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When Others Mistreat You
Courtnaye Richard

About Jolene Underwood

Jolene Underwood is an emotional health warrior and soul care mentor. As a result of living through various trials, she writes from a place of compassion for wounded believers. She draws upon her personal journey towards emotional health, her psychology background, and a passion for Christian counseling to help others cultivate a life well-lived and a soul well-nourished. Jolene writes regularly at JoleneUnderwood.com. She also leads a community of writers called Rise Up Writers. Her new tool, Unleash : Heart and Soul Care Sheets, has helped hundreds experience greater freedom. Chat with her online via Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest at @theJoleneU or via the Cultivated Life Newsletter.

Jolene Underwood

Jolene Underwood
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Jolene Underwood is an emotional health warrior and soul care mentor. As a result of living through various trials, she writes from a place of compassion for wounded believers. She draws upon her personal journey towards emotional health, her psychology background, and a passion for Christian counseling to help others cultivate a life well-lived and a soul well-nourished. Jolene writes regularly at JoleneUnderwood.com. She also leads a community of writers called Rise Up Writers. Her new tool, Unleash : Heart and Soul Care Sheets, has helped hundreds experience greater freedom. Chat with her online via Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest at @theJoleneU or via the Cultivated Life Newsletter.

Does God Care about the Details?

My friend Tammy asked this question a slightly different way, “Is God interested in the details of our lives?

This discussion has come up over the years in different places. Some say God is interested in every single detail, down to the color of clothes we wear. Some say God doesn’t care at all. We need to stop worrying about such a thing and move on.

If I asked ten people, I would probably get ten different answers. Each one would vary in focus and intent because each person’s filter of life experiences and their personalities would affect the content of their response.

 

Questions We Might Ask about God's Concern Over the Details of Our Lives: 

  • Does God want us to check-in before every decision in life? If I don't ask Him what He wants me to do about every little thing, am I being disobedient and willful?
  • Does God's hand in the details mean He cares about the hangnail on my toe? Or which shoes I wear? If so, then why isn't He making my circumstances better? I thought he wanted me to be happy.
  • Does God want me to take this job or that job? Both have pros and cons. Surely, one is the right answer?

There is a deeper issue embedded in the original question.

If the answer is yes, it may signal to one person a legalistic burden to make sure we have God's blessing on every decision we make.

For another, it may lead to awe and wonder as they daily converse with God and draw nearer through the activity of His Spirit.

If the answer is no, it may signal that God doesn't care about the small hurts in life and therefore they feel lower about themselves than the value God assigns.

Or, they may feel released from caring about the little things to such a degree that they don't notice when God is getting their attention through them.

 

What If This Is the Wrong Question?

If this is a question you've asked, what is it you really want to know? The answers here too could be varied.

  • Are you longing to know God sees and cares about you and the seemingly smaller matters of life?
  • Are you comparing your trials to that of the world and therefore believing yours aren't important enough?
  • Do you believe self-denial (of God's attention) is desired? If so, you're devaluing self as God sees you.
  • Do you want to get it right and feel like you need to check-in all the time in order to not make God mad?
  • Are you trying to outrun failure?
  • Do you fear being chastised as if God would condemn when clearly He says He won't? (Romans 8:1)

The reason why we seek an answer reveals a lot about what motivates our hearts. It may be towards God-reliance or self-reliance. Legalism or love.

I propose a different question: "Are we living from the source of life God gives us through His Spirit?"

 

When God Speaks 

I'll never forget the day I cried what felt like bucket loads of tears in the tub. I begged and pleaded with God for something I believe lines up with His will and His character.

"God, please make this stop!" I wanted Him to intervene on my behalf in specific ways. What I believe He said in return shocked and challenged me.

"I've already given you what you need. Now walk in it."

A friend recently shared how she was searching for her next thing to enjoy in life. All the kids are in school and new opportunities are available to her. She believes she heard God say, "What do you want to do?"

She was shocked. God gave her leeway to explore her gifts and desires. He essentially invited her to take a journey with Him in pursuing something new, like He did with me.

God often works in ways we don't expect.

These stories reveal God drawing His children to a journey of trust without specific answers.

There are other times when the Spirit nudges specific movement that is out of the norm. Like when we have a sudden sense to drive a different way home, or respond to someone in a way we don't understand. Or, when we suddenly sense the need to attend to a matter we hadn't noticed before.

Obedience results in God working through the individual in some unique way that they experience God more profoundly.

 

God in the Details & the Big Picture

If you've wondered about God's attention to detail, or His activity within them, consider the story of Joseph.

God had to be involved in so many pieces of His story in order to save the nation of Israel. This sermon message from Mosaic Church Austin covers events that seem to have "just happened", but played a part in the big picture.

Message Series: Meant for Good     Message: How God Saves Us    {scroll to bottom for this message}

Joseph's life reveals God in the details and these details impacted the big picture. Jesus' lineage reveals God at work too. Consider the detailed list of names in the book of Matthew. Also, consider the number of prophecies that had to come true for Jesus to be THE Messiah.

Scripture says He knows the hairs on our heads. {Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7}. Certainly, God's hand was intentionally at work in the creation of every cell, atom, and micro detail of our beings as well as the complexity of our vast universe.

God is always at work in our lives. Not one tear gets missed. Not one desire unseen. He uses the details to bring about our good and His glory.

He chooses to pardon and forget the sins of all believers so we don't have to live under the burden of getting it wrong. He also invites to a journey of trust and deeper surrender so He can continue the work of transformation in our lives.

 

What Do We Need to Focus On?

God is always drawing us to Him. He is bringing about stories of redemption throughout the world simultaneously. He knows how every detail impacts other details.

Ultimately, I believe God cares deeply that we love Him and seek to know His heart for us.

Sometimes that comes through noticing Him or hearing from Him in various details of life.

Sometimes, it means trusting what He's already said in scripture and how He's designed us so we can make our own choices and move forward.

If we are sensitive to Spirit at work within us, we will be malleable enough in our hearts and minds to change direction if needed.

What do we need to focus on? I believe we need to focus on the God who is at work within us and see what He's up to.

Maybe it's zooming into the details where we'll see His tender care so intentionally involved that we experience His love more deeply.

Maybe it's zooming out and considering the bigger picture where we learn to trust Him for our next steps without knowing what they will be.

 

QUESTION: Where is God at work in your life? How has He revealed Himself through details or fuzzy moments?

For further exploration, this Facebook Live video on my YouTube channel discusses what our motivations are and what we can discover through this question.

VIDEO: Does God Care About the Details of Our Lives?


Honesty Makes Way for Healing

How are you?

Fine.

It’s what we all say. People like me might be willing to give a longer answer, because sometimes you just want to spew it all out. But the reality is that most people aren’t interested in knowing more.

Someone once told me that if they are struggling they might reply with, “Oh, you know, there’s some clouds hanging around.” I’ve also said, “Not so great,” or replied with the shrug of a shoulder when the pain was heavy.

When I’m meant to be in a room full of people wearing masks which express a modicum of emotion, and I’ve had an especially pain filled day, I oblige with attempted fake smiles. They don’t hide me very well.

Choose Honesty

I’m odd though. I feel deeply and think a whole lot. Add to this, the level of freedom which continues to expand in my life. I could be a freight train for saying all the feeling things.

Y’all, I’m working on it. OK? If you ask me how I’m doing, I might spittle hurrahs or release a little sigh. Yet, I commit to restraining myself from unloading as if you’re the local depository.

Goodness, though. I see so many people walking around masking pain and masking their true selves.

Among those in genuinely happy seasons and knowing delightfully delirious days, I also see hurt people, wounded pasts, chains of self, and stories that would make us ache. I see people afraid to admit when life gets hard, or purposed to never entertain anything but the positive.

Praise God for all the good we can find. We need to see more good in this world. God is here and so is his goodness. I’m a firm believer in pursuing happiness as part of God’s holiness.

We also walk among people unaware of each others’ struggles and the brokenness inside our real selves.

My passion is fueled to see the power of God in hearts everywhere. To see his glory unfold and his people unleashed.

Maybe it is isn’t appropriate to share our inner feelings with those who casually intersect our lives. Yeah, probably not. Doing so is unwise, unsafe, and unnecessary.

But there has to be a place where it is safe, because eventually our masks slip and our true selves will be revealed. Where can we let this happen? Where can we let down in order to let it out?

Where can we find the disrobing of pretension in order to put on the possibility of God’s redemption?

Where can we find the disrobing of pretension in order to put on the possibility of God’s redemption?

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The best place to begin is with God and with ourselves.

Do we feel safe enough to choose honesty with the One who already knows?

How many Christ followers have doubts about whether or not God is as good as he says is, or if he’ll follow through on in his promises, or if he’s really still there and does he seriously care?

How many of us admit to having doubts, or to the wrestling of our faith? How many would be audacious enough to tell God we’re down right angry and we wish he’d just DO something, for the love of – himself?

That was me. Not admitting to the real feelings harbored deep.

I’ve loved God from a young age. I wanted to please Him and be pleasing to Him. In all my efforts, I missed really knowing Him in the intimate way my propped-up heart needed.

Those moments when all the walls of self came crashing in, and I was faced with admitting I couldn’t keep going like I was, those were also moments where I realized I didn’t trust God as much as I though I did. In fact, I was downright angry but too afraid to admit it.

A couple of years ago I sat down with my personal journal. Finally. I got honest. I put pen to paper and declared, “God, I’m angry with you!”

I’d freely tell others that God could take it and he already knew our hidden anger, hurts, and fears. I know he wants us to come into the light right where we are, where ever that may be.

Could I do what I professed to believe?

I needed to know. I got out a whole host of pent up pain as I scribbled hard and wept.

The history of David, Job, and others show me how to pour out an honest complaint before God,

My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” ~ Psalm 42:3

and in the end, in the midst of anguish, they find the strength to remind themselves of truth and proclaim it to be true.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and my are you at turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. ~ Psalm 42:11

Honesty opened the way to healing. The heaviness in my heart spilled out before a God who releases burdens.

Hide not from God and He will not hide His good for you. You may not see it today, but it is still there because it is a part of who He is and He never changes.

He will not turn away merely because you’re unable to see the good around you. Instead, he will help you walk through the paths of pain and bring newness to life within you.

Choose honesty.

For more choices you can make to live well, see the full series list here: https://joleneunderwood.com/31-choices-live-well/  

If you're tired of trying to get the Christian life right and things keep not going right, it's time to cultivate a life well-lived. Not a perfect life, but a life that rests and relies on God's perfection. It's time to cultivate the things which bring life to the soul. Continue the journey by subscribing to the Culivated Life Newsletter. 


How Christians Can Have Hard Conversations in Love

The other day I posted a status update which wasn’t quite in line with my typical word sharing. It’s one I wondered about later. I wondered if it was wise or foolish, brave or stupid, and if I should have left alone the current hot topic of the day altogether. In the end, it wasn’t really a fit for my overall online presence but God used it to bring about something beautiful. For that I am truly grateful.

There are appropriate times for silence as well as times for a resounding voice. Knowing when to use which requires wisdom and discernment. The source of which is God.

My hope and prayer for all of us who call ourselves followers of Christ is that we will actually follow Christ. That we will learn to recognize His voice and faithfully run a race which honors Him.

Broken Conversations Bound in Love

I also recognize that how we do this varies, not because God varies but because our understanding is limited and rooted in so many factors, like personal experiences, strengths, weaknesses, spiritual growth, emotional growth, communication styles, fear, freedom and I could go on.

We all miss something about the way God works and who He is because we are finite and he is infinite. God is vast, beyond measure and no number of books, words, or video could ever explain Him fully.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been known.” ~ I Corinthians 13:12

Then, in our future home, we will know. Perhaps we will all realize how little we know now.

No matter what we think we know.

When I posted my status, I realized that it, in and of itself, it was unnecessary and not helpful for the overall vision I have with my presence on social media. In addition, I do not wish to engage in division among Christians. I do not wish to engage in verbal volleyball which becomes increasingly fierce and rarely concludes with any one winning.

I do, however, wish to write with passionate, bold humility about the things of Christ which I have come to know and which cause me to fall more in love with Him and experience greater freedom in Him.

Later, I posted a follow up status. Partially, I wrote to clarify why I stated what I did previously, but more importantly, I wrote a plea asking us all to remember that we are first and foremost called to love Christ. We are called to love others as we love Christ. In doing so, we must remember that we are all created in the image of Christ and we are all broken reflections of that image.

We need Christ’s work in our hearts. When we seek transformation personally we become a more beautiful reflection to the world collectively.

Pointing the fingers at each other and making snarky, snide, prideful comments in no way brings glory to Christ, no matter which side of an issue we stand on.

Some of us can and should speak our view points on hot topic issues. Some of us should refrain.

All of us can, and should, explore hard conversations lovingly in relationship with others. Not because we need to pursue the acceptance of our points, but because we pursue God who has accepted us. Therefore, we also pursue others.

We do so while recognizing we don’t have all the answers and neither do they. There is one source of truth – God.

We need the powerful love of the Father, the crazy redemptive sacrifice of the Son and the unbelievable powerful empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Daily. Minute by minute.

With this in mind, we can still misunderstand aspects of God’s Word while His truth remains unchangeable and His love steadfast forever. We must keep this in mind as we have conversations with one another in the love of Christ.

What does this look like?

My best understanding is that these three things helps us have conversations in love:

  • Humility – recognizing who we are as a broken, flawed, human beings whose best attempts at righteousness are like filth to God.
  • Boldness – recognizing who we are as a righteous, redeemed, creations of God, seen by the Father through the sacrifice of the Son.
  • Respect – recognizing who others are as both broken and flawed beings whom God loves and desires to spend eternity with

Bold humility seems contrary doesn’t it? Yet, that’s how God is. His ways are mysterious, but they work and they are best.

God delights in His creation. He calls us all into the state of knowing our brokenness and resting in His righteousness.

Broken & redeemed.

Regardless of personal views on the numerous hot topic causing division today, let’s remember we are all creations of our Creator. We are all flawed and beautiful at the same time.

How about we bear this in mind when we get all riled up because someone doesn’t believe as we do? When we don’t get our way, or get others to believe our way?

Going forward it is unlikely I’ll say much, if anything, on hot topic issues. Not because I’m afraid to talk about it, but because I prefer to talk in person. I prefer to see someone’s eyes and to hear them speak from their heart as they see my eyes.

Like when I had the privilege of engage with another after my post. Let me tell you…beauty and brokenness lay bare between both of us and God met us there.

One broken conversation, bound by the love of Christ.

For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.~ Ephesians 2:18-22

If you’re looking for encouragement and inspiration for your spiritual journey, subscribe to the Cultivated Life and/or Rise Up Writers Newsletter