What do you feel when you hear about what’s going on around the world? The evil, pain, and unbelievable circumstances some people find themselves in are hard to comprehend. Sometimes you might feel numb to it, like it’s another sad event in our world and sometimes it will hit you deeper. Something about that specific story connects with you. You are drawn to every detail and every first person account, so you watch the news non stop and read every article at your disposal. We turn to social media to watch real time videos of what’s happening to innocent lives. The problem with our access to every news outlet, opinion, and first person account is we feel pressure to over educate ourselves. To have our stance on what’s going on in the world, and while there is wisdom to educate yourself over educating yourself can be harmful. That’s what we’re all facing as the war and violence is taking place in Israel and Gaza. We are pressed to take a side, have a strong opinion on what we’re thinking and feeling.
When I first heard of what was going on in Israel I felt sad. My spirit was heavy for God’s people, but it didn’t make me anxious until the idea of the end times came up. It caused me great anxiety because my first thought was, “I’m not ready to die. I have so much life I want to live. I’m bringing a little girl into the world and I want to be able to watch her grow up and live a full life.” I was anxious because I wasn’t educated enough in the right areas. Bits and pieces from friends, preachers, news outlets, and my own education that were incomplete made me feel unaware of the truth.
The first thing I did was pray about my anxiety. I prayed about how I was feeling, not because it’s more important than what’s going on in Israel, but because I know that God cares about me as His daughter. He cares that I am anxious because of what’s going on with his people. I confided in my husband about how I was feeling and let him in on my unfiltered thoughts and feelings. He helped me see that my anxiety had clouded my ability to see that my hope is in God, not what’s happening in the world.
Sometimes we have to ask ourselves the hard questions to get to a place of peace, we need to explore with trusted people what’s actually going on in the depths of our hearts. Sometimes we have to understand we need more education in the right areas to have peace. Sometimes we need to take a break from the searching, reading, and watching to allow ourselves to be regulated and present to where we are.
For most of you reading this; you’re not in Israel. You’re reading this from your couch, desk, bed, or kitchen table. You are most likely safe. You are not in immediate danger or worried about a terrorist group taking over your neighborhood. But your emotions might tell you otherwise. You might have deep anguish over what’s happening in Israel. Your heart might feel heavy, confused, shocked or anxious. Maybe you don’t feel any of those ways but you’re convinced you are supposed to because everyone else is. I don’t think there is one right way to feel or process what’s happening in Israel, but I do think there is a harmful way. Allowing it to overtake your peace, ability to be present, and create unnecessary stress and anxiety is not creating anything good within you.
You don’t need to convince yourself you are in danger to find empathy within yourself for what’s happening to the people of Israel. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s not absorbing someone else’s pain and suffering as your own. I think the enemy uses news, education, and first person accounts to create second hand trauma within us. Which is exactly as it sounds; “emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand experiences of another.” You don’t have to have second hand trauma to have empathy and have a broken heart over what is breaking God’s heart. Thats a lie from the enemy to create disruption within you.
So what do you do? How do you balance education and boundaries to not cause yourself second hand trauma or unnecessary anxiety?
Know your limits – If you are not accustomed to hearing trauma on a regular basis, hearing someone share their story of being kidnapped might cause you great distress and anxiety. If you’re currently facing something traumatic personally, reading into the trauma of the war in Israel could enhance your emotions in your own personal trauma. If you’ve been a refugee of war, reading about this war could trigger some painful memories which could cause potential re-traumatization. Know the level of sensitivity your spirit has when it comes to hearing traumatic stories. You don’t have to turn a blind eye to the reality of our world, but maybe you don’t need to read every detailed story the internet has to offer. Spark notes are enough for you. The hardest part about knowing your limit is having self-control to stop yourself. You might feel tempted to keep digging, but just because you want to doesn’t always mean you should!
Be mindful of what educating yourself is causing within you: Notice I said educating yourself. Being aware is a good thing, but if your desire to be aware turns into obsession, put up restrictions on yourself. We cannot be all-knowing, so burying yourself in every video, article, and news report is probably not producing an empathic spirit, but maybe a controlling spirit. You can obtain enough knowledge to be up to date while limiting yourself to the amount of times you check the news in a day. Know the basics, and maybe for you that’s where you stop because the more you read the more anxious you feel. Now on the other hand; know why those feelings are coming up in you. Is there something specific causing those emotions? There is a high chance there’s a root in your feelings. Maybe you are digging deep into these stories because it distracts you from your own or because this feels like a way you can control what’s happening by knowing everything.
Read truth to know the truth.
As much as this is a physical war, it’s also a spiritual war. Educating yourself in what’s happening in both the physical and spiritual side of this is crucial to create peace and remove anxiety. When you educate yourself about what the Bible says about war, Israel, and the pain and suffering in this world, you won’t feel defeated and hopeless in the stories. You can see hope even when there is no hope, because our hope isn’t in the stories of the world. It’s in the redemptive and saving story of Jesus. When we can’t make sense of our reality, we need to hold onto something or someone. Take time to look into God’s perspective of the war so that you can have comfort in knowing He cares about what’s going on and He is in control, no matter how out of control it seems to be.
Everything going on around us in our world today can be overwhelming and lead to many emotions, which is why it’s important to know how to personally process it all. Let’s continue to pray for our brothers and sisters and remember that our hope is found in Jesus.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
Hi, my name is Emily, and I am a recovering perfectionist.
Even as I write those words, I squirm a little because I am still very much battling my perfectionist tendencies. I’d like for my home to be spotless, my inbox to be sorted, and my children to be wonderfully behaved at all times, please. Also, I would like to have abundant energy, flawless skin, and wear the jeans I wore in college. Thank you. Not too much to ask, right?
And yet, while I’m able to achieve some of those things some of the time (minus the jeans from college), I’m never able to achieve all of them at the same time. And even when I’m able to achieve one of them, I’ve sometimes realized that perfection wasn’t worth the cost.
In those moments I often ask myself, Can I choose good instead of perfect?
Good is a lived-in home. A space with storage and systems, baskets for blankets, boxes for toys, and a junk drawer for quickly cleaning off the kitchen counter. Our home isn’t perfect at all times, but it’s lived in. It’s full of love. It’s flexible and messy and real. There are sometimes dishes in the sink, dog toys all over the floor, and remnants from last night’s spaghetti on the counter. There are loud, happy people making noise upstairs, cell phones dinging with the work we get to do, and school drawings taped to every side of our fridge. That feels pretty perfect to me these days.
I carried the weight of perfectionism for a long time. It is a heavy weight to carry and an unachievable, unmaintainable standard to aspire to. Put simply, it was exhausting. I wondered, what would it look like if I just leaned in a little to the mess? What if I stopped working so hard to have it all together and started slowing down to enjoy it all?
What weight are you carrying right now? What would your life look like if you laid that weight down? What would your hands be free for?
I once met with a therapist during a particularly busy season. I was managing a lot of things at work and at home, and I was struggling to stop “over-functioning” and burning myself out. My therapist and I talked about perfectionism and my tendency to go all-in, all the time—and how God’s grace saves us from having to reach for such a lofty goal. A few months into our work together, I remember telling her, “I love my kids. I love my job. I love my husband. I want to be good at all my jobs, but I am trying so hard not to be that stressed-out, frazzled, overwhelmed-all-the-time woman I once was.”
What I came to realize throughout the course of my time with her is that women often burn themselves out because they love so many things so deeply. We want to do a good job at all our roles not just because we are over achievers, but because we love so many things so much. The trick is learning when good is good enough. Untangling yourself from the grips of perfectionism is actually a healing process.
“You are healing,” she said to me. “Recite these words to yourself whenever you feel those feelings coming to the surface: I am healing.”
Whether you are healing from perfectionism, burnout, over-functioning, trauma, illness, or grief, place your hand on your heart whenever you need to. Remind yourself, “I am healing.” You are a beautiful work in progress and that is good. There is time to get the work done. There is beauty in the mess of life. There is no one way to go about living. Give yourself permission to rest in the joy of that journey.
My hope for you is that you’ll allow God’s grace to wash over you again and again throughout the day. Allow it to release you from the bonds of perfectionism and usher you into a new way forward. You are healing. And you are doing a good job.
Adapted from Near in the Night by Emily Ley. Copyright © 2023 by Emily Ley. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.
Emily Ley is the founder of Simplified, a brand of planners and organizational tools for busy women. Her newest book, Near in The Night, is a collection of reflections on finding God’s peace and rest. She has been featured on Good Morning America and in Forbes, Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, Glamour and Good Housekeeping. Now, as an author, entrepreneur, wife and mother to three, Emily lives in Pensacola, Florida, with her husband, Bryan, their son Brady, and twins, Tyler and Caroline.
Keep up with Emily on Instagram @emilyley!
Good morning friend, I hope as you sip your morning coffee and read through this page or two you are lifted up by the truth that celebration is a gift! We all know the saying “Comparison is the thief of all joy,” right? When we go through seasons of comparison, where we do not feel like any of our dreams are coming true and everyone else’s are, it can be hard. I think waiting seasons are some of the hardest to not let bitterness come in through comparison or just sadness over our wait. When my husband Casey and I first moved to Florida I started a Bible study at our house on Wednesday nights. As we discussed a topic for our study the first few meetings, many of the girls were struggling with knowing their purpose and struggling because they were in a waiting season. They were waiting for their dream job, their spouse, a better living situation, a painful situation to end, and so many other things. Almost every one of us as we went around the circle, sharing our struggles, were stating struggles with comparison when it seems like everyone else has something better. If we allow ourselves to think that way, no matter how good we have got it we will always feel this sense of discontentment because we are trying to live someone else’s lives, not our own.
One of the best messages I have ever heard on comparison and longing during waiting seasons was at The Grove in Atlanta, a women’s event hosted by Passion City Church and Shellie Giglio. DawnCheré Wilkerson was speaking and she preached on Psalm 118:24, “This is the day The Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, ESV)[i] She discusses how the Psalmist in this scripture was actually going through a very rough time and it would not have been the obvious response for him to be celebrating. I believe when we decide to say “I will rejoice and be glad in it,” acknowledging where God has us in this waiting season, we are able to endure much more and cheer others on along the way. One of the only ways I have found to truly cripple comparison and beat the enemy at his own game is to celebrate others. A self-help book I was reading recently did not simply talk about self-love like a lot of these types of books do. The author, Stephen R. Covey says “What is self-love is actually self-discipline.”[ii] What if learning how to stop struggling with comparison does not take us having some dramatic good thing happen in our life or us having something “better” than that person we struggle with comparing to, but what if it is an internal battle? “Religious leader David O. McKay taught, ‘The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.’ If you win the battles there, if you settle the issues that inwardly conflict, you feel a sense of peace, a sense of knowing what you’re about. And you’ll find that the public victories–where you tend to think cooperatively, to promote the welfare and good of other people, and to be genuinely happy for other people’s successes–will follow naturally.”[iii] If you do not know my story, I was an All-American cross country and track runner in High School until I fell and tore both of my hips and had a lot of other health issues that beat me into the ground until I quit running competitively 8 years later. I know that for me, when I activated discipline to ask God for help to cheer on my friends in high school and college when they were getting to win state, conference, go to nationals, doing the things I had loved before my injuries, I was able to be so much more joyful.
My husband and I started trying for kids about a year and a half into our marriage, in December of 2021. January 6th, 2023 around 3PM I got home from an appointment and noticed Casey was out running some errands so I had the house to myself. We had been trying for our first baby for about a year now and I was pretty accustomed to my period just starting and informing me that there would be no baby that month. I had learned so much about celebrating others during the year of waiting for our positive test because everyone in our family got pregnant without having to try and I was constantly buying people baby clothes, listening to birth stories and helping throw baby showers. However, this month I was a day or two late and had an opportunity to take a test very quickly before Casey got home. I ran into the bathroom and set up my little vlog camera I had set up so many times when I had taken pregnancy tests before so I could record a sweet and happy reaction for whenever that day came. Fully expecting the test to be negative I covered it up for the allotted three minutes the Clearblue packaging tells you to wait for. Before looking at the test I held it up to my camera for Youtube to see and out of the corner of my eye I saw a reflection of the test in the mirror and I gasped. The wait was over. Tears immediately streamed to my eyes and prayers of “thank you God, thank you Lord,” came out in between the sobs of joy. The wait was not over though, a much harder wait was just about to get started. At around 11 weeks pregnant I was at the emergency room at ten o’clock at night miscarrying and laboring with our first born. Just a few short months later we miscarried again. Eighteen months of praying for our baby and we had two in Heaven and none earth side.
If you have been through a season of grief so deep you don’t really know how you will be able to breathe again then you know how I felt these spring months of 2023. My world came crashing down over and over. The thrill of seeing a positive pregnancy test I had waited all those months for seemed somehow tainted now. I remember during the intense period of sadness following the first miscarriage I almost never stopped crying. I felt empty, numb, and depleted of everything good. However, these days had me dreaming, not even just longing for, but almost drooling over the thought of going to Heaven. Losing your baby you dreamed of, carried, and never got to meet creates a sense of longing and heart break that will never fully pass no matter how much “time heals.” I have been working on a book to be published next year for quite some time now and the subtitle is “Fixing our Eyes on Jesus in the Midst of Broken Dreams.” In the book I write a lot on Hebrews 11 and 12, the “Faith Heroes” section of the Bible. I had written just weeks before our baby left us to be with Jesus on these Scriptures. And now thinking, “Wow, I thought I knew how to fix my eyes and long for Heaven THEN, but now….” I have never ached so heavily to go to a place before. My longing to meet my babies and stop experiencing the pains of this earth side life ate at me like nothing had before. I was continually reminded that this place is not my home, and thank God for that. I was continually and forcefully reminded where my eyes should be fixed and where my true and only source of hope comes from.
People always say God is near to the broken hearted because of Psalm 34:18. It states, “If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, He’ll help you catch your breath” (Psalms 34:18 MSG). If you are currently living in that “gut punch” but you haven’t been able to catch your breath yet, I am with you. It is all good and well for me to write another sweet “trust God” and “fix your eyes on Heaven” blog to remind us of Biblical truths, but it is another thing for me to sit here and say “I get it, I am broken into pieces and shattered on the floor right now too.” I am not perfect and after the second miscarriage there were a few days where for the first time in my life I could say I felt mad at God. There were several things going on in our lives other than the first miscarriage before we were surprised and then devastated by the second pregnancy and I remember begging God for relief. Before the second pregnancy even came into our awareness/existence I was on my knees asking God to make things good again because there was more “bad” going on than I had ever experienced in life. There were family things, marriage things, work issues, ministry things, my health post miscarriage was horrible, and others that felt like they were all about to make me implode into a fury of grief and sorrow and rage. I had never felt mad at God before and I wouldn’t even fully say I was mad at Him now, I was offended. My prayers felt like a broken record repeating, “I trusted you!!! I know you are good and I trusted you with this so how are you allowing this?! Father, how on earth is this what you call good?” I know we all have those big questions in our life of, “How could a good God allow bad things?”
During our two miscarriages at the end of a year and a half of trying for a baby it took genuinely all the strength in me to not want to yell at every mom and pregnant woman around me to stop complaining about anything moms complain about (because mumming is very hard and even as someone who wishes more than anyone to be a momma and hold my babies I still recognize it is one of the hardest and most important jobs there is!). I wanted to scream how incredibly lucky they were to get to kiss their baby, to rock them to sleep, to be the one who sees them wake up from every nap, to know what their wailing cry sounds like in the middle of the night. It ate at me like a sickness how hurt I was by person after person who got pregnant not just once, but twice within the timeline of us trying for a baby and losing two. However, when I allowed myself to feel the anger and rage and bitterness it did not help my pain at all. If anything it only made my pain worse because it stopped me feeling my own sorrow and grieving and led me to anger instead.
When I did not activate that discipline of celebrating others, when I decided to sit in my sorrow and feel bad for myself, I would feel hateful things towards those friends and not want to cheer them on. DawnCheré discussed this in her message at The Grove. She realized in the middle of her eight-year journey with infertility that she had a choice. She could choose to cower away, to be bitter in the wait and feel hatred towards all of her family and friends who were able to have multiple children before she could conceive, but instead she learned to choose celebration. She showed up to the baby showers, got the best gifts, loved her friends a little extra who had kids and needed help. She showed up in the art of the discipline of celebration. Because she realized, it is our call to say “This is the day The Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24). She knew she had a good God, with a good plan. She learned the grit of endurance through the discipline of celebration. You see, she learned to invest her time in praise instead of wasting her time. She learned that she did not need a new circumstance, but a new perspective.
Psalm 145:13-21 says, “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. [The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.] The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145 ESV). God opens His hand and “Satisfies the desire of every living thing.”
Yours and my story are the same in the sense that He is writing them and He is a much better storyteller, future planner, and author than any of us could ever be. I just sat in bed crying a few weeks ago before falling asleep because I had seen God’s faithfulness in my waiting season in so many special ways. However, I wasn’t crying over His goodness, but my lack of it. I knew I would have seen His faithfulness in my story so much more if I had been more faithful to listening and learning along the way. When we lean into the wait, when we ask Him for sweet reminders along the way, He gives them. I am leaning further up, further in, while fixing my eyes on Heaven. I am asking for more sweet reminders throughout my day that no matter how bad it gets I can still see His goodness in the land of the living. I will leave you with 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For the light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” God has so much for your story, so much He considered it worth dying for. Do not give up, keep your head up and your heart strong. I am praying that these words give you fresh wind in your sails and the confidence to dream again while you celebrate others dreams coming true. No matter how many dreams get broken in this broken world, Jesus will always be there waiting to remind us He is our number one dream. Here is to breathing dreams like air friends. May you give your lowest for His highest and take on the spiritual discipline of celebration that you were made for!
[i] DawnCheré Wilkerson, The Grove Podcast Episode: May 4th, “This Must Be The Place.” https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/this-must-be-the-place-dawncher%C3%A9-wilkerson/id1441017228?i=1000559564944
[ii] The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey. Page 77. Simon & Schuster 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020. Copyright 1989, 2004. 2020 by Stephen R. Covey.
[iii] The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey. Page 348. Simon & Schuster 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020. Copyright 1989, 2004. 2020 by Stephen R. Covey.
When it comes to father wounds, the actions and deeds of a father can attach themselves to the soul of a woman for her entire lifetime. They have the potential to suck the lifeblood out of her completely, leaving her just a shell of the woman she was intended to be. Periodically, the wounds haunt her like a recurring nightmare, or without warning they set off reactions in her brain and she may find herself blindsided by raw emotions: anger, depression, and grief.
While sitting in a therapy session, this very thing transpired. Not in me—in my counselor. We were separated by a large wooden desk that served as a reminder of the invisible client-counselor boundaries governing our relationship.
Monthly, I paid her so I could pour out my woes like water from a broken faucet. And no matter how devastating my personal accounts were, there was always an emotional barricade—and that desk—between us. She never showed feelings on either end of the continuum, which was fine; I was paying her not to.
On this particular visit I was tackling the subject of my father wounds. “I want to go out on a daddy-daughter date,” I said. “I want to be daddy’s little girl. How can God do that?” At the conclusion of my rant, I watched in amazement as my Christian counselor morphed into a daddy-wounded peer right before my eyes. My words must have triggered an undisclosed place in her heart, because she bulldozed right through the emotional and professional blockades she had erected. Her eyes filled with tears, her cheeks flushed, and she sniffled.
Before I knew it, she was engaged in a full-blown ugly cry, dabbing and wiping her face like it was her session and not mine. What in the world is happening? I thought but didn’t say. Here I was, staring at all of her accolades and accomplishments affixed to the wall, distinguishing her as someone certified to help me overcome my father wounds, and yet she was still dealing with some of her own. I almost got up and bypassed the wooden desk so I could hand her some Kleenex and attempt to console her. I opted not to, committed to the client-counselor boundaries that separated us.
Her response was a reminder: father wounds are absolutely unscrupulous, reducing all of us to little girls still nursing our pain in the bodies of grown women. Here she was, a professional woman and an accomplished author, fixed up and covered up but still wounded. She had an emotional hemorrhage that, to a certain degree, had been kept hidden, but that day my words outed her wounds in grand fashion.
Inadvertently, we return to the age at which we were wounded. Romanced by sorrow and wooed by our ache, we’re tempted to stay there. “Don’t leave,” our sadness says. “I need you,” our pain beckons. And like the lure of a really bad codependent relationship, we find ourselves stuck, addicted to our wounds. I’ve been here more times than I’d like to admit, and I have plenty of T-shirts to prove it.
What about you? How old were you when the sting of what your daddy did left its imprint on our heart? Two? Six? Twelve? Seventeen? How old are you now as you’re grappling with your wounds? It’s crazy to think of ourselves as young girls trapped in the body of a woman, but that’s who we become when we’re wounded, complete with pigtails and frilly socks.
The word of God reminds us that we do not have to remain in this state, stuck and paralyzed at the age we were when we first incurred the wounds. In Psalm 147:3 it says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Although this Scripture is specifically referring to the exiles of Israel, I believe these words are applicable to women with father wounds. In this verse God is reminding us that our pain is not beyond His tremendous power. He is the Great Physician, able to reach into our past and heal our soul.
The Scripture says “He heals,” meaning this healing is ongoing. It is not a onetime deal but rather a supernatural act that can occur over and over in the life of the brokenhearted. For as much and as long as we need healing, God’s compassionate care is available to us.
The Hebrew meaning for the word “brokenhearted” is defined as the inner man: encompassing the mind, will, and emotions. God is capable of healing our unseen places. He not only heals the soul of the broken, but He also binds up our wounds.
This is my favorite part of this Scripture because the word “wounds” is plural. This means it does not matter how many wounds we identify in our lives, whether they are physical, mental, or emotional, God is able to heal them all. We do not have to morph into little girls. God makes it possible for us to not only heal but overcome everyone of our father wounds.
Kia Stephens is the founder of Entrusted Women, which she created to equip Christian women communicators of color. A contributing writer for iBelieve.com, Beloved Women, Proverbs 31 Ministries, and Crosswalk, she is a recurring speaker at She Speaks, the Beloved Women’s Conference, and the Entrusted Women’s Conference.
“I’m afraid,” the tearful young woman told me as we sat in my car. “I know I should be grateful we were able to get pregnant, and I am. But I’m terrified I’m going to be a terrible mother.”
I knew her story; how her childhood in a single parent home was marked by neglect and verbal abuse. I met her when she was eighteen and beginning to embrace a fully surrendered relationship with Christ. She chose to believe God’s truth when He said He loved her. That was enough. He was enough. She was enough. It was beautiful to see the transformation.
Ellie reminded me of a golden sunflower, the way she flourished during her college years. None of her friends were surprised when the man she married said that the first time he saw her he was drawn to her beautiful heart. He said her sense of calm confidence was irresistible.
And it still is.
That’s why it was a surprise when she and I were leaving her baby shower and she tearfully confessed her fear to me. She told me she was so frightened that her heart hurt.
My car was filled with gifts for her baby girl, and around us echoed the many blessings that had been spoken over her. To everyone else that evening she had appeared radiant and ready to step into the next season of her life. None of them would have guessed that deep inside, she was hiding a soul wound.
“A soul wound?” she repeated when I suggested that was the source of her pain. “What do you mean?”
“I think we all have soul wounds from times in our lives when the enemy tries to destroy us.”
I parked in front of her apartment, and we sat together in the stillness of the warm night with the windows open. The only sound was the rustling of the palm trees.
“Some soul wounds heal quickly,” I told her. “Others flare up when triggered, the way fear triggered yours tonight. Those fiery darts, aimed at your heart, need to be removed.”
She turned to me with tears still welling in her eyes.
“I want God to do that. I know He doesn’t give us a spirit of fear. He didn’t shoot the fiery darts at me. I want it to be gone. I want to heal completely.”
I reached for her hand. “Then tell Him.”
We prayed, and there was no doubt that God’s Spirit had done an important work in that moment. He removed the lies. He touched her tender heart, and the healing began. Fear was stripped of its power to torment her over the wounds from her childhood.
“How did you know that was what I needed?” she asked.
“I’ve been where you are. For many years I tried to hide the wounds from my childhood.”
She looked surprised. “I always thought you must have had an ideal childhood. You’re such a good mom. You and your daughter are so close.”
“The closeness I have with my children is the opposite of what I experienced while I was growing up. I was shamed for what I said or did or how I acted. Some awful things happened to me in my teen years, and I never told anyone. I knew I couldn’t say anything to my mom.”
“But you’re like a mom now to so many young women. How did you get there?”
I grinned. “I guess I made good use of my soul wound. I became the mom to my daughter that I always wished I’d had. You’ll do the same. Your relationship with your daughter will be completely different than what you experienced.”
The dim glow of the streetlight seemed to add warmth to our conversation as Ellie leaned against the headrest. We talked about how God gives us beauty for ashes and how He uses the difficult experiences in our lives to strengthen us on the inside so that we can be a help and encouragement to others who go through the same hurts.
Ellie isn’t the only young woman I’ve had this sort of conversation with. I noticed that many of them wanted to talk about the moment in their preteen years when they realized their body was changing. The way their mom did or didn’t come alongside them at the onset of puberty had a deep and lasting effect on how they viewed themselves and their bodies.
One woman in her 50s told me she knew the exact moment when she disconnected from her mom emotionally. It was the morning she woke up and found she’d started her period. She told her mom, and instead of a hug and some help, she was given a five-dollar bill and told to ride her bike to the store for supplies and bring back the change.
“From then on, I figured everything out for myself,” she said. “It took a long time before I let my mother know any of the important things that were happening in my life.”
Another woman told me she had thought she had cancer. I nodded and shared that cancer was my conclusion too. I was ten and had no idea why I was bleeding. When I told my mom, she said, “Don’t you know what that is?” The shame kept me in isolation.
“I felt isolated too,” The woman told me. “I kept my cycle a secret for months because I was so frightened. A girl at school finally told me what was happening, and she and her friends laughed at me for not knowing. After that, I felt I couldn’t trust my mother to protect me or be my go-to source for necessary life information.”
After hearing many similar stories, I decided to be preemptive when my daughter was nine. I set up a special party for the two of us to celebrate that her body would soon do what God created it to do. I explained just enough for her to understand and answered all her curious questions.
When she pulled the tissue paper from her gift bag, she found all the supplies she’d need along with her favorite chocolate, lip gloss, and a few other girly treats.
Our simple afternoon party allowed me to be the one who welcomed my daughter into womanhood. She and I still value that sacred moment. That was the day she leaned into me as her haven. I became the safe place she could always come to.
The pain I carried for so long from my own coming-of-age isolation was healed. Jesus did that. Is the scar still there? Yes. But I no longer feel the hurt.
What about you? Is it time for you to ask God to remove those fiery darts from where the enemy tried to take you down and let the healing begin? You will be amazed at what can happen when you begin to make good use of your soul wounds.
Robin Jones Gunn is the bestselling author of nearly one hundred books with more than 5.5 million copies sold worldwide. Her popular Christy Miller novels continue in the Christy & Todd: The Baby Years series. Robin’s passion for storytelling has taken her around the world—she’s been a keynote speaker in Africa, Brazil, Europe, and Australia as well as in Canada and the US. Among Robin’s nonfiction titles are Victim of Grace and Spoken For, which she coauthored with Alyssa Joy Bethke.
“Stop comparing yourself to other women; including your younger self – she’s another woman.”
These loving words from my husband were spoken as I was crying, yet again, about being unable to lose weight. I was doing “all the right things,” yet the weight refused to budge. And my body shame was just as stubborn.
I have compared my body to the bodies of other girls/women for most of my life. I still remember my third-grade P.E. coach yelling my weight out loud during a “weigh-in” event. I hung my head in shame as I walked back to my seat, mortified because my number was much higher than those of my snickering classmates.
An unspoken competition over weight and appearance drove a wedge between my girlfriends and me for years. (Maybe you’ve been there, too.) Over the years, I’ve learned that body shame, comparison and insecurity are an almost universal experience for women.
During graduate school for my degree in Marriage & Family Therapy, I researched the topic of body image. I conducted a ten-question survey with 138 women, ages 22 to 26, who identified as Christian.
When asked, “Do you like the way your body looks?” 99.98% of the women responded “No”.
The survey also asked women to identify the most significant influence on their view of their bodies. I was sure the top influence would be culture. Yet, although culture did appear on some surveys, the single response shared by almost every respondent was the influence of mothers, aunts, and sisters.
Nearly every respondent had heard moms or other female family members describe how they hated their bodies, needed to lose weight, or were on a new fad diet. One participant summarized how female relatives’ struggles with body image had impacted her: “Comparison is my greatest memory.”
We’ve all contributed to this cycle of body shaming and comparison, haven’t we? We’ve done the best we knew how, so let’s extend grace to ourselves and the other women in our lives. And, beginning today, let’s step into a better way of seeing, valuing and talking about our bodies.
Body comparison is harmful in three distinct ways:
- Comparison robs us of joy. When we are busy comparing ourselves to others, we fail to see who God created us to be.
- Comparison steals our peace. Ecclesiastes 4:4 says; “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind” (NLT). When we spend time comparing our appearance with others, including on social media, we are chasing the wind. We go nowhere and end up both dissatisfied and exhausted.
- Comparison builds a barrier between us and others. If you’ve ever had a friendship end and you didn’t know why, or you just can’t seem to get close to certain people, it might be due to your (or their) imaginary yardstick. I call this a Comparison Yardstick.
In high school, I constantly compared my body to a particular friend’s body because we were built almost identically. If she lost five pounds, I would lose six, and vice versa. That comparison yardstick kept us from growing close because it fueled jealousy, pride, shame, and insecurity. In order to go deeper with the friend, that faulty yardstick needed to be broken.
How to break your Comparison Yardstick:
Recognize: Awareness is the first step to healing. If we aren’t aware of our comparison yardstick, we can’t break free from it. Ask God to reveal the comparison traps you’ve fallen into with others, especially in the area of comparing your body to other women’s bodies.
This checklist of body comparison symptoms may spark awareness:
- You body-check yourself against others.
- You are motivated to change your appearance by looking at photos of fitness models or friends.
- You have a hard time getting close in relationships due to jealousy and insecurity.
- You compare yourself to a younger or different version of yourself.
- You feel bitterness in your heart toward others and are tempted to gossip about them.
- You have an unhealthy idea of your ideal weight or clothing size.
Repent: The result of comparison is death and destruction. We see comparison creep into the garden when Satan tempted Eve (Gen. 3:2–6). Satan had already “fallen” by comparing himself to God, and now he tempted Eve to desire and take what wasn’t intended for her. Eve was vulnerable because she forgot that she already had everything she needed.
Comparison fuels envy, pride, shame and insecurity. But we can ask for forgiveness from God as well as anyone we have harmed. You’ll discover that your Comparison Yardstick loses its power once you identify your real Enemy and remember that Christ has provided all you need.
Rejoice: Both Eve and Jesus wrestled with temptation in a garden. Eve’s garden moment ended in sin and shame. Jesus’ garden moment ended in the defeat of the Enemy and in victory. And Jesus’ victory on the cross empowers us to resist envy and comparison in all areas of life.
In our own strength, we might never find victory over body comparison, but through Christ all things are possible. Nothing stops comparison more quickly than thanking God for how He made each of our bodies uniquely. Next time you notice comparison sneaking in, stop and pray a blessing over that person.
Rejoicing releases pride, restores our joy, and blesses our friends.
Embracing the body you actually have begins with recognizing you are made in the image of God. This fact doesn’t change with seasons, sizes, or shapes!
Remember how my husband invited me to stop comparing my current body to my younger self? He helped me realize I was comparing my current body, which had borne children, undergone surgery and run marathons, to the body I had at age 15. That impossible Comparison Yardstick was robbing me of the joy of my current season. It was blinding me to the amazing things my body had done over the past decade. It also drove a wedge between me and the other women in my life.
Today, I am letting go of comparison and embracing the one and only body I will ever call home. I am praying that you will too, dear sister. Regardless of size or shape or season of life, may you experience your body as a uniquely good gift from a loving God.
When my graduate-school survey asked women, “Do you believe you were made in God’s image?”, an astounding 99 percent answered yes. Yet most followed it with a statement like, “I know it in my head, but I want to believe it in my heart.” If you struggle with truly believing you are made in God’s image, I invite you to try this Mirror gratitude technique I use in group therapy for body image.
Use these prompts to create your own masterpiece:
- What do you see when you look in the mirror? Write all the things that come to mind on your mirror.
- Strike through any negative attributes, and ask God what He sees instead.
- Highlight or circle any positive attributes. Ask God to show you why He designed you that way.
- Do you see Jesus reflected in your image?
- Meditate on the following verses to embrace how God sees you.
- “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be greatly praised.” (Prov. 31:30)
- “The unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit … is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Pet. 3:4)
- “Outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16)
- “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isa. 40:8)
- “People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)
- “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Eccl. 3:11)
- Your new self is being renewed in the image of your Creator. (Col. 3:10)
Rachael Gilbert, MMFT, is a trauma-informed therapist, the author of Image Restored: Tear Down Shame and Insecurity to Experience a Body Image Renovation, and the podcast host of Real Talk with Rachael. Rachael combines her clinical expertise and personal experience to help women overcome fear and insecurity to walk confidently in their God-given dreams. Rachael and her husband Matt are the owners of BBC Health. They live near Dallas, TX, with their three children. www.rachaelgilbert.com