Tools of the Trade–Mirrors or Hammers?

On the heels of an amazingly extravagant weekend celebrating my daughter’s 5th birthday came blowing in the whirlwind of rejection. Don’t get me wrong—our weekend in Disneyland and California was fantastic; wonderful memories were created and I’m sure my daughter will remember it for the rest of her life–as will I. But the joy was tainted by a letter of “rejection” received just a few moments ago. And while I knew this was a possibility, and it’s not the first “rejection” I’ve received, it stings nonetheless.

Satan uses one rejection to bring up memories of others—people rejection, publisher rejection, performance rejection…etc. Feelings of rejection began early in my childhood. I was a heavy kid with bad acne so the attention I got was not the kind I wanted. I learned how to be a people pleaser very early so I could receive at least some positive reinforcement. Everyone likes to be happy, right? So I went out of my way to help the people around me be happy. It’s what I wished someone would have done for me.

All weekend long I had been thinking about a recent “people-rejection” situation in my life. I prayed over it continually and asked God to help me move past it. Just as I was getting “over it” I received a letter of rejection from a publishing company. Another gut blow.

Satan uses people and circumstances in our lives to assault us with a common “theme”. The theme assaulting me throughout my life is “you are rejected” and “you are not loved”. Even though I do my best to “live peaceably with all men”, trying  to recognize and acknowledge my faults, apologizing, trying to make amends, and continuing to encourage others, I find I am still misunderstood more often than not. My intentions are questioned and my motives are doubted. Through all of this is the same message, “you’re not good enough and nothing you do or say ever will be good enough”.  Over the years these feelings catapulted me into severe depression, physical self-abuse, and even attempted suicides.

I have since learned to ask God to show me how to deal with these feelings biblically (What can I learn? How can I allow God to change me through this situation?). I also ask God to prevent me from being used as an instrument of negativity in someone else’s life, because we are all being assaulted with a message from our Enemy. I do not want to be used by Satan to deliver a message to someone that they are not good enough, loved or appreciated, or whatever the message may be. I realize that many times I have been this “tool” and I continually ask God to open my eyes and eliminate these occurrences from my life.

Perhaps God is calling you to the same area of self-examination. You see an individual  or think of them and immediately have unpleasant thoughts. Maybe you think they’re out to get you, out to hurt you, or that they’ve rejected you. If you feel this way you may be dealing with un-forgiveness. Ask God to help you deal with these people as He would have; treating them as you wish they would treat you (Matthew 5-7).

And if you are battling rejection either relationally or circumstantially, ask God to help you deal with those feelings biblically. It may be tempting to retaliate against such people—wanting them to feel the way they make you feel by ignoring them, sending hate mail, “unfriending” them from social media and the like, but there is a reason God has allowed it and you will never grow spiritually in that area if you pretend like it isn’t a problem. When we fail to see people (or circumstances) through the eyes of Jesus, we will likely face similar situations again and again until we learn to deal with them appropriately. God never gives up on us or teaching us His ways, and I am thankful for that even if it hurts!

Whatever you are feeling today, whatever messages your Enemy has tried to send you or use you to send others, God wants to help you recognize and combat them with His word of truth. If no one else ever understands or accepts you, God does. He will never leave you, forsake you, reject you, misunderstand you, or ignore you.

So, the next time you’re tempted to react a certain way, ask God if you’re being His tool, or a tool of the Enemy in that situation or person’s life. What messages are you delivering with your words and actions? I recently read something and it’s a good thought to end on:

“If my life was the only source of God someone was introduced to, what conclusions would that person make of God’s character based on my reflection of Him?”

In other words, is my God a God who rejects, withholds love, criticizes, assumes the worst, and condemns, or is my God a God who forgives unconditionally, displays compassion, and gives grace? Am I a hammer or a mirror?

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” Psalm 116:5

“In the same way, let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

 

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Why…why…why?

Why….why…why?

As a mother of a toddler I couldn’t possibly recount all the times I have heard this question, “Why, mommy?”

“Because I said so,” I have caught myself replying.

However, the Holy Spirit began to convict me that my curt reply was not good enough. He brought to mind my own childhood, and how I felt about such responses. I know my parents did the best they could with what they had, and I certainly don’t blame them for my own choices, but I do wish I had been given better answers to the “whys”.

As I stood outside this morning I felt the Spirit prompting me to make a list of my purposes. He asked me, “What is your purpose?” I would think, as God, He would know! Of course he knew, but I am the one that didn’t really know, and my lack of effectiveness showed that I didn’t know. I needed to unpack my purpose and define it. I needed an answer to the “why”.

Immediately He began speaking to me, and I couldn’t write fast enough. Not just another list of dos and don’ts that I will never be able to live up to, rather a list of purposes, and why they are my purposes.  I’ll share some of them….

My first purpose was easy, “To love the Lord with all my heart, mind and strength.”

Why?

Because:

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your strength; and you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands.” Deut. 6:5-6

Next I wrote under my purpose and verse:

What have I done to accomplish my purpose today? And then I left myself several lines to record what I am doing today (and every day for a week) to reach this life goal.

Having goals is good, but knowing why you have these goals is better, and pursuing God’s goals for your life is the absolute best.

Why did God command me to love Him with all my heart? Because He created me, He knows me better than any human could ever know me, and He knows what is best for me. He also knows the only way I will ever be truly happy is to walk in His will (Psalm 1:1-2), and I need to pursue him with all that I am in order to uncover his will. Notice I didn’t settle with, “because God said so,” (Even though that statement is perfectly valid.)

This isn’t just my purpose; this is the purpose God has given to all His creation. Every human being on this planet has been given this command. It’s universal and personal.

My next purpose is another universal purpose, but also very specific for me.

“Honor my husband through becoming a true woman and wife of God, as He has commanded.”

It was challenging for me to put this next on the list. I was tempted to put a host of other things there, like loving my daughter or getting healthy (which are elsewhere on my list), but God has said in his word He is to be first, and our spouse second before the children. Ok, I need to trust God has a reason for this. (Maybe that reason is that honoring our spouses happens to be one of the hardest things to do naturally.) My “why”:

“You wives must accept the authority of your husbands…you should clothe yourselves with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:1, 4

Next one:

“Serve my daughter as a good mother, defined by God’s Word.”

Why?

“That they may learn to fear me all the days that they live upon earth, and they may teach their children.” Deu.t 4:10

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6

Why wouldn’t any parent want what is best for their children? The key to teaching our children comes with our primary purpose, loving God with all our hearts. Out of that first purpose will flow the rest; our children will witness us living our God-given purposes, see the blessings and reward (Psalm 37:4), and want that for themselves.

My list has nine purposes, all with a verse to answer my “why” and space to write how I am living out my purposes every day. This process has really helped me break down the questions and work to find the answers in God’s Word, rather than in man’s philosophies. Being positive and motivational is great, but it takes on a whole new meaning when we find from God’s Word why He wants us to be that way (encouraging rather than discouraging). There is a reason for the commands we are given, and it isn’t simply “Because God said so”. It is so much deeper than that. I believe this is why I have failed at so many attempts to “do” certain things. I never really unpacked my purpose and discovered why I am doing those things or how they will benefit me. It is important to find out the “why” of obedience and share that with our children, spouses, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

Why do I have my daughter help me clean at such a young age? Because God has commanded that we be good stewards of our earthly possessions, and I not only want to show my thankfulness for Gods provision by taking care of it, I also want to teach that to my daughter.

Why do I want to eat healthy and exercise? Why do I encourage my daughter to do this? Is it so I can be liked and admired? What’s my motive? It’s because God has told me my body is a temple, and I am to honor that temple as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. That purpose should motivate my daily decisions regarding food, activity, and what I allow my child to eat and do. When she asks me “why”, I want to give her a good reason, the best reason. This is what God says and this is why; he loves us and wants us to be fulfilled in the purposes he gave us.

When I was growing up, I really got tired of hearing, “because I said so.” Once I became a teenager that reasoning no longer held any weight with me. I wish I had fully understood how much God loved me and why he wanted me to stay abstinent, be pure, love him, and remain in church fellowship. Unfortunately I never understood those “whys” and decided my own reasoning’s were better. For several years I made many poor choices due to my misunderstanding of God’s love for me, and my lack of trust in him. These choices had many terrible consequences, some of which will remain with me until I am made perfect in the presence of Jesus.

As I teach my daughter what it means to give to others, share, love, show compassion, and serve, I want to be able to tell her why these things are important. I want her to grow up with more than a, “because I said so” response. But really, the ultimate teacher is the one who practices first what they preach. Being a doer and not just a talker, this is the greatest example we can give to those around us.

The next time someone asks you “why,” be ready to give a good Godly answer.

I challenge you to make your own list of purposes, then search the Scriptures to make sure they are in line with God’s Word as well as the “why” of that purpose.

Perhaps you could share one or two of them with me, so we can stand together in accountability. I look forward to hearing your responses!