What To Do With Self-Pity

what to do with self-pity

Self-pity is simply the grief that I have nothing to brag about in myself.

Ever have those days when you feel like a failure at everything? The closer I walk with God, the more my sin, my deep-rooted self-love, comes into high-definition focus. And honestly, I’d really love to be the most put together person in the room, the most spiritual, the most holy, the most fill-in-the-blank woman I know. Why? [Honest confession time] Because I love boasting in myself!

And if we are all honest, who doesn’t? Who doesn’t love feeling like they are awesome? Like they are the bomb-dot-com, as Jimmy would say.

1 corin 10So today, while feeling sorry for my sin-sick self, I am reminded that those “woe-is-me” thoughts are anything but godly. They might seem spiritual and masquerade like noble desires to “be better” for God, but I am only mourning the loss of my own greatness. I am still, in my pride, just focused on myself.

But here is the occasion for the mental guerrilla warfare described in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.  By taking captive my thoughts, this grieving of my own destroyed goodness might lead me to a proper boasting.

THE RIGHT KIND OF BOASTING

1 Corinthians 1 is the best cure I know for a low self-esteem. Read it with me here, and if you dare, read it out loud to let it settle on you:

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let Him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

The truth is, the Bible actually encourages a low self-esteem. Did you catch what we were just commanded to do in this passage? We are to consider, meditate, think on the fact that we are:

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The Forceful Compassion of God

the forceful compassion of god

Today, the Spirit of God captivated my attention with a phrase in a very familiar passage of Scripture. I have read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah many times in chapter 19 of Genesis and usually the same main points keep my attention:

  • the wickedness of the men of Sodom who demand Lot’s guests be released so they can sexually abuse them
  • the power of the angels who caused all those men to become blind instantly
  • Lot’s wife turning into salt because she turns to look at the city as it is destroyed

But for the first time as I read, a different point became painstakingly clear to me: God’s compassion is often forceful. And I am so thankful that it is!

When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying “Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was up on him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. – Genesis 19:15-16

THE WARNING

Leave, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.

DANGER DANGER! Lot is clearly warned that he is standing in the direct path of the impending doom. God is about to pour out His wrath on these wicked cities, and in His great kindness (and due to the prayers of Lot’s uncle Abraham, Gen 18:22-33) He warns Lot to leave immediately before He is swept away with the rest of the city.

Likewise, God has warned us as well of impending doom. Through His Word He makes clear the wrath stored up for all. “The wages of sin is death.”  And then in His kindness tells us the way out. “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:23)

I think of the way Jesus sought to convince us of how dangerous sin is: “If your right eye makes you sin, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you sin, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matt 5:29-30. It’s better to lose parts of our body than to continue in sin. This is a warning of the dangers of sin for the human soul.

The warning given to us isn’t once and for all either. Even for the adopted children of God, those who have trusted in Jesus to pay the penalty of sin, there is still a warning not to continue in sin. True, for those who believe there is no more wrath left from God and we safe in the grace of God. But we live in the already and not yet. Our sins already covered, yet their presence not entirely gone. There is still a warning for us.

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The Art of Noticing

art of noticing

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

Continual worship of God is in the art of noticing.

The way a leaf looks when held up to the sun, its intricate map of veins exposed by the light seeping through. Not one leaf is identical to another and yet each one contributing to the whole look of the tree itself. The way each tree differs in its silhouette depending on the type of leaves it bears. How ingenious a Creator!

The overwhelming diversity of flowers, in size, shape, color, smell, feel, and growth. The velvety feel of a petal, softer than the best silk made by human hands. The subtle opening of each bud to surprise the world with the creative beauty that lies within. What limitless creativity our God has! When I think I have seen every kind of flower imaginable, I discover yet another unforeseen combination.

The way light cascades onto our hardwood floor in the afternoon highlighting a completely new set of tones in the wood. The slow movement of thousand specs of dust, previously unnoticed, now center stage seen dancing in the sun beams. The joy of a two year old discovering that perfectly defined square on the floor is nothing more than sunlight. Watching her walk along the edge of the sunlit floor as if it were a tight rope. How beautiful a world!

It’s just so easy not to notice these things. With an overload of alerts from our phones and the hypnotic pull of the screen, we drown our minds in a sea of cheap information and forgo the rich and refreshing moments of simple wonder. Noticing doesn’t come naturally. It takes energy and purposeful effort to slow down and appreciate the vibrant smell of an orange the moment you break into the skin.

NEW vs. BEAUTIFUL

But, the smell of an orange isn’t anything new. Here’s the problem: somehow new and undiscovered tends to trump timeless beauty. I feel this tug in my own life.

While laying on a picnic blanket with my daughters there are 2 things vying for my attention: the blue sky, littered with cotton candy clouds and laced by the silhouette of the tree we lay under or the latest stream of photos from my friends in instagram. One is a beauty that I have seen before. It’s nothing new. The other boasts of pictures and comment conversations that are unknown to me. The new and undiscovered often presents the stronger pull in the moment. The fear of “missing out” seems to endanger my joy.

Yet quite the opposite is true. Being bound to “not missing out” causes me to miss the deepest beauty.  In scarfing down all those bits of new information, I fill my mind with cheap “snacks” and forsake the satisfying richness of timeless beauty. I miss out on a moment of worship.

A sunset is nothing new to most of us. Neither is a starry sky. But both, when properly observed and studied, become an occasion for worshipping Our Creator! Don’t miss out on the profound joys of life and worship around you today.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

An Exercise in Repentance

proactive repentance

Repentance is the act of agreeing with God about our sin, turning from it and rejoicing in what God has done for us in Jesus. Most of our repentance is reactive. We repent primarily for the sins that are staring us in the face or the ones that others point out. And honestly, even then, sometimes we delay dealing with our sin.

But what if we weren’t just reactive in dealing with our sin, but proactive? This is a trait we see in many of the godly men and women of the Bible: Josiah (2 Chron. 34), Daniel (Dan 9), and David (Psalm 139:23-24) to name a few.

Why Should Repentance Be Proactive?

But why should we be proactive in repentance? Don’t we only need to repent when God shows us something we’ve done wrong? Why in the world, when everything seems good, would it be beneficial to proactively search for sin to repent of?

John the Baptist said: “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8) Consider also 1 John 1:8-10: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”

The goal is not to be perfect and sinless… only Jesus fits in that category. But rather to live a lifestyle of repentance, facing our sinful hearts with boldness, confessing the sin that’s there, and believing the Gospel again and again for those areas of brokenness. It is in that broken place of repentance were the Spirit of God begins to change us. And God LOVES brokenness! He prefers to be with those who are lowly and contrite in spirit and broken over their sin. (Ps 51:16-17, Ps 138:6, Pr 16:9, Is 57:15, Is 66:2, Matt 5:3).
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Why Am I Still So Discontent?

Why am I still so discontent

I recently got this message from someone: “I’m trying really hard right now to embrace singleness as a gift, as you mentioned in your post “Theology of Singleness.” I think it would help ease my mind to know more about the things I will experience in my relationship with God that I would not experience elsewhere, as well as the things that maybe a romantic relationship has that a relationship with God doesn’t (for example, sexual intimacy) and why these things are relatively unimportant or unnecessary when compared to knowing God.”

This reader expresses what many single people feel (or really any person who is longing for a good thing that God continues to say no to): I desperately want to believe God is enough for me, but I am still not convinced that knowing Him is better than marriage.

Why is this? How is it possible to believe that you don’t need marriage or children to be complete, that knowing God is really enough, that in His presence is the fullness of joy, and yet still feel so horrifyingly empty and unsatisfied?

After mulling over this question for a while, I’ve come to one likely conclusion: a low view of sin and therefore a low view of salvation.

My joy in God is directly correlated to how I view my sin. The smaller my sin seems, the less joyful. The greater my sin, the greater my joy.

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A Jesus-Heart for Children, Part 3

a jesus heart for children

We have been looking at Biblical womanhood, and specifically what our attitude toward children should be. So far in this last section on children, we’ve covered the following:

I could have ended there and that would be great. But I have often found that there are 2 specific topics that come up a lot as I meet with young women and felt were worth tackling: birth control and child care.

These are sensitive topics for sure, controversial even, and there are many factors that play into every individual’s decision. But too often, these decisions are made from attitudes and motives that have been shaped by our culture. And since it is so normal, we often don’t even notice.

So as we start, let me clarify my goal. I am not trying to create a set of rules, but rather give you a Biblical grid through which to see these issues and the tools to discern the motives of your heart. God is much more concerned about our motives than our actions anyway.

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A Jesus-Heart for Children, Part 2

a jesus heart for children

In the last post, we looked at how Jesus responded to children and how we can do the same. Whether or not we have children of our own, we need to cultivate a Biblical response to children.

But what would Jesus have to say to moms? Being a mother entails a whole other level of interaction with children. What can we learn from Jesus to apply to the day-in-day-out routine of motherhood?

YOU CAN’T GIVE WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “ Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Like no other generation before us, moms today have access to more information and parenting helps than ever. But I’m not sure if that has helped or hindered us. In fact, access to more information has probably created more Marthas, anxious and troubled about many things.

  • What sleep training method should I be doing?
  • What kind of baby food is the best?
  • Is my child getting enough sensory play time?
  • What kind of discipline should I be doing?
  • Are my kid’s friends good influences?
  • Homeschool or public school?
  • Music lessons or dance class?
  • Breast feeding or formula?

These are all good questions to ask, but too often they create anxiety and trouble in our hearts and frantic researching. But Jesus told us Marthas, there is one thing that is necessary. ONE THING.

What is that one thing? Sitting still with Jesus. Cultivating intimacy with Jesus, and a listening heart.

Isn’t this also the one thing we hope to pass on to our children? A desire to know and love Jesus above all else? That one day they would be strong men and women of faith, people who love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, who delight to do His will, and who are serving Him with their whole heart and their whole lives?

But how can we cultivate that if we don’t model it ourselves? We cannot give what we do not have. Let us not be like Martha, frantic and worried with good things and forgetting the best thing. This is the hard part, the things that distract us from Jesus usually aren’t bad. Martha was distracted by “much serving.” Serving is a good thing. But it distracted her from the BEST thing: Knowing Jesus. Being a good parent is a good thing and it can easily distract us from the best thing.

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A Jesus-Heart for Children, Part 1

a jesus heart for children

This is the last installment in a series on Biblical womanhood. I hope that whether or not you are a mom, you will take the time to read this post. All of us at all seasons of life encounter children. They might be your own, or a friends’, or nieces and nephews, or your neighbor’s kids. So it is important that we have a Biblically-informed view on them.

And while I think a Biblical view of children is important for all believers, it is especially important for women. Our very bodies are designed to care for children: our womb to be the first home a child has and our breasts the first source of nourishment they ever receive. Whether we ever have the privilege to have children, God has wired women to be nurturers.

CHILDREN ARE AN INCONVENIENCE: The common attitude.

Unfortunately, the pervasive attitude about children is that they are an inconvenience. Below are a few birth control ads that expose this view.

BirthControlAd   birthcontrolad1

motherhood pic   thisismybabyad

What’s the message? That children equal gaining 30 pounds, giving up on your dreams, being less awesome, and not living life your way. Children get in the way of your plans for you.

An increasingly sexually active culture has fueled this attitude. Years ago, pregnancy was the normal and expected outcome of being sexually active. But thanks to birth control and abortion, children are now only an optional result of sex. The push to divorce pregnancy from sex is happening to appease a shamelessly self-centered lifestyle. Rather than a joyous moment, a positive pregnancy test is often received with fear as if it were a curse, a disease, or a punishment.

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A Wife After God’s Own Heart, Part 2

a wife after God's own heart

As man’s power over woman is restrained by love, woman’s power over man is restrained by submission. Any woman knows that she has ways of getting her own way. These must be restrained. The kind of restraint God asks of her is submission. -Elisabeth Elliot

As wives, we have influence over our husbands but too often we use that power in self-centered ways, manipulating to get what we want when we want it. But to be a woman after God’s own heart is to think first and foremost about God and His Kingdom, then about others, and lastly about ourselves. So how can we grow to have that heart within our marriages? By learning to walk in the 3 clear commands God has given us to refine our influence in our marriages: help, submit, and respect.

In part 1, we discussed what it means to be a helper to our husbands. Please go back and read it if you haven’t yet as it sets the tone for the other two commands.

So now let’s move on to submission.

SUBMIT

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Ephesians 5:22-24

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.  1 Pet 3:1-2

Submission Defined

Submission is not just for wives. The concept to subjecting yourself to an authority is showcased in many arenas throughout the Bible: young men submit to elders, servants to masters, children to parents, and everyone is to submit to government, rulers and authorities, and to one another.

Submission simply means to operate under authority and have a disposition to yield to that authority. John Piper defines submission “not in terms of specific behaviors, but as a disposition to yield to the husband’s authority and an inclination to follow his leadership. It is a disposition rather than a set of behaviors or roles because mature femininity will express itself in so many different ways depending on the situation.” I agree with Piper that submission is much more an attitude than a set of behaviors.

Biblically, your husband holds a position and a rank over you. This is not due to his merit, his skill, or his personality. It is simply because God ordained men to be the authority in a marriage. A refusal to submit to a husband is a refusal to submit to God, since it was He who gave the command.

The mature woman acknowledges that submission is the will of God for her, and obedience to this will is no more a sign of weakness in her than it was in the Son of Man when He said, “Not my will but yours be done.” – Elisabeth Elliot

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A Wife After God’s Own Heart, Part 1

a wife after God's own heart

Remember how we discussed that women are meant to be influencers? There’s no easier place to see this than in marriage. Wives, whether you realize it or not, you have likely become a skilled influencer of your husband. It is second nature for women to use subtlety, nuance, and timing to encourage the changes we want to see in our men. But unfortunately most of us use this skill set selfishly, manipulating to get what we want. God is aware of this bent within us (in fact He designed it!) and has intended for us to use it for the Kingdom of God and the good of our husbands, even at our expense.

To help us refine our skill of influencing, God has given 3 very clear and specific commands to wives: help, submit, respect.

Not the answer we usually want, that’s for sure. These are usually the last 3 things we want to do in relation to our husbands, but without these, we will never see our husbands flourish through our influence. I love the way Elisabeth Elliot put this concept:

“As man’s power over woman is restrained by love, woman’s power over man is restrained by submission. Any woman knows that she has ways of getting her own way. These must be restrained. The kind of restraint God asks of her is submission.”

So let’s unpack these commands to help, submit, and respect, one at a time.

HELP

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen 2:18, 22, 24)

Help Defined
Unfortunately, most people think being a helper is little more than being a secretary. But as you’ll see, this is not an accurate interpretation. This phrase, “helper fit for him” is ezer neged in the Hebrew: ezer (help) neged (at your side, next to, beside, corresponding to). This Hebrew word ezer is used of Eve twice in this chapter. Every other time but one it is used of God and how He came to the aid of His people:

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. Ps 33:20

But I am afflicted and needy; Hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay. Ps 70:5 

O Israel, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield. Ps 115:9

I will lift my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Ps 121:1-2

What an incredible type of help this is! A help that shields, that is needed desperately, in times of need and affliction. This help goes beyond that of a secretary or assistant. This is help that is invaluable! Wives, this is the type of help we are to bring to our husbands!

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