We cannot stop a bad habit. We can only replace it with a good one. I become more and more convinced of that reality. We are creatures of habit, and so much of life is making sure we’re building healthy ones. To be completely honest with you (which I intend to be for the entirety of this work), I really wrestled with what to title this book. There were no less than fifty different titles we tried out along the way. The last thing I wanted was for it to sound like another self-help book. Your local bookstore (and even the Christian section of that bookstore) is already full of those. You see, I am not trying to help people be smarter sinners.
It is one of my core beliefs that everyone lives forever somewhere—either in heaven or hell. My goal is to help other Christians, other believers in Jesus, live the righteous lives Jesus desires for us. The only way that will happen is by living fully dependent on the Holy Spirit and by doing the things Jesus calls us to do in this life as we pursue holiness. In fact, 1 Peter 1:15 instructs us to be holy in all that we do. But how do we do that? I don’t know about you, but that seems like an impossibly high bar to me.
If you have ever parented a toddler (or spent any time around one, for that matter), it does not take long to figure out that toddlers lack something called “impulse control.” Their brains aren’t fully developed enough to process all of the pros and cons of the decisions they make, so instead they just do whatever feels good or fun in the moment.
The truth is, while impulse control eventually kicks in, we never quite grow out of that phase of doing the things we know we shouldn’t. There are many things I’ve done that I didn’t really want to do, but I still did them. Not in a resilient, “do hard things” kind of way but in a rebellious, “I know this isn’t good for me, but I’m going to do it anyway” kind of way. And, like Weston, I’m not sure why.
In his letter to the church at Rome (his theological masterpiece), the apostle Paul sums up this internal conflict we all feel at times as believers in Jesus:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Rom. 7:15–19)
We are the same way! We want to pursue what is pure, true, righteous, and holy, but for some reason . . . we don’t. We do things that pull us away from Jesus. We run toward momentary pleasure or temporal satisfaction. We don’t quite know why we do the things we don’t want to do.
There are countless times I have looked at something with a lustful intent, even though everything in me knows I shouldn’t. I have responded in anger to people instead of showing them the same grace I have been shown. I have felt entitled to purchases I want because I think they will fill some void I feel, even though it never quite scratches the itch. Why do I do this? Why do I do what I don’t want to do? And what should I do instead?
Vices & Virtues
If I have learned anything from both my own life and the thousands of individual case studies I have seen up close as a pastor over the past two decades, there are two lessons that stick out the most. One, sin (most often) subtly creeps into our lives. Two, while we love quick fixes, pursuing holiness is a lifelong pursuit full of micro-decisions along the way.
Throughout the pages of this book, we will look at ten different sins (or vices) that seem to trip us up, year after year, generation after generation. With each one of these sins, we will find it can creep into our lives gradually. No one aspires to be consumed by greed or lust, for example. Your heart just often drifts there over time. If you are not careful and on guard, any one of these nine could be the thing that takes you out. At first glance, you may not even feel like it is something you struggle with, but as you press into each chapter and examine your own heart, you may find ways you have been cohabitating with that vice for years without even realizing it.
Along with each sin, there is a corresponding solution (or virtue) to the problem. For example, the solution to the sin of pride is to practice humility. The solution to the sin of anger is to practice forgiveness. We will examine the pages of Scripture to see how to respond in the most God-honoring way we can to each one of these sins that could trip us up.
In his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson says this:
“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”
His point is simple. We love to experience or feel things, but the day-to-day grind of fleeing sin and pursuing holiness is much more difficult. But just because it is difficult does not mean that it isn’t right. This daily commitment to pursuing the things of Jesus is what it means to be a disciple—a follower of Christ. And here is the best part: you can do this.
Change Is Possible
Almost two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul told the church in Rome, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2, emphasis added). At first glance, that sounds great in theory, but is it even possible to renew your mind? To put it simply: yes.
Over the past few decades, scientists have learned that you can, in fact, change (or renew) your mind. For centuries, the commonly held assumption among scientists and psychiatrists was that beyond the formative years of childhood and adolescence, the brain was done developing and no longer changeable.
But what they have discovered more recently is something called neuroplasticity (neuro meaning “of the brain” and plasticity meaning that it can change because it is malleable and moldable). This is the idea that if you take your thoughts captive—or if you stop a particular activity and replace it with another activity or thought pattern—that pathway in the brain atrophies and a new pathway is learned.
You create new neurological pathways when you replace these old, bad, destructive, or unhealthy habits and thinking patterns with newer, true, constructive, and healthier ones. How about that? Thousands of years ago, Paul knew what he was talking about! Renewing your mind might be difficult, but it has a promise attached to it: if you do it, you will know God’s will.
My prayer for this book is that, as you read about the vices and virtues described in the pages ahead, the Holy Spirit will show where you have given the enemy (Satan) a foothold into your life and that, by looking to God’s Word, you will renew your mind as you pursue the life Jesus has called you to. Remember: the only way to conquer a bad habit is to replace it with a better one.
Jonathan “JP” Pokluda is lead pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, and former leader of The Porch, where he saw the ministry grow from 150 to more than 7,000 young adults. The author of the bestselling Welcome to Adulting and Outdated, as well as the Welcome to Adulting Survival Guide and Welcoming the Future Church, Pokluda came to understand the grace of the gospel in his early twenties, which ignited a desire in him to reach people in their twenties and thirties for Christ. He lives with his wife, Monica, and their three children.
For the majority of college, I was single. And I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t always patient during singleness. I was the one in the friend group that was consumed with dating and obsessed with finding a boyfriend. I struggled with being single. I don’t really like to even say struggle because it sounds like it was a burden to be single. The only reason it was hard for me is because I made singleness hard. I didn’t like being single, therefore I didn’t like the Lord putting me in a season of singleness. I wanted a boyfriend because the whole world told me that a boyfriend gives you security, love, acceptance and companionship. I wanted a boyfriend because I didn’t want to be lonely, insecure or isolated. All my friends were in serious relationships and it seemed that their lives were much better than mine because they had boyfriends. For two years, I lived in this belief that a boyfriend would solve all these problems. Two years of obsessing over the hope of having a boyfriend one day. I was mentally exhausted from the constant search and need for someone else to give me the security and love I so desperately wanted.
I vividly remember sitting at the counter of my college house reading and journaling when I had this thought, or rather God planted this thought in my mind.
I was so tired of feeling sorry for myself for not being in a relationship. I knew that a relationship wouldn’t fill me, but I was acting like I was depleted and deprived because I wasn’t in a relationship. My beliefs were not lining up with my actions. God so lovingly showed me my inconsistencies. I was wasting my thoughts by being overwhelmed with desire for a relationship, so much so it decreased my quality of life. I decided to change my thoughts. I wanted to live everyday like it was my last day of being single. I was going to enjoy it even if somedays I had to force myself to see it as good. One day I would hopefully be in a relationship that would turn into marriage and I would never be single again. I wanted to make myself proud of the way I lived in it and didn’t want to waste what the Lord had me in. If you really stop and think about each day, we have no idea what it holds. It could be the day that changes your life. But instead of waiting on the day that changes everything, I want to live my life freely and confidently not waiting on a day to come.
As I looked to the positives of singleness, contentment grew within me. I learned how to spend time with Jesus. Not just read my Bible, pray a little, and move on, but ACTUALLY spend time with him and enjoy it! I looked forward to being in His presence every day. I received all the security, acceptance, and love I needed from Him. My heart was slowly aware that the things I desperately wanted, I had in Jesus all along.
As I became more content with my season, the Lord gave me more peace in my heart about the unknowns of my future. He removed the way I idolized a future husband and provided me with deep satisfaction in Him.
The day I started dating my now husband, I had peace leaving my season of singleness. I knew I had been obedient in learning all the Lord wanted me to grow in.
I am grateful for my season of singleness because it taught me to be content in every season.
It created a heart posture within me to be satisfied in the Lord rather than my circumstances. Rushing from one season to the next is harmful. It steals the lessons of love, satisfaction, and being fully present with the Lord that He wanted to teach me.
Being fulfilled by the Lord’s presence then produced satisfaction in the season I’m in now.
Being single is wonderful, dating is wonderful, engagement and marriage are wonderful! But if you ignore contentment in singleness you will be dissatisfied in dating. You’ll want engagement, and in engagement you’ll want marriage. In marriage you’ll want kids, then you’ll want to be empty nesters. It’s an endless cycle of always wanting the next thing.
It’s a trap that we can so easily fall into if we do not posture our hearts to be content in our current season.
It can be dangerous to view singleness as a season of waiting because of what it does to our hearts when we label it that way. Waiting can imply that your life is missing something and you are looking to that thing hopeful it will fill whatever is missing in your life. “I’m waiting for God to move in my life.” “I’m waiting for Him to give me an answer on what He wants me to do.” “I’m waiting on Him to give me a boyfriend.” When we “wait” on God to act, move, or provide and it doesn’t happen on our timeline, we view it as a punishment. In reality, we were never actually waiting on God, we were wanting God to move when we say so.
Sure, you might feel like you are waiting for a boyfriend. But what are you wanting a boyfriend to fix in you? Fix in your life? If you never had a boyfriend, never got married, would you be content with your relationship with the Lord to fill you?
Instead of waiting on God to give you a boyfriend, be with God in your singleness. There’s so much more at stake than your desire for a relationship. The Lord is forming in you contentment, satisfaction, and a sole desire for His presence to fill. I believe these lessons are best taught in singleness and that’s why the enemy wants us to rush out of it. If we never learn how to be content and satisfied in the Lord we will always look to something or someone else to fill us. This is why singleness is so valuable! You cannot learn that only God can fill you until he is all you have to fill you.
There will be a last day of singleness for you. So, make yourself proud of the way you lived it out!
Focus your purpose in singleness to be closer to God, to soak in his presence, and learn how to be satisfied where he has placed you.
I promise that when you allow your heart to be satisfied in Jesus, you will lack nothing. The longing for a husband won’t change, but you will be content in where the Lord has you. Your heart’s ability to be content now will cultivate a heart of contentment for every season to come.
So, to my friend that is single today, wondering when and if her husband will ever come into her life: focus on your heart posture. Learn to be satisfied with God in your singleness, its so much more important than having a boyfriend.
Freddie is a recent grad from Auburn University with her masters in clinical mental health counseling and is on staff with LO as a counselor. She loves long walks, spending time with friends and family, and helping people find their confidence in who God made them to be!Follow Freddie on Instagram: @yourfriend_Freddie
I long to write something of worth in a real and tangible way as you pursue your walk with Christ. There is so much information coming at us from different directions, but if we’re honest, it’s not leaving us with the transformation we desperately desire. The world is selling us an identity that fails to live up to its promises. The miracle facial cream does not eliminate my wrinkles, the $120 leggings don’t make me feel better about myself, and the curling wand that promised to turn my hair into locks of gorgeousness is just okay. All in all, we are somewhat disappointed with our collection of “must-haves.” Am I right? We desire something more.
Perhaps this is why the number one question I am asked by Jesus-professing believers since becoming a mentor on the LO Sister app is, “How do I desire God?” We are hyper-aware that the world and all its glitz and glamor are not fulfilling us, and we know in our heads and hearts that Jesus is the answer, but how does that “knowledge” equate to transformation? How do we become people living, loving, and longing to be in the presence of God?
To live, love, and long to be in God’s presence, we must understand that His presence is not about going to the right place. He’s not a formula or a location. We know this is true because of the message Jesus gave the woman at the well in John Chapter 4. Jesus had just told her the truth about her life, and this was her response: “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place where one must worship is in Jerusalem,” John 4:20. Most likely, she wondered where she could go to be cleansed. In that day, the custom was to go to the temple to be cleansed of sin and to offer sacrifices for your offenses.
The ongoing debate among Samaritans and Jews was over which “temple” was the right one—Bethel or Jerusalem. This was Jesus’ response:
“Woman believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth,” John 4:21-24.
In these four sentences, Jesus disrupts the normal system of worship. It was no longer about going to the right place. He says, “It’s neither that mountain or in Jerusalem.” Now don’t get me wrong. By no means did Jesus do away with the place. Actually, “the place” became more important. Where is the place? We’re getting there; just hang with me. Jesus’ words to this woman speak to our longing for desire. To put it in 21st-century language, Jesus told her that the Father longs for genuine, authentic worshipers who crave the truth in every area of their lives. The Father is seeking worshipers who aren’t simply showing up to cleanse their consciences but to commune with Him. He is love. He is the fullness of what we seek and the ultimate end of our desire; we just haven’t sat with Him long enough to find out. We are far too easily distracted. In truth, we want to desire Him with the least effort involved. We want the fruits of the life He promises without altering our schedules. We settle for Wendy’s while Jesus longs to dine with us by candlelight because there’s just not enough “time” for that. We have places to go and people to scroll. Did I say scroll?
Take a moment to seriously ask yourself this question and answer honestly—what do you desire? What is it you think about most often? What are the things/persons, etc., that you plan your days around? What is the center of your desire? The honest answer to those questions will likely relate to what you consume daily. For example, if you desire the perfect body, your days will probably be marked consuming anything and all fitness. You’ll spend your money on it, you’ll purchase gym memberships and diet plans, you’ll follow health influencers and buy the brands they tell you to. You will think about it when you wake up and when you go to sleep. In other words, you will become what you behold. Whatever it is that you are consuming in mass quantities will shape your desire and become what you worship. To borrow a quote from the pastor of our church, “The only thing that will determine what you become will be what you worship.”
If you want to change what you desire, you must change what you behold. If you want to desire God, then you must behold Him. To behold Him is to spend time in His presence. Where is His presence? Ahhh, where’s the place? That’s what’s so amazing about God. He is not far from each of us (Acts 17:27); oh, no, he makes it super easy for you and me, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body,” 1 Corinthians 6:19. God’s presence dwells within you. You are the temple. Come on. You don’t even have to climb a mountain.
Here’s the truth. God made Himself readily available to us in every way possible. He took on the guilt for our sin, paid the penalty, and now dwells within us to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). The only way you are going to desire Him, the only way you are going to love and long to be in His presence, is to get to know the joy that comes from His presence. Jill, are you saying I have to work to desire God? No, I’m saying that it’s impossible to have a relationship with someone who lives within your soul that you never talk to and, even more important, that you never listen to. The living God is not a place you go to punch your card in. He is the alpha, the omega, the beginning, and the end. He is the diet plan that will truly fill you up. He is the living water that never runs dry, and the only way you will come to believe this is to trust your time with the King of Glory.
Just ask the woman at the well. She went from an empty life, consuming husband after husband and attempting to fulfill her desire for love, to a woman who led an entire town to the presence of the living God. This happens when we sit in His presence. He tells us things about ourselves (usually the stuff we want to keep hidden), but He loves us in our brokenness. As we taste and feel what it’s like to be loved for who we really are instead of who we try to portray ourselves to be, it’s pretty amazing. It’s an authentic love that we can’t help but share. As our desires shift to the King of Glory, a contagious aroma exudes from within us. One heart turned toward the living God is the beginning of revival.
Jill Dasher is the author of the book SHALLOW, drowning in the shallow end of people’s approval. She serves as a mentor on the LO Sister app and is a Christian speaker who is passionate about sharing the freedom that exists when you refuse to live in hiding & freely submit all of your fears & failures to the God who made you. She has a heart for foster care and adoption and takes great joy in serving on the board of Black Mountain Home for Children and Families. She resides in the mountains of NC with her husband and five children.
As we recently shared the first Sisters and Friends episode of the year, I figured it was only fitting to share it with you here on the blog! My mom and I sat down to talk about all things relationships, community and marriage. Here’s how it went!
I wanted to talk to mom about the things that she walked through and learned in her college years because I know many of you are college students navigating that season of life. But even if you’re not a college student, we unpack so much more in this episode to tune in for.
First off, we dove into discussing mom’s relationship with my dad. They began dating at a young age and quickly decided they were going to get married. However, right before they took the next step, they broke up and soon after, mom went off to college. Mom went into college with a lot going on, such as the breakup, a new city, meeting new people, etc. So, I asked Mom to describe what that was like as she began a new journey with all those emotions.
Mom mentioned how crazy it is that it’s been 32 years since she and my dad began dating. She was 17 years old at the time and they both instantly knew they were in it for the long haul. They’d been in youth group together and had basically grown up together since third or fourth grade. Because of this, marriage was talked about within the first couple months of their relationship. They decided to get married the following summer, and when they mentioned it to Mom’s parents, it was clear that they didn’t see it as the best idea. After all, Mom and Dad had no plan and no money. They were genuinely living on love. Plus, mom DID have a scholarship for college to Harding University, where her parents had gone. So, her parents had a point. Looking back, mom sees the wisdom in the things they were saying. But at the time it was really difficult. At the end of that summer, mom chose to go to college. Well, Dad had decided that if Mom went, they were going to break up. So, they did, and mom was devastated. She cried all the way to Harding and one of her friends came and stayed with her in her dorm for a few days to console her.
I love that her friend came and stayed with her because in those moments it is so important to bring community in. And often those are the times that we push community out because we don’t want anyone to see us in a vulnerable state. Mom talked about how vital it was for her to have someone she could truly open up to during that time and help her through a season of major transition.
I asked Mom to talk about the process of her and Dad getting back together. She said that two weeks after the breakup, Dad called her dorm room and said he’d had a change of heart and that maybe long distance wouldn’t be so bad after all. He basically poured out his heart saying he wanted to get back together. Mom said it was a really great regrouping time for them as a couple for her to say “I love you, but there are things that need to change in our relationship.” She used that to encourage anyone who might be in a similar situation. She mentioned that it’s not always the answer to breakup. Sometimes it takes just sitting back and admitting there are some things that just need to be restructured. Well, Mom and Dad ended up getting back together, but Mom did let Dad sit in it for about an hour before she gave a final answer to him.
The truth is, you need people like Mom’s friend who you can confide in, knowing that they love you and your partner equally and want what’s best for both of you. You need friends who will trust you enough to believe that your partner is a good person, and it might just be a bad moment.
A couple months ago, Christian and I were walking through a really difficult time. A lot had been going on and it was just chaotic. We needed to get back on track, so I suggested that we start taking communion in our house. Well, at the time, we’d been ignoring and not wanting to address many of the things we were walking through. So, our first communion in our house was when everything we had been feeling came out. It was certainly a hard conversation, but I find it beautiful that when we came to Jesus, truth came out. Although it wasn’t necessarily pretty, it’s what needed to happen. I love that because this scripture speaks to the situation so well:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)
Next, we dove into the topic of roommates. Mom’s freshman year of college, she had a roommate she’d never met before, which is extremely common. Many people either move into an apartment or college dorm with someone they’ve never met. Sometimes it clicks and it works, but sometimes it’s difficult. Eventually, mom became really close with her roommate, even though they were a lot different. She actually ended up being a bridesmaid in Mom’s wedding. I asked Mom to talk a bit about what that was like. She only had one semester with a roommate before she married my dad. But she said even that one semester helped her so much because when my brother Will went to college, he’d been planning to room with one of his friends for years. Initially, when he found out he was going to have a third roommate, he was not thrilled. But mom was able to share her experience with him encouraging him to have a positive mindset about the situation! Mom reminded us that in situations like these, you have to trust that through others, God is going to teach you something. Oftentimes, people try to get out of these situations before God has time to work in them. Mom encouraged everyone to give it a full year in college for God to do something, whether it be the roommate, the major, or whatever else you may be having difficulties with. And then if you still don’t think you’re where you need to be, make a move.
You have to give it time for your roots to grow. When I was little, I would take apple seeds and plant them outside my house. But I never marked where they were, so I could never properly water them. I think about how I was throwing seeds in all different places, and I gave none of them time to nurture and grow. I think a lot of us do that. We are unwilling to stay in one place and water that soil and see what beauty grows from it. Because we get frustrated by the process, we just go to the next place and plant new seeds. But you’ll never get the tree unless you stay and water that ground. There’s a process to growing where you’re at. There’s a process to community. There’s a process for most things. Mom talked about how difficult it was when my sister Rebecca moved here from Taiwan. Her first semester was incredibly difficult because she had broken English, wasn’t making friends easily, and was struggling to stay in contact with her family because of the time difference. If she’d been given the option after the first semester, she probably would’ve chosen to go home. But the second semester rolled around and she was thriving. She was making friends, going to prom, and having a great experience. Now, she’s been here for 16+ years and is married with two kids!
Back to the roommate situation, I wanted to mention that not everyone is going to be your best friend. This is something I’ve had to learn as I’ve gotten older. Some people might be a great friend. You can still laugh and have fun with them, and even cry with them. But they don’t necessarily have be your best friend. And then some people will be your best friend, and often when that happens, it just comes naturally. For instance, my friend Laney will always be one of my best friends, and it came naturally. All of this to say, you don’t have to put pressure on any of your friendships to be your very best one. You have to be content and confident in the relationship you do have with your friend.
I wanted to circle back around to my mom and dad’s relationship. Once they got back together, they got married the following January. So, by Mom’s second semester in college, she and Dad were married and Dad was beginning his first semester in college. The following summer, they actually went to Hawaii with Mom’s parents as their honeymoon, since they didn’t have much money. Three months into marriage, they still didn’t have a set in stone plan, and they were still broke. I asked mom to give us a picture into what that season looked like, the silly arguments over money, and the types of meals they would eat on a budget. Mom mentioned just how tight their budget was. She and Dad worked at a call center for a while. The people who call and ask you for money — that was my parents. Eating out was not an option, except for the occasional Little Caesar’s pizza for cheap. Monday’s menu was hotdogs with hormel chili. Tuesday’s was fried frozen chicken. She remembered one time when she and Dad were in the grocery store, they had $5 left over from their grocery budget and Dad wanted to buy a pack of baseball cards and she wanted to buy a magazine. It turned into a full out fight over who would get to spend the extra money.
Here’s another example. Some of Mom and Dad’s friends had loaned them a washer and dryer, so they wanted to do something nice in return. They took them to dinner at Shoney’s and it cost $40, which was way out of their budget. Mom said she still remembers the feeling of seeing the check and wondering how they were going to eat for the rest of the week. I love that she mentioned this story, because nowadays I feel like there’s so much pressure on young wives to have it all together. They’re expected to have all the snacks cut in the perfect shape and to be both healthy and perfect. Seeing how perfect other people’s meals can be through social media and other outlets will feel like you’re not doing your role well enough. But sometimes, there are seasons in life when ramen noodles and hotdogs will just have to do. For example, during this season of my life, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a great dinner. Cereal is just fine. Mom pointed out that looking back on the moments she shared, they’re such sweet and fun memories. Take note of all the ways you grow and the things you learn during those times in life.
One thing I love about my parents’ relationship when they were first married is that even though they were broke, they still had fun. It didn’t keep them from being hospitable. Many people think they can’t be fun or hospitable because they don’t have anything or they might not have the “coolest” house. Mom spoke into this topic well. She said the first time they had a couple over in their tiny apartment, she made spaghetti. However, she had no idea how many noodles to make to properly accommodate the amount of spaghetti sauce. So, needless to say, there were plenty of noodles left over. Dad began throwing spaghetti noodles at Mom, which turned into a full on food fight with their friends. There were noodles everywhere, even until they moved out of that apartment. They would have holiday parties at their house and everyone would bring something, which usually consisted of rotel cheese dip and hotdogs. The fact is, people don’t care what your house looks like. They care about being together.
Mom reminded us that we have to be the one to invite people sometimes. So many times we sit around and get sad because people aren’t inviting us places, but it might just be that you need to invite people to do things. Christian and I found ourselves in the place when we first moved back to Louisiana. I was throwing myself a pity party because we weren’t getting invited to a Bible study our friends were having. But then I had an epiphany — Why don’t I start a Bible study. I could be the one to text and invite them over, and now we’re all great friends! Mom chimed in with some good advice. She said that if someone says no when you invite them, don’t take it personally. Invite somebody else!
I wanted to mention that Mom was an Art Major in college. While here and there, she’ll use her artistic ability, for the most part she isn’t really using her degree. I think someone needs to hear that because often in college, you think, “this is it.” You think that if you make a wrong decision, you might miss the call of God on your life. I just want to remind you that you cannot miss it if you’re truly following the Lord. I love what 2mama posted recently. She said that if you’re doing whatever you’re doing for the glory of God, then you’re doing what He called you to do. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself now to think that whatever you decide now will determine the rest of your life. It might shape your life, but it won’t be the end all be all. God has your future and God has your now.
I hope this is all encouraging to you! Here are some questions to think about as we wrap up:
Look at the people around you in your life. How can you steward those friendships well?
How can you use what you have to have fun and to host well?
How can you work towards growing in your relationship, even if that means restructuring things?
Where are you that you actually need to water the ground where you’re standing? Seeds can easily be thrown in the ground, but you need to take some time to be intentional and see growth.
Have you ever been in a season where you feel like you have no direction for where you are going? Maybe you’ve asked God where He is at. Maybe you’ve felt as if He isn’t working in your life and it seems like you are completely stuck. I’ve been there too, many times in my life. But specifically at the beginning of 2022, I was frustrated with where I was. I was a full-time nurse, about to be a first-time author, ran a small business, was encouraging women through social media, and knew that the Lord was stirring something new within me. I just had no idea what that something new was, and it became all that I could think about.
I honestly was really struggling with being a nurse at the time. Work was draining, my co-worker’s morale was really low, and I had all these other new passions within me. It was getting hard to balance the writing I was doing along with having a full-time job, being a wife, a friend, and taking care of myself. Burnout was really close. I was waiting for the day when the Lord would tell me to quit. I selfishly didn’t want to be doing the hard work as a nurse anymore. I wanted what seemed to be the “easier way.” But deep down inside I still had this feeling that I was still called to be involved in nursing. Every part of me was trying to ignore it. My dream was to be part-time, but that was desired by many people and seemed impossible since we were short staffed so I never bothered asking.
One Sunday morning I was at church and during the last worship set I remember sitting down and pleading to the Lord, “What is next for me?” I began to see a picture of Joshua at the Jordan river, I felt the Lord remind me that the waters didn’t part until the priests took a step into it. It was at that moment that I felt the Lord tell me to quit my job as a nurse. I was hysterically crying as now I knew I heard clearly from the Lord and wanted to obey but now doing the one thing my flesh wanted felt like the most horrifying thing to do. I didn’t know what would come of it. I was stressed about what our finances would look like, and I had no plan whatsoever of what would happen once I wasn’t working, but I chose to be obedient to what the Lord asked of me. The next day I put my notice in for 2 months. Why 2 months? Only the Lord knew.
Fast forward a few weeks and I still had zero clarity on what was next. I found myself asking God, “Okay Lord, you told me to do this, and I still have no idea what you want me to do!” I felt the Lord call me to fast for a day from food. I prayed and prayed and prayed, but still, nothing. The next day I was at work and it was the day to tell my boss what my official last day would be with the new schedule out. As I walked into the office to tell her what my last day would be, she offered for me to go part-time! At first, I was hesitant and thought, “But God, you told me to quit?” and then I felt Him say, “I am giving you the desires of your heart.”
After talking with my husband and family it was evident that this was the next step that God had for me. As I began to work part-time as a nurse God then began to open other doors that filled my time. Looking back, I see God’s hand in every moment, even when I felt as if He wasn’t there.
As I walked through that season of my life, the verse I held onto was, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 ESV
I could have made all of the plans in my head that I thought were best for me and tried to pursue them. But ultimately, I wanted and knew that God’s plan for my life was better than anything I could have ever come up with on my own.
When we choose to surrender everything that feels comfortable and step into the uncomfortable of the unknown with Jesus, He WILL show up. God isn’t always going to give us a list of the steps we need to take to get to where He wants us to go. Most of the time He is a step-by-step kind of guy or even “take this blind step and see what I will do.” But with each step of faith that we do take with Him, we can trust that we are on the path to the most abundant life. I love what Mark Batterson says in his book Draw The Circle, “God wants us to get where God wants us to go more than we want to get where God wants us to go.”
You are on the path of abundance when you are on the path surrendered to Jesus. He will get you where He wants to get you in His perfect timing. He knows every detail of how He will get you where He wants to get you. And in that time leading up to where He is taking you, He is preparing you for what He has for you.
So yes, maybe you are in a season where you feel no direction or clarity. I want to encourage you, instead of asking God for a 5-step plan or just waiting for Him to make a move, ask Him what the next step for you to take is. And then boldly and courageously take that step no matter how scary or daunting or vulnerable it may seem. Sometimes instead of just waiting on the Lord to move, we need to take an action step that says, Lord, I am ready to do what you want me to do. I lay down my plans for my life and submit to your plans for me whatever they may be. If God told you to do it, He will bless your obedience. Just like the priests touched their feet in the water of the Jordan river and then it parted. They had to have faith that God would do what He said He would do. Out of faith, dip your toes in the water, and watch how God will make a way when there seems to be no way!
Believe in the promise that God is establishing your steps. Write it on your heart and remind yourself of it every day. The Lord is establishing your steps better than you could ever do on your own. Not only is He actively doing that now but He is excited about where He is taking you! It will be worth the wait. Waiting on the Lord is NEVER wasted waiting.
Allyson Golden is the Author of the devotional Words Are Golden and founder of the online ministry Words Are Golden. She is also a part-time nurse & on staff at the church in which she and her husband helped plant. Her heart is for women to recognize that their words hold power when rooted in God’s powerful word. She loves to host people in her home, cook yummy meals & learn about the heart of Jesus! You can read more from Allyson on Instagram @wordsaregolden
I am right where I am supposed to be this Christmas.
Time marched forward on my grandmother’s old bird clock. As the next hour came, a different-sounding bird sang on the clock to remind us time had come and gone.
When you’re marching towards trying to fulfill a dream, time can feel like it’s moving too fast, like the constant song of the clock. If we could just seize the hour, we’d take hold of the day and get our dreams accomplished, right? Yet, on the other hand, time can also feel slow. Slow like a vulture circling down. When you’re praying for an unmet longing, it can feel like it’s taking too long for those prayers to be actualized.
In the Bible, Zechariah and Elizabeth knew what it was to long for something.. I am sure time passing felt more like a trail of tears with an unknown destination for them, as they wondered: would their dream of having a baby ever come to fruition?
Have you ever walked alongside a moving walkway in an airport? Travelers are marching by on the moving belt as if it is effortless. Somehow, they are still moving at the same pace as you, even though you are exerting twice the effort because you don’t have a motorized walkway assisting you. As you walk, you feel the heavy weight of the bags you chose to carry, and you wonder why the pace of other travelers appears to be effortless and twice as fast. Why are they getting to their desired destination quicker than you? That’s how it can feel to pursue a dream or wait for something other people have already been given. I have often wondered why certain friends or my peers appear to have gotten everything I want in this life— long before I have.
Zechariah and Elizabeth knew what it was like to feel like time had passed them by when it came to their deepest longings. They were “righteous in the sight of God” (Luke 1:6) but also barren. In that day, being barren was a huge source of shame. Even so, they faithfully served the Lord as their dream of a family melted into the background. I am sure they, too often, felt like they were walking the path of unmet desire.
Remember, Zechariah was a priest. One day it came time for him to fulfill a priestly obligation to enter the inner sanctuary. This was probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As he entered, he was unsure how God would meet him in that moment.
It is hard to hold desire loosely without feeling like you need to amputate or sever it to move forward. If you have ever encountered unmet desire in barrenness, miscarriage, singleness, or a dream that has died, you might feel a tinge of pain reading Zechariah’s response to the angel Gabriel. The angel Gabriel announced to Zechariah that he would have a son named John, the forerunner of Christ. Zechariah responded with a question, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years” (Luke 1:18). Zechariah had longed to have a family with Elizabeth, but it’s possible that, by this point, he had laid that dream aside.
Consider the angel Gabriel’s response as we look to celebrating Advent this year. He responds to Zechariah: “And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time” (Luke 1:20). Let’s focus on that “appointed time.”
God’s plan would come true at Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s appointed time. To think about time, it may be helpful to know there was more than one word for “time” in Greek. The Greek language was more comprehensive than English when it came to time. One type of time was chronos time, which was what we think of as our regular hour, minute, and seconds. But the Greek language also named kairos time, which meant “an appointed time.” Here the angel Gabriel was referencing the word kairos time, an appointed time. God’s plan for John the Baptist and Christ would come true at their appointed time.
A wise friend recently told me, “Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing our terminology.” “Huh?” I questioned her. “Yes!” she explained. “You can say the same thing two ways.” She explained further: “One might call having to allocate your money a ‘budget,’ but the more positive way to spin it would be to call it a ‘spending allowance.’”
Two words or phrases can mean the same thing, but one word is focused on limits, and the other phrase focuses on the abundance of it. One makes someone think, “thrifty,” and the second makes someone feel “freedom in how I spend.” So, let’s translate this for us today. We could say God has given us freedom in how we spend our God-ordained minutes. And yet, at the same time, God has stretched his sovereign hand over our time and knows what is to come.
In Greek, both chronos and kairos mean “time.” But the two words mean very different things. Chronos is more familiar to us in English. Everything we do in America is governed by our chronological time or measurable time. We are used to this type of time! There are 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we have somewhere to be every minute. Kairos, on the other hand, means “an appointed time.” It is explained conceptually as a designated time or right time to do something: an appropriate time, the best time, or God’s timing.
For Zechariah and Elizabeth, the birth of John the Baptist would come at the appointed time. God’s timing is never late, or early, even though it may have felt that way to Zechariah and Elizabeth. But maybe you are like me, and you are thinking, well of course, God has an appointed time for the arrival of John the Baptist and Christ. But the word kairos is used quite comprehensively throughout the New Testament – not only in referring to John the Baptist and Christ. Funny enough, the Bible uses kairos more often than chronos. The word kairos is used over 80 times!
What I want to offer to you this Christmas season is this: We can get so busy living in our chronos sense of time that we miss kairos moments. We have been so indoctrinated with time that we think of it as running out, instead of time that is waiting to be seized. What if we spent our days looking for kairos moments? God’s divine moments. Moments where the sacred intersects with our human lives.
The holidays are notorious for being about the rush. We often make it more about all the activities than seeing God in all the moments. For me, I have already been feeling anxious and run-down about my time. Let’s slow down and savor the gift of Christ. God has placed exact kairos moments in our lives. Are we waiting and watching to seize them? The suitable time to comfort that grieving friend. That opportune time to minister to your child by squatting down, looking them in the eye, and speaking words of encouragement to them. The kairos time to step out into a new job. The kairos time for God to mend your marriage. The kairos time for your little one to be born. Sometimes kairos time will look like meaningful moments, but God’s appointed times for things can also be found in the mundane. The kairos time to bring soup to a sick friend. The kairos time to burst out in worship. Don’t let chronos time speak to your deficit this Christmas. Instead, look for kairos moments that shouldn’t be missed and are God-ordained. Look for moments to celebrate Christ in every moment this season. Do not miss an opportune time to stop and worship him – the newborn King we have waited so long to meet, in His perfect time.
Mikella Van Dyke is the founder of Chasing Sacred, a ministry that provides resources to help women study the Bible and grow closer to God. What began as a devotional blog became an organization with a team of writers that has since published multiple Bible Study resources.
This past year, Mikella focused primarily on providing women with resources and tools for deeper Bible Study. Through studying for her MA in practical theology, she fell deeply in love with the process of hermeneutics. Moving across the world from Thailand to New York City to getting married and becoming a mom, Mikella loves to see women in every stage of life engage with God’s Word. When she is not writing, she is spending time with her 5 kids, traveling, and eating every cuisine she can think of.