I Tried Religion and I Tried Personal Development. They’re Both the Same

Religion did nothing for me growing up except leave me empty, ashamed, depressed and broken. So I walked away from it. Unfortunately, the further I walked away from it, the more enmeshed I became in personal development only to find that this too left me feeling broken and in need of fixing.

Religion and Personal Development Bring the Same Results.

I became enmeshed in personal development during a period in my life where I was walking away from religion. Religion that had left me confused, empty, and believing that I was hopelessly broken. 

The day it had all changed for me was right before my 22nd birthday while sitting on an old wooden bench in the early hours of the morning. The rest of my family was in bed and I was enjoying the dew on the ground, and the birds singing while watching the sun come up. 

I was feeling confused and heartbroken as I chided myself over “mistakes” I had made. I held myself to a higher standard than anyone else around me that I knew of. I expected nothing less than perfection for rules that I made up for myself. When I fell short, I fell broken. I HAD to do better I told myself. 

And that’s when God whispered in my ear. “You don’t have to get my attention. I’m right here.” I was shocked. I had never considered that in all my efforts to pursue God, He was in fact pursuing me. I walked back into the house that morning with a strange but peaceful silence in my heart. I didn’t have to work to get His attention, to be seen, and loved. I was already seen and loved just as I was. 

While at peace, I didn’t quite know what to do with this new understanding of God. There were no more prayer sessions of anxiously waiting for Him to “show up” because I recognized that He was already there. There were no more feelings of guilt that I had strayed. How could I stray from a God who was pursuing me, who was always there, just a call away?

I didn’t know what to do with myself or where to focus my efforts. 

About a year and a half later I was married and facing problems I had never seen coming. There were many things from my childhood that I had swept under the rug. There were issues in my family that were getting bigger with every passing day and harder and harder to ignore or justify. 

I was hurting and didn’t know what to do with it, so I did what I had always done. I tried to fix it. 

It was around this time that a friend introduced me to a multi level marketing company. I liked the product well enough and the idea that I could make a good income from an hour of work a day appealed to me. ( It was only later that I realized that anyone who had been successful in the company had worked far far more than an hour a day.) 

As I got more involved in the company, I was drawn in further and further by the personal development. I listened to all the podcasts and read all of the books. I could be anything, do anything, go anywhere I wanted to go, the only thing stopping me was myself. 

But between the old lie that I had to be perfect, between the pain of the past and the problems in the present, between the advice I received over and over again that the problem was somewhere inside of me, my mindset, my lack of faith, my perspective, between the constant flow of information and my broken heart, I was left feeling helpless and hopeless. 

I am not exaggerating when I say that at one point I thought I was going insane from an inability to fix myself. 

The problems in my life weren’t going away. In fact, they were getting worse. On top of everything that was already happening my husband and I lost our little boy when I was 28 weeks pregnant. 

We were devastated. 

I returned to “normal” life after my 5 week recovery feeling immense pressure to carry this new heartache with grace. 

I tried to do the right thing by letting other people in to pray for me and support me. I felt shame and embarrassment that quickly turned to frustration and anger when they pointed out how I was or wasn’t handling things right. Why could I not do what felt right to me without having someone tell me it was wrong or that I should be doing xyz?

The pressure intensified until once again God whispered in my ear, “Stop. Stop listening to their opinions, stop trying to fix yourself. Let me work in you what I need to work in you.” 

Therapy was helpful, but God brought healing. 

I gained valuable insight from the books that I read and broadened my understanding of psychology, trauma, abuse, loss and grief, but God made me whole. 

The act of being grateful, not from a daily gratitude practice or out of obligation because the bible told me too, but because I came to understand the goodness of God, changed my perspective and brought me joy. 

Learning to love myself, not because I read in a book that self hatred was unproductive, but because God loved me and had a plan for me, allowed me to have grace for myself right where I was at. 

My faith grew not because I showed up without fail at 5 am in the morning for bible reading and prayer, but because every doubt, every fear, every “why” I asked was thrown at my loving Father’s feet and an answer or some comfort was waited for. 

My faith grew not because I forced my feelings into submission or ignored them all together, but because I voiced them to a God that cares, and because that God answered and comforted me.  

The confidence that I had carried myself with as a two year old came back full swing, but not because I recited my daily affirmations in the mirror every morning. No, it came back when I started leaning in and listening to what GOD had to say about me.

He answered and comforted me not because I was finally good enough, but because He delights in me.

I found that religion and personal development both produced the same results in me.

The message from both is the same. I am a problem in need of fixing. 

I am broken and need to be made whole. 

In both religion and personal development we look to ourselves to fix the problems in our life. We look to ourselves to find a way to feel whole, peaceful and complete.

I am not the answer to my problems. Christ is.

I was running on a hamster wheel. I was going around and around and around and never getting anywhere. 

Religion says: You feel far away from God? Here, read your bible every day and pray just like this. Oh, you’re still struggling with feelings of guilt? It’s the devil. Read these verses. It’ll fix it. 

You don’t have joy in your life? Well, being joyful is something we are commanded to do, so maybe you’re not actually a Christian if you don’t have joy. 

We are commanded to be thankful, so just be thankful. 

You’re doubting God’s goodness? Well, that’s sin. You need to repent. 

Personal development says: You need a daily gratitude practice. You need to get up at 5 am every morning and spend an hour building your dreams. You need to exercise everyday. These habits and mindset changes will fix all of your problems. 

You can’t lose weight? You probably need to love yourself more.

Depressed? Mindset shift.

Religion and personal development is expecting yourself to fix the problems, and while they both have truth to them, like we are encouraged to be joyful in the bible, and exercising every day will work wonders for your life, the truth is, we are not the answer to our own problems.

Christ is. 

A mindset shift is not going to fix you. A daily bible reading plan is not going to eliminate your doubts and fears. 

Surrendering to the love of Christ and letting Him guide you in everything that you do, allowing Him to be your father and trusting that despite your doubts and fears, He has saved you is the only thing that will bring the fullness to your life that you’re longing for. 

What to do When You’re Doubting God

I stood at the window. My hand on my swollen stomach. Tears trickled down my face as I held the phone to my ear. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know why I called her, but I felt something familiar…

Grief?

No.

Shock?

Probably.

But it wasn’t just that.

Disappointment. That’s what it was. A deep aching, hurting, feeling of utter disappointment, but it was familiar. Like I had felt all of this before, just not on this level. A thought came into my mind and seared itself into my memory, “I never thought something that good could happen to me anyway”.

How many times in my life had I been disappointed? My hopefulness shattered.

I was resigned. I went from hearing myself scream “no!” as I fell to the floor, fumbling with my phone in an attempt to call my husband, to complete resignation.

He was gone. There was nothing I could do.

So I let him go and I surrendered without a fight.

Now I’m here pondering. Why did the death of my son feel so familiar? Why?

I’m used to not getting what I want. It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

As a little girl I watched in confusion when things I asked for were denied me, but then given to a sibling.

I was hurt when over and over again, I approached a parent with an open vulnerable heart, hoping to be heard and understood only to have my words twisted and thrown back in my face. My heart crumbling at the sound of, “You don’t make any sense.”

As I grew older I watched as my friends several years younger than me got married. My own life was so strictly controlled that the hope of ever living outside the confines of my family home faded more and more each day.

I spent the majority of my childhood and young adulthood trying desperately to get the same approval from my parents as I saw some of my siblings getting, but their standards seemed to work like a social media algorithm and I, never seemed to play my cards right.

I hoped that they would finally see who I was, that they would finally approve. I was disappointed.

I prayed that something would change. I was disappointed.

I thought that they would finally see me, understand me, fight for me. I was disappointed.

What do we do in the face of grievous disappointment, or any disappointment? Do we give up? Do we fight? Do we throw a fit? Or do we resign?

There was a time when I would have fought. I would have said it wasn’t fair. I would have asked, “why?”. But today, I didn’t. I knew there was no point. I didn’t understand how it could happen, but I didn’t feel the need to fight. It just was what it was.

Had He finally broke me? Was His plan all along to beat me into submission, to break my will?

These fears erupted from within me. This also felt familiar. I had been forced into submission before. I had been broken down before.

But in the middle of my ruminations over a broken childhood that had left me with trust issues in my relationship with God, I started to see another side to the story.

Through my sons death He showed me how strong I was.

He had met me with peace in the middle of a horrendous storm.

I had I finally come to see myself for who I really was. Strong. Brave. Courageous.

A strong, whole, unwavering person. Through all of it, my faith has remained strong, My marriage hasn’t fallen apart. I have been angry, bitter, depressed, hopeless at times, but I haven’t given up. I haven’t been destroyed.

How other people see my journey is of no importance. They couldn’t possibly understand everything that had happened as hard as they might try.

He repeatedly told me,

“I asked you to walk this, not them. Quit worrying about what they might say or think of you. Let me work in you what I need to work in you. Nothing else matters”.

And it doesn’t.

And the disappointment? When we’ve been wronged so many times in our lives by people we’ve trusted, it becomes natural to doubt. It becomes like second nature to put our guards up and expect that no one wants good for us. Sometimes the things that He allows don’t make sense. They feel like something else we’ve experienced.

Sometimes it feels a lot like… Like He does us dirty.

Maybe you’ve been taught that you should never say something like that about God. That you shouldn’t even think such a thing of God… But the problem with that is, or rather, the problems with that are,

1. God already knows what we think, and He knows the doubts we have.

2. If we don’t speak them out, how will He ever show us otherwise? Or worse, if we never admit them to ourselves how can WE ask that He show us otherwise?

3. If God is our Father, wouldn’t He take supreme pleasure in answering the questions that plague our minds?

Wouldn’t any good father take that kind of pleasure in showing love to his children?

So I ask for answers to the things that I can’t understand.

God, what did you want? Did you want to break me?

Because God, there is a part of me that feels like that strong-willed rambunctious child that required extreme discipline before I could learn my lesson.

And God, sometimes I feel shame. Shame that makes me want to drop my head and never lift it up again.

Like maybe, you love the others more than me. You know, the ones that have the babies sitting in their laps, the ones that are surrounded by their beautiful, happy families.

One more thing God, thank you that I can bring all of these questions to you and that you never shame me or belittle me for letting doubts cloud my vision. Thank you for never leaving me in my doubts.

When God Seems Unfair

I sit in the doctors office sniffling and dabbing at my eyes with a tissue. My husband sitting beside me, who before seemed a bit lost, suddenly leans forward and wraps his arms around me.

“It’s gonna be okay Babe.”

But right now, nothing feels okay.

I’m a bad momWhat made me think I could get pregnant again… That I was even ready for this…. That I even deserve this? And why the heck are we moving right in the middle of a high risk pregnancy? I should have taken more time to process Liam’s death before bringing this little girl into all of my emotional pain. I’m a bad mom! The doctor said as much herself.

I lean forward as a wave of nausea hits me and a sob spills out of my throat and threatens to be heard by all in the doctors office.

I had asked the doctor and very young medical student accompanying her to please give me a minute, after a tense conversation… err argument which turned out to be a misunderstanding with my doctor.

Innocent misunderstanding or not, I needed a minute to process this new information regarding the loss of my son.

There are many things that didn’t add up after that horrible day of hearing that my baby, Liam, had no heartbeat. However, the hardest for me to swallow was the fact that my doctor had put the appointment with my high risk doctor 10 days out from the time that she realized he was in the third percentile.

Now I was processing the realization that he had to have been small for weeks. Babies don’t just end up in the third percentile between doctors appointments my new doctor was telling me.

“They would have seen something on the anatomy scan.” she had said.

That’s when the tears had pushed their way out of my eyes, despite my immense effort to restrain them. That’s when my doctor handed me the box of tissues. That’s when I understood why I was not understanding her. And that’s when I said,

“What I’m hearing is, my doctor had to have seen something, but didn’t do anything about it.”

Now here I am. My thoughts are racing. I feel like a bad mom, because as my doctor said,

“You’re doing this baby a disservice by reliving your loss of Liam.”

I stand up holding my stomach.

“I’m going to vomit.” I say to my husband. “I need a drink.” He opens the door and pokes his head out. Seeing the tiny, young medical student he asks her to bring me a drink of water. When she pokes her head in with the glass of water, her eyes are red.

“I think you made her cry.” My husband says.

I take a sip of the water and for the first time in my life, I’m not sad that I made someone else cry. The truth is, if she’s gonna pursue a profession in caring for the lives of people, she needs to know the consequences of missing and brushing off small details. They could cost someone their life and a mother, the life of her child.

Suddenly the loss of our baby feels so unnecessary.

I grapple for the words to explain my feelings to my husband as we drive through stop and go traffic in a construction zone to Chick-Fil-A to get something to eat.

As we sit in the drive through he says, “Doctors screw up in the same way a drive through worker screws up your order. It just happens.”

And as hard as it is to hear it put that way, it’s true. It’s true despite the years of training they have, or the reality that they are responsible for the lives that they are caring for. It’s true despite the fact that a human life is so much greater a consequence than someone’s lunch or dinner.

Too often we want to blame our pain and loss on God, when, in all reality, it’s just life.

It’s the next day and I’m still trying to process what my doctor told me. My heart feels like it’s breaking all over again. I arrange to get out of the house knowing that my tendency is to ruminate on these things which will only make me more upset and stressed.

I’m not angry at my previous doctor. No. I know all to well the futility of being angry and wanting someone to pay for their mistakes. It’s not worth it to me. I don’t want the baby that I have growing inside me now, to suffer from her momma being emotionally distraught.

However, I’m realizing that processing the loss of my son is far from over. And while I feel guilted and misunderstood for that grief, it’s not fair to me or my son to quit that process.

The more I process it, the more it all feels completely unnecessary.

The loss of my son feels like betrayal by my body. My body couldn’t do the one thing it was created to do, create another life.

It feels like negligence from a doctor who shouldn’t even be carrying that title.

It feels like a horrible, irresponsible mistake on my part for trusting my sons life to someone else and listening to their recommendation despite what my gut was telling me.

But most of the time, it just feels unfair.

And that’s what I lay at my heavenly Father’s feet over and over and over again.

I have said it every day from the time I lost him until the day I found out I was expecting again.

“God. It’s just not fair.” Sometimes I left it at that, but sometimes when I needed to vent I told Him just how unfair I thought it really was, and then I would surrender.

I would tell Him that despite how unfair it felt, that I knew I was only seeing a tiny piece of His plan. I would acknowledge how much I didn’t know about the things that went on in the spiritual realm, and that there was no way for my human eyes to see what really had went wrong with my son and his tiny preciouses body.

I would acknowledge that I didn’t know what may have been in store for my baby’s life and that I may not see how much grace God may actually have been showing my son, myself and my husband by whisking him home to be with Christ where he is safe and so perfectly loved.

Today I continue to acknowledge to God my smallness, my humanness. I acknowledge before Him my innate need to be treated fairly, like all of His other children, along with my inability to see beyond my human reality.

I acknowledge my helplessness in my desire to protect this little girl, kicking inside me from the same outcome. Instead of fighting on my own, I acknowledge my need to throw this burden on the shoulders that are strong enough to carry both my pain and my worst fears.

I acknowledge that God is not unfair. Life is.

Why I’m Here

Hi Friends! Thanks for visiting my blog. I thought I’d get started by telling you a little bit about myself.

I first knew I had a desire to write when I was around 15. Funny, because I rarely took the time to even journal, much less write about anything that someone would want to read. I always knew that fiction writing wasn’t for me. I never enjoyed reading fiction.

I grew up reading stories about Christian heroes, people who were persecuted for their faith and went through horrible tragedies. I also loved missionary stories. These stories shaped my beliefs about God, what it means to be a woman and what it is to have unwavering faith.

I don’t know for sure what this blog will be about, but I hope that sharing my story with you will encourage you the same way those stories encouraged me as a teenager.

I grew up in a very religious home. I didn’t know it then, but the impact that this religion had on me would be something I’d have to work out and heal from years down the road. I didn’t know it back then, but I was being emotionally, spiritually and psychologically abused every day and even those stories that I loved were becoming less and less of a comfort and a means to escape the reality I was living in.

I was 23 by the time I was able to get out from under the control that my parents had on me, but it wasn’t until the loss of my son in 2020 when I was 25 years old, that I finally decided to step away from the negative influence altogether.

It was a huge step for me. It was a painful step, but one I know God was telling me to make.

This blog is somewhere for me to process and share the things I’ve learned.

There are many people that I grew up with and others that I’ve recently met who are working out the same things. I hope this will be a place we can connect, share our stories and encourage each other.

Healing is difficult and hard and no one should have to walk through it alone.

If you’ve read this far, please leave a comment and let me know you’re here! If there is something here that you relate to, I’d love to have a conversation with you in the comment section!