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The Weightless Life

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The guilt starts early. I wake up and look at the clock, blinking the sleep from my eyes to make sure. The digital numbers proclaim 8:06. I've done it again. The alarm went off at 7:30, but I silenced it and fell back to sleep. Instead of spending that half hour with God, I spent it with my face smashed against the pillow.

Rolling out of bed, I stumble to the closet to find an outfit, then downstairs to eat a speedy breakfast. Having made no conscious decisions, I am sitting at the kitchen table, indulging in a plate of syrup-drenched waffles.

Oh, wait. The first bite is sweet. Warm butter oozes from the waffle. I was going to eat oatmeal this morning. The decadent waffle adopts the flavor of sawdust. So much for eating healthy.

On the forty-minute drive to work, a stream of songs from the radio lulls me into a stupor. Much later, I remember my intention to use this morning's commute for prayer, since several friends are in the midst of difficult trials. I groan and hit the steering wheel. The weight of guilt gets heavier.

So it continues. Good intentions melt like chocolate in a hot car. A day of purposeful living turns into one of laziness and apathy. By the end of the day, I'm staggering under the weight of accumulated guilt. Like Paul in Romans 7:18, "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." With minimal resistance, I yield to the surrounding temptations and choose to indulge my flesh. Instead of serving God and others, I serve myself. It's easy. It requires no effort. Selfishness comes naturally. Guilt follows at its heels, falling on me with the weight of a thousand bricks.

This type of guilt disguises itself as humility. Shouldn't I beat myself up for skipping quiet time? It seems right to feel guilty.

The problem with accepting such guilt is that it allows me to continue the self-deprecating thoughts. I'm a failure, a loser, and a lousy Christian. I shouldn't bother trying again tomorrow or pausing at this moment to check in with Jesus. I'll only disappoint Him again. How can He put up with someone who professes to know Him but forgets to spend any time with Him?

Sometimes I feel like God can cover the "big" sins but not the "little" sins. Why can a person fall on her knees to receive healing and forgiveness for a sexual sin, but she can't accept the same grace for surfing the internet during her prayer time? Perhaps because the little mistakes—the daily ones—seem "easy" to avoid. I should be able to get up and read the Bible every morning. I should remember to pray for my friend who has cancer. If I can't even do these things, well, I'm a failure at life.

That's right. On my own, I am a failure at life. I can't remember to seek God or even desire to seek Him without the work of the Holy Spirit. In life's darkest hours, I realize that and depend on Him for the strength to do the simplest tasks. When life is numbed by routine, I forget my weakness and try to use willpower to serve God. But it doesn't work. Because I can't measure up, the weight of guilt comes crashing down instead. I end up believing end up believing that God's grace is not available every day: only on special occasions.

The language of the New Testament confirms that God does not want me to be trapped in an endless cycle of guilt like a hamster on a wheel. Paul writes that "the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). He tells the Galatians, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1). It's clear that Jesus came to set His people free from sin and its resulting guilt.

According to Paul, the secret of evading the magnetic pull of life under the law is to live consciously in the Spirit. Life in the Spirit does not mean complete avoidance of temptation and sin. In the world, I will be tempted and make mistakes. These facts are depressing, but there is better news. Christ's sacrifice is complete. He has paid for every sin and for every mistake—past, present, and future. When I confess sin, He forgives it. Just as a musician stops at the moment he plays a wrong note and goes back to get it right, so I must stop at the moment of self-indulgence and settle the matter with God. Yes, it's disappointing to fail. I'll accept the natural consequences. But I won't shoulder a single brick of guilt. God says that confession results in forgiveness, and forgiveness means freedom from guilt.

It's the twilight of a long day, and the drive home after Wednesday night Bible study provides time to think. At the study, I felt led to share something. Because of fear or laziness, I didn't say it. As the sunset's rosy fingers splay across the western sky, a familiar temptation approaches and I can almost feel the weight of guilt. Something prompts me to stop, consider, and remember. I take a reluctant moment to pray, admitting to God that I didn't obey and asking for His help when another opportunity comes.

I take a deep breath. Freedom. Finally, I'm weightless.

Jessicabolingbio2Jessica spent the first 23 years of her life in Tennessee, and the next two serving as a resident assistant at a missionary boarding school in Germany. Now back in Tennessee, she lives in a little yellow house and works a plethora of part-time jobs. Her favorite is running a homeschool cooperative based on Charlotte Mason’s educational ideals. Learn more about Jessica by visiting her blog, I Wonder as I wander.

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Jessica spent the first 23 years of her life in Tennessee, and the next two serving as a resident assistant at a missionary boarding school in Germany. Now back in Tennessee, she lives in a little yellow house and works a plethora of part-time jobs. Her favorite is running a homeschool cooperative based on Charlotte Mason's educational ideals. Learn more about Jessica by visiting her blog, I Wonder as I wander.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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The Weightless Life

by Jessica Boling time to read: 4 min
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