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Searching For Deep and Real Relationships

Today’s Instagram culture doesn’t leave much room for the authentic. 

Woman lying on bed covering her faceHave an imperfection? No problem. There’s a filter for that! And who needs real friends when you can have 1,000 followers on Twitter? With the right lighting and proper angles, everyone can look like anyone but their real selves.

The world looks at the exterior, leaving people frantic about covering blemishes. No one is perfect. But society can pressure us to fake it.

Some of us just barely getting by. But does anyone notice? It seems maybe not. 

I came across this – more than once, in times when I needed someone to care, to see my wounds, to help heal them. Or at least, acknowledge they exist.

I remember a time that I was panicking, burying my face into my pillow. The father of my children had just walk out on me. After a terrible weekend of wrestling with what to tell my kids I had to return to work that Monday. 

The entire drive to work my body seemed numb. It was a miracle I managed to stumble through the doors of my job. Then my heart started racing all over again. “What will people say? What are they going to think?” I was practically hyperventilating. 

There she was… The receptionist. What now?! I was nearly hysterical drumming up an excuse for my appearance when she uttered, “Fine, fine, thanks. You?”

Exactly. What. Just. Happened?

Not only was she oblivious to my bloodshot raccoon eyes, but she didn’t even take the time to notice me. She didn’t so much as ask how I was doing. Then maybe she’d know something was off and offer me her ear, a shoulder to cry on, a prayer or at least a tissue. 

Had our conversations gotten so superficial that she was answering a question I never asked? This woman, my coworker, someone I’d consoled in the past…just totally blew me off.

At first, I’ll admit I was shocked. Then I was relieved. If we kept our conversations light enough, I’d never have to go deeper, touching on my feelings and explaining the battle I was facing. Or worse, my part in it all that helped create such a mess. 

I chuckled at the irony of it all. But soon I got upset. Then sad. The experience was so perplexing…

Unfortunately, my children had a similar experience the summer their grandmother died. It was so sad watching them suppress their feelings. And worse, seeing them attempt to open up just to be shut down before they could even begin. 

Later on we saw friends– real friends–that Friends laughingdidn’t say a word about the death. They just opened their arms into which my kids went running. My children clung onto them, without words, letting out all their stored tears.

That summer I made it my mission to listen intently. To give people my full attention. I couldn’t change those who had hurt me but I could change me. I wanted to show others I cared. If I had time, I’d ask them follow up questions and I’d actually hear their answers. I’d also watch for body cues and notice voice inflections.

Their stories were astounding. From the receptionist who was walking two miles to night school after work, to the single mother who’d just moved in with her dad after his cancer diagnosis, to my daughter’s classmate recently placed into her third foster home… So sad. Each person I spoke to carried a burden too heavy for surface-level chitchat. I wasn’t able to lighten their load but I let them know I cared.

Scripture says tells us to “cast all our anxieties on God, because he cares for us” (1 Peter 5:6-7). And God does more than care.  He sees, hears, comforts, helps, strengthens, loves us, and fights for us.

I understand now and seek to do better everyday. That fall I learned struggles hide behind each person’s smile. I learned to focus more intently on my friends, family and colleagues. I extended a little more grace and lent a shoulder to those I felt needed it.

Since then, I do my best not to dismiss God when He talks to me either. I highly encourage you to do the same. To go deeper, to find that something real and fully experience His presence. To open ourselves to Him. To be vulnerable and allow His grace to permeate our lives. It’s something I work on still today.

Have you have ever felt overlooked or dismissed? How can you grow deeper in your relationship with God and others? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Before you go, have you checked out our next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health, yet? You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

And make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram.

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Enduring Trials, Hardships and Trials, intentional living, living in grace, Resting in Christ, surrender, Video Devotion

Peace in the Stress, a Video Devotion

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Hardships and Trials, Resting in Christ, surrender

Peace in the Stress

By Jessica Brodie

I’m stressed—and I mean capital-S stressed. Do you feel me? Have you been there, too?

My to-do list overflows beyond anything I can comprehend. The days are blurring one into the next. I’m so frazzled. I can’t even remember what I need at the grocery store, let alone whether that event with my daughter is tonight or tomorrow (and I’ve checked my calendar four times today).

It’s enough to give anyone a nervous breakdown. (Oh, wait—maybe that’s what this is!) Kidding. Sort of.

I started out this year with one word in my heart: Peace. We’re not even halfway through February and I feel like a hypocrite. Who carries on about peace in one’s heart when they’re so stressed and busy they don’t even know what day of the week it is?

Is it even possible to have peace when we are stressed out?

Good news: we can have peace in the stress, in the crazy-busy, and even in the downright bad.

How? Because of Jesus.

We can have peace in the stress, in the crazy-busy, and even in the downright bad. How? Because of Jesus. Click To Tweet

This isn’t a platitude; it’s a perspective switch. I used to think I could weather storms by hanging on and “being strong.” Now I know there’s only one way I can make it through—by clinging to Jesus, who gives me true peace.

Every day we have a choice as to how we look at the world. Sometimes our view is near-sighted—all we can see are the details, the to-do list, the piddly (and not-so-piddly) concerns. Other times, we get a glimpse of the big picture, a “God’s eye” view. And that’s the key.

Even when we are caught up in the difficult daily details, such as a sick child or a looming deadline or a catastrophic phone call, Christians can trust there is a bigger plan at work—far bigger than what we are going through.

While my life might be out of control and stressful today, I choose to rest in an important truth: I am God’s daughter. I follow Jesus and have the Holy Spirit in my heart. That means His plan is my ultimate plan—even when I can’t see His plan.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Matthew, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV).

And in the Gospel of John, He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).

My daily life might be hard right now. But at the end of it all, it’s just a piece of God’s grand jigsaw puzzle. God’s master plan.

My daily life might be hard right now. But at the end of it all, it’s just a piece of God’s grand jigsaw puzzle. Click To Tweet

I can have peace even in the stress by reminding myself I am His. I serve a mighty, mighty God of heaven and earth and everything else in the universe. His way is the priority. When I can step outside myself and allow myself to know and trust this, I have true rest.

When I can step outside myself and trust I belong to Jesus, I have true rest. Click To Tweet

Do you have trouble coping with stress? How do you handle this?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below and make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

And before you go … have you grabbed your free ecopy of our Bible study yet? If not, you can do so HERE! (You can get a print copy for just $5 HERE.)

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE. 

Resting in Christ

How God Responds to Our Pain

quote on suffering from Tim Keller

If you want to catch a glimpse of God’s heart for you, simply watch a mother with her newborn. The hours spent walking the floor as she tries to soothe her little one to sleep. The energy sacrificed to care for her. The joy she feels when the child grows or laughs or simply breathes. Her anguish when her child is sick or in pain.

Nothing tears me up and drives me to pray quite like seeing my daughter struggle. About two and a half years ago she accepted and eight-month paid internship in North Carolina. Eager for an opportunity to venture into the adult world, she left Nebraska with hope-filled anticipation.

Her enthusiasm soon turned into a scary depression, triggered by numerous circumstances. First, she was considerably younger than all her coworkers, which made it difficult for her to form relationships. Second, she was paired with an extremely critical and domineering roommate, which caused my daughter to doubt everything good about herself. Navigating a management role at the age of 19, this was her first time living so far from home, and she was lonely. She struggled to find a faith community and missed her friends and family. As time went on, her feelings of isolation grew, which only served to deepen what we later learned was undiagnosed depression.

Watching her struggle from afar, I felt powerless to help her. I often longed to catch a plane, if for no other reason than to stay close. I wanted to hold her, and in so doing, to shoulder some of her load.

When we’re hurting, like my daughter was, it helps to know we’re not alone. The truth is, if we belong to Jesus, we are never alone, regardless of how we feel. Scripture promises that. The Bible tells us that God is with us, loves us fiercely, and will never leave us. When we feel as if our heart is shredded, when the intensity of our pain steals our words and we find ourselves unable to pray, the Holy Spirit steps in and intercedes for us.

Romans 8:26 tells us “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (NIV). Words in the original Greek often convey such richer meaning than our English translations, and that is true here.

When we suffer, and we will, the Spirit closely identifies with our suffering and comes alongside us in a deeply personal, empowering way. The late biblical commentator Matthew Poole phrased it this way: “The word” ‘helps,’ or more accurately, ‘joins to help,’ sunantilambanomai in the Greek, “imports such help, as when another of great strength steps in and sustains the burden that lies too heavy on our shoulders.”

But God does so much more than that. He feels our pain and prays for and with us with “groanings too Quote pulled from post with peace backgrounddeep for words” (ESV).

I’ve never understood the depth of this verse, the depth of God’s emotion conveyed by the words Paul chose, until I too prayed and “groaned” for my daughter during her struggle. If God feels even half of what I did, and I know He does, as His love is so much greater than mine, then His heart breaks as well, and His heartbreak spurs Him to action.

God stays with me, offers His strength in place of my weakness, and prays with and for me. He doesn’t let up, nor will He leave until He’s carried me safely to the other side. He will do the same for you.

Let’s talk about this! Do you trust that God is sees you, loves you, and is with you? What are some ways you remind yourself of this truth when life feels hard or frightening?

Join the conversation in the comments below and connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

If you’re going through a particularly fearful time, make sure to visit Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear page to find numerous faith-bolstering resources.

Cover image for study

Have you grabbed your free e-copy of our Bible study yet? If not,
you can do so HERE! (You can get a print copy for just $5 HERE.)

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fear

When Others Deem Our Actions Foolish

quote from posts on blue background

Sometimes the best choices are the hardest to make. Sometimes wisdom appears foolish and faith fanatical. As a young mother striving to live for Jesus, I quickly learned just how contrary the things of God can appear to some.

When I chose to stay home, some deemed me lazy.

When I attempted to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance and guard our daughter’s influences, I was accused of sheltering her. I was told my actions would ultimately harm her and leave her maladjusted.

My attempts to explain, or perhaps more accurately, to defend my choice, didn’t help. My discussion of God’s leading—of His gentle voice, spoken softly yet clearly to my heart—and the deep assurance that followed made no sense to those who had never heard Him or hadn’t learned to discern His voice.

Perhaps some even found me delusional:

“She claims to hear from God,” they say, with a raised eyebrow and slight smirk. “Does she talk to the Easter Bunny too?”

Over time, I learned to be a little more cautious regarding what I shared and with whom. And honestly, I hate that. I hate that I so often allow other people’s opinions to hold me back. I wish, like Paul, I could boldly and consistently say, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes …” (Romans 1:16, ESV) and then back this up with my actions.

I’ve been ridiculed by my peers. He’d been imprisoned for his faith. I’d stood against cultural opposition to raise our daughter. He stood against the religious elite and angry mobs. I’ve been excluded from certain groups due to my “passion for Jesus”, but he’d been smuggled out of Berea in order to save his life.

There’s a lot of reasons I could give for why, at times, sharing the gospel makes my stomach knot and my palms text image using quote pulled from postget sweaty, and yet, in each instance, it comes down to this—whenever I stifle God’s message within, I’m putting my pride above someone else’s salvation.

When I look at it that way, my concerns and fears seem petty at best.

I imagine Paul felt as I have, on many occasions. Otherwise why the need to make such a bold and declarative statement—for I am not ashamed. Unless maybe he’d been tempted to feel ashamed in the past—perhaps when mobs of angry people shook their fists at him, spit on him, and hurled stones at him. Or perhaps others, maybe even believers in Rome, had demonstrated that they were ashamed of him. Or maybe he was simply stating a fact with all the courage the Holy Spirit allowed—I am not ashamed! No matter what others say, no matter how foolish or irrational my words appeared, I choose to speak life.

Even if it costs me mine.

Lord, help me have that same confidence Paul demonstrated again and again, regardless how others respond or how unpopular Your message appears. Because life’s too short and there’s too much at stake for any of Your children to remain silent.

Life’s much too short and Your love for the broken too strong for any of us, Your mouthpieces, to live afraid. Click To Tweet

To the contrary! As ambassadors of the sovereign King, we can walk into any and every situation with our heads held high, our voices sure, and our message clear: “I am not ashamed, and I refuse to be, because the words I speak have power and life.”

Let’s talk about this! When has obedience caused you to look foolish in the moment or left you misunderstood? How did you gain the courage to step forward in faith? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage each other. And make sure to engage with us on Facebook and Instagram where we post daily snippets of encouragement!

Faith Over Fear imageIf today’s post encouraged you, make sure to check out Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear podcast, released by Salem Communications. Keep an eye out for her correlating Bible reading plan and weekly video devotions. You’re also invited to participate in her 10-week Faith Over Fear challenge, launching February 6th, through social media. Grab her daily focus calendars HERE.