On this lifelong journey as I seek to become the woman God created me to be in Christ Jesus, there are some common snares. I have fallen into them myself, at times, and I have seen other women fall into them, too.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matt. 7:13-14
It is a very narrow, counter-cultural, politically incorrect, difficult path to follow Jesus in every area of life. His ways go completely against our old sinful nature and our human wisdom. It requires the power of the Holy Spirit every moment. But God’s path is more than worth it in light of eternity!
One of the most helpful things can sometimes simply be to know where some common pitfalls are. Here is my top 5 list.
- Having a Divided Heart
I must seek the Lord first in my life. He must be my greatest desire, my greatest Treasure. If I put other things/people/desires above Christ in my heart, even good things like – a godly boyfriend, engagement, marriage, romance, having a family, or my happiness – I am living in idolatry. Idolatry never satisfies. It leads to heartache, loneliness, frustration, disappointment, discontentment, depression, anxiety, and spiritual death. (Sometimes, idolatry even leads to suicidal thoughts or even death if we follow it long enough.)
The Prince of Peace, Jesus, must be firmly on the throne of my heart and He must have no rivals. It is very easy for me to slip into wrong motives and not even realize it. So if I notice that I am feeling stuck, frustrated, resentful, negative, or disappointed with other people or my life, the first thing I want to do is a throne check of my heart. I invite the Lord to shine His light into the darkest places of my heart and expose any toxic thinking.
I want to confirm to myself and to the Lord that He is my greatest priority, my greatest desire, and that He alone is worthy of all of my love, worship, adoration, reverence, trust, faith, and hope. I remind myself to seek my identity and security in Christ alone. When I am walking in right relationship with Jesus, He gives me His supernatural power to relate in godly ways to other people and He gives me His divine perspective on my circumstances, even when they are tough.
2. Starving Myself Spiritually
I can’t possibly be a godly woman if I am not receiving proper spiritual nourishment. Just like I have no strength physically if I starve myself more than a day or so, the same thing is true spiritually. I must have serious time with the Lord on a daily basis as much as I need food to eat and water to drink every day.
This is more challenging in some seasons than in other seasons of life. But I can pray, “Lord, I want to make You my first priority. Show me where I can carve out the time I need so desperately with You. Help me to get rid of distractions and things that may be good, but that are keeping me from what is best.” I need to do anything it takes for me to be filled up with the Lord, myself. Then I will be overflowing with God’s power, love, and Life and can pour these blessings into my relationships.
Spiritual nourishment involves:
- reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible with the desire to apply and obey God’s truth.
- praying and being still before the Lord.
- memorizing verses/passages of Scripture.
- praising and thanking God.
- repenting of sin ASAP.
- replacing any lies and unbiblical thinking with God’s truth.
- fasting of various types.
- fellowship with strong believers in Christ.
- avoiding things that are spiritually toxic to me – things that distract me from God, things that encourage me to be afraid, things that entice me to sin. These may be books, movies, types of social media, the news, certain friendships, tempting situations/people, certain topics of conversation, a specific train of thought, etc…
I need some amount of space/time where I can completely focus on the Lord and be still and allow Him to speak to me and to transform me.
3. Attempting to Be Godly in My Own Strength
I need time with the Lord in prayer and in His Word, but I also need the power of the Holy Spirit. If I am trying to be a godly woman in my own power, I will fail. Every time. I don’t have the ability to do this in my own strength. Some telltale signs that I am trying to do this whole thing without the power of the Spirit are things like:
- legalism – trying to follow a long list of rules
- lack of joy and peace
- resentment toward my man/friends/family members for not changing
- resentment toward God for not doing what I want Him to do yet
- coldness in my heart
- hatred of self or others
4. Changing Myself Only If Other People Will Change, Too
I am willing to change IF my changes will make other people change like I want them to. If they don’t change quickly enough, then I get upset that “this isn’t working!” I feel tempted to give up and go back to my old sinful ways. Ultimately, my obedience to God is all about getting what I really want from other people/relationships, not about being close to Him.
This is actually an attempt at manipulation and control on my part. When things don’t go my way, my real motives are exposed.
“I have been doing so much to try to change. My man hasn’t changed at all. My mom and dad haven’t changed either. They are still all so annoying. This is NOT fair! I want them to work just as hard as I am working and I want them to change, too. Why should I try so hard when no one else is doing anything to try to bless and love me like they should? Following God isn’t worth it!”
Now, instead of getting frustrated when other people don’t seem to be changing, I realize this is a spiritual test for me. I can ask myself:
- Why am I doing this journey, really? Am I doing it to honor and love the Lord or to get what I want from other people?
If I am doing this for the Lord, then I will be committed to doing things His way and to continue on this narrow path no matter what anyone else decides to do. My goals are to honor, love, and reverence God and to bless others. Challenges will crop up that force me to have to re-examine my motives at times. That is actually a blessing. It is an opportunity to undergo the refining fire of God. In Jesus, there is contentment even in painful trials.
As I double down on my desire simply to obey and follow Christ, my faith will grow and God will bless me spiritually. Then I will have His power to pray His healing, blessing, and Life into my relationships in His way and in His timing. Not for my selfish desires but for His glory!
5. Allowing My Feelings and Thoughts to Go Unchecked
My willingness to take my thoughts captive for Christ is an essential daily discipline on this journey. I can’t allow just any old thoughts and feelings to run rampant in my heart and mind. That is a recipe for disaster. If I realize there are sinful thoughts – bitterness, fear, resentment, unforgiveness, pride, self-righteousness, discouragement, lies, etc.. in my thinking – I must do something about it. Otherwise, I give room to the enemy to take territory in my life. I am responsible for my own emotions and thoughts.
In Christ, my emotions and thoughts do not rule me, Jesus rules them.
God instructs me, as a believer in Christ, to reject any sinful or wrong thoughts and motives and to replace them with His truth from His Word. As I learn to immediately shoot down sinful thoughts and motives and replace them with God’s truth, I will be able to walk in greater fellowship with Him and experience so much more of His love and abundant spiritual life in my everyday challenges. Here is a video about how to take your thoughts captive for Christ.
We choose to have You, and You alone on the throne of our hearts. We submit ourselves to Your Lordship. You are the only true God there is. You are the only one worthy of all of our love, adoration, reverence, respect, awe, and submission. Your love for us is beyond our ability to fathom as we look at the cross and all You have done for us. Please help us be wholeheartedly devoted to You. Help us have eyes to see these pitfalls and help us to turn to You for the power we need to walk in obedience and in right relationship with You. Jesus’ power is what we need every moment. Transform our hearts, minds, and lives for Your glory! Help us to walk in the reality that we are new creations in Christ and that we are dead to our old sinful selves and this world. We are alive to God through Jesus!
- I am your shield, your very great reward. Gen. 15:1
- “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matt. 13:44
- ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark. 12:30(The Greatest Commandment)
- “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26 **
My Need for Time/Fellowship with God:
- Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Ps. 119:105
- But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”Matt. 4:4
- “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”Matt. 5:6
- “My food,”said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”John 4:34
- Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”John 6:35
Being Filled with the Spirit:
- He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matt. 3:11
- It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. John 6:63
- The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Rom. 8:6
- Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Gal. 5:16
Taking Responsibility for Myself:
- Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Prov. 28:13
- And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. Luke 6:31
- For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Cor. 5:10
- Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal. 5:19-21
- Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Gal. 6:6-18
Taking My Thoughts Captive for Christ:
- We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor. 10:5
- Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil. 4:8
- For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Eph. 6:12
** Note on Luke 14:26 – The Second Greatest commandment is that we love other people as ourselves. So Jesus is not actually saying we are to hate our family members. The meaning of this verse is that our love for Jesus is so much greater than our love for our closest family members that our love for them looks like “hate” compared to our love for Him. Paradoxically, it is only when we truly love Jesus infinitely more than others that we truly can love other people in healthy, godly ways.
What are some of the general areas that have been pitfalls for you on this journey? What godly wisdom have you learned that may be a blessing to other women?