Some of my favorite verses that the Message version of the Bible appeals to me in a way that no other version does is found in Matthew 11:28-30. I have greatly felt the tiredness and burden of life and needed the rest from weariness that Jesus offers.
After my husband had been gone to prison for more than a year, I was feeling very tired and alone. I decided that I needed to try to connect someone with family or friends. I don’t remember where I saw it, but I saw an ad for an upcoming online Bible study that the videos were being offered for free. I posted something on my FaceBook page asking if any of my family or friends wanted to connect in a private group and do the study “Proven” with me. The only two that responded to me were two of my sisters-in-law. And, that began our now more than 2 years together of doing Bible studies.
I knew this was the study I needed at that moment when on the 2nd page of the study were the verses in a big bold box that were already my favorite ones that I mentioned above. I needed to recover my life and really rest in God’s arms. One of the questions in the introduction was how Jesus and I were at the moment. My answer – I was in a lukewarm phase – not excited about it, but not bitter either. And, my hope for this study was to find a renewed passion in my relationship with God and others. Two years later, I can say that I have found it!
The first study in the book is entitled “Fulfilled: The End of Thirst.” This study helped me to see just how much I had been striving to take care of everything on my own – moved to a new town, take care of all the finances, do work on the new house, travel 3 days a week to visit my husband, do the yard work, and the list goes on and on! I was tired – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I love the section that Jennie Allen (the author of “Proven”) includes in which you need to list Who God is and What He wants for me from a specific passage. It is filled with so reminders of how much more we tend to add to the list of what is expected of us. A unique aspect of her study is that each week includes 4 Experience sections. The experiences require you to put action to the study you just completed.
The second study is entitled “Connected: The End of Loneliness.” Boy, was I ever thirsting for and needing that! These lessons challenged me to be simply and honestly myself before I could ever expect to really connect more deeply with others. I tend to be much more closed about my feelings and didn’t really even let myself feel feelings because I felt like I had to keep it all together for my family. I realized that I would rather let those closest to me unburden their hurts and pains and not say anything about my own because I was worried it would bother them.
The third study is called “Rest: The End of Striving.” I think my new mantra after that lesson was to stop striving and start thriving. I had been so focused on pleasing others and God, that I was wearing myself out. I discovered that I was resting – watching way too much TV and Netflix, but not in a way that was truly helping me refresh my spirits and energy.
The fourth week’s study is “Risk: The End of Passivity.” I was reminded that if I want to find a treasure in my relationship with God, I need to be actively searching for it. I was also reminded that God wants a radical life change for me and He wants me to radically trust Him.
Next came the study entitled “Hope: The End of Fear.” I was confronted with the things I was afraid to trust in, afraid to hope for, and afraid I was not worthy of. One of the experiences sections was to reflect on some of my greatest disappointments – and there was a long list! Besides my husband being in prison, we had also experienced deaths in the family, addictions in the family, abuse in the family, and loss of income. Every small ray of hope we would get a glimpse of for some kind of relief seemed to flicker out.
Then, I came to the week of study “Grace: The End of Shame.” Wow, is that even possible? Our family had suffered so many humiliating things. I realized the extent of my shame and fear to even try to become vulnerable. Obviously, I somewhat overcame it because look at all I have been sharing with you through my writing journey! I now realized that the only way to be completely loved for who I am was to be completely authentic. I know that my story can help encourage others who are walking a similar life path.
The final week’s lesson is “Called: The End of Emptiness.” One of the first questions we are asked in that lesson is how our life would be different if we focused on our belonging to God, being with God and loving God. My answer was that I would be more joyful. We were then asked what was keeping us from that life and I answered “myself.”
Three amazing things resulted from my doing this study:
- My sisters-in-law and I have continued doing Bible studies together.
- My sister and I began doing our yearly Christmas baking together (something I chose as one of my Experience challenges).
- I began working on my book “The Road to Relationship.”
Jennie Allen has a very different format for her weekly study than most studies. Each week is set up with a Study section, a “Who Are You, Lord? and What Do You Want For Me” section, a Digging Deeper section, 4 Experience sections and a Conclusion. Some of the experience sections take some planning or shopping in order to complete.