12/24/17

For the first time in several months I had a moment of frustration. I’ve been on a really amazing run of peace in all my circumstances, joy and hope about my future, and excitement for the opportunities God has been providing for me. But this evening, an unfortunate consequence of a poor decision I made a few years ago seemed to be haunting me again, bringing fear back into my mind. I worried that if this situation wasn’t handled the way I thought it logically should, that I would have to bear the weight of this inconvenience for a while longer. That feeling of frustration started boiling within me and as it was coming to the surface I could almost feel a spring of hot tears burning behind my eyes.

I knew that if I let myself go down that spiral, it would ruin my Christmas Eve night with my family, and would put me in a mood that might even carry into tomorrow. Recognizing this, I went for a moment alone. I needed something positive to fill my mind with, that would replace these negative thoughts and redirect my perspective.

I turned to Matthew 5 and 6 where Jesus talks about dealing with anger and loving your enemies. While I don’t necessarily have enemies, the principle was valuable. In these chapters he talks about not even thinking of someone else as a fool, and not allowing anger to grow in your heart towards another person. It also says we shouldn’t repay anyone evil, if they do unkind or evil things to us.

These ways of dealing with conflict don’t come naturally. Evidently, they tend to go against our nature, as our first instinct is usually to put up our dukes and defend ourselves. But we never find peace dealing with conflict that way, and I want peace. So, I let those words of wisdom sink in and began to pray. I prayed that I would find peace in my circumstances, that God would help me deal with whatever the consequences would be, and guide me through it so that everything would be okay. And I also asked Him to shape my attitude to make me full of grace, forgiving, patient, and free, so that this situation wouldn’t frustrate me or make me anxious anymore.

It was like the weight immediately lifted off my chest.

Sometimes we are faced with challenging and frustrating situations that we cannot control. In these times, our mental and emotional peace can turn into uncertainty and pain. Although we may not be able to escape our consequences, we can always change the way we perceive them. Sometimes that means seeking wisdom, so we have a light to guide us back to positivity and peace. Prayer is a helpful tool that can help us to release those negative feelings, and get us to a state of serenity. To me, that’s incredible, because although nothing changed from the moment that got me frustrated until now, my perspective did.

How My Life Got Better When I Let Go and Let God

Why do we feel like we always need to be in control? What do we get out of making sure things always go our way? I used to want control to the point where I would get anxiety about the future. I would worry that if things didn’t work out the way I planned, that my whole life would fall apart. I’ve learned an important lesson lately, about why this kind of thinking is both unhealthy and impractical, and why surrendering control is the most liberating feeling one can have.

Control Is an Illusion

“… yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) The truth is, we don’t have control. We can control our actions, and guide our thoughts, but we cannot make our own futures. Sometimes things happen that we do not expect or plan for, and if we hold onto the desire to control, we won’t be able to solve those problems, or handle the disappointments. Surrendering was a scary thing to do, but it brought me a feeling of acceptance at peace, that quickly led to more deep joy than I could’ve ever tried to attain on my own.

God’s Will Is Better than Ours

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) For years, I took matters into my own hands, trying to grasp the things I wanted and thought I needed. I even framed my prayers in a way that essentially asked God to make my will His own. It’s taken me a while but I’ve finally reached this huge milestone in my spiritual life. I realized and accepted that I do not have control over my life, and that’s okay, because God’s plan is better than mine. It will produce more growth in me, grant me wisdom through the challenges I face, and shape me into a person who reflects God’s love. It’s also helped me shed some of my selfishness, which was getting in the way of me serving others.

Loving God Leads to Contentment

“But godliness with contentment is great gain,” (1 Timothy 6:6) Through surrender, God has granted me the desires of my heart in such a short period of time. I cannot even express how perfectly everything I prayed for the last few months are lining up. One thing, after the next.

It didn’t feel this way at first. The first feeling after letting go was an overwhelming hollowness. All the things I tried to gather up and focus my life on, I let go of. And in the place of all of that was emptiness, and my own inadequacy to fulfill myself. All my plans vanished. All the visions of my future became blurry. It felt like there was nothing ahead for me to grasp on that I could be sure of. I willingly have up my will so that I could be led by God, but was still scared about my future.

But sure enough, God broke through that vision and redirected me to a different path for my life. He provided opportunity after opportunity, and allowed me to have many of the things I had been desiring in my heart: stability, adventure, a clean slate, forgiveness, peace with the past, hope for the future, love, security, encouragement…

God Will Give You a New Way to Use Your Gifts

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” (1 Peter 4:10) All through my life I’ve wanted to love people. Sometimes I feel like that’s my purpose and calling in life: to encourage, help, support, love, sacrifice, and give to someone else. Changing my approach to certain things in my personal life also took away some of that “work” I was doing. I felt useless, purposeless, and hollow. I didn’t like being by myself. I wanted someone or something to devote my attention, love, and efforts to. So, I went to the only places that I knew would give me that opportunity in a safe way, where my efforts would grow in someone else’s heart.

I spent a lot of time alone, meditating, praying, refocusing. Shedding my old ways of thinking and spending quality time with God. I started thinking of ways I could serve the church and really dug into the problems with myself that I had to grow out of. So, in that seemingly empty space, I began to see God create a new plan for me that would still allow me to use my gifts. He directed my attention to people who needed love, so I could keep serving. He filled me with a renewed hope for my future, peace in my present circumstances, and more genuine love began to grow within my heart. Selfless love. I wanted to give love even if I got nothing in return. And then my prayers started to be answered.

God Reveals Himself if You Take the Time to Look

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Some people say, “You can’t know that God exists because you can’t see Him.” I may not be able to see Him physically with my eyes but I can clearly see His work in my life. Looking at where I am now is absolutely mind-blowing, considering where I was mentally, and emotionally a few months ago. There is no way I could’ve ever reached this point through my own efforts. I’ll be the first to admit that. I’m not wise enough, strong enough, or insightful enough to do this alone.

Surrendering Seems Reckless, but Actually Brings You Peace

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Surrendering to God and waiting for Him to move gave me the peace I needed to fully trust Him with the direction of my life and my future. That actually healed me of my anxiety. It’s surreal. Secondly, surrendering to God taught me patience. Yes, I’m excited about my future. Yes, I don’t want to sit around and waste any time. Yes, I wanna DO things with my life, go on adventures, make a positive impact, and give with all my heart. But I’m learning how to wait for the right way, time, people, and places, with every decision. I’m learning to go through every decision with prayer at the beginning, through the middle, and at the end in gratitude for whatever the outcome.

While We Wait, God Works

“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides You, who acts for those who wait for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4) I believe that while we wait, God works behind the scenes, carefully moving and setting things into motion that we cannot imagine or see. I wish I could shout from the mountaintops in gratitude for how God has always had my back despite all my poor decisions and disobedience. I have experienced that God is real, that He loves us and watches over us, and if we take the time and effort to devote our lives to Him, and ask, seek, and knock, wisdom will come to us. Everything in our lives is going to be so much better than anything we could’ve tried to make happen on our own, when we trust and follow Him.

“Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honour.”

Proverbs 21:21

God’s Timing

Here are some observations I’ve recently made in my life. During my life as a Christian, the term, “Trust God’s timing,” has always been sound advice given to me. It makes sense, I mean, obviously the Creator of the universe should know when things should begin or end for us, better than we could with our limited perspective. But, actually doing that is challenging. There have been many times in my life that I’ve taken matters into my own hands because I wanted results right then and there. When I look back, I see the trail of disaster left behind. I’ve made so many bad judgement calls and mistakes because I didn’t trust God’s timing. I wanted instant gratification for the things I thought I was missing out on in my life: popularity, entertainment, relationships, you name it. But this isn’t about all the mistakes I’ve made, this is about how God has literally picked me up, spun me around, and set me on the right path.

Timing. When I go forward with a decision without praying about it and waiting for little signs and inner confidence first, things inevitably fall apart. Fairly recently I had to do something pretty scary, without knowing how it would turn out, but because I prayed, gained counsel and advice, trusted God’s wisdom and chose to obey Him, I was convicted that it was the right thing to do. Sometimes the hardest things we have to do are the best things for our future. Sometimes God takes something away, or draws us away from a circumstance, because it’s not part of His plan for us–because He has something more enriching and uplifting ahead for us.

I’ve fought against that pull for a long time and when I finally surrendered, everything started to come together. When I rush things, it’s messy and misguided, and causes me a ton of pain throughout. Although trusting God is scary, because I’m giving up my will and waiting for His to reveal itself, I know it’s the wise thing to do. I still wrestled with my thoughts and feelings in prayer, but I set my mind to wait and observe. I decided to use my time to prepare myself for whatever He had ahead.

The purpose of waiting is to eventually be convicted with full clarity that God approves of your decision, before you make it. Instead of following my emotionally wrecked heart, I decided to think about what the wise thing for me to do was.

“Based on my past experiences, current circumstances, and future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do?”

That’s from Andy Stanley and it’s one of the best quotes I could ever live by. We have to be wise, we have to direct our hearts to what’s right and pleasant to God, as Christians. That’s what I’m learning to do and it’s crazy how God delivers. At the time you feel so unsure because you can’t see the future–it’s intangible. But when I saw my prayers being answered, and when I felt the peace of knowing, that yes, God’s with me in this, He approves of this, He supports this… life became so much better! It’s still terrifying, there are so many things in this life that could go wrong, but God’s got us! He’s right here, directing, leading, and providing the perfect opportunities for us.

All I can see is the tip of the iceberg, but it’s one pretty, shiny, sparkly sight, and although I have no idea what God’s got in store for me next, I fully trust that He’s going to bring the BEST things if I trust His lead above my own. I’m so excited for whatever is ahead, and if it’s a tough season, well, I’ve been through those already and God’s always brought me through. Super grateful and happy!!! 🙂

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

– Proverbs 3:5-6

“This One Thing I Know…”

Pursuit and apathy have started to blend

I’ve never seen a beginning look so much like an end

This one thing I know:

It’s not in them that I’ll find it

It’s a shame for this long I’ve been so misguided

Suggested by: C. Dos Santos

Gratitober: Entry 27

27. I’m grateful that this season will pass.

Are you tired? Have you been feeling stuck in the same place, repeating the same destructive behaviour? Are you weighed down with discouragement after repeated trial and error? Have fear and anxiety held you back from taking opportunities that might actually turn out well? If you have, I understand. And I’m going to give you the advice I had to give myself. But first…

God works in mysterious ways. In a season I could be feeling like things aren’t working out for me (the way I think is best), but God could actually be protecting me from something bad, or preparing me for something better. My mom always reminds me that God always keeps His promises, and He has our best interests at heart. It’s His nature. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

If this isn’t true, you may as well stop reading ’cause there’s no hope. But, if there’s even the slightest possibility that the Creator of the Universe does actually care about us, then hear me out. If this difficult time is only a season, we should fix our eyes to the next one. We shouldn’t dwell in the here and now; the way things seem to be unmoving and unpleasant. Instead, we should keep in mind that “this, too, shall pass,” and on the other side of this trial is a better “me” and a better “today.” We have to keep our eyes looking ahead.

C.S. Lewis, probably one of the most brilliant writers of all time, said it like this. “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” Well that just blows me away. No one knows what the future holds–all we can do is decide, are we going to live as if the future is bright or dreary? I’ve done the dreary thing, sometimes I still do. But it’s no fun for me or anyone else, and wallowing in self-pity just keeps me stuck anyway. So instead of adding fuel to the fire, I’ll just douse that downy mood with some delightful hopes and set my eyes on the great possibilities ahead.

So, if you have been feeling weighed down and discouraged, give your worries up. Trust that God’s got your back, and that this season is both purposeful and temporary. It will pass–you will get through if you don’t give up. Don’t let fear and worry hold you back from taking risks and living your life, because, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Press on toward the goal, as Paul would say. This season will pass.