fear, surrender

Fear of Missing Out

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My schedule had ballooned, leaving me fighting for air. Though I managed to juggle all the demands and responsibilities bombarding me each day, I made numerous errors. I epitomized the phrase, “Jack of all trades but master of none.”

Or perhaps that’d be better phrased as “Doer of all but proficient in few.”

My joy, peace, and relationship with Christ was suffering. In my constant rush to tackle one task after the other, my prayer time had shifted from treasured and protected soul care to something I squeezed into my already rushed day, out of guilt and obligation rather than a desire to genuinely connect with my Savior.

Though I claimed God’s sovereignty over my present and future, my schedule and mistakes—my choices, my will—became my God.

If I did X, Y would happen. If I failed to do C, D would never occur. And if I stepped down from a certain role that, potentially, led to promotion, my life’s dreams would be irrevocably derailed.

In other words, when I evaluated the root of my busyness, it came down to this: Fear of missing out. Fear that if I said no to a particular opportunity, I was potentially robbing myself of something good that could lead to something even better.

My fight for control and fear of missing out, of in some way hindering God’s very good plans for me, revealed deep-seated, faulty views of God.My fight for control and fear of missing out, of in some way hindering God’s very good plans for me, revealed deep-seated, faulty views of God. Click To Tweet

Either I believed He was sovereign or I didn’t. And if I did, then I didn’t need to stress over the small stuff or my ever-changing circumstances. Instead, I’d rest in the One who walks beside me, stands behind me, goes before me, and holds me secure.

Either I believed He was supreme and worthy of all my praise, or I didn’t. If I did, then I’d recognize that everything I engage in or pursue on earth is but a shadow of what God has prepared for me. I’d remember how insufficient temporary pleasures were in filling my deepest needs and heart’s desire.

My schedule revealed my priorities—my true gods. But perhaps most convicting, my stress and fears revealed what I truly believed about God, His heart, and ability to care for me.

That realization empowered me to make changes. I analyzed my thought processes and the things that caused anxiety in light of truth, and I asked God to center me in reality.

Text pulled from postHere’s reality—God is in control. 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 says , speaking of God, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all” (ESV).

Because God is bigger than any obstacle or setback I might face, and no matter how things might appear today, in the end, He wins.Because God is bigger than any obstacle or setback I might face, and no matter how things might appear today, in the end, He wins. Click To Tweet

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with a fear of missing or disrupting God’s plans for you? How might focusing on obedience help you find peace in the uncertainties and abundance of opportunities assaulting you each day?

If today’s post encouraged you, make sure to watch out for Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear podcast, releasing soon by Salem Communications, during which she discusses how to overcome our fear of missing out to choose trust in Christ instead.

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When Small Acts of Obedience Lead to Great Impact

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What began as a major inconvenience turned into a beautiful blessing adding purpose to my monotonous days and revealing God’s tender heart.

We were living in Southern California at the time. My husband worked long hours, traveled a lot, and I often felt lonely, insignificant, and unseen. As a stay-at-home mom, I wanted something exciting, something “important” to do.

I was not looking for more ways to “mother”, but that was precisely what happened. One afternoon, an acquaintance called needing an after school ride for her daughter. Thinking this was a one-time occurrence, I agreed, only to receive another call, then another.

I grew frustrated and felt taken advantage of. Soon, I attached all sorts of assumptions to her requests,I thought, “Obviously this woman devalues my time and thinks I spend my days watching television. She should at least pay my gas!”

I never considered that God might have a glorious and eternal plan in it all

A few months later,my perspective changed when the teen began asking questions about God. Then I was able to look back, to filter every boring or frustrating or humbling car ride through the knowledge and discernment that can only come from Christ. I realized He was trying to use me for His important work while doing a seemingly ordinary task.

During our interactions, I learned the girl’s home life was hard, emotionally cold, and painful, her heart broken and her thinking deceived. She desperately craved answers—truth that would heal her soul and bring security to her chaos.

When the teen’ mom first called, I had no idea all her daughter had endured or hoped to find. But God knew, and He placed me in a position to be used by Him. To speak life and hope to someone whose world felt dark and hopeless.

Our obedience—in the big and the small, the exciting and the mundane—leads to eternal impact. Click To Tweet
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Because that’s how God operates. Scripture reveals this again and again.

The apostle Paul, a Pharisee turned Christ-follower, is one of my favorite examples. He began his missionary journey with one desire: to share the hope that had changed his life. He didn’t really care where he went, nor was he consumed with how others responded. He simply obeyed—immediately and without question.

We see this in Acts 16:6-10, which states “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phyrgia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (NIV, emphasis mine.)

When the Spirit led or redirected him, Paul obeyed.

The result? He planted numerous churches, discipled countless believers, and wrote a good chunk of the New Testament.

Paul is an example not of the power of a great man nor a brilliant ministry strategy but rather an obedient heart. His obedience led to incredible eternal impact and transformation. Click To Tweet

We too are called to significance, not by the measure of achievement, but by faithfully going where God leads.

What is God calling you to do today? Pause to ask Him, then commit to obeying.

Share your action step with us, and if you have any stories demonstrating how God used a simple act of obedience for something eternally significant, share that too, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

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. Jennifer would love to connect with you on Facebook and Instagram as well.

God's Will, Resting in Christ, surrender

The Peace of Purpose over Plans

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A decade ago God planted a dream in my journalist husband to tell the story of poverty, race relations, and athletic success in our home town. The idea simmered and grew from interviews, to newspaper articles, to a complete historical book. The process stretched him and our family to be stronger than we knew and taught me something about who is in charge of our dreams. Want a hint? It’s not us.

We’re a culture of goal makers and dream chasers. We want to make a big mark on society, find success, or increase our “followers”. We act as though it’s our effort alone that will make our dreams come true. So how do we handle it when our goals fall apart or take years to accomplish? Often we feel like failures and get stuck in frustration. 

What unmet goals haunt you? What dreams have yet to come true? What desire have you just plain given up hope on?

I’ve been a writer since third grade. I penned silly stories, songs about boys, and poems in adolescence. It was my go to when I was sad, angry, or bored. I thought I’d be a famous journalist or songwriter one day. That was my plan. But God wanted to use the gift He’d given me in a way I never expected. 

To love others.

Proverbs 19:21 says “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that Text from Prov 19:21 with a background image of the sky and flowerswill stand” (ESV).  

My idea of how to best use God’s gift of writing didn’t match His purpose. I used my talent to seek my glory, but He wanted it for His . And I’m so glad this Scripture is true in my life, that though I have many plans, God’s purpose for me remains immovable. 

But it’s hard to surrender our dreams to someone else. Often I want to know the end will be a success, and I grow impatient when goals aren’t met according to my timeline. But the more I recognize God as the creator and orchestrator of every good desire within me, it’s easier to trust those precious wants to Him. 

My husband’s story was bigger than him and it certainly didn’t occur on his time table. God used him, the talents and abilities woven into his being, for a purpose Dirk couldn’t foresee. The story he scribed validated an entire part of our city, spoke truth and justice over wounds, and connected generations. Because that was God’s purpose from the beginning. 

Whatever good plan you’re working toward or waiting on, remember you aren’t the only one striving for it. It may not always turn out the way you hoped, but God’s purpose for you in it is more complex than you can imagine. As we surrender our plans to God, He can use them to forge His loving purpose forward. Let go of your future and trust Him today.

 

Let’s digest this deeper. What unmet dream is God asking you to surrender to Him and trust that He’s logo for Wholly Loved's Bible reading plangot a grand purpose in store for your life? What makes it hard to give control of your most precious desires to God?

Join the conversation on Facebook or find more encouragement through our 30 day Emotional Health FREE devotional on YouVersion Bible App. And make sure to grab our FREE Bible study as well. You can find it HERE.

 

Faith, Hearing God, Revealing Jesus, surrender

Finding Jesus in the Center of My Pain

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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.

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Fighting Enslaving Behaviors by Leaning Into Jesus

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Though I trusted in Christ for salvation as a child, you never would’ve believed this, had you encountered me in my young adult years.

It was like I’d grabbed hold of the fringes of eternal life but not the full expression of it.

I had a tainted, partial view of God. I saw Him as lofty, for sure. The One who not only set the rules but had every right to do so. I also knew I didn’t deserve the gift of grace He’d given me. In fact, I felt so undeserving, I was certain that was how He viewed me as well. As if He tolerated me on occasion but was mostly disappointed.

He certainly had cause to be. I wasn’t living anything like my Bible said I should. I went to church on Sunday and Bible study on Tuesday then got drunk with my friends on Friday. I took my daughter to playdates and acted like a responsible and emotionally stable adult. Then, while my husband and daughter slept, I spent the quiet night hours binging and purging in a desperate attempt to fill all my empty places inside.

I was trying to live the Christian life in my own strength, apart from Jesus, and I was failing miserably. Each night, I’d promise God the next day I’d do better, only to find myself falling into the same self-destructive behaviors.

Then one day, I stumbled upon Jesus’ response to temptation. You may be familiar with the story. Scripture tells us the Spirit led Him into the wilderness where He was bombarded, again and again, by the forces of darkness. Yet, He remained strong. Unshakable. Victorious. As I read Matthew 4:1-11 and all the ways Christ engaged in a more intense spiritual battle than you and I ever will, it was as if He were holding His hand out to me, saying, “Come on. Watch what I do. Follow Me.”

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So I began to do just that. I started to look at my faith differently; less about what I needed to do or not do and more about what God wanted me to learn. My first and most important lesson—discovering who He was. Gaining full knowledge of His love and glory, because only then could I truly live in Him.

In John 14, shortly before His death, Jesus spoke to His disciples. He left them final instructions regarding a rather overwhelming assignment—launching His church during a time of intense persecution. This by a group of men who, in a few short hours would abandon Him. In other words, individuals who, like me, were nowhere near strong or wise enough for the task.

But Jesus said to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; Believe also in Me.” In fact, He used the word believe six times in the span of fourteen verses. “Believe not in yourself or your might or plans but in Me,” Jesus said (paraphrased).

Jesus' invitation: Believe not in yourself or your might or your plans but in Me. Click To Tweet

As I fought against old behavior patterns, it was as if Jesus was saying the same to me. “I have so much more for you, Jennifer. I’ll show you precisely what that is, in due time. But today, believe in Me. Lean on Me, and learn from Me. (Matthew 11:28). We’ll take this journey together.”

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That was just under twenty years ago, and I’m grateful to say, Christ conquered each one of those enslaving habits and more as He’s molded me, slowly but steadily, into His image. This transformation hasn’t been quick or easy, but it’s been freeing and sure.

He’ll do the same for you.

Host Wholly Loved Ministries’ Fully Alive conference and learn how to move from striving and merely surviving to thriving, and visit Jennifer online at her weekly devotional blog found HERE. Check out her latest book release HERE.