People’s experience of you is not who you are.

Many people think comparison causes insecurity, which is why many self-help and self-esteem books try to use positive affirmations to help you stop comparing yourself with others. But affirmations don’t work long-term because they don’t address the root of the problem.

Comparison does not cause insecurity; comparison results from insecurity.

Insecurity causes comparison because when our identity is secured to the unstable, ever-changing opinions of others, we think the only way to increase our value is to become whatever they think we should be.

  • Your mother says, “Your sister always does so well in math. Why are you struggling?” You respond by setting your sister’s performance in math as the benchmark for academic success.
  • Your friend says, “Maybe more squats will make your legs more toned like Barbara’s.” You respond by setting Barbara’s muscular legs as the benchmark for fitness success.
  • Your husband says, “Your mother takes such great care of your father. She irons his clothes and always has a hot meal ready.” You respond by setting your mother as the benchmark for being a good wife.

You begin to secure aspects of your identity based on the good things people say about others and then measure how far you are from their standard.

To please your mother, friend, husband, and manager, you give their voices credibility in your heart. You believe what they say and compare yourself to the ideal person in hopes of being more like them.

God, on the other hand, says this:

  • [You are] fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)
  • Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. (Jeremiah 1:5)
  • People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

God says all this without the qualifier of comparison, which raises the question, “Which voice will we believe?”

The voices of other human beings or the voice of God?

Insecurity emerges when we believe the voices that diminish our value in comparison to others. Security and insecurity both begin with the voice we choose to believe.

The voice we believe becomes the voice we obey—whether people’s voice or God’s voice—and the voice to which we ultimately secure our identity.

*For further reflection, listen to Psalm 139 today.

  1. Psalm 139

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

Taken from Killing Comparison by Nona Jones. Copyright © September 27, 2022 by Nona Jones. Used by permission of Zondervan.com.

The song “New Wine” begins

“In the crushing…In the pressing…You are making new wine.”

My early elementary report cards showed “outstanding” rankings, except for one “needs improvement” blot on my second-grade report card. The category described how I “handle disappointment.” Many were my youthful tears—whether shed behind a textbook, on the sidelines of lacrosse, or upon my bed. From my early days, I did not handle disappointment well.

Jesus talked about the need for “new wineskins” with new wines. (Matthew 9:17) The old wineskins would no longer suffice because the new wine would bust them wide open.

In the same way, as an adult, I needed to learn to let go of what I thought my life was supposed to be—the old wineskins—and embrace the reality of entirely new wineskins and the new wines they would hold.

Crushing and pressing are involved in making new wine. On the heels of two very crushing experiences, I faced a continual need to surrender in order to fully produce this new wine, and it all felt so disappointing.

Disappointment never crushed me more than when we had to leave our life in Hungary after I experienced my first mental health crisis.

However, amid all the horrible lies I heard during my manic episode in Orlando, God whispered more fervently, “Endure, beloved, endure.”

I didn’t know what this message meant except that I needed to hold tightly and remember that God was real despite all the lies.

All I could do was seek to hang on to the overarching truth of Christ’s redemption.Christ’s remarkable story would win in my life and in all things.

Sometimes, dear reader, this is all we can do.

With something like mental illness, when our minds are sponges for deception, we have to trust the greater truth of God. He is present beyond every crushing experience, making new wine for us and within us. And not just any wine, but full-bodied, rich, exquisite wine that will one day be served at the great feast of God in the new heaven and new Earth.

As we walk this long road home, there may be many times God calls us to endure. Every one of our beliefs may be tested, but our deepest truths can come to life in this pressing time.

We are made for God, and he will have us forever, basking in his love’s beauty and heavens’ fullness. Moreover, this new wine he makes of us will bear the stunning story of his beauty replacing the ashes of our sorrow.

*For further reflection, listen to Matthew 9.

  1. Matthew 9

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.



Adapted from A Million Skies: Secure in God’s Strength When Your Mind Can’t Rest © Abigail Alleman, 2022.

My working philosophy of God was this: Following Jesus can feel brutal. Living a transformed and transforming life, though, is everything and more.

Scripture says, in Colossians 3:23, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” And I had taken “Work willingly at whatever you do” to heart.

So when I received a job offer to promote The Chosen television series worldwide as Angel Studio’s Head of Global Expansion, I threw myself at it wholeheartedly. Two weeks after moving to Rome, I was too sick to work or even fly home.

It felt as though my heart had been twisted like a rag with its vital contents wrung out.

The whole thing left me asking, “What if my definition of wholeheartedness was just an over-functioning, all-in and all-out mentality?”

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

When I was in Rome, I was operating with the broken belief that I needed to prove myself and showcase my value to those around me.

So when I entered rooms with my version of a whole heart, I stood heartless, mindless, and unaware.

I couldn’t hear what people were saying because the explosion of my neediness was ringing in my ears.

However, when God calls us to work at something with our whole hearts, he asks us to bring our wholeness into his presence. God calls us to be guardians of our hearts because they determine the course of our lives. Our ears must be open to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, who brings clarity and discernment.

With God, there is no burden of proof. God doesn’t require us to showcase our worthiness. Instead, he asks us to find our worthiness in him and then show up in the room——present, listening, clear, rooted, discerning, observant, and whole.

This is what it means to be “working willingly for the Lord.”

From this place of wholeness, the presence of God shines through and allows everything we do to flow.

*For further reflection, listen to Proverbs 4

  1. Proverbs 4

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

May Cordila’s story encourage you in our interview with her (watch here).

I’ve never been a good sleeper. But years of motherhood, of getting up with babies in the night, did me in. My ears are tuned to the faintest sound of distress. So I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received was a weighted blanket.

Weighted blankets are filled with pellets, and when they are draped over a hyper-stimulated body, they can help it relax. These blankets work on theory that something called “deep touch pressure” helps the body regulate itself when under physical and emotional distress.

Deep pressure is also the phenomenon behind infant swaddling and might help explain why Mary wrapped the newborn Jesus “snugly in strips of cloth” (Luke 2:7). Luke’s record of Mary wrapping her son in “swaddling bands” is the first record we have of the incarnated body of the Son of God.

The first thing you learn about Jesus’s physical humanity is his need for comfort and care.

“Swaddling clothes” also help a newborn transition from the womb to the world.

When birth ushers an infant into a world of intense physical sensation, his senses are bombarded—every touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight is amplified.

Now imagine this. The God of the universe chooses to come to earth as a baby. But to do this, he must cede control, even over his own body. So his mother does what any good mother would do: she wraps him tightly, knowing this will calm him. And suddenly his muscles begin to relax, his breathing is softer and finally, he falls asleep, safe in his mother’s arms.

When I think of how Mary clothed infant Jesus, it reminds me of how God clothed the naked bodies of Adam and Eve. After they’d eaten the forbidden fruit, Genesis 3:7 says that instantly “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.”

Their sin ushered them into a new existence. And in the light of righteousness, they stand exposed and ashamed.

They try to hide themselves, but everything is out of their control. Then Genesis says this: “And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife” (Genesis 3:21).

You might be tempted to read this as their nakedness offended God. Or you might read as if God stepped in to solve a problem he had not created.

But reading it this way would miss the heart of a good Father.

In Isaiah 66, he promises: “I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child.”

And so he clothed them. He covered and comforted them.

Just as Mary cared for her son, God cares for us.

Seeing us helpless and exposed, he clothes us, wrapping us tightly in the bands of his merciful compassion.

And so today with eyes of faith, we learn to trust this care. We learn to trust that the God who clothed and comforted his restless children in the garden—the God who was clothed as a restless child—will do the same for us.

We trust that the bands of his everlasting love will hold us secure, today and for eternity.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Luke 2.

  1. Luke 2

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

Adapted with permission from Heaven and Nature Sing: 25 Advent Reflections to Bring Joy to the World by Hannah Anderson. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing.

Jesus says, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10).

In Deuteronomy 30, God addresses the whole company of Israel through Moses and says, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessing and curses. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!”

We experience daily choices of “life” and “death” that we can be attentive to and receive guidance from God. 

They could be that slight tension headache we get as we interact with a particular person or the aspect of our job that is draining, or the life-giving energy we feel in the presence of art and beauty. They may also include the sensation of being “in the flow” when we are engaged in a particular activity, the feeling of peace we notice as we walk into a particular building or space.

God’s will for us is generally to do more of that which gives us life (Deuteronomy 30:11-20) and to turn away from those things that drain life from us.

Furthermore, God points out that the wisdom that enables us to choose life is not something we will find outside of ourselves – in heaven or across the ocean, but this knowing is very near to us; it is in our mouths and in our hearts for us to notice and to observe (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

Many of our smaller decisions and most of our significant decisions – even decisions that require you to choose between two equally good options – involve the ability to notice what brings a sense of life, freedom in the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17), and the peace that exceeds anything we can understand (Philippians 4:7).

These inner dynamics need not be attached to anything that is particularly momentous; in fact, they might seem relatively inconsequential until we learn to pay attention and trust what they have to tell us.

The opportunity to choose life is ours—in the day-to-day choices we face as well as in the larger decisions of our lives.

When we make it our habit to notice and respond to that which is life-giving, we are in touch with what is truest about God, ourselves, and our world.

*For further reflection, listen to Deuteronomy 30 today.

  1. Deuteronomy 30

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

For me, the journey from error to truth has been a humbling experience. I had to admit that much of what I’d always believed was not just inaccurate; it was unhelpful, even harmful.

That wasn’t easy.

Maybe you, too, have been convinced for years that the only way to please God is by following specific, man-made rules from a particular teacher. God had to humble me so I could see that all my effort was not actually honoring God.

You may be in a similar situation, ready to examine your convictions and compare them to Scripture. That process is well worth it.

No matter who you are or where you come from, you need what I need—what we all need: humility.

Through this process, I’ve come to understand that humble people don’t think too much of themselves, but they also don’t think too low of themselves either. Humble people know who they are, what they are good at, and what talents they do not have.

Romans 12:3 provides a great description of a humble person: “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

Ten years ago, I don’t think I understood that. I thought I had life figured out.

I’m grateful for the humility God is working in me. He opened my eyes, as only he can, to see that I was thinking too highly of myself. He gave me undeserved grace.

As James 4:6 says, “And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

Without God’s help, it’s tough to see our pride. In fact, I’d say it’s impossible. If you and I are ever going to submit to God and his Word, we need to begin by asking for humility.

That’s a request I know God will grant.

After all, Proverbs 11:2 says, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” And I know that if I ask for wisdom, God will give it to me.

*For further reflection, listen to Romans 12 today.

  1. Romans 12

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

Taken from “Becoming Free Indeed” by Jinger Duggar Vuolo. Copyright 2023 by Jinger Vuolo. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.

*Please enjoy this interview with Jinger here.

Are you harassed and helpless, distressed and dispirited, feeling alone in your struggles as if no one sees you? You may feel alone, but God will never leave you or forsake you.

In the book of Genesis, we find an Egyptian slave woman named Hagar alone, broken, insignificant, and rejected. Hagar, whose name means one who fears, is a socially marginalized woman with no control over her life circumstances.

As she sits alone and desperate in the wilderness, we encounter an extraordinary moment in Scripture. An angel of the Lord finds Hagar and calls her by name, something her mistress had refused to do and tells Hagar the Lord has heard her affliction.

In response, she calls God by the name El Roi, meaning the “God Who Sees Me.” The angel instructs her to return and submit to her mistress. Her circumstances won’t change, but the strength and perspective with which she faces them will be different.

Every character in Hagar’s story experienced their own fears, doubts, insecurities, and injustices along a broken road, lost like sheep. The original Hebrew word Roi’iy means “shepherd,” “seeing,” “looking,” or “gazing.”

When you feel vulnerable and alone, you can find hope and comfort in the “God Who Sees Me.” Take comfort in the fact your compassionate Good Shepherd is always looking for you.

Even when you feel desperately isolated, God promises that you are never alone.

Reflect:

1. In the seasons of life where you feel alone, how can you look back at your story and see ways God has met you along the way to find you and bring you encouragement?
2. How can you find a friend struggling through a season of loneliness in the wilderness and offer companionship and encouragement?
3. How can you find tangible hope in the God Who Sees You?

Pray:

God, my soul is troubled. I am weary with argument and conversation, and my bed at night swims with the tears of my distress. I worry. I see hurt. I feel alone. My eyes waste away with grief as conflict makes me weary. I know You hear my voice lifted in desperate prayer. Give me faith in times of distress. I ask for mercy in the midst of pain. Bring healing where there is conflict. Pour over me Your unfailing love. I know You accept my prayer. I ask You to walk with me daily, putting people in my path who will speak encouragement and the words of life delivered straight from Your heart to mine, with confident affirmation to remind me I am never truly alone. Amen.

*For further reflection, listen to (Psalm 6).

  1. Psalm 6

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

Adapted from Behind Closed Doors: A Guide to Help Parents and Teens Navigate Through Life’s Toughest Issues (W Publishing Group, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing).

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes (Ephesians 1:4).

I remember my grandpa Mike telling me a story about his first encounter with God, a story he also writes about in his amazing book, “70 Golden Threads of Grace” by Mike Stevens. He was twelve years old and was attending a small church in the countryside of North Wales when he first heard the words of the famous hymn:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

Grandpa Mike said that at the time he heard the song, he couldn’t fully identify what he experienced, but something had touched his heart. He said he now looks back on that time in awe of God’s choosing of him. At nearly eighty years old, he still gets teary-eyed over this experience.

It reminds him that everything in his life has resulted from God’s gracious love.

We all have much to learn from those who have lived longer than we have, and the fact that my grandpa’s experience when he was only twelve years old can still bring tears to his eyes reminds me of how special we are to God.

No matter what age we are or who we are, God created us to live out our own individual lives.

He created us and he loves us, which we can forever be in awe of. Even before God created the earth, he had us specifically in mind. This is something our human minds can hardly comprehend.

God loves us so much and chose us to be here on earth, specifically at this time. Take a moment to let that soak in: before the creation of the earth, God had you on his mind, and he chose you.

If you’re ever having a blah day, remember this, and it will remind you of the importance of your life. Know that God loves you and chose you for this time for a very special reason.

Are you feeling down today? Feeling unloved?

Pray this prayer to remind you of who you are and who created and loves you:

Dear God, Thank you for creating me and choosing me for this specific time on earth. I’m so amazed! Please help me to continue to experience your love and presence in powerful ways. I pray that others will experience your love and presence too. Amen.

*For further reflection, listen to Ephesians 1 today.

  1. Ephesians 1

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

Taken from THE SUNSHINE MIND by TANYA RAD & RAQUELLE STEVENS. Copyright @ JANUARY 31, 2022 BY TANYA RAD & RAQUELLE STEVENS. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

To learn more of Raquelle’s Journey of Faith, watch her interview with Jenny Steinbach and click here!

Experiences of exile are meant to transform me and you into pilgrims – people who look ahead and not behind.

The children of Israel experienced supernatural miracles as God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. He guided them by cloud and fire, provided food and water, and gave the gift of his beautiful Law.

But Scripture reveals that these newly freed exiles weren’t receptive students.

Instead, they responded to the lessons of their desert classroom in 10 key ways.

1. Questioned the leadership of Moses (Exodus 14:11–12)
2. Complained about undrinkable water (Exodus 15:24)
3. Accused Moses of trying to starve them (Exodus 16:3)
4. Attempted to hoard manna (Exodus 16:20)
5. Ignored Moses’ command not to search for manna on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:27–29)
6. Whined (again) about a lack of water (Exodus 17:2–3)
7. Created and worshipped a golden calf (Exodus 32)
8. Griped about their circumstances (Numbers 11:1–2)
9. Grumbled about the lack of variety in their food (Numbers 11:4)
10. Refused to enter the Promised Land because they were afraid (Numbers 14:1–4)

They flailed and thrashed as though they were drowning in the desert. The bad days in Egypt took on a shiny new luster in their souls: Maybe it wasn’t so terrible there.

At least they knew what they could expect as slaves in Egypt. Their exile hearts were on full display when they stood at the doorstep of the Promised Land a little more than a year after leaving Egypt.

God led the exiles as far as they could go, but asked them to embrace their identity as pilgrims. He wanted them to look forward, so they could follow him out of exile the rest of the way home.

Instead, they looked backwards and refused big time—ten big times–a number with great meaning as it equaled the number of plagues God had visited upon the Egyptians.

As a result, in his holy love, God sent his people on a journey away from Canaan that would end up lasting four decades (Numbers 14:21-23).

In the face of the Israelite’s fear-filled refusal to obey him, the exiles heard from God that would live out their lives in the School of the Desert for the next forty years. They’d serve as God’s teaching assistants, telling the story of God’s promises to their children.

When the last of them were gone, their pilgrim children would be free to cross the Jordan and finally head toward home (Deuteronomy 6:10–11).

In our own experiences of exile, may we be willing to learn how to obey God in our desert, and become his pilgrims in the process. Instead of looking back, may we learn how to look forward into the future.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Exodus 14: today.

  1. Exodus 14

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

(Adapted from “Born to Wander: Recovering the Value of Our Pilgrim Identity”, Moody Publishers, 2018)

For years, I lived a secret life of brokenness while married to a pastor. I was buried under psychological pain while quoting Scriptures, leading Bible studies, and serving others, and being a wife and mother. I had wounds from childhood trauma I refused to address. Seeking counseling would mean I had a problem, and I just wanted to forget the pain altogether.

Yet, despite the masks I had affixed with well-rehearsed responses, my weighty burden chipped away at me. My cover-up was breaking down.

The question remained, “How do I turn this ocean-liner around? How can I help others in pain without sacrificing myself?”

I learned that I needed to make small micro-decisions toward healing.

First, I had to withdraw my application for a savior—that position was eternally filled with Jesus. Why did I need to carry the world on my shoulders rather than address my own issues?

Second, I had to face the truth that I couldn’t help others until I received real healing. It’s been said, “There’s only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” So likewise, the healing journey is filled with micro-decisions – small, wise choices that result in real healing over time.

Proverbs 11:14 says, “Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.”
If this Scripture was true for Solomon, I needed to also embrace its wisdom.

That meant making the micro-decision to pursue a professional “advisor” to become my authentic self. Facing my lifelong fears was the first way I could conquer them. Then, I’d be better at nourishing my relationships and supporting others.

Our micro-decisions must be anchored in God’s Word so we can come along and help others as we heal.

Then, instead of wearing a cape, we can humbly and boldly kneel at the cross alongside those whose burdens we share.

*For further reflection, listen to Proverbs 11 today.