Isn't that powerful?
It resonated with me because I realised how often my actions are motivated by fear, not love. I don't talk to that person because I think they won't like me. I won't encourage that person because they're doing better than me and obviously don't need it as much as I do. These actions come from living in fear, not love.
I've been a Christian a long time, but in talking with my friend I really felt challenged about this passage. If God is love, and we are to live in God and in His love, then I really need to SEE myself as loved. As a Christian, someone who understands Jesus Christ's death has paid the penalty for my sins, then instead of looking at my sin, my failures, my not-good-enoughs, I need to see God's love. It's like looking in a mirror, what do I see: my hopelessness, or Jesus smiling back at me, the ultimate demonstration of God's love?
The more I focus on God's love - seeing it, recognising it each day, owning it - then the more I can live in His love, and not my fears. The more I focus on God's love then the more encouraging, generous, confident I can be. The more I focus on God's love then the more like Jesus I will be.
It's such a good reminder, isn't it?
If I don't want to live motivated by fear then all the more do I need to KNOW God's love for me.
If I'm to love in God's love and share that love with others, I need to KNOW His love that nothing can alter.
If I'm a Christian author trying to share God's love with the world, I need to KNOW God's love for it to be authentic in my writing.
This proved especially relevant the next morning, when I received a review for my new novel that was a little less than what I'd hoped for. Now I know reviews are subjective, and wiser heads than mine have said 'don't read reviews'. But the truth is, I thought I had some level of relationship with this person that might warrant warmer praise; their words were nice, but not quite what I'd hoped for. (Come on, haven't we all felt a little disappointed or underwhelmed by faint praise at times?)
Through my shifting emotions I realised (again!) how often I can place my value in other people's opinions. As a natural introvert, and someone who values words as part of their love language, I really have struggled with not letting people's words affect me too deeply, which can thus affect my future dealings with them. The Bible verses I'd read the day before challenge me to not live this way, but to instead filter my emotions and thoughts and to view myself through God's word, where countless times we are reminded of God's love for His people.
God loves me. ("I have loved you with an everlasting love..." Jeremiah 31.3)
God loves me. ("For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..." John 3.16)
God loves me. ("Nothing can separate us from the love of God..." Romans 8.38-39)
Looking in the mirror of God's word, I need to recognise God's truth as truth and own that, and not own the negatives. Through Bible reading, meditation, just mulling over His words, I start to see things differently. Instead of my guilt, I see God's love. Instead of my sin, I see God's love.
Instead of feeling 'less-than' I feel "more than a conqueror." Why? Because of God's enabling love.
This applies to my writing as well. Sure, there are things I can improve on (I get that my work isn't exactly Shakespeare!), but setting my self worth according to other's opinions - good or bad - is a fool's game, and is guaranteed to leave me feeling tortured, and with a giant ulcer or three. Like my husband says: it isn't really real.
What is real is this: I am loved by God.
I am called according to His purposes. (Romans 8.28)
I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8.37)
And so are you!
Over to you: how have you encouraged yourself after a less-than-stellar review of your work? What are your thoughts on reading - or not reading - reviews?
Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives.
Her Regency novel ‘The Elusive Miss Ellison’ released in February 2017 from Kregel Publications, and is available from Amazon.com.au, KoorongBook Depository. Her second Regency 'The Captivating Lady Charlotte' releases June 27, and her third, 'The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey releases October 24, both are available for preorder.