What does it mean to follow Christ in my everyday life?

We often think of the book of Psalms as a happy book filled with praise and worship. Yet over a third of the Psalms are filled with lament. They question. They complain. They cry out. However, alongside the wails, there is worship—a declaration of God’s good and steadfast character. They exhibit a deep trust in His faithful love and unchanging righteousness. The sad and sullen psalmists stood steady with an unwavering trust in the truth of who God is. Twice in Psalm 42 and once in chapter 43, we see the same set of phrases addressing the soul: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” The psalmist told his soul what to do and feel. So also must the Happy Soul.

The Happy Soul wrestles with her hard reality, then instructs her heart what to do while she waits for God’s rescue.

The Happy Soul presents her doubts and questions to God, then sermonizes her soul toward the truth of His character.

The Happy Soul laments all she’s lost, but she also prompts her spirit toward the ever-present hope she has through Christ.

This life is hard. It’s okay to waver. To question. To grieve. To be conflicted. However, as we do, we must cling to truth. But if we are going to cling to truth through our troubles, we need a solid foundation of who God is. Do you see how each secret builds on one another? Focus leads to resolve. Resolve leads to attachment. Attachment leads to dependency. Dependency leads to a fruitful resiliency that will carry us through the storm.

We cannot tell ourselves what is true of God if we aren’t sure of Him to begin with. God sees. God cares. God heals. God controls. God comforts. God loves. God is good. Do you believe it? Do you know it deep-down in your soul? Do you know where in Scripture it tells you these things? It will be these truths—and the conviction of their validity—that will allow you to walk with hope in God amidst the everyday hardships and the unthinkable tragedies. Instead of being driven by our ever-changing emotions, let’s embed our anchor firmly in the bedrock of God’s unchanging character and steadfast love.

The person who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed.

He will be like a tree planted by water:

it sends its roots out toward a stream,

it doesn’t fear when heat comes,

and its foliage remains green.

It will not worry in a year of drought

or cease producing fruit.

— Jeremiah 17:7–8

This beautiful parallel passage in Jeremiah is very similar to our Psalm 1 passage. But it provides us with a few extra details about the Happy Soul.The Happy Soul does not fear the fires around the corner. The Happy Soul does not worry during her desperate times of drought. Why? Because she is planted by the streams of God and has solidly situated herself in the banks of His character. She will be evergreen and resiliently fruitful—no matter what comes her way. Her source of support is in the stream. The enduring fruit of God’s people stems from the sustaining power of God.

James’s death was hard. The reality of his death is still hard. I’m certain that around the corner lies harder things still. But through all the ups and downs, through all the pain and problems, I can be a Happy Soul—not because I am strong and steady but because my God is. You can be a Happy Soul too! We don’t have to fear the future. We can kick anxiety good-bye. We can thrive regardless of our circumstances. We can never cease to bear fruit. This is the reality of the Happy Soul who trusts in the Lord. She knows that He is a good and powerful, personal and great God who will provide for her every step of whatever comes her way. The Happy Soul is dependent on God’s provision.

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

— James 1:2–4


This is an excerpt from my book, Secrets of the Happy Soul.

Secret #1– The Happy Soul is FOCUSED on God

Secret #2 – The Happy Soul is RESOLVED to follow God’s Way

Secret #3 – The Happy Soul is ATTACHED to God’s Word

Secret #4– The Happy Soul is DEPENDENT on God’s provision.

Secret #5– The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is.

Secret #6– The Happy Soul is SURRENDERED to her King.

A few years ago I was invited to speak at a women’s conference in my hometown in Southern California. Since my family relocated to Alabama a few weeks after I graduated from high school, it had been decades since I’d been in that town. I arrived a bit early to visit with family, catch coffee with a few high school friends, and wander around my old stomping grounds. It was an extremely emotional trip for me as I remembered the girl who grew up in that town and all God has done for her since then.

The conference was hosted at a church just a few miles from where I attended high school. During the break on Saturday, I drove my rental car over to the school campus so I could walk around campus a bit. It’s a small private school, and it was basically the same as I remembered it, with a few additions. The same small chapel stood where I used to hear God’s Word taught every Friday. The same beige lockers lined the outdoor hall of the high school wing. The same left-behind sweaters, assignments, and notebooks were strewn about, cluttering the hall. As I walked the hall, smiling as the memories flooded over me, one locker stopped me in my tracks.

On top of that locker was a Bible.

Scribbled on and dog-eared.

Pages torn and spine destroyed.

Abandoned until Monday.

Awaiting to be flippantly thrown into a backpack and brought to Bible class.

It looked just like mine had when I was there. It was being treated just like mine had been. And, most likely, the owner of that Bible lacks a love for their Bible just as I did. For so long I saw the Bible as just another textbook. A chore. A roadblock. A burden of guilt. As I type, I am weeping at the memory—that I ever had such a casual distain for the Word of God, that I forfeited so much time with Him and took on so much trouble without Him when I could have been enjoying the benefits of being a Happy Soul. Deep down, I had been re-named a Happy Soul. I could feel it. I knew there had to be something more but I had no idea how to obtain it. I didn’t know how to enact change. My view of God was off. I could follow the do’s and don’ts, but I didn’t know how to get closer to God himself. And I certainly didn’t love God’s Word.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Perhaps you are there right now. Your Bible may not be as physically neglected as the one I saw that Saturday afternoon, but it is neglected nonetheless. It gathers dust on a shelf, sits on the floorboard of your car throughout the week, or is lost somewhere in your bedroom. Or perhaps you are opening your Bible but are just going through the motions. You read. You check “read Bible” off your list. You close your Bible. You keep walking. There’s no attachment to the Word of God. No true closeness to God. There’s no awe and wonder. There’s no overwhelming love and feelings of delight. You’d rather be enjoying the next Netflix episode or clinging to your Facebook feed instead of spending time with God through His Word.

… Most of us don’t have a delighting problem. We delight in and enjoy many things just fine. God has created us for pleasure. Just think about it. God created our bodies to enjoy things! Eating food is primarily about keeping alive, yet we’ve been given taste buds and a variety of sweet and savory food to eat. Functionally speaking, sex is about keeping the human race going, yet God has wired male and female bodies to enjoy one another. There is no room for doubt: God created us to experience deep delight. 

… Jesus made this clear in a conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. We don’t know her name, but we know that Jesus saw her at the well and knew her emptiness. It is likely that she’d been mistreated and cast aside most her life. As Jesus pursued her broken heart, he chatted with her about the well water: “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life” (John 4:13–14). Not long after this encounter, while addressing the crowds of people, Jesus claimed, “I am the bread of life . . . No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again” (John 6:35). Jesus taught that only He could satisfy our deepest desires. And the Bible shows us how to come to Jesus with our cravings. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37–38 ESV).

Our salvation brings a quenching to our soul that we will enjoy for eternity. But as we pursue to work out our salvation—as we resolve to make our internal identity become an external reality—we have to keep drawing from the well of the Word, which grants us the way to the One who can satisfy our souls. God’s Word gives us perspective, instructions, and parameters needed to navigate this sin-stained world. It is our protection. Our hope. Our guide. Our grace.

I have your decrees as a heritage forever;

indeed, they are the joy of my heart.

I am resolved to obey your statutes

to the very end. — Psalm 119:111–112


This is an excerpt from my book, Secrets of the Happy Soul.

Secret #1– The Happy Soul is FOCUSED on God

Secret #2 – The Happy Soul is RESOLVED to follow God’s Way

Secret #3 – The Happy Soul is ATTACHED to God’s Word

Secret #4– The Happy Soul is DEPENDENT on God’s provision.

Secret #5– The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is.

Secret #6– The Happy Soul is SURRENDERED to her King.

I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. — Philippians 1:6

In college I took a ton of chemistry classes, all of which were accompanied by regular laboratory time. We put into practice the theory we were learning from the lectures at that time. Chemical reactions copied down in our notebooks were later physically carried out in a beaker. Many experiments included a catalyst. Without the catalyst, the reaction would still occur . . . eventually. With all the components present, the final product would be produced, but the addition of a catalytic agent greatly sped up the rate of the reaction.

So it is with our spiritual growth. Ultimately, our transformation into a Happy Soul is a work of God, yet we have a catalytic role to play in that work. Just like those chemical reactions carried out in the lab, all the necessary components for spiritual transformation are present. All those who have put their faith in the work of Christ on the cross will be made to look just like Him . . . eventually. It is the certain work God has started, is working, and will complete within us. That is the equation. We are the catalysts.

Remember our “already but not yet” status we chatted through in part 1? We are already saved, but not yet. We are already a Happy Soul, but not yet. God has made us into a Happy Soul as part of our new identity in Christ (justification). God is making us into a Happy Soul as we partner with Him to work out that reality (sanctification). God will make us into a Happy Soul when we see Him face to face and the work He has begun in us is completed (glorification). It is then, in heaven with Christ, we will enjoy and worship God forever without the presence of sin. And though we will never experience the perfect presence of our holy God on this side of eternity, we can certainly begin to get a glimpse of it. The transformation has begun. But the extent to which we see that metamorphosis realized here on earth is affected by our participation or neglect of following God’s Way.

You and I are the catalysts of change in our own spiritual lives. The believers who understand their role of obedient choices as a catalytic agent will experience this transformation more quickly and more fully. Those who rarely engage in this work will see the bulk of their transformation occur on the other side of this life where God’s work of salvation will come to completion. I want to be as close as possible to what God has planned. Don’t you?

The first step to following God’s Way is understanding that He has crafted His Way to include you and me. His Way utilizes the actions of His people.

So what does this catalytic work actually look like? We cannot play our part if we don’t know what that part is. There are thousands of commands in the Bible, but they all boil down to this: Love God with all we have. When asked about God’s Way and which command is greatest, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39). This love for God is an active, obedient love, as “whoever keeps his word, truly in him the love of God is made complete” (1 John 2:5).

To love God is to obey God. To obey God is to love God.

I think, deep down, we already know this. We cannot say we love God if we don’t at least attempt to walk in His way. I could spend time here listing out all the “rules and regulations” of following Christ, but that would miss the point. The end goal of God’s Way is not to simply follow the rules. God’s Way is given to us so that those who love Him can enjoy His holy presence. Let’s take a look at a few “next best steps” to take on our pursuits of loving and obeying God.

Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” — John 14:23


This is an excerpt from my book, Secrets of the Happy Soul.

 

Secret #1– The Happy Soul is FOCUSED on God

Secret #2 – The Happy Soul is RESOLVED to follow God’s Way

Secret #3 – The Happy Soul is ATTACHED to God’s Word

Secret #4– The Happy Soul is DEPENDENT on God’s provision.

Secret #5– The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is.

Secret #6– The Happy Soul is SURRENDERED to her King.

The Bible is not a collection of stories about mankind. It is not a history book. It is not a how-to guide for how to live our lives. It is first and foremost a book about God. It is theological in function and form. Does it include history? Indeed. Does it record stories of people from whom we can learn? Yes. Does it give us instructions for how to live our lives? Absolutely. But all of it—every story, every rule, every historical detail—is there to point us to God.

If there is any sort of quick fix when it comes to becoming a Happy Soul, it is this: We need to get our focus off ourselves and turn it to God. And the primary way we know about God is through the Bible. That means starting from the correct vantage point. Instead of turning first to what the Bible can give us and what we ought to do, let’s start with a resolve to see God more clearly in the pages of Scripture. For so long I read the Bible primarily through the lens of “What does this mean to me?” The Bible does mean so much to me, as I’m sure it does to you too. However, this is not the best first question to ask when we approach God’s Word. The more appropriate question—and the one whose answers I’ve found to bring the greatest comfort and lasting joy—is “What does this teach me about who God is?” This is the primary purpose of the Bible: to specifically reveal to us the character of God.

Worried about how you are going to pay your next bill?

Set your gaze on God, your Provider.

Afraid of what’s around the corner?

Remember God, your in-control King.

Have you been wronged by someone?

Look to God, our righteous Judge.

In the throes of one of your darkest seasons of the soul?

Focus on God, our comfort through the storms.

For so many of us, this is counterintuitive. When something isn’t right in our lives, we want to know what to do in order to fix it—and we want to do it now. For so many years, the thought of “looking to God” felt like a non-action to me. Perhaps you feel the same way—that the action of opening your Bible in order to learn more about who God is is not actually helpful when your world is falling apart. Because “put your focus on God” can seem like a weak and useless platitude when you’re drowning. But it is especially during the hard times when we need to know—really know—the steadfast character of our God.

This is not to say that we simply “look to God” and everything magically falls into place. But really seeing God for who He really is will always be the starting point for the Happy Soul. If your soul is stuck in despair or fear, hopelessness or pain, the right and best next step is always to remember the faithful, unchanging, good character of God.

The Happy Soul is focused on who God is.


This is an excerpt from my book, Secrets of the Happy Soul.

 

Secret #1– The Happy Soul is FOCUSED on God

Secret #2 – The Happy Soul is RESOLVED to follow God’s Way

Secret #3 – The Happy Soul is ATTACHED to God’s Word

Secret #4– The Happy Soul is DEPENDENT on God’s provision.

Secret #5– The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is.

Secret #6– The Happy Soul is SURRENDERED to her King.

I woke up this morning to discover that today, March 20, is the International Day of Happiness. I don’t usually pay much attention to the many, often obscure “holidays” (March 20 is also Extraterrestrial Abductions Day) but this one caught my attention. Since I just wrote a book on happiness I can’t help but notice our obsession with it.

My husband and I recently enjoyed watching the PBS mini-series, The Durrells in Corfu, and many times the main character, the widow Mrs. Durrell exclaims to her children, “I just want you all to be happy.” If her children are happy, then all she has endured for them would be worth it. As a mother, I can understand that sentiment.

Examples of our great desire for happiness abound. We all want to be happy. We may disagree on what actually provides happiness, but the desire for delight, peace, and satisfaction is ubiquitous.

Since 2012, the World Happiness Report arrives on this happy day. Utilizing data from the Gallup World Poll, nations are evaluated and ranked by the happiness of their people. I’m still learning about this report and I haven’t yet read it in it’s entirety, but it seems as if they’ve determined that social, physical, and economic environments contribute to our happiness. Finland was determined to be the happiest nation in the world for the third straight year. (Interestingly, a huge percentage of the top 10 happiest nations are Nordic.)

The report emphasizes the correlation between trust and happiness: if we can trust the people around us and the public institutions tasked to serve our community, our happiness will increase.

On the surface, there is much to observe from this report. However, as Christians, we have been given a different measuring stick for happiness. A different set of values. A different starting point.

Being a Happy Soul is something that is gifted to us through Christ. That’s the starting point.

Happy!

This is my identity. Already complete. Completely fulfilled. Fruitful. Resilient. Known. Righteous. This is your identity too. And as we choose to believe this to be true—regardless of how we feel and despite what our circumstances demand—our inward identity becomes our outward reality more and more and more. When we follow God in surrender and serve Him with all that we have, we make the choice to live as if God is indeed our King. As we recognize our need for the powerful, protecting presence of God in our every moment, and as we choose to hide ourself in Him as our home, we can confidently declare with the psalmist that “all who take refuge in him are happy.” — excerpt from Secrets of the Happy Soul

Yet our environment does indeed matter. But it’s not primarily physical, social, or economic factors that determine our experience of the happiness Christ died to bring us. It is our spiritual environment that must be measured.

When we are thriving spiritually, our physical, social, and economic situations don’t have so much pull on us.

They affect us, yes. But they don’t shake us.
They are important but not vital.
They can be all out-of-whack while our souls stay serene, steady, happy.

Why? Because there is a big worldview difference between those who rest in the salvation found in Jesus and those who do not. This difference is this: our end goal is not happiness. Our aim is to know God better, trust Him deeper, and enjoy His presence nearer. Happiness is merely a by-product of knowing Him.

In Secrets of the Happy Soul we start off with seeing that those who are in Christ are already Happy. It is our new status, our name. Happy is who we are. Yet we have work to do to make our new identity become an external reality. So, also, do we have the privilege and responsibility to share about the One who has made us Happy.

What’s your favorite translation of the Bible? My guess is that you are able to answer that question fairly easily, and you may have numerous, specific reasons for it.

There is no shortage of debate and discussion about the best Bible translation. Just this past month I encountered women (in a Christian Bible study space!) battering each other over their opinions about particular Bible translations. Like many social media “discussions” it escalated quickly as opinions were thrown back and forth, positioned as facts.

As I observed the conversation it was clear that each woman involved in the debate believed she was the only one in the right. Both expressed that she refused to “back down” and allow God’s Word to be watered down and tampered with.

Now, I’m all for holding to truth and guarding God’s Word, but it seems to me the line between God’s Word and the translations of man have become blurred.

GOD’S WORD IS INSPIRED. TRANSLATIONS AREN’T.

“By inspiration of Scripture we mean that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on the Scripture writers that rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation [of God] or that resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.”[1]

Long ago, over a span of thousands of years, God spoke to mankind through the biblical authors: Moses, Paul, John, etc. Much time and traveling has occurred since the original and inspired penning of what we hold to today as God’s Word.

We don’t have any of the original documents written by these authors. The Bible we hold in our hands today is a canonized collection of our best reconstruction of the original writings. This reconstruction has then been interpreted from Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic into various languages. Every English translation is the result of the work of mankind to make the inspired Word of God more accessible to English-speaking people. The original Word of God is inspired. The translations are not.

Do I believe God guides and gifts members of a translation team? Absolutely. Are they doing God’s work? Indeed. But their translation efforts are not a direct inspiration from God. It is enabled and directed and blessed by the Spirit of God, but not inspired.

GOD’S WORD IS INERRANT. TRANSLATIONS AREN’T.

Along the same lines, these many translations are not perfect. That’s one reason why we have so many! Because there is more work that can be done to more accurately represent the original inerrant Word of God. Additionally, with every year that passes, there are more archaeological finds that bring new manuscripts and new historical pieces which help us understand the context better, which ultimately furthers translation efforts toward more and more accuracy.

THE FACT THAT WE HAVE ANY ENGLISH TRANSLATION IS A GIFT.

There are still many souls who are without a single verse in their language. The only copy of the Bible they have seen or heard of is in a different language than the one they speak. Let that sink in. What if the only Bible you had access to was one in French, or Portuguese, or Russian, or even the original languages of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic—would you be able to read it?

What a gift to be an English speaker and to hold an English translation in our hands!

THE FACT THAT WE HAVE MANY ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS IS A SIGN OF INCREDIBLE PRIVILEGE.

Choosing a good translation is an important task, but I fear we get way too wrapped up in choosing the best one, that we miss the reality of our incredible state of blessedness. Not only do we have a choice of which English translation to pick from, most of us probably have several Bibles on our shelves (not to mention at our fingertips through Bible apps.) While we fight over which translation we should be reading, there are souls without access to even one Bible to enjoy.

So the next time we encounter the debate about the best Bible translation, let’s keep these things in mind. May it remind us to praise the God who has spoken to us and has preserved His Word in such a way that it is available to us today.


[1] Erickson, Christian Theology

This post was originally posted over at LifeWay Voices.

Growing up in California, we were taught what to do in case of earthquakes. Once I moved to Alabama, I had to learn what to do during the threat of a tornado. When we lived in Kentucky, we had to prepare for severe snowstorms. In Florida, it is hurricanes we hunker down for. With each of these threats, there are safeguards taken and supplies gathered. The goal is to be ready for the worst-case scenario. Whether it be bread and milk, gas and water, batteries and canned goods, firewood and extra blankets, each possibility for a natural disaster demands their own stockpiles. Just as it would be foolish to fail to prepare for a pending hurricane, we must not be fools when it comes to grief. The Happy Soul expects and prepares for it. The Happy Soul gears up for grief.

The unexpected loss of my brother James knocked the wind out of me for a while. But it didn’t take me down. I never once doubted the good character of God. It’s not that I understood His timing. It’s not that I didn’t ask why James had to struggle the way he did. It’s that I was driven more by what I knew to be true about God—that He is an all-knowing, all-loving, in-control God. But without this foundation—twenty years of studying God’s Word and stockpiling truth—my experience of James’s death most definitely would have been different.

The biblical truth we gather up when our soul is thriving is the nourishment our hearts will feed off of when we’re barely hanging on. This is a mark of the Happy Soul. Resiliency, no matter what comes her way. When the waves of grief pound her hard, it will be the firm and steadfast grip she already has on truth that will keep her from being tossed, tattered, and torn when tragedy strikes. This doesn’t mean she won’t question or weep or writhe in pain. But it does mean that—regardless of her circumstances—she will experience a peace that surpasses understanding, a joy indescribable, and a spiritual nearness to God even when every cell within her screams, “My God, my God. Why have you abandoned me?” When we have truth stored up within us, we can preach those truths to our hearts during the darkest of hours. Holding on to the truth He’s given us is how we keep our leaves from withering.

Our questions and doubts do not scare or offend God. He knows and understands our frailty and fallenness way more than we do. We don’t need to hide our questions from God, but we do need to recognize the bigger picture: the fact that we see in a mirror dimly and have limited knowledge of God and His beautiful ways. God is powerfully, perennially, and perfectly doing a million good works, of which our pain and sorrow are all encompassed. From this earthly view, we will never come close to beholding or understanding the marvelous, intricate, and one day perfectly complete work of God. We must hold a firm grip on the good character of God and His ability to work all our painful experiences together for His glory.

This is the resiliency we receive when our life is founded on who God is. Instead of being tossed around and victimized by the waves, we can hold on to hope through the storms. He never promises us that the storms will cease. He promises to hold us through the squall. The Happy Soul is not exempt from trouble, but the Happy Soul has the comfort of God to guide her through it. But we have to stay saturated by the Source in order to benefit from this strength. The Happy, resilient Soul is dependent on God’s provision.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Why are you so far away when I groan for help?

Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.

Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.

Yet you are holy,

enthroned on the praises of Israel.

Our ancestors trusted in you,

and you rescued them.

They cried out to you and were saved.

They trusted in you and were never disgraced.

Psalm 22:1–5 NLT


This is an excerpt from Secrets of the Happy Soul my new book from Bethany House Publishers.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the “what if’s” especially when so many around us are giving in to fear.

Fear is contagious.

We work hard to avoid the spread of disease.

Yet we neglect to check our fears to keep them from plaguing our peace.

We labor together to stop the reach of a virus.

But allow our worry to wreak havoc on our souls.

We take precautionary measures to protect our bodies.

Yet we ignore the need to preserve our heart and minds from panic.

 

What if we did both? Work to end the pandemic of both disease and dread, the advancement of both pathogen and panic.

Whether or not you think it is time to hoard toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and canned goods, it is always a good time to stockpile truth. Here are six Psalms that remind us of who God is and what we can hold on to.

God is our very present help, our safe place, and our strength.

Psalm 46:1–3

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

Our Deliverer hears our prayers and acts in His perfect timing.

Psalm 34:4–5

I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Our Good Shepherd is near and always provides what we need.

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

God is trustworthy. We have nothing to fear.

Psalm 56:3–4

When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 27:1

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?

We must trust in God’s steadfast love for us more than the efforts of mankind.

Psalm 118:4–8

Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me free.
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.

When we choose God as our shelter, fear dissipates.

Psalm 91:1–6

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Loneliness is a paralyzing existence. We might be surrounded by people yet feel completely isolated, emotionally speaking. Our heart feels as if it is flying solo; our mind filled with a flurry of negative thoughts like:

  • I am alone.
  • I am unimportant.
  • No one really cares about me.
  • No one needs me in their life.
  • Everyone else is happy.
  • Everyone else has a deep connection with one another.
  • I’m the only one who feels this way.
  • I shouldn’t feel this way.
  • What’s wrong with me that I feel this way?
  • I shouldn’t be so ungrateful.
  • I need to be more thankful, then this will go away.
  • I need to be more spiritual, then this will go away.

The list goes on and on…a record that rotates the tunes of these lies until we’re so used to hearing them we no longer recognize them for the foolish fallacies they are.

TAKE OUR THOUGHTS CAPTIVE

It’s no wonder there is much in the Word that points to the importance of our thought life. Our thoughts can captivate us—either to keep us anchored in truth or imprisoned by falsehood—so we must learn to take all thoughts captive.

I’m no stranger to loneliness or listening to lies. And though I’ve taken several steps forward in this area over time, it is a constant battle I must continually engage.

Defeating loneliness is not primarily a battle of the will. We cannot wish ourselves better. It’s often a battle of the mind* and every battle needs a battle plan. Thankfully, God has provided us with three powerful gifts with which we can arm ourselves: God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s people.

USE THE GIFTS OF GOD

We need the Word to point us to the steadfast character of God. The Bible is our nourishment. Our life-line. The spiritual oxygen we need to survive in this lost, lonely world that will suffocate our souls if we let it.

We need the Spirit to enable us to rightly respond to what we encounter in the Bible. He gives us the strength to draw near to God and receive comfort and grace.

We need the people of God to tell us what is true. We need sisters and brothers who will pray for us when we are too weary to fight. We need the body of Christ to show us His love.

Loneliness is a result of the fall and subsequent separation from God. The evil one loves to use loneliness to keep us from all God has promised if we draw near to Him. If you are struggling with loneliness, know that on some level this is normal in the world we live in and you are not alone in your struggle. There is always hope.

SEE GOD MORE CLEARLY

Instead of giving in to the lies that things will never change, let’s whisper a prayer of help to our Sustainer. Let’s expectantly open the Bible to see our God more clearly. Let’s take a small step toward the body of Christ. Then let’s wake up tomorrow and do it all again.

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.
– Psalm 25:14-17 (ESV)


*Long-term feelings of loneliness may also be a battle of the body. Be aware of the signs of clinical depression and be willing to receive treatment for a physical problem.

This post was originally posted over at LifeWay Voices.

Several years ago while on a road trip, I got to connect with a dear friend for lunch. Over salad and sandwiches she made a statement that caught my attention: “Pastors’ wives have trust issues.” It wasn’t an accusation. Simply an observation from a wise woman who has had several close pastor’s wife friends.

At the time I was taken aback. I thought to myself, “I am a pastor’s wife and I don’t have trust issues.” At the time my statement was true.

Fast forward many years.

I, the pastor’s wife, have trust issues.

I don’t always feel safe in my own congregation.

I don’t always know with whom I can let my guard down.

I’m often hesitant to share my secret thoughts, my joys and struggles, my life with others—especially others in the church. I simply don’t know what they will do with my heart. Will they protect it? Ignore it? Attack it?

I’ve come to agree that my sweet friend was right. Us pastors’ wives do indeed have trust issues. Or, at least, this one does. And in case you are wondering why it seems that your pastor’s wife seems a bit distant and/or disconnected, there are a few things you can do to help provide a safe environment for her to come out of her emotional shell.

GIVE HER TIME.

She (her husband, too) has probably been burned a time or two when it comes to friendships within the church. And not only is there the personal pain of a betrayal, there are the implications of how that rift might affect her husband’s ability to pastor his congregation effectively. It might take her much longer to be comfortable in her congregation than you think. (Side note: Even after much time, it is also very unlikely that she will be good friends with everyone in the church. So be sure to manage the expectation that she will be good friends with everyone.)

GIVE HER FREEDOM TO BE HERSELF.

Treat her like you would any other church member. Don’t lay expectations on her to lead a team or be super-involved with a certain area of the church that you think is “typical.” And please, please, please don’t compare her to your previous pastor’s wife. She, like you, is a work in progress. She, like you, is uniquely created by God to serve in ways particular to her gifting, her season of life, and God’s call on her life. Give her space to figure out what and where that is within your particular congregation. And once she does, cheer her on like crazy and encourage her to stay put and not give in to the pressure that leads her to take on more.

GIVE HER DECENCY.

Think before you speak. Remember that she is not on the church payroll for being married to pastor. She is not on every committee and doesn’t know everything that is going on. She is not her husband’s secretary. Don’t expect more from her than you are expecting of yourself. And please don’t expect her to initiate every conversation. Even extroverts have their limits. Try to understand how it feels to live in a “fish bowl.” Recognize how your complaints (to her face and behind her back) about the church, her husband’s decisions, and/or the way her children act affect her. Treat her with the same respect you yourself would want to be treated.

GIVE HER GRACE.

Don’t make assumptions that just because she is the wife of a pastor she has it all figured out, especially spiritually. She misses her Bible reading. She yells at her family. There are days she wants to stay in bed and not go to church. She makes bad choices. She gets depressed. She sins. But she often feels like she needs to hide all of that from Y. O. U. Your trust issues may look different, but she is human and her natural reaction is to protect herself from harm, just like any other normal human being.

The difference between 30-something I-don’t-have-trust-issues Katie and the woman who is typing these words today? Hurt. Pain. Betrayal. Disappointment. Between our own experiences and the sad stories of my pastor’s wife friends, I’ve seen the worst-case scenarios one too many times. The evil one has attempted to use unhealthy, unstable, and untrustworthy people to tear apart the local body of believers. Again and again.

Ultimately, not one of us is called to a safe life free from risk. Us pastors’ wives need to work through our trust issues. We need to be able to risk pain and loss. We need to learn to love unconditionally and unhindered. We need to find our foundation in God alone—not a perfect friendship or job security. But while we’re on this journey toward trusting the hearts around us with our own, be patient. And pray for us.

This blog was originally posted over at LifeWay Voices