[above image taken by Sass and Frass Photography | Instagram ]
There’s something that’s been on my mind and heart in 2016, but I’ve never known how to put it into words until last week as the year came to a close. I can’t help but laugh, though. How typical of me? After choosing to pursue the demands of “my world” day after day, it’s no wonder I didn’t hear His voice sooner about a subject that has rattled me to my core, and has even kept me wide awake many nights last year. Too personal? But I guess that’s the beauty of the grace of Jesus: His patience in revealing His truth to us when we’re ready to listen, and His ability to bring healing to some of the ugliest pieces of our hearts with His unrelenting love. “Boasting in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)” has become all too real for me right now. I don’t want the devotionals I write to ever, EVER be all about me, but when I struggle with something, especially to this degree – I am almost certain that there’s someone out there that wrestles with it, too. Because we’re human. And because of that, I want to lay it all out and get real with you. Just Anna.
Are you ready to have a “come to Jesus moment” with me? Wherever you are right now — my hope and prayer is that you fall more in love with the One who knows us better than we know ourselves, and that you experience the freedom that He is so desperately wanting to give us.
Let’s start in 1 Samuel 16. The prophet Samuel is on the search to anoint the next king of Israel. After hearing clear instructions from the Lord that the next chosen king would be from a particular household, Samuel visits a man named Jesse and his sons. Upon his arrival, Samuel noticed some of the older sons (that were probably tall and strong), and immediately thought to himself that one of them had to be “the one.” However, as many of us know, the chosen one by God was David – the youngest son who was not even present in the house when Samuel arrived, and believe it or not- was tending to sheep! God saw something in David’s heart that no one else saw, and it is during Samuel’s search that God shares this spoken word:
Whenever I had read this story, I was always immediately filled up with courage and thankfulness that God handpicks us for HIS divine purposes. And then of course I loved to be reminded of how “man’s” opinion of me mattered little in comparison to what God thinks of me.
Please hear me out. These are both powerful truths and they have encouraged me greatly at the perfect times. But I want to focus on that first part:
“Man looks on the outward appearance.”
When speaking of “man,” my mind had always immediately jumped to the thought that this was referring to other people. The way other people look at me. The way that other people looked in my life. Basically, other people’s opinion of me. After all, what the Lord said in 1 Samuel 16:7 was in response to the prophet Samuel’s first impression of the older sons physical appearances.
But I had never thought about this: “man” can include the way you and I view ourselves.
Maybe I should insert my name in that verse:
“For the Lord does not see the way [Anna] sees; for [Anna] looks at [her] outward appearance, but the Lord looks at [her] heart.”
In our self-obsessed world, it’s no secret of how easy it is to be overly aware of how we appear to those around us. For an example, social media has played both the roles of a blessing and a curse. The blessing being that it’s connected countless of people together, and has given creatives a platform for inspiration among many other great things. The curse being that it has magnified many insecurities in us as we instantly compare ourselves to others and strive for perfection in every area as we basically shout, “Please notice me!” from post to post. In fact, it’s to the point that we actually view ourselves the way we think others see us, and now we aren’t even aware of our own reality.
While this is by no means a social media bash – as I am a prime example of someone who (obviously) enjoys it and appreciate on so many levels, it is the most relatable example I can think of to help explain this mindset.
And so somewhere and somehow along the lines of our spiritual journey, every follower of Jesus can begin to lean away from the genuine cry of “Lord, change my heart to love like you do.” to the stagnant, but frantic “Does it look like I’m loving people right now?”
One leads to living and thriving in His grace as we allow the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out.
The other leads to exhaustion, and the illusion of contentment – but only offers fear, anxiety, and worry in return as we scramble to make our lives look a certain way in our futile attempt to work from the outside in.
For me, it looked a lot like staying up late, returning to every conversation I had with every individual I encountered that day, remembering my exact words, and then beating myself over what I should’ve said instead. “Did I sound kind?” “Do they think I’m [insert some great characteristic here]?” On the outside, it looked like worry was one of the problems. And honestly, that was there. But deep-down, as I believe most sin comes down to – what I was wrestling with was pride.
In other words, my obsession over my appearances.
Ouch. But there it is. Open and raw.
You see, when we become more concerned about what our lives look like, rather than what our true heart condition is, we have missed it entirely. This is nothing new. Jesus addresses this constantly in Scripture when interacting with the Pharisees and he calls it hypocrisy.
It would be tempting for me to say or imply that this is an area that I once struggled with, and now Jesus has completely transformed every area of this, but that is not the case as I am currently in the nitty gritty. While those nights of staying up late are something of the past – the same issue has manifested itself in other ways here and there. But I must say that when the Holy Spirit gently showed me this area of weakness, an incredible peace instantly came over me. Not shame. Not embarrassment. Peace. And hope. Because I know perfectly well that “God looks at [my] heart,” sees it all “as is,” and wants to change me from the inside out as he ravishes me with His love, and aligns my heart to become more like His. Oh, I’m so thankful for the One who chose to go to the cross for my sin. And the One who rose again three days later in victory for my freedom.
For me, this could not be a more timely word to begin this year in 2017. Let’s get real, together!
Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (NIV)
- Matthew 23 to read more about what Jesus has to say about focussing on the outside instead of our true heart condition.
- 1 Samuel 16-30, 2 Samuel to read more about the life of King David, and how God love remains in his triumphs and failures.
“Jesus, thank you for seeing past our outward appearances and performances, and seeing our hearts “as is.” Thank you for loving us in the process as you bring light to areas of our life that do not line up with You. Forgive us for the times we have become more concerned about how we look like and how others see and view us, instead of focussing on how You truly see us. And help us to passionately pursue You as You change us from the inside out. Amen.”
For more devotionals from Anna Clarke Blog, click here, or simply click the tab at the top of this page labeled ‘DEVOS’