“Do you remember the story of Job? It’s a story of great suffering, but also of great strength, and even greater faith. Like in the story of Job, it can feel overwhelming to not be able to have a simple answer to suffering and hardship as we are enduring it, but God gives Himself as the ultimate answer. He is the ultimate comforter and healer, and He is our Redeemer.
A large portion of my life has been spent battling insecurity. I spent years listening to the voices that told me I was unlovable. That I wasn’t enough, that I was too much; that I was dumb and ugly, too soft and not worthy. The list could go on and on. I was told so many times who I was by others that, after a while, I started to believe them.
Have you ever felt like life was an uphill hike with a hundred-pound pack? God never promises life will be easy. He does tell us the heavy baggage we carry isn’t ours. When God is our guide, all that’s left to do is trust and be led.
It’s a concept that has flooded our culture and even my own thought processes and practices. And when I indulge in the $6 coffee or the new cardigan from Old Navy, I sometimes whisper under my breath, “treat yourself.” Because every now and then we should, in fact, treat ourselves. But today, as I sit and watch my youngest climb the furniture and terrorize the puppy, I’m struck with how the occasional Starbucks or frivolous spending does very little to actually propagate loving myself.
My life doesn’t look like I thought it would five years ago. In fact, I wear titles that I never dreamed I’d don. Titles that I’d always judged so harshly in others… assuming they’d done something to deserve the scarlet letter pinned to their chest. And that’s how it feels. Like a giant, red “D” is pasted to my forehead, announcing to the world that my marriage failed. That I am no longer a wife but an ex-wife and my children will now have to explain their parentage using the verbiage of “step” and “half.”
And the shame of it all! Shame that has tried to strangle and disqualify and bind and gag the voice that calls me worthy and beloved.
In James 2:13, the Word tells us that mercy triumphs over judgement. A sentiment I found so very hard to understand several years ago. The idea of God as King and Ruler and Master was so easy to fathom. He breathed the stars. His might evident in every ocean wave. I had even heard it said that God is as merciful as He is just. An idea I would have trumpeted for all the world if I hadn’t encountered the heart of His grace and mercy. Because while I’ve known Him for over half of my life, I’m just now getting to know Him. Knowing Him in the capacity of father and daughter is so much different than that of master and servant.
Not a license
Please. Hear my heart. God’s mercy and grace is not a license to sin, as discussed in Romans 6:14 and again in Jude 1:4. But if we ever had the ability to earn our way into heaven, I’m certain the cross and all of its violent glory would not have been necessary. And while some might believe that forgiveness simply excuses your sin and releases you from responsibility, I have discovered that love does not simply shore up my iniquity. It invites me into a relationship where to sin against the one I worship not only breaks His heart but mine as well.
And that’s it. This life-altering truth that shifted the way that I saw myself and in turn, others. After all, the greatest commandment was to love each other as we love ourselves.
The crimson robe of grace and forgiveness
Sometimes self-love looks like letting yourself off the hook. When Jesus confronted the woman found in adultery, this was His response,
“…I certainly do not condemn you. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.” -Romans 8:11
As far as we know, that’s exactly what she did. And that’s what I’m trying to do. While there was no great iniquity or adultery to speak of in my own case, just miscommunication and little foxes, this crimson letter is still one that tries to define me. But mercy says that the only label I wear is that of “His.” And when the Father looks at me, He doesn’t see my failures or my mess ups, but the perfect blood of Jesus. And if that’s good enough for Him, it’s enough for me too.
So if you were looking for permission, here it is. Treat yourself. Buy the shoes. Wear the lipstick. But more importantly, love yourself. Give mercy her triumph over judgment. Go and sin no more. Dance. Shout. And instead of your scarlet letter, whatever that letter may be, wear the crimson robe of grace and forgiveness.
Trust me. It looks good on you.
Read also: The Judge who paid the price
Would you say that you have transparent relationships?
Transparent – easy to see through, understand, or recognize; without concealment; open; frank; candid
Transparency is letting your guard completely down, humbling yourself and getting honest with others, yourself and most importantly, God.
Have you ever heard the saying, “you are what you eat?”
Although that refers to health and I 100% agree with healthy eating equating healthy outcomes, the Lord recently reframed that saying to me and said, “Hanna, you are what you say–externally and internally.”
I thought about that for a moment and remembered that wasn’t the first time Jesus said that. He told the same thing to some Pharisees in Matthew 15 where He says, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (v. 10-11)
Imagine: You are walking in the mall when you see someone from church, the person passes you but doesn’t greet you. The radars in your head start to work, “Is she angry with me?”, “Did I say something wrong the other day?” You start filling in your own story, your mind takes a walk with you and often it is in the negative realm. Do you recognize this?
Did you ever talk with people about faith and the truth of God and they said: ‘What is truth? Something that is true for you, is not necessarily true for me!’ Or: ‘Well, if your beliefs are working for you, if that’s the truth for you… that’s fine, but I see things differently!’ The overall idea seems to be– sometimes even among Christians – that absolute truth of God does not exist; they say truth depends on people and their views; it’s a personal thing, they say.