You are hurting. You feel alone. You are overwhelmed and exhausted. You are tired of carrying a shame that was never intended to be yours. You are tired of feeling the weight of your own insecurities. You are tired of feeling like you have no voice. You are tired of reliving the nightmare of your past. You feel as if there’s a demon taunting you inside corrupting your view on life. You are tired of pretending. You are tired of hiding behind your clothing, your talent, your education, your physic, or even your family. You are tired of running. You are tired of running away from whatever resembles the one that made you a victim. You run away from the smell, scenery, sound, and anything that reminds you of the day you were no longer known by your name. You are done. You are afraid. You call yourself a victim and by no other name.
You are beautiful. You are not alone. You have a family. Whether it be your biological or not, you have people. You have people longing to hug you and remind you of your worth. You have friends who while they are silent, are screaming internally for your breakthrough. You are not what you wear. You are not your talent. You are not your educational achievements or the lack thereof. You are not your physic, or even the linage you come from. You are worth far more. You are of strength. You are of courage. You need no longer run. You need no longer hide. You need no longer believe what keeps you up at night. You are free from the cold dark cage you’ve called home. Your heart is free. Your mind is free. You are neither dirty nor impure. You are not to be ashamed of and you are neither too difficult nor too far gone to love. You are bold. You have a voice. You are believed. You are free.
Running away is not the answer. A pill is not the answer. A bullet is not the answer. A leap is not the answer. You taking your life is never the answer.
This may be difficult to believe, but I know someone that loves you. I know someone that cares for you. I know someone that sees no flaws. I know someone that doesn’t see mistakes. I know someone whose love is neither impure nor corrupt. I know someone that hurts when you hurt. I know someone that grieves when you grieve. I know someone that will avenge you. I know someone that wants to heal you. I know someone that can take away all the pain. I know someone that can turn your trauma into triumph. I know someone that is perfect and pure. I know someone that is of joy and mercy. I know someone that can give you life once more. I know someone that can give you a gift far greater than gold and far sweater than honey from its honeycomb. I know someone that knows you by your name and knows you for your worth. I know someone whose love for you is unconditional and requires only one thing; submission. A submission that is pure and true. I know someone that knows you not as a victim, rather as a victor. He calls you free, a conqueror, thoroughly whole and pure.
It is hard to trust. It is hard to be vulnerable. It is hard to believe that there is more to life. It is hard to believe that there is good. It is hard to believe that you can be healed. It is hard to believe you can be whole. It is hard to believe you can no longer be a victim. It is all hard to believe.
Believe with me. Believe there is hope. Believe there is truth. Believe there is life. Believe with me. Believe. Have Faith. With the same assurance you have there is no good, believe there is good. Believe there is life. Believe you are free. Believe you are whole. Believe you are not alone. Believe it with me, because… YOU ARE! He said you are. He said I am. He says it, now. He says you are no longer a victim. He says you are no longer a slave. He says you are healed. He says you are chosen. He says you are free. He says you are pure. He says you have a purpose. He says your life matters. He says He loves you. He says you are!
Yes you! You who’s reading this right now. YOU can do hard things. You might be thinking, really Vashti?! You don’t even know me. You’re right. I don’t know you, but if there’s anything I do know it’s that the very things you feel are impossible to do or are incapable of doing are the things you can do.
If you know me, you know that I enjoy running. I am currently training for a half marathon at the end of October and then a full marathon in April. As much as I enjoy running, it’s not always fun and easy. There are days where I just don’t want to run. There are days I convince myself I am physically incapable to take on the miles set before me. On said days, I have to muster up everything inside of me to be make an effort to take each stride. After the first stride and each stride that follows I gain a sense of confidence. I gain a sense of knowing that I can and the I can after each mile shifts to I will to I did. Sort of a mind over matter kind of battle.
What are hard things for you to do? Let me help you out if you’re having a hard time thinking this question through. I did some research and here’s what people have admitted are some of the hardest thing for them to do:
Quit their job.
Leave toxic people behind.
Be okay with failure.
Speak out about injustice and truth.
Does any of those resonate with you? Maybe it’s not as complicated as the 10 mentioned. Maybe it’s as simply complicated as waking up early and implementing a discipled lifestyle. That’s a hard thing to do, but guess what? You can do hard things!
A couple days ago I was scrolling through Instagram Reels and a particular Reel stood out to me. It’s one of those motivational ones. This one gave me goosebumps and shattered the glass my life so gracefully and comfortably nestled in. I don’t remember verbatim but here’s the gist of what the Reel said,
You are currently at the age your younger self envied. Are you doing, being and living what your younger self envied?
Boy did my life flash before my eyes. While I do have a great life and I am thankful for where God has placed me, there are things I have dreamed of doing that I’ve deemed as too hard. I’ve become okay with the bare minimal that I don’t even try. Why try when it’s too hard, right? Why try when there’s the possibility of failure? Fear of failure is one of the biggest reason why we get held back. It’s one of the greatest reasons we don’t try. Unfortunately, you and I have misunderstood what failure is. Failure isn’t the end all. Failure is not the stopping point. Failure is actually the beginning.
Winston Churchill, former prime minster of the United Kingdom during World War 2, infamously said,
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
Winston Churchill got it right. He shifted his understanding of success as not a final destination and expanded his view on failure as not the end all. The courage to continue counts. And you my friend can do just that. Yours and my greatest fear should never be of failing, rather it should be of never trying. Can I tell you, trying to do something you’ve convinced yourself is too hard to do is one of thee most liberating and freeing feelings. Don’t believe me? Try for yourself.
I will leave you with this verse from 2 Timothy 1:7,
For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of self-control.
While the context of this verse directly ties to our loyalty to Christ and the gospel message, I believe the message can be applied here too. As Christ followers we have been equipped with courage to do, love that extends grace when we encounter failure and self-control to know the difference between wisdom and falsehood in disciple. We were not designed to be timid examples of Christ. We were created to live bold, and in living bold requires us to do the hard things. God didn’t foolishly give us gifts, talents, dreams and goals. In living out our purpose, we do the hard things.
What have you convinced yourself is hard to do but you know you must do? You can do hard things!
You ever wonder why good things happen to bad people? I do. It’s mind-blowing to me that those who do evil, speak evil and just are plain evil get the good things in life. Not that I want bad things to happen to them, but I do want to see justice prevail. I especially hate whenever I work towards something only for it to not work out but for those who are not quite living “right” get the easy way out. It’s not fair!
Has that ever happened to you? I am sure you’ve experience this before. You were honest your whole career only to get fired and the person who was lazy, dishonest and cheated at their job got the promotion. Maybe it’s you lost a mom or dad that was serving the Lord with all their heart and you have friends who’s parents spit on God’s word and they are perfectly healthy. Maybe you were diagnosed with a terrible disease that took your dreams away only for your friends that are addicted to drugs and alcohol make it in life. I don’t know what you, “that’s not fair God,” moment is, but what I do know those are real and often hard to navigate through.
Many of us at some point in our life have questioned the goodness of God. We question why God allow good things to happen to bad people. It’s not like we want people suffer right? I don’t think that’s the majority of our hearts, but what we do want is “fairness” or justice. People get away with murders and crimes. People in power get recognition when they live a double standard life. People lie and cheat and never get caught. Christians who serve and love the Lord die from cancer. People who serve and love the Lord get fired from their jobs, lose their children and end up in financial difficulty. Christians who serve and love the Lord it seems like get dealt the wrong hand. Is God really good when He gives all the good to the wrong people?
This is actually addressed in the Bible. The prophet Habakkuk actually felt the way we feel sometimes. In the book Habakkuk (yes the prophet Habakkuk named the book after himself), we find that the idea of “fairness” is addressed. Habakkuk is found in the Old Testament and one of the most unique books as readers get to listen on his conversation with God. This actually took place during the final days of the Assyrian Empire and the beginning of Babylonian’s world rulership under Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadnezzar. We read that the prophet Habakkuk is trying to believe God is good when there was so much evil rampant.
In this book we find out that God’s word was being neglected which increased violence and corrupt leaders. We also see that those who do serve God are being treated as slaves and scums of the earth. The appointed leaders were abusing alcohol and sex and God wasn’t doing anything about it. And idolatry, the engine that drives corruption, was running rampant in the hearts of those who lived in Judah. It’s fair to say that Judah had it bad and Habakkuk wasn’t having it, so he talked to God about it. Habakkuk never accuses the people of Israel. He is the only minor prophet that didn’t meet the people where they were at and tell them to run from their wicked ways. The book of Habakkuk is actually a lamenting if you will. I conversation between Habakkuk and God on the injustice found in the kingdom of Israel. So, what did God say? In so many words, God says,
He will bring Babylon down
He uses the cycle to bring the rise and fall of nations
He doesn’t endorse actions, but what is puffed up will fall down
What did Habakkuk realize through Gods response? You read this in the closing chapters, that..
You’re understanding of who God is will determine your response.
When you cannot see God’s hand, trust His Heart.
God is enough.
When we see injustice and evil we tell ourselves that God really isn’t powerful and He really isn’t understanding. We tell ourselves that if God really is all that great He would fix and do. God just doesn’t care because He would make things better. Your understanding and view of God is one of the most important things because when we are faced with hard times, our understanding of God shapes our response. A lot of us lose faith, place up walls, become hard hearted, reject God and may even walk away from the church. Why? Because we are going through pain and disappointed that God wouldn’t fix things. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Habakkuk uses the word “rock” to describe God. Moses uses the same terminology. Rock is reaffirming that God is your stability. He says in Deuteronomy 32:3,
I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is he.
We may not have all the answers here on earth. We may never get the answers we so desperately desire, but what we do have is God. And God is enough. When life is disappointing and sad, remember that God is still your rock. We can cling to God regardless of what is happening because we know His heart. The righteous shall live by faith, not by looking around, but rather looking up for strength and hope. Trust God’s plan over your life.
How can you trust God in the things that are unfair?
What would you do if you weren’t afraid? That is a bit broad for a thought-provoking question, don’t you think? Let’s narrow it down some. What would you do if you were not afraid of…
the opinions of others
disappointing those around you
not making money
Many of us are scared. The truth is, fear have caused us to reject doing things we are passionate about or even things that we believe God has called us to but the world would say is too risky. We’ve chosen to live in fear, and as a result, we lack the courage to live bold. Living bold does not remove the presence of fear, rather, living bold tells fear it has no control over the decisions we make. But before we get into living boldly, let’s talk about living in fear.
One of the most freeing moments in my life is when I stepped away from fear and did what I believed God had called me to do. For some, this may seem small, but for me, this was one of the bravest things I could have done at the time. The end of Spring 2016 I packed my suitcases in obedience and traveled nearly 16 hours across the world to the continent of Africa. My final destination was Egypt, however along the way I stopped in Rome, Italy. In order to not share too much and jeopardize the work being done by those who are following the call of the Great Commission on an international scale, I will tell you more about the bravery entailed on this great endeavor.
Prior to 2016 I had never traveled on my own internationally. Now factor in that the only languages I know are Belizean Creole (dialect of English) and American English. So really, all I know is English. I was flying to two countries. The first speaking Italian and the second, Egyptian Arabic. I would be flying across the continent for a wonderful 16 hours to a land and people I could not fully communicate with. Months leading to the preparation of my internship, I remember fear overwhelming me. Fear of the unknown, fear as to whether I really heard from God or not, fear for my life and fear that I would not be able fundraise all the funds I needed for the months I would be staying overseas.
From a medical standpoint, fear weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems (ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome), and can even decrease fertility. Studies have shown that fear can lead to accelerated aging and even premature death. It’s fair to say, that fear is powerful.
Fear first starts off as a thought. Once our brains latches on to fear, it triggers a strong physical reaction in our bodies. Our brain then sends down alerts to our nervous system to respond or in most cases a lack there of. For the majority of people, fear presents itself through constricting reasoning and judgement making. While “playing it safe” isn’t all bad, living in fear stops us from living and doing. We are too scared to take the plunge, too scared to move and too scared to take the risk. All thanks to a thought of “what if…” Think on that for a second. You’ve allowed a thought to cripple and shape the way you live and do life. Fear, appears so small, but holds tremendous power over our lives. Only if we allow it to.
Now back to my internship in Egypt. Had I allowed fear to hold me back, I would currently be writing about my biggest regret. Egypt was one of the bravest and right things I have done outside of marriage. I felt a deep urge in my heart from God to go and that is exactly what I did. I took a leap of faith and did! I made it there and back safely despite language barriers. The finances made its’ way long before my time to depart form the United States. In the end, I had plenty to leave in Egypt as a blessing to those who accommodated me during my stay. But was it all smooth sailing? Absolutely not. In the airport both in Italy and Egypt, I had to figure out where I was going. I asked a lot of questions and had to step out of my comfort zone and make friends and communicate with my hands and the little words I studied in order to prepare for my time overseas. I was held in the airport due to riots and bombing. I was lost a couple times in making my way back home to my flat in Cairo. I was homesick quite a bit and even felt lonely at times among hundreds of people. That’s just to name a few. But do you want to know something? I have no regrets. I grew immensely during the months I was in Egypt. I made lifelong friendships, shared the gospel message and learned stories of those who are very different from me in culture but very similar in nature. I ate with strangers who became family, and learned a language that was tremendously challenging yet, beautiful all the same. I would go back in a heartbeat. I would take the risk and step away from fear immediately to live the life I once lived during the months I stayed overseas.
Too often we allow fear to hold us back. The “what if’s” in life control us that our life lived on earth is the same each day, week, month and year. The one thing we will never regain is, time. What we do with it, is wildly important. We either live and do, or simply be and remain the same.
To live bold is to live with purpose. It is living objectively aimed towards intention, without reservations. Living bold is freedom. It is an overwhelming confidence that pushes past the reservations of the unknown. While boldness doesn’t remove the aspect of fear and doubt, it does challenge both and push past the uncertainty as a means to live courageously. Courageous living takes leaps and jumps. It says I may not understand it all, but I will live and do. One of my favorite quotes is by an unknown author. The author states,
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
The idea here is that God is good and His goodness is understood and trusted that while we may not understand everything and we may not have it all together, we will place the unknowns into His hand and live bold. In Christianity, living bold, is living by faith. Living by faith requires trust and belief in things we cannot see and hope for, and living as if it currently exists. That’s not blinding living, rather that is boldly believing. Bold living requires risk taking. Here’s the truth, whether you choose to play it safe or take risks, it doesn’t remove the opinions of others not does it remove the grounds to disappoint those around you and yourself. Failure and lack of monetary security still exists. If all your fears can play out both in the risk and the lack there of, then might as well just take the risk, right? So my question to you is this.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Whatever that thing is, do and live bold. You have the choice to to forget everything and run or face everything and rise.
Fear is self-absorption. Ouch! I’m sorry but also not sorry if that offended you. I figured this out a couple of months ago when the days leading to wedding day became fewer each day that went by. Marriage stirred many fears in me like it does in any major life change. Well, if I am honest, change in general stirs fear inside this heart of mine no matter if it’s a big change or not, but that’s besides the point.
I was fearful I would fail. I was fearful of the unknown and I was fearful that this could possibly be the biggest mistake I would ever make in my life. It had nothing to do with my soon to be husband. I was neither doubting or second guessing his character and the knowing our marriage was God-founded. Rather, it had to do with my fears of the unknown. Not knowing can do some real psyche damage to you. We can also fear the unknown because of past hurts resurfacing when said major life changes is approaching. Fears are real. Only they are real not in the physical rather they are real in the unseen areas called our thoughts. We cannot hold fear with our hands. If we could, I would say quite a number of you, like me, would trample on our fears and say “be gone with you.” Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury to trample on our fears in the physical, but what we do have is much greater. Before I get into that, let’s dive into why fear is a form of self-absorption.
What is self-absorption? Simply put, it is the preoccupation with one’s own emotions, interests, or situation. Have you met someone that’s self-absorbed? It’s all about them. Everything is about them. They like to be the center of attention. They thrive knowing all eyes are on them. The world could be falling apart around them, but their “problem” or “victory” is far more important and they are much happier making that known than taking concern for those around them.
That’s not always how self-absorption looks though. For some of us, self-absorption is silent. That’s how self-absorption tends to present itself in me. It’s quiet on the outside and rather loud internally. It’s being consumed by what’s going on in your personal life that all outside conversation and happenings presents itself as white noise. We say we are listening to those around us when in actuality we have been consumed by our own fears that we do not truly hear those around us or can engage in our surroundings. Life is meaningless because our life has been consumed by something “greater”, fear.
Let’s get this straight. Fear isn’t all bad. Fear is what saves many of us from making the wrong move. It helps us not get hurt and saves us from the headache of getting out of trouble. Fear is good in keeping us safe. On the other hand, fear is unhealthy and often times detrimental when it consumes us to the point where we are crippled internally. Common fear triggers that cripple us internally are often found to be future events, imagined events and the unknown. All three, if we are honest with ourselves, are intangible and essentially “made up.” Don’t get me wrong. I have my fair share of fears that feels very real. It can be hard to convince me otherwise, but when I am honest with myself I know that these fears are what I’ve convinced myself are real because I’ve allowed myself to become consumed by the “thought” that my fears are reality.
Why do we do that? Why do we give fear the power to control how we live? Why do we allow the unknown to cripple us? Yeah that’s right, we give it the power. We allow it to consume us. We tell fear they are in control. We say to it, they are the gods. Fear is one of those things that we’ve made ourselves to believe it’s impossible to let go of. We’ve convinced ourselves that they are more powerful than anything else. We’ve convinced ourselves of a lie. And we’ve actively been living in it.
Can I share something with you? One of the greatest disservice you can do to yourself is allow a lie to become your reality.Let that sink in for a moment. What lies have you been believing? What have you allowed to consume you and have become self-absorbed by that you cannot truly live and enjoy life? What lie have you believed that has held you back in life? I will admit, it’s hard to get out of the rut of uncertainty and the known. It’s hard to quit believing something we’ve convinced ourself is truth.
From a biblical perspective, Jesus says to cast all our cares (aka fears) to Him. In other words give it Him. He didn’t say this to mock you. Rather, He knew that some of us would greatly struggle with fears and we would need to hand these over in order to not allow them to become our gods. We know as Christ followers we should have no other gods or idols. Being self-absorbed by our fears we are unconsciously giving it (fear) the throne of kingship and god over our life. We’ve removed Jesus as our sole devotion to something that is unknown and ultimately a lie.
How do you cast your fears and hand them over to Jesus? Practically speaking, by first admitting we’ve allowed fear to become the god of our thoughts and living. And secondly, seeking God through prayer and devotion — daily praying for complete freedom. That you may only believe God’s truth and not the lies of fear.
I don’t want to dismiss that mental health is real and fear can distort our mental wellbeing. In that regard, there are practical steps you can take that can help you shift from fear to faith coupled with seeking Jesus. A big step is asking for help. I am a full believer in seeking godly counseling. Counseling has helped me walk through many seasons of change. You’re not crazy for seeking counseling. If you’re like me, who grew up where Christianity said counseling is for the mentally crazy, please forgive the church and their false teaching. Proverbs 11: 14 states,
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
Side note:There are a plethora of biblical references that support counseling. When you have some time, I challenge you to do some digging for yourself.
We need counseling. Each of us do. Whether you know it or not, you currently have someone counseling you. Sadly today, our advice and counseling have been from scrolling through our phones and staring at a television screen. Counseling is important. Who’s counseling is even more important. By seeking counseling doesn’t translate to you being demon possessed or evil. Counseling means you are human. And in our humanity, we need godly counsel.
If you’ve allowed yourself to become self-absorbed by fear, I challenge you to seek Jesus and seek counseling. There’s freedom and liberation in living fearless. You choose to give power to fear or trampling over it and saying to fear, no more. I am rooting for you friend. You can do it. All it takes is you making the first step. Living outside of the lie is difficult, but every step you take becomes increasingly easier as you actively choose truth. Don’t believe me? Try for yourself.
What fear have you believed to be truth? How has this held you back? What are you going to give Jesus today and exchange for freedom?
Psalm 91 1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a] 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, 10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
There are things we’ve learned to live with. There are things we’ve passed as normal. There are things that were once rare and now a commonality. We’ve made them apart of the mundane day to day living. We’ve passed these things as “just the way things are.” I’m not referring to things we cannot change. Rather things we have complete control over. We’ve become comfortable with the way of life that we are too afraid to restore what we’ve learned to live without. While there are many things we can talk about here, the three areas in life I’ve seen many become comfortable in is the lack of peace, lack of joy and lack of love.
Peace has been replaced with anxiety and fear. We’re consumed by the worlds unknowns, stressors and triggers that we live day by day without peace of heart and mind. Think back for a second. Can you remember the first time you lost peace? Can you remember the moment in life when peace was replaced with anxiety and fear? How is it that an instant in life shifted your entire posture? Granted, there are things we go through in life that stirs us. It makes us question the goodness of God. It could be a loss of a loved one or opportunity. It could be a near death experience. It could be someone violated you or your family that the anxiety and fear of history repeating itself haunts you each day. Peace is hard to restore once lost. It’s hard to regain when life scars us and ruins what once was. But can I share something with you? It sure isn’t impossible to restore.
Peace that passes all understanding is what most of us crave. If you’re honest with yourself, you’d probably say that while the hardship you went through cannot be reversed or erased, you do want to live anxiety and fear free. Maybe you’ve even attempted to restore peace but failed only for anxiety and fear to show its ugly face and intensify it’s terror even more. While I don’t claim to have all the answers, what I do know is that there is a source for peace. Just as you’d go to your local supermarket for food, there is a source for peace. You’ll find out later in this blog though. Keep on reading.
Joy and peace somewhat go hand in hand with each other. Without peace, you probably do not have joy. If you have joy, it’s probably very little. When we don’t have joy we live in misery and despair. Life is oftentimes meaningless. Many times, when we lack joy we are forced into depression or depressive episodes. Like peace, something triggered you into defeat. You’ve given up on your dreams, your goals, and maybe even so on life. Something happened to you or your family, that all hope is lost. There is neither triumph or victory, rather defeat and sadness. Someone did you wrong, and maybe that someone you are blaming or pointing fingers at is yourself. Maybe the person you are pointing fingers at is, God.
It’s hard to have joy when life did you wrong. We’ve dwelled on the wrong done to us that to find joy in the little things is quite a task. It’s hard to find good in each day because we’ve made the misfortune in life become our god. We worship the loss, the wrong done, and the pain and hurt we faced. The past repeats itself daily in our hearts and minds. We cannot shake it no matter how much we try. Pain has ruled your being. An emotion rules you rather than you having control over it. And we’ve become quite okay with that.
Lack of peace and joy often times makes it difficult for us to love others and love ourselves. Many times though, we dare not love because what presented itself as love has ruined us. We love not, because what was meant to be an example of love has scarred and ruined something meant to be wholesome and beautiful. In turn, we live life lacking peace and joy because love is nonexistent within us. We hate, speak in rage and walk in defeat. Love often times presents itself in hopeful speech and living. Love looks a-lot like faith, assurance and confidence. Love, is powerful when existing. When removed it is likewise powerful as it shakes the very core of who we are.
We all crave love. We all desire to know we are loved. We all desire the warmth of love. When we lose love or the concept of love is distorted, it damages how we love those around us. It damages the way we view life. Many times the reason why we lack peace and joy is because love is absent. It’s because we know not how to love and are consumed by anger and hurt. I’d say the best way to restore joy and peace, is to first tackle the restoration of love.
Restoring love. It’s not as easy as someone telling you they love you and all is fixed. It’s not as easy as telling yourself you are loved and all peace and joy is restored. Restoring love is more than action or word. It’s knitting together peaces of your heart making what was once broken, whole. Restoring love is not having the broken parts of your life glued back together, rather it is a healing of the heart where those broken pieces find life and restore it’s position and function in the heart. How do you go about that? How do you restore what you’ve learned to live without? Go to the source.
If you are a Christ follower, you know that the source for healing and restoration is our creator, God. If someone is the creator then naturally, they will be able to restore what’s broken or reestablish what’s gone missing. God is exactly that. He restores, heals, reestablishes and can even refurbish. There’s nothing too big or too small for Him. When all love, joy and peace is gone, He’s your stability. The issue is we refuse to seek the restoring. We’ve become comfortable in our filth that we’d rather live day to day in complaining in misery, downing in doubt and fear and living in hate and anger.
Don’t get me wrong. I am by no means trying to appear callused. I understand there are difficult things to walk through in life, but the matter of the fact is we choose whether to dwell on the past and lose an eye or fix our eyes on Jesus. Dwelling on the past produces an impaired vision. Fixing our eyes on Jesus shapes perspective and character. Bad things happen because we live in a world where people choose to do evil things. The good news is that God, our creator, can make good out of evil.
For what it’s worth, I suggest, give God a try. If you blame Him for your lack of joy, peace and love, take it to Him. Let him know how angry you are. That is perfectly okay. And then wait on Him to respond. He will. Whatever hurt you have held on to that has you okay with living without joy, peace and love, it’s time to say no more. It’s time to restore what you’ve learned to live without. And the source for restoration is, Jesus. Don’t believe me, see for yourself.
Have you learned to live without peace, joy and love? Do you want these restored? How are you going to seek the source today?
“You need to grow a backbone, move on and woman up!” I’ve had to tell myself that quite a bit. Here’s something you’ll learn about me. I am a hardcore words of affirmation girl. I don’t need a plethora of lavished words. Rather, I just need to know that I did good. That personality doesn’t bode well when you live in a world that’s filled with criticism and varying opinions. Not everyone will like you, like what you do and who you are. There will always be that one person that disagrees with you or criticizes you and who you are. What do you do when this happens?
Many of us die from criticism. The world falls apart when we’re told we didn’t do good enough, when someone’s tone is a bit harsh or when we’ve failed or messed up and hear the noise of criticism. Some of us get depressed, withdraw from the world and give up on our dreams. Why is that? Why for those of you, like me who thrive on compliments, die from criticism. Why do we live on compliments and hype? Is it because we hate negative things, maybe so. There is a bigger reason behind our response to criticism, though.
Before I get into that, let’s just take a moment to appreciate criticism. Yes, you read that right. Criticism isn’t all bad. While some criticism may come from a negative heart and agenda, most criticism isn’t all bad. Many times, the reason why there are successful people is because of criticism. Someone told a person they couldn’t do something, so said person did exactly what they were criticized not being able to do. Many times the discoveries we call science, is because someone challenged or criticized another that their goal was to create facts from their discovery and fight back the critique thrown at them.
Criticism has created some of the greatest inventors, discoveries, written literature, invention and men and women today. Here’s the biggest difference between those who allow criticism to kill versus those who’ve used it to propel them? Their, attitude. Your attitude is the biggest game changer and determining factor in whether you fail or succeed. I’ve failed many times and have learned to quit wallowing in failure, get back up and get back at it. You allow what criticism does to you. It’s not a matter of, “this is just how I am.” It’s a matter of choice in character. While most criticism isn’t easy to process, you decide what it does to you. Too often we’ve given words power over us rather than taking authority over it.
Here’s the thing, you cannot control what people have to say about you. You cannot change how people view you. Their opinions are theirs. Your response to their criticism and opinion is a direct result of who you believe you are and where you allow your worth to come from. If worth comes from less criticism and more agreement, you will never win. Worth is far greater than what the world has to say about you and me. It is far more than people pleasing. Greatest success is found when our confidence lies in the one who’ve created us. Success is found when we refuse to fail. When we’ve relinquished the power critique has over us and take authority over it. That is success. No longer do words control who we are and what we do. Rather, we fight against the words spoken over us and challenge that which challenged us, not with depression and withdrawing. Rather, we challenge with hope, perspective, and endurance.
Have you allowed criticism to control how you live? Have you taken a backseat and given criticism the ability to stir the way you live and think? You will lose quite a bit of years of growth in making words control what you do and how you view yourself. You are your worst critic when you allow criticism to control you. You get to choose what words do to you. While some words can be terribly harsh, you determine whether those words thrown at you fall on concrete and get blown away, or it falls on the soil of you heart and grows root of bitterness and fear to live and be the best you, you were created to be.
I was told I wasn’t smart. I was told I was slow and a dunce. I was criticized for how I pronounced certain words, for needing extra time to grasp certain concepts. I’ve been criticized for being a follower of Christ. I’ve even been criticized for my enjoyment in health and fitness. While I did get caught up in the words of criticism, it wasn’t until the realization that I have control and power over what those words do to me, was I able to challenge and combat criticism. I’ve used words thrown at me to become a better me. I welcome critique. I welcome the challenge. Not out of an attitude to prove people wrong. No, not at all. Rather, to grow the attitude within that heavily relies on people being pleased with me.
Don’t let criticism kill who you are, your dreams and goals. You have power in your response and attitude to the words spoken at you. There’s new life in criticism. New life to bring hope, challenge negative outlook and perspective. Not everyone will be on your team. That is perfectly okay. Don’t live your life trying to get that nod of approval from everyone. Rather, live life striving to become the best version of you. And the best version of you is who God has called you to be. The best version of you is the version that chooses to never give up.
Did you give up on who you are and your dreams because someone critiqued you? Have you allowed criticism to control who you are? How can you shift control today?
Did you figure out the “why” behind the “what?” Did you pinpoint where in your life you’ve allowed FOMO to creep in? If not, take a moment, grab a cup of coffee and read part 1 relating to this blog. After you’ve read part 1, ponder the why. Then head back to this one. Your why matters. Before I share my why, here’s a story leading to when I discovered my wrong why and when my why became one that mattered.
Growing up I was never the smartest kid. If you ask my parents they will admit they really didn’t think I would make it that far in life. No, they are not horrible parents for thinking that. I was just never a fast learner. Matter a fact, I wasn’t a learner to begin with. I struggled with reading and writing. Spelling was atrocious and any other subject was simply out of the question. I was always behind. I was teased for being a dunce by family members outside my home and even by classmates at school. Don’t go on feeling sorry for me. While I don’t condone bullying, I am also somewhat thankful because they are who motivated me. They along with my parents who believed and worked hard to help me believe.
I made it through primary school, that was an accomplishment. High school came around and I kept finding myself wanting to prove my intelligence to my classmates. I went to an all-girls catholic private school. Pretty much everyone was smart and was competing for the top seat. My group of friends in particular were a part of the 3 & 4 Science Club. In the Caribbean schooling looks differently so it may not all connect for my American readers. Either way, my friends were and still are pretty bright. If I am being completely honest with myself, I am still shocked that I even got into that high school and made it through the 3 & 4 Science Club. Really, those classes were no joke.
My senior year of high school posed grand difficulty. I was very ill with a tumor inside my back on my tailbone. I’ll share the miracle of that story some other time, but I managed to graduate with the help of my parents, understanding teachers and a very special friend of mine still today. Her name is, Michelle. She believed that I could do it. So much so she sent me every assignment, notes she took and videos of the class sessions. Guess what? I graduated. On to college.
I got accepted to Southwestern Assemblies of God University and was placed in the Learning Centers for poor SAT scores. First year in college and I felt smaller than the size of a mustard seed. Not because I was in the Learning Centers. I understand the importance of the program my university provided. Rather, I was missing out on what it’s like to be considered smart. I had a case of FOMO I didn’t realize I had. All this time, my efforts in school were not because I believed in myself. My efforts were because I was scared to miss out on educational status. All my other friends were top in their classes. They knew what they wanted and were going to get it. I on the other hand was simply fighting in school just as to not miss out on having a diploma like the others. Sad, I know. It was my freshman year in college that I decided to reevaluate my why. I was insecure. I didn’t think I was smart. All my efforts were simply for a paper that would hang on my wall someday that tells the world I was something I didn’t even believe I was. Smart (enough).
Have you heard the phrase, “faith without works is dead?” This comes from the Bible in James chapter 2. James shares an analogy.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Faith and works work hand in hand. Have you figured out where I am going with this yet? Let’s go back to my why. Before my revelation moment, my why was simply works. I didn’t believe I actually could. I was simply doing with no purpose other than to not miss out on educational status. A lot of what we do is works in order to not miss out. All stemmed from rooted insecurities. Look at it this way…
You work out because you believe you’re ugly and fat.
You have children to fill a void.
You get married in order to avoid loneliness.
You get an education in order to not be criticized.
You buy those brands in order to fit in with those friends.
You buy that house to appear you’re of wealth.
Personalize that to you. You do, in order to not miss out. Faith without works is dead. Many of us are simply working towards not missing out. We simply don’t believe. Believing is more than having a positive attitude. In this case, belief is knowing who you are and where you are going. Here’s how belief combined with works shifts the game.
You work out because you see the importance of healthy living and desire to become a better version of yourself.
You have children because you and your spouse while you enjoy each other are ready to expand the family.
You get married because you love someone so deeply you want to share the rest of your life with them.
You pursue education because you believe you can and will set out to pursue your dreams.
You buy those brands because you know you can afford it not to impress others rather simply because you want to.
You buy that house because you know you are not overextending, rather in a healthy position to do so.
Get where I am going with this? Faith alone will not get you anywhere. Believing you can do or become something only leaves you stuck in where you are. You won’t get much of anywhere with simply believing you can. Works alone has no value on it’s own. Combine faith and works, you combat FOMO. No longer do you do and want out of insecurities. No longer is it because of “them.” Rather you live and do, from confidence and purpose.
I graduated college in 2018 and later graduated graduate school in 2020. My why? Because I believed in myself. I had faith I could, so I did. I wanted not a paper to hang on the wall. I craved knowledge that would help me get where I believe God has called me to. Parents and family aside. Opinions of others aside. I believed and did with purpose. I challenge you to do the same. If you are being and doing to fit someone else’s narrative, it’s time to hit pause, reevaluate and do. Confidence and purpose are not far off. Once you know your why, let that combat FOMO.
Around the 2000s, marketing strategist Dan Herman first wrote on the concept of FOMO. It took a decade plus some for this concept to develop. Within the past two to three years, I’ve personally seen and heard FOMO circulate a lot more that I decided to do some personal digging and research. For those of you who do not know, FOMO is an acronym that stands for Fear of Missing Out. Side effects found by studies done shows that FOMO has led to detrimental physical and mental health. It has also led to mood swings, loneliness, feelings of inferiority, decrease self-esteem, moderate to severe social anxiety and increased negativity and depression. Fear of missing out comes from the concern that one might miss out on an opportunity, information, satisfying event, often aroused by posts seen on social media outlets. Interestingly, studies on FOMO have found that those in developed countries are more prone to this. 70% percent of adults they’ve found suffer with FOMO either slightly or significantly that have produced moderate to severe side effects. Psychological disorder? I’d dare to say, no. While I do not claim to be a mental health phycologist, I do propose that the rationalization behind FOMO is a weak marketing scheme to promote the abuse of social media consumption and justify one’s insecurities.
Alright, let’s get personal with this. A couple years ago my friends started getting into relationships. That led to friends getting married, to now having children. Friends who bought houses, friends who landed awesome career roles, friends who are the epitome of fitness goals and friends who have the perfect life. How do I know all this? By scrolling. Scrolling became increasingly worse as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ranked as monopolizing social media platforms.
Social media is perfect for marketing. It’s ingenious honestly. We are marketed every day more so now than ever before. Every second we look at a screen whether stationary or mobile device we are consuming a marketing idea, and our frame of thinking is being molded. Social media markets the highlight and the highlight interestingly is what brought about the idea of FOMO. How is it that the good brings so much evil? Here’s the thing, we don’t expect to share the awful bad in our lives. No one post about the bruises on their skin from their abusive spouse, the painful agony from a breakup, the rejection letter from a job, or the failure of a test/exam. We don’t show those parts of our lives. We share the highlight. Am I suggesting we share the bad? Not at all. Sharing the bad won’t help. That’s not the solution. I do, however, suggest we reevaluate why the highlights of others lives distorts the way we live and stirs feelings of “missing out”.
We want based on what’s been marketed. Nothing wrong with that. Wants are not all bad. But how did we as society get to a place where wanting has led to physical and mental health disorders? Why do we feel as if we are missing out if we don’t have the latest phone, are wearing the latest brand, are in the perfect relationship, traveling like the “IT” traveler or invited to “that” persons party. For me, that looks like — a 25 year old unmarried woman without child(ren). Yes, the pressure is on. Everyone else is married. Everyone else has kids. Everyone else appears to be doing or has “IT.” Yet, no one actually obtains “IT” because they are too focused looking at someone else’s life. Every second spent scrolling is confirming the idea that (me) you are failing at this thing called life.
My honest and wholehearted belief is that society’s rationalization of normalizing hours of scrolling through someone else’s life in envy at the many things they have and are is why we are the way we are. But if I dig a little deeper, I’d dare say, that you are to blame. I am. You are. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with posting on social media. I enjoy seeing where people are in life, posting an updated picture of my fiancé and I, but I have fallen into the trap of depending on social media to gratify and fill the void of my personal insecurities. A post today has shifted from pure desire to share an update, to now need for affirmation. Scrolling has shifted from keeping up to date with friends and family to envying where others are and what others have. The more we scroll the more we believe that we are missing out and the more we believe we are missing out or have “missed the mark” we have mood swings, feeling of loneliness, feeling I am not good enough or am doing enough, and feelings of anxiety about life.
Does this resonate with you? Do you feel pretty crappy after scrolling through social media? Do you feel like you are “missing out” because you aren’t in a relationship, because you don’t have kids yet, because you don’t have the perfect body or because you’re not “there” in life yet? I say this with as much grace possible, FOMO is an acronym designed for this generation to hide behind their insecurities. We’ve been marketed to believe FOMO is okay. That this is normal. That it is expected.
It’s not normal and should not be expected. Insecurities are serious business. If apprehension within oneself is not dealt with, the result is FOMO and that’s what we don’t want or shouldn’t want. Want to know why you and I haven’t fully succeeded? FOMO. The pressure to buy things we cant afford and be someone we are not in order to impress other people is what keeps us where we are. FOMO, keeps us stuck and it keeps us fake. Judgement not from others, rather judgement we place on ourselves.
The first step towards making progress and moving beyond FOMO, is first admitting it. Be real with yourself.
Why do you want to be in a relationship? Because everyone else is in one and you’re tired of third wheeling or because you believe you are ready?
Why do you want children? Because everyone else is having and you’re scared you are behind or because you and your spouse agree it’s time to start a family?
Why are you working out? Because you want to look like that girl or guy on Instagram or because you want to create healthy habits and live well?
Why do you buy the clothes you buy? Because everyone else wears that brand or simply because you enjoy the look and feel?
What is your “why” behind the “what?” Pinpointing the why is the first step towards combatting your insecurities. Rationalizing FOMO is weak. Combating FOMO is strength. Your why needs to shift away from “because of them.” We will discuss tools on combatting FOMO in part two, but I will leave you with this. You are not missing out! Live your absolute best life by first seeking God. Scroll, double tap and pin, confident in who you are and where you are. And if you are not comfortable with who you are and where you are, quit sitting there scrolling in your insecurities, and do something about it!