Straighten Up!

I grew up attending church. There was never a question where we would be on Sunday morning, Sunday night, or Wednesday night. If the doors of the church were open, we were there. I was baptized at the age of 13 and I attended a Christian college. My life has been surrounded by the word of God, yet somehow, I have remainded a “bent” Christian.

I didn’t realize I was bent until a passage in the Gospel of Luke leapt off the page. It came to life in a way I had never felt before. “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a women was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” Luke 13:10-13

For eighteen years, this lady had been bent over. She was not able to stand straight, and she was miserable. The passage goes on to say that “Satan had kept her bound.” Society looked on her as someone who was less than, someone who was not worthy of love, and definitely not someone who deserved to be healed by Jesus. On the day Jesus healed her, not only did her physical ailment leave her immediately, but she also felt the love of Christ rush through her. “Immediately she straightened up and praised God.”

I knew I was a Christian, but there was no way that Christ loved me unconditionally. Who would love me for the “real me.” The pressure to keep up with what I felt the world and people around me expected me to be has kept me bent at the waist. I have carried around the feeling of never being fully loved, never being fully accepted, never being good enough, for over 30 years.

My mind is a steel trap of every time I have disappointed myself or someone else. Every time I didn’t feel accepted by my peers. Every time I felt as I had failed. All of these negative feelings and thoughts piled on me like a 1000-pound weight. I could not break free from the weights that entangled me. I felt so heavy that there was no way I could ever ask God for his help. Why would He extend his love to me?

But, God does love unconditionally. God does not want me to feel that I am not worthy of His love, and He doesn’t want you to feel that way either. We are children of God. Romans 8:14-17 so beautifully reassures us that we are God’s children. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” We are no longer slaves to all the negative thoughts that have kept us bent. We are children of God! We are heirs, just like Christ, of God.

Taking on Christ and becoming a Christian does not keep us free from the feelings of this world. As Christians, we suffer from anxiety, fear, and depression just like others in the world. For myself especially, anxiety can be crippling at times. I will literally pick at my fingers until they bleed when I can’t quiet my mind from running rapid with negative thoughts. I feel heavy, like I can’t breathe. When I feel anxiety crushing my spirit, I have to quickly remind myself to not lose heart, and let me assure you that it is very difficult to do when you are battled.

To me, 2 Corinthians 4 is one of the most encouraging and beautiful chapters in all of the Bible. It assures us that we have the ministry of God living inside of us and even in our bent state and anxiety, God can use us to shine His light. “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:1, 6-9

Satan wants us to believe that anytime trouble, anxiety, comes our way we are to remain burdened. We are to keep our heads down and continue to carry the weight of the shame we feel. Oh, what a lie we have believed. What a lie I have believed! This is the year to throw away those feelings of not being worthy of love.

You see, just as 2 Corinthians 4 says, we carry around treasures in jars of clay. The world will press us on every side but we will not be crushed, we will be confused, but we will not despair; we will be persecuted, but God will never leave us; we will be struck down, but God will never allow us to be destroyed! Whatever Satan tries to take us down with, God will destroy. We have taken on Christ, and we are worthy of God’s full love. He knows everything about us, and He still loved us so much that He sent His only son to die for our sins. God has seated us with Christ (his son) in the heavenly realms. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-6

Stand up straight! Walk upright and let the love of God flow from you. Walk upright and be an example to all those around you of how the love of God can completely change your life. Walk upright and believe that you are worthy of God’s love.

This week’s recipe is as good as any Chinese takeout. It’s a delicious pepper steak with squash. Feel free to serve this yummy stir-fry with cauliflower rice. I know my family loves this, and I am sure yours will too! As always, feel free to swap the beef for chicken, salmon, or shrimp, all of which would be delicious!

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18