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“Dying to Self” Can Be Dangerously Misunderstood

Last Thursday, I ran a post about “Dying to Self.” Today, I want to talk about how it is possible for someone to misunderstand the concept of “taking up your cross and following” Jesus to think that this means, “I must take abuse. My needs don’t matter. I have to let my husband beat me or abuse my children. I have to be a doormat.”

That is NOT what this concept is about. It is not about giving up our personhood or being a punching bag. It is also NOT about hurting ourselves or beating ourselves up. It is about seeking God’s will above our own. It is about knowing who we are in Jesus and knowing and receiving ALL He has done for us on the cross and through His resurrection. It is about living in a place of great spiritual strength in Christ, not a place of spiritual weakness.

There are different kinds of suffering in this life.

  • The suffering that happens because we are in a fallen world.
  • The suffering that happens due to our own sin.
  • The suffering we experience due to others’ sin against us.
  • The suffering that comes because we voluntarily do what is right.
  • The suffering that comes because God is disciplining us.

God calls us to lay aside our old sinful nature and live for Him. My old sinful self is no longer to be on the throne of my heart. Jesus is now my Master. So when I talk about “dying to self” I am talking primarily about suffering I experience because I decide to live for Christ as LORD no matter what the cost. It is about self-sacrifice in a way that brings honor and glory to God. It is not suffering for the sake of suffering. It is not suffering because I just have to sit and take abuse if I have the ability to leave. It is suffering for the sake of doing God’s will. If this doesn’t make sense, let me know and let’s talk about this some more. 🙂

There may be times when a believer is persecuted and may suffer for the Gospel by being imprisoned, by losing his/her job, or by being physically punished. That kind of suffering may be inevitable. But suffering at the hands of an abusive spouse or self-abuse is something that we can rightly seek to avoid. Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified because that was God’s will to bring about salvation. Other times when people tried to kill Him, He slipped away.

NOTE:

There can be confusion about this idea of dying to self, or the concepts that are like it in Scripture. One reason I think this happens is that from God’s perspective, we are already dead and crucified in Christ. We are already dead to this world and alive to God through Jesus. To Him, that happened 2000 years ago on the cross. It is a done deal sealed by the finished work of Jesus on the cross. He did EVERYTHING necessary to make us right with God. We have already been justified. To be justified means that Jesus completely paid our sin debt in full. It is an accounting term.

But then, there are also all of these commands about us participating in this process on a daily basis as we follow Jesus. So we are involved in “picking up our cross,” “putting to death the misdeeds of the body,” and making ourselves “living sacrifices” for God moment by moment. It is a continual mindset of surrender of self and yielding to the Lordship of Christ. Yes, this is the process of sanctification which continues for our lifetimes until we reach heaven. 🙂 It is that process of learning to live out and experience all that Jesus has done for us in our daily lives.

We absolutely must guard against a works-based salvation. We are all prone to want to go to that in our pride – to think that we can somehow earn what Jesus did for us on the cross ourselves. But we cannot!

The ONLY way we can have power and victory over sin is through the power of God’s Spirit working in us. We don’t have power in our own sinful flesh to do this.

From an Anonymous Wife:

Because I come from a background with a lot of out-of-control sin from adult authorities, I had a very distorted understanding of the meanings of things. And then coming to church and hearing blanket statements made as if everyone had the same lexicon made it even more confusing for me. “Dying to self” was one of those things that really frightened and terrorized me a bit.

When you live with abuse, your very self is being attacked as if its somehow wrong for you to live and exist and as if there is nothing good about you. You are being told all the time that you are bad, worthless, etc.

Then I get to church and hear the self being talked about as if its a bad thing too. It was years before my reasoning skills and theological understanding developed enough for me to even understand what was being talked about, so I couldn’t even articulate my difficulties for a long time! I thought God agreed with the abuse I suffered because of that and that my feelings about it were irrelevant to Him because they were part of self! Worse, I met Christians who actually thought that way. Now, hoping I indeed have gotten it, lol, here is what I think it means.

How I understand this now is that when Jesus asks us to deny ourselves, He is not talking about systematically trying to annihilate anything that is us. He is more likely talking about the self that is part of the sinful nature, the flesh.

It can also include our will when what we want is contrary to what God wants. But it does not mean that the person you are as far as your unique identity or personality equipment as God designed it,is what needs to die. I like animals and art and living in the country. That is not bad, its part of who I am as a person. There is no sin in it, of itself.

However, if God was calling me to move to an inner city neighborhood where he wanted me to reach out to homeless youth, and I said to him ” No, I don’t want to leave my farm and my wholesome environment, then that would be an example of denying myself for His sake. If I have a tendency to gossip or am bitter and unforgiving towards someone that would be an aspect of my flesh that God wants me to deal with by putting it to death on the cross.

Yes, He is referring to that we are dead and we count ourselves dead to our sinful old nature, our flesh, and to this world. But we are alive to God in Christ. We have a new self that is glorious, blessed, beloved, cherished, valuable, precious, and beautiful in Christ. It is so important that we know what “self” we are to die to and what it means to take up our cross.

 

By The Satisfied Wife:

April,
I think you are right on in what you shared about this. And something else hit me as I read this comment. In my experience, because I was mistreated for so long, and suffered in that sense for getting involved with the wrong kinds of men, and not having a strong father figure in my life, I became completely self-reliant and independent, with a heart hardened to the harsh realities of life. And in being mistreated and developing that independent spirit, looking back I see actually how selfish I became. That sounds wrong, but hear me out if you can 🙂

Because I was mistreated and grew up mistreated, and did not develop a healthy self-worth, and developed that desire in my heart to be loved and wanted and all those idols that are attached to that desire—-it actually made me self-centered. All I cared about was what I wanted, what I needed, what I wasn’t getting from this guy or my father or whoever. My husband pointed this out to me a long time ago, really right after we got married, he saw how selfish I was and how focused I was on having my needs met in the marriage. And because my needs and expectations weren’t getting met the way I wanted them (with the never ending black hole heart), I was disrespectful, complaining, negative, argumentative, controlling, etc.

That’s what happens when we are mistreated in life, as a young woman, we become fearful and controlling because we feel the need to protect ourselves because we have not been treated right. We become independent and self-reliant.

So when God led me to Himself, and revealed Christ in my heart—— that was one of the first things He showed me. He led me to read the book “Not a Fan”, and it was all about dying to self and following Christ. I remember how eye-opening that was for me, because my selfishness was exposed.

And as the years have gone by, He has continued to lead me to the true meaning of dying to self and following Christ, by leading me to your blog, and to the book captivating— and now I see all the pieces put together to this puzzle for me.

He has shown me that in reaction to the way I was mistreated by my own father and men in my life, my heart grew very cold and I became even more selfish. I was living in self-protection mode which entails controlling and fear for my whole life really. All I cared about was myself, honestly. I wanted what I wanted.

I’m not saying it’s ok for anyone to treat someone wrongly. But what I am saying is that, I had an even more challenging time learning how to die to self because of being mistreated and having developed a very independent self-reliant spirit that was highly selfish. I looked at everything my husband did through the lens of my wounded, selfish heart, instead of through Christ and the Cross. I had no idea that my wounded heart was behind all of the control, fear, and disrespect. I didn’t realize that wounded heart was behind a lot of the conflicts in marriage. It was harder for me to “let go” of control and all the fear and self-protection and it was hard to learn to truly trust God and surrender all to Christ. But once He opened my eyes, holding onto those things seemed like garbage compared to surrendering all to Him as Lord and having His peace and rest in my heart!

Now that I know who I am in Christ, and who my husband is in Christ, I have a hard time focusing on the things he does wrong. Letting go of myself and my own personal interests has been the way of finding true Life!

From Peacefulwife:

This process of dying to self can also be described in other ways, too, like:

  • being a living sacrifice for God (Rom. 12:1)
  • putting to death the misdeeds of the body (Rom. 8:13)
  • counting yourself as dead to sin and this world and alive to God through Christ (Rom. 6:11)

Taking up my cross is about laying down any sinful motives and about picking up God’s will. So I would allow God to search my heart for things like selfishness, greed, bitterness, idolatry, resentment, hatred, unforgiveness, malice, gossip, addictions, etc… things that are spiritually toxic to my soul, my relationships, and my walk with Christ – and I would reject those things and allow God’s Spirit to completely fill me with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

It is not only about getting rid of the sin that was in me before. It is also about receiving all of the good that God wants to give to me and the new self He provides for me.

There are some who have been  abused and mistreated who do not believe they are worthy to receive God’s love. Truthfully, none of us are “worthy” to receive God’s love. But God loves us because that is who He is and His love is available to each of us. We CAN receive His love, not because we deserve to, but because He freely gives it!

For those who have a hard time receiving good things from God, I invite you to check out this post by Radiant about Cinderella and the Gospel. I also encourage wives who have been abused and who are confused about dying to self to search and read some of these posts as well:

Do I Condone Abuse?
25 ways to respect myself – how to think rightly about myself in light of God’s Word
– “I Can’t Ask for Things or Have Feelings, Needs, or Desires”
Should You Strive to Please Your Husband or Keep Your Marriage at Any Cost?
When Would I Not Submit to My Husband?
Approaching My Husband’s Sin Issues by LMSdaily
I Must Avoid Conflict at All Costs
Healthy VS Unhealthy Relationships
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
To Trust or Not to Trust? – video
What Does God Say about Me?
My Identity in Christ is My Only Source of Security

And, http://www.leslievernick.com and Boundaries by Dr. Cloud and Townsend may be helpful in this kind of situation.

I believe we must find spiritual healing and wholeness in Christ FIRST before we learn how to “lose our life” for Christ or “put to death the misdeeds of the body,” or “be a living sacrifice” for God or “die to our old sinful self” in a healthy way.

NOTE:
I do want to mention – this is something we each choose to do ourselves. It is not appropriate for me to demand that another believer needs to “die to self” to do what I want him/her to do. I can’t force others to obey God. I can set a godly example. I can ask for what I need and desire. I can share my insights and perspective. But I don’t get to control other people or dictate to them what they should do.

My husband should be living wholeheartedly for Christ and leading and loving as Jesus did, laying down his life for me to portray the love of Christ. But it is not my place to say, “You need to die to yourself and do X, Y, and Z to lead me properly.” It is possible for me to try to manipulate my husband, or other believers, in this way, for my own selfish purposes.

SHARE:

If God has given you lightbulb moments about this concept, please share! If you are struggling with this idea, let’s talk about it together.

Much love to each of you!

April

86 thoughts on ““Dying to Self” Can Be Dangerously Misunderstood

  1. Bless you dear April fr your incredible, lifesaving ministry and to all the beautiful souls who are sharing these wonderful gifts wiith others. I pray that every one of you is blessed and your efforts bear fruit that will transform not only your lives but the lives of those around you. I am so blessed to have found this blog and community. Nowhere else are these vital topics explored with such depth, clarity and love. May we each die to Christ a little more every day. I am a long way off but this blog and your efforts keep me focused. A huge hug from my heart!

    1. hopeoflife,

      I’m so thankful that this is a blessing to you. It’s my desire that we dig deeply into these critical discussions so that we can apply God’s truth and healing to our daily lives and become the women He calls us to be more and more each day.

      Much love to you! 🙂

      1. Dear Satisfied Wife,

        How do you deal with your father now? Your story of a wounded heart which sought to protect itself by trying to be in control is my story, too. I have prayed over the years to forgive my father for his distance, silence, and sometimes cruelty. Also, for my mother’s injuries toward me. I really do just want to be loving to them and not always have my emotional barriers up so they can’t hurt me any more. I know that perfect love casts out all fear. Thank you for any advice.

        1. Renee,
          Honestly, the only way that things have gotten better is by God’s grace alone. And distance.

          When I got married and moved away from my parents, I was finally able to separate myself from them (not that they were horrible), and I was able to really stand my ground and stand up to their lack of boundaries (they helped me raise my son and thought they had a say over it all the time what I did with my son and life). They learned that I have boundaries and that they really have no say over what I do with my life.

          The distance that me getting married created honestly led my parents both to seek the Lord. It led my father to realize that he had mistreated me and he was sorry for it. He changed his attitude towards me after I was no longer there. He knew that in order for me to ever visit with my son, he needed to refrain from trying to tell me what to do with my life and son and he had to treat me, my son, and my mother right, or I would not come there anymore.

          It was all about boundaries I guess!

          Also, my father was being disciplined in his own life by the Lord about some things, and ever since that happened, he has truly been changing. He has had to face his own choices in life and suffer the consequences for them.

          Now, I have compassion towards him because I know that he was not raised right, either. He has his own baggage” in life. It doesn’t excuse anything. But it is a way to see it for what its worth, and with eyes of compassion instead of any unforgiveness etc.

          Holding onto that won’t do anything but hurt you!

          My dad was “distant” but controlling at the same time, if that even makes sense. He was always “there” telling me what to do, but he never knew me. He wasn’t interested in my life, except to control it because of his own fear about life and things. He was harsh in a lot of ways. And he was unloving.

          I wrote my father a letter after I got married to let him know I was sorry for all the wrong I did towards him over the years, and asked him to forgive me. I to this day don’t know if he read it or what he thought of it. But all I do know is the change I’ve seen in my family and my dad especially towards me and everyone over the past couple years!

          I hope this helps! 🙂

          Love,
          Amanda

          1. Thank you, Amanda. It sounds like God has really done a work in your family’s life, and I’m guessing He’s not done yet! Please pray for me as I want to be strong and loving at the same time…letting go of old injuries and living in the present. Thank you for sharing your heart and experiences.

          2. Renee,
            God is able to do anything!! Letting go of hurts is the way of the Cross, and as you let go, and the Cross is applied to your heart and life, there will be all the more room for the increase of Christ in you, sister!!!

            Praying for Christ to be fully formed in you, and all of us!!!!

            You are most welcome!

            Blessings,
            Amanda

  2. Hi April,

    How do we reconcile this with “turn the other cheek”? On the surface, it sounds like “turn the other cheek” could mean “don’t stick up for yourself,” but now I’m wondering – does it actually mean “don’t repay evil with evil”?

    In Christ,
    Flower

    1. Flower,

      The “Law of Non-Resistance” can be confusing, I think. Jesus taught to not resist an evil person. If a Roman soldier demanded that you carry his armor for one mile (which he was legally allowed to do), Jesus said to go two miles. If an evil person sues you for your shirt, Jesus said to give him your coat, as well. And if an evil person slaps you on one cheek, he said to offer your other cheek, too.

      Many people think this means, “I have to take abuse no matter what.”

      Here is a great explanation of this passage from http://www.gotquestions.org:

      Question: “What did Jesus mean when He instructed us to turn the other cheek?”

      Answer: The entire section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which this verse is found can be understood as one where Jesus actually serves to elevate the importance of following Israel’s moral law beyond the letter to the spirit of the law. Much of the material therein complements the nature of His coming characterized by mercy, sacrificial love, and longsuffering toward sinners while at the same time affirming the “last is first” principle upon which the kingdom of God is based. For instance, we are told to go the extra mile for someone who abuses us and to pray for enemies instead of resisting them. All of this can be generally summarized by saying we need to be pure inside and out and should be as accommodating as possible for the sake of a lost world.

      To “turn the other cheek,” does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in mortal danger. Like the principle of the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth in Matthew 5:38, turning the other cheek refers to personal retaliation, not criminal offenses or acts of military aggression. Clearly, Jesus did not mean to negate all God’s laws and injunctions protecting us against violent crime or invading armies. Rather, Jesus is speaking here of the principle of non-retaliation to affronts against our own dignity, as well as lawsuits to gain one’s personal assets (v. 40), infringements on one’s liberty (v. 41), and violations of property rights (v. 42). He was calling for a full surrender of all personal rights.

      Turning the other cheek means not to return insult for insult in retaliation, which is what most people expect and how worldly people act. Responding to hatred with love just might grab someone’s attention and afford us a chance to share the gospel. When we respond in a manner that is unnatural, it displays the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus was the perfect example because He was silent before His accusers and did not call down revenge from heaven on those who crucified Him.

      Here is my understanding of this – but each of us must prayerfully consider these passages and seek to obey God as He would have us to understand His Word:

      The primary goal, yes, I believe is not to repay evil with evil and to respond with the agape love of God to those who are hateful and those who mistreat us. A slap on the cheek was an insult. It was not intended to cause permanent damage or injury. So we are not to repay insult with insult. But I don’t believe this means a wife (or husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/child) who is being beaten or whose life is being threatened should just “stay and take it.” I believe that the situations Jesus was talking about were probably not family relationships. Certainly not marriage situations. I think He was giving us ways to respond to unbelievers in the world in godly ways. But if someone is acting against us in a criminal way and we can leave and get help from the authorities, I believe we should.

      I do think that a wife who is being mistreated or abused can pray for her husband and can refuse to sin against him in retaliation – even if she does have to get away to be safe. She can desire God’s healing for him and God’s best for him. She doesn’t have to take revenge against him. She can look for ways to repay evil with good. Her greatest desire can be for his spiritual deliverance. But if it is not safe for her to live there, I believe she is well within the bounds of Scripture in I Cor. 7 to leave and live separated from him if necessary until he is willing to repent and to rebuild trust.

        1. Here is a bit of the post by John Piper about wife abuse and the law of non-resistance:

          6. When Jesus commands his disciples, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39), he is describing one way of love: the testimony that Jesus is so sufficient to me that I do not need revenge. This was the way Christ loved us at the end: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:22–23).

          But this is not the only path of love open to those who are persecuted. The Bible warrants fleeing. John Bunyan wrestled with these two strands in the Bible of how to deal with persecution:

          He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Ex. 2:15; Moses stood, Heb. 11:27. David fled, 1 Sam. 19:12; David stood, 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jer. 37:11­–12; Jeremiah stood, 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 19:10; Christ stood, John 18:1–8. Paul fled, 2 Cor. 11:33; Paul stood, Acts 20:22–23. . . .
          Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word, Matt. 10:23. (Seasonable Counsels, or Advice to Sufferers, in The Works of John Bunyan, volume 2, page 726)

          7. When the Bible says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27), it implies that Christians with means and strength take initiatives for the weaker. The “visitation” in this text is not for nothing. It is for help — for provision and protection. The point is: When Jesus commands his disciples, “Turn to him the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39), he does not mean that, if I can do something about it, I should allow you to be slapped again. Again, it is the camaraderie in the body of Christ that breaks the cycle of injustice.

          My closing plea is to all Christian men, and in particular to the leaders of churches: Herald a beautiful vision of complementarian marriage that calls men to bear the responsibility not only for their own courage and gentleness but also for the gentleness of the other men as well. Make it part of the culture of manhood in the church that the men will not tolerate the abuse of any of its women.

  3. Thank you, April. I think this “doormat” extreme is easy to slip into as we are learning to lay down idols and as we learn what our value is in God and not other people. It takes baby steps and time. But I am grateful God won’t let us have peace as we are being a doormat. He keeps nudging us forward on this path of learning, growing and maturing spiritually. He wants to elevate us to all of the destiny He has planned for us. He wants us obedient, but strong. He wants us merciful, but courageous. He wants us loving, but not afraid of discipline. All of the attributes of a father-child relationship. He IS a good, good father.

    I know I was stuck here for a while until the concept of “speaking the truth in love” was introduced to me. I had to learn to overcome my fear and to be able to face my fears in order to follow and obey Gods will for me. It was scary, but I grew alot and “shot up” spiritually. I felt like a big lesson in self worth was learned and my confidence in me being a child of God and my courage to fight and have faith in the victory of Jesus was renewed!

    Blessings to you, April for tackling this issue.

    All my love, sister.

    1. LMSdaily115,

      Love this!

      Yes, there are sinful extremes that are destructive if we swing too far one way or the other. God’s character and our godly character are about a delicate balance of many characteristics held in tension by the power of the Holy Spirit. God is love and He has great mercy and grace but He is also holy and just. He is all powerful and He is gentle. He is all-knowing and sovereign and yet He allows us to have free-will and make our own decisions. We are to have holy fear of Him, and yet also – in Christ – we can approach Him with boldness before the throne of Grace.

      When we misunderstand God’s truth, His character, or our identity in Christ and things get out of balance, it is not good.

      But there are times as we are learning that we do overcorrect too far one way and then the other way – becoming too controlling and then too passive. Then God leads us to that beautiful place of balance where we “soar on wings like eagles.”

      I love what God has been showing you and the way He is pouring through you to bless so many others already. What a blessing to get to share this road together, my dear sister!

      Thanks for sharing and much love to you!

  4. I’m one of those believers who doesn’t like the “dying to self” phrase at all. 🙂

    I like switching out that language with “picking up your cross daily”.

    I guess the reason I don’t like the “dying to self” phrase is that until you understand the utter necessity of coming to a total trusting that your old sinful self *has been crucified* with Christ and it is a done deal, there will always be a part of you that thinks you have something to do with it. It can be a subtle “works-based” kind of salvation that I, myself, can no longer get on board with.

    Putting to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit has also taken on new meaning for me in recent weeks. By the Spirit means that it won’t be an active trying to stop sinning….it is ALWAYS about faith in what Christ has done already and what His Spirit is doing in us. So, to me, this phrase means continuing to hang on in faith that God has taken care of that sin you are struggling with and standing in faith that He will complete the work of sanctification in you.

    I can only attest for my own self that I experience much greater experiential victory over sin when I am operating in this faith kind of mode (which I really believe is putting to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit) vs. when I am trying to eradicate a sin myself.

    1. ContentinChrist,

      Thank you so much for sharing this!

      Yes, there can be confusion about this phrase, or the concepts that are like it in Scripture. One reason I think this happens is that from God’s perspective, we are already dead and crucified in Christ. We are already dead to this world and alive to God through Jesus. To Him, that happened 2000 years ago on the cross. It is a done deal sealed by the finished work of Jesus on the cross. We have already been justified. Our sin has already been atoned for. To be justified means that Jesus completely paid our sin debt in full. It is an accounting term.

      But then, there are also all of these commands about us participating in this process on a daily basis as we follow Jesus. So we are involved in “picking up our cross,” “putting to death the misdeeds of the body,” and making ourselves “living sacrifices” for God moment by moment. It is a continual mindset of surrender of self and yielding to the Lordship of Christ. Yes, this is the process of sanctification which continues for our lifetimes until we reach heaven. 🙂 It is that process of learning to live out and experience all that Jesus has done for us in our daily lives.

      We absolutely must guard against a works-based salvation. We are all prone to want to go to that in our pride – to think that we can somehow earn what Jesus did for us on the cross ourselves. But we cannot!

      The ONLY way we can have power and victory over sin is through the power of God’s Spirit working in us. We don’t have power in our own sinful flesh to do this.

      Thanks so much for sharing!

    2. Wow, That 1st sentence in the third paragraph makes no sense at all! Sorry about that…April, maybe you can edit for me? It should say UNTIL you understand the utter necessity of coming to a total trusting (not once you understand)

  5. April, I love this discussion, it sure helps to dispel some of the off balance ideas picked up along the way. I heard a good example of this, once, in church. A lady had a very cantankerous, mean spirited man for a neighbor. He was always hollering that her kids were too loud, he didn’t like them riding their bikes up and down the road, always something. She had chickens that he disliked also. One day her chickens got out and got in his garden. He responded by wringing the hen’s necks and throwing their little bodies over the fence back into her yard. What an ugly, mean spirited act, esp since he knew she had little kids who probably loved them as pets. Her response ? She made them into chicken and vegetable pies and took one over to him. After that, his heart softened and he became a humbler man. If I recall the story right, it was the turning point in his eventually coming to Christ.

    CIC, I think I might know what you mean. It seems as if trying to NOT sin, or having fallen in an old sin area once, and trying to resist doing it again, gives sin, or the old man, a resurrection. I’ve heard of some groups who actually have ideas like that as their program for overcoming various fleshly bondages. I’ve always thought to myself that there has to be a better way than that, a life of endlessly attempting to hold beach balls under water! Doesn’t sound like much of a victory.

    1. Just a Little Sheep,

      Wow! That was some Christlike love the woman showed her neighbor. How amazing to think that God might use us in a similar way to bring someone to Christ. 🙂

      Thank you so much for sharing! I think this is an important discussion, too!

  6. I really like that example…I think the turning the other cheek concept is exactly that… blessing someone that is actively sinning against us on top of the sinning is so powerful to the recipient, because he is expecting us to retaliate, which in turn will justify his action… when we instead, go out of our way to do good instead, it not only contrasts his sin, but the kindness might pierce through his heart so much more powerfully, because it is the ultimate gift! (like God’s gift of our redemption through Christ).

    I know from personal experience, that when I bless my husband after he has obviously been mean and sinful, his heart almost can’t take it, because he sees the contrast so much bigger! It is like shining a light onto the darkness, without saying a word!

    Thank you for this great discussion, April…

    Have a blessed day, everyone!

    1. A Lifetime Learner,

      Yes, when we repay evil with good, it is extremely convicting many times to the one who wronged us. It shows their evil in sharp contrast to the good we have done to them and may be used by God to draw them to repentance.

      Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂 Love these insights!

      So glad we can have this important conversation.

      Much love!
      April

  7. I’m glad you clarified the turning the other cheek. I’ve known Christians who thought they were not Christians if they left a really abusive situation. I mean people that got beat so bad bones were broken.

  8. April, lately I have been thinking about Corrie Ten Boom and also about another story I heard that really has provoked me to doing some spiritual digging. I may have mentioned this before, if so forgive me. My mind is bit overloaded right now. Anyhow, I remembered Corrie’s story of the prison camp and how her sister Betsie, weak and emaciated from malnourishment, being worked to death and being ill, responded to the cruel taunting of a sadistic female guard – one that the prisoners called “the snake” behind her back. The guard had been ridiculing Betsie for her weakness and inability to even carry a full shovel full of dirt. Betsie responded good naturedly which seem to sting the guard to fury even more. So she lashed Betsie viciously with her crop, causing Betsie’s chest and neck area to bleed, soaking her blouse with her own blood. Corrie, witnessing this injustice to her precious sister, went to take her shovel and put an end to this vicious, hateful woman, who had already turned away, so meaningless was Betsie’s life to her. Betsie grabbed her and stopped her, saying ” No hate, Corrie, no hate”! Betsie actually saved their lives this way, as she and Corrie would likely have been sent to the gas chamber or shot for rising against a guard.

    I wondered how on earth Betsie could be so able to love and avoid hatred in the face of such overwhelming, sadistic cruelty. The guards in that camp did things that were calculated to emotionally destroy the prisoners like putting the bodies of dead relatives beneath the pine trees at Christmas time. Yet, after witnessing the same guard beating a mentally limited girl for her inability to understand something, Betsie commented to Corrie that one day she would like to have a home for people like her to come to. Corrie thought she meant the disabled girl but Betsie meant the hardened, sadistic guard. Modern day thinkers would have a field day with this, pointing out that perhaps Betsie was “trauma bonded” to her captors and suffering some form of Stockholm sydrome. I suppose it is a possibility, given the extremity of their situation. But I also think that perhaps Betsie and other Christians like her knew Jesus in a way we moderns don’t. Perhaps their brand of faith was different. There is much valid discussion today on how the gospel has been watered down and God “rebranded” to suit modern sensibilities. Perhaps it is like the movie “The Matrix”, all around us, unseen, invisible and yet exerting an influence on our thinking and feeling we don’t even realize is there, so persistent has been the erosion of truth.

    Another story I read was equally harsh. It occurred in Poland during the war. The book I read was shocking and frankly horrifying, because it portrayed the grossest stories of how absolute power corrupts absolutely, although it was a Christian book written by someone who had been there and found Jesus. One account was of a girl who was walking home through a forested area, along a path and was accosted by a group of young men who took turns raping her. When they were done violating her, they tossed her aside into the swampy peat bog next to the pathway. They had beaten her badly and so left her for dead. However, she managed to struggle to her feet and make her way home. Her church had been praying for revival and for God to save souls. A few weeks later, these same young men appeared in the doorway of her church. She was the first to rise and go greet them, inviting them in. I was astounded by this. If that were me, I would be consumed with all manner of toxic emotions including hatred. I would be asking the police to round them up and put them in prison. (not saying that charging rapists with a crime is wrong, just saying that I would be so hurt, angry and vengeful that I’d be not too concerned over their souls and not too enthused if they showed up at my church) Forgiving them would, as it is for many moderns today, be a life long struggle. I do not know if the police were involved or if they were so corrupted at that time there was no point in speaking to them and I do not know what happened after that, as I don’t think much more was said about the matter. It did make me wonder and think that one would have to know Jesus in a far deeper way than I do, to respond like that. I don’t think it is just a matter of choosing, either because you can choose all you want to in an attempt to do what you think an obedient Christian should do, without managing to actually have the love of God and the mercy of God towards an evil person. There must be more to it than just force of will bootstrapping it. I can’t help wondering if perhaps we moderns are rather wrapped up in this world, whilst for those who were bereft of all the comforts of normal society and facing imminent death, God’s kingdom was much more in view.

    In the Ten Boom’s case, they were in a situation they could not leave in when in the death camps. Prior to that when they were free, they actively engaged in resisting evil, hiding Jewish folks from the germans, feeding and helping them to escape, rescuing them. They even staged a robbery of a german station with a friend who worked there, so they could acquire ration cards that would allow jewish people to get food without having to expose their ethnicity. They were aggressive, cunning and recklessly trusting in God to carry out this mercy ministry and outwit the forceful evil of the german’s hate machine, because they believed in the value of human life, so obviously they did not take the view that they had to just submit. As long as they could resist they did.

    Just the same, I cannot help but wonder about what is different about the quality of their faith and their walk with the Lord that made them able to forgive serious atrocities and even love their captors and expend time and resources ministering to them. I believe this is very relevant to the discussion of walking with God and dealing with self and feel my heart pulled in two directions at once. I sure wouldn’t want to miss knowing Jesus the way they did. I wonder if you are thinking on these things also and could share where you feel God speaking or leading?

    1. Just a Little Sheep,

      Wow.
      Thank you for sharing these stories. SO heartbreaking and yet, so inspiring and convicting to watch women of God respond in the power of God in extremely dangerous and difficult situations.

      I believe that we, in the West today, have been quite contaminated by the world and by lies from the enemy. I think we have been caught up with earthly things and are spiritually often extremely weak. Those who face genuine persecution cannot help but grow in their faith – and those who don’t grow in their faith quickly fall away. I believe much more intense persecution is coming for us in America in the next few years. This may actually help to cleanse us of our sin and unbelief as we realize how desperately we must depend on Christ.

      I pray that God might continue to prune and refine us, to deepen our faith, that we might (by His power) rise to become a holy generation that leaves a godly legacy to those who come behind us. May God give us great faith and make us fruitful for His kingdom and His glory!

      Much love!

  9. Thank you April. This is what I am thinking too, that it has to be because we are too comfortable in the world and do not know it. I think that myself, I have unwitting found myself living for God IF He allows me to have this or that thing that I didn`t get growing up, or IF He supports my dreams, IF it goes my way. That is a deep root to try and kill, this root of self will and I will be god myself. Pray that I succeed because it is really hard to go against yourself when all your deepest feelings, ideals and dreams are tied up in the things you want. I have gotten really off track into sin related to idolatry and lulled to sleep. I am seeking God yet again and asking for Him to show me Jesus`value. I pray that isn`t an offensive statement. I Know in my head why this is so, but knowing it on a deeply impacting level that changes your whole focus of life is needful. This is a great discussion that I value a lot, if only because at least here the truth of the situation can be discussed. I have found many churches are so sure everything is fine and so certain that even if other churches maybe are backslidden they are a wonderful church, that there is no willingness to actually see how that is not so and in fact sin and idolatry are commonplace and not dealt with. Anyhow thank you for allowing me and others to engage on such serious things.

    1. just a little sheep,

      If you need help with tearing out idols, I have a number of resources. That is something from which we must flee! It will destroy us. As I am sure you know.

      I’m here if you want to talk through things. I will do all I can to point you to Christ, my sister!

      Praying for you to lay down every desire but Jesus and to be willing to yield in absolute surrender to Him.

      Much love!
      April

  10. Little sheep,

    Reading your comment … you might turn it around, and ask yourself what you have gained by being deprived of things, while growing up… and really dig deep into “if you would get all those things, would you be satisfied?” because ultimately there can NEVER be enough THINGS, to stuff that hole… because it isn’t about filling that hole with things, but allowing Him to fill us up and have that hole overflowing with his love and goodness.

    Refocus on what you have, when you feel that burning yearning and redirect it into something good you can do for someone else that has even less than you have… then you will start to feel the hole getting fed…

    Just something that jumped out at me, reading your comment… have a wonderful day…

    A Lifetime Learner

  11. Great points. This goes pretty untalked about in Christian circles, so I’m glad to see someone like you taking a stand and very thoughtfully, scripturally making such a valid point. We tend to go to extremes, even though that’s not what Scripture teaches.

  12. Hello Lifetime Learner;
    That is an interesting question; could you elaborate on what sorts of gains you might be thinking of?

  13. Lifetime Learner,

    I was re reading my comment and see where the idea of things came from. My comment about things one didn`t get in childhood wasn`t about material things or possessions; is that what you were thinking of? The things I was referring to were things like being loved, safe, secure, or having parents that thought you were worth their time and worth investing in; a stable home full of love instead of fear, that sort of stuff.

    The only material things that would have made a difference would have been having proper winter boots and clothing; we lived in an inland northern climate that was sub zero in the winter, and my dad didn`t want to spend much money on clothing we would grow out of in a year so he bought us cheap stuff from K-Mart that was suitable for warmer coastal regions. Consequently, I often walked home in tears because my feet were freezing and going numb. We weren`t well off but weren`t so poor either that we went without food or couldn`t have birthday or Christmas gifts, we just didn`t have money for extra stuff like expensive brand name clothing that some of the well-off kids had. But we were outdoors all the time and had a lot of fun ice skating on the frozen over gravel roads and had to use our imaginations a lot.

    The one physical thing I wanted was a horse, which I actually have now in my adult life. I would never think that having horses would give you righteousness or eternal life and that kind of thing, but God certainly seems to have built something good and healing into them, just touching a horse on a bad day has the effect of reconnecting me with what`s real and good, raw creation.

    If anything I would like to live in an off-grid log cabin with a front porch which would fit into my house about four times, and live a simple life. I have found owning lots of stuff a pain because you have to maintain it for one thing and even if its just sitting there you still have to dust it, take care of it, insure it, etc. Growing up in a frightening and insecure environment has certainly given me some mercy and understanding for others who have suffered and are having struggles in their lives.

    Thanks for asking good questions.

    1. Hi, Just a Little Sheep

      Yes, I wasn’t only referring to material things, but what your last paragraph referred to… unfortunately we cannot choose our family growing up, and our circumstances that come with that, and I didn’t want you to think in any way, that I was judging you “wanting stuff”, but I heard that deep yearning in your writing, that compelled me to respond… what I have learned is, that regardless of our circumstances, we can learn from things, good or bad…it just depends on our perspective and our attitude towards what happens… growing up in such a state of deprivation of basic human love and acceptance, you can easily fall into a state of despair and victimhood, or you can gain special insight and use that insight to ensure that what you share with the world will be the exact opposite of what you have experienced. And even though it is hard to imagine, maybe even develop compassion toward the people that have inflicted such pain, because they learned their behavior from someone else, too.

      I am very fortunate to live surrounded by horses, dogs, and a variety of other animals, and I completely agree…God blessed us with animals to share a special kind of love. Horses have an uncanny ability to reflect our state of mind, and remind us of our responsibility to be kind and gentle, and they are such great teachers. I teach kids how to ride, and I never tire to see their joy and sense of accomplishment as well as their growth in disciplining themselves, to become more sensitive and compassionate in their handling of the animal.

      God fullfilled your dream of horse ownership…he knows your deepest thoughts and desires. Last Sunday our pastor said something quite profound: when something bad happens to us we quickly cry out “Why, God?” but what we really should ask is “What do you want me to learn, God?”, because his ultimate goal is, to refine and shape us into better and better people, that will be transformed and become closer and closer aligned with Him. The road is not easy, and hardship and pain are unfortunately part of that pruning process (actually a very necessary part), but our willingness to walk beside Him and trust His judgement so much more than our own, is what ultimately blesses us richly, and frees us up to worry less and trust more.

      I hope I helped clear up what I was thinking… feel free to comment further… happy riding!

      Love, A Lifetime Learner

      1. Hi again Lifetime, yes I understand more clearly now what you were saying. Great to talk to a fellow horse person. I’m amazed at how fine tuned the horses are to my every mood and frame of mind. Mine are not broken to ride yet but I still enjoy their `horse magic“. . We have formed the natural horse bond through round penning work but that`s as far as its been taken at the moment. Maybe one day I will get at least one of them to let me up on their back.

        1. Hi,

          Yes, the more join up and ground work you do the better… be precise in your voice commands and ask for precision…make them do what you ask just by positioning… then work on forward, backward, sideways etc…. stop and go… etc….are they mustangs? I worked with them…they are amazing…they see you blink and eye…great teachers!!

          Have fun working with your horses… if you have any questions, you can email me@ btrpets@hotmail.com

          1. I have one paint mare and one quarter horse mare. I haven`t done much with them because of some other things in my life that have taken precedence. However they sure know I am their person and come running at the sound of my voice. I will email you some questions when I have some time, right now we are doing a huge clean out of our basement and garage.

  14. Just a little sheep

    I feel as you do and I’m very familiar with Corrie Ten Boom and she has been an inspiration to me for many, many years after reading her book Tramp for the Lord.

    I’ve asked myself many of the same questions you posed and wondered why is my faith not like this?Is it because faith is a gift and I’ve yet to be granted this ‘level’? Our Lord tells us we will find Him when we seek Him with all of our hearts. Am I filling in my time with nonessentials I’ve wondered. I do notice I go spiritually in reverse if I neglect pursuing God for some time.

    I too have been battling what you stated here, very much so…. “because we are too comfortable in the world and do not know it. I think that myself, I have unwitting found myself living for God IF He allows me to have this or that thing that I didn`t get growing up, or IF He supports my dreams, IF it goes my way. That is a deep root to try and kill, this root of self will and I will be god myself. Pray that I succeed because it is really hard to go against yourself when all your deepest feelings, ideals and dreams are tied up in the things you want. I have gotten really off track into sin related to idolatry and lulled to sleep.”

    To make a long story short I’ve recently had a necessary surgery, the result of which left me more attractive in a particular body part. The surgeon was surprised that I lived with this deformity for so long. I’ve had the condition for 20 years and my flesh is happy that I’m finally “normal”. But my flesh now wonders how it would feel to actually have womanly curves. My flesh is considering something she would NEVER have thought of to “complete the package” which is liposuction!

    Oh, I always thought women like that were vain and I was very judgy so I am actually surprised at myself. I was battling these thoughts at church just this morning! When you stated that idolatry lulls you immediately I felt the enemy is convincing me to research and really imagine how much better I’d feel if I actually had a defined waist instead of the box I’ve had all my life. After all, it’s NORMAL to have a waist.

    This annoying thought has consumed me whereas a few short months ago, it didn’t even exist! Not sure how I will manage this.

    One other story I’ll never forget is the one of Horatio Spafford who penned “It is Well With My Soul”. I love this song dearly and if April permits, this is the Youtube video of the story behind it.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9lQ5ApL3UqI This is the kind of faith you were referring to. This song puts everything in perspective for me and this particular version, as one commenter said is very nice because it’s more a worship and less a performance.

    Anyhow, I look forward to seeing how I’m going to battle this (strange as it sounds). Thoughts of dieting and excersizing are replaced with the reality that the body part that gives me the square non shape and non womanly shape is the part that diet and excersize does absolutely nothing for.

    The vanity makes my soul sick, but again, this is a new thing that never occurred to me before and is now almost consuming. Perhaps it is just a passing phase but it feels like a battle.

    1. SisterinChrist,

      I love the story behind It Is Well With My Soul!!!!! THANK YOU for sharing that.

      So interesting that one surgery has brought about this new temptation. Let me just say to all of our sisters (and brothers) here – there are often new temptations on this journey. Some of the same old temptations will hang around – pride, bitterness, gossip, self-righteousness. But as God empowers us to have victory over old strongholds, sometimes the enemy will pop up with new tactics to try to derail us.

      I am not really one who has ever had a well defined waist myself. Or womanly curves. Oh, how I grieved that when I was a teenager and sometimes even in my 20s.

      Perhaps this post may be a blessing. “I Don’t Have to Be the Most Beautiful Girl in the Room”

      Also, you are welcome to search my home page for:

      – body image
      – godly femininity
      – my journey into modesty and femininity

      How are your thoughts doing now? Want to talk through them some more?
      Much love to you!

        1. It is just such a pleasure to get comments from you April!
          Oh I know it’s vanity! I know full well I need to stop being lazy and excersize if I want even a little improvement (all vanity!). It’s weird because it really would take months and dedicated hours to tone my body whereas I know I’m better off just eating healthy and moderately walking and that would suffice to take care of my temple.
          If I use extra time (even an hour)weight training I’ll likely be too tired (I work full time and have children) to study God’s word in a manner that’s worthy. And I would never want to spend more time exercising that worshipping. That’s vanity I believe.

          1. SisterinChrist,

            You do need time with God, that is for sure! Praying God will give you wisdom as you seek to be a godly steward of all He has given you and of your limited time. And that He might help you see your motives clearly and help you refine them for His glory. 🙂

            Much love!

  15. I also want to add that the surgery was covered by insurance and not considered cosmetic. I just felt I wanted to clarify because while I don’t regret that I know the other procedure is all vanity whereas the first was a medical necessity due to pain and deformity

  16. Hi SisterinChrist,
    I can relate to your wrestling over issues related to beauty, attractiveness, vanity and self improvement. I have known two women who have had weight loss surgery, one was mainly for health reasons and the other was for health reasons but with major focus on wanting to regain the figure she once had in her early twenties, so if you want I can share what I observed good and bad about it, if that’s okay with April. The surgeries were more serious than liposuction, they had part of their stomachs removed, but still lots of similar issues and questions to sort.

    I`ve been mulling over your post since last night and one thing I realized is that I would like to be assured that if I were in Corrie`s place, being persecuted or imprisoned that I would have the `reality`of a commitment to Jesus that she had. But this morning I was put in mind of the verse where Jesus says not to worry beforehand about what one would say if dragged before magistrates and rules,. and that the words would be given at that time. So I think that in the present, its important to make every effort to make certain we are entering through the narrow gate ( a real relationship with Jesus, not just cultural Christianity) but also to know that for tough and harrowing situations like what the Ten Boom`s went through, God gives us that grace at that time, not before.

      1. Hi, this reminded me of Corrie’s own father’s advice to her as a child in which he said:

        “Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam,
        when do I give you your ticket?”

        “Why, just before we get on the train.”

        “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things too. Don’t run out ahead of Him. When the time of need comes, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need — just in time.”

        I would love your perspective on the vanity issue. Thank you

        1. SisterinChrist,

          Oh that is so beautiful!!!!!!! Than you so much for sharing about Corrie’s father and the ticket. I love that!

          To me, vanity is primarily a matter of motives and of misplaced priorities.

          It is possible for me to wear makeup and not be vain, for example. Perhaps I am wearing it to look professional, maybe because it is expected at my job. But it is also possible for me to wear makeup to try to get men to notice me and to pay extra attention to me or flirt with me. The action is the same – wearing make up, but my heart is different. Or, I may feel that I have no value if I don’t wear makeup and that I must wear it or I can’t face the world. That is also a problematic mindset because of my motives.

          I am fine with dressing nicely and looking my best (within reason). I am fine with taking 15-30 minutes or so to get dressed and do my hair or whatever. But if I want to take 2 hours per day to do my hair and makeup – I think I need to look at my motives again. Exercising for the sake of taking good care of my body is great. Wanting to look attractive for my husband is fine. But if I begin to base my worth on my size or weight or on the comments of other people, or I am spending so much time on my looks that I don’t have time for eternal things – that is a problem.

          Does that make sense?

          Much love!

  17. Sure, Thanks April. SisterinChrist, I will post later on today what I observed and thought regarding the two ladies who had weight loss surgery and whatever else God may bring to mind on the issue of vanity; give me a couple of hours to ruminate on the issue and ask God for any scriptures and thoughts that relate as well.

  18. Hi again SisterinChrist.

    Had some time to eat spaghetti and think about this subject. Hopefully the spaghetti hasn`t affected my brain, lol. Here is what I am thinking on this so far and to that end, I ask April and all the sisters here to jump on in and add their thoughts. Here goes:

    The Bible says, `Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised.‘ That is one use of the word vain. I had a look through some basic commentaries. The overall gist I got was that both charm and beauty are not reliable indicators of what lies beneath as far as heart and character goes and that beauty is vain in the sense of lasting value. It has no lasting eternal value, being perishable. I believe that may be the correct meaning as it relates to human beauty. The verse then goes on to highlight what counts in the long run and produces that which is praiseworthy. I have always thought of beauty as a type of glory given us by God; It rightly should point back to him, then and not to us in the sense that we are its sole focus. Beauty in itself cannot be bad, because God Himself posseses beauty as does all of creation. Ps. 27:4 says : One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.

    So with these ideas in mind, I will tell you about the two women who had weight loss surgery.

    The first one I know very personally. She struggled with her weight all her life. I watched her desperate, frantic attempts at trying to lose weight, motivate herself to stay on track, and sometimes collapsing in tears over yet another failure, another breaking of the rules of a diet for just a moment of indulgence. More than anything, she did not want to be fat, she wanted to be beautiful and if she could just lose that weight, she would attain that prize.

    Indeed, in our society, beauty is often coin of the realm so to speak, and attractive people quite literally get away with murder and get all sorts of favor and attention. It would be hard for us average fragile human beings not to want to be beautiful, esp. when faced with the cruelty and rejection that is often directed at those with a poor sense of worth and less than desirable physical attributes. I watched this go on for years in her life.

    Finally in her late forties, she decided to have a surgery that would remove part of her stomach, making it very hard to overeat and resulting in rapid weight loss. I remember our conversation prior to the event. I suggested to her that if she did not address the underlying causes, she would likely be disappointed. She was certain, absolutely certain that the surgery would function like the fairy godmother`s wand that would transform her into the slim and beautiful Cinderella she had briefly been in her twenties.

    I knew her life history. She had been sexually abused in childhood, by two initial perpetators, and then later by others. The weight served as a kind of shield against sexual threats and also functioned as an expression of self loathing and shame. She was unwilling to consider that these issues were still affecting her life and assured me that she was now a competent and successful person who no longer had these issues. She wasn`t at a place where she was willing to open that particular wound, having had enough of it and so I let the matter drop assuring her that I would respect her choice in the matter.

    She had a group of friends who also had weight related struggles, with a couple of the ladies having extremely serious struggles in that area that immediately threatened their lives. Their reaction was quite interesting. Apparently they regarded having this surgery as a form of breaking the rules. It was apparently okay to succeed at weight loss if you worked hard for it and proved by your own sweat and self discipline that you had earned it. But, apparently from their perspective, to just advance to the head of the line because you PAID for it, well that was different, unfair somehow. It actually provoked anger and judgement from the others.

    She had the surgery and as promised, she lost quite a lot of weight. She didn`t become the svelte 20 something she had once been but definitely slimmer. Then she gained some of it back. She never returned to the level of obesity she had been at previously. But she found out that self-control is still a factor. Even with half a stomach, one can still overeat. She later ruefully admitted that the surgery hadn`t created the wonderful miracle she had hoped it would for her. The underlying emotional and belief issues driving the weight problem were still there.

    The second lady I know only in passing. She had tried for a lifetime to get healthy and couldn`t do it. She decided that she needed to avert a health crisis, so she had the surgery and next I saw her she looked so different I hardly recongized her. I am sure feeling attractive was part of it but in her case she was afraid that if she didn`t do something to get the weight off she might die of a heart attack or other weight related means of having a premature death. She had recently been reunited to an adult child she had been estranged from, and her choice was more about wanting to have as much time with her loved one as she could and not risking it being cut short by her poor health.

    Most of us have no problem with a sister who says she wants to get in shape and feel better about herself. I don`t personally think there is any holiness value in not feeling good about ourselves. That is not the same thing as humility. I don`t know that having surgery to do it is in itself, necessarily morally evil. I just don`t think it is probably healthy in many cases, although certainly in some cases, it could indeed be medically necessary. For instance, the lady with the abuse issues aged visibly as a result of this very invasive surgery. I think it took a few years off her life in the space of a week and caused her skin to take on an older, papery cast and the skin on her neck shrank and wrinkled like she was much older. I was shocked that it could have that effect on her and wondered how hard it must have been on her body. Plus she had to go into debt to afford the medical loan to do it. And in the end, it was only a partial cure. It is probably healthier to do such things the natural way, as in so many ways it is less hard on us.

    But what about the desire to be beautiful? I guess where you come down on that one depends on what you think is beauty. Ceratinly having a nice figure is one form of beauty. Why do we want to be beautiful? Does it add to our self esteem to be eye catching? Is it because we want to be noticed or popular or garner the affirmation of men, of our womanliness and desirability? In the world, these are acceptable standards and desires. And probably distortions of things that are God given. Every woman wants to be the queen of a man`s heart. That should be our husband. The notice of other men is not on the table for the believing woman.

    When I was younger, I really got a charge out of men responding to my attractiveness. How I gauged that was if I was the one who was catching the most male eyes. Growing up I was told often that I was ugly so I had a real sharp wound in my self perception and CRAVED beauty. I saw the doors it opened, the attention one got and the personal favor it could bring your way if you possessed this coin of the realm. I got quite full of myself, having blossomed into a beautiful young woman. I collected wolf whistles the way some people collect stamps! It all felt so good. On the surface. Underneath I was as insecure as marbles on an aborite table during an earthquake. If someone else `stole`my affirmation by being as attractive, or, even worse, seen as more attractive, my whole world collapsed. Once I had finally gotten ahold of the beauty I never thought I could have, I wasn`t about to let it go.

    One day I met a fellow that I wound up having the hugest crush on. The thing was, David was everything you would normally attribute to a nerd, not a hunk! He had a shock of red hair, freckles and a rangy, skinny body, and rode jumping horses. And little kids just loved him and rode their fat little ponies over to his house for lessons because he was such a genuiniely decent guy that he would take the time to help train them to ride properly; they just loved him because he treated them like they were important.

    On another occasion, I was riding the bus home sporting the usual arrogant and clueless teenage attitude, and a farm woman with a sturdy body, wearing a kerchief, black rubber boots and a skirt and top, said hello to me. I was about to sneer to myself that I didn`t want to talk to HER, when the beauty of her heart shone through and broke my wall of contempt. Suddenly I could SEE her. I was inwardly ashamed and even sorrowing over what a blind and mean hearted idiot I was and never so easily dismissed someone again on the basis of outward appearances. That sturdy farm woman put me to shame.

    I began to realize then that there was a kind of attractiveness that wasn`t confined to limited stereotypes of beauty and that anyone could be so attractive it wasn`t funny. Beauty of the lasting sort comes from your spirit and is much more potent and affective than just face and form. Beauty and femininity are things that are actually out of no one`s reach. So I don`t think a woman desiring to be beautiful is a woman who is being sinful and vain, necessarily. I would look more closely at what you think beauty is and why you want it and then check to see if your definition of beauty is the real deal.

    Another scripture that`s relevant says: 1 Peter 3:3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment such as braided hair or gold jewelry or fine clothes, 4but from the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.… It doesn`t say not to dress nicely but that outward showiness and expensive clothing isn`t what we should value or see as the means to beauty. It doesn’t say NOT to seek beauty but rather to seek the right kind.

    For me, I have noticed that when I am right with God, my heart is focused and attuned on Him, not the world or me, that is, oddly enough, when I am the most beautiful. I am free and feel graceful, in both being and body. I am aware of my own beauty,and of the glory and power of womanlliess and femininity.

    It is a very contented feeling because the key to it all is knowing that whatever beauty and glory He has given to us is meant to point to Him. Its like knowing what I was created for. Maybe like saying `Oh, you think I am attractive? I get my looks from my DAD. When I am in that right place, strangley enough I do not NEED the affirmation of others, yet it seems to come more easily. When one`s heart is right, a man may acknowledge my beauty but its a different kind of focus that has more to do with acknowledging the value and glory of womanhood, which in a real way is an acknowledgment of God`s design and rightful order ,though the man in question may not realize it.

    It is purer, earthier, heavenlier, more wholesome and full of goodness than the worldly kind. And perhaps best of all, it does not draw either party into an interaction that is unholy or off limits. I suppose there will always be those who can turn a pure moment into an impure one, but generally speaking, this kind of honor and glory and beauty is safe, wholesome and pure. It is much more preferable to the cheap, shallow kind that never progresses into spiritual maturity.

    I hope this is somehow of help in thinking through questions about vanity and beauty and the like. Let me know what you think and what speaks to you, if anything 🙂 Yours along the journey,
    Just a little sheep

  19. PS, should clarify that when I said the notice of other men is not on the table for the believing woman,. I meant that intentionally trying to get the attention of other men is not something a believing woman should have as a goal or a barometer of her worth or beauty. Men will notice us and we will notice them as a matter of course, but that`s different from intentionally trying to allure the opposite sex.

  20. I do want to mention – this is something we each choose to do ourselves. It is not appropriate for me to demand that another believer needs to “die to self” to do what I want him/her to do. I can’t force others to obey God. I can set a godly example. I can ask for what I need and desire. I can share my insights and perspective. But I don’t get to control other people or dictate to them what they should do.

    My husband should be living wholeheartedly for Christ and leading and loving as Jesus did, laying down his life for me to portray the love of Christ. But it is not my place to say, “You need to die to yourself and do X, Y, and Z to lead me properly.” It is possible for me to try to manipulate my husband, or other believers, in this way, for my own selfish purposes.

  21. Hi April, thank you for this reminder about our tendency to want to control. This one is a problem for me. Sometimes its just the way I think; I am often a black and white thinker and try to encapsulate my thoughts in a crystal clear manner, without intended to suggest that my thinking is the ONLY right thinking. Other times though I am truly guilty of being controlling and dictatorial in terms of my attitude. It`s hard to tell sometimes, because we live in a culture that takes great offense to anyone acting as if truth is something that can be known with certainty, let alone absolute; people get mad if you say what is true according to biblical truths and principles and see that as arrogant intolerance.

    Somehow pretending that truth is not definite and knowable seems to let everyone off the hook and create a kind of `what you think is just as good as what I think sort of relativity. Of course there are times where the truth is not the problem but the WAY it was said. I have indeed been guilty of being controlling and having a fed up drill sergeant’s attitude and can be quite AWFUL sometimes, not speaking truth in love but with a `WHY haven`t you GOT this yet, I am sick of waiting for you to get your act together“ kind of mentality. I do think there is a place to speak truth about what someone needs to do or why they may not be progressing in their Christian walk, but that`s one of those things where it depends on the depth of the relationship and how free one is to speak into that person`s life and how open they are to it. For instance I would not have broached the subject I did with the lady I had known for years, with the lady I knew in passing. I only did so because we knew each very well and had discussed these issues before.

    So with that in mind , SisterInChrist, if anything `lands`on you as having a shaming or controlling flavor to it, please forgive me , that is not my desire towards you, and know that you are of course not the least bit bound by anything I have said. These are just accounts of what I observed and what my thinking is at the moment but its all subject to discernment and weighing against scripture, and personal prayer.Take the meat, spit out the bones. 🙂

  22. Just a little sheep,
    Thank you very much for your insight. I agree with you 100% on following biblical standards for beauty. As I was reading your post, I kept thinking, I just want to be beautiful for my husband. I was going to say I don’t care if others find me attractive but I would be dishonest if I said I didn’t enjoy a compliment or two. However, the truth is, at almost 41 with nasolabial folds and a belly that sags, I think of my husband. I want to continue attracting him.

    I am no longer young and feel my personality isnt going to make him drool. I am no longer the muse of men I once was during my beautiful youth. Some women may think this is a good thing, to want to attract my husband. April and others may know based on previous posts that, for me, this is probably not the best outlook to have since I have insecurity/jealousy issues that, although better now, are still there, simmering. And this is putting my husband as an idol again.

    I know I have the wrong outlook and I know what the right outlook should be, but I can’t find the bridge that takes me there. For some reason, knowing my husband is biologically attracted to youth even though he guards his heart makes me fear aging and losing that look from him that men get from a beautiful woman. I’ll be old and unnattractive even if he does love me and I feel I need to learn how to prepare for that. Forgive me, I’ve had a glass of wine so my post may not be as clear as I hope it may be but I believe this is where I am emotionally.

    Thank you again, I truly enjoyed reading your post.

    1. SisterinChrist and Just a Little Sheep,

      I just wanted to confirm what I think I have observed, because I wonder if it is maybe one key to the whole conversation we have been having…

      Am I correct in reading that you both felt very beautiful externally in your youth and that you received a lot of male attention then?

      I love this conversation and am so thankful for you both and for the insights and issues you are bringing up!

      1. Hi April,

        Thank you for allowing me this outlet. I was very pretty in my youth. I still do get looks but of course nowhere near as I did before. I am ok with the much less head turning and worry most about losing my attractiveness to the point where the face no longer even has a remnant of youth nor beauty while my husband still maintains attraction to a youthful face and body per his biological nature. As a man, his biological wiring for attraction will be completely opposite of what he looks at when he sees my face and body to be (in the years to come). If men no longer felt attracted to youth and beauty while their woman ages this would be a nonissue. Since this is not the case, I need to learn how to cope now before I enter a desperate situation.

        Sometimes I feel like I’d be okay but I fear that’s because I haven’t “really” thought about what I’m facing in the future, I’m sort of ignoring it for right now but it is coming out in the jealousy pattern. At least now I’m working on it and have gotten better at least in the blurting out every insecurity that surfaces when we’re outside, but the roots are still there since I feel this is related to my insecurity and jealousy patterns that are present now. ( but better handled).

        1. SisterinChrist,

          While many men are generally attracted to “youth” – I think we may be selling our husbands a bit short in this line of thinking. I know I have heard from a number of husbands who describe that when it comes to their wives, they continue to be attracted to them because of their history together and because of their commitment and marriage bonds together. I mean, women can be attracted to youth, too. But I am not going to leave my husband because there is a handsome 20 year old with a better body. Or who makes more money or has a nicer car – or whatever. I made a vow to my husband. Many of our husbands are more interested in their own wives, their marriage vows, and building their relationships than they are in destroying it over seeing a woman who is more youthful or more beautiful, thankfully. And even if a husband recognizes attractiveness in other women, that doesn’t at all mean he will leave his wife because someone else exists on the planet who is more beautiful than she is. Does that make sense?

          Have you had conversations with your husband about these issues? What are his thoughts?

          I have heard from some husbands that describe that they have “wife glasses” when they look at their wives that cause them to still be attracted and not bothered by the wrinkles and signs of aging. And, of course, if a wife has godly inner beauty – that is VERY attractive!

          I wonder if the insecurity/vanity thing could be a greater struggle for women who maybe found value and security earlier in their youth from being attractive and getting a lot of male attention? I can’t recall finding my value, purpose, identity, and/or security in my looks or in male attention myself – so I haven’t had to struggle with breaking free from it. I didn’t try to capture Greg with my looks.

          Actually, I was convinced no guy could ever think I was attractive, and I could hardly accept that he was attracted to me when we met when I was 15. He almost never gave me compliments – still rarely does. It is just not his style. He also doesn’t give me much criticism at all, either. I don’t get much verbal feedback one way or the other. Our relationship was never about my looks (or, it wasn’t from my perspective) and he didn’t talk much at all about being attracted to me. Only a handful of times did he mention it. So maybe I never learned to put all my eggs in that basket? Of course, I had other idols and things I looked to wrongly for security, and I had to work through those instead.

          It is interesting to me to think about how these different strongholds develop – because I think if we can find the hidden motives and mindsets, we can counter them with God’s truth and break free!

          1. SisterinChrist,

            Let me clarify – Greg DID think (and still does think) that I am very attractive to him – he is just not verbal about it. So, I eventually did realize he was attracted to me physically – but it was not ever a focal point of our relationship.

          2. Hi April,
            That’s a great point about there being attractive younger men, the problem however is that they are not in the multitudes in front of us while I’m walking with my husband and they are not all wearing tight leggings that really look like socks as is todays fashion. ONLY the women are doing this, this is todays reality in modern marriages. So he’s tempted everyday by today’s fashion culture in real life and on tv and it’s RARE for us to be outside together or watch a show where there a multitudes of young gorgeous men at every corner that I must respectfully look away from. That’s not the world’s reality that husbands are dealing with.

            I’m just trying to dig deep in me when I say these things, sometimes this truth as I see it doesn’t bother me that much but I still resent sometimes what I feel is his seeming superior biological male priviledge. I am in a much better place where this isn’t anguishing my spirit as it was prior, I feel that I need to prepare though, for my aging, for being in places with my husband who ages well. And when we are in our 50’s/60’s and we are in public, my being the obvious old lady with faded external beauty next to a older gentleman who is handsome and can still attract young women as we see everyday. I fear if I dont start healing now I’ll hate the young waitress that waits on us with her smile that my husband will respectfully pretend didnt affect him.
            For someone like me, without God I cannot manage this adjustment in life on the deep level it needs to be dealt with. I can control my tongue while being upset inside (my progress so far) but that’s not deep enough. I need to get on the level of women who are not only handling this gracefully on the exterior but the interior as well.

          3. SisterinChrist,

            I think a bigger temptation for us as women, many times, would be romantic books/movies, or fantasizing about being with a “more godly man” – maybe a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, a neighbor, or coworker. Even if we aren’t as visually stimulated, we often are stimulated emotionally – so that is where we have to often be more on guard. We, as women, have as many temptations, as our men do, I believe. Even though they may be different.

            Greg and I have had numerous discussions about male attraction, lust, being visual, etc… and from what I can glean from him and from the many other men I have heard from is that this is not a “male privilege” thing in their minds, as much as it is a burden. Many men, that I know of, WISH they could turn off the whole visual thing. Perhaps I am misunderstanding your use of “male privilege”? I want to be sure I am understanding correctly – because as we can put all of our thoughts on the table and into the Light, then we can address them most effectively. 🙂 I’m really grateful for this discussion because I think there is a lot I can learn here and I want to be a blessing to my sisters who are trapped in this – and to you, most of all, of course!

            These fears are interesting to me. They are things I have seriously never imagined or contemplated. And that is quite something because I used to spend almost ALL my time worrying about so many what-if’s.

            Are you willing to consider the possibility that perhaps you may not understand your husband accurately?

            If you believe you truly are understanding your husband accurately, are you willing to still lay down these fears about the future and receive Jesus’ peace? I would be glad to help you walk through them.

            I want DEEP healing for you spiritually, my precious sister! You are right, it is not going to work to just try to change externally if the destructive thinking is still going on.

            Much love to you!

          4. Hi April,
            Thank you for your response!
            When you ask if I’m not understanding my husband I’m not sure I know what you may be referring to. But I understand my husband is a man and my thoughts so far on the last post, to me, is an accurate representation of how I believe he functions as a male, irrespective of age. It kind of bothers me that men will say it’s a burden to them to notice an attractive female. I feel like the burden is perhaps the sexual attraction they pretend they don’t have that’s really what bothers them. Maybe this is a bad day for me and I apologize to anyone reading this if it offends in any way but I find no consolation (not that I deserve any) in the fact that a man is sorry he is so very attracted to multitudes of women on a daily basis. It doesn’t ring authentic nor consoling.

          5. SisterinChrist,

            I think that men and women each have aspects of their design that have become burdensome due to the fall. Our hormones, for example. PMS is certainly burdensome. We would rather not be so moody and wish we could turn our emotions off sometimes, even though emotions are a gift and a blessing. Different men are different as far as how visual they are. There is a continuum, just like there is a continuum for women and how much they are affected by PMS.

            For men who are very visual and seeking to live holy lives, this is s tough world to live in today. Many men, especially Christian men, don’t enjoy temptation at all and are not trying to look for it and hate being confronted with it – even if their wives don’t freak out about that they face temptation at times.

            I think sometimes it is possible to read about how men think, as women, and make broad assumptions about how every man “must think.” I want us to avoid doing that. Some men really struggle. Others not nearly as much. And God can give them victory in the Spirit for those who yield to Him. 🙂

            I think where we can get in the most trouble is when we assume we know what other people are thinking and what their motives are. I had other issues where I did this with my husband, and when I finally got a chance to learn how he really thought, I was nowhere close to the way he thinks. I assumed so many evil motives in his part over 14 years that I held against him that weren’t true at all once I actually began to seek to understand his mind and heart instead of condemning him based on what I assumed about his thinking.

            What I would love for us to do is for us to seek to understand first and, unless you have a husband who is actively involved in very obvious lust or porn addiction or infidelity, don’t assume the worst. Ask God to help you understand your husband’s heart and mind as a friend and teammate. He is not your enemy.

            What I hear in your comment is a lot of judgement and condemnation that may not be deserved toward your husband and maybe toward other men, too. Maybe that is not how you feel? But that is what I am hearing right now.

            At this point, you may not know exactly how he thinks. You may not know exactly what is tempting to him or what his motives are. But – as much as possible – I would love for you to begin to think things like this about your husband:

            – Maybe some of my negative assumptions could be wrong.
            – Maybe I don’t completely know his heart yet.
            – Maybe I have assigned evil motives and thoughts to him that are untrue.
            – Maybe he is not my real enemy.
            – Maybe I can learn to see him as my teammate.
            – Maybe there is a much healthier way I can learn to look at things wtih God’s help that I have never even thought of before.
            – All of us face temptations. Being tempted is not sin. It is what we do with the temptation that is sin and right now, I have not been handling my own thought life temptations very successfully. I want to focus on finding victory in my own thought life battles with God’s power, and THEN He will help me see more clearly so that I can see if my husband even has a real sin issue or if it is mostly a matter of my perception.

            Much love!

            These kinds of thoughts are the first step.

            I don’t know your husband. I don’t know his heart. But I know that some of the ways you have described men thinking don’t apply to all men and it would sure be a shame to paint them all with this evil brush and miss out on a beatiful relationship you could possibly have.

            Right now, he may not feel safe enough to share his real thoughts with you because you may freak out or he may feel like you will not be able to hear him clearly because of the filters your currently have. So, you may not be able to ask him direct questions yet about how he thinks. But one day, that is the goal.

            First, though, I think there is a lot of healing you can receive in Christ no matter how your husband truly thinks or what his temptations may be.

          6. April, one more thing I forgot to add from your last post is that while it’s true I may have fantasized in the past of someone more patient etc… I can TRULY count the handful of times over the years. To me, this is a HUGE difference from a constant DAILY even hourly visual temptations that men admittedly feel bad they have to deal with. This is a huge difference in my mind. I find it wonderful that you’ve never experienced this in all your what if scenarios and that is a blessing!

          7. SisterinChrist,

            I am super glad you do not experience feeling attracted toward other men emotionally or visually very much. That is awesome! And it is great that you don’t seem to fantasize based on emotional connection about romantic books or movies. That is also such a blessing. Many women face a terrible struggle in these areas.

            But there is a temptation you face in your thought life every day – maybe all day long, especially before the past few weeks. Do you recognize any of the following sins as temptations for you on a daily basis? (I am not in your heart and mind, so I don’t know what all may be tempting for you, these one very common temptations many women face.)

            – fear/worry
            – unbelief in God
            – insecurity
            – self-righteousness
            – pride
            – resentment
            – a critical, judgemental spirit
            – idolatry of your looks, your husband’s pure thought life, your husband

            All sin is destructive. All sin separates us from God and can destroy our marriages. Do you believe that any of these temptations or sin battles are “better” or more righteous than a husband’s potential temptations or visual battles? If so, why?

            Much love!

          8. Thank you for the many insights you offered to prayerfully consider. Thank you for the time you took to respond. Right now I’m distracted by teens in need of attention but I look forward to rereading this all. One thing that stays with me and that I need to get to the point where I’m not a bitter old woman at the restaurant surrounded by gorgeous waitresses that my husband is trying hard not to look at. I need to arrive at a place where these thoughts, in my mind, are dismissed as entirely irrelevant and not thoughts that instill a bit of fear and sadness at the upcoming reality.

          9. SisterinChrist,

            Take all the time you need. 🙂

            The great news for you is – YOU have 100% control over whether you become a bitter old woman or not. That has nothing to do with your husband. It has everything to do with your walk with Christ. As you become healed in Jesus, He will help you see and approach your husband rightly.

            AND – He can help you think things like, “Won’t it be amazing to get to be with my husband and to become more and more the woman God calls me to be. Won’t it be incredible to watch God transform me into such a wonderful blessing to my husband and to see Him bless our marriage. I look forward to seeing the way my husband responds to the beauty God wants to create in my soul. I want to bring joy to God and be a blessing to my husband. I will enjoy our time together. Each day is such a precious gift. I will lay my fears before God. I will trust Him with my own heart and mind and with my husband’s. I can’t wait to see His good plans for each of us unfold and how it all brings glory to Him!”

            Much love to you!

          10. (reposting as I think the other one had a trigger word since removed for moderation, my apologies if this posts twice)
            Hi April,
            Thank you for your response!
            When you ask if I’m not understanding my husband I’m not sure I know what you may be referring to. But I understand my husband is a man and my thoughts so far on the last post, to me, is an accurate representation of how I believe he functions as a male, irrespective of age. It kind of bothers me that men will say it’s a burden to them to notice an attractive female. I feel like the burden is perhaps the strong attraction they pretend they don’t have that’s really what bothers them. Maybe this is a bad day for me and I apologize to anyone reading this if it offends in any way but I find no consolation (not that I deserve any) in the fact that a man is sorry he is so very attracted to multitudes of women on a daily basis. It doesn’t ring authentic nor consoling

  23. ((((( ))))) to you SisterinChrist;

    Please know that I cherish your vulnerable honesty. I was worried that in my attempts to be concise and honest I might have managed to be a bull in a china shop so I am glad that you enjoyed my post. I am not much older than you and my figure has changed drastically also, as a result of overeating and depressed inactivity. I seemed to hit a wall I could not manage somehow and have struggled spiritually for some time.

    I wound up getting everything thought I wanted in my life, and found myself utterly unable to enjoy any of it. Instead I crashed and had a crisis of faith big time, with old issues surging back wtth a vengeance. So I might have an idea what you mean by knowing you have the wrong outlook and what the right outlook should be – but not being able to find the bridge that takes you there.

    All I Know is that for a brief time, I experienced being totally focused on God in Jesus and in that moment, I was the happiest, most content, most solid and secure and yes, the most beautiful I have ever been. But I got drawn away by an old pursuit I think, one related to fatherlessness in my life and that triggered off an old trauma that probably wasn`t really dealt with properly..So I am needing to have God cut some cords in my life to certain things that continually press on me.

    Some of what you describe sounds almost like a form of torment. I think the evil one uses these things in our lives to keep us in a state of anguish that makes it very difficult to focus. I remember realizing when I was way clearer a while back, that while many of my struggles had their human element to them, and what I thought they were about, yet from a spiritual standpoint, they seemed to serve the purpose of keeping me busy here and there and so distracted by many things. I needed to be a Mary and was getting dragged, tormented and provoked into being a Martha.

    Sometimes I think we can have a block in our hearts of some sort that it takes the Holy Spirit to reveal. So perhaps we can join in prayer and ask God to show us why `the bridge is out“ in our respective struggles.

    Lord Jesus,

    You have been the witness to our exchange over these things we struggle with. We know You see what is not apparent to us. Lord, please show SisterInChrist whatever she needs to see as to why the bridge is out between where she is and where she needs to be. I know You are our bridge to where we need to be, but some understanding would sure be helpful. So Lord, pease show us what the hindrance is to being free in each of our situations and build us a bridge from here to there, to being completely captivated and able to fully entrust it all to You Lord.

    In Your name, Amen.

    1. Just a little sheep,
      For many years I’ve wondered what it would be/feel like to have someone pray for me so your prayer really means alot to me. Thank you.

      It sounds like you were in a beautiful spiritual place at one point and I hope so much you will get not only glimpses of that time, which sometimes occurs to me and is fleeting, but that it is more permanent aND I strongly feel that wI’ll happen. (Sorry if I misunderstood).

      It’s strange because I agree it’s a torment what I’m going through but I’m so familiar with it I almost can’t imagine my life without this particular anxiety.

      Getting sleepy now (on medication) but I didn’t want to sleep before thanking you for your encouragement. It’s truly appreciated.

  24. April, I still will reread everything but one thing that stood out was your quote “I think sometimes it is possible to read about how men think, as women, and make broad assumptions about how every man “must think.” I want us to avoid doing that. Some men really struggle. Others not nearly as much”
    I thought of Shaunti Feldmans book, isn’t she doing this very thing? Painting them with a broad brush with regards to their visual nature even if some are “worse” than others. I didn’t read it but if anything books like that cement and support my line of thinking. I have done lots of reading on this very topic and frankly I was surprised at the level of “visualness” men admitted to having.
    I’m taking too much of your time this Sunday, I’m happy to revisit later in the week.
    You’re a blessing, thank you so much.

    1. SisterinChrist,

      I know that some women have really struggled with Shaunti’s book. Interestingly, I didn’t hear the message that some women heard in that book at all. If you are healed spiritually, I believe you will hear an entirely different message. But until you are seeing and hearing clearly, most likely, you will hear the message you are articulating now. So I don’t recommend that you read her book until your thinking has dramatically changed.

      I vote for you not to read anything else about men being visual until your thought life has been radically healed by God. Because until your filters are different, you are going to hear a message that is very destructive and that will only fuel your fear, insecurity, and need for control. After your filters are changed by God’s power, you will hear a message of understanding, compassion, teamwork, and encouragement. Not that men are given an excuse to sin. They are not. But you will hear a totally different message and have a completely different response to your husband and to other men on this topic.

      Much love!

      1. Hi April,

        Yes, I would love the peace of Christ on this issue of aging with a spouse who’s desire wont diminish as my looks will. I am better in the sense I not only recognize the need to heal and have taken superficial action (that still counts as progress) but no where near the heart issue. Just today I asked my husband if I could go home alone since today is Halloween and we’re sure to encounter half dressed costumes, I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with this today and be in the car with him while legs and big youthful smiles wearing almost nothing catches his eye due to it being a non typical costume day. If I were in better spirits I probably would have ‘taken the chance’ like I mostly do.

        But how? I’ve always thought in order to prevail I need to pray and read God’s word. April, I pray. I’ve let my heart out to my Father on this issue and continue to do so, always with thanksgiving for my tremendous blessings and even with apology for being this way. As of 2 months ago, for this very purpose, I’ve even begun formal prayers every day (I’m doing a 54 day prayer) that I’ve started FOR this particular issue as well as intentionally deciding to attend mass everyday for the past 2 months (I started due to my husbands advice to combat this issue) and praise God in doing all of this I actually do see progress! What has changed? Oh the blowouts we used to have over my accusatory language, they’re not there anymore. I see him take an innocent look and most times I remember “Love hopes all things..believes all things….” and I don’t say a word and he has no idea what could have transpired. I don’t feel that angst much. I read your blog almost daily and reread many of the previous advice you and others have given. I continue to revisit it please know.

        BUT, it’s still there, underneath. I’m not totally free. We still don’t just have the tv on in the background in case the usual innapropriately dressed person (always women) pops up. Not even the news channel, all those men in suits and all the women with legs and high heels. That’s not in my head, that’s a reality. It’s normal for use to use our phones and put shows on tv that are decent instead of leaving whatever the enemy wants to put smack dab in our living room and comforming to the world, it’s more effort sure but is it wrong to be purposeful in what we watch?

        As far as how to get a complete heart change, is it that I have to continue to do what I’m doing and pray and read God’s word and study helpful advice or must do more? And if it’s more, I’d love to know what I’m missing for even more progress.

        Thank you.

        1. SisterinChrist,
          Hey! I was reading through the convo you all were having, and this one thing you said just above really caught my eye and I feel led to share with you!

          When you said,

          “As far as how to get a complete heart change, is it that I have to continue to do what I’m doing and pray and read God’s word and study helpful advice or must do more? And if it’s more, I’d love to know what I’m missing for even more progress.”

          I have been through this searching question as well and the Lord has finally brought me to see that our changing has nothing to do with us, it is ONLY by the Holy Spirit. Our part is to yield control to Him and cooperate with Him, in conforming us to the image of Christ! So what that means in real life is that each day, when I am faced with any situation or thought or anything, there is a literal choice for who I will take sides with—myself? or the Holy Spirit.

          I must also reckon myself DEAD to Sin AND to the OLD CREATION—— I am a new creature in Christ! 🙂 Therefore, as I reckon myself dead, and alive unto God—– I am giving the Lord full way for the Holy Spirit to come in and do His work in me!

          The Holy Spirit is faithful, as we put our faith in Him to conform us, to create Christ in us! As we seek the Lord for spiritual eyes to see Christ, we are changed as we behold Christ and gaze upon HIM and all that HE IS unto Us!

          -HE ALONE IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS
          -HE ALONE IS OUR SANCTIFICATION
          -HE ALONE IS OUR WISDOM
          -HE ALONE IS OUR TRUTH
          -HE ALONE IS OUR LIFE
          -HE ALONE IS THE WAY
          -HE ALONE IS THE SACRIFICE

          All is in CHRIST ALONE, and as we seek the know Him, the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to our hearts, and all that He is unto us, and as we behold Him, we are changed into His image!!!! 🙂

          I pray all of our eyes might be opened by the Spirit so that we may comprehend all that Christ is unto us!

          Blessings,
          Amanda

          1. Love this! Thanks so much for sharing with SisterinChrist, Amanda! 🙂

            SisterinChrist,

            There are a lot of stages to our growing in Christ. But all of it depends on us yielding to God’s Spirit and allowing Him to be the One who does the changing and transforming.

            If this doesn’t make sense, let me know! I have a lot of posts about this and many related issues.

            Much love!
            April

          2. Amanda and April, thank you so much. This is really the crux of the matter for me, to know what to do. I appreciate your help. I even have to question sometimes purchases related to vanity (makeup or hair ) because that consumes too much thought in my mind and Im pretty sure it’s related to the insecurity/jealousy issue. At least I think so anyway. If I want to be blonder for example I’ll spend some time looking at hair color and debating spending money on hair. I don’t think this is healthy for me. The constant wanting to look better. Some women do this and (might) still have a good relationship with God but I dont know what a healthy balance is. As for my jealousy I will just keep praying and reading God’s word and trying to listen and be in line with the Holy Spirit. I really need alot of humility to do that and a lot of prayer for strength. Thank you

          3. SisterinChrist,

            I think it is very possible that there is a “tangled web” of many different ways of thinking that are destructive that may be beneath the insecurity and jealousy. It is painstaking. And time consuming. But – I think as you are willing to face each negative thought and write it down and compare it to the truth of God’s Word, you will find more and more freedom.

            The Lies We Have Embraced post may be helpful for this.

            If there are specific areas where you would like to look at things to help you allow God’s light to shine in those darkest places of your heart so you can start to tear out the tangled mess and begin to rebuild on His healing truth, I would be glad to help in any way I can.

            To me, it is critical to have a healthy understanding of who God is and who we are in Christ. Also about His design for masculinity, femininity, marriage, idols, etc.. If you would like resources about that or any topic that you think would help, please let me know.

            Much love!
            April

          4. THIS (what I am about to share) is the kind of freedom from fear I would like for you to have and that is available as you yield fully to Christ as LORD of your thoughts and of everything in your life… Shared on another post this week by a husband who is definitely facing his deepest fears right now, but instead of living in fear like he was 6 months ago, he is living in the power of God’s Spirit now. He is a TOTALLY different man.

            ———-
            Hello my good friends. I want to drop by again to praise my saviour for His peace. To encourage you to trust Him with all you are!

            I am just loving walking with Him 🙂 Walking without fear is so, so, so, so good. I am waking up in the morning happy, with a smile on my heart. I meet my saviour in prayer and worship each morning. His mercies are renewed every day. I wish I could grab this peace and put it into all of your hearts!!

            The storms feel so small in the light of His power. How have I not seen this before? Why do we doubt the infinite power of God when we see His power displayed all around us through creation? My friends are commenting on how peaceful I am…….God is good. HIS light is shining, not mine. Rest is good. I am no longer driven to achieve to earn any favour from Him or from people. I steadily work at the task in front of me for His glory and know that I am secure regardless. I am enjoying my friendships with people so much more.

            The storms that have hit since I got home have continued to grow. The impact of them is spreading, rippling all around me. The clouds are dark and the wind is strong. But, I have this calm certainty that the storms in my HEART are over. They just aren’t there anymore. My heart is ‘different’ for want of a better word. I can’t explain it properly. I have a peace that is just awesome. And it isn’t leaving. A situation rises and I feel that old fear begin to move and I CONSCIOUSLY look to Christ and the fear just melts away in the light of the cross. That, is where everything centres. It is awesome 🙂 It is addictive. I wanna walk with God forever. I don’t have to know tomorrow because I know my God. These idols are gone and I don’t want them back.

            And, as these storms are rolling in DW has commented on how calm I am through them. She has said that several times since I came back. The way the Lord has enabled me to respond to these storms is an absolute testimony to His grace. And, I feel it is having some fruit. She is reaching out through these storms….

            …….in fact, we had dinner together Friday night for the first time in 7 months. And talked a couple hours after. Then tonight, she rang again to talk and asked me over. We watched a movie together and talked for a few hours. She was so open and honest. Things she said would have filled me with fear in the past, but I had zero fear and God’s peace just flowed through me. There is no need for fear because my heart is not held in her hands, it is held in God’s. And He will never let it go. In our conversation I saw her heart, exposed and raw, vulnerable, facing some of her sin, sharing some of her fear and I loved her heart. I accepted exactly who she was and where she was at with no expectations and she knew it. God is GOOD. In Christ all our needs are met and we can truly love with agape love. Christ frees us to minister because He makes us whole.

            Friends, trust the saviour. You have seen me on this blog walk through fear, pain, rejection and a separation. You have shared some of my struggles through what I wrote. Through it all, even when I couldn’t see it, God was working to bring good. Not the good of a reunion (yet) or a perfect marriage (yet) but the good of a heart that has a peace not possible without God’s strength. That, is the treasure worth having.

            God can fill you with a peace that your husband simply can….not….give….you. Trust Him.

            I married as a controlling man, enmeshed and dependent on an insecure woman. I became a weak and insecure man dependent on a hard woman. Now, I am a strong, secure man, full of the love of Christ and able to give from that heart. God….is….good!

          5. SisterinChrist,

            Something else the same husband shared this week:

            I want to share a little more about the journey I am on in the hope that it may help a bit 🙂 I’m going to use the boat and iceberg image a bit to help.

            I don’t know if I wrote it on here, but 7 months ago I went to the outback for a couple of weeks for the same sort of work. I strongly suspected that when I got back my wife would be gone so it was a hard, hard time. I could see the truth in the thought that a life of faith would be a life of peace but I couldn’t ‘get’ there. I just couldn’t. But I knew my iceberg was melting and soon I would be drowning.

            I took along the book Absolute Surrender and read it through and through. I read scripture over and over. I took a notepad and wrote down everything that came to my mind and I realised that I was a massive people pleaser, full of pride and unbelief. I knew I was a Christian but I was not living in the power of Christ. It was NOT easy to accept these things about myself but they were true. Hebrews 3-4 talks about how the same message can be given to two people but one will benefit from it because they believe it but another will not benefit because they do not believe it. I could see that rest just sitting there but I could NOT make myself peaceful.

            I came to a point on that last trip where I knew absolutely that my iceberg was going down and I made a conscious decision to step into the boat of Jesus. I wrote out a prayer of surrender and prayed it. I meant it with my whole heart but I was a broken, hurting mess. I took a ‘selfie’ after I had prayed which was a picture of a broken man with a tear stained face. This may sound weird but I wanted to remember the sincerity of the commitment. I truly put my idols on the altar that trip and told God that He could have my wife for His will. In truth I was still scared of what He would ask from me, but I was willing to give it. I was probably like the man who cried “Lord I believe, please help my unbelief”.

            And, God took me at my word. He knew I meant it. And I did mean it. She left. And it hurt. Lots. I was in the boat with Jesus at the helm but I was sitting cowering on the floor, shaking with fear and not sure if the boat was going to sink. I’m going to put something else into the illustration this time…..a shark! The enemy was a shark to me, circling around the boat, rubbing his sharp skin against it. I lay in the boat, knowing that I had truly given everything to God but listening to the sound and taunts of the enemy with great fear still. I could feel the pain of his teeth in my mind. I could hear the storm raging and already feel the pain of the waters of an affair or divorce. But, I was committed to trusting God in a conscious decision.

            Time passed. I had moments of great peace mixed with moments of great fear. I had stopped controlling things because I knew I couldn’t sail my boat, but I was terrified of where it was going. I listened to the shark and the storm as much as I listened to God. Many things happened that I cannot write up here in the interests of protecting reputations. The enemy was out to get me in the biggest way I have ever known before. He did NOT want me to live a life of joy and contentment. I have NEVER known so many attacks. But, I saw God’s hand through so many situations and slowly I began to realise that I was not sinking.

            I remember one situation that I was overwhelmed with fear, I knelt down and cried out to God and said “God, the Israelites were facing giants and those giants were real! Two of the spies chose to trust your word and ten didn’t. Maybe those two were still scared but they chose to trust you! My giants are real Lord but I am choosing to trust you even though I am scared”….instantly I felt God’s presence and peace and praised Him for that. Bel, God is compassionate with our fear 🙂 He doesn’t look down on us for being scared, He understands our fear.

            This last trip, I wanted to study boundaries. I had come to a point in my journey where I wanted to be able to create boundaries out of love and strength, not fear. I started reading the gospels studying boundaries and writing down how Jesus dealt with people. I started noticing that all of his dealings with people were done out of a place of great strength and peace, not out of fear. There were times that He let people take advantage of Him and times He did not let them. But it was always done with a purpose and from a place of strength. I knew I was still operating out of fear sometimes and I knew this was limiting my peace.

            I started reading the book Breaking Free. The scriptures that Beth had used were (not coincidentally) scriptures that God had laid on my heart over the past few months (In so many ways I see God’s hand at work setting me free Bel, and He is doing the same with you). I took my notepad again and started writing. I realised that my biggest, biggest fear was ABANDONMENT. I was still scared of being alone and this was limiting me from being truly free. One of my best friends was talking to me a couple of days before I left and he said “You know I will never leave you right”? And whilst this sounds very weak I just burst into tears and said “No, I DON’T know that”. I still subconsciously felt I had to earn his friendship to be ok.

            I have had many, many experiences of abandonment in my life. One example is that my best man rang me a few days after my wedding and said “I don’t want to be your friend anymore. I am jealous of your marriage, home and job and I can’t deal with our friendship”. I had been friends with him since I was 4 years old and that really, really hurt. I realised in the last couple of weeks that I was still scared of being abandoned and this was limiting me setting healthy boundaries and stopping me really enjoying my freedom in Christ. I realised that this fear was at the root cause of my people pleasing behaviour. And I realised that even in my little boat I was scared that Jesus would jump out it I didn’t sit in the boat the right way. I hope that makes sense?

            So, whilst away this time I surrendered this fear as well. I held up my closed fist to heaven and prayed to God and opened my fist in a picture of letting go of something I was clinging to. I trusted the words of God that He would never abandon me. I trusted, consciously, that if He was willing to give His son for my salvation then I would trust Him for everything. And OH the peace that has come!! Bel, God is GOOD!! I took another selfie this trip, only this one was of a man with a peaceful, smiling, radiant face. I want to remember this surrender also 🙂

            I started work the next day and I CONSCIOUSLY said to God “I am working for you today. Even if noone else notices what I am doing I am working for you and you are well pleased with that”. I made known to my work team that I wanted to do the cooking for the trip and I got up early to do bacon and eggs and then made curries, cooked steaks and lasagna for dinners etc BUT I did it with joyful sacrifice not in an effort to please or earn favour. I did it for God! And OH, I was so happy and peaceful. And a strange thing happened, I started enjoying my workmates company so much more. I was released from the fear of pleasing them and being abandoned and in a weird, strange way they actually opened up to me so much more. We had a GREAT time 🙂 I think they could sense that I just wanted to give with no expecation of a return. And, I knew that if I got back home and never was married to my wife again I would be more than ok as I had Jesus. He would never abandon me. Ever.

            Then, something happened. My wife tracked down where I was staying and rang me. I cannot tell you what was said. I told my work team that I was going to take that day off and they took one look at me and said “Mate, life comes before work. You do what you need to do and we have got you covered”……..and you know what, they worked a MASSIVE longer day than normal in intense heat to ensure we could go back home with our work requirements met and I could take the day off. Blown away. Thanks team.

            Anyway, in God’s gracious timing I had let go of all my fear just before a storm of intensity hit that I have never had before. I got back to the biggest thing I have ever faced in my life. Waves are crashing, the wind is howling, sharks are trying to leap into the boat now BUT I am sitting in the front of the boat with salt spray on my face surfing down the waves fully trusting Jesus at the helm. I am enjoying the ride! God has brought me so, so far and how shall He who spared not His own son also not freely give us all things! And OH He is working in ways that I would not have anticipated possible. In ways that I would never have dreamed of, ways that I would never have asked for but He is working and His name is gonna get so much glory 🙂 And He is sovereign and allowed me to come to this point of releasing that fear before the next storm hit.

            God is GOOD!!! In ways we do not realise. Please trust Him! I encourage you to read the book Breaking Free too, it is really good!

          6. What an incredible tesimony, thank you for sharing and huge blessings to you and all who sail with you!

          7. Wow. April, thank you for sharing both posts from that man. I have good enough spiritual food for now that I need to chew slowly. This man’s testimony really affects me. Thank you April. And now I think I’ll go start to heal. Thank you my dear sister. God bless you.
            And all the best with your next conference (I wish I could go) and with the wonderfully helpful and inspired preparation work you are doing. What beautiful service.
            Thank you

          8. SisterinChrist,

            That sounds good. I am glad his story blessed you. Things are seriously awful in his life right now – and he is hurting – and at the same time, resting in God’s love and sovereignty in the hurricane. God offers the same rest for you in the face of your deepest fears.

            Take all the time you need. I am here if you want to talk some more. I know there is a lot to digest and dig through and pray about.

            Much love!
            April

  25. Wow! What an incredible example of total surrender! Very inspiring! Talking about beauty out of ashes…
    I love the analogy of the sharks… how true that is… the more we get closer to Him, the more the enemy tries to distract and hold us captive in our fears and insecurities to keep us from fully surrendering leadership to Him, and Him alone.

    Very powerful ! Thank you so much for such an incredible example of faithfulness!

    Blessed to be part of this!

    A Lifelong Learner

  26. To SisterinChrist,

    You are beautiful and made in His image…I think you should sit down and write down for yourself all of your attributes, physical, mental and spiritual gifts that you have to bless others with. God made you the way you are with everything he gave you to bless others with. You alone have those qualities, there is NO ONE ELSE in this world that has those. Use them…for instance, use your gift of seeing outer beauty to beautify others, that need to see their own beauty, volunteer to do make up for people that otherwise wouldn’t have it..
    Beauty is fleeting on the outside, but the more we surrender to Him the brighter our inner beauty shines, and nobody can resist that kind of beauty, it radiates so brightly, that people will feel it with their hearts.
    Just for an experiment, don’t wear any make up for a week and radiate your inner beauty by complimenting others on their qualities and beauty and see where it leads you…

    I admire your willingness and openness to share your struggles, my younger daughter is blessed with a lot of outer beauty (as well as inner beauty) and I know first hand the struggles external beauty brings.

    Hope this gives you some encouragement….

    Warmly, A Lifetime Learner

    1. Thank you Lifetime Learner. Your first few sentences sure had the waterworks going for me. When I was a little girl I used to run down the long hallway in our home trying to touch the ceiling. I did this when I was very happy as a way to “let out my joy”. I sensed the joy came from God because literally nothing exciting was going on at home, mom was cooking, dad was watching 80’s Kung fu but i was in such bliss i had to literally jump. When I finally touched the ceiling I was satisfied. I used to feel this way too when my mother world talk about Jesus, she would show me her goosebumps.
      I think, since I was so young, my spirit was just as a child, untainted by the world and wiser than it is now. Maybe that’s partly why Jesus said “the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these”
      My goal is to get that way again, I want to run down a hallway until I hit the ceiling in joy. And my greatest prayer is that my children find this too.

My grandmother is on hospice and won't be with us much longer (11-30-16). I will get to comments when I am able to but I need to be with family right now. Thanks for understanding.

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