Posted in Devotion

I Surrender All

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” -Job 1:20-21 (NIV)
If we had no other knowledge of the story of Job or grief practices of the ancient world, these two verses could easily be mistaken as a happy response. However, even with slight knowledge of ancient grief practices, the stripping off of clothes and shaving of the heads is a clear sign of grief. Now we add on the fact that in the first nineteen verses of this chapter, Job loses everything from his possessions to his family minus the few servants that were spared to tell Job of his misery.
Job lost his livestock, his servants, his sons, and daughters. As the Bible tells the story, it all happens where on messenger isn’t even finished before the next messenger comes in to tell of the next tragedy.
Those with mental health struggles know that sometimes the voices in our mind can be just like these messengers in Job. Telling us negative thoughts, reminding us of tragedies, and telling us how horrible of a person we think we are. The start going off before the others are finished and before we know it, we are spiraling down the path none of us want to be on.
As Christians, we typically begin to question God, asking him questions of why it is that we have to suffer through this. Even if it is not done in the on our knees with hands folded and head bowed, this is still a form of prayer. We still find ourselves communicating with God. We too find ourselves falling to the ground and finding communion with God.
We may not be as explicit as Job, saying that the name of the Lord is to be praised. Definitely not in the moment anyway, but we are still reaching out in communication to God. This is an act of worship. You are worshiping even if you just seem to be throwing questions to God.
I have a tendency to think back to the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus falls on his face in prayer to God. He asks for the cup to be taken from him. I can’t help but to think when we are doing this, we are doing the same thing. Job is doing the same thing.

We may see this moment of falling on our faces or kneeling into prayer as a sign of defeat, but I see this as falling into the arms of God.

Prayer:
Lord, I confess that sometimes I get taken down the spiral of anxiety or depression faster than I can even realize. Lord, I know that I come to You with questions and with doubts, but You Lord, see this as purely me coming to You in my times of trouble. You take pleasure in me talking with you even when I am only asking questions. You open Your arms wide and hold me while I fall apart. I can’t be more thankful for the love You have for me. You are worthy of our praise at all times, during the suffering and the joy. Thank you God, in Jesus’ Name.
Amen.
Posted in Devotion

Don’t Carry the Burden Alone

“Let them judge the people at all times, and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.” -Exodus 18:22

Let me set the stage of this passage for you. Moses is appointed judge over all his people. At this point, Moses’ father-in-law is coming to visit. This visit doesn’t relieve Moses of his duty as judge. He was sitting as judge all day, by himself.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, questioned Moses on why he was doing this huge task alone. Moses answered that his people needed him. Jethro offered Moses some advice. He said that Moses should appoint some of his people as advisers to oversee the small disputes. The large disputes would still be brought to Moses, but he wouldn’t be carrying the burden alone.

What burden are you carrying alone? Are you like Moses and taking on responsibilities that could be delegated? Are you holding on to secrets you feel you can’t share with anyone? Are you finding daily tasks to be your burden?

Whatever the burden is for you, you are not meant to carry it alone. There are people out there that will rejoice in being able to help you. There is a God who is waiting for you to hand it over, so you are not carrying it alone. Start by laying it at the foot of the cross.

I know that reaching out is scary and usually avoided, but there are people out there who will listen to you and love you all the same. I am not saying that everyone is going to accept your story in a non-judgmental way. i wish I could promise you just the opposite, but I can’t.

Those people are the minority though. The majority of people want to see you succeed. I want to see you succeed.

What burdens will you be placing down to allow others to help you carry?

Prayer:

God, our strength comes from You. Sometimes we carry burdens that are too heavy for us to carry alone. Give us the strength to ask for help, guide us in reaching out to others, and comfort us in our decisions. Lord, You never meant for us to suffer alone. You never leave us even in the toughest times. Thank You God.

Amen.

© 2019 Kiersten Smeal

Posted in Devotion

Lift your Eyes

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, you of little faithwhy did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”     -Matthew 14:28-33

This story about Peter comes immediately after the story of Jesus walking on the water. The disciples were terrified and believed they were seeing a ghost. Jesus responds to their fear with, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Our passage starts with Peter’s response to Jesus.

Peter, still having some doubts that it is truly Jesus walking on the water, asks for Jesus to command him to come out on the water with Jesus. Jesus grants Peter the permission he is asking for. When Peter got out on the water his gaze was focused on Jesus. He walked out to what we assume was right next to wear Jesus was standing.

However, we then read that Peter looked out to the storm and saw the wind. It was when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus that he began to sink. He shouted out for Jesus to save him. He must have been frightened as he was in the middle of the water in a storm.

Jesus immediately reaches out and grabs Peter. When I read this, I can’t help but think that Jesus reaches out to grab Peter as he cries out for Jesus to save him. Jesus doesn’t let Peter sink. Jesus doesn’t let Peter even fall into the water. Jesus reaches out and catches Peter.

When Jesus catches Peter, he asks why Peter doubted. Why did Peter doubt? We do not read that Peter lost faith in Jesus. We read that he looked at the storm. He took his eyes off of Jesus and began to see what was going on around him. It is exactly when Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus and began to focus on the storm that he doubted.

How does this play out in our lives? When are the storms all around you stealing your gaze away from Jesus? When we begin to focus on the storms of our lives we are taking our eyes off of Jesus and we begin to sink. We become fearful and call out to Jesus. We call out to God. We want someone to save us.

Jesus is reaching his hand out to catch you. Jesus will not let you fall into the stormy waters. But Jesus is asking you why you have doubted. What storm is it that took your gaze off of him. Jesus is refocusing your attention back on him.

So, step out onto those waters eyes locked on the Lord and know that Jesus commands the storms to stop.

Prayer:

God, the creator of the winds and the rain, we know that there will be storms in our lives. We know that when we keep our eyes on Jesus, we are provided the strength and capability to even walk on water. Help us, Lord, to keep our eyes on you. To not lose focus as we continue stepping out closer to you. And when our eyes begin to drift towards the storm, we thank you for reaching out and catching us. You never let us fall. You never let us drown. In Jesus name.

Amen.

© 2019 Kiersten Smeal

Posted in Devotion

Imago Dei vs. Self-Love

“So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27

Right off the bat, lets clear up some definitions here. “Imago Dei” is translated as “the image of God.” As we can see in Genesis 1:27, humankind was made in the image of God in the creation story.  Self-love is usually defined briefly as love of self. However, something we learn very early is to not use the word in the definition, so let’s try again. Self-love is “belief that you are a valuable and worthy person (Self-Love).”

Now that we are on the same page, we can clear up a common misconception between these two terms. Often, the ability to love ourselves, when in constant battle with ourselves, is nearly impossible. Some days it seems to be easier than others, but most days we struggle to see ourselves of any worth. Here’s the good news though: God has created You in God’s image, sent Jesus to live, die, and resurrect for you, and there is nothing you can think, say, or do to have God see you any differently.

That being said, your worth and value comes from something more than yourselves. Your worth and value can never change. Whether you see that value and worth is not a question of whether you are worthy and valuable. Therefore in our moments of the lack of self-love, we are not denying our imago dei. We are not denying that we are created in the image of God. We are having difficulty seeing that worth and value in ourselves. We are in a moment of trial and struggle.

What can we do about it? We can remind ourselves that our worth and value does not depend on whether we give it to ourselves or not; it is always there. We can have faith that we are worthy and valuable and hold on to that eternal truth found in Genesis 1:27 when we are unable to see it for ourselves.

Prayer:

Almighty God, ever-loving and always present. You created us in Your image. You have decided our worth and value when You sent Your Son to die for us, and then You took that and raised him from the dead to show that You make all things good. God, help us to remember what You think about us when all we see in ourselves is less than unworthy. Help us hold that truth that nothing we can think, do, or say will cause You too see us in any other way. Thank You for always pushing me to be who You say I am.

Amen.

© 2019 Kiersten Smeal

Posted in Devotion

The Least of These

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ -Matthew 25:34-36

Those of you who are familiar with this passage knows that those who are being told this, question when it is that they have done any of this. Their question is answered by, “Truly, I tell you whatever you did for the least of these… you did for me.” So often this passage is used for mission trips, service acts, and any other hands on projects the church goes out and does; however, I think using this passage in that way misses the point.

This passage is about how we as Christians are to treat people, specifically the least, the lost, and the last of these. Yes, it specifically mentions the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the unclothed, the sick, and the prisoner, but what about the homeless, the mentally ill, the addicted, the struggling, the _____________. Do these people not matter because they aren’t listed in the parable?

Jesus answers this with the response to the righteous when they question when it is they did all of those things for him. Jesus says whatever you do for the least of these… you did for me. This answer, portrays that whatever is done for the least of these are done for Jesus, himself.

None of these things make us any less than those around us. This is another example of the role revering nature of Jesus. Jesus is taking on the identity of all of those considered “the least of these.” Jesus is identifying himself with each and everyone of one of you.

How does this change the way you see this parable? How about the way you see others?

Prayer:

Father, God Almighty, we come to You in our needs and our wants. We come to You in our joy and in our suffering. We bring to You our burdens and pain, and we accept that Your yoke is easy and that Your burden is light. We ask that we don’t miss the cry of the needy or see ourselves as lowly because of our neediness. Lord, You know what our every need is and You collect our every tear. Thank You, Lord, for all You do for each of us. In Jesus name, Amen

© 2019 Kiersten Smeal

Posted in Devotion

Jesus isn’t a Magic Pill

How often are we told that we can’t be Christian or at least Christian enough because we suffer from anxiety and depression? How often do people judge our relationship with Jesus because we have panic attacks?

I have been a Christian since I was ten years old. I didn’t start suffering from anxiety until a few years later. My relationship with Jesus has continually grown from the day I accepted Him into my heart. I’m not saying I haven’t been stagnate at times or even really distant from God, but growth has always been happening.

Anxiety, Depression, and any other mental illnesses are the way the brain functions. Accepting Jesus into your heart isn’t likely to immediately take away all anxieties and worries. It’s not going to end all the triggers and the trauma. The world around you isn’t going to change.

But now, you have Jesus. You have someone you know that loves and strives to be in relationship with you. You have someone who is walking along this path called life with you. There is hope in the Gospel message. There is hope in Jesus.

Eventually this relationship with Jesus may cause you to start to see yourself as worthy. This relationship may cause you to see the love and light in the people around you. This relationship may end a life long struggle with anxiety.

But… it may not. You may know these truths: that your loved, that your worthy, that you are a child of God, that God chose you. But it may not calm the self-critic in you. In fact, you may even experience a time where your anxiety gets worse.

If God loves me so much why can’t (enter name here) love me? If I’m so worthy, why can’t I do anything right?

And it’s OKAY. It’s okay to fall into the trap of anxiety and depression from time to time. It is okay to have panic attacks and still get triggered. Just don’t stay their. Begin to slowly hand over things to Jesus.

A relationship with God can still be a trust issue for some people and God knows that. He doesn’t leave us nor forsake us. Soon we will be able to trust God with the burdens we carry. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

Don’t feel like you aren’t doing something right because you still have panic attacks or are still suffering from anxiety and Depression. Because you are taking the next right step, you are trusting in a God that loves you for who you are not who He wants you to be!

Be true to yourself!

© 2019 Kiersten Smeal

Posted in Devotion

Perseverance

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing He will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Christian perseverance. Trusting God through the trials life throws at you. Easier said than done, am I right? Hopefully it seems a little easier after reading this devotion.

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we read that our test is not unique to ourselves, in fact it is common to everyone. Wait, what? Other people don’t have to deal with fill in the blank. The truth is everyone deals with testing. Everyone have the difficult trials and the easier trials. What goes on during the test may not be the same, but everyone is tested. The part that comes as a relief to each of us is that not only will God keep the tests within your ability, but He will provide the answers as well.

God isn’t just throwing a test at you that you were never told to study for beforehand, and He isn’t expecting you to do it alone. God is that 4X6 notecard where you cram all the answers onto before an exam. God is also filling out the answers. So what does that mean for the time during the trial? That’s where James 1:2-3 comes in.

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. -James 1:2-3

My life is falling apart, but I’m just supposed to be happy? No, but you shouldn’t sink into discouragement either. Know that God is strengthening you for the future, so that the next time you encounter this it isn’t a test but a review. It is okay to have anxiety in the time of trial as long as you are looking towards the growth and not the mess. Looking towards the light at the end of the tunnel and not focusing on the chaos that’s currently happening. As long as you know and believe that God is working in you, through you, and for you.

Prayer:

God, everything around me seems to be falling apart right now. I know that You have my needs in Your hands, but God I can’t see it. Help on growing and not falling apart. Help me trust you in the unknown. Thank You for the growth, the strength, and the answers for all the trials I face. Thank You for never leaving my side.

Amen.

© 2018 Kiersten Smeal

Posted in Devotion

God Chose You

It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set His heart on you and chose you – for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that He swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery. -Deuteronomy 7:7-8

I want you to pause a minute and bathe in the fact that God chose you, not because you were prettier, stronger, more Christian, in the best shape, or closest to perfect, but because He loves you. God’s heart is set on you no matter the other options. It does not matter that there may be “better” options out there because God chose you.

Doesn’t that feel amazing? To know that no matter how negatively we view ourselves, God sees someone worth setting His heart on, someone worth choosing, someone worth saving from the slavery of sin.

The next time your brain starts spiraling down the path of negativity, pause, breathe, and know that God is still choosing you today. He hasn’t given up on you. He hasn’t stopped loving you. He still sees worth in you. He is continuously delivering you from the slavery of sin. God chose you.

Prayer:

Father, You chose me every single day out of love. Not talent, brains, or action, but out of love. Let me be reminded each day, Lord, that You chose me. Even when the negativity is creeping in, You chose me. Amen.

© 2018 Kiersten Smeal

Posted in Devotion

Who do you say I am?

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” -Matthew 16:16

Take a second. Flip to Matthew 16 and read 16:13-20. This is a powerful piece of scripture. Jesus is asking those closest to Him if they have learned anything from Him. This is a huge test of His teachings. We are thrown this question everyday. We say we’re nervous about something and someone asks us, “don’t you believe in Jesus?” What they’re saying is, “Who is Jesus to you?” This is a question we should be asking ourselves daily. Jesus is our Savior, the Son of God. Lord of Lords.

Is this who Jesus is to you? Do you have a special title for Jesus?

Don’t let your battle with anxiety cause you to stumble answering this question. Jesus doesn’t leave you in your time of doubt, so don’t leave Him either. When others face you with this question, answer it with pride.

So, Who is Jesus to you?

© 2018 Kiersten Smeal

Posted in Devotion

The Parable of the Prodigal You

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him, he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

prodigal son

We all go through periods off time where we distance ourselves from God. We feel He could never love someone like us. We get caught up in the business of life. We fall into the trap of sin. whatever it may be, we distance ourselves from God.

When the time comes that we realize we have done this, we think we have to shamefully return back to God. Return with our heads low and our hearts heavy. However, God sees us while we are still a long way off. He has compassion for us. This is the best part; He runs to us.

God doesn’t let us walk back shame filled. We should humble ourselves before God. He runs to us to let us know that He has missed us and is ready for us to come home. God is going to give us His best to celebrate our return. He will not hold our time away over our heads. 

Our Prayer:

God humble us and rid us of our sense of guilt and shame. We know that you never leave us, yet we tend to try and walk away. When we turn around, You come running. We are each a prodigal to You, Lord. Allow us to feel Your presence today. In Jesus name, Amen.

© 2018 Kiersten Smeal