Life-Giving Encouragement: No Self Preservation
By Jane Anne Wilson, Guest Writer
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. -Philippians 2:4-7
The heart of a life-giver is focused on glorifying God, but when our identity is wrapped up in our roles, our children, family, achievements, beauty, career, friends, financial security, good works, health, money, or ministries, then we are setting ourselves up to be life-takers instead of life-givers. Those things are merely a means for glorifying God, but they are not the goal. I had determined that succeeding at motherhood was my calling, and I expected that to look a certain way. God was transforming me from faith in my own strategies to a deeper faith in His power to do what He promised without my help.
I was finding my worth in my role as a mother, but our worth is based on the glorious truth that we are image-bearers of the sovereign, triune God of glory. When glorifying God is our reason for being, we are freed from the angst of our self-imposed expectations and those entanglements of self-interest, self-promotion, and self- centeredness, along with the agony that comes with living for our own agenda.
During this miserable time when exhausting anger and bitterness ruled my heart, a friend recognized my downward spiral and insisted I attend a women’s ministry event. IT WAS ONLY MY WILL that drove me to go because I was an emotional wreck and did not want to fall apart in public. Barbara Juliani and her mother, Rose Marie Miller, spoke. During the break, I made a bee-line for Barbara Juliani, who had been a rebellious child herself. I gave her a quick summary of my situation and then asked: “What about me? Is self-preservation ok?” I did not like her response but her words changed my life.
She answered, “There is no room for self-preservation in the gospel.” It was like cold water in my face. She had read me right. I was looking for a way to be justified in my choice to close myself off from the pain, and disengaging from the hurt. After all, I needed some peace in my life! Spoken like a true life-giver, right?
I wanted Jesus to be my big electric blanket, to go hide under until all the trouble was over. Instead of running away and hiding from the mess, a life-giver moves toward the mess. Our example is Jesus, who, thankfully, did not avoid our messiness.
Today’s Treasure from Philippians tells us:
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, being born in the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. -Philippians 2:4-7
I felt empty, but not because I chose to have the mind of Christ. I was empty from trying so hard to find a way to make things the way I thought they should look, preserving my image, keeping the peace, avoiding embarrassment. Wasn’t that life-giving? Barbara’s words shook me. Fortunately, reading God’s Word was my default setting when convicted of sin. I expected to find judgment and shame, instead, I found unexpected comfort. Words of compassion and love for me jumped off of the pages of my Bible. These are words of life. God gave me that soothing truth of His love so that I could share it, not hide under it. 1 Peter tells us:
Love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. -1 Peter 1:22-23
I heard the message loud and clear. Love those who hurt you the way that Jesus loves you. The endless supply of His patient, long-suffering, persevering love for me is my fuel Source because I can’t love like Him on my own.
It has been years since that sad time in my life. The journey is not over, but this broken place continues to teach me about Jesus’ love for me and deepens my love for Him.
Are you lonely, broken by shattered dreams? Is it possible that one way the Lord will meet you in your loneliness is by your offering life-giving encouragement to others? A friend who is a widow concluded that if the dinner hour was the worst time of the day for her, then other widows or single women might feel the same way. Still trying to find a new normal after the death of her husband, she invited a group of widows to join her for dinner once a month. From that gathering new friendships developed and together they found ways to experience the life-giving hope of Jesus. Ask the Lord to show you someone who needs His life-giving touch today and more specifically how you can offer life-giving encouragement to them.
Father, I pray for every person reading this devotional who is struggling with a broken relationship. Their default mode might be to stand up for themselves, and their own self-righteousness. They may be absolutely right, but Lord, I pray that they will consider carefully if You are calling them to humility. If You are, I ask that each one will turn to You for wisdom on how to reflect Your love and forgiveness to this person who has hurt them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jane Anne Wilson, wife to David, mother of four children, and grandmother to two grandchildren, presently serves on the women’s ministry leadership team in her local church and is the Northeast Regional Advisor for her denomination’s national women’s ministry team.
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