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Flourish: How the Love of Christ Frees Us from Self-Focus

Lydia Brownback

If we want to know joy and peace, if we desire to be fruitful disciples of the Lord Jesus, it’s imperative that we breathe the right spiritual air. But how do we know what that is? How can we be sure that we’re taking in air that’s spiritually healthy? Our challenge is to discern teaching that’s pure and true from that which is toxic and false. God’s Word is our standard, of course. But here’s the tricky part: wrong teaching about the Bible can significantly shape the way we understand the Bible.

Take a moment to scan the pile of books on your nightstand, specifically those that have to do with the Christian faith. Is there a common theme among those titles? How many have more to do with successful Christian living than with Christ himself? While Christian-living books can certainly be good and helpful, they can actually warp our understanding of what it means to be a Christian if Christ isn’t at the center of them. So we want to be wise and discerning not only in our book choices but also in every form of teaching we imbibe, from preaching to podcasts. And as we become biblically equipped to distinguish between self-love and Christ-love, our walk of faith will flourish, and we’ll find the abundant life Jesus promised.

Flourish releases in January, and I hope you’ll work through these important issues with me!

Releasing in October: Sing a New Song

Lydia Brownback

Sing a new song! The call is sprinkled throughout the psalms to express the joy of new blessings received from God’s hand. Those blessings weren’t limited to the psalmists’ days; they are meant for us as well. That’s one reason Psalms is the most universally loved book of the Bible. It’s appeal is what it conveys about God himself—he welcomes the honest outpouring of his people’s hearts. Joy, sorrow, anger, fear, perplexity, discouragement, and longing—the entire spectrum of human emotions is reflected in the psalms and taken to God in prayerful song. And each psalm reveals a particular facet of God himself.

Sing a New Song is not a devotional. It's a springboard, a launching-off place—for going deeper into the psalms in all kinds of ways. Here are a few suggestions:

Build confidence in prayer. The heartfelt prayers of the psalmists build our confidence to approach God with our personal pleas and pains. They also guide the substance of our prayers. We don’t know God’s will in all its particulars, but we can be sure that the prayer requests of the psalmists are God’s will because they are part of Scripture, and we can adapt them to our own situation. How did the psalmists pray in a crisis, and what does they ask for? How did they approach God after a fall into sin? How did praying give them perspective in difficult relationships? Scan each entry in Sing a New Song for prayer aids.

Prepare a Bible study. Gather a group of women to study the Psalms (see the appendix for group study suggestions), and use Sing a New Song to help you prepare for discussion. In all our Bible study we want to be faithful to the biblical text, which requires examining the original context. We want to know the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the psalmists before we apply what we see there to our own circumstances. Looking at the original context provides us with an accurate view of God, which is necessary for real spiritual growth.

Journal your emotions. Let’s face it—we women are emotional creatures. And we don’t have to apologize for that fact. After all, God designed us that way, and from the psalms we see that God works in and through our emotions to draw us closer to him and to mature us spiritually. As you read each entry, track the dominant emotions in the psalm. Do they fluctuate from beginning to end, and if so, why? Where is God in the midst of depression? How is anger expressed and dealt with? What causes joy and happiness? If you’d like to get a better handle on your own emotions, consider creating an emotions journal. As you read each entry, prayerfully identify how your feelings are reflected in the psalmist’s words and then imitate the response you find in the psalm.

Weave Psalms with hospitality. As you will see, the psalms were sung primarily in gatherings of God’s people. Sing a New Song provides clues about how each psalm was used, and there are many ways you can mirror those worship practices with your own friends and family. During a celebratory season, host a gathering at which each participant reads aloud a portion of a thanksgiving psalm. Or when believers you know suffer rejection or persecution for their faith, gather together to pray one of King David’s laments. There are so many possibilities here.

Those are just a few ideas. However you use Sing a New Song, the primary aim is to deepen your walk with God by glimpsing how the psalms shed light on the multifaceted character of our great God and his overarching purposes for his people.

For each psalm, Sing a New Song offers a one-sentence overview of the psalm; something about the nature of the psalm and how it fits into the big picture of the Psalter; a verse-by-verse breakdown of the psalm; how the psalm reveals God's grace; and a suggestion for related Scripture reading and personal application.


Lydia Brownback

I was blessed as a child to enjoy the love of three grandmothers. There was Grandma Helen and Grammy Harriet. And then there was Mary, who wasn’t actually a biological relative, but the lack of a blood tie was made up in love, sugar cookies, and a listening ear.

Mary Miles worked from 6:00am to 6:00pm, six days a week for sixty-three years, in the home of Granddaddy and Grammy Harriet. The kitchen was Mary’s domain, an unspoken law of the house that everyone respected. She’d come into their employ in her early twenties, following the end of a mercifully short, childless marriage to an abusive husband. She had no family, no education, and few opportunities. My grandparents were newlyweds at the time, so Mary was there when my father was born, and during his infancy she fell easily into a nurturing role, which became lifelong.

A generation later, my brother and I were enveloped into that same nurturing heart. Her kitchen was a warm, comforting space to which we’d retreat on Sunday afternoons before dinner, escaping the boredom of grownup talk out in the living room. In Mary’s kitchen, there was always the delicious smell of roasting beef, and her dog Lady was curled up on a cushion. We could do no wrong in Mary’s eyes—no scolding for running through the house or sneaking a bite from a platter on the counter. Delighted by our company, she’d stop work and sit on a stool that left her short legs dangling well above the floor. She listened intently to our childish chatter. And she’d tell us about Jesus. Oh, how Mary loved Jesus. She was a matriarchal figure in the church she attended, where congregants referred to her affectionately as Mother Miles.

Those minutes in the kitchen were regularly cut short when Grammy came to shoo us out so Mary could finish her dinner preparations and serve the meal. Afterward, before we left for the evening, my brother and I always made our way back to her domain for one more cookie and a hug.

But woven into those happy Sunday evening memories are some dark threads of tears and angry voices. My brother and I were too young to understand the adult talk before and during dinner, but it was the 1960s, so surely it entailed a good bit about civil rights and all the political controversies arising from it. The conversational tempo would rise as the pre-dinner bourbon went down, and sometimes something was said that made Mary cry and even, on occasion, storm from the house. I didn’t understand, but I was filled with anxiety, because those I most trusted to keep me safe somehow weren’t safe with each other. Most of all, I was just sad.

Of course, my understanding grew with time. We were white. And Mary was black—the richest, darkest, most velvety black I’ve ever seen. As the years passed, I saw the divide but never felt it myself. To me, Mary was simply part of my people. But the divide was there, and it cut both ways.

That divide—it showed even years later, when just Grammy and Mary were left. Each day Mary served Grammy her lunch in the dining room, and then Mary sat down in the pantry to eat her own lunch on the other side of the door. Through that door the two old women would converse as they ate. Witnessing this once, I asked, “Why don’t you two sit in the same room at the same table so you don’t have to strain to converse through a door?” Neither one answered. But a few weeks later I stopped by the house at lunchtime, and they were eating together in the pantry. To share a meal in the dining room was a divide too big to cross—for both of them—even though each had a framed picture of the other on her bedroom dresser.

Mary was part of my family—at the very heart of it. She was loved by all of us, but respected by just a few. Because she was black. For that—for my warm, wise, kind, Jesus-loving Mary—my heart will always be broken.

From childhood on, that personal heartbreak worked into my soul an intense desire for racial reconciliation, but that term is parsed in so many different ways that I don’t quite know what it looks like. Am I wrong to see racial reconciliation as a heart-deep embracing of the equal value of—and respect for—every human being made in the image of God? And I’m not talking about conflating racial differences so that unique lines are merely blurred into one colorless whole. I have in mind a full-scale appreciation for those differences and promoting them in daily life. Isn’t this really what it’s all about?

I haven’t walked in Mary’s shoes. But I have walked alongside hers. Even so, I can only sympathize. Empathy is not mine here. But I don’t feel shame for the privileged shoes I’ve been given to wear. I do, however, feel sorrow—a heavy weight of it—for the hurt Mary endured, for the ignorance of loved ones who hurt her, and that people of all colors talk to each other through doors.

Cupid Is Coming. Again.

Lydia Brownback

Hearts and candy and all that pink—since the day after Christmas (the day after!), store shelves and TV ads won’t let us forget that Valentine’s Day is coming. But the brokenhearted want to forget, as do many single women. How about you? Do you take pleasure in the cherubs and chocolate, or do they serve only to intensify your loneliness? 

Either way, you can’t avoid it unless you curl up and hide under the covers until the holiday passes. But there’s a better way than hiding or merely gritting your teeth for a few more weeks. It begins with taking fresh hold on a right view of reality.

The truth is, we aren’t single because we’ve failed to be in the right place at the right time, or because we aren’t pretty enough, or because we haven’t yet obtained some great spiritual height. We’re single because that’s God’s call on our life for today. It just stands to reason that if God cares to number every hair on our head—and he does (Matt. 10:30)—he cares much more about our marital status and whom we marry. And not only does he care—he has the power to bring it about. He dictates every detail of our lives. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9).

Here’s another bit of reality: it’s not singleness that’s the source of our misery; it’s our interpretation of singleness. Life doesn’t begin when we get married. Today, right now—this is our life. Most of us are likely to get married at some point, so what are we doing with these single years? Are we rejoicing in our gifts, or are we so focused on getting out of singleness that we can’t even see the blessings we have today? Prolonged singleness is actually a privilege that very few get, with the freedom it affords to choose where, when, and how we invest our personal resources.

So next time the hearts and flowers assail your soul, consider these tips:

Tip 1: Don’t make room for pity—especially self-pity (Rom. 8:18).

Tip 2: Don’t view singleness as a problem to be solved (1 Cor. 7:35).

Tip 3: Recognize the unique blessings of singleness. (1 Tim. 6:17).

Tip 4: Realize that singles are vital to the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:18–26).

Tip 5: Face the loneliness factor head on (2 Cor. 12:8–10).

Tip 6: Reexamine your view of marriage. (Eph. 5:22–33).

Tip 7:  Hope in the Lord and trust his power and goodness (Ps. 37:3–4).

Finally, don’t hide from Valentine’s Day this year; instead, run straight at it. Give chocolate to someone who is more alone—or lonelier—than you. Plan something hearts-and-flowery for your single friends, perhaps a Valentine’s brunch. And above all, remember that in Christ you are never alone, and you are greatly loved. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? . . . For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:32, 38–39).

Fear Follow-Up

Lydia Brownback

I just encountered these helpful words by pastor Geoff Thomas, and I am posting them as a follow-up to my last post on anxiety. Pastor Thomas does a much better job of conveying what I was trying to say. From a sermon he preached, here is some good stuff about fear:

John Calvin says, “God often allows us to fear things which aren’t terrible in themselves. Or he conceals his remedies until he has exercised our faith.” Then Calvin adds, “They who fancy that faith is exempt from all fear, have never experienced the true nature of faith.” Calvin knew from his own experience that even real faith can be mixed with fear. Then the Genevan reformer goes on to say this: “God doesn’t promise that he will be present with us in order to remove our sense of all the danger. No. He is present with us in order that fear may not prevail and overwhelm us in despair.” In other words, God didn’t say, “I’m going to remove from you every danger and every sense of danger.” Christians are not promised that. He says “In the midst of your fear, I’m going to uphold you so that your faith isn’t drowned by fear.” And by doing that God grows our faith.


Doomed to Anxiety?

Lydia Brownback

For 7 years I have lived with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety”—so begins an article I was saddened to encounter this past week. After the author describes how his struggle prohibits him from enjoying normal day-to-day activities, he concludes, “I’m a mess, really.” What a heartbreak! But even more heartbreaking is what he believes about his anxiety: “It’s not a Matthew 6 or Philippians 4 issue—it’s a physiological issue,” he writes. As the article continues, it’s clear that he lives every day with the entrenched belief that he has “a mental disorder, not a control problem.” He is partly right—it’s not a control problem. It is, however, a spiritual problem. That’s what he’s missing. I’m saddened that he doesn’t seem to get that he isn’t doomed to a life dominated by fear.

He attributes his anxiety to “a malfunctioning brain,” to physiological causes. No doubt the symptoms of his anxiety are physiological, but that’s not necessarily true of the cause. There just isn’t any concrete medical evidence to prove that these so-called disorders have a physiological origin. While brain chemistry has indeed been shown to be different in those who suffer acute anxiety, it’s likely that the anxiety warped the brain chemistry rather than the reverse. I’m certainly not qualified to wade into the arena of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. I’m talking strictly about the ever-growing list of disorders in which a set of symptoms is collected into a unit and given a name, no doubt as an attempt to gain some control over the problem. But simply giving a name to a set of symptoms doesn’t solve anything; if anything, it’s likely to just entrench the sufferer more deeply into a sense of helplessness. And because this is what happens, those who struggle simply cannot comprehend the depth to which the problem is actually spiritual.

All this is quite understandable for those who don’t know the saving power of Jesus, but that’s exactly what grieved me most when I read the article—the author is a professing believer. The God in whom he believes is the one whose Word says, “Have no anxiety about anything.” So it seems this is a Philippians 4 issue after all. We cannot rightly claim that the apostle Paul penned those words because he didn’t know about “Generalized Anxiety Disorder,” and if he had, he’d have made an exception. The Spirit of God, who inspired Paul’s words, is bigger than that. All through Scripture God’s people are commanded not to fear, and the apostle Peter commands us to cast anxiety onto God as a way of self-humbling. We cast our anxieties—all of them—onto God because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:6–7). So the overall teaching of God’s Word is that anxiety is indeed a disorder, but it isn’t a mental disorder—it’s a trust disorder.

Entrenching such disordered trust by placing more faith in the word of contemporary psychology than in the Word of God dooms sufferers to the bondage of victimization. And it dishonors the character of God. For the article author and so many who share his plight, it’s true that full-on, complete freedom from the awful, panicky anxiety struggles may never come in this lifetime. But if believers would consider identifying the struggle not with chemicals in the brain but rather with a spiritually rooted thorn in the flesh, they will find tremendous blessing even in the midst of it. My hope for the article author is that he will take a fresh look at 2 Corinthians 12. There he will discover that the reason the Lord did not deliver Paul from his thorn in the flesh was that he had something better for him—the utter sufficiency of his grace that imparts strength beyond anything humanly possible. The weakening brought about by our thorns is a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to know a grace that we wouldn’t know otherwise.

The author seeks to end his article on a note of hope by remembering the gospel, rightly pointing to the fact that his anxiety struggles do not alter his standing before God and noting that because of Christ’s redemptive work, he is confident of being sustained until the end. But the full gospel story is that because of Christ’s finished work, he is even now being transformed into the image of Christ, which means that all his thorns can be used redemptively both in his life and in the life of others. Truly all things--including anxiety--work together for good for those who love God (Rom. 8:28). For that reason, all who are anxious have great reason for hope.


Blessed Weakness

Lydia Brownback

Weakness—who wants that? No one, of course. So we pursue whatever path points us toward strength in every sphere of life.

But we just can't escape the reality that we are weak. Whether forced upon us by circumstances we cannot control or self-imposed, we're hampered by sins and sorrows and struggles. What’s weakening you today? An illness—or the fear of one? A loved one in trouble? A relationship that just gets worse and worse despite your efforts to fix it? An unfulfilled longing—something you’ve prayed about for years, perhaps decades, yet still no answer in sight?  All these things weaken us too—not just the world we live in but all the stuff of our own lives.

Yet weakness isn’t the end of the story for those in Christ. And, surprisingly, it isn’t something to be feared or fought against. In fact, it’s to be used. Weakness is actually an opportunity, something we can offer to God for his use. But, really—who among us does that? True confessions: when I’m weak, my first thought isn’t, “Oh, goodie—here’s something God can use!” No, I cry out for relief. I want God to fix what’s wrong so I can feel strong again.

Left to ourselves, we’ll always despise weakness. We want to be self-sufficient and autonomous. We don’t want to depend on God. But God loves us too much for this. So he weakens us in the way. Whatever is weakening you right now, today, it’s been providentially sent to deepen your dependence on God.

Apart from these painful providences, how would we know that God is really who he says he is? If life always goes smoothly, if our circumstances are always manageable, how will we ever recognize God as God? How will we ever learn about his power and sufficiency? How will we really understand his grace unless we see it come to us when we’ve failed, when we can’t cope, when we can’t see any way out of trouble—and whatever it might be that makes us weak?

God uses weakness to break us, but his breaking isn’t the destructive kind. God’s breaking tears down our illusion of self-sufficiency and weans us from our craving for autonomy. For those who belong to God in Christ, all his breakings are blessings.

Don't Follow Your Heart

Lydia Brownback

If you've never read anything by Jon Bloom, now would be a good time. He's just come out with a new book called Don't Follow Your Heart. Here's how Jon describes it:

"This is a book to help you with heart problems. Because the biggest problems in life are heart problems. And they often occur because you begin to follow your heart's direction rather than direct your heart."

In these 31 short chapters, which Jon calls "a collection of helps for common heart problems," we see why we are so often blue rather than joyful, grumbly rather than thankful, and anxious rather than peaceful. The root of the matter, as Jon says, is this:

"The Bible is clear: we must follow God's heart, not our heart. Today, following God's heart means to follow Jesus, which means dying to our fallen heart's desires and losing our lives in order to find them (Matt. 6:24-25)."

Jon's writing has often penetrated my heart over the past few years; he writes with spiritual discernment and as one who has spent time in the company of Jesus. At the Desiring God website you can purchase the paperback or download a free PDF of the entire book. Here's the link:

How We Get In Our Own Way

Lydia Brownback

Bogged down by the weight of some big decision? We pray for wisdom, seek godly counsel, and try to discern where circumstances seem to lead. Even so, the weight of the choice before us can still feel oppressive. If you can relate, perhaps Kevin DeYoung's words will help: 

We have little longing left for our reward in the next life because we've come to expect such rewarding experiences in this life. And when every experience and situation must be rewarding and put us on the road to complete fulfillment, then suddenly the decisions about where we live, what house we buy, what dorm we're in, and whether we go with tile or laminate take on weighty significance. There is just too much riding on every decision. I'm pretty sure most of us would be more fulfilled if we didn't fixate on fulfillment quite so much.

This comes from his little book Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will (Chicago: Moody, 2009, pp. 32). The whole book is well worth a read--in fact, more than one read. It's a good one to keep on the shelf to reference when the crossroads come.

Elisabeth Elliot on Loneliness

Lydia Brownback

Although Elisabeth passed away earlier this year, her writings continue to mentor and encourage. I just reread The Path of Loneliness, which was first published in 1988. It's still so relevant, so I thought I'd share a few good quotes here:

When God is first in our hearts, all other loves are in order and find their rightful place.
Loneliness is one kind of "dying" most of us learn about sooner or later. Far from being "bad" for us, a hindrance to spiritual growth, it may be the means of unfolding spiritual "blossoms" hitherto unfolded. 
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to have a Companion all the time. But that does not mean we will never suffer loneliness. In fact, it means that we may be lonely in ways we would not have been if we had not chosen to be disciples.
Our loneliness cannot always be fixed, but it can always be accepted as the very will of God for now, and that turns it into something beautiful.
If all He is asking of us just now is the willingness to accept the relatively small discipline of loneliness, can we not see it as a part of His gift of allowing us to walk with Him?
The heart which has no agenda but God's is the heart at leisure from itself.
If God wants a woman to marry, He will see to it that the man finds her. She need not go out hunting.
Our own diminishments, in God's sovereign ordering of all things for His glory and our good, are not only the prerequisite to our own joy, but may also be the means of enriching the lives of others.


Lydia Brownback

Our women's group just finished a summer study on the book of Ruth, and one of our ladies, Kathy Monaco, penned this beautiful poem to read during our last gathering:

In Bethlehem when judges ruled

and famine struck the land,

Elimelech got nervous

and came up with a plan.


He took off with his family

and traveled many miles.

They settled down in Moab

to stay for just a while.


His wife was named Naomi.

He also had two sons,

one whose name was Chilion,

the other was Mahlon.


As weeks and months turned into years,

their lives did surely change.

Elimelech had passed away

and nothing was the same.


Chilion met Orpah

and took her for his wife.

Mahlon, too, got married,

to Ruth the Moabite.


But sadly both sons also died,

leaving broken and bereaved

their widowed mom and widowed wives,

whose hearts were sorely grieved.


One day Naomi heard the news

that God had come to aid

his people by providing food,

and so new plans were made.


Naomi planned to travel back

to Bethlehem alone,

telling Ruth and Orpah,

“Go back to your mother’s home.”


“Go back and find a husband,

and start your lives anew.

God’s hand has turned against me,

I’ll be no use to you.”


Orpah wept and said goodbye,

but Ruth insisted, “No!”

And Ruth clung to Naomi saying,

“Where you go, I will go.”


“Your people will be my people,

your God will be my God.

And where you die, there I will die.”

Like two peas in a pod.


When they arrived in Bethlehem,

the whole town was surprised.

“Can this be Naomi?”,

they said with searching eyes.


She said, “Just call me Mara,

it seems a better fit.

The Lord turned my life bitter…

bit, by bit, by bit.”


Now Boaz was a kinsman

of Naomi’s husband’s clan,

a godly man of high esteem,

a farmer of the land.


One day Ruth told Naomi,

“Let me go and glean the fields.

I’ll pick up the leftover grain,

and use it for our meals.”


Naomi gave the go-ahead

and Ruth went on her way.

And because the Lord was leading her,

she met Boaz that day.


He treated her with kindness

and put her mind at ease,

and prayed God would reward her

for all her faithful deeds.


When Ruth got home she couldn’t wait

to share what had transpired,

and all about the man she met,

the man she so admired.


Naomi was excited

at all Ruth had to say

about the man named Boaz,

whose field she gleaned that day.


She recognized his name and thought,

Our pastures just got greener!

That man is our close relative,

a guardian-redeemer.


One day Naomi beckoned Ruth

and told her of her plan

to guarantee her future,

a plan to land her man.


“Put on your very finest clothes,

and perfume to smell sweet.

Then wait till Boaz eats and drinks,

and lie down at his feet.”


That night Boaz was sound asleep

when right out of the blue,

he heard something that startled him

and called out, “Who are you?”


“I am your servant Ruth,” she said,

“and if you’d be so kind,

please spread your garment over me,

and then you will be mine.”


“You’re a guardian-redeemer,

one of our closest kin.

And you’ve never held against me

who I am or where I’ve been.”


Boaz agreed to do for Ruth

all that she had asked.

He told her not to worry,

but there might be one small catch.


He said he knew of someone

who was closer to her clan.

He’d find him in the morning

and talk with him, man to man.


The next day at the city gate

his relative walked by.

Boaz said, “Come sit, my friend,

and listen for awhile.”


He also called ten elders

to witness what was said.

It wouldn’t do to misconstrue

which man his Ruth would wed.


Boaz laid out the details

and when all was said and done,

the man gave him his sandal.

It was Boaz who had won.


So Boaz pledged his heart to Ruth,

and she became his wife.

And God gave them a baby boy

to further bless their life.


They named the baby Obed,

and he grew up to be

the father of King David’s dad,

the man they called Jesse.


And so it was that God ordained

in all his sovereignty,

that Ruth would be a vital branch

on Jesus’ family tree. 

DIY Identity

Lydia Brownback

The selfie stick—it’s the icon of our age. It was listed in Time magazine's 25 best inventions of 2014. Nothing better captures the spirit of our era than this extendable metal stick that enables people to position a camera for the taking of endless self-portraits.  Some have dubbed it the “Wand of Narcissus.” And for good reason. 

Of course, if you’re on vacation with your family or at a class reunion, there’s nothing narcissistic about whipping out the selfie stick to capture the togetherness. Before this invention, a group photo necessarily excluded the picture taker. Alternatively, it meant corralling a safe-looking stranger to snap the shot while entrusting your camera into his hands. So the selfie stick has most definitely enhanced the ability to capture important memories.

However, it has also served as fuel on the contemporary fire of narcissism, which blazes hot on the hearth of social media. Given my age, I’m thinking specifically of Facebook, which the younger generation fled when we infiltrated their domain. They want their own thing, so Facebook? Forget it. And it’s true—fully 71 percent of adults who go online are on Facebook. And that includes a good number of seniors.

But whether young or old, posting selfies is ubiquitous. Some people change their profile picture weekly or even daily. Some of these are candid, in-the-moment fun shots, but many result only after countless takes and retakes have set the subject off to best advantage. What’s the appeal? Primarily, it’s the opportunity it provides to create and project a DIY identity. Facebook photo albums give us a way to hide our flaws, disappointments, and failures.

Do you find yourself discontented after scanning your Facebook newsfeed? That happened to me earlier this year. It was spring break, so my newsfeed was one long beach vacation of smiling parents and happy kids splashing in the waves. Meanwhile, it was snowing where I live, and during those frozen April days, I was not enjoying a warm beach. I was helping out some of those beach-goers by caring for their farm animals. As I scrolled that week through one beach posting after the next, my discontentment grew—as did my envy.

Only later did it hit me: nobody is their Facebook page. From posts to pictures, it’s all one, long running Christmas letter—a recap of the year’s achievements with a smiling family photo to prove it. We all receive those. And we send them too. Facebook pages, like those Christmas letters, are a choreographed DIY identity. The real identity, behind the smiles and the beaches, has all the normal stuff of everyone’s life: sickness, heartbreak, rejection, and anxieties. Flaws.

The world sees no choice but to hide behind their DIY identities. After all, this life is all they think they’ve got, so they live as those who have no hope: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32). If you can’t make it, fake it—that’s what Facebook provides them a chance to do.

Do you know who you are? Take a look at all you’ve posted on your Facebook wall, and you’ll get a true idea not only of how you see yourself but also of who you want to be. Those of us who profess Christ don’t need a DIY identity. We’ve already got one: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).


Lydia Brownback

There’s a good bit of debate these days about whether Christians are called to be radical or ordinary. Whichever way you go, the Bible’s call is to wholeheartedness, which is what Jesus was getting at when the Pharisee asked him,…

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Lydia Brownback

In his book Holiness by Grace, Bryan Chapell shows what can and what cannot change in our relationship with God. His cut-to-the-chase list goes a long way in clearing up confusion. What can change: Our fellowship. What cannot change: Our…

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Lydia Brownback

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” What exactly does Jesus mean by this? John tells us what Jesus had in mind:  “Now this [Jesus] said about the…

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Lydia Brownback

I came across this prayer sometime ago, jotted it down, and began to pray it regularly. For the life of me, I can’t remember where I found it, so I can’t give proper credit here, but it’s worth sharing all…

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Lydia Brownback

It’s raining. Actually, it’s pouring. Again. One week into summer, and it’s already the wettest one in years. And the forecast for the holiday week ahead comes off like a bad set of repetitive lyrics: “mostly cloudy, 80 percent chance…

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