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Return to this ONE misunderstood word and you’ll feel a heck of a lot better.


When we lose perspective, we fall off the rails. When we forget what we believe, we exhaust ourselves trying to meet unrealistic expectations social media has waved in our faces. When we stay too busy, we forget what our value system is. It’s the nature of being human.

The gospel is confusing, but not really. And more that that, it is necessary. If the gospel is not a rock under our unsteady feet, we will lose our way. Well-meaning advice can send us into a sinkhole of self-reliance. After a lot of hard work, we will end up where we started, confused and aimless, and wondering why our plans didn’t "work."

The Psalmist directs us, “BE STILL and know that I am God.”

BE STILL.

Wow, that does not happen much today. We don't sleep well, let alone choose to sit still for the sake of our souls.

Oh to learn the practice of resting in the power, care and love of God.

To Rest. Receive. Be reminded. Calm.

In the world of Life Coaching I have found a trend of “advice” that can be damaging more then helpful. Messages about what it means to care for oneself or one’s family can be subtly misdirected. As I see it, the platitudes of many life coaches sit on the edge of biblical truth but fails to lead to transformation only the way the gospel can. All advice is well-meaning, but shy of lasting change.

“You are number one, make sure you treat yourself that way.”

“Everything you need is inside of you, just unlock the power.”

“The more you tap into your positive energy, the more you will accomplish.”

“The power of the universe is on your side, just ask.”

“Yoga is a key to centeredness” (which, what does that mean??).

The reality is, if we sit still regularly, get quiet, and reflect with honesty, we will discern what is off with these suggestions. After living half my life, one thing is for sure: I cannot be my answer. And this isn't self-shaming, this is true. I am the obstacle that gets in my own way most days. The “stuck-ness,” if I dig down to the core, is rooted in bigger issues. These are some I have noticed in my life and the lives of others...

…I compare myself to other peoples’ lives and want what they “seem” to have.

OR, I am lacking trust in God so I am plagued with fear and control regarding my children.

OR, I have hooks in my heart of greed, pride and selfishness that color all I do.

OR, I have placed my identity in an image I want my children to provide. Unknowingly, I have put them in the center of the universe which has severely backfired.

OR, I feel empty so I keep looking to my husband, friends, money, and accomplishments to fill me up, but none of them have “worked.”

OR, I am genuinely addicted to social media and have wasted hours of time “checked out” only to find myself feeling low and disconnected.

There are layers as to why we have gotten stuck.

However, the most fundamental problem is that most of us misunderstand the gospel. We hear the word all the time in Christian circles, yet are unable to articulate what it means. So here we go, a lesson in The Gospel 101.

To summarize, the gospel is the good news that sinful people who mess up their lives, hurt other people, think themselves better than everyone else, chase after money and live to please themselves are, in FACT, unconditionally loved by God. Jesus died and was resurrected in order to gift us with salvation, eternal life, and freedom from the stranglehold of sin. Our debt is paid. The gospel says, “I am making you new, and securing your soul, and this is not because of anything you did or can do. It is because I love you.” Period. I can't get it right, so Jesus gets it right and scoops me up into his lovingkindness and forgiveness.

The gospel reminds me that the problem is ME. Sure, there are many factors and people that add to what is keeping me stuck, but what is in me cannot be ignored or polished over. In our world today, even in the church, we hate the word SIN. It is offensive. Over time we have come to see ourselves as inherently good, the victims of all sorts of things. We are quick to blame others without looking at what wrongs we have committed. Our nature is sinful. You can see it in a 2 year old.

The irony is, if we make sin smaller than it is, pretend like it’s not there, or just call it “weakness,” we will glide along while it secretly wraps itself around all aspects of our lives. Our dismissal of sin will lead to a breakdown in relationships, career, mental health and personal peace. We will quickly blame everyone and everything except ourselves. However, the gospel reminds me that I can freely name my sins because I have someone perfectly wise, perfectly powerful and perfectly loving who will forgive me. The gospel teaches me to “confess my sins” with the assurance of healing and help. Confession of sin is the gateway to joy.

I am finding in my helping profession there are two different kinds of Life Coaching: either encouraging clients that they are responsible to figure it out and make it work; to unlock their positive energy; they have to choose strength (combined with the universe’s help, combined with yoga), a positive outlook and a little more love for themselves….to “just do me” (whatever that turns out to produce), OR…

I return them to the gospel, just like I return to it. Through prayer, confession, and asking the Spirit of God not only to forgive me, but give me his strength, wisdom and power, I find the resources I need. The Word of God is a stabilizing reminder that God erases my greed and replaces it with his heart of generosity; he erases my discontentment and replaces it with joy; he erases my lack of trust and replaces it with a bold faith that he is with me in all circumstances. To see myself as flawed with a bent toward selfishness, superiority and greed leads me humbly to the one who can do something about it. And this way of living not only lifts me, it lifts everyone around me as well. The gospel is far-reaching in its impact.

I cannot imagine turning to myself, the source of the problem, for the answer. Unfortunately, that is the coaching of the day.

In a culture that highlights the individual and belts out, “all you need is you!” it is imperative that we stop and think. There are phases, bumper-sticker platitudes, thoughtless answers to difficult realities and shallow pieces of advice that keep us stuck (and may I add that Christians use the same thing; the true gospel, however, does not). Life Coaching with the lens of the gospel does not expect you to be the answer, it looks to the God of creation to be the answer. Life Coaching with the lens of the gospel leads you to a recognition of sin patterns AND the hope of Jesus to free you from them. It leads to truth that brings healing and growth.

So be discerning when you hear recommendations that turn you back to your own self as the solution. The Spirit is your resource. The gospel tells us failure is not

so scary. We can lose, crumble, misunderstand and get lost along the way—the gospel will direct you back to the one who can do what you can't. Beyond that, the greatest gift you give your kids is a life lived out of the gospel. They need to know the exact same thing: God loves sinners and sets them free.

©2020 by Dawn Poulterer-Woods