Responding with Kindness

For most of us, physical distancing is getting old. We are tired of being cooped up at home. We are ready to get back to family, friends, work, school, and fun that has been put on hold. And the longer we are separated from “normal life”, the crankier some of us are becoming.

Since much of my recent interaction has been on social media, that is where I have noticed this trend the most. (But I know it is happening in our homes, too.) People are criticizing friends and strangers. They are making assumptions, defensively over-reacting, and just plain being rude to others. It is exhausting to take part in these conversations and heart-breaking to observe them. They have the potential to rob us of far more life and steal our joy. But that does not have to happen!

How do we keep our own negativity in check? How do we respond to others, especially those who are attacking us? As we look to God’s Word for guidance, we recognize that WE can be negative and attacking toward Him during our times of fear, worry, and doubt. He sets the perfect example with His response to us:

Are you, perhaps, misinterpreting God’s generosity and patient mercy towards you as weakness on his part? Don’t you realise that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4, PHILLIPS)

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us… (Titus 3:4-5, NIV)

It is tempting for us to think we need to fight back, put others in their place, or ensure that we are understood. We can even think those show our strength. But those are often fleshly emotional responses. God had every right to blast us with His righteousness, yet He offered us kindness. Because He loved us. Since God’s Spirit lives inside those who have accepted Christ, we have the power to offer kindness, too. Far more life responds to offenses in love with kindness.

The Greek word translated “kindness” in Romans 2 means “usefulness”. This word can also be translated as goodness or gentleness. Kindness is practical, it meets needs. My pastor describes kindness as the initiating part of love that blesses others by meeting practical needs. Sometimes kindness is expressed by doing things for people: taking a meal; babysitting for free; giving them a ride; or helping them with physical projects like moving, home/car repairs, or yard work. At other times, kindness is expressed through words that are helpful to them: checking on them when you have been out of contact; praying with them for a burden they are carrying; encouraging them during a hard situation they face; or speaking the truth in love with gentleness and respect when they are seeking input.

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25, NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind… (I Corinthians 13:4, NIV)

God looks beyond the surface to the heart, and we are wise to do that, too. Often negative speech is driven by emotion; fear, anxiety, or feeling threatened causes people to be defensive and territorial. Conflict resolution strategies start with listening and stating agreement with something the other person said. Reigning in our emotions and communicating that we value the other person (even if we disagree with their statement or action) is a practical way to show love and offer kindness. Sometimes that alone de-escalates the situation and opens the door for further communication and understanding. Other times that starts us down a good path, but we must invest time and more kindness to bring things back to an even keel. But there are times the kindest thing we can do is to graciously leave the conversation and pray for God’s wisdom on how to best express love and kindness moving forward.

What else does God’s word tell us about kindness?

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32, NIV)

…When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly… (I Corinthians 4:12-13, NIV)

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:6-8, NIV)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12, NIV)

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (2 Timothy 2:24, NIV)

Kindness is a gift we have received from God. Not because we deserved it, but because He chose to give it to us. And He asks, expects, and empowers His children to bless others with this gift, too. The goal of our kindness is to reflect God’s character. This not only gives us far more life but demonstrates God’s love to others. Kindness is one of our Christian superpowers!

Far more life is a benefit of conforming ourselves to Christ’s character. It makes us happy because it brings us into fellowship with God. But His purpose in granting us far more life extends beyond our happiness. It enables us to display the light of His character to a world that is shrouded in spiritual darkness. Our expressions of far more life — our kind words and actions — are a beacon that illuminates God’s presence and power. In this season of widespread fear and uncertainty, kindness shines bright! Let kindness be a way you share far more life with those who are seeking Jesus!

Sisters,
How have you experienced God’s kindness?
When has someone shown you kindness? How did it impact you?
Think of the times you are tempted to be unkind. What negative emotion(s) drive you in those moments?
Which verse on kindness hits home and inspires you?
Seek far more life and watch for opportunities to be a beacon of kindness!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso


Even Though

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me… (Psalm 23:4, NIV)

The dark valleys of life are unavoidable: heartbreak, illness, loss, sin, disease, injustice, and death, to name a few. They are simply part of the human experience on planet earth, a consequence of the sinful choices that separated us from God and the perfect environment He intended for us. We cannot anticipate exactly which valleys we will walk through or when, but they are inevitable.

The good news is we do not have to live each day in fear or dread of what could happen, or even what is happening. Far more life is available to us every day, whether we are on the highest mountaintop or the lowest valley. Our circumstances are not the key to far more life, rather it is determined by the condition of our heart and mind. Jesus’ words to His first disciples inspire me:

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] (John 16:33, AMPC)

I appreciate how the Amplified spells it out for us: you will have tribulation AND trials AND distress AND frustration but be of good cheer, take courage, be confident, be certain, be undaunted. Why? Because Jesus has won the war against the evil of this earth for us. Yes, we still have to go fight the battles, but knowing we are on the winning side changes our perspective. That enables us to fight with hope, confidence, and renewed strength.

Psalm 23:4 starts with two important words: even though. They do not deny or minimize the bad situation. But neither do they let it define them. Even though offers hope: this is not the end of the story. Even though offers perspective: there is something to remember we may not see at the moment. Even though helps us find far more life — even in the darkest valley — by pointing us toward the solution: God is with His children.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Joshua 31:8, NIV)

What a promise! Wherever we go, whatever we face, God is with us. Our relationship with Him is not hidden by dark valleys. Our connection to Him is never dropped or cut off. This is the source of our courage, confidence, certainty, and undaunted heart and mind! God’s presence gives us far more life!

As a result of God’s constant companionship and presence, we have no reason to fear. We fear what we do not understand, but God understands everything (Job 12:13). We fear what we cannot control or change, but God has control over everything (Psalm 97). We fear danger, but God is a safe refuge (Psalm 36:7). God’s perfect love for us drives out our fear (I John 4:18).

My teenage daughter has a collage of hand-lettered Bible verses and inspirational quotes on her bedroom wall. She mailed this one to a family friend who had to move into a care center because of a degenerative disease attacking her body:

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me… (Psalm 23:4, NIV)

Our friend entered the facility on the day coronavirus-prevention restrictions were put into place. Her adjustment to life at the center has been a dark valley. But this verse has encouraged her and reminded her that, despite physical distancing, she is not alone. Earlier this week, she asked us to pray for her roommate who had a headache and cough. A few hours ago, our friend shared that her roommate has a fever, she is feeling unwell herself, and they are both in isolation. But she can still see this verse on her wall, and it helps her trust God despite her fear. We personalized it to describe the evil she faces: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no virus, for You are with me.”

We can be in a variety of dark valleys. Perhaps your personalization would name one of these evils:
I will fear no persecution, for You are with me.
I will fear no discrimination, for You are with me.
I will fear no injustice, for You are with me
I will fear no abuse, for You are with me.
I will fear no sin committed against me, for You are with me.
I will fear no loss, for You are with me.

Even though we must walk through the dark valleys, they cannot rob us of far more life! Identify your fears. Give them to God, who is with you on the journey. Then walk forward in the peace and confidence of His presence, love, protection, strength, understanding, and promises. You will find far more life, even though…

Sisters,
What dark valley are you in? Or have you been in?
How does knowing Jesus has won the war for you change your mindset during the battles you face?
What do you fear? What characteristic of God can drive out that fear?
How would you fill in the blank: “I will fear no ______, for You are with me”?
Thank God for the security of far more life, even though…
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso


All We Need

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life …For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 1:3, 5-8, NIV)

God has promised to give His children all they need for life on earth. During challenging times, it is comforting to recall these promises and know that God has our back, that He will come through for us. But these verses make it clear His goal is not simply to make us more comfortable. If that is our expectation, we will be sorely disappointed and may even conclude that God is NOT keeping His promise to meet our needs. Far more life understands our comfort in this life is not God’s primary concern. He desires something better for us!

In the Bible passage above, God shared our biggest need: a godly life fueled by His divine power. This is His greatest calling for us. What does He tell us to focus on in order to attain it? Mostly character qualities. Rather than being concerned about our homes, possessions, or bank account, God puts the emphasis on growing our goodness and knowledge of Him, increasing our self-control and perseverance, adding to our godliness and affection for others, and expanding our love. Consistently choosing to let God’s power make us more like Jesus is far more life.

What is God’s purpose in developing our character so we can be empowered to live a godly life?

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV)

God has good works for us to do, to bring Him glory and accomplish His goals. We cannot see the big picture of His master plan. But we can trust that we each have a unique role to play in accomplishing it because He has told us so. He has given us particular talents, gifts, and interests that are necessary for the tasks He has assigned to us. We find far more life as we are engaged in His good works.

I encountered a wonderful God-loving manager in my first job out of college. He assigned work to his staff based on their skills and experience. Then he asked each person, “What do you need from me to be successful in your job?” He was not a cruel or demanding task-master. Instead he came alongside his employees to make sure they had everything they needed to do their jobs well. I appreciated his example of how God treats His children.

Sometimes God intends for our good works to benefit other people. Rather than looking only at our own lives, our own needs, and our own tasks, God instructs us to be involved with others. There are over 100 “one another” statements in the Bible and almost 60 of them tell us how to relate to others. Far more life gives to others, trusting God to provide for us. Although finances or material items are the first things that come to mind when we hear about “giving,” God’s economy is much more diverse! Sometimes we are asked to give our time. At other times it is our physical, mental, or emotional energy. On yet other occasions we need to give spiritual encouragement. Even praying for people is a form of giving! All are important to God and He equips us for all. Consider this exhortation from Paul to the Philippians:

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles….and my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:14, 19, NIV)

The Philippians invested in Paul and Timothy’s ministry by meeting their physical and emotional needs. Not just when they were together, but as Paul and Timothy traveled to multiple cities sharing the gospel, the Philippians continued to pray for, encourage, and financially support them. Here Paul is reminding them that God is dependable and trustworthy and WILL give them all that they need. It is not hard for Him. He is not inconvenienced or put out by having to supply it. He is rich and generous and wants to repay their blessing others with a blessing. Far more life invests in others, knowing God is the ultimate supplier.

The Bible includes illustrations of people making wise and foolish investments (Matthew 25, Luke 9:1-9). God expects us to be discerning and use our knowledge, experience, and common sense to judge what and when we should give. But we can be confident that investing in God’s work will not spiritually bankrupt us. God can and will provide all we need.

Do you want to consistently experience far more life? Accept all God offers to develop your character, do the good works He has designed for you, and invest in others. You will see firsthand how He keeps His promise to provide all you need for godliness and far more life!

Sisters,
What is your response to the idea that God’s definition of “all you need” is not what makes your life comfortable?
Do you believe that living a godly life is your biggest need and greatest calling?
How have you seen God supply what you needed to do His good works?
Have you experienced far more life from giving to or investing in others? When?
Thank Him for providing all you need for godliness and far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso


Yield

“The best part is being right on the edge of losing control.”

Hearing this statement from a friend clarified why I do not enjoy downhill skiing. Some personality types thrive at the brink of losing control, not just on the slopes but in other aspects of life. Others prefer the safety of the predictable. Many of us — including me — are somewhere in the middle. But we all desire a measure of control in our lives: control of our circumstances, our comfort, and our destiny. When it is threatened, we go into fight or flight mode to regain control.

But sometimes we must yield control. How we respond depends, in part, on our perception of the new controlling force. Do we perceive it as good? Trustworthy? Knowledgeable? Capable? This is not just true of yielding control to humans, it also impacts our willingness to surrender to God. We grow concerned when we read verses like this:

Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. (Psalm 115:3, NIV)

While God is not accountable to humans or any other entity, He is not a tyrant. Understanding His heart, intentions, and character are all essential factors in our willingness to yield control. Does adding these verses to the discussion increase your willingness to yield control to God?

The Lord remembers us and will bless us… (Psalm 115:12, NIV)

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11, NIV)

But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. (Jeremiah 10:12, NIV)

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. (Psalm 145:13, NIV)

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. (Isaiah 46:10, NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… (John 3:16, NIV)

It is easier to yield to God when we believe He is good, generous, all-seeing, powerful, wise, eternal, trustworthy, faithful, loving, self-sacrificing, and completely righteous. Despite our doubts, there is no risk in giving Him control. He is already in control of our existence, whether or not we acknowledge it. We can only experience far more life in areas where we yield control to God. I appreciate this reminder from Solomon:

I am confident it will go better for those who worship the one True God and stand in awe before Him. (Ecclesiastes 8:12, VOICE)

Yielding does not make us powerless puppets who cannot think or act on their own. It does not make us weak and helpless. Rather it frees us to focus on what is truly within our power to control: our own responses. Far more life recognizes what to take on and what to yield to God.

The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly, obeying your God. (Micah 6:8, NCV)

It is within our power to treat others right, to love showing kindness, to obey God humbly. We find far more life living out these three tasks! It produces peace rather than anxiety, instills hope rather than fear, and raises joy rather than weighing us down with heavy burdens. What does this look like in daily life?

  • Treating others right means treating them as we would like to be treated, in both big and small matters. Like taking only the supplies we need rather than hoarding them. Or standing up for those being treated wrong.
  • Being kind to others means forgiving them because we choose to, not because they ask for it or deserve it. And sacrificing our “rights” to protect those who are vulnerable.
  • Humbly obeying God means using our conscience and discernment to determine what is best but letting Him serve as judge over others’ hearts. And being genuinely thankful for what we have rather than complaining about what we do not.

This verse caught my attention:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? (Luke 12:25-26, NIV)

God considers adding one hour to our lives a very little thing. But for us, that is impossible! What are we trying to do that is impossible? Where are we wasting our efforts? How are we missing far more life by trying to do God’s job instead of our own? A friend who thought she was dying says this about her experience:

I realized when it is our time, whether it is soon or yet distant, we will see the Face of God that we have longed for since we began our journey with Him on this earth. But if it is not our time we will live another day with the privilege of glorifying Jesus who gave everything for us. It is in His hands and His control. Either way it is a win-win, so we have absolutely nothing to fear, no matter what happens around us.

Yield control to God and experience the blessing of far more life. This is an on-going process throughout our days on earth. But as you yield, I guarantee you will find exactly what you need, whether that is excitement and thrill, safety and comfort, or a bit of both. And you will definitely find far more life!

Sisters,
In what areas is it hard for you to yield control to God?
What concerns do you have about giving God control?
How would you grade yourself on controlling your thoughts and actions?
Treat others right. Lovingly show kindness. Humbly obey God. Which is easiest? Hardest?
Choose an area today where you have been resisting and yield it to God. Experience the joy and freedom of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Filled with Love

Sometimes you read a verse and ask, “Did God put this in the Bible just for me?” He loves you and wants you to have all that you need to experience far more life every moment of every day. God’s truths apply to a wide variety of situations we encounter. His Word has met human needs for generations. And will continue to do so until Christ returns. He is so good!

I was recently reminded of a verse that contains truth I need during this challenging time:

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. (I Timothy 1:5, NLT)

I like to break multi-faceted truth down into parts and think how each one applies to my life. The first truth I read in this verse is that all believers — including me – should be filled with love. Love toward those who are easy to love and those who are hard to love. Love toward the people who are putting others in danger through their unwise actions. Love toward those who are spreading fear. Love toward those who are selfishly hoarding supplies and food. Love toward those who are inconveniencing us. Love toward those whose perspective is unthinkable to us. Far more life has enough love to share generously with others. Always.

God knows we cannot manufacture this love on our own. He doesn’t even want us to try doing that! Rather than expecting us to resort to fake love, the rest of the verse reveals the source of true love: a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

First, genuine faith. God is the creator of love and the source from which it flows. When we put our faith in Him, trusting His character and His instruction, we are filled with His love. It is unlike any love we have ever known: unconditional (Romans 8:38-39); complete (Ephesians 3:17-19); self-sacrificing (Romans 5:8); eternal (Psalm 136); generous without reservation (2 Timothy 1:7); unfailing (Psalm 143:8); and more. His love is a gift that enriches our lives and is intended to enrich others’ lives.

…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34, NIV)

Far more life does not hoard love, it gives it away, in faith, knowing it will remain filled! When we have genuine faith, our source of love is eternal and we can freely love others.

Once we have a relationship with God, we can love because He has made our hearts pure.

Now may God himself, the God of peace, make you pure, belonging only to him. (I Thessalonians 5:23, NCV)

A pure heart belongs only to God. It has chosen God as Savior and Lord. It makes knowing, praising, and following God the priority. It desires to please Him and make Him happy. But we have old habits and thought patterns that sometimes overshadow our pure hearts. Rather than allowing our pure hearts to give love, we fall back into fear, worry, defensiveness, or coldness toward others. Before Christ was in our lives, we were powerless to overcome these patterns. But now we can! Far more life recognizes when we have reverted to old patterns and chooses love. It chooses to view others through the lens of truth and grace, striving to see them — and their actions — as God does.

The third aspect of being filled with love is a clear conscience. Our conscience makes us aware of our sinful actions and motives.

A man’s conscience is the Lord’s searchlight exposing his hidden motives. (Proverbs 20:27, TLB)

When we know we are wrong, our focus moves off God and onto ourselves. Love and sin cannot coexist in pure hearts. So we must choose which we are going to follow. We do not need to wallow in shame and guilt. We do not need to punish ourselves or pay penance. When God forgave us, He knew we would continue to sin; He forgave us anyway. But our genuine faith and pure hearts give us a desire to stop sinning, to keep a clear conscience. Far more life is listening to our conscience and choosing to bring our thoughts and actions in line with what God says is good and right. This is repentance: recognizing we are wrong and choosing to turn from wrong to right. Love flows through our hearts again when we repent. And that love enables us to treat others with compassion and look beyond their actions to the heart behind them. It opens our eyes to see their hurt, fear, and desire to experience love that flows from genuine faith, a pure heart, and a clear conscience.

When we obey the instruction in God’s Word, everyone wins. God is revealed through us and gets glory. Others receive His love. We experience far more life. I can think of many times where this has been proven true in my life: getting up in the night to feed a hungry baby; answering the phone when I felt unsocial but knew a friend was struggling; keeping a commitment when I was tired; spending my “just for me” money on a gift for someone else. In each case, letting a pure heart, clear conscience, and genuine faith fill me with love led to moments of far more life. Fill your day with love and far more life!

Sisters,
Is your heart filled with love right now?
Have you placed your faith in Christ? If not, what is stopping you? (If you want to talk about this, I am available at farmorelife@gmail.com.)
What old habits and thought patterns are overshadowing your pure heart? Ask God for help to recognize and replace them.
Is your conscience clear? If not, confess your sin to God, repent, and choose what you know is right. If you cannot break sin’s hold, ask for help; some false belief is keeping you in bondage, but you can break free!
Be filled with God’s love — and far more life — today!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso