It Is God Who Works In You

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

One of the things I appreciate the most about God is that it is NOT up to me to become like Him all by myself. Of course, I have to participate, but from a human standpoint, if I could change myself, I would have by now. It takes a supernatural intervention to change us from glory to glory, into the image of Christ.

I love the verse that states “for it is God who works in you”. If God is working in me, then I don’t have to despair of my own inabilities and failures. I love how He works in me to help my “will”, so I WANT to act to fulfill His good purpose.

As I continue in the struggle against my eating disorder and years of unhealthy eating behaviors and avoidance of exercise, I can go from “committed to healthy eating and exercise” to “who cares?” in 1 second flat. I need to know He is and will continue to be the constant influence in my life that guides me back to Him and repeatedly gives me desires to do what He wants.

If I didn’t have the assurance of His continued working in my will and my actions, and if I didn’t believe that He will complete the work He has started in me, I would easily and quickly become disillusioned and despairing. So I rest on His promises, knowing that His compassion never fails and His mercies are new every morning. I can start over again each moment of the day or night and surrender anew to Him to complete what He started. That gives me hope to continue the struggles and fight the good fight.

Questions for the day:
1. In what areas of your life do you repeatedly experience despair because of your own inabilities?
2. How can you practically turn to God in surrender to start over again every time?

I Am Not Content – I Am Fat

1Ti 6:6-8
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain: 7 for we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out; 8 but having food and covering we shall be therewith content.

Phi 4:11-13
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content. 12 I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want. 13 I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me.

It is a gray day today, a day when I finally had the guts to step on the scale and see what 3 weeks of binging on the weekends has done to me. My hard fought for size 16s are getting too right, and I don’t want to have to buy bigger clothes again. My knees are hurting, but I need to go to the gym to get this lately added weight off, since I am afraid to go and swim in the lake after my snake scare.

It is very hard to be content today, when I feel bloated and fat, and I know I must pay for my food sins with eating only raw vegetable and exercising on knees that hurt. I have that awful feeling that always eats at me that I could get in trouble at any minute for something I didn’t know I did wrong. I am edgy and nervous and experiencing that sinking feeling I get when the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting smaller and smaller, further away.

I know that whenever I deal with my weight, I get low. Not being able to lose it makes me crazy. I just want to cut it all off and start over, but it isn’t that simple. At 48, I fight just to be a size 16. I was frustrated at not being smaller, but right now, I just want to get back to it. Icky, icky, icky! That’s how I feel today.

I know I should be content no matter what size I am, and if I have nothing to eat, I should be able to cope with that as well. Is it my impatience, that I want it NOW? I want to be at least 15 pounds lighter, and that will still leave me 30 pounds left to lose. My goals just seem so far away today, and the things I have in the pipeline, I am not looking forward to.

God, I ask You to help me get my perspective right, and that I have the rest of my life to lose this weight. Help me have more self-control when my husband and I eat together. Help me to see the blue sky that I know is hidden right behind the clouds. Help me be content in this state of fatness, but give me the power and longterm discipline to lose the weight.

In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Penny Haynes

What Do I REALLY Believe About God?

I want to throw something out at you, and see if it sticks. Do you really believe God is good? I mean, He actively loves you, cares for you, wants to provide for you, and has a positive future and plan for you?  I have a feeling, if you are depressed, that you don’t – especially because I fight this every day.  I believe He loves me, but not necessarily in a fully practical way – not enough to meet what I consider to be my needs and wants.

Read Genesis 3:1-23.  In summary, the serpent goes to the woman and immediately tries to get her to focus on what God has told her she can’t have.

“Has God said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'”

She replied, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”

And the serpent said, “Ye shall not surely die: For God knows that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

What is Satan REALLY saying about God?  The bottom line is that he is saying God is EVIL.  God is NOT good.  God is withholding things from you that He should be giving to you.  He doesn’t really care about you, and always wants you dependent on Him, so He can control you.

So Eve looks the fruit over, and decides that it will nourish her and taste good, looks good, and can make her as wise as God – all without God, so she ate it, sharing it with her husband.   It made her feel good sensually, nourished her physically, was enjoyable visually, and also made her feel smart, independent and proud. She could make her own decisions and feed her carnal fleshly self whenever she wanted – without God’s help.

But immediately, Adam and Eve felt sick to their stomachs.  Whereas before they felt protected and covered by God’s presence and provision, now they felt uncovered and vulnerable.  They felt ashamed and guilty, because they disobeyed God, and the only knowledge they now had was of their own guilt and sin.  What a trick from Satan!  They had knowledge of good and evil – because they now knew they had become evil!

They thought they could somehow cover up the nakedness and guilt that they felt by creating fig leaf coverings of their own creation, but it didn’t change how they felt.  And their best friend, God, upon whom they had always relied and in whom they had always trusted for every single portion of their life – body, soul and spirit – was now someone whom they did not trust, and was someone they feared.

They no longer felt like they could freely approach God. They felt cut off, and hid themselves from Him. And although God made an animal sacrifice and created skins to cover them, He also had to put them outside of the garden, because they had chosen to make their own decisions instead of relying on Him to take care of them.  Now, instead of allowing God to provide fruit from the tree of life for them, they had to grow their own fruit to nourish themselves (work the ground). That’s what we do when we feel cut off from God – try to feed our flesh, our carnal desires, to make ourselves feel better.

Does this sound at all like how you feel at times?  Like you aren’t worthy to seek Him?  You feel sick to your stomach at the thought of Him approaching and seeing you like you are?  You are not alone.  Satan did this to Adam and Eve, and he will do this to us as well.

But the bottom line is that God is GOOD.  He is NOT evil.  Even after Adam and Eve sinned, He provided a blood sacrifice and covered them in the animal skins.  He prophesied the coming of the Messiah who would crush the serpent’s head and who would provide a blood sacrifice for all sin throughout eternity.  He made a way, through the blood of Jesus, that we could return to the garden, the kingdom of God where He reigns, and live in complete and total dependence upon Him again.

When we hear Satan telling us that we have really screwed up, that we have gone too far away or have disappointed Him too many times, and even (what he has been tormenting me with lately) that God is through with us – He will never use us again – we are simply hearing Satan repeat his infamous line to Eve… God is evil.  He doesn’t care for you.

Don’t listen to Satan.  This scripture clearly shows us that he is lying about God’s goodness. I know, I know, I struggle with it daily, too.  But I have to make a conscious decision to choose what I will believe about God.  Either I take the easy way out, believing what is piped into my mind by Satan, or I FIGHT against the lies to hold on to the truth about God from His Word.

Satan will do absolutely everything to SEPARATE us from God.  He will isolate us from others of the faith so we can’t get encouragement. He will isolate us from loved ones, so we feel unloved and forsaken. If we are to WIN, we MUST repeatedly remember that we MUST remain around others who will tell us that God is good, REGARDLESS OF HOW WE FEEL or WHAT WE SEE, especially when we cannot remember to say it to ourselves.

“Even when your heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart.” “I will never forsake you or leave you.” “His love endures forever.” “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”

In my case, my depression caused me to become more carnal, which made the hole I dug for myself even deeper.  In the absence of my belief that God is good, and in my absence of trust in Him as I faltered to believe He still loved me and wanted good things for me, I tried to make myself feel better however I could.  Eating, drinking, relationships, immersion in fantasy and entertainment were all ways of “getting my own fruit for myself” instead of trying to allow God to provide the fruit I needed from the tree of life.

Once we become a carnal Christian, trying to feed the flesh to make ourselves feel better, we pull further away from God.  Every time we try to plant and reap our own fruit, we continue in the wrong direction.  The ONLY option is to stop trying to make our own fruit, and go back to Him, in the garden, and eat the fruit He provides daily from the tree of life.

I’m not being “spiritual” here.  I’m being practical.  What I am finding lately is that I need to make a U-turn and stop trying to make myself feel better by anesthetizing myself with carnal things.  I have been called to QUIET, not the constant clatter and chatter of my Netflix shows or my Audible audiobooks. I’ve been called to fast from the things in which I always hide myself to feel better, all the while avoiding my biggest fear – that God is no longer for me. And I’m finding that is the beginning of returning to Him.

Now, instead of avoiding Him, I am talking to Him. Nothing big, just little baby steps.  I’m reading short devotions and listening to random Christian teachings mixed in with my shuffled music.  And in these moments when I am NOT trying to grow my own fruit, I am learning to practice the art of living in the NOW. I’ll share more about that in another post.

If you want to escape this cycle of depression, isolation and negative thoughts, make the decision (and the concerted effort) to say out loud if necessary, “God is GOOD.  God loves me and wants me with Him in the garden where He can take care of me and protect me.  Even though I don’t see it with my eyes, or feel it with this carnal body, He has a plan for me, to prosper and not to harm me, to give me a hope and a future.”  If you are feeling weak, then ask someone else to speak it to you and encourage you.  Just HANG ON for dear life – to HIM, and no one else.

Try NOT making yourself feel better. Try going back to a few scriptures and some time talking with Him.  Try quiet and focusing on what is going on around you right now. He is FAITHFUL, He is true, He is real, and we are overcomers because of our faith.  Keep on believing, no matter what!

Penny Haynes





What The Heck Am I Really Looking For?

I was looking through some older lessons I had saved in my file.  I used to be a fanatical bible student who created lessons from everything I studied.  This one was called “Why Do We Continue Sinning?”, but as I reviewed it, I thought it fit another question for those of us dealing with depression: “What the heck am I really looking for?”  Obviously, we are all discouraged because something is missing, but rarely can we figure out what that thing is that is causing us these feelings.

There is one section of the study that says, “So, what do we want?” This is what it says:

We think we want things and people: money, power, authority, material goods, relationships, acceptance, admiration, physical pleasure, etc.  But these objects are not the end of our goal, they are actually the MEANS to acquiring what we really want.

So what do we really want?

Isa 54:10-17 KJV: For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.  O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay they foundations with sapphires.  And I will make thy windows of agates and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.  And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.  In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee… No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.

Isa 55 KJV:  Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness…For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace…Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

What we really want is satisfaction, the satisfaction that comes from peace and results in joy.  Now, saved and unsaved people want these same things to find satisfaction – peace and joy.  However, unsaved people only know the kind of shallow, temporary satisfaction, peace and joy that they can get for themselves through those things we previously mentioned. Fleshly satisfaction is the only kind of satisfaction that we knew for many, many years.  We didn’t even know there was any other source for satisfaction, peace and joy.  (The Woman at the well did not know there was any other type of water available for her.)

Does God want us to have satisfaction that comes from peace and results in joy? Yes.  God created us with a need for those things.  Imagine a place where everything is “right with the world” – no more striving, no more stress, you have everything you need when you need it.  Do you know the name of that place?  The Kingdom of Heaven.  Another name for that place is the Kingdom of God, which begins right here on earth.  The Kingdom of God is within you, according to Luke 17:21.  But what is God’s definition of the Kingdom of God?

Rom 14:17 NKJV:  for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Mat 6:31 – 34 NKJV: Therefore do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek.  For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (peace and joy – inserted by Penny) shall be added to you. 

 We’ve pursued the wrong goals – we’ve pursued the “stuff” and the activities and busy-ness, instead of directly pursuing the peace and joy God offers through this Holy Spirit.

Achieving satisfaction does not come from feeding the fleshly desires, but comes from the peace and joy found only in the Holy Spirit.  But notice the first word in the series listed above:  righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Notice, the Kingdom of God is not just a matter of peace and joy, it is a matter of righteousness first (remember Matthew 6). What does righteousness have to do with our satisfaction?  Jesus said, in Matthew 5:6, that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled, or satisfied.  And what is righteousness?  Hitting the mark of trusting God for all of our needs.

How do you achieve peace, or the absence of struggling and striving? By trusting God for every area of your life. 

Isa 26:3 NKJV:  You will keep him in perfect peace Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.

Phil 4:6 NKJV:  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and mind through Christ Jesus.

Once you have the peace of God through trust in Him, the result is joy in the Holy Spirit.

Psa 5:11-12 NKJV:  But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.  For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield.

When we do not know the peace that passes understanding, we settle for the peace that comes from satisfying the flesh.  (That’s how we spent most of our lives – thinking fleshly satisfaction was all there was.) And we will stop at nothing to satisfy the flesh, including going back to our old habits and mindsets to obtain that temporary satisfaction. I believe that our level of sanctification is in direct proportion to our level of satisfaction.

We will get angry at the things that block our fleshly satisfaction, and dejected and depressed when we fear there is no hope we will ever attain that fleshly satisfaction.

Phil 3:18-20 NKJV:  For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame; who set their mind on earthly thingsFor our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

When our desires become the god that we serve, we set our mind on earthly things to satisfy us, and become enemies of the cross of Christ.  But when we realize that our citizenship is in the Kingdom of God, we can trust God to provide for all of our need according to His riches in glory.  Then we can stop trying to satisfy ourselves outside of God’s will and timing (which is sin), and rest in His love, faithfulness and promises (which is righteousness).

Remember, the perfect peace that comes from the Prince of Peace is in exact opposition to the pseudo peace that comes from satisfying the flesh.  The peace of God comes only from faith, or trusting in God.  The false peace can only come from sin, or trusting in ourselves to get some kind of satisfaction by our own means.

We will stop sinning when we realize that we cannot possibly satisfy ourselves through anything other than trusting in God and yielding to His Holy Spirit’s leading.  We need a transformation of our mindset, where we no longer believe the lie that our flesh can fill our hunger, but understand the truth that peace and joy are the direct result of being right with God and being in the center of His will.

Ouch!  I’m preaching to myself.  My depression is directly related to my obstinate demand that my flesh and the world (and people in the world) make me feel better, satisfy me and my needs.  I actually refuse to abstain from attempting to get my needs met from the world, and then cry to God when I am depressed, when I should be REFUSING to try and get my satisfaction from the world, and simply coming to God to satisfy me.

Oh, I don’t say this is easy.  I’m so screwed up most of the time, I don’t even really know what I want, or why I’m feeling the way I feel.  However, I know that is why He has stopped me in my tracks this month.  I can’t find work. I can’t lose weight. There are no projects for me to do to make myself feel important or valuable or proud.  And I can’t eat my way out of it either – I’m on a 30 day fast without meat, dairy or grains, and I have promised to work out for an hour 5 times a week, although I hate it.  All I have now is God. And I’d better find a way to be satisfied only in Him – quick.

I don’t have all the answers, I’m just sharing with you the lessons I am learning (or re-learning) as I come to them.  I have to make the rubber meet the road somehow.  I have to disconnect from my demands of this world and my flesh, and cling solely to God.  I can’t see myself doing that, I’m such a carnal Christian right now.  I want food to make me feel better, and a project to entertain me and make me feel valuable, or at least see myself lose weight.  Pray for me, and share what is going on with you, so I can pray for you.  We will find a way through this, to a place on God’s lap, where we can be still and satisfied.

Penny Haynes

The Gentleness of God

As many of you know, I spent time running from God.  I had been so depressed for so long that I figured I had no chance of happiness with God, because He appeared to have no interest in healing me.  My conscious decision was to turn my back on God so I would have SOME chance of experiencing happiness, regardless of what God thought about it.

I stopped running almost a year ago.  When I returned to Him, I was cautious, cynical, and not very optimistic about what my life would be like.  I was closed up, suspicious of all Christians, and battling the shame of what I had done.

Mostly, I spent my time looking over my shoulder, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I KNEW there was no way that a “mature” Christian who had done her best to walk away from God could possibly escape without some type of punishment from God.  So I was always jumpy, waiting for that “chastisement” to happen.

Things stayed pretty quiet.  I tried to get somewhat involved at church, but that’s kind of hard when you don’t trust people or want to have anything to do with them.  I just kept my head low in hopes of staying under the radar, so maybe God would forget I was even there.

Then, in September 2010, I was radically freed from an 8 year depression. The haze lifted, my suspicion and cynicism were gone, and my shame disappeared.  I began to laugh again, interact with people, take responsibility for things at church.  I started living again.

My church has a 21 day fast every January.  I’m a firm believer in the power of their fasting – it was how my husband prayed me back into fellowship with God and with him.  I just rarely fast – the last time I did it was 1998, I believe, for about 2 weeks.  This made me a little nervous.  Why?  Because everyone was excited about God revealing things to them during the fast.

Screeeeeeeech! (That was the sound of my spiritual wheels coming to an abrupt halt.)  Um, I’m trying to avoid any deep interaction with God.  I am trying to still stay under the radar.  If I get close to God, He is going to finally “get me back” for what I did.  I know I deserve the retribution; I simply don’t want to experience it.

And this is how I first approached this fast.  If I do this, God will start dealing with me about things I don’t want to deal with.  My past, my problems, my strongholds.  Yes, I would like to be free, but I expect that with problems of my magnitude, this was going to REALLY, really hurt.

But I thought about it a little more, and realized that, although the depression was gone, I still do not have complete peace.  There are strongholds and fears in my life that keep me up at night.  They force me to make emotional decisions instead of mental or spiritual decisions. They lay me open to satanic attack.  I decided that maybe I do want to have these things removed, and MAYBE, just maybe, it was worth dealing with whatever else God had in mind for me.

So I asked God what He wanted me to fast, and he made it clear to me.  Although everyone else is simply doing the Daniel Fast, He asked me to do something a bit more strict. You see, the Daniel Fast would be nothing for me.  I don’t have to ever have meat or leavened bread or added sugar.  I can create lots of really yummy dishes from that list of accepted ingredients.  And THAT is my problem.

He revealed to me that, for a lack of a better term, I was a pleasure addict.  And since I don’t have an addiction to drugs, alcohol or sex, I was feeding that addiction with pleasurable food.  He also made it clear that I was actually refusing to give up that addiction OUT OF REBELLION AGAINST HIM.

Now THAT knocked me for a loop! Although He said it very gently and without a hint of condemnation, I was blown away by that.  What do you mean I eat out of rebellion against You?  His answer: You have it in your head that I have not, do not, and will not meet your needs, and so every time you overeat or eat things you know you shouldn’t, you are saying (excuse my terminology here…), “Screw you, God.  You’re not doing anything to make me happy, so I’m going to have to make myself happy!”

Wow. I was stunned. That had never crossed my mind. And it saddened me. Because I realized that it was TRUE.   I had NEVER thought my eating was disobedience to God or rebellion.  But mine is.

He said that all of my other strongholds were based on this underlying problem.  I have resented God regarding the lack of happiness and pleasure in my life.  If I am not physically pursuing pleasure, I am constantly distracted by the thoughts about it.   And my thought-life, I am positive, is far from pleasing to God.

He also confirmed another thing I thought – 21 days will NOT be enough to exorcise the demons I have been entertaining. He’s calling me to a 40 day fast of nothing but raw vegetables, fruits, grains and organic plain yogurt. I can eat as much as I want – but He knows that won’t be a problem, because I get NO PLEASURE out of any of those foods.

I say all of this to share the most surprising thing of all.  God has not shown one iota of anger at me.  He has not been vindictive, or harsh.  Everything is said in love and with the greatest gentleness.  He wants me to be healed, and be truly happy, and He knows I can never reach that by myself.  He is willing to heal me, but it will require my obedience in order to receive it.

So if you are waiting for the other shoe to drop because of previous or present actions, I offer you hope.  God doesn’t hate you.  He doesn’t want to hurt you.  He wants to be back in a loving relationship with you.  And He wants to love on you.  Let Him.

Penny Haynes