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03 May

Finding the Safe Space Within

Finding the Safe Space Within

Our world is in turmoil, and the United States is no exception. One response to this turbulence is to retreat to a safe space, which is defined as “a place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm.” In other words, a place to withdraw from the world.

Our universities, which should be preparing students to thrive on this bumpy journey we call life, are fragmenting. They are becoming ideological ghettos that have been carved out of what one writer said should be a vibrant academic community. I couldn’t agree more.

Unfortunately, these safe spaces are dividing our college and university students by race, religion, creed, political affiliation, or coveted cause. America was designed to unify people with these diverse characteristics, to build strength from our differences.

Yet, there is a safe space where you are not affected by hatred, bigotry, or irrational thought. That place is within you. You carry it with you to every meeting, job, and human interaction you face throughout the day. Here’s how to find it and live within its protected boundaries.

Realize that you are loved.

Yes, loved. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells His disciples, A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another” (John 13:34). Those quoting this scripture usually emphasize the commandment to love one another. But before you can do that, you must receive the love that Christ gives to those who follow Him. When you are filled with the love of God—and you know it—then and only then are you able to love others.

Working from a position of being loved removes your anxiety about being discriminated against, treated unfairly, or hated. It becomes your strength.

Abide in love.

Jesus further tells us to abide in His love. Just as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. So abide in my love” (John 15:9). It isn’t enough to feel His love; you must remain in it, regardless of what is happening around you. Only when you truly know you are loved can you obey this precept. If you don’t really believe you are loved, you won’t have anything to give anyone else, and you will find yourself constantly at odds with the violent world in which we live.

Receive His peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Jesus knew that His own would experience trials and tribulations, but He encouraged them to remain true to His call on them to love one another. His commandment that they not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by fear was the key to finding peace in the midst of the storm.

The Bible provides a year-long devotional on fear, saying 365 times, “Do not be afraid.” It also reminds us that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). Those who have discovered the power of love are not afraid.

Released from insecurity.

Author and minister Joyce Meyer says on her website, “We have an epidemic of insecure people in our society today. Many people have an identity crisis because they don’t really know who they are and they base their worth and value on all the wrong things – what they do, what they look like, who they know, what they know or what they own.”

Security and safety are in the Christian’s DNA.  Isaiah 54:17 assures us,  “But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong. This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord….” With this promise from God, should we still seek safe spaces that insulate us from the “weapons formed against us”? There is no reason to be insecure in God’s economy.

The secret to being secure in Christ is knowing that you are in Christ. He has promised never to leave or forsake you. Therefore, in the midst of the turmoil that defines your day, your life will be a reflection of your position in Christ.

Where is your refuge?

In the Old Testament, Isaiah foretells that a King will come who will be a refuge for His people. And a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isaiah 32:3). This “man” will be the safe place for those who put their trust in Him.

Jesus has already come. He has fulfilled most of the prophecies about Him, and those who have believed in Him shall find their hiding place in Him.

If the world around you has frightened you and you feel like you need someplace safe to avoid the persecution you feel, remember that Jesus has overcome the world. He takes up residence in you, and you can retreat into Him at any time. But if you seclude yourself in physical safe places, how then will you shine His light?

“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:15-16).

 

02 May

Why Does God Allow His People to Fail?

Why Does God Allow His People to Fail?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Who among us has not experienced failure? What’s even worse is when we believe we are that failure. Yet we know that is not what God says about us. So how do we approach failure in a godly way?

Failure requires grace.

Without the grace that God provides, we are left with only our own sufficiency to recover. Yet God tells us that His grace is our sufficiency. A more accurate translation would read something like “I am all the grace you need.” Grace comes in His presence, because He is grace.

Failure drives us to God.

It reminds us we need a Savior. We need not only to be saved from our sins, but to be saved through our failures. When we realize our total helplessness to find strength in ourselves, we fall back into our dependency on God. Only then we are positioned to succeed.

What we see as failure may actually be great success.

When Jesus was nailed to the cross, His disciples forgot that He had already told them it would happen. They didn’t remember that He said He would rise again. They thought He had come to set up His kingdom on earth, so His death looked to them like a failure. But it was the greatest success the world has ever seen! Only after the third day did they remember what He had told them and understand the truth about the Kingdom of God, and ultimately about themselves.

God may allow you to fail.

God may allow you to fail so that you remain humble (See James 4:6). He gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh” because of his great revelations. Without this constant reminder, there would have been tremendous temptation toward pride. Paul’s  “failure” to overcome this tribulation meant that God got all the glory, and Paul remained humble. And when you are humble, God will lift you up (Matthew 23:12). If God had answered Paul’s prayer to remove the thorn, it would also have removed God’s grace in the situation.

Failure sometimes, but not always, involves sin.

We can fail because we are physically weak, not knowledgeable enough, or for other reasons beyond our control (like outside interference). But even in those things, sin is a possibility. Did we neglect our bodies and now we are ill? Did we refuse to pay attention to our teachers? Did we put ourselves in a place we should not have been? Sometimes we have no one to blame but us for our failures.

It is then that the Gospel comes into play. He forgives our sins, even those in our failures. And God promises to lift us out of failure and set our feet firmly on the rock. Psalm 40:2 reminds us He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.”

Failure often does involve sin. Even when we don’t recognize the sin in our failures, it’s there. David prayed, “But who can discern their own errors?  Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12). He knew that he sinned even when he wasn’t aware of it. He also realized that even if he prayed all day, there would still be sin left unprayed for. God’s grace is sufficient to cover even the unknown sin in our lives.

But don’t automatically equate weakness with sin. Weakness is the knowledge that God has all the power. Weakness means that we endure persecution, affliction and perplexity so that Christ may be revealed in us.

Be instant in continued prayer.

When failure comes (and it will), what is the answer? Be instant in continuing prayer. Do not cease to pray, for it is in prayer that we recognize God’s great power and acknowledge His perfect plan.

Be joyful in every circumstance, as it produces perseverance and patience (Romans 5:3). Godliness is developed in us through the trials we face, especially when we seem to have failed. It is then God’s grace is worked out in us!

Be content in limitations.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). We are not all great athletes, scholars, or statesmen. Most of us have more humble gifts. Being content with whom God created us to be brings about reliance on God for His grace, and ultimately that He would be glorified in us. Our weakness allows God’s strength to be the focus of attention, and it brings Him the glory that pride would keep for itself.

We should pray that our failures advance God’s kingdom and leave us content in Christ. Were we to overcome all our weaknesses in our own strength, how then would Christ get the glory?