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4 Truths That Kept Me Going in 2018

As 2018 draws to a close, I want to look back on the past 12 months and examine the valuable lessons I’ve learned. Not just to give myself a pat on the back for making it this far but also to reflect on the things that God has taught me in the last year.

So here we go.

 

1. Learn to live beyond how you feel

Don’t give your feelings the power to affect you. You can turn that dial down (for me it’s called the crazy dial) and tune in to a different voice. Your feelings don’t have to determine the path you take. Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, reveals this earth-shattering truth when he describes the heart as “deceitful above all else and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Sometimes how we feel doesn’t always match up to reality; so it’s important to learn how to differentiate between the two.

At my core, I am a feeler—so I’m still working on this. A while back, I realized how much air time I was giving to negative voices in my life instead of God’s voice. Part of the battle is learning to dial down the negative voices and turn up the ones that bring you life.

Instead of focusing on our fears, worries, and problems, we need to remind them of where they stand in relation to God. Believe me, I know how easy it is to get hung up on all of the negatives but it’s imperative in these moments that we hang onto the promises of God instead. Read His Word and pray through His promises over yourself and your situation. It may not transform your circumstances but it most surely will transform the way you think and feel about them.

Some verses that have helped me are:

I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)

 

2. We need community

Life is full of ups and downs, so it’s essential that you find your tribe.

The ones you turn to when it feels like the walls are closing in. The ones who stand by you when you feel like you’re completely alone. The ones who hold you up when you can’t hold on any longer. The ones who remind you of God’s faithfulness in your life when you’ve lost all perspective. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who struggles to see the bigger picture?!)

We all need the help of community to keep us going during those times. The deepest part of me truly believes this is where the church comes in; but not everyone may have had the best experience with the religious community when it comes to divulging your inner demons.

It’s important to remember that the church is made up of imperfect people who are trying to emulate the perfection of Christ; so at some point, you will most likely be disappointed. After all, not everyone is called to walk through this life with you.

The trick is not letting this dishearten you but to let it fuel your fiery desire to seek out real community—the people who listen when you ask the tough questions, the people who don’t always have to fill the silence when they don’t know what to say, the people who laugh with deep belly-laughs at life’s many joys and cry with you when it’s just too much to handle anymore. Find these people and you will be the richest person on earth.

 

3. Healing is a journey

Throughout my time at university and early 20s, I lived with a debilitating anxiety disorder. And yet during that painful season, God did not miraculously heal me from my anxiety disorder even though I frequently begged Him to.

I didn’t automatically stop having panic attacks despite committing to daily quiet times with Him every morning before 8 a.m. lectures. I still had to catch my breath and count to 10 in the middle of a client meeting to avoid a potential breakdown. I still had to excuse myself from Political Theory lectures to prevent an impending panic attack. I still went to bed most nights with a racing heart and restless mind. It really is a miracle I got through those years at college. Praise Jesus.

In short, my healing journey wasn’t an instantaneous jolt of supernatural peace. It wasn’t a straightforward quick fix.

Managing my anxiety was a long, drawn-out, and emotionally painful process. It was the result of many months of intense counseling sessions, countless moments of trial and error practicing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, heaps of emotional energy I often didn’t have to give, and endless support from “my people.” It required the Church to get alongside me and cheer me on as I waded through the muddy waters of poor mental health. Thank God for those precious people.

 

4. God uses imperfect people for His perfect plans

I’m also grateful for all the people who genuinely wanted to help me loosen the chains of anxiety and live my life in all its fullness. People who offered an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on when the anxiety was just too much. People who encouraged me to keep going despite me wanting to give up. People who identified my giftings and called them out in me, even when I could not see them myself.

This was perhaps the most redeeming truth—realizing that God still had a place for me in His Kingdom even though I didn’t have my stuff all sorted. I was not perfect, and He wasn’t expecting me to be. He just wanted me to come, exactly as I was, and work in me so He could work through me to help others.

I have discovered that is often the way with God. It’s in the darkest places where we learn the most important lessons. And in order for God to use our lives for His glory, we must experience a little bit of what others have gone through to truly understand their journey and to be effective carriers of His peace and healing.

 

So as I’m sitting here reflecting on the past 12 months, I want to openly admit to you the truth that I do not have it all together. I do not have all the answers. I have not fully “arrived”. (Do we ever really?)

Perhaps the most important truth I have discovered throughout my experience as a Christian with anxiety is simply this—God uses broken people to heal other broken people.

God uses weak people to demonstrate His strength.

God uses broken people to mend the wounds of brokenhearted people.

God uses anxious people to free up anxious people.

So in 2019, I just encourage you to go for it. Join the prayer team at church. Write that book. Start that Bible study group. Climb that mountain. Run that race. There is a part for you to play in God’s big plan of calling His lost kids back to Him. You have a significant part to play in saving the world. Every one of us gets to play.

Every one of us gets a seat at the table.

A place to lead, to serve, to encourage, to inspire, to challenge, to heal.

Not in spite of our weakness, but because of them.

ODJ: What We Have

August 20, 2016 

READ: 1 Kings 21:1-21  

I asked Naboth to sell me his vineyard or trade it, but he refused! (v.6).

In one of Aesop’s Fables, a ravenous fox notices some grapes hanging on a vine. He leaps into the air, but he can’t reach the fruit. Dejected, he trots off and remarks, “Oh you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.”

Like the fox, people sometimes convince themselves they don’t want what they can’t have. The only thing worse is when people continue to pursue what they can’t have at any cost.

King Ahab might have given up on his desire for a certain vineyard if it hadn’t been for his wife, Jezebel. Ahab tried to buy the plot from Naboth, but the man refused to sell it. Rebuffed, the king went home, “angry and sullen” (1 Kings 21:4). Seeing her husband’s dejection, Jezebel had Naboth murdered so that the king could acquire his little vineyard.

King Ahab had access to almost anything he wanted because of his position. Yet he focused on the one thing he couldn’t have. Ahab’s fixation isn’t unique. Bathsheba became a must-have for David (2 Samuel 11:1-4), and Adam and Eve just had to try the fruit God had prohibited (Genesis 3:6-7).

We can sometimes be tempted to go after the things we know we shouldn’t have. We’re especially vulnerable to this ‘must-have’ mentality when we lose sight of what God has already provided for us. Desire plus ungratefulness equals trouble. Self-control mixed with thankfulness, however, can protect us from greed.

By recognising all that God has done for us and given us, we’re filled with a spirit of contentment—not a spirit of longing for what we don’t have or what we can’t have. Paul wrote, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6 niv). With thankful hearts, may we see that God provides exactly what we need!

—Jennifer Benson Schuldt

365-day plan: Luke 17:1-19

MORE
Read 1 Thess. 5:18 to see the relationship between thankfulness and what God wants for us. 
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When do you feel most grateful? How does remembering what God has done for us make for a thankful, content heart? 

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The Day I Spent in Prison

Written By Jes Nuylan, Philippines

I braced myself for the encounter, wondering how I should talk and act around them. I was excited and nervous at the same time since I had never interacted with inmates before. And I was thoroughly surprised when I finally met them.

New Bilibid Prison. I had only heard of the name up till that visit. A few of my friends had first visited the inmates and gotten acquainted with them while working on their dissertation. They invited me to join them in their second visit. They planned to minister to the inmates—to give them some Christmas presents, as well as words of encouragement.

Hearing that they were all middle-aged men and had been imprisoned for drug and theft related offences, I was apprehensive at first. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I met them. They were delighted to see us and treated us like old friends. I later learned that they yearned for interaction with “outsiders”, having been separated from their families.

We gave them simple gifts, which they felt were the best gifts they had ever received. They listened attentively to the testimonies we prepared and the short devotion my friend shared. They told us that they were moved and encouraged. Their response stirred our hearts.

In return, they presented us with handcrafted items like parols (star-shaped Christmas lanterns) and wreaths. They also performed for us, showcasing their talents in singing, dancing, acting, and the like. It was a joy to watch! But beyond the happy feelings our interaction with them evoked, what struck me during that visit was that I had taken many things for granted.

  1. We are free, but we often act as though we’re imprisoned—by our selfishness, anger, struggles, stress, etc.
  1. We often fail to appreciate the people around us. That trip made me realize how much God has blessed me with in terms of family and friends.                                 
  1. We own so much materially but we’re hardly ever satisfied with what we have. I constantly gripe about things I don’t have and want to have.
  1. We hardly take note of the inspiring things that happen around us. The prison visit was a humbling experience, which caused me to reflect not just on God’s blessings, but His grace.

Though the inmates are imprisoned because of their past mistakes and are deprived of many privileges that free people enjoy, but yet, in some aspects, they have much we can learn from, especially when it comes to being grateful.

I had visited them with the intention of ministering to them, but instead, I was the one who walked away feeling blessed and inspired. And although it has been five years since that visit, it has served as a constant reminder to me to be grateful. I pray that this reflection will inspire you to be grateful too.

Photo credit: Gowiththe Flo via Scandinavian / CC BY-NC-ND

What’s the Best Way to Begin the Year?

A fresh start. That’s what I need. Or the undo button, so I can modify last year. This is not an uncommon wish for many of us at the closing of a year or the opening of a new one. Sometimes, we had a great year. Sometimes, we had a not-so-bad year. Oftentimes, we had a hard year ridden with hurts and pains, failures and problems; we thought we would never get through any of them.

But we did, and here we are at the launching pad of a new year—a new beginning bringing with it hope and endless possibilities.

So when we look back on what we’ve gone through, how can we begin the right way? I believe the answer to that question is simple: Begin by being grateful to God.

Begin by being grateful to Him for the things that brought us happiness and smiles in the past year and for the love we experienced in Him. Begin by going back to how faithful God has been and how good He has been to us even in those times we didn’t clearly see His hand. When we look back and see how the pieces in our lives fell into a beautiful tapestry of grace, realize that God did all that and be thankful.

Begin by being grateful for the things that brought us tears. I know that sounds preposterous. To suggest to be thankful for pain seems like a bad move. But pain is a gift. It’s a gift nobody wants, yet we all need to be thankful for it. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Pain enables us to know that something is wrong or that what we experienced was real. It unmasks us and helps us see the truth. It adds dimension to our lives and meaning to our pursuits. A person who has never gone through suffering will never fully appreciate God’s selfless act and sacrifice on the cross and the depth of His love. Our salvation had cost Him dearly, and you can bet it was very painful. Yet because He endured that pain, we all have been given a new birth. The pain of love gave us what we so desperately need—Jesus.

And, begin by being grateful for what we have and what is ahead of us not letting our messes from the past year stop us from moving forward.

Most of us want to do things differently this year. I know I do.

But all the things that we wished we did, or did better, or more of from the last year could preoccupy our minds and hearts, sometimes causing us to forget what is truly important—a life lived out in the reality of being God’s child. This means not being a slave to our defeats but being free in God to keep moving forward even when moving forward seems impossible. As Ann Voskamp said, “Be more grateful for what is—than you feel guilty over what isn’t. The moving forward always happens in this relief that all our guilt is covered by His grace.”

What a precious gift we have in Jesus! His incomprehensible grace continues to clothe us with His righteousness and completely engulf us with His love.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)!

Photo credit:bubbo.etsy.com / Foter / CC BY-NC