Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TTRF Piece 7: A Correct View of You

(This TTRF series starts with the post "Through the Refining Fire (TTRF): Intro 1.")

            In Child of Mine (at, I wrote all about my insecurities and fears and about how they affected my relationships with people and with God.  But the thing is, I know that my story isn’t any different from so many other people’s stories.  Many, many of us come from broken, hurting pasts.  And so we all carry around scars and defense mechanisms, and we have walls that we put up for self-protection.  Walls that keep people and God an arm’s length away. 

            But I never knew the incredible freedom that came with letting God break through them … until I fully opened the door of my heart to Him!  And now I want so much to help others do this, too. 

            The thing with people who have been hurt in the past is that we spend our lives trying to protect ourselves from being hurt ever again, even by God.  (Except we don’t always know it.)  We don’t let people get too close.  We’ve learned not to expect too much from others, not to cling too tightly or to desire too much from them.  We’ve learned not to need others or to let ourselves be loved by others.  It would just hurt us anyway.  And so we sabotage relationships with other people in many different ways. 


            Ways such as these: 

            1.  Sometimes, we sabotage ourselves from the beginning by reaching out to the wrong people.  We pursue people who are unavailable.  That way we never have to risk a real relationship where we might get our hearts broken.  (This was my way.)  We settle for superficial relationships and small talk, so that we don’t invest too much into other people and they don’t have to invest too much in us (especially because we don’t feel worth their time or their attention).  We make it easy to leave.  We don’t want them to feel like they have to be bothered with us.  We don’t get too close or real with others because they might become disappointed with our real selves and then they would reject us.  It doesn’t hurt as bad to lose someone who we never let get too close. 

            2.  Or maybe we go to the other extreme, and we seek out those who will hurt us because it fulfills our self-view that we are always destined to get hurt.  If we’ve always been the victim, we’re “comfortable” staying the victim.  It may not feel good, but it’s familiar.  So we stay in unhealthy relationships because we don’t feel that we have a right to seek out someone who will respect us and treat us well.  We don’t feel worthy of a good mate.  And a healthy relationship scares us because we’ve never known one and because it means being vulnerable, being trusting.  We can take the physical or emotional abuse or the cheating, lying, and other mistreatment, but we can’t take the risk that comes with a genuine, vulnerable relationship where we have to be real and where we have to trust another person.  We’d rather take the risks that come with an unhealthy relationship (unconsciously, of course). 

            3.  Or maybe we have actually found a good person, but we don’t realize it or can’t believe it because we don’t see ourselves as someone deserving of a good person or a healthy relationship.  So even if it is (or can be) good, we sabotage it by “seeing” the unhealthy qualities of it and by finding “faults” in the other person.  We see ourselves as someone who is being hurt or mistreated (even when we are not) because we don’t know how to see ourselves as anything else.  Maybe we even become really controlling and manipulative to protect ourselves from pain, to keep control of the relationship before it hurts us.  If we don’t feel worthy of a genuine, loving relationship, we never see ourselves as part of one and we will always find the “bad” in it, using it as an excuse to break it off or to accuse, mistreat, or control the other person like we do.   

            4.  And then there are those of us who end up falling for the same kind of person every time - the kind that doesn’t want a commitment, that just wants the free popsicles but won’t buy the ice cream truck.  We are desperately searching for the real love that we know must be out there somewhere.  And to earn or keep this love, we give away a piece of ourselves to whoever comes along, hoping that they find something in us worth staying for.  We want a commitment, but can’t seem to find someone else who does.   And we die a little more inside with each person that leaves.  And we wonder, What’s wrong with me? 

            5.  Or maybe we’re the ones who can’t make a commitment.  We are so afraid of settling down with one person that we make sure to never get too close or serious with anyone.  Maybe we’re afraid that they’ll find someone better down the line, and we want to spare ourselves the pain of being kicked to the curb later.  So we don’t get too attached or open ourselves up too much.  Or maybe it’s that we’re afraid that we’ll find someone better down the line, so we don’t want to choose anyone now and limit ourselves later.  The grass is always greener on the other side, right?  And yet somehow, the longer we stare at it, the greener it will get.  And we’ll wonder why we are just not happy.  It’s because we’ve never allowed ourselves to simply choose a good “yard” and enjoy it.  We’re too busy thinking that everyone else has a better yard than we do, that we have to keep pursuing better and better ones. 

            6.  Or maybe we are indifferent to relationships.  We just don’t need one!  It’s too much work, too much pain, too much risk. 


            All of these ways, among others, are ways to protect ourselves from the risks that come with genuine love.  We are hurt people who desire to be loved, but we fear the risks.  Maybe it’s that we don’t trust the stick-ability of relationships because it’s never been modeled for us, so we pull away suddenly when it gets too close for comfort.  Maybe we’re terrified of rejection, so we go on the attack or make ourselves unlovable to push others away before they have a chance to reject us. 

            Maybe it’s that we can’t handle a normal relationship, so we find ways to define every relationship as “unhealthy.”  It’s better than knowing that we had and then lost a good relationship.  We push them away before they have a chance to become valuable to us.  Or maybe we are actually pushing them away to test them - to see if they will do what we expect them to do, which is leave us.  And yet, we are heartbroken and confused when they actually do leave us.  Basically, we live our lives with the subconscious idea that it’s far better to ruin it ourselves before they have a chance to hurt us.   


            In high school, I had a very hard time wanting to get near to anyone.  Oh, I wanted to be near others, but I didn’t want to take the risks of seeking others out.  It was much safer to keep my distance and to wait on the outside until others called out to me.  I didn’t like to burden other people with having to care about me or to be my friend.  So I often ate lunch alone, instead of asking to join anyone’s table.  Or I tagged along with my cousin, Keith, and borrowed his friends.  It was easier to be the nice, quiet loner or the “extra” than to risk putting myself out there and get rejected.   

            And I would only like the unavailable guys.  I think it’s because they were not a real risk.  I could like them without taking the risk that anything would really happen.  But if someone I was attracted to showed any interest in me, I freaked out and pulled away and developed an amazingly cold shoulder.  I’m sure it was very confusing to the poor guy that I was just fawning over.  I did that once – flirting with some guy until he asked me out to the homecoming dance.  I said “yes” … and then later that afternoon, I freaked out and said “no.”  (So sorry, Chris from freshman year!  It wasn’t you.  It was me.)  I wasn’t trying to mess with him or play mind games.  I was just really afraid of taking a risk with my heart, of rejection, of abandonment.  I just didn’t know it. 

            But these kinds of fears and self-protective ways, stemming from childhood pain and hurts, do not just affect our relationship with others.  They affect our relationship with God, too.  I’m going to speculate that if you noticed any of those unhealthy relationship tendencies in yourself, along with any others I didn’t mention, then you may also have an unhealthy way of seeing or relating to God. 


            And here are some of the unhealthy ways that we end up relating to God: 

            1.  We fear letting God too close - because we don’t like what’s inside us or we fear that He won’t like what’s inside us.  We would rather work hard at “being pleasing” and “presentable” than with being ourselves.  So we pray well, sing well, serve well, smile all the time, and faithfully read our Bibles, believing that God is satisfied with that.  But we don’t live authentically.  We live the way we think we should.  We never admit to the fears, doubts, questions, or shortcomings that we have.  We try to overcome them, instead.  We don’t admit that we are weak and can’t do it on our own.  We just try harder. 

            2.  Instead of accepting His love and forgiveness as the unconditional gifts that they are, we punish ourselves for being unworthy.  We beat ourselves up over our shortcomings and sins.  We live self-degrading and self-debasing lives - because that’s all we deserve.  We are serving our self-prescribed penance.  And we never really embrace His freeing - and free - forgiveness and love. 

            I once counseled a woman who would punish herself whenever she got upset with herself.  She would take things that she loved and destroy them: a favorite tree, her wedding ring, etc.  She just couldn’t believe that there was anything lovely or good inside of her, and she couldn’t just accept the unconditional love and forgiveness of God without punishing herself further.  She didn’t understand why she would do these things, but they made her feel lower and lower every time she did.  Which, of course, kept the vicious cycle going. 

            I’m sure that the answer for “why” laid deep in her past somewhere.  And if she could pinpoint it, she might be able to realize that she herself is not some unexplainable, worthless, irrational mess.  She developed these tendencies because her past created a damaging self-view.  And instead of allowing herself to accept God’s love and forgiveness as gifts, she remained a prisoner of her past and her self-view.         

            3.  We don’t even seek God anymore.  We have fallen too far for Him to be concerned with.  We have snubbed His gift too many times that He couldn’t possibly care about us anymore.  And so we don’t even try.  We are going to go to hell, and that’s all there is to it.  We are just that bad. 

            (Well, you know what?  You may have given up on you, but He hasn’t given up on you.  Until the day you die, He will pursue you and He will wait for the moment that you take even the tiniest step toward Him.  And then He will come running.  Read Luke 15.  But the first step back needs to be yours.  And if all you can take is one tiny step, let it be this prayer:  “Lord, I need You.”)

            4.  We look at the Bible as rules to be followed, and that’s it.  And we do our best to zealously hold to those rules.  But that’s all that Christianity has become to us:  Rules!  Rules!  Rules!  And we are missing out on God and freedom and life.  In fact, we are not even aware that we can have a relationship with God.  So we settle for religion. 

            (Oh, if this is the case, we are so close, but so far away.  For we have something that looks like God, but isn’t.  Don’t let Satan blind you and convince you that the Bible is a great big To Do list or that we can work our way to heaven.  The way I see it, religion is man’s attempt to get to God and heaven; but Christianity is about God reaching out to man, seeking an eternal relationship with us which is only possible through Jesus.  If you’re interested, I explain this more in “Starting Your Own Relationship With Jesus Christ (And Why We Need Him)”.) 

            5.  We have one foot in both camps: the world’s and God’s.  And we think that it’s okay.  We seek God and serve God and love God, but we go about living our lives sitting comfortably in the driver’s seat.  And we don’t feel the need for anything different.  We are content this way.  We have enough God to be on the right track, but not enough to give up the control.  It feels like the perfect fit.

            (If this is the case, life is probably controllable and predictable, yet possibly exhausting at the same time.  But it lacks the deeply-fulfilling, awe-inspiring vibrancy and peace that comes with wholeheartedly following and relying on God, as opposed to leading and being self-sufficient.)         

            6.  We are just plain indifferent to God.  We don’t need Him. 


            Generally, I think that our earliest experiences, particularly with our parents, affect our views of God and how we relate to Him.  But we can be unaware of these problems, of the walls and fears that make our lives “less than” they are supposed to be.  Or else we sense that there is a problem, but we are resistant to look into it because of the pain that it might dredge up.  And so we live with distance from others and from God.  We live with the feeling that we will never measure up or be good enough.  And so we give up, or we push ourselves to be pleasing, to do more or to be better. 

            But we ache for more.  And our relationship with God is stunted and shallow, lifeless and dim.  We ache for a full, vibrant, powerful life with God.  We want to know real security and peace and joy.  We want to know what it’s like to be really loved for who we are, to know that our Father is looking down on us and smiling. 

            To get there, though, most of us will need to go through the furnace: the refining process when God exposes the true condition of our hearts, when He burns off all the unglorifying fears and attitudes, and when He exposes the walls that we have put up to keep Him from getting too close, to protect ourselves from vulnerability.  (And that’s what this guidebook is for.) 

            But too many of us avoid that process because it means letting God bring up past hurts.  But He brings them up so that He can heal them.  And I want to challenge you to do that hardest thing you can do: Let the Holy Spirit examine your heart and bring up any walls, fears, misconceptions or whatever that are hurting you and your relationship with others or God. 

            This will not be easy.  In fact, it may be the hardest part of this whole journey.  Coming face to face with our true selves is a very scary, difficult thing.  (We learned that lesson in The NeverEnding Story.)  It’s something that many of us avoid our whole lives.

            There is no specific challenge that I can give you here, because this step is all about deep prayer, introspection, and Bible reading.  And so all I can really offer are the questions to help you explore deeper.  And this has to be done with prayer and time.  Every step of the way, ask for the Spirit’s wisdom and for truth.  Remain transparent whenever negative thoughts or feelings come up.  Confess them, talk to God about them, and ask Him to replace them with His thoughts and attitudes. 

            It may be hard, and you may be afraid to do this.  When I am fearful about something, my tendency is to want to talk myself out of my fear and into a better outlook.  But I have found it far more effective to simply say, “Lord, I’m afraid about this.  I really am.  But I ask You right now to take this faithless fear and replace it with Your peace and wisdom.”  Trying to tackle fear on my own is exhausting, but inviting God to handle it is much more effective. 

            And it is most important not only to look at the wrong ways that you think and feel, but to replace them with godly truth.  And so Bible reading - and not just reading, but absorbing - is so important.  Hopefully, by now you have come to embrace the Bible as God’s revealed Truth.  And if you have, then you know that you can believe whatever’s in it - what He says about who you are and how He feels about you.  So let’s get ready to dig!



Example Prayer:

            Dear Heavenly Father,

            I know that I need to take a closer look at myself, to find any ways that I might be blocking You from completely entering my heart and my life.  But I am scared.  I am afraid of what I might find, and I am afraid that I am not strong enough to handle the truth about myself or to correct it.  But I know that You are.  And so right now, I ask You to be with me every step of the way.  Fill me with Your discernment, Your wisdom, Your strength, and Your peace.  Take the hurting, shattered, incomplete parts of me and flood them with Your love and Your healing, that I might experience a complete, passionate, vibrant life in You.  And that You could be glorified in and through me. 

            In Jesus’ most holy name,  Amen   



Or Another Example Prayer:

            Lord, Help me see the truth about myself and see myself the way You do.  Amen




            Before the questions, I guess I do kinda have a challenge.  It’s one to try when you discover fears, doubts, lies, and distorted thoughts or feelings that are affecting your relationship with others or God or yourself. 

            These kinds of things create walls in our lives and around our hearts.  And I believe that in order to let God destroy these walls, fears, etc., we can’t just ignore them or rationalize them.  We have to identify them.  And we might need to identify where they came from and the effect they’ve had on our hearts, thinking, and lives.  And then we need to replace them with God’s truth. 

            Of course, to uncover these things, we should pray for the Spirit’s insight and revelation, and listen to what He has to tell us.  And then when He reveals something, we should explore each one in five parts: 

            A)  Name the fear or doubt or lie or misconception as specifically as possible.

            B)  Try to identify where it came from in your past, when it first started.

            C)  Describe what drives it/feeds it/keeps it going, whether it’s something inside of you or something from other people or life in general.

            D)  Describe the effect it’s had on you and your relationship with others and God. 

            (Ask the Spirit for insight, and be as thorough as you can be.  Take your time working through this section.  If you have a hard time thinking of any walls, reflect on any unhealthy relationship patterns, any negative ways that you interact with others or respond to them, self-destructive or self-protective habits or tendencies, things that others have pointed out about you, things you do that you wish you didn’t do, things you don’t do that you wish you did, any unhealthy thoughts about yourself or about life that run through your head regularly, etc.)     


            As an example, let’s look at one of my fears. 

            A)  When I first began dating my husband, I was very afraid of having my heart broken, of being left. 

            B)   This came from a fear of abandonment which came from a past full of my mother’s divorces.  In my unstable world, people left.    

            C)  I guess I just never felt “good enough,” like I was worth loving or worth sticking with.  I was nothing special or desirable.  I didn’t really “belong.”           

            D)  And this caused me to not trust in relationships, to feel like I didn’t matter.  So I became jealous and controlling with my boyfriend, feeling like it was the only way to make him stay with me and to protect myself from pain.  And I kept my distance from others and tried to live in self-sufficiency, never really needing anyone else.  And this feeling has transferred to God, also.  I spent years trying to be a self-sufficient “good Christian” who could handle everything with a smile so that I could please God and “earn” His love, instead of just being the real me - the hurting, broken me – and inviting Him into the broken parts of my heart.  I think I was just so afraid of disappointing Him, of giving Him a reason to “reject” me.     


            Okay, now for the fifth part:

            E)  For each fear, misconception, lie, doubt, etc., find a Truth from God’s Word and through prayer (and if need be, godly counsel) that speaks to it, that counteracts it.  Replace the negatives with God’s positive Truths.  But don’t just pick any verse that fits.  Find one with the Spirit’s help, through prayer.  He knows the Truths that we need to grasp onto.  Write them down next to the lies, fears, and doubts that they go with.  And pray about them.  Thank God for His Truth and ask Him to help you absorb it and learn to live in it.  Confess the lies, fears, and doubts, and ask Him to replace them with the Truth in your heart and mind and life.                                        

            For the fear of being abandoned, I could pick verses like these “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”  (Psalm 27:10)  And “he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  It is critical to replace the lies and counter the fears with Truth.  The Truth will set you free! 



And a Slightly Different Challenge:

            Because of our hurtful pasts, I think that we develop different kinds of lies that we live by.  Some are blatant baseless lies, such as “No one could ever love me.”  That is an outright, self-defeating lie because God loves you, enough to die for you.  

            But some of these “lies” are actually half-truths disguised as lies.  (Huh!?!)  Let me do my best to explain what I mean.  Let’s say that I have an “I’m not worthy” view, and it’s keeping me from getting too close to God.  I pull back from Him in shame, curl up in a ball, and say, “But, O God, I am not worthy.  I don’t deserve Your love or forgiveness or grace . . . or anything.”  And so I keep my distance from Him because I am just too hideous.  I don’t deserve Him.   

            Now, I’m sure a lot of people would want to comfort me by saying something like this, “Oh, no.  That’s not true.  You are worthy and you do deserve love.  That is just your fear talking.  Satan has convinced you of this lie, and I’m here to tell you that it’s not true.”  And I would believe that “I’m not worthy” was just a lie that I was buying into.  One that I needed to defeat with “the truth” that I am worthy. 

            But here’s the problem:  “I’m not worthy” is the truth.  Well, a half-truth, actually.  (I’ll explain later.) 

            And if we leave it as a half-truth, it will defeat us.  We’ll exhaust ourselves trying to convince ourselves that none of it is true, and this will keep us in bondage to it.  Trying to simply talk ourselves (those of us with self-worth issues) into believing “I am worthy” or “I deserve love” might not work because something inside of us resists believing it.  Because we are trying to find the truth and the answers inside of ourselves instead of in the Lord.  And so we end up trying harder and harder to believe it, while getting more and more discouraged because we just can’t believe it.  Bondage!

            If Satan can’t defeat us with outright lies then he will use truth against us by making us fear it or by only giving us half the picture.  I think we struggle with these kinds of thoughts and fears longer than we should because we cannot defeat a “half-truth” by dismissing it all and trying to replace it with something else. 

            To stop living in bondage to the fear, we need to do something slightly different.  We need to embrace the part that is true and – and this is crucial - turn it around to discover how God views it.  Make it a whole, freeing truth by looking at it from God’s perspective.  (I hope I’m making sense here.  I know what I’m trying to say in my head, but I don’t know if it’s coming across clearly.) 


            As an example, I used to feel so bad about myself when I was dating, feeling like I was never worthy of love from anyone.  And it cast a huge shadow over my relationship with my boyfriend.  No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t convince myself that I “deserved” to be loved by him.  And I kept trying to “let him off the hook” so he wouldn’t be stuck with me.  Honestly, I was terrified of losing him, of being abandoned.  And I was in bondage to this fear.  But after a mission trip to the other side of the world for a summer, I realized that I could live without him.  I would be okay if I lost him.  Life would still go on. 

            I used to be terrified of “I might be abandoned.”  But when I learned that life could go on without him, I embraced the idea that “I might be abandoned,” but then I added “And I’ll be okay if I am.”  And suddenly, I wasn’t in bondage to that fear anymore.  And I went from being with him because I needed him and was terrified of losing him to being with him because I wanted to be with him.  And finally I could accept the idea that he chose to love me, even if I didn’t “deserve” it.  I could accept his love and enjoy the relationship because those fears lost their hold over me.  I was free to simply embrace the love that he offered, no matter how I felt about myself.  Does this make sense?


            These kinds of fears affect to our relationship with God, too.  And fear can paralyze us in our spiritual lives.  And this is what I want to look at here.  And so here are some examples of common half-truths that we are afraid of and the godly responses that make them whole Truths.  See if any fit for you.  Or think of your own half-truths.  And then write down God’s response to them, what you find in His Word and what He tells you through prayer.   


            1.  Half-truth:  “I’m not worthy.” 

            Whole truth:  “Sure, in and of myself and in comparison to God, I’m not ‘worthy’ … but I am not worthless.  My worth, my value, lies in the fact that I am God’s creation.  I don’t have to earn my worth with Him.  I am worthy of His attention and love not because of anything I have or haven’t done but because He made me.  Because He wants me and loves me.  And obviously, God thought I was worth it because Jesus died for me so that I could live with Him.   


            2.  Half-truth:  “I don’t deserve God’s love.” 

            Whole truth:  “That’s right.  I don’t ‘deserve’ God’s love.  So Thank God that it’s not about deserving love or earning it; it’s simply about accepting it.  It’s not about who I am; it’s about who God is.  And He is love.  And so He loves me anyway, before I even knew Him, when I was still deep in sin.  “God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  And John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world . . .” He so loved me that He died for me, as I am.  Whether or not I deserve it, I am loved.” 


            3.  Half-truth:  “I will never be enough/good enough.” 

            Whole-truth:  “Yes, I will never be ‘enough.’  That is just a truth.  I am human and broken and weak and not as in control as I’d like to be.  But I don’t have to be ‘enough’ … because Jesus is enough.  It doesn’t all rest on me.  It rests on Him.  And so I need to be resting on Him.  I get to have a relationship with God because of Jesus, not because of anything I have or haven’t done.  Besides, God isn’t looking for me to be ‘enough’ or to be ‘good enough.’  He just wants a genuine relationship with me, even with all the messes and brokenness in my life and my heart.  He wants me to fall on Him, to let Him be enough for me.”       


            4.  Half-truth:  “I’m not strong enough or capable; I’m going to fail.” 

            Whole truth:  “Well, of course, I’m going to fail.  I’m human.  And God knows that.  He knows I’m human.  But He still has plans for me and He can carry me and all my problems and He can make up for my short-comings.  But I have to stop trying to tackle life in my own strength.  I need to be facing life from God’s arms, not trying to stand on my own two feet.  Because “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  (Philippians 4:13)  And when I fail (not if I fail), I need to seek and accept God’s forgiveness and try again.  He’s always ready to help me get back on the right path.  And He will turn it all – even the messes and mistakes - into something good.  He will turn the brokenness into something beautiful.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).”    


            5.  Half-truth:  “I’m bad!  I deserve whatever consequences I get.” 

            Whole truth:  “Yes, my human, fallen side is bad, and nothing good lies in my flesh.  And I do deserve whatever consequences I should get.  So thank God for His mercy and grace.  Because without them, I’m hopelessly sunk.  And His mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness are freely available to me (as well as to everyone else) because Jesus already paid the price for all our sins.  So I can stop living under needless guilt for my sins.  And instead of working so hard to earn His love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy, I can accept them for the free gifts they are.  And I have to remember that when I first came to Him, He gave me a new heart.  One that is redeemed and beautiful and good in His eyes.  So I am not ‘bad’ anymore, even if I stumble and do bad things.  I am a new creation in Him.  And He will help me grow in holiness and righteousness until the day He redeems everything in eternity.”


            6.  Half-truth:  “I don’t deserve any favor, blessings, or forgiveness from God.”

            Whole truth:  “That’s right, I don’t deserve it.  That’s why it’s called grace.  And He chose to offer it (to offer Himself), to make it available to us without our ability to earn it.  It’s a gift.  And my part is not to earn it but to make the choice between accepting it or rejecting it.  And if I don’t accept it, then I miss out.  If I wait to embrace it till I earn it, it’ll never happen because it is a free gift that can’t be earned.  The choice is mine.  Humbly accept or do without.”


            7.  Half-truth:  “I have nothing to offer God.” 

            Whole truth:  “Yep, I’ve got nothing to offer Him … because He doesn’t need anything that I could possibly give Him.  But there is something that He desperately wants that only I can decide to give Him:  Me!  My heart, my friendship, my eternity.  He doesn’t want my gifts; He just wants me.  I might not have anything to offer Him except empty hands and a broken heart, but that’s just what He wants.  And if I give these to Him, He will fill my hands, heal my heart, and we’ll have an eternity to share together.”         


            Do you see how this takes the burden off of us?  How we don’t have to find answers or hope inside of ourselves because we find it in the Lord?  It takes our fears and the lies we believe and it saturates them with God’s grace and His “enough-ness.” 

            Be on the lookout for these kinds of fears that beat us down and that we try to talk ourselves out of, when we should be admitting them as truths and seeing them from God’s perspective.  (If you notice that you typically have negative, berating thoughts about yourself jumping into your head, write them down.  And then get out your Bible and pray and find the other half of the truth – God’s response to it.) 



Questions for Reflection: 

            Answer these as thoughtfully, slowly, and thoroughly as possible.  And answer them in your journal.  You will probably want to reflect back on these as the Holy Spirit reveals more to you.   Some of these questions will overlap, but that’s okay.  It will help you look at things from slightly different angles.


1.  Is there anything from this section that stood out to me?  Why?


2.  How would I describe my past? 


3.  How has it shaped me?


4.  How would I describe my mother?  What was my relationship with her like?  How has that shaped me?


5.  How would I describe my father?  What was my relationship with him like?  How has that shaped me?


6.  What were my relationships with any other significant people in my life like?  And how have they shaped or affected me?


7.  What are some of the most significant or powerful moments of my past?  Negative and/or positive?  How have those affected me?


8.  What are some of the “turning points” in my life?  What did they turn me from and what did they turn me to?  How did they affect me and my life?


9.  When I was younger, how did I feel/think about myself? 


10.  What shaped that view of myself?


11.  How did that make me behave and relate to others?


12.  What is my current relationship with my parents/caregivers like?


13.  What are my current relationships with others like (in general or specifically)?


14.  When it comes to other people, whose attention do I strive for (or what kind of people do I seek attention from)?   How and why?  What am I hoping to get out of it? 


15.  What people/kinds of people do I admire or try to be like?  Why? 


16.  What people/kinds of people do I fear or am uncomfortable with, and why?  How does this affect me or my life?


17.  What people do I dislike and why?  And what effect does this have on me or my life?


18.  What fears and doubts do I have when it comes to relationships?  How does that affect my relationships?


19.  How do I currently think/feel about myself?  What created these views? 


20.  And how does that (#19) affect how I relate to others?


21.   If I could go back and tell my younger self anything, what would I tell myself?  If my future self came back to tell me something, what would it tell me? 


22.  If I could yell something about myself from the mountaintops or if I wrote a sign to wear around my neck which contained everything I wish others knew about me, things that I wish I could tell others but don’t, what would it say?  (Tell all this to God.  He cares and He will listen.) 


23.  How do I want to see/think of myself?  Or, put differently, how do I wish others described me?  What needs to change to make this more possible?


24.  What is my relationship with God like right now?  Am I pursuing Him?  Am I honest with Him?  Am I close to Him?  Am I afraid of Him or avoiding Him?  Why?  What caused me to be this way? 


25.  What am I pursuing or relying on besides Him? 


26.  How have I and my relationships with myself, others, and God changed from when I was younger?  What caused these changes?    


27.  In what ways are my relationships good?  In what ways do I wish they were different?  What kind of relationships do I want to have with others?  With myself?  What needs to change to make that possible?    


28.  In what ways is my relationship with God good?  What do I wish was different about it?  What kind of relationship do I want to have with Him?  What needs to change for that to be possible? 


29.  What are the unhealthy things – my shortcomings and weak areas - that need to change?  In my behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and ways that I relate?  (If you can’t think of any, ask a trusted friend or family member.  They can see what we refuse to see and what we think we keep hidden.)


30.  Is there something others always point out about me that I need to seriously consider?


31.  Are there unfair opinions from other people that I am giving too much validity to? 


32.  What are some lies from Satan that I have been believing and living?  Did anything in the challenges stand out to me or did I find any half-truths that I am afraid of?  What is God’s response to them?


33.  What kind of person do I think God wants me to be?  (Pray before answering.)  How and what do I need to change? 


34.  What are some qualities that I feel I am lacking or need more of? Humility, grace, faith, honesty, self-worth, etc.?


35.  What can I do to change into the person that I want to be and that I think God wants me to be?  (Don’t forget prayer, Bible reading, and obedience.) 


36.  What kind of help does God offer?  What truths does He reveal in His Word?  How can I accept this help in the future and use it to change my thinking, my feelings, and my behavior?


37.  Is there anything else on my mind about this right now or anything that I think God wants me to address?



Absorbing the Word:    

            When you read the Bible, read it as though God has something to tell you about who you are, who He is, and how you can have the fullest, most abundant life possible (on the inside, not an abundance of things on the outside.)  Make a list of any verses that speak to any fear, lie, or half-truth that keeps you in bondage.  Memorize them so that when those half-truths, lies, or fears come into your mind, you can remind yourself (and Satan) of Gods’ truth from His Word.      

            And remember that as we learn His Truths and learn about what He expects of us, we need to live and obey according to our wills, not our feelings.  Feelings are useful and can be good indicators of things, but they shouldn’t determine what we do and what we think.  We need to set our thoughts on God, on godly things, and on the Word.  And we need to act out of our wills according to what we know is right.  And then our feelings will follow.  (Our feelings will follow our thoughts which follow the things we set our minds on.)  Sometimes this means that we have to embrace a biblical Truth that we know is right, even if we don’t feel it yet.  Thank God for the truths and promises you find in His Word, and ask Him to help you learn from them and learn to live them.