A Word for People Pleasers

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Sometimes I don’t have much to say. Not enough words to fill up a haiku, much less a blog. Life gets busy, my body runs on fumes and caffeine, kids scream for attention…you know the drill.

Yet despite the normal grind of living, the fear never completely goes away. The enemy is always lurking, ever hissing and flinging his accusations, preying upon my darkest secrets and coldest fears.

There are some battles that must be fought over and over again. That’s okay.

If you’re a recovering people-pleaser like me, remind yourself of this truth today:

“Some people will like me, some won’t. Others will love me no matter how many things I do wrong, and some will despise me no matter how many things I do right. None of it changes my worth in the Father’s eyes. I am loved. I am treasured. I am His. Living to please Him is all that matters.”

Rest in Him, my friend. He has already declared you to be more than enough.

 

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It Must be God’s Will…Really???

This past week has been a rough one. Why does it seem like holiday time is a tractor beam for bad news?

Someone I love dearly received an unexpected diagnosis. My heart ached to hear it. As this person shared their news on Facebook, one person remarked, “Well, this must be God’s will.” My eyes bugged out as my blood began to boil. God’s will? Really?

oh-really

I’ve been mulling over this concept for quite some time. When someone receives a medical diagnosis, people often blanket it under the guise of “God’s will”. When hurricanes drop devastation, we say it was “God’s will”. When an entire family is tragically taken in a car crash, we say “it was God’s will”. But was it really?

Before I sat down to write this blog, I went to social media to gather up opinions. I asked them this question: “Are all bad things that happen God’s will?” This seems to be a hot topic—my Facebook page was flooded in only an hour. Here are just a few of the responses:

Kathleen said, “A question I’ve asked again and again. After losing a friend to cancer, we went to a church where the pastor said, ‘Everything that happens is God’s will, and we should be big and strong enough in our faith to take it.’ We walked out. Were we weak? Maybe. But plenty of yuck happens that is not God’s doing. People make evil decisions that hurt children. People go with their selfish needs and desires, despite God’s soft whispering voice that said, ‘This is not for you.’ I have seen it again and again. God does help us grow and learn through our terrible experiences, and maybe, just maybe, give us the courage to write about it and help others grow through, as well.”

Jeremy said, “This mindset makes God the author of pain and suffering…which he is not. Pain and suffering are the result of original sin. This means that for us to judge that someone is suffering due to a particular sin, as in the case of Job’s friends, is always bad theology unless the suffering was a direct cause of that sin rather than an inferred consequence. When we make God the author of pain and suffering we create confusion rather than comfort and guilt instead of solace.”

fork-in-road

Dana added, “Bad things happen to good, Godly people. Like my sister getting cancer at 45. Was it God’s will? No. Did he know it would happen? Yes. The worse thing anyone could have said to us was that it was God’s will. I do not believe God willed for her to suffer so terribly as she did. I believe it broke God’s heart to see her suffer and for all of her family to be sad and crying. He was with us and I believe he caught every tear drop in His hand. Someone suggested to one of the family members that maybe she wasn’t prayed for enough. What a slap in the face and an insult to our faith. If that person had been correct then every person prayed for nonstop would be healed. But we live in a fallen world and this world is not perfect. This is not our home, thankfully!”

I love how my friend Cathy said it:

“Tara, I agree with most of what has been said above. Even if certain statements seem at odds with one another. His ways are not our way and His thoughts above our thoughts. When my eleven-year-old son was killed in a tragic accident, I learned about God’s allowable or permissive will (as Jolene says) vs His perfect will for us. Sometimes He permits things to happen for reasons we cannot understand or know. Was it for my own maturity? So that my son would be spared from drugs in his teen years? To increase my love for my daughter who was left? No idea. And I, too, don’t think God works that way, though these outcomes could result from such a tough situation. Sometimes He allows these hurtful things to happen to His own for reasons only known to Him. When it happened to me, He gave me a deep knowing-that on the day I see Jesus and am reunited with my son in heaven, I will have all my questions answered. Yet, I will be so thankful and overwhelmingly happy to see them both, I won’t care about those ‘whys’ anymore. After that, I didn’t waste time wondering because I trust the One who holds my hands through it all. I know He knows. So all is well.” Heart _

My husband and I were recently discussing all this and he said, “I suppose when it comes down to it, we blew God’s perfect will to smithereens in the Garden of Eden, didn’t we?”

Indeed.

We are locked in a cosmic battle whether we realize it or not. Good versus evil. Light versus darkness. God, the King of all, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer versus Satan, a fallen angel. Ever since Satan lifted up his heart in pride and said, “I will be like God” (Is. 14:13-15), he declared war against the Almighty, His creation and all God’s kids.

And here’s the thing, Satan will never be like God. He can’t be. He tries over and over again and fails every single time. Evil might be good at imitating Light for a little while but what it ultimately births cannot be hidden: death, disease, and chaos. Satan knows this. So if he can’t be like God, he does everything in his power to make God appear to be like him: cruel, vindictive, and indifferent.

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Personally, I think it’s one of Satan’s techniques as an accuser to have us believe it’s God’s will when bad things happen so we can then turn around and say, “God must not be good”. If we begin to believe God is not good and doesn’t have our good in mind, we will begin to question everything else about Him and the unraveling of our faith begins. Our enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. He loves nothing more than for us to face crippling loss, and then have us turn to God with an accusing finger and say, “How could you?”

To say everything that happens is God’s will just leads to a directionless life, one full of personal irresponsibility and doubt in whether God really does have our best in mind. What a terrible way to live!

But God does indeed have a will. What is it? Scripture makes it clear.

1) For all men to be saved. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

2) To give thanks in all circumstances. This strengthens our joy and dependence on God in adversity, as well as building patience, endurance, and forming us into the image of Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, James 1:2-4)

3) To live a life that is that different from the world, unpolluted, holy and set apart. (1 Thess. 4:3, Hebrews 13:20-21, Ephesians 5:15-20)

There is another type of will we need to talk about. Free will. God granted us all freedom to choose. Free will comes at a high price. He will not force us to love Him. He will not force us to do the right thing. Some choose love and light. Some choose darkness and evil, and their actions ripple far and deep, effecting generations in profound ways. Remember that cosmic battle we talked about? We are locked in war, whether we want to be or not. But take heart, child of God. We win. Read the Bible all the way to the end. Jesus will make all things right. As my pastor often says, when Jesus is finished, you’ll be able to look at all those horrors, the tormentors, the abusers and say, “Jesus took care of it. Boy, did He ever take care of it.”

In thinking over all this, God keeps bringing a passage back to mind. Luke 7: 11-17. A funeral procession was passing by Jesus and when He saw and heard the intensity of their grief, the original language says His compassion was so great He couldn’t help Himself. He had to move and intervene. He touched the funeral bier and brought the dead boy back to life.walking

He is the Author of Life. Nothing grieves His heart more than suffering. Some day all will be made right. Our enemy does not have the final say. He will be crushed.

And the beautiful thing about our Savior is that, even in the here and now, we can say, like Joseph, “what you intended for harm, God used for good.” He births beauty out of the most broken messes.

All will be well. Cling to the Hope of Jesus. He is holding you even now.

Hot Air Balloons, Fence Lines and Lies: Why does God Have Rules?

hot-air-balloonImagine a man slowly sailing through the clouds in a bright, striped hot air balloon. The air is cool, save for the spurt of fire keeping the balloon bellowed and full. As the current toys with his hair, he studies the tiny images below…rectangles of green and brown grass, houses and snaking highways. Everything seems so small, and from his vantage point, he feels so very big.

His hand cups the canvas edges of the basket wall and he frowns. Everything is perfect except for the stupid walls keeping him in. He wants to feel like a bird, to fly, to soar and be free. How can he do that with the ridiculous barricades in place?

What kind of morons would create this beautiful balloon and trap its passengers in a cage underneath? The walls were ruining his fun. Heat burned his chest at the thought. No one could tell him what to do. He was his own man.

He pulled himself over the edge and jumped, no longer bound by restrictions.

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Tell me, do you think the man made a wise decision?

Welcome back to our series Liar, a look at the enemy’s most frequent lies, how to identify them and replace them with truth. We’re up to lie number seven: God’s rules are too restrictive.

Some people have the mistaken idea that when you give your life to Christ, God plops a big manual in your lap filled with a list of “don’ts” and “thou shall nots”, all with the expressed purpose of making sure your life from then on is miserable.book-of-rules

This is a lie.

Unfortunately, this is a lie even some Christians believe because they have failed to understand the true meaning of grace, or are caught up in the controlling cycle of legalism.

God does give us some boundaries to follow. A fence line, if you will, with clear warnings of what will happen if we go beyond the property lines. He doesn’t do this to ruin our party, or make us miserable. Please hear me. God gives us boundaries to ensure we have the best and happiest life possible.

It’s no different than pulling a toddler’s hand away from a hot stove, or yanking a child away from an oncoming car. You tell them ‘no’ because you don’t want to see them hurt. When a child chooses to ignore a warning, what they perceive as making them ‘happy’ for the moment could actually lead to their destruction.

But, boy, the enemy is so sneaky at making us think what’s beyond that fence is the very thing we can’t live without.

It’s not a new tactic. He’s been trying it from the very beginning. Go to the Bible and look all the way back in Genesis 3.

I still scratch my head, wondering how good that fruit must have looked. After all, Eve was literally living in paradise. Perfect weather, perfect beauty, perfect body, no cellulite, perfect food, perfect husband and a beautiful bond with the God who’d created her. What more did she need?

God told Adam and Eve, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 3: 16,17)

God basically said, “Look around you! You can do whatever you want, except eat from this tree. That’s all.” It was a pretty sweet deal. But instead of thinking of all the things she could have, Eve became fixated on the one thing she couldn’t have. She ate and plunged the entire human race into a spiral of death, disease and decay.

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Just like Eve, when we throw aside God’s instructions, we discover instead finding freedom, we actually end up in bondage. Satan promises life but gives death. Always.

This lie, that God’s rules are too restrictive, is closely related to another lie: God really isn’t good.

The enemy knows that once we doubt the goodness of God, we will feel justified in rejecting His will and making our own decisions about right and wrong. And once we’ve shoved Truth out of the picture, our life becomes a hasty spiral into a toxic mess.

“So the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear [and worship] the Lord our God [with awe-filled reverence and profound respect] for our good always and so that He might preserve us alive, as it is today.” Deuteronomy 6:24

God only has your best in mind. No matter what you’ve been told, or what earthly examples you’ve been shown, He’s a good Father. There’s no need to learn the hard way.

Know your enemy. There’s nothing better waiting beyond the fence. I promise. Life, beauty and joy waits inside with Jesus.

“Buzz Lightyear Did It”, “I Can’t Help the Way I Am” and Other Ways We Stay Stuck

I stared at the Hot Wheels car submerged at the bottom of our toilet and frowned. I arched my brow and turned to spear my wide-eyed three-year old son with “the look”. He stood in his under-roos, clutching his Buzz Lightyear doll in his chubby arms, blinking those big brown eyes up at me with the innocent look of a deer.

“Nate, did you throw your Hot Wheel car in the potty?”

He swallowed, his eyes darting side to side. When his gaze landed on his Buzz Lightyear, he offered a hopeful, lopsided grin and pointed to the toy with his free hand.

“Buzz did it.”

 buzz-lightyear

Ah, the blame game. It’s nothing new. Adam and Eve tried the same thing in Genesis 3. As soon as they got busted for eating the forbidden fruit, Eve said, “The serpent tricked me.” Adam told God, “The woman you made for me offered me some.”

Welcome back to our blog series Liar, a look at the enemy’s most common lies and how to recognize them. We’re up to lie #6: “I can’t help the way I am”. 

How many of us are tired of messing up? How many of us find ourselves falling back into the same cycle of mistakes over and over again? We tell ourselves we should stop our bad behavior and it might even work for a while but then we find ourselves right back at square one. Sometimes in worse shape than how we began.

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Let’s stop for a moment and ponder a vitally important truth here: Every sin in our life, especially when it comes to an habitual sin, comes about because somewhere along the way, we’ve fallen for a lie.

A lie is only harmful to us if we believe it.

If I had actually believed my son’s lie that his Hot Wheels ended up in our toilet because Buzz Lightyear did it, then I’d have a real problem. Paranoia would be an understatement. I didn’t believe his lie, so therefore, it didn’t bug me.

But for a lot of us, we have believed the lie that screams, “I can’t help the way I am”.

I’ve always been stubborn, even as a baby.

Everyone in my family is fat. Guess it’s just hereditary.

Look how I was raised.

My dad was an alcoholic. I never had a chance.

I come from a poor neighborhood.

This is just my personality. I can’t change it.

My family never supported me.

History repeats itself.

The problem with the whole “I can’t help the way I am” philosophy is that it’s rooted in a victim mentality, which leads us to think we are helpless, forever a part of the system. It’s a subtle form of keeping us locked in bondage.

Isn’t the enemy sneaky? prison

Think of it this way…if our circumstances, or how we are raised, or any other condition around us makes us who we are, then we are all victims. We have no choices, no input, and no reason to even want any.

But the truth is we do have choices. Sometimes, it’s just easier to play the victim.

“I can’t help the way I am” is another way of saying “It’s not my fault” or, to quote my mischievous son, “It’s Buzz’s fault that the car is in the toilet”.

If the enemy can make us feel trapped, if we never question the cage he’s put us in, then he wins. He has us right where he wants us…defeated.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of us were born and thrust into some tough stuff. The sin curse has permeated everything, rippling down through generations, pooling deeper in some families than others. But you are not doomed to flounder in its sticky mire forever. As Nancy Leigh DeMoss has wisely stated, “Circumstances don’t make us who we are. They only reveal who we are.”

Just like Adam and Eve, it’s easy…wonderfully easy to blame someone else, our family upbringing, our circumstances, our hormones, Mondays, the idiot driver who cut us off in traffic, or any other thing for our issues but ultimately, we are responsible for the decisions we make.

If  you’ve spent your life pointing a finger at the unjustice of your upbringing, the system, or any other blame shifter, then you’re stuck, forever chained to a life of a misery. But on the other hand, there is good news with sin. Yep. You read that correctly. If you sin, that means there is forgiveness. A way out. A way has been made to break free from those cycles that keep pulling you back down.

The lie: “I can’t help the way I am.”

The truth from God:

We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin.” Romans 6:6,7

Jesus died to free you from your families’ bad decisions, from your chains, from your broken way of thinking, from yourself. We may not be able to control the circumstances around us, but Jesus died and rose again to guarantee that those circumstances no longer have to control us.

Replace that lie with God’s truth and then walk in it.

And make sure Buzz Lightyear isn’t hanging around. woody-and-buzz

Lie #5: Approval Means I’m Loved

We’re up to lie #5 in our series on exposing the enemy’s schemes…”Approval means I’m loved.” This lie was nearly my undoing.

I desperately want people to like me. There. I said it. The thought of someone being displeased with me in any way drops a sick feeling in my gut.

What’s one way to shake that cold feeling of dread? Work harder. Be more agreeable, more likable. Fit in. Be accepted and never, ever let them see the real you. After all, if they know what you’re really like, the acceptance will disappear. Right?   please love me

That’s what I told myself, anyways.

I’ve battled people pleasing all my life. I can readily admit it now, but I would have died a thousand deaths to confess such a thing ten years ago.

At one point, my people pleasing was so bad, and weird, that I couldn’t even express my own tastes for fear of someone thinking I was odd. One day, my friends were chatting about how much they loved fresh tomatoes.

One of them turned to me with smile. “Is there anything more delicious than a fresh tomato, Tara?”

I replied, “Of course not! Nothing better.” tomato

Confession: I hate tomatoes with a passion.

Why did I lie? Especially over something so trivial? Because I craved acceptance. I needed their love. And I mistakenly thought that disagreement led to loss of love.

At the time in my life of my “tomato lie”, I did anything that anyone asked me to do. If a deacon said the sanctuary windows needed to be washed at midnight, guess who was down at the church at the stroke of twelve with Windex in hand?

All of that changed one night in 2002. For lack of a better word, I snapped. My physical body reached its limit and my emotions lay in scattered wreckage. I crawled on to the bathroom floor and curled myself into a ball on the bathmat while I sobbed into the wee hours of the night.

I was so overwhelmed, so undone and so completely exhausted I thought I was drowning. I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t escape. Every fiber of my being cried out for relief. cry

I remember curling the long soft tufts of the burgundy bathmat in my fists, clenching my teeth as salty tears filled my mouth.

God, You lied to me. You said if I served You, You would give me joy. I have no joy. I have no peace. This is not the victorious life You promised.

I was lied to, but not by God. The enemy had fooled me into believing the best way to feel loved was by doing whatever it took to make people like me. I fell for it…hook, line and sinker.

It wasn’t until I found myself begging God to take me out of this life that I realized I had been had.

Somewhere along the way, I took my eyes off Jesus and began living for the applause of people. Men and women just like me. Sinners and failures, just like me. People who have made a mess of their own lives, just like me. People who didn’t die for me, yet I esteemed their opinion as if they did. And I lost sight of my Savior in the process. I gave away freedom and unconditional love and traded them for conditions, hopelessness and chains. hands in chains

I’m tired of shackling myself to others’ expectations when obeying Him is all that matters. I’m tired of being sucked into a spiral of exhaustion when He has promised me rest. I’m tired of living like everyone else’s opinion of me is more important than His. I have no desire to place people, and their approval, as my idol, my focus or my hope any longer.

And that’s what this lie breeds…idolatry.

The common ground sought by people pleasers the world over is this: we have a desperate need to feel loved. We search for unconditional love in conditionally minded people. We crave approval, using it as a gauge to tell us our own worth. But all that matters is what God thinks—and He loved me so much, He gave His own life to redeem me from the land of darkness. It doesn’t matter whether I’m on top of the world or scraping bottom at my worst…His love never changes. And I’ve discovered this amazing truth is what my heart has been searching for all along.

Approval and love are not the same thing. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar. Take it from a girl who learned the hard way.

approval vs lovegalatians 1 10

 

Lie #4: God is not really enough.

As part of our series “Liar”, a look at the enemy’s schemes and how to defeat them, we’ve come to a rather tricky little lie. Little #4: God is not really enough.

Why is this one so sneaky? I think it’s because many of us don’t realize we have fallen for it.

The truth is we say Jesus is all we need, we sing it in countless hymns and worship songs and print it on t-shirts and bumper stickers. But do we really mean it? jesus is all i need

I was recently singing Kari Jobe’s beautiful song “What Love Is This” in worship one Sunday morning at church when I came to the line, “You’re all I need”. I was struck by my own hypocrisy. I want to be the follower who truly finds complete and total satisfaction only in Christ, but if I’m honest, there are many days when I’m woefully short.

Usually I say He’s enough, but I also want my kids to behave. I say He’s enough but I also want a healthy bank account. I say He’s enough but I’d also love to have a publishing contract. Am I the only one? Somehow, I doubt it.

Too many of us have the Jesus-plus syndrome. Jesus plus a husband. Jesus plus children. Jesus plus good health. Jesus plus a break. Jesus plus a job that pays enough. I hate to break it to the lot of us but if we’re living our lives with the Jesus plus anything mentality, we have fallen for the lie that God isn’t enough.

Every time we give in to complaining, to wallowing in irritability or fussing about the things that “just aren’t going our way”, we’re telling a world of people around us that Jesus isn’t enough. It tells them that our happiness is dependent on things or circumstances.

Ever since the Fall in the garden of Eden, we have a hole inside. (Genesis 3) It’s a hole we try to fill with all kinds of things: food, shopping, friends, relationships, alcohol, approval, money, power, drugs, our job, sex, achievements or our family. I call these things hole fillers. Do we truly believe God is enough, or are we looking to things and people to fill the empty places of our hearts? hole in heart

It kind of reminds me of the Cherokee Legend of the Wolf.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity and truth. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” ~Galatians 5:17

We must recognize that the deepest longings of our hearts cannot be filled by any created person or thing. People and circumstances will not make you happy.

I tend to find myself rolling my eyes whenever I hear some young, starry-eyed teenager telling her friend, “I can’t wait to meet the man who will complete me.” Cue my snort of derision. I think all those Disney princess movies messed us up in this department. Sorry, ladies, but there is no human man that can fulfill the desires of your heart. No guy, no matter how awesome he is, is flawless. He will let you down. Marriage is not a cure for loneliness.

No man can complete you. Only Jesus can do that. God made us in such a way that we can never be truly satisfied with anyone or anything less than Him.

corrie ten boom hold lightlyOne of my personal heroes is Corrie Ten Boom and I yield to her words here. “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” Wise words. Sooner or later, everything here on this earth will fail. It will die or dissolve. All that will remain is the spiritual. Jesus really is all you need.

As far as those old hymns and popular worship songs of the day go, I’ve tweaked a few of them. Now they say something along the lines of “Teach my heart You’re all I need…” A bit more honest. And after all, honesty is what we’re going for here, right?

 

Lie #3: “I’m Worthless” and Other Labels

worthless

Welcome back to our blog series “Liar”, a look at our enemy and the lies he tells us. As a refresher, we’ve discussed Lie #1 “God’s Main Concern is my Happiness” and Lie #2 “If my life were different, I would be different”. This week’s lie seems to be an arrow flung with far too much frequency by the enemy and one believed by far too many of God’s children. Lie #3: “I’m worthless.”

Whenever I’m teaching at retreats about the enemy’s lies and I come to this one, I ask the ladies to raise their hands if they have believed lie #3 at some point in their lives. Without fail, every hand in the room has gone up. Why? count of monte cristo quote

After listening to story after story, one common denominator seems to resonate through most of these women’s issues…someone at some point gave them a label that stuck.

Names have power. Nicknames can be fun but when nicknames turn into labels, it can be a problem. Let me explain.

I recently conducted a Facebook and Twitter poll asking my friends what their nicknames were growing up. Some of my favorites were Snicklefritz, Squeaky, Casper, Noodle, Idgit, and Sassafras. Cute. Sweet. Then things took a twist.

Soon people started sharing their, uh, less flattering nicknames…monikers like Tubby, Fatso or Motor Mouth to name a few.

Names can turn into labels. Labels stick. Soon we begin to believe the lie that we are what the label advertises.

peachesTo put it another way, labels usually tell us what’s inside, right? If I walk into my pantry and grab a can that bears a label of plump, juicy peaches, I don’t expect to open the can and find black eyed peas inside. The label system works great for canned foods and organizing closets, but not for defining our own worth.

Some of us are slapped with a label just once, maybe twice by some cruel person and we believe the lie. We mistakenly believe we are what the label advertises.

“That boy said I’m ugly. So therefore I must be…

*unattractive to everyone.”

*I’ll always be unattractive.”

*I’m unattractive on the inside too.”

*No one will ever want me.”

On and on the lies go.

A dear friend of mine was told from the time she was young that she was unwanted and it wreaked havoc in her life. Why? Because she believed it. A lie is only detrimental if we believe it.

Maybe you have a label stuck to you that refuses to come off. Maybe it’s “Unwanted”. “Unlovable”. “Black Sheep”. “Depressed”. “Divorced”. “Loser”. “Mess up.” “Victim”. “Condemned.” “Never Good Enough”.

You are more than the label someone has given you.

value and worthThis lie of feeling worthless is based in rejection. Sometimes it may be more than words or feelings. You might have lived through the slicing pain of divorce. A nasty break-up. Perhaps you’ve been rejected by your family, mistreated by your coworkers, or fired from your job. For some, the most devastating blow of all is being forgotten by your children. For others, you might be dealing with the mess from your own consequences and poor decisions and you just need a little grace from people unwilling to give it.

Here’s the thing…your worth does not change based on someone’s ability to see it. 

Consider a priceless work of art. A Van Gogh painting. Pretend you are walking down the street and are stunned to see an original, authentic Van Gogh painting carelessly tossed into a dumpster. Why would anyone do such a thing? Clearly the owner had no idea of its worth. trash

Did the painting’s worth change based on its location or who owned it? No. Its value remained the same. This scenario only shows us the ignorance of the person who discarded it.

Don’t let someone who doesn’t understand your value define your worth.

As always, we need look no farther than Jesus. The Prince of Peace knows exactly what it’s like to be labeled worthless and rejected. 1 Peter 2:4 says this:

“Come to Him [the risen Lord] as to a living Stone which men rejected and threw away, but which is choice and precious in the sight of God.”

Did you catch that? Men rejected and threw away Jesus…the Creator, Redeemer, Savior, their Hope and King. There aren’t enough books in the world to contain all the words to describe the worth of Christ, yet men still rejected Him and threw Him away. It said nothing of His worth, only the inability of the people to understand that God Himself had come down to them. They didn’t understand the treasure they’d been given.

You are precious to God. He loved you so much He would have rather died than leave you in the dark. If you’re still battling lie #3 in your mind, you need look no further than the cross. jesus

Jesus didn’t die for junk. You are immeasurably priceless and loved by the God of the universe. When He gave up His life for you, He gave your life its worth.

Never let anyone tell you differently.

Lie #2: If my life were different, I would be different.

Welcome back to our blog series “Liar”, a look at the lies Satan tells us and how to defeat them. Lie #2 is a sneaky one, one that I’ve fallen for many times. “If my life were different, I would be different.” 

if only

If my job only paid better…

If my husband treated me like he cared…

If our house wasn’t so small…

If my health was good…

If my kids would listen…

Have you been there? It’s a tempting way to live life. The “If Onlys” provide us with a fantasy world of perfection. A land where all our troubles vanish and then, finally, we can be who we really want to be. Happy. Content. Joyful.

There’s just one problem. That fantasy land does not exist this side of eternity.

Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, this world is a broken, twisted mess. We know there’s a mess, but we mistakenly think the worst of it is around us. It’s our surroundings. Our families. The people we work with. Our houses. Our finances. Our money (or lack thereof.) Our own bodies. The world system. We complain. We scrape and claw, trying to find some way out of the muck and mire but fail to realize the biggest mess isn’t the one around us. It’s the one inside us.

Let me put it another way. Whenever there’s a long period with no rain, what do people do? Complain. Pray. They beg God and search the barren sky for one sign of a coming cloud. They want rain. They can’t live one more minute without it.

grumpy nateAnd finally rain comes. Boy, does it come. So much rain that soon social media is flooded with bitter complaints. “Okay, I know we needed rain, but I didn’t want to build an ark today”. When it’s hot outside, we say we want snow. When it snows, we say we want the beach. We are never satisfied. Satan lies and tells us that we have a circumstance problem, but quite honestly, the majority of the time we have a heart problem.

To quote Nancy Leigh DeMoss, “Circumstances do not make us what we are. They merely reveal what we are.”

If we aren’t content in our current situation, it’s doubtful we will be content in any other situation. Here’s why: contentment has nothing to do with our surroundings. It’s 100% about the condition of our hearts.

Truly content people aren’t content because they are living in a perfect situation. They are content despite the adversary they live in. Look at what Paul penned in Philippians 4.

I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances.  I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need.  I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” (verses 11-13 AMP)

horse tied to chairFalling for the lie that “If my circumstances were different, I would be different” enslaves us. It locks our minds into the mentality of a victim with no hope of breaking free. Trapped, empty, hopeless…that’s exactly where Satan wants you.

You don’t have to live in discontent. You have a choice. We have very little control over our circumstances, but we don’t have to let our circumstances control us or our attitudes. The best way to combat a lie is with the truth.

Truth:

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.” ~James 1:2-5 can cross

God may not remove you from an uncomfortable circumstance because He’s working to shape you more and more into the image of His Son. Lean into Him. Embrace the uncomfortable. Give thanks in all things…even those rough circumstances. He’s making you complete.

Have you ever been in the middle of a circumstance you couldn’t wait to get out of only to find it wasn’t easy street on the other side? Have you found ways to challenge yourself to be content, like a 7 day no-complaining challenge? What have you learned in the middle of difficult circumstances? I would love to hear!

 

 

 

Battered Bluebirds: How to Handle Lying Emotions

The poor bluebird above our basketball goal. He’s just so…dumb. Every morning I walk outside to see my husband’s driver’s side rear view mirror battered and smeared, evidence of another early morning fight.

It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. bluebird car mirror

Every morning, the male bluebird perches in front of my husband’s rear view mirror and sees him. That vile, evil threat. Another male bluebird just like him. A threat to his woman. To his babies. So he does what must be done. He pecks the foul fowl until his head is nearly smashed flat and his beak resembles the blunt end of a hammer. Poor dumb, bluebird. He doesn’t realize he’s actually fighting himself.

He’s his own worst enemy.

I shouldn’t be quick to judge. I’m my own worst enemy too.

Do you know where the enemy lies to most of us? About our emotions. He tells us that because we FEEL a certain way, it must be so. We feel God doesn’t love us due to circumstances being out of our control, so therefore, God must not love us. We feel neglected by our husbands, so therefore, we are neglected. We feel hopeless in our circumstances, so therefore there must not be hope.

emotions

We see something that looks real, so therefore it must be real. (Ahem, cue Mr. Bluebird.)

Emotions are not good or bad. They just ARE. They are God-given ways of experiencing life in a profound way. The problem is, our emotions were damaged in the Fall.

The blunt truth here is this: our emotions usually have very little to do with reality. They swing and dive with alarming speed. Truth doesn’t.

When you’re threatening to drown in those suffocating, overwhelming crush of emotions, stop and breathe. Analyze the emotion. Name it. Then confront how you’re feeling with the Truth of God’s Word.

“Lord, everything about this day is falling apart. I don’t feel like You see me. I don’t feel like You care. But Your Word says You see me. You set me aside for a purpose before I was ever born. I will cling to You and Your truth.”

Take a step back. Just because it looks and feels real, doesn’t mean it is. Just ask my friend Mr. Bluebird.

god's truth

Whatever the emotion, bring it into the light of God’s truth. Cling to what you know and not how you feel. It will make all the difference, not just in how you manage your day, but how you live your life.

How do you usually deal with your emotions? Are you dictated by them or have you found ways to control them? What lie does the enemy frequently try to tell you? I would love to hear!

Euphoria in a Rice Field…I Think Not

Euphoria in a Rice Field…I Think Not

by Tara Johnson

I was getting a bit bored, driving through soggy rice fields on my way to a prison in Arkansas, preparing to speak to inmates on a drizzly Sunday morning.

Maybe it was the lack of scenery that made me notice it. Maybe it’s because it was the only building around for miles other than a few silos. But when I saw the building perched on the side of the road, I shook my head.

There in big, bold print, a sign advertised: Euphoria.

Now, if this establishment offered chocolate or books, I would have pulled right in. This business, however, offered things along the darker side. Nasty and vile things. From the looks of the sign, if you could imagine it, it was likely offered there.

Yet, it was named Euphoria. So at odds with what it ultimately gave.

The thought suddenly struck me that if it was called what it really offered, nobody would want to step foot inside.

Instead of plastering Euphoria on the outside, how about Shame? Instead of Exhilaration, how about Disappointment? Instead of Ecstasy, how about Broken Lives and Heartache?

 shame

I know, I know. It sounds harsh. But it’s true.

I’ve spent much of my adult life analyzing the lies that Satan tells me, lies that I used to believe. Ugly, hateful vicious lies hissed in my ear when my heart was bruised and my soul was achingly vulnerable. The enemy would attack my worth, and like an idiot, I believed him. I would allow his schemes to make me forget my God-worth…who I am in Christ.

But Satan uses another scheme, one that might be, perhaps, more deadly. He either attacks our worth or he goes the other direction—he makes sin look like everything we’ve ever wanted.

He says, “I care about you. No one appreciates you. It’s time to do what you want to do.” Or “Your spouse doesn’t understand you. But that co-worker of yours, he gets you. Let him fill that emotional need you’re craving.” He whispers, “No one will know. After all you’ve been through, you deserve to play by your own rules for a change.”

Lies, lies and more lies.

trust meHe makes sin look attractive, irresistible. Satan himself was once the most beautiful angel in heaven before he fell. (Luke 10:18, Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28) My youngest daughter recently mentioned something about Satan having horns and a tail.

I shook my head. “No, Honey, the Bible says Satan was God’s most beautiful angel. He’s extremely attractive.”

Flabbergasted, her little mouth dropped open. “What? But he’s evil!”

I nodded. “Exactly. Think about this…would we want anything to do with him if he was hideous and scary-looking? He does the same thing with sin. He makes it look stunning. Wonderful. But it always leads to death. Always.”

“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14

In our own culture, we’re manipulated constantly. Those beer commercials show happy people frolicking and having a blast. But it doesn’t show you the broken family, the debt or the life-destroying addiction that comes with overindulgence. Men and women alike are lured into pornography, thinking no one will know, no one will see—whether it’s computer images, books or the popular movies our society so ignorantly soaks up. Yet those websites and movies never show the destroyed marriages that come after sin has had its time to erode and decay. It fails to show the damage absorbing filth will do to you mind and spirit. Not to mention the way embracing it will crumble your testimony to rubble and drag God’s name through the muck and mire, as well.

 abandoned shack 4

And all of it breaks my heart.

We were made for so much more. It’s one thing for a lost world to act lost. Without Jesus’ transforming power, they are acting exactly as they are supposed to: blind, empty, dead. But as God’s redeemed children, we are to be different. Set apart for a special purpose. Children of light.

One night as I was teaching my junior class at church, I asked one of the boys to come up front so I could show the class something. Before he even finished walking to me, I reached out and shoved him down. Eyes wide, he gasped. “What did ya do that for?”

I shrugged. “No reason. I just felt like it.”

He got up and smoothed his rumpled shirt, his irritation obvious, as I reached out to shove him once more. Only this time, he was ready. He stiffened his little body and dug his feet into the ground. He was immovable. On alert. I couldn’t push him over, wiry and tight as he was.

I grinned and told the class, “That’s how Satan works. If you’re not on guard, he’ll do everything he can to knock you down. But the second time I tried to shove Noah, he didn’t fall. Why? Because he was braced and ready.”

Be ready. Be on guard. Be wise. Satan will come after you, make no mistake about that. Stay close to God and remember, dabbling with sin never, ever makes things better. It always leads to heartache, affecting not just you, but those you love as well.

Euphoria, indeed.

Now it’s your turn to help a girl out—What are some other lies Satan tells God’s children?