Do you deal with social anxiety? This girl does. She asks:
How do you deal with social anxiety? I get so nervous around people sometimes and always feel awkward. I’ve been praying about it, but it’s still bad. I want to witness to others, but I practically have a panic attack when I do!
So for her—and anyone who can relate—here are ten helpful ways I’ve personally found to push past social anxiety.
You have to push past social anxiety to love others well.
First, though, a disclaimer: If you’re an introvert, you don’t need to become an extrovert! Think of the following list of suggestions as a few tools for you to take or leave. No one is asking you to get a whole new personality and become the most gregarious person at the party. What we are seeking is to love and welcome others as we have been loved and welcomed by God through Christ.
Hopefully one or more of these suggestions will be helpful to that end.
1.Don’t hide behind your phone. Put it away when you’re with other people. It will help others feel more cared for and will help you engage them more easily. I’m guessing you’re actually better than you know at engaging people when the phone isn’t vying for your attention. You’ve got this!
2. Know that your approval comes not from people but from God. If you are looking to people to tell you what you’re worth, you will fear them instead of love them. Remember that we are all equal, each made in God’s image. If you have surrendered your life to Christ, you now have God’s full approval. And you have been given a mission to love Him with all your heart and to love others as you love yourself. You have to push past social anxiety to love others well.
3. Don’t be afraid to be awkward. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said or done awkward things. But here’s the deal: It’s not a sin to be awkward. It is, however, a violation of God’s law not to love others. In order not to stay perpetually awkward, give yourself permission to be awkward for a while. And if you hurt someone in the process, be sure to seek forgiveness.
4. Ask questions. If you can’t think of questions to ask on the spot, it’s not cheating to have some prepared. For example, when I see someone new at church, I’ll often ask, “How long have you been attending?” followed by “How did you hear about us?” Then I can think of other spontaneous questions to ask them once the conversation is rolling.
5. Listen well. Now that you’ve asked a good question, your job is done, right? Wrong! Don’t let your mind wander. Listen well to how they answer your question. Don’t worry about thinking through your response or your next question—just listen well.
6. If you really want to go the extra mile, jot down notes after you talk to them while the conversation is still fresh in your mind. I often take notes on my phone when I meet someone new whom I think I might bump into again. My notes consist of their name plus an identifying characteristic and maybe something interesting I learned about them. That way, I can always go back and reference my notes later if (okay, when!) I forget their name.
7. Pray. Even though I usually feel like leaving the building right after service on Sundays, I’ve gotten into the habit of asking God, “Who do you want me to talk to today?” I then look for someone to introduce myself to or to say “hi” to. We’re almost always the last to vacate the premises!
8. Practice. Stretch yourself. Try sticking around on Sunday until you’ve found someone to talk to. Practice striking up a conversation with the cashier at the mall. Try smiling at the strangers you pass on the street or in the halls at school. See and engage people wherever you go, just like Jesus did while He lived on earth.
9. Remember that others are insecure, too, and don’t take it personally if they don’t seem interested in talking back. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend, but you should seek to consistently be friendly. Don’t only talk to the friends you’re comfortable with. Seek out new faces, and do your best to make them feel welcome.
10. Focus on becoming a “there you are” person. There are a few blog posts you read and never forget. This one by Jani Ortlund is one of them for me. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it was to me!
What did I forget? Any other tips you’ve found helpful for pushing past social anxiety? Why do you think it’s so important to work on it?
Do I care enough about the next generation—and ultimately God’s glory—to fight for them even when there’s nothing in it for me?
This is the question Hezekiah and Josiah’s stories have me asking myself.
Just as a little refresher: Hezekiah and Josiah were both kings of Judah. Hezekiah was crowned in 715 B.C.; Josiah began to reign seventy-five years later in 640 B.C. Overall, the Bible tells us they were both good kings (see 2 Kings 18:1–8 and 22:1–2).
But as I read through their stories recently, I stumbled across a troubling difference between these two men.
Hezekiah’s “Me-Only” Mentality
The story goes like this. One day, God sent the prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah to tell him that the people of Judah would be taken captive to Babylon because of their sin and rebellion. God let Hezekiah know that even some of his own sons would be taken captive. And this was Hezekiah’s response:
Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19, emphasis added).
Hezekiah was fine hearing this bad news, because it didn’t impact him personally. How often do I have the same reaction? I hear a story or encounter a need, and I shrug my shoulders. After all, I’m busy, and thankfully that situation doesn’t impact me. . . . Or does it? Is it my little life and kingdom I’m living for . . . or the advancement of God’s kingdom?
I relate far too well with Hezekiah’s standoffishness. But then I read of Josiah’s very different response.
Josiah’s “It Matters” Mentality
King Josiah’s challenge to me picks up when he was just twenty-six. He sent a few men to the temple of God on a specific mission. While there, these men stumbled across a copy of the Book of the Law. They came back and read the book to Josiah, and when he heard it, he tore his clothes and wept before God. He then sent men to inquire of the Lord what would happen, because Josiah knew the people of Judah hadn’t been obeying God’s law.
So these men went to Huldah the prophetess, and she told them that God would indeed bring disaster on these people, because they had forsaken God and made offerings to other false gods. “But,” she continued, “tell King Josiah this:”
“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place” (2 Kings 22:18–20, emphasis added).
What You and I Can Learn from Josiah
Like Hezekiah, Josiah heard of Judah’s soon demise and was also assured that this would happen after his death. But even though it wouldn’t impact him personally, Josiah instantly got to work.
He led the people in making a covenant with the Lord, that they would keep His commands with all their heart (v. 3).
He burned all the idols that were in the house of the Lord (v. 4).
He fired the priests that previous kings had hired to make offerings to false gods (v. 5).
He destroyed the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the Lord (v. 7).
He wrecked “Topheth” where parents sacrificed their children to the false god, Molech (v. 10).
He commanded the people to start celebrating the Passover again (vv. 21–23).
And much more!
Even though captivity wouldn’t impact him personally, Josiah fought for the next generation. Since captivity was punishment for Judah’s sin, Josiah did everything in his power to help the people return to God.
Fighting for the Next Generation
Josiah’s story convicts me big time. Do I really care about the next generation, even when what happens to them won’t impact me personally? For starters, do I know the names of the children and teens in my local church? Am I aware of what is going on in their lives? If not, who can I deliberately reach out to this next Sunday?
Do I long for God’s glory to be seen in the next generation? Do I care that the next generation obeys God and doesn’t worship false gods? Is there someone I could begin to invest in and build a relationship with—even if it’s just to invite them to come with me when I run errands next?
How about you? Do you have the same heart attitude as Hezekiah . . . or as Josiah? What action can you begin to take today to get to work for the next generation?
Don’t think you’re boy-crazy? You just might be surprised.
Take the Boy-Crazy Quiz
Take the Boy-Crazy Quiz to find out where your focus is. Simply answer “yes” or “no” to these thirteen questions.
In a room full of people, do you always know where “he” is? (yes/no)
Are boys your number-one favorite topic of conversation with your friends? (yes/no)
Do you often dress to catch a guy’s attention? (yes/no)
Do you replace one crush with another almost as soon as you realize the first relationship is not going anywhere? (yes/no)
Have you asked a guy out? (yes/no)
Do you have your eye on more than one guy at a time? (yes/no)
Do you believe you’d finally be completely happy if you had a boyfriend? (yes/no)
Do you change your schedule or plans in order to bump into him? (yes/no)
Do you tend to have more guy friends than girlfriends? (yes/no)
When you’re relaxing with a good book, movie, or song, do you pick those that are filled with ooey-gooey romance? (yes/no)
If you journal or pray, are your pages or prayers filled with thoughts and requests about guys? (yes/no)
Are you always trying to figure out which guys like you? (yes/no)
Would you be willing to get a total makeover for a guy? Not the hair, make-up, and new-clothes kind, but the “I’ll change who I am at my core if that’s what it takes to get you” kind? (yes/no)
Where to Go from Here
If you answered “yes” to several or all of these questions, that says something important about your heart. It clues you in to what your heart loves. What your heart fears, even. Do your answers point to you being more crazy about your Creator God or about guys?
Speaking from experience, boy-craziness is a road that will ultimately lead to heartache and loss (Ps. 16:4). True joy and freedom, on the other hand, are found in God’s presence (Ps. 16:11).
We’re giving away three copies of Confessions today. To enter to win one, log on to the giveaway widget and then leave a comment below by Valentine’s Day, letting me know what you learned from taking this quiz.
In the meantime, let’s continue this conversation. Over the next couple of days, we’re going to explore two questions:
I was moving fast when my friend texted me her grievances against another. Company was due to arrive within the hour, and everything seemed to be happening at once. Between combining the liquid mixture for the corn muffins and texting my hubby about what I needed him to pick up from the store, I texted some hard truth to my friend in response to her message.
Then, with messy hands, I forwarded my response to three people who were aware of the situation and who were praying for my friend. I wrote, “Just sent this to our friend. Please pray. Her heart is so hard.”
Only I accidentally included my friend in the group text. Ugh, ugh, double ugh.
Yes, I had been growing increasingly concerned for her, but after this incident, I realized it would have been best to share my concern with just her and God. Instead, I hurt her deeply. Where did I go wrong?
I was moving too fast. Proverbs 19:2 makes clear, “Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”
I assumed the role of savior, which only belongs to God. How much better to pray for my friend, “[I] do not know what to do, but [my] eyes are on you [God]” (2 Chron. 20:12).
I forwarded a text, which reeked of gossip. Paul warned of those who “learn to be . . . gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1 Tim. 5:13).
I shared a prayer request about someone else without her permission to do so. As Proverbs 25:9 says, “Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret.”
Three Resolutions for Becoming a More Trustworthy Friend
As I asked God to change my heart and make me a more trustworthy friend, I set a few boundaries in place.
1. I resolved not to share prayer requests about anyone other than myself, unless I’ve explicitly asked their permission.
Proverbs 11:13 says, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.”
Someone who reveals another’s secrets is a slanderer, according to the Bible. The King James calls such a person a “talebearer.” We probably don’t think of prayer requests as “bearing tales,” but if we dropped the “Please pray for so-and-so,” would it look any different than talebearing? Let’s not use prayer as a way to gossip through the back door.
2. I resolve not to forward other’s messages to me (or my responses) without permission.
It’s way too easy in our connected world to share other people’s struggles with others. It often feels necessary, as we believe in the power of prayer. The more people praying, the better, right?
But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe, just maybe, you and I are using prayer as a thin guise for gossip, fear, frustration, and support.
3. I resolve to wait to share hard truth with others until I can talk in person or on the phone.
This requires slowing down. It requires not freaking out in the moment and thinking that a problem’s resolution depends on you and you alone. It requires boldness to address a problem without the protective wall of electronic text between you. And it requires crying out in deep dependence to the one and only Savior, rather than trying to do His work for Him, as if He’s on vacation.
Six Questions to Ask to Prevent Subtle Gossip
What if we asked ourselves the following questions before sharing someone else’s business with others?
Has my friend given me permission to share this “prayer request” with others? Am I considering my friend before myself (Phil. 2:3)?
How much time has passed between the time I learned of this need and the time I’m sharing it with others? Am I sharing it impulsively?
If not a lot of time has passed, am I sharing this in a panic? Am I trusting in the Lord to act (Ps. 37:5), or am I trusting in myself to be the savior?
How seriously have I prayed about this issue myself before reaching out to others? Have I knelt in prayer? How long did I pray over it?
Do I believe that the earnest prayer of a single righteous person avails much (James 5:16)? Or do I think my prayers are not enough to move the heart of God?
Could I be embarrassed at some point that I sent this text or email? (If so, I probably shouldn’t send it.)
It Takes More Than Good Intentions
Oh, I know it’s easy to think our intentions are good. I thought that originally, too. But maybe we should distrust our intentions a bit more than we do. Even if our base intentions are good, we should always be on guard of having mixed motives. Love can often attach itself with the sinful desire to know other people’s stuff, to be “in the know,” or to feel puffed up that our lives aren’t so messy.
In my case, regardless of my original motives, I broke trust, and at that point, the only fitting response for me was one of repentance.
So that’s what I did. That evening after our company left, I called my friend and left a voicemail asking for forgiveness. I gave her space to call me when she was ready to talk. Eventually, she graciously forgave me, but because of the trust I damaged by sharing what was not mine to share, it will take time for her to be able to regard me as the fully faithful friend that I desire to be, with God’s help.
How about you? Will you strive to love faithfulness more than the pleasure of gossip? Will you join me in resolving to be oh-so-careful before we share about others?
Let us strive to be like the women recommended in 1 Timothy 3:11: “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.”
After all, we serve and represent the most trustworthy, faithful Friend of all.
“Let him go. Move on, already,” your friends tell you. “Like, yesterday. You should be over him by now!” After all, it has been months. Years.
But still, he haunts your thoughts—dropping by frequently, oblivious to the fact that he’s not welcome—threatening to sabotage not only your past but your present. Like a shackle attached to your ankle, you drag this dead hope of a relationship with you wherever you go.
Meet Someone Else Who Couldn’t Stop Looking Back
You’re not the only one who can’t seem to stop looking back with longing. Over and over in the book of Numbers, God’s people, the Israelites, rebel against Him. They get hung up on their cravings, (“What I wouldn’t do right now for a leek!”) and wish for their past as slaves to Pharaoh. Here’s just one example of them looking wistfully over their shoulders:
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (Num. 14:1–4).
“Let us go back to Egypt”?! The Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for 420 years. It had not been a vacation. There were bricks to be made and backs to be whipped and no relief in sight . . . until God intervened. He sent Moses to perform mighty acts and deliver His people from their hard labor and heavy burdens.
So Close . . .
He then began to lead them to the Promised Land, the land He had promised their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In this particular passage above, they were poised to enter the Promised Land. Twelve spies had been sent to spy it out, and ten came back with a fearful report:
“The land . . . is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height . . . and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers” (13:32–33).
Two of the twelve spies, however, reported:
“The land . . . is an exceedingly good land. . . . Do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them” (14:7–9).
Stop looking back, and instead believe that your God is good—and that all He does is good—and move on.
But instead of believing the two spies—and ultimately believing God—the people of Israel chose fear over faith. They cried out with longing for the “good ol’ days” in slavery.
As a result of their unbelief, God destined them to forty years of wandering in the wilderness (one year for each day the spies spied out the Promised Land), and ensured their fears would become reality:
“What you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in the wilderness . . . not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except [the two spies who gave the good report]. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in” (14:28–31).
Let Him Go, and Move On
This is more than just a Bible story. Did you know that 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that these accounts were written for us, for our instruction? I know your circumstances are different, but like the Israelites, do you believe God made a mistake? That God held out on you? Do you believe life would be better if only this guy had pursued you?
Are you obeying God’s command to avoid idolatry (1 Cor. 10:7)? My guess is that if you’re still living under the shadow of this relationship that didn’t materialize, you have most likely idolized this guy. Please don’t confuse love for lust, covetousness, and idolatry.
Please don’t confuse love for lust, covetousness, and idolatry.
Repent of making the hope of this relationship your ultimate hope. Believe God and move forward under His leadership. He wants to bless you, if you will only trust His heart. He is drawing you away from the slavery of idolatry and covetousness and into the Promised Land of contentment as His treasured possession, living under His rule.
Stop looking back, and instead believe that your God is good—and that all He does is good—and move on. Move forward, and watch God bring you out into a broad, spacious place.
“Will I go to hell if I’m not a virgin?” a single girl asked me.
I wish I could scoff, “Of course not!” But the truth is, it all depends . . .
Hell: Our Default Destination
Let’s start with this basic understanding: Every person’s default destination is Hell. That’s because without exception:
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
While our culture ridicules the notion that sex is off-limits to everyone other than a man and a woman united in marriage, God says otherwise.
We all sin in countless ways, but let’s specifically address this girl’s question about choosing to have premarital sex.
While our culture ridicules the notion that sex is off-limits to everyone other than a man and a woman united in marriage, God says otherwise.
First Corinthians 6:13–20 explains:
The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?
For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Choosing to have sex outside of marriage is sin, and all sin results in death—physical death and eternal death in hell (Rom. 6:23).
That’s because our God is stunningly more holy than we can imagine:
You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong (Hab. 1:13).
Believe me, I get how hard it is to swallow the fact that all of us deserve hell. To us, hell seems like “a divine overreaction.” But as author Randy Alcorn writes:
If we understood God’s nature and ours, we would be shocked not that some people could go to hell, but that any would be permitted into heaven. Unholy as we are, we are disqualified from saying that infinite holiness doesn’t demand everlasting punishment.
So the million dollar question is this. How can this girl who is no longer a virgin—and how can you and I—exchange our one-way ticket to hell . . . for heaven?
How to Exchange Our One-Way Ticket to Hell . . . for Heaven
We can’t on our own. But Someone has done it for us. Jesus chose to endure hell for you and me so we might have the option of entering the joys of heaven.
He [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
Jesus chose to endure hell for you and me so we might have the option of entering the joys of heaven.
Because of our sin, you and I deserve hell. But Jesus has made a way for us, instead, to enjoy Him forever in heaven. In response to this girl who asked, “Will I go to heaven if I’m not a virgin?” I have to ask:
Have you accepted Jesus’ unbelievably heroic, extravagant gift?
Have you confessed and turned from your sins?
First John 1:9 promises that:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Hell will be full of those who have sinned sexually (and in other ways). Heaven will also be filled with people who formerly sinned sexually (and in other ways). What’s the difference? It has nothing to do with the sins you’ve committed, but with whether you have embraced the Sin-Slayer, Jesus Christ, your righteous Substitute . . . and turned from your sin as a result.
PS: I am indebted to Randy Alcorn for his insights on hell in chapters 3 and 4 of his bookHeaven.
Recently I heard from a girl who was struggling to remain pure. She had just started dating a guy long distance. After her first weekend visit, she wrote:
The physical temptation is so real. Even the smallest thing will set off a wildfire in my heart. . . . It’s a war I didn’t realize I would struggle with. I wish I had been more prepared to guard our hearts in the most heart-racing moments.
I can relate.
My Rule-Making Strategy
Before Trevor and I married, we also dated long distance. I’ll never forget my first visit to spend time with him over Christmas. Unlike this girl above, I did anticipate that it would be tough physically. So I set a couple rules for myself before boarding the plane:
No lying down horizontally.
No kissing on the lips.
And while I technically didn’t break either of those rules on that first visit, I found myself flirting at the very edges of those boundaries, like a hummingbird hovering near sweet nectar.
I kept “the letter of the law” while ignoring “the spirit of the law.” I observed my literal rules but not the intent behind the rules: purity, so I might see and enjoy God (Matt. 5:8).
Don’t just run from sexual immorality, though. Run to Christ.
It was soon blazingly obvious: Rules weren’t going to do the trick of keeping me pure. For example, if I had set a boundary, “I won’t be in a bedroom with him with the door closed,” my flesh would surely have countered, “Okay, I’ll go to the garage instead.”
Pastor and theologian Gerald Hiestand describes this well when he writes, “Every ‘objective’ boundary can be worked around by sin-inspired creativity.”
Colossians 2:20–23 also explains that boundaries and rules aren’t enough to keep us from doing wrong. On our own, they’re not capable of getting to the root issue—they don’t deal a deathblow to our ungodly passions and desires.
What, then, is to be done?
Your Dating Strategy
First, as 1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality.” Get your running shoes on and start sprinting like mad! Don’t just run from sexual immorality, though. Run to Christ.
Flee sexual immorality and fly to Christ, in whom every treasure is found.
Ask God to send His Spirit to help you see and despise your sin.
Be brutal with your sin. Don’t just exile it; cut its head off!
I’m not saying there is no place in dating for boundaries. But even if you do set rules, don’t rely on them alone to keep you pure. You aren’t strong enough to battle your ungodly passions in your own strength. Run to Christ. Only He is strong enough.
Be brutal with your sin. Don’t just exile it; cut its head off!
How about you? Have you set any rules or boundaries for yourself once you begin dating? If so, what will you do when your flesh doesn’t cooperate with your good intentions? Then what?
Sounds great, right? But a few wise people encouraged me to have someone else respond to guys on my behalf, and I wrote and posted the following message on the contact page of my website:
A note for the guys:
Sorry, gents, I know I just put myself out there as a boy-crazy girl, but the purpose of this site isn’t to find a guy. I’m sorry I won’t be responding to personal inquiries—too busy investing in the girls.
I knew my advisors were right. As much as I wanted to get married someday, that wasn’t why I wrote Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl. So I “set my face like a flint” and continued investing in teen girls.
I instantly noticed that he had 1,000 followers and a blog where he’d done book reviews in the past. I was still hard at work marketing my book (contrary to popular belief, your work is just getting started once you finish a manuscript!). At the time, I was reaching out to bloggers, asking if I could send them a free copy of Confessions in exchange for an honest review.
So of course, I direct messaged Trevor, asking if he’d consider reading and writing a review of my book. He responded the same day, and our friendship began. He wrote a wonderful review of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, and we began to message each other on Facebook where we weren’t limited by 140 characters.
He seemed to be as busy as me, so there was more than once where a couple weeks passed with no Facebook messages, and I was certain our conversation would fizzle out (after all, that’s how the script had always gone!).
But somehow we kept talking, and after about four months, Trevor sent me the following message. (He had vacation days he needed to use up, and he’d been considering driving to Minneapolis for the Desiring God Conference.)
I wanna shoot something by you and hear your thoughts. I was thinking, “Ya know what, Desiring God posts all of their content for free from all of their conferences, and I have been to their conferences before, and I know what the experience is like. So maybe I don’t need to drive all the way out to MN. But I certainly wouldn’t mind taking a vacation in September before my vacation time expires, and one very real option is to visit this Paula girl.” So, idk, those are some super general and preliminary thoughts, but what do ya think? Is southern MI a visit-worthy place? And will or will I not consume all of the chicken at the Chick-Fil-As in southern Michigan?
Eeeeeeee! I responded,
This Paula girl thinks that’s one of the best ideas she’s heard in a long time! MI is a swell place to vacation; an even better place to live. Let me put together a list of ideas for you and see what you think.
I was excited. I liked him. Of course I did! But still, I didn’t know if he liked me as anything more than a friend. Maybe he just thought it was cool to message an “author.” I couldn’t read him. Besides, experience had taught me that I shouldn’t ever assume a guy liked me until he specifically told me so himself.
And lest you think I never struggled again after writing Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, let me share a journal entry I wrote before Trevor visited:
Wow, God. Thank You for showing me Yourself just now as I spent time in Philippians 2 reading about how I was to “count others more significant than myself” and “look not only to my own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
After reading this I grabbed my phone and went out to weed my garden. I checked and saw that Trevor was “active now” on Facebook, so I started a conversation with him about his hunting safety course.
He responded to my questions, but he didn’t ask me any to keep the conversation going. So I stopped the conversation and got back to weeding, feeling stupid and unloved.
I wasn’t counting him more significant than me. I never even considered that he might be in a conversation with someone else or . . .
How I need Your grace, Abba, to put on the mind of Christ and make myself nothing and serve Trevor without expecting anything in return. Maybe he legitimately just wants to be my friend and nothing more.
I recognize now that I’ll gladly host him on his vacation (and mine) IF he makes me feel attractive and interesting. But if he’s just not that into me, I’ll resent him and everything I plan and do for and with him.
What if this is not Your man for me? What if You want me to humble myself as You humbled Yourself and serve him as You served me, demanding nothing in return?
Ouch, ouch, ouch! Suddenly this passage became intensely personal. Oh God, thanks for humbling Yourself and obeying Your Father so You might save this proud, proud girl. Make me like Your beautiful self. Catch me up in the romance with You, not with a mere mortal.
With that I asked my close friends to pray with me that I would love Trevor well by showing him a great vacation—without expecting anything in return. I knew that apart from God’s power that would be impossible for me.
Then I journaled,
Trevor comes this week. Do you have something there beyond friendship? Lead me so clearly, Good, Kind Shepherd.
And oh, how He did. Check back tomorrow to read about Trevor’s visit.
Someone asked me if I’d write about my journey from “boy-crazy to my man.” (If you haven’t heard, I’m getting married!)
I didn’t respond to this person’s request for a while, because I was hesitant to share my “love story.” Not because I’m not excited. Boy howdy, I am!
It’s just that I remember all too well how I used to ask married and engaged couples, “How did you get together?!” I’d lean in, soaking in every word, listening attentively to learn the secret.
As they’d share the details of their story, my hopes would rise or fall based on how similar my current circumstances were to theirs (as if God only has one love story script!).
That’s why I want to be careful about how I share this story with you. I don’t want you to hear, “I finally got a guy who stuck around . . . so surely there’s hope for you!”
‘Cause speaking of hope . . . I’ve noticed that lots of you are struggling not to give up hope.
Emily titled her email to me, “Is there any hope at all?” Here’s an excerpt:
My single girlfriends and I grew up in wonderful Christian homes where strong godly marriages were modeled, and we grew up dreaming of being wives and moms someday. We never dated around or tried to attract attention to ourselves and have even been told by lots of people that they don’t understand why we are still single. Neither do we!
I think the reason that we still struggle with boy-craziness is simply out of desperation. It’s not like we each have a hoard of guys hovering around us, and we just have to pick one. Nope, there really aren’t any guys—at all.
So whenever there is the smallest inkling of hope, we promptly do the “spiritual” thing and start praying for him every day, conniving ways to be where he is and give him a chance to observe us in a group setting, and get our hopes up . . . only to be disappointed when there really wasn’t much of anything there in the first place. It’s terrible.
Emily says it’s terrible because there are two kinds of hope—and she has the wrong kind.
I realized that there are two kinds of hope the day I read 1 Peter 1. Check out verses three and thirteen:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
As I read about the “living hope” we have because Christ has been raised from the dead, I realized that there are also “dead hopes.”
And although I’m commanded to “set my hope fully on the grace that will be mine when Jesus returns for me,” I realize that much of the time I set my hope on so much less: a relationship or success or [fill in the blank].
There is hope—not because you’re currently surrounded by hoards of Christian guys (or even one!), not because you’re the most beautiful girl in your circle of friends (or a close second!)—but because Jesus Christ is returning for you, and you will live forever with Him.
There is hope. But there are two kinds: the dead kind and the living kind. Which kind do you have? (You’ll know by thinking about what sends your emotions soaring . . . or plummeting.) What specifically are you setting your hope on? I’d love to hear.
If you can see that yours is a dead hope, dig into 1 Peter 1. As you do, ask God to lift your eyes from your present situation to Him. Repent of (turn from) your dead hopes, and ask Him to help you begin to set your hope fully on Christ, your Living Hope.
Last week I shared 4 Ways to Encourage Others Without Even Trying. Today, though, I want to encourage you to be extra intentional about encouraging someone through a handwritten letter. So here are ten steps to writing an encouraging letter:
1. Plan ahead.
It won’t happen otherwise. Choose a regular time to write a letter or two. It could be each morning after you spend time with God, or every Sunday afternoon, or at the beginning of each month. And don’t miss the biggies. Does anyone have a birthday this month? (Don’t forget Father’s Day is this Sunday!)
2. Choose who you want to encourage.
Who is currently going through a rough time? Who did something recently that meant a lot to you? Who can you thank? Who is on your heart today? Who needs Jesus?
3. Examine your motives.
Why do you want to write them a letter? Are you puffing them up in order to get something out of them? Or . . . Why do you not want to write a letter to them? Are you jealous of them? Confess your sinful motives to God, and ask Him to purify your heart.
4. Pray for them.
Don’t just write a letter telling them that you will or you are praying for them—do it right then! There’s no greater, more powerful gift you can give someone than heartfelt, urgent prayer through Jesus to the Father.
5. Let them know you prayed for them.
Even let them know how you prayed for them. Something like, “I prayed that God would help you believe truth during this time, and hope in Him alone . . .”
6. Be specific.
So you appreciate them. But what specifically do you appreciate about them? So you’re grateful for them. Why? If they’re a believer, where do you see God’s grace in their life? How specifically do you see them looking more like Christ on a daily basis?
7. Share Scripture with them.
Romans 15:4 tells us that, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” As believers in Christ, we—of all people—can offer lasting encouragement and hope. Don’t preach, but do point them to Christ and His promises. You don’t have to include a litany of verses; I’ve found that one power-packed verse goes a long way (Prov. 25:11).
8. Keep it short.
If your letter is pages and pages long, most people won’t read it. Short and sweet all the way, baby!
9. Handwrite it.
This isn’t necessary, but it’s definitely extra special. (FWIW: I usually write or type a rough draft ahead of time, so the actual card isn’t a mess.)
10. Invest in some cards and stamps.
If you don’t have the money, lined paper will do just fine. But if you can invest a few extra bucks into cards, it will go a long way in making others feel loved.
I buy the value pack of blank cards from Hobby Lobby and glue the fronts of cards people have given me onto them (I know, I know, just call me el cheapo!).
I like to keep a basket of cards, paper, envelopes, pens, scissors, and glue on hand so I can whip out a card on a moment’s notice. You might want to do the same.
Are you available to share God’s encouragement with others who desperately need it?
But don’t worry if you’re not artsy. This isn’t about making you look good. It doesn’t matter if your card is Pinterest-worthy. The main thing is: Are you available to share God’s encouragement with others who desperately need it?
Writing a letter isn’t the only way to encourage someone. But it sure is a great way to put into practice Philippians 2:1–5,
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
At the beginning of this post, I asked if you knew where your local post office is. If not, you can find the nearest location here. And if you want to know how much a stamp costs, learn the answer here. Happy letter writing!