Cultivating a Life Without Judgment: Day 1

Reading guide banner WEEK 4

     Day 1: Judging Others 

Let’s be honest: it’s easy to judge others. It’s easy to judge how they drive. It’s easy to judge how they parent. It’s easy to judge how they work. It’s easy to judge how they dress. It’s just…easy to judge. 

But have you ever stopped to think about why we judge others? Some researchers have learned that the primary reason we judge others is because we think lowly of ourselves. In other words, research has shown that if we think we can convince ourselves that others have a more pathetic life than we do, then we’ll feel better about who we are. But guess what? It doesn’t work…EVER! 

What does work, is coming to the realization that we cannot grow if we regularly judge others. Why? Because we cannot grow if we think lowly of ourselves. And if we judge others primarily because we think lowly of ourselves, we just get caught in this vicious cycle.

While the solution sounds simple, it’s quite difficult to put into practice on a regular basis. Our culture has basically trained us to be judgmental towards others. Doing the opposite takes diligence, and a willingness to allow others to hold us accountable.

As you read today, consider this: Are you willing to give others permission to hold you accountable to being less judgmental?

READING:

     Matthew 7:1-5; John 8:1-8; James 4:11-12; Proverbs 27:17

Are you willing to give others permission to hold you accountable to being less judgmental. (Proverbs 27:17)

What do you think is the difference between judging others vs holding others accountable for their actions? In other words, when is it OK to hold somebody accountable, and when does it cross a line to judging them? 

Would you agree that we often judge others as a way to try to feel better about ourselves? Why doesn’t this work? 

God is inviting you to change the way you see yourself. How will you think differently about yourself this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I confess that there are times in my life when I judge others and that I have done so just to try to feel better about myself. This week, I pray that You will continue to lead and guide me to see myself in the same way You see me. Not as someone who is of little value, but as someone who You valued so much that You sent Jesus to give His life for me. May this truth resonate deep within me! I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Worry: Day 5

Reading guide banner WEEK 3

     Day 5: Commit to Growth

READING: Psalm 55

  • Read Psalm 55. What are some things that may have led the author of this Psalm to be worried or afraid?
  • What steps did he take to experience growth and healing from his worries? (see v.22)
  • How will you continue to think differently about your worries, depression & anxieties in the weeks ahead?  
  • What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself this week? About God? Other? 

Cultivating a Life Without Worry: Day 4

Reading guide banner WEEK 3

     Day 4: Renewal of the Mind

Have you ever heard your grandfather say, “Back when I was your age, we weren’t afraid of a little snow. In fact, we used to walk to school in 2 feet of snow!” He may have exaggerated the story a little bit more each time. But the main point was the same: we weren’t afraid of a little snow.

But today, we do worry more than we used to. We worry about allowing our kids to roam the neighborhood and play, concerned that something bad may happen. We worry about preparing a Holiday meal for the extended family, concerned that there won’t be enough or that it won’t be prepared well. We worry about what they’ll think of the house. We worry about what they may say. We worry about…far too much. 

Statistically, our kids are safer now than ever. We just worry more because we see news media that regularly shows bad things happening. As for the Holiday dinner…we worry because we care too much about what others think. In fact, some of us spend too much time worrying about what we think others are thinking! 

Bottom line: We need to change the way we think. As you read today, consider this: What steps do you need to go through to experience a renewal of the mind? 

READING:

     Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8; Ephesians 4:21-24

Some scholars have noted that a renewal of the mind isn’t something that happens overnight. Instead it takes time, and a lot of practice. Given your life schedule, what steps can you take to regularly practice and experience a renewal of the mind?

Of the three scripture passages you read today, which one resonates with you most? Why do you think that is? 

What are 2 – 3 things in your everyday life you can limit or completely remove that may help you to worry less?

God is inviting you to change the way you think about your worries, depression and anxiety. How will you think differently this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, thank You once again for the truths communicated in Your Word. I’m grateful that there can be a renewing of the mind, and it’s my desire to commit to trusting You to help me get there. Continue to reveal to me Your good, pleasing, and perfect will, and may I reflect the essence of who You are as I interact with others today. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Worry: Day 3

Reading guide banner WEEK 3

     Day 3: What Can You Control?

Take just a minute to write down the four biggest stressors you have in life right now. Of these four stressors, which ones do you have some control over? (Weight Loss, Diet, How you respond to marriage/family relational challenges, Debt, Time Management, etc.) And which ones do you have no control over? (Other people’s attitudes and/or decisions, work schedule, etc.)

Here’s how this plays out in our lives: we don’t provide the time and attention to the things we can control because we stress too much about the things we can’t control. We think things like, “Well, I can’t really do anything about my work schedule right now, so maybe I’ll eat out to feel better.” Or, “My extended family members are so far from God right now, I’m so worried for them! Maybe I should go shopping so I can stop thinking about it.” 

You see? Stressing about those things outside of our control hinder our ability to make progress in the areas we can control. Perhaps it’s time to be different. Write down those things that you know you cannot control, and set them aside. Put them someplace where you’ll see them often (a jar on a shelf) , and every time you see them you can remind yourself that God is in control. Then, you can better partner with God and focus your energies on those stressors in which you know you have some control. 

READING:

     Isaiah 35:4; 41:10; 1 John 4:18;  Psalm 23:4

What are the biggest stressors in your life in which you have no control over? Do you think that physically writing them down and setting them aside may help you remember that God is in control?

Read 1 John 4:18. What do you think it means that there is no fear in love? How would you explain this verse to a friend or relative who struggles with fear and worry? 

Have you ever found yourself failing to overcome the things in which you do have some control over because you gave in to worrying about the things in which you have no control over?

God is inviting you to change the way you think about your worries, depression and anxiety. How will you think differently this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, today I’m grateful for the reminder that there are challenges in my life which I can control, but there are others that are fully outside of my control. Help me to grow by rooting out all of the weeds (things in which I have no control) so that even though I walk in darkness, I will fear no evil. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Cultivating a Life Without Worry: Day 2

Reading guide banner WEEK 3

     Day 2: What Does Worry Lead To?

Some individuals have a natural personality of experiencing ongoing angst. In fact, the most common personality type according to the Enneagram personality profile (type six) regularly struggles with angst. 

But angst is a little bit different than worry, depression and anxiety. Angst is part of an individual’s normal personality. It’s being cautious and careful, desiring to see the big picture in any decision being made. If somebody cannot see the big picture, they experience some angst about the decision. This kind of angst is natural, and protects us from decisions that may lead to more harm than good.

Worry, however, is often a choice. Somebody may worry when there is no immediate threat, still perceiving that something bad or unfortunate is going to happen. The longer they stay in this pattern of believing something bad is going to happen, the more likely they are to experience depression or ongoing anxiety. 

As you read today, consider this: When you’re making a decision, are you more likely to dwell on the best possible outcome, or the worst? Why do you think that is? 

READING:

     Deuteronomy 31:8; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Romans 8:38-39

When you’re making a decision, are you more likely to dwell on the best possible outcome, or the worst? Why do you think that is?

Have you ever considered the difference between angst and worry? 

What are some things you have done that have helped lessen your worries, depression, or anxieties? Similarly, what are some things you’ve done that haven’t helped? 

God is inviting you to change the way you think about your worries, depression and anxiety. How will you think differently this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I thank You for inviting me to think differently about my worries and anxieties. Today, I invite You to point out anything in my life that may lead to ongoing anxiety, and to reveal to me the best next step I can take to remove them from my life. I also pray that You would present me opportunities to help ease the worries and anxieties of others by sharing with them the truth of Your Word. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Worry: Day 1

Reading guide banner WEEK 3

     Day 1: Why Worry?

In the movie Bridge of Spies, insurance lawyer James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) is required to defend an accused Russian Spy in court. The evidence against the spy is overwhelming. At various points throughout the movie, James Donovan asks his client, “You’re not worried?” Every time, the defendant responds by saying, “Would it help?”

The Russian Spy, Rudolph Abel, knew that he had been caught. He knew that the evidence against him was strong. He knew that he would likely be convicted, found guilty, and would either spend the rest of his life in prison, or perhaps even be sentenced to death. Despite all of this, every time he was asked if he was worried he responded the same way, “Would it help?”

In the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, character Newt Scamander is quoted as saying, “My philosophy is if you worry, you suffer twice.”

As you read today, consider this: What do you find yourself most worried about in life? Would you agree that worrying doesn’t help or simply leads to suffering twice? 

READING:

     Matthew 11:28-30; Psalm 55:22; Proverbs 12:25

Would you agree that worrying doesn’t help, or simply leads to suffering twice?

Can you think of any circumstance in which worrying about the outcome would be helpful? 

Take some time to look up additional Scripture passages about worry or anxiety. Commit to sharing a verse you discover with a family member, friend, or another loved one.

God is inviting you to change the way you think about your worries, depression and anxiety. How will you think differently this week?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I want to move forward in life not being controlled by my fears and worries. Throughout this week, I pray that You would reveal to me the things that I worry about that lead me to unnecessary suffering. Help me to remember the truth Your Word, which says that if I cast my cares upon You, that You will sustain me. May my life always be sustained in You and in You alone. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Hurt: Day 5

Reading guide banner WEEK 2

     Day 5: Commit to Growth

READING: Psalm 5

  • Read Psalm 5. What are some things that may have led the author of this Psalm to be angry or hurt?
  • Did the author of this Psalm seek out any judgment or retribution of his own? Why do you think that is?
  • What is the most memorable lesson you’ve learned about the nature and character of God this week? 
  • What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself this week?

Cultivating a Life Without Hurt: Day 4

Reading guide banner WEEK 2

     Day 4: Letting Go

Within our culture, there’s a phrase that is often spoken, but is impossible to live out. That phrase is, “Forgive and forget.” The forgiving part is a serious challenge in and of itself. The forget part, just can’t be done. Not only is it an impossible request, but it’s not something God speaks to us from His Word.

In 1 Corinthians 13, we read a lengthy definition of love. Love, as it’s described in 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV), “…is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” If anger truly is the result of hurt or fear, then we could read this passage as, “Love is not easily afraid, or easily hurt.” The passage goes on to say that Love keeps no record of wrongs. Notice that the passage doesn’t say, “Love forgets all the wrong that was done against it.” Instead, God simply says that somebody expressing real love won’t indefinitely hold a grudge. Instead, somebody expressing real love will offer forgiveness. They won’t forget what happened to them. But they will move forward in grace, keeping no record of the wrong that was done against them. 

As you read today, consider this: Have you experienced something hurtful in which you haven’t offered forgiveness? What would it look like to move forward, keeping no record of wrongs? 

READING:

     1 Corinthians 13; Ephesians 4:32; Matthew 6:15

Have you experienced something hurtful in which you haven’t offered forgiveness? What would it look like for you to offer forgiveness, move forward, and keep no record of wrongs? 

Why do you think forgiveness is so hard? 

In what ways do you think forgiveness can offer personal healing? Explain.

What have you learned today about the nature and character of God? How will you better reflect His nature and character today?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, of the many virtues within Your Word, offering complete forgiveness is one of the more challenging to fulfill. I have sometimes struggled to forgive others, or have continued to keep a record of the wrongs they’ve done against me. Admittedly, I have sometimes struggled to forgive myself (or accept Your forgiveness) for foolish decisions I have made. Today I ask that You would lead me on a path of forgiveness. May You guide me to release those things I’ve held onto that have only caused pain, and may I experience the freedom from that pain that only can provide. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Cultivating a Life Without Hurt: Day 3

Reading guide banner WEEK 2

     Day 3: Digging in: Part II

Take a few moments and think about your average day. How many different people do you see or interact with? Between your home or apartment, classmates, colleagues, and others you may see at the gas station or grocery store, you likely have some form of contact with a few dozen (or more) people every day. 

In most of these interactions, you have no idea what may be going on in their lives. You may witness somebody frustrated with a cashier because their credit card was declined. The reality is they’re not frustrated because their credit card was declined. Instead, they’re hurting because they just put a parent or grandparent in a nursing home. You may see somebody weaving in and out of traffic and think to yourself, “They’re driving like a maniac!” But the reality is their son or daughter just experienced a significant injury, and they’re trying to get to the hospital.

To put it differently, we sometimes make up stories about what’s going in other people’s lives. These stories we tell ourselves may be accurate. But on many occasions, we make up false stories that put others in a negative light. 

As you read today, consider this: How often do you find yourself making up stories about what others may be thinking or doing?

READING:

     Proverbs 19:9; 26:18-19 Exodus 20:16; Matthew 15:18-20

How often do you find yourself making up stories in your mind about what other people may be thinking or doing? 

Do you think that making up stories in your mind about what other people are thinking is similar to or different from bearing false witness against them? Explain. 

What do you think would be the best steps to take to find out if a story you’re telling yourself is accurate or not? 

What have you learned today about the nature and character of God? How will you better reflect His nature and character today?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, today’s reading has revealed to me that there are times when I quickly judge others or their circumstances without taking the time to ask them how they’re doing or how I may be in prayer for them. I don’t want to be a person who makes up incorrect or inappropriate stories about what others may be thinking or doing. Continue to help me see that others may be experiencing tremendous brokenness, and provide me the heart to help them in their suffering. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Hurt: Day 2

Reading guide banner WEEK 2

     Day 2: Digging In: Part I

Think about it: how often do you take opportunities to pause and think about what you’re feeling? Most people in our culture don’t pause. Instead, we’ll numb our lives with work, sports, social media, or anything else to try to escape.

Men, in particular, have a more difficult time talking about their feelings. Pastor Andy Stanley once joked that if you ask a man who has just experienced disappointment what he’s feeling, he’s likely to respond by saying, “I’m frustrated.” Ask why he’s frustrated and he’ll say, “Because I’m angry!” Sometimes, it’s just difficult to know exactly why we’re feeling the way we are.

In their study titled Emotionally Healthy Relationships, Pastor Pete Scazzero and his wife Geri provide a simple activity to help people dig-in to what they’re feeling. Let’s try it. 

Grab a sheet of paper and give yourself one minute (a full minute!) to answer each of these questions. It will likely be strange to complete this exercise, but it’s an excellent way to help you process through your current emotions. 

  • What are you mad about?
  • What are you sad about?
  • What are you anxious about?
  • What are you glad about? 

READING:

   Proverbs 14:29; 16:32; Ephesians 4:31-32

What was it like for you to pause and answer the four questions in today’s devotional? Was there anything about your answers to these questions that was a surprise to you? 

Some have argued that it’s better to keep our emotions hidden, as our emotions can deceive us. What do you think: Is it better to know and understand your emotions, or is it better to have or express very little emotion? 

Did you grow up in a family that encouraged talking about disappointments, frustrations and other feelings? How much has your upbringing impacted how well you understand your emotions today? 

What have you learned today about the nature and character of God? How will you better reflect His nature and character today?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, there are many times when I don’t always recognize the things that may be causing me to feel mad, sad, anxious, or glad. Continue to reveal to me not only what I may be feeling, but also the reason why I may be feeling it, so that I may respond to difficult situations gracefully. In Jesus’ name. Amen.