I've always thought of myself as a positive person. I'm like, nope, I almost never say anything bad about anybody. I'm not that complainy or whiny. Not at all.
Yeah...no. In the past couple months especially, I've been realizing how blind I am. I really haven't been as positive as I could've been, and sometimes I was even unintentionally making fun of someone without realizing it until later. I've been mentally shooting people down, and my actions have been reflecting that in small ways - but that doesn't justify it one bit. On Mother’s Day, our church had a guest speaker, Shaunti Feldhahn. She's the author of the Kindness Challenge, a book in which she shares about the seven patterns of negativity. One of the patterns, sarcasm, really stuck out at me, as I’d started to be a lot more sarcastic then usual. Honestly, sarcasm and sassiness really tires me out. It kind of…well, in a way, it caused me to stop seeing the good in people right away and instead seeing something that could be used as a funny joke or something. I didn't mean it in a mean way, but sometimes it came across as that. Ephesians 5:4 says, "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking."
There’s another thing that I feel can sometimes be negative: laughter. Laughter is such an amazing thing – it brings people together, it lightens the mood and makes people smile. Joy and laughter go hand in hand, but it can also be used in a negative, non-uplifting way.
Early this year, I went to a youth retreat that was hosted by our old church. I was placed in a small group with a handful of high school girls and a leader that was probably in her late twenties. I was pretty quiet, not saying much. I was letting fear control me, and therefore did not really share my thoughts of the sermon (which was amazing, btw!). We were talking about trials and how we need to go through trials in order to grow. We also talked about how hard they could be. A verse popped into my head, but I was unsure whether or not my brain was mixing two different verses together. I timidly said, “Wait, isn’t there a verse that talks about how He will not let you go through trials that you are not capable of bearing…?”
When I finished talking, the leader started laughing. Laughing. She chuckled, “Well, if that were true, we wouldn’t really learn anything.” She laughed again, and one of the girls joined in.
Two nights ago, I had a dream. I'm not quite sure what the circumstances were exactly , but for some reason everybody had to go to the authorities. They were handed a sheet of paper - there were two different kinds, and I can't remember what they said but they looked like newspapers - and then when their name was called, that person had to come to the front (there was a whole crowd of people in the room waiting) and whatever their paper said was done to them. So my family and I are right in the front, so we can see the whole view and everything that's going on. Well, they start, and this person gets called up to the front. The soldiers in authority (I don't think it was police; it might've been some group that had taken over, I never knew) then grabbed the person's paper and read it. Seconds later, that person was dead - shot in the head with some fancy, noiseless gun that seemed futuristic. This horrific event then proceeded to repeat itself, until half the people were no longer living. A few had been spared, but I didn't realize why until the "next day" (in the dream). Thankfully, none of my family were called up that first day. During that whole thing, I'm just shaking and breathing unevenly, as I say over and over, "Here I come, Lord…" But at the same time, I'm hoping against hope that my name won't be called, ever, that'll I'll be spared and get to live another day.
I glanced at the girls sitting around me in my Sunday church small group. As I looked around, I inwardly thought something of each one. To me, a few of the girls looked pretty put-together and outgoing, so I made a note to myself that I should stay away from them; they probably wouldn't want to be friends with someone like me. Some of the girls looked nice, and some of them looked very superior and had that Oh yes I can look on their faces. In a way, I was mindlessly evaluating each of them, judging them by their appearance and assuming what they'd act like based on hearing them speak for a few minutes or less. As I continued to look around me at the other girls, I started feeling inferior to them. I wished I could shrink down and hide, somewhere away from the girls I thought were cold and unfriendly. Because they seemed popular, unafraid, and had a good sense of humor, I decided they wouldn't be nice to those "inferior" to them. I judged them without knowing them personally, without talking to them ever directly, and I was afraid of them. I felt inferior.
Fear. This is something everyone deals with. Something that continually holds us back from doing things we should be doing, want to be doing, and wish we could be doing. Fear is such a strong weapon of the enemy, and he's good at using it! So many of us are drowning in our fear; we can hardly move. And then we can't obey the Lord when He calls us to do something because we're so busy worrying about what's going to happen! We're afraid of the unknown. We're afraid of people. We’re even afraid of being afraid! Maybe for you, you've been stuck in your fear for quite a while, but have been trying to break out of it for quite some time. And maybe some of you are stuck in fear and don't even want to get out, because it seems safer somehow.
I feel you- I've been there. And I've definitely dealt with fear before!! And to be honest, it's also really, really daunting and scary for me to share so much about myself - especially knowing that a lot of my friends and family are going to read it. I'm afraid that people will think it's wrong, hypocritical, that it'll be taken the wrong way or that I'll be judged by my weaknesses. It's hard to be transparent. It's hard to share my innermost struggles- but I do it because I know God wants me to, because He sees something in me that I don't. He knows that somehow, someone's going to be impacted by these words that I write, even if I never know. And most of the time, I don't. It's kind of better that way, 'cuz it's easy for me to become proud of "my" accomplishments! It's all God though, really. Anything good that you ever see in me is 100% Him- 0% me. I'm not exaggerating.
A few weeks ago, we had volleyball tryouts. To say I was excited was an understatement. To say I was prepared…well, that might be an overstatement! I thought I was well prepared, having practiced pretty much all summer - and kind of all year- since the last season, and had attended multiple volleyball camps. At one of the camps, during a drill, I looked around and was pleased to see that I was grouped with the higher advanced girls. But at tryouts, the girls there are so talented and have played so much longer than I have, and at times, I felt like such a failure.
"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." -1 Peter 5:8-9
Welcome to the first day of Strong not Strongest, a seven day series about the devil! Hopefully, God willing, this will help shed some light on the secrets and tricks of the devil, and we'll see some chains be broken! I pray that He would speak to you through this and that it would change your life- possibly forever. I love you all, and I am so thankful for the opportunities I am given to share about our God and His greatness.
If you asked me last year who Satan was, I might've said something like the following: "Oh, he's the enemy of God and us. He's all bad and we're not supposed to follow him." To be frank with you all, I did not know much about the devil! But this year, my knowledge of it has grown, thanks to our pastor's messages and also reading my Bible a lot more.
One night a month or two ago, I was sitting on the edge of the (empty) bathtub in my bathroom, crying. Why, you ask? Uh…I was upset because my mom told me not to do something that I thought I should be able to do, because she wanted to protect me and others. Yeah, I know…weird thing to cry over. But let me give you the context- this was also during a hard season in my life, when my self-doubt started relapsing and I starting questioning everything again. Everything seemed against me, and in that moment, it was all my mom's fault. I thought all these unfair thoughts about everyone and anyone, especially my parents. I felt so rebellious, so full of anger, and I didn't know what to do with it. So, I cried.
"I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart;
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"I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all of my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds."