Vulnerability in Christ

I am someone who doesn’t like to rock the boat. I will listen to others all day, but when it comes to me opening up and pouring my problems upon someone else, I often fall silent. It’s hard for me to be vulnerable, at times, because I either feel like a burden or as if my display of imperfection will cause others to love me less and think less of me.

However, when we construct boundaries and refuse to be vulnerable, we are limiting the depth to which a relationship can go. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” How are we supposed to love God if we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable with Him? How can we sincerely repent when we are fearful of bringing our sins and sincere selves to Christ?

Vulnerability in Christ

It is undeniable that we feel as if we must maintain a certain level of vulnerability in our relationships with friends or family because of the inevitability of conditional love. Everyone has a limit on how deep they can go because we are all human. This mindset often causes us to put a boundary on God’s love, whether we know it or not. We are so used to imperfect love that we put limitations on God’s perfect love because the possibility of someone loving us without fault, without reason, without limitations is so far outside our norm that we push it aside as just an idea, but not the actual truth. We have been so accustomed to human love that we often equate God’s love for us as equal to the love we experience from other humans. It is difficult for us to change this mindset. However, God’s love is vastly different and better than what we have experienced before. It is certain that no matter what we bring to God, no matter how big or shameful we think our sin or current circumstance is, it will result in unconditional love.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Even in the deepest crevices of our souls where we hide our most shameful sins and deepest hurts, Christ ventures there eagerly. Where Christ meets the sinner is also where He builds the most meaningful and loving relationship we could ever experience. Christ did not come for those who have it all together. He came for those who are a wild, broken mess: the sinners. When we attempt to be perfect and build up walls around our sinfulness, we are shutting out the only One who can rectify our wrongs and redeem and sanctify us. We are shutting out the only One who knows every wrong, yet loves us greater nevertheless. In His boundless mercy, we are enabled to be vulnerable without judgment and with unwavering love. We can open up to Christ about anything and everything. Vulnerability in Christ is the most beautiful and freeing thing.

Recently, I read Dane Ortlund’s book Gentle and Lowly, which goes in-depth into Christ’s description of His own heart as “gentle and lowly” (Matthew 11:29). If Christ describes His own heart as gentle and lowly, then we have assurance as believers that He will treat us gently no matter what we bring to Him in our vulnerability.

That God is rich in mercy means your regions of deepest shame and regret are now hotels through which divine mercy abides. It means the things about you that make you cringe most, make him hug hardest. It means his mercy is not calculating and cautious, like ours. It is unrestrained, flood-like, sweeping, magnanimous. It means our haunting shame is not a problem for him, but the very thing he loves most to work with. It means our sins do not cause his love to take a hit. Our sins cause his love to surge forward all the more. It means on that day when we stand before him, quietly, unhurriedly, we will weep with relief, shocked at how impoverished a view of his mercy-rich heart we had. – Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly

Vulnerability in Action

Establishing the necessity and beauty of vulnerability in Christ demands it be put into action. When we pray, we must be aware of the heart behind our prayer and what we are bringing to the Lord. Yes, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and knows the thoughts and unspoken groaning of our hearts (Romans 8:26-27). But, the intentionality of our prayers and the words we decide to say are still important. When we approach prayer, do we have the mindset of checking it off our to-do list of the day and reciting pretty words (Matthew 6:7), or are we laying it all on Christ’s feet, desiring a true relationship with Him? Are we sincerely repenting or are we afraid to bring our sin and shame to Christ? When we approach prayer with vulnerability, we are opening ourselves up to a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Christ through open, honest communication.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:16

Vulnerability in the Community of Christ

Before coming to college, I did not really have a group of Christian girls that I felt like I could be completely vulnerable with, without the fear of being judged. Then, freshman year of college, I joined a college home group through my university. Throughout the past three years, these girls that I have walked alongside, have shown me the beauty and necessity of being vulnerable in a community of Christ-followers. They have shown me that it is better than okay to be vulnerable with one another and have responded with Christ’s love no matter what is said or confessed.

Being vulnerable with those you walk alongside in Christ enables room for accountability, growth, and love. I believe that one of the most important things we can do as believers is to invest in our relationships within the community of Christ through vulnerability. The more we open up with those we walk in faith with, the more we can be held accountable for our sinful struggles and goals to pursue Christ and His kingdom. It also enables us to guide and encourage one another in the foundation of the Gospel. I encourage everyone to join a bible study or home group through their university or church to invest in fellowship with other Christians and to walk life together.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:24-25

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. – Matthew 18:20

May we all wholly surrender every day to the beautiful vulnerability found in Christ.

Do You Want To Be Well?

It was a typical Friday evening. After our date, my boyfriend had left my house and I was winding down the day with my favorite pastime. Somewhere between the creases of faded pages and wrinkles and tears, my Bible began to speak life in a way that I’d never experienced before. 

Resting in a comfortable position, I propped the Bible on my knees as my weak and weary heart bled. Through an exhausting week of state testing, observations, family stress, relationship struggles, and mental battles, my emotions matched the used pages of Scripture: worn but still fighting. In a heavy sigh, my mind felt done, but my heart prodded, “Seek my Word first.” With nothing left to give, I let His words begin to pour over and infatuate my soul. Skimming over the pages of John 5, it was as if someone had opened my eyes for the very first time. 

Reading through the Bible numerous times, my mind couldn’t keep up as the Lord spoke and I merely listened. “Lord,” I prodded, “I need to write this down or I’ll forget the beautiful revelations,” I begged. 

“No, you won’t,” He pushed back. “Just be still and rest in this moment.” And sure enough, I realized the next day that He was right and He was still speaking. 

Searching for Help

Two years ago, I started experiencing physically and mentally impairing conditions that I frequently write about on my blog. In a culmination of these infirmities, my body and mind are often incapable of what they once were. Every day, I battle the past, present, and future, or what has been, what will be, and what will come. Most days, weak are my heart, intellect, and stature at the weight it takes to keep on breathing. 

In John Chapter 5, Jesus meets an ill man just outside the pool of Bethsaida. Traveling to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews, Jesus saw a multitude of disabled people lying near this body of water. Making his way into the crowd, he saw a particular man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” – John 5:6-7

“Do you want to get well?” I heard the Holy Spirit prompt my heart. 

“Of course,” my mind instantly replied.

“But do you really?” I felt him push me deeper, yet again. 

The Source of Healing

What I find most shocking about this story is not that Jesus asked the disabled man if he wanted to be well, but that when asked, the man didn’t say “yes,” but began with, “I have no one to help me.” And while I’m tempted to reply to Jesus’ question to myself with “of course,” the reality is that we’re all masters at saying one thing, yet doing another.

“I want to be well, Lord, but I have IBS.”

“I want to be well, Lord, but my mind is a tangle of cobwebs and anxious threads.”

“I want to be well, Lord, but my physical health is killing me.”

“I want to be well, Lord, but I can’t make it to the pool.”

“I want to be well, Lord, but” seems to be our most significant answer.

In the TPT translation of verses five and six, the Scriptures read, “Do you believe you’re already whole” (Luke 5:6, TPT)? I ask that question of you and myself today: Do you genuinely believe that despite whatever physical, mental, emotional, or social illness you’re going through that Jesus has already made you complete, whole, full of all that you need? Jesus asked the disabled man if he was ready to abandon how he saw himself and now receive the faith of healing. The Greek phrase genesthai here is not future tense (“want to be healed”), but what the TPT calls an aorist middle infinitive that indicates something already accomplished (2 Corinthians 5:7; Luke 5:6, TPT). 

Just as the man at the healing pool who’d been sick for thirty-eight years replied to Jesus’ inquiry with an excuse (vs.7), don’t we do the same? For over three decades, this man laid day after day at a pool waiting to be healed, the same amount of time that Israel wandered in the wilderness waiting for the Lord to provide and change their followed course with rest. Yet, when he found the source of an original pool and not a human-made one, everything changed. 

“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Jesus said to him. “At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat” – Luke 5:8-10

I wonder, do we have the faith and belief amidst fear to not make excuses, but to pick up our mats (sickness, sins, burdens) and walk? We don’t need to lie down and wait anymore; healing is now, ready and waiting for us to believe. 

Accepting Healing

Today, I don’t know about you, but I know that in my heart-to-heart confession with God, I question how long I’ve longed to be well from illness (physical and mental), but not had the strength to “pick up my mat and walk.” Do I have the ability to walk away from my “sleeping (resting) mat” because I no longer need to reside in my stagnancy but rejoice in the freedom I’ve already been given?

Examining my actions, I ask myself, “When did I stop fighting? When did I stop believing? When did I start accepting the lies in my head that appear like truth but only speak death over my soul?”

“Do you truly believe you’re already whole?” It’s less of a physical issue and more of a spiritual one. For the outer body will age, ill, and grow old, but the soul will reap great eternity (2 Cor. 5:1).

Rest in Christ

Jesus said to this man, “Stand up! Pick up your sleeping mat, and you will walk!” Immediately, he stood up – he was healed! So he rolled up his mat and walked again! The healed man took his sleeping (resting) mat with him, but the Jews said to him, “What are you doing? Don’t you know it’s the Sabbath? Don’t you know this is a day of rest?”

Weren’t they missing rest, Himself?

The Sabbath was meant to be a day of rest, but the healed man carried his Sabbath “rest” with him. The Sabbath is not only a day, but is also, in this context, a realm of rest that we carry in our hearts (Luke 5:9, TPT). Though the written Law forbade this particular action, the living Law (Jesus Christ) encouraged obedience to God no matter whether it followed the schedule, protocol, or guidelines or not. 

Do we realize that the Sabbath is not merely a day of rest, but rest in the One who restores us? It’s not the Law or religion that makes us suitable, relaxed, and whole; it is a relationship with the One who was, who is, and who is to come that does that (Rev. 4:8b).

All my life, I’ve had trouble taking rest with me. Always on the go, I’ve found it easier to be busy than reach a place of stagnancy. My mind glues itself to thoughts, and not a second goes by that I’m not productive, thinking, writing, teaching, reading, or being active. I’ve lived with the mantra that I need to go, do something, and be productive, but rest (Sabbath-Shabbat) in Jesus produces a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7, ESV). It is not not doing anything, but it is placing the stressors that are all on you, instead, on Him

Rest in Jesus, for both the invalid man and us today, is believing that we are already made whole (amid physicalities that make us feel like we are not) and that we do want to be well. 

“Want to be well?” you might question. “Of course, I want to be well!” But do you really? Are you ready to leave this place of isolation, depression, and sickness, or has it become such a home that you can’t envision life any other way? Don’t allow Satan to rob you of that. Fight for it back. 

Are you ready to be well? So much so, you will do anything to tell others that He’s who’s healed us (vs.15)?

See, you are well again…The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. – Luke 5:15-14

I’m done fighting the lies and battles in my mind because Jesus has already freed me. I am whole. You are safe. We are complete. Here’s my heart, Lord, speak what is true.

Although I do not know when I started believing all these lies that have tortured me day after day, this much I know is steadfast: I will live again, and I’m taking back the youth of life that has been stolen from me for far too long.

Don’t eat more, or your IBS will flare up, and you’ll be in more pain.

If I rest, I am lazy.

If I don’t feel well, something must be wrong with me. I’m getting sick. What if it’s COVID-19? What if I am relapsing into an eating disorder or orthorexia? 

What if?

I do not know when I started believing these things or why or how long, but they are not valid. The things Satan is probably feeding you day after day most likely are not either. Because these words are condemning, hurtful, hoisted up on things of man. But God’s Word? God’s truth brings life. His words bring truth. Jesus says:

I am the way, the truth, the life – John 14:6

I’m forgiven.

I’m not in obligation to a law or set of rules.

I’m in honor of and obedience to Christ alone. 

I will no longer bow low to anything but Jesus. Help us. Help me, Lord!

I’ve been praying for quite some time now to have the fullness of life and joy, but I’ve forgotten that Jesus already gave that to me when I asked Him into my heart over two decades ago. He alone gives life. Stop living to death, Amber. Stop serving the clutch of dying, my sweet friend. 

Later that night, as I drifted off to sleep in prayer, I was scared by words that appeared in my throat that I did not know. After reciting the names of loved ones in my mind, I said something to the extent of “Elohim [something I can’t remember] Shabbat.” “Is God speaking to me in tongues?” I thought. “What does this mean?”

Though I will not claim that interaction as the filling of the Holy Spirit or tongues with certainty, I will declare that God was and still is moving and speaking in me no matter that experience.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy!” I told my boyfriend in fear. “Mom, you’re never going to believe this,” I said over dinner.

“Not at all, Amber.” His calm voiced soothed anxiety through the telephone line.

“I just don’t know what it means?” I questioned days later.

“Elohim means God in Hebrew, and Shabbat means rest.” His answer was the confirmation I needed.

My God is rest.

“That’s so funny,” my mom began. “The show I was watching this morning that I never watch talked about demanding to be healed when we pray and not just ask. Demand to be whole. Demand to be well. Demand to find rest in Him.”

A New Identity

You are free, dear reader. You are whole. Do not be afraid; trust in God (John 14:1, ESV).

Just as we will someday rise to Heaven eternally, He’s given us life and freedom here on earth, here and now, and it’s time I start living it, breathing it, receiving it, preaching it, and sharing it. Do you want to be well, friend? I know I do.

I am whole.

I am well.

I am healed.

State it, breathe it, believe it, receive it. 

Even if I’m never physically or mentally better, I will fight to try. 

But for now? 

I’m believing that I already am because I know the power of Christ in me shines brightest in the weakest moments. I’m picking up my mat walking, and I hope you’ll join me. 

Beyond the Bubble

My freshman year of college at the University of Georgia brought a world unlike any other. I was living on my own for the first time in a high-rise dorm with 1,000 other UGA students and I came in wide-eyed and excited. My freshman year was spent like typical college freshmen: long hours in the dining halls, Cookout trips at 2 a.m. with my best friends, and ministry nights several times a week. My friends loved going to church gatherings; in fact, by the time the second semester rolled around, we were going to three or four different events Monday through Thursday. It was different from what I had experienced back home. Not better or worse; just unique. Each week normally involved a freshmen service on Monday, a worship night on Tuesday, another service on Wednesday night, and a house church led by two seniors on Thursday night. By the end of each night, we were exhausted and possibly a little burned out, but still curious for what more our university had to offer us. 

It sounds overwhelming, and it was, but we soaked it up like sponges. I do not think it would have been sustainable in the long run; but, for that second semester, it was right where we needed to be. Looking back on it all, it is obvious the Lord used freshman year for me to get to know Him and fall in love with Him. I did not know it at the time, but I was investing in something greater than any stock or bond; I was investing in my relationship with the Lord.  

In my eyes, the term “college” took on a whole new meaning. It was full of hope and determination, a place where the Lord was really moving and working in all our lives. After freshman year, I continued to stay involved in Wesley and became a freshman small group leader my sophomore and junior years of college. Most of my friends were those I had met my freshman year through the various Christian activities we attended. While it was fantastic to be surrounded by a community and close friends to build me up, encourage me in the Word, and hold me accountable, I could not help but feel that I was going to a very different UGA than most students.

Inside the Bubble

It felt as if there were two universities: one full of those seeking the Lord and one full of those there to have a good time. They are so separated that one does not even know the other exists. While the Christian community built each other up and created a community full of love, encouragement, and accountability, it was closed off to the rest of UGA. Regarding the term “closed off,” all the ministry events and small groups are open to everyone; it just ends up being the same groups of people that go to most of the events. I have seen how most (myself included) have sat with the same group of friends every Wednesday night since freshman year. We found our solid Christian friends in the first year of school and check! We can cross that to-do item off of the list!

While it is important to be grounded in strong Christian friendships and community, we were never meant to stay in the “bubble.” The community is an essential part of being a Christian and it encourages us in a way that could not be reached on our own, but believers can not stay in our comfort zones. We are called to leave the bubble every once in a while and serve those who do not know the Lord as we do. While this specific example only discussed one university, this aspect can be applied to almost every part of life. 

Beyond the Bubble

In Luke 10, Jesus sends out seventy-two of his followers and He gives them instructions. It reads:

After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or scandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” – Luke 10:1-4

Jesus is urging us to get out of our comfort zone and serve those who are different from us. How is this done practically? 

1. We can not go alone. In Luke 10, Jesus sends his disciples out two by two. Our community is built for a reason and it is biblical that we have each other to encourage and uplift us. 

2. James 3:18 says:

Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:18

We should not force anything onto anyone; but instead, we should come from a heart of peace, patience, and kindness for others.

3. People should not become our projects. We were never called to analyze the “progress” of someone’s faith journey, but we are called to show up, serve, and know that the Lord is the real one behind the scenes working in their hearts. John 15:5 reminds us this when the Lord says:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

We do not need to carry the burden of people’s salvation on our shoulders because it is not ours to bear. It is the Lord’s work that is doing the real change in people’s hearts. 

4. When our hearts are aligned with God’s purpose, the details will happen naturally. I used to get so nervous about bringing up what the pastor discussed in church that Sunday to my friends who didn’t attend church. I noticed that when I tried to force a point of the sermon into the conversation, it felt unnatural and awkward. But, when I asked for the Holy Spirit to guide me and entered every conversation with a desire for God’s will, conversations that discussed faith became more natural. 

Above all, one of the most important points to remember is that the Lord is the one behind all good things. No matter how hard we are praying for someone, the Lord is fighting for them so much more than we can imagine. It will become a joy and an honor to work alongside Him all for His glory. 

Fight For Your Mind

Sometimes the most brutal battles that we face in life are the ones that never leave our minds. The thoughts we think about ourselves haunt us when we are most vulnerable, even if we know they aren’t right. Soon, those nagging thoughts appear to be the truth, even if they couldn’t be further from it. 

“Amber, you’re a failure.”

“Amber, you’re a horrible teacher.”

“Amber, you’re too organized, strict on yourself, rigid, and OCD.”

“Amber, all you’ll ever be are your diagnoses.”

“Amber, why can’t you just be happy?”

“Amber, everyone sees you’re drowning; get with the program.”

“Amber, everything is your fault,” my sympathetic counselor calmly replied to me during one evening counseling session in demonstration of his point. 

“Why would I ever let someone talk to me that way?” I thought to myself, shaking off the thoughts as my counselor finished his example.

“Those are some pretty accusatory and over-generalized statements to make about yourself,” my counselor’s voice gently pushed.

If I’d never let someone else talk to me that way, why would I talk to myself that way? 

“That’s the power of challenging thoughts. Think about what you’re thinking about, Amber,” my counselor said.

“Half the stuff you feed yourself isn’t feeding you; it’s starving your soul,” the Holy Spirit within me said. 

The Battle of Self-Image

Since conception, it has seemed that I struggle with a negative self-image. 

It’s not necessarily that I think that I am horribly vain or grave, but when countless diagnoses cloud me, a ferocious mind of anxiety engulfs me, and the wolves of my past come howling my last name, it’s easy to believe anything Satan plants in my mind. It’s effortless to wish for the days of old when the ages of new would be a nightmare.

I once read a devotional that said that the only thing Satan has control over is your mind. If you have already given him the keys and swung the door wide-open, what good is it to fight from the inside? If we want to capture our thoughts, especially those ordering unwarranted arrests and havoc on our lives, we have to start with what we believe. 

Like a nightguard watching post at his base, we must understand that we catch a feeling before we catch a thought, but what we do with that feeling is everything. So, how do we fight this battle? Well, we begin by not taking it lightly and arming up with the proper armor. Ephesians 6:10-18 lists an expansive list of qualities needed to fight against the rulers and principalities of the evil one. Of that inventory, perhaps the most important for our thinking is the gift of the Spirit’s sword, which is the Word of God. 

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 Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:10-18

Life in and of itself is war. It’s a daily battle between flesh and honor, humanity and sinfulness, lust and love, pleasure and goodness, anxiety and joy, fear and freedom, truth and lies, temptation and restraint. 

In the TPT version of Luke 12:22-34, we see that worry and fear add nothing but subtract everything from our daily life. No matter what we do, I can say with confidence that none of us can extend our days here on this Earth beyond what the Lord has already willed for each of us. 

Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? – Luke 12:25

The KJV depicts the word “worry” as “taking thought.” 

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? – Luke 12:25, KJV

Similarly, in the ESV:

 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? – Luke 12:25, ESV

The Greek word for worrying, taking thought, or being anxious is merimnaō, a noun meaning concern. Merimnaō, when translated literally means “care, anxiety, or worry,” “to divide/separate.” It also represents a mental state or condition where someone is occupied with or dwelling upon something. The verb translation even takes this further to implicate “anxious, troubled, or careful thought,” that we see today in present versions. 

When we face anxiety, depression, or fear from a thought in our mind, it typically derives from a single idea that crossed our consciousness. I want you to know that through Jesus Christ, you do have the ability to persevere when lies attempt to fog your vision. It begins by taking back the mind God gave you. 

Changing our Mindset

Proverbs 4:23-27 tells us to be careful what we allow in our minds, for it will quickly be reflected in the heart. 

So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life. – Proverbs 4:23

Let’s fight by challenging the thoughts and battling for the mind God has uniquely given each of us. With anywhere between 50,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day, take the time to contemplate what is right. Think about what is true, lovely, pure, and admirable. Dwell on it but expel anything else through His perfect love that casts out all fear. 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. – Philippians 4:9

These thoughts, fears, and anxious ways of living can physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally debilitate our quality of life and well-being, but they don’t have to if we stop them in their tracks and cut them off at their life source. 

The next time you have a thought, challenge it. Curiously ask, “Is this right, authentic, lovely, and pure?” Have the confidence to acknowledge that what you are going through is not just “all in your head,” but a real war that many of us wage daily. 

Accept that factors like genetics, environment, relationships, and factors outside of your control can impact how you act, feel, or think about life, and that’s okay! Live with the transparency that if you’re saved and have an intimate relationship with Jesus, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever struggle but, it may often lead to even more suffering and hardship. Struggling doesn’t make you unspiritual or immature but shows your perseverance and refines you in Christ. 

Let go of the unfulfilled expectations that sicken our souls and re-fill our lives with what the Lord says is true and our identity and purpose that He grants us. 

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. – Proverbs 13:12

Giving God the glory from within our struggles, we can accurately recollect our present, past, and future and march forward for whatever He may have in store. In the devotional plan, “Jesus Loves The Broken,” the author notes:

Someone noted that “the good old days” are just a combination of a bad memory and a good imagination. If we remember past days in the wrong light, making them better than they were, an emotional and spiritual crash is imminent.

Even in your most broken states, remember the truth from where you have come and the journey you have taken to get where you are now. 

Pressing forward, know that things will get better even though it doesn’t seem or feel like it right now. Instead of preoccupying your mind with negative thoughts about yourself, think about what you can do to help and serve other people. Think about the Lord’s truth. Satan hates nothing more than losing a battle with your mind because that is the only power he can ever have over you anyway. 

By replacing your thoughts with God’s truth, replacing yourself with God, and replacing your past with your future, the fight for your mind will become much more manageable. 

Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

This battle isn’t easy, dear friend, but you never walk alone.

Learning to Be Loved: A Christian Approach to Self-Love

“Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” Such famous words. There have been many stories and movies dedicated to trying to understand the Evil Queen and giving her a reason for her obsession with beauty. But, at the end of the day, the Evil Queen cared about what the mirror told her and so, ultimately, she died. 

Recently, I found myself looking in the mirror often and couldn’t help but wonder if I was the fairest of them all or not. Growing up, Snow White used to be my favorite princess, and I always wanted to be just like her, the most beautiful of all. As I’ve grown older and thought more deeply about what beauty means, I’ve heard a lot about loving myself and how I look on the outside. 

Self-love and self-esteem are often prominent topics especially during this age of social media where so many students struggle with these ideas. As Christians, should we love ourselves? Should we be looking in the mirror? Should we care about beauty?

 

What do we value? 

Looking-Glass Self and Social Mirror Theory, two prominent theories in psychology, describe how we define ourselves based on societally-imparted modifiers that we assign to ourselves. In other words, the way others define us is the way we define ourselves too.

We really care about the opinions of those around us, for better or for worse. So, often we look in the mirror in hopes of finding someone that others like.

We also care about the idea of “beauty”. Although there is no straightforward definition of this elusive term, since society’s definition of it is always shifting, we value it and allow it to have a tremendous impact on our identity. If the mirror calls us “fair”, we believe we are important and worthy people. If not, well, I don’t think we’d be far less bitter than the Evil Queen.

Beauty standards and others’ opinions combine in the form of social media. When others around us seem to have “happier” lives based on their posts and stories, we think our lives are poor. The mirror of Instagram determines the kind of lifestyle we want to lead that could result in the kind of stories and posts we want to share. 

 

How can we love ourselves?

I bet you found yourself somewhere in those values. I know I did. We have to wonder though if that is right; if we should value others, beauty, and social media. 

How you feel when you look at your life will be determined by whether you see it as a true reflection of your values. – John Piper

If we look in the mirror for someone who could be called beautiful and don’t see that person, we start to hate ourselves. If we look in the mirror for someone worthy of being liked by others and don’t see that person, we start to hate ourselves.  

How can we love ourselves when the one in the mirror is so imperfect; not “beautiful”, not well-liked, not successful? How can we love ourselves when we see what everyone else has and what we do not? How can we love ourselves with unfulfilled dreams and goals?

The self-love movement doesn’t ask us to change our values. Rather, it says we should just “love ourselves”. It says that we need to change the way we feel about ourselves by calling ourselves beautiful regardless of what the mirror says, by feeling successful regardless of what others call us. However, the mirror continues to condemn us, so how can we love ourselves?

What if, instead, we confronted our values to evaluate if we have the right viewpoint, to begin with? The wrong mirror, the wrong view, and we direct ourselves on the wrong path. If we value beauty, we can hate ourselves and hate those who are considered beautiful. If we value social media, we can hate our lives and envy those with better lives than us. So, we cannot truly stop hating ourselves until we change our values and what we look for in the mirror. 

 

What should we value? 

Instead of focusing on ourselves, what if we started focusing on God? We cannot love ourselves because the mirror condemns us. However, we can start to love God who is perfect and beautiful and powerful and who loves us so greatly, no matter what. Instead of focusing on trying to love ourselves, we can love the One who truly loves us!

When we love God and use His Word as our mirror, we can see His image more clearly. We can find valuable areas to change. We were made in the image of God. We live in the fallen image of God. We will be glorified in the perfect image of God. To go towards that image, we need a mirror that shows us where we truly are and where we truly need to go. 

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth.” And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. – Genesis 1:26-28

Is Instagram our mirror? Are others’ posts directing our lives? Are filters showing us what we look like? Or, is the Bible the one thing that directs our lives and diagnoses our hearts to take us to God?

There is a God who does not only see our whole image, but also our whole selves, deeply. He loves despite our broken images because we are made in His. He has a purpose for our lives. He redeems our shame and failures to remake us into beautiful versions of who we are meant to be. So, instead of hating ourselves or attempting to love ourselves, we can love Him and find ourselves loved.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. – 1 John 4:16

 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the people around us do play a large part in how we view ourselves. But, I think there is a beauty in that as well. Others can see our blind spots. Sometimes, this can result in criticism and hate; but, as we all grow, it can result in growth for us and for them. Our identities are already secure in Christ and His Word, but our growth can be fostered by others speaking God’s words to us as well.  

The mirror will no longer condemn us as it did for the Evil Queen but instead, we can find ourselves loved without having to ask the mirror if we are “the fairest in the land”. 

So, instead of relying on our broken values to be reflected in the mirror, we can rely on God and the people He places in our lives to love Him and love others as we can be people who are already loved as God’s beloved. 

What is Mormonism? Christian Response & Engagement Ideas (Part 2)

The world today contains numerous adherents and followers of the religion of Mormonism, also known as the Church of Latter-Day Saints of Jesus Christ. Part 1 of this article series on Mormonism provided information on the history and general beliefs of the LDS tradition. In this next article, I will present the what and how of the Christian response in our culture today.

So What?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a religion that is multifaceted, firm, and dense in its theological understandings. 

Mormonism, in my opinion, is summarized well by statement number 13 in the Articles of Faith, “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe in all things, we hope in all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (Pearl of Great Price, 60).

Realistically speaking, these values closely mirror the language in Philippians 4:8. So, as Christians, may we try to speak life and the Gospel to Mormons when the opportunities arise.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

Gospel Distinctives

As believers today, we must remember the core Gospel distinctives and must be able to recall Scripture that points to the living and active Word of God. Provided below are some of the key points in the Christian doctrine. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these so you can recall them when engaging with a Mormon. 

  • God is One, Personal, Holy, and a Judge (Isa. 43:10, Isa. 45:5, Gal. 1:8)
  • Sin separates and is rebellion against God (Rom. 3:23) 
  • God’s love, forgiveness, and salvation (Eph. 2:8-9)
  • Incarnation/Divinity (Immanuel = God with us) (John 1:1,14)
  • Abundant and eternal life (Rom. 6:23)
  • Repentance and faith, no works-based salvation (Rom. 4:4-5, Gal. 3:10, Titus 3:5
  • The exclusiveness of Jesus (Acts 4:12)

The Christian Stance on General Beliefs of Mormons

Speaking from personal experience, receiving all of this information about the LDS Church and Mormon faith can be slightly overwhelming and hard to understand. As Christians, our hearts should desire to share the true Gospel of Christ with those following the LDS Church because they do not know the true freedom found in the Jesus of the Bible. Mormons are taken by the mentality of living a good life and pursuing Christ-likeness in order to achieve deification.

Scripture

Christians stand firm on the belief that Scripture is the living Word of God (Heb. 4:12). The Bible contains sixty-six books separated into the Old and New Testaments. It is the direct revelation from God and serves as the supreme and inerrant authority, guiding both what we believe and how we live (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 1 Timothy 5:18). Unlike the LDS Church, which has multiple authoritative books/scripture, the evangelical Christian does not recognize any other document or book as holding authority.

The Trinity

Christians believe that there is one God eternally existing as one essence and three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, each of whom is fully God (Matthew 3:16-17, Matthew 28:19). As Christians, we believe in the full participation of each member of the Trinity and the active participation of each of them at work in the world today. Jesus was both fully man and fully God, having a dual nature, and now sits at the right hand of the Father (Rom. 8:34). This is different from the LDS belief that the Godhead contains three separate gods, who developed into individual deities at different times prior to creation.

Salvation

Evangelical Christians believe that salvation comes solely by the grace God shows us and through our faith in Christ. Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6).

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

He lived a perfect life on our behalf in order to be a “Lamb without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19). Without Jesus being divine, He could not have atoned for the sins of the whole world. 

For it is by grace you have been saved and that is not from yourselves. If it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. – Eph. 2:8-9

Nature of Humanity

Biblically, Christians teach that we are all children of God through faith and spiritual adoption occurs when we put our faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 9:8, Jn 1:12-13). Man in his nature is sinful but has eternity placed in his heart. His heart will never find rest in the empty things he pursues until he finds rest in God (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Man cannot consider spiritual things because they are folly to him; but once the Spirit resides in him, man can begin to be reshaped by God into the sanctified image of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14). Contrary to LDS belief, God does not offer us laws today to follow in order to return to a higher estate or advance in position, but rather our faith is built on the finished work displayed on the Cross and our sonship through Christ’s shed blood (Gal. 3:26).

Guidelines/Tips for Engaging with the Gospel

If/when the opportunity arises for you to talk with and engage with a Mormon, a few tips to keep in mind include:

  1. Be in a spirit of prayer (Eph. 6:18, Rom. 8:26). Since you have the chance to discuss theological topics with a Mormon, be prayerful about how to share with them in a way that is kind and considerate of your role as an ambassador of Christ.
  2. Be respectful. Remember that you do not know everything, but by being willing to ask questions and to build rapport with someone, you increase the likelihood of them listening to what you believe.
  3. Use a KJV Bible when witnessing to Mormons since this is the only translation they hold to be true and not edited/misconstrued by humans.
  4. Familiarize yourself with and know basic LDS beliefs so you have prior knowledge before they begin to share with you. Here is a good website that compares doctrines within the Christian faith and the LDS Church.
  5. Start with common ground and a spirit of humility (Col. 3:12). Refer to the Gospel’s distinctive points above and think about where your beliefs overlap with Mormons.
  6. Share your story of coming to saving faith because testimony is a huge point of discussion for LDS members. Since Mormons have such a strong belief and foundation in their purpose as “spirit children”, sharing with them your beliefs and standards on creation can be a good connection point.

 

Further Resources

Official LDS website – https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/comeuntochrist/believe?lang=eng

“About Us.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2021, www.churchofjesuschrist.org/learn/about-us?lang=eng. 

Bushman, Richard Lyman. Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2008.

Jackson, Andrew. Mormonism Explained: What Latter-Day Saints Teach and Practice. Crossway Books, 2008.

Nelson, President Russell M., et al. “Becoming Like God.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/becoming-like-god?lang=eng.

“Pearl of Great Price.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/gs/pearl-of-great-price?lang=eng.