The anger erupted out of me like a volcano. I screamed at God as I threw the cards in my hand across the room. The frustration was no longer contained. In a moment of unfiltered honesty, I told God how angry I was at Him. What was it all about? What it boiled down to was failed expectations. I expected God to act in a certain way, and in my mind, He’d failed to deliver.
You might be thinking that the way I acted was dishonoring to God, and I agree. Relationships can be messy, and we don’t always handle things the way we should. Our relationship with God is no different. On the other hand, it’s a lie to believe that it’s more God honoring to abide in a place of silent offense towards Him. God already knows what’s in our hearts, so He wasn’t shocked by my behavior. And yes, repentance was called for, and I needed to walk through that process.
It’s easy to do this, because deep down we tend to believe that “good” Christians would never be angry with Him. This often leads to emotional stuffing. We take those ugly feelings and place them in lockdown. Over time, those feelings of offense turn into bitterness. Left untended long enough, the relationship grows cold and broken.
So what do we do if we recognize that we’re offended by God? How do we move forward so we can connect emotionally with Him again?
Accept that God is Sovereign. His house, His rules. While His Sovereignty can be comforting, it can also feel crushing at times. We can either submit to Him, or resist Him. It isn’t always easy. Yet in the end, we need Him to stay on His throne. What a mess heaven would be if He yielded to our desires every time. His judgments are ALWAYS just, true and good. They just don’t always look that way to us. We don’t always know what love looks like. Or justice. Or goodness. The good news is that He does. We can trust Him.
We can either accept His judments or despise them. Sometimes we just need to get off the judment seat and yield to Him. His ways are higher than our ways. We don’t always see the big picture. We either choose to trust Him or not. We cannot depend on our feelings or perceptions to tell us what is true about God. The Bible is our plumb-line. Every opinion we have of God needs to be measured against it.
The second step toward reconnecting with God is to be honest with Him. Tell Him how you feel, even if your feelings aren’t pretty. Express the disappointment you feel toward Him. Tell Him if you’re angry with Him. Be honest if you’re struggling to accept His verdict in a situation.
The 3rd step is to ask yourself if your expectations of God were rooted in truth. Did God promise that He would do what you were expecting of Him? If not, He wasn’t obligated to fulfill those expectations. Sometimes we can run ahead of God and assume that what we desire or expect is from Him. Sometimes we just need to back up the bus and ask for His perspective.
Something that I believe needs addressing in our day is prophetic words. It seems like prophets were coming out of the woodwork this past year. I wasn’t familiar with most of the people putting out these words, so I began to just watch and listen. I’ll be honest, in the moment these words seemed to encourage me. Most of the words I was seeing were filled with promise of breakthrough, prosperity, and everything we would hope for. Many of these words promised that NOW is when they were being fulfilled. Then the NOW came and went, and things remained the same. (or got worse) Big picture, these words began to stir up feelings of disillusionment and disappointment. I do believe that there are prophets in our day that are speaking for the LORD. However, we need to test every prophetic word. We’re wise to examine the fruit of these words. We examine them against the word of God. We consider whether or not these words come to pass. We consider whether or not these words resonate as true or false. If we get a check in our spirit, it’s a red flag.
The last step toward reconnecting with God is to reaffirm our trust in Him. Without this last vital step, all we’ve done is gripe. This is where our honor of God is reestablished. This is where we trust even though we don’t understand. It’s also where we submit even though it feels like doing so might break our heart. Brothers and sisters, He is trustworthy. Psalm 36 reassures us:
Beloved, let’s lay aside any offense, disappointment or critical judment of God. He deserves our trust. May your hearts find rest in His faithfulness,
Does victory look like getting what we want? Perhaps seeing the sick healed or the peson we voted for getting into office? Or maybe it looks like prosperity? Or favor? Well, sometimes it does. But what about the times when victory doesn’t look like victory? What about the times when you’ve done all that you were supposed to do, but the outcome looks disappointing? What about then? It’s so tempted in those moments to ask ourselves if God came through for us. He says He’s the Rescuer. Did He rescue? He says He’s the Healer. Did He heal? He says He’s our Deliverer. Did He deliver? Our faith can be severely tested sometimes. When everything is going our way, it’s easy to believe that God is Who He says He is. It’s when our faith is tested, however, that we find out whether it’s genuine or not. It’s during times of disappointment that we have a choice to make: will we trust God even if our PERCEPTIONS tell us that He failed us? Will we trust our feelings, or God’s word?
Again I ask, What does victory look like for a believer? What’s the litmust test for victory? Perhaps we could look to those God commended to get His perspective of a victorious life. Hebrews 11 is a good place to find examples of believers who saw great victories. We see King David who conquered Kingdoms, Enoch who escaped death, Samson who was victorious in battle. We see people who recieved their loved ones back from the grave and others who overcame infertility. Some administered justice, shut the mouths of lions and escaped the edge of the sword. Wow. Pretty impressive. Looks like victory to me. But wait a minute…
Hebrews 11 also commends those who were victorious in another way. It also commends those who held onto their faith even when they didn’t get what they wanted. Verse 35 says,
“Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some face jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned, they were sawed in two; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in desserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. They were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. For God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
Walking in victory means we hold onto our faith no matter what comes. It means that we choose to believe God whether we’re conquering kingdoms or not. Winning an election or losing one. In prison or in the palace. Rich or poor. Receiving our loved ones back from the dead or lowering their casket into the ground. Favored or rejected. Prospering financially or destitute, persecuted and mistreated. Healed or sick. There’s an old hymn that says, “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.” 1 John 5:4 says,
“Everyone born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that have overcome the world: our faith. Who then overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.…”
What do we do if we’ve come through a disappointing life experience that leaves us doubting God’s word? I went through this recently. I’d been diligent in asking God for something that I thought would be a good thing. I believed that God thought it would be a good thing too. But when things didn’t play out in a way that looked like victory, I was tempted to believe that God hadn’t come through for me. I found myself struggling with unbelief. Here’s what’s helping me get through it:
Recognize that the land of disappointment is a dangerous place to dwell. In his book, This Day We Fight, author Francis Frangipane writes,
“Disappointment is not just a sad, emotional state of mind; it actually can sever our hearts from faith. It is the enemy’s work. Demonically manipulated disappointment can actually “dis-appoint” a person from God’s destiny for their lives. I have known many who were doing well, moving forward toward their appointed destiny. The future God had for them seemed almost close enough to taste. Then they became disappointed in someone or something. By accepting disappointment into their spirits, a bitter cold winter took over their souls, and their faith turned dormant…Often, it is not blatant rebellion against God that causes backsliding; it is the acceptance of dis-appointment into our hearts.” Page 90-91
I look at disappointment like a warning light on the dashboard of my car. Disappointment says, there’s trouble in my heart. It needs addressing, and quickly.
The next step to overcoming disappointment is being honest with God about how we feel. Let’s face it, the natural inclination of our flesh is to talk to everybody BUT God about our disappointment. Venting to others only adds fuel to the fire. Some feel like it dishonors God to say, “Lord, I’m angry with you right now.” The truth is, He already knows anyway. We can either process those strong emotions with Him, be healed and move on, or we can stuff our emotions and still be carrying them around 20 years from now. Ignoring our feelings won’t make them go away. We’re deceiving ourselves if we think it will.
The next step to getting through disappointment is to identify and confront areas of unbelief. I had to face the lies that God didn’t rescue, didn’t defend, didn’t help. I acknowledged to God that this is how it LOOKED to me. I confessed my unbelief and repented of it. It’s a mistake to believe that once we’re saved we no longer struggle with unbelief. The danger with this lie is that we get blindsided when our faith is severely tested. It’s normal for believers to be tempted with the sin of unbelief. It happens to all of us at one time or another. As believers, we are no longer slaves to sin. We don’t need to yield to unbelief. We have a choice!
The last step in overcoming disappointment is to reaffirm our faith in God. This is where we make a choice. Will we trust our feelings and perceptions, or will we trust God’s word to tell us what’s true? This is the most important step in getting through a crisis of faith…this is where we put our stake in the ground once again and declare, “I believe God.” It’s where we say, “I reject all lies about God and I CHOOSE to trust that He does not lie. He does not change. He is trustworthy. Even if I don’t receive in my lifetime what I’d hoped for, I trust Him.”
These steps have helped me to quickly move past disappointment and unbelief. My hope is that they’ll do the same for you if you find yourself in that place.
” …Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-44-45
Christianity was never meant to be a spectator sport. Many view church leaders as the only ones responsible to carry out the ministry of the Church. This mindset often leads to passivity and critical attitudes. Theodore Roosevelt said it well:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done it better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Up in the stands, it’s easy to spot what’s wrong with the church. It’s up in this perch that we clearly see how things could be done better. What should be done, but isn’t. The ways the Church should be serving, but isn’t. I believe the message that the LORD has for His Church today is that it’s time to engage in serving. It’s time to set our popcorn down, get suited up and take our place as servants in the arena. Before we can do that, we may need to address the reason why we haven’t been serving. Let’s take a look at a few of those reasons:
Having a consumer mindset. The person with this mindset looks for the church that will meet their needs. Instead of going to church to serve, this person attends church to have their own needs met. This often leads to disappointment and hurt. The solution is to keep our eyes outward, not on ourselves. Be more concerned with loving those we encounter rather than being loved. The ironic thing is, when we keep our eyes off of our own needs, they are more likely to be met. Luke 6 says,
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Fear of inadequacy. If we’re going to get up out of the stands and engage in the work of God’s kingdom, it takes courage. It means facing our fear that those still in the stands will judge us when we stumble. Proverbs 29:25 says,
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”
People may criticise us, but that doesn’t make them right. We’re safe when we put our hope in God for adequacy. Fear has the potential to keep us from our destinies. The good news is that God has not given us a spirit of fear! We don’t have to allow fear to dictate our actions. Fear of criticism loses it’s strength as we push past it and engage in the arena. This means doing the hard thing even if we’re afraid.
Emotional pain can also keep us from serving. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. If we wait until our hearts are completely whole before we serve, we never will. A story is told of soldiers who had just been through a fierce battle. The officer in charge told one of his men to get in the truck and drive. The soldier responded, “But sir, I’m bleeding.” The officer replied, “We’re all bleeding. Get in the truck and drive.” Serving in God’s kingdom can feel that way. We get battered and bruised. Sometimes we feel like we’ve endured so much that we just want to stop. There’s a time to persevere even when serving is hard. It’s in this place that we are wholely dependant on God to give us the strength to keep going. It’s easy to overlook, but we need to ask for His help. This is so obvious, yet easy to overlook.
Having said all this, there is also a time when emotional pain does call for a break from serving. There’s a time for everything; a time to persevere through the pain, and a time to take an extended break from serving. I remember one time when my husband and I had been through such a devastating life event that serving needed to be suspended. For about 2 years we attended a different church specifically with the intention of healing in mind. We allowed the body of Christ to minister to us. We took the time to process the pain.
You may be in a place like this. Perhaps you’re grieving, or suffering the aftermath of abuse or suffering from a long term illness. Whatever the life altering event, your right now your “job” is to take time to heal. This might look like rest, forgiving, seeking wise counsel or allowing yourself time to grieve. The important thing is to say connected to the LORD. Invite Him into your healing process.
Distraction is another reason that some don’t serve. This might not sound like a big deal, but distraction can have serious consequences. Those who achieve great goals have learned the need for sustained focus. They resist the urge to chase every squirrel that runs by. If we allow distraction to steal our focus, we’ll be settling for lesser things. Sustained focus takes sacrifice. Sometimes it means letting opportunities pass us by. It can also mean that we won’t be able to meet everyone else’s expectations. Sustained focus also means pushing through and finishing a job even when we don’t feel like it.
This morning, I got up with the intention of finishing this blog post. I’m just going to be honest. I didn’t feel like doing it. It wasn’t even that there was some super tempting distraction luring me away from writing. It was just insignificant distractions that I felt pulling me in another direction. I’m so thankful that I pressed on past that lure. Once I started writing, I was reminded that I really do love what I do.
Getting caught up in civilian life is another way we can become distracted. This could mean over emphasis on things that matter, but don’t require as much focus as we’re giving it. The story of Mary and Martha is a good example of this. Instead of keeping the meal simple so she could focus on what was important, Martha put more into a meal than was needed. Her distraction cost her a precious gift. God Himself sat in her livingroom, yet she missed it.
Lack of understanding where we fit in the body of Christ can also keep us from serving. We may have preconceived ideas of what it looks like for us to serve that simply aren’t true. Serving may stir images of working in the nursery or vacuming the sanctuary. Although some are called to these tasks, they aren’t for everyone. The good news is that God knows how He wired us. He knows those areas of serving that will satisfy our souls. He leads us into areas of service that are well suited for us…areas that will actually energize us!
A good place to start is taking a spiritual gifts assessment. Investigate how God wired you to serve. Then seek to get plugged in where your spiritual gifts will be used. If you’re a gifted evangelist, then serve God through sharing the gospel. If you’re wired to express yourself artisticly, then serve the kingdom of God with your art. If you’re a teacher, serve through teaching. If you’re wired as a connector, then serve in the Church by connecting people with one another, etc.
Pride is another thing that can keep us from serving. Joy is a reward we recieve when we serve God. Pride is a thief. If we allow it to, pride can steal that joy.
Humility says, “I’ll serve wherever you ask me to, Lord.” Pride says, “You want me to do what??? Do you know who I am?” Jesus Himself demonstrated humility when He washed His disiples’ feet. If Jesus isn’t above taking the position of a lowly servant, who are we to say we’re above it?
Another thing that can keep us from serving is lazyness. Proverbs 21:25 says,
“Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work.”
The diligent aren’t diligent because they feel like it. They press past the temptation to chill out when there’s work to be done. If we’ve been given to lazyiness, repentance is called for.
“A curse on anyone who is lax in doing the LORD’s work!
Sobering, isn’t it? If we’re lax in doing the LORD’s work, we’ll experience the opposite of blessing on our lives. Why would God allow a curse to fall upon those who are lax in their work? It’s because there are eternal issues at stake. There are lost to be reached. I’m so glad that the man who shared the gospel message with my family didn’t decide to chill that day.
So, what’s the big deal? Why is it so important that we serve? We’ve each been given gifts/talents by God. Jesus tells a parable about the different ways people steward their gifts in Matthew 25. To those who were faithful to put their talents to work, Jesus commended them. He invited them to share in His happiness. As a reward for faithfully stewarding their gifts, they were given more to steward.
The one who didn’t use their talent to bring increase to God’s kingdom was reprimanded:
“You wicked and lazy servant!…Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Strong words, I know. Yet if this is what Jesus warns us will happen if we choose not to serve with our gifts, wouldn’t we want to be warned?
The good news is that today, we get to choose. Will we serve God? Will we use the gifts/talents that He’s given us to build His kingdom? If we do, we’ll enter into our Master’s happiness. What a precious promise!
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” Matthew 12:25
The news had just broke. Our nation’s capital had just been breached. The country was in chaos once again. The division that was thick in our nation seemed to be seeping into the walls of our home. Our normally unified marriage seemed to be pulling apart at the seams. Strong opinions flared. It was almost like I could feel Satan’s pleasure in our quarreling. What in the world was going on??? What is needed here? I believe it can be summed up in one word:
How do we as believers choose unity when we’re floating down a raging river of division? Here’s a few things that I had to remind myself of:
Do a self-check: Which leader have I put my hope in? Is it a political leader? A political party? A particular form of government? If so, I’m vulnerable to division. Psalm 146 says,
“Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,…the LORD, who remains faithful forever.”
We see in 1 Corinthians 1 how putting our hope in human leaders is a door-opener to division when it says,
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.”
Another thing I needed to remind myself of in order to choose unity is that God is in control, not me. It’s Soooo tempting to think that if we can just be the one in control, we can protect others. When this happens, it’s easy to start scrambling to seize power. Even if it’s just by sitting on our couches pointing fingers and spouting our strong opinions.
Instead, we can choose unity by acting as if we actually believe that God is Sovereign. He rules. He has not gotten off of His throne, and He never will. Daniel 6:26 assures us,
“For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.”
Another thing I needed to remember in order to choose unity is that people are not the enemy. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
It’s so tempting to think we have to fight our battles in the physical realm. The truth is, the solution to the problems we face is found on our knees. There’s a time to try to persuade others in the physical realm. But first, let’s go to our knees. Let’s reopen the alters for corporate prayer. We are stronger when we come before the throne of God together.
Another thing I needed to remind myself of was to submit to God’s answer to my prayers. Many have been praying for the outcome of this election for a long time. There are different opinions within the Church about who would make the best President. Some have prayed one way, others another way. When we go to prayer, we often just want what we want. If we don’t get it, the temptation can come to yield to disappointment and disillusionment. We may begin to question whether our prayers have any power at all; yet even Jesus didn’t always get a “yes” when he prayed. Hebrews 5:7-9 says,
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…”
I’m guessing that after Jesus cried out to the Father asking that the cup of suffering would pass by Him if possible, it might not have LOOKED like He’d been heard. When He was flogged, He couldn’t depend on His feelings. When the soldiers pressed the crown of thorns on His head, He couldn’t depend on how things looked. When He was nailed to the cross, He had to depend on the faithfulness of the Father. This passage from Hebrews teaches us some things we can hold onto:
God listens to the prayers of His people. Hebrews tells us that Jesus “was heard because of his reverent submission. In the original language, “was heard” means that the Father not only listened, but that Jesus was deeply heard. The Father listened intently. It also means that Jesus’ request was granted. You might ask, but how can that be? Jesus still had to suffer. He still died. It is only when we look at the outcome from heaven’s vantage point that we can see that our prayers and the Father’s will are both able to be satisfied. It is this eternal perspective that the Father did indeed save Jesus from death. It was through Jesus’ resurrection that death no longer had power over Him.
The Father does the same for us. He listens intently when we pray. We are deeply heard. We have His attention. God responds to our prayers. He makes a way even when there is no way. When our prayers collide with His Sovereign will, He makes a way so that His will is satisfied and our prayers are answered. It just doesn’t always look that way this side of eternity.
So, how should we respond if our prayers don’t appear to be answered the way we hoped they would? We do the same thing Jesus did: we submit to God. We yield to His Sovereign will. We say, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” We resist lies of unbelief that say, “God didn’t hear me,” or “It doesn’t do any good to pray.” We agree with the word when it says,
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
“The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17
“The judgments of the LORD are true, being altogether righteous.” Psalm 19:9
“His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are counted as nothing, and He does as He pleases with the army of heaven and the peoples of the earth. There is no one who can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?” Daniel 4:34-35
“There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1
Scripture reassures us that God is the One Who puts people in positions of authority. We can rest in this. Now, is there ever a time to take action? Yes! The key is that we don’t just go rogue. We are protected when we get our marching orders from our heavenly commander-in-chief.
God has a plan for this nation, and it’s good. He is for us! He never ceases to be our rescuer! He never stops acting as our Protector. We can trust His leadership fully. So let’s lay down our walls of fear. Let’s turn away from division, finger-pointing and making political leaders the foundation of our hope. We will not be disappointed if we put our hope in God.
How To Avoid The Ditches of Interpersonal Conflict
Ephesians 6:12 says, “We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Sometimes it sure looks like our struggle is with people though, doesn’t it? You may find yourself in a situation where the words are coming out of a person’s mouth. The conflict is real. Maybe you feel intimidated, dominated or threatened. Maybe you feel like someone is shoving their way into your lane. Or maybe you’re feeling like someone is trying to manipulate you through intimidation or neediness. If you’re a leader, maybe someone is pressuring you to abdicate your God-given authority and do things their way. Or maybe you feel the threat of humiliation if you don’t yield. It may be that someone is blowing right past the healthy boundaries you’ve expressed.
How do we respond in a God honoring way to the conflict we find yourselves in? Picture a road, with a ditch on either side. The healthy, God honoring response is the “high road.” People with an Elijah mindset walk on this road. They don’t put up with the spirit of jezebel in their relationships. The ditches are the places we need to avoid. Those who yield to the spirit of jezebel hang out in the ditches. Why two ditches? Because jezebel has two faces. One face looks fierce and intimidating, the other needy and rejected. Our flesh can be slippery, tending to veer toward one ditch or another. It takes a great deal of courage and intentionality to stay out of the ditches. The two ditches:
The first ditch is where the sheepish and self-deprecating hang out. This is the picture of someone who shrinks beneath others when facing conflict. The person who does this agrees with the lie that he/she is inadequate to face the situation they are in. This person tends to yield to unholy domination by others. In order to avoid conflict, this person tends to abdicate their God-given position. If this person is a leader in the church, they veer toward abdicating authority to those who pressure them to do what they want. This could also be the housewife that allows someone to displace them in their own home. It might be the volunteer in the church who resigns their position when someone gets in their lane. It could also be the parent to allows someone to displace them in the disciplining of their child. It might be the husband who allows his wife to usurp his authority in the home. The person in this ditch tends to deal with their anger by stuffing it. This ditch is for those who either lack healthy boundaries or fail to enforce their boundaries when someone tromps on them. This person tends to struggle with feelings of insecurity, self-rejection and shame. Fear of man keeps the person in this ditch from rising up and doing the right thing. This person will often flee to isolated places in order to protect themselves or others. Those in this ditch tend toward having a “never enough” poverty mindset. This person needs to reestablish trust that God will protect and help them to stand against opposition.
This is the ditch that I tend to veer into. Where others appear brimming with confidence, I have to fight for it. In an attempt to choose humility, I have to be aware that I don’t end up agreeing with inadequacy. I have to be intentional about agreeing with the truth that whatever God calls me to do, He will enable me to do.
The second ditch is to Get bigger and bully. This person may have just transferred out of the sheepish and self-deprecating ditch. Exasperated with feeling under the domination of others, this person decides, “NEVER AGAIN!!!” In an instant, this person may jump in the opposite ditch and get “bigger” than the person they’re in conflict with. This person finds refuge in intimidating others. Their anger, once suppressed, either erupts like a volcano or leaks out sideways. He or she may act out their anger in passive aggressive, contempt filled ways. Instead of being kind and clear, the person in this ditch acts rejecting (outward or inward) and rude. Mean and muddy. This person is willing to get louder than their intimidator in order to be heard. This person will often be the source of friendly fire in the church. They will get in others’ lanes, often in an attempt to protect things from being done wrong. This person also struggles with fear of man, but it looks different than the person in the sheepish ditch. This person tends to come across prideful, domineering and threatening. This person may seek to manipulate through threat of punishment.
Climbing out of the ditch and taking the high road:
If we are going to stop yielding to the spirit of jezebel, we need to get out of the ditches and do this God’s way. So…what does that look like? If there was just one scripture that would show us how to do this, it would be Ephesians 4:15:
“…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head.”
Sounds simple enough in theory. It takes a lot of courage to live out. Two mistakes we’ve made as believers are:
1.) Thinking we can do just fine without being honest with one another. This mindset says, “I know better than God. I can have healthy relationships without truth.”
2.) The second mistake we make is delivering the truth in a mean package.
When we speak truth, it’s gonna go sideways if our motive is to vent our anger! This means that we need to forgive BEFORE we speak difficult truth to others. If we don’t, we’re likely to use truth as a hammer to beat others up with.
In our culture, we’ve been taught that it’s not ok to speak truth if it’s uncomfortable or might offend. But this is NOT God’s way. He loves us enough to tell us the truth. Leviticus 19:17-18 says,
“You must not harbor hatred against your brother in your heart. Directly rebuke your neighbor, so that you will not incur guilt on account of him.” Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.…”
Brothers and sisters, it takes courage to live like this. It is not our social norm. But we can do this! Let’s talk a little bit more about what it looks like to take the high road.
How do we go about getting out of the ditch and onto the high road?
Confront fear of man head on. Don’t let fear of critical judgment by others dictate your actions. If we’re going to get out of the ditches, we can’t let fear of disapproval or wounding stop us. This means doing the right thing even if we’re afraid others will blow up at us or feel rejected. Proverbs 29:25 says,
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”
When I was beginning to break free from fear of man, the Lord led me to take on a project at a church. The current leader was being pushed out of her position of authority by people who held no legitimate authority in the church. They postured authority in this department that they didn’t have. When someone did something they didn’t like, they attempted to control through disapproval and intimidation. The thing was, I didn’t hold any position of authority in this area either. So I went to the person in charge of this ministry and asked for her permission. She gave it, but recommended that I speak to the elders as well. I did that, and again, was given permission to take on the project. As I carried it out, fear of man came against me with a vengeance. I literally shook as I carried out the work God had asked me to do. I did it afraid, but I did it. Even as I worked, I could feel the grip of fear losing its power over me. There was backlash, criticism toward me and anger. Those posturing authority made it clear that they weren’t happy with me. It wasn’t fun, but I survived! The next time I had to face fear of man, it was a little easier. And the next time, easier still.
Another way that we climb out of the ditch and onto the high road is by Speaking the truth in love. This takes vulnerability. Some have described vulnerability as, “into-me-you-see.” It’s also “I-See-You.” We live this out as we call it as we see it. Honest, kind and frank. The more we care about the relationship, the more difficult this is to do. It can feel really risky. If we’re going to take the high road, it means we have to value pleasing God above pleasing even those we love most.
Dealing with anger in a Biblical way is another way we climb out of the ditch. Ephesians 4:25-27 says,
“…having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
Notice that anger in itself isn’t a sin? It’s what we do with it. It is possible to be angry and still do the right thing.
We take the high road when we act within proper chains of authority. There is covering and protection when we stay under LEGITIMATE authority. This means that when others posture authority that they don’t actually have, we don’t yield to them. If we’re going to operate within legitimate chains of authority, we need to know what they are. If you’re working in a church or organization, it’s wise to know who your up-line is, and who your subordinates are. It’s wise before taking on responsibility to ask, “Who’s in charge?” Once we know who our authority is, acting in honor toward them is how we stay out of the ditch.
We take the high road when we resist the temptation to quit or to flee from conflict. This means standing firm, even when we feel afraid or intimidated. 1 Peter 3:14 says,
“…Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED.”
Choose refuge in God rather than walls of fear. We all need a refuge when we feel threatened. God promises to be this for us! We are safe when we put our hope in Him to protect, not in ourselves. Psalm 91 says,
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, I will rescue him. I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”
Establish and enforce healthy boundaries. We can’t expect others to know what boundaries we need if we don’t express them. Once we do that, we need to stand firm. Those that choose to overstep our boundaries need to be reminded. If they persist, we need to stand firm.
We climb out of the ditches when we see ourselves and others through the lens of God’s word, not our feelings or perceptions. This means we don’t agree with puffed up images of ourselves (pride) or with self-deprecating images of ourselves. (another face of pride, as self is still the focus). Rather, we see ourselves as adequate and competent because God makes us so. It also means that we don’t see intimidating people as being bigger than they are. Isaiah 51 says,
“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Why should you be afraid of mortal man, of a son of man who withers like grass? But you have forgotten the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. You live in terror all day long because of the fury of the oppressor who is bent on destruction. But where is the fury of the oppressor?…”
God is bigger than anyone we may have conflict with. He is our Defender, our Shield, our Help in times of trouble. We are safe in His very capable hands.
May you have the courage to face all of your relationships with truth and love,
If I were to give you a word picture of what I am hearing the LORD say He wants to do in this season, this would be it. Jesus, our bridegroom sees the deep pain in the hearts of His bride. He sees the depression, the loneliness, the feelings of rejection that have chased her down for far too long. He wants to restore a sense of well-being to His Church. It’s time for emotional healing. He is offering healing to His Church. So how do we receive this healing?
The first step is to stop running. If there are things other than God that we’ve been turning to when in pain, we need to stop. It may not have even been anything sinful in itself.
Things we run to for refuge instead of God feel like they help us cope momentarily, but they will not bring lasting healing. It’s time to step into God’s presence when we’re hurting. We can use the emotional pain as a type of catalyst, ushering us into intimate time with Him. Psalm 62 says,
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken…Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”
Our soul includes our mind and our emotions. As we put our hope in God, we will find our emotions and our mind able to return to a place of rest. This looks like a cessation of warfare and turmoil. It’s in this place that we’re able to experience the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, etc. Psalm 34 says,
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
The next step to receiving healing for our heart is to talk to God about the pain. This takes honestly admitting what we’re feeling. Even if what we’re feeling isn’t pretty, intimacy requires talking about what’s in our hearts. Often, our gut instinct is to vent to people, but God alone needs to be the foundation for emotional healing. He may use others to speak into our lives, but first, let’s bring God into the equation. When we ask Him to orchestrate our healing, He will! He will guide us and help us.
I remember one time when I recognized that my heart needed healing. I seemed to be at an impasse. I knew my heart needed healing, but I didn’t know how to get there. I began to pray that God would orchestrate it. He answered that prayer. He brought someone alongside me to speak into my life. Someone that God knew was equipped to minister to me. God alone knew who that someone needed to be. He is more than willing to provide WHATEVER is needed for the healing of our hearts.
The 3rd step we need to take is to agree with God’s word, not our feelings. This past week, rejection came knocking at my door. The temptation to agree with its lies felt relentless. I knew in my head that the Bible says believers are accepted. I kept quoting Romans 15:7:
“Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God the Father.”
When we’re in the midst of spiritual warfare, sometimes lies look like truth. We may know the truth in our heads, but our hearts can’t “see” the truth. This is what I was going through this past week. My feelings were not in alignment with God’s word. I had to fight for the truth. James 4:7 says,
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that this whole submitting and resisting things is supposed to happen quickly. Sometimes it does. Sometimes overcoming takes longer. When this happens, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re doing anything wrong. It just means that we need to outlast the enemy. Ephesians 6 says,
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.“
We have been given authority over all the power of the enemy. We do not need to yield to a defeated foe. The mistake a lot of people make is believing the lie that if victory doesn’t come quickly, we don’t actually have authority over the enemy. Every time we resist the enemy, we’re getting stronger. Just like an athlete doing reps in the weight room, we’re building muscle. Every time we resist the lie that we have to live with depression, rejection, loneliness or brokenheartedness, we get stronger. The key is that we don’t give up.
You are loved by God. He sees the pain in your hearts. He has compassion for you and He has healing in store for you. I want to leave you with a song that speaks of the love of God. He is our faithful bridegroom. His intention is for the healing of your heart.
I hope this song about the healing love of our Bridegroom will minister to you as much as it did to me,
There’s a boatload of emotions that I’m hearing people express. Physical symptoms aren’t the only thing covid 19 has brought with it. People are struggling with feelings of loneliness, despair, frustration and depression. Believers and unbelievers alike are wrestling with a lot of painful emotions. How do we process this in light of the cross? Aren’t the fruits of the Spirit love, joy, peace, etc.? Isn’t God the Restorer of our souls? Then why are we still in pain?
For decades, I felt like a victim of painful emotions. Depression, anxiety, despair and loneliness. I had tried so many times to fight back, but every time, I found myself knocked back down, with my face in the dust. Finally, I decided it was easier to not hope than to have my hopes dashed again. So I decided to just stay in the dust. The enemy walked over my back, and I decided to let him. I stayed there until I could no longer compartmentalize the despair. It began to leak out everywhere. I longed for death so the nightmare would end. Heaven seemed to me the only solution to end the pain.
Things began to change when our daughter and her husband asked their small group to pray that God would heal me of depression. Hope came back into my heart. Hope that I could break free of depression on this side of eternity. Once again, I stood up and began to fight back. This time was different through. I didn’t look to human reasoning to protect me from painful emotions. I began to recognize that this was a spiritual problem. And spiritual problems need spiritual solutions. 2 Corinthians 10:4 says,
“We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.”
What are these weapons? We have a number of them…the name of Jesus, our testimony, etc. But the weapon that I picked up to fight painful emotions was the word of God. Ephesians chapter 6 teaches us about the armor of God. Beloved, we have got to get dressed for warfare. Verse 17 tells us tells us to:
“Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The word of God is a power weapon of choice when we need to resist depression, loneliness, despair, and feelings of emotional desolation. When we speak the truth from God’s word, we come into agreement with truth BEFORE we feel it. The feelings will follow IF we persist UNTIL feelings that disagree with God’s word dissipate.
If you are weighed down with depression, anxiety, despair and loneliness, you are under a spiritual attack.
God has made a way for us to experience the fruits of the Spirit. We are still going to encounter heaviness, fear, rejection, loneliness, etc. These things still exist in the world. But...we do not have to let these feelings abide in our hearts. Nehemiah 8:10 says,
” Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!”
Why did Nehemiah tell the people this? It was because it didn’t come natural to the people of his day any more than it comes natural to us. We need to reach out and take hold of that which God has made a way for.
So, what is the first step? How do we do this in practical terms? My first step in resisting depression was to find my sword. I sought out some Bible verses that I could use whenever depression would begin to settle on me. I’d pull out my index cards where I’d written my verses. I’d read them, ponder their meaning and speak them out loud. When I did, the depression would leave. It might come back 5 times that day, but every time I’d pull out my verses and use them. Over time, those negative emotions began to come less and less. I always knew when I’d overcome the spiritual attack when my emotions came back to the place of well-being. It was in this place where I experienced the fruits of the Spirit. I experienced joy, contentment, peace.
If you’re looking for your “sword,” I’ve included a few that were helpful for me. May you never give up hope. May the joy of the LORD be your strength today. May you KNOW that you will never walk alone, for our Emmanuel will NEVER leave you or forsake you.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“A father of the fatherless, and a defender of the widows, is God in His holy habitation. 6God settles the lonely in families; He leads the prisoners out to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a sun-scorched land.” Psalm 68:5-6
“I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul” Psalm 31:7 (The Hebrew word for soul is “nephesh.” Our soul includes our whole self, our emotions, passions, desires and appetites.)
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made…The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down…You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. Psalm 145:8-9,14,16
“The Spirit of the LORD God is on me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace…” Galatians 5:22a
“He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
“God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us…” 2 Cor. 7:6
“…God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
The lure of pornography isn’t just rooted in human desire. It isn’t rooted in some low ranking demonic tempter either. It is rooted in demonic temptation, but it’s by a demon of high rank in Satan’s kingdom. Not every believer has faced the specific temptation of pornography, but if you’ve ever found yourself up against this level of spiritual warfare, you know how intense it can be. It’s not something you overcome by human reasoning. It isn’t something you overcome by a strong will. This is a spiritualbattle, so we need spiritualweapons and spiritual “armor” if we’re going to stand.
I’m just going to be blunt. There’s a time to just say it, and the time has come for us as a Church to speak. Let’s talk about what demonic spirit is behind this. It’s the spirit of Jezebel. I am NOT saying that everyone tempted by this spirit IS a Jezebel. PLEASE, PLEASE HEAR ME! I’m addressing the spirit that is coming against us as a Church. The Bible talks about this spirit in Revelation 2:18-29:
“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’ – just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
The greek word for immorality in this passage is “porneía.” It’s where we get the word pornography. It involves the surrender of any type of sexual purity. It involves sex outside of marriage, adultery, incest, and prostitution. In the physical realm, it affects our relationships with people. In the spiritual realm, we commit “adultery” against God (idolatry) when we tolerate the spirit of Jezebel. Satan’s agenda is to tempt us to defile ourselves through sexual immorality. He knows that when we do, we set ourselves up to be disciplined by God Himself. We actually set ourselves up against God when we yield.
How to Overcome the spirit of Jezebel:
This spirit has many markers, or indicators that enables us to recognize when it’s attempting to operate. If you’re facing spiritual warfare against this spirit, you’d be wise to learn to recognize those markers. You may not be tempted by the same markers as your spouse, child, friend etc. But I believe we’ve ALL encountered temptation from this spirit in one way or another. To learn more about this, go to:
If you have tolerated the spirit of Jezebel, repentance is needed if you’re going to overcome it. If you’re like me, this might not be a “one and done.” Learning to not yield to this spirit is a process. As we’re conformed to the image of Christ, we to learn to stand. There’s grace for the journey when we come with sincere repentance when needed.
The third way we overcome the spirit of Jezebel is by staying dressed spiritually. Ephesians 6:10-18 says,
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
We simply cannot expect to stand if we’re uncovered. We need more than to just acknowledge that the armor of God exists. We need to practice “putting it on.” An example of this would be “putting on the belt of truth” by telling the truth. Agreeing with and holding to truth even when it costs us dearly.
An earthly warrior wouldn’t think of going to the front lines without his weapons and his armor. We as believers shouldn’t either. We cannot afford to take off our spiritual armor. Ever. For more on this, go to:
Finally, if you’ve done all of this and you still feel like you’re losing the battle against the spirit of Jezebel, call in reinforcements. This spirit comes against churches, and the solution sometimes takes corporate agreement.
I remember one time when this happened to me. I had done everything I knew to stand. I’d quoted scripture, I’d worshipped, etc. But the warfare was so intense that I could hardly lift my head up. My husband recognized my need and called a few believers to join in praying with us. It was like someone flipped a switch. What felt like a spiritual hurricane stopped. Spiritually, it felt like the sun came out and I was able to stand.
One tactic the enemy will use to keep us from corporate agreement is shame. It takes courage to share our struggles with others. It takes vulnerability. We can feel open to attack. Psalm 34:5 says,
“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”
This is our position in Christ. We need not fear shame. We do, however, need to use wisdom in who we’re vulnerable with. Look for someone who is motivated by love, not shame, when you share your struggles. This takes risk. We may get hurt when we put ourselves out there. If you do, then learn from it. The next time it happens, take a chance with someone else. Ask yourself, “Who do I trust that doesn’t shame others for struggling with temptation?” Then talk to that person.
Beloved, we have been given authority over ALL the power of the enemy. (Luke 10:19) We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, so we look down on every evil ruler, authority and power. We do NOT need to be intimidated. Jesus Christ has given us His shield of victory. Let’s press in to know Him better. May the strength of the LORD be yours today,
We all go through times of discouragement, and maybe even of despair. But to live in that place, refusing to be comforted, is to deny the victory and hope Jesus Christ offers His people…victory He won through the cross. We can choose to stake ourselves to depression, despair and discouragement. Some do. For many years, I did too. As believers, we don’t have to. Jesus came to give us life, and life abundant. The fruits of the Spirit are ours for the taking; they’re part of our inheritance. We CAN live with love, joy, peace, and all the rest of the fruits of the Spirit. We might have to reach out and take these things. We might have to fight for them. But they are ours. Jesus placed them within our reach.
I had to get to the place where I was willing to endure the suffering that change took. I figured I was suffering anyway, so why not suffer on a journey to wholeness instead of suffering with no end in sight. It’s easy to believe the lie that if we’ve tried and failed to take hold of joy, that it just isn’t possible FOR ME. But all things are possible for those of us in Christ Jesus. (Mark 9:23) It is for freedom that Christ set us free! (Gal. 5:1) Past defeat does not guarantee future failure! We might stumble and fall along the way, but even as we do, we’re learning to walk. Just like a toddler learning to walk, we’ll get a little further the next time we try. Until finally, one day, we’re walking!
May the joy of the Lord be your strength today,
““The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3