Enneagram Series: My Story As An Enneagram One

Hey fam!! I am officially starting a new blogging series on the Enneagram. I know a lot of Christians who are interested in this particular personality test and its intersection with personal growth and our faith journey, so I am doing this series to highlight the journeys of various individuals with various personality types. I pray that this series serves as a testimony to God’s goodness and the ways that the Lord has helped us overcome struggles in our lives. 

Note: Personalities tests do not define us, but they do help us to better understand ourselves and those around us. For example, if a person claims to be an introvert it gives us the understanding that they need time alone to re-energize. This does not handicap them from socializing; it merely tells us about an important facet of their personality and the way that they were created and designed. The same goes for the Enneagram. 

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Most of us can remember at least bits and pieces from our childhood days. The days when we were young, and still trying to find our place in this world. The times that molded us and shaped us. The fragments of our personality that bled into our adult-selves. In many ways, our younger selves give us a glimpse into the person we are becoming. And I know that for me personally, I can see this principle at play in my own life, looking back on my younger, childhood self. 

I can still remember times as a kid when I’d literally go to tears when I missed a word on a spelling test, to the absolute befuddlement of my parents, who thought I did fine. I also remember times when I, for the sheer enjoyment of it, lined up my crayons in perfect rainbow order (descending from red to purple) and feeling a sense of satisfaction in my accomplishment. In my young, childhood brain, there was a right way of doing pretty much everything—including arranging crayons.

This tendency, though eventually taking a more mature form, eventually found itself re-emerging throughout my teenage years. 

I can remember putting pressure on myself with nearly every task that I took on. In my schoolwork, I strived to make straight A’s. In my writing, I wanted every sentence to sound perfect—regardless of whether anyone actually ever saw it or not. When I was on the yearbook team, I wanted my pictures to be lined up just-so. And when I had chances to sing on stage, act in a play, or give a speech, I practiced nearly to the point of insanity.

In some ways, this perfectionist-streak likely protected me from a lot of pain, heartache, and regrets. I never smoked. I never drank. I never had any regrets when it came to my interactions with the opposite sex. However, it was also easy for me to fall into other sins and issues that were less public and easier to hide, such as pride and self reliance. After all, grace was for the people who sinned ‘big’. For drug addictions and teen pregnancies. Not for the Christian ‘church girl’ who spends her free time swimming in the ocean of words.* Somewhere in my subconscious, I felt that if I could just put my all into everything I did and avoid making mistakes, I could find approval from God and others and avoid the pain that comes from falling short. But little by little, God began to show me the gaping cracks in my try-hard ways.

I began to see how even in small ways, I too often fall short of my own standards—and wear myself out in the process of trying to achieve perfection. But I also began to see that God’s love truly is big enough to cover me completely. And I began to realize just how unfailing and unchanging His love really is. 

I began to really see on a heart level (beyond head knowledge) that God doesn’t love us any more if we’re ‘good’ and He doesn’t love us any less when we fall short. I began to realize that when God looks down He sees me in all of my shortcomings and imperfections and still sees me as someone worth dying for. I began to see that as I stand before God, and as I pour out my heart to Him I don’t have to be the smart one, the good one, or the responsible one, but that instead, I can just be me. The real me, not the me that an overly critical ‘inner voice’* tells me I have to be in order to survive this thing called life.

In the words of an old song by Laura Story, “I can be scattered, frail and shattered, Lord I need You now to be, be my God, so I can just be me.”

I also, through this process learned what it means to see the lost and the broken and the prodigal as people not-so-unlike-me. To recognize that life is more than just a list of rules, and that God’s love goes deeper than the differences that exist between us. And to see the potential in people that too often, the church and society have written off. To see God’s fingerprints on each and every person that crosses my path.

Today, as a twenty-one-year-old college junior, I realize I am no longer the same perfectionistic, stressed-out girl that I was when I was younger. Sure, I still sometimes struggle with perfectionism. And yes, I do still sometimes put pressure on myself. But no longer do I see myself as the sum total of my grades, accomplishments, and high standards. Instead, I have learned to recognize myself as a child of God who does not need to be perfect to be loved by God and the people around me. And this, has made all the difference.

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“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-30 (TPT). 

*Translation: The girl who’s low-key obsessed/addicted to books.

*Inner Voice definition – a term in Enneagram language used to describe that voice inside of you that constantly tells you to be better and reprimands you when you do something wrong. Enneagram Ones have an extremely loud ‘inner voice’.

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If you know your Enneagram number, and would like to contribute a post for this series, please contact me at courtneymwhitaker@gmail.com or shoot me a DM @authorcourtney1 on Instagram. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Only Human

A couple of years ago, a song came out by the popular singer Christina Perri called Human. I found this song through a group of friends, when we were sitting around talking one day. Someone pulled out their iPhone and pulled it up and that was my first introduction to it. The lyrics were fairly simple, but in many ways relatable.

The chorus goes, “But I’m only human and I bleed when I fall down. I’m only human, and I crash and I break down. Your words in my head, knives in my heart, you build me up and then I fall apart, ‘Cause I’m only human…If we’re honest, this song is relatable for a lot of us. We try our best, but still watch ourselves fall time and time again in one area or another.

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We try to defeat anxiety, but find ourselves battling it time and time again. 

We try to control our temper, but find it coming out in the worst way at the worst time. 

We try to get rid of lust, but still find ourselves battling ungodly thoughts on an all-too-regular basis. 

We try to overcome an addiction, habitual sin, or unhealthy habit and find ourselves coming back to it time and time again, each time getting more frustrated than before. 

Believe it or not, the apostle Paul, who wrote half the New Testament, struggled with the exact same thing. He writes, in Romans 7:15-20 (NIV);

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

There are a couple of things that we can pull from this passage as Christians. The first, is that struggling is not an indication that a person is weak in their faith. After Paul came to Christ, he was one of the most on-fire Christians you could ever hope to know. He traveled around the world sharing the Gospel—in the face of danger and persecution. He started church plants and continued to shepherd the churches that he started through letters throughout his travels. If anyone was committed to their faith, it was the Apostle Paul. However, in spite of this Paul still battled with sin and the effects of sin just the same as each one of us. 

Second, we are not alone in our struggles today. I believe that one of the biggest lies that the Enemy tells us is that we are the only one battling with sin and struggles. Too many times, the Enemy will have us look across the aisles at church and tell us “You see so-and-so over there? They never struggle with this. They’re one of the good Christians. You’re not.” When the truth is, everyone is battling with something. As long as we are alive and breathing, we will face temptation and attacks from the Enemy. But the good news? We don’t have to fight it alone. 

And if you read Ephesians 6:11-20 (TPT), it becomes clear that God did not leave us without armor to fight this all-too-common battle. It says,

11 Put on God’s complete set of armor[a] provided for us, so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser![b]12 Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms.[c] For they are a powerful class of demon-gods[d] and evil spirits that hold[e] this dark world in bondage. 13 Because of this, you must wear all the armor that God provides so you’re protected as you confront the slanderer,[f] for you are destined for all things[g] and will rise victorious.

Put on truth as a belt to strengthen you to stand in triumph. Put on holiness as the protective armor that covers your heart. 15 Stand on your feet alert, then you’ll always be ready to share the blessings of peace.

16 In every battle, take faith as your wrap-around shield, for it is able to extinguish the blazing arrows coming at you from the Evil One![h]17–18 Embrace the power of salvation’s full deliverance, like a helmet to protect your thoughts from lies. And take the mighty razor-sharp Spirit-sword[i] of the spoken Word of God.

Pray passionately[j] in the Spirit, as you constantly intercede with every form of prayer at all times. Pray the blessings of God upon all his believers. 19 And pray also that God’s revelation would be released through me every time I preach the wonderful mystery of the hope-filled gospel. 20 Yes, pray that I may preach the wonderful news of God’s kingdom with bold freedom at every opportunity. Even though I am chained as a prisoner, I am his ambassador.

If you read this passage, you can see a number of strategies to fight against sin and temptation. The two things that it lists here are the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness because these two things go together and are ultimately, the foundation of our armor. The belt of truth is the truth revealed in Scripture about God and the breastplate of righteousness is the righteousness found in what Christ has done on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (NIV). We see this part of the armor cumulated in verse fifteen, which some translations describe as “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”.

In the second section of this passage, we are instructed to take faith as our ‘wrap around shield’, embrace the power of salvation’s full deliverance like a helmet, and take with us the ‘sword of the Spirit’, which is the word of God. The first one of these, is like it sounds—having full faith in God and His presence in each one of our lives. The second, is about living intentionally Gospel-Centered lives. When we keep the cross, and Christ’s love for us at the center of our hearts and lives, it makes it so much easier to resist the Enemy’s attacks.

Lastly, in this section, we see ‘the sword of the Spirit’, which is knowing and applying the Scriptures to our lives and situations. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (NIV). 

In the last section, we are instructed to pray—not just for ourselves, but for each other. As Christians we weren’t meant to do this life alone. We were meant to lean on each other and confide and help each other through our trials. And when we pray for another person, and help them through what they’re going through, it helps us take the spotlight off our own trials and in the process, gives them so much less power over us.  

To conclude, we may be only human, but we serve a God greater than anything we could ever face. And He is always with us, wherever we go!

“So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles,[ai] fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. 39 There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!” – Romans 8:38-39 (TPT). 

How about you? How do you stand strong in the face of temptations and struggles? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

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 (NIV).

Peace. It is a word that we all long for, yet few know how to find. A word that in just five letters, sends calming images to mind and a feeling of comfort to our hearts. A word that conjures up images of beaches and long summer nights. Christmas lights and fireplaces. All things nice, and cozy, and well—peaceful!

It is also a word that is severely lacking from most of the word’s  vocabulary today. 

As humans in present-day-society, we are often encouraged to view life through the lens of lack and scarcity. We are encouraged to chase more prestigious jobs with a higher pay. We are encouraged to get into the most impressive college and make the dean’s list. We are encouraged to change our appearance based on perceived flaws and social norms. We are encouraged to be better, faster, and more. All while killing a part of ourselves in the process.

Little by little, we begin to place our hope in these things—forgetting that as Christians, our joy was meant to be something a lot more eternal.

Though it is something that on some level, I’ve known for years, I have been learning what it means to find peace in Christ, even in seasons that try and test this peace. I am learning what it means to breathe. What it means to let go and let God. What it means to find rest in God’s grace and love—and remember that in itself is enough.

As I write this, I am reminded of some of the things that give me sort of a ‘peace’ in the physical realm. Warm tea. Ice cream and a good movie or TV series on Hulu. A new book. The feeling of a warm blanket. Lights strung during Christmas time. I am also reminded of the things that tend to steal my peace. Too much homework. Early shifts at work. Unexpected bad news. Running late for anything. Driving in torrential rain. These kinds of things, despite my desire to stay calm, often have a tendency to rob me of my peace in an instant.

Writing both about the things that give me peace and the things that send me into panic mode, I feel led to ask you this question—which is your faith for you? Is your faith in Jesus a place where you can find rest, a place that gives you the peace of eating ice cream and watching your old favorite movie? Or does it feel more like akin to the anxiety of too much homework—a task that feels overwhelming, and that you feel you must ‘perfect’ in order to win God’s approval?

According to Jesus, in Matthew 11:28-30, the Christian life should feel more like the first example. This passage says, “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me.[a] I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.[b] 29 Simply join your life with mine.[c] Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle,[d] humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me.[e] 30 For all that I require of you will be pleasant[f] and easy to bear.” (TPT). 

God wants us to find an unexplainable peace in Him. A peace that can carry us even when our lives are anything but. A peace that does not come from religious works or legalism, but from a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. The Christian life does not mean we will not have trials, or feel stress from time to time, but it does mean that we have a hope and a love that can carry us through it. We have something that can sustain us even through the seasons that threaten our peace. 

This week, I want to challenge you to sink into that peace. To rest in God’s presence. To sink into His oasis. To remember that Jesus is gentle, humble, and easy to please.  To find peace in His love, mercy and grace. And, to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV).

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How about you? How do you sink into God’s peace when the storms start to come your way? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments section below! Also – check out this really great song all about this by Lauren Daigle here! I heard it at a Christian conference a couple of weeks ago and it is really good! 

Perfect

“I got a couple dents in my fender. Got a couple rips in my jeans. Try to fit the pieces together. But perfection is my enemy. And on my own I’m so clumsy but on Your shoulders I can see. I’m free to be me.” – Francesca Battistelli, Free To Be Me.

I was approximately nine years old when the song Free To Be Me, by Francesca Battistelli, first aired on the radio. My family was just starting to listen to the local Christian radio station around this time, and immediately, I resonated with this song. I felt like  Francesca Battistelli had written those lyrics just for me. Ever since I was young, I have always struggled with perfectionism.* And, in some ways, it is still something that I struggle with from time to time today.

To give you all some context on this, I’ve recently discovered that I’m an Enneagram 1w9. Ones are notorious for being perfectionists, and they tend to set extremely high standards for themselves. On the surface level, this can look like a good thing. I’ve never drank or used drugs, I’ve always made pretty decent grades, and I do my best to be kind to the people around me. These are all good things. The not-so-good thing is how, at times, I’ve made my faith about me more than God. How I’ve sometimes put my worth in what I’ve done rather than what Jesus has already done for me. How I put weights on myself that Christ never intended for me to carry.

A couple of years ago, back when I was still in high school, I read a book about this by Emily P. Freeman called Grace For The Good Girl. I wrote about it in a previous blog post, here. The author, like me, has struggled with perfectionism for most of her life. She writes, in one part of the book, describing her struggle, “When bad girls perform to get their needs met, they get in trouble. When good girls perform to get the same thing, we get praise. That is why the hiding is so easy for us. We work hard, we do right, and we try not to ruffle feathers. And even if we do all that by the strength of our own selves, we tell ourselves it’s okay. It seems to work, therefore it’s acceptable.It is not wrong to try to do the right thing, and follow God’s ways and His heart to the best of our ability. The problem occurs when we put our worth in what we do rather than who we are in Christ. When we rely on ourselves rather than relying on God.

Here’s the thing guys, Jesus did not come so that we can make a couple small behavior adjustments and throw Him into our backpack along with our grades and our accomplishments. He came to completely wreck our lives with His love and make dead people alive! To quote Emily P. Freeman once again, “The story of redemption and healing is that Jesus came to exchange my not-good-enough with his better-than-I-could-ever-imagine. He came to trade my life for His, my weak for His strong, my ashes for His beauty. He longs for each of us to receive the gift of Himself.” It is only when we fully grasp this truth that we can really experience the fullness of God’s power and the freedom that He intended for us to have in Christ.

If any of you are like me, and struggle with perfectionism, I want to challenge you to sink more into Jesus. To rely on His power more than your own. To realize that this journey with Jesus is so much grander than to-do-lists and checklists and trying to be good. To fall in love with Jesus and live your life as an outpouring of that love. To realize that grace is not simply the thing that we experience at salvation, but the thing that carries us and sustains us through the rest of our days and the rest of our life. 

To live faithfully, clinging to Jesus every day and every moment. 

Bringing your best, and trusting God with the rest. 

Loving God and loving people every step of the way. 

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*Full disclosure: I’m also a tad clumsy. So I can also admittedly relate to that part of the song.😉   

How about you guys? Do any of you struggle with perfectionism, or trying to win the approval of God and others? If so, feel free to share about it below! I’d love to discuss this in the comments! 

Where Your Heart Is

“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion. It is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” – Billy Graham.

As Christians, we spend a lot of time talking about outward ministry (as we should). How we can be an effective witness to others. How we can share Jesus in our circles of influence. How we can shine our light for Christ. All of this is great, please don’t misunderstand this – I hope that these are questions that you are asking yourself every day. However, if we are going to be effective witnesses for Christ, we must first start inward—with the condition of our heart. We must first start with seeking after God’s own heart.

Jesus talks about this very concept in John 15. He says, I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches.[e] As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless. If a person is separated from me, he is discarded; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire to be burned. But if you live in life-union with me and if my words[f] live powerfully[g] within you—then you can ask whatever you desire and it will be done. When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father!

“I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts. If you keep my commands, you will live in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands, for I continually live nourished and empowered by his love. My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness! John 15:5-11 (TPT). 

As Christians, we are called to be so full of love and so full of Jesus that it is contagious, and it spreads to those around us. People should look at us and see something beyond ourselves – they should see the love of Christ moving in and through us. Jesus talks about this in John 13:35 when He says “For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers.” (TPT). We are called to fall in love with Jesus and spread this love to everyone that we know.

If you’ve been a Christian for a while than you’re probably familiar with terms like “falling in love with Jesus” or “it’s a relationship, not a religion“. These are terms that I personally have  heard since I was nine years old. However, there have been points in my life when it’s been hard for this message to really get through—for me to really understand this on a heart level. It is easy to go through the motions in our faith; reading our Bible, praying, going to church and Bible studies. It is something else entirely to maintain a relationship with a God that we cannot see. But once we encounter the width and depths of His love, our relationship with Christ will never be the same. 

As humans we are wired for relationships. We are wired to be connected to people in a deep and personal way. It doesn’t take more than a simple observation of children in a Kindergarten classroom to know that there is something in us that longs for connection. It is only in our older age, and acquired hurts that we start to believe the lie that we can go at it on our own. Christ wants us to approach our relationship with Him with the wide eyed innocence of children—throwing off chains of legalism and “religion” that too often characterize our approach to God. God wants your heart – not your perfection and not your works. He simply wants YOU! 

This Valentines Day, I want you to take some time reflecting on a different kind of relationship; whether you are single, dating, or married. I want you to reflect on your relationship with the God who loves you with an everlasting love and who left the glories of Heaven to pursue you. Who wrote love letters to you through His word and who continues to chase after you daily. I want you to see and experience the “overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, who chases you down, fights ’til your found and leaves the ninety nine”* – Fully embracing the fullness of God’s love, mercy and heart and sharing this breathtaking love with the world.

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God still loved us with such great love. He is so rich in compassion and mercy. Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, he united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by his wonderful grace!” – Ephesians 2:4-5 (TPT). 

*Words courtesy of Corey Asbury.

Overcoming Anxiety

Recently, I posted to my Instagram story, asking those who follow me for suggestions on future blog topics. And, knowing a little bit about my story and my struggle with OCD/anxiety, a friend asked that, if I was comfortable, I would share how I manage it.

And, I told her that I would be more than happy to share.😊

For those of you who don’t know me, or are new to my blog, I’ve struggled with OCD/anxiety on and off since around middle school. My struggle with OCD/anxiety is mostly a battle of the mind (to borrow a term from Joyce Meyers). It can look different for different people, but for me it mainly takes the form of thoughts. Thoughts that make me feel stressed, or that trigger my emotions in some way. When this happens, it often triggers a host of physical symptoms – symptoms like a racing heart, or the sensation of ‘tensing up’ under stress. The thoughts, mixed with the symptoms, brings us to what most people would dub “OCD” or “anxiety.

And while, dealing with this kind of anxiety can be hard, it isn’t impossible.

I believe that through Christ’s power living in us, we are more than conquerors through Christ who strengthens us (Romans 8:3). And as intense as anxiety can sometimes be, it is no match for the God who breathed earth into being and breath into our very lungs.

And, here are some tips that have helped me overcome my own anxiety.

1. Identify the source – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10. Back when I was in middle school, one of my youth leaders made us memorize this verse. I can still remember being in a line of middle schoolers waiting to recite it back to her to get a piece of free candy. Years later, as an adult, I am super glad that I learned it. Because as Christians on fire for Jesus, our enemy is constantly looking for ways to defeat us, and keep us from the plans that God has for us.

One of the primary way that he will do this, is through using anxiety to defeat us—putting thoughts in our minds and making us think that they are ours. He will also lie to us in any way that He can—about ourselves and about the people that God has placed in our lives. When these kinds of self-defeating thoughts come, it is important that we identify the source. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.When our knowledge of God’s truth becomes more powerful than the lies that we hear about ourselves, we are in a place where we can begin demolishing these thoughts and the anxiety that comes with them.

2. Surround yourself with a community – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25. I honestly cannot speak enough about the importance of community in the life of the believer. I fell into a season a while back where I struggled to find this, and it was honestly one of the worst times for me in regards to anxiety/OCD. When we surround ourselves with people who will speak truth into our lives and encourage us in our faith, it is so much harder for the enemy to lie to us and attack us with temptation and troubling thoughts. There’s a reason that God tells us to surround ourselves with other believers. It is not only good for our Christian walk—it is good for our mental and emotional wellbeing.

3. Pray – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 I know this one probably sounds so cliche, but trust me, it works. This is not to say that if you pray, all of your problems will automatically be resolved – after all, Paul still had his thorn even after he asked God to take it away (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). However, this does not diminish the power of prayer. Praying changes something in our hearts, even at the times that we struggle. It causes us to position our hearts towards God and ‘cast all of our fears unto Him because He cares‘ (Psalm 55:22). God is with you even in your hardest moments. When we begin to praise God in the storm, anxiety slowly begins to lose its power over us. Suddenly, the things that we were once so worried about, and that we were so stressed out about seem small—by comparison of the amazing, awesome, and powerful God that we serve! A God who is greater than any form of fear or anxiety!

4. Be Real—not perfect -“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Ironically, just last week, as I was planning this blog post, one of the other leaders at my church’s youth group was asked to speak on this very topic. And one thing he mentioned that stood out to me was letting go of the need to be strong and be perfect—opening up to God and others about our areas of weakness. As your classic ‘type A’ perfectionist, this can definitely be a struggle for me. It can be hard to say to a friend or someone close to you ‘I’m not OK.’ However, as God taught me over the course of last year, one of the healthiest things that we can do as human beings is confide in each other, and be real about our struggles. We are all human, and there is not a human on this planet who has their life completely figured out. 

5. Get in the word – “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12. Staying plugged into God’s Word is one of our surest keys to keeping our anxiety and negative emotions in check. It has the power to break through the deepest places in our heart and penetrate through our whole being. A couple of days ago, I woke up feeling stressed about the future, and trying to discern God’s plans for me, and as soon as I broke out my Bible and put on some good worship music, I felt better. As Christians, the Bible is our lifeblood, and it is so important that we stay in the Word to steady our spirits as we go throughout our day to day lives.

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How about you? Have you ever struggled with anxiety, or negative thoughts? If so, how did you combat it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.😃

Prayer – This Is How I Fight My Battles

A while back, I heard a really cool worship song called Surrounded by Michael W. Smith. 

It mostly repeats the same two lines throughout, but it’s such a great song with such a great message that I felt led to share it on this blog. It says, “This is how I fight my battles…it may look like I’m surrounded by I’m surrounded by You.” It’s a song about prayer as spiritual warfare. And that’s exactly what I want to talk about in this post.

Over this past summer I challenged myself to go deeper in my prayer life, and doing so has helped me so much in my daily battles, challenges, and concerns. It has given me peace in the midst of hardships and joy as I approach each day. I used to struggle while praying, because that’s when my OCD would typically kick in the hardest, but lately, it has been through prayer that I’ve been better able to combat it.

It is through prayer that I have been able to fight my battles. 

The Bible talks about this very subject in Ephesians 6. It instructs us to put on the full armor of God to fight our battles and live victoriously. It says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:14-18)

As Christians, we are in a spiritual battle against the enemy every day. And the only way that we can effectively fight it is through seeking God consistently through prayer. 

The other day, I started reading a book by Beth Moore called Praying God’s Word. And in this book, she notes of the above passage…

Only one piece of the armor is actually a weapon. The figurative belt, shield, breastplate, shoes, and helmet are all defensive pieces of armor intended to keep us from being injured by the weapons of the evil one. The sword of the Spirit, clearly identified as the Word of God, is the only offensive weapon listed in the whole armor of God. Second Corinthians 10:3 uses the plural, assuring us we have weapons for warfare. What would the other primary weapon be? Perhaps additional weapons might be identified elsewhere, but I believe the other primary weapon of our warfare is stated right after the words identifying the sword of the Spirit as the Word of God in Ephesians 6:17. The next verse says “And I pray in the Spirit in all occasions.” I am utterly convinced that the two major weapons with divine power in our warfare are the word of God and Spirit-empowered prayer.

Prayer, along with regular time in the Word, are our best bets of defense against spiritual attacks. And when we do these things daily, seeking God with our whole heart, we’ll have so much more strength to fight the battles that we face each day. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and it doesn’t have to be anything long, it just has to be sincere.

If you’re not sure what to pray about, try making a list. Write down the things that are concerning you and start talking to God about them. Maybe you’re struggling with anxiety, or being bullied at school. Ask God to give you peace and the strength to endure and love your enemy. If you have a good friend who doesn’t know God, pray for her, and ask God to reveal Himself to her. If you see a lot of darkness at your school, pray over it—and ask that God would bring redemption and hope to the people there.

Lastly, don’t forget to praise God! Thank Him for all that He’s done for you and praise Him for who He is. You can do this by simply talking to Him, or by putting on some good worship music and praising Him through the lyrics.

The important thing is to stay connected to Him, and the way that we stay connected to anyone is through regular conversation with them!

To conclude, if any of you guys have prayer requests for me, feel free to contact me through my DM on Instagram or Twitter @authorcourtney1 or through my email address, at courtneyloves2read@gmail.com. Just be sure to title it “Prayer Request” so I know what it is! I’m always happy to pray with/for you all!

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“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” – Martin Luther.

How about you? How has prayer impacted you in your own life? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!