Something really big happened to me this summer. I grew up feeling that I could never do anything right, and therefore have always felt rejected, unloved and unwanted. I honestly felt that anyone that said they liked me was pretending. The bottom line was that I was constantly worrying about what others thought about me.
In the midst of working my way through two Beth Moore Bible studies — “Breaking Free” (for the 2nd time) and “Esther” — I really saw some strongholds come down in my life. A stronghold is anything that has a “strong hold” on you. Perhaps you recall that my word for the year is “Hold.” Well, I found that I was holding onto a lot of lies in my mind, and letting those thoughts control me and keep me bound as though in a prison. The lies said, “You’re no good,” “Nobody loves you,” “You’re a failure,” “You’re stupid.”
The answer to “nobody loves me” is not “Oh yes they do!” (although it’s true). The answer is, “It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks — for God loves me completely, unconditionally and sufficiently. All that matters is His thoughts towards me.” This is the truth I needed to apply to the thoughts that were troubling my mind. I had believed this truth for a long time, but had not really applied it very well.
You see, I have been troubled my whole life by various strong personalities that tell me what to do, how to do it, what to think, how to act. I was cowering before each of these people emotionally. Thankfully, my husband is not part of this crowd! But many strong and controlling personalities have caused me to feel inadequate, guilty, rejected and unloved. Not that there isn’t responsibility on my part — because there is. I needed to repent of worrying about what others thought of me; and only care about God’s thoughts (He accepts us just as we are!). I also needed to repent of anxieties, fears, angers and resentment. I even needed to repent of a specific form of unbelief — not believing I was loved, by God Himself. Do you believe you are totally, unconditionally, and sufficiently loved by God, and that no one else’s love matters more than His love?
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungoldly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. –Romans 5:5-8 (NIV)
As these lies were cleared out of my mind, and replaced by truth, I was able to see those strong personalities for who they are (not always living a very happy life either), and to pray for them and care about them. Now, much of this took place about eight years ago, when I studied “Breaking Free” the first time, but I was not yet walking in these truths until this summer (when I studied it the 2nd time, and half-way through started the “Esther” study as well).
It was time to take the plunge and walk in the truths I had already believed — that God loves me unconditionally, that it’s all about Him, not about me; that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It doesn’t matter what I do right or wrong; it’s all about Jesus — and He did everything perfectly, in my place. We don’t earn our salvation and we don’t “please” Him or gain His approval by doing good works either. These are results of our close walk with Him. There is nothing that we can “do” to cause Him to love us any more than He already does. Believing this is crucial! It changes everything! Walking in this truth is not always so easy, because we spend a lot of time trying to “be a blessing to others,” or “fix things” or “be a good Christian.” These are all good things, but must only be a result of walking close with Him, not something we do to try to “please “Him or “bless” another.
Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'” –John 6:28-29 (NIV)
It is not about us! It’s all about Him — what He did, what He thinks, who He is and How He works — His Works, His His Thoughts, His Sovereignty, His Ways! For instance, He has a Way to reach those we love, and we need to trust Him with this. He might use us, or He might use another, but He has His Ways and we need to let Him work! He know what is best for us; we can trust that it is good, right and proper. His truths and thoughts need to fill our minds, not ones we receive from others, from the world and from the enemy.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” –Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
He is all-sufficient, all-knowing, sovereign and good! His love knows no bounds! He is capable of anything, anything! Nothing and no one is beyond His reach!
This summer I started applying these truths, and I was no longer afraid of the strong personalities around me. I could also die to the lies that were assaulting my mind. For instance, I would see a shirt in a store and think, “This would look good on me” (i.e. people would like me in this) — and then I would think, “No, I don’t have to buy it — I can die to that.” I thought about putting my hoodie on before going to choir and thought, “The kids will think I’m cool if I wear this…” and then I thought, “No — I don’t have to be accepted by them. I can die to that.” I wanted to buy some Chacos (sandals) and thought (again), “They will think I’m cool.” I thought, “No — I don’t have to do that. I can die to that…I like the sandals though, and they’re comfortable, so I’ll buy them because I want to, not because I want to impress someone else.” The piano was placed in the back of the auditorium, rather than in front, and I thought, “I don’t have to be in front; I don’t have to impress anyone; I can die to that.” When someone would intimidate me in some way, I would think, “I don’t have to be afraid of them…it doesn’t matter what they think.” I never felt so free!
It’s a day by day, moment by moment dying to that destructive way of thinking. It’s filling my mind up with truth rather than lies, and repenting of unbelief, bad attitudes and fears when they overtake me. It’s choosing to put God front and center, and walking by what I believe instead of being under the control of anyone else’s thoughts about me. It’s trusting Him completely.
It’s wonderful to be free! It’s like I’ve walked out into the wilderness and taken a huge breath of fresh air! I love listening to God! Why listen to any others when they send negative or despairing thoughts? Best of all, now God has a strong hold on me, and He has become my stronghold, my fortress, my security and source of love. Hallelujah!
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior… –2 Samuel 22:2-3 (NIV)
The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. –Psalm 9:9 (ESV)
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. –Psalm 18:2
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? –Psalm 27:1 (ESV)
But the LORD has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge. –Psalm 94:22