Twenty seventeen started off differently than I expected: working through anxiety, stress, fears, several deaths between family and friends and some personal health struggles. Definitely not my idea of welcoming twenty seventeen warmly. This year started with a deep groaning and the Lord working through some thorns and bramble in my heart, namely pride.
If there's one thing that God has been teaching me over the past few months it's that I am not God. I am limited. I am weak. I am dependent, and I need Jesus more than anything. But I am a stubborn sheep that likes to run away, and the way my Shepherd saves me from myself is by breaking my legs and carrying me.
I think we all experience these moments in life, when we just don't understand why we go through suffering and trials until we see it's greater purpose. It leads to a deep sense of humility and an admission: I am not God and that is okay. I'm learning to allow suffering, fatherly discipline from my Shepherd, anxiety, and fears point me humbly towards the One that understands and knows everything.
I started reading a well recommended book yesterday, Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul by Hannah Anderson. The introduction alone was like a balm from the Lord to my soul. Something she wrote struck a chord that's been reverberating in my heart over these past few months. I'd love to share it with you:
You're not God. I'm not God. None of us are God.
How freeing it is to recognize that there is a God and we are not Him. As I've walked through fears, anxiety, trials, and sorrow in the beginning of twenty seventeen, this is the way that the Lord has comforted my heart, and it's how He can comfort yours if you're walking through similar things.
We can have peace in the midst of different situations, because we are not in control. We can have peace when we're fearful, because we have a good Shepherd that leads us beside still waters and through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). We can have peace when we're sorrowful and mourn, because we have a God that comforts the weak and those that mourn (Matthew 5).
My prayer for us today is that we would humbly recognize in the good and hard circumstances of life that we are not God and that this truth would bring us peace and grow our faith.
If the Lord's doing this work in your heart too, these links might be helpful on the journey:
Dying to Self in the Age of Self-Love from Theology for Women
The Best King of Self-Care is Care for Others from Hare Translators
Four Reasons to Slow Down from Desiring God
The Amazon link to the book mentioned above is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase this book, this blog is supported at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting She Laughs Without Fear!
I shared previously about what I learned from reading Love Walked Among Us by Paul Miller. This book deeply impacted me, and I shared about how the first section of the book was impactful in Love Shows Compassion. The main point of this book is showing how Jesus loved others and how we're called to love others like Jesus. The next section in the book is titled "Love Speaks The Truth" and boy, was this section challenging and encouraging to me.
When I think of loving others, the compassion side of loving others comes pretty easy to me. The Lord has made me a very compassionate person, but speaking the truth? That's something I'm fearful to do. I often believe the lie that being honest or speaking the truth is unloving, but Jesus exposes that lie and reveals the truth to me.
As shared in the previous post, Jesus loved others compassionately, but he also loved others by being honest. Jesus spoke honestly to others, like calling out the Pharisees for being hypocrites, but he also showed compassion towards them. He was honest with His Father in the garden of Gethsemane about how He was feeling in regards to going to the cross, but He ultimately submitted to God's will (Matthew 26:36-46). Jesus balances honesty and compassion.
I don't do that well... at all.
Paul Miller gives a great example of this struggle in Love Walked Among Us and how to choose honesty and compassion instead of dishonesty and resentment in relationships. He tells a story about a husband and a wife. The wife works late at night, and the husband doesn't get to see his wife very often. The husband and wife make plans to have a date night, but the wife calls her husband an hour before she's supposed to be home, asking if he would be okay with her working late and postponing their date night.
The husband has several ways that he could respond. If we're honest, a lot of us in a similar situation would respond by either saying "It's okay," allowing the person to do what they want and then later resenting the fact that he/she chose work over the relationship, allowing bitterness to fester. OR we respond by getting angry and upset and telling the person that they're not really caring for the relationship. (At least these are two ways I might respond).
Paul Miller offers a very different response, a response that images Jesus by balancing honesty and compassion. He shares that the husband could speak honestly to his wife and tell her that he would prefer her to come home for their date, but that he would understand if she chooses to stay later at work. In this way, the husband is honest about how he feels but is also compassionate in allowing his wife to feel free to make a decision that she think would be best.
The wife could then respond in one of several ways. She could feel guilty and decide to come home, but feel resentful that she didn't get extra work done. She could stay at work and come home later. Or she could decide that coming home is the best thing. However, in all of her potential responses, the husband is free from resenting not telling his wife the truth. He told her the truth; he wanted her home, but he gave her the freedom to make the decision. The husband images Jesus in balancing honesty and compassion
I can't tell you how encouraged I was after reading this example from Paul Miller's book, because this is something that I often struggle with: wanting to be honest with how I feel but also wanting to show compassion and understanding. Reading this section of Love Walked Among Us came at exactly the right time.
Within a week of reading the section, I encountered several relational conflicts in which I was in the "husband's" situation. I wanted to share how I truly felt but also show compassion. This time, I didn't give into the lie that I wasn't loving my friend by speaking the truth. I shared with her honestly about how her actions and decisions made me feel, but I also showed her compassion and understanding in forgiving her for how her actions and decisions affected me personally.
I would recommend this book for this example of speaking the truth in love alone. I reference this section all the time now when I encounter situations and conversations when I could choose to hide the truth and feel resentful or choose honesty and feel free.
I still have a lot of growing to do in speaking the truth in love, but this section showed me that Jesus loved others by being honest and by balancing honesty and compassion. I'm called to image Jesus as his follower and that means that I'm called to speak the truth. Speaking the truth and being honest truly does love others, and I'm looking forward to future opportunities to practice balancing speaking the truth while also showing compassion.
This post is a part of a series as I review and share thoughts spurred on by the book
Love Walked Among Us by Paul Miller.
This time a year ago, I graduated college with a degree in Film and Video Production. I started support raising to work full-time as a campus missionary, and I entered into a dating relationship with my best guy friend from college.
I'm a year out of college, nearing the end of full-time support raising to minister full-time on campus, and 27 days away from marrying the man I want to spend the rest of my life on earth with.
By God's grace, a lot can happen in a year. A lot of changes have taken place in my life, and even more changes are ahead. Name changes. Location changes. Job responsibility changes. Learning to be a wife changes. And so many more changes.
But even though this life is filled with change, there is One that remains constant and never changes in the midst of these different seasons.
He's the same One that knows every hair on my head. He's the One that has numbered every day of my life. He's the One that knew that I would become passionate about campus ministry while pursuing filmmaking. He's the One that knew back when I first liked Husband-to-Be and didn't know what to do with my feelings that we would end up getting married.
A lot can happen in a year, but God knew exactly what would happen and what will happen. I may change and things may change around me, but He is constant and never changing.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."
If I'm honest, I can often struggle when reading the Bible. I love reading the Good Book, and I often learn more about God while reading it, but I often struggle with understanding what I'm reading. This can lead to frustration and it can even lead to a discouragement that keeps me from wanting to dig deeper in a passage.
What I appreciate about Jen Wilkin's book, Women of the Word, is that she tackles this issue and many others. Many women feel similarly. They feel like the Bible is too difficult to read or understand. Not only that, but we can often read the Bible with the wrong perspective, thinking it's a self-help book for us when it's actually a book to teach us about God.
Wilkin begins the book by saying, "This is a book about equipping women through Bible study." It equips women in knowing how to read the Bible to know God more, because when we know God more, our love for Him grows as well. That's the primary focus of this book: equipping women to study the Bible to know God more and as a result, grow in our love for Him.
In order to encourage women in their study of the Bible, Wilkin goes through what she calls the Five P's of Sound Study:
Study with Purpose
Study with Perspective
Study with Patience
Study with Process
Study with Prayer
While it's a short read, it's very applicable. Wilkin goes through the Five P's and a Bible study method and then she takes a few pages to apply it through the book of James. I've been using the Bible study method that Wilkin uses since my freshman year of college, but her explanations and nuggets of wisdom gave me an encouraging and fresh perspective on Bible study. After reading each chapter, I found myself wanting to dig deeper into passages that I've found difficult to understand and comprehend.
My main take away from this book is that studying the Bible is supposed to stretch our understanding of God and help us grow in knowing Him more. Which means that it's okay if we struggle through understanding a passage or if it feels like we're just not getting it. Searching for understanding is part of the process of learning, and when we finally do get it, it's all the more satisfying. We learn more about God in the process and become women of the Word.
I was sitting in Starbucks the other day chatting with a friend when a song came on over the store's sound system. It was a song that I had heard a few weeks ago, and the melody was catchy, but I hadn't caught enough of the lyrics previously to look it up. After my friend-date, I went home, found it on Spotify, and shamelessly danced to it in my kitchen on repeat while making stir fry.
The song is Lay It All On Me by Rudimental featuring Ed Sheeran.
After probably the tenth time I listened to it, I realized why I liked it so much. I've heard the lyrics before but from someone far different from Ed Sheeran.
Before I go on, feel free to play the song below and read over the lyrics.
Ed Sheeran makes a lot of promises in this song. Ultimately he promises that any burdens, concerns, or insecurities the girl (I'm assuming he's singing to a girl) finds herself in, she can lay it all on Ed Sheeran, and he will carry her burdens. But these are promises that Ed Sheeran nor any other human will be able to fulfill perfectly. However, there is someone that made the same promises over 2000 years ago and still keeps those promises to this day. Let's take a look at a few of them:
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you;
he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts
and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Now these are bold promises, just like Ed Sheeran's. The difference is that Jesus Christ made these promises and he fulfills them perfectly.
We can lay all of our cares, concerns, worries, and burdens on Jesus because he loves us and has already carried us. Every sin (which includes worries and anxieties) was laid on Jesus on the cross (Isaiah 53:6). When he resurrected, he overcame death, our sins, burdens, worries, anxieties, and the world! He's the only one we can lay everything on and trust that he will always be victorious and carry us through the good and the bad.
We can't carry everything ourselves. Our burdens are too much for us to bear alone. That's what makes this song so popular. We know that we can't do it, that's why we love songs about a man offering to carry all of a woman's burdens. So when you're going through trials, suffering, or have worries, concerns and cares, who do you lay it all on? Yourself? Your loved ones? Or on Christ?
While Christians are called to bear each others burdens (Galatians 6), we can't do it perfectly nor should we expect to, but there is one that can and will always carry our burdens completely and perfectly. And the next time you listen to "Lay It All On Me" or need to cast all of your burdens on someone, I hope you remember him.
Shalom! I'm Madi, a laughter-loving, movie-going, spontaneous-dancing, follower of Christ. Join me as I seek glimpses of God's grace in the ordinary and everyday.
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She Laughs Without Fear