There is more pressure than ever to have the “perfect resume” that we think we need. We take perfect instagram photos, we have aesthetic filters, we post highlights of our life, and we criticize ourselves over all the small details. While having an aesthetic instagram is not a bad thing, always having a filtered and perfect life on the outside can be. Do you have a place where you take that filter off and you are real, raw, and honest? Do you run to Jesus real, raw, and honest?
When I was in middle school I went with my church to evangelize on the streets in California. One of the first questions we asked the people we would meet was, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?” Some would say yes but most would say, “Well if Jesus knows what I have done he doesn’t love me like you think,” or “Not after what I have done.” This has stuck with me after all these years because I remember my middle school heart was broken knowing that people did not think that Jesus loved them. Sometimes we think we need to have that perfect resume, filters on, and the perfect aesthetic to be loved. We think “if only they knew what I have done they would not love me.” What if I told you that is the farthest thing from the truth? What if the very thing you are scared of uncovering is what is going to make others love you more deeply? The scar that you are trying to cover up could be the very thing someone needs to see in order for them to have hope and healing for their open wound.
I am sure you have heard to Sunday school song about Zacchaeus,
“Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
And a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see.
And as the Savior passed that way
He looked up in the tree and he said,
Zacchaeus you come down,
For I’m going to your house today!
For I’m going to your house today!”
Zacchaeus was not only a “wee little man,” but he was seen as one of the most disliked people of this time. He was a tax collector and tax collectors were not liked. Not only did he collect everyone’s taxes but he became rich by collecting money unfairly and overtaxing the people. Why would Jesus want to go to his house of all the people in the crowd? A man who was unfair and selfish yet Jesus chose to go to his house? Jesus does not look for the perfect resume to show love. Jesus sits with everyone. Jesus knew if he could get Zacchaeus to drop his walls he could love Zacchaeus deeper. Jesus is waiting for you to drop your walls too. He loves you and wants to see the real you. He knows your sins, the wrongs, and still loves you. He wants to be let into your house too.
The same can be said with our relationship with others too. When I was growing up I was always desiring more from my friendships. I was never satisfied and I felt like I would never find “my people.” If you desire deeper relationships there has to be deeper conversations. I realized that the issue is not always the people I had in my life (which sometimes it is) but the depth of the conversations. If you have surface level conversations you will have surface level friendships. It is hard to drop your walls but it is so worth it when you drop them to the right people. If you drop your walls it gives others the opportunity to drop their walls too. The more transparency you can be in relationships, the more you will connect with others. When there is realness and honesty with people in your life everyone can learn how to serve each other better. We should look at relationships with the attitude of “how can I serve and help you right now?” This is something that the couple months of marriage I have learned is so important. Being real and honest with each other and being able to serve the people in our lives is such a gift.
It is awesome to see people be real and raw on social media now too. The unfiltered photos, the vulnerability, I think it provides us all with a sense of relief and hope. I think it is also something to be careful about though. I remember when I was first vulnerable on instagram I had made this long post about having an eating disorder in hope to encourage someone else. I posted it and immediately had friends texting me. I had not even told some of my closest friends what I was struggling with but I posted it for thousands of strangers to read? It is so important, especially in a place of hard times and hurt, that we run to Jesus first. Next we run to our friends and family for prayers and guidance. Then when the wound has healed and you have a testimony of God’s hope and healing that is when we share on social media if you feel called to.
We were called to have deep connections. In Proverbs 27 verse 17 it talks about how iron sharpens iron and as friends we are to also sharpen each other. A friend speaks truth to you in order to help you live out who God called you to be. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable with a friend. A true God loving friend will strive to do anything they can to help you overcome and reach your full potential.
If you are thinking I do not even have people to be honest with, seek them. Seeking friendships through church, your community, social media, and even work can be intimidating but it is worth it. Sometimes you may have to be the one that starts the conversation or asks to hangout and that is okay. Ask first. Seek intentionally. Be real. Serve eachother. Be the friend that Jesus calls us to be.
Taking off the filter can be hard but our beauty and worth come from Jesus not some perfect resume we try to portray.
Kassidy cheered in college at Navarro College and is now a personal trainer while using fitness to lead others to Christ. She strives to encourage women to be confident in who God created them to be. She lives in Texas currently and loves cooking, working out, flowers, and boba!
Follow Kassidy on Instagram @kassidy.brougham
When we are in the busy years of motherhood, life can feel so overwhelming. We barely make it to the end of the day without bursting into tears, and it feels like reaching out to others takes too much energy. And maybe it does. But it can also give us energy, relief, and encouragement to keep going.
Social support systems have benefits that are so far-reaching they actually prolong life. Such “villages” used to be common. Now, our villages are spread out across the country and maybe even the world, and we chat with them on our phones. And that’s okay too. But not if that takes the place of real-life relationships.
I follow a popular author who seems to have the most amazing friends and family around her. She frequently posts about those in her life who always seem to show up when she needs them. They make meals. They watch her kids. They buy her thoughtful gifts and are there when she needs a shoulder to cry on. They listen and give advice at just the right times.
Once I saw a comment on one of her threads that gave me a light-bulb moment. The person said something like, “I’m so glad you have amazing friends and family, but the rest of us don’t, so this all feels a bit braggy.”
There is nothing more discouraging than feeling alone—alone in your struggle, alone in your situation, alone in your home. When you have babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, the days are so long. And while the little ones can give amazing hugs and cuddles, you may often feel starved for grown-up conversation.
Caring for our little ones takes up most of our time and energy. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. But it’s in these years that we’d most benefit from help, support, and friendship. And because most of us live life online instead of in the local community, we don’t even know how to get it.
As I’ve wrestled with that dilemma, I’ve discovered a few approaches that have led to rich friendships.
Think outside the age box
One friend who helped me through cancer treatment, Sheryl, is about ten years older than me. She went through breast cancer when she was my age. And another two times since then. When I felt scared or panicked, I could reach out to her. Sheryl would listen—sometimes come over—and point me back to the Lord. She was someone I could rely on and reach out to when I felt bad. Her support was life-giving.
Friends don’t have to be your same age or in the same life stage. In fact, if you’re a mom of young kids, it may be hard to find a mom your age for support because you are both likely to be strung out and exhausted.
This is a great time to make friendships with older women who don’t have little ones underfoot. They have more time and remember the challenges of the stage you are in. These women can offer their perspective, wisdom, and practical help. Seek them out in your church. Be vulnerable about your struggles.
Think local first
When you are going through something and need to talk with someone, start locally. Instead of immediately reaching out to a friend across the country, reach out to someone near you, someone you may run into this week.
Forget about how your house looks, and invite that person over. Schedule the visit for when your little ones are down for a nap so you can concentrate on your time together. Or invite this person over after the kids are in bed. If you don’t purposefully cultivate relationships with people near you, you won’t have any.
When our schedule permits, we’ll invite a family over for dinner and a swim. We choose an easy meal and let the kids play outside so there’s no mess to clean up later. Thinking easy instead of elaborate means it’ll actually happen.
People who are real feel safe to others. Even if you don’t agree with everything they do or say, you can relax when you’re with them. Be this type of person. Forget about looking good, sounding good, or performing. That is vanity and doesn’t fool anyone.
If you’re sad, be sad. If you’re angry, be angry. If you’re discouraged, ask for encouragement. If you want to cry, cry. If you are about to drown, ask someone to throw you a life preserver.
Pray you’ll run into someone who can encourage you. Believe that God hears your prayers and answers them. If you don’t think prayer works, it’s because you haven’t done it enough. Scripture says, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2, esv). So ask.
Find a church or a mom’s group. If you behave authentically, you’ll attract others who do the same. Go to your pastor or small group leader and say, “I can’t take it anymore. Do you know anyone who might be able to help me this week?” Be specific. You need help; this isn’t the time to hold back. When you find someone with the desire to help, talk to them for as long as you can. Tell the kids to be quiet and wait; they will be okay. They will learn patience.
Be a friend to have a friend
If all else fails and you feel disconnected, love others first. Find out who needs help in your area, and give it to them. Look for a mother who is worn out, and make or bring her some food.
If you know a family in your church or neighborhood that is struggling financially and you are not, pay some of their bills anonymously. Get them gift cards to the grocery store. If you don’t currently have extra funds, you can at least drop off an encouraging note. If you see something you know would lift someone’s spirits, bring it to them. Give time, attention, and love to others. Even if they don’t pay you back immediately—or ever—you will feel encouraged.
You will feel connected. You will feel alive. You will truly understand on a deeper level that it is better to give than to receive (see Acts 20:35), and in giving, you will receive some balm for your weary soul.
Adapted from If Mama Ain’t Happy: Why Minding Your Own Boundaries Is Good for the Whole Family by Rachel Norman. Copyright © 2022. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
We all mess up. Sometimes we give in to frustration or a buried mean streak and say things we wish we hadn’t. Sometimes we become so focused on ourselves and our own lives that we forget to think about our friends. I have been annoyed by a friend’s comment and replied with unwarranted snark. I have initiated gossip about a friend just because I wanted to share my thoughts and personal judgments. I have hurt friends by forgetting important dates.
Once a friend came over to catch up, and as we talked and laughed, she paused and said, “Hey, I don’t want to bring this up, but you forgot my birthday. And I don’t really need presents or a big celebration, but you didn’t even text me. I expect that from some of my other friends, but not you. And it hurt my feelings.”
Ugh! I was just torn up. But I was also so proud of my friend for owning her hurt feelings and being bold enough to confront me. I needed to be bold in return: to own what I did and apologize.
“I am beyond sorry,” I said. “You are so important to me. I love celebrating birthdays, and I would never miss an opportunity to celebrate you, but I just forgot. It wasn’t in my calendar, and I didn’t get one of those helpful Facebook notifications. I just forgot, and I am sorry it hurt your feelings. It wasn’t intentional. Could you remind me of the date? It’s going in my calendar right now so I never forget again.”
I brought her a gift the next time I saw her because I love giving gifts. And because I wanted to right the wrong. I cared about this friend, and I wanted her to know I valued her despite my forgetfulness.
Own what you did. Own your pain and responsibility to speak up, like my friend did. When we admit our friendship flaws, we display how much we value the friendship over our own pride. Because a good friendship isn’t about being right in the situation, it’s about finding a way to reconcile the wrongs.
If you’re the one who got hurt, know that sometimes you need to let an offense go, knowing that it was not personal or that your friend was having a bad day or simply didn’t realize their behavior was hurtful. But sometimes you do need to address the issue—preferably by talking through the issue in person, removing as many barriers to misunderstanding one another as possible. A great posture to take is to stand with your friend, not against her. Picture yourself standing side-by-side with her and working through the hard things together (versus standing opposite from her). Your togetherness is more important than your “otherness.” You want to be on her side, to understand her hurt, to give her the benefit of the doubt, with a “we are on the same team” mentality.
When the wounds feel fresh, taking a step back to reevaluate the safety of your friendship can be healthy. You need time to rebuild trust. As author Van Moody wrote in The People Factor, “Regardless of the many reasons for a separation, we sometimes need to ask or allow someone who has been a valuable or even vital part of our lives to leave the relationship because a once-positive association has become negative.” When a friend fails to see the hurt they have caused, sometimes attempting to reconnect too soon only leaves you feeling anxious. There’s a difference between befriending a bully and learning to forgive a friend for a mean comment. Don’t confuse the two. It’s not wise or safe to entrust your heart to someone who is uninterested in treating it well. This would be the beginning steps toward an unhealthy, toxic friendship. Even though you had the intention of staying friends through thick and thin, taking a break from regular, intimate conversation gives you the opportunity to discern which direction this friendship is heading—positively or negatively.
We can choose to be a better friend because someone has been a bad one. Remembering what those negative experiences were like, we can take mean-girl moments and turn them into meaningful connection:
· For all the moments you didn’t belong, choose to invite that girl sitting by herself.
· For all the times someone said something mean about the way you look, say five kind things to someone else.
· For all the evenings you sat at home feeling left out, make plans for a girls’ night.
· For all the lonely days you wish you had someone to talk to, create trust and invite deep conversation with your roommate.
· For all the seasons you have struggled to find healthy community, remember that God has placed women in your local community who are genuine, friendly, and kindhearted.
And if the only thing that came out of a bad friendship experience was drawing you closer to God, then that alone is still profoundly good. God’s loving-kindness is waiting for you in the middle of every hurt. God doesn’t let mean-girl moments go unseen or unredeemed.
In addition to fighting mean-girl culture; we should also reflect on how our words affect the quality of our friendships.
Our tongue, though it may be the smallest part of our bodies, can do serious damage to our friendships. James says it best: “With it [our tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” One minute we are friendly to our friend’s face, and the next moment, we are jealous for
something she posted about herself on social media. We are tempted to screenshot it and send it to another friend in hopes that she will join us in judging that other friend mercilessly behind her back. I know I’ve been guilty of it.
As women who love Jesus, we cannot spread rumors or condone words that put others down. It is contradictory to who we are in Jesus and calls into question if we truly know how loved we are by God—because if we did, we would do everything we can to hold up our sisters in Christ and draw women to the faith who do not yet know the kindness of God. We want our words to reflect the positive work God is doing in us, for “whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” Abiding in the light of God gives us the security to shine a light on others. Our words of praise and encouragement are not ingenuine when we know God has made each of us for a specific purpose . . . and that we achieve these things better together. Instead of relying on mean-spirited acts to make you feel more important, you can create a safe space for everyone to feel known and accepted as they are—assured they can be their true selves without the fear of being teased. Supporting each other protects the vulnerability it takes for us to grow meaningful connection.
Taken from Together Is a Beautiful Place: Finding, Keeping, and Loving Our Friends by Bailey T. Hurley. Copyright ©2022. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.
Bailey T. Hurley is everyone’s favorite community cheerleader. She encourages women to pursue a faithful relationship with God so they can build fruitful friendships in their corner of the world. She has written on the topic of friendship and faith for publications like She Reads Truth, Salvation Army’s Peer Magazine and Grit and Virtue. She also loves podcasts! You can find her chatting all about friendship on Sally Clarkson’s podcast Life with Sally, Kristin Schell’s podcast At the Turquoise Table, and a dozen more.
WHAT. A. WEEKEND.
Our 2022 Ambassador Retreat was such a special time. While many people did not know each other kicking off on Friday, we hugged each other close on Sunday, amazed by how close and known we felt by each other.
Friday night was so sweet! Around fifty ambassadors from all over the country were flying and driving, through snow storms, to West Monroe and getting to know each other as they settled into their cabins.
One of the highlights, besides our delicious dinner, was when the girls played the game Nitty Gritty together. If you don’t know what this game is, you need to! It is way too much fun to miss out on! Picture this: a bunch of girls on teams competing to sing the best country tunes, trying three shoes of different sizes together, or burping the alphabet! There truly is no limit to what could happen or how much we could laugh. It really bonded us! We wish our whole LO Sister fam could have been there and played!
One special moment was when Sadie, Court, and Steph (the original Team LO) opened the floor for a Q&A with the ambassadors about all things having to do with starting a ministry, sustaining the vision, challenges along the way, lessons learned, and everything in between. There was a powerful moment when Sadie talked about how her mission for this ministry, to be sisters and friends, came from a time when she didn’t have any friends at all. As she realized how full-circle it is that she was currently having a Q&A at a retreat for women to become better sisters and friends after once feeling completely alone and confused, she wept. Her original vision, founded out of a place of loneliness, had come to life and was before her eyes. I think everyone in the room was crying with her, and the tender Spirit of the Lord was there, as He always has been. All of our eyes were opened to how much the Lord has been working in this mission and how much He continues to.
Saturday morning was filled with crisp winter air, but our tummies were filled with Two Mama’s warm homemade pancakes! They were insanely yummy.
After we fueled up for the day, we drove over to the LO office where girls got to write their best piece of advice on the WHOA That’s Good advice wall. We also had a time of worship with Chidima Ubah from Passion Music! It was such an honor to have Chidima see the value of this retreat and fly all the way down to Louisiana to lead us into God’s presence.
Sadie’s soon-to-be sister-in-law, Maia Billman, gave an amazing word. Get this – it was her first time speaking and she was incredible! Filled with God’s wisdom, she spoke with authenticity, conviction, and encouragement. Here are some of the main takeaways from her talk that we want to share with you:
Do not conceal. Proclaim!
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
We are really good at going, but what are we doing when we go?
Proclaim the fullness of what God has done and is doing in your life!
- We don’t need to proclaim perfectly. We have a fear of proclaiming the fullness of God, because that means we have to share where we have been. Thank goodness Jesus died for us to be made new! Because of God, I am no longer in bondage to addiction, lust, jealousy, comparison, slander, gossip, judgment, sexual immorality. I once was but look what He has done!
- Call others into proclaiming!
We headed back to the camp for a fun group workout led by Sadie’s personal trainer. The intention of this time was to put into practice what it looks like to workout for the health and well-being of your body and make it FUN! It’s safe to say we woke up the next morning a little sore….
After a time of rest, Saturday night came and let me tell you, the Lord MOVED. We began with a time of powerful worship led by Reeves and Kaylea (LO Worship), as well as Chidima. Tears were flowing.
Sadie gave a powerful talk about being anointed right NOW, regardless of what you have or where you are. Speaking out of 1 Samuel, she talked about how David was anointed and the Spirit of the Lord fell on him, but he didn’t immediately become king. No opportunity immediately opened up. He actually went back to being with the sheep. But the skills he learned as a shepherd, such as using a slingshot as his main weapon of defense, were what led him to confidently killing Goliath.
She spoke about how you do not have to promote yourself to the world or even to God. God is the one who anointed you and He will provide next steps and opportunities at the right time. The things David was doing
during his time being a shepherd, such as practicing playing his music in private, were what led him to ultimately be asked to play in the palace. And after he played music in the temple, he didn’t become king right away. Do you know what he did? He went back to the sheep! Don’t underestimate the power of what God is teaching and building in you right now. How you use your time when you are in a private season will greatly affect your readiness and confidence when God leads you into a public season.
It was an amazing message that encouraged us to stay faithful to what he has set before us right now and be confident in the fact that God is moving in us today, even if it doesn’t feel like it. She prompted everyone to reflect with these three questions:
What is your “why” question that you are asking God? This could be “why am I still a shepherd when you’ve anointed me to lead worship?” or “why do I live here instead of there?”
What do you feel called to be faithful in? What in this season where you have been placed, do you feel called to be diligent?
How has God been intentional throughout your life? Sadie showed videos of her as a young child preaching and having a little talk show that then led to videos of her today preaching and on her podcast. God had been preparing her her entire life for the calling she has. Where do you see this in your own life? Search the little parts of your life from the time you were a child to now. You will be amazed and inspired.
That night, we surprised the girls with an amazing Galentine’s party, full of cookie-decorating, massages, popcorn, candy, dancing, and massages. It was pretty insane.
That about sums up our weekend! It was such a special time and we continue to be amazed by how God is moving through our Ambassadors and LO Sister.
If you want to be a part of this amazing community, join LO Sister here 🙂 Can’t wait to see you there, friend!
Friend! Today is the day. I finally get to share my new devotional, Live On Purpose, with all of you! This book is full of both biblical truth and stories that have shaped my life, and I pray they do the same for you. Snag your copy here for some daily doses of encouragement!
Now, I hope you enjoy this devotional from day 15 of Live On Purpose:
And God said to Noah, “. . . Make yourself an ark of gopherwood.”
(Genesis 6:13–14 nkjv)
Revelation and realization might look and sound like similar words, but there’s a big difference in what they mean. A revelation is something that you’re suddenly aware of—like you suddenly become aware of what God wants you to do with your life (or at least part of it). A realization is when God makes that revelation actually happen.
Chances are, you will have a revelation of what God wants you to do before you see the realization of what He is going to do.
Think about Noah. God gave him a revelation: “You need to build a boat.” Noah listened. He acted on that revelation and started building. And I bet he had some learning and training to do before he figured out exactly how to build that boat. When the rains started, Noah saw that God used the boat to save humankind and the animals. That’s when the realization happened.
For me, I had a revelation that God wanted me to go on tour and speak to people about Him. Maybe I’d call it Live Original, but I wasn’t sure. Back then, I never thought it would be what God has grown it to be. I never thought I’d speak at the Passion Conferences, go on to start a podcast, and spend every day working on content to preach, write, and encourage people in their faith.
That first revelation, though, was strong enough for me to know that I needed to start training and learning. I needed to stop listening to some of the music I was listening to, and I needed to stop watching some of the shows and movies I gave my time to. I needed to start digging deep into Scripture and saturate my life with the Word of God. I wouldn’t know the Bible stories I know today if I had not spent that time in the Word— after I had the revelation, but before I had the realization.
When God gives you a revelation, that’s your cue to ask Him to start teaching you what you need to know before you get to the realization. As He teaches and trains you, you’ll not only learn what you need to know; you’ll also learn to trust the Lord who leads you. And He’ll lead you right into the purpose He has for your life.
A prayer for you: Holy Father, open my eyes to see Your revelation for my life. Then teach me and train me so that I will be ready for the realization. Amen.
Be sure to order your copy today!
Community. Some of you might be reading this right now thinking there’s no hope in having this. But here’s the truth, friend. You could. You could dig into a local church. You could build a spiritual family. You could have friendships. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Living on mission and fighting the devil with the greatest weapon that we have which is each other. You could have people that make you love God more around you a year from now. And I promise you, you matter for the Kingdom of God.
We all come from a context. We all come from a story. We all come from struggles. I have yet to sit across from someone at coffee long enough that they don’t eventually cry. It’s like my superpower. Sit there long enough and I will make you cry. And the reason why is because somewhere in the depths of every single one of us are thoughts, insecurities, fears, anxiety. Am I alone when I say my anxiety has been worse in the last year than it has been in 10? I didn’t prepare a message for you. I prayed for what God had to say to you. Because the truth is, we don’t need a show. We need healing, powerfully, in the places that we’ve never shared. And I can’t make that happen. So here is my prayer to the One who can:
Jesus, you are here. There were prayers prayed that the enemy would have no foothold here. So, you are here and the enemy is not. This is a safe place because you are God. You know the innermost parts of us and you know us and love us. And you want more for us. That we would live so free that other people want you. God would you show us the parts that we love more than you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
I’m going to ask you to pull out a notebook. I want you to be as honest as you can with this. What I believe is that until we’re honest with ourselves it’s really hard to change. So, let’s start here:
- What are you longing for?
- What are you grieving?
- What are you anxious about?
Once you’re done, find someone and tell them the hardest answers to share. I guarantee you’ll get a head nod. Because we are all in the struggle together.
Here are a few of the things people say they’re longing for: a Godly husband, to feel worthy, loved, and purposeful, clarity in the unknown of life, Godly friendships, strength.
People are grieving for: past sins and brokenness, broken relationships, unknowns.
People are anxious about: failing as a mother, changes, inability to turn from sins.
We are really good at recognizing these things. But I’m afraid it’s because life has not been easy for us. And there is a lot going on in our heads that’s heavy and even sometimes toxic. My kids started school this week and for the first time, on the back of the card they have to wear around their necks, the school added the number to call if you’re tempted to commit suicide. There is a war for your generation unlike any generation before. The enemy got a bunch of weapons in this generation. The internet, anxiety, isolation. Then there’s a constant stream of pressure being thrown at you every single minute. And you need to know that’s not how people have always lived. Three in five people describe themselves as lonely. We are the most anxious and lonely generation documented.
I spent a portion of my life studying the brain and I loved it. In the last 20 years they’ve learned more about the brain than they have in 2,000 years. And what we know about the brain is that we can change our thoughts. If you didn’t already know that, it’s great news. So, I wrote this book called Get Out of Your Head and a lot of people read it. It’s been amazing and lives have been changed. But it’s funny because I keep hearing this theme. Why do I fall back even though I know I have God-given power over my thoughts? Why do I fall back into anxiety, depression, doubt, and self-loathing? Why do I fall back into these patterns still even though I know the truth? Which is that we can “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Why do I fall back into it?
So, I spent the last two years of my life looking at what is called the greatest weapon which God has given us outside of His word to fight the enemy. The brain. Let me tell you about the enemy. Great battlefield is the brain, especially to a lot of you who feel isolated right now. If you’re alone in the dark with the devil, he can tell you whatever the heck he wants. And guess who he is? Jesus said it five different ways in a few verses in John 8. Most defining characteristic: Liar.
“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
Alone in the dark with the devil, who’s a liar. Why do we keep going back to that dark place? Whatever it is that the devil has been telling us, it’s time we know that it’s the devil. And if the devil has been luring you to empty cisterns that are never going to fill you, then it’s time we call things what they are. Now, let’s stop talking about what the enemy’s trying to do and start talking about what God wants to do.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:6-11)
This is a good story. And in many ways, I believe we’re telling it well. But I also believe that if the enemy gets us alone in the dark, we’ll forget that story and end up living for another one that won’t last long. How do we change? That is the question. We will always be people that grieve and worry about things. Honestly, there is plenty to worry about in today’s society. But we are not in bondage to those things.
So, what does it look like to live free? I love this story that Peter painted. He gets it. He understands how we need to live. But he also gets grace. And he also gets that he is never going to obey God all by himself. There was a reason Jesus didn’t just pick Peter. There’s a reason He didn’t just go with Peter into the sunset. He brought a whole entourage. Jesus could have shown up on stage with a microphone and the Spirit come out and all the people’s lives change. Why did He gather a posse? Because Jesus didn’t just come to die for our sins. He came to show us how to live.
And you wonder why life feels so hard. Let’s go back to this question: How do we change? When I did the neuro research I learned this.
Our brains have emotions which move into thoughts, then behaviors, then relationships, then consequences. And it feels like this circle that sometimes you can’t get off. And Proverbs would say, “For as a man thinketh within himself, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)
Let me give you a little bit of brain science here. 80% of what people think about is negative. 95% is repetitive from the day before. We are thinking the same dark thoughts minute after minute until the devil can sit down and fold his hands because our thoughts are on repeat. But the interesting thing about the brain is that we can actually interrupt thoughts.
The way I do it is reminding myself that I have a choice. I don’t have to dwell on this negative thing. I can interrupt the thought. Now, the last two years a lot of people were reading the Bible in the midst of Covid and I got a lot of messages asking, “Why can I still not change? Science and scriptures say we can.”
“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)
It seems that our mind can change everything. Except, where are we when we’re in our thoughts? All alone. If you know anything about the Bible it’s all about people who mess up. People who love God and who are angry at Him. People hurting people. And yet, how do people change? Jesus. I guarantee there are plenty of you reading this who love Jesus and are still anxious. This past week I went on a retreat where, to my surprise, there was a counselor. It was difficult, but I shared that all my life I have felt like I am nothing. A storyline I picked up by the age of 12. A road that led to an eating disorder and self-condemning thoughts. All I wanted to know is that what I was doing mattered to God.
But during this retreat, my life changed. Because it turns out, we don’t need all the right answers. We need people sitting in the hard with us. By the end of my share time at retreat, I was in a ball crying and repeatedly saying, “I feel so much pressure. I just wanna quit.” Something in my soul was held by Jesus through people. The assumption of the Bible is that we’d be doing life with people. Yet, we’re more isolated than we’ve ever been. There is a war for us. And the enemy wants nothing more than cause you to check out from the purposes God has for you. God has a beautiful picture to paint for us. But it’s not easy, because the very place we’re supposed to find healing, for most of us is the very place we found hurt. And it’s not easy when God calls us to go back to the places of brokenness to find healing. Jesus wants healing for you.
We’re at war and we’re all fighting alone. But we don’t have to. Longings, griefs, and worries. What do we do with them until heaven? Share them. That is the easiest line to say but hardest to live. We share them with each other so that we can carry them together. However, it’s hard to need people. We change with interruptions. We change by sharing our lives with people that love us. If you’re reading this and saying, “I’m the loneliest of all and I’ve tried this and it has not worked.” I’m going to tell you another one-liner that is very simple. Try again. And if it fails, try again and again. My friend on the retreat said, “We come into the world looking for someone looking for us.” This is where the Gospel gets so sweet. We have a God who chased us down from heaven to earth and went to the cross. And what he got out of it is us, because he loves and cares for us. And the story of God is that we have an enemy, but we have an army fighting with us and for us. The problem is, we don’t let people fight for us. We think all these thoughts and never say them out loud. So no one can fight for us. But this is the moment that changes. The light doesn’t stream in until you open the door.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have it all figured out. You say the thoughts, and that is being free. Let people fight for you. Are you missing the story God has for your life because you don’t have teammates to run with you? We need those people to remind us there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus. But guess what? They’ll still hurt you. And because of the blood of Jesus you forgive them anyway.
We need community. It’s not about not being lonely. It’s about not missing the few years we have here and what God wants to accomplish through you. It’s not easy, but I promise you it makes life so much better.
He wants to set you free. He doesn’t want you to be alone in the dark with the devil. He wants you to burst out into the light with people who know Him too. He has a plan and it is good. Trust in Him.
Jennie is an Arkansas native but Texan forever, Bible teacher, author, and the founder and visionary of IF:Gathering. A passionate leader following God’s call on her life to catalyze this generation to live what they believe, Jennie is the author of Restless, Anything, Nothing to Prove, and her most recent book Get Out of Your Head. Her Bible studies include Stuck, Chase, Restless, and Proven. Jennie has a master’s in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and teammate, Zac, and their four children, Conner, Kate, Caroline, and Cooper.
Follow Jennie on Instagram @jenniesallen