“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
The picture above is of my beloved Great Pyrenees, Duke, and a litter of foster puppies who raided his personal food bowl one afternoon. Duke, as you can see, was patient despite their poor judgment. Weighing just eight ounces shy of 150 pounds, Duke is immensely strong. The Pyrenees breed was created to protect flocks by being strong enough to kill any predator, even a bear. The massive chest, the powerful jaws, the legs as thick as bricks all point to an alpha male that can take down any opponent. Which is why I love watching Duke with those little puppies. Those fluffballs regard Duke as a living playground. They climb and claw and bite. Duke lets them disturb his naps, steal from his food bowl, and run away with his toys. I’ve seen them nibble on his nose and his ears, and Duke will only sigh and occasionally groan at their misdeeds.
Their foolish youthful indiscretions should put their lives in great danger. After all, Duke was bred for massive strength. Yet it is precisely Duke’s strength that keeps the puppies safe. His massive power gives the puppies a lot of leeway in their behavior. His strength gives them freedom. He is so big, and so strong, that he is not threatened when they growl or jump or bite. They can hurt him, but they can’t wound him. He is patient with them, because he’s not just powerful; he’s kind.
Yet when I sit down to pray to my heavenly Father, as I contemplate His massive power, sometimes I get nervous. My chest feels tight. My jaw muscles tense, I shift my weight in my chair. My body tenses as if to run; how can an all-powerful God be completely good? How can I trust so much power? Isn’t power similar to anger?
No. It’s not. If we’ve seen too many Hollywood movies, or if we grew up in a dysfunctional home, we may have forgotten that power and anger are worlds apart. God is powerful, but He is good. He is kind. That’s hard for me to grasp, and I’m thankful that every prayer is a baby-step to understanding God’s big, beautiful heart of love. Each prayer is a little invitation to see great power demonstrated through love. Mighty strength displayed in kindness.
Scripture tells us that this is how He wants to answer our every prayer. Psalm 119 is one of many passages that tells us God answers our prayers according to His loving kindness. Let me say that again: He will answer you with love plus kindness. Whatever you pray for today, His answer will be love. Plus kindness. If you eat past 5, if you spend past your budget, if you’ve betrayed a friend or you’re struggling with shame and regrets, His answer to you is love. Plus kindness.
Sometimes when I pray, I like to write my prayers down as if I am writing a letter to a friend. I may describe a situation or problem then ask on paper, “What is the most loving thing that could happen here? What would be the kindest thing?” When I am confronted with an action I must take, I ask, “What would love do? How would kindness act?”
I pray for everything and about everything. I have only begun to understand and believe that Love and Kindness are always the answer. Every problem and every failure needs both, and God knows we are weak. He knows we often use poor judgment, and that what we desperately need is what He has already promised. He is ready and willing to love us, exactly as and where we are. His enormous power and strength are demonstrated in His love and kindness toward our weakness. We are free to approach Him with confidence, and even boldness, because He delights in revealing how His love and kindness can transform our worst moments into His greatest miracles.
What About You?
When you pray, what do you expect? Do you fear punishment or expect love? What does your expectation tell you about your beliefs?
Think of your greatest problem or battle today. What is the most loving thing you could do? What would a great kindness be?
Can obedience be a form of kindness to yourself? When you submit to God’s ways, do you experience a freedom and joy that seem closely related to kindness and love?
Isn’t that the question we all ask ourselves in our Thin Within journey? Whether we’ve been involved for one week — one month — one year — or even longer . . .
“Why is this so hard?”
“This is just too difficult for me.”
“I want to quit!”
“Is all this struggle really worth it?”
One reason it can be so difficult –> We make it that way! Plain and simple — we are stubborn! We don’t want to let go of what we’ve known and enjoyed for so long. Whatever holds us has become our “best friend”. Who wants to say good-bye to their “best friend?” When our “best friend” is food, we go to the “frig” when we’re lonely, bored, angry, sad, frustrated, or without answers in difficult situations. Our “best friend” hugs us and says, “I can make you feel better. I can relieve the stress. I can give you pleasure in the midst of your mess. I’ll give you a break from all this!” The relief is a temporary break from what will still be there after we take our last swallow. Our “friend” is very deceitful. But we love our “best friend’ anyway, because SOME relief is better that NO relief. So — we remain stubborn and cling to our “best friend” like it’s the only friend we have.
This rebellion is something we must confess to our Father and repent of — plain and simple. We’ve done no less than replace our TRUE “Best Friend” — God Himself — with a powerless substitute.
So — let’s say we do go to God in confession and repentance. We bare our souls to Him and repent of our “idol.” We know deep in our hearts that we REALLY want to “kick this thing.” The question still remains:
“Why is this so hard!”
Even when we are totally on board with God and desire to obey Him fully, the process can be full of ups and downs, great victories, and shameful failures. Why? If God sees we are “really trying and really want to get this right,” why doesn’t He bless us with a wonderful miracle and take the struggle away permanently?
Christ Himself could relate with us. He asked God the very same thing. He knew the road to “doing the right thing” was going to be paved with unbelievable pain and suffering. And He asked God to bring salvation to all men in another way:
“My Father, if it is possible,
may this cup be taken from me.
Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Why did God make Christ suffer to bring the final glory? Why did that have to be part of the process? And why is our road to glory paved with suffering at times?
Suffering breaks the power of sin. 1 Peter 4:1 says, “. . .he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” When we see the struggle that sin causes us as we move to repent of it, we realize it’s power. It DOES have power, if we let it! But Christ’s death broke that power downand any power we give to sin is of our own doing. To tell you the truth — the struggle makes me angry! It doesn’t make me angry at God, or Satan, or even me. It makes me angry at sin’s power. It makes me SO angry in the struggle — that I want to do away with sin’s power over me for good! I want to “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippian 3:12) I get stubborn in a new direction and want to “be done with this thing” once and for all! Suffering can cause that kind of stubbornness and lead to final victory.
Suffering is a means of God showing His glory. God could do an instantaneous miracle. He has the power! And — sometimes He does choose to do that. But more often, He works slowly and shows Himself in the midst of suffering — to be faithful and true to His promises. This is what builds our faith and confidence in Him — the experiences of seeing God work in the ordinary circumstances of life. This is where He meets us and shows His greatest love. Sure — He could perform mighty miracles everyday, but would we not become so de-sensitized to Him that He would become nothing to us? In time, I really think this would be our reaction. Look at the Israelites and all the miracles God did on their behalf. They still found plenty of time to grumble and complain. Very little character growth took place! Suffering is the stage on which God’s glory is displayed in the everyday lives of His people.
Suffering is where God does so much to transform us! An overnight miracle would make no permanent character changes in us. It would just make us greedy for more miracles. We would soon rely and even expect the next miracle — taking Him for granted and loving Him less and less. He would stop being our loving Father and start being our “magic genie.” Where is the love in that? Our God would not tolerate it! He knows a “slow trickle” of grace is the best way for us to grow and transform into the person He has planned for us to be. He also knows we do our “best growing” little by little in the ebbs and flows of everyday life. Those seasons of suffering are bringing permanent transformation. No suffering — very little transformation.
Suffering is God’s workbench.
Having said all this — I still don’t like suffering any more than the next person. Fighting to say “no” to the rest of the beef enchiladas on my plate because I’m already at a “5” — and denying myself chocolate cake with ice cream when everyone else is having a beautiful plate of it — is not my idea of a great night! But —
because I can experience a triumph when I know sin lost the battle this time.
because I can give God glory for — once again — doing something I could not do without Him — and tell others about it, too.
because I can grow just a little bit more each time I say “no” — knowing that self-control gives birth to perseverance and perseverance gives birth to godliness.
I can handle the struggle! God is at work!
“. . .let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
We can endure the struggle, because there is the promised joy ahead. We can even take joy IN the process, knowing that God knows what He’s doing in us. It may be hard — but it is ALWAYS good!
How About You?
Do you experience moments where you think the suffering is not worth the goal? Does the power of sin makes you stubborn enough to desire to suffer in order to be “done with sin?” In what ways has God shaped and grown your character through the suffering? Are you willing and anxious to give testimony before others of how God has graciously helped you in your Thin Within journey?
When I taught school years ago, I was known throughout the Kindergarten through 12 grade halls as “The Animal Lady.” I taught sixth grade math, science, and social studies with science being my favorite subject on the planet. I loved getting up to my elbows in bubble solution, getting out the wading pools (in the classroom with desks all shoved to the wall), hoola hoops, and creating monster sized bubbles. Straws and string are incredible “devices” for making humongous bubbles that wobble and waver and with just the right amount of glycerin and DAWN dish soap (original scent works best), you could have a smashing great time.
In addition to “Kitchen Chemistry,” I loved involving the students in an “endangered species” unit. We learned about any number of incredible animals and plants. It was important that they learn to appreciate every type of vertebrate that I could welcome in the classroom. We enjoyed having a Burmese Python, Axolotyls, newts, turtles, iguana, rabbit and one of my favorite was the chinchilla. The first chinchilla I got to be the surrogate mom of, loved running like a little lightning bolt around the classroom. Soon after I retired from teaching (due to expecting my first baby), I became the proud surrogate momma of a chinchilla who needed a home. Dusty was with our family for TWENTY TWO YEARS. This seems insane. We were convinced he was going to outlive all of us!
I assumed Dusty was going to be like my classroom chin had been…loving running around. Periodically, I would open his cage door and invite him to step out into freedom. NOTHING DOING. This little guy would have nothing to do with the freedom he was invited to experience.
I often think back to Dusty and the wild and wonderful adventures he could have had exploring cracks and crevices behind bookcases and under beds. He preferred the familiarity, perhaps, of his cage. Even though freedom belonged to him, he never experienced it. He never lived up to his potential. In many ways, it was quite sad. Chinchillas have amazing haunches and are hard wired to run and jump and play, but Dusty, though he enjoyed being scratched and hand fed yummy treats, never ventured outside the safety and familiarity of his cage.
How am I like Dusty? How are you?
Jesus has purchased our freedom. The cage door is thrown wide open! What keeps us from venturing out into the wide open? Is it the fear we have of the unfamiliar? We cling to what we have known all the while bemoaning that we aren’t free. The truth is… weare. But we aren’t walking in it.
What is really holding you back?
Will you dare to step out into the freedom that Jesus has purchased for you?
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
~ Jeremiah 29:11
I have an eleven year old son, a “tween.” He is stuck between wanting to act like a little kid (playing with his little sister and such) and feeling like a teenager, with all of the emotion and angst that comes with that stage of development. While the “tween” years begin somewhere around 9 or 10 years of age, I feel like my boy has been a tween for a much longer time! He has pushed for independence and freedom from us since he was a little guy. When all of his Kindergarten friends found joy in their moms helping in the classroom, he cried and begged me to not volunteer. He went on his first church retreat at 9 years of age without looking back. The following summer he went to sleep away camp without a tear or a letter home. And I have to prepare myself for lots of drama when I need to help him with schoolwork or study skills – he just doesn’t want my help. He is just a strong-minded and opinionated individual and wants to do things his way.
Last week, on the heels of schoolwork drama, I took him to a new class. My husband and I did not ask him if he wanted to participate, we just registered him. As his parents, we made the decision that he would participate in this cotillion (manners and such) class because we know that it will serve him well in his future. He was not happy about it at all! Without going into details, just know that he ended up enjoying it and having a great time with friends. But, in the heat of frustration at his resistant and rebellious attitude (with accepting help and with following our guidance), I found myself thinking the following:
“Why doesn’t he trust us? We are his parents and everything we do is for his good, even if he can’t see it from his short perspective. We have years of wisdom and experience behind our decisions. I wish that he would just relax and not worry about so many things and just enjoy what we provide for him.”
The next day, God revealed a big truth to me. I am often that resistant and rebellious child to God, my heavenly Father. The big difference is that while I am a loving parent, I am quite imperfect. God, however, is perfect and omniscient. He extends steadfast love to His children. He knit each of us together and He knows us. He is for us and holds our hands even as we stumble. If we trust Him and obey Him, we can avoid so much discomfort and confusion. What a gift! We can lay our worries burdens at the foot of the cross – even the seemingly simple decisions of what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat – and He will give us rest.
I knew that my son would enjoy his class because I had spoken to other parents whose children had enjoyed it in past years. And I know that the lessons that he learns will help him in his future days. I want to approach God as I wish my son would approach us (if only!) – eager for His guidance, willingness to stay in His boundaries, learning from the lessons He teaches, and trusting Him with all of my heart so that I obey Him without resistance and rebellion. I desire to absolutely surrender to Him.
Lord, help us to trust in You with all of our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. Help us to submit to You in all ways, knowing that You will make our paths straight.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
– 2 Peter 3:18
We have been saying for eight weeks that God’s grace is a constant pardon, provision, power and Presence on this journey. Jerry Bridges says:
As we grow in grace…we grow in our motivation to obey God out of a sense of gratitude and reverence to Him. Our obedience will always be imperfect in performance in this life. We will never perfectly obey Him until we are made perfect by Him…Begin to think daily about the implications of the grace of God in your life.
If you want to see greater obedience in your life, maybe it isn’t necessarily that you need to “buckle down.” Perhaps it is looking up! Maybe it is praising God for His grace that is really what is needed!
1. Have you felt frustrated by falling far behind in the lesson material? What will you do about it? Pick one of the following: a.) beat yourself up about it b.) quit and join another group when you can do it “more perfectly” c.) pick up where we are now and just move forward extending yourself grace
2. At 01:00, I talk about tools, workbooks, webinars serving US, rather than the other way around. What does this mean? Have you been feeling burdened by slavery to your workbook? What will you do instead? What would exemplify grace in your life?
3. 01:35 What are three ways that you can extend grace to yourself?
4. 02:18 Do you Observe and Correct? Or Observe and Condemn? What is the difference, practically speaking? Why should we *never* condemn ourselves?
5. 03:26-03:49 What is the root of perfectionism? What do you think about this?
6. Look up Psalm 74:1. What is the significance that God has recorded statements like this one forever in His Word? How is the fact that this is a *song* sung in worship by the Israelites indicative of grace?
7. In what ways do you have the most difficulty (on this journey) extending grace to yourself? In light of the price Christ paid to be able to offer you grace, how do you feel about that?
8. At 05:58 the video shifts to looking at the Observation and Correction chart, beginning with a discussion of the Keys to Conscious Eating. Which keys are our primary boundary in Thin Within? Can you state them in your own words? Has God convicted you that this is a boundary for you to follow? How might a boundary actually be an expression of grace?
9. Consider the discussion of the Keys to Conscious Eating. Which of keys #2 through #7 are the most difficult for you to follow? Which might be the most helpful for you in sensing an approaching “5” on the hunger scale?
10. Prayerfully consider using the Observation and Correction Chart this week in the Temple Tool Kit. If you don’t have the TTK, you can download O & C charts here. (The Apple TW app also has the Observation and Correction chart in it.)
11. At the tail end of the video, I fade out making a comment about Daisy Dog. Had grace not stepped in to her life, her end would not have been so rosy. How are you and I similar?
Renewing the Mind – Pressing On
1. What is true about failure? How has your view of failure changed since beginning this journey?
2. Look up these verses and write new truth cards about failure:
Workbook Assignment – To Be Completed by March 3rd.
1. Read, highlight, mark 🙂 Lesson 8, Celebration of God’s Grace Part 2, on pages C44 – C49 or listen to it or download it from Sound Cloud. Discuss it here in the comments section below this post or at our Class Facebook Group. We are having another drawing this week! If you comment this week at the blog and want to be entered to win one of Barb Raveling’s books, Taste for Truth or I Deserve a Donut and Other Lies That Make You Eat, post a relevant comment and indicate that you want to be entered in the drawing. 🙂 It’s that easy!
2. Complete the exercises for Lesson 8 on pages C50 – C56. Don’t worry if you are behind. Just do what you can of this week’s material. Next Monday before the webinar, respond to the Review questions on page C57 or even better–do so at our Facebook discussion group.
3. List 10 attributes of God that have ministered the most to your heart. Have a praise fest, saying back to Him these attributes and thanking him for how they have ministered to you. Share here at the blog how this impacts you.
4. Use the entries for Day 50 through Day 56 in the Temple Tool Kit. This week, the Observation and Correction chart is added. In the video, I mention how I have used the O & C chart. Prayerfully consider giving it a try. It is called Observation and Correction so that you can see where there are “holes” that you can correct. If you don’t see any marks (or few marks) in the “Paid Attention to my Food” row, then you might want to be more mindful of the eating experience if you continue to go past satisfied or “5.”
5. Memorize Philippians 1:6 this week. Personalize it and add it to your truth cards.
Is grace something that you don’t really grasp? How about responding to the encouragement in 2 Peter 3:18…be intentional to “grow in grace.” What does it mean and how can resting in and growing in grace apply to your life and bring relief rather than a burden?
It seems like I spend a lot of my life waiting on things to fall into place; waiting on that magic moment where I find perfection. Whether it’s in my job, my relationships, or in my actions, I feel like there should be a moment where things just “click” and start running smoothly. Or I used to think that way, anyway.
When I first started my Thin Within journey I fully expected to “someday” find that magic moment in eating 0-5. I hoped it would happen quickly, but figured it might take a while. I was ok with that, knowing it gave me something to work towards and look forward to.
I assumed as the weeks went on I would get better and better at eating within my boundaries, until eventually it would all fall into place and become natural. I would stop “messing up” and would get to my natural weight. I would no longer have a problem with food. Eating 0-5 would become second nature.
After weeks of two steps forward, one step back and experiencing victory only to turn around and find failure staring me in the face, I see things a little differently. I realize that it does get easier in some ways; I get better at it with practice, but it will always be a battle. Why? Because Satan hates me honoring God in my eating, he hates me finding victory, and he will never give up on the battle to win me over to fleshly living. If anything the battle will intensify.
It’s not really fun to think about those things. Nobody wants to suffer. But we have to count the cost. I have counted the cost and I realized that the suffering is worth it. It’s only my flesh suffering anyway, and when my flesh suffers my spirit soars! I’m finding that I’m actually thankful for the battle. I’m drawing near to God, and if this battle is what keeps me trusting in Him, it’s worth it. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10b
I no longer desire that magic moment. In fact I hope it doesn’t come! That magic moment parades itself as victory, but is really pride. It’s the moment you think: “I’ve got this” and whether you realize it or not, at the same time your heart is saying “Thanks God, Your work here is done.” It’s the moment you stop clinging to God because you just can’t do it without Him.
On the one hand, it would be nice to not feel helpless. But at what cost? At the cost of abiding in Him? No thanks. This is just another of Satan’s tactics to win the battle. If He can get us to think we don’t need God, if he can fill our hearts with that lie, then we never find abundant living.
True victory is in the moments when I see God’s grace working in my life, the moments where I stay within 0-5, the moments where I choose God over food. Those moments don’t come because I’m strong enough or because I’ve got a handle on things. They come because of the strength God provides, because my eyes are fixed on Him. When we have those moments, recognize that they are because of Him, and praise Him for them, those are magic moments much better than moments with a false sense of security.
There are other magic moments too. When I have moments of failure I have to renew my mind with scriptures like Romans 8:1, remembering that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Also Titus 2:11-14, remembering God sees me as perfect and gives me His grace to live the Spirit-filled life. When those moments of failure become moments of observation and correction, when they become learning and growing experiences, those are also magic moments.
To live in faith (Hebrews 11:6) run the race (Hebrews 12:1-3) find transformation through the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2) and press on to the end (Philippians 3:10-12) are more moments that are truly magical. All those things can only be done by the grace of God. His grace is truly miraculous, much more so than a wee little human thinking they can do things on their own. How thankful I am that God has taught me this BIG lesson (among many others) through Thin Within!
What about you?
Do you find yourself wishing for the magic moment where you no longer feel helpless, but feel like you’ve got your eating under control?
Why might that moment have a negative impact on your life?
What are some God-honoring magic moments you’ve experienced?
Would you rather suffer so your relationship with God can be protected? Is it worth it to you?
Kelsa Turner lives in the Great Smoky Mountains with her husband Luke and her black lab Roscoe. She enjoys the freedom of being self-employed to be able to work, serve, and spend time studying Thin Within and growing in her relationship with God. [Editor Note: Kelsa has agreed to teach an online Thin Within class for us! Be sure to visit this page to see what classes we are offering.]