Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

Tag: God-talk

God’s Path to Success

Isaiah 55:8

I may be starting to sound like a broken record with today’s post, but God keeps drilling this message into my head (and my heart). I feel like it’s important, and so I’m going to keep rewriting and rehearsing it here until I can articulate it just right. Also, there might be someone out there who needs this message just as much as I do. That message is this:

God’s way is not the world’s way.

This applies to–well, pretty much everything. But the specific area of my life where I keep getting reminded to apply it is in the area of achievement. I’ve mentioned here previously that, as a kid who struggled in school thanks to undiagnosed ADD, I often got slapped with labels like “lazy” and “underachiever.” I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to prove that those labels don’t apply to me, before finally figuring out that I don’t have to prove anything to anybody.

But in all of that trying, I tried a lot of worldly ways to succeed. I adhered to societally-acceptable beliefs such as hard work and sacrifices will lead to success. Sounds good, but by “hard work” what’s usually meant is pushing yourself to the point of sickness and exhaustion, and by “sacrifices” what’s often meant is sacrificing time with family and relationships and other things that are necessary for a happy, healthy existence. I’ve tried “set concrete goals” and “always have a five-year plan.” I’ve done “Go after your dreams at any cost.” I’ve done life hacks and organizational and time management apps and tricks and I’ve read self-help books and listened to TED talks and none of it ever got me anywhere except exhausted and depressed and wrung out and feeling like a hopeless failure.

Now I’m trying it God’s way, which is, in summary, this:

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. –Isaiah 30:15 {NIV}

God’s way is saying, “Okay, God. What do YOU want for my life? What are YOUR plans? What do YOU want me to do? Where do YOU want me to go? Please order my steps and make things clear.” And then trusting that He’ll do that, and waiting patiently for Him to do it according to His timing, which is perfect.

It’s also trusting that His plans are better than yours. That His dreams for you are better than anything you could’ve come up with on your own.

And that when you surrender, when you seek to accomplish HIS goals, in HIS timing, you will succeed.

This is a difficult concept to grasp, because it feels so passive. We’re ingrained to believe that we have to take charge and actively pursue our goals. And surrender often feels like giving up. Waiting feels like being idle. And rest feels self-indulgent.

But the truth is that there’s nothing passive about doing things God’s way. Surrender is a daily battle. Waiting produces patience, which leads to strong character, which leads to hope. Rest is simply being still and quiet and knowing that God is the one in control, not striving to make things happen on your own terms but trusting that they’ll happen on His terms. This time of waiting sharpens and refines us. Instead of actively pursuing some measurable milestone or achievement in our lives, as we wait we actively pursue becoming who God wants us to be–the person who is well and truly capable of handling what God has in store and ready to receive it.

And it doesn’t mean not working. I’m not talking about taking a vacation here. But it’s about trusting God to establish the work of your hands, to open doors and provide the work He wants you to be doing at the right time. It’s asking him to show you what’s required of you at this time, and being willing to show up and do it, and trusting that He’s big enough to take care of the rest.

I’ve tried (and tried and tried) to do it the world’s way. I’ve tried to do it my own way–which pretty much amounts to the same thing.

Now I’m doing it God’s way–and I have more peace, joy, contentment and sanity in my life than I’ve ever known. Even better, things are actually starting to happen. Doors are miraculously opening. A dream I’ve chased for decades is beginning to be my reality.

All that striving I did . . . the only good thing about it is that it brought me to a place where I was finally ready and willing to surrender. The world’s way broke me. God put me back together, and He’s still building me up. And His way is so, SO much better.

Sister, won’t you join me in trying it His way? I’m sure you could use the rest.

In love,

Jean

 

 

 

{Find more encouragement at Holleygerth.com!}

But God …

but-god

As I was doing my scripture reading this morning, still a bit bleary-eyed and not yet to the end of my first cup of coffee, those two little words jumped out at me. The context was Ephesians Chapter 2. The Apostle Paul spends the first three verses talking about how the church members lived before they found Christ. It was a dark and desperate place, not filled with a lot of hope. What comes after those two words is a picture of light and comfort and hope.

And I got to thinking about how many of life’s hardships and difficult circumstances can be interrupted with that phrase.

Life is hard sometimes, BUT GOD sustains and strengthens us.

The future looks scary and bleak, BUT GOD has plans to benefit us and give us a hopeful future.

We feel exhausted and beyond weary, BUT GOD promises to give us rest and a renewed spirit.

You may be grieving and broken-hearted, BUT GOD will give you joy for mourning and bind up your broken heart.

This situation looks impossible, BUT GOD says nothing is impossible for Him.

It’s such a simple phrase, but such a powerful reminder.

Are you facing a difficult situation? Let this phrase interrupt to remind you that the Lord your GOD is with you, and He is MIGHTY to save.

In love,

Jean

 

 

PS –

Once again I’m linking up with Holley Gerth. Check out her post for more encouragement and “Coffee for Your Heart.”

There is crying in God’s baseball.

Psalm 56:8

A while back I discovered a treasure trove of classic contemporary Christian music on Youtube; playlists loaded with all the artists I listened to on Christian radio when I was a kid, like Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Dallas Holme, and the Imperials (sheesh, I’m really showing my age with this post). I spent a few days going through these lists, basking in the nostalgia they brought.

I came across one song that I had completely forgotten about: “The Warrior is a Child,” by Twila Paris. I smiled as it played, remembering the time one of my friends in fifth grade sang it in the school talent show (I didn’t go to a Christian school, just a small rural school where Christian music was really popular among the upper elementary and junior high set). Then I got to this line:

“I dropped my sword and cried for just a while/’cause deep inside this armor the warrior is a child.”

And I had to pause the video, because that’s when it hit me:

God never tells us not to cry.

We get admonished a lot for crying in our culture. From a young age we’re told that big girls (or boys) don’t cry. Unless it’s for socially acceptable reasons like intense grief, intense joy or intense pain, crying is seen as weak–and even in those cases, it’s pretty much only allowed for women.

Parents tell us not to cry. Teachers, coaches, bosses and other authority figures, too. And then there’s that old gem, “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to really cry about.”

I heard that one a lot as a kid. Maybe you did, too.

I’m an emotional woman with a chronic hormonal imbalance. I tend to cry more often than I’d like to admit.

And I’m always ashamed. I usually hide and try to do it silently. When I can’t, I always feel the need to apologize to whoever sees me (usually my husband).

But never one time does the Bible ever tell us that we shouldn’t cry.

In fact, it does the opposite. Ecclesiastes tells us that there’s an appropriate time to cry. In Romans 12:15, the Apostle Paul tells us to weep with those who are weeping. The Lord himself is recorded as crying not just once, but twice in the gospels. We’re never told that Jesus smiled, or laughed, but twice we’re shown Him being moved to tears.

Psalm 56:8 tells us that God not only sees our tears, He saves them in a bottle and records them in His book.

It never says that we’d better have a good reason for shedding them, either.

God understands that the human condition is often hard and painful and frustrating, and sometimes we just need to get it all out of our system.

Unlike even the most loving earthly parents, our heavenly Father has the patience to allow our breakdowns and tantrums to run their course. He doesn’t admonish our fits, or try to hush us up, or threaten us to make us stop.

Instead, He stays with us, counting every tear until we’re done; and then He gathers us in His loving embrace, wipes our tears and comforts us with encouragement and peace.

Giving us the strength we need to pick our sword back up and fight another day.

That’s the kind of Father God wants to be to us, if we’ll let Him.

So don’t hide your tears, beloved. Instead, give them to God. He knows what to do with them.

In love,

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PS – Here’s that video, for those who don’t know the song (or those who enjoy a good throwback):

PPS – This week I’m once again joining in at Holley Gerth’s blog for the Coffee for Your Heart weekly link-up! Be sure to stop by for more encouraging posts like this one.

Trusting God’s Promises

I said something about posting weekly in my last post, didn’t I? Hmm. Clearly, I still need to work on that goal.

That last post, or the headspace I was in when I wrote it, was, as it turned out, a brief reprieve from a bit of a dark tea time. I can’t even tell you exactly what my problem has been these last several weeks. It was a combination of factors, certainly, most of which have spiffy acronyms: SAD, PCOS, PMS, ADHD and DST. Also, tension headaches, allergy attacks, hypothyroid fatigue, not eating right, not getting enough exercise, not getting enough sleep. Blah.

I really am feeling better and coming out of my funk now, though, especially now that I’ve had some time to adjust to DST. As much as losing that hour messed me up for a week, I think overall having that extra hour of daylight in the evening is helping me feel back to normal. So is the warmer weather.

So this post is coming a couple of weeks after I’d originally wanted to write it, but the following thoughts still apply.

I had been working through this devotional, Trusting God with Your Dream by Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson. I’m done with it now, and I think it also helped get me to a more positive place. I think I’ve mentioned before in this blog something about how I seem to have trouble believing that God wants to bless me. I’ve never doubted that He’s able to, but I have a difficult time with the concept that he wants to.

There are a lot of things at work here. Part of it is having grown up with the prosperity gospel, and then growing into a more mature understanding of God, that He is not a genie who exists to grant our wishes and make our lives on this earth awesome and painless, but that we exist to please and glorify Him, and sometimes pain is part of that journey to becoming who He created us to be. I think maybe I’ve pulled so far back from the idea of the Health and Wealth God that I’ve begun to err on the other side. And some of it is that, well, I’ve endured a LOT of pain throughout my life — much of the worst of it crammed into the last five years.

So it’s a struggle for me, at times, not to dwell on the past, or on our present difficulties re: finding sufficient work. And if you keep getting knocked down every time you try to get up, eventually you’re just going to want to stay down. But I’m believing that God wants me to keep getting up, that He’s here to help me. He’s never left me, and yes, he wants to provide good things for me.

As I was reading through this devotional, one verse in particular stood out for me in stark relief:

“The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast desert. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.” ~Deuteronomy 2:7

Part of why this verse resonated so much is that I’m turning 41 in a couple of weeks. And in a lot of ways, the first 40 years of my life have been something of a desert. Oh, there’s been the odd oasis here and there where I’ve found some rest and relief. My marriage is one such oasis, and for that I’m so incredibly grateful. But without going into too much detail, going back to my childhood, I’ve survived abuse, bullying, loneliness, depression, loss, grief, financial hardship, health issues, betrayal by my own body…  nothing that a million other people haven’t endured, but that doesn’t make it any less of a struggle.

But I know that God has been with me. I can look all the way back to my childhood and see God’s presence and the difference it made. The difference it’s still making. It’s the power that lets me be a victor over all of my past pain, and not a victim of it. It’s the source of the strength I’ve always had to get back up again.

These forty years, the Lord my God has been with me, and I have not lacked anything.

That promise is comforting. The one that proceeds it is encouraging: The Lord my God has blessed me in all the work of my hands.

See that? “Has blessed.” Past tense.

I’ve been struggling along, frustrated that none of my work for the last several months hasn’t seemed to be bearing any fruit, and letting myself doubt that God wants to bless the work of my hands, and wondering why. But he has already blessed my work. I need to accept that. I need to stand firm on it and believe it. I need to trust it.

This passage of scripture was written to the children of Israel when they were still wandering the desert following the Exodus from Egypt. Soon afterwards, in the forty-first year, they entered the promised land, and they conquered it and became a great nation.

I’m believing today that my forty-first year is going to be a year of promise, in which I’m going to start seeing the fruits of my labor. I’m going to exit the desert of my past and leave it behind for good, and I will be an overcomer, and by the grace of the Lord my God, I will be victorious.

Amen.