My family’s front porch is my definition of summer. Fitted with well-used patio furniture, it’s the perfect place to enjoy the view of a lush yard, rolling fields, and beautiful hills in the distance. There is much life there: the giant lilac bush, the small but steadily growing oak tree, and the ocean of pasture grass. There is much movement, too: the fresh breeze, our golden retrievers walking about, and the rustle of birds in the trees.
It’s a scene of abundance.
A week ago, I sat on that porch and read Colossians 1:9-14. Here, Paul is writing an encouraging letter to a group of believers:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14
Paul is praying that these people would have abundant spiritual lives: overflowing with growth. Think about someone who lives like this. They’re receptive to God’s will, so they do good works, know God closely, are blessed with his strength, and live in thankfulness. They remember what Jesus has done for them and live in direct response to that! The thought reminds me of the lush view from my porch. It’s undeniably alive, bursting with newness.
This kind of life is possible for you and me. I hope you read the verses over again and let God speak to you through them, because I’m sure something will stick out to you. Opening ourselves to the Lord’s direction in our hearts and leading in our lives is the first step in personal growth.
I’ve read these verses every day for the past week, and it’s powerful. I find myself being encouraged and convicted in different ways each time. I’ve especially been struck by the phrase about God giving us patience and endurance through his power. I certainly need that during a typical work day, and the reminder that it doesn’t come from myself!
I hope these verses encourage you to seek the Lord and seek growth. A soul that is bursting with life will be noticeable to your coworkers, friends, and classmates. Christ has rescued us and brought us into the kingdom of light. Are we living evidence of it?
I used to be the picture of insecurity. I was consumed with my appearance and others’ opinions. When giving a speech in English class my heart would pound and my voice would waver so much I could barely talk. If someone sitting behind me laughed, I knew it had to be about me. I even went through a few months when I would involuntarily blush a nasty beet-red color in the middle of class for no apparent reason, then rush to the bathroom to let it subside. My mind was a place of self-doubt and over-analyzing everything.
Now, I’m happy to say I’ve mastered my insecurities and I love myself in all situations!
Just kidding. Obviously.
But by God’s grace, I have gained some confidence. It hurts to look back on where I was. I want to tell my 16-year-old self that it gets better.
I don’t know where you’re at on the ‘confidence meter.’ You may have struggles and reasons for worry that far surpass my experiences. I asked my Facebook and Instagram friends what they struggle with when it comes to confidence, and all your answers were so honest. It’s humbled me to see just a sample of the things you work through. So, no, I’m not the expert. But I do think we can all use a little encouragement in this area. Here are six ideas for building confidence that have proven helpful in my life:
1. Challenge your thoughts. Confidence is largely a game of the mind, because each small thought comprises our self-image. We cannot permit every whim and concern to make a home in our heads! If we do, we’ll be tossed about in a load of uncertainty. Instead, we have the power to challenge unhealthy thoughts with logic and truth.
2. Speak kindly about others. How we talk about other people influences how we think about ourselves. I’ve experienced this. When I make fun of people and nitpick their weaknesses or quirks, I become more critical about myself, too. Gossip and mean words create a culture of harshness. Luckily, the opposite is also true! When I compliment others and say good things behind their backs, I’m more likely to see the good in myself as well.
3. Do something scary. When I think about the hard things I’ve done, I can see how they’ve grown my confidence: moving to college, helping a research team, doing YouthWorks, etc. Each step, big or small, has shown me that I’m capable of more than I thought I was. It’s helped me look to the future with more bravery and a belief that God is always with me. Every time you dismiss fear and do something hard, your confidence grows.
4. Accept the core of your personality. This applies to introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between. I’ve found that you cannot change this. I fought against my introversion for many years, seeing my quietness and gentleness as something to overcome. I thought I needed to change before I could feel free and happy. The problem wasn’t my personality, though. It was my unhealthy mind. I’ve since learned to embrace my core, while not letting it cage me in. (Here is a related blog post!) Learn to accept and build on your personality, and you won’t be endlessly fighting against it!
5. Believe what God says about you. You will never healthfully overcome insecurity without believing what the Creator says about you. God’s opinion matters most, because he intimately knows every part of you: the beautiful, the sinful, and the painful. He paid the greatest sacrifice to know and be with you. The Bible is full of examples of God’s love for us, and how carefully and beautifully he made us. Our confidence comes not from outward appearances, but from the amazing spiritual realities we see in the Bible. Another key thing is that we do not journey through life alone. When there is a hard decision, painful season, or confusing time, God is always there to help and guide us.
6. Give yourself time and grace. This whole thing is a long road. There will be days where you feel like you’ve ‘made it,’ only to be followed by days when you want to curl into a ball. I know it because it’s been true in my life! But take a deep breath. It’s okay that you have struggles, and it is so, so important that you give yourself time and grace to grow.
So, friend, I hope these tips have helped you in some way. I am overjoyed and humbled that you take the time to read these posts!
I love getting recognition for something I’ve done. Whether it’s a small act of kindness, volunteering, or helping a friend, it feels really great to get a ‘thank you’ or a ‘wow, that’s so nice of you!’ But what about when no one seems to notice the good we do? Personally, I’m pretty skilled at seeking out recognition: casually mentioning what I’ve been up to in conversations.
We feel a pressure to be seen as purposeful and busy, especially in Christian culture. The Bible tells us to do good and to let our light shine, and that’s a worthy pursuit! But it’s far too easy to get wrapped up in recognition and what other people think of us.
The Bible speaks clearly into this issue:
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. -Matthew 6:1
We want to be admired
This chapter goes on to warn against doing things like praying, giving to the poor, and fasting with the motive of being seen and admired by people. Other things you could add to that list include reading your Bible, volunteering, leading a Christian movement, helping at church, etc. Jesus is asking, “What’s your true motive for doing all this good stuff?”
But really ,why do we want recognition for what we do? I can see two reasons: 1) We don’t feel like we’re doing enough. When I look at my amazing friends and other people who do so much good, it’s easy to feel that I pale in comparison. So, if I broadcast the things I do, I can feel like we’re ‘even.’ Comparing ourselves to other Christians in a competitive way is so ugly! We’re called to work towards a common goal, together. Another reason we may search for recognition, 2), is that we really are prideful about what we’re doing. We believe that we deserve to be seen and praised.
Man, oh man, Matthew 6:1 is crucial.
So, should we become hermits?
An important thing to realize, however, is that Jesus doesn’t tell us to hide our good deeds or avoid them in an attempt to be invisible. We are supposed to live radically good and generous lives, so obviously some people will notice: and hopefully love God because of it! This verse is truly a warning against having the wrong motives.
The beautiful impact of doing good
The true reason for doing good, then, is not to be remembered by people, but to impact eternity. It’s amazing to imagine what this looks like! God sees everything, even the good done in secret. He remembers and treasures it all: the piddly little ways we help people, the things that go completely unnoticed, and even the actions we forget about or brush off. These things are stored up as treasure in heaven, while changing and impacting the earth!
I want to encourage you that doing good is always worth it: even when no one sees, even when you feel like it’s not enough, and even when it seems exhausting and menial. Our God is a God who sees, and who loves us dearly. We don’t need recognition or praise from another human to fill our hearts or spur our motives. Rest in that truth today, and go serve the Lord!
Have you ever been let down by a friend? Silly question, I know. Have you ever been disappointed? Another silly question. Of course! It’s life.
But here’s another question, a little harder: H ow often do you count on the things in this life to give you lasting joy? I’m not talking about inherently bad things. I’m talking about the people we love, exciting plans we have for the future, our hobbies, favorite places and foods, aspirations, and dreams. Good stuff!
But how often do we put our hope in them?
Lately, I’ve tried to find security in the good things that are happening in my life. Without realizing it, my heart has drifted from finding joy in God and ended up in a confusing and tense place: counting on my circumstances to fill me. Don’t get me wrong, my circumstances have been joyful! If you’ve talked to me lately, I’ve probably word-vomited about all my plans and exciting things of the future.
But there’s a danger there. In the moments when I delight in my life and circumstances, I feel self-sufficient. I don’t feel my need for Christ in quite the burning, consuming, real way that I should. When I quantify my joy to a list of what’s happening around me, I also feel that I have control. I fall into pride. “Wow, look what I’ve got going on!”
But the truth is that all worldly things will definitely let us down at some point.
We can only find lasting joy in Jesus and what he’s done for us. You may already know this, or the concept may be foreign to you. But either way, no matter where you stand with God, you’ve probably been let down by hopes and joys of this world. Maybe you’re going through it right now.
Maybe you defined yourself with your career, only to find it slip from under your feet. Maybe someone you admired and loved hurt you or let you down. Maybe a hobby you used to be happily consumed by is losing its luster. Maybe the world around you that used to be exciting and vibrant suddenly feels dull and unfulfilling.
No matter how amazing or secure something feels, there is no guarantee that it will remain steady.
The only steady thing I’ve found in this shifting life is God. He loves us so greatly that he sacrificed his own Son’s life to make a way to be with us. This truth will never change. He gave us the Bible so we might know him more. It will never change. His character is faithfulness, love, and strength. He will never change. And he has a future and a plan for us to be with him forever, in a world that will be renewed: without sin, pain, or fear!
How could we not find assurance and joy in this story?!
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.” . . .
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply. . .
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:2, 4a, 8-11 ESV
“The sorrows of those who run after another god will multiply.” It’s so true! Fullness of joy is found only in God’s presence. I want to make it my goal to delight in the Lord. I want to enjoy him as much as he enjoys us! I want him to be the real object of my joy, rather than anything in this world.
Before I end this post, I need to give a disclaimer. Some people will say that life as a Christian will be all joy and prosperity. That’s simply not true. Circumstances can be just as nasty, ugly, and painful when you know Jesus as they can without him. The difference, though, is that we can find joy in him no matter what is going on. That’s why the joy of the Lord is our strength! It both permeates the worst circumstances and lifts our gaze to him in the best.
Will you join me in my goal to delight in the Lord this week? Will you lift your eyes from the circumstances of life, whether good or painful, up to the God who never changes? I want to chase after him all my days: depending on him for all that I need, instead of the things of life. We can trust him to be all that he promises to be.
How does the world around you influence how you think? What motivates and inspires you? Why you do what you do? Recently, I read a book called Disruptive Witness. It showed me some surprising stuff about our society and how deeply we’re affected by it.
The first section talks about our current situation, which is what I’ll talk about here. A few of the main points really rocked me, because they are so true yet so subtle! I also love that the author, Alan Noble, explains it all without a condemning tone. It’s an honest assessment of where we’re at. So, here are a few points in a (hopefully) organized list!
1. We’re obsessed with image. Although we may not realize it, our main focus is on finding, crafting, and displaying our personal image. It’s present in every aspect of life: we experience our jobs, leisure activities, relationships, and even small things like food choices through a lens of “what does this say about who I am?” Noble had a great example of taking a hike alone while thinking about what a hipster you are. We may project any number of personas on ourselves subconsciously.
I’ve definitely seen this in myself. There’s a persona that goes like this: a girl who drinks coffee, reads her Bible, wears flannels, styles her hair in a half-bun, and attends a church with loud music. A ‘cool Christian.’ I can barely sit at a coffee shop and blog without thinking about it! (That’s. . . literally what I’m doing as I write this.) I’m sure you can think of a few personas you fit into as well. Our value of image is deeply ingrained.
2. We have a lifestyle of distraction. We’re bombarded with countless messages every day, and we know it. Ads, social media posts, conversations, and the news pull us in many directions. In the time it takes to scroll Instagram, we’re told to eat more spinach, help refugees, buy a new toothbrush, check out our friend's new shoes, fight climate change, and support the building of a wall all at once! These causes butt heads with each other, demanding our immediate attention and allegiance.
“A superficial but constant engagement with media invites us to unreflectively adopt ethical and political positions, creating a hodgepodge worldview. . . causes are as easy to pick up as they are to put down.” (Disruptive Witness, p. 26)
Since we can adopt views so quickly, they often remain surface-level in the back of our minds while we neither take action or understand them fully. This leads to cognitive dissonance, which I have experienced for sure. My brain has felt exhausted from the bombardment of so many causes and images, and the contradictions, questions, proposed actions, and insecurities they bring. The pace is stifling.
When taken together, the combination of these two points brings a shocking conclusion . . .
3. Christianity is seen as just another consumer choice. Essentially this puts faith on the level of ‘fun facts about me:’ on the same level as favorite restaurants, athletes, and vacation spots. It’s a trivial preference. Jesus is seen as a hobby or just another thing to pin onto our identities. Sadly, this makes the gospel feel far less weighty and easier to dismiss.
“The gospel appears thin, superficial, and inconsequential—just another image vying for our time.” (Disruptive Witness, p. 29)
It breaks my heart. Some people call themselves Christians but don’t take it seriously, while other people see faith as just another preference and dismiss the whole thing altogether. We struggle to portray the true depth and importance of our faith and may even accidentally trivialize it by our actions and words.
Here is one more barrier to consider:
The modernity of life makes it hard to sense God. In the past, the consensus was that God existed. People attributed a lot in life to his power and his creation. However, the advancement of science and the ease of modern life has made that far harder to see.
“We struggle to recognize beauty in the natural world because it has been so thoroughly conquered, and wonder is squashed through scientific language and nature-channel explainers. We are masters of our health, our safety, our morality, our time, and our success. Living in this society, it’s hard to sense the transcendent.” (Disruptive Witness, p. 57)
The problem is that the more advanced and automated life becomes, the less we see of life’s magic and wonder. That’s why the moments in which we remember them are beautiful. It’s why fairytales and books like Narnia are so crucial. It’s why we adore a child’s innocent amazement at the world around her. And it’s why a mountain range or the power of the ocean pulls on us in such deep places! But within the confines of our normal lives, wonder is often squashed.
Altogether, these facts of our current situation may seem hopeless. How can we live real, unaffected lives for Christ in this climate?
The second section of Disruptive Witness is all about that! Noble explains how to effectively witness in this climate and gives practical tips about how to break down barriers and show Jesus as who he is. I really enjoyed the read, and highly recommend it! (And if you purchase the book through the link on this page, I will receive a portion of the profit. Isn’t that neat and professional-sounding?!)
Whether you grab a copy of the book or not, I hope these points have helped you understand our culture. I know it’s made me realize shocking things about how I think and has shaped my understanding of witnessing, which is a great place to start!
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!