Our family is currently OBSESSED with the film, The Greatest Showman. The movie is played often and the soundtrack is blasted everyday much to the joy of the little people singing and dancing their hearts out (oh ok…maybe some big people too!). If you haven’t seen this Hugh Jackman film yet…you need to! Not only will it entertain you until you are bursting with joy and inspiration, but it is such a powerful and beautiful celebration of humanity. Personally, I listen to the soundtrack myself everyday…as worship!!! I could easily preach a thousand messages on each song as they are so prophetic and proclaim the message of hope, identity, abundant life and love. From a spiritual perspective, it’s a celebration of identity, brokenness, freedom in who we are and who we were created to be, acceptance and absolute uniqueness. Do yourself a favour and watch the film!

Every single song strikes me to the core each time I listen, but there’s one song in particular that has been continually playing in my head and heart, and it entwines so seamlessly with something God has been speaking to me lately. The song This Is Me is sung by the outcasts, the renegades, the rejects, the broken hearts of this world who have been mistreated their whole life because they are so uniquely and strangely different. This song is their anthem of victory as they march through the city claiming that they will no longer be defined by their obscurity or who society says the need to be, but will embrace their differences from the rest of the world and they will use their journey, their pain, their brokenness, to rise up and love themselves and each other for who they truly are. It’s their war cry proclaiming that they will no longer hide away in shame, they will no longer apologise for who they were born as, but they will embrace every inch of who they were created to be and take a stand by proudly claiming their place of belonging – a platform of prominence for the world to see, not a cave of shame, hidden away in darkness.

The few words I want to focus on for the sake of this post are the lyrics…

“I am brave, I am bruised,

This is who I’m meant to be,

THIS IS ME!” 

{ E M B R A C I N G   O U R   I D E N T I T Y }

God has placed such a huge burden on my heart over the past couple of months for the invitation to His beautiful daughters to discover and embrace our identity in Him. To not live out of insecurity – chasing after everything the world tells us we ‘should’ be, or to strive so hard to be something that we’re not – but to know God so intimately that our identity is defined by Him…our creator, the author of our life who designed us exactly as His heart desired. He has been walking me through so many elements that make up our identity. There’s the ‘God-me’ – who we are each created to be – our spiritual make up, our call, and destiny, our purpose and His plans for us. There’s the elements that make us uniquely us in the natural – our personality type, our gifts and talents, our culture, heritage and family etc. But there’s one element in particular that God is highlighting over and over to me lately, which is the aspect of experience, that contributes to our identity and makes up who we are as a person.

Our experience includes everything we have journeyed through in life – circumstances we have travailed, situations we have endured, failures and successes, hardships and high points, pain and brokenness as well as joyful triumphs, our lowest valleys and our highest heights. These are so important to our identity, as they have been part of the path and development that have shaped us and moulded us into the person we are today. 

{ O U R   E X P E R I E N C E S   H E L P   S H A P E   O U R   I D E N T I T Y }

While both good and bad experiences play a part in our shaping, I want to focus on the negative experiences of life, because these are the ones that we usually want to forget, or hide, or are ashamed of, but they also have the potential to be the most powerful. As followers of Jesus, we aren’t promised an easy-breezy life of smooth sailing and sunshine. In fact, we’re told it will be the opposite, but in each and every verse of scripture we are promised that God will deliver and use it for his and our glory! (Ps 34:19; Is 53:4; John 16:33; Rom 5:3-4; Rom 9:18; 1 Pet 5:10; 2 Cor 1:3-5; 2 Cor 4:17; Phil 1:29; Phil 3:10). 

Being a child of God doesn’t prevent pain and suffering in our life – it’s inevitable because we live in a fallen and broken world – but it does provide an answer when we face these negative and painful life experiences. And the answers name is Jesus. Negative experiences in life may be unavoidable, but God’s perfect love is there to rescue us, strengthen us, comfort us and heal us. God doesn’t give us negative experiences, but He most certainly USES them. He uses them for good! (Romans 8:28). We live in a fallen world, but we have a Saviour who abundantly pours out His love, grace, strength, endurance, mercy for us to OVERCOME every situation, every difficulty, every struggle, every circumstance, every pain.

God isn’t the cause of pain and suffering, He is the answer to it

{ Y O U R  S T R U G G L E  I S  Y O U R  S T O R Y }

We can’t deny nor despise our past, our hurt and pain, our brokenness, our weaknesses or our failures, because they are part of – they make up our story, the story of who we are – they have formed our identity as a unique person, with a unique story. If we can embrace them in healthy way, then they can also determine where we are going. Our struggles are such a huge part of our identity because it is a tool which God can USE. He uses our experiences, He uses our struggles, He uses our pain, He uses our brokenness, our weakness our failures. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him…and this isn’t just limited to you! Yes, He most definitely uses them and turns them around for your good, but He also goes further and uses them for the good of others! Your struggle becomes part of your story! And it is your story that encourages, inspires, strengthens, and empowers others along their journey. God uses your struggles, for your good, for the good of others, and for His glory!

It’s only when we have been through real life experiences, when we have failed, when we have experienced hurt, pain, brokenness, that we can OVERCOME, TRIUMPH, CONQUER and have VICTORY. This is the message of the cross! This is the gospel! The same power that conquered the grave lives in us, works through us, and overflows from us when we allow God to use it for His purposes and His glory! The power in your pain and brokenness could be the very message that God is trying to bring to the world, to those around you, to those you are called to. It is a tool in your hand, a resource at your disposal, a weapon for warfare, a healing for the hurting. Don’t ignore your struggles or be ashamed of them anymore, because they are your story, and God will use your story to heal others.

God can use your struggle, because in your weakness He is strong

{ G O D ‘ S   W A Y S   A R E   F O O L I S H N E S S   T O   T H E   W O R L D }

The world doesn’t value brokenness, instead it promotes perfection and beauty. But the beauty is IN the brokenness. The world tells us to hide away in shame when we fail, don’t show any cracks that may reveal our weaknesses, put on an appearance of success and strength, even while life is the exact opposite. When we constantly live trying to please the world all we are doing is hiding behind a facade that requires so much energy to continually strive to uphold. It’s exhausting and unsustainable, and ultimately it will be our destruction. 

There is beauty in the brokenness 

But guess what? It’s ok to not be ok. In fact, it’s expected! When I hear people say they have no difficulties, not struggles, no issues, no problems in life, all I see is someone afraid to be open and show authenticity. I see someone striving for perfection, to portray a narrative they want people to read of their life, but that is far from their everyday reality. And it breaks my heart! We don’t have to be ok all the time, we don’t have to nail everything, and if we claim that this is what life is really like for us, then we’re just going to be pushing people away, instead of drawing them to us. We are called to be real and raw, not perfect and polished. No one can relate to the ‘perfect’ person, but everyone can relate to the brutally honest and open. Out of insecurity we may try to portray perfection, but those secure in their identity can see the pain through the performance. 

We are called to be real, raw and relatable, not perfect and polished

I’ve experienced friendships before when I’m trying so hard to connect on a deeper level, but the walls of performance are built so high and strong around them that it’s almost impossible to penetrate. I can see the hurt and pain on the other side, but I’m not allowed in to help comfort or console, let alone encourage and empower. Sometimes in these friendships there’s a moment of vulnerability, an open door of opportunity for me to gently and graciously step into and try to connect with and pour God’s unconditional love into. But once that person realises they are showing ‘cracks’, they quickly withdraw emotionally and the facade goes back on again. If only they would allow me to share the depths of my own painful struggles and experiences with them, to show them that they are not alone, that they don’t have to be ok all the time, that what they are going through is actually very normal and common and most of all, that they are not expected to have it all together, all the time. If only I could show them how far gone I was, but how far God has lifted me up in His strength and victory, and that they too can have that same experience and triumph in what they are walking through. Imagine the freedom that could be released when they realise this truth! But instead, I’m often faced with them taking my offering of vulnerability and attempted empathy and turning it back on me, so that they can convince themselves that they are ok, because I’m so NOT ok, and then the moment gets twisted back onto me so that they can focus on how much I struggle and fail. What a waisted opportunity that God was trying to lovingly orchestrate! My heart breaks in these moments when we were so close to connect on such a real and raw level, for both of us to know that neither of us are ok, and that’s ok, because we don’t have to be ok. I don’t want the pain and suffering that I have walked through and had to endure to be for nothing. His triumph in my life over difficult experiences are not just for my good, but God will use them to strengthen others when they are going through the same situations. We need to be able to connect with one another to be able to open up in transparent vulnerability with our hearts and souls nakedly displayed in brutal honesty.

We don’t have to try and hide our struggles, or pretend to portray that we don’t have any, because when we go through these experiences with Jesus and the people that He brings alongside us to champion us and encourage us, to strengthen us and empathise with us, then we OVERCOME and triumph in His victory. He will USE what was intended for our harm – intended to knock us down, cause us to stumble, to discourage us and ultimately to defeat us – for our good and for the good of those God has in our life. He has given us each other, the Body of Christ, as a gift. He has given us women our very own sisters of strength and encouragement, because we are family and cheerleaders, not competitors and rivals. No one is called to do it alone, not one is called to live in isolation, no one is called to figure it all out for themselves, no one is called to thrive without a hint of hardship, but God blesses us with one another, that we may laugh with those who laugh, mourn with those who mourn, that we may strengthen and empower one another through our own life experiences and lessons learnt, through our failures and successes. We are called to live as one, in unity, honour, support, championing, blessing and celebration.

His ways aren’t the worlds ways. His wisdom is not the worlds wisdom. God uses the weak, the lowly, the meek, the broken, the wounded, the fragile to perform His most powerful works and wonders. Because when He uses us in our brokenness we can’t claim any part in His success of our triumph, when He has clearly used us at our most fractured and frail. When we think we can do it all ourselves, when we think we have to portray an image of perfection and having it ‘all together’ and being a ‘one-woman-wonder’, we’re not just pulling the wool over our own eyes, but we’re claiming we don’t need God’s help. Our heart isn’t in a position to receive, because our heart is puffed up with pride. But when we empty ourselves of ourselves, and rely solely and only on Him, He is able to not just help us and heal us, but he is able to use us. Because our hearts have turned from a position of pride to a posture of humility. And humility is key in being used by God for His Kingdom. 

Our hearts need to turn from a position of pride to a posture of humility 

God can use the humble, because they wont try to claim any glory for themselves. God can use the humble, because there wont be any question as to where the supernatural, miraculous, life-changing victory came from. Certainly not the weak, empty vessels, but from something, someone, much more powerful, strong, mighty, capable, awesome. Embracing our struggles and accepting our experiences as part of our identity allows us to be relatable, and it is here in this place of open, transparent, humble vulnerability that God is able to work through us most powerfully. God uses us through relationships, not performances. And relationships require a connection point…a story. Our story.

{ Y O U   A R E   C A L L E D   T O   B E   B R A V E }

Your struggle is your story. Don’t deny or despise the negative experiences you have walked through in your life. Accept and embrace them in a healthy and healed way. Then, through your sweet humility, God will be able to use what the enemy intended for your harm, for your good, for the good of others and for His glory. Your message and your purpose shines more powerfully not from your success or perceived perfection, but from the bruises and the brokenness that you have victoriously overcome and triumphed and conquered through his love, strength and grace. God is glorified in our weakness and struggles, because it magnifies His goodness, His power, His strength, His glory.

My dear friend,

There is no message in seamless success.

There is no power in perfection.

God isn’t going to use the ‘perfect mother’ the ‘perfect wife’ the ‘perfect woman’ the ‘perfect Christian’ you may be striving to portray, because there’s no room for Him to move amongst the pride. Your story…His message…is in your struggle, your weakness, your failings, your reality, not your success, because this is where the substance is, this is where the connection is, and this is where the triumph, encouragement and inspiration truly lies. 

The substance is in your struggle

Don’t be afraid or ashamed of what you have walked through or are currently experiencing in your life. Embrace the beauty of the bruises and brokenness and with a humble heart and a surrendered spirit, God will lead you at the right time, to the right people, to open up and expose yourself in a real and relatable way and will use your experiences to encourage and empower others towards healing and freedom.

You are brave.

You are bruised.

Your are who you’re meant to be.

“This is me!”

{   *   *   *   *   *   }

Taking it all back to the story of The Greatest Showman, the power of this film is the message of the strength of the weak, the beauty of the broken, the overcoming of the outcasts. If this movie was a bunch of high-society, hugely successful, beautiful people dancing and singing…that’s literally all it would be – an entertaining film with catchy tunes and great choreography. But it wouldn’t give us the goosebumps as we watch, it wouldn’t inspire life and hope within us, it wouldn’t encourage or excite us into action, because there would be no substance to the story. The power of the message is in the triumph, in the overcoming, in the victory of these rejected souls conquering their impossible circumstances and experiences and embracing their full identity with joy and passion and inspiring everyone around them to do so as well.

And that is your message too! That is the power of the story of your struggles. Your bruises. Your brokenness. Your weaknesses. Your failings. Your hardships. These are the very things that God will USE for your good, for the good of others, for His Kingdom and for His glory. Your experiences and struggles ARE YOUR STORY. Embrace this element of your identity and allow God to use your story to become His message to the world!

n a t  x x x

 

 

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