In Need Today

My faith is a floundering mess.

My soul is worn.

My heart hurts.

And all of this is over circumstances and relationships over which I have NO control. I tried to verbalize my frustrations and hurts to my husband last night. “Everything just looks so broken and there’s a stubborn part of me that believes if I could just be the one in control, it might go differently. If I was in charge of the internet, our website would stop being ridiculous. It’s making us look so unprofessional. Doesn’t God know that? Doesn’t He see her running and hurting? Doesn’t He know how much I want them to stay here? Can’t He just direct him? Why are these babies struggling? Why is everything so broken?”

For all of my  all of my words about hope, I still struggle with surrender. I struggle to release. Just like you, I have to remember that things are broken this side of heaven. I must surround myself with the truth of God’s character and promises.

A favorite verse keeps running through my head today. “Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10, AMP.

My studies are teaching me that the verb for let be in the original Hebrew, rapha, actually means to release, to stop fighting, to just drop it.

So much of my inner struggle over what I cannot control (circumstances or behaviors) comes from a disconnect between what I claim to believe and how I actually lean into God’s promises. As I prayed to learn how to release and trust, God has been faithful to actually teach me. I can normally navigate my life in my own strength. This season, it’s not possible. I hate it. And I love it. And I hate it.

I wrote this verse during my quiet time early this morning, “…May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Psalm 79:8, NIV

I am in desperate need. I need more wisdom. I need God’s presence. I need to decide today whether I will choose truth over feelings. My flesh says my prayer list holds reasons to worry and doubt. My Father says His ways are higher than my ways. And that, should be enough. That is enough… for today.

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12, NIV

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Our website is back up and running. Praise the Lord. There’s one small change if you are still having trouble connecting. We’ve moved from http://withjoyretreats.com to http://www.withjoyretreats.com. Our knight in web armor, big-time-help man deserves a lot of credit for his hard work. John Griffith, you are the bomb-diggity. THANK YOU.

Thank YOU for praying, asking, and encouraging this week. Both Carey and I have needed it. God is good, all the time. Let’s keep pressing on to know Him, friends.

Following,

Ginger

Dear Ginger: Bullying

dear ginger

Dear M,

Thank you again for your willingness to write in and share the struggles you are currently facing. Last week we took some time to talk about a large portion of your letter: what to do when you don’t like how you feel or how you look. I hope you’ve been encouraged by that discussion.

I wanted to take additional time this week to address the other component in your letter. Specifically these sentences:

There is a girl who called me a “fat seal” this year and that really hurt me. She’s bullied me since the 5th grade and this year I started cutting. I told my parents but I really need someone’s advice who has also struggled with not liking yourself. The very first night when you talked about how I’m God’s masterpiece. But I still haven’t figured out to deal with her because she constantly likes to bully me.“

You aren’t the first to bring up this dilemma, nor will you be the last. It deeply saddens me to know that bullying of any kind takes place in our schools, much less between two girls. Navigating middle and high school is tough enough without the added emotional stress of a bully. I am so sorry that you are experiencing so much hurt. I want you to know that I care about your pain. I can understand why the words of someone else have the power to keep you in self-worth limbo. I experience some similar comments when I was younger… and they still hurt.

I was also a child (and teen) who was very insecure about how I was perceived by others. It doesn’t take much for your confidence to be stripped away, does it? I can vividly recall the words of the unkind boy at my grandmother’s swim club and the girl I overheard in passing at camp. I don’t remember what I wore on the first day of fourth grade but I can clearly picture a boy walking up to me quite candidly and declaring, “My dad said you got fat this summer.

Not, “How was your summer?” or “I wonder what 4th grade will be like?” or even “I don’t know what to think of Mrs. So-and-so.” Not only do I wonder what compelled the boy to share this information, but I also wonder what made his father decide to proclaim that message to his son. One sentence and I carry it always. Isn’t it amazing how hearing from others can affect how we feel about ourselves?

Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.

That’s a joke, right?

Words sting. They can scar. But rather than just accept the negativity and hide those thoughts in the back of our minds, I want to encourage us all with this verse.

The weapons we use in our fight are not the world’s weapons but God’s powerful weapons, which we use to destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:4-5, GNT)

Why start a discussion about bullying with a verse from the Bible? I believe the Bible holds the answers for some of our most challenging situations. When a bully comes with harsh words this verse reminds us that we destroy the false arguments and instead choose to believe what our Creator says about us.

1. Take those hurtful thoughts captive and replace them with truth from the Bible. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” What usually causes a bully to act out? Insecurity. Don’t let this girl’s insecurity rob you of the worth and confidence you have from your Maker. God has a unique and special plan for your life, so don’t let the words of another keep you from remembering that!

“When you choose to believe God’s Word, your emotions may not follow immediately. Does that mean you aren’t trusting God? No. Faith is often exercised in the context of a struggle, in the midst of conflicting thoughts and emotions… When we trust in God, we will experience many obstacles to faith, but placing our trust in His Word- not our feelings- will see us through.” (Robert S. McGee, The Search for Significance)

2. Talk to your parents, a teacher, or a trusted adult if the bullying continues or escalates. I know you mentioned that you had spoken to your parents at least one occasion. Be sure to keep them updated and apprised of the situation. I realize no one wants to be a tattletale, but if this situation is causing you as much pain as you say, it’s worth doing whatever you can to make it stop.

And you’ve likely tried this, but I still want to mention it. Firmly look this girl in the eye and tell her to please stop. Use a clear and confident voice. If it seems as though she is going to lash out again, simply walk away and remove yourself from the situation.

3. Pray for this girl. What?! I know you might think I’m crazy, but here me out. We already discussed the fact that this young woman is likely struggling with a large dose of insecurity. Things could be really difficult at her home. Perhaps she’s been bullied before and this is her way of making sure she’s the biggest fish in the pond. Whatever the case, chances are she’s wounded and hurting on the inside.

Here’s the thing, there are several of Jesus’ words that I’d prefer not to practice. I don’t want to love my enemies; I’d rather be cold and distant to them. It’s hard to forgive.

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:43-44, NLT)

Prayer for your enemies is one of the deepest forms of love, because it means that you have to really want that something good happen to them. You might do nice things for your enemy without any genuine desire that things go well with them. But prayer for them is in the presence of God who knows your heart. Prayer is interceding with God on their behalf, and the prayer Jesus has in mind here is always for their good. He is not talking about praying for our enemies to be run over by a truck. He’s not talking about praying for lightening to take them out.  We are to pray that their hearts and ours be softened, be changed, be reconciled. That may seem far-fetched and impossible right now, but I’ve witnessed firsthand how praying for someone who hurt me has actually released me from a lot of pain and anger.

4. Cultivate positive relationships. Some seasons of life can feel pretty challenging and lonely if we don’t have friends to turn to. I’m praying right now that you have girls in your class or at church who can love and encourage you for the beautiful young woman you are. If you feel like those kind of friendships are few and far between, then begin praying regularly that God would bring you a kindred friend.

When I moved a few years ago I began to pray a prayer that went something like this, “God, you know that I’m lonely. I would love to have a friend who will encourage me to grow, and will challenge me to be the best version of myself. Help me to be a kind and generous friend to whomever you bring into my life.” God has slowly and surely provided new relationships to fit the bill of kindred friends.

M- God is for you. He will give you the wisdom, strength, and encouragement you need each day. Don’t lose heart. I’m praying for you and here if you want to write again.

Following,
Ginger

Dear Ginger: Uncomfortable in my Own Skin

dear ginger

Hey Ginger!

I am struggling about my self-confidence. I know that I am supposed to love myself for who I am and everything. But I am truly stuck. Some girls at school are calling me names, and it is just bringing down my confidence in myself. I don’t cut myself or anything, but I have tried cutting, but I just won’t let myself do it. I was just wondering what would be the best way to raise my confidence in myself. I have talked to my parents, but I am just too scared to tell them that I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. Have a great day.

-S

S- Thank you so much for your note and for sharing what’s going on in your heart. I’m so sorry this has been such a season of pain and sadness in your life. I want you to know that I’m praying for you especially today.

First of all, I want you to remember that you don’t have to be afraid to share with your parents about how you are feeling. I think they would care deeply about your hurts, just like they care about your successes in school. This is a tough battle for a lot of teens, and especially a ton of teen girls, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal. Bullying is a really big deal and I can understand why it leaves you feeling negatively about yourself.  I want you to really think about telling your mom or dad. I know there have been times when I’ve been scared to share things, but it’s usually because I want to protect someone else, or because I’m afraid that they will be disappointed. Trust me, your parents will love you no matter what.

Secondly, I’m sorry that you feel so STUCK.

I know that I was stuck in a pattern for a long time in my life. I felt like I was a car in the mud and no matter how hard I pushed on the gas, the wheels would just turn and dig me down further.

You see, I’ve always struggled with loving the way that I look – especially when I felt that I didn’t fit in with other girls my age. It seemed like everyone else could eat whatever they wanted and still look the same. I felt like there was nothing I could do to stop worrying about my boday and start actually be comfortable in my own skin.

I didn’t try cutting, but I did make myself throw up. Sometimes we think we can do something drastic to feel differently or make a change, but the truth is I needed something stronger than myself to create change. I needed something stronger than self-esteem, self-confidence, and quick fixes. Hurting myself was only… hurting myself. I was digging my wheels deeper into the mud.

Even now, as a 30 year-old, the lie that says: You aren’t good enough because of the way you look – creeps in and wants to threaten all the confidence I have in the Lord.

So what do I do when that lie knocks on the door of my heart?

1. I claim truth. I read and remember the words that God has said about me.

2. I remind myself the value God has placed on my life.

3. I drop the lie that if I can just raise my self-esteem everything will get better.

4. I keep myself encouraged and grounded by reading the words of others who have struggled just like I do.

5. I cling to WHOSE I am, rather than who I am or how I’m failing.

6. And finally, I remember the hard road that I’ve walked and how I don’t want to go back there again. I’ve got too much to look ahead TOWARD. I want to keep fighting.

I needed something outside of ME to pull me out. In my own story, God has used His Word and Truth, books, accountability, and especially counseling to give wisdom and insight into my “stuck” situation. But more than anything, God has replaced my self-doubts with confidence in Him through a deeper relationship with HIM.

I believe that God does not desire for us to stay in that muddy place. He wants to pull us out of the pit. That’s why I want to recommend some resources for you today.

1.    Lies Young Women Believe (blog and book) by DeMoss and Gresh

2.   The Search for Significance by Robert McGee

3.   Graceful by Emily P. Freeman

4.   Perfectly Unique by Annie F. Downs

5.    2nd Corinthians chapter 10 (especially verses 4-5)

God wants our hearts, and is fighting for them. I truly believe this. And I’m happy to say that He is helping me get free, even in the smallest of ways. That’s my same prayer for you.

No matter what I might infer about my looks or weight… or even what others might say – the TRUTH is what I must cling to, even if I don’t feel that it is true…

“You are a beloved creation of the God of the heavens, that created you just like you are. When you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see, you need to remember that the God who remade this sunset right here, He formed you in your mother’s womb, every part of who you are. And there’s nothing to be ashamed of, there’s nothing to look at and say,

“It’s not beautiful.”

You can’t look at some airbrushed picture of someone who doesn’t even look like that in real life and compare yourself to that. That’s not the reality of life. But what you are, is perfectly made by God of the heavens and He meant it on purpose.” 

― Lacey Mosley

I’ve found the secret of freedom to be different from what the world says. I haven’t learned 6 steps to higher self-esteem. Instead I am learning to reprogram my mind and know my Heavenly Father MORE. How He sees me is the only thing that matters.

Praying for your heart today, S. Please write again soon.

-Ginger

Dear Ginger: Hurt Feelings

Dear Ginger,
School hasn’t been going very well. I have a teacher who treats me differently from all the other kids in my class. My mom, dad and others have talked to her. I just wish Jesus would come in her heart and show her the right way to treat me. What should I do to help me be stronger around her when my teacher hurts my feelings? –A

Dear A,

I am so, so sorry about the situation with your teacher. My heart hurts for you. It sounds like you and your parents have done everything in your power to fix the situation… and yet, it’s still broken.

What do we do when we are being treated poorly or unfairly? Let’s see what the Bible has to say.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4, NLT

“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” 1 Peter 3:9, NLT

Over and over the Bible calls us to love others even when the situation isn’t fair.

“Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.” Luke 6:28-29, NLT

Praying for people who hurt our feelings is one of the deepest forms of love, because it means that you have to really want something good happen to them. The prayer Jesus has in mind here is always for their good. He is not talking about us praying that those people would be run over by a truck. He’s not talking about praying for lightening to take them out. We are to pray that their hearts and ours be softened, be changed, be reconciled. He wants us to head to the root of the problem, not just the symptoms.

For example, if I stay up late and don’t get enough sleep I end up getting a headache around one in the afternoon and I can be irritable for the rest of the day. But if all I do is take painkillers or drink caffeine, I’m only dealing with the symptoms. What I really need to do is get off Facebook and go to bed earlier, because that will eliminate my tiredness. That’s what prayer does to whatever problem we are having with someone. The best thing we can do is pray for the people who have hurt us. Praying for your them will actually keep you from being destroyed by bitterness and anger.

Jesus is calling us not just to do good things for those rough relationships, like greeting them and opening the door for them; He is also calling us to WANT their best, and to express those wants in prayers when the enemy is nowhere around. We are to love them, bless them, and pray for them.

I don’t know why your teacher is being hurtful. But I do know that God loves you both so much. Perhaps God has put you in the situation just to show her love. Have you tried praying for her? Maybe pray each morning before you go to school that God would give you the strength to love her, and that God would open her eyes and heart. I know it seems like a tall order, but I know the freedom that prayer can bring from personal experience.

I’ll be praying for your situation, A… that God would give you courage, peace, and comfort each day.

Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12, NIV

Question: What advice would you give to A?

Following,
Ginger