Tag Archives: sin

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

If you’ve been following my story, you may think deciding to change careers was the hardest thing. Nope. Completing my doctorate? Close, but no. Become a spin instructor? No. Launch a ministry? Still no. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is actually something I have committed to keep doing on a very regular basis: confession. Letting someone know what my real life struggles, faults, and failures are is by far the most difficult thing I’ve done. We all know no one is perfect, but it sure feels good to pretend and is incredibly vulnerable to actually name the ways I’m not!


Sin creates a great deal of shame and shame is an incredibly powerful emotion. It’s subtle and sneaky. It quietly creates an inner dialogue of self-condemnation. Shame makes us shrink back and away from others, the isolation only increasing its power. And shame disrupts our ability to be God’s image bearers because it stunts our courage to create, which is one of the most powerful ways we are like God.


Even in our shame, God longs to be with us and relate to us. We see this in God’s response to Adam’s shame in the aftermath of sin and in Jesus incarnate. Though shame turns us away from one another, God draws us towards himself and back into relationship with others. In fact, that is the way toward healing – towards one another. And we move towards one another by sharing our stories, even the shameful ones.

Christian psychiatrist, Curt Thompson says, “The first verse of Hebrews 12 alludes to a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that allows us to ‘run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’…[This] includes Christians today who know me deeply and whom I confide in personally. These are individuals whom I allow to see everything there is to see.” He points out that we have to “name things to tame things.” There is great healing available when we put words to emotions and experiences we don’t even want to acknowledge and do so in the presence of another. When I voice my shame and acknowledge my fears, faults, and failures, the community is able to point me towards God’s love for me. Thompson points out that shame can’t tolerate transparency, which means the antidote to shame is sharing anything and everything that may lead to shame, including sin.

So although confession is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it is also the most healing thing I’ve ever done. I have never vulnerably laid my shame before my cloud of witnesses and had them respond with more shame, shun me, or scorn me. Not one time. No, instead when I am vulnerable within the safety of a trusted cloud of witnesses, I am met with tender care, kindness, and gentle accountability. The fear of vulnerability is that others will reject and push you away. However, in the midst of and wake after moments of vulnerability, a well chosen cloud of witnesses draws you in.

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So press into possibly the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Risk being exposed and vulnerable within trusted community. Give yourself the opportunity to hear someone with skin and bones draw you in with great acceptance in the midst of all the shame. Allow yourself to hear them say, “I’m so sorry you are struggling with this sin. I’m here for you. I love you. I still accept you. And so does God.”

Who are your “great cloud of witnesses”? Maybe you don’t have one. Pray that God would bring those people into your life. If you do, what keeps you from being vulnerable and authentic regarding confession with them?

It’s Friday AND Sunday’s Coming: Thoughts on Easter


“Before the sun had risen on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene made a trip to the tomb where His body was laid to rest. In the darkness, she discovered the covering had been rolled away. She darted out of the garden to find Simon Peter and the dearly loved disciple to deliver this startling news.

Mary Magdalene: They have taken the body of our Lord, and we cannot find Him!

Together, they all departed for the tomb to see for themselves. They began to run, and Peter could not keep up. The beloved disciple arrived first but did not go in. There was no corpse in the tomb, only the linens and cloths He was wrapped in. When Simon Peter finally arrived, he went into the tomb and observed the same: the cloth that covered His face appeared to have been folded carefully and placed, not with the linen cloths, but to the side. After Peter pointed this out, the other disciple (who had arrived long before Peter) also entered the tomb; and based on what he saw, faith began to well up inside him! Before this moment, none of them understood the Scriptures and why He must be raised from the dead. 10 Then they all went to their homes.

11 Mary, however, stood outside the tomb sobbing, crying, and kneeling at its entrance. 12 As she cried, two heavenly messengers appeared before her sitting where Jesus’ head and feet had been laid.

Heavenly Messengers: 13 Dear woman, why are you weeping?

Mary Magdalene: They have taken away my Lord, and I cannot find Him.

14 After uttering these words, she turned around to see Jesus standing before her, but she did not recognize Him.

Jesus: 15 Dear woman, why are you sobbing? Who is it you are looking for?

She still had no idea who it was before her. Thinking He was the gardener, she muttered:

Mary Magdalene: Sir, if you are the one who carried Him away, then tell me where He is and I will retrieve Him.

Jesus: 16 Mary!

Mary Magdalene (turning to Jesus and speaking in Hebrew): Rabboni, my Teacher!

Jesus: 17 Mary, you cannot hold Me. I must rise above this world to be with My Father, who is also your Father; My God, who is also your God. Go tell this to all My brothers.

18 Mary Magdalene obeyed and went directly to His disciples.” (John 20:1-18, The Voice)


Each gospel account of the resurrection is slightly different, emphasizing different aspects of the events as they unfold. John’s version is my favorite. John draws me into the confusion and mystery of that wonderful morning. The women coming to pay their respects. The disciples so scared that Jesus’ body has been stolen, or perhaps so excited by the possibility that Jesus is alive that they run to the tomb – I mean, in either case, you’d run too right!? I know I would, and like Peter, I’d likely be the last to arrive, out of breath and out-sprinted by everyone else! I love that John had begun to lose faith until seeing the empty tomb for himself. At that moment, his “faith began to well up inside him.” Even the beloved disciple and Jesus’ best friend had doubts (which must make it permissible for me to have doubts too). And then there is Mary, who stays behind after all others have gone home to continue to weep and grieve for Jesus. She hasn’t quite caught on to all that has happened, and just like He always does, Jesus meets her right where she is. He instantly turns her deep despair into incredible hope.

And isn’t that the Easter message…

I have struggled to write about Easter – at least the whole story. You see, I could write volumes about Resurrection Sunday. What’s more exciting than the account of Jesus rising from the dead, conquering and claiming victory over sin and death once and for all!? What could be more joyous or hopeful than the freedom and life that comes from the resurrection!? There’s a song by Tree 63 called, “Sunday” that says, “It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming. Sunday! Hallelujah, it’s not so far, it’s not so far away.” I have always loved this song. It’s happy and hopeful, but to be those things, there must be despair and hopelessness.

You see, we can’t have one without the other. Yes, Sunday is coming, but not without living through Friday and Saturday first. And I don’t like Friday and Saturday – yes, Good Friday is indeed good, but it is full of sorrow and pain. The thought of my sin nailing Jesus to the cross is too much to bear. The truth that Jesus willingly sacrificed His life to save mine is overwhelming. If Jesus came to my town tomorrow I wouldn’t feel comfortable letting Him buy my coffee, let alone die for me! I’m supposed to be the one buying His latte and dying for Him, right? Wrong. And yet, for many years, I ignored Lent and Good Friday and focused only on the joy of Easter Sunday, too uncomfortable with the shame and sorrow to know what else to do.

However, the celebration and victory of Sunday morning is so much sweeter when you’ve also tasted the devastation and agony of defeat on Friday evening.  Both are required. Jesus cannot defeat death without first dying. He cannot conquer sin (MY sin no less) without sacrificing His life. Good Friday is only good because Sunday is amazing and Sunday is meaningless without the very real events of Friday. So yes, Sunday is coming! Hallelujah! It’s not so far away! And when life is hard, we can live in the hope of Sunday. Jesus has risen, He has risen indeed!


But we cannot forget Friday either. Friday reminds us of the cost of sin, the price of forgiveness, and the depth of love. The cross cements our identity as God’s beloved children. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)” God values and loves us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His son to save us and have a relationship with us. When we begin to truly understand that truth, it becomes much easier to love others. When I understand how much I’m loved and how much I’m forgiven, then I can love and forgive others.

So don’t get stuck in the sorrow of Friday. And don’t skip straight to Sunday. Hold onto the tension of both. It’s Friday AND Sunday is coming!

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We’re all Wounded

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I spend my days as a counselor walking alongside people who are experience pain and suffering. Many never imagined they would need a counselor but neither could they have imagined the depths of their pain nor the desperation they feel to ease the pain. I enjoy my work, but it is not for the faint of heart. The most common question my client’s seem to ask is “why?” And I often have no answer.

This week I had the honor of speaking to a group of high school students on that very topic. (Shout out to my friends at CORE, especially my sassy, sweet senior girls!) What better time to consider the meaning of suffering than during Lent, the church season where we remember Christ’s journey to the cross, the ultimate in suffering.

First of all, God has MUCH to say about this topic! The word “suffering” is used nearly 200 times and the concept of healing is mentioned 300 times in the Bible. It seems to me that there are four main reasons we experience suffering.

  1. Our own sin: King David lusted after another man’s wife, slept with her, got her pregnant, and then had her husband murdered. As a result, God took away born from that affair and Israel experienced war and conflict throughout David’s reign. Similarly, when I live outside of what God’s plan and purpose for me, I experience the negative consequences of those decisions.
  2. Other people’s sin: the prophet Jeremiah watched the people of Israel continually disobey God. Despite Jeremiah’s constant warnings, Jerusalem was destroyed and the Israelites were exiled. To top it all off, Jeremiah was considered a traitor by his own people. Sin has a ripple effect. My sin effects those around me and the sin of those around me has an impact on my life. I would argue even natural disasters and disease are the results of sin, or living in a broken world that is no longer as God designed it to be.
  3. Satan: Job did not know the origin of his suffering, but it was the direct result of Satan challenging the devotion and trust Job would have in God. Thankfully, Jesus dying on the cross defeated Satan giving us power over him. However, Satan is still a thief and a liar whose goal is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).
  4. Our salvation: The apostle Paul was whipped, beaten, jailed, shipwrecked, stoned, and homeless all for the sake of sharing the gospel of Jesus with others. As Christians, we share in Jesus’ sufferings and Jesus promised that we would be hated for loving Him.

Interestingly, David, Jeremiah, Job, and Paul all seem to respond to suffering in a similar way. They trusted God’s character in the midst of their darkest hour. David wrote numerous Psalms about God’s faithfulness, protection, and trust-worthiness. Jeremiah’s response to suffering was, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23) After a dialogue with God about his suffering, Job’s conclusion was, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, to wonderful for me to know.” (Job 42:3) And Paul perhaps said the most about suffering. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” And later in verses 16-17 Paul says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

So I have to wonder if knowing why hurt happens would really make a difference. Would you really respond to the hurt any differently if you knew why it was happening? Would the wound really hurt any less?

I think a better question is whether or not you will choose to trust God’s character in the midst of the hurt. Do you trust that God is good? Do you trust that God loves you? Do you trust that He is both able and willing to heal the wound and ease the pain?

But how do we learn to trust God in the midst of our pain and what do we DO when we are wounded? Look for that in next week’s blog.