Trying to live a good Christian life is not always easy. As a matter of fact, the truth is, the devil does everything he can to make it hard for us and hard on us. That is why it is vital that we suit up in God’s armor each and every day. We need to pray, read our Bibles, and spend quality time with God each and every day—not just on Sundays. (For more on this read my post The Devil Inside.)
It is also super important that we seek and find joy every day as well. Once you start spending more and more time with God, the easier it becomes to find that joy. However, while there is beauty all around us, opening our eyes to it and finding the joy in life, well…that can be hard. We all get busy and just living life gets in the way. So, I wanted to share something with you today that I know will help you. Well, it least it has helped me, so I want to pass it along.
So, what is the little golden nugget of advice I have for you today, you ask? What is it that will help you find more joy in life? Listen to music. More specifically, listen to contemporary Christian music. (CCM for short.) And, while I am at it, might I suggest listening to The Joy FM?*
I started my spiritual journey in earnest about seven years ago. I have been taking baby steps every day since—little, tiny, baby steps. And, all those little baby steps have added up over the years! One of the most crucial things I have realized is that listening to good Christian music can make a world of difference.
I specifically remember, a few years ago, lying in bed and it dawning on me that I needed Jesus all the time. Not just on Sundays, not just when I was depressed, not just when I was sick or needy, and not just when it suited me. I needed Him all the time: every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
My next thought was, how on earth can I keep my focus on Him all the time? I actually started freaking out a little about it. I was already at a point in my journey where I was making sure to pray every morning before I got out of bed and every night before I went to sleep. I was spending time each day reading both my Bible and a devotional. Being married with a full-time job, doing contract work on the side, and living and dealing with what I refer to as a “mystery” illness that requires I get a lot more rest than normal women, what else could I feasibly do? Well, this is where the music comes in!
As some of you already know, I am a huge music fan. And, I listen to and love music of all different types. However, there is just something extra special about contemporary Christian music that fills me up, lifts my soul, and brings me joy. Instead of looking for joy with your eyes, listen to it with your ears and heart! It is amazing medicine for your soul.
I listen to music mainly in the car; flipping through radio stations, stopping any time I come across a song I like. During this specific time in my journey, I was already listening to CCM, just not all the time. But, once I started really listening to the lyrics of the songs, I basically started to transform my way of thinking. Songs were getting stuck in my head, that I would sing to myself all day. It really made a significant difference in how much I started thinking about Jesus each day. It really helped me focus on Him more and more. Now CCM is basically all I listen to. You really owe it to yourself to give it a try.
*Before I leave, I must share one more bit of advice with you. Listen to The Joy FM. They are a Christian radio station that has been serving the metro Atlanta area since 1981. They also have radio towers and can be heard in Florida and Alabama. And, thanks to the internet and an app, you can listen to them anywhere in the world. They are a nonprofit, listener supported station that is doing the imperative work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. They promise to help you find joy, share joy, and be joy, and boy do they ever deliver! They are genuinely good people who truly care.
All of their DJ’s are great, but I especially love The Morning Cruise; Carmen Brown, Dave Cruse, and Bill Martin. Listening to them in the morning is like sitting down and hanging out with good friends. Come to think of it, they are more like family. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Spend a few days listening to them and I think you will agree. I encourage you to let The Joy FM and the contemporary Christian music they play fill up your heart, mind, and soul with God and joy. It is a very simple, but powerful way to help you keep your focus on God and bring you joy, each and every day.
In life, I think it is nice to have things to look forward to. Don’t you? As I am sitting here thinking about it, I would go so far as to say that having something to look forward to is an important part of life. Of course, what we look forward to will change as we grow and change. But, I think it is just a normal, healthy part of life.
When I was a kid I looked forward to summer break, Christmas, and my birthday. How about you? I bet you were the same. Summer break was my favorite because I could play all day and watch cartoons. The things that made me happy were simple things. Oh, how I wish I could go back to being that carefree.
How about as an adult? What do you look forward to now? As someone who works full time, I look forward to weekends, vacations, and any opportunity I can get to spend time with my family and friends. I look forward to retirement and not having to work anymore. I look forward to being outside in nature. One of my greatest pleasures in life is to just sit outside and read a good book. (I also enjoy lazy afternoons where I can take naps!)
How about as a Christian? Is there anything you look forward to as a Christian? One of things I look forward to most is being reunited with family members that have gone on before me. As Iris Dement penned in her wonderful hymn, That Glad Reunion Day, “There will be a happy meeting in Heaven, I know. When we see the many loved ones we’ve known here below. Gathered on that blessed hilltop with hearts all aglow. That will be a glad reunion day.”
It is such a comfort and blessing to know that we will be with our loved ones again one day. How do I know that this will indeed happen? The Bible tells me so. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 2 Samuel 12:23, and Luke 9:28-36.)
But, as a Christian, what I am really, truly looking forward to is seeing Jesus face to face and getting to spend all of eternity in His presence. I just can’t wait to run into His loving arms and get a hug for Him. Oh, what a hug that will be! I can’t even begin to imagine how glorious that will be. My gut reaction, just as I am thinking about this and typing it out, is to start crying. Crying because I am not worthy. Crying because it will be so amazing and wonderful. Crying because of the pure joy and contentment. It is funny, as I try to picture myself in heaven, this is how I see myself—all crying and emotional for a huge variety of reasons. I guess because that is how I am here on earth—crying easily and emotional for a huge variety of reasons.
Death can be such a scary thing. And, while I don’t want to die any time soon, just knowing that I will be in heaven one day with Jesus, well, that makes death a lot less scary. Actually, knowing and trusting in God makes death not scary at all. Yes, going to heaven, being with my loved-ones again, and spending eternity with Jesus, now that is something to look forward to!
Do you ever feel like a small fish in a big pond? Swimming around unnoticed? Maybe you feel almost invisible; like what you are doing in life is not important? (The theatre nerd in me is now singing “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago. Lol)
I know I have often felt this way in my life. And, I have a feeling you have too. Why? Because, I have come to realize that that is just a part of being human. I feel especially paltry when I am outside at night, looking up at all the stars. There are a gazillion stars out there. And, they are beautiful and wondrous to behold. But, looking up at all those stars can really make you feel very, well, insignificant. And, I also automatically start singing “It’s A Great Big Universe” from Animaniacs. (I told you, I am definitely a nerd. Also, if you have never watched Animaniacs, do yourself a favor and check it out. You will be so glad you did! But, I digress…)
So, my point is that sometimes we all feel small. Or undervalued. Or unimportant. And, I am here to tell you that you are NOT small, or undervalued, or unimportant! Why? Because while we may feel miniscule in the grand scheme of things, in God’s eyes we each play a critical role in this world. And, that is a big deal! WE are a BIG deal to God. So, you see, small is BIG!
After all, God created each of us to be uniquely us, and we are His children. You are uniquely you and I am uniquely me. And, He loves each and every one of us. And, we each have a significant role to play while we are here on earth. How do I know these things, you ask? Because the Bible tells us so! (See 1 Peter 5:7, Zephaniah 3:17, Psalm 139:13-16, 1 Corinthians 12:25-28, and 1 Peter 4:10-11.)
Being the music lover that I am, I like to think that this world is like one, great, big, giant symphony. We each play a different instrument in the orchestra of life and God is our conductor. Some people play the flutes, some play the violins, some play the trumpets, some play the piano. There are even some of us who do things like make the instruments, clean the theatre, or design and print the programs. It takes a lot of work to put a symphony together.
Then, when our symphony plays, and we each perform our part, it is a magnanimously glorious thing. All of us do our parts, we each execute our role, and the result is stunning. It is truly stunning. And, we could not pull this off without each other. Could you imagine how lackluster a symphony would be it there were only a few people playing the drums and the oboe? That would be horrible.
The magic happens when we all come together and do our parts.
So, while you may feel small, unseen, or imperceptible in your life, you are NOT small. The part you play in this life is NOT small. You are a vital part of this symphony of life. To God you play a very big, very important role. What may seem like a mundane job to you, means a lot to God. Maybe you wash dishes, maybe you teach, maybe you are a mom raising kids, maybe you are truck driver, maybe you are a dentist, maybe you are a structural engineer. Whatever “title” you have, it doesn’t matter.
What does matter, is that you embrace the role God gave you to play. If you embrace it, you are embracing God’s work for you. If you do your work as if you are doing it for God, you will gain much more satisfaction from it. Colossians 3:23 tells us, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." That is a huge and dazzling thing!
(Also, I feel like I would be remiss if I did not mention that your role can and will change during your life. We will each go through different seasons in life. That is just how it works. One season you may playing the harp and a few years from now you may be playing the triangle!)
So, I urge you to grasp hold of your “small” part and perform it with gusto! As Stanislavski, the famous Russian theatre practitioner once remarked, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” And, again, being a theatre nerd, I heard this quote a thousand times. And, while I never really believed it when I worked in theatre, I can tell you that I honestly do believe it now. If we do our work for the Lord, there are no small parts. That is what spiritual growth is all about!
I walked into work this morning and my co-worker asked me if I had heard about Anthony Bourdain. I had not. But, by now, thanks to the world we live in, where information is shared in a split second thanks to social media, I am sure we have all heard this sad news. Death by suicide. It comes in the same week that we lost Kate Spade. Also, death by suicide. My heart just aches for them, their families, friends, loved ones, and everyone who knew and loved them.
These two famous deaths this week have brought suicide to the forefront. #SuicidePrevention, #YouMatter, and #SuicideAwareness are all trending on social media right now. As they should be. I can only hope and pray that anyone who is in such a dark place will find the help and hope that they need. Actually, that is why I am writing this post.
I think back to other famous people we have lost to suicide. People I like and respected. (Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, and Chris Cornell to name a few.) I think of friends who have lost family members to suicide. I also think of people that I know personally who have taken their own lives. (Or, I guess I should say people I have known.) I have seen how devastating their actions have been on the people they leave behind. Honestly, just thinking about all this right now is making me cry.
I understand how easy it can be to let things in your life get you down. It is easy to let things fester in your mind and only focus on the bad things. It can become a slippery slope. It can be easy to just sink further and further down into that nasty pit. And, as I have said before, in a post just a few weeks ago, that is exactly where the devil wants us.
But, I am here to tell you something: Do NOT Give up Hope. You ARE loved and Beloved by God. He created you for a purpose and He loves you like no one else ever can or ever will.
You may be thinking that only a miracle can help you, only a miracle can save you. Guess what? You have that miracle. It was given to you as a gift approximately 2,000 years ago, when Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins. Then, when He rose on the third day, He became our miracle, YOUR miracle. (And, I can’t help but think about that 80’s song from Mike & The Mechanics, “All I Need Is A Miracle” – the lyrics go, “All I need is a miracle, all I need is you.” Listening to this song I realize that all we need is God and He IS our miracle and He is ALL we need. My little Musical Hide and Seek with God game has come in handy yet again! lol)
If you are in that abhorrent pit of despair and you feel like you are all alone, please, please, please reach out to God and receive your miracle. He is waiting for you and He longs to give it to you. He has already paid the ultimate price for you. His deepest and greatest desire is to grab you by your hand and lift you up out of that horrendous pit.
Once He has you in His hands, and you put your faith and trust in Him, you can be assured that He will be with you forever. He will take loving care of you. He will be your shelter. He will be your light in the darkness. He will give you everything that you will ever need. You will become His child and He will be your father. Please, I am begging you, reach your hand out to Him. Let Him be your miracle.
I want to leave you with some Bible verses that illustrate the points I make above. Take some time to sit and read them and soak them in. These are words that were written specifically for you. For. You. Hide them in your heart. Take Jesus in your heart and hide Him there too. Then, allow Him to do His work. Pretty soon you will want to let Him shine brightly through you for all the world to see. He is pretty amazing like that!
Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
John 3:16-17 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 15:13-14 – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Matthew 28:20 – Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Psalm 23:4 – Even thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Zephaniah 3:17 – The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by this love; he will exult you with loud singing.
Joshua 1:5 – No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Deuteronomy 33:27 – The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and He drove out the enemy from before you, and said, “Destroy!”
Isaiah 25:4 – For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall.
Deuteronomy 3:22 – Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.
Lamentations 3:25 – The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the ones who seek him.
John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
In our every day, Christian walk we face many trials and obstacles. Once you give your life over to Christ, the devil will work overtime to cause you as much trouble as he possibly can. Satan is a supernatural enemy that will do whatever he can to rob us of anything and everything that we hold dear. In 1 Peter 5:8, we learn that Satan is our “adversary who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” That is also why the first part of this Bible verse tells us to “be sober-minded and watchful.” We must always be on the lookout for the devil and his underhanded schemes.
We are at war. It is spiritual warfare that we fight against the devil and evil that is both within us and in the world around us. And, sadly, because of our sinful nature, it can be easy to fall into the devil’s traps. The true enemy that we fight every day is sin and Satan and our own hearts that hold fast to our sinful ways. Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Being the music lover that I am, I can’t help but think of the INXS song “Devil Inside.” The chorus of that song goes, “the devil inside, the devil inside, every single one of us, the devil inside.” Truer words were never spoken. (Or sung, as the case may be.)
I am not going to lie, I fight this devil inside me often. (More often than I would like, or even care to admit.) However, as I grow in my Christian faith, I feel like I am doing a better and better job against him. But, man, sometimes he gets inside my head and he can really do a number on me. I over-think and worry. I say the wrong things and then dwell on those words. I let what other people say bother me. I don’t let things go. And, I can do these things to the point where I make myself sick. And, trust me, it is not a good place to be. But, it is exactly where the devil wants me.
I know I am not alone in this. I know that each one of you reading this is facing the same types of things. We are all facing spiritual warfare in our lives every day. That is why it is vital for us to grow spiritually, to read our Bibles avidly, and to pray without ceasing. It is important that we have fun too. We can and should gather together and praise and worship God often. (See Hebrews 10:24-25)
We must learn to suit up for battle every day and have our weapons close at hand. Chief among these, in my mind, is being knowledgeable in the word of Christ. When we read and study the Word, we start committing to memory verses that we can recall and use when needed when we find ourselves at war. As the Bible tells us in Ephesians 6:10-18, we need to put on the armor of God.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
God equips us with everything we need to not only fight the devil, but to be victorious against him. As a matter-of-fact, our victory was already won by Jesus at Calvary. Isn’t that the best news ever? I think so!
But, unfortunately, we still have battles to fight. So, let us all be vigilant and stand fast with the Lord. He will stand by us and with us through every trial we face. Let us learn to hide His word in our hearts and use them when they are needed. Pray them. Whisper them. Speak them aloud. Shout them out. And, fight the good fight.
I will leave you with ten Bible verses that are powerful and empowering to help you get started.
As a Christian growing in my faith and spiritual life, I have reached a point where I am actively looking for God in anything and everything around me. Even in music.
Did you play Hide and Seek as a kid? I used to play it with my cousins and friends sometimes. I enjoyed hiding much more than seeking. Now as an adult who is working hard to grow my relationship with Christ, I sometimes feel like I am playing a game of Hide and Seek with Him. How about you? I know that God is definitely seeking me. I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful for that fact. And, I am desperately seeking Him too.
I know you are asking yourself, what does music have to do with Hide and Seek? Stick with me and I will get there. I thought I would share with you a game that I came up with that helps me to seek and find God in music.
I am a lover of music. I think I love just about every type of music you can imagine. Bluegrass, classical, pop, Christian, country, opera, jazz, hip-hop, rap, musical theatre, classic rock, alternative—I love them all. (And more.) Each and every type of music has it’s time and place in our lives. Music is medicine to the soul. It can make you happy or sad—it has this amazing ability to fit whatever need you have. It is also a real-life time machine; taking you back in time to places, events, and people in your life. It is one of the few things that I need in my life. (Along with food, water, shelter, clothing, love, and books!)
Lately, my music staple has been contemporary Christian music. I listen to it more than anything in this current season of my life. I love it so much, because it puts my mind and heart and my focus on God. When I listen to it in the mornings, it truly helps me set the tone for my day. And, oddly enough, as my hubby pointed out, a lot of it doesn’t even necessarily sound “Christian” per say. Many of the songs sound like they could be played on any pop music station. They are upbeat and have great hooks. But, the key is to listen closely to the lyrics of these songs. It is the lyrics that tell you that these songs are for or about God and His love. The magic of these songs is in their lyrics. (At least, I think so.) But I digress…
So, back to my music game. I tend to flip through all the local radio stations when my favorite contemporary Christian station is playing commercials. You do this too, don’t you? Come on…I know you do! Well, now when I do this, I listen to the lyrics of any song that I come across to see if I can find anything “godly” in them. And, very often, I do! It is just a new way I came up with to seek out God.
To give you some examples, I am going to flip through some of our local stations now and see what I come across.
Oddly enough, the first song I hit upon is “God’s Plan” by Drake. I hear the lyrics, “God’s plan, God’s plan. I can’t do this on my own.” Yup, easy to find God in this song. I have no idea what Drake’s religious beliefs are, but just the fact that an artist as well-known as Drake is singing these lyrics, makes me happy.
Next up, “My House” by Flo Rida. Now, don’t forget this is a game. And, I can just picture getting up to heaven and God telling us, “Welcome to my house!” in a big booming voice, can’t you?
Third, is “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp. (Or is it John Cougar Mellencamp?) Anyway, some of the lyrics to this song go, “Little pink houses for you and me, oh for you and me.” This reminds of John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Pink houses remind me of the mansions in this verse. Houses and mansions are both dwelling places. See the connection? Yes, maybe it’s a stretch, but this is how my mind works!
Finally, let’s check the country music station. “Broken Halos” by Chris Stapleton is playing. Another easy one. Halos are worn by angels. There are many angels in the Bible. (And, I believe that angels are all around us every day, helping to keep us safe.)
Obviously, this game doesn’t work with all songs. But, it is still fun to try and find little pieces of God in them. Some might only be one word that makes you think of God, others can be the whole song. You should give it a try. The next time you are in the car scrolling around your local stations, see how you do. I would love for you to share with me what songs you found God in and how you found Him.
In closing, I thought I would go to billboard.com and look at the top 100 songs in the country. As of today, Thursday, May 17, 2018, there are 12 songs in the top 100 that remind me of God, with just their title alone. That is 12 percent. Not too bad. They are as follows:
1. God’s Plan – Drake – ranked #3
2. Never Be The Same – Camila Cabello – ranked #8 (Because with God’s love,
you will never be the same.)
3. Perfect – Ed Sheeran – ranked #9 (Because God is perfect)
4. Heaven – Kane Brown – ranked #20
5. Pray For Me – The Weeknd & Kendrick Lamar – ranked #22
6. In My Blood – Shawn Mendes – ranked #27 (This reminds me of the blood of Jesus.)
7. King’s Dead – Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future & James Blake – ranked #60 (Because God is our King, but He isn’t dead.)
8. Most People Are Good – Luke Bryan – ranked #73 (Because God is good.)
9. Woman, Amen – Dierks Bentley – ranked #86
10. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright – David Lee Murphy & Kenny Chesney – ranked #87 (Because with God, everything will be alright.)
11. Mercy – Brett Young – ranked #97
12. Preach – YoungBoy Never Broke Again – ranked #98
So many people in this world don’t feel any love in their lives. They grew up in homes that were broken in some form or another. Or, they grew up in the home of a grandparent or other relative, rather than with their birth parent or parents. Or, their parents didn’t know how to show their love or declare their love. Oftentimes, the parents were never shown love either. It seems to be this vicious cycle, passed on from one generation to the next.
The older I get and the more people I meet, the more I realize that we are all hurting from something. Therefore, it really is important to be kind to everyone. We need to look at each other through the eyes of Jesus. Jesus looked at everyone with love. We need to love and pray for each other, even those who we consider our enemies. (See Mark 12:31 and Matthew 5:44)
Our world is hurting and everyone in this world desperately needs to know about God and His love for us. I want each one of you out there to know that you are loved very much by God. As a matter of fact, you are His beloved.
If you look beloved up in the dictionary, you will see that as an adjective it means greatly loved or dear to the heart. As a noun, it is a person who is greatly loved. And, that my friends, is what you are to God.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2)
God’s love for us is unconditional. This means that we do NOT have to do or say or be anything in particular. We do NOT have to do or say anything special. We do NOT change who we are in any way, shape, or form. We do NOT have to do anything at all. We just need to accept His love. That’s all. Accept it. Beloved is a word that indicates an action on the part of the one doing the loving. And, the one doing the loving on us is God. So, allow yourself to be-loved by God. Be-loved.
As I so often do when I am typing up a blog post, a song comes into my mind. "Beloved" by Jordan Feliz is a great little song to get stuck in your head. It is the perfect way to be reminded that you are God's beloved. Take a listen to it.
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
Let it soak into your soul
Oh, forget the lies you heard
Rise above the hurt
And listen to these words
You are beloved
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light.