Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect


7 Comments

Peeling off Self-Confidence and Finding God-Confidence

IMG_5114

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

 In the early spring when the hills are green and the flowers are blooming, there is nothing better than taking a mountain bike ride.  The only “down side” is that early spring includes cold mornings, which means I have to layer up clothes if I don’t want to freeze.   There are days when I’m tempted to leave my down vest on before I head out, but I know I’ll regret it later.  As my body adjusts to the air and my muscles warm up, I begin to peel off the layers one by one.  There is nothing worse than being out on the trail encumbered with a bunch of gear that I no longer need.

This is a bit like the difference between placing confidence in us and placing confidence in God. Just like my layers of clothing on a cold bike ride, we layer ourselves up with things on the outside, hoping they will make us feel complete on the inside.   Starting in childhood and moving into adulthood, we learn to base our confidence on grades, awards, activities, social connections, appearance, athletic ability and other skills.  As long as we “show well,” we feel good about ourselves.  However, this is an exhausting cycle to maintain.  Someone is always just a little better or has achieved just a little more.   Even great friendships can have rough patches that leave us feeling vulnerable and uncertain.  There is nothing inherently “wrong” with the things I’ve listed, but if we pursue them to feel good about ourselves, they become layers we pile on that only bog us down.  Self-confidence proves to be elusive, like catching a slippery fish in our hands only to have it wriggle out and swim away.

In contrast, Lysa TerKeurst coins the term “God- confidence,” which is like the warmth that comes from inside me once I get going on my ride.  It is what causes me to peel off protective layers and expose myself to the elements because my heat source is coming from my interior instead of being piled on my exterior.  Much the same, God- confidence is not dependent upon our circumstances, achievements or approval from other people.  It is something we can carry inside of us at all times when we claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

Self-confidence says:  “I look good enough to walk in that door and impress people.”

God confidence says:  “I am loved enough by God to walk in that door and show kindness to others.”

Self-confidence says:  “I’m smart enough and well-educated enough to carry on a conversation with this group.”

God-confidence says:  “I know the truth of who I am in Christ, He will give me the words to say in this situation.”

Self-confidence says: “I’m willing to say, ‘yes’ because this is comfortable and safe, I’ve done it before and I know I’m good at it.”

God-confidence says:  “This is beyond me, but I am going to trust God to lead me and equip me according to His plans.”

Self-confidence says:  “I’m acceptable because I’m included in the group.  Because other people validate me, I know I’m worth something.”

God-confidence says:  “Whether people include me or not will not shake my confidence.  I’m at peace knowing that God loves me, whether I’m overlooked or included by people”

Self-confidence says:  “Life is good because circumstances are situated in my favor.”

God-confidence says:  “Whether my circumstances are good or bad, I trust that God is in control.”

Self-confidence may falter when:

-The “perfect outfit” we bought a few years ago suddenly seems dated

-We gain a few pounds

-A person we love doesn’t seem to have time for us

-We hear about a gathering and we weren’t included

-People rave about the person who was filling in for something we usually do

-An illness or injury keeps us from our usual activities

-We aren’t receiving as much affirmation as we’d like

-Our social schedule isn’t full

-Our social media “friends” seem to take better vacations, have cuter kids, and do more “cool” stuff than our families

-Our accomplishments or achievements pale in comparison to someone else’s

-We make a huge mistake

-We’re not “up” on the latest news/technology/fashion/music/trends

-We compare ourselves to others

-No one notices when we’re gone or welcomes us when we return

God-confidence may falter when:

-We take our eyes off Him

-We focus on our problems and let them magnify

-We look to other people to reassure us, fill us up or give us approval

-We focus on our exteriors instead of our interiors

-We let a difficult situation breed stress in us

-We can’t trust God with things we don’t understand

Being God-confident doesn’t mean we’ll always feel great about ourselves, but we’ll know that we have a God who loves us and will never leave us.  It means trusting Him to give us the power we need instead of trying to conjure it up on our own.  God-confidence leaves us unencumbered by the things that might otherwise weigh us down.  We can walk confidently not because of who we are or what we’ve done, but because of who God is and what Jesus did for us on the cross.

I love the way Lysa TerKeurst describes this God-confidence in What Happens When Women Say “Yes” to God:  “This is the way God wants me to dance through life…In my mind’s eye He is there.  The touch of His gaze wraps about me, comforts me, assures me, and makes the world seem strangely dim.  As long as my gaze is locked on his, I dance and he smiles.  The snickers and jeers of others fade away.  Though I hear their razor sharp intentions, they are unable to pierce my heart and distract my focus.  Even my own stumblings don’t cause the same feelings of defeat.  My steps so often betray the desire of my heart, but it is not my perfect performance that captures His attention.  Rather, it is my complete dependence on Him that He notices” (pp. 88-89).

When we place our confidence in God, there should be no reason for insecurity, fear or feelings of inadequacy. If Christ lives in us, we already have everything we need, it is just a matter of believing it to be true and then living with our gaze fixed on Him.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken”  (Psalm 62:1-2)

One way I find perspective when I’ve drifted from God-confidence is to listen to great music.  Click on the links below to hear two songs that help me regain my focus:  “We Won’t be Shaken” by Building 429 and “Strangely Dim” by Francesca Battistelli.

Advertisements


2 Comments

Traveling Light with an Eye Towards Home

1991 Europe
In the spring of my junior year of college, I was blessed with the opportunity to study abroad in London.  The program was structured to allow all the students ample time for traveling on weekends.  We even had a ten-day break in the middle of our studies to take adventures to more far flung destinations.

I’ll never forget our first weekend trip.  My friend, Kristi, and I packed up our large travel backpacks and headed to Paddington Station in central London.  By the time we arrived at the station, our backs were already aching and our shoulders were sagging under the weight of our large loads.  What we quickly realized was that the full size bottles of shampoo, multiple pairs of shoes and outfit changes we’d packed led to unbearably heavy baggage.  A few weeks later when we packed for our longer trip, we had learned our lesson and brought as little as possible.  The things that had seemed so important to bring lost their value when we realized how much they weighed us down.

My lesson traveling in Europe seems to fit well with Sheila Walsh’s final chapter in The Shelter of God’s Promises.  As she explores The Promise of Heaven, she likens our time on earth to a short camping trip.  She says: “I think we will all be more than happy to pitch our tent and be in a mode of traveling light because what is ahead is so much better!” (p.196) What things do you need to jettison from your baggage so that you can travel lighter on the journey?

For many people, focusing on this life supersedes thoughts of the life yet to come. Yet, God’s plan all along has been to use this life as a training ground to prepare us to spend eternity with Him.   Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:1-3  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  When we fret over earthly things, we are losing sight of truth.  When we focus all of our energy on making life here and now perfect and comfortable, we’ll be disappointed repeatedly.  Sheila Walsh puts it well when she says:  “We will always have an experience here of It isn’t quite what I hoped it would be, or It isn’t quite as fulfilling as I thought it would be.  That is because we were not made to live in our earthly tents for very long”  (p. 196).

I have had the privilege and the heartbreak of watching three different family members go home to Heaven in the last 9 years.  It may sound strange to read the word “privilege” in response to seeing a loved one die, but those experiences have had a profound impact on my faith and my understanding of God.  It’s hard to put words to the experience and of the intimacy of watching someone move from this life to the next.  There is a sense of relief knowing they are no longer suffering, but also the realization that they actually have the better end of the deal.  Something about it makes everything seem more real, more profound- God’s word and promises, our faith, our relationships, the love we share, the hope we have because of who Jesus is and what He has done.  The fussy things of this life seem shallow and meaningless by comparison.  The hurt and the pain are raw and powerful, but the hope and peace are deeper still.   They bring an unspeakable comfort that words cannot adequately express.

Through the journey of grief, I found powerful healing and comfort through songs with themes centered on Heaven.  Some have become like well-loved companions holding my heart in times of intense pain.  I thought it would be fitting to include a few of my favorite titles and artists.  They can point you toward the promise of heaven in a way words alone cannot.  I hope you’ll take time to listen to them, to download the ones you love and to share your own favorites by commenting below.

I’ve included links that will play the songs and show the lyrics.  Carve out ten minutes for a “worship moment”  to listen and  praise God for the promise of Heaven that gives us ultimate joy and hope.


This Is Not My Home by Building 429

I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me

I’ll Fly Away traditional hymn sung by Jars of Clay

Deep Enough to Dream by Chris Rice

Take Me Into the Beautiful by Cloverton

Softly and Tenderly traditional hymn sung by Amy Grant

Untitled Hymn by Chris Rice

I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin

Finally Home by Mercy Me


1 Comment

Building Your Core Strength

“God leads us by unexpected ways, off the strong and solid land.”

-Amy Carmichael

Clenching my toes in the wet sand, I looked up at the grey clouds filtering the early morning sun.  It was the last day of our family vacation and I planned to make the most of it, whether it rained or not.  Stand-up Paddle Surfing had been our family’s favorite activity in the Newport Harbor all week.  The final morning dawned cool and damp after an overnight rainstorm, but the calm bay beckoned me onward.  Other days we’d stood on the beach in gentle afternoon breezes that felt more like fierce headwinds once we paddled out on the bay.  Battling strong currents and choppy water, we’d bent our knees to avoid being toppled by wakes of passing boats. Each day we paddled out, our core muscles became stronger and our legs more steady as we balanced on the constantly moving boards.  I didn’t want to pass up the chance to glide through calm waters on that final day.

To the casual observer, paddle surfing hardly looks like a sport.  Before I tried it, people told me it was a great “core” workout.  Although I’d often been unaware when out on the water, the soreness of my muscles afterward told me they were right. Our “core” is essentially our torso, which Certified Personal Trainer Paige Waehner describes as “the body’s center of power.”  She explains that “these core muscles help keep your body stable and balanced.”  Waehner says that among the benefits of working on the core is having “interesting workouts that challenge you in new and different ways.”

Having a strong physical core significantly impacts our quality of life.  It makes our bodies more durable and less susceptible to injury.  Similarly, having a strong spiritual core affects every part of our daily lives.  The more we lean into God and trust His promises, the stronger our core becomes.  His strength becomes part of the fiber of who we are and is readily available for us at all times.  And just like those physical core workouts, God give us challenges that stretch us in new and different ways.

It takes consistent sweat and effort to build our physical strength, whether it is by intentionally doing core-strengthening workouts or engaging in an activity like paddle surfing where it happens naturally.  Similarly, our spiritual core strengthening can happen in several ways. We can be diligent about studying God’s word, praying, serving, giving and connecting with others who follow Him.  However, sometimes we get a spiritual core-strengthening workout when we least expect it.   In The Shelter of God’s Promises Sheila Walsh says “Life’s greatest trials often come without a moment’s notice.  There is no prep time or convenient moment to book them on our daily calendars.  They brutishly make their way into our lives and threaten to undo us…When we look back, those moments can become milestones and strong pillars of our testimony because we survived on His strength alone” (p. 152).   If our disciplined pursuit of God strengthens our spiritual “muscles”, then the trials we face provide the opportunity to show off God’s strength.

The Bible assures us we are going to have trials, but how we respond to them is our choice. Jesus tells us in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  If we really believe this, we can be encouraged knowing that God is trustworthy.   He has the big picture in mind for our lives that we can’t always see from our limited perspective.

Looking back, I realize how God has used trials to strengthen my core and to increase my trust in Him.  I didn’t enjoy going through them, but I am thankful for the ways He used them to strengthen me.  Through the things I’ve learned, I have been able to encourage others going through similar difficulties.  I can point to specific scriptures that brought hope and reassurance to me in hard times:  1 Peter 1:6-7 as I struggled through my freshman year in college, Jeremiah 17:7-8 and Psalm 27:13-14 as my husband and I prayed through a major career change for him, Psalm 62 & 63 during some severe illnesses of different family members.  Those passages became a lifeline for me, reassuring me of God’s presence and enabling me to have a supernatural strength I never could have had on my own.

Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling is one of my favorite daily devotionalsEach day’s writing combines several scriptures and speaks to the reader as if it is directly from the voice of God.  A recent entry caught my eye: “Learn to appreciate difficult days.  Be stimulated by the challenges you encounter along your way.  As you journey through rough terrain with Me, gain confidence from your knowledge that together we can handle anything.  This knowledge is comprised of three parts:  your relationship with Me, promises in the Bible, and past experiences of coping successfully during hard times.” (p.327)

So, when the headwinds blow and I’m struggling against the current, I can bend my knees and dig in my paddle with confidence knowing that God is going to give me strength I need.

What about you?  When has God led you in “unexpected ways off solid land”?  Do you have a few Bible verses that have sustained you through hard times?  As you look back, what milestones reveal God’s strength that you never could have mustered on your own?  Post a comment and share it to encourage and strengthen others!