Adults

Breaking the Selfish Cycle

I am a selfish person.

I want things to happen the way I want them to happen and when I want them to happen.

And, if I may be so bold, you are a selfish person, too.

“Looking out for number one” is more than just a cultural phenomenon. Selfishness is rooted deeply in our fallen, sinful nature.

Even as a follower of Christ, I exhibit self-centered tendencies daily.

I struggle with this “Selfish Cycle”:

  1. I act selfishly.
  2. I realize I have been selfish and regret it.
  3. I put myself down for being selfish.
  4. I try to make up for being selfish by doing something good.
  5. I am proud of myself for the good things I have done.
  6. I realize that I am being prideful.
  7. Repeat from step 2.

Sound familiar?

The Source of Selfless Joy

Until recently, my one-year-old still woke overnight to eat. Every night since his birth, he would wake around midnight to 2 a.m. for this purpose. For the first six months of his life, I was his only source of nutrition, so I was burning the midnight oil with him every night. After I returned to work, we transitioned to a bottle, which meant freedom—my husband could now share in the midnight feedings. For weeks, I would feign sleep or ask my husband to take the night shift because, after all, I’d woken with him exclusively for six months. It was about time he shared the responsibility.

Weeks turned into months, however, and my husband was regularly exhausted from night shift duty. I could see his exhaustion, yet I still let him get up for the majority of night feedings each week. I allowed my desire for sleep to deprive my husband of much-needed rest. I acted like my husband owed me for all of those sleepless nights I endured, and I didn’t care enough about my husband’s needs to share the burden. I was being selfish.

I’m Selfish

Have you ever had one of those really busy days? When everything you do seems to be overlapping with the next and you can’t seem to finish anything well?

Or, maybe you are like me lately, and this has been a season you are in. I feel like over the past few months I have grown to become queen of the to-do list.

My days, give or take a few changing variables, look like me groggily waking up to my alarm, rushing out the door to my 9–6 job, filling my breaks and lunches with an errand, then going straight from work to my next activity. Most of my evenings I have planned. Whether it’s small group, church volunteering, homework, or time with my husband.

None of these things on my list are bad. But over the last year, I have formed a cadence to my life.

My schedule, my time, my to-do list, and my rushing around, all of the sudden, has become a lot about me.

“Broken” Revisited

I don’t like the word “broken.” Broken is not a word that brings forth positive visual imagery to my pondering mind. It’s a sad word, a despairing word. Consider some of the connotations for broken:

  • broken hearts
  • broken bones
  • broken homes
  • broken relationships
  • broken people
  • broken dreams

Even broken things can produce frowns. I still remember the day my toddler made a mad dash through our home and knocked over a stone pitcher. It was one of the few heirlooms from my mom who died when I was only 13. Thankfully I quickly acknowledged that my son’s heart was of greater value than even this crock—but the loss associated with this now broken (but repaired) object still resonates.

In light of the negative associations, we wonder, can anything good come from “broken”? Oh, yes.

Benefits of Brokenness

A broken heart invites the notice and attendance of God into our need:

Loving Different People

Cissy McNickle; her husband, “Buff;” and their 3 children moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey, almost 3 years ago to plant a church. They believed God had equipped them, but it was still a scary move.

In the Northeast, only 5.9% of the population is affiliated with an evangelical church. Cissy had to learn to love people different from her genuinely. That includes girls working in strip clubs.

Cissy oversees a ministry to these girls called Love’s Way Out AC. The ministry is affiliated with Grace Falls Church, which Cissy and Buff planted.

“I love the ministry of church planting God has called my family to, and I will continue to allow God to use my circumstances to conform me more and more into the likeness of Jesus,” Cissy said.

She has witnessed the power of prayer in their ministry and requested prayer for the protection of her marriage and children as well as for boldness to do the work God has called her family to do.

LaNita Mitchell writes and serves from Princeton, Kentucky. She has a master’s degree in Christian ministry.

Doing Less Brings Peace

Missionary, wife, and mother of 4 Heidi Sivonen is learning that doing less brings peace to her home.

“As a big family, we have learned as parents and as a couple that we need to prioritize life in such a way as to not be busy-bodies. Protecting the family from ‘busy-ness’ and learning to say no to the plethora of opportunities has helped us to create more peace in the home. Our ministry is full and we need to know our limits as we take up our cross and follow Jesus.”

Heidi and her husband, Mikko, serve as church planters in Finland. Mikko is the church-planting pastor of Espoon Kotikirkko and cofounder and coleader of Agricola Theological Institute, where he helps train local church members, elders, and pastors in church planting. Heidi helps a national crisis pregnancy group (her husband’s church houses 1 of 10 trained crisis pregnancy centers in Finland) and blogs at HousewifeUniversity.blogspot.com.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Nathan and Andi Knight

Restoration Church continues to reach a global population in the nation’s capital. One such example is a young Chinese girl who began attending the church more than a year ago. She could be found at many of the fellowship gatherings but continued to only “consider Jesus.” Recently, after a sermon addressing the meaning and importance of the Lord’s Supper, she came to copastor Nathan Knight and, in broken English, said, “I have decided to follow Jesus. What must I do now?” The church celebrated her conversion as she was baptized. This young girl gave an incredibly God-glorifying, Christ-exalting testimony in front of many people. Today she continues to be mentored and discipled by another girl from China in the church.

Unsung

Perhaps no other group of people are more familiar with persevering in a demanding, often mundane, and emotionally painful world than the community of caregivers.

  • Peter Rosenberger has logged over 30 years of caring for his wife, Gracie, a double amputee.
  • I have a Facebook friend who is over 10 years post-stroke, meeting the multiple daily needs of her husband.
  • My sons had a teacher whose retirement package included five years of round-the-clock care following her husband’s brain hemorrhage.
  • I was the mother of a special needs daughter who faced major care challenges in her 19 years of life.

Books have been written about the blessings that come with caring for those rendered helpless in different phases of life. But with caregiving also comes the difficulties of isolation, identity loss, and exhaustion. It calls for daily sacrifices that clearly represent self-denial, taking up one’s cross, and persevering in a task that will not see its greatest reward until heaven.

Perseverance: What Can We Do When Someone Else Loses Hope?

There’s so much in God’s Word about perseverance. But what do we do when another believer is worn out . . . has lost hope . . . or is physically drained? This is when we come alongside one another and build each other up. This is when our own faith and what we’ve been through ministers to another soul.

Proverbs 27:7 says we are like iron, sharpening one another.

One Thessalonians 5:14 tells us to “encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (NIV).

One of the most beautiful pictures of spiritual assistance is in Exodus 17. Moses lifts the staff of God upward during the battle between Israel and the Amalakites. When his arm is lifted, Israel is winning. Then Moses’ body becomes tired, his arm lowers, and Israel starts losing. Along comes Aaron and Hur to stand alongside Moses, helping support him to stay upright. The nation of Israel is victorious in the battle.

Who do you know that could use some prayer and spiritual support?

A Dubious Honor

I once received an “award” from the editor of HomeLife magazine! But it was probably recognition that no one else wanted. At a Lifeway writers workshop, I was acknowledged to have received more rejections for submissions to HomeLife than anyone else in the room. 

Perhaps my fellow writers wondered why I would confess to the number of rejections required for the award. But I felt differently. I knew those rejections represented necessary stepping stones to eventual acceptances. My perseverance in continuing to push past the sometimes painful “doesn’t meet our needs” comments later paved the way for positive results. I even received a cover story assignment from HomeLife editors who began to recognize my name and refusal to surrender without a publication victory.

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