Do you trust me?

Lots of day-to-day conversations revolve around two things: decisions and the future. What do you want to be when you grow up? What are you doing next year? What subjects have you chosen? Which universities have you applied to? This incessant thinking-ahead can often lead to us worrying, which leads to us forgetting that we have a Father God who is in control of our every moment.

Rachael is writing for us today about trusting God; on how to refocus your mind and rest in His sovereignty. This is a post perfect for girls who are planning their next steps, panicking about the future – or simply for those prone to a little worrying!

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I don’t know about you but I’m someone who can tend towards being anxious! As I prepare for a time of change after I graduate, there is potential for anxiety to dominate my thought life.

Questions spin around in my head: What job will I get? Where will I live? Will I earn enough money? Will I cope in the working world after being a student? These are regular thoughts which run through my mind!

Throughout the past few days and weeks God has been challenging me with the question of ‘do you trust me?’

As I begin the daily, repetitive cycle of looking through job websites, I can often find myself becoming more and more anxious. Anxious that I won’t find any employment, anxious that I’m under-qualified for any of the positions I see advertised, anxious that I will be the only one of my peers without a job in months to come. God has slowly been teaching me that being anxious is something which reflects a misunderstanding of, or blindness to His sovereign character and caring involvement in every day of our lives.

Here are some passages from the Bible for you to meditate on in times of anxiety or worry – because even when we don’t know what our next steps might look like, we do know who God is. For the truth is this:

Our Father God goes before us in all we do.

‘The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;
He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged.’
Deuteronomy 31: 8

He knows our yesterday, today and tomorrow.

‘You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me’
Psalm 139:5

‘Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book’
Psalm 139:16

Jesus tells us not to be anxious about your life. In the verses following, he reminds us that we are his valuable children whom he knows intimately and loves extravagantly, and so – worrying is wasted time and energy. He sees and provides us with all we need.

Quite aptly at over the past few weeks I have been reading the book ‘Calm My Anxious Heart’ by Linda Dillow. Whilst reading, God has been graciously reminding me of His control and showing me that I can trust in his timing, sovereignty and involvement in every month, week, day and hour of my life. One section of the book which I found particularly challenging is titled ‘Playing Ball With God’.

‘We find ourselves playing catch with God… Our trust level must be higher if we are to learn the secret of contentment. We must give the ball to God and leave it there. No more games of catch. Are you going to judge God by the circumstances you don’t understand or judge the circumstances in the light of the character of God?’

I can see how this analogy of playing catch has been true with my worries about the future. It’s all too easy to give over your worries to God before breakfast and have taken them back to wrestle with on your own by lunch time. It’s often in this place that I then hear the whisper, ‘do you trust me?’

God has been bringing me to a place of surrender, to a place of putting the unknowns of my future into his hands trusting He is who he says He is and is a faithful Father to us, His children. He is (patiently!) teaching me to judge my circumstances in light of His character. If I haven’t been short listed for a job or if I’m given a ‘no’ after an interview I must choose to trust that this is God in his faithful character working out His best for me.

This same faithful, loving God knows all the worries of your mind as well as mine. So if you aren’t doing well at school, if you are struggling with friends, if you are panicking about which ‘next steps’ to take, or anxious about illness or family relationships – God goes before you and is sovereign over every situation you will ever face.

Whatever your anxieties might be today, take time to remind yourself of who God is, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you put each anxious thought into God’s all sufficient hands.

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Rachael

Hello! I’m Rachael, 23 and have just graduated from the University of Nottingham with a Sociology degree. I grew up in Essex, spent a few months living in Australia and am now living in Devon near the sea. My favourite things are chatting with people, food, exploring new places and laughing ‘til my belly hurts. I love that there is something more of God for us to discover every day!

Summer Series: Glory in the Ruins

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The Summer Series has totally blown us away from start to finish. We are completely humbled by God’s hand so clearly at work in the lives of the girls reading, and we’re hugely excited for the future. If you’ve only just started following More Precious, the entire series is collected here and is also linked at the bottom of this post. We’re praying the posts will continue to be encouraging, affirming resources for girls from all walks of life for a long time to come.

We wanted to explore a little more with you one of the themes that has returned in almost every single post: the idea that God uses our ‘ruins’ for His glory. Indeed, the big picture of the Bible is the journey from judgement and ruin to restoration and glory – and central to this truth is our Saviour, Jesus.

“In that day I will restore the fallen house of David.
I will repairs its broken walls.
From the ruins, I will rebuild it and restore its former glory.”
Amos 9:11

God works by putting ‘the old’ to death and creating something new in us. This is the Gospel: we are made new in Christ . And God is also at work in our present situations, rebuilding our ruins and renewing us from the inside, day by day.

But, our Summer Series isn’t a display cabinet of fully-restored, fully-repaired lives. Nor were all our tough, painful questions fully answered. Living for Jesus hasn’t become easy. Cracks remain. Yet, it is through these cracks that God’s presence has truly shone. Just as in the art of Kintsukuroi, God’s grace shines like gold through the cracks in our lives, so that others might see that in our brokenness, our Creator is restoring us.

Each of the posts this summer has been personal, with themes of struggle, mistakes, rejection of God’s will, straying hearts, painful decisions; but all have returned to the work of God’s saving grace. Grace that fills up all our hurt, our cracks, our pain, our brokenness. And through these honest stories, so, so many girls have been pointed back to relationship with God: He really has been glorified in our brokenness.

“Sometimes the cracks remain so that the glory and light of
His presence can shine from within us for others to see.”
Elfrieda Nickel

Our lives will never be clean, perfect and sorted – not on this Earth. We are cracked and broken, we will make mistakes, and we will continue to choose our own way above God’s perfect will for us. But like a potter, God repairs us, shapes us, and moulds us, filling our cracks with His glorious grace, making us whole again. And when we are at our most broken, we can know the character of God most fully; truly learning to walk as children of light and of promise even in the darkest times.

For we are Christ’s, we have been redeemed, and we are being renewed day by day,
restored in the love of God. Glory in the ruins, always.

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

Beautiful Things, Gungor

And provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendour.
Isaiah 61:3

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Summer Series: Glory in the Ruins

Grief // Beauty & physical appearance // Sex before marriage // Returning to God // Choosing who to date // Insecurities about skin // Physical boundaries in dating // Marriage (1) // Marriage (2) // Anorexia // Doubting your faith  // Pornography // Peer pressure // Singleness (1) // Singleness (2) // Modesty // Sexual sin // Depression // Stress // Perfectionism

Stepping Out

Introducing the first of our ‘miniblog’ devotionals! This new weekly slot will be for shorter posts, which we hope will help you to learn more about God’s character through the Bible and encourage you to live for Jesus in all areas of your life. Our new writer Araba is starting us off, with her first post on how to step out in faith and live radically as a daughter of the King!

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‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’
Joshua 1:9

Going back to school can be a daunting experience for several reasons. You might be nervous about starting a new year, finding new friends or doing well in exams. Some of you may also have spent the summer in the bubble that is a Christian camp or festival, or will be wondering how to find that balance between home and school – particularly if the majority of your friends at school aren’t Christians.

The reassuring thing is, while you may feel like everyone else has it all figured out, the reality is that up and down the country, thousands of young people are wondering how they are going to fit in with others, balance their school work and stay excited about getting to know God and serving Him.

Perhaps you’re wondering how to broach the subject and let your friends know that you are, or have become, a Christian. What an encouragement to know that we aren’t alone, even when it may feel like it. God is with us during good times and the bad times, when we feel confident and when we lack confidence. You may worry about what friends will say or how they’ll react to your decision to follow Christ. But, let’s remember that God doesn’t call us to keep Him a secret:

“We’re here to be the light, bringing out the God colours in the World.
God is not a secret to be kept.
We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.’
Matthew 5:14 (MSG)

Recently, I had the opportunity to go swimming with mantarays. Despite being terrified of open water – to the point where I haven’t been swimming in over ten years- I did it. I prayed about it because I knew it was a once in a lifetime experience and that I would kick myself if I didn’t overcome my fear and step out in faith that God would be with me. God might be prompting you too, to step out and do things at school or at college; maybe reach out and speak to someone about your faith, join a Christian Union group, or reach out to a person who is on the fringes.

The challenge is not only making the decision to give your life to Christ, but being courageous enough to live by that decision every day. It sounds like a mountain to climb, but thankfully, God gives us the tools to do it, and you don’t have to do it alone..
- He will be with you wherever you go!

Father, I want to be light for you – at school, at home, and with my friends.
Please give me the strength and courage to step out in faith, and to live for you in everything I do.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Araba

Araba lives and works in Surrey. She’s a newly converted baking enthusiast who is definitely learning by trial and error. In her spare time she loves playing netball and being part of a book club. Araba recently returned from 9 months of travelling and has been both encouraged and stretched by the challenges and people that God put in her path.

Every Tear

Life is messy and hard and none of us will go through it without experiencing times of great sadness and confusion – especially when we lose somebody we know and love. Emma is writing for us today about grief, about how we don’t have to feel ashamed or guilty when we feel overwhelmingly sad – and how Jesus is our model of someone who lived, loved and hurt.

We’re praying that today’s post will comfort you if you are in a time of sadness or confusion, if you are still processing how to deal with loss – or if you are trying to be a good friend to somebody who is. In her own story of how she came to know God more fully in a time of great sadness, Emma reminds us that God is always good, that He is faithful, and that He loves.

It was Saturday at the start of May half term, 2006. I was 16 and half way through my GCSE exams, revising as if my whole life depended on it. I loved the feeling of ticking the exams off one at a time and was looking forward to a day off from my overly detailed revision plan.

That evening, my Mum took a phone call that would change my perspective on life from that moment forward. She didn’t tell me straight away what had happened, but eventually, she sat me down and told me she had some news. A friend of mine, who was 19, had been on his way home from university for the summer. He was stabbed whilst he was on the train. He hadn’t survived.

In the days that followed, I experienced a level of grief and sadness that I have never experienced before. The fact that the story was splashed across the news inevitably made it harder, along with the emotional comparison story that the journalists ran: the student who had everything to live for, killed by a man who had reportedly been released from prison only weeks before.

The weeks that followed were the most exhausting weeks I have ever had. Getting out of bed each day became a battle. I didn’t feel like eating, or sleeping or seeing anyone. The thought doing any revision for the rest of my exams didn’t even enter my realm of thinking.

The range of emotions we feel when we lose someone is overwhelming. There is the initial shock, and feeling that it can’t quite be true. There are feelings of guilt – why wasn’t I kinder to them? Why didn’t I look after them better? Why didn’t I make more of an effort to see them? Then there come feelings of anger – and I managed to be angry with pretty much everyone. I was angry at people who didn’t even speak to me or acknowledge what had happened, and at the same time was angry with people who tried to talk to me too much about what had happened.

I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the topic of coping with grief as a Christian, so I will just mention a few things that God taught me personally. My prayer is that some of it might be helpful for you or someone that you know who is grieving at the moment.

Firstly, it is ok to grieve. In the Bible, there is a moving, beautiful passage that shows Jesus grieving for his friend Lazarus:

When Jesus therefore saw Mary weeping, and the Jews who had come with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said, ‘Lord, Come and see.’ Jesus wept. And so the Jews were saying, ‘Behold, how He loved Him!
John 11:33-36

Here, we see Jesus’ great compassion, we see his love for others and we see him hurting – so we know that it is totally ok for us to cry and feel sad. It is a natural human response, and it shows that we too love, care and hurt – just like Jesus.

Sometimes it can also feel like we ought to have permission or a good enough reason to grieve, but I don’t think this is the case. It doesn’t matter whether it was your closest friend or someone you met once, whether they had lived a long successful life or a very short one, whether their death came as a sudden shock or you had some warning that it might come soon, it is ok to be upset. Grieving in itself isn’t sinful and we shouldn’t feel that we have ‘man up’ or put on a brave face.

Secondly, one of the most difficult aspects of grief is the feeling of being so alone. I remember desperately wanting to talk to someone who had been through a similar experience to me but I just couldn’t find anyone who might understand. When we are grieving, it can be really hard to talk about how we are feeling, either because we don’t quite know how to express our feelings in words or because we don’t feel like we have anyone we can be totally honest with.

As Christians, we can remember that we are never alone.

God promises that He is always with us. His Holy Spirit lives in us. God also gives us the gift of the church whose job it is to love in the way that Jesus taught us to love. We should lean on our church family when we are grieving. That’s what they are there for, and it is ok to be proactive and ask them for help. Similarly, we should make ourselves available to be leant on by others who are grieving or suffering in other ways. (Sometimes it can be hard to know how to comfort someone. Knowing how to be still and listen is so valuable – and saying “I’m sorry” is a great place to start.)

Finally, run into God’s arms.

When we are hurting that much, and we cant explain why something happened, or why we are feeling so emotionally raw, all of the usual resources we rely upon – like our ability to control things, our emotional strength, our energy – are stripped away from us. There is only one place for us to go. It is in times of grief and pain that we have no option but to look to who we know and trust God to be.

Our heavenly father is totally loving. He is overwhelmingly kind.
He is perfectly good. He is always just. He will never abandon us.

If I’m honest, there are times when I was grieving when I found it hard to believe some of those truths, and it was several years before I had even realised the effect that grief had had on my faith. The journey that God took me on to learn to live having lost my friend is continuous. There are days when it still makes me really sad. But when push comes to shove, I believe that God exists and that in His mercy, he loves me and made the biggest sacrifice ever so that I can be called His daughter. Everything else follows from there.

As someone who has a tendency to shed tears at almost every opportune moment (it’s just the way I’m wired!), there is one Bible verse that really speaks to me and shines a light into the darkness of grief:

For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
Revelation 7:17

This verse is talking about Jesus. He is leading us to a perfect eternal life. We are heading towards this day where there will be no more pain, no more guilt, no more anger and no more death. Ask God to help you to grab hold of this promise, and not let go.

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Emma

Emma graduated from Cambridge two years ago, having studied law. She now enjoys working in finance, which comes as a surprise to those who know her. Emma lives in Cambridge and loves being a member of Christ Church. She loves music, food, Jesus, her friends and since her wedding in April this year (!) is loving the adventure of marriage!

Gospel-Motivated Modesty

On Saturday, Laura shared with us how being a model as a Christian has changed her perception of what ‘beauty’ really is. She pointed to God’s all-encompassing love and encouraged us to find our satisfaction in Him rather than in our physical appearance. Today, Emma is writing for us on how we can respond to this in the way we choose to dress. As girls in today’s society, we receive lots of conflicting messages about the issue of ‘modesty’ – how do we define it? Should we ignore it? Are there rules to stick by?

Here at More Precious we want to encourage you to live love-shaped lives, and for Jesus to be at the heart of your decisions and choices. And, though it can be hard enough knowing what to wear or how to look without bringing ‘modesty’ into it – we should be aiming to live for Jesus and for the sake of others above ourselves, because we love Him and we want others to know Him too. Just like Paul in 1 Corinthians 9, love has to be our ultimate motivation. We hope that today’s post will encourage you to think honestly about the motivations behind your appearance, based on a foundation of  love.

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Image credit to Garance Dore

How much leg is too much? When is a skirt too short? It is impossible to find a definitive answer to questions like these, because society’s view of modesty changes. In the early 19th century, showing your ankle was considered immodest. Today, a little twerking seems alright.

But hang on a minute: we are called to be girls that look beyond the standards of society and instead live for Jesus in the best. most honourable way we can. So – let’s not discount ‘modesty’ as an old-fashioned term that doesn’t have relevance for us today. What does the Bible say about it?

Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:8-10:

“I desire…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 to worship God.”

Paul is not saying that to be modest you have to cover your body in frumpy clothes that hide your shape. The word ‘adorn’ means to enhance and make beautiful, and is used several times throughout the Bible to describe a bride making herself beautiful for her husband, mirroring God’s relationship with the church (Isaiah 61:10, Revelation 21:2). It is fine to ‘adorn’ yourself; in fact it is encouraged. The question is just what with.

Paul says we should dress in ‘respectable apparel’ – so what is considered respectable?

Well, he goes on to state that ‘braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire’ is not what he had in mind. But here comes the ‘C’ word: context. Paul was writing this letter to Timothy regarding his ministry in Ephesus. At the time, a lot of the people in the church in Ephesus were in the habit of dressing extravagantly, with fancy hairstyles and expensive clothing.

They were obsessed with showing their wealth.

So if we shouldn’t be showing our wealth, does that mean we shouldn’t wear designer clothing? Well, Paul rebuked the Ephesians for dressing to show off. But the problem wasn’t that they were spending money on their clothes, it was their motivations. Their focus was only on what they wore and that they were seen to be wearing the very best clothing, rather than focusing what was most important – God.

What Paul is really saying is this:

You should dress in a way that shows you want attention to be on God,
and not on yourself.

Think about your motivations. Do you wear what you wear because it feels good to know that other people are envious of your outfit? Are you constantly striving to look better than your friends? Are you seeking attention from certain people? Are you placing a higher importance upon how other people perceive you, than on how God views you?

Perhaps we should start viewing modesty in its broader sense: how we can dress in a way that best glorifies God. It’s not simply about covering ourselves up as much as possible, but about dressing in a way that shows the world we are living for something greater, we are not seeking our identity through our appearance, but we are comfortable in our identity as God’s daughter. This won’t mean having to commit to looking like an 8-person tent, but it might mean dressing in a way that will make people remember you and what you stand for, rather than your clothes.

Because Paul reminds us that modesty is not just about our clothing. It is about professing godliness – desiring to worship and honour God. We should show our worship of God in all that we do, in our behaviour and our attitudes, and that isn’t limited to what we wear. This means that we should not have such a preoccupation with our appearance that it takes us away from being able to focus on properly worshipping and being a witness.

God wants us to be free from cultural and worldly standards of beauty.
He wants us to focus solely on Him, and for nothing to distract us from seeking Him wholeheartedly.

‘…let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves.’ (1 Peter 3:3-4)

God wants you to know that you are more than what you wear. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and your worth is far beyond your physical appearance. God made you to be intelligent and courageous. He made you with dreams and ambitions and a voice.

You are beautiful, not because of what you wear or what you don’t wear and not because someone else says so, but because your hope is in God.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Father, today I pray for modesty in all I do.
I’m sorry for wanting to please other people more than I want to please You.
Let what I do, what I wear, and what I say be for Your glory and not for the praise or attention of others.
Let me be a a girl who hopes in You alone, and may everything I do today be a reflection of Your glory.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Emma

Emma lives and works in the fabulous city of Leeds with her husband, Tim. She has a passion for encouraging those who are low in spirit and loves to hear stories of God’s perfect timing. Her favourite things include a good latte, travelling, eating dessert for breakfast, dim sum and making people happy with food.

Click here to read the rest of Emma’s posts.

Modelling True Beauty

If you’re a girl, chances are that at some point in your life – perhaps each day – you will worry about the way you look. When we are so often preoccupied with our insecurities, how can we approach our physical appearance in a godly way? Today’s post is really helpful and interesting: we have Laura writing for us about how her experience as a model has challenged her perception of beauty. She reminds us that the way God sees us is very different to the way society does, and that we can only find our identity and security in Him. Lots of wisdom for everyone in today’s post…enjoy enjoy!

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This is a post about true beauty. I hope it doesn’t come across as rude or boastful. If anything I intend it to be the opposite. This post is also not about how “everyone is beautiful in their own way”. It’s a post about God’s grace, and about how we all desperately need it, especially myself.

It sometimes comes up in conversation: “Oh wow! I never knew you were a model? That’s amazing, I wish I could be too…” My common response is a shy smile and a change of subject, but I often want to ask why?

We are constantly striving to change and “improve” how we look. I’m convinced this is because we only see the “benefits” that society persuades us we need – the subtle messages that tell us “buy this makeup, and you will look like this successful woman ” or “wear these clothes like this model and you will look amazing – by doing all this people will like you and a handsome man like this will whisk you off your feet and you will never have problems ever again!” You get my point.

I will tell you now, and I speak from experience: if you base your happiness on what other people think of how you look, you will never be fulfilled. It will be a constant search for affirmation, and you will never find it.

Here’s a thought. Doesn’t this all sound a little… religious to you: “You must buy this, wear that, say this and do that and then you will be loved”? But it is normal to see this in the secular world. You’re more strange if you don’t seem to care.

And yet, do any of the Ten Commandments say you must do this or look this way to be loved? No, rather it is the opposite – they are all centred on the idea of loving God, and others, before ourselves. There is nothing in the Bible that tells us how to improve our image to be more accepted by others and loved by God.

We are unconditionally loved, regardless of how we look.

God rightly looks at the state of our hearts, not the state of our skin. It is a deep rooted part of our human nature to want acceptance and love. This is not a bad thing. Check out Mark 12:28-31, the two greatest commandments according to Jesus. Does it surprise you that they are all based on love, when we realise that God created us to be loving beings?

One of the ways we try to achieve this is by enhancing our beauty. The feminine figure is a thing of beauty – it’s God’s creation and we see it in artwork everywhere! But this desperate thirst for beauty and acceptance has made us into slaves – it comes from a discontentment that began at the Fall. Every single woman struggles here in some way, regardless of shape. Even the “beautiful” ones. We are brought up to base our perception of ourselves on the people around us who are “better”, “prettier””more successful” etc. Why do you think plastic surgery is so popular amongst celebrities? Because we buy into this idea that by achieving the perfect look we will be fulfilled.

I never really dreamed of being a model. Of course, I daydreamed a little – I thought that if I was a famous model I would be getting somewhere in life and fulfilled, but it was never a serious dream. But when I was approached in a crowd at a festival a couple of years ago and my friend insisted I go back to the agency, I was challenged – does this mean I am beautiful? Am I actually about to be what so many girls and guys want to be? It didn’t make sense – I didn’t think I was really “model material” if anything I was a gangly girl with dark rings under my eyes, an awkward jawline, a big nose, thin lips and thin hair. Why would they be interested in me?

Did it make me feel any better? Did I become a better person with my new found beauty? Far from it. I felt more pressure than ever to live up to this expectation, which was totally out of my control. My fate as a human coat hanger depended on whether I matched the requirements of the designer, the photographer, the agency. I even began to worry when I started putting a little bit of weight on. I would sit in the makeup chair, watching the other girls get ready, and feel incredibly inferior in looks, confidence, style. The girls would effortlessly creating professional photos before my eyes. I would shuffle awkwardly as I try to look moodily for the camera.

There are many obvious crises in the world that we must care and grieve about, such as the fighting in Israel, the terrible things happening in Iraq, slavery, racism, prejudice. But it also grieves me when I see young teenage girls who a few years ago were so content with life to be suddenly so focused on the bedroom mirror, interrogating every pore, sucking non-existent tummies in and applying makeup because without it they don’t feel beautiful enough. It makes me sad to see them feel trapped by their fear of not looking “right”, and the devastating effects it can have. I don’t want to be a model any more – I don’t want to appear to be encouraging the damage this industry has on our sisters. We must turn to God for our affirmation, which is everlasting, and not to other’s opinions on temporary beauty.

I would still give an unflattering description of my appearance today. I need God’s grace. I am not confident in myself, to the point where I often consider myself inferior to everyone around me, in looks and more. I am hardly ever grateful for the body God has given me to care for, and to use for His glory. I constantly worry: “do I look good enough today?” “Are people judging me on my height/makeup/hair? “I feel so out of place being this tall (add your own: short, thin, fat) Should I slouch (wear heels, go on a diet, not eat) to try and fit in?” It’s true- I naturally think of myself as unconventional looking, and very often wish I could just blend into a crowd. Do these thoughts sound familiar to you?

Yet God is slowly teaching me to want to look the way He wants me to look. Like a woman who cares deeply about Him, and as a result takes care of the precious gift she has been given, and revels in it.

What does God’s grace teach us? God tells us that he loves us far more than anyone else ever could. He has destined you from before time. God cares about you deeply, and gave His only Son so that we could be united to Him again, to be more like the loving beings before the Fall that we were created to be. The more we see how fully human Jesus is, and the more we live like him, the more human we will be and more fulfilled. (Read Hebrews 2:5-18) It’s true – the more I get to know Jesus and his love for me, the more I am convinced it is only from God that we can see our true beauty, and this is what I sincerely want you all to know for yourselves today.
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Laura

I’m Laura, I’ve just graduated from Durham University and I am just starting out on my Relay year working for UCCF! I play clarinet and saxophone and I love to sing. In my free time I like to compose music (particularly choral) and catch up with friends. I became a Christian at university and my life has not been the same since!

A Walk of Grace

In so many of our posts that have been written for More Precious, we have seen the same pattern: a lifestyle that rejects God being transformed into one that chooses to walk in the light of God’s saving grace. Rosie’s story today shows us how relationship with God is greater and more fulfilling than anything we try and search for on our own, and it is a huge reminder of how much we need saving, of how much we are continually walking in grace. 

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You’re not going to like this post. Or at least, you’re not going to like this post if you close your browser halfway through reading it. It’s gritty, not at all sugar coated and true. But there is a message at the end which I’ll be praying will encourage and challenge you today. So, thank you in advance for reading this post to the end.

As Christians we want (hopefully!) to share the gospel and explain it to people who don’t believe so that they can put their trust in Jesus. After all, the Bible tells us to go make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). However, I wonder if occasionally, we avoid having gospel-centred conversations with certain people whom we think won’t take it well, or are in too bad a place to be open to hearing the news of our incredible salvation through Jesus Christ. I will put my hands up here and say that I have done this. Sometimes, as I’ve seen someone getting kicked out of a club for being too drunk, or starting a brawl, or stumbling down the street at 2am on a Friday night, I’ve thought: “I’ll leave someone else to talk to that person. I’m definitely not up for the job!” It’s so sad, and something I have been convicted of and am working on, but it is true.

That’s easy to say now as someone who has put their trust in Jesus, feels the love and warmth that having a restored relationship with God can bring and tries to live a life that glorifies Him. But a year and a half ago, that girl getting kicked out of the club for being too drunk was me.

In my first term and a half of university, I took the drinking culture very seriously. I was consistently drunk five nights a week, and slept around quite a lot. I guess I thought, naïvely, that if I guy was interested in me at 2am, he would still be interested in me at 9am. In hindsight, all I was searching for was that feeling of being wanted, which I thought I could achieve by going home with a guy. What I didn’t realise was that with every boy I never saw again, with every time I walked home on my own, I felt more unwanted than the last time. This soon spiralled out of control, and by the beginning of my second term, I knew I was in a bad place. I knew it wasn’t pretty, and I knew that I wasn’t going to get out of it on my own.

As it turned out, I didn’t have to get out of it on my own. God was so good and so loving to me that He made it part of his incredible providence to put one particular friend in my life. And this friend didn’t think I was too difficult a case. She didn’t think I was beyond Jesus’ love. She didn’t leave it to someone else to talk to me about the Gospel. She saw someone who was hurting, who needed love and help,and invited me to church.

I’m happy to say that my heart was gripped by the gospel, and I put my faith in Jesus Christ.

One particular make-or-break moment, shortly after I became a Christian, was when I flicked by accident to the wrong page of my new 1 Corinthians Bible study notes. I hadn’t really looked at my Bible since coming home for the summer holidays, but I decided to appease my friends’ badgering to do personal quiet time by doing a study.  I opened my new Bible and began to read the wrong passage. This is what it said:

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

I was struck by this passage immediately. I ticked so many of those boxes! But there was the proof, right there – through putting my faith in Jesus, I was washed, sanctified and justified. Despite all the horrible things that I have done (that you now know), I was blameless in the eyes of the Creator of the universe, because someone else was willing to die for me so that I could live. Not just anyone, but the son of God! Remember how I said that what I had been searching for was feeling wanted? Well, there it is.

God so wanted me that he paid the ultimate price, so that I, a sinner, could have a real relationship with Him.

So that I could inherit His kingdom, and live as His child and heir, sharing in Christ’s glory. I, and all of us who have put our faith in Jesus, are now twice His, as not only did He create us but He redeemed us also, and at what a cost! It doesn’t get any more wanted than that.

Since then, God has used my life to showcase the incredible power that He has to change hearts. My life has changed so much for the better because I want to live in a way that glorifies God – it’s the least I could do considering what He has done for me!

No one is too bogged down in sin to be saved, and EVERYONE can have salvation if they put their trust in Jesus. Jesus was so holy, and yet so gracious that he hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors and lepers, the people that society shunned most. It will be a long, winding path before we stand before God as a perfect mirror of Jesus’ character, certainly! But one of the first steps on this path, surely, is to try and emulate Jesus’ kindness and talk about Him to everyone, especially those who we feel inclined to dismiss.  

Jesus treated people who don’t believe with compassion, because they are like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). So let’s be concerned about the eternal fate of our fellow man. Let’s speak to as many people as possible about Jesus, because we love them and we love our King. Let’s not worry about how badly they might take it. Someone at my church once said to me: “Don’t worry about what they think of Jesus, but worry about what Jesus thinks of them.” I think that sums it up very well!

I’m not ashamed of the things I did in the past because they were all part of God’s amazing plan for me to learn to trust in Him. So, hi!
I’ve been saved by grace despite everything I’ve done, and I’ve learnt that nothing – no party, man, drink, club, or anything else on this earth – will ever be better than having a personal relationship with God, through Jesus, my Lord and Saviour, and the Holy Spirit.

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Rosie

Rosie is just about to start her third year of a Biomedical Sciences degree at Durham University. She loves singing, songwriting, cooking, baking and playing hockey. Rosie recently came back from two weeks in Beijing, where she was astounded to see how God is working in China. She aims to always remind people (and herself!) that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), in the hope that they will be spurred to live more radically for Jesus!

Unbreakable Promises: Depression and Faith

Depression and mental illness are so prevalent in the lives of people around us, yet we often feel underequipped to talk about them. Mental illnesses are complex and painful, yet as Christians we are called to love others and love them well, knowing that God is present and in control.

So, we’re really glad that Emma is writing today, as someone studying clinical depression, to take us through some of the biggest questions: what is depression? How is it affecting our friends and family members who suffer? How can we support others well? How can we speak about mental illness and still point to God’s almighty love? I believe these are hugely important questions to tackle. We want to encourage you to be informed about mental illness, but more importantly we want you to believe and be confident that God is present in everything, even in a life that is overwhelmed with the weight and burden of depression. He is always working for our good and our future glory. 

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For many years now, I have watched someone I love struggle to fight the black cloud of depression. Seeing them in pain and not knowing how to help them has been unbearable at times. But the worst thing has been not being able to understand what they’re going through.

There is a certain lack of understanding in today’s society about mental illness. Several charities and campaigns are working hard to increase people’s understanding of what it is to suffer from mental illness and how we can respond. It’s a difficult thing to talk about; it is an illness that lives in your head… how can anyone possibly relate or understand what you’re going through? I have little experience of depression being talked about in church. I’ve only heard it mentioned once or twice in churches that I’ve attended, and that was only through prayer. I’ve never heard a sermon on depression. With 1 in 4 people experiencing some sort of mental health problem every year, why is it not spoken about more?

When preparing to write this piece, I did a little research about what attitudes to mental illness, depression in particular, are being talked about in the church. I listened to a couple of talks and read a few articles that, while well written, in my opinion, just didn’t get it. One article argued that depression is caused by lingering sin in our lives and that we need to learn to have more faith and trust God more to be healed. I do not agree. I would like to start straight off by saying that, if you are currently suffering from depression or have done in the past, it is not because there is something wrong with you. It is not a character flaw, a personality trait, nor is it a lack of faith or disobedience to God. Depression is a disease. Depression does not take into account your faith: you can be as much a Christian with depression and you can be a Christian with diabetes.

I think it’s important to understand what exactly depression is and how it can manifest itself. While the biology of depression is not completely understood yet, the widest theory states that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, which then affects a person’s mood and behaviours. There is also a genetic link to depression, with scientists in recent years narrowing it down to a specific chromosome.

The word depression is thrown around very lightly in our conversations, but depression is not just feeling a bit sad or low every now and then – everyone feels that from time to time. Here, I’m talking about what is called ‘clinical depression’, whether it is diagnosed or not. Dorothy Rowe describes depression as ‘a prison where you are both the suffering prisoner and the cruel jailer’. Through my counselling training, I’ve learnt that common signs of depression may include a constant feeling of being low, lack of sleep, disinterest or lack of pleasure in activities, loss of energy and motivation, physical pain and feelings of worthlessness, just to name a few. We all feel like sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning, but for people with depression, it can be an unbelievably enormous burden. Life seems too hard to even try and the better option is to stay in bed, protected from the world.

While these symptoms can be indicators of depression, we must understand that it is a unique disease that will affect each person differently. Some people may not exhibit these signs in public, if at all. Someone may tell you they have depression and you may be surprised – they always seem so happy and cheerful on the outside, but we cannot know the pain they are keeping hidden.

There seems to be an attitude among some Christians that depression should not exist if you have faith or that because we have the gift of grace, we have nothing to be sad about. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this breed resentment and guilt, leading people to believe that their illness means they have a lack of faith, or are a bad Christian. More guilt is bred when sinning behaviour is modified yet the depression still doesn’t go away. This is so far from the truth that God wants us to believe.

Depression is the by-product of a sinful world,
not the by-product of your personal sin.

And equally, taking a pill for depression is taking a pill for a broken body. Not a broken soul.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a huge believer in the healing power of prayer. There are stories in the Bible of God lifting people out of depression. In 1 Kings 9:4-5, we see that it got so bad for Elijah, that he wanted to die . ‘He asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life…”’. I have seen God heal people in unimaginable and impossible ways, and yes, I do believe God can lift people out of the darkness of depression. I’ve heard stories of it happening and I’ve seen the change in people. We should always pray but we should keep in mind that depression is incredibly complex. In the Bible, God healed people of their depression, but they also didn’t have access to the technology and knowledge that we have today. God has given it to us – we should not deny its use.

But sometimes one of the most painful side effects is that you feel far from God, unworthy of his love. After all, He has given you grace and power and strength – how come you can’t overcome this? We are promised that if we cast our burdens on the Lord he will look after us. He will sustain us, carry us and protect us. But even though we believe this as Christians, and even though the Bible promises us this, in the midst of depression, it can feel like a lie. People can remind us to count it all as joy, when you meet hard times. I’ve met many people with an incredibly strong faith, but no matter how hard they try and how strongly they believe it, they cannot feel that joy. They cannot feel joy the joy in suffering and hurting. They ask God ‘why me?’ and He doesn’t seem to answer.

When a child dies of cancer and a mother questions how God possibly let that happen and still be loving and good, it is difficult to understand why. I believe that the answer is sometimes this: ‘because I am using you’. It is the same with depression. You don’t know how God is using you through your experience of depression. It may be that someone you told about it finds the courage to get help themselves. It may be that someone feels a little less alone in their struggle. It might not be that profound; it might just be that you learn something about yourself that you didn’t realise before. But it is also important to remember that, as Christians, we are not exempt from suffering.

If you are in the midst of depression or in a dark place, please know that God is with you. He will provide you with people to pray with you, doctors with the knowledge to understand this illness and treatments like counselling and medication to treat it. Even if you can’t feel Him and a way out seems impossible, He is there. God promised that he would look after you, and He does not break His promises.

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How do we react to people with depression?

Chances are you know someone in your family or circle of friends who suffers from depression. For us on the outside, it can be incredibly difficult to understand what they are going through or how to help them.

  • Don’t judge. Depression is not logical. Chances are, your friend already knows the wonderful things in their life and how much worse other people have it –it will only create guilt to be reminded of it.
  • Be selfless. Conversation works by sharing and comparing experiences. It is likely that you will know someone who has experienced a similar situation, but depression is different for each person. Presuming to understand how they feel or sharing your experiences can feel condescending, no matter how well meaning it may be.
  • Just listen. As tempting as it can be, try not to offer solutions or advice, but instead just listen to what your friend has to say. Just being a witness to someone’s story can be incredibly healing.
  • Don’t push. Your friend has been incredibly brave in sharing their story. While you may want to encourage them to seek professional help, whether through prayer or counselling, they may not be ready for it.
  • Get support. Supporting someone with depression can take a huge emotional toll on you. It is absolutely vital that you take steps to support yourself, like finding someone to talk to, so that you don’t find yourself overloaded or weighed down.
  • Love gently. Someone with depression cannot just ‘snap out of it’. Being patient, and just being there for your loved one when they ask for it can be an incredible gift.

Helpful links:

http://www.sane.org.uk/

http://www.mind.org.uk/

http://www.samaritans.org/

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Emma

Emma lives and works in the fabulous city of Leeds with her husband, Tim. She has a passion for encouraging those who are low in spirit and loves to hear stories of God’s perfect timing. Her favourite things include a good latte, travelling, eating dessert for breakfast, dim sum and making people happy with food.

Click here to read the rest of Emma’s posts.

Rollercoaster Faith

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Lots of you will have been on a Christian camp or festival this summer, and will have learnt new things about God and experienced Him in incredible ways. Sometimes it can be hard readjusting to home-life, or to routine after these weeks away – and we know that there can often be times where doubts can creep in, and you might start to wonder whether you can ‘maintain’ the Christian life in a different environment, or if your faith will hold up at all. These ups and downs are what we’re nicknaming ‘rollercoaster faith’ – when you feel torn between pursuing God wholeheartedly, or going your own way and fitting in with everyone else instead.

Don’t be discouraged! Just because we don’t feel incredibly passionate or hugely excited about following God every single day doesn’t mean our faith isn’t there. Faith is for these very moments! Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about things unseen.

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.
It’s our handle on what we can’t see.

Hebrews 11:1

Yes, God can feel ‘unseen’ when we’re back at school, trying to tell our friends what we did over the summer holidays while avoiding using the word ‘Christian’. God feels ‘unseen’ when we are the only one in our friendship group that seems to be following Jesus at all. He feels ‘unseen’ when we’re nervously preparing to go to university, and the Facebook fresher page is full of people keen to do anything and everything except live for Jesus.

But, whether you’re struggling without term-time routine, drifting without the accountability of Christian friends, or wondering how to live out your faith consistently, we’re praying that God’s truths will steady your ‘rollercoaster faith’ little by little, and that you would recognise that instead you have a “spiritual lifeline” which will never fail you.

1. Know that God will never abandon us.

God is as present in the downs as in the ups – He doesn’t come and go with our moods or feelings. And you know, often we need those ‘downs’ in order that we might be changed and made better. God wants to make us into the best version of ourselves, and this involves pruning.

Pruning and changing is painful, but it’s necessary in order that our rough edges might be broken off and we will be made more beautiful. Isn’t this a truth that has been displayed so clearly throughout all the posts we’ve shared this summer series? The ‘downs’ can be the places where God’s work is most visible, present, tangible of all.

So, walk with God every day. If you want to know somebody better, it’s natural to spend time with them, so try and read your Bible, because God’s character is displayed here and you’ll find His truth and promises. And when it’s hard, ask Him to help you before you open the pages. When you forget or make mistakes, remember His grace. Accept that there will be elements of ‘rollercoaster’ in your journey of faith – but choose to praise God in the middle of every up and down, and don’t fall into the trap of thinking that He’s only there in the ‘good bits’. He never leaves us.

2. Know that He is there in the everyday.

A life of praise feels easy and natural when we are surrounded by people at camps or festivals or at church – after all, we are designed to worship our Creator. However, readjusting to normal, everyday life can shock us. How do we praise God when we’re too busy with school, too busy with work? How can we be excited about living for Jesus when none of our friends want to hear the name mentioned? How can we be truly ‘on fire’ if we’re too embarrassed to bring up that we go to church?

You know, fighting these internal battles and making those tough choices to stand out and be bold are just as much ‘worship’ as anything we do at camp or at Christian festivals. They are tough decisions, often not noticed by anybody else – but they are so valuable in God’s eyes, and they will make us mighty warriors! Keep pursuing God in the details, in the small and often-missable everyday choices you make – and know that the repitition of good habits and wise choices will grow in you a heart that is God-fearing and strong.

3. We can’t save ourselves.

I used to get home from Spring Harvest most years and write down a list of everything I needed to do to ‘remain changed’: read the Bible before school, pray on the walk to the bus stop, write a list of all my friends that I needed to tell about Jesus, pray for my family every day. Within a few weeks, I’d failed miserably, and I was doubting whether I had really been changed at all.

I hadn’t grasped grace.

Grace is what saves us and gives us that spiritual lifeline. We’re not saved or changed by our own efforts. We’re changed because God loved us enough to send Jesus to take all our mistakes, sin and shame so that we don’t have to live in guilt or fear. This frees us up to live lives praising God motivated by love and not by fear. We’re not judged on what we do!

We don’t have a rollercoaster God. Our God is constant.

He controls time; He holds the world in His hands. His nature is unchanging. He has already saved us and He has always loved us! God is the same, whether you are praising Him amongst thousands of other joyful Christians or feeling desperately alone and nervous on your first day back at school. You can call on His name whether you are praying in church, or having the worst freshers’ week you could imagine.

In some ways, an element of rollercoaster Christianity is almost inevitable: our nature as human beings is that we are weak and easily blown off course. We get passionate about pursing God, and then we give up a little and go our own way. It’s the pattern we see in the Bible with the Israelites time and time again. Yet God remains constant, there to pick up the pieces, there to guide us back to Him with unfailing love and all-covering grace.

Your status doesn’t change, depending on how many Christian friends you’re surrounded by, or how many camps you go on in a summer. Your status is wrapped up in the fact that you are a child of God. There is grace enough for all your mistakes and more. Know that God is constant, pursue Him in the everyday, and find joy and security in the fact that you have been saved!

P.S. Never Too Young To Read Your Bible is a really helpful post written by Hannie, which encourages us to explore our Bibles in new, living and exciting ways so that we can learn more about Jesus and grow in our faith.

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Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

I’m Lucy and I’m just coming to the end of my second year at Durham University. I love my hometown Cambridge and I also love living in the beautiful little city of Durham, where the coffee shops are plentiful and the people are GREAT!

Running More Precious is one of my favourite things and I’m super excited after the impact this summer series has made! Like I said in my bio, I’m still learning how to live out a little of the thankfulness of Pollyanna, the kindness of Katy Carr and the faith of the Proverbs 31:25 girl – perhaps one day I’ll get there!

Found in Cosmo, not Christianity…

The overwhelming response to our Summer Series so far has been that of gratitude for God’s grace, and to the brave girls who have explored painful, messy issues for us in a grace-centred way. Amidst the struggles of eating disorders, mental illness, and the everyday insecurities about body image, skin and relationships, it has been amazing to see girls pointed to Jesus and able to reconcile life’s challenges with God’s perfect love for us.

Today we have one of the bravest posts yet – encouraging us to be honest, open and Christ-centred in the struggle with sexual sin and masturbation. Even these words are such a taboo amongst Christian girls, and while they are completely at home on the pages of Cosmo, or in a boys-only accountability session – Christian girls are often left alone and ashamed in their struggles. We’re praying that Eve’s post will break that first taboo and allow you to pursue Jesus wholeheartedly in this area of your life – releasing you from shame, equipping you to fight sin and pointing you to the grace of God.

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Everyday I walk around wearing a cloak of shame. It weighs heavy on my back and grasps hold of my thoughts and feelings, determined not to let me loose. Perhaps the feeling is familiar for you too. For me, my shame is a result of my struggle with sexual sin. The burden of past mistakes with guys. Oh, and the habitual sin of masturbation. There. I said it. I’m a Christian, I’m a girl, and I masturbate.

For those of you who have absolutely no idea how this could be an issue for a girl who seems to do all the right things – who goes to church every Sunday, prays and reads her bible, does a theology degree, longs to be a Godly and sacrificially loving wife and mother, but above all else seeks to glorify God and fall hopelessly in love with Him – then this is to give you some insight.

To the girl who is peering at the screen, face bright red, heartbeat racing, filled with shame from her own mistakes but finally somewhat comforted that someone else is struggling too, then this is for you.

In church circles – particularly with Christian girls – this is something we NEVER talk about. However, I refuse to believe that I am alone in my struggle with sexual sin and masturbation. If you also struggle with this, then you should refuse to believe it too. I’m right here! I want you to hear me declare that I’m struggling! We are not alone in this.

Now, honestly, would you be quite so shocked to read this if I was a guy? Or if I was in a relationship and struggling with my boyfriend? The fact that we have these preconceived misconceptions means we unfairly pin the blame for sexual sin on men, expecting them to be the culprits or at least the instigators of such behaviour. But I’m a single girl. Surely I wouldn’t be struggling with sexual sin, right? Oh how I wish.

Several years ago, I proceeded to work my way from base to base with guys – using the cringey teenage baseball analogy – attempting to justify myself with the weak assurance that at least it wasn’t a home run. Surely that meant that it was ok? I left each relationship with a few shallow promises to myself that it wouldn’t happen again, and a renewed fervour to seek a considerably better guy next time. For a time I would glimpse a sliver of God’s glorious freedom from that sin and shame, but I would never feel completely set free.

I knew that what I had done, what I was doing, and what I still do is wrong, but I could never bring myself to even utter a whisper of my sin to someone else that could help. This was partly due to the weight of shame I had piled on myself, partly due to my fear of being judged by whoever I told, but also mainly due to the shameful part of myself that still desired to wallow in my muck because, let’s be honest, it feels good.

However, admitting this to you should be no different to admitting that, in Year 4, I stole another girl’s purple flexi-ruler and lied that it was mine, when I’d actually broken my own and didn’t want to tell my mum. So why am I so terribly afraid of your judgement? I don’t mind you knowing about the ruler incident. Why have we so steeped this one particular sin in shame that it is the unforgivable sin above all other sins, never to be spoken of? ‘For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23) God doesn’t see a hierarchy of sin. Why do we?

‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.’ Romans‬ 8: 1-3‬

Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, he has taken that cloak of sin and shame, stamped on it, spat on it, stabbed it with a pitchfork, poured petrol on it, set it ablaze, and fed the ashes to a lion so that I never again have to wear such shame. This is a feat that none of us could ever do on our own as our flesh is so weak it is incapable of not sinning. Hence why God did it for us out of His immeasurable and everlasting love for us to release us into His spirit-filled freedom.

This is a beautiful truth. One that has the power to transform lives the world over, and yet somehow, it wasn’t quite fully transforming mine. Somewhere in my heart there was a divide between the knowledge that God can remove my sin and shame, and, honestly, a lack of desire to combat sin and see real change. This is the age-old battle between desire for God and the desires of the flesh.

Reader, I wish I could be the one that hands you the key, shining on a silver platter with a chorus of angels in the background, to bridge this gap. I wish I could give you tips like ‘don’t lie down together’, ‘leave room for Jesus’ or ‘just don’t put anyone’s hands near anyone’s pants’ and that would solve it. I could even go so far as to say ‘don’t date’, ‘wear a chastity belt’, ‘don’t even look at the opposite sex’. But this will not solve the problem.

The only way I know of to practically solve this problem is not really that practical at all: it is a change of heart.

From my own experience, this is the twofold plan of action that I believe will best help you to remove the shame and combat the sin of masturbation:

One.

Stop viewing God as the enemy, who sees your sin and turns His back on you. Understand that He is for you and meets you with grace. Surrender yourself to Him and then prepare to wage war against sin and Satan, with God as your ally. Refuse to let this sin rule over your life, hindering your ability to glorify God and enjoy Him. Once you begin to take this battle seriously, you will start to experience God’s strong, mighty, majestic power to combat Satan, but also His gentle, patient, loving power to attack the sinful desires in your own heart. God longs to draw you close to himself so that he can work in your heart and release you into great freedom and joy:

‘The Lord appeared from afar saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you to myself with loving kindness. I will build you up again, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your timbrels and dance with the joyful.”‘ Jeremiah 31:3-4

Two.

Phone a friend. Tell someone. There is huge power and freedom in simply saying something out loud. I know it’s scary; it makes you incredibly vulnerable and open to judgement and rejection, but please, find someone that you trust and have them alongside to hold you accountable. Get them to challenge you monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, whatever it takes.

The bible instructs us to seek out this accountability because God knows how valuable it is: ‘Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.’ (James 5:15)

The only reason I am able to write this post now is because I eventually got to a point where I had to tell someone who could help. While it hasn’t magically made the problem go away, it does mean that I’ve got someone else in my corner, mopping my brow and making sure I’m still swinging the punches. If you can’t think of anyone that you trust then perhaps you need to be investing more in your Christian friendships to allow you to be more honest and open. Alternatively, speak to someone in your church, your CU or even contact myself or one of the More Precious team. We would so love to support you in seeking God’s glorious best for you in a life that is no longer ruled by shame and sin:

‘Do not be afraid, you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace, you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is His name – the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth.’ Isaiah 54:4-5

Obviously this post is not going to single-handedly stop masturbation in the church. If only it were that simple! Realistically, what I want to see is a change in our attitude towards it.

Sex is a good thing. Wanting sex and having a sex drive is a good and healthy thing – even as a woman, though it is so often frowned upon both in church and culture. However satisfying that sex drive with anyone but your husband (including yourself) is not the way God intended. So, I don’t suggest we accept it or say it isn’t sin. But I do propose that we stop pretending this isn’t a problem for girls too, cloaking it in shame to the extent where people, particularly girls, feel unable to admit their struggles and be released into God’s beautiful freedom, won for us on the cross. Our job is to love our brothers and sisters in Christ as they receive God’s conviction for their sins, not to heap more shame on top of what Satan is already hissing to them.

As such, I urge you to share this post. Even if it reaches just one other person who feels cloaked in shame, to tell them that there is grace, freedom and joy found in God through accountability to others, then this horrifically painful display of honesty will have been worth it.

I’m a Christian, I’m a girl and I’m struggling with masturbation, but God, the mighty warrior, is on my side and I’m determined to live in His freedom, not the devil’s shame. What about you?

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Eve

Hi, I’m Eve, a Durham Theology student about to start her second year, who dreams of travelling, making the perfect quilt, having a family, and starring on The Great British Bake-Off. More importantly though, I’m passionate about loving God above all else, getting excited to see His Kingdom come, and encouraging other girls to pursue their beautiful God-given identity in Christ.

How Far Is Too Far?

Lovely girls, I am very excited to be sharing a post from Lara with you all this morning – she is one of the wisest, most encouraging and passionate people I know, and her pursuit of relationship with God regularly inspires me. Lara has been brave in tackling the topic of physical and emotional boundaries within relationships, sharing her insights and pointing us back to what God desires for us and where our identity rests. Filled with lots of wonderful Bible passages that show us glimpses of God’s character, this post is great for keeping perspective on who He is, who we are, and what our purpose ultimately is in this world. So – let’s try and honour God in the way we do relationships – as messy as they often are and as wrong as we often get them! Here we go.. L xo

Screen shot 2014-08-11 at 23.20.10I’ve not been quite sure how to go about writing this post if I am completely honest. My fear is that it might come across as self-righteous and condemnatory. Furthermore, the topic of boundaries in relationships isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Bible. Despite these two obstacles that have held me back from writing so far, I do believe that the Bible has some clear guidelines that have been helpful in my own life. I want to share these valuable gems with you and hope that they serve to challenge and encourage you in thinking about purity and boundaries – whether you are in a relationship or not.

If someone had said to me a few years ago that I would be in a serious relationship striving wholeheartedly for godliness, I would have laughed and said that serious kind of relationship was for much later on when I was ready to settle down and had developed some more self-control. I used to always view those super-godly couples as a cut above the rest with shining halos and pristine pasts. Yet now I find myself almost hitting the one-year mark in a more healthy and mature relationship than I ever thought I’d be in at 20 years old…and I certainly don’t have any sort of halo!

Inevitably there was that point fairly early on in the relationship where the ‘boundaries bridge’ had to be crossed and we had to ‘have the chat’. I was quite nervous for this chat because God had been challenging me in the area of purity and boundaries through a podcast series I had just listened to. I had had relationships in the past and drew the line at ‘no sex before marriage’ but I had crossed the line at other points and in other ways. I knew that in this relationship, I wanted to honour and uphold not only my own purity, but also his – and so I felt that it would be best if we didn’t kiss. I knew that this was pretty radical, even within a Christian relationship!

In making that decision, I didn’t think that I was better or more holy than my other Christian friends in relationships – I was simply being honest with myself. From my past experiences, I knew that kissing was bound to lead to more – not just physically, but also in my mind. At each of those past times, I was thinking ‘I’m not crossing the line. This is harmless and feels good’, but in reality, I was destroying the relationship by making it more about the physical than the friendship. I was feeding my own pleasure which is not loving at all! Love is not self-seeking… (1 Corinthians 13:5).

The Bible does not clearly outline the ‘thou shalt/shall nots’ on the topic of boundaries within dating (dating isn’t even a concept in the Bible!), BUT Ephesians 5:3 does say that there be ‘not even a hint of sexual immorality among you’. So asking the question ‘how far can I go?’ is simply not the right question to be asking if we want to pursue godliness. What that question is really asking is ‘How close to the line (sexual sin) can I get without crossing it?’ The problem is that Scripture explicitly tells us not even to ‘approach’ the line, but to turn and run from it. The question we should all ask — in any area of our lives — is ‘How can I best pursue that to which God has called me?’ We are all called to pursue holiness and purity in our personal lives – and so if ‘how far can I go?’ is a question you regularly ponder and ask, I would challenge you to examine your motives.

I know that personally, in the past when I would ask older wiser women that question, I was looking for confirmation that as long as I wasn’t sleeping with my boyfriend, anything else was fine. I was undeniably not wholeheartedly seeking to be like Jesus and please Him first. Song of Songs (2:7, 3:5, 8:4) says, ‘Don’t excite love, don’t stir it up, until the time is ripe – and you’re ready’. The question therefore is not ‘where is the line?’ but rather ‘when is the time?’. God is not the enemy of your love life (He made love and sex!) but He does set a standard. The desires you have for intimacy are good and right, but wait until God can look at it and bless it. Until that point, by God’s grace, we should strive for the standard that He has set, yet know that grace abounds when we fail.

For some this will be hard to hear as you have already made mistakes and ‘crossed the line’ – but the truth is that ALL of us have. Sexual sin is not just what we do with our bodies but also in our minds and hearts. Despite the times where I have fallen short of God’s standards in the area of sexual purity, I know that there is hope and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. If we truly repent of our past sins and turn from them and believe in the atoning blood of Christ, we are not ‘damaged goods’ but new creations. We are WASHED, sanctified and justified in the name of Jesus!

The gospel of Jesus is not for pristine people but for the unclean and broken.

If we look at how God related to his people in the Old Testament, we see that God relentlessly pursued His people and drew them to Himself even though they had gone astray, prostituting themselves with other gods. You are not too far from the arms of Christ’s redemption and He will make the valley of your shame into a doorway of hope (Hosea 2:15). As Christ’s bride, He delights in washing us clean. What was red as crimson has become white as snow, so we can confidently enter into God’s presence knowing that we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness. For “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

A verse that has stayed at the forefront of my mind in this relationship is this:

‘Guard your heart above all else’ (Proverbs 4:23)

I really believe that in seeking purity in a relationship, emotional boundaries are just as important as physical ones. Jen Smidt says, ‘Be active, vigilant, and careful about how much of your heart you give to a man. Be able to walk away from a relationship with your whole heart intact so that a future husband would not be robbed of part of it’. This is an area that I think is most easy for me to trip up on. When you like someone it is easy to get carried away with emotions, and, while it is not a bad thing to feel, so often I forget to guard my heart. I love the idea of preserving my heart – and if I end up marrying a person, I want to give them all of my heart, not just a part. This long-term perspective has been good for me in setting emotional boundaries. Again, this is not a point to despair of if you feel like your heart has already taken a hit. Rather, it is another chance to see God’s work of restoration in making broken things whole!

Boundaries are really helpful in reminding us of the true status of a relationship. You are not married until you are married! If you get carried away acting like you are married, it can compromise the development of a friendship. Early in my relationship, we decided that we didn’t want to fall into the trap of looking forward to seeing each other merely so we could kiss/cuddle. We decided that we wanted to make sure when we met up, we were excited to spend quality time investing in each other rather than simply excited to get our hands all over each other.

The purpose of this post isn’t to incriminate anyone, but rather to give a reminder that God is faithful to forgive everything and anything you have done in the past. It is also a challenge to strive for His plan for intimacy – physical, emotional and spiritual – within marriage. Yes, it is hard, and yes, temptations will no doubt come, but hold fast to God’s plans which are always good. You must know that you are loved by God. Jeremiah 31:3 says:

‘I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with unfailing kindness’.

That desire you feel stirring within cannot ultimately be quenched by any human intimacy. The longing of your heart will not be fulfilled until you have tasted that steadfast and redeeming love.

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Lara

Hi I’m Lara! I’m about to start my final year of International Relations at Durham University and have loved (almost) every moment of it. I grew up in China and have an appreciation of all things Asian – especially spicy Thai food :-) I have the travel-bug and dream of seeing as many parts of the world as I can and experiencing as many cultures as possible. I can’t wait to get to heaven and see all the nations bowing before the throne of God!

The Ultimate Love Story

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This post has taken me a long time to write. I’d been praying about it for quite a while, but there just seemed to be no inspiration. I would write something out and then delete it, unsatisfied with my efforts.

Then a few days ago, I went to a Youth Conference in Austria called GYC (Generation of Youth for Christ). It was an incredible (and intense!) few days of teaching, fellowship, prayer, outreach… and some really great vegetarian food (as well as a few late night pizzas!). Christ was lifted up as He drew so many to Himself. The city of Linz was impacted by around 800 young people seeking to tell those who lived there about their Saviour, and God really was glorified in an incredible way! Amongst all of this, a small observation began to seep into my thinking. I began to notice that many of the young people there were either married or in long term relationships, a growing theme since graduating from university.

So far, singleness has not been the greatest struggle for me. Of course, there have been times when it has played upon my mind, but so far, it has not presented the greatest stumbling block. And anyway, often life is so busy that it lends no time to dwell on my singleness! But at GYC, I saw the beauty of Christ-centred relationships in action. The way that mission was done together. The way that her mouth turned up into a secret smile when she talked about him. The way they prayed together. The way he strived to love her like Christ does His church.

I thought to myself, ‘I want that’.

A competing voice answered.

‘You don’t have it’.

Both sides drew arms as the internal battlefield began to open. But God, through one of the evening devotions, reminded my heart of Paul. Acts 20:24 is part of Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian Elders. As he departs for Jerusalem, where imprisonment awaited him, he states,

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (KJV)

The battlefield inside of me calmed as the still voice of the Almighty God whispered, ‘Do not let this move you’. Why? Not because it is unimportant, and not because it is not a valid struggle, but because in Christ, there is a higher calling.

There is a call to testify of the gospel of grace.

Throughout the book of Acts, Paul’s circumstances were continually against him. And whereas I’m not comparing singleness to shipwrecks or imprisonment (Check out 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 for singleness as a gift from God!) it still can be a struggle for many Christian men and women today. The circumstance of our relationship status can define our identity, rather than our identity in Christ defining how we react to our circumstances. Paul knew who he was in Christ, and it was this identity that shaped his mission.

But what does this mean practically? Personally, I feel most alive when I am giving my all for and to Jesus. Not as some kind of distraction technique, but because of the Biblical commission to tell those who have no hope that there is something to hope for, to show those who are afraid to trust that there is someone who will not fail them. Pray about your mission, your gifts, the ways in which you can serve your local church and be a witness to your friends about the blessed hope which you have. Ask God for opportunities to serve Him and seize each one He gives. Simply put, go for it! We are all called to be radical disciples of Jesus whether we have been single for 3 years or married for 40. As Christians, our hope need not rest in anything but Christ and his soon return (Titus 2:13).

Not only this, but the message of the Gospel displayed in the cross of Christ is an objective truth, no matter how you feel. It is a fixed point in history that demonstrates you are both unconditionally loved and worth everything. When our hearts present us with a thirst for love, the cross presents us with the source of Love that will fill us so that we never run dry.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not wrong to want a God-centred relationship. But if your hope begins to rest upon it, your thoughts are consumed by it, and your actions begin to reflect it as your heart’s intention, it can easily become an idol and replace the rightful position of Christ as the Lord of your heart and life.

Ultimately there is no Biblical promise that you will ever be in a relationship, or that you will be married, but there is a promise that Jesus will come again (see Revelation 21!), and that the greatest love story ever told, that of Christ and the redeemed, will be complete.

 

Written by Alex Browne

Letting God: Faith Under Pressure

Becky writes for us today about the lessons she learnt while feeling stressed under the pressures of academic work. Jesus promises to give us rest, to take our burdens and give us life – but do we remember to believe this and trust in this when things are tough and we’re feeling panicked? Becky points us back to the promises in the Bible and shares an important reminder to us all about the nature of the relationship we can have with our Father.

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It was coming up to the end of my second year of university, and I had two module deadlines. This was going to be a large majority of my mark. I had been feeling stressed already with different things going on, so I pushed my coursework to the side as I went home to relax over Easter. I was feeling okay about it until I started term again and only had a few weeks to finish everything. This is where the panic kicked in….

The more that I thought about the huge pile I had to get through, the worse I was feeling each day. The thoughts in my head were that there wasn’t enough time to get the work done, that there was too much to do – I WAS GOING TO FAIL.

As I started examining my thoughts I realised they were all negative. I had no motivation and I was tired. I realised that I couldn’t do it on my own, in my own strength. My work was my burden and it was weighing me down. As I thought about my work burdening me down, I thought of a song I used to sing in Sunday school, with the words:

“Cast your burdens unto Jesus for he cares for you.”

Something that I had often sung, but it just hadn’t clicked that this was a perfect time to put it into practice. Sometimes I think it’s easy to think that as there are so many huge, painful things going on the world, why would God care about me stressing over something like coursework? It seems so small. But the fact is – He does care, and nothing is too small for him!

The next morning came; I was waking up, already feeling crushed looking at the huge pile of work I had to do. I cried out to God for help, for motivation and positive thoughts. I admitted that I couldn’t do it on my own like I thought I could before.

Instead of feeling stressed by the amount of work I had to do I would start to say a little prayer: “Lord thank you for today. Please give me strength and motivation for today and keep my thoughts positive.” Throughout the day I would remind myself “Today is going to be a good day”, “I can get this work done”,  “I will finish in time”, and “I am not going to fail”.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7)

Everyday I woke up and repeated this process I had a good productive day. I got even more work done than I hoped to get done each day compared to when I was doing it in my own strength with a negative attitude and hardly scratching the surface. It was still hard and I had to put my head down,  I hardly left my room and had late nights. But in the end I finished not only both my modules in time but also a day early, which has never happened before. (I’m pretty last minute) So I am defiantly taking this new attitude into 3rd year (I think I’ll need it.)

But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.
(Psalm 59:16-17)

When you change your focus from what is stressing you out or worrying you, to focusing on blessings and on good things from God, it’s amazing how quickly things start to change.  My whole attitude changed and my mood was a lot better which I think my flatmates were grateful for!

Instead of letting academic work get me down, I was thankful that God provided me with a place at university. Instead of focusing on how much work I had left to do, I was thankful for how much I had completed that day. I was grateful for times where I could stop and have dinner with my flatmates. I was thankful for good Christian friends placed around me and for my mum for praying for me.

In Luke 18 the parable of the persistent widow teaches us to not lose heart in prayer not becoming discouraged but continuing to feel encouraged. She kept pleading with a judge, who didn’t care about anyone. She only got justice because she didn’t give up.

And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. (Luke 18:7-8)

We know that our judge (God) is kind and gracious, He answers in love, He is a judge who is interested in us and is ready to fight our battles head on. We need to be proactive making prayer the first resort instead of the last. Becoming more persistent, making prayers more passionate, being ready to see answers and change.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-)

The verse above is found in the lyrics of a song I loved when growing up. It’s all about trusting God, but trusting him with all aspects of your life. It shows us that instead of trying to keep hold of the bits we think we can deal with, or just handing over the bits we feel comfortable with, faith is all about letting go and letting God be in control.

psst. Did you know that More Precious is now on Facebook? You can follow us here to see all our latest posts and recent updates!

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Becky

My name is Becky Dobson. I’m currently studying Graphic Design at Sheffield Hallam. I enjoy cooking and baking, hanging out with my friends and have a good old sing song!  I’m looking forward to being a cluster leader at our Hallam cluster at my church up in Sheffield.

Faith I Call My Own

Whether you’ve grown up with Bible bedtimes stories and Sunday School each week, or you’ve only just heard about Jesus through a friend – it can sometimes be hard to know if being a Christian is “real”, or whether you feel like it’s just a habit or a lifestyle inherited from the people around you. I know lots of our readers will be be able to relate to Jessie’s post below, where she takes us through her thoughts on this. She reminds us that we can be sure in our faith, and that we are able to enter into personal relationship with our Father God.

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As a Christian, I know that “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8). As Christians, we all came to know this to be true in different ways. Whether it be at a seekers’ Bible study, surveying God’s creation, at camp, at home, alone. I should be praising God for using my family to tell me this great news. However, this isn’t always my natural reaction.

I was brought up in a Christian family. My Dad became a Christian at university after his friends brought him along to some Christian Union events and my Mum became a Christian when she was even younger. Because their faith is so important to them, they wanted to tell me about Jesus and, so, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been taken along to church. But, when I was about 17 or 18 I began to wobble a little, at times doubting whether the faith I thought I had was really mine.

After going to some summer Christian camps, I realised that some people had different, far more ‘exciting’ conversion stories than me. They’d have a particular date when it all made sense to them. They could pinpoint an eye-opening conversation, or a mind-blowing talk or a miraculous moment when God suddenly opened their eyes to their need of Jesus and immediately put their trust in Him. Me? I didn’t have a specific moment. I’d become a Christian over a longer period of time, gradually figuring out what it was all about. But, this meant that I began to worry. What if I was only a Christian because of my parents? I feared that my parents had made the decision regarding my faith for me and that I’d just got carried along by it.

On top of that, sixth form was a stage when my friends began to ask me more questions. “How can you really believe the Bible when it tells you that you’re a sinner?” “How can you live your life for something that was written 2000 and more years ago?” “Why don’t you just have fun? YOLO!”

This meant I had some thinking to do. Ultimately I had to ask myself a question:
“Who do you think that Jesus is?”

Jesus lived.

He made outrageous claims about himself being the Son of God. He died and He rose again. If I believed that happened, then there was no other logical explanation.

He had to be God.

C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, put it like this:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic…or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.”

Some verses that helped me in my doubts were from Isaiah 53. These were written hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, yet perfectly depict what he came to do. How amazing and reassuring is that!?

“But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.”

Seeing this reminded me of what I had known all along. That I was living life for myself and had turned my back on God who had given me all good things and so I needed forgiveness. Reading these verses always amazes me. Out of God’s love, Jesus took my place and took the punishment that I deserve.

Every conversion is a miracle, whether you’ve been a Christian for as long as you can remember, or whether you’ve only just put your faith in God. We are ALL part of God’s family. We are all sisters in Christ.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t still have my doubts from time to time, but it does mean that I can have full assurance that this is my faith. I should spend more time thanking my parents for telling me the amazing news about Jesus! God used my parents to bring me into his family, so thank you Mum and Dad for sharing the gospel with me.

If you doubt the truth of the good news of Jesus then I really encourage you to read the book of Luke in the Bible. Luke writes that “since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4).

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Jessie

My name is Jessie Purvis and I’m a recent graduate of Durham University. I am very excited to be starting Relay for UCCF in about a month and moving to Bradford!

Identity Status: Single

Bekah is writing for us today, in a beautiful post full of encouragement and honesty. She is refreshingly open about her own struggles in wanting a relationship, and she challengingly reminds us where our worth is truly found, breaking down the lies that tell us our value is in relationship with others. Whatever stage of life you are at – whether the desire for relationship occupies an uncomfortable proportion of your thoughts, or whether it’s something you haven’t considered yet – this post is a valuable reminder of our identity as a saved, loved child of God.

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As I sit on my bed, half eaten bar of chocolate at my side, propped up by cushions to prevent the stinging of yesterday’s sunburn, I realise that I don’t really know how best to start. Talking about something that you’ve struggled with arguably more than anything else in your Christian life is, unsurprisingly, pretty difficult. At the same time, that seems to be all the more reason for me to share.

I am a perpetual singleton.

With an apparent propensity for the over-dramatic.

As I’m only approaching twenty, I know what you’re thinking: isn’t that a little bit too early to resign yourself to the eventuality of becoming a ‘crazy cat lady’? Perhaps you’re right.

Nevertheless, my relationship status is probably the thing that I have most frequently wrestled over with God. Reading back on prayer journals from the past few years, aside from a worrying over use of the word ‘I’, the theme that comes up most frequently is my love life. 

‘Why won’t he like me back?’
‘Why haven’t I found someone yet?’
‘Where is he, God?!’

For the majority of my walk with God, I shamefully admit that I have rarely been fully satisfied in Him, spending most of my teenage years obsessed with the idea that I was incomplete unless I was in a relationship. 

I’d repeatedly tell myself ‘seeking a godly man isn’t a bad thing.’ And yes, it’s true. Seeking to be in a godly, Christ-centred relationship is not a bad thing. The problem came when this search consumed every part of me. I’d spent a long time capitulating to the cliché of a Christian woman: I’d written lists featuring such essentials as ‘taller than me’ and ‘prefers dogs to cats’; I’d heard near enough every talk that I could find on Christian dating; I’d even read Joshua Harris’ books. But still, nothing was able to fill this man-shaped gap in my life. 

It was in the summer before my gap year that I started to understand the gravity of the problem. Attending various Christian camps, I’d find myself, instead of listening to the talk, glaring around the room, asking God repeatedly whether my future husband was sitting anywhere near me. I’d massively overreact any time a Christian guy even spoke to me. I’d see smiling faces announcing their engagement over Facebook and curse their happiness, and my singleness, muttering 1 Corinthians 7 under my breath. It was almost a disease; it utterly consumed me. 

It was with this realisation that I decided that I would take a year out from relationships. It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? A girl who isn’t in a relationship taking a year out from them? Nonetheless, on 11th November 2012, just over a year and a half ago, I started out on my year of singleness. 

If I’m brutally honest with myself, the main reason that I did this was because I thought that God would reward me by giving me my husband at the end of it. Suffice to say, this didn’t happen. Instead, I began to learn something far more valuable: God started revealing to me the truth. For however many years of my life, I came to learn that I had believed pervasive lies about who I truly was. In learning the truth, I’ve found unexpected freedom. My prayer is that, as I tell you about these lies that I believed, God will show you his glorious truth as well.

Lie #1: I’m single because I’m [insert word here]

For me, that sentence ended in an infinite number of ways. Because I’m too fat. Because I’m too ugly. Because I’m too boring. Because I’m not funny. I’d look around at other girls who were in relationships and compare myself to them. I’d think that they were prettier than I was, or more intelligent. I’d think that if I became more like them, I’d instantly find a boyfriend and therefore, be happy.

I can’t even begin to express to you the extent that this is a lie. Comparing yourself to other people is like a disease; it damages every single part of you. I am not somebody else for a reason. I am created in the image of a powerful, beautiful, creative God (Genesis 1:27). 

I may be throwing every Christian cliché out there at once but this is the truth, whether you’re single or otherwise:

You are the daughter of the King of Kings. He has called you by name. You are beautiful. You are worthy of love. There is nothing that you could do that could make him love you anymore. Nor can anything make him love you any less.

Lie #2: My singleness defines me

This is something that I’ve struggled with enormously. Having to force out a smile when asked the dreaded ‘have you finally found a boyfriend yet?’ at family parties, the fact that I’m single has caused massive problems with my identity in the past. I’d allow the word ‘single’ to permeate every aspect of my life and I believed that I was truly defined by the absence of a relationship rather than the evidence of a whole lot of other stuff in my life. My singleness began to define who I was; I thought my value and worth came from my relationship status.

In my year of singleness, God showed me that I wouldn’t suddenly gain an identity if I were in a relationship. I began to learn that I had an identity already; I was already defined by something else. I am a new creation in Christ and that is where my identity lies (2 Corinthians 5:17). Not in whether I have a boyfriend. Not in whether I remain single forever. God gave me value before I was even born, value that can never be taken from me. I’ve started to understand that my singleness doesn’t define me. God does. 

Lie #3: Nobody can fill this man-shaped space in my life

In the midst of my angst and worry about my relationship status, I’d begun to notice that I had created within myself a void that I believed only a man could fill. I didn’t think that I could be fully satisfied in life were I not in a relationship and eventually married with children. I was determined that this was where my life was headed and nobody, not even God could stop me.

What God revealed to me was not what I expected. He showed me that I did have a hole in my heart which needed filling. A void in my soul that needed satisfying. But it couldn’t be contented by just any man. It had to be filled by him. Only by putting my trust and hope in the only one who will never leave me, never forsake me, never let me down, can I be truly fulfilled. Only God can satisfy my soul.

It’s taken me a long time to realise these truths. It feels like the journey has gone on forever. 

Will I ever put my relationship status above God and treat it as an idol again? Undoubtedly. I’m not perfect. I’m not going to pretend that one year has completely transformed my way of thinking forever.

But perhaps now, I can walk into a church without thinking with hope that maybe my future husband is somewhere in this room. I can see another Facebook status about someone’s engagement and be overjoyed by the gift of marriage for them and not have to feel alone and envious. I can know that my identity is in Christ and that I am the apple of His eye, the crown of His creation and the daughter of the King of Kings.

I’m never going to be the perfect wife. And I’m never going to find a perfect husband.There’s only one person that will ever complete me. Only one man that can ever fully satisfy everything I need. Only one who would give everything for me, no questions asked.

His name is Jesus. And He’s already given it all.

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Bekah

Hello, I’m Bekah. I’ve just finished my first year studying English at Durham and absolutely love all of its quaint coffee shops, wonderful people, and beautiful scenery. When not studying, I live in the Midlands and spend my time reading books, drinking copious amounts of tea, binge watching cookery programmes, pinteresting, and writing. I’m daily overwhelmed by God’s awesome grace and mercy in my life and he’s given me a real heart to seek justice, love the unlovable, and live out Isaiah 58.

Beauty & Trust: More Than Skin Deep

This is the first post I’ve ever read on how to deal with skin problems from a Christian perspective, and yet I think it’s an issue that occupies so many girls’ thoughts and conversations. I think it’s really important for us to be thinking about whether we’re acknowledging God as our King over every single part of our lives – and this includes how we feel about the way we look, even down to our skin. This is why I’m so glad to be able to publish the post below on More Precious this morning, and am so grateful to one of our writers for opening up about how her own particular struggles led her closer to our loving, sovereign God. I hope her encouragements might point you to Him too. Enjoy…  – L xo

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“People look at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart”

At its worst, my skin was a mess of spots, scars and red patches that left me feeling self conscious, despondent and upset. What had begun as a few spots on my forehead an “inevitable part of growing up” that I would “soon grow out of” quickly became acne that spread across my face and chest and threatened to stay, consuming the appearance I took such pride in.

I can clearly remember talking with a girl in my English class and watching her eyes snatch glances at my red, raw, lumpy cheekbones as we spoke. I chatted and laughed with her but inside I was painfully self conscious, desperate to leave the room before she could take another discreet look at the skin I hated. What was she thinking? I panicked that people would think I didn’t care about my skin when in reality I’d used every wash and cream on offer, had dutifully eaten my five a day, had been to the Doctors and taken different types of antibiotics yet still my skin remained the one part of my appearance that I simply couldn’t control.

Our culture tells us quite plainly to get rid of our blemishes; our spots are not what people want to see. Instead, TV and magazines present images of girls with dewy skin, they are pore less and perfect.

When I was struggling I found comfort in reading that whilst “people look at the outward appearance” God looks past our exterior – “but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) In a world where our image is so often judged before our character how great to have a God who is concerned only with our ‘inner selves':

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes.
Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight”
(1 Peter 3:3-4)

We spend so much time agonising over, talking about and bettering our appearance, I wonder if we ever think to spend that time working on our “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit?” I know that I certainly don’t, yet God sees our unfading beauty to be of “great worth.”

It’s exciting too, to think of the new bodies we will receive in heaven, “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5). We will be made perfect like Jesus in heaven, given heavenly bodies that do not dissatisfy us like our current bodies as they inevitably change.

Medication has now cleared my skin up but looking back God has taught me many lessons through my sore skin. I’ve been humbled; I’m not in control of my appearance – God is and I must commit my appearance to him. My skin showed me how judgemental I can be towards people struggling with their appearances – it’s easy to judge those with problems you don’t have, much harder to be the one being judged.

Please don’t think that I’ve grasped all this and that my appearance is no longer an issue to me, of course it is. Once my skin was treated it didn’t take long for me to find other parts of my body that I was dissatisfied with rather than being thankful for the healthy body God has given me. I continue to struggle daily to trust God in every aspect of my life – including my skin but how great to know that we have a loving God who loves us whatever our appearance.

Anonymous

Living For Something More

Sometimes it’s misleadingly easy to read and write these posts, safe in the More Precious bubble. Surrounded by a sphere of subscribers, followers and encouraging comments it’s easy to forget about the people who find the posts ridiculous, who find Christianity outdated and irrelevant; I forget that living for Jesus is hard and uncomfortable a lot of the time.

What I dreamt for this blog was that it could be a place where God was honoured, stories could be shared, and we as girls would be encouraged to live with Him as our King in everything we do. Little by little, God has used the site to do just that – and some of the messages we get sharing stories are incredible. So many of these messages have included questions about how we can manage to live as a Christians in the face of peer pressures at school, at college or beyond. This struggle isn’t shared by everyone, and my post won’t cover all bases – but it’s something that I’ve found hugely difficult, have thought about lots and would like to explore in my little contribution to our Summer Series.

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“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life: your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
(Romans 12:1-2)

As Christian girls, not only do we have to navigate the complex, messy world of teenage girlhood – but we also have to make tough choices as we try to love God and honour Him with our lives. These years of growing up are hard: how do we know what decisions are right? What kind of person will we grow into? What do we want to do, be, say and achieve? How can we fit God into any of this?

When I was at school, I didn’t really know many girls who had continued living for Jesus past their early teenage years. I had great role-models in my life, but they mostly seemed to be older and at a different stage of life, and didn’t always understand the agonising balance of trying to fit in at school while not compromising on my Christian values.

As time went on, this balance became harder and harder, and I start to think that perhaps Christianity was outdated and irrelevant. It was easy enough to go through the motions on Sundays at church, but it felt frustrating and embarrassing to be a Christian the rest of the time. I found myself questioning: if God really was omnipotent, where was He at school? Where was He at parties? Where was He when I had to keep saying no to drinks, no to boys, no to using fake IDs, no to all the things that everyone else was doing as an unquestionable part of growing up.

I struggled. Deep down I loved God and I knew what Jesus had done for me; but I desperately wanted to stay popular and keep up with my friends. The keeping of rules that I didn’t understand gradually wore me down, and God seemed further and further away.

I’m grateful to God that I’ve learnt a lot of things since then that have made me realise how good He is and how He really does want the best for our lives. Most importantly, I’ve realised that Jesus died for me so that I am able to have a relationship with God, NOT so that I must remain bound by a rule-orientated religion. I want you to know this for yourself too.

This post won’t be a step-by-step guide on How To Remain Funny, Beautiful, Popular and Godly. (If you find one, let me know. My highest score remains a rare 1/4) – but I’m going to leave you with a few lessons that I’ve learnt over the past few years that I’d love to share – hopefully they will encourage you to keep pursuing God even when it feels tough.

1. Don’t base your life on rules, base it on LOVE. 

We are saved by grace and not by what we do. This is huge.  My halfhearted attempts to ‘stay Christian’ by doing the right things left me confused as to why I had to keep rules without believing that they were good or worthwhile. Yet once I realised that I could have real, living relationship with God – the idea of ‘rules’ was replaced with a desire to live wholeheartedly for God. This became a joy and a freedom. For if we trust God, we must trust His best for us.

Being a Christian girl isn’t about ticking boxes or jumping through hoops to please a strict, judging, fun-spoiling God. Life with God is so much more than ‘not getting drunk’ or ‘no sex before marriage’. These are tiny parts of God’s big, big plan for our lives, and our decisions must be based on a genuine, love-fuelled desire to please our Father and trust that His way for us is best – not on how far we can go in our own direction, before winding up guilty and despairing.

Don’t run on empty: don’t become burdened by rules and religion. Refocus your gaze on the One who knows you better than you know yourself; learn to love Him, and you will want to live for Him.

2. Don’t be scared of being different. 

Give up your dreams of blending in – as Christian girls we are called to be different and radical. Remember Romans 12:1? Don’t become so well adjust to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. 

To me at school, fitting in sounded ideal! I wanted to fit in, to be accepted, popular and liked by everyone – but actually, I don’t think Jesus was primarily out to be any of these things. He wasn’t cool or popular in the world’s terms – yet He lived the greatest, kindest, most radical and attractive life in history. I used to think it would be perfect if I could just fit in comfortably – and I was doing a great job if people didn’t even notice that I was a Christian. Reality is, Jesus wants in on every part of our lives: He wants us to be like Him – He wants us to be differentand while this can be scary at times, if we trust in God, He will provide, and we will never be let down.

3. Don’t let peer pressure cause you think that God spoils your fun.

Like a Father with His children, God wants the best for us – even if we are too young, inexperienced or stubborn to see what that ‘best’ really looks like. Even when we can’t see why God would have us say no to certain things, we trust that He is sovereign and He knows best in all situations. He wants to grow us, challenge us, shape us into the people we were made to be. He wants us to have rich lives, vibrant relationships, creative minds and a balanced view of ourselves. He gives life to the full, as we’re pointed to in Romans 12:2: “Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings out the best in you.”

4. Don’t be afraid to live for something more. 

Saying ‘no’ to things and upholding your beliefs isn’t a sign of being uncool or uptight… instead it shows that you are living for something BIGGER than the world. At school, doing things with guys or doing crazy things while drunk was a way to show that you were outgoing, fun or confident enough to take opportunities and be adventurous. As I’ve got a little older, I’ve notice that people tend to realise fairly soon that everyone can take these opportunities if they wanted to – and in fact, it is the people who don’t take them that gain the most respect. This is because you show that you are looking beyond the temporary and are focusing on what is constant and true. So: don’t be tempted to drop your standards in order to boost your reputation – Jesus saved us and we are designed to live with him: this is worth so much more.

5. Don’t think that it’s all about you.

Let’s return back to where we started in Romans 12 – a call for us to fix our attention on God, where we will be changed from the inside out. We aren’t changed outside-in, by our attempts to please God by doing good. The great news for us is that in our weakness, God is STRONG. He will change our hearts and give us the strength to live for Him even when nobody else seems to be. This is freeing and massively encouraging for me, amidst my many, many daily mistakes and distractions. I hope it’s encouraging for you too, as you keep pursuing God in all areas of your life.

I want to end by asking you to read over the opening verses of this post, taken from Romans 12:1-2. I also want to introduce you to the MSG version of Romans 12:3 (below), where we’re reminded of how big God is and how little we have to offer Him – no matter how ‘good’ we think we might be. Let the truths in these two passages sink into your heart as you remember that God is in control, and that we are understood by what He has done. How incredible it is that Jesus died so we could have real, life-giving, love-filling relationship with our Father:

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God.
No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

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Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

I’m Lucy and I’m just coming to the end of my second year at Durham University. I love my hometown Cambridge and I also love living in the beautiful little city of Durham, where the coffee shops are plentiful and the people are GREAT!

Running More Precious is one of my favourite things and it’s the biggest source of encouragement for me! Like I said in my bio, I’m still learning how to live out a little of the thankfulness of Pollyanna, the kindness of Katy Carr and the faith of the Proverbs 31:25 girl – perhaps one day I’ll get there!

NB: This post only skims the surface of this issue, I know – and definitely misses out lots of wise and helpful advice. We are hoping to explore this topic in more detail over the next few months on the blog – so do keep checking back for updates, or feel free to send in your own stories or pieces of advice to lucy@moreprecious.co.uk – I’d love to hear from you! 

Does It Really Matter Who I Date?

Dating has never been a simple task, but choosing who to date is a whole other minefield. Here, the fabulous Emma has offered up her thoughts and struggles with the commitment to only dating Christians. After all, does it really matter who I date?

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When I was at school, I wanted two things: (1) to get into university, and (2) a boyfriend.
I figured out that a good way of trying to get into uni was to work hard. So I knuckled down and hit the library during the holidays to make it happen. But finding a boyfriend was proving tricky…

At school, my close girlfriends were an amazing group of lovely, caring and also incredibly beautiful girls. They always looked stunning, wore great clothes and were confident in themselves. I was always a bit jealous of how they always had a guy who was interested in them, how there was always someone on the scene, and he was usually sporty, attractive and fun. In stark contrast, I was just the girl that the boys copied notes from in history class. Not exactly what I was after!

If I’m honest, thinking about the priorities that God has in terms of dating did not really enter into my thoughts at this stage. I knew that if I were ever to get married, I wanted to marry a Christian but when I was 16, this seemed like a lifetime away. Surely who I dated wasn’t going to affect ‘proper’ relationships that I might have in the future?

When I was a fresher at university, lots of things changed. The types of boys who had previously been interested in my friends at school were now paying me more attention. A couple of the sporty boys who were popular and fun to be around began to ask me out. They were exactly the sorts of guys who I’d wanted to date when I was at school. I liked it that the cool guys liked me. It gave me confidence and made me feel part of things.

However, right at the same time I began to think more about the priorities that God would have in terms of dating. (It’s funny how the timing worked out…!) These guys, great though they were, were not Christians. Did I think it was ok to go out with someone who wasn’t a Christian?

My thoughts were muddled. Surely it is ok if it only lasts for a little while and I know where my boundaries lie? Can I try to make God my number one priority while going out with a non-Christian? I still knew that ultimately I didn’t want to marry a non-Christian, (not that I was planning on getting married anytime soon!) and realised it might be harder to break up the longer we stayed together.

The Bible doesn’t really talk about dating. It talks about marriage, and a bit about singleness, but little about dating. So what was I meant to do? I asked my Christian friends for advice and the overwhelming response was that I shouldn’t go out with a non-Christian. I didn’t like this. I thought they were being boring, and that they wanted me to be uncool and have no fun. What made it worse was that the boys at my church were totally disinterested in dating. It wasn’t like any of them were planning on asking me out, so was I meant to turn someone down and stay single even though I really wanted to be in a relationship?

Things came to a head during the second term of my first year. During one of our college ‘bop’ events (which was basically a night of cheesy music, fancy dress and dancing) one of these guys came over to me and we started to dance. Dancing turned into kissing, and what made it worse was that everyone had seen it happen. I felt so bad about it, and knew that I had to make a decision.

Was I going to pursue a relationship with someone who wasn’t a Christian, or was I going to try to prioritise my relationship with God even if that meant being single?

It wasn’t easy. I really wanted a boyfriend, and I was quick to make excuses: “he doesn’t mind that I go to church”, “my church friends get on well with him”, “he even came to church with me this week”, “the Bible doesn’t actually specifically say that it’s wrong to go out with a non-Christian”.

But, and this only happened because of God’s abounding grace, I began to realise a few things that helped my decision become clearer. Firstly, I began to realise that I have the best thing ever – a relationship with Jesus. I don’t need anything else. I don’t need popularity, or a boyfriend, or anything else at all. Nothing else will really satisfy me or make me feel content.

My contentment is found in Him and Him alone.

He is by far the best thing that has ever happened to me, and nothing is going to change that.

Secondly, I began to understand that because God has given us everything, through Jesus, our response should be that we live lives that worship him. That means that all of my life should have the aim of praising God. Sometimes this will mean that we have to give things up that we want to hold onto, and it might feel costly. This isn’t because God doesn’t want us to be happy or is trying to ruin our fun, but it is because he knows what is best for us, and sometimes, even though we don’t like to admit this, we just don’t see this. I had to give up my desire to be in a relationship because it was going to get in the way of my relationship with God. I had to take the risk that I might not look as cool, or be as popular, because going out with a non-Christian meant that my time and energy would be going into a relationship where two people were ultimately pulling in different directions. It just wasn’t going to work.

Even once I had decided, I still found it difficult. But I knew that my small sacrifice was nothing compared to the amazing sacrifice that Jesus made so that I can be in relationship with God. It doesn’t even register on the spectrum in comparison.

It really does matter who we date, whatever age or stage we are at. Let’s not settle for second best and date someone who doesn’t love Jesus. It just so isn’t the best thing for us.

We can trust that we have the absolute best thing already.

God gave us the overwhelmingly amazing gift of his only Son, his Spirit lives in us, we have a hope of eternity with our Father who is the King of the whole universe. The more we realise just how amazing this is, the more we realise that this is the most precious gift, and we don’t need anything else.

Click here to read the rest of our summer series.

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Emma

Emma graduated from Cambridge two years ago, having studied law. She now enjoys working in finance, which comes as a surprise to those who know her. Emma lives in Cambridge and loves being a member of Christ Church. She loves music, food, her friends and Jesus and is very excited about her wedding next April – (PS. Emma is now married! Yippee!).

An Insatiable Hunger

Few of us will remain untouched by the world of Eating Disorders and Mental Illness. With 1 in 3 now experiencing some form of depression in their life, we should be ready to offer up our love and fellowship to those who are battling.

Below is a story of how one girl found herself in the depths of Anorexia, only to find her way to the light with God’s help.

Unfortunately, not all stories end in recovery.

However, Eating Disorders and Mental Illness vary from person to person. One girl’s struggle will never be the same as another girl’s, and that’s one of the most important things to understand when dealing with illnesses of the mind – the stories are never the same.

My eyelids open, my stomach groans. Fifty sit-ups – it’s habit.  I sneak out the house and run. I run until my heart aches. I run from pain, run from pressure, run from people, run from breakfast. I jump in a freezing cold shower, scrub my skeletal body.  I make an excuse and plaster on a smile… today is another day. Dark thoughts creep in, thoughts that aren’t mine. I see the stares and hear the whispers – you think I don’t know? I smile, laugh it off. Everything is fine… “I AM FINE”. My stomach groans. 

Three years ago I had anorexia. To be honest, I never thought it would happen to me. I grew up in a  loving Christian family and wore the ‘Christian’ label all through school, but Jesus for me was  just someone who, like everyone else,  was someone I had to protect, impress and convince I was good enough. 

I managed to keep this up until I was 16 and I have to say, I managed it well. I had lots of friends, was known for being responsible and kind. Most important to me, I was admired by my friends, teachers and parents for being the ‘good girl’.

But then I got tired. I got really tired of pleasing people, tired of the pressure, the fear of failure and the silent tears. I don’t remember the actual day that anorexia took over my life and stole my happiness, but what I can tell you is that the illness escalated at a alarming rate. 

It’s hard to write down about the 18 months that followed, but it was dark… very dark.The number of  habits spiralled out of control and my trusted identity of the ‘good girl’ was quickly replaced with awkward eye lowering, gossip and avoidance from my peers.  This only made things worse and the amount of times I wished I was simply dead are countless. I never felt as lost as I did in those months.

After countless days of shame, secrets, lies and fear, and when I had absolutely nothing left, something within me urged me  to pray. In all honesty, my prayer was ugly and  I doubted anyone was listening, but I pleaded with a God to help me… and to my surprise he did just that.  As I prayed  that day, he took the weight of guilt from my shoulders, as well as the pain and self hatred that I had been wearily carrying, and replaced it with an overwhelming sense of love and delight.  ‘He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.’( Zephaniah 3vs 17) 

God uses broken people – he uses people with mental illnesses, addiction and those who are lost. God chose to use Jonah for his glory and to advance the kingdom, a man in the Bible who asked God to kill him so that he didn’t have to endure his life.  If you are reading this and are currently battling an eating disorder (trust me I know it is scary even to admit that) take heart, because God has overcome (1 John 5:4). 

Recovery is terrifying. To recover is to do the one thing you and I fear most but first, know that your situation is not your fault. The bible says that: 

“The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy but Jesus came so that you may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.’ ( John 10vs 10). 

Be assured that you are not defined by this hold, but instead are called a ‘daughter’ by the King of Kings and in his grace we are hidden in him (Colossians 3:3). Be encouraged that healing is promised to everyone, if not now here on earth then upon his return.  We can look forward to a heaven where there is no such thing as an eating disorder, and we can feast with him without guilt and without fear. How I long for that day!

For me, on that day I prayed, I gave up control over the one thing that controlled me to a God that loved me so much that he died for me.  God so graciously healed me of anorexia and led me through recovery, but more importantly he welcomed me into his family and satisfied my deepest hunger.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have to  take up my cross three times a day, but Jesus’ love his beautiful sacrifice spurs me on to honour him at meal times. I boast not that I am strong, but in my weakness he is strong in me.

Right now, we need to stand up, as people of God we need to not shy away from the stigma of eating disorders ‘for such a time as this’ (Esther 4 vs 15).   There is reluctance from both society and the church to engage with this issue that affects 1 in 4 women and an increasing number of men. It breaks my heart. So here, I want to offer some support to anyone who knows or has a friend or a family member living with an eating disorder.  I am neither a medic or qualified in mental health but I urge you brothers and sisters in Christ to see past the illness and mimic our Lord by looking to the matters of the heart.“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). Eating disorders are often just associated with food, but they are far more complex than just skipping lunch. When supporting a loved one with an eating disorder, valuing their spiritual needs and treating them like any other person in this broken world is vital in addition to showing your love to them in order to create a safe and sensitive environment for you to discuss your concern sensitively  with them in order to ask them how best to support them in recovery.  There are plenty of helpful resources written by medically trained professionals to support a loved one with eating disorders, a useful weblink is: www.b-eat.co.uk/get-help/about-eating-disorders/worried-about-someone/.  

And to everyone else, let’s not be afraid to talk about eating disorders. The more we address this topic the less it is brushed under the carpet and the more we can shine his light upon this illness. ‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 4:6) 

Click here to read the rest of our summer series.

The Infinite Shades of Grace

A few months ago, Lucy and I were toying with the idea of scheduling a summer series for More Precious that revolved around living a Godly life in the 21st century. But we were nervous – anxious about discussing topics that truly terrified us.

And then this post found its way into my inbox, and God made the decision for us.

Below is a post that frankly breaks my heart. It is a story that is not all that uncommon in the church, and yet pornography among women remains a taboo – a taboo in popular culture, nevermind in the church that can sometimes be a few steps behind. But the body of the church has to be willing to discuss the things that are hidden in the shadows, and we have to be determined to bring them into the light.

What you’ll see in this post is the consuming darkness of a fallen world, but you will also see the redeeming light of the cross.
That’s what makes this post so remarkable. – Hannie xo

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I don’t know where to start when writing this post. I suppose with the fact that it is a miracle, a testament to God’s amazing grace and power, that I am even doing so. I have to tell you that I’m absolutely terrified – but I believe that it is important and I pray that it will help all of you who have similar struggles or those with friends who have. At the very least that you would see what an amazing, astonishing God we have! So here goes:

I struggle with pornography. 

Even writing that down is scary. I already want to hit the backspace button and give up. I have struggled with pornography since the age of 14 and only seven years later was I able to tell just one person. To say it out loud. So I’m writing this for my 14 year old self and anyone who has ever been or still is in my situation.

For seven years I often felt like I was living a double life. By the time I was about 14 I knew that I needed Jesus as my Saviour and wanted him as Lord in my life. I was astonished by God’s love for me and in awe of his forgiveness and acceptance of me. But now it was time for me to get on and be a good girl, right? I went to church, to CU at school, I read my Bible and I prayed with my friends. To people at church and to my friends I was that girl. Sure, I had little problems, but so does everyone. 

However, at the same time I was becoming addicted to pornographic literature, increasingly aware that it was wrong, in and out of trying to exert self-control and stop, stuck in an absolutely helpless spiral of self-loathing and despair. What would people say if they knew? Wouldn’t my friends be disgusted? And what about God? How could He love me? How could I say that God has forgiveness for this? How can I pray to a perfect God? This is what sin does. It isolates us, entangles us. It drives a barrier between us and God and between us and other people. All sin. And unfortunately there are some sins we are so afraid to admit that they are like poison in our relationship with God and others.

And here comes my favourite word from the Bible…

BUT.

But God in his infinite mercy did not leave me in this situation.

Through some bold sermons by people unafraid to talk about the ugliness of sin and amazing grace of God, by people unafraid to talk about the sins we like to avoid talking about, through quiet whispers in times of stillness that told me again and again of God’s mercy and eventually through a brave friend who opened up to me about her struggles with pornography and God’s amazing power for change in her life, God allowed me to admit my sin without fear, to receive his unbelievable forgiveness and to accept his power to change me.

You see, this was my problem: I had been trying to fix myself – to use my own efforts to stop going back to pornography. Trying to pass my own test of ‘goodness’ before I deemed myself worthy to go to God.  But all along God had given me the gift of His power in me. He gives us new hearts. Hearts ruled by Christ, not by sin. Hearts free to live joyfully for Christ, not despairing hearts enslaved to sin. 

So when tempted, I don’t need to believe the devil’s lie that there’s nothing to be done, I can’t avoid sinning. I can look to Christ, knowing that all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27) and that I can live by the power of Christ:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

And when I have given in to sin, which I do and will, I don’t have to run from God in shame, but can run to Him, my loving Father, free to admit and repent of my sin, free to receive his forgiveness with trust in its sufficiency, thankfulness and joy and trust in his promise to transform me into Christ’s likeness.

Struggle with sin is hard. For all of us. We all stumble and fall. Some of us will have times when we feel irretrievably far from God’s love. Don’t believe it. Remember: there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) NO condemnation. This is true for all of us who believe – just look at people in the Bible like David. I mean talk about far from God – he committed adultery and had a man killed to cover his sin. But was he too far for the reach of God’s grace? It’s fair to say we can answer that with a resounding NO. And therefore, we can say along with Paul:

“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.”
Romans 8:38-9

Click here to read the rest of our summer series.

Below are a number of online Christian resources to provide accountability and support for any who are struggling.

However, it is important to note that one of the most powerful tools will be simply telling a member of church leadership, or even just a friend.

There is no shame in Christ – you are covered in His grace and righteousness. Do not let the lies of The Deceiver tell you otherwise, precious daughter.

www.covenanteyes.com

www.covenanteyes.com/2014/06/30/resources-women-struggle-porn/

www.dirtygirlsministries.com

www.xxxchurch.com

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