Questioning Everything

Inner healing, identity, and dark night of the soul
Photo by _Marion at Pixabay

Have you ever felt like one day you woke up and everything you believed was in question? I’m experiencing this right now but am quite sure I am not yet even fully awake. So, not only am I questioning all of the things that I have always “known” for sure, but I am also groggy from the process of getting here. It took a lot of upheaval to get me here.

About three years ago, after a series of very traumatic events, I found myself questioning everything I had ever believed. I questioned myself, my identity, my “calling,” my choices, my beliefs, my faith, and oftentimes, even God. All those things I had always felt so secure in suddenly weren’t. And, quite honestly, I didn’t know how to respond.

In my quest to stop the spinning (envision the little icon on your computer when it can’t settle), I felt like the only way I could get any peace was to be very still and quiet. Before long, quiet was the only thing I desired. I was completely raw inside and out. My brain felt foggy, my body lethargic, and my heart broken. I didn’t know how to get out of this experience.

Generally, when I have had a circumstance of upheaval in my life, whether emotional or spiritual, I would just read all of the books, articles, etc. on how to deal with it. This time I had no energy to read, and if I did attempt to read, I was unable to process information. I knew I needed help, so I reached out to a few friends that I trusted knew me enough to help me navigate this chasm of chaos.

I called on those friends to sit in the darkness with me. I didn’t want to be around anyone very often because I found that conversation was exhausting. However, I had been through depression before and just needed to make sure I was safe, still somewhat sane, and didn’t need professional help. “Taking my emotional pulse” kind of friends. I knew these folks wouldn’t discount me when I needed to rant, cuss, spit, and growl. They had no idea what they were in for. God bless them for persevering. I ranted, spat, cussed, and cried for a couple of years. They were enduring to say the least. Most importantly, they didn’t try to fix me. They just sat with me in my pain.

Sometimes we would sit at the barn with the horses, a stray cat, chickens, and a rooster that I’m sure needed deliverance. Or we would sit by the creek with a bottle of wine. Sometimes Susan would treat us to her homemade cookies and infamous chicken salad. They seemed to be completely content just sitting and listening. Wherever we were, no matter what we were doing or not doing, they seemed content to sit in my mess with me.

I called on another couple of friends to counsel me into or out of this experience that I began to think was a mid-life crisis. I didn’t really want to admit it, but that thought ran through my mind. I didn’t google what I was going through. I just knew it was pain. Deep emotional pain. And, quite honestly, I couldn’t remedy it with the things that had worked before: eating, drinking, art, good music, nature, etc. It just kept hanging on like a bad cold. It affected me like a bad cold too. No energy, stuffy headed, just wanted to rest and be quiet.

After a couple of prayer ministry sessions with friends of mine, I began to understand that what I was going through was called the Dark Night of the Soul. The dark night of the soul is just that – a place where your soul questions everything and the Teacher is quiet. The thing that stood out like a siren was the silence of the Lord. I had never gone for such a long time without hearing, being led by, or enjoying the Lord. Not only did I not hear Him or sense Him, but also I certainly didn’t feel His peace or presence. I thought He had abandoned me at my worst.

So, for three years, almost four now, I have been sitting, waiting, resting, arguing, growling, contemplating, wondering where the Lord is and what His intention is in allowing me to be in this place. I still don’t know. But what I do know is that I am not affected by dumb things as much as I used to be. I have way more sensitivities to the things that do matter. I am more at rest. More at peace. I have more tolerance for “stupid” (the one conclusion from the doctor out of my psych test when I went into ministry was that I had no tolerance for “stupid”). I was perplexed (and still am) as I had no idea I was supposed to tolerate “stupid.” Hey, I was just glad for documented evidence that I wasn’t crazy.

Inner healing, identity, and dark night of the soul
Photo by Comfreak at Pixabay

The dark night of the soul is the process of the Lord stripping you of the things that are really irrelevant regarding the issues of your heart. He wants to bring you out of any of the crutches you have depended on in your relationship with Him. He wants you to give up your faith and give up what works and what doesn’t work. He wants to tear down the falsehoods you believe about yourself, others, and mostly the falsehoods you believe about Him. Take you back to the beginning, so to speak, in your relationship with Him. No pretense, no knowledge, just the decision to walk alongside Him blindly without trying to figure things out. Pulling down all strongholds of belief about your religion, your denomination, your worship. He even took away my interest in reading and studying about Him. I just wanted to be still and quiet. And still do.

I understand that anybody who has asked that the Lord use them to any capacity will go through this, and I did ask that. I have always prayed that I wanted to serve Him more than anything. Now, in hindsight, I question what that means. And what did I commit to?

I used to love preaching more than ice cream. I haven’t been able to do that but a few times in the past couple of years. I have always loved leading a group of folks into their best spiritual selves, and He is restoring that opportunity. But I still long for the old days where I sensed Him, heard Him, and almost knew His will. Or did I?

Now I don’t know much of anything except that He desires that I live in this quiet, restful place even among others, amidst chaos, and even when I don’t feel like it. That’s His best. I am much more observant these days, and I watch folks buzzing around with miserable scowls on their faces. Then I think to myself – Is that what I look like? Is that how I affect my environment? If so, I don’t want to any longer. I want to bring peace and rest wherever I go. Most importantly, I want to love well.

I am in the process of recalibrating, trying to follow the Lord as best I can. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing, but I have the best company (a couple of friends, good prayer ministers, a wonderful family, and a couple of dogs – we finally had to lay to rest the demonic rooster). And if I don’t hear Him, sense Him, or feel Him, I can trust that He works all things to good for those who are called according to His purpose. I’m called, and I have a purpose. For right now, I need to be okay with being still and in peace.

 

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Love Letters in Your Dreams

I love dreams. I love having them. I love interpreting them.

Most folks have dreams. Dreams are often crazy. Let me rephrase: Dreams often seem crazy. They are, in fact, created in amazing symbolism. Some folks think that in itself is crazy. But in case you haven’t noticed, God is crazy. I mean, come on, have you read His book?

Dreams are an extension of our conversations with God. I often think God gives me dreams at night because he can’t get enough of my attention during the day. (Not proud, but it’s probably true).

Inner Healing and Dream Interpretation
Photo by JR Korpa at Unsplash

This month, our tribe (The Journey) met together to go over dream interpretations. They each sent in their dreams, and they were asked to pray for interpretations for each other. I gave them some pointers to help them prepare. I would like to share these with you, so you can explore dream interpretation.

Rarely do we get the interpretation for our own dreams. God gives us interpretations for each other because He wants us to work in community.

Here are a few pointers when praying for an interpretation for a person’s dream:

1. Prayerfully read over the dream. Ask the Lord to show you anything that would be relevant before you work on symbolism. Look for “plays on words, dark speech, etc.”

Make note of anything that pops out during reading.

2. Take your dream materials (I recommend the book A to Z Dream Symbology Dictionary by Barbie Breathitt, and John Paul Jackson has some amazing resources also) and research all of the symbolism. Type it into your dream in a different color.

3. Now reread the dream with symbolism included. Ask the Lord to give any additional revelation. Try to recognize the tone/position of the dream regarding the dreamer. Symbolism has a negative and a positive slant. Try to follow the “perception” of the dreamer. For example: If the dreamer has a dream of cats, it’s important to note that the symbolism of a cat can be positive or negative, all depending on whether the dreamer is a cat fan or not.

4. Check for emotions/perspective from the dreamer. If you have any questions or need elaboration, call the dreamer for more info. It is always very helpful to talk to the dreamer so you can grasp their emotions, motives, etc. of the dream.

5. Pray again and ask God for the interpretation.

6. Write out the interpretation above the dream in story form. (Leave out specifics of symbolism, notes, etc.)

Present your interpretation to the dreamer, but the dreamer must have a revelatory response to the dream or you may not have the appropriate interpretation.

If the dreamer doesn’t resonate with your interpretation, that is okay. Just present the dream back to the dreamer to take before the Lord for His revelation in His timing. God may want this person pursuing Him for revelation instead of someone else doing the work for them. We very seldom are able to interpret our own dreams. But often, the Lord wants us all to Himself and desires that we pursue His heart for His nighttime love letters.

So, there you go. I hope that will help as you begin the amazing experience of interpreting dreams.

Interested in more experiences like this? We have a Healing Retreat coming up soon (March 18-22, 2019) and would love for you to join us. Or for more info, join our ongoing revelations at The Center for Inner Healing or sign up for our e-newsletter.

God bless and keep dreaming!!!

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Lovers v. Fighters

Inner Healing and Identity
Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

I am convinced that whatever our natural instinct is, God wants us to operate in the opposite. Take “lovers” vs “fighters” for example. If you know me, you would know I am a fighter. I’ve been fighting my whole life. History would support that I have been fighting since the day I was conceived. In fact, one definition of my name means “tenacious one, or persevering.” I have to “fight” not to fight.

For someone like me, fighting is natural. It comes easily. But if you’re a lover, fighting goes against every fiber of your being. (And for the sake of this article, the term “lover” isn’t the same as Mother Teresa, Jesus, or Gandhi. It is more a reflection of one who doesn’t stand up for himself or others.) Most lovers can’t muster up a fight for love nor money. You can’t even force a lover to fight. Lovers would rather walk away, cow down (good ole southern term), or even worse, decide to become a martyr. Some lovers finally get up the nerve to assert themselves but do so only passively. Passive fighting to me is cowardly, but that’s easy for me to say. I’m a fighter.

I’m learning as I grow older that whatever I can do in my natural strength is not what God wants. He wants me to trust Him. As a matter of fact, one of His names is Defender. Well, that’s not what I was taught my whole life. I didn’t know Him until I was around my late 30s, so I’ve got a lot of undoing to do. And 50-plus years of fighting isn’t easy to undo overnight. It takes work. Just like I hear it takes work for lovers not to “love.”

I have a lot of friends who are lovers. Exhaustingly so. They just want everyone to be happy at all costs – mostly at the cost of themselves. Most of them have been (or are being) used. Most of them are used up. It’s infuriating to watch. I want to just shake them and say, “Stand up for yourself.” They can’t; they are lovers. Or should I say, they can’t on their own. Which brings me back to my original thought: God wants us out of our comfort zones. Whatever comes naturally for us is the opposite of what He wants for us.

God wants lovers to become fighters and fighters to become lovers. He wants misogynists to become heroes and victims to become overcomers. It’s just the way He is. He wants to take every one of our natural strengths (or for lovers – weaknesses) and turn it around. He wants to empower us to be able to say, “I can’t, in my own strength, but I can, in Him.”

It’s so frustrating, until He defends a fighter who stood quietly. It’s frustrating until you see a lover stand and fight. It’s so cool to see a victim overcome. That’s one of the reasons He came: to set things right. He doesn’t want me to fight in my own strength. He wants to fight for me. He wants to win the battles I go through.

So, what do I get to do? He wants me to be a lover. Hardest thing for me. Kinda like a lover becoming a fighter … goes against every grain of their being. But, then again, that’s one of the many reasons He came to earth – to change the way I think … the way I am.

 

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Take Off the Masks and Find Your True Self

My name is Kerri Johnson. For the past 20+ years, I have searched for answers to my own struggles. My lifelong passion has been in pursuit of my true identity and the healing of body, soul, and spirit. Out of those studies, The Center for Inner Healing (CIH) was birthed. CIH is an interactive healing process and a catalyst for helping people come out of the lies they believe and into the fullness of truth and identity.

Unfortunately, many of us spend our entire lives trying to mask who we are. That’s what we are taught. We are taught that we should hide our scars and shortcomings to survive and thrive in this perfect world. Neither of those statements is true. We shouldn’t hide our hurt, and the world is far from perfect. To be authentic, we have to identify our pain, bring it forward, and offer it on the altar of life to be able to be free. Otherwise, pain is our autopilot in everything we are, do, and say.

Pain is a great teacher and has helped us to be molded into who we are today. Unfortunately, no one teaches us how to embrace our pain and allow it to be a directive of the truth of who we are. We often need help to acknowledge our identity and the lessons pain has taught us, and to embrace our testimonies of how we have overcome life. We have to take every circumstance that has come to us, acknowledge the best of it, and let go of the worst.

We can’t cloak ourselves in pain, bitterness, and lies and expect to live a healthy life. We have to take off those issues and come into vulnerability and acceptance of all of the issues of our life and how those circumstances have affected us. Freedom comes in stepping out of the lies and cover-ups. That is where we will find who we are truly meant to be.

inner healing, pain, and identity
Photo by Lars_Nissen_Photoart on Pixabay

With masks off, we are free to be exactly who God created us to be and we are fully accepted. No more secrets, nothing to hide – the good, the bad, and the ugly. When you have no secrets, there is no fear of being uncovered. Everything is out in the open, and it’s all good. You become an instrument of truth, and folks can’t deny truth. As you’ve always heard, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

God created all of us with a plan and a purpose. With your help, He intends to see that plan and purpose come into fruition. He created us to satisfy His heart – just the way we are. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Far from it. But He does expect us to be willing: to be real, open, honest, and transparent, just like little kids.

Many of us spend a great deal of time doing life. We are living up to the measures of others in an atmosphere where the bar is constantly being raised. That is neither God’s best nor God’s plan for us. Instead, that plan is a diabolic initiative to destroy us and keep us consistently, miserably trying to become someone or striving for something that is not attainable. We have to say: Enough is enough.

We have to realize that we are enough simply because of who we are – bruises, warts, and freckles. We have to learn to accept ourselves and everything that has ever happened to us. We have survived and overcome. God wants to use our stories to help others live in truth. As our authentic selves, we are a unique tapestry of the events and stories we have lived, and in that, we are enough.

Inner healing, pain, and identity
Photo by Klimkin on Pixabay

Often, in the unveiling of our unique, authentic selves, we need someone to come alongside us and help us get back to who we were created to be, like children. Children have no problem walking into a room or relationship with their hearts wide open. As we grow, we start believing the lies about who we are.  Before long, we forget who we are. We forget how to live in freedom and fullness of a healed heart. Life drapes us in counterfeits and lies, so we often don’t know how to get back to that original self.

That’s where CIH comes in. We can help you take off those masks and frauds and unveil your best self. Your true identity is the only place you will find peace, rest, and true joy. Otherwise, you are just like everyone else, walking around in your pretend world, masked and miserable.

So, if you are searching for your true identity and a tribe of wounded warriors, we are here, waiting to come alongside you in this pursuit of non-perfected, real, authentic testimonies and messages of hearts healed. Join us on this great adventure. You won’t regret it.

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How Trauma Settles in Our Bodies and Emotions

Trauma affects mind, body, and spirit. Trauma locks itself into our bodies.

I discern things in my body. Often, I can relate pain to circumstances.

One time, I was pushed onto my back. For years, whenever I experienced something similar, I immediately felt pain in my back.

When I asked the Lord, He showed me I had locked fear into my back from that first experience. I was still carrying it. Every new trauma triggered that pain.

So I prayed to release the trauma. I don’t have trouble with my back anymore. If I do feel back pain, I know I need to check spiritually how I’m doing.

Often we manifest physically what we are carrying spiritually.

Like grief – it often settles in the lungs. A friend went through several funerals, just a few weeks apart. She started experiencing respiratory problems. Her body was compromised as she was walking through grief.

Another friend developed chronic respiratory problems after her father died suddenly. He died in the autumn, and every autumn she experienced respiratory problems. Grieving is a process, a gift God gives us to work through our pain and loss. But if we know the ways we are carrying grief in our bodies, we can ask God to lift that.

When we don’t resolve our trauma, it can build over time.

Think about a person who experienced childhood trauma. She never found healing for it. As an adult, she experienced other traumatic events, whether physical or emotional. Again, the trauma wasn’t resolved. So it just builds up.

One day, the slightest thing goes wrong – maybe she misplaces her car keys – and she has a complete meltdown. She feels overwhelmed, like she can’t handle one more thing. Her overwhelm isn’t really about misplaced car keys. It’s going back and picking up all that unhealed trauma.

We have to invite the Prince of Peace, Jesus, into those old places of trauma. He is able to lift out the trauma and replace it with peace, so we don’t keep carrying it and constantly feeling overwhelmed.

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Dark Night of the Soul

I’ve been wanting to share something that I’ve experienced personally in the past few years. I have noticed a few others going through something similar, so I believe now would be a great time to share.

A few years ago, I went through the greatest season of loss I have experienced (since a divorce 20 years ago). This season has been very similar to a divorce but of greater capacity. This season of loss was not only of my job, but also of a great family of friends and many of those I loved in my own community.

Most detrimental (at the time, but now one that I am learning to be grateful for) was the loss of my identity. I pretty much lost everything that I ever knew to rely and depend on. What was one of the darkest seasons of my life led me to what I later learned was referred to as the dark night of the soul.

The dark night of the soul is when you come to a place spiritually (usually as a result of some sort of dramatic/traumatic shift) when nothing you have depended on before sustains you any longer. 2015 – 2018 was/has certainly been a season of the dark night of the soul for me. It has (in reflection) been one of the worst and greatest experiences of my adult life.

After having been in ministry for over 20 years, I was beginning to dread all sorts of participation in the “process.” I felt my prayer time was not productive. I dreaded leading the service that I was pastor of. I even began to dread worship (which has always been one of my greatest loves) or, at best, longed for something more in worship – more connecting, more transformational, more impacting. I began to feel like I was dead to all things “spiritual.” I no longer enjoyed things that had previously inspired me and revived me.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the folks that I pastored but was starting to question the process of “church” altogether and felt like most of us were going through motions without true transformation. I decided, with much prayer and fasting (and a lot of other circumstances that I won’t go into) to resign from my pastoral position.

Immediately after resigning, I was invited to come on board with a large charismatic church in a nearby county. I was offered an opportunity to grow with an amazing staff who shared a like vision for transformation and living a consecrated lifestyle.

As if that wasn’t enough, I was contacted by a couple who lived in my community and was given a building in the downtown area of my hometown very near the college campus. I have had a dream of ministering to college kids who were searching for healing of their body, soul, and spirit and felt like this was the beginning of that becoming a reality.

Shortly thereafter, I was invited to join an international ministry that I had worked with for over two decades. I felt this was an opportunity to shift some things spiritually and move into a new season of challenge and change, not only for myself but for many others that I had been networking with for over 20 years. I took that position only to resign after a few short months.

Before long, I felt like I had no energy to do anything. I began to feel that I couldn’t carry out what I had so longed for. I slowly began to resign from every encounter that presented itself. I began to resign from ministry altogether, and then, life, altogether.

And with that came the onslaught of many long difficult years of “weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” I began what I felt like a wrestling with God that I’m still not sure is over. I couldn’t imagine that 20 years of ministry would leave me having so many questions and feeling so unfulfilled. I was angry and upset that I had sacrificed my life for something that was less fulfilling than a career where I could’ve at least made lots of money. I began an intense battle with God and my identity.

I felt I had “showed up” spiritually for the past few years and was really searching for something more than just “showing up.” Quite honestly, I felt I owed something more to myself than just showing up and I was sure God wanted something more of me than to just show up. So, I didn’t. I basically didn’t show up for anything except my family for at least three years.

I didn’t really do anything. Let me rephrase that. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t read (something I have always – at least in my adult life – thoroughly enjoyed). I couldn’t even listen to music. The only thing I felt I was capable of doing was just being. And, most often, just being quiet. And for those of you that think you know me that wasn’t something that came easily. But that’s what I began doing. Just being quiet.

I found it very comforting to sit in my yard, on my porch, by the creek, pool, inside, outside, in my car, anywhere … just as long as it was quiet. I didn’t want to talk to anybody or do anything. I just wanted (needed desperately) to be quiet. I had a lack of interest in anything. Not even art! And art had been a place of solace for me my entire life. I only wanted to be with my family and hopefully, they would be quiet.

I also had a couple of friends who insisted in relationship (if it were my choice I probably would’ve removed myself from them as well but they were very tenacious). Instead of dragging me out of my quiet, they joined me in it. We started meeting for “church” in the barn of my neighbor’s property where one friend kept her horses. Every Sunday a.m. we would have a quiet service amongst the chickens, horses, a black cat, and a rooster who needed deliverance.

In hindsight, if it weren’t for my tenacious friends and my saint of a husband, I would’ve dived straight into the throes of depression. I had never been quiet and still before and it was very discomforting. Actually, it felt very much like depression, but not. (I went through severe depression after my divorce in the 90s and this was very similar but very different).

I just wanted everything and everybody to be still and be quiet. I felt like my very being demanded that everything in my environment be very quiet and very still. It was as close to satisfaction as I could get. And it wasn’t very satisfying but somehow seemingly necessary. I learned from my very dear friends who counseled me that this was the dark night of the soul.

I persisted (or should I say, God wrangled me) in my quiet for almost three years. In that place, a shift began to take place: My passions. My objectives. My heart. And, absolutely, the core of my identity. I was experiencing a death to self that I had not invited. And, without the help of friends, probably would not have endured. It was the most painful experience of my life. For the first time in my life, I felt like God had left me.

Now before you go getting all religious on me, let me clarify, I felt like God left me. He did not. But, I felt like it. Much like Jesus when He cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” I very much felt like God had forsaken me. I heard nothing from Him, nor sensed Him for over three years. I say over three years because I am still learning this new place in Him. It’s not like before. It’s very different, very quiet.

I don’t know how to explain it. Before, I would do something because I felt like it was what I was supposed to do: the right thing, so to speak. Now, I don’t really do anything, unless He moves me to do it.

It is a very strange place in that I can sense Him, hear Him, move on behalf for others. But for myself, it’s different. As a matter of fact, in ministry I can certainly see Him as being more powerful than ever, more specific than ever, for others. But for me, it’s a different story. I am still being quiet and still.

I often wonder how long will this last for me? I don’t know. Maybe forever? I know of one pastor who went through the dark night of the soul for nine years and another for almost a decade. I’m not excited about that, but I am hopeful. And that is a change. I, at one point, lost all hope. In everything: people, “church,” even God and His plan for me. I’m getting back to that. It’s been hard. Unless I get real still. When I’m still, I feel like I’m making progress.

I’m still unsure about my identity. I’ve lost a lot of friends, my church. I still have a lot of questions about “the church” and a lot of other things that I thought I was sure of. I’m not sure of much now, other than the fact that God is good and He will work all things to good. But for now, I’m just being still. Being quiet and waiting.

I used to think I knew what His plan was. I don’t. Probably never did, but that’s okay. I do know that I don’t want to just “show up.” I want to be exactly who He desires me to be, doing exactly what He wants me to do. I know who my real friends are, and God is broadening that circle. There are a lot of us out there who are searching for our true identity. (I’m amazed how many aren’t and who are satisfied just going through the motions.) I know my husband is a saint. And I know I’m going to be okay. Who knows – maybe I was supposed to be still and quiet all along?

Now that I’m at least reading again, I’ve learned that there is a name for this place. It’s called “liminal space.” It’s the “place between the before and the after.” Jesus went here, at the cross, before the resurrection. Elijah went here in the cave, before his ascension. Jonah, in the whale before Ninevah, etc. – You get the gist.

I think we all will get to go here, if we are truly seeking God’s best for our lives. It’s a great and terrible place, but I wanted to write this so if you go here, you will know that you are not alone and it’s not a bad place (if you make it out, lol). I, we, you will learn that it’s not about us. It’s a place we all get to go for God to redirect our attention, our interests, most importantly our motives. And, if we all learn to sit quietly, we will learn, it’s all Him. It is all about Him. Once we learn that, He will take care of the rest. And, meanwhile, I’ll be resting. In Him.

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Are You Bitter or Better?

“How do I know if I’m bitter?” I am often asked that question. Here are some ways you can tell:

Do people set your teeth on edge?

Who have you blocked on Facebook lately and why?

Do you cross the street when certain people come your way?

Does your jaw set when you think of somebody? And why?

When you hold onto unforgiveness and let it grow in your heart, before long you will have bitterness.

Bitterness grows roots that bury deep in your heart. It hurts you. It blocks God. It stunts your growth.

Think of your heart as a garden. What happens when weeds grow in your garden?

Hurt and bitterness are not necessarily the same thing. But hurt can lead to bitterness if you don’t deal with it. Bitterness is unhealed hurt. It’s when you keep gnashing your teeth long after the initial pain is gone.

Bitterness can be devastating. It causes further hurt to you and to the people you are bitter against.

Can you think of a time when you were hurt and felt bitter? Or a time when you didn’t?

Bitterness can also affect the physical body. It can cause the hands and feet to draw up. That’s a sure way for me to know if I’m dealing with bitterness.

The good news is that God has provided a way to get over bitterness:

1. Choose to forgive.
2. Then forgive.
3. Wash, rinse, repeat.

If you’re not sure where your bitterness comes from, ask God to show you who you have aught against, and why.

If you are ready to forgive those who have hurt you, here is a simple but powerful prayer:

Lord, I forgive _____ for _____ and I choose to release them.

Then test it out. The next time you see those people or think of them, how do you respond?

Do you growl? If so, wash, rinse, repeat.

Or are you able to pray blessings for them?

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Follow the Pain

Have you ever wondered why we go through painful experiences? What purpose does it serve?

First, we need to remember it’s not about us. It’s all about God. When you go through a painful experience, God is trying to bring you to the end of yourself, so He can take over. He wants to stretch you and make you depend on Him. That doesn’t mean He causes the painful event, but He will certainly use it.

Did you know real emotional pain lasts only two minutes? The rest is perceived pain. We have a choice of how we respond to that perceived pain. It matters greatly what you do with your pain. Pain will point you to the path of your healing. Do you want to be healed? Follow the pain.

If God is God, why do we have to experience pain? That’s a question people ask often. The short answer is “free will.” God doesn’t cause the things we go through. But He does meet us in our pain. He uses pain to teach us how to come into His presence.

Another common question is, “Why do children have to suffer?” Children suffer because of sin in the world. Also, generational sin and troubles in the womb cause suffering in children. What bad fruit in your life do you also see in your kids?

When you go through a painful experience, or when you think back on a painful event, ask the Lord, “What did I do to cause this pain?” Practice asking the Lord. Listen for His response. Then repent, forgive, embrace, invite, endure. God will use the pain to get you healed.

By seeking God in the midst of your pain, you can learn from the experience. You will get to know God and His ways, and you will get to know yourself really well. You will start growing in the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). And you will get healed, get real, and get free. When you look at your pain, what is a new thing you can learn about God?

So, how do you get through the pain, so you can grow from it?

You start with Jesus. Invite His presence. Acknowledge your pain and invite Him to meet you in the middle of it. Be still. Let Him just be with you in your pain.

Then allow pain to do its work. Don’t keep trying to escape it. Don’t seek false refuges to avoid those two minutes of pain. Just be present with God in your pain.

We all have false refuges that we’re tempted to seek out in pain. False refuges are the things we turn to when we want to escape pain. What do you use when you are in pain? Can you exchange that for God? Seek Him instead? Remember that God will use your pain to get you healed, so you can be free.

Here is one of my favorite passages of scripture. The Apostle Paul talks about the fellowship of the suffering of Christ. Meditate on this passage and ask God what this means for you during your times of pain:

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:7-14 NKJV

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How Do I Learn to Hear God?

I am often asked these questions: “How do I learn to hear God? What does God’s voice sound like? Is it audible?”

God speaks to us in many ways:

Scripture
Nature
Impressions
Dreams

Sometimes people wonder if they are hearing God or talking to themselves.

There are only three voices you can hear in your spirit. It will either be God, the enemy, or your own voice. You will have to discern among those three voices.

Ask yourself: “Does what I am hearing line up with God’s Word and with His nature?”

It helps to practice talking to God. You can talk out loud to Him. The more you call on God and ask to hear His voice, the more you will be able to discern His voice.

Try this to start a conversation:

Say, “Jesus, I love you.” Then be really quiet. What do you hear? What did God say?

People have also asked me, “When I think I’m hearing from God is it because I want to do what I want to do?”

Again, does what you are hearing line up with God’s Word and with His nature?

What are your own motives in what you are asking Him? Are you being selfish and focused on you? Have you really asked God and are waiting to hear His response? Or did you just decide, “God, here is what I’m going to do, please bless it”?

Ask God something that’s on your heart. Listen for His answer. Check it out in the Bible. Does the answer you heard line up with what He says in His Word?

Another common question is this: “What if I don’t like His answer?”

What makes you think you wouldn’t like His answer? He always wants His best for you. Why do you assume you wouldn’t like His answer? Ask yourself where that concern is coming from.

If you hear His answer and don’t like it, ask yourself why you are reacting to it this way. What is His answer triggering inside of you?

Remember, God likes obedience. Have you ever given your children an answer they didn’t like?

Here is another frequent question: “Can other people hear from God for me?”

Yes, they can, but why would you want them to? Don’t you want to hear from Him yourself?

Other people can confirm what you are hearing, but God wants a relationship with you.

If someone hears a word from God for you, do you witness to what they say? Does it resonate with you? Be cautious of who is telling you. Don’t cast your pearls before swine.

If you feel that other people can hear God, but you can’t, ask yourself, “Who is God to me?”

Your relationship with your earthly father can affect how you hear from Father God.

Here are some ways you can get better at hearing God:

  • Study the Word. God speaks through His Word, and His Word helps you learn to hear His voice.
  • Talk to Him. Then listen for His response.
  • Journal what you hear from Him. Look to see if it lines up with His Word and His nature.
  • Build a friendship. Ask God a “get to know you” question you would ask a new friend.

Take some time now to practice. Ask God a question. Write the answer. Check that it lines up with His Word.

Keep practicing, and you will get better at hearing God.

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Keys to Being Real

God’s plan for freedom is beautifully simple. He gives us these keys to find healing in our hearts:

Repentance

When we repent for specific ways we have judged people, and for the lies we have taken into our hearts, we find freedom. Repentance allows us to break out of the enemy’s hold on our hearts. We replace lies with truth.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful healing tools God has given us. When we forgive, we release others to be who God has created them to be. And we free ourselves to step into healing of our hearts. The article Wash, Rinse, Repeat will help you learn more about the process of forgiveness.

Presence

We have the privilege every day to just sit still and be in God’s presence. Quieten yourself. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do for your life. Don’t expect it to get easier. It never changes. It’s always hard. But the results are life-saving. Presence. Don’t leave home without it.

Accountability

Find people, a tribe, a community that will help you when you’re good, bad, or indifferent. You can’t navigate your authenticity without it, because you lie to yourself, and the enemy reinforces those lies. You lie to yourself about yourself, so the reality is you only have the Word of God and your people to help you navigate what’s true about you.

Truth

Truth is your greatest weapon against the lies that have taken root in your heart. A lot of people avoid truth because it seems harsh. Here’s the reality: If truth can save your life, and heal you, don’t hide from it. If I went to my doctor’s office, and he discovered I had cancer, wouldn’t I want to know, so I can be healed? What if the doctor didn’t tell me because he was afraid the truth would “hurt” me? Let God’s truth do its work in your heart.

Peace

Peace is a Person (Ephesians 2:14-18; Isaiah 9:6.). As you develop the practice of peace, He, the Prince of Peace (Jesus) will walk with you and teach you how to live in the now (present), in the moment. Shalom is mind, body, spirit in complete unity and rest.

Wisdom

Wisdom is also a Person (Proverbs 1:20-33). She will take up residence and walk with you, after you search her out in God.

Sabbath

God rested on the seventh day. So should we. Not necessarily the literal seventh but at least one of every seven. One hour of every seventh hour during the day.

What does it mean to rest? Quieten yourself, do things you enjoy: art, nature, music, presence. Quiet. Fun. Adventure. Friends. Puppies. Whatever brings you joy … recalibrates you … resets you mind, body, spirit … resynchronizes you with the Creator in rest.

You have the keys to your identity. God has given you everything you need. You are ready to walk out your identity quest with Him.

This is the last article in the Identity Quest series, and I hope you have enjoyed this series. To see all of the Identity Quest articles, you can follow this link.

To read more articles on the topic of Identity (including the Identity Quest articles), you will find all of my Identity-related articles here. God bless you on your identity quest!

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