I’ll always remember the vivid day when I met a new friend named Becca, who spoke to me about my worth.

Her words left a lasting impact.

After small talk and introductions, Becca took a deep breath and said, “I feel like God has been telling me to share this with you the minute I prayed for you last night. But I was way too shy to say it.”

“But he wants you to know ‘You are already worthy.’”

She flashed a hopeful smile at me, anticipating that it would mean something, but I didn’t really know what to think of it.

“That’s really nice,” I mustered, still confused as to what she meant and why she said it.

She said, “I hope that really sinks in with you! God loves you so much, and he thinks you are already worthy.” Again, I was unsure of how to respond.

I didn’t really know what being worthy meant.

I went back to normal life completely unchanged. I continued to strive to earn my worth in the eyes of others and lived a hypersensitive and hyper-anxious life.

It wasn’t until more than a year later that God reminded me of my encounter with Becca, and I broke down in tears. By then, I had already been in and out of a mental institution, finished my therapy sessions, switched churches, and moved out of my mother’s house.

Since then, I’ve learned God is the perfect and most loving parent. That extraordinary love is at the heart of the gospel and the reason that Jesus lovingly chose to carry our sins on the cross—to give us a restored relationship with him again.

The world wasn’t prepared for such love, and some still try to run away from it.

It turns out that the Lord had a plan for me all along—a grand strategy to affirm my worth as his beloved child.

In his infinite wisdom, God knew what I needed before I even knew it myself, and he sent a sweet messenger like Becca to give me a heads-up for what was to come.

I hope to be that kind of messenger for you.

God says, “You are already worthy. I already love you so much. I have written your name on the palm of my hand. You are mine.”

Open your heart to the idea that you are God’s treasure. No matter how badly people have treated you or how badly you’ve treated yourself, God still sees you as valuable.

You are his beloved.

I speak from experience when I say that the more worthy you allow yourself to feel, the more resilient you will be in the face of adversity.

Receive your infinite worth by accepting God’s love for you.

*For further reflection, listen to Isaiah 49 today.

  1. Isaiah 49

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*Please enjoy our conversation with Anh Lin here

Every morning, our golden retriever, Ben, greets us as if we’ve been away for weeks. If my son does not wake up early enough for Ben’s liking, Ben sits outside his room and whines. And in the evening, when we sit down to watch television, Ben always finds a way to squeeze onto the couch.

Living in such a close relationship with human beings means that domestic animals have become dependent on us, and as a result, vulnerable. We feed and care for them, and they depend on us.

The relationship between animals and humans gives us insight into the presence of the shepherds in the story of Christ’s birth.

So when I read that God sent his angels to shepherds, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Why shepherds?’

One possible answer lies in the message that came to the shepherds. In the night, as they were keeping watch, the angel of the Lord appeared before them. “Don’t be afraid,” he comforts them, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior–yes the Messiah, the Lord, has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10-11)

When the Shepherd is finally born, God sends the news to the shepherds.

Who better to understand the significance of a leader who will protect and care for his people than those who are doing the same for their flock?

And suddenly the angels’ words became clear: these were tidings of great joy, which will be for all people.

Jesus will shepherd a flock. His care will extend to the ends of the Earth. And indeed, he is adding to this flock, bringing people from every tribe, tongue, and nation together under his protection.

But he is also a Good Shepherd, the kind of shepherd who stands between his flock and destruction and offers himself as a sacrifice.

And not only does this Good Shepherd protect his sheep, he also does not harm them.

In Jeremiah 23:1-2, the Lord declares: “What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for, says the Lord. Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to these shepherds: “’Instead of caring for my flock and leading them to safety, you have deserted them and driven them to destruction. Now, I will pour out judgment on you for the evil you have done to them.’”

Yes, the Good Shepherd lays his life down for his flock, but he also cares for us when we have been harmed, when our trust is broken, and when our vulnerability is exploited.

Just as he himself was raised to new life, he promises to raise us as well.

Hear this truth: the Lord is your Good Shepherd. He leads you beside still waters. He restores your soul. When you walk through the darkest valleys and your fears come pressing in, when the pain and memories surface, he is with you, protecting, defending, and comforting you.

He supplies all you need and guards you when those who hate you come near. He fills your days with goodness and mercy until he brings you safely home to dwell in his house forever. (Psalm 23)

*For deeper reflection, listen to Jeremiah 23 today.

  1. Jeremiah 23

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

I picked up my phone off the nightstand that morning and opened it with dread. I felt anxiety fill my body. On social media, I knew what I would find: other people enjoying their lives while I cried about mine.

Life felt so unfair. Hot tears filled my eyes, and I immediately tried to blink them back while I whispered a desperate prayer, “Lord, am I going to feel like this forever?”

As I poured my coffee, I made a mental list of what I felt like I could no longer handle.

For starters, I battled relentlessly with my mental health. And I also juggled two kids under five, my husband’s unforeseen job loss, the sudden passing of my father-in-law, and ongoing financial pressures, just to name a few.

I saw no relief in sight. It was hard not to feel frustrated, fed-up, and maybe even a little forgotten by God.

My soul was exhausted, and I was tired of trying. It seemed I had prayed every prayer I knew how to pray and read every Scripture I knew that pertained to my circumstances. Yet, nothing seemed to change.

Maybe you know this season all too well. Maybe you’ve been hurting so deeply and for so long. Maybe you expected to handle this better and to be stronger when everything came crashing down.

But it’s okay that you’re feeling weak and unsure. God wants us to let go of trying to figure it all out, and let him do what he does bestsave us.

When God commanded Moses to save his people from their slavery in Egypt, they never expected their journey to freedom to take so long or be so very hard.

But God had not taken them to the wilderness to simply punish them. Instead, he brought them there to both teach them dependence on him and bring them to the good land he had prepared for them.

In Jeremiah 31:2-3, we see the Lord say in reference to that time, “‘This is what the Lord says: ‘Those who survive the coming destruction will find blessings even in the barren land, for I will give rest to the people of Israel…I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself.'”

God hears your cries for deliverance, and he has grace for you in your wilderness.

I continued to walk through my own wilderness. I realized God was using those things I thought were breaking me to make me more like Jesus.

I felt exhausted because I believed it was all up to me.

When I chose to trust him to hold my broken heart and receive his grace, he began to reveal the good plans he had all along.

Friend, will you dare to remember the heart of God when it is hard to understand why he is not fixing your most hurtful seasons?

Will you trust that, like the Israelites, you, too will find grace in our wilderness? Will you cling to the truth that he has rest for your worn-out souls and that he will never stop loving you?

Regardless of how you feel, you can stand in confidence that God will continue to be faithful.

Dear Lord, Thank you that you hear my prayers when my life feels like it is too much, and I am desperate for solutions. I pray you would help me to hold onto you in faith. Cause me to stand on the truth of who I know you to be; a good, faithful and loving Father. Thank you that you always have my best in mind. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*For further reflection, listen to Jeremiah 31 today.

  1. Jeremiah 39

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Enjoy further insights with Ashley Morgan Jackson in our interview with her here.

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

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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

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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

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

I’m a recovering perfectionist. I manage my household schedule, coordinate family gatherings, and bring friends together for meaningful fellowship.

For someone who enjoys having a well-defined roadmap, the disappointments of life quickly remind me that I am not in control.

Life rarely goes as planned, and I cling to God’s Word for wisdom in navigating the uncertainties in life.

God’s plans are the best for us and steer us in the right direction.

So what do we do when our best-laid plans become useless?

We can surrender to God’s will and trust in the certainty of God’s Word. Even when nothing goes as planned, the Bible provides numerous promises when we feel uncertain:

  • For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
  • “he Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8).
  • For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you’ (Hebrews 13:5).
  • When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2).

As we move forward, let us continue to hold tightly to the restorative power of God’s Word. 

When our thoughtful plans break down, let us look to God’s Word for the reminder that God is with and for us.

While we may not know all the details of God’s plans, we can know that He will never lead us astray.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Isaiah 43 today.

  1. Isaiah 43

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We’ve all had that friend—

  • who had a life-threatening disease,
  • who lost a family member or
  • who has experienced abuse.

Still, she can put her faith in Jesus and use her pain to help others.

Those people know there’s a sovereign God who gives us hope when all seems lost.

“I look up to the mountains–does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” Psalm 121:1-2

How can we be women of hope?

It’s one thing to wish for a better life and another to be assured of a better life—because you’ve experienced the hope of God.

So, what does a hope-filled life look like? You can expect it to be hard in some moments. I know that’s not the best thing to read right after you’ve proclaimed hope. But I’m not here to sell you falsehoods.

When hard times come, you can also expect to endure them through a lens of hope. Remember the promise in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Let’s say you suffer a financial loss. Instead of allowing financial stress to consume you, take this heavy burden to the feet of Jesus, to your safe community, and to your counselor. You will find hope for those parts of you, and you will pick up your head and pursue other means for your financial needs.

If you go through a hard breakup, it’s ok to spend some days curled up in a ball, crying—but you can’t stay there. (And you probably shouldn’t call your ex.)

Instead of begging to be taken back, producing more wounds of rejection and abandonment, you will take your heartache to the Lover of your soul, your Heavenly Father, who freely offers intimacy whenever you need it. You will know that while being lonely is a real feeling, you are never, ever alone.

When despair settles in, you will remember that the closer you are to God, the closer you are to joy. When any form of darkness comes into your life, the same God who brought you out of you troubles will do it again.

He can handle your sorrow and is not afraid of your sadness.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6

When you claim the promise of hope and allow God to strengthen your faith, you will be that woman people look at and say, “Wow, she’s got bruised knuckles and a hope she’s fought for. But, she’s fighting through all of it, with Jesus leading the way, and she ain’t giving up!”

Living in hope is not easy, but it’s so worth it.

*For further reflection, listen to Philippians 4.

  1. Philippians 4

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Please enjoy more of Toni’s heart in our interview with her by clicking here!

Adapted from Brave Enough to Be Broken by Toni Collier Copyright © 2022 by Toni Collier. Used by permission of Nelson Books.

Living in downtown Chicago for the past ten years has given me an ongoing noisy soundtrack of trains, buses, sirens, and the clamoring of the city.

I love any chance I can to leave the concrete jungle and purposefully put myself in God’s creation. My ability to turn down the volume down on all the busy interruptions that bang around and bully my mind moves those worries into their proper place.

On a recent trip to Colorado, I gazed at the vast expanse of trees perfectly placed on the snow-covered mountains. I noticed that each part of creation chose to play its inspired role.

Not a single ounce of God’s creation was stuck in a comparative glare with one another. I did not see a mountain, wondering if it stood taller and prouder than the next mountain.

Not a single bird looked worried about what it needed to get done that day. Yet, I wondered why I struggled and worried so much about my to-do list.

Jesus uses creation to call us back to his presence.

But, unfortunately, living with the volume up at all times eventually leads to anxiety. Learning to adjust the volume and turn it down creates clarity.

We all have limits. Your limits are designed to help you live at a healthy pace and practice peace. At first glance, they may seem like a barrier, but God sees them as blessings.

Unfortunately, when we refuse to live within our limits, we eventually find ourselves broken down and sapped of energy. Worry feeds on itself at an out-of-control pace.

As we own our limits, God supplies us with strength. Think through some of your personal limitations right now. Are you opposing them or owning them?

These are vital areas where we often turn the volume up. We try to answer our worries by doing more, running faster, and pushing a pace we can’t sustain.

You can turn down the volume at a rapid pace by slowing down your life.

Jesus uses the birds of the air and the flowers of the field as the authorities on worry because they are never in a hurry (Matthew 6:26).

I used to think the problem was that I just needed more time. But we all have the same amount of time that Jesus had in his life.

The solution is to slow down, because slowing is what settles the soul. Vincent de Paul says, “The one who hurries delays the things of God.”

Worry takes up residence in our minds. It pays the rent in lies such as “I am less than, more than, not enough, too much.” So turning down the volume on worry is the perfect way to evict it from your mind.

There is some noise in a city like Chicago that you cannot turn down, but you can choose how you quiet your soul. Peace is a much better resident.

*For further reflection, listen to John 14.

  1. John 14

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*Please enjoy our conversation with Jeanne here!

Some mornings, my inner critic wakes up with me. As I eat my breakfast, my first thoughts appear auto-populated by what I “should’ve-would’ve-could’ve” done.

Instead of songs of deliverance surrounding me like the psalmist wrote about, my mind becomes filled with a noisy parade of troubling thoughts—regrets over what I wasn’t doing well, relationships that had turned hurtful, and indecisions tearing at my soul.

Why are you obsessing about things you have no control over? I lecture myself. Stop worrying about nothing. What’s wrong with you? I beat myself up, and I haven’t even finished my first cup of coffee.

I pray and read Scripture, but my heart doesn’t feel right. One morning, I tried to forget my troubles by diving into my emails. On the outside, all was good, but being hard on myself wasn’t what I needed.

What I need when I’m stuck in negative self-talk is God’s kindness and gentleness.

The world teaches us to quiet our inner critic by striving, networking with people of influence, and working very hard to be valued, find belonging, and acceptance.

But God’s way of restoring the soul is very quiet: real experiences of beauty, gentleness, and kindness.

We need two fruits of the Spirit: gentleness and kindness.

Later in the afternoon, I drove out to my favorite trail and stood quietly by the creek, listening to water bubbling over rocks and pebbles. Without any words, I felt God’s gentle love hold my heart.

My soul exhaled, and as the sun warmed my heart again, I heard God tenderly whisper, “You are safe with me. You are important to me.”

God draws us closer, saying, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love; With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” (Jeremiah 31:3).

In a quiet place of beauty, my heart opened up. I shared my honest feelings with God—not trying to solve them but to confide in him.

Being in nature soothes us and gives us permission to slow down.

We observe how everything organic undergoes changes in different seasons, and we instinctively relax our shoulders and exhale.

As the breeze brushes our cheeks, we feel a softening. We notice how everything beautiful moves in quietness.

It was only there by the creek, only after I took the steps to enjoy something beautiful to refresh me, that my heart experienced God’s songs of deliverance.

Many times, we try to lecture ourselves out of a tough situation, but God’s gentle voice is always found in places of quiet beauty and intimacy.

Don’t be harder on yourself. Be gentle with yourself. God’s love is gentle.

*For further reflection, listen to Jeremiah 31 today.

  1. Jeremiah 31

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Excerpted with permission from Breathe by Bonnie Gray published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 97408. Copyright 2023, Bonnie Gray. harvesthousepublishers.com

*Please enjoy our conversation with Bonnie here!