Don’t let your insecurity dictate your direction

I struggle with insecurity. A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them that, but it’s true. I’m a recovering people pleaser, after all. Insecurity is part of the gig. It’s taken me a long time and a lot of emotional trauma, but I’ve finally come to understand that insecurity is something everyone struggles with. We’re all insecure about something. It’s just not the same from person to person, and we all react to our insecurity in different ways.

Some people lash out. Others tear people down. Some hide. Some run. Some fight. But at the root of it all is this cold pit of fear in your stomach that won’t go away no matter how many times you tell yourself that you know what you’re doing. Living with insecurity is miserable because it makes you miserable. It colors the way you see yourself and others, and it endangers your relationships.

So what beats insecurity? Confidence and peace. But those aren’t things you can pour out of a bottle or find stashed in a treasure chest. I don’t know about you, but a load of confidence and peace sounds like something I could use right now. So where do you get them?

WJDK7M84F9Today’s verse is Romans 15:13.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible calls God the source of hope. I think it’s important we remember that. Too often we put our hope in things that can’t really satisfy us or solutions that treat the symptoms of a problem instead of its cause.

If you’re struggling with insecurity today, the first thing to realize is that you can’t find security anywhere other than in Jesus Christ. If you look to other people or titles or wealth or status to give you the security you crave, you’re going to be disappointed. People will always let you down, and all the success in this world won’t amount to much when you die. You can’t take it with you. So instead of letting your wealth or your family name or your reputation define you, start looking at yourself the way Jesus does.

Another way to find confidence is to ask God for it. That’s something we can ask for. Confidence and peace aren’t mystical, ethereal constructs that can’t be understood. No. If you need confidence and peace, ask God to give it to you. But realize where it comes from. Confidence and peace come because you trust God.

That’s the tough part. You’ve got to trust God.

Trust that He’s in control. Trust that He hasn’t made a mistake. Trust that He’ll tell you when you need to turn. Trust that you’re where you are now because you’re following Him. Trust that He won’t leave you alone and that He won’t abandon you.

For me, my insecurity comes when I stop trusting God. When I take matters into my own hands and try to accomplish things in my own strength, that’s when I start getting nervous and unpleasant. That’s when I get snappy and grouchy, because I’m relying on myself, and Myself isn’t strong enough.

Maybe no one understands you. Maybe it’s just you and God on the road right now, and you’re starting to wonder if the compass God gave you is actually working. Let’s get something straight. God doesn’t change, and I’m not aware of any time in Scripture where God set someone off on a path and then changed His mind about where they were going or what they were doing. God sees things through. He finishes what He starts, and He’s not done with any of us yet.

So trust Him. He’s worthy of it. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Shut out the negative voices. Granted, don’t be a jerk about it. And always be humble enough to hear correction, because you aren’t perfect. But don’t ever put someone else’s thoughts, feelings, or opinions higher than God’s.

Don’t let your insecurities dictate the direction you’re going. That’s God’s job. So learn to recognize His voice apart from the voices of insecurity and the lies of the enemy. Then, once you know what God wants, trust it. Trust Him. And shut out the insecurity using the peace and confidence you gain from knowing who God is and that nothing can ever separate you from His love.

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It’s okay to love yourself … God does

I am my own worst critic, and I’m ruthless about it. I always have been. I can’t believe some of the horrible things I’ve said to myself, terrible, hurting things I wouldn’t say to any other person. But I don’t hesitate to say it about myself.

On one hand, being self-critical is good. You should always be open and aware of how you can improve yourself or how you can do a job better, but when it crosses the line from constructive criticism to general bashing, you need to stop. It’s not helpful. And it’s not true.

It’s okay to love yourself, you know. I think we take that concept out of context too many times. The Bible talks about loving others as we love ourselves, which means obviously we are supposed to love ourselves. But if I treated others the way I treat me? Whew, that would be brutal.

But where do you draw the line between loving yourself and loving yourself too much? Maybe the problem is that we don’t really understand love from God’s point of view.

sunset-hands-love-womanToday’s verses are 1 John 4:16-18.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

God’s love is unconditional. That’s really difficult to wrap my brain around, because I’m a performance-driven perfectionist. In my brain, if I work hard enough, that means that God will love me more. But unconditional love has no conditions. That means it doesn’t matter how hard or how little I work. God loves me the same.

Can we even grasp that kind of love? I’m not sure I can. But if that’s the case and there’s nothing I can do to make God love me more or less, why am I so hard on myself? Why do I beat myself up all the time and focus on every failure and cling to every disappointing decision I’ve made?

Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s being self-focused.

There’s a part of me that fears what God will say to me when we meet face to face. I’m afraid that He’ll point out to me all the times I could have done more, all the opportunities He gave me that I ignored, all the things I should have done and didn’t. But if we’re afraid, that means we’re not living in God’s love.

What does it mean to live in God’s love? It means that you aren’t scared. Not that you’re fearless (although you probably can be). Everyone still has things they’re scared of–the dark, clowns, angel statues (Don’t Blink!), but being scared of something is different than living in fear. When you live in fear, your whole life revolves around what you have to do to make God happy with you. All you can think about is how you need to perform because you’ve got to make God love you.

Here’s the news, friends. God already loves you. And there’s nothing you can do about it. So just deal with that right now.

And because God loves us, we can live confidently, unafraid of what might be ahead of us. That means tearing yourself up for your past mistakes is a waste of time. That means focusing on the things you did wrong yesterday won’t accomplish anything.

God doesn’t make mistakes. Not ever. And if He loves you, don’t you think you ought to love you? Maybe just a little bit?

You don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love. You’ve already got it. So stop living your life to impress Him and start living His love so that others can experience it.

Why should we have confidence in God?

When I first started writing, I wasn’t very confident. I could write anything, but I had no faith that it was any good. Then, one day, I got brave enough to share it with a friend, and thanks to her positive feedback and encouragement, I kept writing. And I kept sharing it with friends, who also responded positively. But even then, I wasn’t what I would call confident.

It took years of writing (and a whole heck of a lot of rejection notices) before I started seeing my writing as something worthwhile. But the confidence didn’t come until I got hired on as a copywriter, where the people I worked with acknowledged that I could write. That sounds weird, maybe, because of course I can write. But it’s one thing to write for fun; it’s something else for people to pay for what you write.

I had to write for pay for three years before I truly began to feel confident in what I could do, and after that? After I figured out the confidence thing, writing was no problem. I can pick up a piece of paper and knock out a story in an hour. I can write a novel in a month or less. Maybe they won’t be very good, but that doesn’t bother me anymore. I know I can do it.

That’s where confidence comes from. You have confidence because you know for sure that your abilities (or the abilities of the one you’re relying on) are enough.

man-person-fog-mist_1516x1011Today’s verse are Psalm 27:11-14.

Teach me how to live, O LORD.
Lead me along the right path,
for my enemies are waiting for me.
Do not let me fall into their hands.
For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
with every breath they threaten me with violence.
Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.
Wait patiently for the LORD.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.

So when was the last time you had confidence in the Lord? I mean, it’s easy to have confidence in your own abilities. You can control those. You can see the results almost immediately. But confidence in God? God doesn’t always work the way I want Him to. Actually, He rarely does. How can I have confidence in God if He doesn’t work according to my timetable?

That’s a tough question because it touches on deeper issues than just having confidence in God. A question like that means your own schedule matters more to you than God’s plan. Just being honest here.

What it comes down to is who God is. If confidence stems from someone’s abilities, how can we not have confidence in God? God is God. He’s the Creator, the Maker, the Redeemer, the Father, the Lover, the Master, the Lord. He can do anything and everything. He can be anywhere and everywhere, whenever, wherever, and however He chooses.

So the question isn’t how we can have confidence in God. The question is why should we.

God is good. Truly good. He’s the only one who actually is good. So everything He does is good. Don’t get the brokenness of the world or the brokenness in our own lives mixed up. People question God’s goodness because bad things happen, but bad things happen because the world is circling the drain as a result of our own choices. It’s not because God isn’t good. God is so good that He offers us a way out when we don’t deserve it.

God always keeps His promises. His plans are for our best. He never makes mistakes. That’s the kind of person you can be confident in, because He won’t ever do anything that isn’t for our best. That’s what you can have confidence in. That’s why you can trust Him.

No, you may not always like the roads He takes you on, but those are the times that make you stronger. Those are the moments that teach you who God is. And when the struggle is over, you’ll have more confidence than ever in how much He loves you, because you’ve seen it firsthand.

Don’t rush learning how to follow Jesus

I’m not a patient person. I’m like the least patient person you’ll ever meet. That’s why I marathon television shows. That’s why I rarely read books series until they’re complete. I don’t like waiting for stories to resolve. I want to know what happens right away.

Unfortunately that lack of patience seeps into other areas of my life. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t do well in music lessons. My mom is a crazy accomplished classical musician, but she didn’t get there overnight. It took 45 years for her to get to that place. I wanted to pick up a musical instrument and be perfect right away. I didn’t want to work at it. I didn’t want to make mistakes and have to learn from them. I wanted the benefit of the skill without the drudgery of the discipline required to achieve it.

Sound familiar to anyone? We all have our sticking points when it comes to patience and discipline. Ironically, I had to learn that I had a lot to learn, regardless of what career path I chose. I settled on writing because I thought I was a great writer when I was little.

Yeah. Wow. Looking back, I knew nothing. And all I’ve learned in 25 years of writing (yes, I wrote my first story in kindergarten) is that I still know nothing, and that I have a lot more to learn. I’ve learned that I’ll never stop learning. But learning isn’t about filling your head with information. I mean, that’s part of it. The greater part of learning is patience. It’s hard work to learn. It’s trying and difficult, but the more you work at it, the stronger you get.

S059QDGBOG_1549x1037Today’s verses are Hebrews 10:32-36.

Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

Following Jesus takes discipline. Sorry to burst the bubbles of anyone who signed on expecting an easy ride. Think of following Jesus like two magnets with opposite poles being pressed together. On one side, you’re drawn to Him because you belong to Him, but on the other side you’re repelled because you still have a dark nature that wants your own way. You have to fight yourself every step of the way if you want to follow Jesus.

And then add in the trouble our enemy throws at us. We have an enemy who hates us because Jesus loves us, and our enemy will do everything in his power to distract us, stop us, hurt us, discourage us, and slow us down. But instead of seeing all those obstacles as barriers to following Jesus, try to see them as opportunities to grow.

Don’t rush following Jesus. Enjoy it. It takes time. It takes years. Learn to see the trouble as opportunities for God to show His power. Learn to see people as family members who just don’t know Jesus yet. But the more you seize opportunities to follow Jesus, the stronger you’ll become.

Jesus says to love your enemies. That’s not easy, but that’s part of following Him. You won’t want to do it, and Satan won’t want you to either. But Jesus says it, so we do it. Loving an enemy is an obstacle because they don’t want your love, but if you treat it as an opportunity, your faith will grow. Every time you extend love or kindness or forgiveness to someone who wants to hurt you (and you get nothing in return), it demonstrates to everyone around you and even to yourself that what Jesus says matters more to you than what is commonly or popularly accepted. And God blesses an attitude like that.

 

Confidence can be quiet

Sometimes people are just loud. They’re loud about what they think is right, what they think is wrong, and how everyone should agree with them because they know what they’re talking about. But when you’re around someone who’s spouting off like that, do you really think they’re just overly confident? Or is there something else at work deep below what you can see?

There’s loud and then there’s compensating. I know loud people, and they can be the most confident, most exciting, most encouraging people in the world. They just get excited, and when they’re excited, they’re loud.

But people who are compensating are loud and hard to listen to. People who are insecure say things that are designed to hurt, worded just right to hurt, and dotted with enough hurtful words to tear others down just enough to give them a boost in their own sense of self-worth.

3584C14F39Today’s verses are 1 Samuel 13:10-14.

Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?” Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

Saul was the first king of Israel, chosen when the people decided they wanted to be like everybody else and have a king people could see. And boy did they get a winner. Yes, that was facetious.

Maybe he started out strong, but Saul had a little problem with insecurity. Okay, it was a big problem, and it only got bigger as he got older. If you read his life (1 Samuel 8 through 31), you’ll see the same pattern over and over again, the same mistakes, the same flaws, the same foolish decisions.

Every decision Saul made was to cover his tracks, to make himself look better, or to point out the flaws of someone else. Like today’s verses. Saul knew he was supposed to wait for Samuel. Maybe it doesn’t sound right to our 21st Century American ears, but that’s how it worked in Israel back then. And Saul knew that, but he let his insecurity get the better of him, and he broke the rules. And then, instead of admitting that what he’d done was wrong, he blamed others. He got loud about it.

Saul was a loud king because he was an insecure king. And the same truth is still true today. The loud people, the ones who rely on noise and chaos to make a point, are insecure. You’ve heard that it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for, and that’s true.

That’s a big difference between confidence and insecurity. Like meekness is controlled strength, confidence is calm control. If you’re confident, you don’t need to talk trash. You don’t need to shout at people. You don’t need to pitch a fit or throw a tantrum. You’re confident, so you can be quiet.

And let’s face it, a confident person is much more impressive than a loud, blustering one.

How do you get confidence then? Well, that comes back to where your confidence is rooted. If the source of your confidence is your own abilities and knowledge, I’d suggest looking for someplace else to put down roots. No, God provides the ultimate source of confidence and the more we dig into Him and get to know Him better, the more confidence we’ll have.

So the next time you run into someone who’s screaming about something or someone who’s angry all the time or you just run across a loud person who likes to bother people, keep this in mind. Maybe they’re just being loud and blustery to hide the fact that they’re really scared. Maybe they hate the way they look. Maybe they doubt their own abilities. Maybe they are just afraid.

Give them a chance, maybe even the benefit of the doubt. They might just be acting like a blowhard to try to prove that they know what they’re doing. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they do. But when you interact with them, be kind and humble. You can be confident and still kind, and confidence isn’t another word for arrogance.

Love them regardless.

Isn’t being bold the same as being obnoxious?

People don’t believe me when I tell them I’m shy. I’m introverted, yes, but that doesn’t automatically mean I’m shy. And in most circumstances when I’m around people, I’m only in places where I’m very comfortable. When I’m comfortable, I can come off like a total extrovert.

But that’s not who I really am. I’m the quiet one in the corner who likes to get my bearings before I jump into anything. I like to gauge a crowd, a room, a speaker before I answer a question or put up my hand for a comment. But even then, even after I’ve taken the time to get to a place where I’m not terrified, I still feel an urge to stay quiet. There’s always a voice in the back of my mind that tells me nobody needs to hear what I have to say and that if I walk up to someone to talk to them, I’ll just be interrupting. Or I’ll bother them.

But is that the way we’re supposed to live? Believing things like that about ourselves? Isn’t that humility? Or is it lies the enemy whispers to keep us silent when we really ought to speak up?

mountains-nature-sky-sunnyToday’s verse is 2 Corinthians 3:12.

Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold.

What does it mean to be bold? Is boldness synonymous with being obnoxious? That’s how I usually identify boldness. Being bold means you’re prideful or you’re full of yourself or you’re irritating.

But, correct me if I’m wrong, I’m pretty sure God isn’t okay with any of those character traits. So if God isn’t okay with any of that, how can we be bold if that’s what it means?

Easy answer, that’s not what it means. Being bold is being confident, and, sure, you can be confident in a wrong way. You can let your confidence become pride, or because you’re overly confident you can rub people the wrong way. But true boldness has very little to do with focusing on yourself.

What this verse is talking about is the boldness we have as Christ-followers. It’s probably referring specifically to how we can approach Christ with our troubles, that we can just go to Him whenever we need Him. That’s audacity. To approach the King of Heaven and ask a favor? Crazy talk. But I like to think that this verse is talking about more than just our prayer life.

Because of what Jesus did for us, we can be bold in everything we do. We don’t have to be timid and fearful. We don’t have to crumble whenever someone challenges us. We don’t have to hunker down and squeeze our eyes shut because someone disagrees with us. And, no, we don’t even have to stay quiet because we are shy.

We can live boldly because our confidence is in Jesus. Christ gave His life for us so that we could live abundantly. So what are we afraid of? Why are we hiding in the shadows? Sure, I dislike the spotlight, and I don’t like talking to people I don’t know. But when God has put me in a situation where I need to talk to people, the last thing I should be doing is sitting alone at a table scribbling notes.

I’m shy. I’m an introvert. I’m absolutely terrified to start up a conversation with someone I don’t know. Those are the lies Satan wants me to believe about myself, and it’s high time that I stopped listening to him.

What are you hiding from? What are you afraid to do, even though God’s told you to do it? Stop running. Stop believing the lies, and face those fears the enemy has planted in your heart. God has a plan for you, and it’s awesome. It’s time to get bold.

Sunflower in a field near Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

You can’t find happiness by knowing what it isn’t

The United Nations proclaimed March 20, 2013, as the International Day of Happiness. Yesterday, people all over the world celebrated in many different ways.

I guess it’s good to have a day dedicated to celebrating happiness, and the purpose for the day is to remind the world that being happy doesn’t mean being rich or famous. But in all of the materials I reviewed (briefly), I couldn’t find one where they explained what happiness is. All I could find was what happiness isn’t. And one thing I’ve learned about happiness is that you can’t achieve it without a focal point. You can’t be happy just by understanding what it isn’t. You have to have a reason to be happy.

At least, that’s how it works for me. I can’t just be happy because I know it doesn’t come from wealth or fame or beauty. I need to know what it does come from.

Sunflower in a field near Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunflower in a field near Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Jeremiah 17:7-8.

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
    and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
    with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
    or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
    and they never stop producing fruit.

What does the word blessed mean? In some instances where it shows up (bless the Lord, call her blessed, etc.), it usually means to say good things about. When we bless the Lord, it means to say good things about God, remembering what He’s done for us. But in other instances, like this one, blessed means happy.

With that in mind, check the verse out again. “But blessed (happy) are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.”

And that’s what I’m looking for. If I trust in the Lord and make Him my hope and confidence, I’ll be happy. Why? Because like trees planted by a river, I never lack for anything I need.

You can’t find happiness by understanding what it isn’t. The only way to be truly happy is to understand where it really comes from. Not wealth or fame or beauty or even health. You can’t even find true happiness in the intangibles like family and security and love because none of those things last.

The only way to be truly happy is to place your hope and trust in God. So don’t flail around looking for happiness in all the wrong places. You can try, but you won’t find it.

Trust God and let His promises become the foundation you build your life on.