Oh, did I type that outloud?
How did I get here? How did I let this happen? Why is God allowing this to happen to me?
These are the questions I hear so often from women that I counsel or mentor – not just counseling victims of violence. Whether it be sexual, physical, emotional, psychological (Spiritual). It is also those who are simply victims of circumstance… Single women or married women… highly influential working women, or those who struggle daily to make ends meet – Women of all walks of life who are (unwittingly, unknowingly, or simply in denial of) walking in sin. But, all of them, at one point or another will ask one – if not all – of these questions….
And the answer is always found in one unifying fact:
The fear of the Lord is nowhere to be found.
They inwardly and sometimes even outwardly, rage against the Lord – Even to the point of vocally denying the power of the Holy Spirit with a bitterness that can be seen in every aspect of their countenance and almost always coupled with the inner pity of “why me?” The latter of which tends to follow them throughout most of their adulthood and into each and every relationship whether it be personal or professional.
Not only have I experienced this throughout thirty-plus-years of counseling victims of violent crime, domestic abuse, and sexual assault – But I lived it.
Wasting over twenty-five years of my life chasing after “worthless pursuits” and not “tending to my land” (Proverbs 12:11). My heart raged against the Lord (Proverbs 19:3), because I could not reconcile what had happened to me as a child, nor could I understand, accept, or change the behavior of those who I chose to love. Which brings us right back to the answer to the question, “How did I get here?” Which is: Because I did not fear the Lord God Almighty and therefore did not obey His commands.
“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate” (Pr. 8:13).
For decades at the beginning of each new year, I would vow to make my life better. To “be best” as our First Lady would commend. I would make promises to eat right, exercise and guard my tongue. I would further educate myself to gain knowledge and take appropriate steps to ensure that my life outwardly demonstrated the woman I wanted to be – Strong, independent, and worthy of your admiration.
And I succeeded… immensely!
But the more I tried to adorn myself with the world’s pleasures and rise to their standards of success and worth – the more I fell deeper into the pit of dissatisfaction and un-holiness – not to mention that I was one mean chick!
It took a complete melt-down and losing every-single-thing in my life to realize that whatever I was doing on my own wasn’t working – and things like a home, possessions, a nice car, a good job, money, and even a successful man by my side wasn’t going to cut it.
It would be another decade until I realized how wrong my application of psychological theories and biblical counseling approaches were. Simply non-sense! They were simply a way to stay a victim and have the opportunity to blame others so that I (and those I counseled using these age-old techniques) would not have to look inward to see how I had disgraced myself by the people I had in my life, the things I believed about myself and the world around me… I had fallen into the trap of prescribing and believing the psychobabble “feelings exploration” theories and the justification of excusing bad, unholy choices by “working on my self-esteem” rather than my Spiritual-esteem and all that God commands women to be.
“How do I keep allowing this to happen?”
The second-most asked question that I hear in counseling and one that I fought with for decades – two and a-half decades to be exact. And again, the answer is the same – I had a delusional mind-made god that I served. One that was more concerned about my holiness than His own. A god that patted me on the back when I made stupid choices and excused the lack of biblical reading that would tell me what kind of people to have in my life. My god was one who accepted me “just the way I am” – no boundaries, no justice…. no repentance required, just grace, grace, sweet, grace.
But that’s not the God of the Bible. He is a jealous God. And contrary to popular belief – He is not jealous for me – but for His glory.
I had to get real about my resolutions to be the woman I was called to be, rather than the woman I wanted to be. After all, it was never and will never be – about me.
Or you, for that matter.
This “New Year, New You” series begins with housekeeping. Realizing who God is and what it means to fear Him is the very beginning of wisdom and the knowledge that leads to understanding:
Job 28:28 “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’”
Do you fear (have reverence and awe for) the Lord? Are you willing to depart from any and all things evil? What’s evil? We’ll get into that and the absolute difference between your enemies that you are to love and those individuals who practice wickedness that you are to vehemently, without excuse, without tolerance – “hate… flee from… abhor… run away from… have nothing to do with… ” Did I mention hate?
Ps. 111:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”
Are you willing to repent (turn back. To God, turn away from) your sins including what you think, what you believe, what you do, how you speak, who you call “friend”? In order to develop a good understanding of who God is and how good He is when you follow His commands?
Bottom line – Jesus will either be your judge or your advocate.
Pr. 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
You must have a clear understanding of the God of the Bible – not your man-made god that you have chosen to create and believe based on your own level of understanding. This is a deep-dive into truth – get ready to commit not justify or excuse – or to transfer precepts onto another. This study is about you and your relationship to God almighty, His Son, our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
Pr. 15:33: “The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.”
Before honor comes humility. To take on the breastplate of righteousness by the Sword of the Spirit – is to enter into battle. It takes a teachable, humble spirit – one who is not afraid to admit their shortcomings and repent from them… Not relive them over and over – not get in touch with your feelings… you feel bad, ashamed, guilty – we get it. We’ve all been there, but let’s not stay there any longer.
Never, not once, not ever – did Jesus say “tell me all about it…” Whether it was to the woman at the well – whom he totally humiliated by calling out her sinful sexual immorality – or the woman caught in adultery, where He didn’t rise up to “hug” or ask her to tell Him her story… nope. He rose up, looked her in the eye and said, “Go and sin no more.”
In other words – We serve a Holy God who doesn’t want to hear about why we sinned… It’s not the sin that gets thrown into hell – it’s the sinner!
So what matters is that we simply DO NOT INTENTIONALLY SIN, and we MUST repent of our sins, grieve our sin, mourn our sin – because a godly grief brings about a repentant heart.
And that, my friend is something that God can work with.
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10).
So, to be clear, it’s about what you do from this point forward that matters – Are you going to sulk or swim?
Pr. 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction”
Don’t be a fool. Fools go to hell. And I can guarantee that hell is much, much worse than anything and everything that you have been through or are going through.
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5).
So Let us begin our “New Year, New You.” resolutions with those that are commanded by God:
Reading for the next week: Psalm. 119
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who do no wrong, but walk in his ways. You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. (v. 1-4).
How can a young (wo)man keep her way pure?
Where to start:
Getting our priorities straight. Verse 17 opens with “Deal bountifully with me Lord…” But the Psalmist isn’t asking for worldly possessions or a “happy” life, he is not asking to be “delivered” from his circumstances – He is asking for the Lord to:
Perseverance through the circumstances. This passage goes on to tell of how distressed the Psalmist was – He was broken, verse 25 says his soul was clinging to the dust, his soul melts away for sorrow (v. 28). But he also realizes that the only way to get through this season is through the constant, steadfast, study, meditation, and learning of God’s precepts and living life according to them – and verse 32 tells us how it is done – “I will run in the way of your commandments, When You enlarge my heart (ESV).
Another way to translate this verse is to say, “for You set my heart free” (Crossway Bibles, 2016).
The Psalmist understands the sovereignty of God almighty. He continues to plead with God to teach, give him understanding, lead him, incline his heart, turn his eyes away from looking at worthless things, and for God to give him life and confirm His promises to His servant so that the psalmist will “fear” the Lord. (v. 33-38)
The Psalmist also pleads his case before the Lord with fear and trembling, demonstrated in v. 39 as he asks the Lord for mercy, because he fears the reproach of the Lord – and all that comes when we do not follow the commands of God – including death (v. 39-40).
Then there will be those who will trip you up.
Whenever we commit to getting our lives in order, we have to prepare ourselves to give a defense to those who will contend with our perseverance towards transformation. Again, the only way to combat the taunting of others is the confidence found in reading, studying, and adhering to God’s word.
The Psalmist says that when we trust in the Word of the Lord, only then will we have the answer for those who taunt us (v. 42) – and continues to stress God’s sovereignty by asking the Lord to keep the Word of truth in his mouth – that, that is where our hope lies (v. 43).
In verses 44-48, the Psalmist makes a declaration to the Lord to keep the Law and speak of God’s testimonies – because he delights in them. Through this abundance of security and relationship with God as the final authority, the standard by which we live, we too, as the Psalmist, will indeed walk in a “wide place” (45) with no fear of stumbling or being put to shame (46) – even when others try to do so – God will not… as long as we continue to be steadfast in our covenant with the Lord. (v. 49).
Titus 2: 3-5 – the commands of God specifically for women
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3-5). “Likewise, also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works” (1 Tim 2: 9-10).
Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things” (1 Tim. 3:11).
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12).
So, I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander (1 Tim. 5:14).
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17).
And let’s make some resolutions that not just change us – but change the world.
Holly T. Ashley is the founder of R3: Redemption. Restoration. Recovery. Domestic Violence Services and Training and Co-founder of Cross Strength Ministries, a 501c3 non-profit Christian organization. Holly serves under the direction of her beloved, Pastor David Ashley, M.A.A., MDiv. Holly holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with an emphasis on research and is currently a graduate student of forensic psychology. Holly is a former newspaper columnist as well as the author of 4 books on domestic abuse and family violence including a training manual for those in the field of abuse and sexual assault. To learn more about Cross Strength Ministries or any of its subsidiaries, please go to: www.CrossStrengthMinistries.org and feel free to donate while you are there. 100% of your tax-deductible donations go to the ministry, which is privately funded and receives no government monies.