“Come close to God, and God will come close to you….”
I recently visited my two sons living in Ohio. One of the pleasures of visiting my adult children is helping with projects around their homes. So, on this bright and beautiful spring sunny day, I was clearing dead branches out of my son’s flower bed. I was busily snipping away branches when I heard a man’s voice, “May I help you?”
I looked up to see my son’s next-door neighbor engaging me in conversation. He was trying to figure out whether or not I belonged on his neighbor’s property. I stood up and heard him ask, “Oh, are you his mom?”
“Yes,” I replied. He told me he was just checking on things and then walked toward me with his right hand extended as we introduced ourselves. Such a small gesture. But it has been over a year since COVID-19 restrictions began and people began staying at home and wearing masks and NOT shaking hands with their neighbors.
After a few words, he left, and I realized just how pleasant meeting a neighbor and shaking a hand had been. That small human connection was as life-giving as spring itself. My heart swelled with happiness. We need human connection, even human touch like a handshake with a neighbor.
God knows this; it is the way he created us. Jesus knew this; that’s why he came to earth, to give us a God/human connection. Jesus touched people while he lived here and he allowed people to touch him. Jesus held children in his arms; he placed his hands on their heads to bless them. Jesus touched the eyes of blind men, the atrophied arms and legs of the sick, even the coffin of a dead man whose funeral procession Jesus interrupted at Nain, right before he brought the man back to life and returned him to his mother. Jesus was touched in a crowded street by a desperate woman seeking healing. His feet were touched and kissed by a sinful woman who anointed him with her tears of repentance and gratitude for his saving grace and mercy.
Those deemed sinners and reprobates by the religious leaders were touched by Jesus. Even those deemed unclean by the Mosaic Law because they had leprosy were touched and healed by God’s Messiah. I imagine that when Jesus spoke to his disciples or invited himself to the home of the crooked tax collector, Zacchaeus, that maybe Jesus put a hand on their shoulders or took them by their arms. Jesus didn’t stand or sit apart from the people he came to teach about his Heavenly Father. He stood close to them; he sat next to them; he touched them.
One of my favorite scenes in Scripture is found in John’s gospel. In John 13, the Apostle John describes what happened at the last meal the disciples would share with Jesus before his crucifixion. And the writer describes himself leaning against Jesus. Perhaps John could hear Jesus’ heartbeat as he leaned close, listening to Jesus’ words about what was about to take place. Jesus never told John to stop leaning on him. He will never tell us that either. Jesus appreciates the power held within a human touch. That’s why he came to be near us.
We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.
Are you trying to live up to expectations that you only imagine people have for you? Sometimes we construct these false ideas of what we think people expect from us; how they want us to act or to look. Oftentimes these self-manufactured standards cannot be lived up to or even met and we are left with this overwhelming feeling that we are letting people down.
Wives, have we constructed a vision of how we assume our husbands want us to be?
Moms, have we decided that we are not enough for our children because “social media mom” does it so much better?
Sisters, have we been hiding our brokenness from each other out of fear of rejection?
When we try to live up to imaginary expectations in an attempt to please people, we can take our eyes off of what is most important: our relationship with God. We must let God’s perception of us take center stage in our lives if we are ever going to become the wives, moms and sisters that He desires for us to be.
So what does God expect from us? The truth is that God expects very little from us. He expects that we will be broken, helpless and insufficient on our own. He knows that time and again we will fall, make mistakes and hurt ourselves. However, at the same time God demands perfection as we read in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
So, how do we reconcile this? How do we live up to a seemingly impossible standard? The answer is faith. Faith is required to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) By faith we cling to our salvation through Jesus Christ as if we were holding onto a life preserver. Through this faith the sanctification process begins. Faith is the only thing that can take a broken, helpless and insufficient person and make them perfect in God’s eyes.
Sometimes we get so preoccupied with people pleasing that we forget that our faith in Jesus Christ has made us new creations. We continue to see ourselves as if we are not enough and assume that others see us this way too. These false perceptions hinder us from thriving in our relationships; we can become an insecure wife, a discouraged mom and a half-hearted friend.
We must not allow our insecurities to sully the beauty of our identity in Christ. We need to stop worrying about what the world may think about us and start remembering how God sees us. We will certainly mess up from time to time, but by focusing on His grace toward us and allowing His Spirit to work in our hearts, we will become more intentional in our relationships with others. Things like extending mercy, offering forgiveness and showing love will become actions that we want to do and they will bring glory to God while helping our earthly relationships to flourish.
As we go through our days remembering who we are in Christ, we will be freed from worrying about what others may think of us. We can begin to thrive as the persons God is making us to be.
Additional scripture references:
2 Corinthians 5:17
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
As a mom of three children, I feel like all day long I am constantly cleaning up toys, washing dishes, and doing loads of laundry. Some days, I can get so frustrated because the to-do list seems never ending, and when I feel like I finally have checked everything off, I wake up the next day and do it again.
On days that seem a little stressful, God reminds me of the importance of thankfulness. When we can let go of our fixation on the negative things in life, whether that be the mundane routine of everyday, or an unexpected circumstance, and we begin dwelling on the things God has blessed us with, it is then that He changes our heart and allows us to have a different perspective.
There is a country music song by Scotty McCreery called “Dirty Dishes.” The premise of the song is about a mom that is thanking God for things that we don’t often thank Him for, like a messy house and dirty dishes. One of the verses in the song says this: “Noisy kids are happy kids, and slamming doors just means we live in a warm and loving home. Your long hours and those dishes in the sink means a job and enough to eat.” The words to this song remind me that when we thank God for the things in our life that are difficult to thank him for, God allows us to see things differently. Instead of seeing my to do list as an insurmountable or frustrating task, I can choose to thank Him for it, lay it at His feet, and then experience unexplainable joy through the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, the apostle Paul commands us to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God’s word doesn’t just tell us to be thankful when circumstances are good, or when we have received a blessing. Paul is very specific in this verse to use an absolute when talking about when to give thanks: “in ALL circumstances” (vs.18). I know this verse can be very difficult, because in our flesh, there are many things we not only don’t want to thank God for, but instead we want to complain about. However, when we choose to heed His instruction from 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and be thankful, even when it is not easy, God transforms our hearts. Having a heart full of thankfulness can allow us to see the good in our situations and other people, that we might have otherwise missed out on.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
Do you ever wonder what the disciples did during the days between Jesus’ death and resurrection? Yes, we know they went into hiding, but can you really blame them? They just watched their best friend be brutally murdered by a group of jealous religious leaders. Of course, they were scared in the midst of their grief. But what did they do while they were waiting? In the quiet moments of their fear, grief, and remembrance.
The same question can be asked of us. What do we do in the waiting? While we are waiting for Jesus to answer our prayers, to speak clearly to us, to deliver us through a situation. For me, the waiting period can be very excruciating. I struggle with wanting everything right now, but recently, God has been working on my heart in this area. As He gently does with me, He whispered to my heart one day, “Sarah, while you wait, praise Me. While you wait, seek Me. While you wait, trust Me.”
Praising God takes the focus off self and puts it back on Him. With God as the focal point of my thoughts, the waiting becomes easier. Why? Because my self-centered agenda has been pushed back to allow His greatness to shine through. And oh, how my heart becomes settled as I praise His mighty Name, as I recall all of the ways He has been faithful to me in the past. Psalm 150 tells us to “praise Him for His powerful acts; praise Him for His abundant greatness…Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.” We can praise Him in the waiting because He is still God no matter the circumstance and giving Him praise aligns our hearts with His. Praise Him with your words, praise Him through your song, praise Him through your dance…just praise Him!
“So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be open to you.” (Luke 11:9) Did you catch that repetition? Keep asking, keep searching, keep knocking. Seeking God is not a one-time deal. To fully seek Him, we must continuously do so. Dive into His word. Ask Him to reveal to your heart the things of His heart. Ask boldly for the desires of your heart to align with His. As you do so, the waiting becomes about connecting with the heart of the Father, seeking His will above our own. There is comfort here. Sitting, seeking, being intentional in finding out what His plan is. Jeremiah 29:12-13 says, “You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jesus is there with you in the waiting, seek Him.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) Waiting does not always make sense to our finite human minds, and that is okay. There are many things we will not understand this side of heaven, which is why Proverbs 3:5 is so comforting. I know that I cannot always rely on my own understanding, and this is where trusting the Lord comes into play. I can trust Jesus because He is trustworthy. It is who He is and always will be. He does not change. He is constant. Here my heart can be firmly planted. Here my waiting begins to make a little more sense because I know the lover of my soul has me in the palm of His hand. I can trust Him because His word tells me to cast all my cares, my anxieties on Jesus because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). The Creator of the Universe cares for me and He cares for you. Let that truth take root in your heart and mind.
As you wait, praise God. “My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident. I will sing; I will sing praise.” (Psalm 57:7). As you wait, seek Him. “For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) As you wait, trust Jesus. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, make their home in central Arkansas. They have five grown children and are grandparents to wonderful grandchildren. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.