When I turned 50, I said to myself, “I am not THAT old.” When I turned 60, my friends told me, “Sixty is the new forty.” Finally, when I turned 70, I admitted, “Seventy is THAT old!”
Now I am almost a decade older. I’ve written a book on aging. But I am still surprised by the experience of getting older.
My soul is growing as my body is aging.
To grow means to change. Paul wrote, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” (Ephesians 4:23). As we age, we are invited to allow the Holy Spirit to change the thoughts and attitudes we have held for decades. Some perspectives and spiritual disciplines that helped me when I was younger are no longer life-giving.
As my body ages, I have less energy and fewer opportunities. The Holy Spirit is changing my expectations and priorities.
I need to unlearn some of the things that I used to believe.
I used to feel responsible for many things. Now that I can do less, God is inviting me to think about my days in terms of fruitfulness rather than productivity.
The list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23 reminds me that it is more important to love others than to finish my “to-do” list.
I want to focus on the invitations God gives in my losses.
Jesus said,“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20). When I was younger, I had important jobs to do and places where I found significance. Now I am losing some of that sense of importance. Some days my spirit feels “poor” about all I have lost.
Jesus promises I will experience the Kingdom of God even as I experience this part of aging.
He said God’s Kingdom is like “a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.” (Mark 4:26-27)
What a comfort this is! I can toss seeds on the ground (when I have the energy!) and then go to bed. I don’t understand it, but whether I am asleep or awake, the seeds are growing.
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 best—save 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.
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.
My husband, Steve, had been a daily source of joy for me for more than 50 years.
Daily, he made me coffee, shared that he loved me, praised my cooking, told me I was beautiful, assured me that I could do anything God gave me to do, and always believed in me.
Such a source of joy!
Six months ago, Steve left me. It was not his choice, but God’s. Complications from a cancer treatment ended his earthly life, but he joyfully moved to his new heavenly life.
I miss him terribly, but how can I not rejoice that he is with Jesus and free from the growing troubles his body was facing?
Did I say rejoice? Indeed. As great a loss as this has been for me, my children, and grandchildren, and as often as tears come, I can still rejoice.
And that’s one reason why I believe God can give us joy—abundant joy—even as we navigate the hard journey of loving a prodigal and other difficult challenges.
What gives you joy? For most of us, joy and happiness are synonyms.
The things that make us happy often provide joy in our lives.
What often brings us joy are the loving relationships we have: family, a spouse, children, grandchildren, neighbors, church friends, co-workers. The people in our lives can be the happiest parts of our lives.
Other sources of happiness might be a sense of purpose, meaningful work, a nice home, good health, fun and refreshing activities.
And even when your team wins the championship.
But then there are realities that seem to steal our joy away: loss of a job, financial challenges, a scary diagnosis, betrayal by friends, and interpersonal conflicts.
And—the pain and challenge of a prodigal, of a loved one making destructive life choices or causing chaos for the family or rejecting a relationship with you.
Our God tells us we can have joy in all those bad events I just mentioned, even when my husband dies or your loved one breaks your heart.
Consider it Joy
My theme verse is James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”
James calls us to make a choice—to consider, that is, to acknowledge, recognize, and regard the trials of our lives as pure joy.
Seriously? Pure joy? Not just grudging joy?
So James goes on to remind us of gifts we receive from those trials: “…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4).
Most likely, perseverance hasn’t been on your list of desired gifts. Though, we must admit, it helps us get through hard times. I think perseverance has been one of my most important gifts.
Just look at the result of growing in perseverance: to be mature and complete, lacking nothing! We have all we need.
Ask the Questions
Yet, even as God calls us to perseverance—and joy on a hard journey—he also invites us to be honest with him, to express our fears and feelings, to ask challenging questions, to lament.
What is lament? A lament is a prayer expressing sorrow, pain, or confusion. Lament could be the chief way Christians process grief in God’s presence.
Almost a third of the Psalms and the entire book of Lamentations are concerned with lament.
Like he does every other emotion, God wants to hear about our pain. God wants us to lament.
Listen to these words from Psalm 42:
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him my Savior and my God.”
As you can see, God welcomes our praise, but also our pain. He receives our gratitude, and also our questions.
Sometimes God Answers Questions
After Steve’s death, I had a lot of questions. Answers included scriptural promises and reminders, and also “trust Me” and “wait” and “persevere.”
But God was also kind to give me almost audible answers to some of my questions. These two have been the most important and helpful:
“How will I live without him?”
God’s response, repeatedly: “I will be with you.”
“Why did he have to leave now?”
This response has been an ongoing source of joy for me: “I wanted to be kind to him.”
How can I argue with that?
God calls us to consider it pure joy when the journey is hard, and as we do, we will find valuable life-giving gifts. But he also invites us to tell him how hard it is, how much it hurts, how confused we are, and to ask our deep and honest questions.
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.
Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Ten years ago, I was in a season of life in which I was a shell of my former self. I had just gone through a breakup that had changed the course of my life. I didn’t know who I was as a woman. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, where I wanted to live, or who my friends were. I was lost. I wasn’t sleeping well. I cried constantly. I was a mess.
My offices were down the hall from E! (Media) at the time, and I often saw Jason in the small kitchen when I was heating up coffee or grabbing a snack. Jason and I weren’t yet friends beyond our casual run-ins in the kitchen or hallways. During this time, I had started to use the hallways as a place to collect myself when I didn’t want to cry in my office. And Jason noticed that I, the hallway girl, wasn’t well. My eyes were visibly puffy from all the tears. Jason didn’t owe me anything-we were basically strangers. He could have turned a blind eye and gone about his day.
Instead, he chose to talk to me and invite me to his Bible study! He didn’t ask me a single question about why I was upset; he simply extended his hand to me.
There, I was greeted with smiles and hugs and a discussion that was so relatable and relevant to my life. I felt like I was surrounded by like-minded people who were filled with hope and happiness. That night turned my life around, and I’ll never be able to thank Jason enough for what he did. At that Bible study I also met Raquelle, one of my best friends (and, the co-author of our new book). I finally found something that felt right, and that is where my relationship with God and my journey as a Christian truly began.
I Thessalonians 5:14 reminds us that ministry is not entirely up to spiritual leaders. We are all called to cheer up the disheartened, not give up on the idle, and encourage those who feel weak.
Go out of your way today to extend a hand to someone outside your circle.
Find someone who looks like they need a friend, invite them to your weekly game night, Bible study, or grab a quick cup of coffee. You never know how big of an impact a small gesture can make on someone’s life.
I encourage you to create your own safe haven for others. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but something weekly or bimonthly or even monthly can provide consistency, friendship, and a safe place for people in your life. Consistency is the key. Here are some ideas:
1. Taco Tuesdays. Creating an event for people to know that even if everything feels like it’s going wrong in their lives, they have a happy and safe space to be at least once a week.
2. Sunday picnics at the park. Potluck picnic with a speaker afterward.
3. Friday game nights. Play board games, card games, video games. Group together to attend sporting events—whatever your heart desires.
4. Bible Study. I had a couple of women’s Bible study groups that would meet at restaurants around town every other week. It was fun to get to know the girls and explore the restaurants in our city.
My track coach was told to wash his hands of me because I was “trouble.” But, despite what people told him, he continued to meet me at the track daily and train with me. I love the story of the woman at the well, because it reflects how my track coach came alongside me, and it also it shows us how Jesus treats those who are cast out.
When the world has set limitations on who we can befriend, Jesus shows us exactly what to do by reaching out to them anyway.
In John 4, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at the village well and shared the gospel with her. The cultural limitation said Jews could not speak to Samaritans. That meant an entire population could potentially be unreached by Jesus’ life.
So what did Jesus do? He disregarded culture’s limitations. And he met this woman where she was and told her about the never-ending, life-giving water – the truth of the gospel.
But the interesting thing is that Jesus did not go to the woman at the well with his disciples. Instead, verse eight shows his disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
Why would he not take his disciples and use this as a teaching moment? Why wouldn’t he have brought more people to the woman with hopes of helping her be seen and known and loved by more? The more, the merrier it seems.
So why did Jesus go alone?
Because even the people closest to Jesus, taking in his every word, being taught by him, and tangibly being loved by him, would have focused on the limitations of the culture. They would have pulled Jesus away from meeting the Samaritan woman, so Jesus shielded her from them.
Jesus went to the woman no one else would go to and met her where she was. He did not say, “You meet me here.” He went to her.
He met her there and changed her life.
Those people in my hometown were advising my track coach to stay away from me. But he kept showing up where I was— the track. It was one of the only places I was allowed to go, and his ongoing mentorship changed the trajectory of my life.
During this holiday season, I ask you these questions:
Where would you like Jesus to meet you right now?
Who is God asking you to make a difference in their life?
Who could you reach out to that you typically pass by?
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.
Regardless of our story, we share a common pursuit. The search for our true identity drives us to be understood and appreciated for who we really are. Yet, deep inside each of us is a longing for something more. Those are not evil desires. God created the thirst so we can enjoy him, the Living Water fulfilling our every need and want.
Unfortunately, we spend much time and energy looking elsewhere for our fulfillment and identity. It feels natural to look to our family, friends, successes, or failures to help define us.
The key is to understand that you are a part of a new family, the family of God, and allow His truth of who you are to fill your heart and mind. Ephesians 2:19 says, “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.”
You have a new life in Christ. You have a new name in Christ.
Here is just a lovely taste of who you are in Christ. I encourage you to take a few days to read and listen to these Scriptures:
There are more than 200 descriptions of your true identity in Scripture!
You may “know” these Scriptural facts, but take time to let these truths sink deep into your core. God desires these truths to be embedded in your heart and mind so that you will not be deceived when accusations come.
I pray that you will be able to walk each day in honor and dignity, knowing you are a beloved child of God Most High.
Why does God sometimes answer us immediately, and other times, we pray and pray and see nothing for months or even years?
There are two things about God and prayer I find to be helpful to remember. The first is found in Daniel 9:23. It says, “The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God.”
Sometimes we pray, and immediately a command goes out, and God places the answer to our prayer in our lives. Immediately God responds.
But there is a second example we find in the very next chapter, Daniel 10:12-13. The second prayer we see Daniel pray, is not answered immediately, and it’s interesting to read the reason.
Then he said, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come to answer your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way.”
This verse is super important to understanding how prayer works, or, as it sometimes seems, is not working. Bible commentator Charles Ellicott says of this exchange:
Perhaps no single verse in the whole of the Scriptures speaks more clearly than this upon the invisible powers which rule and influence nations… From this chapter we not only learn that Israel had a spiritual champion (Daniel 10:21) to protect her in her national life, and to watch over her interests, but also that the powers opposed to Israel had their princes, or saviors, which were antagonists of those which watched over Israel. The “princes” of the heathen powers are devils, according to 1 Corinthians 10:201
In Daniel chapter nine, we see God answer immediately, and in Daniel chapter 10, we see Daniel’s answer is delayed due to the intervention of evil supernatural influences in the region at that time.
What is important to note is that both times, Daniel is loved by God.
A delay in this instance is not brought on by Daniel himself, but rather, is a reaction to the organization of demonic spirits in the supernatural realm.
Sometimes, it is not your turn, and it is also not your fault.
There is a real devil, and a real army of evil constantly organizing to delay your promise. So, we must learn as believers how to pray thoroughly.
Prayer is not a one size fits all experience, and God will answer and respond to you differently season by season.
But prayer does matter, and prayer does change things, and prayer does change us.
*For deeper reflection, listen to Daniel 10 today.
~ Excerpt from It’s Not Your Turn by Heather Thompson Day
1 By various writers. Edited by Charles John Ellicott, An Old Testament commentary for English readers, Charles Ellicott & Bible. Old Testament. English. Authorized. (London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1882). https://biblehub.com/commentaries/ellicott/daniel/10.htm.