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Six steps to freedom from guilt

Ten years ago, a trauma occurred in our home. I have no intention of being melodramatic, but to a 5 year old little boy, and a 3 year old little girl, sometimes seemingly benign events can be emotionally scarring.

One ordinary afternoon, my son found himself tenuously straddling between two barstools set at our kitchen island. Standing on the lower foot rests, he tried to steady the wobbly furniture as he was carrying on a conversation in his five year old wiggly way. Happy and contented, relational and active…

…until one of the barstools gave way.

A loud thud penetrated the living room air.

We stood frozen, assessing the situation. He was okay, for a moment.

But suddenly began to scream with a vengeance, coupled with hysterical sobs, for there on the floor was his sister’s favorite china doll.

Decapitated.

The barstool landed so as to perfectly severe the doll’s head from her body as she lay there on the ground. I have to admit that it was a bit like something out of a horror movie. Unnatural. Creepy, even.

Yet, more than what he saw in that broken doll, was what he felt in ruining his sister’s prized possession.

Guilt. Overwhelming, uncontrollable guilt. He felt responsible, to blame, and he was desperate for relief.

“Spank me, mommy! Spank me!”

“Baby, I am not going to spank you. It was an accident.”

“No, please, spank me!!!”, he yelled with insistence.

How else is a 5 year old to deal with his feelings of guilt? He wanted the pain of a spanking to open up his heart and release the burden. I stood my ground and did not spank him that day, but I realized that as he aged, he needed to be taught how to free himself from guilt. Its the life that God wants for him, and a life worth pursuing.

I think many adults were never taught this, and so we move about our daily lives with a dark guilt clouds hovering over us, whether that guilt be false or true, past or present. And our hiding and pretending nothing is wrong suffocates us, only making that guilt grow. The only answer is to bring it into the light, exposing it to grace and truth.

We must confess the sin that weighs us down. 

Easier said than done, right? Even when we know that confession (admitting our guilt aloud) is the right thing to do, there is often an invisible barrier of fear that abruptly blocks our way, or maybe we don’t even know the right way to go about it.

May I suggest some practical steps to confession?

1. Ask God to examine your life.

Sometimes we walk around with guilty feelings or an air of despondency and we aren’t exactly sure why. Maybe we know we don’t enjoy being in a certain environment, or a certain situation haunts us, but we have never stopped to pinpoint the exact error. Sometimes we sin, and we don’t even know it.

We need to sit in God’s presence and ask Him to show us why we feel guilty.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way” Psalm 139:23-24.

2. Identify the sin

Once God has given us an idea as to where we have sinned, we need to name it. Is it truly sin or is it false accusations from the enemy? Is it jealousy, or greed, or anger, or rebellion, or lust, or lying, or stealing, or covetousness? The process of journaling your thoughts and feelings helps to uncover it, or maybe a counseling session is in order, but we can only deal with what we can name.

3. Pray about it and push past the fear.

Then, we need to tell God in prayer. Cry over your sin, tell Him you are sorry, ask Him to remove it from you, to make you pure of heart.

And ask Him to give you the courage to talk to another person about it.

4. Confess it out loud.

This is where it gets scary. We are so used to hiding when we do something wrong. It’s natural. Remember Adam and Eve? It’s the first thing they did when they ate the fruit. We don’t want to expose ourselves to the feelings of shame. But, the Bible is very clear that we are to tell another trusted Christian. Admit it, bring it out in the open, out of the secret recesses of your heart and mind. Let the words loose the shackles of fear and pain so that healing can begin. Authenticity and integrity will become a soothing balm to your soul.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” James 5:16

5.  Go to the person that you have offended.

Here is where you make it right. Tell the truth to the person to whom you lied. Pay back what you wrongfully took. Apologize for the hurtful words spoken. Simply say, “What I did was wrong. Will you please forgive me?” 

They may or may not forgive you, you may even need to pay some consequences, but at least you have stepped out in faith to try and reconcile.

6. Let it go.

Sometimes we deal with a situation, confess our sin and move on with life, but the enemy of our soul wants to hold it against us so that we live a life of defeat instead of the victory that is rightfully ours through Christ. The feelings of guilt may become stirred up again, but there is a rock upon which we stand, a truth that we can claim. In that moment, simply say out loud, “God, thank you that you have forgiven me for this and that I am no longer guilty in Jesus. I rest in this truth today.” That’s it. You may have to do this dozens of times, but it’s worth doing as we fight for our freedom. As my husband shared in his sermon this past weekend, “Confession is letting go and and letting God do His job.” You don’t need to take it back from Him. You are forgiven.

I think that most of us are too old for a guilt-releasing spanking. Thankfully, we have Scriptural words and tools to help us live in the light of truth and in the path of freedom.

Now all we need is the courage to confess.

 

 

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7 Ways to Cope when money is tight

It happens to all of us at one point or another. Sometimes the bank account runs low and the squeeze is felt in the living of life.

Surgery bills come in higher than expected.

The car needs extensive repairs.

The teenagers eat large.

New tax laws take too much.

Kids’ activities grow costly.

Savings accounts dwindle.

Money ebbs and flows, and when the tide runs out it is only human nature to cling tight to the worry. Yet, God says to let it go.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

These things are easier said than done. It is easy to assent to the command, “Do not worry,” but hard to prove it out in everyday life. Intangible emotions are not easily controlled. How do you take your mind off of the money (or lack thereof), the insecurity, and turn it to trust? May I suggest seven highly practical ways?

1. Clean your house

Nothing will change your mind about your financial status faster than stewarding your stuff. As I clean each nook and cranny of my home, putting things back in their rightful place, I become painfully aware of the the quantity of things in my life and am reminded of just how rich I am. This labor pricks my conscience and urges me to never indulge in such frivolities again. When did my stuff begin to own me, instead of me owning my stuff? This time spent cleaning also occupies time that I may have used in spending money, or worrying about finances. Along the way I tend to find missing items that I would have otherwise replaced, or things that I have long since forgotten. Money found. The process of cleaning is therapeutic in and of itself, but the final product is a clean home that feels bigger, newer, and more lovely. It can bring a sense of satisfaction that takes a mind off of the troubles.

2. Increase generosity

A poverty stricken life is one in which we do not feel we have extra to give. An abundant life is one that creates margin by which they can be generous. Giving of my time, resources, and money reminds me that God has given me more than I need and creates a conduit by which God can distribute his resources to the world. And, in looking for the needs around me that I can fill, I take my eyes off of my own problems and peace begins to reign. It may be counterintuitive, but the less we think we have, the more that we need to give. Remember that house you just cleaned and all the “extra” things you came across? Give it away. Pass along the kids’ toys and clothes, share a meal with someone, give extra words of encouragement, tip a little bit more. Be wise, but be generous.

“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper;whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:24-25)

3. Keep your financial commitments to the Lord

Again, this will seem counterintuitive, but it is so important that when money is tight, we do not back down from our tithe and other commitments financial commitments to God. So often, God is stretching us financially to see if we will trust Him for what we need and believe Him for the money. Is He truly first in your life? Stand firm in your faith and watch Him work in amazing ways.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (Malachi 3:10)

“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.” (Luke 6:38)

4. No poor talk

Such negative thinking etches deep into the mind, making money an idol and expressing ungratefulness for the what God has given.

5.Go back to the basics

A basic life can be a good life. Simple. Satisfying. Enough. Decades before us there was no internet, cell phones, cable television, or Starbucks. People managed, thrived in fact. What if living with only the basics meant that your creativity was stretched, your relationships were strengthened, time was found, and life simplified? Perhaps it could be a fun challenge, a new kind of game? In third world countries it seems that many poorer people are happier people. I don’t think this is coincidence.

6. Train yourself to trust

Trust is a muscle that grows, with intention, over time. Remembering God’s faithfulness in things big and small helps to strengthen that muscle, readying it for the trust tests ahead. When money is tight and the future uncertain, we can ask God to grow our trust and to help us to see and remember all of the ways that He has cared for us over the years. As we make ourselves sensitive to the gifts and blessings He sends our way, we have tangible reasons to believe that He will provide and care for our every need. Keep a prayer journal of answered prayer if you need to. Write out your blessings. Plaster verses all over your walls if you have to. Set timers to pray throughout your day if it is helpful. But, train yourself to trust the Lord in times of difficulty.

7. Thank God for what He is growing in you and Thank Him in advance for His provision.

Nothing we experience is ever wasted. It is all allowed for our good and God’s glory. This time of financial hardship is what He is using to refine you into the person He has called you to be. Thank Him for the richness of character that He is imparting to you as a result. And, thank Him in advance for what He will do. He promises that He will care for your every need. Do you believe Him? Thank Him now for what is yet to come. This is what a life of faith looks like. If your bank account was always full you wouldn’t have the opportunity to exercise faith, now would you?

It will be okay.

God will take care of you.

Take steps today to meet Him in the place of peace and security.

Trusting in the riches of Christ,

 

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Waiting for an invitation?

My life coach asked me a question the other day, that got me thinking. (That’s what life coaches do, ask you poignant and strategic questions that make you dig deep, make your brain hurt, but help you uncover God’s purposes for your life and move forward in obedience.)

“Joy, how do you know if God is calling you to something?”

Okay, it doesn’t sound like it would be too hard for this pastor’s wife to answer, but when I had to look at my modus operandi I discovered a reality that doesn’t particularly please me.

“Well, I guess it would be that I place a 20% emphasis on my internal passions, and 80% on an open door/closed door philosophy. In other words, I often let circumstances dictate my calling.

“And how long do you allow yourself to wait for God to open a door?”, she queried.

Ouch.

“Probably not long enough. I am pretty impatient.”

“It’s not unlike God to make someone wait for 40 years. Isn’t that how old you are?”

“Yep. Good point.”

But that’s not all I realized from our conversation, the patience part I mean. I also realized:

I often wait for an invitation to my life.

You see, I believe strongly in the sovereignty of God. I figure that no one can thwart His plans and so what He desires will come to pass. I just need to wait on him to make it happen.

This is good theology. Yes?

You Calvinists would agree.

However, God has not called me to be passive towards my life. Faith is believing that circumstances do not determine our lives, God does. Yes, sometimes God does use circumstances to reveal His will, but faith is the evidence of things not seen. The people in Hebrews 11 faced incredible opposition and adversity.

Their circumstances rarely lined up, but they moved forward anyway, believing what God had revealed to them.

God is calling me to dance with him, to interchange obedience and resting, pursuing and waiting through the various seasons of my faith. In wanting to honor God by waiting on Him in faith, I often miss the opportunity to partner with Him in creating my life. 

I wait for the friend to call, instead of creating intentional friendships and memories.

I wait for the calendar to fill, instead of creating the days that make up the tapestry of my life.

I wait for the job opportunity to come along, instead of creating the work that I was meant to do.

I wait for the character qualities to come to fruition, instead of working hard to help them come.

Is my problem actually that I am not being assertive enough? Yes, probably. Is it based off of fear? Maybe. Is it my personality? You bet. Is it a more Calvinistic viewpoint? Perhaps.

Is it how I want to live the rest of my life? Nope.

From here on out, I want to be intentional in moving forward as I wait on God.

He is a God who loves to create, to orchestrate, to transform, to envision something better. I am made in His image, and there is nothing more godly than to create life.

So that is how I am planning to live my life from this point forward. I am going to move from the passions that God has placed within me (it always begins with Him), assert myself, and create the life that He is calling me to.

Let us no longer wait for the invitation to our lives, m’kay?

 

Following passion and playing with possibilities,

 

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