Christian Living

Messing Up Our Own Lives

Sorry it’s been a couple weeks! Computer problems have been a big issue for us lately.

Let’s talk about suffering. A couple weeks ago on Epic Every Day, we spent the whole week talking about suffering. It’s gotten me thinking about the suffering we bring on ourselves….

Frankly, the past couple weeks have been rough. My computer finally gave up the ghost, so much of our time has been spent trying to come up with an affordable solution in the face of another set of major car repairs. A solution that includes being able to run my writing program. Something that seems impossible right now.

And I haven’t handled it well. Not being able to write has thrown me in stressed out mode. And money is a weak spot for me. Probably why God keeps giving us opportunities to practice.

Anyway! it’s not suffering as some would call it and I have definitely dealt with worse things, but I wanted to use this week as an example. When the computer and the car happened on the same day, I felt so frustrated. So discouraged. So tired of fighting with “things” just to do the important stuff. Obviously, we prayed about the whole situation. But that hasn’t stopped me from worrying and spinning in my brain.

Somewhere in the midst of thinking about suffering, I had this vision of what it would look like if the computer/car situation was easy. I would pray to the God of the universe who owns/made everything and loves me as His dear child. And then I would wait expectantly. I would be excited at this new opportunity to see God work. I would not worry that things might be impossible. I would not worry about juggling finances. I would not worry about losing time on my writing projects. I would just trust.

That might be where joy comes in.

Sometimes, we get so fixated on the solution we want that we miss out on what God’s doing. For example, this morning I went to write this blog post and realized that I didn’t have my wordpress password (it was in the other room). Rather than writing it in Word or Google docs or my e-mail, I just moved on to the next thing on my list. There were numerous solutions but because I was so focused on one solution, I waited hours to solve the problem.

I wish it wasn’t true, but sometimes, we bring suffering on ourselves. We take stressful circumstances and increase our suffering by not trusting God. We close our eyes to ways God is working because it doesn’t meet our expectations. We agonize over things that God has already solved or answered. Holding things with an open hand means leaving room for God to work the way that’s His best–not my best.

So when you think about your life, is there anywhere you are making things harder than they need to be?

Blog_ Messing Up Our Own Lives

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Christian Living

Why You’re Your Own Worst Enemy

Psychological warfare. Merriam Webster defines it as “things that are done to make someone (such as an enemy or opponent) become less confident or feel hopeless, afraid, etc.”

I recently reread the section of Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince where Harry makes Ron (and Hermione) think he’s given Ron Felix Felicis, a potion that makes the drinker lucky. Ron is so convinced that he’s unstoppable due to his luck that he does perfectly in their quidditch game. A couple fan fiction authors have connected it back to the power of positive thinking.

We live on a spectrum–one where hope and true positive thinking (that’s grounded in who God is and in who we are as God’s children) are on one end of the spectrum and despair, fear, pride, uncontrolled rage, jealousy, envy, etc. are on the other end of the spectrum. Perspective and faith (or lack thereof) are what move us from one side to the other.

Satan doesn’t need to wreck our lives. He just needs to move us out of faith and we do the rest. If we’re in fear, we won’t take risks. We won’t go after the things God has called us to do or to be. In one of the entrepreneur books I read last year, the author asked something like, “how you would run your business if someone came and told you it would be a multi-million dollar business within two years?” I know it would definitely change how I handled my business. I’d be way more willing to take risks and to put effort into it.

How would you run your life if you truly believed you were a royal child of the God who is sovereign over the universe and works everything out for your good?

I don’t know about you, but it would be way easier for me to fight off despair if I really believed that in every moment. It would be way easier to be less stressed, to trust that things were a certain way for a reason, rather than getting tied in knots of rage or fear or pride or envy or jealousy.

Psychological warfare means that we give up when God’s already won the battle. We give up when victory is already ours. We give up and despair in sight of the finish line. We lash out at other people, destroying relationships when there’s no real reason to lash out.

This is not to say that life isn’t hard. It is. Jesus says “In this world you will have trouble.” But that isn’t where He stops. He says, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). Jesus has overcome the world. Past tense. Not future.

You are your own worst enemy. I am my own worst enemy. We have an enemy who uses psychological warfare to make sure of that (1 Peter 5:8).

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Cues of Despair

A while back, I talked about despair as absence. I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week–mostly because I’ve been having some mattress issues. It’s amazing how hard it is to stay present and upbeat in my day when I’m seriously lacking in sleep. Yes, I know that sleep is a huge factor in emotional health. Lord willing, the latest mattress fix will work!

Anyway, one of the things I have written in my journal about hope is Jeremiah 29:11 (For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future, NIV). It’s a well-known verse, but in the Psalms of Ascent study, Beth Moore talks about flipping the verse. We know God’s plans for us: to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future. But we can also look at this verse and get a pretty good glimpse into what Satan’s plans for us are–the exact opposite:  for us to fail, to harm us, for us to be hopeless and without a future.

Even if depression isn’t something you struggle with, we all struggle with sometimes feeling hopeless or like we’re failing. We can entertain those thoughts–in other words, we can let them hang out in our brains all comfy-like, rather than kicking them out when they show up (or working to make sure our brains are hostile environments for them in the first place). But after looking at the flip side of Jer. 29:11, those thoughts have actually become a sort of cue for me–a reminder that when I entertain hopelessness or feelings of failure or fear of the future, I’m falling in line with Satan’s plans for me. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather position myself to follow God’s plans for my life.

Note: I am one hundred percent a fan of re-examining one’s life to determine where you can do things better–that’s not what I’m talking about here when I say we shouldn’t entertain thoughts of failure. I firmly believe in figuring out how to do things smarter rather than working harder at the impossible.

 

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The Thin Line between Surviving & Thriving

A few months ago, in the study on 1 & 2 Thessalonians I’d been doing, I came across this idea that’s been percolating since then.

Beth Moore argued that the only difference between surviving and thriving is faith, hope, and love (Children of the Day, p.21)

I think I agree with her.

Faith opens the door to believe that God is doing something in our circumstances, even when our circumstances feel impossibly awful. Faith believes that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. Faith believes that God is who He says He is and that He’ll do what He promises. Faith can look at the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil because God is with me. Faith sees the potential and stubbornly pursues presence.

Hope likewise knows that there’s something better, so it’s worth my energy to stick around–despite how my circumstances look. Hope looks for the best in a situation. Hope knows that it’s only a matter of time until we get to see the fruits of our suffering–if nothing else, we are guaranteed eternal peace and joy after we die. And hope does not disappoint because God doesn’t disappoint.

Love opens the door to deeper relationships–to depending on God and growing in community. Being loved by God means that we’re safe–that He’s always working in our best interest. Community allows others to bear our burdens and for us to exercise our calling and gifting in the process of bearing others’ burdens.

Faith, hope, and love–not whether our circumstances change or not–define whether we can thrive even in the most difficult circumstances.

 

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The Hope of Suffering

This morning I listened to a sermon by Brandon Booth at Christ Community Church. He did a good job. It helped to solidify some things I’ve been kicking around.

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Mr. Booth was talking about how the previous chapter talks about the essence of the gospel: justification through faith, as exemplified in the life of Abraham (which, by the way, I love, since Abraham’s faith showcases that someone who doesn’t have a history of faith, doesn’t live among people of faith, can change). Paul continues in chapter 5 with the hope we have of what’s to come–the glory of God. And then we have what’s sandwiched in between conversion and the hope to come: this life, “rejoic[ing] in our sufferings.”

I certainly have not had nearly as many sufferings as lots of people, however, I have found that my own personal sufferings are usually enough for me. The current round of doctor appointments with perpetual puzzlement as to why my body won’t respond to treatment has been more than enough. Frankly, I’ve been struggling not to give in to discouragement and despair (contrary to Joshua 1:6-9).

But I love this anchor that Paul returns to. We can rejoice in the midst of our sufferings because we are so blessed to know that God has a purpose somewhere . . . that our loving Father has allowed these sufferings, rather than some random occurrence. And that in the midst of suffering, we grow.

I often find myself feeling like I’m paddling upstream, fighting against overwhelming circumstances. I’m not daily accepting this is where God has me right now and then looking for what He wants to do. I’m so focused on trying to change my circumstances that I miss the opportunities for growth and joy.

Mr. Booth’s point was that rejoicing in suffering requires a similar intentional inaction that we rely on for salvation. When we’re first saved we throw ourselves on Christ’s sacrifice. In salvation we can (often reluctantly) do the nothing required. Yet in the midst of suffering, we struggle against the suffering. I want to be a woman who can put my faith firmly in the Holy Spirit’s abilities to transform me into Christ’s image in the midst of this life. I want to be able to rest and revel in the journey because of God’s presence, rather than fighting with my suffering. God, change my heart to be able to do nothing and leave the everything to You!