How God’s Mercy Helps You Move beyond Life’s Messes
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 19 Aug
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Vicki Courtney’s new book Move On: When Mercy Meets Your Mess (Thomas Nelson, 2014).
Life is messy in this fallen world. At any given time, you’re likely to face some sort of mess: from a messy relationship (like a rebellious teen, a failed marriage, or a friend’s betrayal) to a messy crisis (such as a job loss or an illness) or a messy struggle (like dealing with an addiction, a stronghold of sin, or an unfulfilled dream).
While it’s natural to want to fix or hide the messes that confront you, that’s not how God wants you to handle messes. Every mess that God has allowed into your life gives you an opportunity to learn something valuable about God’s mercy. When mercy meets your mess, it transforms it from something ugly to something beautiful.
Here’s how you can apply God’s mercy to messy situations in your life:
Admit to the messes. Stop pressuring yourself to try to be perfect (or to pretend to be perfect to impress other people). Accept the fact that, like all human beings, you’re a work in progress who is still struggling with messes – from mistakes and weaknesses to doubts and fears. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify every mess in your life that God wants you to clean up. Examine your soul honestly. Then admit your struggles. You can do that bravely when you keep in mind that God – who loves you completely and unconditionally – is on your side and ready to help you every step of the way.
Surround yourself with other believers who aren’t afraid to be honest about the messes in their lives. It’s vital to be able to talk with Christian brothers and sisters who are willing to listen to your struggles and be real with you about their own struggles. Seek out caring and trustworthy people who will encourage and pray with you without judging you, criticizing you, avoiding you, or gossiping about you. If you can’t find enough people like that at your current church, find a new church that focuses on authenticity.
Shift your focus from your sorrow to your Savior. Instead of getting preoccupied with the messes you’re dealing with, look beyond them to Jesus. Make the choice to trust in his presence with you and his ability to bring good out of even the worst messes.
Use what you’ve learned to help others. God will use every mess he allows into your life to teach you valuable lessons that will help you grow spiritually. Then God will present you with opportunities to use what you’ve learned to help other people who are dealing with the same type of messes with which you used to struggle. For instance, if you’ve gone through a divorce in the past, you can help others who are currently dealing with a messy marriage breakup. Ask God to show you how every one of your past messes has prepared you to comfort and encourage others who are dealing with similar issues. Then pay God’s mercy to you forward by helping others.
Change an “us and them” attitude. Recognize that every person on this planet is a sinner who needs God’s mercy equally. Don’t judge people who are dealing with different kinds of messes than you; treat them with kindness and compassion. Instead of talking about others who are making moral choices that you don’t agree with, talk with them to develop genuine relationships and seek God together.
Come clean from past sins that make you feel ashamed. When you reflect on sins in your past, you should do so only to remind yourself of how God’s grace and mercy helped you overcome those sins – not to beat yourself up with shame. Distinguish between guilt (which says that what you did was bad) and shame (which says that you must be a bad person for doing something bad). God uses guilt to urge you to deal with sin so you can move closer to him, but God never wants you to feel shame, which pulls you away from him. Confess and repent of any past sins that you haven’t already taken to God. Then accept God’s merciful forgiveness. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you get rid of shame in your mind, and trust him to create something beautiful out of every ugly mess in your past. Keep confessing and repenting of fresh sins so you can live with the blessing of God’s new mercies every day.
Overcome legalism. Don’t try to earn God’s love – which is yours unconditionally, thanks to God’s mercy – by trying to perfectly follow moral rules. God wants your obedience as a way to express your gratitude for his mercy, not as the means of attaining his mercy. Don’t grumble about other Christians who don’t make exactly the same lifestyle choices that you make. Keep in mind that personal lifestyle choices (such as people’s decisions about politics, holidays, schools, and entertainment) are theirs to make freely, without condemnation, thanks to God’s mercy. All that truly counts when God judges us all is who we believe Jesus is and whether or not we trust him.
Live to please God, not other people. God’s approval is what ultimately matters in your life, regardless of what other people think of you and the messes you go through. While it’s fine to enjoy approval from others, it’s unhealthy to need other people’s approval (such as by feeling so disappointed by your social media results that it affects your self-confidence). So check your motivations daily, asking the Holy Spirit to purify them so you’re basing your decisions on pleasing God, not others.
Eliminate idols from your life so you can make God your top priority. If you seek ultimate fulfillment in any pursuit that’s lesser than God himself, you’ll only make your life messier. But if you devote yourself to God first in your thoughts, energy, and time, then everything else in your life will fall into the proper places. So center every part of your life around your relationship with a merciful God who loves you.
Vicki Courtney is a national speaker to women of all ages and the best-selling author of many books and Bible studies, including 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter and Ever After. Vicki and her husband, Keith, have three grown children, a son-in-love, daughter-in-love, and an amazing grandson. Learn more at: vickicourtney.com.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Follow her on Twitter @WhitneyHopler.
Publication date: August 19, 2014