Freedom Friday: Does Jesus Accept You as You Are?

Imagine you’re at a bus stop.

Technically, it’s a free shuttle. The sign at the covered bus stop says that the free shuttle runs on this route.

You wait. You wait some more. Several buses come and go, but no free shuttles, and none of them end up at your needed destination.

Finally, you ask someone walking up the street if they know anything about the free shuttle.

“Yes, the free shuttle goes on this route and will take you right where you want to go. Just sit back; relax. This is the route for the free shuttle. Don’t worry.”

Relieved, you sit back in the shelter of the bus stop and wait. You check your email on your phone, text a few friends, check your Facebook. Soon, you realize another hour has passed.

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Just then, another bus comes, and someone gets off. “Please,” you say, “do you know when the free shuttle will be coming? I’ve been waiting a long time!”

“It’s Sunday,” the man replies. “The shuttle doesn’t run on weekends.”

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3 weeks ago, I wrote a post on what allows me to still wear my LIVESTRONG bracelet and to still listen to the song, “Healer.” What allows me to do that is grace.

This week, with some big news in the Christian media (which I’m not going to comment on :)), I kept hearing the phrase: “Jesus accepts people as they are.”

I hear this phrase a lot from my American Christian friends. I can’t say that in the past this phrase ever bothered me all that much. I can’t even say I really gave it much thought until those recent conversations.

Something about the way the phrase was used didn’t sit right with me. I started to wonder if this phrase actually accurately depicts the fullness of the Gospel.

We generally use this phrase as another way of saying, “We shouldn’t judge where people are. Jesus accepts people where they are and so should we.”

But what if that’s only telling people half the Gospel?

Mary Heathman, in speaking at a conference I recently attended, said, “Grace and truth are two sides of the same coin. They are not two different coins.” She went on to say that one without the other isn’t grace or truth; it’s pseudo-grace and pseudo-truth. Grace and truth, in essence, are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other.

I immediately think of John 1:14:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

What if “Jesus accepts you as you are” is just the grace part? Can we really have grace without truth if Jesus was the fullness of both?

Isn’t that sort of like telling someone that yes, the shuttle you’re waiting for does run this route, but not telling them the specifics of how to get on the bus?

Did Jesus accept the rich young ruler where He was? How about the woman caught in adultery?

Can you think of examples in Scripture where Jesus accepted someone who was stuck in sin where they were (grace) without calling them to something better (truth)?

Because I can’t.

This verse is the closest I can think of to the sentiment of “Jesus accepts you as you are” stated by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 11:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Sigh. We all give a big exhale when we read this verse. What a peaceful, embracing sentiment. Jesus continues:

Take my yoke upon you

Now hold up! That doesn’t sound very “come as you are”-ish! Exchange my weariness and burdened self for a yoke?

Yes.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Jesus’s yoke may be easy, but it’s still a yoke. His burden may be light, but it’s still a burden.

Perhaps this is why He implored the crowds listening to His teaching to count the cost before committing to being His follower:

 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Luke 14:28-33

The problem may very well be with our definition of the word “accept.” However we couch it, the thought that Jesus might accept or embrace us where we are is not necessarily reassuring.

Because I don’t want to stay here.

What we do know is that Jesus is always calling us to so much more than what we’ve experienced thus far. He calls us to abundance. Therein lies the hope of the Gospel: the promise of life-changing transformation.

For that, I’m all in.

Freedom Friday: Why I Still Wear my LIVESTRONG Bracelet and Listen to the Song “Healer”

My dad gave me a LIVESTRONG bracelet to wear as I ran my 2nd 5K in 2008.

I had raised over $1000 for cancer research and was super excited to run. This was my first race to run for those who can’t run themselves. I’ve worn it for every race since.

My dad had been wearing one for a long time and supported the LIVESTRONG foundation in other ways. He identified with Lance Armstrong’s own battle with cancer and his decision to live life to the fullest as long as he is able.

Lance Armstrong admitted to doping shortly after my father died of cancer.

I still wear my LIVESTRONG bracelet.

Running the Baltimore Marathon in Oct. 2013, LIVESTRONG bracelet on

Running the Baltimore Marathon in Oct. 2013, LIVESTRONG bracelet on

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Michael Guglielmucci composed the song “Healer” in late 2006 after announcing he was dying of cancer. This song was a popular choice at the church we attended in Boston prior to moving to Virginia. I cried through many choruses, declaring, “I believe You’re my healer, I believe You are all I need,” all the while recognizing that God didn’t appear to be healing my father. I sang with passion, “You walk with me through fire; You heal all my disease. I trust in You – I trust in You,” knowing that trust is a choice to believe in God’s character, to rely on His goodness, to ask for His eyes to see clearly when nothing seems to be making sense.

At some point in the last year, I was told about the history of the song which had surfaced in 2008. Michael Guglielmucci had faked his illness, an attempt to create a diversion from a 16-year battle with pornography addiction.

I still sing the song “Healer.”

*************

We often lack true grace in our society. I’m not talking about sloppy or cheap grace – the counterfeit that allows us to continue in our sin when God beckons us to live in freedom.

I’m talking about real grace.

The kind of grace that Jesus extended to the woman caught in adultery, recounted in John 8 – grace that extends a hand when you’re down, helps you up, and then commands you to “Go and sin no more.”

The kind of grace that Jesus talked about when He said to forgive “seventy times seven” times.

The kind of grace that hung from a cross so that we could have a chance at the abundant life of freedom we were created to live.

How many second chances has Jesus given you?

What about third? Fourth? Fifth? One hundredth?

We need to learn about true grace. We want justice; we don’t want to forgive. We laugh at others’ failures in hopes that somehow, it shows us in a better light. We try to negotiate when forgiveness is appropriate, as if Jesus’s words weren’t clear. We don’t extend to others the grace we expect for ourselves.

I wear my LIVESTRONG bracelet (I don’t wear the original one my dad give me; I now wear his) as a reminder to live a life of goodness, one of my father’s aspirations. I wear it, reminded of a man named Lance Armstrong who had imperfections, but chose to do much good with the influence he had gained. Yes, he made some big mistakes and then he lied about them. Is that unforgivable? I wear this bracelet so that I remember to not lose heart when life gets hard. I wear it as a reminder that nothing is impossible with God.

I sing the song “Healer” because Michael Guglielmucci knew God could heal him of his pornography addiction. He knew it so deeply in his soul that he wrote a song about it. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I don’t believe God heals us in a bubble (James 5:16), that healing generally happens in the context of community. I pray now he has found the healing he needs. I sing the song because the words aren’t any less true just because Michael Guglielmucci was lying about having cancer when he wrote that song; the truth contained in the song has not changed because the writer’s lies were exposed. I sing “Healer” because I desperately believe in its sentiment.

For nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands

Extend grace to someone this week, even if they don’t deserve it. Especially if they don’t deserve it. That is what the cross did for you and me. Forgive someone. Ask God to search your heart and show you your own graceless attitudes.

Lord, help us to be more like You.

 

Monday Morning Meditation: Embrace Grace Again (Psalm 25 Series)

Welcome, friends. Here is today’s passage in the Psalm 25 series (v. 11):

For the sake of your name, O Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

I can’t get past this verse. I want to tack some of the following verses onto this blog post, but I just can’t.

My heart cries out with David.

For the sake of your name….

My sins, Lord – they overwhelm me.
They flood over me,
To the point where I feel as if I might drown.
Do you see how great my struggles are?
Do you see the foolishness, 
Not only of my youth, but of today?

David, in his humble state, wrestles with the questions that I imagine many of us do:

Will God forgive me?

Can He?

Read again verse 10:

All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
For those who keep the demands of his covenant.

David knows God’s character. He spends much of this psalm declaring that truth. And yet, he still seems to express almost a doubt here about those times he did not keep the demands of the covenant –

For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

David knew a Messiah would come. We know the Messiah has come.

We look at our sin, reminding God of how great it is. God shows us the cross, reminding us how sufficient He is.

I’m so thankful for the cross. Through it, we have the opportunity to experience his grace everyday, grace that seems to good to be true.

Grace declares all of our sins forgiven, even the one you committed yesterday that you’ve committed a million times before.

Grace also empowers us to resist sin through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Can you embrace grace today?

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

Approach the throne. Embrace the power of grace. Rather than beg for forgiveness, as David did, ask to be continually filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) who is able to empower you to resist the lure of temptation. Look to the cross. It is sufficient.

Monday Morning Meditation: Carried in God’s Arms

“Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.” Psalm 68:19 (NLT)

Have you ever tried to carry someone who didn’t want to be carried? All the parents of children just said, “Yes!” Not only does my two year old sometimes run from me when I need him to do something, he melts into a 37 pound, thrashing, screaming mess when I catch up to Him and try to get him into my arms.

Are you trying to carry yourself into this week? Or running in the other direction at its mention?

The above verse tells us that God desires to carry us every day. But we have to let Him.

“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” Isaiah 40:11 (NASB)

A few months ago, the Lord put a thought in my head that I’ve mentioned before: “If the burden is too heavy, then it’s not mine to carry.”

Sometimes, *I* am the burden that I try to carry. I become a burden to myself when I attempt to carry and sustain myself. It was never in God’s design for me to be my own carry-er! That was always meant to be God’s job.

Much of Christendom is celebrating Holy Week for the next seven days, the week we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. Let Jesus’ words speak to us afresh today:

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.'” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

Let God carry you today and every day, as we remember how He carried the weight of our sin on His shoulders, so that we might have life and life to the full.

Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. The NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at Biblegateway.com.

Freedom Friday: Who is Your Strength?

This is going to be short today! It’s been a crazy week, and my desktop computer is being temperamental. Today, it won’t turn on, so I’m typing to you from my super-slow, barely functional little netbook.

An exercise in patience, for sure!

I am still reading through 2 Samuel and the Psalms, and earlier this week, I read through Psalm 59.

“You are my strength; I wait for You to rescue me, for You, O God, are my place of safety.” Psalm 59:9 (NLT)

God is our strength.

The Hebrew word translated as “strength” here is also translated as fortress, loud, might, mighty, power, stern, strength, strong, or stronghold.

Stop & think of a moment this week when you needed strength. What source did you draw on? Friends? Coffee? Food? Untapped energy reserves?

I wrote in “The Freedom Found in Brokenness” about Paul’s realization concerning God needing to be the source of His strength. When we’re doing well, feeling pretty free, experiencing some victory, we can slowly forget who our source is, who the giver of strength should be.

Verse 16 says, “But as for me, I will sing about Your power. I will shout with joy each morning because of Your unfailing love, for You have been my refuge, a place of safety in the day of distress.”

This verse struck me on this particular morning because I had not gone running, but had attempted to sleep in (and failed). Instead, I was sitting on my chilly porch, shivering in the early morning hours, hoping to get some quiet time in before the kids awoke. I decided I should stop, read that verse aloud, and (quietly) shout for joy!

That word “power” is the same word translated in verse 9 as “strength”. We are encouraged to sing about God’s power, His strength, and His might.

If we are going to learn to walk in freedom, if we are going to become who God created us to be, we will need to learn to continually rely on God, to draw from Him as our source of strength. It comes much more naturally to me, as a sleep-deprived mom, to rely on coffee! But Gods’ strength is much more effective than caffeine 🙂

The Psalm ends with this declaration: “O my Strength, to You I sing praises, for You, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.”

Say that with me today. Stop for a minute, take a deep breath, open your heart and allow God to be your strength.

Make Paul’s declaration your own: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Freedom Friday: You Are God’s Favorite, Part 3

Hello, beloved 🙂 I hope you’ve been soaking in the reality of God’s fierce tenderness for the last week.

Have you been referring to yourself as the disciple whom Jesus loved? If you try, you’re bound to giggle at yourself. But I seriously recommend it. In fact, why don’t you add the following while you’re at it (expounding on the meaning of the word “beloved”):

I am esteemed by God and very dear to Him.

In fact, I am His favorite!

He has declared me worth knowing, worth loving and worth creating.

Try it. I’m serious. OK, don’t roll your eyes at me. I saw that!

I know a few of you think I’m absolutely crazy. But I dare you to speak these truths to yourself. Just try it.

You may wonder why I’m talking about this. And why on earth am I pressuring you all to speak these strange (but true!) things to yourself?

This is why.

I’m going to share with you an excerpt from when I first gave this talk to the campus ministry I directed back in 2004.

A little background:

First of all, I couldn’t believe God wanted me to talk about this. I had just started to discover these truths myself and had barely seen the tip of the iceberg, but I felt strongly God wanted me to talk about it.

Second, God didn’t want me just to share facts. He wanted me to share my experiences. Intimately, and transparently.

This was my first year as a campus missionary. It was my first year working with Alive in Christ.

I had no idea what I was doing.

I was still struggling deeply with depression, doubt, fear & insecurity.

In my talk, I posed the question: how does this knowledge [of being God’s favorite] change us? And how has it changed me?

This is, content unedited, what I said.

I’ve always struggled with feelings of worthlessness, uselessness and stupidity. It has been worse in the past year. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve begun to do something that doesn’t have a rule book, a step-by-step guide dictating “this is how you do it”. I don’t know if it’s because I’m putting myself out there, making myself more vulnerable. But I do know how it manifests itself – in negative self-talk and paralyzing feelings of inadequacy. I used to walk around thinking “Jesus loves even me.” Now instead, I tell myself “Jesus loves especially me.” The knowledge that I am Beloved changes how I treat myself, and in turn, changes the way I view others.

I believe when Jesus said “Love your neighbor as yourself”, He not only meant “don’t put others below yourself” but He also meant was “we can only love others as much as we love ourselves”.

I don’t have to all figured out. I continually need to allow the knowledge that I am Beloved to be a filter for my thoughts and my actions. Instead of letting my emotions and experiences dictate my worth, I allowed God’s acceptance of me and His love to dictate my worth.

Wow. I’ve come a long way since then.

When I wrote the above, that I was learning to allow “God’s acceptance of me and His love to dictate my worth”, I was probably only successful 10% of the time.

Now, I can honestly say that 98% of the time, being God’s favorite truly defines me and dictates how I feel about myself. I say 98% because I still have moments when it feels as if life is ganging up on me and I begin to question my worth. I had a moment yesterday and a few weeks ago, which reminded me that those moments are now few & far between.

This is why it’s important. If you begin to view yourself and others through the lens of being God’s beloved, you will be radically changed.

“The truth,” Henri Nouwen wrote in “The Life of the Beloved”, “even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity and held safe in an everlasting embrace . . . We must dare to opt consciously for our chosenness and not allow our emotions, feelings, or passions to seduce us into self-rejection.

If you truly believed that you are “beloved”, God’s favorite, and you lived out of that tender affection, how would that change you?

It’s time to find out. It’s time to start telling ourselves the truth about who we are in Christ.

How do you do this? Try some of these posts. Speak these truths to yourself. Speak them to others. Commit to telling yourself the truth about who you are and not believing the lies any longer.

Do you truly know the love of Christ? His acceptance? His favor?

Do you want to?

Does it affect every part of the way you live your life?

Rest in Him. Let Him transform you. Surrender to Him, and to His love.

Let this knowledge change you. Let Him change you.

Secure in His Treasure Pouch

No, it’s not Friday (sorry!). I just felt like sharing something with you all today 🙂

Yesterday in my Bible reading, I came across this verse. This is spoken by Abigail, the wife of Nabal, a wealthy man whom David inquired of, asking for provisions. Nabal refused, and David sought to take Nabal’s life. Abigail ran out to meet David & his men with provisions, to appeal to him.

Are you ready to take this in?

“Your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch!” 1 Samuel 25:29 (NLT)

This was spoken to David, but I believe it’s true for all of us. We are secure in Christ, treasured by God, as I wrote last week, His favorite.

Something big happened today in the life of my family. It feels big to me. Thus, God’s faithfulness is almost tangible, His presence felt and sensed.

God treasures you. In fact, He has declared that the lions may grow weak & hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Is there something you desire in your life, but are afraid to ask for?

Take the risk. Ask. Taste & see that the Lord is, indeed, so good.

Freedom Friday: Resting in God


My youngest son as a baby, napping on my lap

Have you ever watched a child sleep?

My younger son is now 20 months old, but he is still beautiful when he sleeps. He took an extra long nap today after a short sleep last night. I went to check on him a couple of times, and had to restrain myself from taking his face in my hands and covering him with kisses.

So calm. So content. Not a care in the world.

“I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

I have been thinking about the concept of resting in God lately. I seem to be continually encouraging people in my life to stop striving, trying to measure life by achievements and accomplishments, and just rest in Him. Like a good father or mother, God watches over us, carrying us, when we rely on and cling to Him.

“He will not let your foot slip;
He who watches over you will not slumber
Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you;
The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm;
He will watch over your life.
The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:3-8

Are you resting in God, secure in His love? Allowing your worth to be found in Him and who He created you to be, rather than what you do and accomplish?

We generally spend a lot of time doing what I’ve heard called “should-ing on yourself”.

“I should be doing this; I shouldn’t be doing that. I should have accomplished this, I should be at this certain point by now.” Of course, it’s good to recognize what is beneficial in our lives and what is not, what is edifying and uplifting and what is dragging us down.

But what types of feeling do these “should” statements usually bring up in us? Encouragement and passion for growth? Or shame and condemnation? It’s usually the latter.

Whose arbitrary standards are we trying to meet, anyway?

That’s why resting in God is so important. When we rest in Him, He puts in us a desire to do those things He wants for us to do, not what we or someone else thinks we should be doing or achieving.

Cling to Jesus. Come to Him as you are.

When you are struggling, even in the moment, invite God in. Allow Him to just love you because He loves you – not for anything you’ve done or will do, but because He created you, He called you by name, and you have been adopted into His family. This may not be how your family & friends have treated you, or even how you treat yourself, but it’s how God treats you. He desperately wants to love you and fill you with His peace.

So stop. Right now. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and imagine that God is your firm foundation. Take a deep breath. Like a baby bird, picture yourself resting in the shadow of His wing.

Smiling in his sleep

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

My little one was so exhausted that he slept for 3 hours in perfect peace. His brother and I finally woke him with snuggles and kisses.

Your Heavenly Father delights in you. Soak that in. He sings over you, quieting you with His love.

Rest in Him. His burden is light.

Freedom Friday: The Freedom Found in Brokenness

Today the temperature is going to be 98 degrees, with a heat index of 105! I’ve already gone for a 4 mile run at 6 aM, 80 degrees and 80% humidity. Wow! My hottest run of the season so far.

We are hoping to leave the city early to beat the heat, but I wanted to leave you with a few thoughts.

Last week, I wrote about Is Brokenness a Blessing? I received quite a few comments, both here & on Facebook, about the truth of that post. Thanks to all who commented.

I came across some more truths in my study this week that directly relate to this question.

First, I was reading “Breaking Free” by Russell Willingham. The 10th chapter is on grace.

Willingham says this: “Embracing God’s grace will give you the freedom to fail.” He also says, “Whether you extend grace to yourself or hold yourself to a ruthless standard of legalism, you will still fail.”

Willingham explains later that he’s not talking about the freedom to continue making destructive choices. Rather, he clarifies, “In what area, then, are you free to fail? You are free – now don’t miss this – to be imperfect.”

As I read that, I thought, “That’s what I mean by being comfortable with my brokenness!” It’s not about accepting and embracing my faults or the unhealthy ways my brokenness may manifest itself. It’s about saying I’m imperfect, and that’s OK.

Before I share more on this, I want to write about another experience that relates.

I was listening to a podcast, and the speaker referenced a book she was reading. She said, “The times when we are the most vulnerable are not when we are weak; it’s when we are strong.” The author of the book (she did not mention his name) spoke of how his ministry had humble beginnings, with a heavy reliance on God’s strength, provision, and direction. As the ministry grew, he began to do things without asking his leadership, his wife, or even God. He got to the point where he felt his strength was the only thing he needed to carry him.

Upon hearing this, my mind immediately went to 2 Corinthians 12. Was that the danger Paul was falling into? After all, he shares that the thorn was given to him to keep him from becoming conceited. Was he trying to overcome the thorn with his own strength? Had he forgotten his humble beginnings, his own brokenness?

When Paul asked God to take his thorn away, hear how God responded: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I can almost see the lightbulb go on in Paul’s head as he thought, “Oh, yeah! It’s OK to be imperfect! God views weakness as a good thing!”

Now see how Paul then responds to God: “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Are you well content with your weakness?

Paul came face to face with his own brokenness, his imperfection. In that place is where God can really work – if we will let him.

A woman I know, when she comes face to face with an issue in her life, is often sent plummeting. Instead of turning that area of weakness or need for growth over to God and asking for His help to work on it, her default setting is to be sent spiraling into despair, as if the issue at hand somehow proves the worthlessness she already wrestles with.

I understand being in that place. I used to be there.

Every failure or perceived weakness, large or small, was proof of my inherent inadequacy. Well, that’s sort of true! But I was using that truth as a battering ram to my soul, not as a realization that I am imperfect – just like everyone else.

Russell Willingham uses the analogy of how a baby learns to walk. If the baby tries and falls, and the parents respond by clapping and saying, “Good job! Try again!”, then the baby feels safe to try again. If the parents instead respond, “What is wrong with you? Can’t you do anything right?”, the baby may very well give up trying.

Willingham concludes, “In order to learn a new behavior, an atmosphere must exist that allows for failure.”

With which voice do you speak to yourself? The accepting, loving, gracious voice? Or the condemning, belittling, shaming voice?

If I begin to rely on my own strength and accomplishments, my failures can become an indicator of my worth. If I am, instead, continually aware of and comfortable with my brokenness, this gives me the freedom and the confidence to fail. It keeps me mindful of the fact that apart from Christ, I can do nothing. It’s that simple.

It also causes me to remember that my struggles and my trials are not as unique as I think they are. Often we can use our specific issues to isolate ourselves. We drown in them because we are convinced not only that no one will understand, but even if they did, nothing will ever change.

Paul implores us to rather be well content with our weaknesses. Why? Because that’s where God’s power can come to rest.

The freedom found in brokenness is the freedom to not have to do it in your own strength. In our admission of brokenness and weakness, and in our declaration that grace allows room for failure, that’s where Christ is able to be strong.

Freedom Friday: Is Brokenness a Blessing?

Soon after I began following Jesus, I read the book, “The Blessings of Brokenness” by Charles Stanley. Honestly, I can’t remember a ton about what specifically the book said, but I just remember it really clicking with me.

In my past, I felt as if I needed to put on a show for people. To demonstrate that I had it all together, I had it all figured out. I would openly discuss parts of my life that I felt I had some handle on. The parts of my life where I felt overwhelmed, confused, and just plain broken – those parts I would hide from almost everyone.

I carried this method of concealing what was really going on into my Christian walk.

I think the bottom line, my core belief (you can read a thorough discussion of core beliefs in Russell Willingham’s book, “Relational Masks”) seemed to be: I can only share honestly about a struggle if I have that struggle figured out.

Core beliefs associated with that would be:

I will appear weak if I am honest.

I show I am strong if I share what I’ve overcome.

If I share my current struggles, everyone will know I’m broken.

Wow. What heavy burdens to carry. Burdens Jesus wanted to carry all along.

I’ve been mulling over this a lot after I recently shared with a group that I’m very comfortable with the fact that I am broken. Some people responded by laughing; some just looked at me strangely. Others nodded in agreement. Since then, I’ve been doing some pondering, some reading and wondering, what do I mean by brokenness?

In her book, “Brokenness, The Heart God Revives“, Nancy Leigh DeMoss says this: “Brokenness is the stripping of self-reliance and independence from God. The broken person has no confidence in his own righteousness or his own works, but he is cast in total dependence upon the grace of God working in and through him.”

Russell Willingham, in a book I’ve mentioned previously called ““Breaking Free”“, has an entire chapter devoted to this topic called “The Courage to be Broken”. He defines brokenness simply as “spiritual poverty” or being “poor in spirit” and asserts “we must grasp our fundamental brokenness and stop pretending we are something else.” He distinguishes between brokenness and sinfulness:

The main reason we struggle with the idea of brokenness is that we see it as a sign of sin. Though the two are related and often overlap, they are not the same thing.

Willingham talks about David’s statement in Psalm 109:22: “For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.” He writes that brokenness comes from being wounded. “This wounding can come from being born into a fallen world, being sinned against by others, or committing sins of our own.” Here’s why the distinction is so important to understand:

The man who understand this [that we are broken/wounded] doesn’t condemn himself when the old system fires up again. He expects such occurrences but quickly defaults to the new settings as soon as he realizes what is happening. However, the man who doesn’t understand his fundamental brokenness berates himself when the old machinery kicks into gear. He then falls into self-loathing or says, “What’s the use?” and gives in.

Brokenness is spiritual poverty.

Acknowledging my brokenness allows God to breath life into me, embracing the humility to permit Him to shape me into whom He created me to be.

Brokenness means that Jesus’ salvation didn’t transform me into something other than a human being. Accepting my brokenness is simply stating that I’m imperfect and that’s OK; I don’t have to pretend to be something I am not. It means that salvation began the process of transforming me into a new person, but that process is not complete.

I do not coddle my brokenness, or use it as an excuse for sin or bad decisions. It’s just a simple declaration that apart from Jesus, I can do nothing.

One of the ways I define brokenness today (a saying borrowed from 12-step groups) is:

I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let God.

“True brokenness is a lifestyle – a moment-by-moment lifestyle of agreeing with God about the true condition of my heart and life – not as everyone else thinks it is but as He knows it to be.” Nancy Leigh DeMoss