Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Give Your Self a Break

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Dannah Gresh says God often uses difficulties in our lives to draw us closer to Himself.

Dannah Gresh: When life is at its worst and your dreams are falling apart and your fears are looking you down in the face, they’re staring at you . . . oh! . . . the sweetness of God. That’s where it becomes so real!

Nancy: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts for November 30, 2020. I’m Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. So, which phrase best describes your life today? You may be experiencing great joy and contentment, or you may be feeling depressed and anxious, or maybe you’re somewhere in-between. Well, the truth is, this time of year can be especially hard.

And Dannah, today, we’re going to hear a message that you gave recently.

Dannah: Yes, Bob and I really enjoy watching news magazine-style programs. We were viewing one recently that reported on a new experimental way of treating depression. Now, I’m not mentioning that to make conclusive statements about any kind of treatment, but I found one part of the study very thought provoking. 

It explained that the particular drug used in the study worked, in part, by quieting two parts of the brain that “talk” to each other. Now, these just happen to be the two regions that fire up when we think about—get this—ourselves. When they are silenced, anxiety and depression fade.

So let me say that another way: when physicians turned off their patients’ obsession with self, the patients found peace

Nancy: Wow, that is so interesting!

Dannah: I found it interesting, too. I went straight to my Bible, because that’s what I do when I find a nugget that nudges me, and I was wondering, would my Bible tell me that turning off never-ending thoughts about myself could bring me contentment?

Because I’m a woman who’s fought some pretty severe battles with depression and anxiety, so I wanted to know.

Nancy: And I think this is something all of us need to understand better as we deal with those rogue emotions that sometimes threaten to control our lives. So here’s Dannah Gresh, speaking to a group of high school students earlier this fall about what God says about quieting our hearts and the source of true contentment.

Dannah: I wonder if any of you are still waiting for 2020 to get back to normal!? (sigh) Stop! Stop waiting for 2020 to get back to normal! I’ve been pondering this thought throughout the year . . . and it’s the fact that:

  • We tend to believe a lie that good times are the norm.
  • We tend to believe the lie that when things aren’t so good, it will get back to normal. 
  • We tend to believe the lie that if we follow God, He’s promised us good times.

 But that’s not what we find in the Bible! 

Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” (NIV) That’s a promise of God we don’t really like to hold onto, isn’t it? But we’re certainly learning that that’s true, this year. I recently heard someone say that hard times—difficult times, painful times—come at us as if they’re in a Pez dispenser. I think that’s probably true.

Either we’ve just had one, or there’s one there ready for us to hold onto, or there’s one coming up. And 2020 . . . well, it’s about to break the Pez dispenser. It’s coming at us fast! And so, I really want to take some time to talk about what it feels like to be discouraged, disillusioned, disappointed, depressed, anxious, fearful.

Bob and I were talking just the other night about how it seems like every day one of us comes home with the name of another friend or friend-of-a-friend or child of a friend or co-worker who is struggling deeply with depression . . . some people who have never struggled before, and they’re struggling right now.

So we’re going to get right to God’s Word today to see what we need to do to eliminate some of that, to alleviate some of that struggle in these hard times. Turn to Psalm 131. I want to say this while you’re finding it. I want to say this very clearly: the most important words you will hear today are not the words Dannah says, but the words I read from the Bible!

And every day, all day, forever, 24/7, the most important words you will ever hear or read come from God’s Word. Now, this is a little bit of a challenge for me because, I don’t know about you but, sometimes when I’m in church like right now . . . Some of you are like, “If only I had my cell phone, it would be a great time to see who’s texting me or to check out my social media feed.” Right?

I do that in church sometimes, but sometimes when we’re about to read the Scriptures, that’s when I zone out. Listen, that’s when we should be leaning in! The rest of the words, they don’t matter nearly as much; that’s when we should be leaning in. So look at me right now. Lean in. We’re about to read the Word of God.

In fact, why don’t you go ahead and stand up? We’re going to give it some full attention, just to get that truth firmly in our hearts. Let me read to you Psalm 131, the whole chapter, all three verses! 

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
   my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and
   too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
   like a weaned child with its mother;
   like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
   from this time forth and forevermore. 

Lord Jesus, I pray You would seal these words in our hearts. Father, You have used them so deeply in my life this week. I pray, Father, that as I speak, that Your words, these words from Psalm 131, would be awake and alive in this room. I pray that You would help us in this very crazy, topsy-turvy year that we’re living in to find the contentment that David wrote about in that psalm. In the name of Jesus I pray this, amen.

Have a seat. Let me read to you again verse 2: “I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child and its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” (paraphrase)

The first thing that stood out to me was this: “I have calmed and quieted . . . myself?” Hold it! That doesn’t even sound biblical! You can’t do that, right? Isn’t the calming and the peace and all, isn’t God supposed to do that? How is it that David did that? “Myself!?” Well, the actions David chose cooperated with God’s ability to produce peace in his life.

What actions were they? We’re going to go back and look at the verse before it in just a moment. But when I got to this question, I thought again of, “In this world you will have trouble.” This is what I do. When the Lord is speaking to me about a verse, I just kind of dig. Wherever He says, “Go!” I go.

So I went back from Psalm 131 to John 16:33, and it begins with this (because I didn’t really know how it began): “I have said these things . . . that . . . you may have peace.” I was like, “Oh! I am hot on the trail of something. This is exciting!” 

“I have said these things that . . . you will have peace. In this world you will have [trouble]. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” That made me think, “What things?” What things did Jesus say so that we could have peace, because this world is full of trouble . . . but He’s going to overcome. What things?

Well, if you go back to John 15, who knows what’s in John 15? “If you abide in me, I will abide in you and you will bear much fruit, but apart from me you can do nothing.” (vv. 4–5 paraphrased) Nothing! Abide in Him. Dwell in Him. Think about Him. Ponder Him. Live for Him. Talk about Him. Get together with friends who love Him. That’s “abiding!” 

Is that what your life looked like this week? Did you abide in Him? I don’t know about you, but when I looked back at my week, I think what I abided in most faithfully was my smartphone! How dumb is that!? Does anybody else want to confess?

I don’t know about you, but it’s so easy that, instead of Jesus being the first thought of my day, my cell phone gets to tell me my first thought of the day—whether it’s a text that came in, or whether it’s a social media affirmation, or whether it’s bad news about what happened in the world the night before. Is Jesus the last thought of your day? 

Do you abide in Him, so that He is the last thought of your day? Do you know what I thought about when I asked myself this question? If it were up to me, I probably wouldn’t be able to say “yes” to that. But about six years ago my husband said, “The last thing I want to do every night is pray with you.” And he prays over me every single night.

And because of his leadership, Jesus is the last thought of my day, if I can stay abiding in it. But you know what I do sometimes? I lay there, and I toss and I turn and I worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow? Like, “Is there going to be a snow day on September 4? That could never be!” (laughter)

There are a lot of things to worry about and a lot of things to keep us awake at night right now. And if your last thought is not Jesus, you won’t have this contentment. Here’s what I learned: God wants me to have peace. God wants you to have peace. 

Right now, in this year where everything seems to be falling apart, God’s desire and design is for you to have peace—not anxiety, not depression, not fear, not lack of purpose. But are you doing the work you need to do to quiet your heart? Are you abiding in Him?

The next thing I noticed in this verse, it says, “But I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with his mother.” This weaned child is still with his mother, but no longer clamoring for milk, no longer crying out for what it can get from her. She’s just with her.

Are you like that with Jesus? Or He is your genie in a bottle? Do you come to Him asking, “God! Help me with this test! God! Help me find a friend! God, I really don’t . . . I . . . ah . . . can . . . I . . . he’s so good looking! Could You . . .?” What? There’s no end to our requests to God! When was the last time you were just with Him to be with Him? 

That’s where you find the contentment—not in the to-do list you pray to God. But it’s’ in the sitting, when you wean your soul, not clamoring for what you can get, just being content. Are you like that with God?

My spirit really wanted to lean into verse 2; I wanted verse 2. You know what? When you want one verse, make sure you get all the verses around it, or you might be wanting something that you don’t know what you want. I love getting on a soapbox and saying, “We are taking that verse out of context!”

Some of the Bible verses we put on Pinterest and posters and t-shirts are so taken out of context, and they don’t mean what you think it means. And so, I wanted to look at what’s before and behind it, which is really easy when you’re studying a chapter with only three verses! So I dug in. 

Psalm 131:1: “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” And on the other side of our soothing verse [that would be verse 2], “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.”

So David’s contentment was prefaced by a renouncing of pride, by a renouncing of self, by a lowering of himself, thinking a little less of himself and more of God. And then he found contentment, and out of that contentment rose a certainty that his hope was in God. We need that right now. 

Our hope is not in an election; our hope is not in a vaccine; our hope is not in the masks you are wearing right now. Our hope is not in passing that test, in passing this grade. Our hope is not in these things. Your hope was—and is always—in the Lord! You know what I think? Maybe 2020 is weaning us. Look at all the stuff that has been taken away!

Look at all the stuff that we don’t have anymore. I mean, He’s taken away our shopping. He’s taken away our retail. He’s taken away our football. He’s taken away our entertainment. He’s taken away our ability to get together and have parties. He’s taken away our ability to dress up and go to parties. He’s taken away so much stuff!

Maybe He’s saying, “I need to wean you. Stop wanting all the stuff, and just start wanting Me!” What was David weaned of? Well, he was weaned of something we all need to be weaned of. He was being weaned of self—self-will, self-made plans, self-seeking, self-esteem . . . and maybe even “selfies,” if he had lived today!

Now, lest you think that David wrote this piece about contentment with harps playing in the background and his little chariot parked in the local spa where he had just enjoyed a Swedish massage and some cool cucumber water . . . no. His mentor, the man he wanted to become, the role he would one day fulfill, wanted to kill him.

They believe it was either then that he wrote this about contentment, or when his wife, Michal, mocked him publicly in front of everyone! (see 2 Sam. 6:16–21) So, when did that happen? Well, the Ark of the Covenant—which was where the presence of God lived throughout the time of the Old Testament—had just been recovered.

It had been stolen years earlier and had just been recovered and was being brought back to Jerusalem. As it was being brought back, David was so overjoyed! Not because a piece of furniture was coming back to Jerusalem, but because the presence of God was being restored!

I think some of that understanding of humility that we read about in verse 1 of Psalm 131 is there because he strips off his clothes. What is he doing? He is taking off everything that says, “I am the king!” because he would have been wearing royal garments.

He’s taking off his royal garments, which would have put him in his boxer shorts. The Bible calls it an “ephod,” but David is running around this ark in his boxer shorts rejoicing and praising God. What was he doing? He was doing what he was doing in verse 1, he was getting low and making God high.

He was doing what he was doing in verse 3. He was saying [to the people], “I’m not your hope! I may be the king, but I’m not your hope. This [the presence of God] is your hope!” And he was stripping himself of everything that might make the people around him believe that he could help. He was getting low.

And so his wife, for all of history, mocks him. What would that feel like to have your best friend, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, go on social media today and say, “What . . . a . . . loser!” It would hurt! David had every reason to be depressed, every reason to be anxious, every reason to be discontent.

What I see is this: a man who calmed and quieted his heart by cooperating with God. He made God high and he made himself low. You know what? The way up is down! “When you prefer others even to the point of being concerned that they get a better seat than you, then your heart is in a place that I can use it.” That really challenges me! I don’t look for the low seat.

So if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, and you feel the weight of the world falling apart around us right now, if you’re discontent, I’m inviting you to get over yourself. And I do think our selfies have to go! I want to go ahead and attack them straight on!

Do you know the average girl takes like twenty to thirty pictures before she approves one selfie, before she filters it for thirty minutes, to post it. What is that!? That’s an obsession with ourselves. It is! I take a selfie now and then. I’m not opposed to them. I’m not a legalist. 

But when it’s like the whole feed in your social media . . . you’ve got some situations that need to be addressed, my friends! I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: In this self-esteem culture that wants to tell you that you are the center of the world, and you need to find what will fulfill you, and you have great purpose, and you have great plans . . .

No! Wrong! That is not where you’re going to find contentment. You do not need self-esteem; you need God-esteem. If you understand who God is, you will understand your own value, but you won’t make too much of yourself. That’s what David found in Psalm 131.

Now, I want to put a disclaimer here that I think is really important. I am not saying that it is not wise to go get medical help from a doctor sometimes if you’re feeling really sad and you need some help. I am not saying that it is not wise to go see a Christian counselor to help you figure out how to manage your emotions and sort through some of the pain in your life.

It’s okay to go to a spa one day and push “reset” and do a little self-care. But if that is the quality of your conversation and life and the direction you’re headed in, you’re never going to be happy! Those things are not sufficient or enough; they are helpful tools that God has given to us, but they are not the ultimate solution to our contentment. 

Only God’s Word and God’s presence is the ultimate solution to your emotional angst, and His Word says the way up is down—on our knees, exalting God, honoring Him. David got over how he felt, what he wanted, who he was at odds with. Think about that. Who’s aggravating you in your life right now? Aren’t you tired of thinking about them all the time?

He got over it. And he just got consumed with thoughts about how big God is. And when he did that, he found contentment! And when he found contentment, he became a megaphone for the power of God in our lives. He said, “This is your hope!”

I can say that because I felt it; I can say that because I know it. I can say that because my life is falling apart right now, it’s not how I want it to be. And I’m sitting with God like a weaned child with its mother, where I can just enjoy my mother. I don’t need anything from her. Are you like that with God, right here, right now?

I want to say this: I have found some of the greatest, sweetest treasures of my life and my spirit when the Pez dispenser was on overtime! Does anybody else know what I’m talking about? When life is at its worst and your dreams are falling apart and your fears are looking you down in the face, they’re staring at you . . . oh!. . .the sweetness of God. That’s where it becomes so real!

This year I feel like I’ve been living in the pages of Scripture. Pieces of the Scripture—like this verse—are alive to me in ways they never have been . . . at least for a really long time. God gives us grace. He gives us great measures of grace when we’re humble . . . and when we’re not, He resists us.

If you feel like every day you’re pushing through thick walls of resistance, I want to ask you to check your heart. Because it might not be the enemy, it might not be the world, it might not be circumstances. It might be God saying, “Girl! You got to get your humility on! Dude! Stop thinking about you; stop bragging about you; stop trying to make your plans come to be!” God resists us.

But mostly, it’s because there is a treasure and a sweetness. Humility is the root of all virtues. Pride—its opposite—is the root of all sin. David found that virtue by lifting God up and by making himself less. Is the language of your life humility? Is the language of your life God?. . . making Him high, giving others a better seat?

Or are you just maybe—like I have been at certain times—just tired of thinking about yourself? Wade messaged me with a good definition of humility this week. He said, “It’s not passive and weak. Humility is clearly understanding who you are in Christ and confidently walking in the calling on your life.

I’m not trying to cancel or erase you. I’m trying to help you find the true you. I want you to find who you really are. When you know who God is, you’ll confidently know who you are. You’ll walk in things that give you so much purpose that your mind will not even fathom how much more satisfying it is than your plans!

Nancy: We’ve been listening to the Revive Our Hearts co-host, Dannah Gresh, challenging us to focus less on self, and to find true rest and contentment in the Lord. And, Dannah, I love how you challenged those students to pursue a walk of humility. How important that is, especially on those days when we’re so easily ruled by negative emotions!

At the end of your message (we didn’t air this part), you asked those students a series of questions to help search their own hearts about whether there’s a need for greater humility. For example, you said, “Are you willing to learn from others? Do you have a teachable heart?”

You asked, “Are your relationships healthy and at peace or do you struggle to get along with others?” And here’s another one: “Are you thankful for what you do have, rather than frustrated by what you’ve lost?” So that was a reminder that a humble person is grateful.

And, Dannah, I know as you asked those questions, there was something really special that took place in the auditorium that day.

Dannah: Yes, one by one, students got on their knees, recognizing, “That’s an area where I need to foster humility. It’s not present in my life.” And what an example they were to me!

Nancy: Wow! I can imagine that was an amazing moment!

As you’ve been listening to this message, I wonder if perhaps this would be a good moment for you to go to your knees if you’re physically able, if you’re in a place where you can do that and to just bow your heart before the Lord in the spirit of that psalm and say, “Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty; I don’t get involved with things too great or too wondrous for me. Instead, I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.” That heart of humility is what brings those rogue emotions under the control of the Lord!

And, Dannah, I know in my own life, it’s recognizing the sovereignty of God—the fact that heaven rules! That is what helps me to bow before the Lord and have that humble heart before Him. And that’s why I’m so excited about the 2021 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar, that’s going to remind us of that truth—Heaven Rules—every day for this next year!

Dannah: Yes, Nancy, each page is so beautifully lettered with exactly that, reminders from God’s Word that He is in control, that nothing takes Him by surprise. Or, as you often say, “Heaven rules.”

Nancy: Today is the last day we’ll be mentioning that calendar on the program, so you can think of this as your final reminder. I would love for this calendar to be in your home. It’s our way of saying “thank you” when you make a donation of any amount to support Revive Our Hearts, as we help women experience the beautiful rule of Christ in their lives.

To make a donation, you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. Listen, only the Lord knows what 2021 is going to bring, and you’re going to be thankful for these daily reminders in your home that heaven really does rule.

Dannah: Tomorrow we’re going to take a moment to hear from listeners like you. You know, we get so many emails and letters, and I love hearing what God is doing in listeners’ lives! Some of them are just too good not to share, so I hope you’ll be encouraged, as I am, by these powerful testimonies of God’s goodness.

Nancy: Yes, I’m really looking forward to sharing those, Dannah. And tomorrow is also Giving Tuesday, so I want to encourage you to be thinking about how God has used your church or another ministry in your life in a particular way, and to pray about how He might want you to support that ministry on this special Giving Tuesday. 

I hope you’ll be back as, once again, we ask the Lord to revive our hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to learn humble contentment. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Speaker

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh is the best-selling author, speaker, and founder of True Girl (formerly Secret Keeper Girl), America's most popular Christian tween event. She has authored over 20 books that have …

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