“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
The Great Commandment makes sense to me: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37b-38, ESV). Then Jesus said, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, ESV). I can understand the first part of that: love God first, then love others. What is difficult for me is how Jesus tied loving others well to loving myself well. Maybe you struggle with this, also.
To love others, we’ve learned that we must be patient, kind, and humble. We must think and hope the best for people. Do any of these things apply to how we think about and treat ourselves? I tend to be the most impatient with my own “stupidity” and the least tolerant of my “failures.” I would never call someone else’s minor mistake “stupidity.” Instead, I’d say, “Anyone would forget that! You’ve been super stressed.” Would I tell them their indiscretion—even sin—was a “failure”? More likely, I’d encourage them: “Keep trying. You’ll conquer this. God has already forgiven you and He’s here to help you.”
On my toughest days, God is here, loving me. He knows my short-comings and He still values me highly as His special child. It changes my perspective about myself to realize how much He cares for me—how much He gave up for me. So, I can value myself, not more highly than others, but with high regard because “Jesus loves me, this I know.”
Can you say, “I’m in a good place”? Are you so focused on the future and on some big goal that you are discouraged that you’re not there yet? Are you looking back at the past, ashamed and embarrassed by what you’ve done or what’s been done to you?
“I’m in a good place” is about the here and now. Right now, I am “right and tight” with God. Right now, I am having my Quiet Time with Him. Right now, I am forgiven and clean. Because of Christ, I am righteous and holy, pure and sanctified.
When doubts about the future creep in, take a breath and say a prayer: “Thank you, God, that I belong to You. Thank You that You love me with an everlasting, unconditional love. Help me take comfort in that. Help me find Your peace.”
When despair or guilt from your past threaten to overwhelm you, call out to God. “Father, remind me of Your faithfulness. Show me Your power, the power which raised Jesus from the dead, and forgives all my sin. Thank you that you have made me a new creation, an eternal being who will reign on high with You.”
May you be “in a good place” in your mind and heart as you go through this day. When you drift, may the Holy Spirit quickly recall God’s promises to you, so that you come back to that place of peace and abiding in Him.
Some religions focus on guilt, sin, and the unworthiness of the sinner. Honestly, you cannot come to Jesus and truly accept His gift of salvation if you don’t realize how far you are from holy. God does want us to see our sin and unworthiness, so that we choose His forgiveness and the new life He offers.
However, God doesn’t want us to live in that place of sin and shame. It bogs us down; it makes us hopeless. It takes away all faith and courage to change. Guilt focuses on failure, and if we’re candid, it’s often repeated failure.
If you are feeling guilt, repent. Stop doing what you are doing that you know is disobedience to God. But if it is something in your past, let it go. Confess it to God. You may even need to confess it to someone else or talk it over with a counselor. But if you are no longer participating in the sin that makes you feel guilty, the guilt you feel is not from God. It’s not His Spirit convicting you to bring about change. It is just guilt and it’s not good.
When we feel badly about ourselves, we are discouraged in all areas. We certainly are not motivated or empowered to change. God wants you to believe, hope, and trust. So start with believing He has a plan for your life. Hope that you will dream again and come into all that He has for you. Trust that God has completely forgiven you and that, spiritually, you are in a good place in your relationship with Him.
In order to keep making progress, you have to see progress. Are you looking for the small steps and the wins each day? Each week? God wants you to evaluate your day with Him, every day. First, confess the things that went wrong and didn’t please Him: actions, thoughts, or things you neglected to do.
Then celebrate the things that did please Him! Were you kind to the grumpy customer? Patient with your children? Did you walk away from the gossip around the office coffee pot? Did you make it another day without turning to that addiction or “comfortable sin” that so often trips you? Those are things to celebrate!
When I’m talking with others, we often discuss God’s will. And I like to remind people that we don’t know the whole picture. Typically, God shows me my next step. Once I obey that, He gives me another step. So, to be in a good place with Him, I just need to seek Him and listen for my next step. Then, I need to take it! This will lead me exactly where He wants me to go—to that good place—where I am in the center of His will!
Being in sync with Jesus and His spirit is “the good place.” In fact, it’s the best place. Jesus talked a lot about abiding with Him, staying connected to the vine. I read an article recently that said the scariest thing a seed can do is put down the first root. Once it does that, it’s no longer free. It can’t move to better soil, nearer a water source, or out of the shade. It’s committed to that spot.
How I long to be committed to abiding in the vine! For a season, I’m good at staying in that good place. Then I get busy, or distracted, or tired of doing the work of a daily Quiet Time. Sometimes, I get bored with always doing the right thing, and decide to gossip just a bit or finish that book, though it has taken a dark turn.
To remain and abide take courage. It takes perseverance and endurance. But the rewards and blessings by far outweigh the work. Make a commitment today to stay in that good place of intimate relationship with God.