"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ." Philippians 1:9-10 (NLT)
Have you ever had that deep-down knowing of what to do in a situation but ignored it? I understand.
My husband was out of town recently when a large box was delivered to my doorstep.
The delivery man graciously brought it inside. But I figured it might be a bit much for me to ask him to take it past the foyer, up the stairs, down the hall, and into the room my husband calls his man cave.
So there it sat, this mysterious, heavy box.
Deep inside, I knew this was nothing but some product one of my people had ordered.
But I didn’t listen to that awareness deep inside. I ignored it and listened to my fears instead. You know you’ve watched one too many mystery TV shows when your first thought about a mysterious box sitting in your foyer is that a person with scary intentions could fit inside. Yes, a crazy person with weapons could mail himself right into your foyer and sit there all day, quietly waiting until you went to bed.
So I kicked the side of the box to see if there was any kind of reflex action from a living thing inside of it. There wasn’t, of course. But then I decided just to be sure, I would stand around the corner from the box to see if I could step out of its line of sight and possibly hear something: a cough, a sneeze, anything.
I could leave no room for doubts, no room at all for any possible bad outcome from this box— a box that I eventually opened with a knife. Just in case. Only to discover a dorm-room refrigerator that someone had ordered.
I wasted half my day worrying about a box that contained a dorm fridge.
But we do this sometimes. We have a decision to make and we have that deep-down knowing. We know what to do. We know what the answer is. But we don’t go with that knowing. We over-process the what-ifs and the maybes until we find ourselves standing around a corner listening to see if a cardboard box containing a refrigerator might sneeze.
Now, there are certainly some decisions that need to be processed. But then there are other decisions we just simply need to say yes or no to and move on.
Find that courageous yes. Fight for that confident no. Know it. State it. Own it.
Sometimes it just comes down to that deep whisper within that says, "Uh-huh, yes." Or a simple, "No, not that."
God has woven into us the ability to discern what is best if we’re closely following Him. Philippians 1:9-10 says, "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ" (NIV). Discerning what is best is something we’re capable of doing as we layer knowledge and depth of insight into our lives. Read those verses again and see that gaining knowledge and depth of insight will allow us to develop a trustworthy discernment.
Knowledge is wisdom that comes from acquiring truth.
Insight is wisdom that comes from living out the truth we acquire.
Discernment is wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit’s reminders of that knowledge and insight.
I know a young mom who has really been struggling with the decision of whether to let her 2-year-old go to preschool a couple of half days a week next year. As I listened to her, I felt compelled to ask her three questions:
1. Have you been reading and praying through God’s Word?
2. Have you been applying God’s Word to your mothering?
3. Have you sought godly counsel and insights from wise people who know specifics about your situation?
The answer to all three of those simple questions was yes, so I reminded her that she was assigned by God to be this child’s mother. If she had done these three things, then she had the ability to discern what was best.
She didn’t need to wait for some big neon sign to drop down from heaven to know what to do. If she had that deep knowing this was a no answer for her child, then she should go with that. If she had that deep knowing this was a yes answer for her child, then she should go with that.
It’s not about trusting ourselves. Rather, it’s about trusting the Holy Spirit to do what Jesus promised us in John 14:26: "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (NIV).
When we’ve done what we need to do to acquire the knowledge and insight of truth, then the discernment of that truth is there. We must learn to trust and use that discernment because the more we do this, the more wisdom we acquire to make God-honoring decisions.
Dear Lord, I want to make decisions that honor You this year. Lead me as I develop a trustworthy discernment. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 119:66, "Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in Your commandments." (NASB)
Overcome the agony of hard choices by embracing a wisdom-based decision-making process with Lysa’s book, The Best Yes. For a limited time, you can purchase your copy through Proverbs 31 Ministries for 25% off and receive a FREE People Over Projects printable set! Get your copy here.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Consider the three questions Lysa asked her friend to check her discernment. Is there one you need to work on this week?
"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
For years, I cringed every time I read our key verse about honoring God with my body and it being the temple of the Holy Spirit.
I wanted to please God. But did it have to be with my body?
I had set out with great enthusiasm to get healthy so many times but always slipped back into complacency. I didn’t want to try and be reminded of my failures again.
Then I found the most interesting story in the Old Testament about how serious God is about people taking care of the temple entrusted to them. It stepped on my toes and messed with my heart in the best kind of way.
Before the Holy Spirit was given to us and our bodies became the temple, there were physical locations for the Spirit of God to dwell. In Haggai chapter 1, God’s people had returned from being in exile in Babylon. One of the first things they set out to do was rebuild the temple.
They started with great enthusiasm and wonderful intentions but slowly slipped back into complacency and eventually stopped their work on the temple altogether. Other things seemed to be higher priorities, more urgent, and more appealing to work on. Haggai 1:2-8 says:
"This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘These people say, "The time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house."’
Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?’
Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."
This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,’ says the LORD." (NIV)
Oh, this reminds me just how divided my heart can be when it comes to taking care of my body — God’s temple. Like the Jewish people, I could easily say, "I’m not in a season where it’s feasible to take care of my body. I just can’t find the time between the kids, my work responsibilities, running a home, paying the bills, and all the day-to-day activities."
However, if I am really honest, I make time for what I want to make time for.
Just the same, the Jews who returned from Babylon obviously had time to do things they really wanted to do as well. They found the time and energy to put paneling up in their own homes while ignoring the home of the Lord.
So, where’s the hope?
I found it in the challenge the Lord issues in verse 7: "Give careful thought to your ways" and make time to "build the house" so that He may be honored.
Verse 8 says, "Go up into the mountains." In other words, escape the ruts of my same old patterns by heading onward and upward. Give careful thought to each decision I make from here.
I realized each decision mattered.
So, I started waking up each day and lifting up my willingness to head in a new direction to the Lord. As I took positive steps, the Lord strengthened my heart day by day.
One good decision turned into two, turned into three and eventually turned into victory.
Slowly, I rebuilt my temple and learned to honor God with my body. Me. The girl who used to cringe at the thought of our key verse. Sweet sister, if I can do it, so can you. And my team and I want to pray for you. So come over to my blog today and tell us how we can prayerfully support you.
Dear Lord, I want to honor You with my body and my life. I commit to make good decisions that will lead me into a better place with my struggles. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Corinthians 3:16, "Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?" (NIV)
Has food become more about frustration then fulfillment? Lysa’s book, Made to Crave, is the missing link between your desire to be healthy and the spiritual empowerment you need to make it happen! Purchase your copy here.
If you’re struggling to make healthy choices, take the Made to Crave 21-Day Challenge for free! You’ll get daily, biblical encouragement sent straight to your email inbox. Get started here.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Are you honoring God by taking care of your body?
Think of one way you can improve on that this week: take a walk during your lunch break, prepare healthy meals instead of eating out, etc.
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 (NIV)
Have you ever looked at other people and thought to yourself, "How does everyone else have it all together? And why is it I seem to have so many issues?"
I understand. For most of my life, I’ve struggled with my weight and committing to a healthy lifestyle. My soul was rubbed raw from years of trying and failing.
I wanted something to instantly fix my issues.
I wanted to stop calling myself awful names I’d never let another person call me.
I wanted to be naturally thin like my sister.
I wanted to stop crying when I walked into my closet to get dressed in the morning.
So when I lost 25 pounds a few years ago and kept it off for the first time in my life, it was a huge victory.
But my real celebration hasn’t been over the smaller clothing size and reduced numbers on the scale. My real celebration is over the spiritual insights I gained while losing the weight and maintaining my healthy progress.
For me, this has been a spiritual journey — a significant spiritual journey with great physical benefits. I had been overweight physically and underweight spiritually and finally tying those two things together was life changing.
One of the richest lessons has been realizing the amount of mental and spiritual energy I wasted for years just wishing things would change. All the while, I was beating myself up for not having the discipline to make those changes.
If you have an issue with weight and food, you know what I mean. But no matter what issue you are currently dealing with, can I offer a bit of encouragement?
Jesus wants to help you with that issue. He really does. But you’ve got to stop beating yourself up about it and determine to follow His lead.
We like to identify our shortcomings, form them into a club, and beat the tar out of ourselves mentally. Over and over and over again. We label ourselves and soon lose our real identity to the beaten and bruised fragility we call "me."
We compare, we assume, we assess, we measure and most times walk away shaking our head at how woefully short our "me" falls compared to everyone else. How dangerous it is to hold up the intimate knowledge of our imperfections against the outside packaging of others.
If there is one thing that living 40-plus years has taught me it’s this: All God’s girls have issues. Every single one of us.
But we can make the choice to identify our shortcomings and instead of using them against ourselves, hand them over to Jesus and let Him chisel our rough places.
The grace-filled way Jesus chisels is so vastly different than the way I mentally beat myself up.
My mental scripts are too often full of exaggerated lies that leave me feeling defeated. His chiseling is full of truth that sets me free.
Oh what a difference.
Jesus doesn’t compare.
Jesus doesn’t exaggerate.
Jesus doesn’t condemn. Our key verse, Romans 8:1, confirms this.
He simply says, "Hey, I love you. I love you just how you are. But, I love you too much to leave you stuck in this. So, let’s work on it together. You can do this.
There is something so powerful in really believing that with Jesus’ help you can do this. Say it with me, "I can." I can is a powerful little twist for a girl feeling deprived and defeated.
I can helps me walk into the dinner party and find the conversation more appealing than the food table. I can helps me stay on the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresher, healthier selections abound and smile that I know this.
I can helps me look at the drive-thru menu and order a fruit tray without even giving a thought to the fried foods I used to snack on. I can reminds me to look online for a restaurant’s nutritional information before going out, ensuring wiser choices. I can reminds me no food will ever taste as sweet as victory does.
Having issues isn’t the absence of victory in our lives. It’s simply a call to action reminding us victory is right around the corner. Today is a great day to start believing you were made to walk in victory and to say to Jesus, "Yes, with Your truth as my guide, I can."
Dear Lord, help me see myself the way You see me. Remove the lies that defeat me more often than I want to acknowledge. You have set me free. Help me live like I truly believe that. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
2 Corinthians 4:17, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (NIV)
Reach your healthy goals and grow closer to God through the process with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Made to Crave. Purchase your copy here.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
When you read this part in the devotion, what went through your mind? "Hey, I love you. I love you just how you are. But, I love you too much to leave you stuck in this. So, let’s work on it together."
Instead of using your shortcomings against yourself, take some time today to hand them over to Jesus and let Him begin to chisel your rough places.
Craving a new read? You’ve come to the right place. We love books. And we love sharing our thoughts on them. Welcome to Bookbites, where we give the latest books a grade, brief review and include an excerpt—a “bookbite”—that grabbed our attention.
UNGLUED: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions
Grade A+ --- A re-reader, even better the second time. Perfect cover, fits the topic like a...crazy lady with a purse on her head. A+ for the cover alone but the inside grabs you too.
Appeals to all women, especially Moms, who've had their moments of becoming unglued and want a new plan to deal with it.
Bookbite: "Feelings are indicators, not dictators, child. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn't mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings and perfectly capable of that little gift from Jesus called self-control!"
Grade B --- Interesting, journalistic, somewhat too personal to author's experience.
Appeals to women with similar life issues such as weight, abuse, approval, fear.
Bookbite: "Becoming ourselves requires standing against the current--the demands, the expectations, the assault of daily realities, and our own histories. We cannot afford to indulge in our inner diatribes any longer. To become true ourselves will require that we speak the truth in love, even to ourselves."
Grade C --- Author makes a valiant attempt to explain in layman's terms the complexities of the brain God created and the science behind how we can change our life by how we think, however the book lacks real life examples for application.
Appeals to fans of TV shows like "Brain Games" and "Dr. Oz".
Bookbite: "When you think you change...Brain scans show that parts of the brain activated by action are the same parts of the brain activated by simply thinking about an action."
"You, God, are my God; earnestly I seek You; I thirst for You, my whole being longs for You, in a dry and parched land where there is no water." Psalm 63:1 (NIV)
I'm taking a break from having a quiet time. Because sometimes I can get in a rut. Even with good things. And having a daily quiet time is a good thing. Until it becomes more about routine than actually connecting with God.
When God becomes routine rather than revival, it's time to switch things up.
Otherwise, I might start seeing this time as less important. It becomes the second or third thing I do. After other things. Seemingly more pressing things. Before I know it, it's been days since I connected privately and personally with Truth.
And then my soul feels a bit off and sluggish. Like when my stomach has been denied food, a desperation starts creeping over other parts of my body. That happens with soul hunger too.
Only the triggers for stomach hunger are much more apparent. My brain quickly reminds me, "You feel awful because you need to eat."
Sometimes my brain isn't as quick to pick up on soul hunger. So I just lumber forward but wonder, "What's wrong?" I think of a list of reasons ... I'm tired, I haven't had enough fun, or my butt looks big in these jeans.
And while some of those things may be true—it's not why I feel off.
I need more time with God.
Not more quiet time.
More listening time. Like the writer in Psalm 63:1 needed. "You, God, are my God; earnestly I seek You; I thirst for You, my whole being longs for You, in a dry and parched land where there is no water." (NIV)
This morning as I sat with God with nothing but willingness to listen, three things popped into my mind. I can't say "God spoke to me" but it felt right. I need to do some new things as I listen.
Study wisdom by reading a chapter in Proverbs everyday.
Ask God to reveal "my verse" for the day and think of ways to apply it. I listen.
Read something from someone I admire.
I need to study leadership in this season of my life. So I pick up a book written on this topic by someone I admire and glean from their wisdom. I listen.
Read something from someone I trust.
There's a book I'm reading right now that is whimsical and grounded all at the same time. It makes me feel like this writer gets me. They get my struggles and offer up advice I know I can trust. I listen.
Maybe you think all this still sounds like a quiet time, but to me it's different. It's a listening time. A time to shake things up a bit and get outside my normal routine. A time to listen to God speak. And He does speak ... through His book of wisdom, through someone I admire, and through someone I trust.
And this morning? My soul felt that thrilling and comforting full feeling. Complete. Satisfied. Deeply nourished.
Dear Lord, I'm seeking to grow a stronger relationship with You today. Help me to break out of the routine so that I can connect with You and hear You speak. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
It's important to exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world.
In Lysa TerKeurst's New York Times bestselling book, Unglued, she shares practical ways of spending time with the Lord.
In the midst of the holiday season, take time to gather with a few trusted girlfriends who get your struggles and study Unglued together. Click here for more information on the Unglued Bible Study bundle.
Reflect and Respond:
What do you need to break up with so you can connect more closely and listen more intently to God?
Write a list of things that you are placing as priorities before your time with God. Consider how you can prioritize so that God comes first, and to make sure that your time with Him isn't just another thing on your "to do" list.
Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (NIV)
2 Chronicles 7:14, "... if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (NIV)
In a world of facades, Lysa TerKeurst’s transparency is a breath of fresh air. That’s why people are gravitating to her newest book, Unglued. There’s something empowering about accepting you can’t keep it all together, but realizing that God loves you too much to let you keep losing it. Our recent interview with Lysa had us feeling like we were catching up with an old friend…
Family Christian: Hey Lysa, could you start by telling us a little about your upbringing?
Lysa TerKeurst: I was raised by a dad who was an atheist and a mom who went to church when she could. I had a chaotic upbringing in that my parents got divorced. When my mom got remarried, they started having more children. One of my sisters, (my half-sister, but still very much my sister) tragically died at a very young age because of some medication that a doctor gave her that was in too high a dose for her small body. So a lot of heartbreak, chaos and a lot of sadness in my upbringing, but at the same time I still very much remember my mom, even in the midst of so much brokenness being such a cheerleader for me. I always thought that I would grow up to be either a country music singer or the President of the United States. But as I got older I realized that I couldn’t sing and I didn’t like politics (laughs), so that proved to be a little problematic. But even so, my mom was such a cheerleader. She would always say, “Honey I think you sing great!” and “I still think you’d be a fantastic president,” so she’s just the ultimate encourager. I finally did find my niche in writing and then eventually in speaking. She’s continued to be such a wonderful encouragement to me. And so that’s a nutshell of how I got to be where I was. The country music singing and the road to the presidency didn’t really pan out like I thought it would when I was a small child (laughs), but I love what I do today.
FC: So who is your favorite country artist?
Lysa: Well when I was a little girl I was an absolutely huge Loretta Lynn fan. Of course she’s not really on the radio that much anymore so now I guess I’d say Taylor Swift, although I’m not sure people would qualify her as country music, but maybe. I like her music and maybe it’s because I have five teenagers and they like her music. So then in terms of Christian music I love good old fashioned praise and worship songs. Hands down that is my ultimate favorite. I’m so fortunate, I go to Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC and our worship team is amazing. That’s probably my favorite.
FC: Lysa would you mind giving us a glimpse into how you were introduced to Jesus?
Lysa: Yeah, well, like I said, growing up going to church was very hit or miss. We didn’t go on a consistent basis. One of my memories about going was when I was little (I was probably about 8 or so) and the pastor was one of the preachers that would bang his fist on the pulpit. Very animated. I just remember sitting there as a small child and thinking, he needs to try to relate to the younger generation a little better. And I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea, but I told my mom that I’d really like to go have a meeting with the pastor and she thought that I wanted to get baptized, but that’s not at all what I intended to speak with him about. When we got into his office I started telling him all of the mini-ways that I thought he could be a better communicator. And my mother was absolutely horrified, we didn’t really go back to that church after that. So we took a break from that for awhile – so when I say it was hit or miss, it was probably more misses than hits. Even when I was there I was always thinking of how people could do church a little bit more effectively and probably listening from the wrong vantage point. So I knew about Jesus but I can’t say that I understand what it meant to have a personal relationship until I was in my early 20s and it was after my baby sister died. I was very angry and running away from God and I wound up getting into a relationship where I got pregnant before I was married and made the really, really sad choice to have an abortion. There was something about the depth of brokenness that happened in my heart after the abortion that I cried out to God in complete desperation. Really what I was doing was begging God to let me die – to put me out of my pain. But God was so sweet and sent a person into my life that constantly put Scriptures in front of me. At first she really got on my nerves, but eventually the Scriptures started connecting deep in my heart. One night after reading one of her notes and pondering the truth of the verse that she put in front of me, I didn’t know how to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior so I just kneeled down right beside my couch in my little apartment and I just said yes to God. And my life has pretty much been a string of many days and years that followed of me continuing to say ‘yes’ to Him everyday.
FC: That’s powerful. Thank you for sharing. Let’s switch gears a little and talk about your family’s story of adoption. Those who are familiar with you have probably already heard it, but could you tell us a little bit about how you and your husband decided to start down that path of adoption? And then how did that turn into impacting not just your family, but your faith community too?
Lysa: Well, I did not have any plans to adopt because we already had three little girls. My husband and I felt very complete and I kinda always thought that adoption was for people who A. Either wanted lots of kids and had a real international perspective of family and maybe a missionary family or B. Families who couldn’t have children. And we weren’t either of those! We were an everyday family living in America with three little girls just trying to get through each day. My kids were small at the time (they were 9, 8 and 4). Life was very busy, very full. We didn’t feel like I was a good enough mom to have more children – I felt like I was barely hanging on, but the Lord directed us to go to a concert one night because one of my daughters was in Brownies (a division of Girl Scouts) [and they were] studying Liberia, so we thought it would be a good cultural experience for her. In the middle of the concert the Lord clearly said to my heart “Two of those boys are yours.” And after the concert two of the boys walked up to me, wrapped their arms around me and called me ‘Mom.’
FC: And you had never met them?
Lysa: No. I had never met them before. So it was a crazy thing. I never thought my husband would agree that we should adopt two teenage boys from Africa. It sounded scary and unreasonable, I didn’t think we could afford it, I didn’t think it was safe for my girls, I mean there were a lot of obstacles and lots of fears. And really, they were healthy fears. I mean, when you have three little girls, it doesn’t sound reasonable to adopt two teenage boys from the other side of the world. But God confirmed over and over and over to me and my husband that this was part of His unique plan for us. So while it might not make sense for most situations, God just assured us by paving the way, opening every single door, helping us to meet every single obstacle. He really calmed our fears by sending people into our lives who would speak truth to us. It was really pretty amazing how God just said, ‘maybe this isn’t an assignment that sounds reasonable or rational for anybody else, but it is my assignment for you.’ And so we agreed to adopt and then our friends all thought we were crazy. But we decided to have a concert to invite all of our friends just to get to know our boys a little bit better and to see them sing as part of the last stop that their choir was going to do. At that concert all of our friends who thought we were so crazy, the Lord moved in their hearts and they eventually all came forward and decided to adopt the rest of the boys in the choir, and then we ran out of choir boys! So then mission trips were formed and they went over to Liberia and more and more kids were brought back. As of now, we’ve had over 45 kids from those orphanages adopted into the families of our community.
The TerKeurst family
FC: That is unbelievable. Is it primarily people within your church or outside of your church too?
Lysa: Yeah, it’s outside of our church. And really, it’s even outside of our community now too. There have been many children that family members in other cities or states have adopted, so it’s expanded out probably more than we’ll ever know. I mean, those 45 kids are just the ones that we know about, but I’d imagine that there have been many, many others that have been adopted, because we were on the Oprah show and the Today Show. We could look at the rate of adoption from Liberia into America, it grew dramatically. And we didn’t know all of those people, but we definitely saw a spike in interest after our story went so public.
FC: We don’t know if you knew that here at Family Christian our calling is James 1:27, to look specifically after the orphan and the widow, so we have this huge campaign both inside and outside of our building to bring awareness and action. We are all about foster care and adoption. So to hear stories like yours is fantastic, near and dear to our heart.
Lysa: Yes, I spent some time looking at your website, so I could understand fully what you’re doing. It’s called The James Fund, right?
FC: Yes, The James Fund is our non-profit organization, and what they primarily do is help to seed other organizations and defray some of the cost of adoptions, but also to help build housing and make lives better domestically and abroad. We’re also part of the Nehemiah Project whose number one goal is to eradicate the foster care system within the United States. It’s bound and determined to find homes within the faith community for all of the kids within our foster care system. We believe that this is the church’s responsibility, and we want her to rise up and take initiative in this arena.
Lysa: That’s amazing, I love that.
FC: It’s a tall task, but we’re excited to see what God does with it. Ok, let’s talk about your new book Unglued. There are a few topics covered in your book and we were hoping you could comment on a couple of them. First ‘the working mother’s balancing act.’ You mentioned that “Women need to lean on other women to support them so they can let down their guard and become transparent.” How do you see that in your own life?
Lysa: I definitely think motherhood – no matter if you’re a working mom or stay at home mom – is really tough sometimes. It can really leave us each day with a sense of wondering if we’re doing it right. You know, it’s a long term investment. You don’t see big returns in the short term. Raising a child can easily pull you into being hyper-focused on the tough everyday moments of life. The toddler that doesn’t want to be potty trained and the infant that won’t stop crying and the middle schooler who is just getting into these hormonal fluxes – happy one minute and so upset the next that you can’t even figure out what happened, then teenagers who are really trying to push the limits – I don’t want to be a child, and yet I need a parent, but I’m not yet an adult. It’s all these things, I mean; it can be really hard on a woman’s heart especially when the everyday is filled with moments that don’t feel so wonderful. We love our kids, we treasure our kids, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the chaotic emotions around trying to understand how to raise a child. So in Unglued, I really go right into a big issue that mom’s face, women face, even a lot of men face, and that is: how do we react in that moment of conflict? There’s going to be lots of conflicts that we face every single day, but what do we do in that split second when we’re just about to react to that thing that’s happening? The relationship conflict, or the situational conflict, or the stresses of everyday life that pull at our emotions. And so in Unglued, I really help people see that it is possible to exercise self-control in that split second before we react to the circumstances of our life.
For the purpose of people better understanding themselves, I list out four different reaction types; there are two kinds of ‘Exploders’ and two kinds of ‘Stuffers.’ The Exploders need to add into that split second moment a pause and a dose of perspective. And in Unglued I show them how to do this. And then the Stuffers need to let go of pretending and let go of approving and I show them how to do those in the split second right before they react. It’s really amazing to see what kind of feedback we’ve been getting from people – not just moms. Certainly we’ve been hearing from moms because at the heart of who we are, we want to raise our kids right and be good examples, but sometimes the chaos of everyday emotion or circumstances make us question if we’re being good examples for our kids. We have been getting letters of marriages being saved, moms feeling like they’re becoming better moms, friendships being saved because people are having kind but honest conversations for the first time in their friendships, even work relationships are being repaired as people are learning how to better handle their reactions in the workplace. So it’s really cutting across all of the circumstances and situations that people face and equipping them to have better reactions. If you equip people to have better reactions, you’ll equip them to have better relationships.
FC: You’ve said that the purpose of Unglued is not to get people to a place where they are perfect at keeping their emotions in check; the goal is “imperfect progress.”What would you say to the woman who looks at your life or people on a talk show who appear to have it all together and think “they have a perfect life, but mine is a complete disaster”? How do you address this person who sees their imperfections, or their messy house and compares it with this pedestal of perfection?
Lysa: Well yeah, I’m one of those people because I look at other people all of the time and I think man, they’re so much better at life than me. So I am the woman who has the pile of laundry and the dirty kitchen (laughs) and the five kids who are sweet but sometimes disrespectful. It’s easy for me to compare myself to other people and really start feeling down because I compare their perfect outsides to my very imperfect insides. But here’s what the Lord’s really been teaching me: We aren’t supposed to strive for perfection everyday. If we were perfect, we’d have no need for Jesus. And it’s through our imperfections that we really feel the pull toward our need for a Savior. So the imperfections serve a wonderful purpose if we’ll let them. Now, do we always need to be striving to be better? Absolutely. But I encourage people in Unglued, to seek to make imperfect progress. Seek to get a little better each day. Wrap each step in grace and be okay that imperfect progress is at least moving forward, it doesn’t have to be perfect…
FC: Thank you Lysa so much for talking with us today and for your insight. Keep up the good work, and we’ll keep helping to get the message out.
Hearing From God In Your Daily Life
Make sure that you follow Lysa and the other Proverbs 31 bloggers here.
"The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)
Just because something great happens doesn't mean it is from God. I know this is true because I know how to manipulate and make great things happen.
Honestly, I hate that word—manipulate. It rubs something rough and grainy into the softer places of my heart.
But there it is. And I know it. Because sometimes I do it. I manipulate.
I know how to sell an idea I think is really great.
I know how to go the extra mile.
I know how to strategize to make my plan seem like a great strategy.
And not that any of this is intrinsically bad. Some of these things are great qualities God can certainly use in good ways.
But what if I use these skills and talents outside God's will? To push past God's timing, God's direction, God's plan to teach me stuff in the process?
Sometimes I think He lets us push past His better plan to experience the consequences of our headstrong attitude. Boy do I know all about that. I've jumped headfirst into something I thought I wanted so much, only to find extreme stress, fear, anxiety and an overwhelming sense of regret.
It's great to know how to sell an idea. But it's not great to do it outside God's will.
It's great to go the extra mile. But it's not great to do it out of a desire to secure what I want—rather than out of a desire to serve another.
It's great to strategize and have a plan. But it's not great if that plan stretches me so I seek my desires more than God's desires.
I am learning. Learning to not always push so hard. Run so fast. And desire so much more.
Recently I had the opportunity to be considered for something huge. Really huge.
And I knew how to secure it.
I knew the words I could use to sell my idea. I knew I could go the extra mile with my pitch and look impressive. I knew a strategy that could be implemented and the plan to propose.
But what I didn't know is if this was God's plan or my desire.
If I knew for sure it was God's plan, all my efforts wouldn't be manipulation—they'd be smart. But I didn't know.
Therefore, all my pushing and plotting were manipulation. So, I stopped. I backed off. I stepped aside.
And then I doubted. It was hard to watch the opportunity possibly slip away. But I reminded myself that this was a place where my trust in God has to step in. This was one of those times when a deeper faith could be found.
I can rest in the assurance that if something is to be, it isn't up to me. It's up to God. It's not that I just sit back and don't pursue things. I do. But I give what I can give without manipulation. And then I wait for God to give what only He can give. So, if He makes it happen without all my chaotic self-effort, then I will know it is His best.
And if it doesn't happen, I will thank Him for saving me from myself.
Dear Lord, I am so grateful for Your everlasting love and vision for my life. Help me to embrace the fact that Your plans are so much greater than mine. Humble my heart in the moments when I try to maintain control so that I can fully serve You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Sometimes it's easier to follow our gut response, rather than wait on God's direction. In her book Unglued, Lysa TerKeurst shares great wisdom on embracing God's ways, not ours. Click here to purchase a copy.
Reflect and Respond:
Do you ever catch yourself manipulating past God's plans to secure your own desire?
God wants you to give up your own agenda and trust in His plans for your life! Set aside some time every day to reflect on Bible verses dedicated to this particular issue. Having this daily reminder of God's sovereignty will help you to recognize when your own desires are taking precedence over His will.
Psalm 9:10, "Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." (NIV)
Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (NIV)
"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV)
Recently I was skimming some comments left on a social media outlet. Most were encouraging and kind. Some people had a different opinion but stayed civil in their expressions.
Then there was a third group. A much smaller but a very loud group.
Their opinions dripped with judgment, harshness, and condemnation. And the saddest thing of all? These were Christians attacking another Christian.
Honestly, I don't get it.
I just don't. As I read their comments it seemed as if they felt compelled to rip this person to shreds in order to prove their view. To show how knowledgeable they were and how off-base this other Christian was. Most disturbing of all, they felt it their duty to "protect God."
But God doesn't call man to protect Him. He calls us to love Him. And love others. Christians acting ugly and justifying it under the guise of holding another person in check isn't loving.
Matthew 22:36 says, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matt. 22:37-39 NIV)
Yes, there is a place to make sure others aren't misaligning Truth. But we must do this carefully and first make sure we aren't misaligning the Truth in our approach.
Our response must contain these three things: justice, mercy, and humility. "The LORD has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly, obeying your God." (Micah 6:8 NCV)
I read this quote recently that reminded me of this powerful verse in Micah. "It is right to see justice prevail. But it is wrong when my ego gets in the way — when I retaliate to prove that I am strong, that I am superior to the other person, that I am the almighty righteous cop for God." (Bible commentary writer Michael J. Wilkins)
I guess I can feel a little sensitive about this subject because I've had some personal ministry friends attacked and accused in the most vicious of ways. And a little of this yuck has slipped into my world as well.
Maybe this third group sees these growing ministries and assumes their words won't affect their leaders. Or worse yet, because these ministries are growing maybe they hope their words will affect them. Either way, it hurts.
I know this isn't just an experience exclusive to leaders in ministry though. This can happen to any of us—in any walk of life. Whether you are hyper-critical of those around you, or you have experienced this hurtful criticism from a friend, family member, or co-worker, these words hurt everyone involved.
There isn't an easy solution to this problem. But if this devotion makes a few people stop and think before blasting someone, whether a ministry leader, a family leader, or friend — then it's good. And most of all, if it reminds me to do what is right to other people ... to love being kind to others ... and to live a little more humbly — it's really good.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your grace and patience everyday. Help me recognize when I become critical of those around me. I want to show Your love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
For more on learning to tame your words with grace and honesty, check out Lysa TerKeurst's new book, Unglued.
We can be examples of Christians coming together to act kindly. One way is by doing a small group Bible Study of Unglued with the accompanying DVD and Participant's Guide together.
Reflect and Respond:
This week, when you are tempted to speak harsh or critical words to or about someone in your sphere of influence, or about a leader in your life, think about the 'greatest commandment.'
Are you loving your neighbor as you would like to be loved? If your answer is no, or contains a 'but,' try holding your tongue and remember, only the Lord can judge the heart of another man. And thank goodness, for He is just and loving.
Jeremiah 17:10, "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve." (NIV)
Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (NIV)
James 1:26, "Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless." (NIV)
"They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed." Psalm 22:5 (NIV 1984)
The space between our expectations and our reality is a fertile field. And often it's a place where disappointment grows.
When I was in high school, I had a friend whose sister had the coolest hairdo. It was cropped short with straight bangs that fell messy over one eye. She was that older sister who just seemed to have a handle on how to do everything with style.
I somehow decided all of her coolness traced back to her hairdo. Like that was the budding spot from which the life I wanted could sprout.
Yes, that hairdo.
Never mind the fact her hair was thin and obedient. And mine was thick and rebellious.
Never mind that her hair was sleek and straight. And mine was curly at best and frizzy at worst.
Never mind that her bangs fell nicely over her forehead. And mine had a crazy cowlick causing them to grow up, not down.
Yes, never mind reality.
I set my expectation on the highest bar and willed my hair to fall in line.
The hair dresser chopped. And chopped. And chopped. And tried to assure me I now looked JUST like the picture of the older sister.
But that was a lie. I knew it. She knew it.
And oh how the space between my expectation and my new reality grew some serious disappointment. I still have nightmares of that disastrous hairdo where I wake up desperately grabbing at my head to make sure my hair is still there.
But hair grows back. Bad cuts can be fixed in time. That disappointment can be remedied.
Other situations aren't so easy. Maybe you have some space between a current reality and an unfulfilled expectation. If so, I imagine disappointment can be found growing there.
Psalm 23:1 says, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." (ESV) The Hebrew word for "want" is chacer meaning, "to lack, be without, become empty." So, if the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not become empty. I shall not live in a constant state of disappointment where circumstances leak me dry.
But ... I still do sometimes. And not just with my hair. It's other stuff as well. Important stuff.
So, how do I let the Lord shepherd me so that the gap between my expectations and reality closes? I ask myself these questions when faced with disappointment:
What do I need to learn? Maybe God has an appointment for me in the midst of this disappointment. If God wants me to see, learn, know, or grow in some way while I work through this unmet expectation, I have to be open to hear this from Him.
Many times God shows me a flaw of mine that needs to be addressed. When I am willing to listen to Him, I can more easily adjust my expectations.
Could it be that I'm so concerned with what I don't have, I've forgotten to be thankful for what I do have? Sometimes, it's not that my reality is bad. It's that I created too much space for disappointment to grow by placing my expectations too high.
Is there something I can do to change this situation? If so, I need to ask God for the courage to make changes. If I keep hoping things will get better but don't make any adjustments, that's foolish. The space between my reality and my expectations will only change if I do.
Now back to my high school hair situation. If I ever start flashing pictures of cute pixie hair cuts I'm considering getting, somebody remind me of my high school hair debacle. Please. Pretty please. With a dollop of hair gel on top.
Dear Lord, thank You for turning my disappointments into opportunities for growth and learning. I know that only You can close the gap between my expectations and reality. Guide me in trusting You through every situation, even if I can't understand why it's happening at the time. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Is there fertile ground for disappointment between your reality and expectations? If you're not quite sure how to tighten the gap, Lysa TerKeurst's book Unglued will help.
Reflect and Respond:
How do you typically handle disappointment?
Reflect on the three questions above and write down your answers. This will give you the opportunity to get a better perspective on your own particular situation and the way you handle disappointments.
Romans 5:2b-5, "... and we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (NIV)
"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10 (NIV)
Bring up the phrase "people-pleasing" in a group of women and the responses are interesting. Most will quickly say they struggle with this to some degree. Those that say they don't struggle with people-pleasing eventually admit before the conversation is over that it's present in at least one of their relationships.
People-pleasing is something we seem kind of resigned to having to deal with rather than determined to overcome.
Why is that?
We all want to be liked. There's nothing wrong with that. But as we travel the path toward love and acceptance let's take a look at two of the possible motivations behind people-pleasing.
One motivation is to give love out of the kindness of our heart. In giving love we feel love. That's good.
Another motivation is to give to others out of what we hope to get in return-love. In getting love from what we do, we feel desperate to do more to get more. That's dangerous.
It's the second way that gets us into trouble with people-pleasing. It's not wrong to want to make others feel loved, happy, and pleased. But if we are doing it with the motivation of getting things in return, we will set ourselves up for trouble. Being in a constant state of trying to get love by doing more and more will lead to exhaustion.
Exhaustion for the giver. Exhaustion for the taker. Exhaustion in the relationship all together.
Ephesians 5:8-10 says, "... for at one time you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." (ESV)
I like the explanation of what the fruit or evidence is of us walking as children of light — doing what is good, right, and true — as we discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
I am challenged to make this a filter for the decisions I'm making today. You see, I know I'm in the rip current of people-pleasing when I dread saying yes but feel powerless to say no.
If I'm seeking to please the Lord, I will ask some questions before agreeing to do something for another person: Am I doing this with good motives, right intentions, and true expectations?
Or am I doing this with:
Fearful motives ... They might not like me if I say no.
Skewed intentions ... If I do this for them will they be more likely to do that for me?
Unrealistic expectations ... I just know if I give a little more, they'll affirm me and I'm desperate for their affirmation.
Wherever we focus our attention the most will become the driving force in our lives.
The more I focus on trying to figure out how to please people, the more of a magnified force people-pleasing will become in my life. The more I focus on trying to figure out how to please God, the more of a magnified force He will become in my life.
My focus. My choice.
Dear Lord, help me break away from my people-pleasing tendencies. Guide me in my daily decisions as I battle fearful motives, skewed intentions, and unrealistic expectations. I want to make You the focus, Father, so that You continue to become the magnified force in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Do you have some relatives that make holidays challenging? Lysa TerKeurst's New York Times Bestseller, Unglued, is a wonderful book to guide you in interacting with them
Make time to focus on the Lord through study. A great resource to help you is the Unglued DVD and Participant's Guide. Click here to pick up your copy today.
Reflect and Respond:
Have you experienced the cycle of doing more to get more?
Search your heart and ask, What are my motives? Am I seeking to please people or God in this situation? You may need to place healthy boundaries in your relationships with others so that you can learn when to say "yes" and when to say "no."
1 Thessalonians 2:4, "On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts." (NIV)
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