What Does Deferring Your Preferences Look Like?

u_rightContinued from here.

For me, the word “humility” was difficult to wrap my mind around. I had trouble understanding how to take this concept and put it into practice. C.S. Lewis got me pointed in the right direction with this quote:

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

I used to believe I was a humble person because I had very low self-esteem, but I learned in Beth Moore’s Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender that having a low opinion of yourself is just as prideful as having too high of an opinion of yourself. Pride is simply having yourself on your mind (or being selfish, self-absorbed, or self-focused). I was constantly on my mind as I meditated upon all of the things that were “wrong” with me.

So, I understood that I needed to get myself off my mind, but I did not know how to actually DO that. This is when the Holy Spirit “whispered” that I needed to start deferring my preferences, which is replacing thoughts of myself with thoughts of others. For example, I’ll defer the nicer chair to someone else or defer my preference for where to eat dinner to the other person. While this is something I used to do to manipulate the other person’s approval as a people pleaser, my motivation is now completely different. I love God enough to want to obey Him, and he told me to defer my preferences, so I choose to let the other person have his or her way because I love God. A huge difference is that the other person’s response is irrelevant whereas it was all that mattered in my people-pleasing days. Whether or not the other person notices or cares that I deferred my preferences, God notices.

Interestingly, even though I no longer get my own way most of the time, I am much happier. More specifically, I experience joy and peace that eluded me when I was selfish. I used to believe that getting what I wanted would make me happy, but I have actually found more happiness by choosing not getting what I want as I defer my preferences to the people around me.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace thinking and saying, “U Right, U Right.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Why Walk into the Pain of Others?

whyContinued from here.

After reading my last blog entry, you might be asking why anyone would be willing to yoke together with another person who is deeply in pain and walk into that pain voluntarily. The short answer is love.

As you grow to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength, you grow to care about what—and who—God cares about. God deeply cares about the people who are in bondage to deep emotional pain, and He knows the only way for them to walk out of this bondage is for someone to walk God right smack dab into the center that pain. This requires a sacrifice from you, which is why Jesus said “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” The cross we must bear is walking into the pain of others so they can walk out with a relationship with God.

Only love will motivate someone to walk into someone else’s pain, and that love comes from God. The authors of my textbook, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission), offer these words of wisdom:

Given all this pain or potential pain, why would any sensible person voluntarily stand on its receiving end? The only reason that makes any sense is the call to emulate the Savior, who offered himself as a ransom for many…Only a heart like that of Jesus can bear the pain.”

Only a true disciple of Christ is going to be willing to walk into the pain of others because there’s nothing else appealing about the process. Life brings each of us enough pain. Why would we want to voluntarily walk into someone else’s pain as well? The only reason is love – pure and simple love.

If you call yourself a Christian, then you are called into leadership – to influence others to seek the same God you have found. Your call might be at a worldwide level like Beth Moore or Joyce Meyer, or it might just be for your own children, friend, or neighbor. Either way, you are a Christian leader and need to take that responsibility seriously.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

What to do When under Heavy Spiritual Attack

Continued from here.

The situation I am writing about is still not resolved, and I don’t know how God is going to resolve it. In the meantime, I know what I need to do:

  1. Pray for wisdom and discernment. Now is not the time to start doing things on my own. I need to continue obeying God and following His leading for how to proceed in this difficult situation.
  2. Pray for the person the enemy is using. The person the enemy is using to persecute me is a Christian, which is another aspect of what has me reeling. I must repeatedly pray for him so God will intervene and so that I will not allow myself to grow bitter toward him.
  3. Pray scripture to combat spiritual attack. Beth Moore’s book, Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds, has a chapter devoted to how to address spiritual attack, which includes numerous passages of scripture that Moore has converted into prayers. I am praying many of those scripture prayers aloud daily to invite God into this situation as well as to help me remember that He is in control, no matter how the situation looks.
  4. Watch my words. It is tempting to complain about this situation to anyone who will listen, but that is not what God calls me to do. I need to ensure I allow no unwholesome talk to come out of my mouth about this situation. If I want to complain, I need to do it to God, followed by prayer and thanksgiving.
  5. Keep moving forward. I allowed this situation to paralyze me for a few days, but no longer! I am going to continue in obedience to what God called me to do despite this situation remaining unresolved. I will not allow the enemy’s tactics to distract me from obeying God.

I have not yet reached a place of considering this situation to be “pure joy,” but I can trust that God is in control. I cannot allow my feelings to drive my actions. I love God enough to keep moving forward, even when I would rather quit. I love Him enough to obey, even when it hurts.

[Graphic: Cover of Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Spiritual Maturity Series Wrap Up

doneContinued from here.

I have a feeling that this blog series might have stepped on some toes. To quote a pastor I respect, before God steps on your toes through what I write on this blog, He clobbers me with it first. Everything I have shared in this series is what God has taught me over the years, and I certainly don’t do it perfectly. I fall, and then I get up, and then I fall again. I tell God that I am not capable to living as He commands me to live, so I am fully dependent upon Him to empower me to do so. Otherwise, I will keep falling. And then I get up and try again.

To quote Beth Moore, I learned all I have written on a “field trip,” which is much harder than reading about someone else’s experiences and making changes without God messing with my circumstances. I have had to learn much of what God has taught me the “hard way.” This blog is my gift to you so you can learn through reading what I learned through experience.

Far too many Christians want just enough of God to avoid going to hell when they die. Eternal life with God is not the only reason Christ died for us – He came to restore us into relationship with God, and that starts now, not after we die. There’s not much attractive to those who are separated from God when we don’t transform into Christ’s image. Perpetually immature Christians don’t seem much different from the World around them other than going to a church service on Sundays.

If the Church would grow up into Christlikeness, many more people would be attracted to God. The Body of Christ needs to stop behaving like self-centered children and, instead, grow up into a “mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Eph. 4:15). I’m not claiming that becoming a disciple of Christ is easy, but it is simple. It happens by saying, “Yes, Lord,” and doing what God says to do in the Bible, regardless of how we feel about it and regardless of what anyone else thinks. Relatively few people choose to live as true disciples of Christ, but those who do are blessed beyond measure as they become a blessing to others.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace clapping her hands and saying, “Done and Done.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Praying for the Person Who is Hurting You or Someone You Love

On my blog entry entitled Does Forgiveness Require Reconciliation, Sonja posted the following comment:

hi there, I have a dilemma where my child’s best friend rejected her and ended their 3 year friendship and now expect us to just carry on as nothing happened I do not want my child to be friends again is this wrong?”

I have been in a similar situation as Sonja. In my case, not only did the best friend end the friendship with my son, but he also bullied him and led other children to do so as well. I understand the “Mama Bear” instinct that arises when someone hurts your “cub.” This was my first big test after forgiving my childhood abusers, and I did not know what to do.

While the bullying was going on, my spiritual mentor advised me to pray for the ex-friend. I should have already known to do this as this was the same process I used for forgiving my abusers, but when I was in the midst of seeing my child hurt, I “forgot” what I needed to do. Nothing hurts more than seeing my child hurt, and when I’m in pain, it’s easy to take my eyes off God and place them onto myself. So, step one was to pray for the ex-friend daily.

It’s not easy to pray for someone who is hurting (or has hurt) your child, but that’s the most important thing you can do. Joyce Meyer gave some good advice on her television program, Enjoying Everyday Life: she said to pray for God to reveal the height, depth, width, and breadth of His love for the person who has wronged you. She pointed out that if the offender truly understood the depth of God’s love for her, then she would not feel the need to engage in the hurtful behavior. When I am very angry about someone’s bad behavior, this is one prayer that I can always pray in sincerity.

I also recommend Beth Moore’s book, Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds, which I pray out of every morning. When I am struggling with unforgiveness, I pray the “fill in the blank” prayers on the last five pages of the chapter entitled Overcoming Unforgiveness. As I pray for the offender morning after morning, I gradually release my anger or bitterness and invite God’s healing into the situation.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Changing in Response to God’s Love

lifeContinued from here.

The spring and summer of 2013 was one of the best seasons of my life. After 44 years of feeling parched for the tiniest drops of love from others, I was completely saturated in God’s love for me. So many of the rough edges of my personality became smooth in response to experiencing endless love. I had believed that I was “too needy” because of my childhood trauma. I learned that God’s love was more than enough to meet not only my own needs but also the needs of everyone around me. I changed radically over this season, and numerous people commented on it. As Beth Moore had said at the Sacred Secrets Living Proof Live Event, secrets manifest. As I had changed what I did “in the secret” with God, the fruit of my life also changed.

If I could have stayed in this honeymoon phase for the rest of my life, being a Christian on fire for God would have been super easy. However, God wants us chasing Him not for what He gives us but, instead, for who He is. While I try not to compare my own experiences to those of other people, I would not be surprised to learn that experiencing such as long honeymoon phase is unusual. I was particularly broken, so God might have known I needed a particularly long honeymoon to heal enough to get to work. If your honeymoon phase does not last as long as mine did, don’t feel cheated. That was drinking milk, and God wants us moving on to eating solid food as soon as we are ready.

Once God had healed me enough through His unending love to begin eating sold food, God called me to do something I really did not want to do – first to forgive a friend who broke my heart and then to forgive my child abusers. As motivation, God asked if I loved Him more than I hated them. I had declared numerous times that I would never forgive my child abusers, but I chose to believe and obey God by praying for them day after day, week after week, and month after month for well over a year until I realized I had, in fact, forgiven them. I knew I had forgiven them because the pain was gone.

I learned through that experience that God’s ways are always best. He didn’t tell me to forgive because “it’s the right thing to do” – He had me to do it because forgiveness is the path to LIFE! When I declared that I would never forgive, I was declaring my own death sentence. God’s ways are LIFE, and forgiving is the vehicle God uses for healing our emotional wounds. Once I learned this about God, obeying Him because much easier because I learned firsthand that EVERYTHING God commands is to give me life.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing on the beach next to a seagull beside the word, “Life.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

God is Found when We Seek Him Wholeheartedly

drawing_heartContinued from here.

I don’t remember how much time elapsed between my deciding to seek God with my whole heart and finding Him, but it did not take long. The only tangible marker I have is that by June 2013 (three months later), I realized that God had fully healed the suicidal urges that had plagued me every minute of the day since I was a teenager. That came after I was already giddy with God’s joy and peace for a period of time, so I must not have had to wait very long…perhaps a few days or weeks.

Part of seeking God involved choosing to believe Him over my own experience, and that was challenging for me. I needed something to do during my quiet time hour after giving God my list of things I wanted Him to do for me and completing my Bible study homework. Beth Moore had said that God loves me wholeheartedly while I believed I was fundamentally unlovable, so I figured that would be a good starting point. I looked up scriptures that talked about how much God loves me. I then downloaded several Christian songs that focused on how much God loves me and started singing along to those during my quiet time. I started looking myself in the eye in the mirror and saying, “I love you” or “you are lovable,” even though I did not believe it. God used all of these simple acts of obedience to change my heart – to remove my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh.

Meditating on God’s truth that He loves me radically changed everything. I experienced joy and peace as never before. The best way to describe it is that I felt like I had gone through life holding out a Dixie cup, asking people to please spare the tiniest drops of love. Even a few drops could help. Because so few drops ever fell in my cup, I spent my life feelings empty and dry. God poured gallons of love into my cup, overflowing the entire room! For the first time in my life, I actually felt loved, and this came not from someone in skin but from an invisible God who I met with morning after morning. I was so saturated with His love that I had plenty to give to anyone I came into contact with. I had no need to hoard it.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace drawing a large heart. Courtesy Bitmoji.]