Facing the Truth.

This past year, the Holy Spirit has continued to bring to my attention specific concepts that my heart has needed to hear. I’m thankful that God speaks to us in such a custom-fit way, and that in speaking to us, He wants to allow us to encounter the truth and allow it to change the way we live. Most recently, I have been learning about truth (John 8:32) and God’s strength in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I never really connected these two concepts together, but today God molded them together for me to understand how they relate to each other.

I’ve never been one to like criticism. I try to hide from it as best as I can. I will do whatever it takes to maintain an equilibrium of peace and quiet. However, there are moments when criticism is healthy–especially in self-reflection. If we aren’t aware of the areas we need to reassess, then we will never be aware of how we can grow.

The world encourages us to hide our weaknesses, burying them so far deep that nobody can glimpse the full reality of who we are. In concealing our weaknesses from others, we can live as if we are self-sufficient–not allowing others to invest into us, and not allowing ourselves to reach out to others. Even the thought of sharing our weaknesses could make us feel traces of humiliation because we haven’t even reconciled with the fact that we aren’t perfect.

In my life, I have tried to remedy my imperfections by ignoring my weaknesses and capitalizing on my strengths. Sometimes I have focused so much energy on my strengths that I figured my weaknesses would just disappear. Yet, I realized that simply distracting myself from my weaknesses wouldn’t help me to fix those areas. I needed to confront my fears and my worries. At first, I felt discouraged in admitting my weaknesses. It hurt my pride. WHY was I less than perfect when I was trying the best I could? My best was never good enough, and even when I thought I was succeeding in controlling my fears and worries, they would soon resurface. I would feel such personal failure.

Yet, encountering the truth was destined to set me free. Free from my self-enforced rigidity. Free from my skewed idea of grace. Free from my insistence to rely upon my own strength alone.

While the world tells us to hide our weaknesses, God tells us to pleasure in our weaknesses. What a contrast. When I began to realize that I needed to share with God ALL of me, I exclaimed something like, “It hurts, God–it hurts to reveal to You the weakest parts of myself!” Yet, in revealing the weakest parts of our lives to our Maker, He allows His grace to flood into those areas. As He fills our every void, His glory shines through us like a great big light, a beam for all to see. We don’t need to hide our weaknesses any longer, because God has already promised to allow His grace to be enough for us. In moments when we have no strength, we can run to Him to fill us with His strength.

Over the course of this year, I have begun to show God ALL of me, and it’s been painful at times. However, it has also been one of the greatest experiences ever. Now I know where my strength comes from–and it’s not my own futile effort. So when I start to fear, I run to His perfect love. And when I begin to worry, I cast my cares on Him. It’s as simple as that, but it’s been a struggle to simply release these heavy burdens that I so often try to carry on my own. However, I realize there is freedom in vulnerability to God. When we show God ALL of us–even the dark, dirty, and soiled parts–He begins to restore us. He washes us clean, and He delights in doing so!

Wow. What an amazing, amazing God we have. He is so patient with us in the process of our surrender, and He proves Himself faithful with each step we take.

His Beauty in Us.

“As we take the time to discover the beauty within ourselves, we begin to discover the beauty that surrounds us.” ~Anonymous

I came across this quote the other day on my daily quote calendar and found it to ring so true.  I have found that many times in my life, I’ve had difficulty being able to love others and see their beauty because I have not accepted the love and appreciated the beauty that God had given to me.

God is love (1 John 4:8), and since He is love, we are able to love others with His love when we know and love Him. However, I believe a main component of this concept that I have often overlooked is that we must first be willing to accept the love God has given us. And honestly, this can be pretty difficult at times. It’s tough to accept love, especially when we think we don’t deserve it.

In this world of aspirations and goals, society tells us that we should feel fulfilled once we have accomplished whatever we have set is our heart to do. We attach worth to our actions, and when we fail, we attribute our failure to a lack of ability. Attaching worth to our abilities will always fail us (This is a lesson God has been teaching me this past year).

Yet, when we find our identity in God’s love for us, then we don’t have to work, work, work to feel accomplished or secure. God simply gives His love to us. It’s nothing we work for. His love is something we have to accept. Whether we feel we are deserving or not, He allows us to be a part of a loving relationship with Him that fills every desire we have in our hearts. What a gift. Because we feel we are so undeserving, it’s easy to push away this gift and rely on our own efforts to feel secure. As a result, we rely on our own strength to construct our identity; we give out of our own love until we run dry.

God’s love makes us absolutely beautiful. And as we accept His love, we realize how beautiful we are in His sight. When His love fills us, we are able to see the beauty not only in ourselves–but also the beauty in those around us. We can love without the supply running dry, because it flows from God’s heart, not just our own. It’s a wonderful thing!

Filling My Weakness.

Throughout the past few weeks, the Holy Spirit has repeatedly directed my attention toward the topic of where I turn when I am at my very weakest. So I have, in turn, asked myself, “Where do I turn when I am fearful, stressed, confused, hurting, lost, or broken?” As much as I would love to say that that I always turn to Christ, I don’t.

There are many places I have turned to first without even thinking about turning to Christ.

As I turn to these “many places,” I’ve realized they all have one thing in common: None of these places have given me comfort or made me less fearful, stressed, confused, hurt, lost, or broken. They may fill places in my heart during the moment I’m feeling weak, but ultimately, they leave me feeling as empty as I was when I turned to them.

This truly pains me. WHY do I turn to places that don’t satisfy my deepest longings when I know in my heart that I have a Savior who has already promised to fill my every longing? If I already know that God’s perfect love drives away any fear in me (1 John 4:18), then why do I dwell on my fears and expect my mind to be able to banish it by itself? If I already believe that God takes my burdens (1 Peter 5:7), then why do I try to take on every burden myself?

I find myself forgetting that God is the truest, purest, and most satisfying source. So, instead of gaining my strength from Him, I attempt to wake up each morning and live each day out of my own strength. Thus, I become weak…SO very weak. In my weakness, I look for an outlet–anything that will make me feel stronger. Yet, nothing will ever satisfy me like what Christ has to offer me. Nothing.

I have the notion that human beings will carry into excess whatever we turn to first in our weakness. When we don’t have Christ filling our lives with His strength each day, we allow ourselves to plug into other sources like food, television, exercise, alcohol, lust, gambling, or other things that temporarily set our hearts at ease. And when we turn to these things to satisfy our deepest longings, they become a part of us–something we can’t live without. Because we believe they set our hearts at ease, we believe that these are the places we should turn when we are weak. Thus, we become dependent upon or addicted to such things–they control us because we have allowed them to become our sources.

Yet, when we are controlled by the Spirit, we are able to experience the fullness of peace and satisfaction in God’s presence. Romans 8:6 says, “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” And when we turn to Christ, an excess of His Spirit allows us to walk in the fullness of His Spirit–among these are the fruits (Galatians 5:22, 23) and the gifts (1 Corinthians 12). As we walk in the Spirit, we don’t walk in weakness, but rather abundant and unlimited strength that comes from Him.

Yes, we are weak on our own. But Christ is stronger still. And as we turn to Him first to be our source, we are made strong by His strength. 

I’m excited to hear how God continues to speak to me concerning this topic, and I’m also very excited to start consciously turning to Christ first instead of things that never fully satisfy me. I’m thankful the Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:13), and as He leads us into truth, He allows us to walk in amazing and breathtaking freedom (John 8:32).

Rest.

 

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ~Sir John Lubbock


“God’s peace…is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest.” ~Philippians 4:7 

Securely in His Love.

Ever since I can remember, I tied my worth into how well I could accomplish the tasks that lay before me. Whether it was getting good grades, winning a spelling bee, or being in control of my every word and action—I needed to be working my hardest or best, or else it wasn’t good enough for me. And if it wasn’t good enough for me, then I reasoned it definitely wasn’t good enough for God.
I measured my achievement based on whether or not I got a compliment. If I worked especially hard to present my best, and then I didn’t get the amount of praise from others I thought I deserved, I would feel completely devalued. Even when I did receive praise, it never seemed to be good enough because it never satisfied my heart. As soon as I felt approved by those around me, I felt I needed to take it to the next level and be even more perfect, more pristine, and more worthy of love. Sure, improvement is usually something healthy to strive for. We always should try to be our best. But people cannot meet our deepest desires for approval—even our closest friends cannot make us feel completely secure. Only God can make us secure in Him, providing us with an identity that nobody can take away.
I learned this lesson during the beginning of last semester when I was about ready to explode out of not being able to meet my own expectations and garner all the approval I was after. Of course I wanted to live to bless others, but deep in my heart, one of my motivations for blessing others was so that I could receive approval from them, and in turn, feel loved. I recognized the harm of this way of thinking, because without fail, I felt totally insecure in what I had to offer others—regardless of whether or not they were noticeably touched by my actions. If I could not make somebody happy or make sure they smiled after being around me, I felt I had failed them in some way. Thus, I failed myself. If I could make somebody’s day (or at least convince myself that I did), I would feel like I accomplished something great. Being in between these two extremes of shame and pride not only weighed on my heart, but it weighed on my relationship with God. Instead of allowing His grace to flood my heart and my identity to be found in Him alone, I worked to pursue perfection apart from Him. I didn’t even ponder that His love made me complete.
It wasn’t until a close friend invited me to a Bible study at Central Assembly that I had a life-altering realization that has transformed the way I live today. The study was based upon the book Chase by Jennie Allen, and in reading the first chapter, my world was turned upside down.
I read from this book with a convicted heart, “Our value comes from God; it can never be found in how we measure up. So whether you feel worthy or ashamed, this news should probably undo you. It is the character of God that gives us worth, not anything we have done or will do. There is freedom in accepting our unworthiness and receiving God’s worth. But self-esteem dies hard, especially for those of us who stand on a great performance. The work of Christ steals all shame but it also steals all of our pride.”
Wow. This one paragraph has truly humbled my heart and made me realize how selfish and prideful I had been. I had been living to give myself glory because I felt my identity was rooted in what I made of myself. However, the “undo”-ing truth that God gave me my identity and it is secure—despite my best and worst efforts—made me a whole new person. I am a whole new person because I am in securely with God’s love. Nothing I do can take that away. Nothing I don’t do can take that away. Now, my delight is to give glory to God, and in doing so, I find my identity and security.
If you’re struggling with having to be perfect and approved by others to feel like you have a secure identity, I’m here to tell you that you can stop finding your identity in others’ approval.
“She didn’t have to be perfect because she was perfectly loved.” ~Holley Gerth
Allow this truth to penetrate your heart. Know that you don’t have to do anything or put on any false appearance to be loved. You are already loved by a Father whose love can fill every recess of your heart. What a life-transforming truth.
Satisfied in His Love,
Laura Ashley
I wrote this entry for the Insecurely Movement. Please check it out!