32-33 (KJV)

The formerly blind man was now defending Jesus against the Pharisees’ accusation that Jesus was a sinner, discerning their attempts to disprove his story and smear Jesus. He pulled from his theological knowledge to expose the flaws in the Pharisees’ argument, confirming to them that if Jesus had been a sinner, He would not have been able to heal the blind man, proving that He was “of God.” The healed man’s bold and clever responses to the Pharisees resulted in them casting him out of the synagogue (ex: “They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out” [John 9:34, KJV]). Even though the healed man knew what might happen to him, he stood his ground against the Pharisees.

2. They differed in their responses to Jesus.

Jesus bends down and draws in the sand.

While both men initially obeyed Jesus’ instructions to be healed, the formerly lame man disobeyed Jesus later and failed to recognize who He is, whereas the formerly blind man responded to Jesus with both recognition and praise. Notice the blind man’s response to Jesus below:

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.”

John 9:35-38 (KJV)

The now-healed man recognized Jesus as Lord and worshipped Him, eager to believe. When Jesus told the formerly lame man not to sin anymore, the man turned right back around and tattle-taled on Jesus to the Jews.

One man recognized Jesus as Lord, and the other man failed to see who Jesus is, and his information to the Jews resulted in the Jews’ plan to persecute and kill Jesus.

From both of these accounts, we can glean at least two lessons:

1.) We must value God and the things he wants from us above all things, even if it costs us.

2.) We must not forget to give Him the glory for all He’s done for us.

The formerly blind man recognized and praised Jesus even after the Pharisees had excommunicated him from the synagogue for his defense of Jesus, but the formerly lame man did not recognize or believe on Him. He placed more value in pleasing the Pharisees. In fact, he showed no interest in obeying or praising Jesus whatsoever, perhaps proving he was the true blind man as were the Pharisees for lacking spiritual vision (see John 9:39-41).

A boy looks up at the sunset over the trees. A caption reads, "What will it take for you to see Jesus?"

What will it take for you to see God in your life and give Him the glory?

We may find ourselves going through the motions and doing what we’re told (as both men initially did when Jesus gave them instructions to be healed), but as we learn from the account of the lame man, we can still fall short of recognizing God at work in our lives.

Each day, we must look inside ourselves to ensure we are placing Jesus above all things in our lives. Getting closer to Jesus requires an attitude of willingness, devotion, dedication, and sacrifice. The kind of attitude that says, “No matter what it may cost me, I will stand by Jesus and testify of this truth.” The kind of attitude that makes us willing to remove anything that might keep us from recognizing Jesus. The kind of attitude that says, “I will do whatever it takes to follow and obey Him no matter what.”

If we want to see Jesus, we must devote ourselves to Him, give Him the glory, worship Him alone, and tell the world of His greatness.

3 Ways to Maintain Our Spiritual Health

Chainmail, Soldier, Spiritual Battle, Protection

No one likes their flaws exposed. We wrap ourselves in armor to protect our egos, but are we wrapping ourselves in the armor of God to protect our souls?

“You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor,” I wrote in a creative nonfiction class last year. “Chinks. What does that mean? A weak point, a place of vulnerability, an opening for an attack from the enemy. A minor flaw, so says the online dictionary, or weakness in a plate of armor. A detrimental flaw. A special flaw. There’s an interesting phrase. A special flaw. It’s a special point of weakness that directs the enemy where to attack an otherwise invulnerable person. Are you invulnerable?”

Vulnerability is something of which many of us afraid. After all, who welcomes an attack from the enemy with open arms? We don’t want to be vulnerable, but sometimes, we allow ourselves to become vulnerable when we do not take care of our spiritual well-being. One missing or weak link can be deadly.

In a history class on the Spanish Conquest in 2019, I held a coat of chainmail as my professor lectured on the weapons of the Conquest. It was a small section of a coat of chainmail—about a 12-inch square. Remembering my professor’s lecture, I later described in my essay for a creative nonfiction class how the Europeans manufactured the chainmail while they rested between battles: “A blacksmith would take thousands of tiny metal or steel rings and carefully interlink them by hand. A single coat of chainmail could take months to finish if a skilled blacksmith worked 10-hour days.” If the blacksmith didn’t do his job correctly, it could spell death for the unlucky soldier wearing the flawed coat of chainmail. I became so fascinated with the concept of the process of creating a coat of chainmail that I reflected on its significance—and spiritual parallels—even more in my own writing.

“You imagine the misery of knitting steel for a living in 90-degree weather with 60-percent humidity in the Yucatan Peninsula,” I wrote, “trying to get a piece of chainmail done for a hotshot conquistador so he’s a little more likely to survive the arrows or stabbing spears of the Mayans than the footman who came over for gold and glory with only a helmet and a crossbow….You imagine the fever of smallpox getting to you while linking those steel rings and skipping a section right where the coat will slip over the conquistador’s left shoulder. If the Maya or Aztec crossbowmen spot the opening, the glory-seeking conquistador won’t last long. One small missing chink in his armor, and the obsidian arrow blade will tear through the chainmail as though it were linen instead of steel. A special weakness.”

At this point, you may be wondering why I’m going on about the history of developing chainmail in the Spanish Conquest and including excerpts from my own writing. As a deeply private person, vulnerability has always been a relevant topic to me. Those of us who like to keep things close to the chest tend to guard ourselves with more caution. But there are times when we may all be guilty of caring more about preserving our pride than protecting ourselves from spiritual attacks.

When we’re not prepared and protected, we give the enemy an opportunity to attack. There are at least 3 things we can do to ensure our chainmail is not missing any links:

1.) Stay prayed up.
2.) Stay well-read.
3.) Stay clothed in the armor of God.

(11) “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
(12) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
(13) Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
~Ephesians 6:11-13 (KJV)

Do we have on the helmet of salvation? Are we carrying the sword of the Spirit? How’s our daily Bible reading? Are we keeping up a daily prayer life?

The armor of God is necessary for our spiritual protection. We are warriors in the Lord’s army, and our battles are spiritual. Just as soldiers must keep their armor in its best condition to protect themselves from harm, so must we keep our armor in its best condition through daily prayer & Bible reading. This also requires frequent checkups of our armor to ensure we’re not missing a crucial piece.

If we aren’t maintaining our spiritual armor, then we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks due to our own laziness or carelessness. Without a helmet on, we expose our minds to sinful thoughts. If our shield of faith is missing, then we expose ourselves to the enemy’s arrows.

Proper preparation and protection will help us repel the enemy’s attacks.

Though God is always with us to win the victory, we cannot use His protection as an excuse to be careless with the upkeep of our spiritual well-being.

We may labor under harsh conditions as the blacksmith labored in the Spanish Conquest to develop a flawless coat of chainmail, but our labor is not in vain when we approach our work with purpose and dedication.

We labor in the Kingdom, we pray, and we study the Word so that we can withstand the attack of the enemy, so that there are no chinks in our spiritual armor, so that there are no missing links in our coat of chainmail.

One missing link can be deadly.

So, examine yourself each day and ask this question:

Are you vulnerable?

Prioritizing the Kingdom

So, I have this need. A time-sensitive need. It’s one of those needs that you try not to worry about too much, but as the days go by and nothing changes, you start to worry a lot.

“God,” I say, “I have this need. Now, You know I have this need, and I know You know that, so if You could maybe speed up Your need-fulfilling machine and meet this need ASAP, that would take a load off my mind. We’re dealing with a time-sensitive issue here, and the funny thing about time is that it’s always running out. Right, God? God? Is this thing on?”

I scratch my head and wring my hands and ramble on and on until all I can think about for the next hour and day and week is that one need that keeps coming closer to its deadline.

And then I read Matthew chapter 6, and I realize God is speaking to me:

(30) “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
(31) Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(32) (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
(33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

From these verses, God reminds me, and us, that we need not allow worry over our needs to consume our thoughts. Sometimes, we prioritize our cares on earth over Kingdom concerns too much.

What should we do?

We should seek first the Kingdom of God and trust that God will meet our needs. My Apostolic Study Bible explains it as actively pursuing the Kingdom while passively expecting the meeting of our needs.

Indeed, Matthew 6 says it perfectly as well. If God takes care of His creation, then how much more will He care for His children? For He knows our needs. And so we should not busy ourselves with overloaded concern for our own selves. Rather, we should busy ourselves with His Kingdom.

Prioritizing trust in Him breeds more trust in Him and the assurance that God will take care of us no matter what life throws our way.

I may still have a need, as do we all, but I also have the promise that my Savior who knows my need is working on my behalf and will come through for me at precisely the right moment.

If we are faithful to Him, then He will provide for all our needs in this life, for the righteous are not forsaken.

The Most Important Decision

Ah, l’ amour.

The thing that makes men and women do silly things to impress each other. The thing that makes people giddy, nervous, anxious, and nauseous. The thing that makes the stomach flip-flop, the heart race, and the palms sweaty.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

All those things may seem like love to many young people looking for a new or first relationship. Some may base their love for a crush on a feeling—butterflies in their stomach. Yes, some forms of love are based on emotion, but emotions are fleeting due to the nature of changing hormones and chemical reactions in the brain (dopamine and norepinephrine, for example, which are chemicals the brain releases when we feel attraction). It’s when the emotional high of love wears off that love becomes much more than what we feel. It becomes a conscious decision.

We choose to love a person and stay committed to that person. And in this same way must we approach our relationship with God.

One doesn’t have true love if he or she only loves his or her spouse when things are going well. One doesn’t truly love God if he or she only loves God during Sunday and Wednesday service.

True love is a constant, daily decision.

What is more important than choosing whom we will marry and love for the rest of our earthly life is choosing whom we will serve for all eternity.

God chooses to love us despite our flaws. No matter how much we error, He still welcomes us back into His Presence with open arms. And so, we must choose to love and stay committed to Him. Every morning, we must renew our love for the One Who loves us unconditionally. We must choose Him each day and fall deeper in love with Him.

Love, real love, is not temporary or based on what we feel in any given moment. That’s why spouses who truly love each other can stay married to each other despite having disagreements. They’ve already made up their mind to love their spouse no matter what.

Charity—true love, agape love—endures all things and does not fail (see 1 Corinthians 13).

This is the kind of love that will never fade. If we model our love for others after Jesus’ love for us, then it will endure forever, rooted not in our emotion but rooted in our determination.

This Valentine’s day (whether you’re single, dating, or married), choose to set time aside to celebrate God’s unconditional love for you. Renew your decision and commitment to serve and love Him with all of yourself.

Love Him because He first loved you.

This is the most important decision you will ever make.

One Answer to One Million Questions

What am I doing wrong?

Where do I go from here?

How do I know everything is going to work out okay?

How do I know You’re listening to me?

How do I know if I’m doing Your Will?

We have one million questions that plague our thoughts throughout our lives. Life questions hit us at every stage, whether we’re wondering about in which ministry to become involved as a teen, which college to attend, which career to choose, or to which part of the city we should relocate with the best schools and safest community for our children. It seems the possibilities and answers for each scenario are endless. But there is only one answer that suits them all.

(5) “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

(6) In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)

Often, we find ourselves trying to figure things out and predict what might happen using our own logic and rationale. Even though we may have hated math or not excelled at it in school, we’re still using equations to find the answers to our questions.

If a equals b and b equals c, then c equals the a(squared) scenario, which means I shouldn’t take out that loan, I should go into accounting, and I’m probably allergic to dairy.

Perhaps I’m one of the only ones who goes into Sherlock Holmes mode when deciphering questions and answers regarding various scenarios, but if you can relate to this even a smidgen, here’s something I tell myself that may help you:

Stop trying to figure things out on your own.

It hurts your brain, and it may be making your hair grayer. (Okay, maybe that last one only applies to me, but it’s food for thought.)

But also, it prevents you from completely surrendering yourself to God. If I find myself still trying to figure things out and so stressed out that I can’t focus during my prayer time because I’m still thinking about scenario a(squared), it’s most likely because I still haven’t decided to let God take care of it. I may say, “Lord, let Thy Will be done,” but there’s still a part of me that isn’t really sure it will work out, and so I’m performing mental algebra to decode the answer to my question. Sometimes, trusting in Jesus wholeheartedly requires a daily exercise that involves reminding myself of how little I truly understand. Man’s intelligence amounts to nothing when we consider the infinite amount of knowledge and wisdom God has.

Jesus is the answer to every life question and every struggle we may experience. In fact, all the answers we seek lie within His Word and in His Presence. We see through a glass darkly, but if we acknowledge God and declare His Glory and Power in all our ways, then He will make our paths straight and prosperous.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” ~Romans 8:28 (KJV)

Going Deeper

Have your prayers ever seemed like a one-sided laundry list of your problems, preventing you from going deeper in your relationship with God?

“So, God, I have this problem with this thing that just won’t go away, and this has been happening, and this person has brought ‘x’ situation to my attention, and I don’t understand why they don’t seem all that concerned, and why won’t so-and-so do this one thing that I really wish they would do that would help us with that other situation, and ugh, God, my finances have been so tight lately, and I’m super busy, and it’s like I don’t have any time to get anything done during the day, and it seems I can’t find the time to really connect with You when I have all this stuff going on, and then there’s so-and-so’s health that we’re really concerned about, and this country’s problems, and my church stuff, and school, and work, and so many other things, and I just need You to help me out with it all, and oh, look at the time! I’ve got so much to do today, and I’m already exhausted. Okay, God, if You could just take care of it all today, that’d be great. Thanks. Okay, bye!”

Perhaps each of us have been here in our walks with God (most likely more than once) when life overwhelms us, but how often do we simply devote our prayer time to just worshipping God? Sometimes, when I’ve been overwhelmed with life, I often find my prayer time doesn’t take me deeper in my walk with Him because I’m going over all my problems and making myself more concerned about how “x” will go. But I always find myself wanting to go deeper.

How do we go deeper when life consumes us? Worship.

“Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of his holiness.” ~Psalms 29:2 (KJV)

Worship helps us take our mind off our troubles and puts our focus on God, ushering us into His Presence. We can easily overlook the worship part of our prayers and our church services when we’re busy and preoccupied, but we should endeavor to break this habit and worship Him more when life goes all 2020 on us. We may worship God in various ways, but one way that helps me get in the spirit of worship is through song.

When Paul and Silas were in prison, did they give God a laundry list of their problems? No.

They sang praises to God.

(23) “And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

(24) Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

(25) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” ~Acts 16:23-25 (KJV)

It is when we worship God in spite of our problems that we find more peace and reassurance in Him when life gets overwhelming.

“I come to You, Lord, time and time again,

Needing answers to questions I don’t understand,

But today, Lord, I come to You, asking nothing in return.

I want to love You, just let me love You.”

(“Let Me Love You” by Clint Brown)

Worship helps us let go of our worries and cares, give them to God, and instead focus on His greatness. Worship is essential because it takes our focus completely off the self and onto Him.

“Take us to deep, deep places

Where all we can see is You.

Let us see open Heaven

With angels surrounding You.”

(“Deep Places” by William McDowell)

Worship takes us to a place where we don’t see our troubles, where we instead see the glory of our King. Worship helps us put in the time with God to develop a closer walk with Him as we focus on Him more and less on ourselves.

“I decrease as You increase

It’s all about You! It’s not about me.”

(“More, Holy Spirit” by Covenant Worship)

Worship is when we recount all the great things He’s done and reflect on how great He is. Worship is when we declare His power and might, and as we do so, our faith increases, our love for Him increases, and we grow spiritually. He takes us to a level of pure praise and worship and invites us into His Throne Room. Pure worship to God is when He fills us up with His Spirit until we overflow.

The Spirit of God is something of which we can never have too much.

No one ever says to God, “You know, I think that’s enough. I’ve got a lot of Your Spirit in me. I don’t think I need anymore. I’m good, thanks.”

We can never have too much or enough of Him, but we always need more of Him because we don’t have enough strength on our own to get through life’s struggles. Going deeper in a relationship with God requires that we surrender our desire to control everything, approach His Thone in worship, and give it all to Him.

“Fill me up till I overflow

I wanna run over, I wanna run over!

Fill me up, God; fill me up, God; fill me up, God; fill me up!”

(“Fill Me Up/Overflow Medley” by Tasha Cobbs)

If you’re struggling with going deeper in your relationship with God, then in your next prayer session or during the next church service, devote that time to pure worship to God and see the change in your spirit. Notice the change in your outlook on life and your love for Him when you spend more of your time praising Him for His mercy and love and might.

Worship is the key to that secret place with God. All it requires of us is our surrender, and that is the place where things change and where He takes us deeper.

Our True Value

30% off sales galore
On toys and clothes from every store!
Hurry to get them before they’re all gone
When the Black Friday shoppers battle at dawn!

Shopping carts clash and fights become petty;
You buy all the things but run out of money.

~a poem by yours truly. Quite Shakespearean, don’t you think?

•••••

Black Friday has commenced once again, and I may have bought fuzzy socks on sale, but even I have to remind myself every year that “things” are not why we’re here. If we’re not careful, we can become obsessed with buying and acquiring all the things we think we want–shoes, appliances, boats, new hunting gear, or whatever we’ve set our sights on. Before we know it, materialism has consumed our pocketbook and corrupted our sense of value. Many consumers wind up finding their happiness in the things they acquire as though they’ve won trophies and have elevated their own social status.

But we do tend to equate a person’s value with the things they own or the amount of money they have. If a person has a bigger house, better car, or money for elaborate vacations every year, we think they’re more important or special than us. They mean more because they’re “worth” more. However, our value is not found in things but in our salvation and in Christ. This material, physical, tangible world will not remain forever, and sometimes we must remind ourselves not to make idols of the things we may possess.

(19) “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
(20) But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”

~Matthew 6:19-20, KJV

Although shopping in itself is not an evil thing and neither is money, it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. Instead of finding our value in the things we can’t take with us to Heaven, we must remember that to God we are all worth saving in spite of what we may or may not have. The poor man is as special and valuable to God as the rich man. Our home is in Heaven and our worth is in Christ. So, while all the things we may have are okay and are often gifts from God, they are not what determines our value in life.

I love clothes and shoes and hats like many girls, but I know that whether I’m wearing that expensive, pretty, new dress that is all the rave or not, my worth does not change to God. I know that we should all instead strive to remind ourselves this time of year to remember what’s truly important and why we’re celebrating this season. We celebrate Christmas not for the things we can buy but to commemorate the birth of the One who thought we were worth saving. Jesus came to save the poor, the lost, the broken, the lonely, the hurting. He is our treasure, and Heaven is our goal.

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

~Colossians 3:2 (KJV)

Constant

In the age of 2020 in which everything seems to be rapidly spiraling out of control, it’s often difficult to find comfort to still our nerves and calm our anxious minds.

As a recent college grad, my conversations with God often involve questions about my future and wonderings about life, meaning, and purpose in a world that chaos consumes. There’s so much noise in this world that tries, and sometimes succeeds, to cancel out those quiet moments—quiet moments to focus on God, His Word, and what He wants. Frankly, I’d love a pair of noise-canceling headphones to shut up those obnoxious thoughts sometimes.

This summer, I read through Genesis and studied the first women of the Bible, and as I read one passage in particular, I came across a small nugget of revelation that gave me a bit of comfort I hadn’t expected. After the Flood and after Noah and his family left the Ark on Mt. Ararat, God made a promise:

Genesis 8:21-22

21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”

When I finished reading these verses, I couldn’t help but feel comfort in the fact that a promise God made near the beginning of time after the Great Flood is a promise that has lasted for all time, the evidence of which I can see simply by looking out my window and into my front yard. Every time I feel the heat of summer and the cold wind whipping in my face in fall and winter, every time I see the leaves changing colors from green to red and orange or new flowers budding on barren tree limbs, and every time I see the sun rise and fall, I am reminded of God’s promise of constant comfort and stability in Him, knowing that while everything else is falling apart, I can find comfort in His Faithfulness.

At the beginning of time, He made the promise that from that moment forward there would always be the changing seasons on earth. It would be cold in the winter and hot in the summer. There would always be day, and there would always be night. While other things on earth might change, these things would never cease. And here we are near the end of time, and all we have to do to see the evidence of God’s promise is to look outside, and there it is. We find our source of comfort, our constant in life in Him and His Word. He is faithful and true.

Great is Thy Faithfulness, oh God.