Revive Me

Psalm 71:20

I want to go home. I want to sit by the beach, listen to the waves and feel the sea breeze against my face. I want the touch of the sun on my bare shoulders and legs while digging my toes deeper and deeper into the sand. I want to go back to a place where I can be anonymous, blending into the crowd unnoticed and unseen. I want to return to a place where this unending pressure can lift.

And, you know, I don’t think it is the perpetual heat or the seasonal monotony that has brought me to this place of discontent. It’s not the rats, or maggots, or sewers. It’s not the Mario Cart traffic or the food. It’s not the language or the people.

No, the problem is me. I don’t like who I am here. I don’t like who I have become. All of the added pressure and stressors have made me unrecognizable to myself.

I am no longer energetic, positive, and adventurous. I’m not thirsting for God and holiness. Instead I am tired and irritable. I don’t smile like I used to, or find levity easily in life’s day to day experience. I’m not a language savant or a relational mastermind. I’m dull, haggard and definitely not who I thought I would be when I took this step of faith. I am much more broken then I knew, I’m not as strong as I supposed and I spend more time cooking than I ever wanted.

I am in desperate need of a revival within my soul. But the question I keep asking myself is, “Why?” Why do I want to be revived? What am I truly seeking? Because in all honesty, it is not a longing wrought out of purity but is a longing rooted in self-love. I long for a revival that will alleviate my struggle and transform me into the woman I wish I was. A woman who is honored and competent and kind. A woman without fault. Isn’t that the promise, after all? That the more steps of faith we take, the more that we sacrifice and give, the more like Christ we will become? The more perfect we will be?

Instead, I have become an unwilling spectator in the collapse of my idealistic self. Piece by piece, God is cutting away at my self-love and it is unbelievably painful. Under the pressure of this cross-cultural life, God has been tearing away my façade and what I am left with is ugly and raw. It’s not pretty. It’s messy, it’s humiliating and it is me. The true, unveiled, unhidden me. When I catch sight of myself I want to hide behind spiritual platitudes, fake smiles and outright detachment. What else can you do when you are faced with the reality of what is truly inside your soul?

I desperately need God to revive me but I see now that death must come first. Revival is the restoration of something dying or already dead and I cannot be revived until I have laid to rest the woman I wish I was. This is not the death of self that looks holy, the one in which I hyper-spiritualize and rationalize my behavior away.  No, I’m talking about a death of self that allows me to look on my imperfections and yet not be shattered by their presence. This kind of death takes courage to face, because I have to acknowledge the existence of my failure and brace myself for the consequences. Neither justifying my poor choices nor condemning myself for my inadequacies. This kind of death has beauty and new life on its heels.

I’m like a forest on fire, helpless as I watch the debris and underbrush burn all around me. Yet, fire is never the end of the story, it is just the beginning. Fire is a part of growth and under God’s competent hands, this controlled burn will provide me with a more nourished soul and more sunlight than ever before. It will create the space and environment for a stronger resolve and a clearer perspective.

I long for God to revive my delicate soul and I am confident that he will, but the pruning and burning and stripping must come first.

I’m not sitting on that quiet beach today and maybe I won’t be tomorrow but I will choose to remain steadfast in this place. I will hold tightly to faith that when God’s revival begins there will be no stopping it and it will be a beautiful display of his goodness and grace. So, I will dig in my heels and stand firm in the face of my weaknesses as God continues to expose my grip on self-love with full assurance that victory will come.

“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” Psalm 71:20

Are you in need of a revival? In what areas do you need to die to your self-love? How has God revived you from a place of weakness in the past?


Photo by Iker Haro on Unsplash


  1. Ruth January 21, 2018

    Wow, I read a lot of things I can relate to, but not too many that make me feel like I could have written the exact same thing. I kept thinking, “That is exactly where I am! And that is exactly how I was feeling!”
    I’ve been in a long season of tearing down and burning the undergrowth, and I am not the person I thought I was. Such a good reminder that what needs to be revived is not that idealized version of myself but something new, that may look different than I imagine.

    1. Joy Smalley January 22, 2018

      Hi Ruth, I’m glad that I am not alone in my season of stripping! I love how you mention that the revived version of ourselves may look different than we imagine. It gives me hope and assurance and grace to let God do the work and build me up new from the ashes as he sees fit. Blessings to you!!

  2. Jodie January 21, 2018

    Love this Joy. I really resonate with your perspective. Thank you.

    1. Joy Smalley January 22, 2018

      Thank you Jodie!

      1. Jodie January 24, 2018

        Joy, I’ve reflected more on your post this week and it has helped me to process some of my own journey of dealing with failure and who I thought I was supposed to be. So much to soak in through your beautiful writing. Thank you again.

  3. Violeta January 21, 2018

    Thank you for speaking what my heart is too afraid and too embarrassed to write, let alone say out loud, even to myself. I don’t like the person I have become and it seems that part of me has died in these past two and half years overseas. I had served overseas before as a single women for many years but this is the first time as a wife and mother and the difference has stunned me. I am thankful for my husband and daughter and for the much awaited family God has blessed me with, but I didn’t realize there was so much selfishness in me. God is pruning and burning and showing me things about myself I don’t like. But I want to embrace this time of pruning, uncomfortableness and disappointment and find a new way of looking at things. A new me? I am struggling to find me again. But maybe its because I have not allowed the old me to die yet. Thank you for your openness and vulnerability.

    1. Joy Smalley January 22, 2018

      Hi Violeta. Thank you for your openness and willingness to speak “out loud” what is in your heart. Being able to write honestly and speak honestly has given me courage to continue in the discomfort and I pray that your act of transparency here gives you that courage too. You are not alone!

  4. Amy Morgan January 21, 2018

    Really brilliant and vulnerable writing! I have been there recently and I am beginning to experience that revival in my soul! And yes, we do come out a better version of ourselves than we have ever been. Maybe even something we never dreamed was possible! God is so good to gracefully take us through these broken times until all the chaff is burned up within fb us!

    1. Joy Smalley January 22, 2018

      Hi Amy! I am so encouraged to hear that your revival has begun! It gives me hope to endure. Blessings!

  5. Jonna Fey January 22, 2018

    Thank you. I have felt like I am the only person hiding behind spiritual platitudes on the outside and spiritually dead on the inside.

    1. Joy Smalley January 22, 2018

      Hi Jonna, you are definitely not the only person to hide behind spiritual platitudes while the inside is withering away. I pray that the withering leads to a sweeter and more genuine faith and that God brings relationships safe enough to be truly transparent. Blessings.

  6. Erika Loftis January 22, 2018

    Wow! Man, yes to what you wrote and to all the comments afterward. I used to be confident. I used to feel like maybe I had something to offer my fellow man. Now, all I can see wherever I turn is ineptitude (in myself). My Limitations. My Stupidity. But I’m not sure that I really want to be made into a new person. I was just starting to like the old one, the old one that died about 5 years ago when we moved here. I feel like my compassion has died. Social skills have died. Patience has died. I suspect my “care-bone” has broken beyond repair. I even thought to myself this afternoon after doing another thing that I am not now, and will not likely ever be good at, “Actually, I don’t think I should be a missionary. I’m pretty sure I’m failing this whole thing with zero hope of ever getting it… It may be time to tap out.” And then I read something like this. Something real, and possibly painful to write, and I feel grateful that even though I may be sucking at this whole thing, there are other people who feel like that too. I’ll carry on a little bit more. And maybe God has a new person who is a little less inept, and stupid inside. 😉 (It was a bad day… somedays are LESS like this…)

    1. Joy Smalley January 22, 2018

      LOL, Erika, my ‘care-bone’ may have been broken too. It is such a difficult experience to have all of our weaknesses exposed and I have also been left feeling like an utter failure and wanting to tap out. May God give you the strength to carry on!

  7. Melinda Lin January 23, 2018

    Thank you for sharing your story, Joy. I echo the thoughts of many of the other sisters and I thought to myself, “Where was this story when I was experiencing this last year?” It was difficult to move to a new state for work without knowing anybody else and start from scratch, making friends, adjusting to a new job and finding a new community. It was difficult to face my weaknesses that were exposed in the year of transition and adjustment. I was devastated to discover that much of my identity and security were rooted in knowing who I was in community and my reputation in community. Being ripped away from my former community and trying to put down roots in a new community meant I felt lost and orphaned.

    I love the lines, “I’m like a forest on fire, helpless as I watch the debris and underbrush burn all around me. Yet, fire is never the end of the story, it is just the beginning.” “Fire is a part of growth and under God’s competent hands, this controlled burn will provide me with a more nourished soul and more sunlight than ever before. It will create the space and environment for a stronger resolve and a clearer perspective.”

    I thought I would never survive the transition and feeling so lost and despaired. Yet, a year and a half later, here I am. By His grace and faithfulness, He has brought me through.

    1. Joy Smalley January 25, 2018

      Hi Melinda, I always love hearing stories of how God has brought people through. Transition is unsettling and I love how you mentioned the loss of reputation within a community. I think this has been hard for me recently, feeling as though my reputation is being ruined. It’s hard to accept that. Blessings!

  8. Bethany January 23, 2018

    This seems to be the never-ending story of my life. Maybe it’s supposed to be? Dying daily, and all that jazz. But the fire has definitely felt a lot hotter the past 7 months of transitioning back to the states and going through a lot of things I did NOT expect to have to deal with. Some of which were handled with grace, others… not so much. So much coming face-to-face with the stark reality of how the “pedestaled missionary” is even less perfect than she already knew she wasn’t. If that even makes sense.

    I’m actually struggling with reverse culture shock more than it ever hit me leaving. Somehow a foreign culture brought out the best in me – like facing the challenge of everyday adventure somehow made me stronger, more gracious and kind. Yes, it was exhausting, and yes, I got really tired of certain things and almost snapped after one catcall too many more times than I can count. But overall, after 4 years, I loved it. It was home, and I was finally coming into my own. Then the Lord called me back to Texas. My boring little suburb in Texas. Specifically my parents’ house in said boring little suburb. And all of a sudden I went from Superwoman into little girl again. And that shock has involved a lot of hard self-examination and revelation of the very thing you so eloquently and bravely wrote about. A whole lot of self-love and broken places that still have to be sent through the refiner’s fire. This came at just the perfect time to remind me for the umpteenth time that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, it’s always going to be you and God dealing with you. And He cares about our sanctification more than our happiness. Hallelujah!

    So bring it on, Jesus. The less I have of me, the more room there is for You. You are both the end and the means, the guide and the destination. You are the only source of joy, and the more I let go of, the more freedom I walk in. Thank you that You don’t give up on us even when all our pretenses go up in flames, and that your fire not only destroys, but purifies and revives. Amen.

    1. Joy Smalley January 25, 2018

      Hi Bethany, thank you for sharing! I will be praying for your continued transition back to Texas. I think the unexpected difficulties are harder to walk through than the ones we expect because we aren’t preparing for them. That’s tough stuff. Yet Jesus is so gracious to continue to refine our hearts even when we are not asking for it or looking for it. Blessings!

  9. Cindy January 23, 2018

    This article encouraged me so much that I am not alone in how I feel. It came on a day when I was thinking I am a failure at being a missionary. It means so much to me to know that there are others. And you did a beautiful job expressing some very difficult concepts in words. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerable.

    1. Joy Smalley January 25, 2018

      Hi Cindy, you are definitely not alone!

  10. Lisa January 25, 2018

    It’s like you were revealing the secrets in mind…expect the part of “home” involving a beach. 😉
    For quite awhile now, I’ve felt like I just don’t belong here anymore, and I don’t like who I’ve become. I don’t know how to “fix” it exactly. Of course I know the Sunday School answers apply for some aspects, but somehow it seems hard to apply those simple truths these days. Some circumstances make me feel kind of trapped where I am, indefinitely, which makes it all the harder. Of course I know that I’m dreaming of “home” with rose colored glasses…The crazy thing is I have never been the kind of person who gets homesick. At all. But recently, it’s been hitting me.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing my, errrr, your heart and mind. It’s helpful to know we are not alone. Maybe that’s the beginning of a potential revival for me…

    1. Joy Smalley January 27, 2018

      Hi Lisa, thank you for sharing. I can relate to dreaming of home with rose colored glasses, feeling homesick and a little trapped. I really believe that it is through weathering these difficult and painful times that our Sunday school answers develop depth and substance. I am praying that God does begin a revival in your soul! Blessings.

      1. Lisa January 30, 2018


  11. Angie January 27, 2018

    This is day 2 of our new assignment. And while “hate” is a strong word, I sure have something akin to it these last 48 hours. I’ve been an emotional mess – more because of what it took to get here. I don’t think I’ve got it in me – -, I told my daughter today – who is back home with 2 of our sweet grandkids. “No mom, it’s not in you – but it’s in Him” .
    I needed your words tonight. They reminded me that I’m not alone. Exhausted maybe- but not alone. Thank you for sharing brave words.

    1. Joy Smalley February 6, 2018

      Hi Angie, I love what your daughter said. It is a sweet reminder that what we are incapable of doing/being is not impossible for God. You are definitely not alone and I am praying for you as you adjust to your new assignment. Blessings.

  12. Michele January 28, 2018

    I love this post and all the discussion. I have just been coming alive again the last year and a half after feeling pretty much exactly like your description and those that follow in so many comments. I am thankful to add my voice to the couple that can assure all who are in the middle of the pruning, that it really is the beginning of revival. I’m so thankful now, and continuing to let Him go deep and expose and heal things, but from place of joy I had kind of forgot was possible. In fact, I think it’s greater than any joy I knew was possible before the last (oh my- 7 or 8 years!) of painful pruning.

    1. Joy Smalley February 6, 2018

      Thanks Michele! My soul needs to hear that there is relief and even joy around the corner. It gives me hope that there is purpose in the pain and encourages me to endure!

  13. Monica January 30, 2018

    This. Was incredible. It’s literally like I was reading my journal entries from 3 years ago…. the burning, the stripping of self, confronting the wasted person I had become… burnt- out, detached, and so desperate for renewal. I was literally crying by the time I came to the end of the post…because I went through an intense time of dealing with myself during a Sabbatical period and came out a new person. My overseas life/journey started out so vibrant and strong…and then 15 years later I found myself completely exhausted and didn’t know who I was anymore…but, nobody would have guessed because I ‘had it all together’ and was involved in very successful ministry. Just reading your post took me back, and reminded me SO MUCH of His faithfulness in the midst of questioning and facing hard truths… we always need revival, no matter our location, our age, our ‘experience’, or role. Thank you for sharing this from your heart…I honor and respect your honesty.

    1. Joy Smalley February 6, 2018

      Thank you Monica. I love that God allows us honesty and that he is faithful as we question and face truths we hadn’t faced before. That alone gives me peace. God has us all on different journeys and yet so much of what we experience as individuals is shared experience. I love how God gives us each other to encourage and carry us through the times of struggle. Blessings!

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