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
For the friend that feels divided in a million different ways, this post is for you. For the weary soul that feels like you’ve lost your passion for the things that once gave you life, this is for you. For those white knuckling your way through your days thinking it will just get better if you get through your to-do lists, this is for you.
Let’s talk about what it means to be whole.
This is a topic that is so close to my heart because anything I share today is such a personal part of my story. Things God is teaching me. Things God is ironing out in my life right now. And I want to invite you today to join me in a deep hunger to live a wholehearted life for God.
I want you to close your eyes. Clear your mind. Think back to a time, maybe it was yesterday, last week, five years ago, when you were five, but think about a time you truly felt alive. A time you felt wholehearted. Don’t overcomplicate it. Think about where you were. Think about who you were with. What were you doing? What were you thinking about? What were you NOT thinking about? What were you not worried or anxious about that you might be struggling with now? How present were you?
Now open your eyes.
Friend, whatever that moment was for you, I want you to realize the holiness of that moment. I want you to see that the state you were in, that’s God heart for you. Not the anxiousness and half-heartedness you might find yourself in. It doesn’t mean all our moments will be like that one, but the beauty of a life lived with Jesus is that there is a peace that surpasses our circumstances. A wholeness of heart that can transcend our broken situations.
I think for too long we have been letting our circumstances determine the way we live wholeheartedly. This IS not God’s heart for us.
If we want to be wholehearted, we have to know and have a true understanding and love for the Father’s heart.
When we know the Father’s heart for us, everything changes.
Most of you know King David. He was the appointed King of Israel from the tribe of Judah. He was an unassuming shepherd who God chose to use in mighty ways. In humility toward God, he accomplished great things in his life, check it out:
- A humble leader – and from him we get the phrase “man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
- A fierce warrior, to the point he had songs sung about him in battle.
- He killed Goliath – enough said.
- He escaped death countless times and then extending mercy to those who tried to kill him.
- He is the writer of most of the Psalms (think NYT best-selling author and top Christian Album on Apple… no big deal.)
And don’t get me wrong, David also had a past. He was a murderer and an adulterer, but still God saw David as a “man after his own heart.” If anything, this points to the goodness of the unconditional love of a Father.
And the Lord makes a covenant with David that he IS the rightful king of Israel, and that his throne will be established forever.
David had many children but one of his children was Solomon.
And one of the greatest tasks of David’s life was to prepare for a temple to be made for the Lord’s presence. He was old in age, so God charged Solomon to build it.
David knew as a Father that he had to prepare everything for Solomon to be able to pull this thing off:
“David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore, I will make preparations for it.” So David made extensive preparations before his death.” (1 Chronicles 22:5)
He prepared every stone, gold, silver, bronze, iron, all workers, all positions, musicians, gatekeepers (security), treasurers, military, and every single other thing he would need.
Maybe you need to hear that today, that your Heavenly Father prepares for you exactly what you’ll need to accomplish what He has called you to.
David did it ALL.
And at the very end of his life, he gives a monumental speech and prayer to the people of Israel and to his son.
If you’ve ever seen someone at the end of their life, you know that they use their words wisely. We should all pay attention to this charge.
He prays this prayer for his son and God’s people:
“O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.” 1 Chronicles 29:16-19
What a beautiful prayer. Solomon doesn’t pray that God would make his son rich, established, or “successful”, but wholly sincere and dedicated to God. That’s the good news – that we have a God that just asks us to be whole. Not perfect, but whole. See there’s a difference.
Perfection is about achievement.
Wholeness is about giving what you have.
Perfection is all about the end result.
Wholeness is about the journey.
Perfection is about pride.
Wholeness is about humility.
David didn’t need his son to be perfect, He just needed him to give all that he had knowing that God would sustain him. Knowing that the good work he had begun in him, HE would bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).
Hopefully right about now if you appreciate a good story, you’re asking the question, well… did he? Did Solomon remain wholehearted?
Here’s the bad news…. no, he did not. He did for a while, but he didn’t stay dedicated to the one hope that God had for him. And it’s interesting because there are three main factors that drew him away from wholeheartedness that I believe God wants us to be aware of as a warning so that we might resist the schemes of the enemy.
Let me break this down.
1. He loved the things of the world more than the things of God.
Solomon does what was commanded of him, he built the temple, he asked for wisdom, and things seemed to be going well. The people were happy. And then there’s a shift.
Because God blessed Solomon’s reign, the riches and honor came flooding in and with that, Solomon shifted from worshipping God to allowing others, and eventually himself, to become to object of his worship.
He loved that people came to him for wisdom, the wisdom given to him by God. (1 Kings 10:24)
He loved the gifts more than the Giver and kept them for himself. (1 Kings 10:25)
He loved receiving glory and status more than giving all the glory to God. (1 Kings 10:18-21)
2. He let the wrong voices be the loudest voices.
Over time, Solomon acquired many wives of foreign women who worshipped other gods. These voices, the closest voices to him, because the loudest voices in his life. (1 Kings 11:1-4)
Before you think this isn’t relatable, don’t underestimate the power of even one relationship having a huge impact on your wholeheartedness. Some of you might not even have one wife or husband, but you follow more than 100 people on Instagram, right? Each of those voices you’re letting speak things and ideas into your life without even knowing it.
The voices we let into our life will either lead or mislead us into intimacy with our Heavenly Father.
3. He filled the wrong temple.
Solomon thought he was wholeheartedly serving the Lord by building the temple as he asked. And he did to an extent. But why do you think that God wanted the temple in the first place? So He could be with us. So He could fill us with His love and presence.
The temple was God’s way to be with us. To dwell among us… and Solomon missed it. He was so caught up in doing, achieving, completing, that he left vacant the main thing God wanted to fill, which was himself. Friend, God wants us. Anything He asks us to do will only be a means to an end to bring us to him.
David asked Solomon to be whole – to have an “undivided” heart to build the temple. But really it was never fully about the building, God wanted to fill a different empty space.
And maybe today as you read this, there are idols, or some spaces, or some voices that need redemption today. If so, God is near, and loves doing the impossible.
So Solomons life ends with bondage to idolatry and a love for the world over God. (1 Kings 11:6)
I know this feels discouraging because we love a happy ending.
But praise be to God, there is one.
Solomon wasn’t the golden child of David, but God the Father was faithful.
So much so that when Jesus puts on flesh to enter the cosmos, he is called the “son of David” (Matthew 12:23).
See, Jesus was wholeheartedly devoted to the things of God. Jesus lived a perfect life. Even when met with temptation of worldly status, he rejected it by becoming a humble servant.
When the wrong voices tried to speak into his life, he retreated to let God be the loudest voice.
When everyone around him was trying to earn salvation by works, he purchased that salvation through pouring out his blood for us.
In Solomon we see failure, in Jesus we see fulfillment. Through Jesus, now we are the temple that God wants to fill. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
This IS the Father’s love on display.
SO HOW DO WE LIVE A WHOLEHEARTED LIFE?
You see, the first thing said about Solomon was that he was loved from the start. (2 Samuel 12:24)
So today, know that you’re loved. Know that God wants to be the ultimate Provider for you. If He sent us Jesus, won’t he give us everything little thing that we’ll need? Just like Solomon, won’t God our Father provide? (Matthew 6:27-31)
Through Jesus, God has made a way for us to be a recipient of wholehearted love.
What a kind, loving Father we have.
If you want this today, or if you want to go deeper into a life of wholeheartedness, I would encourage you to repent, which means “to turn” away from the things leaving you less than whole.
The good news is that it’s through the Father’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
It’s his kindness, it’s his LOVE that gives us a whole heart. What a whole hope we have today through the loving Father and the perfect son.
Morgan Krueger is part of Team LO and loves any opportunity to hear someones heart. In her free time she loves drinking coffee with friends, watching British baking shows, and leading their local church’s young adult ministry in West Monroe, LA with her husband, Ryan.
When God calls you, expect the unexpected. Know there will be unknowns. God’s calling is never to settle you. Rather, it is often to rip you from your comfort zone so you no longer depend on yourself, your skills, and your own understanding. God told Abraham, in short: Leave your country. Leave your relatives. Leave your father’s house. Leave what you know. Leave the comfort. Leave the couch. Go.
God doesn’t mind waiting to deliver your promise until you prove yourself trustworthy in following Him during these times of testing. He wants to make sure you are ready for the promise when you reach it. He wants to make sure you are mature enough to handle it when it’s your time to have it. He wants to make sure you are positioned to retain it and manage it well, and that you won’t blow it.
I remember when I played in the NFL under Coach Bill Parcells. One of the first things he did when we came to training camp was adjust our stance. The stance for a football player is the starting point. It’s how you get ready before you go. But Coach wanted to fiddle with it. He wanted to address it, even though my stance was a position I had gone to for more than eight years by then. He didn’t care. He didn’t want us to rely on what had gotten us to that point. Because what had gotten us to that point may have worked in college and in high school, but this new level wasn’t either of those. The plays were different in the NFL. The players were different too. This was a whole other level and our stance needed to reflect that.
For some of us in our Christian walk, we need to change our stance. We need to change how we roll. We need to address how we make our decisions, talk to our spouse, or relate to our friends and family. We need to change our stance on how we serve in the church. We need to change our stance on how we deal with our money. We need to change our stance on how we spend time with God, in His Word, or aligning our thoughts under His. We need to change our stance in all of these areas because this is our shot in a whole new league—it’s called the Kingdom of God.
The spiritual warfare is different than the physical troubles we have known for so long. The warriors we battle are different. The weapons are different. The approach is different. In order to make it in this spiritual league, you’ve got to be willing to let go and leave all that you know if it is preventing you from experiencing the journey of greatness God has called you to live out. You may need to:
- Leave your thoughts behind.
- Leave your will at the door.
- Leave your history.
- Leave your hopes.
- Leave your perspective and your patterns.
Adjust your stance. Sometimes you have to leave the things you think you need in order to get the greatness you know you want. If it goes against what God says, leave it. Drop it. Walk away. Just put it down. Because anything that disagrees with biblical truth needs to go in order for you to get up, go and get what God has given you.
When you feel the Spirit prodding you to do something different, to be different, to go to a different place—and you’re uncomfortable with it— that’s a sign that you need to pack your bags and go. If you start to feel comfortable in a shackled situation, that’s a dangerous place to be. You’ll never get all that God has for you if you stay stuck to what you know.
Too many of us want assurance from God that the grass on the other side of the fence is as green as that which we are standing on right now, or greener. But the truth is that you must go before God will show. Yes, it’s an uncomfortable feeling. Yes, it’s a stretching experience. No, there are no guarantees. But isn’t that what faith is all about? Faith is being sure of what you can’t see, not what you can. There are not those kinds of guarantees in faith, or it wouldn’t be faith.
What’s the Secret?
Ask yourself what thing or place or direction is your go? What have you been fighting, resisting, and maneuvering your way out of for years? Remember: When you go, God will show. He will pull your unique promise out of His pocket. And the moment He does you will realize that being with the Father is more valuable than anything else you were chasing or trying to hold on to.
Hot tip: God unleashes greatness on those who live by faith.
God is calling each of us to greatness in His kingdom. But we only get to experience it when we are willing to trust our very lives to the hands of our Father. We demonstrate this trust through actions of faith. We arrive at our promises by actions based on faith. Sure, we are saved for free, but spiritual maturity takes work. Salvation is a gift, but growth is a grind. You have to work at it. You have to obey what God tells you to do.
God has called you for greatness. He has a plan to unleash His greatness both in and through you. It’s bigger than you because it’s not just for you. That’s important to realize. Because when I look at this culture today, it’s one of the most narcissistic cultures ever. It’s all about me. Every show, every podcast, every post is all about glorifying self. We chase greatness in this country for three people: Me, myself, and I. But until you realize it’s not all about you, God will allow you to stay settled in the sameness. He won’t unleash you to go pursue all that is yours to have.
You need to understand that greatness doesn’t mean storing up blessings for yourself. Greatness is all about increasing your influence and strength in such a way that you can become a greater blessing to others. God told Abraham He would make him a great nation first, then He said He’d make his name great. It wasn’t the other way around. It was about the nation. It was about others. Abraham’s name would become legendary, yes. But not until God’s purpose of using him to bring blessing to others was carried out first.
But in our culture today, we’ve got it backwards. We want our name in lights first, before we’ll agree to be the light of Christ to those who need it. We want our back scratched first, before we’ll even scratch the surface in telling others what Jesus has come to do for them. We want our notoriety and crown on first, before we’ll pay homage to the King who rules overall. But His kingdom doesn’t work that way. That’s the wrong direction. In fact, that sounds an awful lot like the direction of this world.
I know you’re probably chasing some stuff right now. I know you’re pursuing your dreams. I know you have desires, ambitions, hopes, and goals for your life. And there’s nothing wrong with that, unless it keeps you from allowing yourself to be unsettled when God calls your name. Unless it prevents you from letting God pull you, push you, and direct you to where you need to go. Only when you are willing to stop pushing back on God and truly allow faith to start pushing on you will you get the greatness He has in store for you. Only then will you see Him reach into His divine pocket and pull out the divine promise He’s been wanting you to experience all along. Now . . . GO.
Excerpted with permission from Your Time is Now by Jonathan Evans. Copyright 2021, Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Jonathan Evans is a pastor, speaker, mentor, and author who speaks passionately and powerfully about his relationship with God and has a burning desire to share his faith with others. He serves on the pastoral staff at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, a nondenominational church in Dallas, Texas, with his pastor, friend, and father, Dr. Tony Evans. Jonathan has roles in both the local church and in the national ministry, The Urban Alternative.
Jonathan has a goal of building a legacy that leaves an impact. A dynamic speaker, he has shared at men’s conferences, youth events, churches, and other venues throughout the United States. Jonathan has also written several books, including Different, Get in the Game: A Spiritual Workout for Athletes (with Dr. Tony Evans), and Kingdom Family Devotional (with Dr. Tony Evans). Jonathan has also created powerful video and audio presentations to accompany his teaching, including spoken word videos that showcase his ability to deliver his messages with energy, creativity, and relevance.
Follow Jonathan on Instagram @jonathanblakeevans
It’s been so cool watching people step in and guest host the WHOA That’s Good podcast while I’ve been out with Honey! And I’ve got to say, one of my favorites has been a recent episode with Candace Cameron Bure. (Listen here!) Candace is one of the main reasons I ended up going on Dancing with the Stars and she’s made such a huge impact in my life. So, it was only fitting to have her on the podcast! And how cool is it that my mom got to step in and guest host this one for me?! Let’s dive in!
My mom and Candace have been friends for a while. They first met when I got asked to do Dancing with the Stars and I had just turned 17. Candace and I happened to have the same dance partner, and mom was eager to know more about who she’d be letting me spend my next few months with. So, she called Candace! Candace was super positive and excited about the whole situation and mom was relieved. And heyo, I began my journey on the show!
Of course, mom had to ask Candace the biggest question of the podcast which is for the guest to share the best piece of advice they’d been given. Candace said her best piece of advice came from her mom and she said it all the time. “Honey, would you feel comfortable if Jesus was standing right in front of you?” WHOA that’s good! Jesus IS with us everywhere we go and this is a great question to ask ourselves before we speak or act.
Mom then went in to asking Candace how she manages to live out loud with her faith and how tough it must be doing so while in the spotlight in the midst of Hollywood. I love Candace’s initial response! “I love Jesus!” It’s not just a part of her she can put aside for her work or friends. He truly is the most important person in her life and her faith exudes from her. Of course, she uses discernment in times of when to share her faith or when to talk more or less about Jesus. She opened up about how it can be tricky in the entertainment industry because as a person who wants to live her faith out loud, she must understand that not everyone shares that faith. She believes there is a way to share Jesus that isn’t offensive or pushy toward people, and that’s exactly what she strives for! You know how people feel when they buy a new house or get a new car and something in them just wants to share the news with others? That’s just how Candace feels about Jesus.
I love what Candace then had to say. “The more you talk about Jesus and the blessings He’s given you, the more confident you will become in Him.”
Then the conversation shifted more toward the business side of things in Candace’s life. Mom asked her to share about her clothing line and how she determines what to say yes and no to in her busy career. Candace then went on to mention her journal she’s been writing in for years. It’s filled with prayers, dreams and goals she’s sought out over the years. And she keeps praying about them. She admits that her accomplishments didn’t just happen haphazardly. She’s been working toward and praying about her goals for 15 years now. So many people could look at Candace on Instagram and think huge success happened overnight for her. But it’s encouraging to know she was fervent in prayer and God blessed her for that!
As most of you probably know, Candace has kids of her own and my mom asked her to speak to her decision to take time off work for her kids and how it has affected her life. Candace spoke to the quote my mom shared, “You can do everything you want in life, just not all at once.” by reminding us that God gives us seasons in life for a reason. When Candace began having kids 2 years after she and her husband, Val, married, she knew she had to be home to raise them. Though it wasn’t necessarily easy for her, God grew her so much in those ten years of her life. She gave the decision to God of whether or not she’d go back into the entertainment industry and trusted He knew best either way He’d guide her. As Val and Candace began to pray about whether or not Candace should return to work, God flung the doors wide open for her. She went back in full force and saw the workforce as a mission field. Since then she’s been in over 30 movies and written children’s books all while giving the glory to God!
As I’m home with Honey right now and mom got to share some of her experiences with her own kids, it was only fitting to ask Candace for her best mom advice. And she was so sweet in encouraging me with such wisdom. She reminded me how important it is to soak in the little moments with Honey. Because one day I’ll blink and I know she’ll be grown.
Candace then talked about how much she enjoyed the teenage years with her kids and the conversations during those years and up until now. Mom chimed in and said there are always opportunities to learn from your kids, but as they become adults you truly learn so much from them. Then Candace agreed by telling a personal story about her son. During the pandemic, he preached a whole sermon to Candace and Val, and it was such a gift to both of them.
To close out the episode, mom asked Candace to share about her fitness journey and offer some tips. Candace replied with the truth of how it’s always been a bit of a challenge for her until she found certain things in fitness that she really loved, such as specific workout programs. As a woman who formerly struggled with an eating disorder, she became more motivated to continue her fitness journey. And the rewards don’t only come physically, but mentally as well. The better she physically feels from a workout, the better she mentally feels.
Candace is clearly full of life and wisdom and it was such an honor to have her share some of that with us! For the full version, listen here!
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“I assumed that if the surface looked good, then it must be good. But an outside-in perspective is rarely as accurate as a view from the inside-out.”
Imagine for a moment that you are sitting on the shoreline of the most magnificent beach; the sand is white and brilliant, and the waters are as clear blue as the sky. Now imagine if you never were allowed even to place your foot into the water. Imagine that all we ever could do was look upon these intriguing waters, but we never were able to know what lies beneath. What if the ocean were merely a mystery—; a vast ocean of secrecy that you were never able to discover? Everything that lies below the surface was off limits to you—; no seashells, no blow-fish, clams, starfish, or sunken ships with treasure—, none of it. You were completely cut off from the deep.
Now do me a favor, if you will, and imagine that the shoreline represents everything about you visible to the outside world, and the ocean represents the core of who you are—, the very depth of your soul. What if the only thing that ever could be known about you by yourself and others was merely the physical, the obvious, and the part of you that you make known to the world around you? Suppose the very core of who you are was kept hidden, not only from others, but also from yourself.? Why? All because you were afraid of what might happen if you really looked below the surface, afraid of what others might think of you and what you might think of yourself.
I wrote a book called SHALLOW because as sad as it is to admit I have lived the majority of my life on the surface. I’ve lived in shallow places, content to deal with only surface-level issues in my friendships, body, faith, and marriage—all of which I individually discuss throughout the book. When you spend your focus and energy polishing the surface of your life, you may find it easy to convince yourself that all is well. I assumed that if the surface looked good, then it must be good. But an outside-in perspective is rarely as accurate as a view from the inside-out. This is a view that, all too often, is left unseen because we don’t think it matters all that much.
What mattered to me were the things that could be seen, perceived, and assumed based on the shallow shoreline of my life. Perception became my reality. It was the idol that ultimately led to imprisonment of my soul. The way I perceived myself, along with my perception of how others viewed me, became my measuring stick for success: If you think I am kind, then I must be kind. If you think I am pretty, then I must be pretty. If you believe my life looks like the picture-perfect all-American family, then that is what we must be. But one of the dangers of that path rests in what happens when others don’t think those things of me: What if, through your senses, you perceive something very different about me? What if you believe me to be selfish and self-seeking? What if you think I am fake? What if you believe me to be shallow?
I gave the world complete access to define who I was. When their definition did not match up with the person I was portraying myself to be, all my efforts were thrust into changing that one thing, whatever it was at the time: “Just be more spiritual, funnier, the life of the party, meek, more stylish”—you get the idea. I believed the lie, “Be who they want you to be.”
Mark Sayers nails this idea perfectly in his book The Vertical Self:
Welcome to the twenty-first century, where we
can now purchase and change personalities
the way we can clothes, depending on mood
or circumstance. Welcome to the world in which
we are told we can be anyone we want to be,
where identity is no longer based in a sense
of self but rather in the imagery we choose at any particular moment.
My circumstance (aka, how the community around me perceived me) is what dictated the person I ascribed to be at that moment.
Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Or maybe, as you read, you are thinking, I am well aware of what this looks like because this is my life. I am tossed continuously to and fro, bending and shaping who I believe I should be based upon the opinions of others. And not only their opinions of me, but my perception of their lives from the outside looking in. Contemplate this question: What is the driving force behind the majority of your decisions? Are you shape-shifting your way through life to impress people? Do you constantly redefine yourself in an attempt to be accepted or relevant in today’s ever-changing culture?
When I so desperately sought the approval of other people, it led me to live a life of chaos. I was literally like an infant being tossed around in a violent thunderstorm—or probably more like a hurricane. This way of living sent me down a path of destruction, thrown every which way in an attempt to “arrive” at Destination: “They Love Me” and trying to “be” whatever was required at that moment to be accepted. But God is graciously and patiently beginning to teach me that you can “be” a lot of things and never “become” anyone. He is teaching me that you can “be” a friend and never taste what is meant by friendship. You can “be” loving and yet never truly experience the intimacy of love. Giving the world an à la carte version of yourself will not lead to life. Instead, it will leave you with an unquenchable thirst for more, with your head on a perpetual swivel. In other words, perception is not necessarily reality.
Leaving the shallow end is always a little uncomfortable. As our toes stretch to no longer feel the ground beneath us, we’ll have to fight the urge to turn back. If you choose to read my book, it may get tough. You will likely discover wounds buried deep within you, and maybe you’re not quite ready to expose them. If that’s true, it’s okay, because God’s timing will always prevail. He will lead you back to those challenging places when you’re ready.
Allowing God into the deepest hidden parts of you does not mean that you have to let the world in as well. That part will come later. And when it happens, you’ll be astonished at the workings of the Lord because you will find yourself opening up to people about situations in your life that today, in this very moment, you could never imagine sharing with another soul.
WARNING: THIS BOOK IS RAW. It was not comfortable to write and was not easy for me to share my flaws. And trust me when I express that it doesn’t feel good to share my raw, vulnerable, jealous, vain, shallow heart. We so often correlate “easy” with “right.” In other words, if something feels good, then it must be good, and if something doesn’t feel right, then it must be bad. This is a flawed way of thinking and, quite frankly, a tactic that Satan deploys to keep us in a state of merely existing—a life that moves at a consistent pace, following the rules of society, with no challenge to the soul or desire for growth. And that, my friends, should be the thing we fear – a life lived in the shallow end. A life that simply goes through the motions because we are afraid to leave the safety of the seashore.
Do you want to keep living this way? Do you want to remain above ground, devoting all your days to merely polishing the surface of your life? Will you pause to consider the mysteries of what life could look like if you allow God into all of the invisible places?
How you perceive yourself and how others perceive you is of little importance to reality. Perception is not reality. Reality is not what you decide or feel it to be. Reality is not the life you create while running from your past, and it will never be found in a three-step formula. Reality is reality, and the only way to experience it fully is to seek refuge in the only One who can fully see us. He sees us from the inside out, from beginning to end, our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows.
Choose to live in reality with me as I unveil patterns and fears that were displayed in my own life. Time and time again, I came broken before a Father who really knows me, and time and time again, He wholeheartedly loved me. Although this book is about my journey out of the shallow places, I would love to simultaneously be a part of God doing a work in you. Let’s grow and change together. Now, take off your floaties, get over your fear of being in a swimsuit (that is so shallow), and dive in deep.
Jill Dasher is a blogger and speaker who is passionate about sharing the message of being known through authentic community with God and each other. She resides in Asheville, NC with her husband Zach and four children. In between sunset hikes and camping weekends she works alongside her husband running a media company. Follow Jill on Instagram @jilldasher
Use code LOSISTA10 for 10% off Shallow from now until July 5th when purchasing from jilldasher.com! Shallow can also be purchased on Amazon.com.
Throughout high school and into my college years I felt unsatisfied in my friendships. I would look at those around me and think to myself, “If only I had close friendships like them, then I would feel so loved.” Social media wasn’t very helpful at the time either. I didn’t have healthy boundaries with it and it made me feel so isolated. I was constantly comparing myself and the friendships I had to others. My mind would become overwhelmed with questions and doubts about my friendships.
The enemy loved to whisper little lies in my head like, “They like her more than you” “You weren’t invited because they don’t like you” “You just aren’t a good friend.” And the list goes on…
Why was I feeling so alone when I had good friends? Why did it feel like everyone around me had a “best friend” but I didn’t? Why wasn’t the deep longing in my heart to be loved filled by my friends? Wasn’t that how it is supposed to be?
Sister, if you are reading this right now, and you feel like you relate to any of those questions or feelings above, know you are not alone. But also know, that is not what God intended for you.
The deep longing in our soul to feel loved can only be fully satisfied by Jesus.
No human, no parent, no sibling, and no friend can fully satisfy the longing in our hearts to be fully known and fully loved.
For so long I had it wrong. I wasn’t running to Jesus to be filled up, I was running to people. I wanted to feel known, seen, and heard, but I was left feeling empty and confused. I was placing the expectations on my friends to love me and provide a friendship that only God could fully fulfill.
While we were created to be in community, we weren’t created to be dependent on community. When our dependency is in Christ alone we don’t need anything else but Him to sustain us.
It took me a few years before I realized – I was trapped in a cycle. It wasn’t fair of me to place these unrealistic expectations on my friends. But, God chased after my heart. He knew the deep desire I had to be a good friend. He knew the void I had in my heart for deep friendships. He saw that I was looking in the wrong places for fulfillment.
He met me in my brokenness and restored me. He reminded me that it is only Him that can fully satisfy. It is His well of love that never runs dry!
“but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
He is chasing you, friend. He wants to show you how He is your ultimate best friend. He will satisfy every deep longing that you have. He will fill every empty space with love and grace that never runs dry. You are not stuck where you’re at. Let Him dig up your roots and re-plant them in the soil of His never-ending love and friendship. He wants to pour His love into you so that you overflow with that love to those around you.
When we are rooted in our identity as a daughter of Christ we bloom into the sister and friend God has called us to be.
The world we live in is a very self-centered world. It is almost engrained in us to ask “well what is in it for me?” “How will I benefit from this?” This mindset has wiggled it’s way into relationships. It can be easy to walk into a relationship with a mindset that can be a little self-centered. But in the bible we are called to put on humility. Friendship isn’t about “what can I get from them?” But rather about, “what can I do for and give to them?”
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)
When we meet with Jesus and make the decision that He is our best friend, He provides our every need. When we let Christ fully satisfy our hearts, through compassion and humility, we are able to outpour with that same love to those around us.
He brings the right people at the right time into our lives. He surrounds us with the community we need. He wants us to be in sweet friendship with one another. Jesus modeled how to be the ultimate sister and friend. When we meet with Him, He transforms our heart and our minds to become more like His so that we may be the best sister and friend we can be.
Maybe you find yourself in the same lonely place where I once was – meet with Jesus.
Maybe you have friends surrounding you who aren’t a good influence on you – meet with Jesus.
Maybe you are desiring deeper friendships – meet with Jesus.
Maybe you are having conflict with a friend right now – meet with Jesus.
Maybe you want to pour into your friends more but feel empty – meet with Jesus
Maybe you have been meeting with Jesus – Keep meeting with Jesus.
The ultimate and best friend we will ever have is God, and He is all we will ever need.
Ally is a pediatric nurse in San Diego, and on her off days she is writing and creating encouraging content for her Instagram page @wordsaregolden. She is a big fan of Jesus, lover of all things pink, drinks iced coffee every day, and loves to cook for and host people in her home.
Follow her on Instagram: @wordsaregolden