identity

Owning the Label I Once Spurned

Picture of Jessica with text pulled from post

It took me a long time to own up to being a Christian. I believed in God and willingly accepted Jesus as my Savior—all that was fine.

I didn’t want to be lumped in with some of the other Christians I knew, and frankly didn’t like very much. The sanctimonious girl at school who invited me to church not because she wanted me there, but because she felt it was her job to expose me to her denomination. The cutthroat, super-ambitious guy at work who ogled me daily but wore his churchgoer status like it was his get-out-of-jail-free Monopoly card. The nosy neighbor who’d tell me all about her church bake sale and that Sunday’s sermon while simultaneously gossip-slaughtering everyone else on the block. No thanks.

So when my friend called and offhandedly teased me about having “turned into one of those Christians,” I was taken aback. While I knew what I believed, I certainly didn’t want to be relegated to the judgy, holier-than-thou classification she wanted to pin on me.

I’m not sure whether I laughed her off and changed the subject, or flat-out denied her tag to save face. But I do remember hanging up the phone and feeling just like the Apostle Peter after Jesus’s arrest.

Peter was extremely close with Jesus and part of his inner-circle, so fervent and loyal a Christ-follower that Jesus called him “the rock” upon which He would build His church (Matthew 16:18-19). When Jesus told him he’d fall away and, in fact, reject Christ three times before the rooster crowed that very night, you can almost see Peter’s “no way, never!” scoff (Matthew 26:34).

Yet, sadly, that’s exactly what happened. Trying to avoid capture himself, Peter insisted once, twice, and finally a third time that he “didn’t know the Man.” Just then, the rooster crowed, “And Peter remembered Jesus’ statement, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75 ESV).

That day on the phone with my friend, I denied my Lord. In my reluctance to get categorized as the “wrong kind of Christian,” in effect I’d taken myself out of the category altogether. What I’d done felt like a punch to the throat.

See, denying Jesus isn’t just rejecting our faith. It’s also being embarrassed about the label we carry. It’s being more concerned about the way others see us than the way God sees us. Click To TweetLooking back, I recognize I denied Him in other ways throughout my youth, like when I didn’t speak up when I witnessed injustice, or when I caved to sin instead of holding fast to what I knew to be right.

Today I’m proud to call myself a Christian. When I meet someone who gives me the side-eye, even better—I know it’s a chance to give someone a new perspective on the term, a chance to represent what it looks like to be a modern-day Jesus-follower. Click To Tweet

Owning my Christian label was a big step in embracing my faith and my identity in Jesus. As with Peter, it took understanding how I’d fallen short—and making a choice to step up from then on out—to experience freedom.

Have you ever felt hesitant to claim a label because you were afraid how you’d be perceived? How have you learned to overcome your discomfort?

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Faith, Identity in Christ, intentional living, obedience, obedience, Resting in Christ, Video Devotion

Building Perseverance, a Video Devotion by Wholly Loved Ministries’ Jessica Brodie

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Faith, fear, God's Will, Hardships and Trials, obedience, Uncategorized

Training for Our Heavenly Race

By Jessica Brodie

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

It was harder than I imagined. There I was on the side of the lake, face beet-red and lungs about to explode, not to mention sweat dripping off every inch of my frame. I’d convinced myself I could jog the length of the dam, only my body was far more accustomed to race-walking and circuit training than a nonstop pounding run.

“How do people do this?” I asked my sister breathlessly.

“You just have to train,” she replied. “Few people can just lace up and run a 5K out of nowhere. You have to build up, little by little.”

I followed her advice. Every day, I’d start by walking, then I’d run—first just a few minutes before shifting back to a fast walk, then increasing my run time. Soon I was doing far more running than walking. By the morning of the 5K, I’d trained enough. I completed the 3.10686 miles out of breath but victorious. I’d persevered! I’d run the race! And now I could celebrate.

In our earthly lives, we know perseverance—resolve, tenacity, determination—pays off, and not just when it comes to running. We persevere in studying hard for our final exams so we can achieve good grades. Through difficulties in our jobs so we can remain employed and advance our careers. Through troubles in our relationships, fighting for a healthy family.

And when it comes to our spiritual lives, perseverance is critical.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, #perseverance is critical. Click To Tweet

When we believe in Jesus and repent of our sins, we receive eternal salvation. But sometimes our faith is sorely tested. We face trials and temptations. We pray for health, only to receive a scary diagnosis. We hope for relief, only to experience the devastation of a hurricane. We love others well, and get rejected. Sometimes it seems easier to give up than keep the faith.

Sometimes our #faith is sorely tested. Sometimes it seems easier to give up than keep the faith. That’s when we need to hold fast and press on. #holdon #jesus Click To Tweet

But Scripture tells us to hold fast and press on. In the Book of Hebrews, the author reminds us that we are to model ourselves after Jesus, the “pioneer and perfecter of faith,” who ran the race with perseverance. “For the joy set before Him (Jesus) endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3 ESV).

Jesus encountered much difficulty during His life on earth, even more than us. He was questioned, mocked, challenged, beaten, tortured, and ultimately hung on a cross by the very people He had hoped to save. But He kept His eyes on God and did God’s will. He persevered because the future goodness outweighed the present suffering. He taught and healed, and He died for us so that we, too, may be saved for eternal life.

#Jesus encountered much #difficulty during His life on earth, even more than us. He was questioned, mocked, challenged, beaten, tortured, and ultimately hung on a #cross by the very people He had hoped to save. But He kept His eyes… Click To Tweet

When we set our sights on God despite opposition, we will follow Jesus and be victorious in our trials. How do we do that? We train ourselves to pray, to focus on God’s Word the Bible, to follow Him, to put Him first, and to love others as we love ourselves.

When we set our sights on God despite #opposition, we will follow #Jesus and be #victorious in our trials. Click To Tweet

Sometimes the race gets hard. Our course might take us uphill over rocky terrain. We might slip or want to give up. But when we cling to our faith and push aside any stumbling blocks, when we keep our eyes on the prize (eternal life in heaven!), our perseverance will pay off.

Our course might take us uphill over rocky terrain. We might slip or want to give up. But when we cling to our #faith and push aside any stumbling blocks, our #perseverance will pay off. #nevergiveup Click To Tweet

What is holding you down? What hardship seems too big to overcome? Little by little, lace up your sneakers by turning your heart toward God and make Him a priority. Build up your muscles and lungs by reading God’s Word. With Jesus, you will persevere and run the race.

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian author, journalist, editor, and writing coach with a faith blog, Shining the Light, at JessicaBrodie.com.

Faith, Hearing God, Revealing Jesus, surrender

Finding Jesus in the Center of My Pain

JessicaSufferingQuote

Ugly tears coursed down my cheeks. Why? How could this have happened? The betrayal hit me like a gut punch. I wanted to scream it all away, or at the very least tear someone apart with my bare fingernails. But even that wouldn’t make it better, wouldn’t erase what I was going through. I felt so alone.

The hurt felt worse than a knife. It felt like a massive, crushing weight obliterating every inch of who I’d been. And I was left alone to pick up the pieces, not even sure I could.

Sometimes, the hardships we go through seem unimaginable: A difficult, completely unfair illness cutting us down in the prime of our life. Debilitating financial or legal issues that seem to have no way out. Crushing betrayal or other emotional or physical violation. It’s the opposite of how we think life should go.

In the midst of my pain, I was on my own. I knew no one who’d been through what I was experiencing. There was no one I could confide in who’d truly understand. Talking to a counselor brought temporary relief but no real solutions. Blocking it out and staying as busy as possible only worked for so long.

Then came Jesus. In the darkness, in the depths of my pain, I realized: He knew. I didn’t even have to open my mouth to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal.

Not only that, but He’d been there, too.

In the depths of my #pain, I realized: #Jesus knew. I didn’t have to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal. He'd been there, too. Click To Tweet

He’d experienced the worst pain, the deepest betrayal, the hardest suffering—none of it deserved, and all of it something He could stop if only He caved to temptation. Yet our Savior chose to bear the cup of sacrifice and endure. And it hurt Him—so very, very badly.

But for some reason, I’d never before understood this. Growing up, I’d been taught Jesus died on the cross, but His suffering seemed abstract. In paintings depicting the crucifixion, the holes from the nails had a bit of blood, and Jesus was frowning beneath His crown of thorns, but it was all rather contained—a PG version of what He’d really been through. Then His suffering was over and, whoosh! Our Savior was dressed in head-to-toe white with a glowing golden halo, smiling like He’d never been gasping for His last breath or sobbing from the pain of being sold for thirty pieces of silver by one of His twelve best friends.

But when I encountered Jesus in my sorrow, it wasn’t the Sunday school, family-friendly version kneeling beside me as I collapsed before Him in a darkened room with my prayer of surrender. It was the scarred-up Jesus, the One who remembered the ragged bloodstained holes from where they’d driven the nails in, who didn’t wince as they beat Him but cried out in agony, who didn’t just quietly and stoically accept that Judas let Him down but ached over the treachery.

This Jesus understood. And when I realized that, and I allowed him to meet me in my suffering, I was no longer alone.

Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared suffering when we walk with Jesus, which makes all the difference.

Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared #suffering when we walk with #Jesus, which makes all the difference. Click To Tweet

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (ESV).” These aren’t just words on a page. There is true rest, a peace, in knowing Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden.

There is true rest, a #peace, in knowing #Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden. Click To Tweet

But not only is there rest, but also hope. While Jesus did suffer, His suffering ended. He overcame. He triumphed. As He told His disciples in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Many years have passed since my tough time, and sometimes it feels like it didn’t happen to me at all, but rather to a character in a book I read. I still go through hard times, when I want to throw myself on the bed and cry, when I want to give up and surrender.

Yet now I have a secret weapon: I know God is with me in the center of my pain. And that, like nothing else, helps move me towards healing.