Author Archives: Jorja Stewart

Discern When To Voice Our Insecurities

One attribute of love is being considerate of others, even in the midst of our own insecurities.

 

There are times when it’s appropriate to share our insecurities with someone, but there are also times when it is best to keep our thoughts to ourselves. Here is an example of when it’s best to keep silent.

 

I have never particularly enjoyed cooking. It is more of a necessity than a pleasure for me. In 1991, we had a foreign exchange student, Vinnie, staying with us. I was at the sink after dinner and my husband, Tom, and Vinnie were still at the table. Tom asked Vinnie if his mom was a good cook, and he said yes. I should have stayed out of the conversation, but I said, “Oh dear” and then said something about my lack of skill. Tom said, “You do all right.” Then, thankfully, he added humor and said, “This pizza you ordered is great.” I said, “Yes, that’s my kind of cooking” and the topic changed.

 

Later it occurred to me that part of my job as a hostess is to make my guest feel comfortable. I needn’t make derogatory remarks about my inadequacies. That doesn’t glorify God. Instead, I should do my best, and trust God to make up for the gaps in my abilities. Love always focuses more on the other person’s needs than on my own.

Failing to Forgive is Unloving

Failing to forgive someone is very unloving. Forgiving someone who has hurt or offended us is sometimes difficult, and it doesn’t always feel good. When Jesus said, “…Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV), as he hung on the cross, I’m sure it didn’t feel good. But He loved us enough to do it, both in word and action.

 

If I ask someone to forgive me and they refuse, I feel like they don’t believe that I’m sorry and that I’m genuinely trying to improve. I also feel like they think I intentionally set out to offend them, which is very rarely the case. Most of my offenses are a result of insensitivity, ignorance, or misunderstanding. In such times, I need gentle, loving guidance.

 

I am willing to give a person time to forgive me, if they need time to work through their emotions, but I appreciate it if they tell me when I’m forgiven. I usually know people have forgiven me if they act as if nothing happened and start treating me lovingly again, but it’s nice to actually hear the words, I forgive you.

 

We also need to follow God’s example of not bringing up a person’s past mistakes. When God forgives, He forgets in the sense of never mentioning the mistake again.

 

Love forgives, unconditionally, both in word and action. May the Lord help us to follow His example of how to love.

 

 

A Self-Centered Attitude Lacks Compassion

One night, as my husband was relaxing on the couch, my frustrated mutterings about the computer disturbed his tranquility. He spoke up and I decided to put the computer away. I surrendered my frustration and disappointment to the Lord and started humming praise songs. Tom, however, was having difficulty forgiving me, and I felt hurt by his lack of compassion for my feelings.

 

The Lord helped us to get over ourselves by sending an emergency phone call. After we had responded and helped some people out, our good moods were restored.

 

In my quiet time the next morning, the Lord gave me some insights. As always, He helps me to understand the other person’s perspective by helping me walk in their shoes. Both my husband and I could have been more sensitive.

 

I thought of times when I have been annoyed by someone else’s complaints. When I’m lacking compassion, I may just be trying to cheer them up so that they’ll quit ruining my day. On the other hand, when God’s love is flowing through me, I will feel their pain and listen compassionately and pray for them.

 

I would have appreciated my husband offering to pray for me in my time of frustration, instead of getting annoyed with me. But when I remembered times I’ve failed to be compassionate, it was easier to understand and forgive.

 

So, I jotted down these reminders, and now I’m praying God will keep helping me to apply them!

 

  • When I’m the one experiencing a negative emotion, STOP what I’m doing and PRAY for help with my feelings. Perhaps even ask another person to pray for me.
  • When the other person is the one with the negative emotions, first pray for myself to be filled with compassion for them, and then listen compassionately and pray for them. Also ask God to show me what I can do to help them.

 

As always, self-focused self-pity is destructive. When we’re other-focused, it’s amazing how much happier we are!

Transparent, Transforming Love

There are many things, negative and positive, that motivate us to try to change: guilt, fear, anger, pride, a desire to be healthy or to improve at something, etc. Operating under those motivations may work for awhile, but sooner or later we’ll burn out and give up. Think of how many New Years Resolutions last less than a year.

 

On the other hand, once we’ve experienced Christ’s unconditional love for us–accepting us as we are and being willing to forgive and help us–we are motivated by a desire to please Him. When I am motivated by my love for Christ and my desire to be close to Him (and I know I can’t feel close to Him if I’m feeling guilty), then I sincerely call upon His power and strength to help me accomplish my goal or resist temptation. If I’m mad at myself for being a certain way, the change doesn’t last long. But when I realize how much God loves me and desires to give me victory over my weaknesses, then I respond in gratitude and thanksgiving and humility–realizing I’m unable to change myself, but thankful that God’s ready, able, and eager to do it. All He needs from me is my love and cooperation.

 

It isn’t enough just to intellectually know the love of Christ. We must experience it. We must learn to be honest and vulnerable with God, with ourselves, and with others. We need to face our sins and confess them to God and trustworthy people. The only way we can experience unconditional love is when we see someone accept us as we are–with all our flaws. But people can’t express that love to us until we’re willing to reveal our weaknesses–those sins that cause our pride to feel embarrassed, or fearful of rejection. It’s ironic that we can’t experience genuine acceptance until we’re willing to stick our necks out and risk rejection. That’s where faith comes in: believing God won’t hand us more than we can bear.

 

We do need to exercise wisdom in who we choose to open up with. They should be people who have proven themselves trustworthy in keeping private information confidential. But even the best humans are not perfect, and they may fail us, so we must also be willing to forgive them when they do.

 

I praise God for Jesus, who is always faithful, and He understands me better than I understand myself! I love the tender way He reveals my sins to me. I am thankful because I know He is only doing it to help me, not to hurt me. I know He still accepts me and honestly forgives me, and He isn’t even disappointed because He already knows every sin I’ll ever commit. I’m the one who gets disappointed in myself because my pride keeps thinking I’m doing better than I am, and it’s surprised, hurt and embarrassed when I fall flat on my face.

 

When someone is confessing a sin, we should just listen. We shouldn’t make any value judgments about whether it’s a big or a little sin. If it bothers their conscience, it is a sin for them, even if we don’t see it as a big deal. Just encourage them to get right with God through confession and repentance and pray with them and for them. We are all called to be holy because God is holy. Thankfully, God doesn’t expect us to do it on our own. If we have given our lives to Christ, we have His Holy Spirit to guide and empower us. Hallelujah!

 

Overcoming Selfishness

One way to battle selfishness is to remember that God’s love is always considerate of others. I am often very blind to my own selfishness. Once God opens my eyes, I’m appalled at how blind I was.

 

One example of my selfishness is related to our disabled son’s helpers. At times, I would send them text messages or emails whenever an idea came to me, even if that was when they weren’t on shift with our son. God convicted me of selfishness and gave me a better solution. Now, when an idea comes to me that I don’t want to forget, I write it down and then send it to the helpers when they’re with our son.

 

Another way to help myself overcome selfishness is to ask my husband’s opinion of my ideas. It’s a lot easier to see other people’s mistakes than it is to see our own. So, if I invite my husband to give his in-put, and humbly listen, I can reduce the number of mistakes that I make.

 

In conclusion, it is now my goal, when I’m making a decision, to ask myself (and my husband) if I’m being considerate of others. God considers the needs of everyone involved. I need to do likewise.

Reflecting Christ’s Love

Jesus said, “…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV. The emphasis is mine.)

 

How does Jesus love me? First of all, He sacrificially gave His life for me even before I loved Him. And now that I’m His child through faith in Him, He forgives all my sins when I ask Him to, and He understands all my frailties. He looks past all the junk in my life and sees and encourages my potential. He’s patient with me and gives me truth in small doses, as I’m ready. He’s sensitive to my moods and feelings. He addresses my questions patiently and calmly. He doesn’t argue over non-essentials. In fact, I’ve found that when I get argumentative about anything with Him, He just becomes silent until I’m more receptive. Meanwhile, He continues to intercede for me. That’s a good role model for me to follow when someone gets argumentative with me. Be quiet but continue to compassionately pray for them!

 

Jesus said the way people will know we’re His followers is by our love for one another. Before we reach out to non-believers, we need to search our own hearts. How are we doing at loving difficult to love people? Anyone can love a person who’s nice to them. We don’t need Jesus for that. His supernatural power is seen when we genuinely love those who aren’t nice to us or have personality traits we don’t appreciate. Jesus told us to “…take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “(Matthew 7:5, NIV) When we find ourselves being critical of someone, that’s a good time to ask Jesus to shed His light on our own hearts. I want Jesus to use me to help others, but first I have to allow Him to cleanse my own heart. It is my daily prayer that He will reveal my sins to me and cleanse me of them.

 

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10, NIV) Amen!

 

P.S. The Bible says: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18, NIV. The emphasis is mine.) We’re only responsible for our own attitudes and behaviors, not those of others.

 

 

Love Never Fails

The Bible says that love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:8)

God’s love is never lacking or insufficient in power. It over comes all things. It extends mercy, grace, forgiveness, and all the attributes described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. God’s love even overcame death and provided an open door to eternal life, through Christ. God’s love is eternal because God is eternal, and “…God is love.” (1 John 4:8) God’s love will continue forever for all of His children: God’s love for us, and our love for Him and each other.

 

In this life-time, I love others imperfectly, but God continually empowers me to love better. In the next life, I will love perfectly, as God loves me, forever! Hallelujah!!!

Love Perseveres

The Bible says that love perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

It is relatively easy for me to love people who are nice to me. But I need God’s supernatural power to persevere at loving unkind or annoying people. My natural (sinful) inclination is to give up when the going gets rough. But, by God’s grace and strength, I can persevere at loving those who are difficult to love.

 

God’s love is an action, and an act of the will, not necessarily a feeling. Regardless of my emotions, I can choose to focus on a person’s potential instead of their flaws, and to be faithful in reflecting God’s love to them despite their actions. When God’s love is motivating me, I will seek to understand their perspective. No matter how discouraged I feel, I will not give up on them. I will pray for them and do whatever I can to help them. That does not mean I will always make them happy (I don’t always like how God deals with me, though I know He acts out of love), but I will strive to be a peacemaker, and I will be considerate of their feelings.

 

I can’t always control my circumstances, but, in Christ, I have the freedom and the power to choose my attitude. I access His power by prayerfully surrendering my will to His, choosing to live His way, instead of mine. Love presses on. The reward is a supernatural peace of mind, despite circumstances, and the joy of knowing I’ll be spending eternity in the Lord’s loving presence. To God be the glory! Great things He has done!

Love Hopes

“Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice;

morning by morning I lay my requests before you

and wait in expectation.”

(Psalm 5:3 NIV, the emphasis is mine.)

 

The Bible says love “…always hopes…” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

When our world suddenly comes crashing down on us, or our trials drag on year after year, with no end in sight, it’s easy to lose hope. But when I keep focused on the Lord, rather than my circumstances, hope is restored. I know Jesus is with me in it, and He will not only get me through it, He will bring good out of it! He reminds me that He’s working on my character while I’m waiting for His solutions to my problems. He’s teaching me to surrender my will to His, and to wait patiently, calmly, and expectantly, surrendering all my concerns and anxieties and resting in His love. He’s teaching me to seek His guidance continually and wait for clear answers. He’s teaching me to obey Him (and He allows me to suffer the consequences when I don’t). He’s teaching me to listen carefully and humbly to others and prayerfully consider their opinions. He’s teaching me when to speak and when to keep quiet. (Does the listener have ears to hear? Are they receptive?) If not, it’s best to keep quiet and pray. He’s teaching me to be a peacemaker by treating everyone with respect, regardless of how they treat me. I’m learning to accept being taken advantage of, when God allows that to happen, resting in His Sovereign control. I’m learning to surrender anger and to forgive. I’m learning to apologize quickly when I offend someone. I’m learning to persevere in prayer, especially for the souls of the unsaved, and to be willing to endure unpleasant situations for their sake. God continually reminds me that His ways and His time schedule are very different, and better, than mine. In short, I’m learning to trust Him, believing He’s at work, even when I can’t see it, and to rejoice in expectation and praise Him in faith!

 

Like the hopeful father responding to Jesus in Mark 9:24, I pray,

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” That’s a prayer Jesus will always answer!

Love Trusts

The Bible says that love “…always trusts…” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Since God is the only One who is perfect, He is the only One who is completely trustworthy. (I don’t even trust myself because I struggle with selfishness). When I trust the Lord, it frees me to think the best of people and look at their potential. I can trust Him to give me discernment in dealing with others, and I can trust Him to be working for my ultimate good, even when He allows people to take advantage of me. I suspect that not one loving person who saw Jesus on the cross was able to see the good in that. Yet, the salvation of mankind was in progress.

 

I will share an example from my life, but I am changing the names to Adam and Joe. When my elderly relative, Adam, needed more help, I began visiting him on a regular basis. In doing so, I discovered that his long time friend, Joe, had been stealing money from Adam for quite a while. The whole story is too complicated to explain here, but I continued to treat Joe kindly and he didn’t know that I was aware of his dishonesty. After Adam had a stroke, the doctors declared him mentally incompetent. Joe then took me and the other three trustees of Adam’s estate to court in an attempt to get custody of Adam. During the court proceedings, Joe slandered me, but he did not win the case. I continued to treat him kindly and I prayed that he would someday have a relationship with Jesus. I hope he saw something of Christ in me. We did not keep in touch after Adam died.

 

When I trust God to be in control of my life, I don’t have to be paranoid or anxious about constantly protecting myself. Instead of worrying about what the other person is up to, I just need to ask God what He wants me to do. That frees me to look for the good in others, even when they’re taking advantage of my kindness. I am free to give them the benefit of the doubt until their actions prove them guilty. And if they are proven guilty, I’m free to forgive them, knowing God is, and always has been, in control.