How Vulnerability Can Bring Us Beyond Ourselves

How Vulnerability Can Bring Us Beyond Ourselves.png

Sometimes we really don’t need someone to come along and give us a pep talk.

 

When life’s breaking us, we don’t need someone to come and shout, “Hey! You can do this! You’re amazing! Make your life whatever you want it to be! You are unstoppable!” because we’ve felt firsthand that those things are not right all the time.

 

We’ve all experienced failure.

 

We’ve hit roadblocks of all sorts.

 

We’ve felt that cluelessness when it comes to knowing what exactly we should do.

 

And so the pep talks often feel empty, shallow, phony. Hollow and falsely encouraging comments coming from people who seem to have their lives together when we do not.

 

Because often, instead of hearing “Hey, you’ve got this,” we long to hear Someone say, “I know this seems impossible, but I will be with you through all of it.”

Continue reading “How Vulnerability Can Bring Us Beyond Ourselves”

How to Help a Hurting Friend

How to Help a Hurting Friend

Maybe I talk about hurt too much. Maybe I’ve mentioned depression and stress and anxiety and failure so often that I sound like I need serious help.

 

If I do, I’m sorry.

 

But we can’t ignore pain.

 

As I sit here at my computer, I’m gazing out the window at the wet earth around me.

It’s been raining for days. A bone-chilling draft penetrates my skin, enough so that nothing warms me, not even my cup of coffee, and my beef stew is long-since hot.

 

Sometimes, that’s what hurt feels like, whether it’s mental, emotional, or physical.

 

It’s uncomfortable, and not something easily shaken away. Pain lingers, with no button to press or Band-Aid to put on to make it all better.

 

I’ve been on both sides of hurt. I’ve had friends in need, and I myself have had times like those as well.

 

Perhaps you’re mainly on the other side of things; watching friends suffer, and not knowing how to help them. Or maybe you’re the hurting one. Maybe people see you in need of help and ask, “What can I do for you?” and you simply respond, “Nothing, I’m good,” with a fake smile plastered on, reminiscent of Barbie.

 

But no matter how strong we are, or at least how strong we pretend to be, we’re all weak on the inside. We all need people around us to support us and help us to heal.

 

Are you wondering how to help a hurting friend? Here are three ways.

 

Pray For Them.

 

There’s nothing more beautiful and powerful than prayer. When a friend tells you, “I’ve been praying for you,” it’s touching. To think that someone would take the time to implore the Creator of the universe on our behalf is one of the kindest things we can hear.

Yes, because it’s a thoughtful gesture, but more so because we know that prayer works. Perhaps not always in the fix-it-quick way we might think, but in the way that God knows is best.

 

Sometimes, I can feel that someone’s been praying for me, when a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I just feel free.

It’s a blessing to get a text a little while later, saying, “Hey Amanda, I prayed for you today. How are you doing?”

 

Wow.

 

James 5:16

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

 

Stay With Them.

 

It’s almost hypocrisy to flee upon finding out someone’s aching, after promising to be there for them.

 

It’s easy to walk out of a friendship when the person’s fallen into difficult days, for it requires no energy on our part.

But please, I beg of you, if you want to help your hurting friend, stick by them. Stay alongside them when they tell you they’re “fine.” Don’t judge them when they refuse help – sometimes, they’re just testing you to see if you’ll remain by their side, because it’s what they really need.

 

Don’t give up on your friend. Forgive them if they’ve damaged your friendship. Keep loving them, even when they act like they don’t want to be loved. Trust me, they do.

 

Proverbs 17:17

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

 

Galatians 6:2

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

Encourage Them.

 

Encouragement is incredible. It has an innate power to keep us running when we want to give up. It inspires us to push on toward our goals. It motivates us to get out of bed in the morning because we know we are cared for.

 

Whether sharing Bible verses, sweet, comforting words, sending a care package or letter, or just letting someone know that they’re not alone, encouragement of all kinds is a blessing.

 

To your hurting friend (or perhaps even you), it may mean the world.

 

And don’t give up. Keep encouraging them and lavishing the love of Christ on your friend.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

 

*aj

The Bible Is Not A Burden: 3 Truths About God’s Word

The Bible is Not a Burden- 3 Truths About God’s Word

One thing I’ve found quite odd in the Christian community is the mindset that reading the Bible is a chore.

 

Think about it. When was the last time most of us thought about reading the Bible – maybe the first thing that pops into our heads is Old Testament law – and thought, “Wow, this is such a great thing to read!”?

 

As hard as it is to admit it, I often have thought that way.

 

It took me until I was twelve or thirteen to really grasp the significance of the Bible, and practically only this year have I found such comfort, peace, and joy in studying it.

 

But we Christians so often treat God’s Holy Word like it’s a burden to read.

 

Because I’m an avid reader, I often have a book on hand that I’m into and want to read. Many times, I’ll read the Bible on my Kindle, where I have a lot of other books. While knowing full-well that I am here to read the Bible, to spend time with God and study His word, I get distracted and start thinking about what happened in the last chapter of that new novel, or how it’s going to end, or how the characters are going to make it out alive. It’s sad for me to admit it, but so many times, I’m so engaged in a fictional world that I forget how life-changing the Bible truly is.

 

I think our attitudes towards the Bible come from the misconceptions we harbor toward the Word of God. The misconception that the Bible is just life’s rulebook, one we must obey or else face the wrath of our iron-fisted God. The misconception that the Bible is just another classic book – dusty, hard to read, and irrelevant.

 

They’re not true.

 

And here, I would like to share with you three truths about the Bible to help us avoid the “duty” mindset.

 

  1. The Bible is Powerful.

The Bible is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It’s not just a book written by people who lived thousands of years ago and thought they were important. It was written by God, through humans just like us, whom God decided to use. Not because they were special, but because they were willing.

 

This means that the principles in the Bible are timeless. The Gospel does not change. Jesus, the Savior of Paul, is the same Savior that we place our faith in today. We pray to the same God that Martin Luther prayed to, and Moses prayed to, and George Washington prayed to, and Mother Theresa prayed to. We see all these people as amazing; and yet they were just vessels that were used by God through their relationship with Him.

 

  1. The Bible Encourages Us.

When I’m depressed and discouraged, I can find no distraction big enough to fix me. I can find no motivational quote inspiring enough to get me through. But the Scripture can. Scriptures that remind me that I can have peace, no matter what. Scriptures that remind me that I am never forgotten or forsaken. Scriptures that remind me that I am lavished in love, and it has nothing to do with me.

 

Now listen, I’m not trying to say that simply reading the Bible is the end-all-be-all of depression, anxiety, or any other struggles. Simply reading does nothing, for truly knowing God is the key.

 

By reading the Bible, we get to know God. We get to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We get to know that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives inside us (Romans 8:11). We get to be acquainted with the fact that no matter how we perform, no matter what happens to us in this life, no matter the depths of despair, we can have hope.

 

The rest of the world cannot have this hope because it is supernatural. Only in the Bible can we truly know the hope of Christ – His love, His grace, and His joy regardless of our circumstances (Romans 5:2-5).

 

  1. The Bible Leads Us To Maturity.

Let me be straight-up here – there is no greater book pertaining to our faith than the Bible. No other book that is the standard of absolute truth. There is no other book with concepts that stand out in different ways to us every time we read them. To forsake the Bible as absolute truth is to reject maturity.

 

What do I mean by that?

 

I simply mean that if we want to grow in our faith, we must move past the elementary doctrine of Christ (Hebrews 6:1) and get over the emotions. Faith is more than a feeling; it is a choice and it is assurance of our hope (Hebrews 11:1).

 

When we read the Bible, our faith is strengthened. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts and reveals things to us that we haven’t seen before.

 

As for growing, we grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). By studying the Bible, we can begin to comprehend what grace looks like and why it is incredible. We see that in our darkness when we did not deserve forgiveness whatsoever, our sins were paid for.

 

The more we read, the more we understand. The more we understand, the more we want to get to know God better. And the more we will.

 

Let’s stop looking at the Bible like it’s a burden, a chore, or a hassle.

 

Instead, let us see it for the blessing that it is – the offering of hope in the midst of our crazy lives.

 

*aj

 

 

See Also:

 

Why Should I Read The Bible?

 

How to Read the Bible {effectively spending time with our Heavenly Father}

A Fresh Look At Positivity

A Fresh Look at Positivity

 

In this world, we hear a lot about positivity. We hear people tell us to not let the negativity of others affect our attitudes.

 

That’s a powerful message.

 

People say that we should keep our heads up because ultimately, whatever we want in life, we’re going to have to work for. So if we want to accomplish our goals, we must not let anyone deter us.

 

We must be positive. See the glass half-full.  See the sky as always sunny. And move on from gloom as quick as we possibly can.

 

The positivity message tells us to just keep swimming, because it’s gonna be alright. Don’t worry; be happy. And I do believe happiness is good, but we should have a reason for it.

 

What I want to know is this. In a godless world, how can we be happy? How can we be positive? How can we know that life really will go on? How can we accomplish what we want to when it seems absolutely impossible?

 

Forgive me for being blunt here, but this is where I see that the positivity message cannot hold up.

 

Positivity does not offer lasting hope. But Jesus does.

 

Positivity is a form of self-empowerment: If you think it, you can do it. And that’s not all bad, truly. Sometimes the only thing we need to keep going is faith in ourselves and perseverance because we already have everything we need to do it.

 

Sometimes, when everyone around us is cutting us down with discouragement, we need to be the ones to step up and say, “Hey, look. The end is in sight. We can make it.” Pressing on toward something is valuable.

 

So the question is not, “Should we be positive?” but “How can we be positive?”

 

For me, having a good attitude by just “trying to” is like trying to sing or speak without taking a breath. Pulling the positivity card out of nowhere has no depth to it, no standing, because it becomes just words.

 

But it doesn’t have to be.

 

The missing message of positivity is this: we can have joy in every situation.

 

Philippians 4:12-13

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

The secret to facing anything is doing them through the strength of Christ. That’s what gives us joy. That’s what lets us go on when things seem impossible. That’s what propels us through the times when we feel like giving up.

 

Not putting on a mask of happiness, but living it.

 

Positivity is something we can only truly grasp when we experience the joy of the Lord.

 

Nehemiah 8:10b

“And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

 

The joy of the Lord. Not the joy of nice things, a good relationship, a happy circumstance, no. This joy is knowing that we are loved. Knowing that His grace is lavished on us. The guaranteed assurance that we are new creations in Christ. Our pasts are not counted against us.

 

And we know this all because we have seen the cross. We have seen who Jesus is in the Bible. We have felt his presence in our lives. We have known His power.

 

And so the simple message of positivity just seems so shallow. “Be happy.” Okay, yes, but why should I be happy?

 

Because we are loved with an everlasting love by our Creator. We are treasured. We are provided for. We are never left on our own. And we are definitely never forsaken or forgotten about.

 

To be truly positive is about so much more than just feeling something – it’s what we can live in as Christians.

 

And that kind of positivity is the best of all.

 

*aj

Bits of Advice to Turn Over Your Worry Into Trust

Girl on Lake

Lately, I’ve been thinking.

Not about anything in particular, really, but just about the future.

Everything from the coming school year to my life career, from my future marriage to my future kids, and all that. (If I told you that I also think about retirement on occasion, you’d think me mad. But to quote Alice – from Wonderland of course – all the best people are. We’re all mad here.)

What if I “fail” school this year?

What exactly am I going to do when I graduate?

What if I’m still single at 30?

What if I can’t have kids?

What if I lose my friends?

What if…what if…what if…And on and on.

Though I don’t completely consider myself an anxious person, I do sometimes get caught up too much in my thoughts. You must know, that as an introvert, I spend way too much time thinking about things and less time talking them through. This, in turn, leads to stressing over things that are completely implausible and ridiculous, but you couldn’t tell me that then if you tried.

So, as a reference for myself in the days to come and everyone else who has ever struggled with stress or anxiety (let’s face it – we all have), I’ve compiled some hopefully-helpful advice for the life ahead.

  1. No matter how many self-help books we read, or conferences we attend, or sermons we stream online, or any other resource we gather information from, there’s no better truth than the Bible.

No matter how stressed, depressed, anxious, or afraid I feel, I can always – I repeat, ALWAYS – find strength and encouragement in the Bible. Here are some of my top verses that encourage me when I’m going crazy.

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Psalm 55:22

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 118:5-6

Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

  1. God is always near to us. He has never left, and never will, and will deliver us.

Psalm 34:17-18

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 143:7-8

Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

Isaiah 41:13

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

It’s crazy to think of how many times we don’t pray and trust God through each aspect of our lives. Even in hardships, a lot of times, I forget that my all-powerful and all-loving Creator is on my side.

For example, I read a random fact that the average person will spend two weeks of their life sitting at a stoplight. Think about that. Can you imagine if we spent that same amount of time in prayer, turning our worries over to God? Can you imagine if we spent that same amount of time every day getting to know God better?

For me, that really puts things in perspective, because I know that I spend more time of my life all stressed out than I spend sitting at a red light. Whoa. I’m going to change that.

  1. We don’t need to trust in ourselves.

Most of my stress comes from my forgetting that I’m not the one in control. So often I think about how “I’m not going to be able to ______” or “I don’t know how ______ is going to come together” or whatever. It’s really crazy to think like this, because this burden is not for me to carry.

Read this and believe it along with me.

I’m not the one in control of my life, but I know the One who is. He loves me, and has a perfect plan all laid out for me.

It’s not all up to me.

I just need to trust, for His ways are best.

1 John 3:20

For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

  1. Worry Time doesn’t do any good. Trust Time does.

Matthew 6:27

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Proverbs 12:25

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.

All the time we spend in stress could be turned over into time trusting in God. Trust is soooooo much more beneficial than stress…because all of this isn’t in our hands anyway.

For me, I know that having the security of God’s promises is enough.

When we don’t trust, we are essentially saying, “God, I don’t believe that you are strong enough to handle my problems.” Ouch, right? Of course He has everything under control, even as out-of-control as it may seem.

But He’s never going to let us down or disappoint us. I find it to be such a beautiful and awe-inspiring thing that God cares so much about us to hold our lives so carefully. He can do anything, and nothing is too hard for Him!

Jeremiah 32:17

‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

So let’s all do something together. Let’s trust in the One who has it all under control. As hard as that is, I’m surrendering my stress, worries, and anxiety to my Maker, who holds me so tightly in the palm of His hand. ❤

*aj