Secret Walls That Limit Our Faith

Woman praying alone

Does your faith have secret walls?  Hidden limitations you’ve built around your life? For years, I refused to go on a mission trip overseas. I reasoned that God could send someone else, and that it was best for my children if I didn’t go. To be honest, I wanted to go but I was trapped by my fears.  My fears formed a fortified wall around my faith allowing me to go only so far with God. When I considered what was on the other side of the wall, I imagined horrible outcomes: Sickness, not being allowed back in country, orphaning my children, or not being with them if they needed me. The enemy had me right where he wanted me. Faithless. Ashamed. Controlled. Ineffective.

I imagine you have your own reasoning for your faith walls.

Maybe God has prompted you to witness to someone, but you felt inadequate, and decided to wait for another day.

Maybe God wants you to begin a new ministry, but you are insecure about your ability and decide to bury the dream.

Maybe someone you know suffers from a chronic illness, and because you haven’t seen improvement you doubt healing and your prayers have tapered off.

Maybe you have faith that God loves, forgives, or has plans for everyone else, but cannot believe those truths for yourself.

It is those feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, doubt, and a lack of self-worth that limit our faith.

God is not the creator of those limits. We are.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7) However, we choose to thwart that power and discipline when we allow our flesh to override God’s desires for us. Our hope and belief can waver when things seem impossible. The enemy plants the lie and waters it with doubt: Will God really make good on His promises to me?

Consider the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. This is an historic account of real men and women who struggled with their faith, but chose to knock down their walls of inadequacy, insecurity, doubt, and fear. When they did, God showed up in huge ways and made good on His promises!

I remember the day God broke down the fortified wall that had kept me from traveling on mission. God was prompting my heart to travel to South Asia with my husband, leaving my boys behind. As I was praying and asking God to help me take this step of faith, He simply stilled me with His love and spoke into my soul:

Jodi, you will never receive the abundance of life I have designed specifically for you if you continue to live in fear. I have plans to use you for My Kingdom. You may have given birth to your children but I created them and I love them more than you could ever dream! You can trust Me with them. Do you trust Me? Yes Lord, I trust You! I trust You for what I cannot see on the other side of my wall.

I went and I was effective! I was no longer faithless or controlled by the enemy’s lies.  But, I must be honest and tell you I prayed A LOT. However, the more I prayed, the more He strengthened my faith in His faithfulness. Peace ruled instead of fear. There was freedom on the other side of my faith wall. The enemy no longer had me where he wanted me. Instead, God had me right where He wanted me – trusting in Him.

Do you fear what’s on the other side of your wall? You don’t have to! There’s really nothing to fear when you trust God for the outcome. He will cause all things to work together for good if we let Him.

Secret walls limit our faith. Ask God to help you push down your wall so your faith can be without borders. It’s the life you were purposed to live … LIVE IT!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

What To Do When You’re Falling Apart

anchor

I’ve known Christ as my Savior for thirty years and I’ve learned I’m not immune to falling apart, losing hope, and being trapped in my despair. I’ve also learned that God is patient and faithful to repair my brokenness. During my teenage years, I lost my mom to breast cancer. A year and a half before her death I asked God to save me and began a relationship with Him. However, I grew tremendously angry at God when she died. I was tossed around by my emotions and became battered by my unhealthy decisions. I began falling apart because I chose not to be anchored by God’s love, promises, or plans any longer. I was so blinded by my anger I kept drifting farther away from God. I simply did not believe Him nor trust Him for His promises. I desperately needed some sort of hope in the midst of my despair, but everything I attempted to anchor to let me down. God was patient with me for four years of my mess. It wasn’t until I gave up trying to live life without Him that He came rushing in to restore me. As I recognized He was willing to let me start over and put the pieces back together, I found He was gently covering me with His grace, mercy, and restored hope. Hope in a God I belonged to and could trust even when things did not feel good or make sense.

Have you found yourself falling apart lately?

Maybe you are losing your cool with your kids, husband, coworker…

Maybe you are receiving one bad diagnosis after another and you can’t handle another ounce of bad news.

Maybe your anxiety attacks are impacting your way of life like never before.

Maybe you have lost a loved one recently or long ago and you desperately miss them causing sleepless nights…

Whatever is causing you to fall apart I want you to know there is hope in your despair!

In Acts 27 the apostle Paul is a prisoner being transported by ship to Rome.  During the journey, they encounter a fierce storm causing fear and panic. On a couple of occasions, they lowered anchors which are meant to dig into the sea bottom to keep the vessel from drifting. To no avail, their ship was battered and falling apart by the raging waves and wind. However, Paul was encouraged and at peace in the midst of the storm. Verses 22-26 gives us insight as to why he was:

22 Now I urge you to take courage, because there will be no loss of any of your lives, but only of the ship. 23 For this night an angel of the God I belong to and serve stood by me, 24 and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. And, look! God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you.’25 Therefore, take courage, men, because I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island.”

Paul was anchored to believing God for His promises and plans even during this time of being battered by the waves, tossed around by the wind, and navigationally disoriented. If he had not been confident in God, he would have fallen apart like the other 276 on board and like us at times.

God had a plan and purpose in allowing Paul to travel in the midst of the storm. God used him to demonstrate faith and trust in the God he belonged to so that others may be saved and for God to be magnified. Paul showed them that they too could have hope in the midst of their despair if they would anchor themselves in God. Though their sails were torn, their ship was battered, and they had wandered off course, God had them completely in His grasp.

In whatever way you are falling apart, God just may be in the midst of it. Pause and see what you are anchored to. If it is anything other than God, His word, His promises, His ways, or His authority, pull up anchor and cast it onto Him. He is your stay. He will help you navigate through your brokenness and your storm.

If I had known as a teenager that God was indeed working out His promise and that I could trust Him, I would not have drifted so far from Him. But, because of that horrific storm in my life, I now know that I can believe God and trust Him for who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do. So when I fall apart and begin losing hope I know to evaluate where and what I am anchored to. God is gracious to allow you and me do-overs and second chances. Without that, I would have sunk a long time ago. Praise God for His longsuffering and permanent love for you and me.

Is It Well With My Soul?

wall-hanging

I was perusing through a department store trying to escape my emotions. Honestly, I wanted to feel numb, even for just a moment. I slowly walked through each aisle capturing words on decorative wall hangings. One of them caused me to take a long pause. It read, “It is well with my soul.” I asked myself if that was true for me. The answer was no. No, it was not well with my soul. Life had been feeling difficult. Goals out of reach. Loneliness and depression setting in. Things happening out of my control. I wanted it all to be well with my soul, but it was not something I could magically make happen. As I continued my perusing I found myself surrounded by words of encouragement on these wall hangings.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…

Love bears all things…

Amazing grace…

God is good…

Faith…

I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you…

Choose joy…

Be still and know…

You get the picture. I chuckled because I was not in a Christian store! Here I was surrounded by God’s Word causing me to think and address some of my emotions.

Have you ever felt things were not well with your soul?

Have you ever felt your purpose or goals were out of reach?

Have you ever felt confused by your emotions?

Me too!

I know that God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33) When I find my joy gone, and my soul in a drought, I go back to His Word. His Word always speaks clarity to what I am struggling with.

Back at home from the store, I began my daily reading in Deuteronomy and God brought to light something so simple and yet profound. It is found in chapter 30:11,14

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.”

Let that word wash (or spoken from my true southern dialect “warsh”) over you for a moment. Read it again.

Now, receive this next truth that only God can accomplish. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you.

He will be with you.

He will not fail you or forsake you.

Do not fear or be dismayed.”

If what His Word says is true, and I believe it is, then why does it ‘feel’ like it is not? It is because our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

The enemy (Satan) wanted me to be numb. He wanted me to not address what I was experiencing. But God wanted the opposite for me. God surrounded me with His truths, His promises, His commands, and drew me into His Word in Deuteronomy. He was pursuing me, letting me know that things can be well with my soul. I needed to focus and acknowledge that He is sovereign, He goes before me and yet never leaves me, and what He is desiring me to do is not too difficult.

What He is desiring you to do is not too difficult!

We can trust that if God has planned it, He will do it. (Isaiah 46:11b)

Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

It can be well with our souls no matter the battle we are in. There is no storm that He cannot calm, nor any depth of despair He cannot pull us from. Let praise be on our lips for His word is in our hearts, and ever so near to us. As we trust Him with what we are trying to escape, He will work all things out for the good.

 

 

 

 

He Tested God and So Did I

GideonHave you ever tested God? I know I have, and so did Gideon. Recently, as I was reading the book of Judges, I came upon the story of Gideon.  Because this was such a familiar story, I thought I would skim over it, but God got my attention.  I began seeing myself in the story.  Maybe you can see yourself, too.  See the full story of Gideon (here).

  • He was insecure. I can be insecure.
  • He questioned God by asking, “Why then has all this happened to us?” I have asked God the same question.
  • He was fearful. I am fearful at times.
  • He was hiding from confrontation. I have been one to avoid confrontation.
  • He had doubt. I have doubts at times.
  • He needed to know that he was truly hearing from God. I need to know it is God leading me, not my flesh or others’ opinions.
  • He was weak and did not see himself as God did. I have so many weaknesses that I struggle seeing what God sees in me.

I have to admit that at first, it discouraged me just how much I related to Gideon. But, what I learned from his story really opened my eyes. What God was after was Gideon’s belief in himself and an undivided faith in God.

The struggle was real for Gideon, as it is for you and me.  We battle so much self-doubt, fear, and insecurity, that it takes a process to get to where God wants us to be.

Look back at Gideon’s story:

While he was hiding from the enemy, God saw him as a “valiant warrior” (Judges 6:12). I tend to believe that living in fear of his enemies for seven years paralyzed him from ever seeing himself as God saw him.

Maybe you have a past that has paralyzed you from believing that you could ever be more than the sum of your past.  Don’t you want to be set free from that? I know I do!

I have tested God over and over, wanting to confirm His calling on my life.  Gideon also tested God to see if He would do what He said He would do.  Check out the “fleece test” in Judges 6:36-40.

With each testing of God, Gideon’s confidence grew in himself and in God.  I find this to be true in my life, as well.  But, at some point, we need to make a decision to be all in, or take a seat.

I am encouraged that when Gideon tested God not once, not twice, but four times, God never got mad.  He did not say, “Never mind, you are hopeless”.  He did not lose patience, nor abandon him. God was aware of how Gideon viewed himself. He knew what it was going to take for Gideon to believe in himself, and believe God.

When I read about Gideon’s final test for God, it hit me! It was time for me to stop testing God, and choose to have an undivided faith, instead.

Gideon’s response to his last test drew the line in the sand.  When he overheard the enemies interpreting a dream about how they would fall at the sword of Gideon, he bowed and worshiped God.  See, Gideon was willing to do anything for God, but because of his fears and insecurities, he deemed himself altogether insufficient.  Therefore, he needed confirmation that God was who He said He was, that He could do what He said He could do, and that he could become more than the sum of his past.

God knows exactly what it will take for each of us to believe in ourselves.  It is a process, just like it was for Gideon.

For me, it takes a secure faith (believing God) in God’s calling on my life to hang in there.  Because, when the storms come, and they will, I need my anchor to hold.  Do not give up on the process you are going through to anchor your faith.  God is not giving up on you! God can pass any of our tests with flying colors! But, the greatest test is really on us… will you believe God today?

Keep pressing forward. God sees you, even if you are hiding, and He is calling you to a greater purpose. So, live it, believe it, and own it.

 

 

Don’t Sweep it Under the Rug!

Design from Swag

Have you ever heard the saying, “Sweep it under the rug”? This phrase communicates the effort to hide, ignore, or keep something secret, instead of dealing with it directly.  We convince ourselves that if it is “out of sight”, then it will be “out of mind.” I used to think like this when someone hurt my heart.  Thinking that time could heal all wounds, I would ignore the hurt. However, I have found on several occasions that a “trigger” can come and bring these feelings back to the surface. These “triggers” are unavoidable and can be different for everyone.  For me, a trigger can be a smell, sound, place, conversation, or picture that causes me to flash back to another time and place. When I have a flashback, I feel as if these past events are happening in the present.

Can you relate?

The harsh truth is that we are forced to continue dealing with pain we have tried so hard to ignore. In reality, when we sweep things under the rug, we are creating bigger obstacles in our life—obstacles we WILL have to navigate later.

Do you have any obstacles in your life?

  • Maybe you struggle trusting others because someone has betrayed you in the past.
  • Maybe you find it hard to reveal your true identity to others because you have experienced the pain of rejection.
  • Maybe you cling to relationships out of fear of being abandoned again.
  • Maybe you wrestle with self -esteem because others have left you feeling unworthy.
  • Maybe you wear yourself thin trying to please others because you have never received affirmation from someone important to you.

Nothing good comes from sweeping your hurt under the rug.  Ignoring it only causes more pain in the present or future.

Hurt knows no boundaries. It happens in ministry, friendships, parenting, marriages, families, work, and school…

So, how do we deal with our hurts?

  1. We acknowledge the past hurts in our lives and recognize the consequences of sweeping them under the rug. These consequences become obstacles such as: bitterness, loss of identity, fear, poor self-worth, jealousy, stress… All of these things are not of God.
  1. We deal with one hurt at a time. Dealing with hurts can look different for everyone.  It may be in the best interest for some to seek professional Christian counseling. The important thing is to deal with them appropriately to find healing.  I love to journal and pour out my soul before God.  Often He brings a scripture to mind that speaks a truth I need to apply to my circumstance.  Sometimes, I am led to share with a friend that I trust is walking close with the Lord and can offer wisdom and a fresh perspective.  Sometimes, it is a process to get healing from a deeper hurt. (Think of peeling an onion one layer at time.  Getting to the core is a process.)  It does not feel good peeling layers of hurts away, but getting to the core of why we hurt is the healthiest thing we can do. It is healthy because that is where God steps in and does a deeper healing in our lives. (Allowing God to get to the core of my pain has set me free from a bondage that held me prisoner for too many years.) No matter how long it takes, it is worth dealing with one hurt at a time.
  1. As we move forward, change the way we approach new hurts. We should be quick to acknowledge when we get hurt. Stop! Take it to the Lord, and seek resolve before we move on. Ask what God’s word says about how you should handle it.  You may find that you need to forgive someone, either within your heart privately before God, or face to face with the one that hurt you. Maybe with love, talk it through with the one that hurt you. Whatever you do, do your best to not let the sun go down before making amends. I really like how the “Message” elaborates on Ephesians 4:26-27, “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”

God never promised us that we would be free from experiencing pain.  But, He did guarantee us that we would have trials. (James 1:2) He desires that we cast our cares on Him because He cares about us. (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)

Friend, our hurts can crush our spirit, and we can feel alone in them but…

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 NIV)

God can handle what you feel, and He desires to break you free from the stronghold that it has on you.

The beautiful thing about healing is that the triggers that once brought pain now bring peace.  God has not only healed my heart, but he has healed my mind.

Let’s not sweep our hurts under the rug any longer. Let’s roll up our rug and toss it out for good.RUG

 

 

Look Me Straight in the Eyes

parent holding cheeks of child softRecently, I found myself focusing on my circumstances instead of God, who has control over them. This left me feeling out of control, and anxious. I thought about my children when they were small, and how they had similar emotions. One could snatch a toy from the other and “all chaos” would break out, leaving the empty handed one feeling anxious and out of control. To get their attention and calm them, I would cup their plump cheeks in the palms of my hands, lift their head, and say, “Look me straight in the eyes.” As they focused on my eyes, I would softly tell them to calm down and that everything was going to be okay. Once this truth settled in their little hearts, they would experience a calming peace.

Are you focused on your circumstances?

Maybe you’re like me when fatigue swoops in. It sets our emotions on our shoulders causing our focus to be on ourselves and our circumstances. Then, everything becomes amplified. For example, small things can feel like huge failures. Such as missing deadlines, not following through with paperwork for a volunteer position, procrastinating reaching out to that new friend, staying perpetually behind on the laundry…I could go on and crossover into worries and fears because when we intentionally focus on ourselves, we naturally build a list of all our failures.

By now, we feel like “all chaos” has broken out, and we have lost control.

As I was walking and talking through the details with God, I was reminded that He is the lifter of my head. I pictured God cupping my own plump cheeks in His hands as He said, “Look me straight in the eyes!” Focus on ME, not what is going on around you. Psalm 3:3 (NIV) came to mind … “You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”

Then, I remembered where my eyes are supposed to be. Psalm 121:1-2 …“I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”. As this truth settled in my heart, a calming peace wrapped around me like a warm blanket. I wish I could always maintain this kind of peace, but my flesh is weak. However, I have a phrase I ponder on to help me, but it only works when I remember it and apply it: “I cannot do anything apart from Christ, but I can do ALL things through Him.”

Let’s choose to apply this truth today, and let God be the lifter of our head. He is in control. We can calm down … everything will be okay.

GO FORWARD!

God is doing a new thing 3For years, I have had aspirations for a specific dream. I often pursued it but my insecurities, doubts, and fears would wrap around me, hindering any movement forward. I have asked myself many times: Is it just the glamorous idea of it that keeps me holding on to it? Or is it something that God wants me to move forward with? I did not know the answer.

Can you relate? Maybe you have aspirations to open your home for foster care, start your own business, become a stay- at- home mom, or start a new friendship…  Are you uncertain if this is a leading from God or just a dreamy idea?

I find the uncertainty to be exhausting.

I was tired of holding onto a dream that goes nowhere.

I was ready for it to die or take on a new life.

I needed affirmation for my aspiration. So I began praying with a willingness to surrender my dream to God.  A willingness to let it die.  As I was praying, I heard the birds chirping outside.  I opened the back door of the house and the outdoors beckoned me. The sky was painted baby blue. The breeze was gentle with a relaxing warmth. The empty chair on the back deck was inviting, so I gave in and took my journal and bible with me.  Of course, I had a cup of coffee too. 😉

As I settled in my chair and soaked in the atmosphere, I opened my bible and asked God to use His word for clarity. I asked Him to speak and He did.

On this particular day, I picked up reading where I’d left off the previous day in Exodus 14,0].

Up to this point in the book of Exodus, the Israelites had lived in Egypt for 430 years and for many of those years they were slaves.  They were now under the authority of the Egyptian Pharaoh, who had a hardened heart. God sent Moses to speak with Pharaoh to request that His people, the Israelites, be set free. It was not until the last plague God sent that Pharaoh let the Israelites free.  You can read about the plagues here.  As nearly a million of them fled, Pharaoh had a change of heart and pursued them with his army and hundreds of chariots.  They came upon them near the Red Sea. “As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord.” Exodus 14:10

This is where it gets real.  God’s about to do the inconceivable!

“But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.  The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.  Then the LORD said to Moses, why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to GO FORWARD.  As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.” (Exodus 14:13-16 NASB)

God was speaking to me through this passage.  He did not want me to stand by and keep silent.

He spoke as if a voice behind my ears (Isaiah30:21) GO FORWARD! Stop being lukewarm and pursue your dream with a hot passion! When you GO FORWARD, I will part the waters and make your path clear.

“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth, will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

I received my answer! My dream had new life breathed into it! (Now I need to Go FOWARD because God said, “GO FORWARD!”, and I can trust Him to equip me and make a way.)

Do you find the uncertainty exhausting? Lay your aspirations before God and find peace as He reveals a confirmation either way.  He may just be waiting for you to GO FORWARD so He can part the waters.