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