June 24, 2011 by Stacy McDonald

A Right Focus…

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The following paragraphs came from part of a response I received from a woman who took issue with my critique of a particular book, a book I’d prefer not to publicize by mentioning its name (as you know, bad press is better than no press). I believe this book tears down and divides the Body of Christ. Not only that, but, it places an additional burden on true victims of abuse and encourages them to focus on the past, and agonize over the sins of those who have offended them. Either concern should be troubling to Christians. I included my response below, since it allows me to clarify a few things.

Dear Mrs. McDonald, First let me say, that I love your testimony shared on your blog. I use to follow your blogs and read your books, but Christ has set me free. Your testimony, and the pain there within, is more effective than your instruction. God uses our pain and past; not so much our perfect lives.

Can I ask you a question? When and how do we bring Glory to God? Is it by our perfect lives and following standards or is it through Christ working in us. I assure you that you are just as accepted and worthy to Him the second you believed on Him as you will ever be. Christ is not merely a means to a perfect life and happy family, but He is an ends. – Jenna

Dear Jenna –

Thank you for responding. I am glad you found some value in my testimony. You are very right; “God uses our pain and past; not so much our perfect lives.” It is amazing to me how God can use our pitiful, sinful, and painful pasts to heal lives and glorify Himself. When I am suffering in some way, I always try to remember, “Don’t waste the pain.” Just like childbirth, when we push into the pain, and deal with it biblically, it bears fruit in our lives. However, if we blame others, become angry or bitter, or dwell in, or focus on our offenses, we stay in a place of self-imposed suffering. And sometimes we poison others in the process.

You are also right that we are “just as accepted and worthy to God the second we believe as we ever will be.” It is only because of Christ’s sacrifice that we are saved from God’s wrath and accepted as beloved sons and daughters of His. There is nothing we can do to earn, accomplish, or add to that. But, because of Christ’s great love for us, because of all He’s done for us, and simply because of who He is, we should be eager and glad to obey Him out of love. And what is it that He has called us to do?

First and foremost, we are to love God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds. We are told by Jesus that “this is the first and great commandment.” He goes on to say that “the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

The way we are to live and to relate to one another is all wrapped up in the above two commands. Understanding that none of us is perfect, and that we are all on the path of sanctification, we need to extend the same grace to one another as we ourselves hope to receive from God. We all must rely on God’s grace as we repent, forgive, reconcile, and move on.

For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Matthew 7:2)

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:44–45)

You implied that I somehow promote perfection on my blog. I assure you, my life is far from perfect. I’ve tried to be very transparent about that on my blog, in my talks, and in the books and articles I’ve written. It is because of my imperfections, sinful past, and overall weaknesses that I speak to the issues I do. I am sorry you somehow perceived something different. I assure you, I struggle with my sin every single day; and as my family can attest, I am far, far from perfect. The beauty of God’s grace is that God’s love for us has nothing to do with how “close to the mark” we get. He loves us in spite of our works, not because of them.

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. (1 Timothy 1:15–16)

If Jesus can save someone like me, He can save anyone. Christianity isn’t about being perfect; it’s about testifying of our perfect God’s power and goodness by humbly living our lives to His glory. You asked me what it means to glorify God. The Westminster Catechism tells us that our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

The Christian life is full of beauty, joy, and hope. We glorify God by dying to self, dying to the world, esteeming others better than ourselves, and ultimately reflecting Jesus. We glorify God when we express our love for Jesus by seeking to walk as He walked—loving and serving others in purity and holiness.  We need to stop thinking so much about ourselves and focus on Him, and on loving and serving one another, as the summary of the law teaches in Matthew 22.

Any person, blogger, preacher, or book that tells us to focus more on ourselves, to scrutinize the sins and motives of others, or to view trials and tribulations through the lens of perpetual victimhood is not spurring others on to good works. In fact, with their self-consuming message, they are distracting others from Jesus – the very opposite of glorifying God.

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5–6)

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7 Responses to “A Right Focus…”

  1. Alethea says:

    Thank you so much. I’ve been waiting to see a post from steadfast daughters. We’ve put a lot of effort into trying to get a family member to understand that ALL teen girls hurt, even in the best family situations, but writing books and trying to hurt others in response is not the right way to deal with things. Also, we will all parent our children somewhat differently than we were parented, it’s O.K. Hurting our parents is not O.K. When we try our best to follow God’s commands, some will surely reject us, but we continue anyway. Thanks.

  2. alH says:

    Not knowing the book in question, I can only speak to the principles expressed in this post and the above comments:
    The question is not one of intention; not whether one means to hurt or to heal. That matter is obvious– to mean harm is ungodly; to mean well is good. But from that point the issue becomes HOW to do good. Right intentions are not necessarily inherently wise. For this we need the prayer of James 1:5, that God provide wisdom to the unwise, and the Word of God as instructed by His Holy Spirit. We must decide our orientation. Will the song of our heart be, “Have thine own way Lord,” or will we sing “I did it my way”?
    Thank you once again, dear Stacy, for seeking to do it His way.

  3. Beautiful response, Stacy. Thank you for seeking Him in all you do…your blog and story help me in my journey to continuing to surrender each day in everything to Him.

    Praying for you and your family on your journey in serving Him!

    Dancing at the foot of the Cross,

    Mrs Mary Joy Pershing

  4. Angela Delaney says:

    Thank you for defending the faith, Stacy!

  5. Jennifer says:

    The author’s purpose was not to dirty family, AlH, but to raise awareness about spiritually bad methods.

    While I disagree about the book, I do appreciate this good article on moving on and especially using pain! I suffer from anxiety, but in my darkest times, God’s given me the most comfort. I struggled recently over the issue of husbands being lord of their wives; God gave me comfort, but it was an opportunity for me to die to His will even when I was unsure of it.

  6. Charis says:

    Just a hug for you!

    Don’t know if you remember me. We had some nice exchanges on your FB site. I was impressed with you and your husband’s respectful tone though we don’t agree on the “women issue”.
    I followed the link here from elsewhere and I’m so sorry to see you vilified like that. :( Hurts when we try so hard to do what is right and its so very misconstrued. ((((sigh)))

    I hope the author of the book you mentioned uses a pen-name. How would it feel to be her parents? :(

    Love, Charis

  7. Stacy McDonald says:

    Charis – Thank you! Hug back!

    Yes, I remember you. You were a cool drink of water – a wonderful example of how we can disagree and still love and respect one another in Christ. May the Lord richly bless you.

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