Unconfessed Sin = The Greatest Thief of Joy
By: Vanessa LeRow
I lunched with one of my dearest friends recently and as I looked at her through teary eyes I said, “I cannot find my joy. It feels elusive and intangible right now.”
My sweet friend and I walk in close community with one another. She has not only witnessed, but also shared some of my pain, grief, and loss of the past 18 months. It has been a hard road, to say the least. Too many times I’ve wanted to yell at the people on Instagram posting their Letterfolk boards and hand-painted pinterest-worthy signs that read, “We Can Do Hard Things” all while their perfectly manicured kitchens and perfectly obedient children serve as the back drop.
But, it’s not my reality.
Currently, if we are keeping score, the Hard Things are winning by a margin of about 4,721 to zero. And, if the winner gets Joy as the prize, I come up short every single time.
My friend asked me tough questions that day at lunch—what spiritual disciplines are you using to find joy? What are you spending your time meditating on? What is your fear in this situation or that situation? Eventually landing on THE QUESTION: Who are you if this fear becomes a reality? Who are you if this dream dies in the wake of poor decisions? Who are you if everything you’re looking to for security falls apart? Who are you if everything you’re trying so tightly to control becomes the most outrageous, uncontrollable disaster?
Who are you then?
I didn’t know. I couldn’t answer.
This is what the LORD says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer,
The LORD of Heaven’s armies:
I am the First and the Last;
There is no other God.
Who is like me?
Let him step forward and prove to you his power.
Let him do as I have done since ancient times when I
Established people and explained its future…
How foolish are those who manufacture idols.
These prized objects are really worthless.
The people who worship idols don’t know this,
So they are put to shame.
Who but a fool would make her own god—
An idol that cannot help her one bit?
(Isaiah 44:7,9-10 NLT)
At best, I am a fool. More accurately, I am an idol-maker.
Nothing can steal our joy. We allow it to be taken. In my case, taken by idols. And, I didn’t even realize it.
One of the very first verses I ever memorized was: Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul, mind, and strength; AND Love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know that verse.
However, my effort to love other people became paramount to my effort to love Jesus. Slowly, I started loving the created MORE than I loved the Creator. I placed too much importance on my relationships with people in my life and their circumstances and choices. I placed my hope unfairly in their hands.
My lack of intimacy with Jesus created a void I tried to fill with feeble, fragile, and vulnerable substitutes. Inevitably, when those shaky substitutes unravel and break under the weight of my worship, my faith and my joy become shaky, too.
My unconfessed idol worship stood in the way of my joy.
Tim Keller says, “An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.’”
I wrapped up my idols and identity in the same package thinking they would deliver strength and joy, but they delivered despair.
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven,
Whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what JOY for those whose record
the LORD has cleared of guilt,
Whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away,
And I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
FINALLY, I confessed all my sins to you
And stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
Psalm 32: 1-4
I’ve spent many hours over the past weeks confessing my sins to our Great God. Idols do not die easy, at least mine don’t. My situations and painful circumstances haven’t changed, but the beauty of Biblical faith is that God never asks you to deny your current reality. He asks you to hold your current reality up to the future glory that awaits those of us in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 4:17).
So, who am I when my fears become reality?
Who am I when my dreams die in the wake of poor decisions?
Who am I when everything falls apart?
I am a daughter of
Israel’s King and Redeemer,
The LORD of Heaven’s armies:
Who is the First and the Last;
There is NO OTHER GOD.
None like Him.
And I will worship Him ONLY.
In His presence there is fullness of joy.
Also? I can do Hard Things through Christ who strengthens me.
And so can you.
Maybe I’ll go change my knock-off Letterfolk sign to say that.
Vanessa is a mom, wife, and Christian blogger and speaker. Check out her blog here!
Productivity + Purpose > Laziness + Misplaced Priorities
By: Mallory Ross
I like to think of myself as a social butterfly that enjoys a nice 7 hour nap. I adore back porch conversations that go long into the night, but my body has a mind of its own and desperately needs sleep to function. Without sleep, I can magically transform from a happy-go-lucky 17 year old girl into a horrendous beast gnawing at anything that gets in my way. I’ve been told this by the many people who love me unconditionally. During my senior year of high school, I’ve discovered that sometimes compromise is necessary in order to accomplish the many items on my “to do list”. In most cases, my “compromise” becomes more of a “skip” and the Jesus department always seems to take the greatest hit.
Looking back at some of Jesus’s followers in the Bible, Peter seemed to relate to me on this. He had a heart of admiration for Christ, He was even in Gethsemane right before Jesus’ death on the Cross, but “his eyes were heavy” (Matthew 26: 43) and he fell asleep right after Jesus ordered him to keep watch and pray. Even worse, he didn’t just take a quick power nap, Jesus returned to wake him 3 different times and he was sleeping every single time. I have always viewed Peter as weak for falling asleep on Jesus whenever he needed him most. I’d like to say that I’m better than Peter and would have stayed up all throughout the night to pray for the horrendous events about to take place, but in reality I’m just like Peter. I choose sleep over Jesus more often than I’d like to admit, because I allow myself to believe the lies that the Enemy feeds me about what I need to survive instead of falling on my knees in order to receive the life giving relationship only Christ gives. The amazing part about all of this is that we serve a completely understanding and forgiving God. Jesus says in Matthew 26:41, “The spirit is willing, but the heart is weak”. He understands that we are unqualified to serve Him, but He chooses each one of us regardless.
In all reality, the only thing that we all desperately need for survival is laid out right in front of us, begging us to receive it. We are busy, which makes us weary, but we have to prioritize Jesus first. One of my church leaders reminded me that, “Time management is much less about management and much more about perspective. You will not learn to manage time until you learn to prioritize time with the Father. Jesus did this and His work gained perspective.” I love his point of view about constant obedience towards God. We should constantly be seeking Him in order to gain greater perspective, instead of giving into our frail humanity.
Verses of encouragement:
On Working Hard:
Colossians 3: 23-24
2 Thessalonians 3:10-15
Self Pity Extinguishes the Flame of Joy
By: Mattie Ross
Guess who is the queen of pity parties? Me. 100%. Self-pity is one way that Satan gets to me because as humans our first instinct is to please ourselves. It is to turn inward to how we feel and how we think the world around us should be going. It’s our natural, selfish response because of our broken flesh.
The Bible can be a tad harsh when talking about self-pity and not honoring God with our whole selves. In Isaiah 29 it says that “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” It goes on to say that the wisdom of the wise men will perish because of this. Turning our eyes inward and placing the focus on what we want prevents our worship from being meaningful. Which then prevents us from being effective in building relationships with others. Which then takes us completely out of the game to share the gospel. Self-pity can be a destructive cycle if we do not recognize it as sin from the beginning.
Now, I know that life can just absolutely stink sometimes. Divorce, heartbreak, break ups, sickness, hard relationships with family members, and this list is only scratching the surface of what people can experience. I am not saying that we need to wake up everyday with a smile on our face and act like everything is okay. Because it is okay to not be okay or to be hurt or to be dealing with something, but how comforting is it to know that we have the King of Kings fighting our battles? (Exodus 14:14) That He has already overcome what you have struggled with and what you will face. We do not have to shoulder the whole struggle on our own. Man, thank you Jesus for that grace! It is when we let those trials and heartbreaks take over that it turns to sin.
Ultimately, self-pity does nothing good for us. It sucks the life out of you and everyone around you, it kills joy, it can drain your hope, it can steer you away from faith, and can help you develop the mindset that it is okay to do whatever you want when you want to as long as it makes you feel better. BUT If we lay down all of ourselves to God, He will help you develop habits to replace habits of self-pity. Like Tricia says in today’s devotional, we must move from being the victim to the victor. Persevere. Involve others around you. This is a fight that is worth fighting.
Verse to combat Self-Pity: Philippians 4:12-19
Isolation Breeds Self-Pity
By: Taylor Tate
Isolation breeds self pity…before diving into this subject matter, I would love to share about my personal experiences with this topic. First of all, as a recovering people pleaser (grateful for Jesus and hearing Jennie Allen speak on the topic), my world has always found its way to revolve around the attention I receive from others. If I am receiving good attention, I feel like a worthy human being, if I am receiving negative attention, or even worse…no attention at all, I feel simply, lost. This, my friends, is not a healthy mindset and I fully admit that. However, it is easier to point out the things that are unhealthy in our lives than to put actions into place to enlist the needed changes. This summer I fully admit to living out this topic, I completely pitied myself. I am recently married and absolutely adore my husband. However, the nature of my husband’s job lends for major summer traveling. With this in mind, I recently graduated from college where I lived with five other women and was surrounded by people I knew and felt at home with. Therefore, this past summer was the first time I was not actively living and interacting with people who knew me the best and sadly during those long months, I felt like I had lost who I was due to self pity. I am providing this background information not for attention but to highlight the fact that I need this devotional most likely more than anyone else reading it.
As Tricia highlights, we all “long to belong,” and I could not agree more with this statement because a summer without loved ones made me feel like I did not have a place. As I am reading these thoughts of mine, nearly every statement starts with “I,” and I simply wonder, “Who am I to say that my life doesn’t have a place solely because I feel sorry for myself that no one is taking notice of me?” Thinking thoughts like this absolutely have to hurt my Savior who created me with love and tenderness and ultimately died on a cross and rose again for my sinful life. So friends, after several long months of coming home sad after work, and a few counseling sessions later, I decided to pray. I prayed for several things. Honestly, I prayed that I would be content with isolation to the point that I would seek Jesus before all else, and I prayed for community. I prayed hard for ways in which I could fall and feel caught by members of the church. I eventually found that community and am so grateful to say that the Lord answered my cry. As for praying for contentment during the isolation, it was hard, but I promise that Jesus needed to fill me first before I could ever feel held. Our Savior is faithful, let him hold you today.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:22
Today’s Spotify Worship Playlist:
*Made Me Glad by Hillsong Worship
*Look How He Lifted Me by Elevate Worship
*Thank You Jesus by Hillsong Worship
*Thank You by Hillsong Worship
(Do you think I like Hillsong Worship? Haha!)