The Source of the Pain

A few years ago, I decided to drive to Angel Fire, NM, for a hot air balloon festival because riding in a hot air balloon was on my bucket list. Now mind you, I have always been afraid of heights. But I didn’t let that stop me. At least not this time. As a photographer, capturing images of God’s landscape from the air was the most appealing aspect of the adventure. I chose Angel Fire because of the name and didn’t let it deter me that I had a long drive ahead. I selected my route carefully to make stopping points of great interest.

Little did I know that I would experience excruciating pain on this trip (of course, it takes a backseat, hands down, to the tragic accident in northern California, but that’s a tale for another day for those of you who haven’t already heard it).

When I arrived, weary from my travels, I took some Aleve and went to bed. I had never taken Aleve before, but I had picked it up for the trip and stuck it in my travel bag. The following day, bright and early, I headed out for my usual run. I quickly learned about the altitude in New Mexico and returned to the cabin. I noticed that I had gotten some unusual red spots on my face, but I didn’t put too much thought into it before heading off for breakfast.

The spots and my aches seemed to worsen, so I returned to my cabin to take more Aleve and lay down. To spare you the details, let’s put this phrase on repeat….repeat…repeat…over the course of the next few days until the inside of my mouth was so sore, I could hardly eat or drink, my body had gotten the same red blotches as my face, and my lips were slightly swollen and tingling.

You may be ahead of me at this point and have realized that I am allergic to Aleve. On the other hand, I did not figure that out until a year later when I retook it because my doctor diagnosed it as a strange virus and bug bites.

I did not know that these painkillers were the source of the pain. I kept returning to it and repeating the same patterns. I think this is symbolic of our sinful ways. We can keep returning to unhealthy relationships or sinful behaviors to fill the gaps in our past pains when we don’t realize they are causing it and only making it worse. When we don’t know Christ as the answer, we search for the wrong things. It can be as painful as hives in your mouth, if not more.  

Only One person can fill those gaps and help us heal: Jesus Christ. When we choose Him over our sinful behaviors and stay rooted and grounded in His love, He can help take away the pain of our past. “Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor” (Prov. 21:21, ESV).

The Bible says if we know the truth of Christ and then still return to our sinful patterns, we are even worse off. Peter quotes Proverbs to give us a vivid image of what that is like, “For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire’ ” (2 Peter 26:21-22, ESV). This likely refers to those who appear to be Christians but were never truly regenerated. God promises that a person who truly knows Him is saved by His grace, never to fall away.

Once we know Christ as our Savior, and He redeems us from our sinful behaviors, we won’t want to return. There may still be temptations, but God helps us overcome them (I Cor. 10:13, ESV). The key ingredients to knowing what God wants for us are to be still, listen, ask Him, and meditate on and read His Word daily. Then and only then will we stop returning to the source of our pain and receive God’s grace and healing.

I made the drive home, but not without considering selling my car and flying back. A shot of steroids from the clinic at the base of the mountain did the trick, and when I arrived home, I stopped taking the Aleve and returned to my ordinary painkillers. A year later, I found them in my travel bag at the same time as a toothache, and I popped a couple and went to bed….the next morning, ‘that strange virus and bug bites returned.’

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1, ESV. Emphasis mine).

Zealous For God

At the beginning of each year, I choose a word to focus on, or most of the time, the word finds me. What I mean is that I pray for God to show me what word I need to focus on that year, and when I think I know the word, I am surprised to find out I was wrong. God showed me a brand-new word I hadn’t even considered, which is what happened this year.

The word zealous has served me well this year as my desire for a more profound love for God has increased seven-fold and then some. I had no idea I had so much more room in my heart for Him, but I did and still do. It is a continual process of inviting God into my heart and asking Him to deepen my love for Him in ways I didn’t know were possible.

I began to think about the word zeal when studying the armor of God and seeing that God put on zeal as a cloak (Is. 59:17, ESV). I incorporated this into my daily prayers along with the armor as I fight spiritual warfare, not only for myself but for others. It is a necessary form of protection that arms me with the weapons I need for battle.

My zeal for God has increased, but it still does not come close to how much God loves me (and you).  Have you thought much about how much God loves you or asked God to show you the depth of His love? I did recently and was amazed at His answers.

The oceans are too shallow, the sky too narrow, the desert too small, and the universe is not vast enough. There is nothing on this earth that compares. The expanse of the heavens is more than you can imagine- but someday, you will understand. WOW!

Then I asked if there was something in the Bible God could point me to– “The Glory of the Lord filled the temple” (Ezekiel 43:5, ESV) came to mind, as well as “For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29, ESV). These are glorious images of how God entirely and reverently fills space in ways we cannot fathom. God’s love for us is so deep and massive that it is hard to compare it to anything we can understand.

Paul gives a glimpse of it in Ephesians 3:16-19, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through the Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Emphasis mine)

My zeal for God, on the other hand, is the size of Australia. Although it is the largest country by area, it in no way compares to the depth of God’s love for me (and you). And absolutely nothing can change that or separate God’s love from us. That is one of God’s sweet promises to His children.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39, ESV). (Emphasis mine)

Secret Sauce

Do you ever feel there is a secret sauce someone has not yet shared with you on navigating life and staying on the right track? Well, there is something, but it isn’t a secret. It’s laid out for us by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

Among other instructions in His sermon, the word ‘seek’ has stuck out to me lately. Beginning in Matthew 6:33, Jesus says to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Most of us may leave it there and not read the next verse. (v 34) “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” The word ‘therefore’ is significant. It’s like a hinge. If we are searching for the right thing (God), there is no need to worry. God will provide. If we seek God today-there is no need to worry about tomorrow. Keeping ourselves on the right path is enough for today- it is hard work, and we don’t need to borrow trouble that hasn’t come yet.

How do we stay on the right path, you may ask? Jesus tells us that too. Ask, seek, knock (Matt. 7:7-11, ESV). Ask: He instructs his disciples to come to God in humility and awareness of their needs. When we are aware of our needs, it keeps our pride in check. Seek: we continually pursue God’s will in our prayers. Knock: is about perseverance. Just like the disciples, we are to pray confidently and persistently that God will supply whatever is best, according to His gracious will (ESV Study Bible notes).

Eventually, it leads to life on a narrow road that few can find (Matt. 7:13-14, ESV). But why is it so hard for most people to see it if it is not a secret? That is because we tend to give up too quickly. We seek the wrong things and don’t ask because of pride. Humility means we are aware of our needs and will ask and seek God above all else. When we learn to do this, all we need is added to us (Matt. 6:33, ESV). It is easy to take the road that leads to destruction. We can sometimes drive a steamroller through life, taking others down with us. The route we must learn to maneuver and continually look for is the narrow path that leads to life. We can do that by making better choices and taking control of our lives, with God’s help, instead of allowing others to control us.

It is also important not to follow the wrong people. That is why Jesus continues His sermon to warn about false prophets and even disciples in the church who are like wolves in sheep’s clothing, which we can recognize by their fruits. Not all who confess Jesus have a repentant heart (Matt. 7:15-23, ESV). Their life and the results of their influence will show if they are living for the kingdom. We must always read the Bible for ourselves and pray for discernment.

The way is narrow because Jesus is the only way. It is hard because we look for the approval of men instead of God. What we believe matters; whom we follow is crucial. That is why Jesus gives further instructions on building our lives on the rock and His Word, a foundation that stands the test of time and does not shift with culture (Matt. 7:24-27, ESV). Bottom line: just like the people of His day, we are either with Jesus or against Him. Our hope in Jesus is the secret sauce that leads us to continually ask, seek, knock, and stay on the narrow road that leads to eternal life. Don’t give up.

God-Honoring Choices

Sometimes we can’t see a better life for ourselves or know our self-worth isn’t in another person, especially one who does not have our best interest in mind. God always has our best interest at heart. He always wants the best for us—the very best is God Himself.

If we are hungry and only have cheesecake—we will eat cheesecake. Even if we know it isn’t as healthy for us and that it will go to our hips. But if we see it as our only choice, we will eat it. We may like cheesecake, but it is not sustainable or healthy.

Don’t settle for the cheesecake when God offers a whole banquet at the palace of a King.

The same goes for a significant purchase. Let’s say you are in the market for a new laptop. You won’t just buy the first one you see. You will research and get better informed of all your options and the specs. We need to be informed to make the best decisions.

Don’t settle for anything less than God’s best. In other words, don’t compromise integrity for momentary pleasure.

If we aren’t in God’s word, learning about God’s character and the truth of what Christ says about us and what He wants for us, we will make ill-informed decisions based on what is in front of us. It’s like being in a desert, and we will drink anything put in front of us to satisfy our thirst.

Friend, don’t drink the devil’s Kool-Aid. God offers living waters that have eternal refreshment for our souls. There are other options. We can make better life choices the way God intended for us. We can reach our highest potential with God’s help. Life-giving decisions are made in the light of God’s truth about us and who we are in Him as image-bearers.

I was once given an ultimatum to do what another person asked of me or lose him. I didn’t know leaving was the better choice. He said if I loved him, I would do what he asked. That isn’t love. I stuck it out because I thought I had to make it work. But it was unhealthy, and I was not honoring Christ with my life or body. It wasn’t until many dark days later and an eye-opening wake-up call that I realized God is always the better choice. Learning to put Christ first in my life comes with a freedom I do not take for granted. I thank God for rescuing me every day.

The Bible offers a filter to sift our relationships through to see if they are God-honoring:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends” (I Cor. 13:4-8, ESV, Emphasis mine).

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17, ESV, Emphasis mine).

A TIMELY BLESSING

I am aware of generational cycles that can destroy lives and lead to sin that we are sometimes unaware of. One of the things that I teach other women through the support group I lead is how to recognize the red flags of abuse and co-dependency in the hope of breaking those cycles. Yes, our bad choices play a part, but abuse is never the victim’s fault. When we are aware of the cycle, we can do something to change it.

Once we learn how to recognize these factors from our childhood, there are ways to break the cycle through repentance and prayer. I am reading a Bible plan entitled “Freedom for Ladies” (GJF Ministries, Jamye Lane) on the YouVersion Bible app, which is very timely and helpful. The logic can be applied to anyone, not just women. The plan outlines the steps in breaking off things from the family line and replacing it with blessings from God.

The morning I read the steps, I decided to use one of my favorite verses as the blessings from Scripture to pray over myself and my family. It is also one of my favorite songs, “The Blessing,” with the lyrics taken directly from the Bible. Aaron’s blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 is a priestly blessing showing God’s will to bless every Israelite. The ESV Study Bible denotes that this blessing engraved on a silver amulet is the earliest archaeological discovery, having the covenantal name of God (Yahweh), which was found in a Judean tomb dating back to the seventh or sixth century B.C.

(V24)“The Lord bless you and keep you; (v 25) the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; (V 26) the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Emphasis mine)

Let us look at the meaning of each verse: The Lord blesses us by giving good harvests, peace, children, and his own presence (Lev. 26:3-13). ‘Keep’ means to guard or protect. His face shine upon you in God’s presence, like sunshine (Ps. 19:1-11). A shining face is a smiling face, a pledge of God’s good favor (Ps. 80:3, 7, 19, ESV). The countenance is the expression on one’s face. The study Bible says that for God to lift his countenance involves treating people with favor. Peace or shalom means total well-being.

This led me to Daniel 9, which provides the same model of repentance and prayer along with this blessing. Daniel prayed a prayer of adoration, then a confession on behalf of himself and his people (9:4). Daniel asked God to show favor and make His face shine upon him and bring exile to an end. Not because of his righteousness but because of God’s commitment to glorify His own name (9:17). If we read further, Daniel received an answer from God through an angel named Gabriel. Still, I want us to pay attention to this: he confessed his sin and the sin of his people, presenting a plea to God and asking for His blessing.

This mirrors the steps in the plan first to praise God, then repent for the sins committed in our generation, then break them off our generation, in Jesus’ name, and next wash the generations on both sides of the family with the blood of Christ, as far back as the sin got in; close the doors in Jesus’ name. Take authority over the sin in Jesus’ name, and then bless yourself and the next generation with applicable biblical blessings. If you have anything in your family that needs to be broken off and replaced with a blessing, I encourage you to try it. Just as awareness is critical to change, Lane points out repentance is key to freedom.

LAMENTS

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a lament is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. Synonyms include wail, moan, weeping, sobbing, or crying. One can also lament by passionately singing praises to God. We can turn to the Psalms for comfort in times of suffering and pain.

Many laments in the Psalms are prayers or hymns by David during times of desperate need, like Ps. 142, a prayer, or Ps. 57, a hymn of praise. Both are related to the same incident in I Samuel 22 when David hides from Saul in a cave. Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22 reflect a song of deliverance David sang when God saved him from Saul and all his enemies (ESV).

I don’t know about you, but I have done my share of lamenting in both desperate pleas and grateful praises to God. Sometimes I find myself face down on the floor, sobbing with a grateful heart for something God has shown me or helped me through. In all of David’s story and his pleas to God, we know he wasn’t perfect. He was a sinner, just like you and me. He made mistakes. But he learned how to put all his trust in God, look to Him for protection, and praise Him for all the times he rescued him. We can do the same thing.

Other times, like Ps. 139:23 and Ps. 19:14, we see David asking God to search his heart. This is a vital part of our relationship with God. In Luke 6:45, Jesus says, “the good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person produces evil, for out of the heart his mouth speaks.” How we live will manifest from what we treasure most. What is your heart’s desire? What are you treasuring in your life other than God? It takes time, but we can learn to want God over everything else. It is this type of intimate relationship that God wants with us; our part is to seek Him and the kingdom of God above all else (Matt. 6:33, ESV). Be still before God this week and ask Him to search your heart and reveal any areas you need to change or forgive someone.

You may be a person who speaks to God first thing in the morning, or you might say a prayer last thing before going to sleep at night. My challenge is that we all learn to think of Him in those times and between. The stuff in the middle of those can trip us up. Try to make it a point to thank Him or pause and pray, even for a moment, throughout your day and see how it affects your attitude and daily interaction with others. Not to mention how much closer your relationship will become with God as you begin to lean into Him more and more. God’s desire is you; our desires should be Him. Then we can experience wholeness, hope, and healing that only comes from Christ.

PREPARATION

After John the Baptist baptized Jesus, He was taken to the wilderness, where He fasted and spent the next forty days and forty nights tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:2, ESV). The devil focused on three areas: desires and physical needs, possessions and power, and pride (Matt. 4:1-10, NLT). Things that often trip us up. Each time Jesus used the Word of God to defend Himself by quoting Deuteronomy, which links His experience to Israel’s forty years in the desert. Israel failed, but Jesus did not.

TemptationVerseJesus’ AnswerVerse
Hunger: turn stone into breadMatt. 4:4; Luke 4:4Depend on GodDuet. 8:2-3
Power: jump; the angels will protect youMatt. 4:7; Luke 4:12Do not test GodDuet. 6:16
Pride: offered a shortcut to His future reignMatt. 4:10; Luke 4:8Do not compromiseDuet. 6:13

When we are hungry and tired, we are more susceptible to giving in to the wrong things. In those times, we can learn to depend on God even more. The devil used manipulation and lies by twisting Scripture and taking Psalm ninety-one out of context to convince Jesus to jump and use His divine nature to display His power, knowing that the angels would protect Him. But Jesus says we are not to tempt God. Lastly, the devil offers Jesus a shortcut to reign over the world, but this would only bypass the most critical piece of Jesus’ mission; redemption of sins for His people, which is precisely what Satan hoped he could deter. Jesus is the perfect example of not comprising to please the flesh.

All the time spent in the wilderness was preparing Jesus for His ministry. He became fully human and took time to understand as a human what we go through each day on this earth. He learned obedience through what He suffered, and so can we. Our testing and temptations come first to prepare us for living a life of faith and obedience to God. It is by His strength, not our own, and because Jesus knows what we are going through, we can look to Him for strength during times of temptation and trials.

We can also use the sword of the Spirit as our weapon (Eph. 6:17-18) to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). To use it effectively requires faith in God’s promises. We must stay alert to the devil’s tactics; he also knows Scripture and will twist it to suit his purposes. The Chronological Life Application Study Bible notes that obeying is more important than memorizing or quoting a verse. Reading the Word daily and applying it to our lives is the only way to keep our sword sharp and not give in to the devil’s lies.

There is another type of wilderness we sometimes spend time journeying through. In the life of John the Baptist, we read that he knew his purpose. He was to pave the way for Jesus the Messiah. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about his childhood or how he spent his time before his ministry began, but it does tell us he waited in the wilderness until God’s appointed time to start his ministry (Mark 1:3-4, ESV). Can you imagine knowing your purpose and waiting for God to tell you the time is right? At a time when I was at rock bottom, God whispered a sweet message for me to think positively because great things were happening in my life. It was hard to see then, but He has certainly done great things, and I know He will continue to do so. He reminded me of that again recently during a ‘wilderness’ moment.

Just a few short years ago, I would have never seen myself where I am now. He is always working in our lives even when we cannot see it. I am learning to wait expectantly for God’s perfect timing. Time spent in the wilderness of our lives also has a purpose and is a time of preparation, and we cannot skip ahead. After we stand the tests and rely on God’s strength and Word to get through, we are more prepared and ready to be sent out to do kingdom work for God.

AUTUMN SPICE

Reflections

Most who know me know I am an avid runner. One of the first things many people ask me is how far I ran that morning, usually between a mile and a half and three miles on a good day. Although I keep track of it in my running journal, it is not so much about the quantity as it is the quality of the time spent with God. Lately, my runs have been shortened due to construction in my neighborhood. But since they don’t work on Saturday, I enjoyed my regular three-mile route in between homework assignments for what turned out to be a nice leisurely run on a crisp Fall morning.

Whether a mile or three, my communion time with God is a valuable part of my day; when I receive a message on top of it, it is like pouring a ladle of rich, savory gravy on an already succulent dish of mashed potatoes. Thinking of food, I could also relate it to a double dose of whipped cream piled on top of a sweet and creamy Autumn Spice milkshake from Chick-fil-A, which I have already had two of this Fall; one by surprise and one my choice. I think they knew what they were doing when they handed me that unsolicited milkshake a couple of weeks ago. When I said I hadn’t ordered it, they said you might as well take it. And who can resist that type of arm twisting when sitting in the drive-thru? And yes, I did go back last week and enjoy another one on purpose. No arm-twisting this time.

Sometimes, God surprises me with messages; like this one that can feel like getting a free milkshake with whipped cream on top. But even when I am working on a particular topic or processing what He gave me in my quiet time or Bible reading, I am always in awe of His gracious mercy and abundant provisions. He knows I depend on Him, and that is how He wants it. Although it is not always easy, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength’” (Isaiah 30:15, ESV). Emphasis mine

Let’s read that again as translated by The Message: “God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: ‘Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me’” (Is. 30:15, MSG). Emphasis mine

Isaiah was referring to Judah and their rebellion against God. They were stubborn and wanted to go by their plans. They put their trust in Egypt rather than God. Isaiah is getting to the heart of the matter by showing them where their strength comes from. In this context, ‘ returning’ means to repent, which leads to our salvation. The only true path to victory and peace is through quietness and trust. Even in this OT story about Judah’s rebellion, there is still a universal truth and principle for us to pay attention to. As we travel through this passage and on to the following verses, we see a picture of God’s almighty grace towards his people.

Despite our rebellion and serving other idols in our lives, we are still being shown an abundance of grace and mercy. This is a call to turn back to God, rest in His grace and the promise of salvation, in the quiet confidence of God’s strength. That is a solid dose of whipped cream on an already sweet and savory message and something worthy of reflection.

STEADFAST ANCHOR

A seahorse uses its tail to anchor itself to coral and seagrass. They have no stomachs, so food passes through their little bodies, requiring them to eat almost constantly. It sometimes stays in the same place for days, using its secure position to snatch much-needed food to sustain itself. They have the same kind of tails that monkeys do, called prehensile, which means “used for grasping.”[1]

With that in mind, we know how anchors are used for keeping ships in place. When Paul sailed to Rome, fearing they might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors when they got to Malta and prayed for the day to come (Acts 27:29, ESV). Anchors were usually made of heavy stone, iron, or lead during biblical times.[2] It makes sense that anchors are secure, potentially unmoveable objects.

The author of Hebrews uses an anchor to describe the certainty of God’s promise of salvation through Jesus. They use the image of an anchor, already affirming its secure nature, and use the word steadfast to describe the anchor. The ESV Study Bible denotes that God’s promises were guaranteed because of His trustworthy character (Heb. 6:16-18, ESV).

Steadfast comes from the word bebaios, which means “that which does not fail or waver, immoveable, and on which one may rely; to establish.[3] Its synonyms are safe, trustworthy, sure, faithful, and true. When I searched for the word steadfast in my Bible app, I found Ephesians 3:17-19, which does not include the word but affirms our secure salvation in Christ. “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Did you catch the words, rooted and grounded? Doesn’t that sound like the characteristics of an anchor? So, is the author of Hebrews not only confirming with the firmness of an anchor but also the safe and secure, actual trustworthiness of a steadfast anchor– where our hope lies, in Christ? Hebrews gives double measure in confirming God’s promises to us.

God gives us sweet promises that we can hold on to, as a seahorse holds on to coral, to be fed all day long with life-sustaining nutrients; we, too, can receive spiritual food in God’s Word to sustain us while we anchor ourselves to Christ. A great way to do that is to take the Psalmist’s advice, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10, ESV). This relates to Moses telling the people, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Ex. 14:14, ESV). We constantly need life-sustaining manna from heaven, a secure hope that anchors us in place while we wait. God’s promises find their Yes and Amen in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20, ESV), giving us a double measure of trust in the One who does not waiver and never fails.


[1] Beverly Hernandez. “Learning About Seahorses.” ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/lesson-3-learning-about-seahorses-1834130 (accessed October 5, 2022).

[2] Chad Brand. ed., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2015).

[3] Spiros Zodhiates., and Warren Baker. Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible : Key Insights into God’s Word : King James Version, Authorized Version. Second Revised Edition. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2008. Print.

CROSSROADS

I can look back over my life and see times when I was at a crossroads. I could choose life or death. I didn’t realize they were such desperate choices at the time, but they were. I often chose the wrong path, which I now know, led to a type of death- loss of self-worth, my identity, and self-control, and I took on lots of fear and shame because of it. I put a man in the seat only God is to hold in my life and heart. I now know my identity is only found in Christ, as a daughter of the King.

I wasn’t rooted in God’s Word and steeped in His love then. Have you ever thought about the crossroads you encountered over the years? What are three things you would tell yourself if you could? I would say to myself:

  1. The devil is a liar (John 8:44, ESV).
  2. Don’t settle for anything less than God’s best.
  3. You really can have a relationship with God and learn how to put Him first in your life.

Let’s take a moment to unpack those. First, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He goes on to tell the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). They question him about being a slave. He explains in verses 34-36 that everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin, but the Son (Jesus Christ) can set you free. The devil would like us to think the opposite. He can twist the truth to appeal to the flesh and make us feel we are free to do as we please with our bodies, which leads me to number two.  

Not settling for anything less than God’s best means not compromising integrity for momentary pleasure. It is not worth it, and it leads to death. The Cambridge Dictionary defines integrity as the quality of being honest with strong moral principles. God always wants the best for us. God must be our biggest desire, which leads me to number three.

I always believed in God, even as a child. But I didn’t know how to have a relationship with God or understand how my little heart could love Him more than my family. Learning how to put God first in my life was life-changing and made all my other relationships better. Because of my love for the Father and His love for me, I can love others better. When we align our hearts’ desires with God’s desires for us and not only believe but accept Christ as God’s Son and our Savior, everything else falls into place.

These two verses (Ps. 37:4; Matt. 6:33) go hand in hand: If we can learn to seek the kingdom of God first and foremost, our biggest desire is God, and our hearts are filled with His love, which leads to unspeakable joy. Even when this broken world delivers terrible news and death, there is always life-sustaining Good News that leads to eternal life as we wait expectantly for Christ to return. I encourage you to choose life if you find yourself at a crossroads.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4, ESV, Emphasis mine.)

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33, ESV, Emphasis mine.)

Cambridge Dictionary, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/integrity