Christina Fox received her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. She is the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey Through the Psalms of Lament (Christian Focus, 2016). You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and www.Facebook.com/
Have you ever turned to the Psalms during a time of emotional turmoil? Most believers have found comfort in the words of the psalmist because his descriptive prose seems to give voice to what they are feeling. Many of us have favorite psalms—perhaps even some we’ve memorized—which give us hope in the midst of sorrow, fear, loneliness, or grief.
If we were to study the Psalms in detail, we would notice certain patterns. In the darkest Psalms, the Psalms of Lament, we would find a common structure. I discuss those patterns in detail in my book, A Heart Set Free. But one pattern I want to point out today is the way the psalmist often referred to God as his salvation.
“Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness” (Psalm 51:14).
“Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love!” (Psalm 109:26).
“Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth” (Psalm 74:12).
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation” (Psalm 13:5).
On this side of redemptive history, we know that God has provided for our salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ. After his resurrection, Jesus met some disciples along the road to Emmaus. They were talking about all that had taken place when Jesus was crucified and the hours after. Not realizing they were talking with the resurrected Christ, they said, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Luke goes on to tell us, “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (vs. 25-27). All those stories they had heard and read throughout their lives in God’s Word were about Jesus. He was the One they all pointed to. As the subtitle to The Jesus Story Book Bible says: “Every Story Whispers His Name.”
Even the Psalms.
What this means is: Jesus fulfills all the deepest cries of our heart. Jesus is God’s ultimate answer to all that the psalmist cried out for. Just as the psalmist turned to God as his salvation in the midst of his sorrow, grief, and fear, we also must turn to Christ as our salvation in our own emotional turmoil. And just as the psalmist reflected on who God is and what he has done, we too must dwell on all that God has done for us in Christ. Jesus came to do what we could not do. He came to live the life we could not live. He came to make a way for us to be restored back into right relationship with God. He came to redeem, restore, and make all things new.
When we fear, we can remember that Christ has conquered our greatest fear at the cross, eternal separation from God. As Romans 8 tells us “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (vs. 31-32). We can remember that Christ is with us. He is our comfort, strength, and hope in all our fears.
When we have sorrow, we can remember the Man of Sorrows, our Lord and Savior who bore our sorrows on the tree. When he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he was voicing his own lament. As he cried that lament, he was bearing our sins, receiving the just punishment we were due. In our sorrow, we can also remember that God catches our tears in a bottle and hears all our cries. We can remember that not one tear we shed is wasted; God will use each and every one for his glory and our good. But most of all, we can remember that there is coming a day where all our tears will be wiped away and sorrow will be no more. When Christ returns, all things will be made new.
When we have been rejected, we can remember that our Savior was rejected. As Isaiah 53 said “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” He was rejected by the people he came to save. He was abandoned by his closest friends at his darkest hour. He knows and understands what it is to be abandoned and alone. But because he went to the cross, we have been adopted into the family of God. We are part of an eternal community. With Christ as our brother and fellow heir, we will never be alone. He will never forsake or reject us.
When we experience loss in our life, whether it is the loss of a loved one or of a dream or of anything else, we can remember that our Savior knew loss. He knew grief. He wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. But because Christ lost his life for our sake, we gain new life. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). As Paul reminds us, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Whatever trial, hardship, or suffering we experience, Christ is our hope. He is the answer to all our pain and sorrow. As the writer to the Hebrews encourages us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Consider Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, the One who hears every cry of our heart and the One who answered those cries with a cry of his own: “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
The past few years, I've rather unexpectedly found myself speaking about writing; I've led a few conference workshops for writers and have even spoken to college classes on the subject. I often receive emails from aspiring writers with questions about all aspects of writing. And as a freelance editor, I find myself mentoring writers.
I am by no means an expert on the subject, but I have learned a few things about growing as a writer as I've gone through my own writing journey. I use the phrase "growing as a writer" intentionally because I don't think it's something we master. Writing is something that even gifted writers can continue to grow in, develop, and improve. There's always something new to try, a different story to tell, and further development of one's voice. Like all areas of life, we can always improve in our writing.
If you are curious about writing and what you can do to improve and grow, here are few thoughts to get you started:
1. Seek to Learn: While we all learned the basics of writing a sentence and how to develop paragraphs in school, there is much we've probably forgotten. Or never paid attention to. Revisiting the foundations of sentence structure, punctuation usage, and paragraph building is always helpful to a writer. Go to the library or bookstore and pick up a few books on writing.
Another way to learn and grow as a writer is to attend writer's workshops or conferences. There you can learn how to write articles, queries, and proposals. You'll also learn about the process of publication, whether for a periodical or book publishing. I attended a writer's conference about five years ago and still look back at what I learned there to help me in my writing today. I've also participated in virtual writer's workshops, listened to interviews with seasoned writers, and read more books and articles than I can count on various facets of writing.
2. Ask Editors, Fellow Writers, and Friends: When I first started writing—beyond my personal blog—I joined a writer's critique group. It was helpful for me to have other people read my work and critique it for content, grammar, and understanding. They helped me see my bad habits and even showed me holes in my content where someone could misread and misunderstand what I intended to say. Editors are also an invaluable and often overlooked source of help. If you submit your writing to other websites or publications, ask your editors there what you can do to improve. What would make your writing better? Read through their edits and take note of the things they change. Especially when they change the same things each time. For example, I found a few editors trimming my pieces back, which revealed to me that I tend to be too wordy. In the last book I wrote, I had several friends read it for content, grammar, and understanding. They pointed out to me things I missed in my own editing and in our discussions about the book, I realized things about my writing I needed to change.
3. Read: Writers are readers. Read good writing. Read poetry, classics, and other quality work. What you read shapes your own writing. Circle new words you haven't heard before and look up their meanings. Keep a list of words and phrases you've read that you like and experiment with using them in your own writing. Evaluate writing that you particularly like. What do you like about it? What stands out to you? Is it the words the writer uses, their voice, the way they unpack a difficult concept and make it understandable? Practice writing using various techniques you've seen authors use. Play around with different ways to communicate the same message. Which way do you like best? Which feels the most natural to you?
4. Practice: A writer only improves with practice. As I said in a recent workshop I led: "In the end, a writer is not someone who thinks or talks about writing, but one who actually does it." Make a commitment to write a certain number of words a day or week. Use a writer's app or carry a journal with you wherever you go and jot down thoughts, phrases, and ideas for writing. Blogging is a great way to get regular practice. If you don't have a blog, write for someone else's blog. Write for your church's newsletter. Write wherever you have opportunity. Just do it often.
What about you? Do you love to write?
Who am I?
This is a question I've been asking myself lately. I knew who I was where we used to live. But who am I now in this new place? This new community? This new church? Who am I now that my kids need me less and less with each passing year?
Who am I?
This is a question I've asked myself numerous times in my life. When I was a teen, I asked myself this question as I looked at the other teens around me and wondered: "Who am I if I don't play sports? Who am I when everyone is categorized by what they wear, where they live, who they date, and what they look like? Who am I when I don't fit in anywhere?"
The question returned when I was newly married and I attempted to navigate the challenging questions: "Who am I as a married woman? Is my identity wrapped up in who I am married to and how good a wife I am?"
When we decided I would stop working as a counselor to stay home with our children, I wondered: "Who am I now that I can't identify myself by my work? What does it mean to be a stay-at-home mom? What happens to those gifts and skills God has given me, do they just get buried in with the pile of laundry that never dissipates?"
I know that around the corner lies even more questions, like "Who am I now that the kids are out of the house and on their own? Who am I when I can't get around like I used to? Who am I when I need other people to do things for me that I used to do for myself?"
A Secure Identity
Throughout my life, the responsibilities, roles, jobs, and commitments I make will change. They will come and go. What I do with my time in one decade will likely be different in the next. My identity can't be rooted in those things. Even a role as important as motherhood can't be how I define myself. It can't be what I rest in to give my life meaning. Because what happens when the house is empty and I'm no longer needed?
Though I'm prone to forget, Scripture tells me who I am. It gives me an enduring meaning and purpose. It's something that will not change no matter what changes in my world around me. It won't change with my age or the season of life I am in. It won't change whether I live in this town or in another. It's not effected by what I do but it does inform what I do.
When God spoke this world into existence, He created mankind. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were made to image God. "Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:26-27). They were given responsibility to rule over the world God had made as His representatives. They glorified Him in their obedience, in their relationship with one another, and in their enjoyment of being in God's presence.
Then they fell into sin. They defied the one thing God told them they couldn't do. Because Adam was our representative, his action had an effect on all of us. When he fell, we all fell. We all inherit our sin nature from him. Yet even before God announced the curse upon Adam and Eve, He prefaced it with this promise, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15).
Jesus is the Second Adam, the one who perfectly obeyed, and the fulfillment of that promise in Genesis 3:15. That's because He is God incarnate. "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3). Through faith in the Son of God and His perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection, we are united to Him and are adopted into God's family. Christ's perfect life of obedience is given to us. Because He obeyed in our place, because we are united to Him by faith, God looks at us and accepts us. He has given us His Spirit who is even now conforming us into the image of Christ.
We were created as image bearers. Though the image was broken by the Fall, through our adoption into the family of God, we are now redeemed image bearers. That's our identity. We are "in Christ." God chose us before the foundation of the world to be conformed into the image of His Son. We now live to bring Him glory. The Westminster Confession tells us that our primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That was Adam and Eve's purpose in the Garden and through Christ, we are enabled to once again to live out that purpose and identity.
So when I wonder who I am in the various contexts and seasons of life, I have to remember this truth: I am in Christ. Whatever changes take place throughout the seasons of my life, whatever new experiences I face, I remain a child of God. I bear His image in this world. This identity gives shape to how I do the jobs, roles, and tasks God gives me. This identity informs what it looks like for me to be a wife, mother, and co-worker. It defines how I serve and love others, and even how I live out the final years of my life. This identity is always with me and will be with me into eternity. "You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him" (Romans 8:15-17).
So who am I? I am in Christ. I am God's own. I am an image bearer created to glorify and enjoy my Maker.