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Jennifer Slattery Christian Blog and Commentary

Jennifer Slattery

Author and speaker Jennifer Slattery has addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation and her love for seeing others embrace freedom in Christ is evident in each of her six contemporary novels and on her devotional blog, JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As Founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Visit with Jennifer on Facebook at JenSlatte.

quote on God's faithfulness

Sometimes our expectations lead to our greatest disappointments. They can hinder us from truly knowing one another.

They can hinder us from truly knowing God as well.

Have you ever had someone grow attached to the person they thought you were? Not who you were but an individual they’d conjured in their mind? I have, and the situation didn’t end well.

I met Anna* at church. Though we had numerous mutual friends, children close in age, and had been part of the same faith community for years, we didn’t really know one another. But then, after having read material I wrote, she initiated a conversation. We soon developed a relationship and began to go on walks and talk over coffee. Our interactions, though brief and sporadic, were pleasant enough, until I ceased meeting the woman’s expectations.

She acted as if I had deceived and cheated her.

Have you experienced something similar?

Have you ever felt that way about God?

I have. My relationship with Christ has swung from one side of the pendulum to the other, finally resting back in center. Early on, I viewed Him as hard and exacting, the One with the power and authority to send me to hell and who would be quite justified in doing so. I knew Him as the Rule Setter but struggled to see Him as loving and compassionate Father.

Steadily, one sermon, Bible passage, and Christ-centered interaction at a time, He transformed my thinking so that I began to view Him as my Savior and Friend. And for sure, He is both of those, but somehow, in the softening, I lost sight of the fact that His merciful side doesn’t negate His awesome sovereignty as the One who formed and retains full ownership of all creation, myself included.

As a result, I began to expect blessings and abundance. Oh, I never would’ve said that, if asked. I understood, at least in theory, that life held no guarantees and often horrible things happen to really good, God-loving people. I had read the book of Job, after all. But when that somebody was me, I grew sulky, frustrated, and at times, downright angry. I accused God of holding out on me, of not caring, and of not listening.

But really the problem lay with me. I allowed my self-created ideas of who I thought He was hinder my intimacy with the God who is and always will be:

Always good, faithful, loving, and true.

One day, when our daughter was young, I asked her to help me unload groceries from the car. She huffed and said, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t make me do this.”

I’m not sure if she really believed that or was simply trying to talk her way out of what she clearly deemed to be a rather torturous event. I suspect the latter. But she was so melodramatic about the whole thing, it was all I could do to keep from laughing. Once certain I could respond with appropriate sternness, I replied, “It is because I love you that I must insist you unload them all.” Then, pocketing my keys, I left her to it, adding, “I’m raising you to have a servant’s, not serve-me, heart.”

Then I went inside.

I wonder how many times God whispered similar words to my huffing and hemming heart over the years. “I know you want that promotion. I know you feel I’m being unfair withholding it from you, but I would rather raise a daughter who trusts in Me more than her paycheck.”

“I know you don’t enjoy having chronic illness. I know it hurts and is hard. But I want you to experience My strength made perfect in your weakness.”

Or perhaps most challenging, “I know you don’t like to see your daughter struggle in this way. I Know it breaks your heart, and it does mine as well. But you must entrust her to Me. I’m growing her, patiently and faithfully, just as I have you all these years.”

I’ve seen enough of His heart, of His faithfulness, to know just how true that is. I’ve come to trust Him, to see Him as Father and Savior and Friend and King. I still have areas of deception He’s working to rectify with truth, areas of misconception His grace will expel. But for now, I’m resting in this:

He is good. He is loving. He is faithful, and He is enough. Regardless of what my fickle feelings or faulty perceptions might tempt me to believe. And perhaps that’s the most glorious lesson He’s taught me—to question everything else but Him. To say, like the apostle Paul did in his letter to the Romans, “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

When our view of God clashes with reality, it’s an invitation to get to know Him better.

*Name changed for privacy purposes

Let’s talk about this! When have circumstances challenged your view of God? How did you respond? Did your understanding of Him deepen through that event?

If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, available on the YouVersion app, 30 Days of Emotional Health. You can find it  HERE.

And, fun news! Today is release day!

My next novel, Hometown Healing, released today! You can grab a copy HERE or at your local Walmart or Barnes and Noble store.

Here's more about the story:

She’s home again, but not for long…Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart

Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

 

 

My hands were shaky, my stomach queasy. I’d been to the bathroom five times in maybe twice as many minutes as my jumble of nerves worked against my courage to obey. Having given my word, committed to this thing, I knew I couldn’t back out.

Though the thought had crossed my mind over a dozen times.

The strength to obey. For the apostle Paul that meant facing incredible persecution—beatings, floggings, imprisonment … the continual threat of death. I may never endure such hardship for Christ, but that morning, I felt like I was facing a kind of death—death to my reputation.

And yet, like Paul, I knew I’d been entrusted with the gospel, and my story, as ugly as parts of it were, revealed the power of the gospel within me.

I knew. As much as I hated it, as much as my pride fought against it, I knew, God wanted to use my testimony to bring hope and healing to other women. To do this I’d need strength—the strength to die to myself. And only He could give me the power to do that.

Determined to surrender to God’s leading, trusting Him to show Himself strong on my behalf, on the morning in May of 2012, I took several deep breaths, checked my appearance in the mirror one last time, and left the safety of the bathroom to unveil all to women I considered friends.

Certain they’d hear, clearly, the message of God’s unyielding love and grace. Equally certain that, by the time I finished, I would lose any ounce of respect or admiration they’d held for me.

It’s easy to share our triumphs, and perhaps even our struggles. But to reveal our ugly, the deep secret shame that hinders our freedom until Christ intervenes?

That’s hard. That takes courage, a decision to “die to one’s self,” and leaning hard on Christ.

Sharing my story, as a high school drop out and former homeless girl, was rough. But not nearly as rough as Paul’s must have been. He was part of the ISIS or NAZI soldier of his day, deemed powerful by some and evil by others. A man who witnessed incredible brutality and “agreed completely with the killing” (Acts 8:1) The kind of man mothers warn their children about and whose very name must’ve caused countless Christians to freeze in fear.

The very group of people he now spent most of his time with.

What must it have been like to carry a past like that around? What kind of shame would such a history cause?

To what lengths would a tyrannical murderer go to, to keep that past hidden?

What kind of love—for God and mankind—would it take for such a man to open up and share all?

What kind of love would it take for us to do the same?

We all have stories, testimonies of God’s grace and faithfulness—of the power of the gospel revealed in us. That is why our testimonies have such power, so that, as we share, “others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16).

As I close, I can anticipate some of you thinking, ‘But what about me? I don’t have a dramatic God story. I was never homeless, on drugs, or murderous. I grew up in a strong Christian home, was connected in church all my life. Does my story still have power?”

Absolutely. My story, and Paul’s, give a glimpse of the darkness that comes from living out of step or apart from Christ. For me, though I belonged to Christ when I went through my rough years, I certainly wasn’t living as He desired, and my life was characterized by darkness. For Paul, he didn’t have the light of Christ at all.

Your story is probably different than mine and Paul’s, but it can still show the beauty and love and freedom that God intends, when we turn to Him, He works in us and our circumstances, and when we live with Him. Our world needs to see both, and our Savior speaks through both. And besides, our stories aren’t truly about us anyway but rather, they’re about Christ in us. When we remember that, and shift our focus off ourselves and onto Him, He overpowers our fears and insecurities with His strength.

The strength to make Him known.

Take a moment to write out your testimony, either of when you first came to Christ or perhaps when He did something significant in your life that revealed His love, grace, and mercy. Who might God be calling you to share your story with?

Before you read today’s suggested Bible passages, I wanted to provide some background information. Stephen, the man mentioned in Acts 7, was the first Christian martyr, and prior to our passage, he publicly shared the gospel and how the Old Testament pointed to Jesus. (You can read his story HERE.)

“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done” (Psalm 105:1, NLT).

Before you go, I invite you to sign up for my free quarterly e-mailing to receive short stories, recipes, devotions, and more sent directly to your inbox. Plus, as a thank you, you'll receive a link for a free download (sent separately via email) for a Bible study a friend and I wrote on 1 Timothy. You can sing up HERE. And make sure to visit my devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com for more Christ-centered encouragement. And make sure to check out my next release, now available on preorder!

Hometown Healing:

She’s home again, but not for long…
Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart


Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

 

I was a mess during my teen and young adult years. I blamed everyone else for my self-destructing life: If my circumstances hadn’t been so chaotic, I never would’ve dropped out of high school. If certain interactions hadn’t been so painful and unstable, I never would’ve turned to alcohol. And if so-n-so hadn’t said such-n-such, I never would’ve reacted as I had.

This type of victim-mentality robbed me of the strength to change and distanced me from God’s mercy and grace.

To experience the freedom of forgiveness, of being absolved completely, that Christ offered, I first needed to grasp my need for it.

I had to honestly evaluate not just my life, not just my outward behavior, but my sinful heart as well.

Honest self-evaluation is hard. Admitting our sin truthfully, not only to ourselves, but to God, can feel even harder. It takes great humility to acknowledge what God already knows—that we’re worse than we’d imagined and are helpless, in our own power, to change. Often there’s an additional challenge that often holds us in fear when we could be living in the freedom of grace: we’re afraid of rejection. Scared of being cut off entirely. Because that’s often what we’ve experienced from others.

An acquaintance grew up in a controlling household where love was conditional and tied to behavior. When she acted a certain way and others were pleased with her, they welcomed her close. When she disappointed them, she was disregarded and pushed away.

Maybe that resonates with you. Many of us have experienced similar interactions, whether with family, friends, or with our significant others. As a result, we can unknowingly carry a similar expectation into our relationship with God, and we likely aren’t even aware we’ve done so.

Here’s where God’s different.

Whereas others might say, “You messed up. You blew it,” and cuts us off, Christ said, in essence, “You messed up, and I’m going to draw you near.”

But He did even more than that. When He stretched out His arms wide and died on the cross for our sins, He said, in essence, “Sweet daughter, you really made a mess of things. Of your life, your relationship with others. Your relationship with Me. And so I’m drawing near.”

Whereas others might say, “You messed up. You blew it,” and cuts us off, Christ said, in essence, “You messed up, and I’m going to draw you near.”

Our Savior’s love is different than any we’ve ever known.

When our sin separated us from Him, Christ took the first step to bridge that gap.

He took the first step, then the next, and then the next after that, pursuing us with His last breath, quite literally, to welcome us in. This demonstrates, where sin abounds, as serious and destructive as it may be, God’s grace abounds all the more, for God’s steadfast, unshakable love never ceases, and His mercies truly are new each morning (Rom. 5:20, Lamentations 3:22-23).

Scholars believe Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, wrote that last phrase, shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem. He’d spent a good chunk of his adult life warning the Israelites to turn from their idolatrous ways and back to God, but His children persisted in their sin. And after generations of rebellion and idolatry, they were finally experiencing the consequences.

Jeremiah, a prophet who loved God and had remained faithful, witnessed the destruction of his beloved homeland. The city and their beloved temple had been reduced to rubble, and the people became destitute.

Mourning all that had been lost, Jeremiah didn’t say, “Why me? This isn’t fair, God.” No, instead, he said, “See, O Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, for I have been most rebellious.”

This from the man who could’ve prayed, “I, only I, have remained faithful.”

Scholars debate whether he was speaking of his own sins or of those made by the nation as a whole, but regardless, we know he sinned. According to Scripture, we all have. We’ve failed to live and love as we should, whether we’re harboring selfish thoughts or displaying selfish actions. I do both a thousand times each day, and when confronted with my wretchedness, it’s tempting to divert blame. To justify and make excuses, but though doing so might feel “safe” in the moment, it only leads to increased bondage.

To find freedom, I need to take an honest look at the sin-wrought rubble of my life, focus on the love and goodness of God, and like Jeremiah did in the next chapter over, cast myself upon the One whose mercies never fail.

Because “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the One who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly on the salvation of the Lord” (Lam. 3:25-26).

Let’s talk about this! Have you received the forgiveness Christ offers and the freedom that follows? If not, and you would like to learn more about finding ultimate and eternal absolution, please contact me HERE. If you’ve already experienced God’s cleansing grace, are you walking in that? Or are you interpreting spiritual distance that isn’t there, that Christ died to remove? How might remembering His reaction to our sin help you rest more deeply in His embrace, not just when you’re acting in a way that pleases Him, but when you mess up as well?

Before you go, I invite you to sign up for my free quarterly e-mailing to receive short stories, recipes, devotions, and more sent directly to your inbox. Plus, as a thank you, you'll receive a link for a free download (sent separately via email) for a Bible study a friend and I wrote on 1 Timothy. You can sing up HERE. And make sure to visit my devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com for more Christ-centered encouragement. And make sure to check out my next release, now available on preorder!

Hometown Healing:

She’s home again, but not for long…
Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart


Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

 

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