Awful or Awesome?

Yesterday at the end of a full and productive week, I was eager for the weekend. You know. Put work on the shelf, get into a book, take a long walk, watch a Hallmark movie. After hours of concentrated work with substantial progress I had that winning feeling. An hour later, I was overcome. The project that every ounce of energy had been poured into has to be reworked, and now instead of three weeks, I have one.

There’s a big difference between being overcome and being an overcomer. Looking at the remnants of the week, I had to make a decision. Let this setback overcome me or begin again and be an overcomer. I thought of King David in the Bible. He went from the mountaintop to the valley in under sixty seconds. In Psalm 116:3 he was “overcome by distress and sorrow.” Then he turns around and writes in the very next verse, “Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”

 I think someone told me once that David didn’t write all the Psalms, but even if he didn’t there is a common thread that runs through the entire book; peaks and valleys. We all have a little bit of David in us. We feel overloaded, distressed, unappreciated or discouraged because those are our circumstances. We are overcome and feel like we are on our last drop of hope. David felt that way … a lot!  But he knew the power source and recognized that his desire was not to live in the valley, overcome by a setback. His setbacks were not staybacks. He rescued that last drop of hope in Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word, I put my hope.”

David said his whole being waits for the Lord and that’s where his hope lies. We read that with doubt that David would even survive the distress of the 21st century. His life was different back then. Yes, it was. But he had the same God, the same Counselor, the same Omnipotent God. He prayed. I prayed yesterday too…and in the middle of the night…and before the sun was up this morning…and I will pray my way through the next week – because I am not going to be overcome. I am going to be an overcomer and you can be too.

While we wait for the prayer to be answered, for the pain to go away, for joy to return, for sadness to subside how much it would please God if we would use these experiences to become better, not bitter.  Not to be overcome, but to be overcomers.  Romans 12:21 shows us our choices “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Living in discouragement is like living in a dark cocoon, isn’t it? Have you ever noticed how quickly the flame of a candle is extinguished when the lid is put on the jar? It’s almost instantaneous. The flame burning bright goes out when circumstances remove its most important sustainer, oxygen.

We are a little like that candle. Can it just decide it wants to burn again and burst into flame on its own?  Hardly! We have an advantage because we have a brain, we have motor skills, we can decide to act and find a way to get the flame burning again. Are you discouraged today? Let’s take a few minutes to visit 1John 2:14 “I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” 

We can rise above discouragement. It’s not easy, but it’s a choice. John 1: 5 says “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Think about good things today, pray, turn off the news, write yourself a letter, write someone else a letter. 

Today can be awful or it can be awesome.

A few years ago, Mandisa recorded a song called Overcomer. Here is some hope from that song. “You might be down for a moment, feeling like it’s hopeless, that’s when we need to be reminded that we are overcomers.”

Overcome or Overcomer …. Let’s get out there!

 

This is a 5-minute Friday article. The word for this week is OVERCOME and I wrote for 5 minutes, no edits, not over thinking – just shoot from the hip prose.
Are you a writer? Join the 5-Minute Friday group to grow some friendships and gain support even before you need it. http://fiveminutefriday.com/

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What if the life you’ve always wanted is the life of your past?

Make this your best year ever! We hear them everywhere, affirmations that this time, this year will be different. If you can dream it, you can do it. No excuses. No regrets. Have the life you’ve always wanted.

But what if the life you’ve always wanted has become the life of your past?

Reading back over my prayer journal, I’m flooded with sorrowful memories of unexpected loss. Five of my friends, women with beautiful hearts who loved their husbands were suddenly thrust into lives alone when, in God’s sovereignty he took their soulmates home. No matter how many times I read Psalm 139:16, “Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began” there was no answer to ‘Why, God? Why him?” Verse 17 explains, “God, how difficult your thoughts are for me to comprehend.” So is that it, then? In our humanness the searing question remains, “Why, God?” 20150305_175204

It’s easy to say, everything happens for a reason, when life is reasonable, isn’t it? We can go to scripture and pull out verses like Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” My friends, going through heartbreak, love God. How can this be good? Please tell me I’m not the only one perplexed by God’s Master Plan.

Looking back over the past year I remember friends who have lived through tragic accidents, devastating illnesses, unexpected loss of employment, and unfavorable life changes. Decisions made with optimism have turned dreadful and there is no easy way out. Is any of this familiar? Maybe you’re wondering how you will have the life you’ve always wanted when your dreams are in shards and plans for what could be have been suffocated by insurmountable challenges. I can’t count the number of times I ran to the Bible claiming this verse in Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Do not fear. Do not fear. Do not fear.

Where do we go from here? 2Corinthians 4:8-9 comforts us with, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Life is a contact sport, isn’t it? We are pummeled to the ground by circumstances, things that can’t be changed. We are pressed on every side. We are being shaped by forces outside our control, so we have to take charge of the one thing we can control. Our attitude. Attitude influences our emotions, affects our outlook, directs our thoughts, and governs our actions.

Romans 12: 2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The world wants us to worry. God says, just pray. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” We can’t comprehend the mind of God. We are compelled to just have faith. It sounds so easy, but life is so hard. When we can’t see what God is doing, when life is unfair, we have to trust His heart.

Life is always forward, never back there. Sorrow clings to what was; we think it insulates us from the unknown, but real life is always ahead. We have to go on. This is the life we’ve been given now and God wants us to recognize the sovereignty of his words. Romans 8:27 “He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Jesus prays for you.

Is this the life you’ve always wanted? Not by a long shot! Is this the life I’ve always wanted? Humanly speaking, not even close, but I’ve come a long way in my faith and I know that when I absorb the truth of Proverbs 3:5-6 I accept the alterations to my own plans and seek the path God has chosen for me now. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight.” Empty your heart of all the grief, unforgiveness, malice, shame, and spite. Tell God how you feel and ask him to fill your heart with goodness, faith, trust, patience, love and joy. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says if you ask, he will do it. “He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this.”

My prayer for seekers of the life you’ve always wanted is beautifully written in Hebrews 13:21: Now may the God of peace equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Life on earth is not fair. Life that lasts forever will be perfect.

Chris Tomlin:  I will rise when He calls my name, no sorrow, no more pain. 

 

 

 

 

 

Lover vs Enemy – Which Do You Choose

Have you ever started your day from the moment of wakefulness with an unexplained sense of regret? Monday, I woke up disappointed; no reason, but the tug toward discouragement was obvious. Monday follows Sunday, the day of spiritual feasting.  It didn’t take long to recognize the leading character in this restless descent into pessimism. While my guard was down, the ‘Enemy of My Soul’ brought out his messy paintbrush and tried to ruin the landscape of the beautiful day God planned. During our pastor’s sermon on Sunday, he was reading in Psalms when my eReader flipped back a few chapters to a passage that came to my heart at the first sign of morning today. Psalm 57:8 “Awake, my soul! Awake, O stringed instrument and harp! I will wake up at dawn!” Being awake is a helpful first step, but what comes next? Good question. What does come with the advent of a new day? Some days are immersed in wandering contentedness; on others we need a swift upsurge of incentive! There is nothing wrong with taking a break, letting off the accelerator of life and coasting aimlessly for a little while. We need a reprieve from regimented structure and relentless work, but this was not one of those time-off days.

This day I had my heart set on a productive day; productive laced with contentment. I was thinking of all the things I wanted to check off my list and the satisfaction of seeing that line drawn through each task. I’m pretty sure I gave some thought to the Lord and even started the day with a sincere prayer.  I know what it says in 1Timothy 6:6 “Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit.” Instead of contentment, menacing flickers of discouragement threatened. Less than 15 minutes into morning the effects of Monday after Sunday were coloring my day with abstract images; lost focus and no contentment in sight. After about the 4th fruitless trip up and down the stairs, I recognized the signs of attitude deterioration.  I was definitely not following what I learned just the day before from Psalm 63:8 “My soul pursues you; your right hand upholds me.” I had to ask. Is this the path God would want me to stumble around on; all this aimless wandering? Isn’t this wasted energy? And what about all the time I can’t get back if this restlessness continues all day?

Does this ever happen to you? Some obscure emotion snags your attitude and drags it through a gloomy path to despair and spiritual poverty? Couldn’t we use a stop sign right then with an arrow pointing to a better path; one that’s well marked with a light at the end? There is always a better path. In fact, I can prove it in Jeremiah 6:16 where “The Lord said to his people: “You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not follow it!” In that context, God is calmly trying to convince his people that he has given them instruction and has shown them the tried and true path, but they seemed to have a better idea and purposefully rejected God’s advice and said “We will not follow it.”  Let’s not make that chaotic mistake!

Where do we find momentum for living above challenges etched in the landscape by that messy paintbrush clasped in the hands of the ‘Enemy of Your Soul’?

  • Dive into the hands of the ‘Lover of Your Soul’, Jesus, God’s Son who promises in Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”  If you get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself.
  • Connect with God – Isaiah 59 reveals some consequences of being alienated from Him. Unfamiliar with peace; wait for light, but see only darkness; grope along the wall like the blind, like those who cannot see;
    we stumble at noontime as if it were evening.

It’s easy to begin the day with hope and quickly slide into sadness. Even when we pray to the ‘Lover of Our Soul’, that despicable ‘Enemy of Our Soul’ is ready to pounce, claw, and drag us to defeat. In those times, remember these words from David in Psalm 119:65-68 “Be good to your servant, God; be as good as your Word. Train me in good common sense; I’m thoroughly committed to living your way. Before I learned to answer you, I wandered all over the place, but now I’m in step with your Word. You are good, and the source of good; train me in your goodness.” [Message]

Your mission, should you decide to accept it is, Lover vs Enemy – you choose. Joshua 24:15 “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”

Ready?  Let’s get out there!  All will be well.

It’s Today!

“I hoped and prayed … and it didn’t happen.”  I read those words from a friend and instantly felt the draining emotion of that message. I prayed so hard and nothing.  Anyone who has built up hope, worked toward something, and lived in anticipation of it knows the empty feeling left behind when the result is nothing.  I’ve been there; have you ever felt the unsettled, discontent of unfilled hope.  Even if you are a “glass is more than half full’ person, it feels like the glass has been pierced and all the good stuff has drained away.  When I have days like that – or weeks – I remember Job.  His catastrophes happened thousands of years ago, but his emotion of loss was the same.  In Job 6:8 he prays “Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for…” Can you imagine the hopes of Job?  Keep reading and it becomes evident that Job was weary.  Job 6:11 “What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient?”

It’s so easy to look at circumstances and lose perspective.  Looking outside at what we didn’t get is a like a wide snare waiting to trip us up so we push all the positive things to the outer edges and live in the swirl of defeat.  Just say no! Ask God to show you how to replace the feelings of loss with new inspiration for escaping despair. All God asks is that we be willing to be willing.  2Corinthians 4:16 talks about that “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” Do not lose heart. Reach out in expectation being absorbed in hope and comforted by it.  Take a step forward to get back on track with plans ahead.  2John 8 “Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.”  You might feel rewarded even today, but if not today, then don’t lose hope.  2Corinthians 4:1 explains that “through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” We each have a ministry and a purpose. We can’t live for ministry while we live in defeat. Hebrews 3:13 has some wise advice for us “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today.”

It’s Today, my friends. Let’s build each other up, encourage one another. Let’s keep discouragement from entering and gaining a foothold.   I ran across a similar topic in Ephesians 4.  Toward the end of the chapter are some instructional words.  “Do not give the devil a foothold. …Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Psychologists tell us that those of us who have brains and have the ability to think ahead and make choices are the ones who take the path of least resistance. We gravitate toward doing what’s easiest. Losing hope and becoming discouraged are easiest.  Let’s gain new insight, stronger resolve, and do not let the enemy of our souls win this battle.  Ready for a little more from Job? Highlights from Job 11.  “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.  You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.”

Ready for today?  Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

Let’s get out there! Let’s go to the rock!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOZuhtoS4GE