“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits..." - Psalm 103:2
Little multicolored chips rained down all around me as I diligently worked to scrape off years’ worth of paint layers. As a refurbisher of homes, I’m used to having to sand and scrape. But today, my hands complained with soreness and aches as I worked my way down to a clean surface. I kept going at it despite their protests. I knew if I didn’t get rid of the loose paint, the new paint wouldn’t adhere properly, and I’d just have more chipped paint to deal with later.
I rinse my work-worn hands, but the soap and hot water are not quite enough. I have to scrub off the residue of paint and grime that stubbornly cling to my skin. As I carefully dry up, I can’t help but reflect on how much my life mirrors this process.
Years of hurts, disappointments, scars, and life have built up layer after layer of “paint.” I have slapped on layers of distrust, fear, reckless living, self-righteousness, and more than a few layers of self-loathing and contempt. All of these “coats” made sense at the time. Each one was a young woman’s (or in some instances, young child’s) attempt to stay safe. To feel loved. To not have to hurt anymore. To seek out some semblance of joy in the midst of pain and confusion.
Then I met Jesus. I finally knew without a shadow of doubt that I was wholly, truly loved right where I was at. No qualifiers. And for the first time, I found genuine hope. Scriptures like Psalm 103:2-5 brought me to my knees in tearful gratitude: “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Only here’s the thing: all those layers of hurt and defense don’t just magically disappear. Sure, there are some life challenges God removed from my life quickly. Some might say miraculously. Still, the majority of my heart, my mind, and my character needed major renovation. Layer upon layer that needed to be skillfully chipped and sanded away by the Master Builder, preparing me for more.
God uses literally everything in my life to sand and scrape away the layers. Sometimes it’s a scripture that hits home, sanding away another ugly patch—or filling in a hole that felt empty and void. Sometimes the sanding comes from people who love me, who are willing to both challenge and encourage me along my journey. Or even a song that expresses my weariness or my joy in a way that is like the balm I just put on my tired hands—soothing and healing.
Yes, the scrapping also comes from the other broken people around me, people who are themselves under renovation. And some, of course, who aren’t even looking to change. Their words, their caustic actions, their judgement and lack of empathy take my breath away at times.
Yet right in the center of the storm is the Holy Spirit, giving me the power I don’t possess, in order to put up healthy boundaries and continue to find joy despite amidst it all. An opportunity to learn to love unconditionally while still protecting the woman God created me to be. One that is valued and highly treasured because the Lord is the only one who has the right to define me.
I get weary, yes. Sometimes I get angry that a layer I was sure was gone is still there, lurking beneath the surface. So I have to go back and deal with issues I thought were already resolved. Or deal with circumstances I didn’t ever want to have to revisit again, yet there they are. Calling me to grow and learn yet again.
My, oh my, are there are times I need rest! Rest in his word, in prayer, out in nature. Anything that builds into me and reminds me of my identity in Christ. I need that kind of balm until my spirit is refreshed by my Creator.
But together, we always get back to the work. Because I know now at this point in my journey that what is revealed underneath all of those layers is pure gold. Beautiful things worth the pain and effort.
Joy. Purpose. Passion. Peace. Meaning. Fulfillment. Hope.
All of these qualities (and much more) I experience ever so much more than I did before meeting Jesus. The restoration and repair work he has done in my life takes my breath away. I am amazed sometimes at the beauty of what he’s creating. Despite myself. Despite my fears, my groans and my angry protests. All of our joint efforts pay off.
The Lord alone is the master builder. I don’t always understand or get the whys behind my experiences. But one thing I do know: God works through it all. He is continuing to transform my life, to prepare me for a completely new “coat of paint” in heaven. An identity that will stick. One that is rooted in abundant blessing. A life that is centered around true freedom, that is carefree. An identity that will last for all of eternity.
Bring on the renovation.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
When circumstances, people or your past tear away at you, what is one way you can invite the Lord right into the center of your situation so he can begin his healing work within you? When scripture, people or circumstances build into you, what is one way to express your gratitude?
Never forget that one of God’s best tools for growth is praise, especially when it feels counter intuitive. Consider the following:
“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
Another powerful tool is focus. There is SO much research out there that supports what the Lord knew all along—what we think about and focus on becomes our experience. The passage of praise above is followed up with:
“Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy---think about such things. Whatever you have learned or receive or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
I would love to hear what you land on, so follow the link below to post your response!
Lord, this is hard. I get weary from the sanding and scrapping. I long for the soothing balm that only you can give. Help me to remember that your heart is for me, not against me, and to put time aside to allow you to build into my spirit. I pray for the courage to trust in you even when it doesn’t make sense. Remind me of all that Jesus endured for me out of love, so I do not grow weary and lose heart. Thank you for the many blessings all around me and keep me focused on the good. Your ways are perfect, O Lord. Let me hold onto that hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
To learn more about author & motivational speaker Barb Lownsbury or to invite her to speak at your next event, CLICK HERE.
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