For most of my life the notion of victorious Christian living felt like a heavy weight against my chest. A trap. A burden. I would read about living victoriously, I heard more sermons that I could count on the topic, but to be honest, it always felt like a trick question, an undoable task, something I’d have to work for but really could never earn.
I knew I was supposed to see God as gracious and compassionate, the loving grandfather-image with long white robe gathering the children around, but it seemed strangely ironic that I would have to work so hard to experience a little bit of His compassion and mercy.
Everyone else seemed to be living the joy-filled Christian life. They were experiencing abundance in their Christian walk that I knew nothing of. I could tell something was off, but I had no idea how to achieve this life of faith except to work for it.
Performance became a drug. Somehow I felt powerful to control and claim my worth. It was an insatiable drive, an all-encompassing need to achieve, to earn, to prove myself in His presence. I didn’t realize until much later that performing took me farther away from His presence than I could ever imagine. It cost me the thing I longed for most – my relationship with God.
Somewhere in my incessant doing, as my wheels of striving became increasingly unhinged, I ultimately came to the end of my addiction. It was there I reached out for something different. I embraced some new principles that ultimately transformed my relationship with God. So here they are:
End My Relationship With “Shoulds,” “Ought-Tos” and “Musts”
For so long I felt horrific shame when I didn’t feel a sense of euphoria or joy at the thought of spending time with God. Good Christians should long to spend time with God, I thought. I ought to spend time with Him, I reasoned, though many times my heart wasn’t in it.
I chose instead to begin building my relationship with God on meaning. I got honest with myself and honest with God. I stopped pretending and started living authentically with Him. I stopped doing all the things I felt compelled to do but never really wanted to do. I stopped beating myself up for not being consistent with my quiet time.
From then on, I freed myself to simply enjoy being with Him. I discovered how to find meaning in the moments of His presence with no agenda, no lists, or excuses. In areas and moments I lacked desire, I simply prayed for God to fill me with His desire. I allowed myself to experience Him in ways that were meaningful to me, even if foreign at times. Whether a walk with Him through nature, a lovely melody of worship that echoed somewhere deep in my heart spaces, or whether it was sitting with Him as He healed old wounds that had been hidden by years of layered callouses, for the first time I allowed His presence to simply wash over me, and refresh me. I remembered that He loved me before I ever knew how to love Him.
Be Intentional with Gratitude
Brennan Manning describes gratitude this way:
The dominant characteristic of an authentic spiritual life is the gratitude that flows from trust — not only for all the gifts that I receive from God, but gratitude for all the suffering. Because in that purifying experience, suffering has often been the shortest path to intimacy with God.
I had grappled with gratitude for so long. It seemed I was always waiting to get to the other side of life’s trials to acknowledge His provision and His blessing in my life. I was holding my breath for this season of striving to pass to see the miracle, to give thanks, and to offer appreciation.
Lately I’ve begun to realize the power of gratitude in every moment on my journey. Whether in victory or in defeat, gratitude allows me to welcome all experiences into the fabric of my story and cultivate meaning from every encounter. Instead of seeing God as capricious and tempermental, I see Him now as a loving Father, intimately connected with every victory, every defeat, and equally tender and caring in every moment of my life. For now, the intentionality of gratitude means His presence is alive and thriving in my heart.
The intentionality of gratitude means His presence is alive and thriving in my heart.Click To Tweet
Be Willing to Apologize – to Myself and to God
When I first stepped back from all of the ought-tos and musts and I discovered a quieting of some pressured spaces inside, I began to notice noisy thoughts flying wildly through my mind. These thoughts were cruel and punishing, relentless and terrible. These thoughts were about me, about everything I wasn’t, and nothing I could ever become. And for most of my life, I not only believed those thoughts, I also wholeheartedly believed those were the Father’s thoughts towards me.
You’ll never be good enough. You can’t get anything right. You’ll never be worthy, much less loved.
To be honest, I was bullying myself in a way that I would never allow another to be bullied.
It turns out I was also blaming God for how miserable I felt. I was insecure when I saw His favor in other people’s lives. I remained anxious, disconnected, and resentful because that somehow felt safer than allowing others to see how I really felt about God. I needed to keep my painful reality, my faulty faith hidden from the world, from myself, and from God.
When I began to risk getting honest and exposing the reality of my broken and bandaged self, I was freed from the prison of maintaining a crumbling façade. I was freed to apologize to myself and to God for my errant cruelty. I could stop pretending, performing, and perfecting, and get back to the basics of being, of living, of loving— myself and God. I could let go of what I thought a good Christian was because what I realized was that I didn’t need to be a good Christian as much as I needed to have a passionate connection with my Father.
I don't need 2 be a 'Good Christian' as much as I need 2 have a passionate connection w/my Father.Click To Tweet
I cannot do it on my own. I rest in His faithful provision to complete the work He has started, knowing that His work in my life is the ultimate gift of love.
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, author, coffee lover, and wife. My online community lisamurrayonline.com provides a compassionate place in the midst of the stresses and struggles of life. At heart, I am just a Southern girl who loves beautiful things, whether it is the beauty of words found in a deeply moving story, the beauty of a meal cooked with love, the beauty of a cup of coffee with a friend, or the beauty seen in far away landscapes and cultures. I have fallen passionately in love with the journey and believe it is among the most beautiful gifts to embrace and celebrate. While I grew up in the Florida sunshine, I live with my husband just outside Nashville in Franklin, TN.
About Peace for a Lifetime
In my new book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with herself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!
Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com.
Book Trailer: https://vimeo.com/155392891
Join the Peace for a Lifetime Community!