He wrote in one of his final journal entries before his death, “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this, but I think its worth it to declare Jesus to these people.”Read More
Like many upon reading the original blog post I was filled with outrage, disgust, and sorrow. Do people really believe this kind of teaching? According to the comments contained in the original article, some do.
"Idol making, anxiety, & the foundations we build on shifting sand are not only manufactured in relationships. They are manufactured in the fallen hearts within us. They are not problems that merely arise at the entrance of another sinner into our lives, they only make more visible what is already there."Read More
I grew up hearing a lot about the modern day concept of courtship.
It was refashioned to be a safer alternative to dating. In courtship there were/are rules placed around couples to protect purity, unwise emotional entanglement, & to keep from broken hearts.
You're most likely not from circles who mainly practiced the concept of modern-day courtship, but maybe you've heard of it & you're wondering what it's all about because that words sounds pretty ancient & old-fashioned & just plain weird.
Maybe you've been in the dating realm for awhile & its led to a lot of pain & heartbreak & you do desire a better way of doing things and the idea of courtship sounds pretty good right about now. Rules & regulations sound like a mighty fine idea to your wounded heart.
Maybe you're a little younger & you're eager to start dating and the whole concept of having a boyfriend or girlfriend sounds pretty awesome.
Maybe you are from those circles that practiced courtship & you've found yourself throwing "the baby out with the bath water" because courtship was held up to such a standard that it was a real disappointment when all the rules didn't keep you from heartbreak.
Because its true; rules & formulas do not take away the risk that is involved in relationships, whether you call it dating or not.
As with many things, people tend to swing from one extreme to the other when they've seen the bad in something. They create safeguards to keep themselves and others from further hurt or mistakes. And those things can be great unless its built only on rules & only on safeguards that do not factor in a mutual desire from two people to practice godly relationships & honor of one another.
Many of our parents swung to the extreme which became hyper-courtship.
Now our generation, my generation, is swinging to the opposite extreme & going back to serial dating & trying the opposite sex on like a pair of new jeans, often exchanging them for a new, better looking fit in the next week or month or year.
I've had to learn from my own past relationships that formulas & rules do not have guarantees. They do not keep you pure. They do not keep you from getting your heart broken. They do not take the place of two people desiring in their hearts to seek living out a God-honoring relationship.
In order to have a godly relationship you must have two godly people in that relationship.
Those two people must desire purity. Those two people must desire accountability. Those two people must desire counsel. Those two people must desire boundaries. Those two people will only build their relationship on Christ if their individual lives are built on Christ.
I have heard of many couples who practiced every courtship rule to a T & still ended up with broken & unhealthy marriages.
I have seen the same happen in dating.
Rules & formulas do not equal a godly relationship & future marriage.
My heart is especially tender towards those guys & gals who have made mistakes in past or current relationships & desire to see the gospel once again shine through for them in the area of relationships. I hope that this article gives you courage to stop right where you are & ask yourself hard questions & dare to live differently & as a result, date differently.
Relationships & dating can be one of the trickiest things for us as singles to figure out & its the area I feel holds the most temptation, disappointment, and frustration. But its also one of the areas that we can discover so much beauty, sanctification, redemption, provision, & learn to lean into Christ & His wisdom & trust Him more than we ever have.
I want to highlight five different areas that we need to be most vigilant in & we need to pray most about in relationships & will drastically change the way you practice those relationships. Keep in mind that vigilance in these areas is the result of two people that are putting Christ first & putting flesh to death. They are not "rules" with step-by-step how-to's, they are biblical inspired principles & things to seek the Lord in & accept biblical counsel in.
Whether or not you call it courtship or dating doesn't matter. I prefer to call it neither. Rather I refer to it as pursuing a godly, Christ-centered, relationship.
It is time to throw off the stigma of titles for different types of relationships.
It's time to stop believing that rules & formulas (or the lake thereof) will prove to create godly & world-changing relationships & marriages for Christ.
Read the rest of my post Live Differently & Date Differently by visiting the Pillars of Grace blog here!
There are lots of heinous crimes committed around the world every day. Some we hear about, some we don't. But the crimes that surfaced recently that happened inside of the Turpin family in Texas & California are crimes that hit us a little deeper because of the thirteen children that they involved.
If you don't know about the Turpin family you can read a lot of details of the case on the internet, but I'll summarize them quickly for you.
Louise & David Turpin had 13 children ages 2 to 29. They projected the image of a normal family on social media & a mostly normal family to their immediate family. They took family trips to Disney Land that included each of their children, celebrated birthdays, & the parents even renewed their wedding vows several times.
But behind the walls of their home, David & Louise committed terrible & unbelievable atrocities against their thirteen children.
These children were chained & shackled to their beds, beaten, choked, starved, & kept as captives inside of their small home.
I've been following the case closely as more details have surfaced & each time I am more & more heartbroken for what these children endured.
I was sharing more details with my Mom the other day and I voiced the thoughts that were going through my head. "You wonder why God allows such things & why those children underwent what they did."
Even as Christians we have unanswered questions as we see the results of a depraved world around us.
During the initial arraignment the District Attorney named the reason for such behavior by David & Louise as the "depravity of man," not because of their "religion" or the fact that they claimed to homeschool, both reasons that some may be tempted to blame. And he was absolutely right.
The world probably feels a lot of hate towards these parents. When you begin to read about the kind of crimes they committed against their own children you can't help but begin to feel that way. They deserve to be hated, right? They deserved to be condemned in our hearts, right?
But how do we as Christians, even while feeling anger, disgust & deep sadness (& rightly so), take these things & learn something about sin while also learning how to see people like David & Louise? How do we not follow the rest of the world by justifying hate & condemnation in our hearts?
Things like this help us realize what sin does when people give themselves over to its utter depravity. In Romans 1 God talks about giving some people over to committing lude and perverted acts among each other. Of course, we don't know the extent of what kind of acts these were, but the book of Romans gives us a good picture of the fact that there are some people He no longer restrains & the destruction of sin.
David & Louise Turpin grew up in the Pentecostal faith when they were first married but some years later they began experimenting with different religions & beliefs, including witchcraft. We can imagine the kind of evil that this deepened even more within these two people.
Realizing how depraved we are without Christ is a good reminder. No, most people don't do the kinds of horrible things that Louise & David did, but, when you live a life without Christ there is nothing that we are not capable of. This is a reminder that all of us are in deep need of the gospel.
You and I sometimes can't even imagine allowing David & Louise Turpin into our prayers. We can't imagine praying for their salvation.
But the verses in the Bible that address salvation do not have any stipulations about the kinds of people God does or doesn't save.
Paul was speaking in that verse above & he considered himself the chief of sinners. If you know anything about Paul you know that before he was saved, he persocuted the Christians that were rising up in the first century. He later became one of the most instrumental apostles that God used to lead many people to salvation.
Oftentimes God brings people to Him who have previously lived terrible lives of the grossest sin we can imagine. Oftentimes those people are some of His greatest tools.
We cannot limit what God may choose to do in someone's life even with a history marked with gross sin. We cannot limit Him & create our own stipulations for salvation.
This verse tells the story of the man who hung next to Jesus during His crucifixion who had lived a life of sin. This man had never done one good thing to deserve salvation, but at the end of his life this man had faith. Mercy, grace, forgiveness, & salvation were immediately extended to him from Jesus Himself & this man was promised a place in heaven upon his death. This is the essence of the gospel at work.
We must believe that the same grace & mercy extended to us is the same grace & mercy that God might choose to extend to people like David & Louise & like He extended to the thief on the cross, like He did for Paul, & like He's done for you and me.
Christianity doesn't follow the rest of the world in hate or hopelessness. Christianity champions the truth of a God who can change the hearts of the worst sinners, including people like David & Louise Turpin.
As we read the unfolding details of the twenty-nine year old secret of David & Louise Turpin, let's not allow the atrocity of what they did cause us to harden our hearts in hate like the rest of the world may. Though its hard to imagine God turning the hearts of David & Louise (& He may choose not to) let's challenge ourselves to allow this situation to grow our faith, strengthen our prayers, & believe in the power of the gospel.
Its important that as Christians we think about how we feel & process things like this & to fill our hearts with truth to combat the doubts & questions that will naturally arise. We cannot allow ourselves to be disinterested in events & heartbreaking stories that cause the rest of the world to wrestle with questions that for them, have no answers.
Stories like this tell the truths about God, sin, & the power of the gospel. They have the ability to grow us in grace, faith, compassion, & a heart of prayer if we allow them to.
Social media was one of the key factors that caused division in my past relationship.
A desire to be seen and known by me was replaced by a greater desire to be seen & known by others, by strangers, by "followers."
Cultivating emotional intimacy in our relationship was replaced with cultivating popularity to the unknown faces of a thousand user names.
Until that time I had no idea of the destructiveness that social media could bring.
Social media is described in this article by Tony Reinke as a "drug we prescribe and consume in order to regulate our emotional life."
I immediately had to ask the question, "Do I prescribe this drug to myself? Am I under its power to become addicted to being "known" and seen and affirmed?"
I've been up and down in the social media world.
I've gone months without it, I've deleted it, I've practiced discipline with how much I was using it, & I've also been addicted to it. I've experienced destructiveness at the hands of it & I've also allowed its drug-like power into my own life.
"The allure of social media is the desire to be seen, omnisciently seen, if not always affirmed, at least always put in view of others." (Tony Reinke)
If the power of social media is such, and as followers of Christ, does that mean we should approach the use of social media gingerly, carefully, cautiously, & sober-mindedly? Does it mean we are better off using it sparingly & purposefully?
As Christians we know that to seek our fulfillment by anything besides Christ is not only wrong, but it cannot deliver what we seek.
The longer I use social media & the more I see its effects on myself & others, the more I believe that we should be wary of it & consider it like a type of drug to be handled carefully & with caution.
I believe that it can be used for great good but more often than not it becomes a vice & an addiction to secure the things only truly had through a closeness with our Savior.
"We live in perpetual fear of suddenly being seized and called to task by the infinite and would rather socialize or go to the movies until we are finally carried to our grave." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Is social media, or rather our growing use of it, really so serious that it effects the way we will live our lives all the way to our grave? Does it really lull us to sleep, distracting us and pacifying us with its subtle drug-like addiction?
I believe so.
Even the secular world recognizes the destruction it weilds in their lives & the lives around them. They recognize the growing rise in disconnection, dissatisfaction, depression, & comparison.
The use of social media to replace the need for Christ is nothing new. We've always struggled with it, warred against it (or not). But social media is the kind of thing that is not being recognized for its power to replace, satisfy, & fulfill the same way we are tempted to use anything else.
We are not only losing true connection with people around us but we are finding it a easier to lose connection with the Creator of that need for connection built within us only meant to be truly & ultimately satisfied in Him.
The use of social media should be approached carefully & soberly. It shouldn't be seen as harmless. The wrong use of social media has the power to numb us, isolate us, destroy relationships, & become the thing we elevate above Christ.
Social media effects our present & our future. It effects our usefulness for the Kingdom. It effects the intimacy we are or are not building with Christ. It effects our relationships, either for bad or good.
If social media has the power to destroy, we should soberly consider if its destroying us.
I finally got around to watching Wonder Woman.
I'm really glad I watched it in the privacy of my home because I cried so. much. If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it here, but let me tell ya, I cried.
But I also learned some really good lessons that I didn't think I would learn from a DC Comics story. And maybe I'm crazy and nobody else picked up from the movie what I'm about to share, but I think it might be inspiring.
Disclaimer: I don't endorse all parts of this movie. There were a couple parts, mostly dialogue, that I thought were definitely not necessary.
BUT I wanna talk about this movie & what it brought to mind & why it was inspiring.
There's an island full of Amazonian women all skilled in fighting in warfare. All strong, all capable, & ready for the fight they may encounter. They train for an attack that may or may not happen, but still they train hard & become strong.
This picture made me realize that the outward war, the fictional war, these fictional women were training for in the story was a really good picture of the kind of women that I believe God would have us be in this world.
Strong in Jesus, training to fight a very real war that we face every day (Ephesians 6:12), strong in spirit & mind, willing to fight for those lesser & in need, practicing honor in every area of our lives.
I do mourn the modern day woman. I mourn what I am guilty of as well. I mourn how much of a sinful culture we have allowed to creep into our lives & the spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-20) that has grown rusty and useless because it sits in the corner of our lives and we never put it on or engage in real warfare.
I believe both men & women alike, deep down, desire to be warriors & soldiers fighting for what they really believe in. I think that's why there's countless stories & now movies that portray honorable warriors & fighters. And I believe that's why we look up to those examples & there's a craving deep down inside to be that &, well, kick some butt.
I believe us as Christian men & women don't have to go looking for battle & we don't have to don real armor because there's a war all around us & there's a spiritual armor ready & waiting for us to put on.
There's a part near the end of the movie where Diana, Wonder Woman, listens to Aries (the god of war) speak about how she should really stop fighting against him and give up on mankind. You can see Diana linger for just a second on the thought that maybe Aries is right & maybe she should give up & fight with Aries, the evil god she's fought against her whole life.
This hesitation of Diana's reminds me of when we are tempted to stop engaging in the warfare that God has set us in the midst of. It reminds me of when we begin to blur the lines & lay down our weapons & take off our armor.
What does that look like in modern day culture?
It looks like the quiet compromise of joining a culture in their media; becoming numb to what flies in the face of all that we stand for as Christians. Homosexuality, promiscuity (sexual freedom), godlessness, etc.
It looks like using our lives for our own betterment, gain, name, popularity, & profit (John 3:30) & maybe just wielding some "God talk" to season some parts of our lives.
It looks like nursing secret sins in the background where no person can see them.
It looks like holding grudges & holding onto un-forgiveness & bitterness.
It looks like backing away from opportunities to serve & do what we as Christians have all been called to do: love Jesus, love people, & make disciples.
It looks like passivity.
I have done all of these things.
Diana's mother, the queen of the Amazonians, bids Diana goodbye as she goes to fight in the modern day war against the Germans. Diana cannot stand to stay & do nothing when there is a war going on that is killing millions of people. She believes that she has been created to fight for mankind so she decides to leave in secret because her mother would rather have her stay & stay safe, I presume.
After learning from her mother that if she leaves to fight she cannot come back to the Amazonian island Diana says, Who would I be if I stayed?
She chooses to leave & fight even at great cost. She will never see her mother or her people again but still she goes because she knows that if she stayed she would not be fulfilling her purpose. A piece of her would not be the same if she chose the easy route & did not put to use what she had been training all of her life for.
I know what that feels like, choosing the easy & safe route because I'm scared, because it challenges every bit of my desire to stay comfortable & safe. And a part of you isn't the same. A part of you will always feel regret over an opportunity that you missed out on. A part of you knows that you have betrayed your real calling in that moment. A part of you knows you were created to fight.
What if, like the example of these Amazonian women in a fictional story, we trained & fought hard & spent our lives not only readying for war, but really engaging in it? What if we gave up our passivity & chose to be outspoken & different from the world?
There's a reason we're inspired by heroism & warriors. We were created for it. We were hardwired to fight a war to end all wars.
I want to challenge you, all of us, men & women alike, to listen to the deep down desire to be a warrior. To realize that we can be fighters because there's a very real battle to fight.
Let's lay down our passivity & start training & fighting & doing what we were created to do.
Go watch Wonder Woman & see if you're not inspired.
I sat around a table of ten young women, all beautiful, all with beautiful personalities, all with unique gifts & talents, all lovers of Jesus, all single.
It was the most refreshed & encouraged I've been in a long time in regards to the topic of singleness, and I think I can speak for Hannah, too.
Even on the drive home there was a stark difference from the drive on my way to the church where the Hard Love series is being held. I drove home excited, encouraged, refreshed, and not feeling as alone in this season as we so often do.
I dated out of hopelessness for a very long time.
I had never heard of this term before last night until the speaker, Rebekah, introduced it. She talked about five major symptoms of dating out of hopelessness and I found myself resounding with every point, but one in particular really stood out to me.
I'm not sure if the speaker meant to refer to abuse, but she touched on the fact that dating out of hopelessness causes us not to leave when we should. We are not able to pick up our "bags" & say enough is enough & I'm done.
This point is important because as we've seen lately in this #metoo trend, abuse, emotional & physical, hides in the shadows & goes unnoticed & unrecognized even by the people who are in the abusive relationships.
Singleness can be really hard. It can be really lonely. And it can cause us to lower the standard, settle, & be involved in relationships we shouldn't be, if we aren't careful.
It causes us to stay in relationships, accept things, we never thought we would. And it can also go a lot deeper, become a lot darker, than the missing checkmarks on our "list" of non-negotiables.
Abuse doesn't have to be physical. Abuse can be the slow wearing away of who you are by another person. Degradation, anger, silence, control, manipulation.
The two lies that I have believed about myself and the two lies that have caused me to stay in emotionally abusive situations are these:
- The problems that arise in relationships & the emotional abuse that follows is my fault.
- And because it's my fault they have every right to treat me that way. I've gotta get it together.
I know without a doubt some of you have either made these same excuses in the past or are currently making them now. I know, its uncomfortable to face the fact that you might be in an abusive relationship, but please, keep reading if any part of you desires freedom.
Let's be clear: every relationship has its ups and downs & every person you will ever be with has their weaknesses, but I think you know exactly what I mean when it becomes mistreatment & abuse. You always know deep down when the treatment you're receiving isn't right.
The kind of mistreatment and abuse that causes you to make excuses like:
I'll stay because I don't believe there's anyone better or I deserve anything better.
What he says about me is probably true & I need to work on those things.
I'm scared to leave because it's going to hurt.
I'm in this relationship too deep.
He has issues that stem from past relationships or childhood hurt & I've gotta be the one to stick around & love him like Jesus.
I can't give up because things will get better & it'll be this beautiful redemption love story.
He says he's a Christian.
He's my best friend.
I don't want to be alone.
He says he's sorry.
I don't want to be single.
I know because I've made every single one of these excuses. I've stayed for far too long, undergone emotional abuse, sought to change the essence of who I was to receive approval & acceptance, and began to forget the worth that God has assigned to me.
Rebekah said something very interesting:
"You will feel empowered after you have made the decision to walk away. It is not a decision that you will necessarily feel empowered to do before you do it."
That's right; there's no excuses for staying. There's no waiting till things get better. If I was face-to-face with you, I would tell you exactly what I'm going to tell you now: walk away.
When Rebekah said that, it reminded me of how I felt when I knew that I needed to walk away from my abusive relationship. I knew, lying on that cold floor, breath coming in short gasps, that I had to make the hard decision, but the best decision. And Rebekah is right; I didn't feel empowered or free before I made that decision, and I didn't even feel empowered right after. It took me awhile to see how very free I really was.
And you may wonder: how in the heck did I follow through with what I knew was best & turn it into actually making that decision to walk away? How did I pick myself up off the floor, literally, and see past the pain to do what was right?
I cried out to Jesus in those painful moments, hours, & days. He was there so vividly & He brought back to mind the promises that I had always known & enabled my hurting heart to actually believe them. The promise that Jesus is enough. The truth that His plans for me were, are, good & that He desired something so much better for me even if I couldn't see it then. The truth that I have value even though I have flaws. The truth that my heart is priceless. The truth that my body, my emotions, me as a whole, were brought with a price.
I discovered God's Fatherhood, His faithfulness, in a more real way than I ever had in my entire life & now looking back, I still don't feel empowered. I just stand in awe of God's power & redemption. The power that He wielded through me to walk away.
And He can do that for you, too.
This post is to shake you, us, from our stupor. Its to name the why behind our propensity to unhealthy and abusive relationships. It's to say girls, you are worth more & what Jesus says about you is true & you can walk away. It's to say yes you might be lonely for a little while, and it might hurt like heck, but Jesus is enough.
The biggest lesson I have learned through the mistakes I made in relationships is just that; Jesus is enough. It sounds cliche but its really really true. It's the only thing that enabled me to end bad relationships when I was literally on my hands & knees before Jesus making what felt like the hardest decision I'd ever had to make. It was the truth that healed my aching heart & answered all of my questions afterwards in the long nights and days. It's the only thing that enables me to believe, really believe, that even if I never get married & know earthly love, Jesus is enough & He is good.
I reject the belief that you have to do and be in order for you to be in a good relationship & to say I do to a good & Jesus loving man. What I mean by that is I reject the belief that you have to perform, change, or hide to have the relationship that God desires for us to have if its His will for us to marry.
Gosh, yes, there are things we need to grow in, areas we need to mature in, sinful behaviors we need to nip in the bud with Jesus' gracious help, BUT the answer to all of that is to love Jesus most with our time, our talents, our hearts & our souls. When you do that, you walk through what's called sanctification (being made holy) & you change & you grow & mature in all the best and necessary ways. The ways that Jesus wants you to.
But there is never any reason or excuse for mistreatment & abuse.
Run from and say no to any relationship or marriage that isn't a reflection of the selfless, kind, pursuing, & gentle love of our Savior shown to us.
You are God's workmanship, creation, purposed to reflect him. You are known, loved, valued. You are enough, you are whole, single or not. Your heart is precious & held by a perfect Father.
Girls, wherever you're at now, in an abusive relationship or not, cling to these truths. If you seek to see yourself the way God does, it will be easier to see what He desires for you in a relationship and marriage. It will be much easier to turn & walk the other direction when there are signs of abuse & in turn, walk away even when you're in deep.
I promise, Jesus is enough.
Everybody's talking about Harvey Weinstein and as a result #metoo has come about; a hashtag that people are using on social media to join others who have become open about their sexual abuse, harassment, and assault.
While there has, and always will be, instances of abuse, I believe there are tangible factors in this culture that have a lot to do with the rise in that abuse in the recent years. Factors that we often ignore because they're so normalized not just in the secular culture, but sadly so in a large amount of the Christian culture.
Last year I did a study on pornography; it's effects, causes, and the fact that it's so accessible & addicting. It has even infiltrated the church and the expectation that Christian men & women will have struggled with it, or currently do, is very realistic.
I grew up unaware of just how rampant pornography was until I couldn't be unaware any longer. It became a conversation between me and my parents, me and my friends, and even one of the first questions I asked any guy whom I was getting to know for a potential relationship.
I believe that God in His sovereignty placed me in situations where someone's struggle with porn directly effected my own life & I saw the firsthand results of it. I became determined to speak out against it & encourage others to be aware of the destruction that pornography causes. Pornography is far from harmless.
I'm sure many of you know why I began this post talking about the #metoo trend that has begun & now I'm talking about pornography. It's because they're directly correlated. But the problem is, not many want to recognize it or just plain and simple, don't realize it.
Several weeks ago the pastor at my church spoke out boldly & passionately against the atrocities, the sin, going on in our culture. One of those things was pornography and its blatant exploitation of women & even children. Its time that all of us take on the same boldness, disgust, & zero toleration of a sin so often coddled because of its accessibility. We have taken on an attitude of complacency. Its time that we take on the same hate of sin that God has & not be afraid to speak openly & boldly about the practices that are becoming more and more acceptable.
I do not speak out of ignorance, naivety, or a false sense of pride. I speak out against it because I have seen firsthand the destruction that it wields in its users & the ones that the users use. I speak out because I do believe that we do have control over our actions. I speak out because God's Word is so black-and-white about what we do with anything that causes us to sin (Matthew 5:29). He doesn't tell us to coddle it, make excuses for it, or slowly wean ourselves off it it, He says for us to get rid of it.
The abuse that you so hate starts with you. It starts with us. It starts with hating sin & not taking our cues from a culture that is drowning in a moral decline with its now legalization of abortion & same-sex marriage and yes, normalization of abuse. Let's not hate the sin in one quarter (abuse) but turn around and nurse our secret sin in another quarter.
Lets higher the standard in ourselves, in our brothers & sisters, in our (future) sons & daughters, & in our (future) husbands & wives.
By the power, the healing, the hope, & the redemption of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that is more than possible.
I've been on both sides of the spectrum.
I wanted marriage too much.
By too much, I mean that I made it an idol.
I was the girl that believed all of her hopes, dreams, & longings would be met in the lifelong covenant of marriage.
I've also been the other girl who turned up her nose at that "poor desperate" girl who seemingly had no other purpose or goal but to get married.
During each of those instances, those major struggle seasons, there was something else vying to be god of my heart.
I know how it is to swing from one extreme to the other. To put down your friends or acquaintances because you think you've got it all together & to also be on the receiving end of that same judgement.
We want to exude independence. busyness. success.
But in reality,
all of our hearts are idol factories & prone to make Jesus second to something else.
The idols just come in different shapes & sizes & categories.
And before we ever put down those who desire marriage for the wrong reasons,
let's look at our own lives.
Just because goals, priorities, pursuits, the things we spend time on over Jesus or before Jesus, are not marriage, does that make them any less an idol?
If our lives, at any time, single or married, are any less than the sold out pursuit of Christ, than we're worshiping something else besides Christ, marriage or not.
We're still looking to that thing, that pursuit, that accomplishment, to be our identity outside of Christ.
Our lives may look busy & independent & confident but that doesn't mean they're busy with the right things, are dependent on Christ alone, or confident because of Jesus.
(Note: I want to make it clear that by writing this I am not saying that marriage is a wrong thing to desire. Marriage is a wonderful thing as pointed out in much of Scripture. I am saying that desiring anything more than God, even a good thing, has crossed into idolatry & that's the big difference between desiring & worshiping).
My friends (you know who are you are, ladies) have been extremely gracious & patient & wonderful as they've often been on the receiving end of my trials & error in figuring out God's heart on purpose and pursuit.
I've put them on the receiving end of my harsh critique & likewise been on the receiving end of it from others.
I write this in the process of God molding my heart, softening it, & helping me see my own idol prone heart.
"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love;...
This hymn has long been one of my favorites & those lyrics my humble admission again and again.
We're all prone to wander. All prone to leave our gracious Savior and replace it with numerous other loves.
So, lets all give grace & all make sure our pursuit is Jesus. Our confidence is Jesus. Our joy is Jesus. Our identity is Jesus.
©, 2017 Jennifer Langley
Where did that term even come from?
I heard it for the first time on the article on Desiring God titled 116 Been Real: Lecrae, "White Evangelicalism," and Hope.
I admit, I like me some Christian rap & Lecrae was one of the artists that I listened to.
And it troubles my heart that there is even such a thing as "white evangelicalism" (if there really is even such a thing) & that Lecrae has now become identified with creating a brand new divide within Christianity itself instead of for the gospel as he was previously.
The conversations he now has on radio talk-shows isn't about the gospel: it's about the ripple he's created within Christianity.
I think they're talking about the wrong things now.
A secular rapper said he didn't even know that Lecrae was "a gospel rapper, a Christian rapper, whatever" after working together on a project.
I think there's a problem with that.
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." (Matthew 5:11)
We're recognized for our love, not our stand on politics, not our color, not our nationality, nor our relevancy.
We're supposed to be shining one light, standing for one thing, and it most certainly isn't us. The gospel isn't designed to be popular, easy, acceptable, or mistaken for any other message.
In creating divides within Christianity itself, Lecrae has lost effectiveness & has begun to talk about lesser things that secular artists no longer recognize as The Gospel.
He's busied them with a different, lesser message. A lesser gospel. A gospel that doesn't save.
My understanding is that Christianity does not reside within borders, or colors, or nationality.
I don't think God ever meant for it to. I think that these self-made divides hurt His heart.
I think satan is the one who champions divides within Christians because they become distractions.
I've never seen those divides championed or the tendency to them ignored between the Bible's two covers.
"Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:3-6)
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)
Lecrae claims divides between Christians & is loosening ties with "white evagelicism" but is instead creating even more divides within Christianity itself.
Lecrae is now focused on the divides between black Christians & white Christians & that's a shame.
But we do it, too.
We just tend to focus on different kinds of divides.
I've seen what they do.
I've seen them within my own "world" between the more conservative Christians and the less, the church you go to, the music you listen to, if you believe in gun rights or not, the way you raise your children (even the way you birth them), how you educate them, what you do for a living, etc.
Movements replace the gospel.
Divides create enemies within Christianity when we're supposed to be united by one common thing: the gospel.
We spend more time talking about the things that divide us instead of laboring together over the Kingdom & countless souls that need a life-changing gospel.
This keeps our walls high, our reach short, our testimony ineffective & we end up fighting battles that in the long run, hold far less importance (sometimes no importance at all) than we give them.
The fact that a black Christian broke ties with other white Christians is not accurate. Another Christian has publicly announced that he's breaking ties with other Christians.
We've begun looking inward, not outward. We've begun championing our own justice & movements instead of the national & worldwide need for a Savior to save from the ugly, the dark, the messy, the hopeless, and very lost.
These people perish every day & we just mark one more day with another post on social media about the people we're against or who we imagine are against us.
We shout our own name, our own cause, our own movement, our own justice, our own anger, our own hurt.
I don't care if you're famous or not, that should never be okay.
It's not okay when it's Lecrae, it's not okay when it's us.
Jesus left this earth as a man 2,000 years ago with a charge called The Great Commission.
"And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
I'd say that the call to all Christians, same color or not, same church or not, same hobbies or not, same tastes or not, same gifts or not, same political standing or not, is to make disciples of all nations.
Not to build walls & divides, wage wars, and craft passive-agressive words to sting other fellow laborers & Christians.
It's easy to champion Lecrae's speaking-out about his newfound passion because it sounds good, but let's look real long & real hard at what God feels about that & says about any divides.
We should all hurt for the hurting. We should all champion justice & love. We should all be lights in a very dark & very hurting world.
But those ends are not met by social injustice jargon & a fight for equality. Not a bandwagon, not a soap-box, not a movement, not a political standing, not the kneeling on a football field that has become so popular now.
Our enemy is the same: sin & satan. The cure is the same: Jesus & the gospel.
Let's recognize divides that Lecrae has created & divides that we have created. Let's recognize long-held anger, bitterness, against other Christians for what it is. Let's recognize gossip against other Christians for what it is. Let's recognize pride against other Christians for what it is.
They are the divides that keep us from being effective for the gospel.
We don't have time for that.
It's hard to know what to say about such a devastating act of evil which has brought deep grief to our nation and it's families.
But I know it's worse to say nothing.
We cannot be silent even in the face of evil we pray yet to understand.
I know that we, seeking to influence others for Christ's Name, need to put words to the grief & mourning that we feel that is just a fraction of what what those who are directly affected by the shooting in Las Vegas are feeling.
We need to put into action, into words, the light & hope that still remains true despite the darkness & evil that feels especially present right now.
Though it's hard to even answer the questions that arise in our own hearts as we reside miles away from the scene of devastation, the character of our God remains steadfast & it's to His hope that we point.
He is hope in the midst of hopelessness. (isaiah 40:31)
He is comfort for broken, raw, & aching hearts. (psalm 34:8)
He is healing for those who will now long effected by tragedy & loss. (psalm 147:3)
He mourns with those who mourn. (revelation 21:4)
He does not leave those alone whose lives know the absence of a loved one or those who relive the tragedy in their minds. (psalm 23:4)
He is light in the darkness. (psalm 27:1)
& we as His people are the hands & feet & messengers of the hope He brings to a hurting world.
So to those who have been directly affected by this mass shooting in Las Vegas:
While we can't understand it & we grasp for words we do mourn with you who are mourning. We do pray for your hearts & souls that are aching. We do acknowledge it. We do cry with you, pray for you, and stand in silence with you. & we do offer the same hope that our own souls & hearts cling to that we have known in our own deep darkness & devastation & loss.
There is yet hope in your hopelessness. There is yet light in your darkness. There is yet reason in your chaos. There is yet redemption in the death. & there is yet a Savior who still stands sovereign.
Worshiping in a sanctuary full of one thousand+ people that I don't know feels strange.
I grew up in the same church for thirteen years (since it was founded) and before that I was too young to care about connecting and all of the things that matter later.
(Heck, when we've been going to the same church, we even like the fact that we know exactly where the bathrooms are & we don't have to go on a scavenger hunt in the middle of the service because we know where nothing is.)
Now I'm in my mid-twenties and and I'm starting over, from the ground up, and it's hard.
I love people and fellowship but somehow, someway, my 40% introvert side kicks in on Sunday mornings (or maybe its just fear) and I find myself walking out the exit door much too quickly without having learned a single name.
Let's just be real honest: changing churches at any age or season is just plain hard.
Maybe you're in this same season, whether you're in your mid-twenties or not.
I've talked to many people adjusting to new surroundings whether it's going off to school & having to find a new church then,
being newly married, moving states away & changing churches then.
Or, you're venturing out on your own because you feel called to a particular ministry opportunity.
No matter what it is, it's hard. The unfamiliar is always hard.
But we've gotta remember that the hard is no excuse.
A church is not designed to be a place on Sundays where we "hit & run." A place we hide, content that no one knows our name or history.
But the idea of starting all over again, investing in new relationships, going to strange & new gatherings, can cause us to revert to "hit & run" onlookers on Sunday mornings.
I'm writing this in the midst of a particularly hard Sunday afternoon (real talk here).
I tossed & turned last night knowing that Sunday morning was coming. The burden on my heart was growing & the thirst for community & the fellowship of other young people & the opportunities to serve & invest & be known.
Funny thing is that I had already planned to write this for this particular week not knowing what kind of burdens & feelings would be in my heart the day before I wrote it.
But I've never waited to write til I get it all figured out because that's just not life.
So I'm just going to be writing straight from the things God has put on my heart in the midst of trying to put them into practice because they're truth.
First of all: pray & present before God all the desires & burdens & sadnesses & fears & watch Him work.
Second: if you're in a Bible believing, Bible teaching, good church, begin to invest & take the opportunities available to get involved. This is really hard, especially if you're on your own, but just do it (thank you, Nike).
Third: don't wait for people to make that first introduction or to reach out (even if you think they should). Take the initiative and introduce yourself & ask questions.
Fourth: follow up. Move beyond Sunday mornings & if you've made some connections with people there, follow up with them. Go out to coffee with them (coffee makes instant friends), invite them over, invest in making those friendships.
Fifth: serve within the church. This is one of the best ways to get involved with other people serving within the church & to begin giving to the body of Christ.
My heart goes out to your overwhelmed heart if you're in this season. It's all a part of the journey & growth & seeing God's faithfulness.
Just hang on & pray, invest, give, & love.
Let's watch what Jesus does to flourish this season of transition.
I remember driving home one night, on the phone with a friend, and talking about what I would change in my past if I could change anything.
I rounded the bend and crossed the train tracks, almost home. I leaned forward, close to my steering wheel, as I always do when deep in thought or tired. "There are things I would do differently if I could."
"What would you do differently?" They asked.
"I'd wait. I'd wait patiently for marriage, if that's what God has, and I'd use my years wisely."
Yeah, sometimes in a human sense I wish I could go back and redo some things. But in truth, I wouldn't go back and change anything because God has used it to mold me and use me in ways that I never would have been otherwise. But I would like to write to you now and maybe be a tool to mold your future.
I know not long ago I would've been turned off by a title like this one, but, it was a post like this at twenty-one that God used to change the empty course I was on.
So, I understand your aversion to this very concept. Trust me, I've been there, and I get it.
I think the idea that God is enough & that He's the fulfillment of all our deep longings for love is really hard to accept at first. It doesn't seem possible.
So let's just start there because I think that was the hardest part for me.
I remember getting irritated at people who would even talk about that. Inside I would roll my eyes and "yeah right" them.
But to be honest I felt anger that they seemed to have a peace and contentment and purpose that I didn't. I wanted that.
I craved love I could see, understand, and feel. I craved love that was tangible. Love that I could live life with and wake up to and build a home with and raise children with. And I knew Jesus alone and singleness couldn't give me all of those tangible (even good) things and so I just wasn't interested and I wasn't buying it.
I wanted to be loved & I just couldn't understand Jesus's love.
Those desires were overwhelming and they were my ticket to fulfillment and happiness and purpose and I just didn't have anything else.
I remember the night that concluded my two weeks of wrestling with the very idea that I really didn't know what God had for my life and the things I desired were not guaranteed.
My life was oriented around another god and it was crumbling.
My prayer journal was open and I was asking God all kinds of questions. And then I formed a question to myself.
If God never gave you marriage & your desire to be loved by a man, would you still serve him?
And in that life-changing moment of clarity I thought about eternity & how marriage isn't eternal & what does that mean.
And that question began a long and hard but good road to understanding what life is about & what real love is. That the Author of real love is Jesus & He's the ultimate love that goes to the deepest parts of our souls.
The next couple of years would be the hardest I have since known, but they solidified the truth that began it's "baby steps" that night while forming questions to God in prayer.
His love is enough for long days & nights.
your broken heart.
your unmet expectations.
your battle with sin.
your painful memories.
One of the most amazing things?
He gets it.
He gets the sometimes long journey we take to get to a place where we really believe that this life is about His love and everything else is just a reflection of that.
I'm writing this to wherever you are in your journey.
Maybe this is another reminder that God keeps is using to soften your heart. Maybe this is the first time you've heard it. Maybe you're broken by the world's cheap representations of love and this message is like water in your desert and healing to your heart.
Maybe you feel you've wasted your years like I did.
Talk to Jesus and tell Him where you're at because the truth is, I can't convince you that His love is enough.
All I can do is tell you my story; the story of a girl who lived in disbelief that Jesus could ever be enough & chased all the wrong loves & found Jesus's love at the end of it.
A woman who's discovering day by day that this life is about a different & better love than she ever imagined.
©2017 Jennifer Langley
My room is a cute and cozy but very small. It's been my room for fifteen years and I love it,
it kind of reminded me of where my heart has been for about as equally as long.
My mom sat on the edge of my bed in that small room the other night and we were having one of our many long conversations and she shared with me a prayer that she had been praying for me for awhile.
She prayed that I would begin to care for more than just my small world.
To care about more than just what was going on in my life and the lives in close proximity to it. (Don't you love Mom's?)
And I had begun to pray the same thing for myself.
Father, burden my heart with the things you care about, with the things your heart is burdened by.
I could feel in my heart an indifference when I heard about hard things happening around the world that I couldn't hear, taste, feel, smell, or touch. Out of sight out of mind.
It was in direct contrast to the heart of Jesus.
Life was going by with all of its disappointments, hurts, and scars and they had become large and all-consuming.
But for the first time I started praying prayers with hands wide open. Prayers with a willing and surrendered heart, ready and excited for what God was going to do.
I was no longer living in a box with a "plan" for my life.
And it was freeing, exciting, and scary.
And all of the sudden when hurricane Harvey hit Texas, it was like the floodgates of my own heart swung wide open.
I could hear, taste, feel, smell, and touch the hurt of displaced families, ruin, chaos, loss.
And I'm in truth ashamed of the indifference of my heart up until very recently,
God's been so patient with me and,
sanctification is a process & its a journey. We don't get everything together right as God does the miracle of saving us.
But wow. It's freedom, it's tenderness, it's life-changing to "wake up" and look around and see Jesus' heart everywhere.
He loves us deeply and cares about us deeply and cares about what we desire, but He's not just about our dreams, our desires, our plans, our hurts.
God's heart hurts for the hurting and ours should, too.
Sometimes life is a lot harder than we expected & its distracting & it saps our strength & it can feel like its breaking your heart.
But this story is about a lot more than our story.
Have you been living inside the walls of your own cares & concerns for a long time like I was? Does your life only consist of your own life? Does it seem daunting and scary and unfamiliar to pray prayers that mean God's heart-surgery is going to happen?
There is freedom in loving unreservedly & it opens your eyes to the story that God may have written for you that you never imagined for yourself. A story that encompasses a thousand other stories and shines a light for the Ultimate Story of them all. The Gospel that saves, redeems, restores, has purpose in hurt, softens hearts, and writes beautiful stories.
Loving people and hurting for people and desiring to be God's hands and feet will take you places you never thought you'd go.
And for the first time you can whisper send me (Isaiah 6:8) and really and truly mean it.
*I've included a link below to an organization called Convoy of Hope. They provide domestic and international disaster relief and are active in helping the victims of both hurricane Harvey in Texas & hurricane Irma in Florida. There are all kinds of ways to get involved including volunteer work & donating to where your money is most needed. This is a practical way to get involved in showing compassion and love to the hurting lives of those around us*
A year has passed since I prayed to know perfect love.
From the midst of deep wounds, hopelessness, still orienting to a life lived with a history. marked with shadows deeper than I ever feared for myself, I prayed.
My old self may have remembered that prayer from a year ago, looked at circumstances today, and felt like my prayers were still unanswered. The truth is, I do know a real love, a better love than any I prayed for back then.
"Do something with this. I have nothing to offer, nothing to give. I'm a mess. My life is a mess. I do not want to go through this."
The road looked long ahead of me when I wrote those prayers to God. They came from a heart that couldn't imagine what I was asking for or how God would answer.
Just a few days later the first step towards redemption, towards my journey home, were made.
I wrote on July 9th, 2016, in my journal, "God rescued me even though I didn't want rescuing."
I was still so shattered and hardened even after that initial rescue, that breaking away from an emotionally abusive relationship, and I felt so fragile as I took the first steps away from it. I prayed from an aching heart, with faith just the size of a mustard seed, that God would redeem me, that He would do something with the shattered and broken life that was now mine.
I prayed to know real love. Real trust. I prayed to be fully known. To be noticed. I prayed that the walls I had built up would come down; that I would be pursued.
"Love became ugly and dark and heavy. I want to experience the kind of love that is beautiful, sweet, sincere, pure, and full of light."
I knew a very imperfect love from a man, but instead of crushing the hope out of me, I knew deep down that God had designed us to know true love, a love very different from the one I had experienced. So I prayed for it.
And now, writing in the same journal, I can write with confidence, thankfulness, and joy.
"Truth is, I do know real love, a better love than any I prayed for back then. I know the perfect love of a Savior, Redeemer, and Father."
You and I, we have a shallow concept of love, and our Father knows that. We pray to know love, not imagining what He will do with that prayer. We think we know what real love is because we have known what real love is not, but perfect love is only known in being loved and loving our Savior.
We still pray to know that human love, but we know now that it can't satisfy the way Jesus does. It can't come close to perfect love, the perfect love we pray for.
I'm writing to you, dear broken one, to give you hope. In just a year and handful of days, God took my shattered heart and a whispered prayer to know real love, and answered far beyond what I could even hope for. Even in your own self-inflicted foolishness and sin, God still desires to rescue you, show you our real purpose. He desires to write a story from your ashes, the ones you lay on the alter with empty hands, and pronounce as nothing.
Even in your faith so small, pray to know perfect love. He'll show you what it is. He'll show you that you already have it.
There's so much darkness on the social media platform. There's straight up temptation, but there's just as much the subtlety of comparison and discontentment that grows in our hearts. There tends to be a lot more negativity than encouragement. Discouragement than hope. A lot more godlessness on display than there is Jesus.
It's for this reason that I've been on a break from it the past several weeks. I think it's necessary to refocus when we find the noise of this world is crowding Jesus out. To take time just to listen to the most important Voice and make sure our priorities are right. To make sure that our identity isn't being found in our following.
And though all of that is true, there's a flip side. A lot of people write off social media completely (which might be necessary for them, depending on their situation) but what if we saw it as not as much about what we were getting from it but about what we can give?
"We have an incredible opportunity
to take what can be used for evil and
use it to point back to Jesus."
More than ever now, I think our voices are important. We have an incredible opportunity to take what can be used for evil and use it to point back to Jesus. To tell the story God is writing for you, the good and the hard, the big moments and the ordinary, is for others to see your testimony unfolding. It's to be a corner of refreshment, encouragement, and light.
And in order to be that encouragement, that light, we can't be afraid to rejoice openly in the blessings. Oftentimes I only share my story in increments, vaguely, and only in the hard. Why? Because it takes more faith for me to rejoice in the blessings than it does when I can't see them.
I used social media last year to share a particularly difficult time in my life. I was vulnerable, open, and transparent. But then, out of the ashes came beauty, and I hid it away. I stopped sharing the story that God has been writing because not to share makes me feel like I'm protecting it. I'm afraid to hope, to dream, to believe the good God is doing, let alone to share it so that others can see the glory of God and His faithfulness.
". . . my story, your story, has the power
to be a light pointing back to Jesus in a
someone's life who may desperately
need hope. "
For me these past six months have been ones of great change, of great good, of new direction, and knowing Jesus better because of it. And when I think of sharing it, there's a freedom, a joy, hope, in the tender steps forward in faith to share my story, one picture and sentence at a time. In knowing that every detail, including all the joy and beauty, is written by a marvelous and sovereign God. In knowing that my story, your story, is a testimony to a watching world. In knowing that my story, your story, has the power to be a light pointing back to Jesus in someone's life who may desperately need hope.
So here, I bow, to lift You high
Jesus, be glorified
In all things, for all my life
I am Yours, forever Yours
God here, and now, be lifted high
Right here, and now, be glorified
God of heaven and earth
God who brought me back to life
I am Yours, forever Yours
How you see yourself and by who and what you estimate your value, changes everything. It changes your relationships, it decides your joy, your peace, your confidence. It decides by what standard of beauty you're going to listen to and what you're going to pursue to get it. It determines if you will stand or fall when you face the hard times.
Let me give you a little background.
Confidence, security, is # 1 on my struggle/weakness list. I have never been good at sports, excessively smart, had that "I don't care" attitude that some people can pull off. I've been in foolish relationships that destroyed my self esteem even further and made me truly believe that my performance, achievements, and outward appearance was what gained and kept love and decided my worth. As a result, I was always looking for that one thing or that one person that would make me feel like a success, beautiful, worth something, worth loving.
Maybe this is you. too?
The coolest thing is that God speaks to this in His Word and He shakes up our natural understanding that comes from the world and turns it upside down. He points at you and I and says He wants to use us, not the got-it-all-together person you and I often wish we were.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
The world, our experiences, teach us that we are supposed to be able to boast in ourselves to be worth something. Our success, our careers, our relationship status, our skills, our personality, our popularity. Guaranteed, as you're reading through that list, I named the thing or things that you're striving for to give you security and worth. Just take a second to think about what this is for you. If you're like me, it's a burden and it's shaky and unreliable.
When I first became a Christian, where I had built my identity was one of the first "heart surgeries" God did in me. It was uncomfortable, but so so good because for the first time I felt like I could rest.
I could rest because I learned this:
There is a perfect love, God's love, that loves without change. It doesn't demand perfection in and of ourselves as the standard by which we gain it. There is a love that is steady and sees us at our very worst but still picks us up, rescues us, and uses us. There is a grace that is given in the midst of our mess. There is a mercy that doesn't give us what we deserve. There is One who sees your beauty not in the outward but the beauty in the new heart that's been given you.
That is a beauty we cannot work for. That is a love that is not lost. That is a standard the world can never touch. That perfection doesn't change even in our mistakes.
This is a truth we have to keep learning over and over again. I forget it and I go right back to dwelling on insecurity and just basically, being dumb and forgetting who Jesus is. But when I do remember, He shakes my world up once again in the most wonderful way and there is a freedom we can only experience when our gaze is focused on Him, not on the shaking elements of this world that will always let us down.
So, ask yourself where your identity lies and if you're willing to strive to make Jesus that identity, your life will change.
I don't always see the beauty in the messiness.
I present to others the person I believe others want to see. The got-it-all-together, always confident, say-the-right-thing, always-wear-a-smile, accomplished, busy, popular, always in a good mood, type of woman. The perfect woman. I say and do what that perfect woman I have created in my head would say and do. I hide the baggage, the mess, the hurts, the very things that God has used in huge ways to shape me. The very things I get on here and talk to you about. Sometimes those same things I see beauty in one day become very ugly the next day.
Baggage makes trust hard and insecurity easy and that can feel really ugly. That can make me feel really vulnerable, undesirable, un-eqipped, and ashamed. It comes down to basically this: I have taken my eyes off of Christ and the gospel. I lose sight of the fact that God uses regrets, uses mistakes, uses sin to magnify Himself. He uses our very real weakness to magnify His very strong strength. That even though we often wish we could take back whatever it is we have done to get us here, God has us here, whatever that "here" may be for you, for a purpose.
When we turn our eyes on ourselves or others for answers, we're losing sight of Jesus and we will find no satisfying answer. We won't find any comfort or healing. We won't see purpose. We won't see good. We won't see beauty. We will only see the person that we wish we could be.
Because yes, it hurts, it's hard, but it's being used. It's being used by our Father to shape us and mold us to the person He has called us to be and in that, there is much beauty. Beauty we don't want to hide.
As we look at the gospel, you and I grow even more confident that our struggles are for a purpose and there is the beauty of the gospel in our messes. Instead of cowering in shame, wishing it to be hidden, we realize that it's meant to drive us to the cross, to Christ.
You and I have made mistakes, often big ones, but God doesn't make mistakes. He allows sin, hard to understand as it is, for bigger and better purposes than we can imagine.
So, let's learn to walk forward in faith, knowing that we are exactly the people God has made us to be, struggles and all. When we use our struggles, our baggage, our pasts, to boast of the gospel, there is much beauty in that.